Blog Posts

What’s Causing Our Superbug Crisis? Sneaky Germs

December 19th, 2019

A report issued in November by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed some bad news and some good news about infections caused by antibiotic-resistant microbes, or superbugs, in America. Superbugs are germs such a bacteria and fungi that can’t be destroyed by the medications currently available to fight them.

First, the bad news: In the report, the CDC noted that antibiotic-resistant superbugs have killed nearly twice as many people as previously believed. Also, the CDC announced it has identified two new, potentially deadly superbugs, bringing the total of most threatening superbugs to five.

One of the new superbugs,, a fungus called Candida auris, was a bit of a surprise to CDC officials. Five years ago, they weren’t even considering Candida auris as a serious threat. But it is now.

Among the superbugs we’ve known about, C difficle is a particularly nasty one. It is considered an urgent threat by health officials. C difficle alone caused nearly 250,000 infections in 2017, the most recent year for available data. It also caused at least 12,000 deaths that year.

The good news is that the total number of deaths from superbug infections has declined by 18 percent. The CDC estimates that 36,000 Americans died as a result of superbug infections in 2017. Compare that to 44,000 deaths in 2013. The decline is attributed, at least in part, to more judicious prescribing of antibiotics by physicians.

Antibiotic resistance is considered one of the world’s most pressing health problems. It happens when the germs find a way to survive the onslaught of death caused by the drugs. Bacteria are sneaky. They can alter antibiotics’ effect on them in several ways. I’ll describe a few of those ways soon.

Just to be clear, it’s the bacteria that become resistant to the medications. Individuals don’t become resistant. But resistant germs can be spread from person to person, and before you know it, an entire community is at risk.

So how do germs become resistant to antibiotics? The short answer is: They fight back!. They develop defense strategies called resistance mechanisms. Bacteria develop these mechanisms by altering the coded instructions found in their DNA. They can then share altered pieces of their DNA with other germs, making them resistant as well.

One of the resistance mechanisms bacteria use is to restrict the access of the antibiotics. Bacteria do this by changing or limiting the entryways for the antibiotics into their cells. That way, the drugs can’t get inside the bacteria to destroy them.

A second defense strategy of bacteria is to rid themselves of the antibiotic. They use pumps located in their cell walls to pump out any antibiotic that gets into the cells. A third strategy is to change or destroy the antibiotic using enzymes and proteins that break down the medication, rendering it useless.

Many antibiotics are designed to single out and destroy specific parts of a bacterium. These are the medications’ targets. One resistance mechanism is to bypass the effects of the antibiotics by developing new cell processes that avoid using the antibiotics’ targets.

Bacteria also develop resistance by changing the antibiotics’ targets. As a result, the antibiotics no longer fit and the drugs can’t do their job of destroying the bacteria.

The CDC and the World Health Organization continue to call on physicians to prescribe antibiotics only when they’re absolutely necessary and appropriate to treat patients’ infections. They ask us to take action as well to use antibiotics wisely. Here are a few suggestions for things you can do:

  • Don’t pressure your doctor to prescribe an antibiotic for a viral infection such as a cold or the flu. Antibiotics aren’t effective on viruses. Ask your doctor about other ways to treat your viral infection.
  • Don’t save antibiotics you didn’t use for the next time you get sick. Discard any medication that’s left over once you’ve completed your prescribed course of treatment.
  • Take your antibiotics exactly as your doctor prescribes. Don’t skip doses, and be sure to take the medication until it’s gone. For it to be most effective, you must take the medication for the entire time of your treatment .You may start to feel better and think you don’t need the medication anymore, but take it for the full course anyway. Some germs may survive the antibiotics’ initial effect and re-infect you if you stop too soon.
  • Don’t take someone else’s antibiotics. They may not be right drugs for your type of infection. Taking the wrong antibiotic can delay your treatment and allow the bacteria to multiply.

 

Buy Safe Toys During Season Of Giving

December 9th, 2019

The wrong toys can cause serious injuries or death.

It’s the season of giving and that means toys. Whether they’re given to children during Christmas or Hanukkah or donated to toy drives or pediatric hospitals, toys can put smiles on the faces of those who give and those who receive.

However, toys that are unsafe and inappropriate for a child’s developmental stage can be harmful and even cause injuries that send kids to the emergency room.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, an estimated 226,100 toy-related injuries were treated in hospital emergency rooms across the United States in 2018.

Of those injuries, an estimated 73-percent happened to children younger than 15, and 37-percent of those injured were younger than 5. And nearly half of all those injuries involved the head and face.

So, before you go on that holiday shopping spree, here are some important things to keep in mind when toy shopping.

“Those developmental ages on the box are important,” says Joe Perno, M.D., an emergency medicine physician at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg. He says choking is the most common accident among younger children, who tend to put things in their mouths. Small parts can be dangerous, especially magnets and button batteries.

“You’ve just got to be very cautious with the toys to make sure the parts are appropriate,” he says.

Toys intended for older children should be kept away from younger siblings to ensure they don’t swallow small parts. Also, children with special needs will require toys for ages that match their developmental stage as opposed to their chronological age.

Other safety tips include:

  • Check for recalls. You can find the most updated list here.
  • To avoid shocks and burns, do not give children under the age of 10 a toy that must be plugged into an electrical outlet. Instead, buy battery-operated toys for those children.
  • Children can suffocate on broken or underinflated balloons. Do not allow children younger than age 8 to play with them.

If donating toys to a pediatric hospital, consult the hospital’s website or child life department to see what they are able to accept. Most hospitals are unable to accept stuffed animals due to infection control issues. Also, with a few exceptions, toys must be new, unwrapped and latex-free. All video games should be rated E or E 10-plus.

If donating to a toy drive, consult their websites. Most will not accept toys that include weapons or promote violence because possessing them can endanger children in some areas.

If giving toys such as scooters, bicycles, skateboards or roller blades, always include protective gear, especially a helmet.

If giving toys that include foam projectiles, always make sure protective eyewear is included, and the children use it.

“Every year, we’ll see an eye injury from this,” Dr. Perno says.

You can find more toy safety tips at the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Most Common Car Accident Injuries

December 2nd, 2019

Most Common Car Accident InjuriesThe most recent available data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration revealed that in 2016, there were 7,277,000 auto accidents in the U.S. That breaks down to an average of 19,937 accidents each day, which does not include the countless accidents that went unreported. Being involved in an auto accident can be a traumatizing event with many opportunities for disaster. You could be facing property damage, serious injuries, wage losses, hospital fees, emotional damages, and more. The most important asset to take care of after an accident is yourself.

Since injuries are not always immediately apparent and may not be until after your injuries have worsened, it’s imperative to get yourself checked out immediately after you’ve been in an accident. You only have 14 days from the date of the accident to seek medical attention in order to be covered under your auto insurance’s personal injury protection policy. Even if you feel fine, schedule an appointment with your local auto accident doctor to make sure you don’t have any underlying injuries that will need medical attention. Here are some common bodily injuries that we frequently see as the result of an accident.

Soft Tissue InjurySoft Tissue Injury

Soft tissue injuries are those that involve injuries to tendons, muscles, and ligaments. They most commonly seen in those who play sports, but can also be the result of a high impact car wreck. They can include:

  • Bursitis – The painful condition that includes swelling, or irritation of the bursae (the small, fluid-filled sac located by the joints) that usually occurs in the shoulder, knee, elbow, or hip.
  • Contusions – Areas of the skin or underlying tissue where blood capillaries have ruptured. Also called a bruise, these injuries can happen when your body is hit with blunt force by another object, or vice versa.
  • Sprains – The damage or tearing of a ligament or ligaments surrounding a joint. Sprains usually occur when a joint has been taken beyond its normal range of movement.
  • Strains – Injuries to the muscle or tendon caused by overuse, stretching, or force.
  • Tendonitis – Irritation or inflammation of the tendon. In an auto accident injury, this might be caused by sudden or direct force applied to the area of concern.

WhiplashWhiplash

Whiplash is a neck injury that can occur when the neck is forced to move forward and backward in a quick motion, like the cracking of a whip. It usually occurs during rear-end collisions, but can be a result of other types of collisions as well. Symptoms of whiplash include pain and swelling of the neck and shoulders. In some instances, physical therapy or neck injections may be required for persistent pain, so it’s important to get yourself checked out right away.

Spinal Cord InjurySpinal Cord Injury

The Mayo Clinic reported that car accidents account for nearly 50% of all reported spinal cord injuries. A spinal cord injury results from damage to the spinal cord or to the ligaments, discs, or vertebrae of the spinal column. A car accident can cause a sudden, traumatic blow to the spine that can crush, compress, dislocate, or fracture the vertebrae. Additional injury can occur in the days or weeks following the accident due to inflammation, swelling, fluid accumulation, and bleeding around the spinal cord. Spinal cord injuries can include:

  • Claudication – A common symptom of lumbar spinal stenosis, causing inflammation of the nerves emerging from the spinal cord.
  • Bulging, Degenerating, or Herniated Discs – A condition where the soft center of a spinal disk pushes through a crack in the tougher exterior casing. It can irritate nearby nerves and result in pain, numbness, or weakness in an arm or leg.
  • Sciatica – Pain radiating along the sciatic nerve, which runs down one or both legs from the lower back. It’s primarily caused when a herniated disk or bone spur in the spine presses on the nerve. It usually only affects one side of the body.

Seat Belt SyndromeSeat Belt Syndrome

Wearing your seat belt is one of the most important decisions you can make when getting into a vehicle. It can save your life and prevent further debilitating injuries in the event of an accident. However, that doesn’t mean wearing one will leave you without injury. Medical professionals have coined the term “seat belt syndrome” to include a handful of common injuries that occur in accidents from the seat belt itself. The abdomen, chest, neck, and spine are the areas of the body that are primarily affected by seat belt syndrome.

  • Abdomen – The stomach, small and large intestines, liver, spleen, and pancreas often experience bruising or tearing.
  • Chest – Bruising, lacerations, and rashes from the belt can be clearly visible and painful. The belt can also cause rib and sternum fractures, damage to the lungs and trachea, connective tissue and cartilage tearing, damage to the chest wall, and heart contusions.
  • Spine & Neck – Spinal injuries are the most common since the spine is the shock absorber for the body. Injuries can include fractures, paralysis, damage to facet joints, and damaged discs.

Many injuries can also occur because seat belts are not being worn or faceted correctly. The concept of the belt is to keep the body aligned and sitting up straight so any potential blow or force would be distributed evenly across the body. Always wear your seat belt, and wear it correctly.

Airbag InjuryAirbag Injury

Similar to the primary function of a seat belt, the deployment of an airbag is to ensure the damage during a collision is lessened and your body does not receive the full force of the blow. However, you can still experience additional injuries because of an airbag. Depending on the speed you and the other driver were going at the time of the crash, as well as the trajectory of each vehicle in relation to one another, you may experience:

  • Whiplash from the force of the bag against your head and neck
  • Damage to your eyes if they remained open while the airbag deployed
  • Broken or fractured nose
  • Irritation to eyes and skin from chemicals and dust on the airbag
  • Other injuries due to the airbag’s deployment

Every injury is different. The best way to handle any injuries you’ve sustained is to begin the healing process with the best treatments for each injury. If you’ve been in a car accident, it’s imperative that you seek medical treatment immediately to ensure your body is functioning properly and no injuries go undetected for any period of time.

Preferred Injury Physicians

Travis Utter, DC, earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications from the University of Central Florida in Orlando and a Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic. He received additional training in NCV/EMG from the Neurodiagnostics Institute and in whiplash and accident reconstruction from the Spine Research Institute of San Diego. Dr. Utter is certified in whiplash and accident reconstruction.

Diabetes and Your Eyes

November 18th, 2019

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 100 million adults in this country are living with diabetes or prediabetes. Of those, 30.3 million – that’s 9.4 percent of the US population – have full-blown diabetes.

Another 84.1 million US adults have prediabetes. That’s a condition that, if left untreated, can lead to type 2 diabetes within five years. More than a third of adult Americans has prediabetes, and most of them don’t know they have it.

Why should we take note of these figures? Because consistently high blood glucose (sugar) levels, the hallmark of uncontrolled diabetes, can cause serious injury to your body’s nerves and blood vessels, impairing circulation and damaging your heart, liver, brain cells and eyes.

Most serious eye diseases related to diabetes begin when high blood glucose damages the eye’s tiny blood vessels. The four main eye diseases that can threaten the vision of a person with diabetes are diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, glaucoma and cataracts.

Diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of vision loss for people with diabetes and the leading cause of blindness for all adults in the US. It occurs when high glucose blocks the tiny blood vessels that nourish the retina, the part of your eye that detects light and sends signals to your brain. These damaged blood vessels can begin to swell and leak fluid. This stage is called non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy.

In some cases, non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy progresses into the proliferative stage. That’s when the eye grows new blood vessels to make up for the blocked vessels in a process called neovascularization. But the newly formed blood vessels are highly unstable and leak and bleed easily.

These leaking blood vessels may even hemorrhage into the jelly-like material that fills the center of your eyes, called the vitreous. Blood in the vitreous results in dark spots that can block vision.

Diabetic retinopathy can also cause scar tissue to form in the back of your eye, which may pull the retina away from the back of the eye. This is called a retinal detachment, and it’s a serious complication that can cause loss of vision if not repaired quickly.

As the unstable blood vessels in your retina continue to bleed, they eventually cause the macula, the area of the retina that enables you to read, drive and see faces, to swell. This condition is called diabetic macular edema. Over time, this condition can destroy your sharp vision and lead to partial vision loss and eventually blindness.

The natural lenses of your eyes are clear structures that provide sharp vision. But over time, they can become cloudy, a condition called cataracts. People who have diabetes can develop cataracts at an earlier age than people without the disease, and people with diabetes are two to five times more likely to develop cataracts. It’s believed that high glucose levels cause protein deposits to build up on the lenses, leading to the cataracts.

Sometimes, blood from the leaking vessels blocks the normal drainage channels for fluid in the eyes. As a result, fluid builds up and pressure in the eye increases, which can damage the optic nerve and affect vision. Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases related to increased eye pressure. Having diabetes nearly doubles your risk of developing a type of glaucoma called open-angle glaucoma.

The best way to prevent vision loss from these eye diseases is to control your blood glucose levels and get regular exams by your eye doctor to look for swelling and changes in the blood vessels in your eyes.

To help control your diabetes, eat a healthy and balanced diet, exercise regularly and maintain a healthy body weight. High blood pressure and high cholesterol can affect your blood glucose level, so take all medications your doctor prescribes for these conditions and get them checked regularly. Don’t smoke and drink alcohol in moderation.

Regular eye exams can help find problems early, when they’re easier to treat. Early detection can save your vision. See you eye doctor yearly or as often as your doctor recommends. Call your eye doctor right away if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Black spots in your vision
  • Flashes of light
  • “Holes” in your vision
  • Blurred vision

 

Amid his own battle with the disease, Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek participates in pancreatic cancer PSA.

November 11th, 2019

Game show host Alex Trebek, who has battled pancreatic cancer since March, has teamed up with the World Pancreatic Cancer Coalition to star in a public service announcement aimed at raising awareness and donations for research.

“In nearly every country, pancreatic cancer is the only major cancer with a five-year survival rate in the single digits,” Trebek said in the clip, filmed on the set of Jeopardy!, which he has hosted for 36 seasons. “Now, in order to help patients fight and survive this disease, more attention and awareness are needed. And that’s why I’ve joined forces with the World Pancreatic Cancer Coalition, to help raise global awareness of the risk and symptoms of pancreatic cancer.”

The PSA came out on Nov. 1, which marked the start of Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. Pancreatic cancer accounts for 3 percent of all the cancers in the United States and 7 percent of all cancer deaths. The American Cancer Society projects that about 56,770 people (29,940 men and 26,830 women) will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer by the end of this year. About 45,750 people (23,800 men and 21,950 women) are expected to die from the disease this year.

The exact cause of pancreatic cancer is not well understood, though risk factors include age and family history. The disease is slightly more prevalent in men than in women. African-Americans and Ashkenazi Jews also report more pancreatic cancer cases. Lifestyle choices such as a diet high in red and processed meat consumption, heavy drinking or smoking also may play a role. Diets rich in fruits and vegetables may lower risk.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2009. Soon after, surgeons removed her pancreas and spleen. Actors John Hurt, Alan Rickman, Patrick Swayze and Michael Landon all died from pancreatic cancer. Other notables who lost their lives include Sally Ride, the first female astronaut in space, legendary Oakland Raider Gene Upshaw, Benjamin Orr, co-founder of the 1980s band, The Cars, and Charlotte Rae, the wise boarding school house mom in the hit TV show “The Facts of Life.” Apple founder Steve Jobs and Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin each died after being diagnosed with pancreatic tumors, though not cancer.

No screenings for pancreatic cancer exist, which is why it’s important to get checked out if you have any of the symptoms. Often, the disease is diagnosed in its late stages, which makes treatment more challenging. Trebek’s cancer had already reached stage four when doctors diagnosed him.

“I wish I had known sooner that the persistent stomach pain I experienced prior to my diagnosis was a symptom of pancreatic cancer,” Trebek said during the clip.

Other common symptoms can include mid-back pain, unexplained weight loss, new onset diabetes, stool changes and the yellowing of the skin or eyes.

To help determine if you have pancreatic cancer, your doctor will ask you about your family history, perform an exam that includes looking at your body, skin and eyes and pressing on your abdomen to check for changes around the pancreas, liver and gallbladder, and possibly order blood, urine and stool tests. Your doctor also will order an imaging study such as computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and get a tissue sample called a biopsy.

Treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or a combination of these. You may also have opportunities to participate in clinical trials.

For more information about pancreatic cancer and to see Trebek’s PSA, visit the Pancreatic Action Network.

 

 

National Diabetes Awareness Month:

November 6th, 2019

Time to turn sugar highs into sugar lows.

It’s fitting that the day after the sugar high of Halloween marks the start of National Diabetes Month.

No doubt the folks who came up with the idea for a low-sugar awareness month figured this to be a good time to start keeping it real before the pumpkin pie, chocolate peppermint brownies and sugar cookies start to derail our diets. And well they should.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, diabetes is one of the leading causes of disability and death in the United States. One in 10 Americans have diabetes — that’s more than 30 million people. And another 84 million adults in the United States are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

In Florida, it is estimated that more than 2.4 million people have diabetes and more than 5.8 million have prediabetes. Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in Florida, according to the Florida Department of Health.

The numbers are expected to get worse as the population continues to age, with 54.9 million Americans diagnosed in 2030, according to a study by the Institute for Alternative Futures, analyzed by PsyD  Programs. That’s an increase of 38 percent from current rates.

The study estimates that 5,393,800 Floridians will have diabetes in 11 years. That’s 19.8 percent of the state’s population and puts Florida as the second-highest state in the nation for diabetes cases. The top state is expected to be West Virginia, with 20.5 percent. The three states with the lowest percentages are Utah, Alaska and Colorado, each with slightly more than 10 percent.

When broken down by metro area, Miami leads the nation with 18.8 percent of the population projected to be diabetic in 2030. The lowest metro is Minneapolis, with 11.7 percent.

“Diabetes is a very serious disease affecting millions of Americans, but it can be managed with a healthy lifestyle,” says Florida Surgeon General and Secretary Dr. Celeste Philip. “This year, I encourage you to know your risk factors for diabetes and act as a support system for those in your life who may be affected by the disease.”

There are three main types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes (diabetes while pregnant). Women with diabetes have more difficulty conceiving and may have poor pregnancy outcomes, so it is especially important for women to be aware of their risk factors for developing diabetes, including having a family history of diabetes as well as age, weight, and physical activity level.

The good news, especially for those with prediabetes, is that it can be prevented. A healthy diet, regular exercise and medical monitoring can go a long way toward ensuring that diabetes never gains a foothold.

Some feel smoothies are filled with sugar. It’s true for many store-bought options, but at home you’re in total control.

That’s important because adults with diabetes are nearly twice as likely to die from heart disease or stroke as people without diabetes. Over time, high blood sugar from diabetes can damage blood vessels and the nerves that control your heart.

This year, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases is emphasizing that tie-in to cardiovascular health.  Here are their tips to take control of your health:

  • Stop smoking or using other tobacco products.
  • Manage your A1C, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.
  • Develop or maintain healthy lifestyle habits – be more physically active and learn ways to manage stress.
  • Take medicines as prescribed by your doctor.

Yes, that also includes throwing out that bag of candy corn you bought on clearance.  For more information about diabetes and what you can do to prevent, control it or support a loved one, click here.

 

Simple Technology for Advanced Treatment

November 4th, 2019

The image many people form when thinking of medical researchers at work is one of serious men and women using sophisticated technology to investigate treatments and cures for diseases. But in some cases, these professionals use simple, everyday devices to combat people’s disorders and manage their symptoms.

A recent study, published in Nature Biomedical Engineering on August 5, reported on a new wireless device that regulates neural circuits in the brain using a tiny implant controlled by a simple smartphone. The researchers say this device speeds up efforts to uncover various brain disorders including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, addiction, depression and pain.

The wireless device enables consistent chemical and optical nerve stimulation, which targets specific brain cells. Previous methods to achieve this effect involved the use of rigid metal tubes and optical fibers to deliver the drugs and light. This method limited the subject’s movement due to the physical connections to bulky equipment. It also often led to lesions in the brain’s soft tissue over time, making that method unsuitable for long-term use.

But this new approach uses large, Lego-like replaceable drug cartridges and powerful Bluetooth-enabled low-energy. This method allows for the targeting of specific nerve cells in the brain for prolonged periods without the limits of a physical connection to equipment or the risk of brain lesions.

Controlled by a simple user interface on a smartphone, researchers using this device can easily trigger any specific combination or the precise sequence of light and drug delivery without being inside a laboratory. And because it can be used for long periods, the device may contribute to uncovering the basis of many neuropsychiatric diseases.

Last year, scientists from the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea reported on advances in technology using wireless communication and portable devices for diabetes monitoring. Their study results were published in the January 2018 issue of Scientific Advances.

The researchers studied a new technology involving a smart soft contact lens capable of monitoring blood glucose levels in tear fluid, as well as other relevant physiological data in real-time. This data can then be used to facilitate disease management.

Previous attempts at using contact lenses for this purpose came under criticism because the material used was too opaque and rigid, and could potentially damage the eyes. The research team in South Korea addressed these concerns by placing the operational components around the edge of the lens away from the pupil.

The new contact lens that was developed is equipped with sensors that can detect blood glucose changes in the tears, as well as other biomarkers typically found in the blood. These biomarkers include cholesterol, sodium ion and potassium ion levels, offering additional disease monitoring possibilities.

The study researchers note that the contact lens collects tears for measuring glucose changes from those created by normal activities such as blinking. As a result, invasive collection methods, such as finger sticks to collect blood for testing, are avoided. The goal of the new technology is to increase patient compliance with regular blood glucose monitoring.

Other noninvasive methods for measuring blood glucose levels in people with diabetes are also being studied. One study is looking at a technology that measures blood glucose by placing a device near the eye. This technique uses a novel biochemical sensor embedded on a small hydrogel disk. The disk is inserted below the patient’s conjunctiva during a simple, painless procedure performed by an ophthalmologist.

The chemical in the disk reacts with blood glucose in the interstitial fluid below the conjunctiva and emits fluorescent light that is quantified by a special photometer device. This device is placed in front of the person’s eve. It can record blood glucose results in less than 20 seconds.

Another noninvasive device uses occlusion spectroscopy measurements to determine blood glucose measurements. It involves placing a ring-shaped probe around the person’s finger and applying gentle pressure. This pressure temporarily stops blood flow, and optical elements in the device’s sensor perform a sensitive measurement of the light transmitted through the finger.

In one study, measurements taken using this device were compared with measurements taken using invasive methods, and this device proved comparable. Tests showed this device to be a painless and accurate alternative to invasive methods such as finger sticks for continuous glucose monitoring in patients with diabetes.

 

Superheroes and Supervillains with Mental Disorders

October 30th, 2019

Whether it’s in a comic book or a movie, most everyone has seen a superhero.

Superheroes are different from the rest of us. For example: The Flash is faster than the speed of light, Superman can fly, and Spiderman can shoot webs.

People look at superheroes and see greatness and perfection. In a sense, though, superheroes are just like everyone else. They suffer from some of the same problems many people do.

One such problem is mental illness.

Take Superman, for example. The Man of Steel had to leave his home and family in a different world and learn how to fit into our world. As a result, he suffers from a condition called “Part of Two Worlds Syndrome” and will never feel as if he is truly at home.

Another superhero is Captain America. The poster boy for America could also be a poster boy for depression. He is a soldier who was frozen in the ice after World War II. When he awoke, his life changed dramatically. His family and friends were gone. Dealing with all the death and lost time changes how you see life and makes it hard to move forward.

Captain America probably fears that if he makes new connections and friends, he will lose them too. Everything he faces today is a reminder of what should have been.

Jessica Jones faces many of those same challenges as well. Before she even met The Purple Man, Zebediah Kilgrave, she lost her family in a car crash. That didn’t ruin Jessica completely, but what was left of her life was taken away by the Purple Man.

After coming into contact with experimental chemicals and spending some time in a coma, Jessica emerged with superhuman strength, enough to lift a two-ton police car with little effort, fly and block mind control.

The Purple Man used Jessica’s power to hurt her friends. He would force her to cry and watch disturbing images. The Purple Man nearly killed her friends through her. He gives off pheromones that make people around him bend to his verbal commands.

Jessica, who was known at the time as Jewel to civilians, first meets Kilgrave in a restaurant. Using his own powers, he casually asks her to give up her secret identity, which she does without hesitation and uses her powers for schemes of evil. He induces her to attack the police force outside, which she does – flipping police cruisers with reckless abandon.

Jessica endured Kilgrave’s control for eight months. That’s eight solid months of mental and emotional torture. Afterward, she was little more than a skeleton with skin and hair. A rag doll. She had no control of her own life or mind. And while she eventually escaped from her tormenter, she will never be able to break free from him totally.

The events of what happened to her haunt her in her dreams and in reality. As a result, she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Even with her superpowers, she has scars that will never heal.

The same is true of supervillains. They are people too – without a tether to reality. But in all actuality, they are not at fault for their actions, for the most part.

With villains, it is harder to figure out if they are mentally unstable, have a disorder or are just plain out bad. The majority of villains have mental illnesses, which is the main cause of what they do.

Harley Quinn was an innocent victim. She was a therapist of the one and only Joker, which led to her downfall. The Joker abused Harley, putting her through physical, emotional, and psychological pain that caused her to become the villain we all know her to be. As a result, Harley suffers from battered person syndrome and Stockholm syndrome, conditions she cannot escape from.

Two Florida Health Care News employees showing their support for Harley Quinn.

Some supers aren’t villains or heroes but they have mental illnesses as well. Deadpool is one such super. He isn’t classified as a villain or a hero, but Deadpool is the perfect example of a comic book character with psychological disorders.

Deadpool was tortured, physically and emotionally, to the point of death to activate mutant genes. The psychological state of Deadpool reads like a list of psychological disorders.

He mostly suffers from schizophrenia but he also has psychopathic tendencies and has more emotional baggage than any other superhero or villain. With the mental dilemma he faces on a daily basis, he can’t grasp reality.

Thankfully, superheroes and villains are fictional characters who are who they are in part because of these illnesses. We, on the other hand, are real. We live in this world, right now and right here, and just as it is with superheroes and villains, mental illnesses are prevalent.

Approximately one in five adults in the U.S experience mental illness of some kind within a year. But help is available and there are many types of therapies and solutions, including:

  • Psychotherapy – Psychotherapy is the therapeutic treatment of mental illness provided by a trained mental health professional.  Psychotherapy explores thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and seeks to improve an individual’s well-being.  Psychotherapy paired with medication is the most effective way to promote recovery.  Examples include: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Exposure Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, etc.
  • Medication – Medication does not outright cure mental illness.  However, it may help with the management of symptoms.  Medication paired with psychotherapy is the most effective way to promote recovery.
  • Support Group – A support group is a group meeting where members guide each other towards the shared goal of recovery.  Support groups are often comprised of nonprofessionals, but peers that have suffered from similar experiences.
  • Self Help Plan – A self-help plan is a unique health plan where an individual addresses his or her condition by implementing strategies that promote wellness.  Self-help plans may involve addressing wellness, recovery, triggers or warning signs.
  •  Peer Support – Peer Support refers to receiving help from individuals who have suffered from similar experiences.

Fans of superheroes may not want to know their dark secrets. But superheroes and villains, like many of the people they save, need help. In that way, they are like regular everyday civilians.

 

Bad News, Good News Regard Breast Cancer

October 27th, 2019
Bad news: More Florida women getting breast cancer.
Good news: Death rate now among nation’s lowest.

When I scanned the first sentence of her Facebook post, I thought at first that it was just another attempt to raise awareness for a worthy cause that would eventually ask me to do my part in the fight by sharing the post with others.

If only it had been.

“I have breast cancer,” it said.

In the paragraphs that followed, my friend explained how she had known for a week that the two-centimeter lump she found last month was malignant. She then talked about the uncertainty, the fear and the battle ahead, and how she planned to kick cancer’s, um, rear end.

It’s an all too familiar post. In the past few months, my pastor’s wife made a similar announcement on Facebook.  Last week, a former colleague who survived breast cancer 12 years ago told me she is having another biopsy.

It’s no wonder we are seeing more of these posts. According to statewide figures from the Florida Department of Health, the breast cancer incident rate increased from 137.6 to 161.7 per 100,000 women between 2006 and 2016.

In 2016 alone, doctors diagnosed 16,721 new cases of breast cancer among women.  Last year, 2,955 women died from breast cancer. That translates to a death rate of 18.5 per 100,000 women.

In 2018, Glades County topped the list with a death rate of 41.9 per 100,000 people, though deaths totaled five. Other counties with high rates included Holmes, Walton, Franklin, Wakulla, Dixie, Gilchrist, Lafayette, Marion, Citrus, Pasco, Nassau, Brevard, Okeechobee and Hendry. Counties reporting the lowest rates were Calhoun, Liberty and Washington, all of which reported no deaths.

Nationally, the good news is that Florida is among the states with the lowest death rates. After peaking in 1999 and 2000 at 24.4 deaths per 100,000, the rate has decreased, with 19.7 in 2016, according to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Though researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville say a vaccine could be available in eight years, the best ways to prevent breast cancer right now is to adopt a healthy lifestyle and get regular screenings to ensure early detection.

So, we’ll continue to wear our pink, participate in three-day walks, and support our friends who make those heartbreaking social media announcements as much as we possibly can.

We’ll also perform regular self exams and screening mammograms as soon as they’re due. No procrastination. Taking care of ourselves is critical, especially if we are taking care of others. Thankfully, we have help in that endeavor.

To make sure every woman is able to get a screening, the Florida Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program provides free or low-cost mammograms to women who are residents of Florida, 50-64 with no insurance and low income. To see if you qualify, call your county Health Department.

 

EVALI: A New-Age Killer

October 21st, 2019

In its weekly report released October 11, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that as of October 15, 2019, 1,479 cases of lung injury associated with the use of e-cigarettes, or vaping, were reported in 49 states, the District of Columbia and the US Virgin Islands. In addition, Thirty-three deaths have been confirmed in 24 states, with more deaths under investigation.

The CDC also announced it gave the mysterious illness a name: EVALI, which stands for “e-cigarette or vaping product use associated lung injury.” The CDC is working closely with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as well as state and local health departments to identify patients with EVALI and determine the specific chemical exposure or exposures that led to it.

If you’re not familiar with vaping, it’s the term for using electronic, or e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes work by heating a liquid to produce an aerosol users inhale into their lungs. The liquid can contain nicotine, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or cannabinoid (CBD) oils, as well as cutting agents, diluents and other additives. THC is the psychoactive component of marijuana that produces the “high.”

There is a common misperception in this country that vaping is less harmful than smoking. But this recent outbreak of EVALI and the deaths associated with it have triggered an intense debate. So just how popular is vaping? Here are a few facts about the practice in America, according to a July 2019 Gallup poll:

• Nearly one in five 18- to 29-year-olds reports vaping regularly, more than twice the national average.
• Americans with a household income of more than $100,000 per year (5%) are about half as likely to use e-cigarettes as those earning less than $40,000 per year (9%).
• E-cigarette use is lower among those with higher levels of education: College graduates (3%) are three times less likely to vape than those without a college degree (10%).

Most of the patients who suffer with EVALI report a history of using THC-containing products, suggesting THC may be connected to the illness, but research has yet to confirm a clear link. Still, the CDC and FDA recommend people not use e-cigarettes or vaping products that contain THC, especially those obtained off the street or through other illicit sources.

Symptoms of EVALI reported by some patients in the current outbreak include cough, shortness of breath and chest pain. Other patients experienced symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, fatigue, fever and weight loss. Some patients report their symptoms developed over a few days, but others say their symptoms developed over several weeks.

A study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine earlier in October shed some light on the damage EVALI does to the lungs. Researchers looked at biopsies of 17 patients with the vaping-related lung injury and discovered inflammation suggestive of an inhaled toxic substance. They found the lungs and airways of those patients were damaged in ways similar to those exposed to chemical spills or harmful gasses. The study didn’t suggest what type of chemicals may have caused the damage, however.

Photo courtesy of Sarah Johnson.  https://www.blacknote.com/Even though most patients with EVALI, as many as 87 percent, have reported using products containing THC, nicotine users aren’t safe, either. Exclusive use of products containing nicotine has been reported by some patients with EVALI, and many people reported combined use of products with THC and nicotine. This suggests nicotine products may play a role in the development of EVALI.

As it stands, the CDC and FDA don’t know for certain what causes EVALI. The only commonality among the EVALI cases in the most recent outbreak is that patients report using e-cigarettes or vaping products. This outbreak may have more than one cause, and the specific chemical or chemicals associated with it are still unknown.

But the CDC has some recommendations for the public to protect itself from EVALI. For one, they suggest people stop using e-cigarettes and vaping, products that contain THC, and they should not use any of these products bought off the street.

The CDC also warns people against modifying or adding any substance to e-cigarettes or vaping products that are not intended by the manufacturer. This includes any products they buy at retail stores. Because they don’t know the role of nicotine, the CDC recommends people refrain from using e-cigarettes and vaping products that contain nicotine.

If you have a problem and can’t stop vaping, there are resources on the national, state and local level to help you quit. Be sure to choose evidence-based treatment options, such as health care provider counseling and FDA-approved medications to help you quit.

If you’ve used e-cigarettes and have symptoms of EVALI, it’s best to visit your health care provider right away. You can also call your local poison control center at 1-800-222-1222.

 

Page 2 of 21