Archive for April, 2009


Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

We generally think of the sensation of pain as something we could well do without. When we are more thoughtful we can see the need for pain, but it still seems that pain as a warning sensation is much too severe and too prolonged. However, when we come to examine the situation more closely, we see that there is a reason for this. For instance, let us suppose that we burn our hand. The pain from the burn is sudden, intense, and severe. It overwhelms us and we immediately withdraw our hand. The pain is so intense that this reaction occurs automatically, quite beyond our control, and in the time of a split second. In this way the intensity of the pain causes the immediate withdrawal of our hand and so preserves it from further injury. We are not even given the chance to think about it. Thus, the severity of the pain is essential for its protective purpose. But the pain persists after we have withdrawn it from the flame, and is still so intense that we cannot even bear to touch the burnt area. This is again protective. By not touching it, we avoid bringing infection to the raw burn.

We sprain our ankle. The initial pain is so intense that we involuntarily fall to the ground, and our ankle is thus saved from further injury by immediately putting a stop to the stress which was tearing the ligaments. If we turn our foot in the direction of the twist there is an immediate recurrence of pain. So this movement is avoided and there is no further injury. This state of affairs persists for some days. The painful movement is avoided, and the torn ligaments are left undisturbed so that the process of repair can proceed in a way that would not be possible if the injured ankle was allowed pain-free movement.


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Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Q. What is a peptic ulcer and why does it have this name?

A. We have briefly talked about the stomach and duodenum, two important sections of the gastrointestinal system. Now, let us look at this area in more detail, for huge numbers of people suffer from horrid little sores on the lining of the stomach and duodenum called peptic ulcers.

If you are interested in how words are manufactured, peptic comes from the Greek peptein which means to digest. So, the ulcers are related to digestion.

There are two forms, those that develop in the stomach which are termed gastric or stomach ulcers, and those which form in the next part of the bowel system, duodenal ulcers. Doctors often write G.U., or D.U. for short, and this is an accepted part of their shorthand system. They may occur in other parts of the bowel, but are uncommon.

Really, an ulcer is an erosion of the surface lining of the organ.


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Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

The word ‘sciatica’ derives from the term sciatic nerve. Sciatic pain is a very specific kind of referred pain, one that is experienced at one or more places along the course of the sciatic nerve, which is the major nerve of the leg (and, incidentally, the nerve with the largest diameter in the human body). The sciatic nerve – one for each leg, of course – starts at the lower end of the spine and continues down behind the thigh. Directly above the knee joint, the sciatic nerve divides into two main branches – the tibial and common peroneal nerves – one branch travelling down the shin to the big toe, and the other running down the back of the calf to the heel before it winds around to the front of the foot and then extends into the toes.

The above is, of course, but a simplified description of the sciatic nerves; if you were to look in Gray’s Anatomy, the classic volume that still remains a standard medical reference nearly 150 years after it was first published, you’d find that more than four pages of small type are devoted to listing all the intricate sub-divisions of these nerves. While little purpose would be served by going into all this detail, it is important to note that almost any part of the leg can be affected by sciatic pain.


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Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

In the United States, it is illegal to sell “vitamin B15″(pangamic acid, calcium pangamate), and according to the Journal ofthe American Medical Association (243:2473), the FDA is prosecuting distributors who handle it and are seizing it from health food stores. Furthermore, the courts are backing up FDA’s right to destroy the materials they have seized.

Not just playing cops and robbers, the FDA is truly worried by the fact that two of the most widely available brands of this “vitamin” were found to contain substances which, after being swallowed, turn into some of the most potent cancer-producing chemicals known.

Even worse, different brands have been found to have completely different compositions so that the terms vitamin B15 and pangamate are meaningless. Pangamate, incidentally, is derived from the Greek words pan, meaning all, and gamete, meaning seed, and has been applied to mixtures of substances extracted from all kinds of seeds.

Furthermore, it is not a “vitamin” in the usual sense of the word since it has never been shown to be an essential dietary ingredient and there has been no definition of its chemical nature.

“Producers can throw anything they want into a bottle and label it vitamin B15 or pangamic acid,” reports the Journal, and producers have alleged that it helps heart disease, aging, diabetes, hypertension, glaucoma, alcoholism, hepatitis, jaundice, allergies, neuralgia, and neuritis.


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Tuesday, April 28th, 2009


Signs and symptoms

A sprain causes pain which is sometimes severe, swelling, tenderness, decreased movement of the joint and internal bleeding. A mild or moderate sprain generally can be suspected if a joint is tender after it has been twisted or overextended.

Because dislocations produce a visible malformation, they are seldom missed. Furthermore, the inability to use the joint is an obvious sign of a dislocation. Fractures of the bones of the joint cannot be ruled out without X rays.

Home care

A dislocation should not be treated at home. Minor sprains, particularly of the fingers, toes, and ankles, may be treated safely at home by immobilizing the hand or foot involved and then resting it. The sprained part should be kept elevated. Cold compresses applied for one to four hours after injury help minimize swelling. Aspirin or paracetamol will temporarily relieve the pain. If a sprain does not improve rapidly a bone may be fractured; the child should be seen by a doctor.


• Do not attempt to correct a dislocation, even of the fingers. Dislocations are often accompanied by a fracture.

• What appears to be a sprained wrist in a child may actually be a fracture of the forearm bones near the joint; what appears to be a sprained thumb may actually be a fractured navicular bone in the hand.

• A severe sprain may take as long as a fracture to heal and if not treated properly can result in a permanently weak joint.

• A sprain is not healed if it is still swollen or if it is painful to move.

• Elastic bandages do not adequately support or protect a sprained ankle.

Medical treatment

Your doctor will carefully examine the injured joint and will take X rays if a dislocation or a fracture is suspected. A minor sprain may be X-rayed, or the joint immobilized and its rate of healing observed. If the rate of healing is not rapid enough, an X ray will be ordered.


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Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

The scales, hair, or feathers normally shed by dogs, cats, horses, goats, rabbits, birds, sheep, rats, and mice are highly allergenic. Atopic children are easily sensitized to these skin outgrowths, and they should avoid them regardless of the results of skin tests.

Dogs sensitize through their hair, saliva, or dander (scales). Because dander is more allergenic than hair or saliva, allergy to the live animal is more severe than that caused by the hair of a dead animal used in furs or rugs or the saliva dripped on floors and furniture.

Allergy to dogs is common because the dog is a popular domestic pet; however, allergy to one breed of dog does not necessarily indicate an allergy to all other breeds. Yet all breeds are potentially dangerous, and a change in dog breed is not a solution to dog allergy.

If an atopic child does not have a dog, he should not get one. If he has one and he is emotionally attached to it, he should be allowed to keep it, but should not be allowed to replace it when it dies. Meanwhile, the dog should not enter his bedroom, and it should be kept outside the house as much as possible.

Even though avoiding dogs may be heart-breaking for a dog-loving child, there is no solution to this problem at the present time (except through a prolonged desensitization program which may not produce satisfactory results). For now, an atopic child should try to live without a dog.

Cats cause allergy because they lend themselves to cuddling and close contact. Their hair is light in weight, and it clings to the furniture for two to three weeks after the cat has been removed from a room. Persons allergic to cats should likewise avoid the other members of the cat family, such as the panther, the lynx, and the leopard (in visits to the zoo).

Commercially, cat hair is used in cheap furs, Chinese rugs, gloves, and toy animals.

Horse hair can be contacted directly through riding or indirectly through contact with the hair clinging to the clothes of persons connected with riding in academies, stables, or racetracks. The stuffing of upholstered furniture and orthopedic mattresses, rope, gloves, toys, fur coats, and suits may contain horse hair and should be avoided. A visit to a zoo should be avoided because the pony, the mule, and the zebra all belong to the horse family.

A person who is allergic to horse hair is usually allergic to horse serum as well. (Horse serum is still used in backward countries to carry tetanus antitoxins.)

Goat hair is known as mohair when it comes from the Turkish goat, alpaca when it comes from the lama of Peru, and cashmere when it comes from the goats in India. It is used to make clothing, costly Oriental rugs, imitation astrakhan, Utrecht velvet, cheap blankets, mops, ropes, brushes, and cheap plaster mixes.

Rabbit may cause allergies in children who keep rabbits as pets. Rabbit hair is used to make coats, trimmings, carriage robes, lining for gloves, slippers, food muffs, mattresses, pillow stuffing, quilts, toy animals, infant wear, hand-knitted trimmings, crochet work, gloves, hosiery, and knee pads for invalids and rheumatic children. Rabbit hair made into felt is used in the manufacture of hats, sounding hammers for pianos, insulation material for buildings, polishing pads, washers for cartridges, and insulation material for shoes. Rabbit hair furs used to be sold with deceptive names suggestive of expensive furs. This practice has now been stopped by law.

Birds and their feathers are an important cause of allergy which should be avoided regardless of the results of skin tests. A child should avoid feathers in his bedroom pillow. (The nearness of the nose to the pillow during the prolonged hours of sleep may account for bad allergic symptoms in the nose and lungs. Old feathers are more dangerous than new ones because they gather dust and molds). Allergic children should not keep birds as pets (canaries, parakeets, etc.).

Sheep wool is an outgrowth of the skin of the animal. Because it is warm, flexible, and light, it is the ideal body cover in cold climates and has been used for this purpose for thousands of years Allergy to wool is caused mainly by fuzzy woolen blankets and coarse socks. Soft woolen clothing loses much of its allergenic powers through the processing and dyeing of the wool thread. Cloth spun from wool includes albatross, astrakhan, blankets, broadcloth, felt, flannel, gabardine, jersey, rugs, serge, suede, tapestry, mohair, tweed, velour, and whipcord.

Silk is a thread spun by the silkworm and is frequently used to make clothing. Rayon (or artificial silk) is a synthetic product made of cotton; it may be used safely by children who are sensitive to silk.


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Thursday, April 23rd, 2009


This could be a one-off situation where the mother has caught a severe infection during the early part of pregnancy and it is unlikely to recur in a subsequent pregnancy. Or the miscarriage could be due to a genito-urinary infection which needs to be treated before conceiving again to prevent another miscarriage. Mr. Ronnie Lamont, consultant obstetrician and gynecologist at Northwick Park Hospital, believes that bacterial vaginosis may trigger miscarriage or premature birth. A study he conducted with 800 women found that those with bacterial vaginosis had five times the risk of late miscarriage (16-24 weeks), and those who delivered early (24-37 weeks) also had the infection.

Some infections do not cause a miscarriage but a congenital abnormality (where the baby is born with a defect or malformation). For example, German measles (rubella), contracted in early pregnancy, can lead to babies born with congenital blindness, deafness and mental retardation. A simple blood test can tell you whether you are rubella immune, meaning that you have had German measles or have been vaccinated in the past and so have rubella antibodies in your blood to prevent you from getting it again.

Fertility Drugs

One of the most commonly prescribed medicines for fertility problems is clomiphene citrate which is used to induce ovulation. Ironically, though it may increase a woman’s chances of conceiving, it also increases the chance of a miscarriage by 20-30 per cent. It is thought that the clomiphene can interfere with the womb lining, preventing the fertilised egg from implanting. Other techniques used to induce ovulation, like gonadotrophin treatment, can also increase the miscarriage rate.

Weight Problems

It is important not to be underweight or overweight when trying to conceive. Girls don’t begin to menstruate until their bodies are composed of at least 17 per cent fat. Studies have shown that 50 per cent of women who have a Body Mass Index (BMI) below 20.7 are infertile. A BMI of approximately 23-24 would be ideal for conception.

Women with anorexia and girls who exercise to the extreme (such as athletes and gymnasts) can lose their menstrual cycle because of the reduction of fat and therefore become technically infertile temporarily.

At the other extreme, it is known that obesity increases the risk of miscarriage.

Problems with excess weight can also be linked with polycystic ovaries (PCO) which can make conception more difficult. Miscarriages are more likely to occur in women with this condition. However, in a study of women with PCO “who were asked to change their diet, the rate of miscarriages dropped from 75 per cent to 18 per cent for the same women once they had lost weight.


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Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

What is it?

Itchy, irritating, dry skin from any cause. The skin becomes prematurely wrinkled and often drives the person (especially a child) mad with itching.

What causes it?

• Extremes of temperature from freezing winds to direct sun.

• Ageing itself makes skin drier.

• Central heating without humidifiers.

• The use of detergents as bath foams (especially children’s ‘fun’ bath products). This removes the natural oils from the skin.

• The misuse of cosmetics which block the oil glands that normally lubricate the skin.


• Drink more water.

• Stay out of harsh sunlight unless you wear an effective sunscreen.

• Never use detergents in the bath and use soaps sparingly.

• Wear gloves if you use detergents for washing up dishes.

• Try to get a humidifier installed in your place of work or any other air-conditioned building where you spend a lot of time.

• Use only small amounts of skin lotions-the skin can absorb only so much, after which you block the natural ducts that bring oils to the surface. The best moisturizer for the skin is water-not oils. Use oils and creams, therefore, on slightly moistened skin. Many good moisturizer creams are mostly water for this reason.

• One skin expert uses a mixture of five vitamin A capsules to a 4 ounce jar of hand or body lotion to alleviate dry skin, with some success.


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Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Choosing a doctor

Starting from scratch to find a specialist that will suit both your needs and expectations is not easy. Where do you start?

It is best to shop around by talking to friends and relatives – in particular those who have either been diagnosed as having endometriosis or those who suffer from menstrual problems. These women are more likely to have had previous contact with a specialist and can perhaps make recommendations for you. Think about whether you are likely to feel more comfortable with a female or a male specialist.

Once you have decided on a doctor you would like to consult, you need to visit your GP to obtain a referral. It is helpful if your GP is familiar with the specialist you plan to visit as the pair should be in constant communication about your treatment and progress over the coming months.

There are several points to consider when choosing the doctor who will manage your illness and its treatment and help you plan for the future. However, there is no such thing as the perfect doctor – or the perfect patient – so the material in this chapter is merely a guide.

What to look for

You and the specialist you select will be working together to improve your health and well-being, so it is important you feel comfortable and can talk openly. At your first visit, ask yourself the following questions:

•    Does the doctor appear interested in me as an individual and show concern with my general well-being?

•    Does she or he communicate and explain in a way I can understand?

•    Are all my problems taken seriously or do I feel patronized?

•    Has the doctor explained all the options of diagnosis, treatment, etc. thoroughly so that I understand?

•     Does the doctor encourage questions and then answer them completely and in easily understood language?

•     Has further reading been suggested, along with the names of self-help groups for further education and support?

•     Does the doctor show sympathy and understanding and provide some genuine comfort.

It is important to remember that your doctor should let you talk freely and should listen closely to your concerns. It is not unreasonable to expect your doctor to spend some time explaining and talking over concerns and problems with you. After all, you need to develop a relationship where you can feel confident in the doctor’s skills and where mutual respect exists.

There should be enough time during the appointment for you to ask questions. Do not feel intimidated. You may feel the doctor is rushing you and that your time is up but if you have questions you want answered and concerns that need to be cleared up, and then you have every right to continue the consultation.


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Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Growing old is a growing business with an ever increasing proportion of the population being over 65. People over 65 are at much greater risk than other age groups of having a fatal accident. The problem gets worse as the person becomes older, and women are more likely to be hurt than men.

Suffocating and choking

These accidents are chiefly associated with food. The problems may be exacerbated by arthritic hands which have difficulty cutting up food, ill-fitting dentures, or a total lack of teeth with which to chew the food. There is little that can be done positively to prevent such hazards.


Falls are the most common type of accident amongst elderly people. More than half of them occur when the elderly person is moving about on the same level but a substantial proportion also take place on the stairs.

Environmental hazards such as poor lighting and worn carpets play a part in this type of accident but physical factors are a more potent factor. These could include physical impairment, drugs or alcohol, inactivity and the reduced ability to retain one’s balance.


This type of accident is rarely fatal, with only about twenty-five deaths a year across all age groups. Although the younger groups suffer most there is still a substantial number of accidents in the older range too. There can be medical consequences too as wounds may heal more slowly in the elderly.

Among the younger retired group lawn-mowers and garden tools are major offenders. Handling difficulties among the older group may lead to hitherto unlikely accidents with kitchen knives and can openers.


Fire and flames are the second major hazard for the older age groups. Nearly 10 per cent of cases are fatal in the 65-74 age group, and 13 per cent in the over 75 age group. Nonfatal accidents are likely to be serious. Many accidents occur because of physical problems in elderly people. Dizziness, blackouts, strokes and heart conditions are often involved in a fall on to a radiant or open fire.


Once again there are few fatal cases of a person being struck by another person or an object but there are a significant number of such incidents causing injury to elderly people. The younger age group of elderly people is typically hurt trying to retrieve an object from the top of a wardrobe or cupboard while the older age group bumps into furniture while moving about.

The general lowering of shelves and improvement of low-level storage is a task for pre-retirement days with a view to making life easier later.


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