Monthly Archives: July 2013

Outbreak brings infection control to forefront of the news

Hospital infection control has become a hot top as the number of diseases of Cyclospora infection reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continue to increase. Multiple news outlets are reporting on the stomach bug that has swept the Midwest.

Cyclospora infection
According to WebMD, this infection is caused by single-celled parasites that are often found in tropical environments. When ingested, a person will experience symptoms of gastrointestinal discomfort. So how do residents located in the Midwestern region of the United States contract Cyclospora?

Recent outbreak
In 1996 more than 1,000 people living in 20 different U.S. states were infected with Cyclospora because of fresh raspberries that came from Guatemala. However, this time the cause is believed to be a bagged salad mix, according to a Nebraska ABC affiliate. Although specific brand names have not been released, the combination is said to include iceberg and romaine lettuces, in addition to red cabbage and carrots.

Diagnosed cases
On June 28, the first two cases of Cyclospora were reported in Iowa. This event spurred an investigation by the CDC in coordination with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to find out if there were additional sufferers. As of July 31, 378 instances of the infection had been reported by 16 different health departments across the United States, including: Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota and Ohio. However, there are a number of states outside of the Midwest that have seen issues, from New York to Texas.

Preventative measures
Since fresh produce seems to be a cause for concern when it comes to Cyclospora, the FDA recommends always washing products you purchase from the store to prevent infection. You may even want to use a paper towel to dry your fruits and vegetables in order to remove any remaining residue. It should be noted that chemicals found in soaps and detergents have failed at killing to infectious organism, so there's no need to use any on your foods.

You may be infected by Cyclospora if you are suffering from diarrhea that comes and goes, a mild fever and other flu-like symptoms. These can last over the course of several weeks in some cases. As a result, some people are hospitalized due to dehydration. Those who are concerned they have contracted the infection should go to the doctor or hospital.

Health care professionals will have infection control supplies that should be able to rid the body of Cyclospora. In most instances the antibiotic Bactrim is used for successful treatment. Patients are required to take a seven- to 10-day course of the medicine until their symptoms go away.

Cheer Up For Your Heart

According to recent research, happy people have fewer heart attacks. Building on the long-confirmed knowledge that people who experience depression or anxiety are both more likely to experience heart attacks and more likely to die from them, scientists at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found that the exact opposite is always true: people who are generally cheerful and relaxed are less likely to suffer heart attacks.

"If you are by nature a cheerful person and look on the bright side of things, you are more likely to be protected from cardiac events," the leader of the study, Lisa R. Yanek, said in a statement. "A happier temperament has an actual effect on disease and you may be healthier as a result." Yanek added that the results are about not simply behavior or even mood, but overall temperament—what sort of person you are; moreover, the exact nature of the link is not clear.

What it does mean, however, is that medication that improves mood, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, can also help lower a patient’s risk of fatal heart disease. Although the link between depression and heart disease is not wholly explored, it is believed that not only does depression effect the heart directly, it also leads to patients being more likely to let themselves go. Patients who take antidepressants take better overall care of themselves.

The Johns Hopkins study looked at subjects over more than a decade. Happiness and satisfaction with life were measured with as questionnaire. After adjusting for age, cholesterol, and other factors, the study found that cheerful people were a third less likely to have heart attacks or other coronary events, and people at high risk of heart disease were half as likely.

In addition to mood, other risk factors include smoking, having a family history of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, being overweight, having high blood pressure, stress, and poor hygiene, You can lower your risk of heart disease by maintaining a healthy weight by eating a balanced diet and getting a moderate amount of exercise. This is probably the biggest single step, aside from quitting smoking, that you can take to protect your health.

Link between asthma and allergies in children

Unfortunately, it's not uncommon for children to require asthma management for their symptoms. Furthermore, kids who also suffer from allergies are likely to remain asthmatic for a longer period of time. However, a new study has found that most kids will eventually grow out of the condition.

New findings
A recent investigation conducted by a group of Swedish professionals found that respiratory conditions are often further aggravated by pet allergies specifically. More than 200 children who had previously been diagnosed with asthma participated in the research. Remission rates increased as the children entered adulthood, and boys were more likely to have fewer symptoms that girls.

By the age of 19, the participants experienced a remission rate of 21 percent. Children who had cat and dog allergies were lucky with an 18 percent chance for remission. Of the children who were involved in this research, 26 percent of the boys experienced remission while only 14 percent of the girls did. Although it's not uncommon for kids who have needed asthma management to stop experiencing shortness of breath and other symptoms, most doctors will refrain from saying that they have "outgrown" the chronic airway disease.

This is where remission comes into play, as these patients are capable of having an asthma attack in the event there are enough triggers present at a given time. Rates for remission range greatly from 16 to 60 percent, so it's difficult for doctors to know what the outcome will be in any given diagnosis.

"Parents always want to know how long their children will have asthma," Dr. Jennifer Appleyard, who works at St. John Hospital and Medical Center, explained in a statement. " This study can give parents some hope, but there's no guarantee for any child. Really, the glass is half full. There's a good chance you'll outgrow it, but there's also a good chance you won't, especially if you have allergies too."

This fact brings more concerns to recent studies revolving around the rise of allergies among American children.

Children and allergies
The Centers for Disease Control found out earlier this year that allergies in children caused by both certain foods and environmental factors have been increasing over the last several years in the United States. According to NBC News, some have referred to this as an "epidemic" rise.

"Allergic disease is an epidemic and it may not have plateaued yet," Dr. Sakina Bajowala, an allergist from Chicago, told the source. "Every day we get new calls from patients. We see a lot more kids, not with just one allergy, but several."

The evidence of this is in the numbers, as food allergies found in children who are under the age of 18 increased from 3.4 percent in 1997 to 5.1 percent in 2011. Skin allergies, which can be caused by a number of irritants including pets, went from 7.4 percent to 12.5 percent during this same timeframe. Interestingly, the CDC also found that children who came from wealthier families were more likely to suffer from some type of allergy.

Researchers looked at information from 9,000 to 12,000 individuals who represented a cross section of the U.S. population. It is important to note that the presence of allergies was the only thing looked at, and what was causing those symptoms was not in question. In order to combat the rise in allergies, doctors will need to find the root of the cause.

"Allergies are not a joke, it is very frightening for families impacted by it – they do not want it to control their lives, but it does," Dr. Bajowala said.

Better Fit For Replacement Joints

Artificial joints often suffer from the flaw of wearing out quickly. A replacement hip may need to be replaced itself after as little as two years, a difficult and costly process. It is estimated that ten percent of joint replacement surgeries are operations to replace a previous replacement, called revision. Revisions are no less complicated than the original surgery, requiring the same two or three days of preparation and weeks or months of recovery. Revisions also expose the patient anew to the risks of joint replacement, such as damage to the nerves and bones around the site, or pain or limitations from poorly placed components, and can cost over $100,000 each time.

Now researchers at the University of Southampton in England have used new computer modeling techniques to allow surgeons to create joint replacements with longer lifespans. This may be the biggest advance in joint surgery since total knee replacement techniques were successfully developed and used 45 years ago. The first joint reconstruction surgery goes back to Europe in 1821, but most of the operations suffered from unsuitable materials. By the end of the 19th century, orthopedic surgeons were using ivory joints. The first successful joint replacement surgery in the United States was performed in 1891. Now with state-of-the-art materials available, the sticking point in improving the useful life of joints is in the fit—which is where computer design techniques come in.

The computer modeling is meant to replace human guesswork in fitting artificial joint components. Currently, surgeons must rely on experience and general understanding of what typical musculature looks like to fit replacement joints. By using computational modeling to determine the mechanics of the replacement, surgeons will be able to design custom-fitted components to exactly the patient’s needs. By using data derived from imaging and computer models of how the joints will function, arthroplastic technicians can create artificial joints that exactly support weakened anatomy, to optimize the lifespan of the joint. The procedure replaces human judgment with a patient-by-patient analysis of precisely what is needed.

Safety in the health care industry

There are a number of resources that go into providing patients with proper wound care. Not only is it important that those in the health care industry have the right kind of training, doctors and nurses also need to have well-made supplies that will help to ensure patients don't suffer from an infection or other unwanted side effect. With the alarming rate at which errors are occurring behind operating room doors, it's even more important that hospitals are equipped with the necessary tools.

One in four operating room mistakes
MedlinePlus recently released a statement indicating that technology issues are the cause of one in four operating room errors. After researchers reviewed information behind 28 different studies related to the issue, an average of 23.5 perfect of the errors were caused by either technology or equipment issues. Although these same devices have been successful in saving a number of lives, they do not come without their own concerns. Professionals who conducted the study warn against the increased rate in which this technology is failing patients rather than helping them. With nearly 16 percent of hospitalized patients laying victim to medical error, those in health care need to take all the necessary precautions available.

Leiden Operating Theatre and Intensive Care Safety (LOTICS)
Doctors at Leiden University Medical Center developed the LOTICS scale as a way to determine the cause of operating room errors. After conducting a study regarding the effectiveness of the scale in two operating rooms and intensive care units at university and teaching hospitals, they were able to conclude that LOTICS can be used to pinpoint the location of many problems. Through the use of this scale, researchers were able to quickly determine a system failure that may have interfered with patient safety.

Surgical checklists
Another observational study was conducted at University Hospitals of Geneva to determine if the items on Time Out and the Sign Out of the Surgical Safety Checklist were properly conducted by medical staff in the operating rooms. The information found that when a printed checklist was used by validated members of the department, patients benefited significantly. As a result, it was concluded that the staff should be trained on how to properly complete the surgical checklists. The more thorough the staff is with this process, the less likely there are to be issues during surgery.

Nutrition and wound care
At Queen's Hospital, it was uncovered that good nutritional status played a vital role in the proper healing of wounds. This means that protection goes beyond the proper training for surgical procedures and use of equipment, but also requires an understanding of what nutrition status is acceptable for an individual. For instance, patients need fatty acids in order for the structure of their cells to be capable of playing a necessary role in the inflammatory process. Researchers also found that patients' recoveries may benefit from high-protein diets and vitamin C. If doctors are able to detect malnutrition before it becomes a problem, they may also be successful in promoting wound healing for those individuals.

Although there are a lot of things that work together to provide a healthy environment for patients who are in the hospital, safe wound care supplies like something as simple as disposable gloves can go a long way. In order for doctors to promote healing, they need to understand the risks of using technology in the operating room and importance of completing surgical checklists. When the proper precautions are taken, professionals can help to prevent infection for occurring.

New Insights Into Migraine

Most of the approximately 45 million Americans with migraine don’t know it. The headaches, for these sufferers, are too irregular, infrequent, and atypical for the person to even consider the possibility that it’s a migraine, or for a doctor to diagnose it as such. For these people migraine seems to be an occasional ordinary—perhaps unusually severe—headache, and is endured. Some patients don’t have, or don’t notice, the sensitivity to light, sound, and smells that makes migraine recognizable as migraine.

For many, however, the condition is clear. They have the sensitivity, they have the visual or auditory aura that predicts the incident, and in some cases they have a rare sleep disorder that scientists believe is connected to migraines. A mutation in the gene responsible for a protein called CK1δ has recently been found to be associated with both some times of migraine headaches and a form of disrupted sleep called familial advanced sleep phase syndrome, an inherited condition which causes people to both retire and rise unusually early, without any benefits in the way of health, wealth, or wisdom. CK1δ has a significant share of responsibility for circadian rhythm, the body clock that regulates the sleep cycle. Now evidence has appeared that the same mutation that causes the sleep disorder is also found in people who suffer chronic migraines.

Although it is believed to be the most costly neurological disorder worldwide, migraine is one of the more intractable health conditions for researchers because it is cyclical, unpredictable, and leaves no real trace. Patients are either in the middle of a migraine, or they are to all appearances healthy, and there’s no more than a few minutes’ warning when the latter state will give way to the former. This is one reason causes remain unclear, with CK1δ’s contribution only a very recent discovery. Painkillers and drugs called triptans that constrict blood vessels are used to treat migraines as they happen, but preventative treatments are generally off-label or new uses of medications for other conditions, such as depression of heart disease. CPK1δ offers the possibility of a migraine-specific treatment.

Blood pressure medications with additional benefits

Those suffering from high blood pressure require blood pressure equipment and medications. There are a variety of drugs that patients can take in order to keep their levels at an appropriate place. Recent information has found that some of those prescriptions may also benefit individuals who are dealing with the onset of dementia.

Research findings
At the University College Cork, doctors conducted a control study to see whether ACE inhibitors were successful in reducing a patient's rate of cognitive decline over the course of six months. Participants included 817 patients who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Through the use of the Standardized Mini-Mental State Examination or Quick Mild Cognitive Impairment, the patients' levels of dementia were tracked.

Researchers found a significant difference between the patients' cognitive skills when they compared those who received ACE inhibitors and those who did not. Specifically, their memory loss occurred at a rate that was 20 to 30 percent slower than the individuals who were not on ACE inhibitors. As a result, it was concluded that the progress of dementia could be reduced through this form of treatment.

ACE inhibitors
These pharmaceuticals are often used to treat congestive heart failure, which is why they are present in a number of blood pressure medications. Based on molecular structure, there are three different groups of ACE inhibitors, including sulfhydryl-containing, dicarboxylate-containing and phosphonate-containing agents. The first ACE inhibitor was captopril, which was approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration in 1981. These have been used as ingredients in treatment options for cardiac failure, renal disease and systemic sclerosis as well.

Currently, Alzheimer's is both an incurable and fatal disease that affects the brain. Due to the number of Americans who are living longer, it has become a more common diagnosis among the elderly. As a result, many doctors have worked to uncover treatment options to slow the process. This study conducted by doctors in Ireland was not the first of its kind. Although the evidence research has shown is positive, there will need to be studies conducted on larger levels. For instance, professionals may want to conduct a double-blind study that tracks results for a period that is greater than six months.

According to NBC News, professionals in the health care industry believe than the number of people living with Alzheimer's will triple over the course of the next 40 years. When the math is done, this could mean that 13.8 million people will be diagnosed with the terminal illness by 2050. Again, this is in part due to the current long life spans of Americans, and as the baby boomers enter their senior years the country could see the amount of people who are ages 65 to 84 double by that time.

Basic symptoms of Alzheimer's include mild memory loss and difficulty thinking, both of which are generally associated with old age. However, once the brain experiences a certain level of damage because of the disease, patients are likely to get lost and have difficulty with simple tasks like feeding themselves. As a result, doctors are working vigorously to find a treatment that truly works.

"The drugs we have for Alzheimer's dementia are basically symptomatic drugs," Dr, Gary Small told NBC. "They work temporarily. So far as we know there is no specific drug to prevent disease. We know probably that lifestyle choices have an effect."

Although individuals who stimulate their brains on a regular basis through the use of reading materials, thought-provoking puzzles and regular interaction socially may be able to reduce their risk for develop Alzheimer's disease, there are unfortunately no guarantees.

Possible Pancreatic Cancer Treatment

A natural cure for pancreatic cancer may be at hand. The juice of an Asian fruit called bitter gourd was discovered to have important anti-cancer properties. Tumors, like healthy tissue, need energy in the form of glucose to survive. Bitter gourd, or bitter melon, juice interferes with the ability of tumor cells to use glucose properly, essentially starving them to death.

Bitter gourd has a substantial medical history, having shown effectiveness in earlier studies against other types of cancer, including breast cancer and leukemia, though always in lab conditions. The seeds, though dangerous to children, may help adults prevent heart disease. In addition, various parts of the plant have a long history of use in traditional Turkish medicine, as well as in other parts of Asia and Africa, for gastrointestinal ailments such as stomach upset. It has also been used against malaria and dysentery, and for viral infections such as chickenpox.

It has also been shown to increase insulin sensitivity. That means an extract from bitter gourd can improve the efficiency with which healthy cells process glucose, reversing a risk factor for and sometimes early sign of type 2 diabetes. Another chemical in the fruit helps lower blood glucose levels in much the same way insulin does.

That it also seems to affect pancreatic cancer—and diabetes is itself a cause and sometimes symptom of pancreatic cancer, so treating diabetes also helps prevent cancer from developing—is particularly good news because pancreatic cancer is one of the more intractable forms. Surgery is usually the first option if the cancer is caught before it spreads; in advanced cases it may not be possible to cure it entirely with current medical knowledge, and radiation and chemotherapy are used to slow it down.

In addition to diabetes, risk factors for pancreatic cancer include obesity and smoking. People with a family history of pancreatic cancer are more prone to it, as are people with certain genetic mutations associated with breast cancer, meaning that if you have a family history of breast cancer, ask your doctor about pancreatic cancer screening regardless of whether you’re male or female.

Walking with diabetes

As a diabetic, you are no stranger to purchasing medical supplies. From insulin syringes to infusion sets, there are a number of items you need to have with you on a daily basis. Recent research has found a way in which you may be able to reduce your blood sugar levels after eating.

The facts
A new study conducted by researchers at George Washington University found that walking after a meal was beneficial to diabetics' blood sugar levels. The information was gathered from a group of inactive and overweight individuals 60 years and older who were suffering from diabetes. These participants took 15-minute walks 30 minutes after eating each meal. The results were compared to those who took one 45-minute walk per day.

The results showed a significant difference between blood sugar level control in those who took three short walks rather than one long. Furthermore, it was found that the post dinner walks had an even greater effect on blood glucose levels in the evening. This is huge, since this is the time of day in which many diabetics suffer from a decrease in insulin production.

If you are interested in trying this regime out, note that the people who participated in this study walked at a low-to-moderate pace. This was about 3 mph on a treadmill. You can also spend the time walking out doors, which may make the activity even more enjoyable. It's important to make sure that you are wearing diabetic socks and well-fitting shoes before heading out the door as well.

In addition to helping manage your blood sugar levels, walking daily will also help you to maintain a more fit lifestyle. This can help with weight management and may even lower the severity of your condition.

How sufferers can prevent diabetic foot

Many patients who are suffering from diabetes don't realize that they can use diabetic socks to improve their quality of life. These cozy foot warmers are made from medical and synthetic fibers that help to keep the feet cool, dry and comfortable. How does this help a diabetic? Well, when a person's feet are kept dry, they are less likely to develop blisters and foot ulcers. The socks' design promotes circulation, so those suffering from arthritis and plain old sensitive feet may also find relief with this product.

Preventing diabetic foot
Researchers from the Shahid Sadoughi University of Medical Sciences and Health conducted a study to evaluate how diabetic patients took care of their feet. It's important to note that neuropathy and antipathy commonly manifest into skin problems for diabetics, including issues like diabetic foot, ulceration, amputation and a reduced quality of life. So the professionals aimed to see what most sufferers were doing on their own in the way of treatment.

There were 80 diabetic patients who participated in the study. Doctors used a pretest questionnaire to track the foot self-care of each patient. Individually, each person was visited monthly and educated by a dermatologist on proper foot care. A follow up questionnaire was completed to see how the participants' treatments changed. The two sets of information were then compared and researchers came to the conclusion that education on diabetic foot-care was needed to prevent a number of health concerns.

Patients saw improvements when it came to foot and nail lesions following their lessons for treatment. A total of 84 percent even saw complete improvement in this area. The number of patients who started wearing suitable shoes and using diabetic socks also greatly increased after the dermatologist visits.

More precautions
In addition to putting on a pair of these stockings, diabetics who are suffering from neuropathy in their feet have a number of other preventative measures they can take. Patients should:

  • Check their feet regularly for cuts, sores and swelling. If a callus or wart is found, consult a doctor.
  • Cut toenails straight across to prevent ingrown toenails.
  • Refrain from walking around barefoot.
  • Wash their feet on a daily basis, making sure to dry areas between the toes.
  • Always wear well-fitting shoes, especially when exercising.

It's important for people who are suffering from diabetes to take their health into their own hands by having the necessary diabetic supplies on hand. This is not limited to socks, but also includes insulin syringes and infusion sets.