Monthly Archives: March 2014

Living With Endometriosis

monroe

Endometriosis afflicts one in 25 women in the United States—among them, film star Marilyn Monroe. That means that for these women, the endometrium, which is supposed to be inside the uterus is not. When endometriosis patients ovulate, the endometrium thickens, despite being misplaced; when they menstruate, the lining is not properly shed and remains trapped inside the body. This can lead to pain and scarring and form cysts, and the dead tissue creates a risk of infection. In addition, the cells can connect organs that are not supposed to be connected. At least a third of women with endometriosis have fertility problems, either because the misplaced uterine lining provides no place for implantation to occur, because scarring prevents conception, or because cellular chemicals are released that interfere with fertilization or gestation.

Endometriosis pain follows no known pattern. It may occur during menstruation, or mid-cycle, both, or at random. Pain can also happen during bowel movements, urination, or intercourse. People can have severe pain despite relatively mild endometriosis, and a severe form of the condition may not be associated with a great deal of pain. Other symptoms of the condition include heavy periods, bleeding between periods, constipation, diarrhea, or bloating.

The case of the illness is unclear. The predominant hypothesis is a condition called retrograde menstruation, in which some menstrual blood goes the wrong way into the stomach or fallopian tubes and leaves bits of endometrium which are then not removed by the immune system. However, why the immune system is ineffectual in these cases, and why retrograde menstruation happens in the first place, are not well understood. Another theory suggests that cells existing within the abdominal cavity change to resemble uterine cells—also for no clear reason—and these then spread there. Although endometriosis is not present from birth or menarche, there is some evidence that it runs in families. Women with short cycles or who have never given birth are particularly at risk.

When there is no fertility issue, treatment is generally focused on management, using hormone therapy or even just pain medication. When there are fertility problems that need to be addressed, surgery may be necessary. If the uterus is severely damaged, a hysterectomy might be needed to protect the patient’s overall health.

Bipolar Disorder And Creativity

Sylviaplath

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness characterized by often extreme mood swings, from deep depression to mania. The depressive phases come with the usual accoutrements of depression: feeling sad or hopeless or drained, and a lack of interest in or motivation for everyday activities. During the manic phase, someone with bipolar disorder will be euphoric, but may also exhibit poor impulse control and self-destructive behavior. There is a strong genetic component to the condition, with doctors calculating it at around 71 percent hereditary. Environmental factors also play a large role in people genetically predisposed to the disease, and some kinds of brain damage or injury can produce bipolar symptoms.

A recent study underscores the connection long perceived between bipolar disorder and creativity. Called the Sylvia Plath effect, after the 20th-century writer and poet, heightened risk of mental illness is often believed to go hand in hand with creative talent, indeed, in the study, people who placed greater emphasis on creativity in their lives—in particular, those who regarded inspiration as coming primarily from within—were found to be more at risk for bipolar disorder, showing higher scores on psychological tests designed to assess the condition.

However, many experts on both psychology and writing dispute this connection, pointing out that creativity is often misunderstood by people who don’t necessarily act on their own inspiration, and creative people are not always distressed or harmed—a defining characteristic of mental illness—by the ways in which they appear to think differently from others.

In addition, the test, a questionnaire, may not be the most accurate way to measure bipolar disorder. The questionnaires often rely on either self-reporting, which can introduce various kinds of largely unconscious bias into the process, or on observation, which is inherently limited. Brain scanning techniques, which look directly at what is going on in the brain, can be more accurate when doctors know what to look for. With bipolar disorder, they are beginning to know. The scans measure blood flow, and thus brain activity, in the parts of the brain associated with regulating moods. By looking for patterns in this activity, doctors can spot bipolar disorder in action.

Living With PCOS

ovarian cyst

More than one in 20 women of childbearing age suffer polycystic ovarian syndrome. These women experience obesity, unwanted facial hair, and, often infertility, because of a hormone imbalance in the reproductive system. It’s not clear what causes them imbalance, but researchers have several hypotheses. PCOS might be associated with insulin levels with elevated insulin causing other hormones to also be out of whack. There appears to be a genetic component of the condition, wit close relatives of people with PCOS being particularly susceptible to the disease. Women with PCOS tend to also have low-grade inflammation, and there may be a causal connection. The disease may also be traceable to the fetal environment, with exposure to certain kinds of hormones in utero leading to imbalances in the child.

There are less well known symptoms too. PCOS can interfere with ordinary menstruation, and can lead to mental illness—the more disrupted the patient’s menstrual cycle, the more likely it is that she will have depression anxiety, or other mental health problem. This is why it is important to consider mental health in treating PCOS. Currently, treatment mostly addresses the physical aspects: regulating and re-normalizing the menstrual cycle, enabling fertility, and dealing with hair growth. Sometimes surgery is used to help insure fertility. However, the findings about mental illness suggest that, while fertility can be a goal in its own right, it is not necessary to address infertility in a patient who is not trying to get pregnant. he mental health aspect seems to be related to hormonal activity directly.

Interestingly, the ovarian cysts that give the condition its name are not as major a feature of the disease as was once believed. This is why a panel of doctors are recommending that PCOS get a new name.

"The name PCOS is a distraction that impedes progress. It is time to assign a name that reflects the complex interactions that characterize the syndrome," said Dr. Robert A. Rizza, a member of the panel, in a statement. "The right name will enhance recognition of this issue and assist in expanding research support." No specific proposed new name for the disease has been agreed upon.

Technology For Epilepsy

seizure cap

The most common neurological disorder among Americans is epilepsy, which affects around one in every 100 people—with another 200,000 added annually. People with epilepsy suffer periodic seizures, episodes of abnormally high brain activity which can last from minutes to hours. The severity of the condition ranges from a minor issue for some people all the way up to a disabling illness.

There is no cure for epilepsy In almost three-fourths of cases, the disease can be controlled with anti-convulsant medication, though the medication must be maintained to continue to be effective—there‚Äôs no point at which a patient who hasn’t had problems with epilepsy or a while can simply go off the medication. Anti-convulsants have noticeable side effects in as many as 90 percent of people who use them. When epileptic seizures are caused by activity in just a small, discrete section of the brain that isn’t responsible for a vital function, that portion of tissue will sometimes be surgically removed.

Now advances in technology are making possible less dangerous and difficult treatments. On approach, called responsive neurostimulation, uses implants in the brain that stop seizures before they happen by detecting the associated electrical activity. When this happens, the implant can respond with low doses of anti-seizure medication or with electrical impulses that counter the seizure. When this system works as intended, the patient may not even notice the seizure before it is stopped. Some types of implant can even collect data on brain activity that can be used to measure progress, update the prognosis, and fine-tune the treatment.

Other forms of technology can aid in management, without necessarily treating epilepsy directly. A recently developed smartphone app can help health care professionals diagnose an epileptic seizure. It presents a checklist of signs to look for in order to facilitate appropriate emergency treatment being administered. Computer models can also help doctors and other health care workers. One factor that tends to exacerbate the effects of seizures is that they can be hard to predict. The ability to know in advance when one is coming can help free patients from being tethered to this risk by giving them plenty of time to get to a safe place.

Timing Treatment For Lung Disease

lungs-md

How you sleep could be affecting how you breathe. Medical researchers say they’ve found a link between the circadian rhythm—the body’s internal clock that is primarily responsible for regulating sleeping and waking cycles—and certain types of lung disease. This body clock is found in nearly all complex living things, even plants. In many mammals, including humans, it regulates how ready the lung is at various times throughout the day for the onslaught of airborne pollutants it must cope with.

While there is no immediate application of this research in preventing lung disease, researchers say it can be used to determine the best time to administer medication for respiratory problems, providing the greatest effectiveness while minimizing side effects. For example, inhaled long-acting beta agonists are often used for treating asthma. Unfortunately, these medications can present a risk of causing an asthma attack if care is not taken. By timing the dose based on when the patient’s body clock is getting the lungs ready to handle particulate mater in the air, it may be possible to get the same results with a lower dose of the medication, minimizing the risks.

Research is being done on other forms of treatment as well. Lung transplants are increasing as a last-ditch treatment for end-stage lung disease. Over the last 26 years, deaths as a result of these procedures have dropped by half as it is performed more frequently. However, the transplanted organs are rejected by the bodies of about one in three recipients, meaning the lung triggers an immune response. Other complications are also common, if often not fatal.

Rejection is a result of foreign matter—the donated lung—being implanted in the body. One solution is to do transplants without foreign mater using lungs constructed using the patient’s own stem cells. These are cells found in bone marrow that are in a base state, not specialized to work only in certain parts of the body. Being from the recipient’s body, stem cells do not draw the attention of the immune system, and they can be induced to grow into any form for which a structure can be provided. For lungs, research s ongoing into providing that structure, finding ways to create scaffolds for stem cells to cause them to grow into a fresh, undamaged replacement lung. An approach that has been explored with some success is to take a posthumously donated lung and replace the cells in it, row by row, with stem cells from a transplant patient, so the cells take the proper shape.

South Korea reports canine bird flu cases

Researchers are looking into new cases of bird flu that were reported in South Korean dogs.

The words "bird flu," or avian influenza (AI), cause a lot of concern these days. According to Flu.gov, there have not been any reported infections of this kind in the U.S. – in humans nor animals.1 However, in 2011, there were 34 deaths as a result of the infection in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Egypt and Indonesia. And now, news from South Korea reports that bird flu has been found in dogs living in the country.2

The Global Post reported that 11 dogs living on two different farms were found to be infected with AI. This is the first time that canines with the infection have survived, and the animals have been isolated from the general public so that further testing may be conducted. There are another 18 suspected cases of bird flu in South Korea, but the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs are still waiting on test results for confirmation.

Medex Supply provides health care professionals and individuals with infection control supplies in addition to a variety of other medical supplies, all of which can be ordered online.

1 Flu.gov, "H5N1 avian flu (H5N1 bird flu)"
2 Global Post, "S. Korea reports additional infection of bird flu in dogs" March 24, 2014

Neurological Conditions, Mental Illness, And Developmental Disability

brain

Scientists investigating developmental disability have come to the conclusion that these disabilities, mental illnesses, and neurological disease are all aspects of the same type of disorder. Under current models, the three types of condition are perceived as clinically distinct, meaning that they are treated as different and unrelated disorders, with different causes, different prognoses, and different courses of treatment. However, there is a growing body of opinion that, rather than being distinct, these conditions exist along a continuum, and are all fundamentally linked.

"Recent genetic studies conducted in thousands of individuals have shown that identical genetic mutations are shared among neurodevelopmental disorders that are thought to be clinically distinct," said autism researcher Andres Moreno De Luca, M.D., a co-author of a recent article laying out this new model, in a statement. "What we have seen over the past few years is that genetic mutations that were initially found in individuals with one disorder, such as intellectual disability or autism, are then identified in people with an apparently different condition like schizophrenia, epilepsy, or bipolar disorder."

This model means that the research techniques and approaches used for mental illnesses such as schizophrenia can also be brought to bear on intellectual disabilities. It means the treatment approaches used for mental illnesses may also have application for neurological disorders thought to be untreatable. Perhaps more importantly, demonstrating an underlying genetic or biological abnormality linking all these conditions could go a long way towards eroding the stigma attached to them, a stigma which in some cases does more to impede people in society than the conditions themselves.

As for what this underlying cause is, this remains unclear. However, recent studies have found a link between treatments for male infertility and both developmental issues and autism in the resultant offspring. The risk was associated with an in vitro technique called intracytoplasmic sperm injection, in which a miniature syringe is used to inject a single sperm cell directly into an ovum under a microscope. This procedure is reserved for severe cases of male infertility.

Physical activity for seniors

Swimming is a great way for seniors to improve their fitness routines.

As we age, many people limit the amount of physical activity they partake in. This may be due to joint pain and other issues, but it can be dangerous to our health. HealthDay reported that those who have poor fitness routines in middle age may have a greater risk of developing dementia as they enter their senior years.

What the research says
Scientists from the University of Jyvaskyla found that participants in their study with an average age of 50 who self-rated their fitness routines as poor were four times more likely to develop dementia within the coming 30 years.

"Chronic conditions independently increase the dementia risk," Jenni Kulmala, author of the study, told HealthDay.1 "Furthermore, if a person feels that his or her physical fitness is poor, the risk is even higher. In terms of dementia prevention, maintaining good physical fitness seems to be especially important for people with chronic disease."

However, perception isn't all of it. Actually implementing a workout routine is necessary for middle-aged individuals to decrease their risk of dementia. Other preventative measures include maintaining a healthy diet, stopping smoking and making generally healthy lifestyle choices.

Exercises for seniors
There are a number of health and mental benefits for seniors who exercise. For instance, someone older than the age of 50 who works out regularly will likely increase their mobility and flexibility, which can reduce the chance of injury due to falling. When it comes to mental health, middle-aged individuals will likely get better rest at night when they engage in physical activity. This can improve both their mood and brain health.2

Simple exercises for seniors to participate in can include anything from vigorous walking on a daily basis to water aerobics and other aqua sports. Yoga, tai chi and qi gong classes have become popular as well – these types of workouts also possess meditative benefits for practitioners.

Since many people in retirement may be living on fixed incomes, it's important to note that exercise does not have to cost a penny! While joining a gym can be nice, especially in the bad weather when walking outdoors is out of the question, it can also get pricey. However, there are plenty of workouts that can be completed in the comfort of your own home.

Seniors who are in need of medical supplies can order online from Medex Supply. Available products include:

1 HealthDay, "Poor fitness in middle age tied to higher risk of dementia" March 5, 2014
2 HelpGuide.Org, "Exercise and fitness over 50" February 2014

Treating Multiple Sclerosis

neuron

The autoimmune disease multiple sclerosis affects around 400,000 Americans. It’s caused by the immune system erroneously responding to myelin, a fatty substance that coats the nerves to protect them. This myelin sheath helps nerve impulses travel along the neural pathways faster and more efficiently. When the immune system damages this protective layer, this results in functional deficiencies as impulses traveling through the unprotected nerve fibers are slowed down and interfered with as they pass. This results in several temporary but recurring problems including muscle weakness, fatigue, lack of coordination, and unsteadiness in walking. These symptoms come and go in irregular cycles.

This happens when a protein called fibrinogen gets into the brain and triggers the immune response against the myelin sheath. Fibrinogen plays an important role in coagulation of the blood, but is not normally found in the human brain. That, in fact, may be the reason that when fibrinogen crosses the blood-brain barrier, it activates the immune system. However, scientists are not entirely sure how or why the protein gets in the brain in the first place. Recent research showed some evidence that a food-borne bacterium called Clostridium perfringens may be partly responsible. Some strains of the bacterium produce a substance called epsilon toxin, which allows the protein through in people with a genetic predisposition to the condition.

Multiple sclerosis is currently thought of as untreatable, however this and other research provides promising avenues. A vaccine against epsilon toxin, or an antidote, could help prevent multiple sclerosis from developing in the first place. Researchers have found ways to alter fibrinogen so it is unnoticed in the brain. Other researchers have proposed using nanoparticles to hide myelin cells from their attackers.

One recent study found that statin drugs can help substantially slow the progression of the disease. Statin drugs are ordinarily given to people with high cholesterol to bring it back down into the normal range. They also have anti-inflammatory effects. In the study, a drug of this kind called simvastatin was able to fight multiple sclerosis symptoms. In later stages of the disease, the brain itself starts to sustain damage. Patients in the study who received simvastatin had a little more than half the amount of damage to the brain.

Can tequila help reduce blood glucose levels?

The tequila plant may posses sugars that can help lower blood glucose levels.

As diabetes affects more individuals every year, medical professionals are constantly looking for new ways to help treat the blood glucose disease. Currently, 25.8 million Americans suffer from diabetes, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.1 Based on research that was presented to the American Chemical Society at a recent meeting, tequila may be the answer.

The tequila plant
Unfortunately, it's not the tequila you find behind the bar that possesses diabetic benefits. The tequila plant creates a natural sweetener that may be successful in reducing blood glucose levels for patients who have Type 2 diabetes.2

"We have found that since agavins reduce glucose levels and increase GLP-1, they also increase the amount of insulin," Dr. Mercedes Lopez explained in a statement. "Agavins are not expensive and they have no known side effects, except for those few people who cannot tolerate them."

These fructans are made of sugar fructose, which are the best option for supporting the growth of microbes in both the intestines and mouth. Additionally, agavins help people to feel fuller when ingested, which may also cause them to eat less.

It's important that agavins not be confused with agave nectar or syrup, which tend to have similar properties as high-fructose corn syrup since they have been broken down into individual fructose. Agavins, on the other hand, consist of a link of fructose that cannot be regulated by the body. This means that, unlike with high-fructose corn syrup, blood sugar will not be increased by this tequila plant sweetener.

"This study represents the first attempt to evaluate agavins as sweeteners in spite of their lower sweetness compared to sugar," Lopez told the source.

Breakdown of the research
Lopez and colleagues uncovered this valuable information following data that was collected when mice were given water with added agavins. Their diets remained standard to the foods they had been eating before the start of the study. Each day, the mice were weighed, and their blood glucose levels were tracked on a weekly basis. The researchers noticed that the mice who drank more of the agavin water ate less. They also lost weight and had decreased glucose levels in their blood when compared to subjects that were given other sweeteners.

Agavins are just one potential option when it comes to treating diabetes. Patients who are looking for medical supplies to treat their condition can turn to Medex Supply. Available diabetic supplies include necessities such as insulin syringes and infusion sets.

1 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, "The facts about diabetes: A leading cause of death in the U.S."
2 American Chemical Society, "Tequila plant is possible sweetener for diabetics – helps reduce blood sugar, weight" March 16, 2014