Blog

Glaucoma

Health Wire

A leading cause of blindness in the United States, glaucoma affects approximately three million Americans – and half do not know they have it. An increase in fluid pressure in the eye causes glaucoma, a condition that can destroy the optic nerve. In a normal eye, a fluid (aqueous humor) circulates through the eye and drains through a tiny opening (drainage angle) into a small tube that carries it into the bloodstream. With open-angle glaucoma, which occurs in 90% of glaucoma cases, the tube carrying aqueous humor out of the eye gets blocked. Fluid accumulates, and intraocular pressure increases slowly over time. Without treatment, patients eventually suffer vision loss. Closed-angle glaucoma occurs when the drain itself becomes blocked, a medical emergency.

P.S. Catching glaucoma early through periodic screenings, especially after age 60, can help prevent or slow vision loss.


Huntington’s Disease

Health Wire

Huntington’s disease is a progressive, degenerative, neurological condition that affects about 30,000 Americans. A genetic condition, individuals need to inherit just one copy of the defective gene from either parent to produce the disease. Patients typically develop symptoms between the ages of 35 and 50. Younger patients often experience more severe symptoms and more rapid progression. As the disease progresses, nerve cells in the brain deteriorate. Death occurs between 10 and 30 years after the onset of symptoms. Huntington’s symptoms include a wider gait, speech disturbances, involuntary jerking of various body parts, clumsiness, moodiness or paranoia, and compromised cognitive skills. Treatment is aimed at managing these symptoms with medication and speech therapy. Some patients require long-term care as Huntington’s progresses.

P.S. There is currently no cure for Huntington’s disease.


Cancer Screenings More Common

Health Wire, Ticker

A recent study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute shows that more Americans are undergoing cancer screenings. Age and socioeconomic factors have a considerable impact on screening rates, according to researchers. Older individuals are more likely to get screened for colorectal cancers, while younger Americans are screened more often for breast and cervical cancer. Those with higher education levels were more likely to be screened for all three cancers. Knowing about the risk factors for cancer also influences whether someone chooses to get screened. Usage for all cancer screening tests has risen since 1987. Mammography has seen the biggest usage jumps–between 1987 and 1998, the percentage of women receiving mammograms soared from 17% to 67%.

P.S. Researchers continue to study newer tests such as prostate cancer tests and genetic testing.


Alcoholism

Health Wire, Ticker

Alcoholism is characterized by powerful cravings or an uncontrollable need for alcohol. Those who abuse alcohol may suffer problems at home, school, or work; physically harm themselves or others when driving or operating machinery; get in trouble with the law; and suffer health problems. Alcoholics cannot stop or limit drinking even when they try. They suffer withdrawal symptoms with attempts to stop drinking – nausea, sweating, shaking, anxiety, etc. – and continue drinking even when it interferes with daily activities and relationships. They often miss events or activities because they are drinking or hung over. Several factors contribute to physical alcohol dependence, including a family history, brain chemicals, social pressure, stress, pain, depression, and learned behaviors from family and friends.

P.S. Alcoholism can be successfully managed with safe detoxification, counseling, and ongoing support.


Insulin Therapy for Diabetics

Health Wire, Ticker

The pancreas releases insulin continuously and increases production after meals. Insulin carries sugar from the blood to cells, lowering blood sugar levels. In people with Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas produces little or no insulin. Those with Type 2 diabetes still produce insulin, but the body fails to process it efficiently. Both types of patients benefit from insulin therapy. Goals of insulin therapy include the maintenance of healthy blood sugar levels and prevention of long-term complications associated with diabetes. When successful, insulin – whether administered daily or as needed – reduces the risk of eye, kidney, and nerve damage; improves cholesterol levels; and lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease. Insulin is administered via an injection or infusion from an insulin pump.

P.S. Two risks associated with insulin therapy include low blood sugar and weight gain.


Fainting Spells

Health Wire, Ticker

Fainting, also called syncope, occurs when a person loses consciousness suddenly due to a drop in blood flow to the brain. People typically recover from a fainting spell within seconds or minutes. Those who are most at risk for fainting include the elderly, recreational drug users, pregnant women, heart disease patients, and those taking certain medications (insulin, antihypertensives, diuretics, and anticoagulants, among others). Before fainting, a person often feels lightheaded, nauseous, and confused. He or she may experience blurred vision, sweating, giddiness, or heaviness in the lower limbs. Once fainting has occurred, a person may appear abnormally pale and have a weak pulse. The body may jerk spasmodically. Always seek medical attention after fainting to pinpoint a possible cause.

P.S. Between 3% and 4% of people experience fainting spells.


Glaucoma

Health Wire, Ticker

A leading cause of blindness in the United States, glaucoma affects approximately three million Americans – and half do not know they have it. An increase in fluid pressure in the eye causes glaucoma, a condition that can destroy the optic nerve. In a normal eye, a fluid (aqueous humor) circulates through the eye and drains through a tiny opening (drainage angle) into a small tube that carries it into the bloodstream. With open-angle glaucoma, which occurs in 90% of glaucoma cases, the tube carrying aqueous humor out of the eye gets blocked. Fluid accumulates, and intraocular pressure increases slowly over time. Without treatment, patients eventually suffer vision loss. Closed-angle glaucoma occurs when the drain itself becomes blocked, a medical emergency.

P.S. Catching glaucoma early through periodic screenings, especially after age 60, can help prevent or slow vision loss.


ACL Injuries Are Common

Health Wire, Ticker

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the knee extends from the back of the thigh bone (femur) to the front of the inner shin (tibia). Its job is to stabilize the knee during twisting, pivoting, or deceleration activities, for example, stopping and starting in a basketball or soccer game, skiing, or aerobics. Injury to the ACL is common, affecting about four people out of every 1,000. Problems most often occur when the knee twists while the foot is still planted on the ground. People often hear and feel a “pop” followed by pain, swelling, and instability. Because the ACL is a unique area surrounded by joint fluid and receiving poor blood supply, treatment often involves surgery to replace damaged tissue.

P.S. Women are two to eight times more likely to injure their ACL than men.


Brain Tumors

Health Wire, Ticker

The words “brain tumor” conjure up fatal thoughts for many people, but treatments have advanced in recent years. Many people recover from brain tumors, and not all masses are cancerous. If left untreated, however, tumors can be fatal, so it pays to know the signs. Symptoms vary depending on the tumor’s size and location. Intermittent headaches, especially in the morning, may indicate a tumor. Convulsion-causing seizures may occur. Some patients experience behavioral or personality changes, impaired bodily movement and sensation, numbness, weakness, or clumsiness. Memory, speech, and the ability to concentrate may suffer. After a tumor is diagnosed, treatment options include surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy, depending on the tumor’s type, size, location, and the patient’s health.

P.S. In about 80% of cancerous brain tumor cases, the cancer has originated elsewhere in the body.


Better Doctor Visits

Health Wire, Ticker

Patients who plan ahead for doctor’s visits as if they were business meetings prepare questions; request extra meeting time if necessary; and clarify all responses, decisions, and diagnoses. These patients foster more productive relationships with their physicians by becoming active participants in their medical care. Before the next doctor’s visit, determine the goal of the meeting. Keep track of all relevant information before the appointment, including symptom descriptions and attempted remedies. Inform the doctor of all medications – prescription and over-the-counter – and herbal supplements currently being taken and if they trigger any side effects. Whenever you do not understand something, ask the doctor to clarify the information. Review what was discussed at the appointment and any necessary follow-up before leaving.

P.S. Patients who know their family medical history can offer doctors valuable information.