Category Archives: Business Health Trends

Physical Therapy

When someone gets sick or injured, it is the doctor’s or surgeon’s job to repair the damage and set them on the road to recovery. However, the task of leading them along that road belongs to the physical therapist. Physical therapy is the field that covers recovery of functioning, recovery of mobility or learning to deal with limited mobility, and restoration of quality of life. The physical therapist works weekly—daily, if needed—with patients to make recovery as complete as possible.

Specialties within physical therapy include sports, which deals with getting athletes into peak condition; neurology, which is for patients with neural or cognitive problems affecting motion; orthopedic, for patients with skeletal issues; geriatric, for problems of age; and pediatric, who are trained to work with children. Professionally, physical therapy as a field evolved out of gymnastics training, and athleticism is harnessed to the purpose of getting not already toned people into peak condition, but rather restoring ordinary functioning to those who have lost or diminished it through ill fortune.

Physical therapy is considered necessary for patients who have serious mobility issues as a result of sickness or injury. While injury to the muscles or bones is the most obvious cause of limited mobility, that’ isn’t the end of the story. For one thing, extended bed rest can cause muscles to lose tone. This isn’t merely a matter of being unfashionably flabby. Untoned muscles may need retraining to flex properly again, or to be fully able to support a person’s weight. In extreme cases, muscles can atrophy, meaning they start to degrade from lack of use. This damage can be healed, but not always completely, and in any case, the patient has to learn how to move again.

Physical therapy is as much art as science, and it is important for someone who needs it to find the right person. This means research, but it also means taking into account having to go to this person’s office and see them every week. In addition to providing proper care, they need to be conveniently located, there needs to be good rapport, the therapist’s specialty and approach need to match the patient’s specific problem. The right therapist can be the key to success.

Women And Medicine

Clinical trials are a vital part of the medical research process: they are used to determine how, and if, a medication being tested works for the illness it is purported to treat, what the side effects are, what else it might do, what the appropriate dose is&mash;enough to have an effect, not enough to be dangerous&mash;and how effective it is compared to existing treatments for the condition, if any. Every day, people are being recruited to participate in these trials to help advance the cause of science. Far too often, however, an important element is missing. Until relatively recently, with few exceptions, trials are conducted only on men unless the medication is for a condition that only or primarily strikes women.

There are several reasons for this. One is a fear, occasionally justified, that female subjects’ menstrual cycles will have an unrecorded impact on the results. Another, seemingly contradictory, reason is an assumption that men and women are pretty much the same, except for the plumbing; often, this translates in practical terms into an assumption that women are men with different plumbing. Despite a law passed over 20 years ago mandating that women be included in clinical trials funded by the National Institutes of Health, most medications are tested primarily on men, not generally out of a desire to exclude women&mash;either from the trial or from the medication’s benefits&mash;but out of a belief, which may not even be recognized consciously enough to be considered a conviction, that it simply does not matter.

Except it turns out that it does. Male and female bodies have different levels of hormones, anatomical differences beyond the obvious ones, and other differences that could make a significant difference in how drugs affect the body. That’s why men and women tend to experience different levels of intoxication from the same amount of alcohol, even taking weight into account. It’s also why manufacturers of sleep aids containing zolpiem, the active ingredient in Ambien, had to change labeling last year to list two recommended doses. The single listed dose, still recommended for men, was twice the dose now given for women, who were reporting high rates of sleep driving and other dangerous reactions.

Surgery For Weight Loss

Bariatic surgery is an often controversial procedure to help people lose weight. It is often derided as an "easy way out," but the fact is weight loss is difficult, the human body is deigned so that weight is much more easily gained than lost, and most diets usually don’t work for most people. If anything, patients who have weight loss surgery need to put more effort and thought into how and what they eat than dieters typically, do. The various kinds of bariatric surgery reduce stomach capacity in various ways, which make these restrictions easier, but also make them mandatory.

On of the most common types of weight loss surgery is called Roux-en-Y. The intestine is rerouted in a Y shape around most of the stomach and attached to a small pouch. This limits patients to the capacity of that pouch. Other types of surgery used miniaturized instruments inserted through a small incision to place an adjustable band around the stomach, making it smaller that way.

Regardless of the technique used, the health benefits are many. People with type 2 diabetes, for example, normally need insulin and medications the rest of their lives. However, obese people with type 2 diabetes—of which obesity is a major cause—show marked improvement, and in a study some were able to stop this maintenance treatment or diabetes entirely. Other studies found that obese people who underwent bariatric surgery successfully halved their heart attack risk. People on whom the weight loss operation had been performed had a 40 percent lower mortality rate and 50 percent fewer heart attacks than obese people who had not had surgery.

All this however, is not without a price. People who receive the surgery still need to follow a restrictive diet. In fact, it becomes more important, as failing to stick to the diet can result in not merely failing to lose weight, but in medical complications. Furthermore, the restrictive diet can mean nutritional deficiencies if people don’t carefully plan meals and take necessary supplements. There are also some signs that at least some procedures can make bones more brittle. While many patients find that the benefits more than compensate for the risks, it is still important for someone considering surgery for obesity to discuss both with a health care provider.

Snail-Borne Disease Becoming Tractable

Computers may be the key to defeating a group of parasitic diseases that affect 240 million people in over 75 countries worldwide. Schistosomiasis is caused by a type of trematode carried by freshwater snails that are found in Asia, Africa, and South America—the disease is also called snail fever. Over 700 million people live in ares inhabited by the snails that are the most frequent carriers of schistosomiasis.

Evidence of schistosomiasis has been found in the bodies from ancient Nubia, an African kingdom that existed in what is now south Sudan until the 14th century. The climate causes natural mummification, preserving the people in death and giving researchers who are able to examine them valuable information about the lives of the people living in the kingdom. Nubian farmers used irrigation techniques to farm along the Nile River 1,500 years ago, bringing them into contact with the snails that carry the disease. As a result of this, we now know, around one in four of the farmers had signs of schistosomiasis.

Today, technology that alters the environment is still having an effect on schistosomiasis prevalence. Because of climate change, the range of the snails responsible for spreading snail fever is changing. The populations of snails in the parts of Africa where they had been causing disease are declining. However, here is some evidence to suggest that the snails are moving in to areas they hadn’t been in before, due to both temperature change and human activity. That means that the changes in the snails’ habitats may not necessarily translate into a lower incidence of parasitic colonization among humans.

However, computers around the world are helping to find a treatment for the disease. Computer modeling of biochemical processes helps medical researchers better predict how drugs—including drugs that may not even exist, but that can be readily synthesized—will interact with the body and with harmful microbes. Moreover, the computer can be programed to sift through the data from these virtual experiments and narrow down the results to what might actually work. Simple as this is to describe, however, it requires enormous amounts of processing resources. The solution is what is called distributed computing. Few privately or corporately owned computers use all the processing power available at all times. Distributed computing allows researchers to, with the owners’ permission, use the excess to help cure disease.

Low Impact But Highly Effective Exercise

Almost everyone would benefit from getting more exercise. Lack of exercise is a risk factor for almost every type of preventable illness, particularly diabetes, stroke, and heart disease. However, exercise itself can be a strain for many people. Low-impact tai chi is a gentler form of exercise, one which can be done by people who are very young, old, or in poor health as long as they’re mobile and which requires very little in the way of space and no special equipment, but it has been found to have mental and emotional as well as physical benefits.

In one study, tai chi was more beneficial than walking for lower-body strength, and improved arm strength almost as much as weight training. It helps reduce pain and fatigue in people with certain chronic conditions, it has demonstrated emotional benefits, and it helps immunity. It also helps practitioners fight insomnia and get more restful sleep—all without requiring someone to break a sweat.

Recently, tai chi has been found to be useful for people with several specific conditions. Fibromyalgia sufferers often have a hard time getting proper treatment. Fibromyalgia is a difficult condition to pin down to a cause, and is often overlooked by medical professionals entirely, and so treatment is hard to get and to calibrate. People with fibromyalgia who practice tai chi, however, report less pain and more energy, benefits which continued for quite some time after the patients stopped doing the exercises. That means tai chi has achieved better results than medical interventions for fibromyalgia.

People with identified neurological deficits or issues also have reasons to look in to tai chi training. People with Parkinson’s disease, for example, are often prone to depression—over half of all people with Parkinson’s have been diagnosed with clinical depression as well. Exercise can help stave it off, but because of the condition’s effects on motor skills, many exercise programs are difficult. Tai chi, however, is more accessible to people with mobility issues Stroke survivors, too, can benefit from tai chi. People who have had strokes are seven times as likely to fall as the general population, but tai chi can help restore balance.

Concussion Treatment And Recovery

The football post-season is almost upon us, but the National Football League has attracted negative attention recently with reports of brain injuries among professional football players being ignored. A study this past autumn found that the blows to the head associated with college and professional athletics, especially football, leads in many cases to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which affects behavior, mood, memory, and cognitive abilities.

However, even mild brain trauma can cause significant, permanent damage. Bruising and other physical damage to the brain tissue can have long-lasting effects that may not be apparent for months or even years. Scientists are still studying how the brain heals itself, and why it sometimes doesn’t. However, it is known that someone who might have a concussion should be observed for at least 24 hours after the injury for signs of danger.

If an adult has experienced head trauma, they need immediate emergency care if they have slurred speech, nausea or vomiting, a headache that doesn’t stop or gets worse, or weakness or poor coordination. Other warning signs include convulsions, seizures, unusual behavior including getting restless or agitated, or losing consciousness, however briefly. These could be signs of a dangerous blood clot in the brain.

In general, people who’ve had a head injury should be given medical attention even if there is no apparent damage and they show no symptoms. A health care professional can make sure that intracranial pressure doesn’t go too high, which can block blood flow in the brain, leading to stroke. High pressure in the brain can also interfere with the removal of waste products, and hasten the onset of dementia or otherwise cause cognitive problems. If treatment is provided, most people with mild brain injury will recover in about three weeks, and even moderate injuries rarely stop people from leading normal lives.

Further research into the effects of traumatic brain injuries is supported by the National Football League itself, which in response to recent pressure has put $30 million into research into identifying and treating complications. One priority for recipients of these research grants is identifying encephalopathy in living patients, not just through autopsy.

Hiding From Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes are more than just an annoyance—they play a major role in spreading some nasty diseases. Mosquitoes are largely to blame for transmission of malaria, a group of diseases called arboviral encephalitides that includes West Nile virus, dengue fever, Rift Valley fever, yellow fever, and other illnesses. And cold weather isn’t necessarily protection. Often winter simply drives the pests indoors, where they can attack at their leisure.

Now, however, scientists are coming to a better understanding of how the insects find and select their targets: it’s our breath. Not bad breath; the mosquitoes smell the carbon dioxide we exhale. Once close to humans, the ladies—only female mosquitoes bite—use different odors to zero in on exposed skin areas. That means that anything a human has touched has the power to draw mosquitoes. The mosquitoes use the same organ, called the maxillary palp, to detect both human breath and human skin, surprising researchers who had assumed the two functions were handled by separate structures.

"For many years we had primarily focused on the complex antennae of mosquitoes for our search for human-skin odor receptors, and ignored the simpler maxillary palp organs," said stud author Anandasankar Ray in a statement. The study is the first to identify precisely which mosquito olfactory organs are responsible for the insects’ attraction to human skin.

The next step, say researchers, is to use these findings to help develop ways to cloak humans and render us invisible to mosquitoes, or to lure them away from people and possibly into traps. This is particularly important in areas of the world where mosquito-borne diseases are a major public health issue. Currently mosquito nets, physically preventing mosquitoes from getting to people, are the primary tool of malaria control, but masking humans and luring the mosquitoes away from them may prove more effective overall. In fact, substances that occur on human skin naturally have already been determined to repel mosquitoes, though not as much as other compounds attract them. This finding can be used to develop a better bug repellant in the future.

CPR Training

Lower-income and rural areas, particularly in the South, have very few people trained in proper cardiopulmonary resuscitation techniques, according to a new study by Duke University. These are the areas that most need people who are trained in CPR—they are the parts of the country with the highest rates of cardiovascular illness, meaning people are more prone to heart-related medical emergencies—but they are also the areas where people to whom those emergencies happen are least likely to have someone around who can help.

This is a serious public health issue, researchers say, because CPR, performed quickly, can dramatically improve survival rates. Survival drops off ten percentage points for every minute of delay in starting CPR. Even simple compression CPR—call 911, then push hard and fast on the chest until help arrives—can help save lives, at least as compared to doing nothing. Often, nothing is exactly what people who see a person go into cardiac arrest do, generally out of a fear that they’ll do something wrong and cause further harm. That’s why laws have been passed in North Carolina and 11 other states that make CPR training a requirement for high school graduation, with yet more states considering doing the same.

Even without a requirement, more and more schools are teaching students CPR. In fact, the American Heart Association has developed a training kit specifically designed to be used with school health curricula to teach CPR to teens. It uses an inflatable manikin and a DVD to teach the needed skills in less than 30 minutes. The hope is that by teaching CPR to the next generation, we can be sure people will be able to help for a long time to come.

Even faster are one-minute training kiosks for compression CPR such as one recently installed in Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. The American Heart Association revised its guidelines in 2010 to reflect the understanding that this hands-only form of CPR can save lives when ambulances are on the way. The kiosk in Dallas is part of a pilot program to create instructional guides that untrained bystanders can turn to in an emergency situation.

Oxygen therapy may help macular degeneration

As is the same with many parts of the body, our eyes begin to feel the effects of aging later in life. One common condition that the elderly may be troubled by is age-related macular degeneration. This is when the macula, a small area located in the center of the retina, is damaged. When not treated, macular degeneration can lead to vision loss and is the leading cause of it in those who are 50 and older.1 This is why it's important for anyone who is experiencing symptoms to talk to a health care professional about potential treatment options.

Once macular degeneration has progressed to the later stages, it is also referred to as dry AMD. Vision changes that may indicate this condition may include:

  • blind spot in central line of sight
  • blurriness or haziness
  • hallucinations of well-known shapes and faces
  • poor sight in dimly lit areas
  • decreased recognition of brightness of colors
  • trouble recognizing faces

At the first sign of differences to central vision, the Mayo Clinic encourages individuals to see their doctors. Other key issues include impaired recognition of colors or fine details.2

Currently, medical professionals have not been successful in finding a treatment option for curing dry AMD. However, there are some procedures that patients may experience improvements with.3 That being said, scientists are regularly conducting new research to find a cure. Investigations have included things like acupuncture, microcurrent stimulation and rheopheresis. Another option that has been gaining popularity as of late is hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT).

Professionals from the Retina Associates of South Florida tested to effectiveness of HBOT on 14 patients who were suffering from AMD. After a 1-hour session, researchers found that participants experienced significant improvements to their visual fields.4 As a result, most also benefit from improvements to their overall well-being, as they were able to go about their daily living more easily. So, what is HBOT?

Patients are placed in an environment with 100 percent oxygen that is under increased atmospheric pressure.5 This is generally done within a chamber, where patients are able to rest comfortably as they watch television, listen to music or just snooze. Throughout the process, the tissues within the eye are flooded with oxygen. This helps to regenerate cells and promote healing of the macula, ultimately leading to improvements in vision.6

Risks of HBOT
Although HBOT can greatly benefit an individual's life, like many medical treatments, it comes with a few associated risks. In many cases, an individual who suffers from both cataracts and AMD will have to have their cataracts treated first. Patients should talk to their health care providers to learn more about these potential complications:

  • inner ear injuries
  • organ damage
  • seizures
  • temporary nearsightedness

However, those who are candidates for HBOT should recognize that this is a generally safe option for treatment of AMD.7 Additionally, this form of oxygen therapy is also used to treat a variety of other health issues. It is popular for helping the blood carry oxygen to wounds more quickly, which speeds up the healing process.8

Medex Supply is a top name in providing both professionals and individuals with medical supplies for helping treat a variety of ailments.

1 National Institutes of Health, "Facts about age-related macular degeneration" July 2013
2 Mayo Clinic, "Dry macular degeneration: symptoms" November 20, 2012
3, "Treatment options for dry AMD"
4 National Institutes of Health, "Hyperbaric oxygen therapy and age-related macular degeneration" April 2010
5 Medscape, "Hyperbaric oxygen therapy: overview" February 19, 2013
6 National Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Center, "Hyperbaric oxygen therapy chamber to help treat macular degeneration" February 17, 2012
7 Mayo Clinic, "Hyperbaric oxygen therapy: risks" October 27, 2011
8 National Institutes of Health, "Hyperbaric oxygen therapy" August 30, 2012

A popular option in hip replacement: the posterior approach

Wear and tear can damage our joints as we age, resulting in the need for surgeries such as hip replacements. Whether it's due to a fall or severe pain, these types of procedures can greatly improve the quality of an individual's life. So was the story of Marilyn Bafus, a farm wife from the Inland Northwest area, according to The Spokesman-Review.1

A personal story
When Bafus began to experience severe hip pain, she was unable to partake in activities she loved – like horseback riding. So, she went to Dr. Jonathan Keeve, who recommended she undergo posterior hip replacement. He explained that the surgery would be less invasive, requiring a shorter recovery time that other options. Rather than cutting through the muscles, this approach works between the muscles. However, for some time, there has been some debate over whether or not this is the best method of treatment.

Bafus went ahead with the technique recommended by her surgeon after completing some of her own research. Following the procedure, Bafus set the goal to get back on horseback with the help of rehabilitation therapy. Within about 9 months, that goal was achieved. It was just some six months after this that she had the same surgery performed on her other hip. This time, it only took her a few months to get back to riding, pain free.

"It just kind of gave me my life back," she told The Spokesman-Review.

More about the posterior approach
Duke Health explains that there are several advantages to the posterior approach when it comes to hip replacement.2 Some of the reasons this option has gained popularity include:

  • minimal instances of complications
  • history of success
  • less invasive than other options
  • protection of the muscles

However, there is a potential risk that comes along with this method: dislocation. According to Duke Health, this has only been an issue in 1 percent to 2 percent of all hip replacements using the posterior approach. Additionally, this risk can easily be reduced by with precautions during the postoperative phase of recovery.

There are some things that medical professionals take into consideration before moving forward with hip replacement surgery.3 Since recovery requires pain management and anesthesia, doctors may look at:

  • current health condition
  • experience with anesthesia
  • reaction to other medications
  • potential risks

From there, depending on the preference of the surgical team, they will suggest the most appropriate type of reconstruction. As of late, the posterior approach has increased in popularity as more medical professionals become familiar with it and learn of its success. The minimal incision technique used in this method helped to reduce recovery time and lessen pain following surgery.

Facilities in need of surgical supplies for conducting a posterior hip replacement can purchase all the required medical supply equipment online from Medex Supply.

1 The Spokesman-Review, "A less invasive approach to hip surgery" November 19, 2013
2 Duke Health, "Posterior approach to total hip replacement surgery"
3 Maine Medical Center, "Posterior approach total hip replacement"