Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD, is a very common lung disease. There are two different
types of COPD: chronic emphysema, where the lungs are slowly destroyed over time, and chronic bronchitis,
which is a long-term cough with mucous. There are a few common causes of COPD, by far the most common
being smoking cigarettes, but smoking cigars and pipes can cause the disease as well. Secondhand smoke can contribute to COPD, as can pollution and breathing in fumes or toxic substances at work. One out of
every three people will develop COPD because of genetics. Although rare, another cause of COPD is
asthma, which can cause long-term damage if not treated properly.
P.S. It can take years to develop COPD symptoms.
There is a double layer of tissue that surrounds the human heart. This is called the pericardial sac. Between these layers of the pericardial sac is a bit of fluid that is there for lubrication. Sometimes the sac becomes inflamed and can cause a significant (and sometimes worrisome) amount of pain. This is known as pericarditis. Pericarditis can be acute, lasting less than a few weeks, or chronic, lasting for 6 months or more. Often doctors diagnose idiopathic pericarditis, which simply means there is no known cause for the inflammation and swelling. Sometimes the swelling is viral or caused by trauma to the area, such as heart attack or surgery. The most common symptom of pericarditis is chest pain.
P.S. Any abnormal or persistent chest pain should be immediately evaluated by doctor.
Nighttime coughing can lead to more than just a poor night’s sleep. Too much coughing at night can actually irritate the airways enough to prolong the reason for the cough. The trick, then, is to manage that nighttime cough to keep it at bay. Start by drinking an herbal tea with honey. Warm liquids break up mucus in the airways. Prop up some pillows to sleep at a slight incline to keep post nasal drip draining. Take a warm shower before bed unless asthma is a problem. Keep a glass of water and some cough drops by the bed to relieve coughing upon awakening. Keep the sheets clean, especially if you also suffer from allergies.
P.S. Call the doctor about a cough that lasts longer than seven days.
A migraine is so much more than just a headache. For some sufferers, the word “headache” cannot come close to describing the intensity of the pulsing and throbbing pain that comes along with a migraine. Migraines can be heralded by certain warning signs. For example, some people see an aura, flashes of light, or blind spots, or feel tingling in an arm or a leg. It can be helpful to keep track of what triggers migraines as well as pay attention to what offers relief. Keep a migraine log book, and talk to your doctor about trying a medication that may help with the pain. Look for relief by seeking a balance between medication and lifestyle changes.
P.S. Migraines can cause tremendous pain that lasts for days and can interfere with work and everyday activities.
It might sound like science fiction, but there’s a new test available that can actually detect colorectal cancer in a way similar to how a breathalyzer test can detect whether or not a person has been drinking alcohol. The test works because a person’s breath functions similar to the way the exhaust in a vehicle works. That is to say, there are many different chemical compounds that are given off, and tests can tell by the makeup of these compounds exactly what is going on inside the body. More research is underway to develop similar tests that will be able to detect lung cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer, along with other types of cancer.
P.S. Breath has long been used to determine health. For example, uncontrolled diabetes gives off a fruity smell, and liver or kidney failure emits a fishy odor.
While there certainly is nothing wrong with an occasional glass of wine, the fact is that the long-term effects of heavy alcohol use can be startling and quite debilitating. Aside from the obvious major dangers we hear so much of in the news, such as car crashes, injuries from falls, drowning, and firearms injuries, there is also the real risk of permanently damaging the brain. The risk for high blood pressure, stroke, and other cardiovascular-related conditions increases, as does the likelihood of liver disease, malnutrition, and certain cancers. Sometimes heavy drinkers will experience a vitamin B1 deficiency, which can cause amnesia, apathy, and disorientation. Stomach ulcers and gastritis are also side effects of too much alcohol.
P.S. Limit your alcohol consumption, and if you suspect you have developed a dependency, discuss treatment options with your doctor.
Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects the lymphatic system, which is a part of the body’s immune system. The disease causes cells in the lymphatic system to continue to grow and stay alive when healthy cells should otherwise have died. Symptoms of the disease include a painless swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, underarms, or groin area; persistent tiredness; fever and chills; night sweats; and unexplained weight loss. There may also be a loss of appetite, itchiness, coughing, chest pain or having a hard time breathing, and a sensitivity to alcohol. Any of these symptoms should be evaluated by a doctor. Treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma usually involves chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
P.S. People who have had Hodgkin’s lymphoma have an increased risk for developing other kinds of cancer later in life.
Lowering the risk for stroke and heart attack is not as daunting a task as it might seem. Start by making lifestyle changes. Get a little bit of exercise each day, and lose weight if obesity or being overweight is an issue. Be sure to eat well, and take prescribed heart medications. Limit alcohol consumption, quit smoking, and visit the dentist regularly. The even better news is that lifestyle changes made to lower stroke and heart attack risk also lower the risk for other chronic illnesses and can lead to an improvement in overall well-being. Be diligent about paying attention to unusual symptoms and let your doctor know of them. Problems caught early on are easier to manage.
P.S. Eating small amounts of dark chocolate a few times a week can actually lower heart disease by as much as 40% and the risk of stroke by 30%.
Between the on-going wars overseas and the long-term consequences of head injuries in sports making headlines, traumatic brain injury (TBI) has received plenty of attention lately. TBI occurs when the head or the body sustains a violent blow. Sometimes an object that actually penetrates the skull can also cause TBI. A mild case of TBI may temporarily disrupt the function of brain cells, but a more serious injury can result in long-term damage and can be fatal. The symptoms of both mild and severe TBI include loss of consciousness, confusion, nausea, and mood changes. It is critical to be evaluated by a doctor following a head injury even if the person feels fine after a few minutes.
P.S. TBI can increase the risk for Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and other brain disorders that become more prevalent with age.
Hemophilia is the name given to a group of bleeding disorders that make blood clotting take a longer than normal time to occur. When the skin is broken and a person starts to bleed, the body takes action and begins a series of events that help the blood to clot. The name of this process is the “coagulation cascade.” The process includes the utilization of proteins called “coagulation factors.” When one or more of these factors are missing, there is a higher chance of excess bleeding because clotting takes longer than it should. In fact, bleeding is the main symptom of the condition. Hemophilia is genetic and affects males more often than females.
P.S. Often hemophilia isn’t diagnosed until a person suffers an abnormal bleeding experience. People with a family history of hemophilia should inform their doctors.