Monthly Archives: March 2012

An Embarrassing Problem

Incontinence can be an embarrassing problem, but sufferers don’t have to simply accept it. There are treatments that can help people live without fear, confident they won’t have an incontinence problem in public.

There are several type of incontinence. Stress incontinence is a loss of control associated with bladder stress, such as laughing or coughing. Urge incontinence is a sudden intense need to urinate, with only a few seconds warning before needing to use the toilet. Patients with overflow incontinence frequently dribble but only have a weak stream when in the bathroom. All these problems can be treated.

For many patients, behavioral treatments are sufficient. Bladder training helps by having patients practice delaying urination and controlling urination urges. Learning or relearning to hold urine can help patients with urge incontinence use the bathroom on a schedule, while those with overflow incontinence are often helped by double voiding, or urinating and then doing so again shortly afterward. Going on a schedule can also help, as the body may gradually start to conform to that schedule.

Physical therapy can also provide some assistance. Pelvic floor muscle exercise help strengthen the muscles that hold urine back and make it possible for people to wait. This can help stress incontinence and urge incontinence. The exercises, also called Kegel exercises, entail using these muscles even when no need to urinate presents itself.

Pharmaceutical treatments are also available when behavioral changes don’t help. A class of medications called anticholinergics help relax the bladder, alleviating urge incontinence. In recent studies, Botox has been found to be successful in treating incontinence, though this usage has not yet been approved in the United States except in a limited number of cases.

People experiencing incontinence should consult a health care provider to determine the best treatment option.

Front Line Treatment For Heart Attacks

When someone gets a heart attack, time is of the essence. An immediate response is absolutely necessary to ensure the best outcome. Now researchers have found a simple way to reduce mortality from cardiac incidents as much as 50 percent.

The secret is a combination of glucose, insulin, and potassium—called GIK—which can be administered by paramedics at the scene or in the ambulance. The injection is inexpensive, and typically harmless in patients with signs of acute cardiac syndrome (a heart attack precursor) but who are actually suffering something else. Nearly a quarter of the patients in the study who received the injection proved not to be in the throes of a heart attack and showed no ill effects.

Most people who die from heart attacks do so before reaching the hospital. GIK lets paramedics on the scene buy the precious minutes needed to get the patient to a fully equipped facility. In previous studies of GIK, researchers speculate, it was given too late to be effective. If administered as soon as a heart attack is suspected, GIK can help save lives.

Gaucher Treatment Easier To Get

A new treatment for a rare genetic disorder called Gaucher disease is expected to be available in a few months. The treatments that currently exist are in short supply, and their manufacture is cumbersome.

Philippe Gaucher

Gaucher disease, named for the 19th-century French doctor Philippe Gaucher, is one of a group of inherited conditions called lysosomal storage disorders. Though rare, it is among the most common such disorders. In lysosomal storage disorders, a part of the cell called the lysosome, responsible for processing what would otherwise be metabolic waste material into cell nutrients, malfunctions. Typically, the malfunction is caused by the enzymes the lysosome needs being absent.

In Gaucher disease, the deficient enzyme is one called glucosylceramidase, which uses a particular fatty acid to give the body energy. When this enzyme is missing, the fatty acid builds up in white blood cells. Common symptoms include bruising, anemia, fatigue and enlarged liver. Patients also often have skin discoloration and liver problems. Gaucher disease affects about one in 20,000 people, but is up to 45 times as prevalent in certain ethnic groups.

The disease is treatable, however, the supply of the most common medications has been disrupted since 2009. A new process undergoing FDA review to synthesize the pharmaceuticals more efficiently will help ensure that patients have a steady supply of necessary treatment.

Support For Colon Cancer Patients

Most of the time, colon cancer is caught early and treated quickly. Unfortunately, sometimes it isn’t caught in time, or the treatment proves ineffective. And even when the physical disease is defeated, it can leave lasting emotional scars.

That’s why it’s important to develop a support plan. If you can, enlist your friends and family to help you with day to day tasks, as well as bearing some of the emotional weight. Facing a cancer diagnosis can be a scary time; allow yourself to find it scary, and to talk to people about it.

At the same time, do what you can to mitigate the scariness. Educate yourself as much as you can: about what colon cancer is, about treatment options, about how it will—and won’t—affect your life. Take comfort that very few people die of colon cancer.

Many people find that connecting with other survivors helps them. Ask your doctor or look on the Internet for colon cancer support groups in your area.

Detecting And Treating Tuberculosis

Tomorrow is World Tuberculosis day. Although TB incidences have significantly declined since the advent of antibiotics, and in fact were at a record low in 2011, there are still more than 10,000 cases a year in the United States. Worldwide, about one in three people is infected.

Not all infected patients become sick; tuberculosis often stays dormant after the initial infection, sometimes for years. Infants and elderly people are at high risk for active TB, as are people with weakened immune system due to illness or medication.

Symptoms of TB include:

  • A cough that lasts for more than two weeks or is bloody
  • Unexplained weight loss and loss of appetite
  • Fever and night sweats
  • Fatigue

Fortunately, TB is often treatable, although there is no effective vaccine. The standard medical treatment, in fact, has not changed for decades. There are several medications that can be used to treat latent infection, after someone has been exposed to the bacteria but before they’ve gotten sick. This is important for people in high-risk groups. Other medications treat the disease itself.

Progress Against Alzheimer’s

Sometimes the best way to fight one disease is with another. This week, scientists found evidence that the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis—a neurological disorder that, among other things, makes rats lose their fear of cats, but is usually harmless in adult humans—may help slow or even reverse the progress of Alzheimer’s disease.

Last year, Turkish researchers found that patients with Alzheimer’s were nearly twice as likely to have also shown an immune response to the toxoplasmosis parasite. The more recent study, however, showed that when mice with Alzheimer’s were injected with the parasite, the characteristic plaques of Alzheimer’s were actually reduced.

These plaques are the result of a chemical called beta amyloid, which is part of the immune response to toxoplasma gondii. It may be that the initial toxoplasmosis infestation builds up the plaques, but if the infestation—which can suppress the immune system—comes later, it reduces them; another possibility is that the beta amyloid activity that causes Alzheimer’s created false positives in the Turkish study, appearing to be an immune response to toxoplasmosis when in fact they were not.

Toxoplasmosis affects about one in five Americans, most of whom show no symptoms. The parasite is often acquired by handling cat feces or eating contaminated meat. It is fairly harmless in most adults, but it can be quite serious in people with weakened immune system and in small children and infants, especially infants who contract it prenatally.

National Poison Prevention Week

You may have poison in your home. In fact, you probably know where most of it is, but your child might not. One hundred sixty-five young children are treated for poisoning each day in American emergency rooms. If your child ingests something they shouldn’t, call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222.

The best way to keep your children safe is to keep dangerous items out of their sight and out of their reach. Cabinets in which cleaning products are kept, should have childproof locks. If your children are old enough to understand, be sure to warn them that cleaners and the like are not food. Don’t let kids play with empty bottles that had poisonous substances in them, no matter how thoroughly you clean them; even if there’s no danger from trace amounts of residue, you don’t want them thinking of the bottles as toys. Medication is another danger, so make sure all pill bottles—even medicine for children—is in child-safe packaging and don’t refer to medication as “candy.” In addition, cosmetics are a common cause of accidental poisonings. Nail polish and perfume are some of the major culprits.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, if someone is poisoned, it is important not to induce vomiting. This could worsen the effects and do more harm. Call the poison control hotline, 1-800-222-1222, and try to have available the victim’s age and weight, the container or bottle of the poison and the time of the poison exposure. However, time is of the essence, so as long as you have a general idea of what the poison is, you shouldn’t delay calling while you look for the bottle.

Treatment For Colon Cancer

When colon cancer is detected, there are several treatment options. these have varying levels of risk and effectiveness, but the earlier the cancer is detected, the better the outcome.

Precancerous polyps and early-stage cancer cells can be removed immediately during a colonoscopy. In many cases, this removal will completely heal the cancer. Lager polyps may require laparoscopic surgery, using small instruments and cameras inserted through the abdominal wall.

Later stage or more widespread cancers may require more invasive surgery. Once cancer reaches the inner layers of the colon—stage I—doctors recommend a colon resection, or removal of the entire affected part of the colon.

If the cancer has spread throughout the colon and is affecting the lymph nodes, chemotherapy is often required in addition to surgery. At that stage it may not be safe or even possible to remove enough of the colon to be sure of getting all the cells, so a usually short course of chemotherapy is needed to kill any cancerous cells left behind.

Radiation therapy is seldom needed for colon cancer, though if the cancer ha reached Stage IV and spread to other organs a combination of radiation and chemotherapy may be used to prolong the patient’s life. Unfortunately, by this point the chances of a complete cure are very small. That’s why it’s important to be screened often and, if cancer is found, begin treatment early.

Be sure to be tested for colon cancer regularly, particularly if you’re at risk. If cancer is found, talk to your doctor about what sort of treatment is right for you.

Eating A Balanced Diet

Eating right is an important part of staying healthy. Maintaining a healthy weight may be the single most important thing you can do to live a long and healthy life. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has developed guidelines for a balanced diet that can help you make good decisions.

“USDA is committed to helping Americans make healthier food choices and our MyPlate symbol is a simple reminder to think before we eat,” said Tom Vilsack, the secretary of agriculture. “Our public and private sector national partners represent an important cross-section of industry, advocates and academia pulling toward a common goal of improving the health our country through diet and in many cases reversing childhood obesity.”

Recommendations include eating mostly fruits and vegetables, drinking low-fat or fat-free milk or eliminating dairy entirely, reducing your sodium intake, and replacing sugary drinks with water. Experts say it’s important to read food information labels carefully, and not be swayed by health claims made in big letters with exclamation points.

It is also recommended that you use smaller plates to help manage portion sizes. Studies have shown that when you eat the same amount of food from a smaller plate, you feel more satisfied. Slowing down—taking the time to truly enjoy your meal—will also help you avoid overeating. It takes your body about 20 minute to recognize you’re full; if you eat more slowly, you’ll eat less during those 20 minutes.

St. Patrick’s Day Tips

Whether you’re going out drinking this St. Patrick’s day, or keeping the party at home, here are some tips to stay safe:

  • Designate a driver. One third of traffic fatalities on St Patrick’s Day are due to drunk driving, so do your part to avoid it.
  • Eat as well as drink. Drinking on an empty stomach will make you impaired faster and puts you at greater risk for alcohol poisoning.
  • If you are driving, be alert not just for other drivers but for drunk pedestrians.
  • Stay hydrated. Drinking non-alcoholic, non-carbonated beverages will help reduce the chances of a good time tonight translating into a bad time tomorrow morning.
  • Clear alcohols are less likely to lead to hangover; they have significantly lower concentrations of toxins called congeners, which may be associated with hangover symptoms.
  • If you’re hosting, dump unattended cups to keep them away from wandering children or pets.

Following this advice will help you enjoy your festivities.