Monday, July 30, 2012

Health Care and Tinnitus

Have you ever had that ringing sensation in your ears and wondered why no one was answering the phone? It’s a condition called tinnitus. According to, tinnitus is a ringing, swishing, or other type of noise that seems to originate in the ear or head. In many cases it is not a serious problem, but rather a nuisance that eventually resolves. Rarely, however, tinnitus can represent a serious health condition. It is not a single disease, but a symptom of an underlying condition. Nearly 36 million Americans suffer from this disorder. In almost all cases, only the patient can hear the noise.

According to, tinnitus is not a disease in itself but rather a reflection of something else that is going on in the hearing system or brain. Probably the most common cause for tinnitus is hearing loss. As we age, or because of trauma to the ear (through noise, drugs, or chemicals), the portion of the ear that allows us to hear, the cochlea, becomes damaged.

o Current theories suggest that because the cochlea is no longer sending the normal signals to the brain, the brain becomes confused and essentially develops its own noise to make up for the lack of normal sound signals. This then is interpreted as a sound, tinnitus.

o This tinnitus can be made worse by anything that makes our hearing worse, such as ear infection or excess wax in the ear.

o Tinnitus caused by ear trauma is usually noticed in both ears, because both ears are usually exposed to the same noises, drugs, and other influences

o Loud noise exposure is a very common cause of tinnitus today, and it often damages hearing as well. Unfortunately, many people are unconcerned about the harmful effects of excessively loud noise from firearms, high intensity music, or other sources.

Ten million Americans have suffered irreversible noise-induced hearing loss, and 30 million more are exposed to dangerous noise levels each day, according to the NIDCD. Other causes of tinnitus include drugs such as aspirin (if overused), aminoglycoside antibiotics (a powerful form of infection-fighting drug), and quinine. Plus, Meniere’s Disease includes dizziness, tinnitus, and fullness in the ear or hearing loss that can last for hours, but then goes away. This disease is actually caused by a problem in the ear itself. The tinnitus is merely a symptom.

A rare cause of subjective tinnitus includes a certain type of brain tumor known as an acoustic neuroma. The tumors grow on the nerve that supplies hearing and can cause tinnitus. This type of tinnitus is usually only noticed in one ear, unlike the more common sort caused by hearing loss usually seen in both ears. Causes of objective tinnitus are usually easier to find, and you can find much more detail about tinnitus, at this website: .

According to the American Academy of Otalaryngology, in most cases, there is no specific, tried-and-true treatment for ear and head noise. If an otolaryngologist finds a specific cause for your tinnitus, he or she may be able to offer specific treatment to eliminate the noise. This determination may require extensive testing, including x-rays and other imaging studies, audiological tests, tests of balance function, and other laboratory work. However, most of the time, other than linking the presence of tinnitus to sensory hearing loss, specific causes are very difficult to identify. Although there is no specific medication for tinnitus, occasionally medications may be tried and some may help to reduce the noise. Here are some other tinnitus treatment options:

• Alternative treatments, such as mindful meditation
• Amplification (hearing aids)
• Cochlear implants or electrical stimulation
• Cognitive therapy
• Drug therapy
• Sound therapy/tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT)
• TMJ treatment

It is relatively rare but not unheard of for patients under 18 years old to have tinnitus as a primary complaint, according to the Academy. However, it is possible that tinnitus in children is significantly under-reported, in part because young children may not be able to express this complaint. Also, in children with congenital sensorineural hearing loss that may be accompanied by tinnitus, this symptom may be unnoticed because it is something that is constant in their lives. In fact, they may habituate to it; the brain may learn to ignore this internal sound. In pre-teens and teens, the highest risk for developing tinnitus is associated with exposure to high intensity sounds, specifically listening to music. In particular, virtually all teenagers use personal MP3 devices and nearly all hand-held electronic games are equipped with ear buds. It is difficult for a parent to monitor the level of sound children are exposed to. Therefore, the best and most effective mode of prevention of tinnitus in children is proper education relative to excessive sound exposure, as well as monitoring by parents or other caregivers. Here are some tips to lessen the severity of tinnitus:

• Avoid exposure to loud sounds and noises.
• Get your blood pressure checked. If it is high, get your doctor’s help to control it.
• Decrease your intake of salt. Salt impairs blood circulation.
• Avoid stimulants such as coffee, tea, cola, and tobacco.
• Exercise daily to improve your circulation.
• Get adequate rest and avoid fatigue.
• Stop worrying about the noise. Recognize your head noise as an annoyance and learn to ignore it as much as possible. It is part of you.

Concentration and relaxation exercises can help to control muscle groups and circulation throughout the body. The increased relaxation and circulation achieved by these exercises can reduce the intensity of tinnitus in some patients. Masking a head noise with a competing sound at a constant low level, such as a ticking clock or radio static (white noise), may make it less noticeable. Tinnitus is usually more bothersome in quiet surroundings. Products that generate white noise are available through catalogs and specialty stores, according to ENT specialists.

Hearing aids may reduce head noise while you are wearing them and sometimes cause the noise to go away temporarily. If you have a hearing loss, it is important not to set the hearing aid at excessively loud levels, as this can worsen the tinnitus in some cases. However, a thorough trial before purchase of a hearing aid is advisable if your primary purpose is the relief of tinnitus. Tinnitus maskers can be combined within hearing aids. They emit a competitive but pleasant sound that can distract you from head noise. Some people find that a tinnitus masker may even suppress the head noise for several hours after it is used, but this is not true for all users. Much more details can be found at their website: .

Tinnitus can be stressful because it can be difficult to describe, predict, and manage, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Self-help groups are available in many communities for sharing information and coping strategies for living with tinnitus. Often a self-help group promotes feelings of hope and control. Members of the group share strategies they have found successful in dealing with their tinnitus. It can help to be reassured that you do not have a rare disease or serious brain disorder or are not going deaf. With support, people with tinnitus usually find that they can cope with their tinnitus. Your audiologist can connect you with a self-help group in your area. For additional information or help in finding a group near you, contact the American Tinnitus Association (ATA). More info about getting ways to help with this malady can be found at this website: .

Ringing in the ears and other forms of tinnitus should be addressed by your family doctor or a health care professional if it continues over a prolonged period of time. If you are suffering from more severe symptoms, see your primary care provider as soon as possible. Tinnitus is most inconvenient only to those who are suffering from it, as no one else can hear what you are hearing. Get relief, and be proactive with your health.

Until next time.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Health Care and Pink Eye

A common illness among school children and kids in general is a symptom called “Pink Eye,” a very contagious form of eye malady that affects most children during the months when school is in session. One reason it spreads easily is due to the close contact with lots of classmates before the illness has been properly diagnosed. Because children typically have quite a bit of physical contact, not only with each other but with much of the items in the classroom, “pink eye” can move quickly from child to child.

“Pink eye,” or Conjunctivitis, is swelling (inflammation) or infection of the membrane lining the eyelids, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In more than half of all people who have conjunctivitis that is caused by bacteria, the infection goes away without treatment within two to five days. Antibiotic eye drops or ointment can speed up recovery, though. Adverse effects are rare. There are many causes of conjunctivitis. Viruses are the most common cause. Other causes include:

• Allergies (allergic conjunctivitis)
• Bacteria
• Certain diseases
• Chemical exposure
• Chlamydia
• Fungi
• Parasites (rarely)
• Use of contact lenses (especially extended-wear lenses)

A pink eye, along with itching, burning, stinging, irritation, pain, grittiness, crusting or light sensitivity, are all symptoms that provide clues about the type of conjunctivitis you could have, according to Contagious forms of pink eye are usually linked to bacterial or viral infections. Non-contagious pink eye can occur when eye irritants such as allergens, dust and smoke are in the environment. Coughing and sneezing can spread contagious pink eye by spraying tiny droplets from infected mucus into the air. Shared towels also can be infected, as well as table tops, counter spaces and bathrooms.

Pink eye can occur in adults, but most often affects young children through epidemics that spread rapidly in classrooms and day care centers. Particularly in these communal settings, you need to take extra precautions to prevent pink eye, such as frequent hand washing by adults and children. In fact, when pink eye symptoms are present, it's a good idea to keep a can of disinfectant spray handy and use it often. Because a reddish or pink eye can be a symptom of many different types of eye problems — some that can be quite serious — make sure you consult with your eye doctor. Much more information about conjunctivitis, and how to treat it, can be found at their site: .

According to the NIH, treatment of conjunctivitis depends on the cause. Allergic conjunctivitis may respond to allergy treatment. It may disappear on its own when the allergen that caused it is removed. Cool compresses may help soothe allergic conjunctivitis. Antibiotic medication, usually eye drops, is effective for bacterial conjunctivitis. Viral conjunctivitis will disappear on its own. Many doctors give a prescription for a mild antibiotic eye drop for pink eye to prevent bacterial conjunctivitis. You can soothe the discomfort of viral or bacterial conjunctivitis by applying warm compresses (clean cloths soaked in warm water) to your closed eyes. The outcome is usually good with treatment. Re-infection within a household or school may occur if you don't follow preventive measures. Much more detail can be found at this site: .

No one knows exactly how many kids get conjunctivitis each year but your doctor treats many who have it and can spot it pretty quickly, according to The doctor also will ask you if your eyes have been red and itchy lately or if you have noticed any goopy stuff in your eyes. It's important to tell the doctor if you know anyone, like a relative or a friend, who has red and itchy eyes, too. Your doctor will know if you have conjunctivitis by looking carefully at your eyes to see if they are red and if any liquid is coming from them. The doctor will want to know that you can see OK and that nothing has gotten into your eye. Finally, your doctor may examine your ears to see if you have an ear infection caused by the same bacteria that can cause conjunctivitis. More information about symptoms can be found at this site:

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), if you have conjunctivitis, you should see your health care provider if you have—

• Moderate to severe pain in your eye(s)
• Blurred vision or increased sensitivity to light
• Intense redness in the eye(s)
• A weakened immune system, for example, from HIV or cancer treatment
• Bacterial conjunctivitis that does not improve after 24 hours of antibiotic use
• Symptoms persist or get worse

Conjunctivitis in newborns can be caused by an infection, irritation, or a blocked tear duct. A newborn baby that has symptoms suggesting conjunctivitis should see their health care provider. When neonatal conjunctivitis is caused by sexually transmitted infections, like gonorrhea or chlamydia, it can be very serious. If you are pregnant and think you may have a sexually transmitted infection, visit your health care provider for testing and treatment. If you don’t know if you have a sexually transmitted infection but have recently given birth and your newborn shows signs of conjunctivitis, visit your child’s health care provider right away. Most hospitals are required by state law to put drops or ointment in a newborn's eyes to prevent conjunctivitis. For more details about “pink eye” from the CDC, visit .

According to, most types of pink eye are not considered serious or threatening to eyesight, especially when appropriate treatment — when necessary — is given in a timely way. But when other causes have been ruled out, persistent conjunctivitis can signal a potentially serious underlying disease that often only your doctor can diagnose. Left untreated, certain types of bacterial conjunctivitis can scar the eye's surface. This may lead to permanent eye damage and vision loss. In extreme and rare cases of uncontrolled conjunctivitis, an eye might even need to be removed because of infection that spreads throughout the eye and its interior.

Always see your family physician or a medical professional when you think you may be experiencing symptoms of any eye disease, especially conjunctivitis. Treatment is easy, and the general prognosis in most cases is very good. Just be careful, and be smart about any problems that may give you cause for concern about catching or spreading “pink eye.” It’s always best to find the right answers quickly before too much time goes by, and more serious problems develop. Precaution is always a good measure, and washing your hands frequently is just a good habit to maintain.

Until next time.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Health Care and Multiple Sclerosis

There are various types of muscle disease that affect millions of Americans. Multiple Sclerosis, or MS, is one that is especially difficult and has no known cure at the present time. MS isn’t an easy disease to diagnose, according to the National MS Society. In the first place, there is no single test for multiple sclerosis. Second, the diagnosis cannot be made until the doctor finds evidence of two episodes of disease activity in the central nervous system that have occurred at different points in time — which means that confirming the diagnosis is sometimes a waiting game. And third, most MS symptoms can also be caused by other conditions, which means that the doctor needs to rule out all other possible explanations.

A group of drugs commonly given to people with multiple sclerosis (MS) may not actually have any effect on the progression of the disease, scientists recently said. Researchers at the University of British Columbia in Canada looked at the impact of beta interferons on the long-term disability progression of relapsing-remitting MS in 2,656 patients between 1985 and 2008. Some of the patients were given beta interferons while others were not, and the researchers found that the drugs were not associated with any significant change in the progression of disability, as reported by

Dr. Helen Tremlett, whose findings are published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, said the study provides “additional information to patients and clinicians about the longer-term effect of this class of drugs”. She added that beta interferons are “very helpful in reducing relapses” and urged patients not to stop taking these medicines. In July, 2012, a study in the journal Neurology found that effective stress management may help to reduce MS disease activity.

By themselves, there are no specific tests that can determine if a person has MS or is likely to have it in the future. Current diagnosis of definite MS involves both clinical (history and neurological exam) and paraclinical (MRI, Spinal Tap, Evoked potentials) evidence, according to the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation. The physician will ask about past surgeries, illnesses, allergies, any family neurological disorders including MS, geographic locations where you have lived, if adversely affected by heat, medications taken, history of substance abuse (alcohol, drugs, and tobacco).

During the neurological examination the physician will check for exaggerated reflexes such as Babinski's reflex, an upward movement of the big toe when the sole of the foot is stimulated. For patients with balance and gait difficulties, an eye examination is done to determine optic nerve damage. The physician must be able to find neurological evidence of lesions or plaques in at least two distinct areas of the Central Nervous System white matter, evidence that the plaques have occurred at different points in time, and most importantly, that these plaques have no other reasonable explanation thus ruling out other illnesses that mimic MS.

For some patients no tests beyond medical history and neurologic exam are necessary to diagnose. However, most physicians will not rely entirely on this type of evaluation and will do at least one other test to confirm the diagnosis. In this era, even a clear-cut diagnosis will usually be confirmed with an MRI of the brain, one of the major diagnostic tools currently used. Much more detail about MS can be found at their site: .

According to the National MS Society, in multiple sclerosis , damage to the myelin in the central nervous system (CNS), and to the nerve fibers themselves, interferes with the transmission of nerve signals between the brain and spinal cord and other parts of the body. This disruption of nerve signals produces the primary symptoms of MS, which vary depending on where the damage has occurred. Over the course of the disease, some symptoms will come and go, while others may be more lasting.

No two people have exactly the same symptoms, and each person’s symptoms can change or fluctuate over time. One person might experience only one or two of the possible symptoms while another person experiences many more. Most of these symptoms can be managed very effectively with medication, rehabilitation, and other management strategies. Much more material about MS can be found at their website: .

There are two basic rules for diagnosing Multiple Sclerosis, according to this site: . Here are the two main criteria:

1. The person must have had at least two relapses (an episode where symptoms were present). These episodes must have been separated by at least one month.

2. There must be more than one lesion on the brain or spinal cord.

Multiple sclerosis means just that -- multiple (more than one), sclerosis (areas of damage; scarring or hardening). Here are the diagnostic categories:

• Negative: Negative means negative. You don’t have MS. It is possible for the doctor to give this diagnosis only when another definite diagnosis is made that can account for your symptoms.

• Possible: This means that you may have symptoms that look like MS, but your tests are normal. No other diagnosis which accounts for the symptoms has been confirmed.

• Probable: Many people fall into this category when they are first seen by a neurologist. You may have symptoms that look like MS and have had two separate episodes separated by at least a month, but normal findings on an MRI. You could also have an MRI that showed only one lesion in your brain or spine. In this case, your doctor will probably recommend repeating the MRI after a certain period of time (for instance, 3 months) to see if any other lesions appear. Depending on how certain your doctor is that you really do have MS, he may recommend that you consider starting an early therapy.

• Definite: Your case fits the diagnostic criteria above. You have had at least two attacks, separated in time, plus at least two areas of demyelination. Believe it or not, many people are relieved to receive a definite diagnosis of MS.

Also, information about treatment and care of MS can also be found on WebMD at this site: .

Multiple Sclerosis is a debilitating disease. MS has a profound impact on all parts of your life, including workplace issues, relationships and family, overall well-being and lifestyle choices. If you suspect that you may be experiencing symptoms, see your doctor right away. Although, MS is not curable, symptoms like memory loss, fatigue, bladder function, muscle spasms, and others can be managed for a time.

Until next time.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Health Care and Urinary Incontinence

Controlling the urge to use the restroom can be difficult for some people. Part of the problem can be caused by urinary incontinence and bladder control. Many Americans suffer from this often embarrassing physical problem, and it can become a more severe issue if left untreated over time. As a matter of fact, urinary incontinence, or UI, is a common occurrence.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the severity of urinary incontinence ranges from occasionally leaking urine when you cough or sneeze to having an urge to urinate that's so sudden and strong you don't get to a toilet in time. If urinary incontinence affects your day-to-day activities, don't hesitate to see your doctor. In most cases, simple lifestyle changes or medical treatment can ease your discomfort or stop urinary incontinence. Urinary incontinence isn't a disease, it's a symptom. It can be caused by everyday habits, underlying medical conditions or physical problems. A thorough evaluation by your doctor can help determine what's behind your incontinence.

Most bladder control problems happen when muscles are too weak or too active, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). If the muscles that keep your bladder closed are weak, you may have accidents when you sneeze, laugh or lift a heavy object. This is stress incontinence. If bladder muscles become too active, you may feel a strong urge to go to the bathroom when you have little urine in your bladder. This is urge incontinence or overactive bladder. There are other causes of incontinence, such as prostate problems and nerve damage. More information can be found at this website: .

Here are the Types of Urinary Incontinence, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK):

--Stress Leakage of small amounts of urine during physical movement (coughing, sneezing, exercising).
--Urge Leakage of large amounts of urine at unexpected times, including during sleep.
--Overactive Bladder Urinary frequency and urgency, with or without urge incontinence.
--Functional Untimely urination because of physical disability, external obstacles, or problems in thinking or communicating that prevent a person from reaching a toilet.
--Overflow Unexpected leakage of small amounts of urine because of a full bladder.
--Mixed Usually the occurrence of stress and urge incontinence together.
--Transient Leakage that occurs temporarily because of a situation that will pass (infection, taking a new medication, colds with coughing).

UI is twice as common in women as in men. Pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause are major reasons why. But both women and men can become incontinent from brain injury, birth defects, stroke, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and physical changes associated with aging, according to

• Pregnancy — Unborn babies push down on the bladder, urethra (tube that you urinate from), and pelvic floor muscles. This pressure may weaken the pelvic floor support and lead to leaks or problems passing urine.

• Childbirth — Many women leak urine after giving birth. Labor and vaginal birth can weaken pelvic floor support and damage nerves that control the bladder. Most problems with bladder control during pregnancy and childbirth go away after the muscles have time to heal. Talk to your doctor if you still have bladder problems 6 weeks after childbirth.

• Menopause — Some women have bladder control problems after they stop having periods. After menopause, the body stops making the female hormone estrogen. Some experts think this loss of estrogen weakens the urethral tissue.

Other causes of UI that can affect women and men, according to, are:

• Constipation — Problems with bladder control can happen to people with long-term (chronic) constipation.

• Medicines — UI may be a side effect of medicines such as diuretics (“water pills” used to treat heart failure, liver cirrhosis, hypertension, and certain kidney diseases). Hormone replacement has been shown to cause worsening UI.

• Caffeine and alcohol — Drinks with caffeine, such as coffee or soda, cause the bladder to fill quickly and sometimes leak.

• Infection — Infections of the urinary tract and bladder may cause incontinence for a short time. Bladder control returns when the illness goes away.

• Nerve damage — Damaged nerves may send signals to the bladder at the wrong time, or not at all. Trauma or diseases such as diabetes and multiple sclerosis can cause nerve damage. Nerves may also become damaged during childbirth.

• Excess weight — Being overweight is also known to put pressure on the bladder and make incontinence worse.

For treatment, expect the health professional to be concerned about your complaint and to be attentive to the information you bring, according to the National Association for Continence (NAFC). Be ready to give a complete history, which will include the questions we have listed for you and probably many more. Expect to have a complete physical examination. You will be asked to give a urine specimen, and you should be tested within 15 minutes after that to see if there is still urine in the bladder. Sometimes this is done by passing a small thin tube (catheter) into your bladder. Other times it is done with a small sensor that is rubbed over your lower abdomen. This is called an ultrasound. A sample of your blood may also be taken.

The doctor may begin treatment immediately or do some other tests called urodynamics. These tests show how your bladder acts when it is filling and emptying. The reason for all tests should be explained, and you should know when, how, and where you will get the results. Once the specialist has made a diagnosis of your bladder or bowel problem, you should expect to have the treatment choices explained to you with the risks and benefits and estimated cost of each.

And finally, expect to participate in your care to get the best results. Your treatment will be most successful when you help choose the solution and when you do all that you need to do in the way of record-keeping, going to the toilet regularly, drinking the recommended amount and type of fluids, and performing exercises if you are told to do so. Of course, you should report any side-effects of medicines or treatments and discuss any concerns you have about your treatment with your healthcare professional, according to the NAFC. Much more detailed information can be found at their website: .

Incontinence is embarrassing to most all people who suffer from it. Men, women, and children all experience UI. However, with proper diagnosis and treatment, you can experience better lifestyle options. If you or someone you know are having issues with UI, seek professional medical help.

Until next time.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Health Care and Osteoarthritis

Arthritis afflicts millions of Americans, and in some cases this health care malady can be very severe in its effect on your ability to live without pain. Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common joint disorder, which is due to aging and wear and tear on a joint, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Pain and stiffness in the joints are the most common symptoms. The pain is often worse after exercise and when you put weight or pressure on the joint.

If you have osteoarthritis, your joints probably become stiffer and harder to move over time. You may notice a rubbing, grating, or crackling sound when you move the joint, according to the NIH. The phrase "morning stiffness" refers to the pain and stiffness you may feel when you first wake up in the morning. Stiffness usually lasts for 30 minutes or less. It is improved by mild activity that "warms up" the joint. During the day, the pain may get worse when you're active and feel better when you are resting. After a while, the pain may be present when you are resting. It may even wake you up at night. Some people might not have symptoms, even though x-rays show the changes of OA.

According to the Arthritis Foundation, , it is thought that osteoarthritis dates back to ancient humans. Evidence of osteoarthritis has been found in ice-aged skeletons. Today, an estimated 27 million Americans live with OA. Despite the longevity and frequency of the disease, the cause is still not completely known and there is no cure. In fact, many different factors may play a role in whether or not you get OA, including age, obesity, injury or overuse and genetics. Your OA could be caused by any one or by a combination of any of these factors. There are several stages of osteoarthritis:

• Cartilage loses elasticity and is more easily damaged by injury or use.
• Wear of cartilage causes changes to underlying bone. The bone thickens and cysts may occur under the cartilage. Bony growths, called spurs or osteophytes, develop near the end of the bone at the affected joint.
• Bits of bone or cartilage float loosely in the joint space.
• The joint lining, or the synovium, becomes inflamed due to cartilage breakdown causing cytokines (inflammation proteins) and enzymes that damage cartilage further.

Changes in the cartilage and bones of the joint can lead to pain, stiffness and use limitations. Deterioration of cartilage can:

• Affect the shape and makeup of the joint so it doesn’t function smoothly. This can mean that you limp when you walk or have trouble going up and down stairs.
• Cause fragments of bone and cartilage to float in joint fluid causing irritation and pain.
• Cause bony spurs, called osteophytes, to develop near the ends of bones
• Mean the joint fluid doesn’t have enough hyaluronan, which affects the joint’s ability to absorb shock.

Much more detail about osteoarthritis can be found at this website: . Additionally, according to the online magazine, Arthritis Today, treatment for osteoarthritis is readily available. For more material about this subject, go to this website: .

According to the NIH, A physical exam can show:

• Joint movement may cause a cracking (grating) sound, called crepitation
• Joint swelling (bones around the joints may feel larger than normal)
• Limited range of motion
• Tenderness when the joint is pressed
• Normal movement is often painful

No blood tests are helpful in diagnosing OA. An x-ray of affected joints will show a loss of the joint space. In advanced cases, there will be a wearing down of the ends of the bone and bone spurs.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), overall OA affects 13.9% of adults aged 25 and older and 33.6% (12.4 million) of those 65+; an estimated 26.9 million US adults in 2005 up from 21 million in 1990 (believed to be conservative estimate). A lot of facts about the demographics of who is affected by osteoarthritis can be found at their website: .

Plus, here are ten facts most people don’t know about Osteoarthritis, located at this website: . One of those facts: Osteoarthritis accounts for approximately 6% of arthritis-related deaths. About 500 deaths per year are attributed to osteoarthritis. The number has risen in the last 10 years. It should be noted that the number may underestimate the true contribution of osteoarthritis to mortality and is hard to compare. For example, death from NSAID use is not counted.

Every person with OA is different, according to the NIH. Pain and stiffness may prevent one person from performing simple daily activities, while others are able to maintain an active lifestyle that includes sports and other activities. Your movement may become very limited over time. Doing everyday activities, such as personal hygiene, household chores, or cooking may become a challenge. Treatment usually improves function. Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of OA that get worse.

Treatment for osteoarthritis pain starts with educating yourself about the disease, according to EverydayHealth. Lifestyle changes such as avoiding overuse of the joint, proper exercise, and weight loss are the first steps toward managing your pain. Your doctor may also start you on pain medications if you need them. Studies show that the best method of controlling osteoarthritis pain is with a combination of medications and lifestyle changes. More info about various problems based on physical location of the disease in your body can be found at this site: .

Osteoarthritis can be painful and debilitating. However, treatment and medication are available. For more details on how you can deal with this health care issue, see your primary care doctor. Your physician may also refer to a specialist depending on your personal situation. You can help control osteoarthritis pain by losing weight and exercising. Educating yourself about the possibilities of various care-related options is critical to understanding osteoarthritis, and how to manage your pain for a healthier, more enjoyable lifestyle.

Until next time.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Health Care and Asperger's Syndrome

According to the NIH (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke), Asperger's syndrome (AS) is an autism spectrum disorder. It is milder than autism but shares some of its symptoms. It is more common in boys than girls. An obsessive interest in a single subject is a major symptom of AS. Some children with AS have become experts on dinosaurs, makes and models of cars, even objects as seemingly odd as vacuum cleaners. Their expertise, high level of vocabulary and formal speech patterns make them seem like little professors.

Children with AS have trouble reading social cues and recognizing other people's feelings. They may have strange movements or mannerisms. All of these make it difficult for them to make friends. Problems with motor skills are also common in children with AS. They may be late learning to ride a bike or catch a ball, for example. Treatment focuses on the three main symptoms: poor communication skills, obsessive or repetitive routines, and physical clumsiness. More info can be found at their website: .

Asperger's syndrome symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic, include:

• Engaging in one-sided, long-winded conversations, without noticing if the listener is listening or trying to change the subject
• Displaying unusual nonverbal communication, such as lack of eye contact, few facial expressions, or awkward body postures and gestures
• Showing an intense obsession with one or two specific, narrow subjects, such as baseball statistics, train schedules, weather or snakes
• Appearing not to understand, empathize with or be sensitive to others' feelings
• Having a hard time "reading" other people or understanding humor
• Speaking in a voice that is monotonous, rigid or unusually fast
• Moving clumsily, with poor coordination

Unlike children with more-severe forms of autism spectrum disorders, those with Asperger's syndrome usually don't have delays in the development of language skills. That means your child will use single words by the age of 2 and phrases by the time he or she is 3 years old. But, children with Asperger's syndrome may have difficulties holding normal conversations. Conversations may feel awkward and lack the usual give and take of normal social interactions. Toddlers and school-age children with Asperger's syndrome may not show an interest in friendships. Youngsters with Asperger's often have developmental delays in their motor skills, such as walking, catching a ball or playing on playground equipment. In early childhood, kids with Asperger's may be quite active. By young adulthood, people with Asperger's syndrome may experience depression or anxiety. Much more info can be found at their website: .

Asperger syndrome can be very difficult to diagnose, according to Children with AS function well in most aspects of life, so it can be easy to attribute their strange behaviors to just being "different." Experts say that early intervention involving educational and social training, performed while a child's brain is still developing, is very important for kids with AS. If your child exhibits some of the symptoms and behaviors that are typical of AS, it's critical to seek help from your doctor. He or she can refer you to a mental health professional or other specialist for further evaluation.

When a specialist assesses your child, a thorough "psychosocial" evaluation will be performed. This includes a careful history of when symptoms were first recognized, the development of motor skills and language patterns, and other aspects of personality and behavior (including favorite activities, unusual habits, preoccupations, etc.). Particular emphasis is placed on social development, including past and present problems in social interaction and development of friendships. A psychological evaluation and assessment of communication skills are usually conducted to determine which strengths and skills might be deficient, according to Kids Health.

Because AS can present patterns of behaviors and problems that differ widely from child to child, there isn't a "typical" or prescribed treatment regimen as noted at However, depending on what their strengths and weaknesses are (or depending on what their development history is), kids may benefit from these treatments:

• parent education and training
• specialized educational interventions
• social skills training
• language therapy
• sensory integration training for younger kids, usually performed by an occupational therapist, in which they are desensitized to stimuli to which they're overly sensitive
• psychotherapy or behavioral/cognitive therapy for older kids
• medications

It will help if you involve all of your child's caregivers in the treatment. The health professionals who are caring for your child should know what the others are doing, and you will often find yourself acting as the "case manager" in this scenario. Teachers, babysitters, other family members, close friends, and anyone else who cares for your child also should be involved. It's important to know that many people can provide assistance. Finding the right program for your child is key and getting help early is important. Kids with AS can and do experience great gains with the appropriate treatment and education. A lot of details about Asperger’s Syndrome can be found at the Kids Health website: .

The demands of living with a person with autism are great, and families frequently experience high levels of stress. Recognizing and preparing for the challenges that are in store will make a tremendous difference to all involved, including parents, siblings, grandparents, extended family, and friends, according to the Autism Society. The uniqueness of each individual with autism makes the experience of living with autism different for each family. But there are some consistent themes or issues that most families will want to be aware of to be able to provide the best support to the individual and to family members. The Autism Society has developed in-depth information on a variety of topics related to living with autism. Their information is by no means exhaustive, but it should help to equip families with some of the basic tools they may need to provide the best outcomes for their loved ones on the autism spectrum. Lots of material about this disease can be found at their website: .

If you feel that your child may be exhibiting symptoms of Asperger’s, see your pediatrician as soon as possible and consult with specialists that your doctor may recommend. More testing would be ideal, but find out if there may be a problem if you have definite concerns. Treating and living with a child with AS is challenging, but not knowing is even more difficult, especially if your child needs help.

Until next time.