Archive For: Medical Conditions

The Enemy Within: Autoimmune Disease is on the Rise

autoimmune-disease-1000x1000-300x300 - The Enemy Within: Autoimmune Disease is on the Rise

A condition that is thought to have tripled in prevalence over the last 50 years, impacting over 23 million people, could justifiably be seen as an epidemic, or at least, a growing health concern. Autoimmune diseases, though, are not often thought of in that way because they manifest as 80+ different illnesses that nevertheless share the same root cause: a malfunctioning
immune system that mistakenly attacks its own tissues. Virtually every human organ system can be impacted: the brain and spinal cord in multiple sclerosis, the skin in psoriasis, the joints in rheumatoid arthritis, the intestines in Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas in Type 1 diabetes, the thyroid in Hashimoto’s disease, among others.

Ironically, 100 years ago, Nobel Prize-winning immunologist Paul Ehrlich, MD, was openly skeptical of a concept in which the body turns on itself, calling it “horror autotoxicus” (literally, the horror of self-toxicity). That set back acceptance of autoimmunity another half century, according to today’s leading neuro-immunologists. Now we are beginning to recognize the pervasiveness of autoimmune disease and develop therapies based on new research into its complex causes.

Notably, the gut, which houses 80 percent of the immune system, has come under increased scrutiny for the role it can play in causing disease. One theory posits that a ‘leaky gut’ may allow undigested food particles, microbes and toxins to enter the blood stream, and trigger inflammation that goes on to
disrupt the proper functioning of the immune system.

There is also a growing consensus that these diseases result from complex interactions between genetic and environmental factors. Autoimmune disease is commonly clustered in families, but may affect different organs. For example, a mother may develop rheumatoid arthritis while her daughter copes with juvenile diabetes, her sister has Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and her grandmother deals with Graves’ disease. Environment and lifestyle may contribute to the increased incidence of these diseases, including chronic stress.

For the many living with an autoimmune condition, there is hope in the form of new medications, advanced treatments and genuine breakthroughs in the precision medicine approach. Experts predict substantial advances in the next decade, fueled by more than 310 medicines and vaccines for autoimmune diseases already in clinical trials or awaiting review by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Options go well beyond simply relieving symptoms or replacing substances destroyed by the disease, including:

  • Therapies to suppress the immune system and preserve organ function, such as methotrexate, used to treat cancer, now also successfully used for rheumatoid arthritis and several other autoimmune diseases.
  • Real progress in biologics, which target specific enzymes and proteins. Monoclonal antibody medicines are being used to block inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis, preventing irreversible joint damage and enabling remission; to inhibit the activity of proteins implicated in Crohn’s and colitis and systemic lupus erythematosus; and are newly approved by the FDA to neutralize inflammatory processes linked to psoriasis.

Running on a parallel and complementary path are natural methods, which continue to gain traction. Areas under investigation include: reducing foods high in sugar and saturated fat, practicing de-stressing techniques, lowering the toxic burden caused by constant exposure to environmental factors and restoring intestinal health with a diet that includes prebiotic and probiotic foods.

The post The Enemy Within: Autoimmune Disease is on the Rise appeared first on Specialdocs Consultants, LLC.

Bring It Down: Healthy Blood Pressure Numbers May Go Even Lower

If you’ve ever wondered why a blood pressure check is part of almost every visit to a doctor’s office, consider what is communicated through the familiar black cuff in just a few seconds. The force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps is a critical measure of how well your heart muscle works – systolic blood pressure (SBP, or the top number of a reading) measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats; diastolic blood pressure (DBP, or the bottom number) refers to the pressure in the arteries when the heart muscle is resting between beats and refilling with blood.

Readings that exceed the norm, hypertension or high blood pressure, indicate an increased risk of heart attack, stroke and kidney failure. However, exactly what constitutes ‘normal’ blood pressure for optimal health has been debated and tested for decades, and recommendations have fluctuated over time. While the gold standard is under 120 mm Hg/80 mm Hg, the targets for treating hypertension have varied over the years – less than 140/90 in the 1990s, down to 130/80 in 2003, raised to a controversial 150 or less in 2014, and retreating to less than 140 in 2015.

At the end of 2015, a landmark study of more than 9,300 patients, the Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT), moved the needle down even further. Those who were treated most aggressively to drive down blood pressure to 120/80 experienced a significantly lower risk of cardiovascular events, chronic kidney disease, and death. In fact, the outcomes were so convincing that the trial was actually halted after just three years, much sooner than planned, leading the American Society of Hypertension to state: “The early termination of this trial represents an exciting moment in the history of hypertension treatment.” Still, notes of caution were sounded because multiple medications were required, sometimes causing adverse side effects, and experts
agreed more study was needed to justify changes in clinical practice.  Additional evidence followed this year, with an analysis of adults aged 75 years and older who participated in the SPRINT study. The benefits of lowering blood pressure to 120 were even more pronounced, resulting in a one third reduction in risk of cardiovascular events and death, even among the frailest older patients. This finding could benefit almost six million seniors over 75 with elevated blood pressure, according to the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

While the outcomes are promising, and point in an even more downward direction, experts have not yet reached a consensus on optimal blood pressure targets. For now, hypertension patients should consult with their doctor to determine whether this lower goal is best for their individual care.
Who’s at risk? Virtually everyone
Even those who don’t have high blood pressure by age 55 face a 90 percent chance of developing it during their lifetime, so learning how to identify, prevent and control hypertension can benefit us all.  Consider these best practices:

Identify.

  • Regular checkups are key, as people can live with high blood pressure for years without experiencing any symptoms while internal damage to other parts of the body may be silently occurring.

Prevent.

  • Keep a healthy weight: in an overweight person, every 2 pounds of weight lost can reduce SBP by 1 mm Hg.
  • Eat well: a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and lowfat dairy products can reduce SBP by 8 to 14 mm Hg.
  • Limit sodium: (see Nutrition Corner, below)
  • Keep active: 30 minutes of aerobic activity most days of the week can reduce SBP by 4 to 9 mm Hg.
  • Moderate alcohol consumption: for women, a single drink a day may lower SBP by 2 to 4 mm Hg.
  • Quit smoking: not only does smoking raise your blood pressure temporarily, but the chemicals in tobacco can damage the lining of your artery walls.

Control.

  • If lifestyle measures alone are insufficient, your physician will determine the appropriate medication, which may include diuretics, beta-blockers or ACE inhibitors.

The post Bring It Down: Healthy Blood Pressure Numbers May Go Even Lower appeared first on Specialdocs Consultants, LLC.

Bring It Down: Healthy Blood Pressure Numbers May Go Even Lower

If you’ve ever wondered why a blood pressure check is part of almost every visit to a doctor’s office, consider what is communicated through the familiar black cuff in just a few seconds. The force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps is a critical measure of how well your heart muscle works – systolic blood pressure (SBP, or the top number of a reading) measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats; diastolic blood pressure (DBP, or the bottom number) refers to the pressure in the arteries when the heart muscle is resting between beats and refilling with blood.

Readings that exceed the norm, hypertension or high blood pressure, indicate an increased risk of heart attack, stroke and kidney failure. However, exactly what constitutes ‘normal’ blood pressure for optimal health has been debated and tested for decades, and recommendations have fluctuated over time. While the gold standard is under 120 mm Hg/80 mm Hg, the targets for treating hypertension have varied over the years – less than 140/90 in the 1990s, down to 130/80 in 2003, raised to a controversial 150 or less in 2014, and retreating to less than 140 in 2015.

At the end of 2015, a landmark study of more than 9,300 patients, the Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT), moved the needle down even further. Those who were treated most aggressively to drive down blood pressure to 120/80 experienced a significantly lower risk of cardiovascular events, chronic kidney disease, and death. In fact, the outcomes were so convincing that the trial was actually halted after just three years, much sooner than planned, leading the American Society of Hypertension to state: “The early termination of this trial represents an exciting moment in the history of hypertension treatment.” Still, notes of caution were sounded because multiple medications were required, sometimes causing adverse side effects, and experts
agreed more study was needed to justify changes in clinical practice.  Additional evidence followed this year, with an analysis of adults aged 75 years and older who participated in the SPRINT study. The benefits of lowering blood pressure to 120 were even more pronounced, resulting in a one third reduction in risk of cardiovascular events and death, even among the frailest older patients. This finding could benefit almost six million seniors over 75 with elevated blood pressure, according to the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

While the outcomes are promising, and point in an even more downward direction, experts have not yet reached a consensus on optimal blood pressure targets. For now, hypertension patients should consult with their doctor to determine whether this lower goal is best for their individual care.
Who’s at risk? Virtually everyone
Even those who don’t have high blood pressure by age 55 face a 90 percent chance of developing it during their lifetime, so learning how to identify, prevent and control hypertension can benefit us all.  Consider these best practices:

Identify.

  • Regular checkups are key, as people can live with high blood pressure for years without experiencing any symptoms while internal damage to other parts of the body may be silently occurring.

Prevent.

  • Keep a healthy weight: in an overweight person, every 2 pounds of weight lost can reduce SBP by 1 mm Hg.
  • Eat well: a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and lowfat dairy products can reduce SBP by 8 to 14 mm Hg.
  • Limit sodium: (see Nutrition Corner, below)
  • Keep active: 30 minutes of aerobic activity most days of the week can reduce SBP by 4 to 9 mm Hg.
  • Moderate alcohol consumption: for women, a single drink a day may lower SBP by 2 to 4 mm Hg.
  • Quit smoking: not only does smoking raise your blood pressure temporarily, but the chemicals in tobacco can damage the lining of your artery walls.

Control.

  • If lifestyle measures alone are insufficient, your physician will determine the appropriate medication, which may include diuretics, beta-blockers or ACE inhibitors.

The post Bring It Down: Healthy Blood Pressure Numbers May Go Even Lower appeared first on Specialdocs Consultants, LLC.

In Our Sights: Sharper Focus on Macular Degeneration Offers New Hope

In the not so distant past, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), characterized by a loss of central vision, was deemed just another unfortunate consequence of growing older. The gradual breakdown of light-sensing retinal tissue that results in a blind spot directly ahead has caused each generation to struggle with driving a car, reading a printed page or recognizing a friend’s face. As the population ages, the sheer number of people affected grows rapidly. Another case of AMD is diagnosed every three minutes in the U.S. More than 2.1 million Americans with advanced AMD now will grow to 3.7 million by the year 2030, according to the National Eye Institute, who warns the condition will soon take on aspects of an epidemic. A surge of clinical trials and investigative research aims to prevent that from happening, with sights set firmly on restorative, curative solutions.

Scientists exploring the possible causes have made much progress isolating a group of genes that increases the likelihood of an individual developing AMD. Other studies point to inflammation as the trigger. The macula needs a constant, rich blood supply to work correctly, and any interference such as narrowing of the blood vessels, fatty plaque deposits, or a shortage of antioxidants, can cause the macula to malfunction and become diseased.

Treatments have likewise advanced. Last fall, a decades-old drug used to treat HIV/AIDS was reported in Science as unexpectedly exhibiting the capability to halt retinal degeneration. Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors, known as NRTIs, are already FDA-approved and can be rapidly and inexpensively translated into therapies for both dry and wet AMD (see sidebar), say the study’s authors. At the same time, a nanosecond laser treatment was successfully used to reduce drusen (small fatty deposits beneath the retina) and the thickening of Bruch’s membrane, both hallmark features of early AMD. Importantly, the structure of the retina remained intact, suggesting “this treatment has the potential to reduce AMD progression,” according to Medical News Today. Stem cell transplantation shows enormous promise, as reported in Lancet, with sight restored long-term to a group of patients with severe vision loss. Additionally, injectible drugs and pills that target inflammation associated with AMD are in nationwide trials.

Technological innovations to help AMD patients include the 2013 introduction of a miniature telescope implanted behind the iris to magnify images. Google is moving into the space with a patent for a contact lens containing a built-in camera that will enable audible warnings via a remote device, detect and describe faces, and act as a text reader.

Today’s AMD patients have no shortage of low-vison aids to help them adapt and live well. Google is developing a patent for a contact lens containing a built-in camera that will enable audible warnings via a remote device, detect and describe faces, and act as a text reader. Additional solutions range from ‘smart’ thermostats, watches and remote controls to talking devices.

Finally, understanding who is at risk for developing AMD can be key to prevention. These include: white, female, smoker, family member with AMD, high blood pressure, lighter eye color, obesity, and possibly, over-exposure to sunlight. To minimize risk, follow a healthy diet with plenty of leafy green vegetables and fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, exercise to keep weight and blood pressure under control, eliminate tobacco use, and wear sunglasses to protect from UV rays and high-energy visible (HEV) radiation.

When Dry Becomes Wet
Diagnosis of AMD is first confirmed with a visual acuity exam and testing with an Amsler grid. Those with AMD see the grid’s straight lines as wavy or blurred with dark areas at the center. Additional tests help determine the type of AMD — the dry form affects about 85 percent of AMD patients, and in about 10 to 15 percent of cases, progresses to wet. The difference is significant. The wet form usually leads to more serious vision loss, caused by new blood vessels that leak fluid and blood beneath the retina, resulting in permanent damage. While no treatment currently exists for dry AMD, in the last decade, a number of effective therapies have been implemented for wet AMD. These include monthly, intraocular injections (anti-VEGF) to inhibit a protein that stimulates formulation of new blood vessels, photodynamic or ‘cold’ laser treatment, thermal (heat) laser photocoagulation…and on the horizon are topical eyedrops that may someday replace injections. Nutritional supplements containing antioxidant vitamins, lutein and zeaxanthin are also effective in reducing the chances of dry AMD worsening to wet.

The post In Our Sights: Sharper Focus on Macular Degeneration Offers New Hope appeared first on Specialdocs Consultants, LLC.

In Our Sights: Sharper Focus on Macular Degeneration Offers New Hope

In the not so distant past, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), characterized by a loss of central vision, was deemed just another unfortunate consequence of growing older. The gradual breakdown of light-sensing retinal tissue that results in a blind spot directly ahead has caused each generation to struggle with driving a car, reading a printed page or recognizing a friend’s face. As the population ages, the sheer number of people affected grows rapidly. Another case of AMD is diagnosed every three minutes in the U.S. More than 2.1 million Americans with advanced AMD now will grow to 3.7 million by the year 2030, according to the National Eye Institute, who warns the condition will soon take on aspects of an epidemic. A surge of clinical trials and investigative research aims to prevent that from happening, with sights set firmly on restorative, curative solutions.

Scientists exploring the possible causes have made much progress isolating a group of genes that increases the likelihood of an individual developing AMD. Other studies point to inflammation as the trigger. The macula needs a constant, rich blood supply to work correctly, and any interference such as narrowing of the blood vessels, fatty plaque deposits, or a shortage of antioxidants, can cause the macula to malfunction and become diseased.

Treatments have likewise advanced. Last fall, a decades-old drug used to treat HIV/AIDS was reported in Science as unexpectedly exhibiting the capability to halt retinal degeneration. Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors, known as NRTIs, are already FDA-approved and can be rapidly and inexpensively translated into therapies for both dry and wet AMD (see sidebar), say the study’s authors. At the same time, a nanosecond laser treatment was successfully used to reduce drusen (small fatty deposits beneath the retina) and the thickening of Bruch’s membrane, both hallmark features of early AMD. Importantly, the structure of the retina remained intact, suggesting “this treatment has the potential to reduce AMD progression,” according to Medical News Today. Stem cell transplantation shows enormous promise, as reported in Lancet, with sight restored long-term to a group of patients with severe vision loss. Additionally, injectible drugs and pills that target inflammation associated with AMD are in nationwide trials.

Technological innovations to help AMD patients include the 2013 introduction of a miniature telescope implanted behind the iris to magnify images. Google is moving into the space with a patent for a contact lens containing a built-in camera that will enable audible warnings via a remote device, detect and describe faces, and act as a text reader.

Today’s AMD patients have no shortage of low-vison aids to help them adapt and live well. Google is developing a patent for a contact lens containing a built-in camera that will enable audible warnings via a remote device, detect and describe faces, and act as a text reader. Additional solutions range from ‘smart’ thermostats, watches and remote controls to talking devices.

Finally, understanding who is at risk for developing AMD can be key to prevention. These include: white, female, smoker, family member with AMD, high blood pressure, lighter eye color, obesity, and possibly, over-exposure to sunlight. To minimize risk, follow a healthy diet with plenty of leafy green vegetables and fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, exercise to keep weight and blood pressure under control, eliminate tobacco use, and wear sunglasses to protect from UV rays and high-energy visible (HEV) radiation.

When Dry Becomes Wet
Diagnosis of AMD is first confirmed with a visual acuity exam and testing with an Amsler grid. Those with AMD see the grid’s straight lines as wavy or blurred with dark areas at the center. Additional tests help determine the type of AMD — the dry form affects about 85 percent of AMD patients, and in about 10 to 15 percent of cases, progresses to wet. The difference is significant. The wet form usually leads to more serious vision loss, caused by new blood vessels that leak fluid and blood beneath the retina, resulting in permanent damage. While no treatment currently exists for dry AMD, in the last decade, a number of effective therapies have been implemented for wet AMD. These include monthly, intraocular injections (anti-VEGF) to inhibit a protein that stimulates formulation of new blood vessels, photodynamic or ‘cold’ laser treatment, thermal (heat) laser photocoagulation…and on the horizon are topical eyedrops that may someday replace injections. Nutritional supplements containing antioxidant vitamins, lutein and zeaxanthin are also effective in reducing the chances of dry AMD worsening to wet.

The post In Our Sights: Sharper Focus on Macular Degeneration Offers New Hope appeared first on Specialdocs Consultants, LLC.

Forget Me Not: Normal Aging, Mild Cognitive Impairment or Dementia?

We’ve all had the experience of frantically searching for car keys in the morning or walking purposefully into another room only to forget why we were going there, and as we age, it seems to occur with increasing frequency. Are these just signs of normal aging, or harbingers of a more serious condition? It’s a question more seniors and their families are asking, as awareness of progressive memory disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease grows.

The answers can be more reassuring than yo• may imagine. Many symptoms of memory loss are benign,or due to the aging process, and no further evaluation is needed (see the signs of normal aging, at right). Experts agree that most people who are aware of—and nervous about—their own declining memory, most likely do not have mild cognitive impairment or dementia.

However, it’s vital to know that if you do have symptoms of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), this may be due to underlying medical conditions that can be treated, such as thyroid dysfunction, vitamin deficiency, anxiety/depression, sleep disorders and uncontrolled chronic conditions such as diabetes.

You may want to consider seeking an evaluation if you experience increasing difficulty, compared to your past ability, over a range of everyday activities that include: remembering important details of things you’ve done in the past few weeks; completing complex tasks at work or home, such as keeping track of monthly bills; requiring personal assistance to remember family occasions or holidays; or having trouble finding your way around familiar environments.

Cognitive abilities are also affected by depression, so if you have experienced these feelings during the last month, further evaluation is recommended:

• Felt that I cannot stop feeling “down” or “blue,” even with help from family or friends.

• Felt all pleasure and joy has gone from life.

• Felt hopeless about the future.

• Felt that everything was an effort.

• Felt low in energy or slowed down a lot.

Did You Know?

150 minutes a week

Amount of exercise time needed to improve memory and reduce the risk of dementia. Source: Harvard Health

“Having memory loss does not necessarily mean yo• have Alzheimer’s disease (AD),” says neurologist William Rodman Shankle, MD, chair of California’s Memory and Cognitive Disorders Program at Hoag Neurosciences Institute. “In fact, there is a treatable cause in the majority of patients with cognitive impairment, provided it is detected early.”

Additionally, a rigorous combination of physical exercise, healthy diet, strict control of hypertension and diabetes, medication and ongoing social and intellectual stimulation, has proven highly effective in stopping or slowing down progression of all types of dementia, including Alzheimer’s.

Sources: Medical Care Corporation (www.mccare.com), Alz.org

Did Yo• Know?

Learn, then sleep

While we sleep, memories are shifted to more permanent brain regions; studies have shown that sleeping shortly after learning new information can help retention in the long term. Source: The National Sleep Foundation

Signs of Normal Aging

• Forgetting the name of someone I know well, but remembering it later

• Forgetting what I was going to say in a conversation

• Forgetting what I was going to when going into another room

• Finding things I have recently put down

• Recalling a specific word I want

• Making occasional errors when balancing a checkbook

• Occasionally needing help to record a television show or adjust the microwave settings

• Getting confused about the day of the week but remembering it later

• Misplacing things from time to time, such as a pair of glasses

• Sometimes feeling weary of work, family and social obligations

• Becoming irritable when a routine is disrupted

Sources: mccare.com, Alz.org

Making Memories

• The creation of a memory begins with its perception, a quick sensation that is then stored in short-term memory, which lasts a few minutes to a few weeks before being erased. Strategies to enhance short term memory can be effective, such as dividing a 10-digit phone number into smaller chunks. Important information is gradually transferred from short-term into long-term memory.

• Working memory is the type most affected by normal aging. While a teenager will perform better on memory and word recall tests, a 70-year old can adapt by using associations to remember e.g. ‘Every Good Boy Does Fine’ for lines on a music staff.

• Long-term memory consists of procedural (knowing how to do things like ride a bike), semantic (knowledge of the world), and episodic (information about events you have personally experienced). Long-term memory decays very little over time, and can store a seemingly unlimited amount of information almost indefinitely.

The post Forget Me Not: Normal Aging, Mild Cognitive Impairment or Dementia? appeared first on Specialdocs Consultants, LLC.

Hepatitis C Testing Recommended for All Baby Boomers

It’s called ‘the forgotten virus,’ but after a sustained advertising campaign and years of strong recommendations for testing by the Centers for Disease Control it’s almost certain that the liver-damaging Hepatitis C will be remembered…and for good reason. All people born between 1945 and 1965 – the Baby Boomer years – are now advised to take a screening test for Hepatitis C virus, the most common bloodborne infection in the United States. The reason? Boomers, born in a time before universal precautions and infection control guidelines were fully established, are five times more likely to have Hepatitis C than other adults, but not likely to be aware of it, as symptoms lay dormant for years. Testing was first recommended for all Boomers in 2013, but less than 15 percent of this at-risk generation have heeded the advice, which means many who are infected remain unaware they carry a potentially fatal but very curable virus.

Below we dispel some of the misperceptions and the breakthrough treatments available today. Most importantly, we explain why scheduling a blood screening is a vital act of prevention, and one we encourage every Baby Boomer to take.

What is hepatitis C?

The common, chronic bloodborne infection known as hepatitis C is caused by the hepatitis C virus, and is a major cause of liver disease.

How does it happen?

The virus causes an inflammation that triggers a slow cascade of damage in the liver, with hard strands of scar tissue replacing healthy liver cells. The liver is no longer able to effectively filter toxins or make the proteins the body needs to repair itself.

Why is testing critical?

Hepatitis C can hide in the body for decades without causing symptoms, while it attacks the liver. Since most people don’t have warning signs of hepatitis C, they don’t seek treatment until many years later, when the damage often is well underway. Left untreated, hepatitis C can result in cirrhosis or liver cancer, and is the leading indication for liver transplant in the U.S. If treated, however, the vast majority of patients can be cured within a few months.

Did You Know?

80% – Of the 3.2 million people affected by chronic hepatitis C, almost 80% were born during the baby boomer generation

10.5 million – Out of 76.2 million Baby Boomers, the number who have been tested for hepatitis C

Sources: American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Centers for Disease Control

Why are Baby Boomers at particularly high risk for hepatitis C?

Once thought of as a disease primarily of drug users, contracted from sharing of needles, hepatitis C can also be contracted through inadequate sterilization of medical equipment and the transfusion of unscreened blood. Boomers grew up before the hepatitis C virus was identified in 1979, so it’s likely that many became infected through medical equipment or procedures before universal precautions and improved infection control techniques were adopted. Others may have been infected from contaminated blood before widespread screening nearly eliminated the virus from the blood supply by 1992.

What is the test for Hepatitis C?

A simple blood test for hepatitis C antibodies will indicate if you’ve been exposed to the virus at some point in your life. If you test positive, further testing will be done to determine if the virus remains in your body, how much is circulating and what specific strain or genotype you have. At least six strains of hepatitis C exist and treatment is based on the specific genotype. Other tests, including ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and a liver biopsy can be performed to identify inflammation and see if any permanent scarring has taken place in the liver.

What treatments are available?

Today’s regimens of direct acting oral antivirals stop the virus from reproducing and clear hepatitis C from the body in a matter of weeks. These breakthrough drugs, first made available in 2013, represent a tremendous step forward in treatment, with a success rate upwards of 95% in those infected with the hepatitis C virus. Medication is targeted to the specific genotype of the virus, and most patients experience few side effects – a vast improvement over previous options of pegylated interferon and ribavirin which caused uncomfortable side effects and were effective less than half the time.

The post Hepatitis C Testing Recommended for All Baby Boomers appeared first on Specialdocs Consultants, LLC.

A Quick Spin on Dizziness, Vertigo and Other Balance Disorders

Common, rarely life-threatening, but very unsettling, an attack of dizziness or vertigo can send your world into a spin with simple acts like turning around to back up a car, bending down to tie a shoe or looking up at the sky.

A range of sensations may keep you off balance, from tilting, swaying, whirling and floating, to feeling lightheaded, or conversely, heavy-headed. The swirl of symptoms may seem similar, but there are important differences that define these conditions:

  • Dizziness: lightheadedness, faintness
  • Vertigo: spinning, a sense that the room is moving, akin to the tipsy feeling from too much alcohol
  • Disequilibrium: unsteadiness, a feeling you are about to fall

While dizziness or vertigo represent some of the most frequent reasons people visit their doctors – an estimated one out of four adults has sought treatment for the condition at some point – getting to the root cause can sometimes be a frustrating experience, say experts at the Vestibular Disorders Association. That is because numerous issues can trigger dizziness/ lightheadedness, from cardiovascular concerns such as arrhythmia, atherosclerosis and low blood pressure or conditions such as dehydration, low blood sugar or anemia. Vertigo is caused by head injuries/trauma, disorders of the vestibular system (parts of the inner ear and nervous system that control balance) or rarely, the cerebellum. In addition, aging itself can affect the vestibular system’s function by decreasing the number of nerve cells, and diminishing blood flow to the inner ear.

 

The post A Quick Spin on Dizziness, Vertigo and Other Balance Disorders appeared first on Specialdocs Consultants, LLC.

A Quick Spin on Dizziness, Vertigo and Other Balance Disorders

Common, rarely life-threatening, but very unsettling, an attack of dizziness or vertigo can send your world into a spin with simple acts like turning around to back up a car, bending down to tie a shoe or looking up at the sky.

A range of sensations may keep you off balance, from tilting, swaying, whirling and floating, to feeling lightheaded, or conversely, heavy-headed. The swirl of symptoms may seem similar, but there are important differences that define these conditions:

  • Dizziness: lightheadedness, faintness
  • Vertigo: spinning, a sense that the room is moving, akin to the tipsy feeling from too much alcohol
  • Disequilibrium: unsteadiness, a feeling you are about to fall

While dizziness or vertigo represent some of the most frequent reasons people visit their doctors – an estimated one out of four adults has sought treatment for the condition at some point – getting to the root cause can sometimes be a frustrating experience, say experts at the Vestibular Disorders Association. That is because numerous issues can trigger dizziness/ lightheadedness, from cardiovascular concerns such as arrhythmia, atherosclerosis and low blood pressure or conditions such as dehydration, low blood sugar or anemia. Vertigo is caused by head injuries/trauma, disorders of the vestibular system (parts of the inner ear and nervous system that control balance) or rarely, the cerebellum. In addition, aging itself can affect the vestibular system’s function by decreasing the number of nerve cells, and diminishing blood flow to the inner ear.

 

The post A Quick Spin on Dizziness, Vertigo and Other Balance Disorders appeared first on Specialdocs Consultants, LLC.

Lyme Disease: Solving the Puzzle

Misunderstood, Misdiagnosed and Often Mistreated: Solving the Puzzle of Lyme Disease

Lyme Disease 1Unsurprisingly for an illness known as “The Great Imitator,” the misconceptions surrounding Lyme Disease continue to proliferate. Acute or chronic? Highly treatable or stubbornly resistant? Misdiagnosed because of symptoms that mimic conditions like lupus, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease, or overestimated for the same reason? While television celebrity Yolanda Foster recently gained national attention during her bout with chronic Lyme disease, she also fanned the flames of controversy surrounding this sometimes mystifying condition. A brief overview of current knowledge follows…however experts have not yet reached a consensus on all aspects of this disease.

Research indicates that Lyme disease is transmitted to humans by a bite from a tick infected by the spirochete bacteria, primarily found on the East Coast and in the Midwest. Carried by deer and migratory birds, Lyme disease is on the rise, estimated at 300,000 cases annually in America, considerably larger than the 30,000 cases earlier reported by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Lyme Disease 2The distinctive bull’s eye rash is one identifiable marker of the disease, seen in 70 percent of patients. In the early stages, fatigue and flu-like aches and pains are typical; in later stages, nerve numbness or pain, facial paralysis or weakness, and heart problems are seen; and if not treated, serious and long-term complications that affect the brain, joints, nerves, heart and muscles can occur, according to the Lyme Research Alliance.

Lab tests are generally needed to confirm the diagnosis, followed by a course of oral antibiotics. However, people with early Lyme disease do not develop antibodies for several weeks, resulting in frequent false negatives on the commonly used ELISA or Western Blot antibody tests. For that reason, treating patients based solely on clinical findings, such as a rash and known exposure to ticks, is recommended by some experts, while others advise more aggressive, longer and individualized treatment. All agree, however, that earlier treatment is more effective.

About 20 percent of patients with Lyme disease continue to experience symptoms months and years after treatment ends…and this is where the real debate begins. Muscle and joint pain, cardiac and neurological problems and fatigue have been reported by those with chronic Lyme disease. Some experts believe it indicates an ongoing bacterial infection, while others attribute lingering symptoms to residual damage to tissue and the immune system. Still others, including Dr. Allen Steere, who first recognized Lyme disease back in 1975, say it is being over-diagnosed, mistaken for chronic fatigue or chronic pain.

The continued questioning spurred John Aucott, MD, assistant professor of rheumatology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and founder of the Lyme Disease Research Foundation, to launch the nation’s first controlled study examining long-term health and outcomes of the disease.

“It does no good to keep debating the existence of long-term problems related to Lyme disease while people are suffering a debilitating illness. These patients are lost. No one really knows what to do with them. It’s a challenge, but the first thing we need to do is recognize this is a problem,” he said.

The headwinds have been strong. Lyme disease ranks well below breast cancer and HIV/AIDS for federal funding, despite a significantly higher rate of cases, according to lymedisease.org, but Aucott’s study and others represent hopeful progress.

In the meantime, decrease your risk of contracting Lyme disease by wearing shoes, long pants tucked into your socks, a long-sleeved shirt, hat and gloves when walking in woodsy areas; sticking to trails and avoiding low bushes and long grass; and using insect repellents with a 20 percent or higher concentration of DEET. If you are bitten by a tick, call my office promptly, but do not panic…your chances of acquiring Lyme disease are no more than 1.4 percent.

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