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About Myasthenia Gravis

Poor communication can cause all manner of trouble. That’s true not only between people, but even in a single person’s body. When the parts of the muscles responsible for receiving nerve impulses are mistaken by the immune system for disease and destroyed, the nerves can no longer properly communicate with the muscles, and voluntary muscle movements are affected, resulting in a condition called myasthenia gravis. Myasthenia gravis affects about one in 5,000 people. It can strike anyone at any time, but initial onset is most common people between the ages of 50 and 70 and in in women under 40.

It’s not always clear what causes the immune system to attack the muscles. Myasthenia gravis is one of the few autoimmune diseases that does not appear to have a genetic component, but there is probably an inborn predisposition that, in combination with environmental triggers, leads to the condition. People who take certain medications—some types of antibiotics, beta blockers, quinine, or some others—are more likely to develop the condition. Other risk factors involve the thymus gland, where immune antibodies are produced. Occasionally, myasthenia gravis patients have a non-cancerous tumor in the thymus gland. More often, an enlarged thymus exhibits excess activity, producing the undesired antibodies.

Because myasthenia gravis affects the brain’s ability to send impulses to the muscles, it interferes with voluntary muscle movements, though autonomous activity such as the heart beating remain unaffected. That means difficulty taking a breath or speaking—speech becomes soft or hoarse—trouble chewing or swallowing, facial muscle paralysis, double vision and problems looking people in the eye, and a feeling of having to work harder than usual to move, stand from a chair, or climb up stairs. Another symptoms is a diminished sense of smell, even though this doesn’t involve the muscles.

Fortunately, myasthenia gravis generally is easily treated. When there is a tumor involved, removing the tumor, or even all or part of the gland itself, generally clears up the condition. When there is not, a common approach is to flood the body with the neurotransmitter that relays the signal to the muscles, o compensate for the damage to the receptor sites. As with many autoimmune diseases, drugs that suppress the activity of the immune system alleviate the condition.


A hysterectomy is the surgical removal of the uterus. This can range from a small part of the uterus up through the entire thing, along with the ovaries and fallopian tubes. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is a major decision and is generally used only wen less-drastic treatments have bee tried without success. A patient who has had a hysterectomy will be unable to bear children and as a result the operation is not generally performed unless that is not an issue. Nonetheless, one in three American women will have ha a hysterectomy by age 60.

The operation can be performed either vaginally or, more commonly, through a small incision in the abdomen similar to that made for a caesarian section. An abdominal hysterectomy is ordinarily performed when the uterus is enlarged or inflamed, or when the entire uterus needs to be removed together with the ovaries and fallopian tubes. The abdominal incision offers better access in these cases. Vaginal hysterectomy is fewer complications and a shorter recovery time, but doesn’t afford surgeons the same opportunity to see the condition of the organs, and can only be used if they know exactly what needs to be done.

There are a number of reasons a hysterectomy might be performed. When cervical, uterine, endometrial, or ovarian cancer is localized, removing the affected organ could be a complete treatment. Heavy menstrual flow, such as that caused by fibroids, can lead to anemia as well as severe pain, and hysterectomy may be performed in such cases as a last resort. It is also used for endometriosis or for uterine prolapse. Sometimes a pregnancy so damages the uterus—typically, a case of the placenta growing in an unusual place—that it needs to be removed.

However, a recent study suggests that too many hysterectomies are being done, and as many a one in five are not necessary at all. According to the researchers, for conditions for which hysterectomy is recommended as a last resort, it was actually the only treatment offered to almost 40 percent of patients. Less than a third of the women whose cases were looked at got medical treatment for their conditions before the operation even though in many cases it would likely have been sufficient.

If It Talks Like A Duck…

In 17th-century Netherlands, snake-oil sellers were called kwakzalvers. That’s why today we call them "quacks." Regardless of the name, they all do the same thing: sell useless and often harmful medical treatments and health advice to a defenseless public. Some of them may well believe the claims they are making, and sincerely think they’ve hit upon a remedy or a treatment approach that no one else has thought of before but that works. Others simply don’t care whether what they’re hawking does anything or not. Regardless, the results for the patient are the same—no improvement and, often, a delay in seeking or using remedies that might actually improve their health.

That is the most consistent danger of quackery. People will spend time, money, and other resources on treatments that don’t treat anything. Even if these fake treatments are harmless in themselves, the illness isn’t being treated—and may be getting worse—while the patient goes on this wild goose chase. Sometimes, however, the treatment is actively harmful. Colloidal silver turns the skin blue. "Black salve," a concoction sold to skin cancer sufferers, can be incredibly damaging, eating away at the skin it is supposed to heal. Worst of all, some hucksters convince perfectly healthy people that they need a lifestyle change to preserve their health, or suffer an ailment that has no symptoms and may well be unknown to medical science, which they need to pay the quack to cure.

There are some indicators that strongly suggest that a proposed treatment is nonsense. One is universality—a medication that treats a broad range of very different ailments may sound like a wonder drug, but the truth is that isn’t generally how drugs work. A real medication is generally specifically aimed at a particular cause or part of the body. Some quacks offer an alternative hypothesis about disease, medicine, or even anatomy, claiming it is superior to the conventional medical understanding. At the same time, many will use scientific-sounding language and other external trappings of legitimate medicine. Quacks will often claim that the medical establishment is trying to silence them or keep their discoveries secret, including by branding them quacks. The word "toxins" is a key sign, especially when it is not further elaborated upon.

Chocolate And Health

Possibly one of the greatest inventions in culinary history, chocolate possibly seems to have health benefits over and beyond spreading happiness. In fact, perhaps counter-intuitively, dark chocolate has he power to help fight obesity and type 2 diabetes. The key is a type of antioxidant—a compound that helps prevent certain kinds of cell damage—called a flavonol, in particular flavonols of a type referred to as "oligomeric procyanidins." In a study, these flavonols helped keep weight down even in experimental specimens given diets high in fat. Preventing obesity is an important part of avoiding type 2 diabetes, but dark chocolate has a direct effect on that as well. The same compounds were found to improve insulin utilization, meaning the body processes glucose more efficiently, avoiding type 2 diabetes.

While the compound was studied in laboratory animals, there is evidence that it works in human beings as well. In particular, teenagers who eat lots of chocolate generally have lower levels of body fat than their diets (beyond chocolate) might be expected to lead to. Adolescents in Europe who reported on surveys high levels of chocolate consumption were found to have lower BMIs and smaller waists regardless of how much exercise the were getting. An earlier study had found similar results among adults, that regular chocolate-eaters are leaner than those who indulge only rarely. The teen years, however, are where eating habits often develop, and overall health during that period often has lasting effects.

Researchers say the secret to why chocolate is so healthful is in the stomach. Humans have bacteria called gut microbiota to thank for making chocolate something so beneficial. These bacteria, which line the intestinal tract and other parts of the digestive system, play a vital role in digestion in general, and some of them eat chocolate. When they do, they ferment it, seizing on the sugars and producing anti-inflammatory chemicals. The also make it possible for the flavonols to be digested.

The anti-inflammatory compounds mean dark chocolate is also good for hear health. These chemicals make the blood vessels wider and more flexible, and preventing blood cells from adhering to the walls, lowering stroke risk.

Stopping Self Harm

Self harm, though rare, is all too common, particularly but not exclusively among teenagers. Self harm is the practice of intentionally causing injury, but without suicidal intention. Though cutting is perhaps the most common form, and certainly the paradigmatic one, there are a number of manifestations of self-injury, including scratching, hair-pulling, deliberate bruising, burning, poisoning, and preventing wounds from healing, either by itself or in combination with one of the others. Some experts classify eating disorders under the self harm umbrella. In fact, it is not uncommon for an individual to self harm in more than one way. Though often regarded as attention-seeing behavior, self harm is almost always kept hidden by those who do it, taking on aspects of a private ritual.

Self harm is related to mental illness, and is often associated with it. Though the practice is not generally an indicator of suicidal behavior, and the link is exaggerated in the public consciousness, both are associated with clinical depression. In addition, self harm often occurs with autism spectrum disorders, anxiety, and schizophrenia, among others. The urge to harm the self is often viewed as a means of exerting control over the environment; as such, people with obsessive-compulsive disorder often harm themselves. The practice is what some experts term socially contagious, in that people with friends who engage in it are more prone to do so themselves.

Having a friend or loved one who self injures can be scary. Parents need to resist the urge to yell, which can make things worse, or to confiscate equipment, which will only lead to greater ingenuity. Friends of a self-injurer, can help by acknowledging the pain while trying to steer the person towards a more productive coping strategy. Parents should do the same, but are likely to also be in a position to secure professional help for their child.

People who self injure and want to stop can find it difficult. It helps to create a strategy. By noticing events and situations that trigger the urge to harm, the self injurer can try to find ways to avoid those triggers. Finding distractions, or a less dangerous displacement activity, is also helpful. Other calming techniques—a bath, music, medication—can provide a better, safer substitute.