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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Beyond 40: Common Skin Problems & Treatment Options

Your body undergoes profound changes after you cross your 40s; it’s a time when several skin problems can exist simultaneously. The signs of aging include discoloration, emerging of skin tags, fine lines, wrinkles, and laxity that progresses quickly through the decade.

All of these issues arise because the fourth and fifth decade of life is marked with a decline in various growth factors and hormone levels. Cell damage accumulates in the tissues, and the skin is the most affected. As a result, the rate at which the skin repairs and renews itself becomes an extremely slow process.

Wrinkles

If you haven’t seen any already, you will likely witness your first wrinkles in your 40s. Sun habits, harsh skin care routines, and genetics are some of the factor that contribute to skin aging. They appear in two categories: deep furrows and surface lines. The former have little to do with aging, and surface lines are the wrinkles that really bother people.

The usual recommendation for wrinkle treatment is the use of retinoid creams, as they simulate collagen to slow aging, but people with sensitive skin should use over the counter retinal as a less intensive treatment. Botox (botulinum toxin) can be used in tiny doses for wrinkles around the forehead and eyes.

Skin dullness

As cell turnover in the skin slows down with aging, it leads to a lackluster complexion, causing skin dullness. Dullness can also be a result of a combination of reduced skin turnover, decreased blood circulation and dead skin building. Other causes include smoking, sun damage, and medical problems such as circulatory and neurologic.

To reintroduce the glow in your skin, stay out of the sun and stop smoking. You can also exfoliate the dull area with glycolic acid creams, as well as undergo microdermabrasion to slough off dead skin cells and recharge the cell turnover process. In other cases, treating underlying medical issues will also improve skin tone. Exfoliation should be the prime treatment option as it can be performed at home and works gently to remove dead skin skills.

Skin tags

This is a small, benign area of skin that connects to the underlying skin through a thin stalk. They appear as small bits of hanging skin and occur when skin rubs against skin (which usually happens in older age). Prone areas include underarms, upper chest and neck. The hormonal changes of aging and pregnancy can also lead to the growth of skin tags, particularly after the 40s.

Skin tag removers and/or surgical removal by a dermatologist are some of the options to treat this condition. The former works well to safely flake away skin tags, and the process doesn’t involve any scarring or pain. Home remedies such as duct tape removal and dental floss are not recommended as they can result in pain and damage the skin.

Shingles

These are rashes of raised dots that can turn into painful blisters. They cause your skin to itch, tingle, burn, and become very sensitive. After 40s, shingles can be severe, and in some case, everlasting. They often show up on the buttocks and trunk.

Starch and colloidal oatmeal baths can help relief painful skin. The products should be added to lukewarm water; avoid hot water as it may further irritate the skin.

This is a blog post by Nancy Evans.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Treat and Prevent Back Pain, Simply and Effectively

For many people, back pain and other spinal issues are a part of life. From old injuries to daily stresses and strains, there are a variety of factors that can contribute to chronic back pain, some of which can result in reduced mobility and poor quality of life. Thankfully, though, there are simple, yet effective, ways to treat back pain, as well as prevent injuries and other complications. Keep reading for tips on addressing discomfort and protecting your back in the interest of long-term health and mobility.

Stay Strong

One of the best ways to prevent pain and injury is to keep the back strong and toned. Core strength can help, too, as a strong midsection will aid in balance and promote healthier posture. Exercises that target the back and core include swimming, elliptical workouts, yoga, pilates, dance workouts and free weights. Also, since being overweight can add excess train to the back, as well as affect balance and stability, cardiovascular exercise is extremely important. For maximum benefits, 30 minutes of cardio activity, three or four times a week, is recommended.

Since exercise can result in injury and wear and tear to the back, safety tips like the following are beneficial:

•    Don't overdo it. To prevent injury, it's important to take it slow, and match activities to your overall health and skill levels.
   
•    Use the right gear. The proper footwear, supportive braces for the back and knees, and other types of protective fitness gear can enhance safety and stability, which can reduce the risk of stress and injury.
 
•    Pay attention to form. When performing any type of exercise, paying attention to form and alignment can prevent injury and enhance the effectiveness of physical activity.

Preventative Care

During the course of a normal day, the back can bear a fair amount of stress and strain. Over time, daily activities, both at home and at work, can result in repetitive stress injuries to the bones, nerves and tissues of the back and spine. For example, sciatica, herniated discs, and tight muscles are often caused by simple, everyday activities like lifting, twisting and even walking. To relieve stress and prevent complications, the following methods can be helpful:

•    Massage. When it comes to issues like muscle soreness, spinal compression, nerve pain and aching joints, massage can be extremely effective in providing relief and preventing injury and discomfort. In fact, for individuals who suffer from chronic back pain, frequent massages can provide significant advantages to both health and quality of life. For these people, at-home massage using professional massage tables can offer sustained relief from pain and discomfort, as well as prevent future flareups.
   
•    Stretching. Stretching exercises can relieve tension, stiffness, soreness and compression, and may also prevent injury to the spine. What's more, frequent stretching can enhance range of motion, which aids in stability and mobility.
   
•    Awareness. In protecting the back and overall health, in general, a little awareness goes a long way. For example, by paying attention to posture, as well as taking the proper precautions when working, exercising and performing other tasks and activities, stress, discomfort and a variety of injuries can be prevented.
   
•    Sleep. Sleep gives the body time to heal and repair; without sufficient rest, pain and discomfort can worsen, and the risk of injury is increased. Also, individuals who suffer from chronic back pain may benefit from changing sleeping positions or using pillows between the knees or beneath the lower back.

Although back pain and injuries are extremely common, the tips provided here can help address discomfort, as well as prevent injury and a worsening of symptoms. If you suffer from back pain or a spinal injury, talk to a doctor about available treatment options.


This is a blog post by Nancy Evans.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Best Ways of Dealing with Stress

Individuals are under constant pressure to do better at their jobs, to work harder, to provide for their families. We as human beings are not made this way. This is something that was imposed on us by society. From our first baby steps, they teach us that we need to be first and best in everything.

Even some silly games which we play as children have specific underline. It is expected from us to be the best because anything else would be a disappointment. With all of this riding on our back, it is no wonder that many people turn to pills and alcohol so they can deal with enormous amount of stress coming their way. Luckily, there are certain ways to nullify all of this stress and live a better and healthier life. Naturally, we are not talking about the medicine from your local, online pharmacy.

The first thing that we need to take into consideration is our own wishes. When we were children, people often asked us what we want to do when we grow up. Given that we are different people, the answers varied but one thing was similar for the most of the kids. Many of them never had an opportunity to live out their childhood dream. Somewhere along the way, the reality of life altered their path, usually making them unhappy with their daily job. Do not forget your dreams. Always try to follow them no matter what because you are the one that needs to do the job, no one else. If you are feeling bad about the thing which you do, you will never be happy. Instead, you will be constantly under a lot of stress.

As we all know, stress is something that comes from the brain. It is sometimes caused by different traumas. In daily life, it is caused by the things which we don’t wish to do but we do them anyway. This goes against our nature and our better judgment. It throws us into a position where we don’t feel good in our skin. The point is that you shouldn't always be selfish, but at the same time, you should allow other people to trample all over you. Find something in between, something that will allow you to be a productive member of society but at the same time it will give you a chance to be honest towards yourself.

Whatever you do and no matter how much stress you have, don’t try to solve all of the problems with things such as the medicine. Each US based and Canadian pharmacy has the solution to your problem but it doesn't mean that you should take the easy way out. These online pharmacies offer you a quick solution in a bottle. The way to correct your life is much harder and more rewarding in the end.

Don’t forget that you are personally responsible for your life. Don’t hide behind excuses and other people. Instead do the right thing for yourself and those close to you.

This is a guest blog entry

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Healthy Holiday Advice for Over 65s

When someone crosses the retirement age threshold, organising and undertaking travel can become quite complex. There can be more issues, health concerns and costs, as well as additional planning and research before booking. Therefore, there are extra precautions for an elderly traveller to take when going on holiday.

Seek Doctor's Advice

This is one of the most important factors for elderly travelers. Discussing a pre-existing condition with a doctor will allow the individual to be prepared and know if there are any extra precautions that they should take. In addition, it may be wise to discuss possible destinations and travel options before booking.

For over 65s that have a heart condition, it is advised to avoid destinations that are at a high altitude, due to the lower level of oxygen. There are also precautions to take when flying – in extreme cases a doctor may even advise to avoid air travel – as there is an increased risk of blood clots in the legs.

It is also wise to stock up on medication and take a larger quantity on holiday than is required, in case of delays. It is always best to carry medication in hand luggage, as it will still be on hand if baggage goes missing. Also keep a note of any tablets and treatment in your wallet/purse, in case of an emergency.

Appropriate Travel Insurance

For many younger travelers, finding and purchasing travel insurance can be a quick and painless process, but for the over 65s, there are more things to consider. In the majority of cases, basic cover will not be sufficient.

Due to the increased risk of injury, accident and illness associated with older individuals, those over 65 are often faced with higher travel insurance premiums. There are cheaper prices, but the most important thing is to find appropriate insurance that covers any pre-existing illness as well as a high level of emergency medical cost.

Healthy on Holiday

Holiday destinations often mean extreme temperatures, whether colossal heat or snowy climates. Therefore it is incredibly important for travelers aged over 65 to take extra care of themselves.

It is essential that elderly holiday makers drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated, avoid too much alcohol as it is an ant diuretic, protect against extreme weather with hats and sunglasses, make healthy food choices and use sun cream. For extra information, Age UK have a wealth of tips for elderly travelers.

This is a guest blog entry.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Dementia Patients and the Vital Role Nurses Play

When someone is diagnosed with dementia, whether caused by Alzheimer’s or something else, it is devastating for patient and family. The difficulty in thinking clearly, memory loss and mood changes can be exceedingly difficult to cope with, particularly if the sufferer is living at home.

There are organisations that can help with information and advice, such as the Alzheimer’s Society, but the treatment, care and support provided by the team of nursing professionals can be a vital lifeline to all concerned.

Specialist Dementia Nurses

These are Registered Mental Health Nurses who have undergone further training and specialized in dementia. They have an expert level of skill and knowledge in the care, treatment and support of people with dementia, their caregivers and families. They can visit patients at home to perform in-depth assessments, which will include observing the patient and their surroundings. They will take a detailed life history and ask for information on day-to-day life. In cases where care need is high, the specialist dementia nurse may work alongside other health and social care professionals. They may also advise other visiting nursing staff on the best care and treatment for a patient.

The charity, Dementia UK, provides specialist dementia nurses, known as Admiral Nurses, to patients living at home. They provide expert, practical and emotional support to caregivers and families, as well as to the patient.

Community Mental Health Nurses

Also known as Community Psychiatric Nurses, CPNs also offer much-needed support to dementia patients and caregivers. They make assessments in the home, removing the need for a trip to the surgery, which some sufferers find stressful. They also offer advice to all concerned on how best to cope, as well as how to improve the patient’s health and quality of life. For loved ones looking after someone with Alzheimer’s, this care and support from a mental health professional is of vital importance. To see what jobs are available in the NHS for mental health nurses, visit Nursing Personnel.

District or Community Nurses


Part of the primary care team, district nurses come to the home to perform more general nursing duties, such as changing dressings, as well as carrying out tests and assessments. As most visits will tend to be from a community nurse, it’s arguable that their role is most crucial, as the regular visits should encourage a sense of trust and rapport with the patient, caregivers and family.

Deciding to care for a dementia patient in the home is not a decision to be taken lightly, as it can have a profound effect on carers and loved ones. The help and support provided by the nursing team, together with other health and social care professionals, can ease the trauma considerably.

This is a guest blog entry.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Overcoming Addiction: Seeking Treatment and Getting Your Life Back

Personal growth often requires a lot of hard work. It also means overcoming obstacles and facing challenges as they arise. And, for so many people, some of these challenges involve substance abuse and addiction. Indeed, addiction affects millions of people each and every day, preventing them from living the lives they want and deserve.

If you are one of these people, you know that beating addiction is easier said than done. Thankfully, though, recovery is possible. Keep reading for tips on achieving and maintaining sobriety, and, in the process, enhancing your health and quality of life.

Seeking Treatment

First and foremost, seeking professional help is essential to overcoming addiction and living life to the fullest. And when it comes to addiction rehabilitation, facilities can differ in a number of ways. For example, some treatment centers focus on traditional recovery methods, while others offer an alternative, holistic approach to addiction therapy. And since choosing the right facility can significantly enhance your odds of success, be sure to gather all the information you need in making the right decision. The right facility will offer a recovery plan suited to your own unique needs, which will help you address your individual problems with addictive substances. 

Making the Most of Recovery

Addiction treatment isn't easy, especially in its earliest stages. When faced with withdrawal symptoms and other complications, many patients experience depression, anxiety and other issues, which, in some cases, can derail treatment and stand in the way of recovery. However, by making the effort to live in the present and do the work, patients can increase the odds of a successful recovery. In the average young adult rehab program, patients may be encouraged to work the 12 steps of addiction recovery. By truly devoting themselves to the stages of recovery, patients can play a more active role in treatment, and lay the groundwork for a sober and healthy future.

Changing for the Better

Change, even when it's for the better, can be frightening. And, for recovering addicts, this change involves facing life and its challenges without the crutches of addictive substances. Naturally, this type of change can be terrifying, and is often to blame for relapse with drugs or alcohol. However, by embracing change as a positive, individuals in recovery can improve the odds of sustained sobriety. To truly appreciate the changes associated with recovery, it can help to keep a running list of all the benefits of sobriety. For example, one positive change commonly afforded by recovery is a stronger bond with friends, family members and loved ones. Another is improved physical health and psychological well-being. Either way, to experience a lasting recovery, change should be welcomed, embraced and truly appreciated.

Getting Your Life Back

Once you've completed addiction treatment, you may think you're in the clear. However, while inpatient care can help you build a solid foundation for recovery, you still have a long road ahead of you. Thankfully, though, getting your life back on track, free from the clutches of drugs and alcohol, can be an extremely joyous, liberating experience. Use the following tips to prevent relapse, enhance health and live life to the absolute fullest:

•    Stay positive. Avoid negativity in all its forms. Surround yourself with positive, supportive people, and focus on all the good things sobriety has to offer.

•    Stay busy. Keep your mind, body and soul occupied with enjoyable and fulfilling activities. Spend time with your family and friends, dive headfirst into your career, and fill your free time with fun, fascinating hobbies.

•    Self-monitor. To promote a lasting recovery, it's important to keep a close watch on your addictive tendencies. If you need help monitoring your thoughts and behaviors, seek long-term counseling from a trained addiction specialist.

Addiction can be an overwhelming, and even deadly, disease. However, with the proper treatment, and some hard work and determination, recovery is well within your reach. With the information provided here, you can overcome addiction, and live the life you want and deserve.

This is a blog post by Nancy Evans.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Living with Disabilities: Ways and Means for Living More Independently

According to statistics from England’s National Health Service, around one in five adults in the UK are disabled and more significantly, one million of these individuals live by themselves. As particularly distressing as this latter statistic is, for many the situation is further compounded by having the “obese” label added to them. To qualify for this (if you’ll forgive this rather blunt term) your Body Mass Index (BMI) needs to be above 30 on the scale.

Unfortunately, society is very quick to judge and make assumptions about why people are obese and invariably such assumptions are made by those with little understanding of obesity. It makes you question if they’ve ever considered that a person’s weight might stem from factors such as a disability? Or that they may struggle with physical mobility or suffer from a mental health issue like acute anxiety or depression which has contributed to their weight gain?

If this is the situation you face, you’ll appreciate how it can be a self-perpetuating cycle which massively affects your day-to-day living. You may feel trapped, scared and indeed frustrated by being unable to do the basic things.

This need not be the case though, since there are ways and means for you to gain some of your independence and dignity back. Read on to find out more:

More Mobility at Home

Making your home as accommodating as possible is one of the best ways for you to feel and become more independent. After all, your home is somewhere you should feel safe and secure. In the UK there are many charity services available like the Disabled Living Foundation (DLF) that can offer you guidance and advice about improvements you can make, such as:

-    The installation of access ramps
-    Providing centralised controls for easier access to utilities like heating,
     lighting and water.
-    Improving space by widening doors and hallways
-    Moving bedrooms and bathrooms downstairs to a more accessible
     place, or installing lifts or stair lifts.

Going Places

Another big part of gaining more independence is to be able to go out and travel. Even if it’s only something small like going to the shops, or visiting with friends and family, these trips can have a real positive effect on your life.

Again, you can invest in a number of options, such as mobility scooters, powered wheelchairs, wheelchair accessible vehicles and walking frames and supports.

Emotional Support

Mental health issues can be an incredibly hard challenge to manage and there’s often no quick and easy fix. What you might find helpful is emotional support, from attending group therapy sessions to one-on-one counseling and even specialist home visits that provide a kind ear to talk to. Charities and NHS services can provide this and help you take those steps forward to dealing with distressing symptoms and coping with stressors.

It may be true that everybody’s needs are different, but be sure to try some of the above to help get some of the positive aspects of your life back. Don’t fall foul of adversity and narrow-minded stereotypes, help yourself to claim the independence you deserve.

This is a guest blog entry.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Drug Addiction: Understanding How Addiction is Effecting Your Loved One

Finding out that someone you care for deeply is suffering from drug addiction can be challenging. You watch as they slowly delve deeper into addiction and what appears to be no regard for how it affects their personal relationships. While it may seem as though your loved one has checked out and cares about nothing but getting high, the truth of the matter is that addiction is a complex disease of the brain.

It is not until you fully understand how addiction affects your loved one that you’re able to reach out to them and get them the help they need.

Addiction is Not What it Seems

From the outside looking in, it may seem as if your loved one lacks the willpower and moral principles to stop using drugs. You assume that they can stop using anytime they please. However, for some reason they choose not to. However, the truth is that someone who has become addicted to drugs is suffering from a complex disease. Quitting essentially will require more than a strong will or moral principles. Because of the affect that addiction has on the brain, your loved one believes they need the high to sustain a decent quality of life.

Drug Addiction Defined

According to MayoClinic, drug addiction is referred to as a chronic brain disease that causes the individual to become dependent upon the use of drugs. Despite what the consequences might be for their use of substances, the brain tricks the body into believing it is a necessity. Addiction is certainly not something that happens after the first use (in most cases). Drug use is voluntary in the beginning; however, as chemicals in the brain change it hinders the individual’s sense of self control.

The Brain and Drug Addiction

Drugs contain certain chemicals that interfere with the brain’s ability to communicate properly. Drugs have the ability to disrupt the nerve cells that are responsible for sending, receiving, and processing information. Clinical studies show that this happens in one of two ways: either by taking on the form of the brain’s natural chemical messengers or through overstimulation the “pleasure circuits” of the brain.

The more a person uses drugs, the more the brain begins to adapt to the various changes. The chemicals found in drugs send signals to the reward part of the brain. When the “high” wears off, it leaves the user feeling incapable of enjoying life as they once did. As a result, the brain begins to crave the chemicals from the drugs in order to reach a level of pleasure again.

Getting Help for Your Loved One

Now that you see that addiction is not something that your loved one can control, it is best to try and get help for your loved one. It must be understood however, that in most cases, they are not aware that they have a problem and may be resistant to your request that they get help. Below are a few factors to keep in mind as you reach out to your loved one:

•  Come from a place of love – no matter how their drug use may be affecting your life it is important that you don’t scold them or come from a place of anger. Compassion is your best tool when talking about addiction.

•  Offer Your Support – addiction requires more than just a talk, it will require the support of others. Be sure to offer your support to your loved one so that they don’t feel alone.

•  Give it Time – you can’t rush the process, as recovery efforts are best when your loved one is doing it willingly. If they’re not receptive to what you have to say, give it time.

Seek Treatment

Seeking treatment for drug addiction is the next step for your loved one. There are various options for treatment that include addiction therapy, rehab facilities, and in some cases, medication for underlying issues or mental disorders. If your loved one is ready to get help, go over the various options with them and help them make the decision that is best suited for them. Also, look into treatment options for yourself so that you can learn how to help your loved one as they begin their recovery process.

The road to recovery or your loved one is certainly going to be a challenging one, but with you by their side, the chances of full recovery are more likely. If you suspect that a friend or family member is suffering from drug addiction, don’t sit by and watch their lives spiral out of control. Educate yourself on addiction and reach out to them about your concerns for their well-being. When they’re ready, support them in getting the help they need from the right medical professionals.

This is a blog post by Nancy Evans.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Becoming a Doctor, From School to License

While not every child dreams of being a doctor, some do. It takes a lot to make that dream come true, from a dedicated college career to time spent in residency. Dedication and drive are important for a future doctor. The important thing is, the world will always need doctors.

The medical field is one of those fields that will always have career options and always be looking for talented, caring individuals.

While some will strive just for a family practice, another direction for the aspiring doctor to go towards is surgical, which requires even more dedication and schooling. If you want to be a doctor, you can help children, adults, and seniors. Use your first four years of college to decide where you want to go with your career as a doctor.

School

Education Portal points out that someone wishing to become a medical doctor must first earn a bachelor’s degree, in no specific major. This takes an average of four-years. It does help if you pick a major that relates to your career choice, however. That can include working towards a Bachelor of Science, maybe in something like biology.

Once you have your Bachelor degree it's time to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). This test will determine whether or not you are accepted into medical school.  Medical school is another four years of school.

There are different things to learn for different medical professions. You need to understand the human body and how it functions. You won't always have a textbook under your nose in order to help your patients, so it takes someone with a great ability to retain information.

Residency

After that minimum of eight years of school, it is time to do a residency in a hospital. You will need three- to seven-years of medical residency. Once you've completed residency it's time to take another test. For someone wanted to be a surgeon, there may be an added three more years of residency on top of the three to seven needed for a general medical doctor (MD).

It requires passing the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE) in order to obtain a medical license.

Getting the Job

It may be wise to start looking for work while in residency. While some residencies may lead to a job at the same hospital where you train, it doesn't hurt to keep your options open. Look into staffing agencies that specialize in healthcare staffing.

There are numerous outlets available for job searching these days:

Check the newspaper classifieds often.
Use staffing agencies.
Search online for jobs.
Visit hospital websites.
Look at local college websites for job listings.

Make sure to have a resume written up that shows your specialty. Include your education, residency and any internships you've done. Long periods of unemployment do not look good on a resume, especially for a doctor.

If your dream job doesn't come right away, keep looking. Talk to the people at your healthcare staffing center. They may have some tips for your job search that could be the answer to your problems.

This is a blog post by Nancy Evans

Friday, January 16, 2015

Guest Post on Concussion: The Neuropathology of CTE in the United States

Introduction by Dominic A. Carone, PhD, ABPP-CN

These days, it is difficult for someone to turn on the television, open a newspaper, or surf the internet without coming across a story on the dangers of concussions, particularly repeat concussions. This has caused a great deal of concern among many athletes and their loved ones regarding participation in sports.

One of the greatest concerns that has emerged is the possibility of developing CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) – which is described as a degenerative brain disorder caused by repeat brain trauma. But how much do we really know about CTE? Recently, Dr. Ann Mckee (neuropathologist) and colleagues published a review of CTE and other topics in a paper entitled “The Neuropathology of Sport.” While McKee and colleagues discuss CTE as an established disease entity, contrasting opinions exist in the literature on the associations between athletic head trauma and neurodegenerative disease.

A neuropsychologist colleague of mine, Dr. Jim Andrikopoulos has been one of the most vocal critics of the existence of CTE. Below is a response by Dr. Andrikopoulos to the aforementioned article by Dr. McKee. Dr. McKee will be contacted and given a chance to respond. Presenting this material in blog format provides maximal exposure to the public, most of whom are not avid consumers of health care journals. Respectful comments are welcome.

Note: The views expressed by guest authors on this blog are not necessarily those of my own. For my own review of CTE and dementia pugilistica, see Carone, D., Bush, S. (2014). Dementia pugilistica and chronic traumatic encephalopathy. In R. Dean & C. Noggle (Eds.), The Neuropsychology of Cortical Dementias. New York: Springer, pp. 303-326.

The Neuropathology of CTE in the United States

Jim Andrikopoulos, Ph.D., ABPP-CN

This letter is in reference to a recent review by McKee et al. (1). To judge the validity of the core observation made in the review one needs an understanding, particularly non-Americans, of the current sociological context in the United States as it relates to contact sports. McKee begins by outlining the physical, emotional, cognitive and health benefits of sports. This can be contrasted with the current state of affairs in the United States, especially in American football. McKee reports that contact sports “rarely” results in the development of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). However, McKee found CTE in 34 of 35 professional football players, all nine college players, six high school athletes, and all four professional hockey players (reference 128 in [1]).

Despite McKee stating the incidence of CTE is unknown; her message to the American media is different: “I am really wondering, on some level, if every single football player doesn’t have this” (2). CTE in contact sports in the United States is now an “epidemic.”Since 2010, participation in youth football has dropped by 9.5% (3). What is the merit of the science that has created this concussion craze?

The symptoms outlined by McKee bear no clinical likeness to the CTE of the last century. CTE is now characterized as a mood and behavioral disorder. The clinical features of CTE are parkinsonian and speech symptoms at a relatively young age. McKee treats these hallmark features in her review as a historical footnote, mentioning them once. The observations of Martland (references 118 in [1]) defined the disease through the 20th century only for CTE to now to be morphed into an unrecognizable clinical entity.

While classic papers are cited, the parkinsonian clinical descriptions are ignored (references 38 and 44 in [1]). The seminal epidemiological study that confirmed this parkinsonian phenotype and addresses prevalence is not cited at all (4). CTE is now artificially dichotomized. McKee proposes those with an early onset tend to have mood and behavior symptoms and later onset patients cognitive impairment. She states the earlier literature suggests this dichotomy. This is false based on my literature review and indirect proof is that no references are offered by McKee in support of this claim.

There is an observation that merits special comment because of its conspicuous absence. McKee has proposed four stages of CTE. There is no mention that the clinical features that accompany each progressive stage were not developed based on an examination of the patient. The clinical features were collected post-mortem. Alois Alzheimer was the first to give us a neuropsychiatric syndrome and a neuropathology to go with it. Remarkably, he did this in one patient.

As of today, McKee has conducted 85 neuropathological examinations and no clinical examination of a patient (reference 128 in [1]). Proposing a neuropathological entity in the absence of a clinical syndrome is unprecedented in neurological medicine as is being told that a presumably degenerative disease, CTE, cannot be diagnosed in the living patient but instead requires an autopsy.

What remains to be addressed is the neuropathology of CTE. The classic description was given by Corsellis in boxers (reference 38 in [1]). CTE in football was first described by Omalu(5). The publication was so contentious that some, rightfully, called for the paper to be retracted. Among a number of shortcomings of the paper was that the neuropathological case description bore no resemblance to Corsellis (6). In turn, McKee’s original neuropathological observations appeared at odds with Omalu (reference 127 in [1]). McKee has made no effort in her published studies to reconcile these differences. It would stand to reason that a neuropathological "discovery" with dissimilar descriptions would result in a collegial scientific exchange to reconcile any discrepancies.

What are these disparate neuropathological differences? Omalu initially commented on the absence of tau in the medial temporal lobes while McKee reported it as a preferential location(reference 127 in [1]). McKee added two observations not reported by either Omalu or Corsellis. Citing Hof, McKee reported tau to be found disproportionately in the superficial cortical layer II and the upper layer of III versus Alzheimer’s disease where tau is preferentially in layers V and VI (reference 91 and 92 in [1]). Second, citing Geddes, tau is observed in perivascular locations (reference 65 and 66 in [1]). In turn, Geddes who published her observations after Hof made no reference to the distribution of tau in the superficial layers but stated it was found in all cortical layers (reference 65 in [1]).

The last point is on what it means to be “encephalopathic,” a source of contention in the Omalu paper (6). Unlike Omalu and McKee, who consider a patient with tau to be encephalopathic, Geddes does not suggest an encephalopathy, only that the tau present at autopsy may suggest repetitive trauma as the cause. The encephalopathy in CTE refers to the symptoms in a living patient not a neuropathological finding.

Braak has reported the presence of tau in patients under 30 years of age (reference 15 in [1]). McKee’s criticism of Braak was that the sample was not screened for head injury. If we accept McKee’s logic, does that obligate Braak to render a postmortem CTE diagnosis in those he can show had an antemortem head injury or two? This is how the neuropathology of CTE is currently practiced in the United States.

References
 
1. McKee AC, Daneshvar DH, Alvarez VE, Stein TD. (2014). The neuropathology of sport. Acta Neuropathol. 127(1):29-51.

2. League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis transcript. Frontline, PBS.

3. Pop Warner participation dropping. Chicago Tribune, November 14, 2013.

4. Roberts AH (1969) Brain damage in boxers: A study of prevalence of traumatic encephalopathy among ex-professional boxers. London: Pitman Royal College of Physicians.

5. Omalu BI, DeKosky ST, Minster RL, Kamboh MI, Hamilton RL, Wecht CH (2005). Chronic traumatic encephalopathy in a national football league player. Neurosurgery, 57(1): 128-134.

6. Casson IR, Pellman EJ, Viano DC (2006). Chronic traumatic encephalopathy in a NationalFootball League player. Neurosurgery,58(5): E1152.

Author Affiliations: Mercy Hospital Medical Center, Ruan Neurology Clinic, Des Moines, Iowa Corresponding Author: Jim Andrikopoulos, Ph.D. Ruan Neurology Clinic, 1111 6th Avenue, East Tower, Suite A100, Des Moines, Iowa 50314., Tel: 515 358-0020, Fax: 515 358-0099 neuroclinic@msn.com

Conflicts of Interest Disclosures: Dr. Andrikopoulos has provided expert testimony.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Infographic on Lyme Disease Incidence

Click for the original dimensions and to save it to your computer. If you like it, please share it on social media. Thank you!

Thursday, January 08, 2015

MedFriendly Publishes First Infographic: The Human Brain

We hope that you enjoy MedFriendly's first infographic. This one is on the Human Brain. Click it for the original dimensions and to save it to your computer. If you like it, please share it on social media. Thank you!


Friday, December 26, 2014

Tips for Treating Your Skin with Massage Oil

Human skin is amazingly resilient. It’s designed for both strength and flexibility, so that it can both stretch and maintain its shape. It also performs several vital functions including UV protection, moisture and body temperature regulation, waste elimination, and protection from disease.

Unfortunately, because it is so exposed, our skin is also prone to many of the effects of aging. Perhaps, one of the biggest effects is the loss of moisture, which can affect the strength and elasticity of your skin.

Massage therapy can reduce the effects of aging on your skin by improving circulation, stimulating oil production, removing dead skin cells, and providing external moisture from the use of massage oil. The good news is that you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars getting a professional massage; you can get the same benefits by massaging yourself at home.

Massage for Healthier Skin

There are a few things that you need to consider if you are going to massage yourself at home, and the biggest is what type of oil to use.

Massage Oil

If you go to any massage store, or even a regular drug store, you will find that there are several different kinds of massage oil, in liquids, creams, gels and solids; and they all have different functions and benefits.

•  If your primary focus is moisturizing your body, then you will want to use a heavier oil, such as olive oil or apricot oil, which will coat the skin. You can also use a heavier cream or a body butter as long as it allows your hands to glide smoothly over your skin. Thinner oils can absorb too quickly, which would require you to use more to achieve the same effects.

•  If you are massaging your face, then you want to use a light massage oil specially formulated for faces. These oils are designed to absorb without leaving heavy residue which can clog your pores. You don’t need to use as much of these oils, as you would the oils for your body.

•  If you are looking to soothe sore muscles, in addition to making your skin more supple, you might want to consider massaging a medicated gel with menthol or arnica into the sore muscles, and then following with a medium to heavy massage oil, cream, or solid.

•  If you have allergies, then you want to avoid nut-based oils, and oils with heavy fragrances, and instead choose hypoallergenic oils like grape seed, soy, or jojoba.

•  Avoid mineral oils and petroleum-based oils, which tend to clog your pores and leave a heavy residue on the skin.

The other thing you need to consider is how you are going to use the oil.

•  If you are giving a massage to someone else, consider wearing a body massage oil holster, so that you don’t have to worry about the massage container being out of reach during the massage.

•  Put the amount of oil you wish to use in a separate container, such as a smaller plastic bottle or a small bowl. If you want to warm the oil, put the bottle or dish you wish to use into a larger container of hot water. Do not heat oil directly.

•  If you do prefer a scent, it’s better to add essential oils to the massage oil on a case-by-case basis rather than scenting the whole bottle.

•  Apply a small amount of the oil to your hand, and rub your hands together before applying the oil to your body. This will warm the oil, and will also prevent you from using too much. When using additional oil, always apply it to your hands first.

•  If you find that you have too much oil on your body, wipe your hands with a dry towel and then apply some hand sanitizer to them. That will remove the excess oil from your hands, and as you continue rubbing your hands will absorb the excess oil from your body.

•  If you are using several different types of oils, always wipe and sanitize your hands between each type of oil.

•  Store your oils in a cool, dry place. Excess heat and moisture can cause the oils to go rancid. Rancid oil will still work, but it will smell really bad.

This is a blog post by Nancy Evans.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Protecting Your Back at Work

If you have an office job you probably spend the majority of your day sitting behind a desk. In fact, 50 to 70 percent of people spend at least six hours a day sitting. On the surface it might seem a lot better, and easier on your body, than jobs where you have to spend the bulk of your time standing or walking around.

The truth is that spending a lot of time sitting is one of the worst things you can do for your body because of the long-term effects on your health.

The Long-Term Effects of Prolonged Sitting

Sitting takes its toll on all parts of your body, from head to toe.

Effects on the Spine

Starting with the spine, which tends to show the most immediate effects, prolonged sitting can cause trouble in your lower back, in your shoulders and upper back, and in your neck. When you sit, all of the muscles on the front of your body pull forward, which over-stretches the shoulder, back, and spinal muscles on the back of your body. In your lower back this can put you at greater risk for herniated lumbar discs; in your shoulders and upper back it causes pain and inflexibility; and, in your neck it causes muscle strain from you having to hold your head at an awkward angle.

Effects on the Rest of the Body

Sitting causes you to pull your shoulders forward and your chest down toward your lap, which compresses all of the organs in your torso. However, it’s actually the cardiovascular effects of sitting that have the worst effects.

Prolonged sitting constricts the blood vessels in your legs, leading to poor circulation. That poor circulation can lead to varicose veins in the legs, and also to a condition called venous insufficiency which can cause blood clots and damage to the valves in your veins. This poor circulation can also affect how efficiently blood returns to your heart for oxygen, and ultimately how well the muscles, organs, and other tissues in your body get the oxygen and nutrients they need.

Sitting can also lead to muscle atrophy in your core – specifically your upper legs, lower back, and abs – because these muscles often go unused when you sit. As muscles atrophy they use less energy, which affects the way they respond to insulin, which triggers the pancreas to produce more insulin in response.

These are just a few of the effects that sitting can have on your body, all of which can lead to a higher risk of developing certain cancers and a shortened life span. Luckily, there are things you can do to stop the decline, and counteract the effects of sitting.

Turning the Tables

The most important thing you can do is get moving. While going to the gym several times a week is a good start, it’s not enough to counter the effects of hours of sitting. You have to incorporate movement and standing into your routine all day, every day.

One option is to use motorized stand up desk with adjustable height, which will allow you to stand up to do your work. That way, even if you are chained to your desk for the day, you can still get some movement in – especially in the leg muscles that are so important for good circulation. Adjustable desks can also help you improve your posture to relieve the strain on your lower spine, upper back, neck, and shoulders. If an adjustable desk is not an option, then the next best thing is to stand up at your regular desk, and only sit down if you need to write or use your computer.

You also need to schedule periods of movement throughout the day. For example, you can set a reminder to get up and march in place for 60 seconds, every thirty minutes. You can get up and talk to people face-to-face instead of calling or sending emails. Another option is to give yourself minibreaks, after you finish each task, where you get up and move around before moving on to the next task.

If you absolutely must sit, then practice proper eating to reduce the amount of strain on your spine and organs.

•  The seat of your chair should be high enough that your thighs are parallel to the floor and your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle.

•  Your shoulders should be relaxed; your arms close to your sides, and your elbows bent 90 degrees when resting on your desk.

•  Your chin should be parallel with the floor, and your ears in line with your shoulders.

•  Your feet should be flat on the floor.

Your chair should also have lumbar support. If the support is not built in, then use a pillow or cushion. Your monitor should be at, or slightly below, eye level so that you don’t have to crane your neck or tilt your head out of alignment.

At the end of the day, you should do exercises that stretch out the front of your body, and help relieve the strain in your back, including:

•  Back bends;

•  Hip flexor stretches; and

•  Spinal twists.

You should also do exercises that strengthen your core muscles, such as Pilates, crunches, back extensions, squats, and lunges.

This is a blog post by Nancy Evans.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Diabetes: Eating on Vacation

In a recent article about planning to travel with diabetes, we touched briefly on the subject of food. Most travel food can be a diabetic’s nightmare, with very little fresh fruit and veggies, and a lot of sugary, salty snacks and fast food. Once you reach your destination you could also encounter issues with the local foods having more sugar, salt, and calories than is recommended for healthy people, much less diabetics.

Bringing your own food can make things easier, but it can also cause you to miss out on the local flavor. However, there are solutions that can help you enjoy some local delicacies during your vacation, without threatening your health.

The Diabetic Diet

The first thing you should realize is that having diabetes doesn’t mean that you have to deprive yourself. While it is true that you should seriously limit your consumption of foods that are high in sugar, or have a high glycemic index, that doesn’t mean that you have to completely avoid everything.

The key is in making healthy food choices so that you can include the occasional splurge, such as a cocktail with dinner or a starchy side dish. The American Diabetes Association has several useful tips for eating well on vacation including:

•  Keeping a schedule. The excitement of vacation often means we end up eating at irregular times. Noontime breakfasts and late-night dinners are often the norm. But for diabetics, a change in routine could mean serious blood sugar spikes or hypoglycemia. When on vacation, try to keep as consistent a dining schedule as possible. If you can’t then be sure to have healthy snacks on hand so that you can eat at the scheduled time, no matter where you are.

•  Check your blood sugar. Check your blood sugar frequently throughout the day. Keeping regular readings will let you know how well you are managing your blood sugar levels, and can help you determine if that piece of cake or glass of wine is in the cards for that day. Make sure you stock up on testing supplies before your trip, so that you don’t run out. If you can’t find the supplies you need for your particular brand of glucose meter, you can buy diabetic test strips at adwdiabetes.com and similar online retailers.

•  Watch portion sizes. If there is any time to turn in your membership to the clean plate club, it’s when you’re on vacation. Many restaurants have huge portions and it could be tempting to eat it all, especially if taking home the leftovers is out of the question. One way to avoid getting too much food is to ask if there are lunch portions available. Another option is to share an entrĂ©e with someone else.

•  Ask for substitutions. Many restaurants are willing to accommodate people who have special food needs, including making substitutions. Instead of having starchy potatoes as a side, you could substitute steamed vegetables or a salad.

•  Splurge with care. It’s ok to allow yourself the occasional treat. If that chocolate cake is calling your name, order a piece, and eat it wisely. For example, you could get an extra plate, take a few bites for yourself, and then share the rest with everyone at the table. Another option is to see if they have miniature or sugar-free versions of the same dessert. If you do eat the whole piece, and then make adjustments elsewhere in your diet to accommodate the extra sugar and calories from the cake. For example, if you know you’re going to have some cake, consider eating a low-calorie dinner that’s high in fresh vegetables, and low in sugar and fat to “make room” for the cake.

•  Eat in. If you are staying in a place with kitchen facilities, you can reserve a night or two where you prepare a meal in, and eat at home. Even if you are in an exotic location, you should be able to find some familiar staples like eggs, chicken, beans, and fresh vegetables, from which you can create a healthy, diabetic-friendly meal. Eating in will not only helps you manage your diabetes, it could also save you money.

As you can see, remaining diabetic-friendly on vacation does not mean that you have to feel deprived. It’s mostly a matter of being aware of how and what you are eating, and making the appropriate adjustments.

This is a blog post by Nancy Evans.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

How to Make the Best Healthy Fried Egg White

Making a good fried egg white is a tasty and healthy alternative for people who want to avoid the cholesterol from egg yolks. While it may seem simple to do, you can quickly wind up with a filmy egg that does not taste good. Texture is very important when it comes to friend eggs. The goal is a restaurant quality sizzling egg white that can be seasoned with some salt, pepper, and other low fat ingredients such as hot sauce.

To make a great fried egg white, the first thing you need is a flat cooking surface such as a thin griddle pan or griddle. This is the griddle pan that I use. The reason you want the cooking service to be thin is because it provides more direct heat to cook the egg fast.

The second thing you need to do is spray the griddle at room temperature with a cooking spray. Then wipe the beads of spray off of the griddle with a paper towel or napkin so you just leave a thin film of oil on the griddle. If you don’t do this, when you heat the griddle the cooking spray will turn dark and will make the egg taste bad.  It will also steam up too fast and make the egg filmy.

Once you have wiped off the beads of cooking spray, turn the heat up close to the highest level (e.g., 5 out of 6). Keep the heat running for about two and a half minutes. This is very important because you want the egg whites to sizzle as soon as they hit the griddle. If you put the egg whites on the griddle too early, the egg will turn filmy and will not taste good. If you wait too long, the pan will begin to steam. If that happens, turn the power off until the steaming goes away and then turn it back up again and pour the egg whites on after a few seconds.

The way you know that you’ve got it right is as soon as the egg white hits the griddle, it will sizzle and begin to bubble. Once you see the bubbles, you know you are all set. If using a griddle pan be sure to tilt the handle upwards so that the egg stays centered in the pan. Once the egg white cooks more this will no longer be needed.

Egg white with ham and cheese.
Then just use a spatula and flip it over once it looks crisp (about 20 seconds or so). The other side will then cook fast and you will be done. You can then add whatever toppings you want.

As you can see to the right, I added some thinly sliced cheddar cheese, ham, salt, and pepper. Fold one half over the other if you want to place it on a bagel or English muffin. Enjoy!

Friday, December 05, 2014

The Different Types of Nurses

Most of us think we have a pretty clear idea of what nurses do. In a doctor’s office, they are usually the ones who take your vitals and medical history before you see your doctor, and they may even administer medication.

In a hospital, nursing home, or hospice setting, they usually take care of all the things that doctors don’t have time for, like taking patient temperatures, administering medication, and changing bed pans.

Nurses do all of these things, but they also do much more. Also, there are different levels of nursing, and each level has different responsibilities.

The Levels of Nursing

In the United States there are generally three different types of nurses: non-degreed, degreed, and those with advanced degrees.

Non-Degreed

• Non-degreed nurses are professionals who have not completed a college degree program. These nurses include Certified Nurse’s Aides (CNAs) and Licensed Practical Nurses or Licensed Vocational Nurses (LPNs or LVNs). While these types of nurses don’t have degrees, they do have to complete intensive training course and pass either certification or licensing exams to get their titles. CNAs usually have to complete an eight-week program, and LPNs usually have to complete a year-long program.

Degreed

•Degreed nurses have either associates or bachelor’s degrees.

•Degreed nurses usually become Registered Nurses (RNs) and, like their non-degreed counterparts, have to take a certification or licensing exam once they complete their program.

Whether the RN has an associate’s degree or a bachelor’s degree, the work tends to be similar. In addition to many of the responsibilities of the CNA and LPN, the RN also has the ability to choose a specialty, such as pediatrics or geriatrics. RNs might also have a greater range of responsibility when it comes to administering patient care.

One big difference between the bachelor’s and associate’s degree is that RNs with bachelor’s degrees tend to have more career opportunities; which is why some RNs start out with associate’s degrees from one institution, and then go on to another school to complete their bachelor's. Or, they start their careers and then finish up their bachelor's through an accelerated online program, like the one offered at Gwynedd Mercy, a great nursing school in PA.

Those with Advanced Degrees

Nurses with advanced degree have completed a bachelor’s program, and then gone on to complete a master’s or PhD program in a specialty field. These types of nurses can include Nurse Practitioners (NP), Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs), and Nurse Epidemiologists.

Nurses with advanced degrees can have a variety of jobs, depending on their area of specialty. For example:

• Nurse Practitioners perform many of the same functions as medical doctors including ordering screening tests, diagnosing patients, and prescribing medication for minor illnesses. You can often find nurse practitioners at urgent care centers, or those medical clinics you find in grocery stores and drug stores. They might also work in rural communities, and other areas where medical doctors are scarce – such as a public health clinic in a mountain town. Nurse Practitioners usually work under the supervision of a medical doctor, although the doctor might not be on-site.

• Certified Nurse Midwives perform many of the same functions as obstetricians and gynecologists in that they provide care throughout all stages of pregnancy, including routine gynecological care during the pre-pregnancy stage, prenatal care during pregnancy, performing the delivery, and caring for the mother and child during the postpartum period. Like Nurse Practitioners, they can often be found in areas where the services of a medical doctor might not be available. They are also an alternative for women who prefer the services of a midwife over a hospital birth.

• Nurse Epidemiologists are a combination of nurses and research scientists. They perform regular nursing duties but they also conduct investigations, review patients for infection risks, and help develop protocols for preventing infection. Nurse epidemiologists can usually be found in hospitals and public health centers. They can also be found in the field, during disease outbreaks, providing care to the infected and working to prevent the spread of the disease. For example, Kaci Hickox, who was detained in New York in November 2014, was a Nurse Epidemiologist in Sierra Leone during the Ebola crisis.

These are just a few of the jobs that nurses can do with advanced degrees.

Conclusion

Nursing is so much more than just bedpans and thermometers. You can find nurses with advanced degrees in almost every aspect of the medical field, from the research and development in the private and academic sector, to community education.

This is a blog post by Nancy Evans.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Patient Retention: Tips to Improving Communication and Patient Experience

As physicians, you’re already equipped with the ability to communicate with your patients on a regular basis. Be that as it may, communications with doctors and patients today are not as they used to be in times past.

Why? Because as the need for medical attention increases around the country, the amount of patients you see in a given day can become overwhelming. As a result, the first things to suffer are communication and quality customer service.

As we know, communication and involvement with patients is what makes them comfortable – it’s what keeps them coming back. Statistics reported by Solution Reach suggest that doctors lose about 50% of their patients in a five year period.

So how do you lower those percentages in your practice? There are ways in which you can see all of your patients while still being an effective communicator and providing the best customer service. The key is to learn smarter ways to make use of your time. It requires the need to refine basic communication skills and make necessary adjustments that will work for you and your patient.

Make Necessary Adjustments

The average patient’s expectations have certainly changed. Therefore, having basic communication skills may not be enough to ensure patient retention. You see, the average patient wants to be a part of the health care process. They no longer want to be instructed on what to do. Patients are now more informed than ever and will want logic, reasoning, and proof as it pertains to their health and the decisions you make as a medical professional. So how do you make adjustments based on the various changes in patient expectation?

Be Reliable – Reliability is a major component of trust. An unreliable doctor essentially leads to a dissatisfied patient. So if you’ve told a patient that you will call them within a few days to brief them on their lab results, it is necessary that you carry that out. This lets patients know they can rely on you.

Be Available – Patients want to know that whenever they’re in need they can count on their doctor to be there. Being available is not always easy, but finding alternative methods for displaying your presence or concern for their needs is a must.

Quick Tip: Sometimes being physically there for your patients whenever they call is impossible. However, by utilizing technology to your advantage, you can show your patients you care whether they’re in your office or at home. Using platforms such as social media or patient portals can be a great way to do this. It allows patients to communicate with you 24/7 and view pertinent information about their health.

Provide Quality Visits – When a patient comes in to see you, they want the ultimate experience. A customer should be greeted with comfort every time they come to see you. Family Management Practice suggests that you don’t skip the pleasantries. Greet your patients with a smile, show concern, be an involved listener, and most importantly don’t rush them. The key to keeping patients satisfied is making them feel as if their needs were met and that they’re not just another dollar sign.

Quick Tip: A survey or evaluation provided to patients is a great way to measure their experience. Having new patients complete these surveys can keep you and your staff aware of all the areas in which you can improve your customer service and patient experience.

Follow-up/Stay Involved – Even after your patients have left the office staying involved as their doctor is imperative to opening up the lines of communication, building trust, and enhancing their experience as your patient. Find ways to follow up and stay involved with your patients. Whether you send out appointment reminders, send out notices of concern when you haven’t seen them in a while, and even sending out birthday emails or cards can show that you care about them as individuals.

Yes, it can be challenging at times to stay involved with each and every one of your patients, but it is absolutely necessary to ensure they prioritize their health and keep coming to you for treatment. To prevent losing your patients it is important to communicate often and provide them with the best experience possible both in and out of the doctor’s office.

This is a blog post by Nancy Evans.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Pregnancy In The 21st Century: A Non-Invasive Alternative to Amniocentesis

We're in an age ruled by science and technology, and your pregnancy is definitely going to be affected at some point in the near future - or currently - by the breakthroughs in modern medicine. One of the most popular trends in pregnancy-related science has been that of the noninvasive genetic testing. These prenatal DNA tests are able to test for multiple chromosomal abnormalities such as trisomy 21 (Down Syndrome) or trisomy 18 (Edward Syndrome).

These types of tests are most commonly performed on expectant mothers that are deemed as increased risk pregnancies, such as a mother that is over 35, or has had a previous family history of genetic birth defects. In this case, it wasn't at all uncommon for a physician to recommend an amniocentesis in order to test the baby for common genetic abnormalities. Amniocentesis is still used, but now it is just one of multiple options that your healthcare provider has in order to test for chromosomal abnormalities.

Amniocentesis is an invasive procedure, but until recently it was the only way to test for certain chromosome abnormalities, genetic disorders, or neural tube defects. Trisomy 21 (Down Syndrome) is the most common of these abnormalities but the test can also uncover additional chromosomal abnormalities such as those found in trisomy 18 (Edward Syndrome) or trisomy 13 (Patau Syndrome). Besides the uncomfortable nature of the procedure, another drawback with amniocentesis is that the family would typically have to wait until the fifteenth week of the pregnancy, and it isn’t unheard of to wait until twenty weeks to be able to do a safe amniocentesis. The obvious benefit to the prenatal DNA testing is both in speed (from lab to your healthcare provider's office in 5 days) and the fact that the tests are simple and more accessible than ever.

With an obvious need for noninvasive prenatal tests, doctors have begun using cell free DNA tests that can detect the some of the same sort of genetic issues as a traditional amniocentesis. Bioscience companies like Sequenom are making this sort of testing easily accessible by medical professionals who prefer a test without the risk of prenatal invasive procedures. It seems the problem in past years wasn't the procedural awareness - DNA sequencing and genetic testing has been around for more than a decade - but dealing with off-site laboratories that made this sort of testing accessible.

A simple prick from a needle and a small amount of blood now give lab technicians all they need in order to test for genetic mutation and deformities such as trisomy 21 (Down Syndrome), trisomy 18 (Edward syndrome) and trisomy 13 (Pateau Syndrome). In fact, the testing has success rates of 99-percent at detecting trisomy 21 pregnancies, 98-percent with trisomy 18, and about 65-percent with trisomy 13. With trisomy 13 tests, there is often a need for an amniocentesis or chronic villus sampling (CVS) with positive test results.

The test itself often relies on a simple blood test taken from the mother. A small amount of blood is drawn and sent to a laboratory and your healthcare provider will receive the results within 5 days from the date the laboratory received the initial sample.

The future is bright for early detection of all types of birth defects. These simple noninvasive procedures are set to revolutionize the way doctors test for complication in high risk pregnancies. In many cases, knowing about defects before the birth of the child helps the parents to prepare for the specific set of challenges they'll face after the baby is born.


This is a blog post by Nancy Evans.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Effects of Aging on the Skin

Human skin is amazing. Not only does it keep all of your organs inside your body, it performs other functions including:

•  Protects you from ultraviolet radiation and environmental irritants;

•  Prevents the moisture inside your body from escaping;

•  Helps regulate your body temperature;

•  Eliminates wastes; and,

•  Acts as the first line of defense against diseases and infections.

Because it performs so many functions, and is so exposed, your skin is often the first to show early signs of aging.

How Aging Affects Your Skin

Your skin is made up of three distinct layers, all of which help it perform its many functions.

•  The epidermis is the outer layer. It is made up of cells that overlap and stack on top of each other like tiny plates of water. When the epidermis is healthy and intact, it is water-tight and also prevents bacteria, viruses and other foreign substances from getting inside your body. The epidermis also contains melanin which contributes to your skin color and filters out UV radiation.

•  The dermis is the middle layer. It is the thickest layer and is made up of collagen, elastin, and fibrillin, which give the skin its strength and shape. It contains several structures like nerve endings for sensation, sweat to help regulate body temperature, blood vessels to feed the skin nutrients and regulate body temperature, and hair follicles. The dermis also contains glands that release an oily substance called ceramides, which moisturize the epidermis, and help form the barrier against water and foreign substances.

•  The hypodermis is the bottommost layer. It contains blood vessels to feed the skin and regulate temperature, fat cells for insulation, and connective tissue to anchor the skin to your body.

As you age, the layers of your skin stop functioning as well as they should. For example, the glands in the dermis could stop making enough ceramides, causing the epidermis to dry and crack.

Several factors can determine how quickly your skin ages, including as lifestyle, skin tone, ethnicity, and heredity. However, one major factor is UV radiation.

Although the skin is designed to be a UV filter, it is not immune to the effects UV radiation. Long-term exposure to UV radiation can damage all of the cells and structures in the skin, such as melanin cells, collagen cells, and even the glands that make ceramides. In the best case scenario, the damage prevents the cells and structures from functioning properly, leading to wrinkles, cracks, dark spots, and other signs of aging. In the worst case scenario, it can lead to cancer.

Protecting Your Skin

The best way to protect your skin is to avoid direct sunlight as much as possible, and wear sunscreen whenever you do go out into the sun. Stay hydrated, so that your sweat and oil glands have enough water to do their jobs, and moisturize your skin often.

If your skin is already showing signs of aging you could try one or more of the following:

•  Anti-aging cleansers, moisturizers, and serums that contain products that stimulate collagen production, such as peptides and Retin-A;

•  Phytoceramides. Phytoceramides are plant-based versions of the ceramides your skin naturally produces. Used topically, phytoceramides are supposed to hydrate the skin, and repair wrinkles and other signs of aging. Phytoceramides are available in the US as a dietary supplement, but they might not be available in all areas. You might have to talk to a dermatologist or skin specialist about where to buy phytoceramides.

•  Skin fillers, such as natural collagen. Skin fillers help fill in the creases and lines caused by collagen loss in the skin, and some of them also help stimulate your natural collagen production.

•  Microdermabrasion or skin peels. Both skin peels and microdermabrasion both remove some of the cells in the epidermis which immediately reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and stimulates collagen production to help keep wrinkles at bay.

•  Laser skin resurfacing. Laser skin resurfacing uses pulses of light to plump up the skin and fill in wrinkles, lines, and ridges, and stimulate collagen production.

•  Your doctor or dermatologist. You should always consult your physician if you feel that your skin is aging too quickly, of if you are concerned that some dark spots and age marks are the sign of a more serious issue – especially if you have a family history of skin cancer.

This is a blog post by Nancy Evans.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

School Shootings: Why Social Media Should be Monitored

Above: Washington school shooter's Twitter post days before the shooting. 






In the wake of the latest school shooting in the state of Washington, much attention has been paid to the shooter’s (Jaylen Fryberg’s) Twitter account. In fact, after a school shooting, social media sites are typically the first place that people go to learn about the assailant. While this is understandable, one has to wonder if any of these school shootings could be eliminated if someone had paid more attention to these shooters’ social media sites before the shootings.

Possible interventions ahead of time can include psychological counseling (outside and/or inside school) to teach adaptive and prosocial coping mechanisms to deal with stress and conflict, psychotropic medication consultation, more careful and close monitoring of the person’s emotional state by family and health care providers, and removal of firearms access by family members and others known to be close to the individual. Media accounts state that the firearm used by Fryberg belonged to his father.

Taking a look at Fryberg’s Twitter account, once can see that there is an incredible disconnect between how he portrayed himself online compared to how others appear to have viewed him in person. A student at his school, Alex Pietsch has been quoted as saying:

"It's weird to think about, because you see him and he is such a happy person." You never really see him be so angry and so upset. ...”

Yet on Twitter, here are a few of Fryberg’s comments made since June 2014, which show a disturbing trend:

On June 17, Fryberg  seems upset about something (“This Is a F***ing joke”), perhaps after doing some yardwork for a house he says “we” are not going to purchase. Or perhaps it was about something else.

The July 17th comment notwithstanding, it all seemed to go downhill on June 18 when Fryberg appeared to be having an argument with someone, suggestive of a relationship breakup. In fact, media reports state that he had broken up with a girlfriend recently. Posts that day include a long drawn out “F*** YOUUUUU!!,” and “You’re starting to piss me off” followed by an emoticon blowing out steam. Those comments were followed by:

“YOUR SO F****ING BRAVE!! JUST REMEMBER THIS IS F***ING IT!! NO MORE AFTER THIS” along with three angry emoticons.

The next day, Fryberg is still angry with the following posts: “WTF EVER!!” and a long drawn out F word in all caps with angry and sad emoticons and many exclamation points. The most ominous and threatening comment that day was this one:

“I Know Your Weaknesses And What Breaks You... And When That **** Happens... Just Know There's No Coming Back (emphasis mine)” followed by a sad face.

He then said he was going to a hospital, but no reason is given. Only one person asked him why.

On June 20th, Fryberg seems to express regret coupled with anger when he wrote,

“What The F*** Did I Just Do…F*** it.!! Might As well Die Now (emphasis mine).” 

Each of these sentences was followed by a series of sad faces, broken hearts, and steam coming out of an emoticon’s nose. Prior to that posting, Fryberg wrote numerous comments expressing infatuation with someone he appeared to be dating. After the break-up, he wrote posts that appear to reflect him missing being with someone romantically (presumably his girlfriend).

Only July 3rd, Fryberg’s post became more threatening: “It’s about to go down” followed by an emoticon of wide-eyes fear.

Fast forward to August 20th, in what could be considered a foreshadowing of events to come he wrote:

“Your gonna piss me off…And then some s****’s gonna go down and I don’t think you’ll like it…Your not gonna like what happens next!!" (emphasis mine) ” followed by emoticons with steam coming out of their nose.

Some of his posts also displayed an element of possessiveness, presumably over the girl he was dating. He then wrote on the same day, “I hate that I can’t live without you. “This comment was followed by emoticons of rage, sadness, disgust, worry, and blank expressions. That day, he retweeted a comment that the first heartbreak is “unforgettable.”

On August 23rd, Fryberg is angry again, with comments such as, “Sick of this S***!!” and “Oh My God This Is So F****ing Stupid!!” followed by angry emoticons.

On September 16, Fryberg wrote “Fml” which means F*** my life. He appeared to be getting more and more despondent.

On September 19, Fryberg gets into an online dispute with someone he was apparently pretty close to about his girlfriend. In one of the posts that day, he writes:

“Dude. She tells me everything. And now. I f***ing HATE you! Your no longer my "Brother!” He appears to feel betrayed. He then wrote, “Night f***ing RUINED.” 

On September 20th, Fryberg writes: “I Hate Hearin S*** Like That.. It Just Continues To F*** Me Up. I Just Feel Stupid Now.. Exactly What I Thought Was Gonna Happen Happened..”

He followed this up with two more posts that day: 1)"I HATE THIS S***” and 2) “I'm tired of this s***. I'm sooo f***ing done!!! (emphasis mine)” each containing emoticons of frustration.

On October 13, Fryberg retweeted a post saying “I miss you, and it's killing me” followed by an emoticon of anguish and a long drawn out “F*** you” with an emoticon of anger.

On October 21, Fryberg appears to snap when he writes,

“Alright. You f***in got me.... That broke me. It breaks me... It actually does...(emphasis mine) I know it seems like I'm sweating it off... But I'm not.. And I never will be able to...” 

Consistent with this timeline, media reports state that his demeanor changed markedly and that he refused to talk about it. He then wrote, “I should have listened.... You were right... The whole time you were right..” 

On October 23, the day before the shooting, Fryberg wrote, “It won’t last…it’ll never last…”

These postings are not consistent with someone who was a happy person over the past few months. In fact, he clearly was despondent, angry, and sad. Someone in this type emotional state, especially a minor, should not have access to firearms. If a family member of a child expressing such emotional distress owns firearms, the firearms need to be locked away with no way that the child can access the key.

If children under 18 are permitted to have a social media account, it needs to be monitored closely by the parent. By monitoring, this does not mean to allow the child access to a private account with the parent peeking over the child’s shoulder occasionally but it is what too many people do. Monitoring means that you are granted access to the child’s account by being part of their social media network. It should be made as a condition to permit social media access. You can promise not to post to the child’s account so as not to embarrass them, but they key is that you are monitoring it and interfering if you see signs of cyber-bullying, threatening comments (against or from the child), and/or signs of significant emotional distress. If the child does not agree to grant you access, then no social media account.

For counselors, it is definitely worthwhile to search for your client/patient’s social media profile so that timely interventions can be made. As this case shows, children (and adults) will sometimes present differently on the outside than they will when behind the safety of a computer (or smartphone) and a keyboard. It is important to note that it is not unethical to view these social media accounts as long as you are viewing publicly available information. You also do not need to have a patient sign a consent form to view publicly available information. Many children do not put any sort of privacy setting in place and allow the entire contents of their social page viewable to the public.

What a counselor should not do, however, is hack into someone’s private (non-public) social media account. If the account is locked to private, you are out of luck as a counselor but this is where the parent or guardian comes in as a safeguard. While we may not be able to stop all school shootings by checking social media websites, more regular social media monitoring is a potentially helpful way to prevent some of these shootings in the future. This should be integrated into a regular part of clinical practice for counselors in the future.