Blog Posts

A Message About Men’s Health

June 3rd, 2018

This blog may be about men’s health, but women need to read it, too. Women have to encourage the men in their lives to pay more attention to their health. June is Men’s Health Month, and it’s the perfect time to review a few of the biggest health issues men face.Message About Men’s Health

Since forever, women have lived longer than men. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that on average, women today live more than five years longer than men, and that gap is getting wider. Men have higher rates of death in most of the top ten causes of death. They also tend to have higher rates of complications from many disorders.

According to a report from the World Health Organization, men have higher death and complication rates for conditions like coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and cancer. Yet, many of the risk factors for those diseases that have increased in the past few years aren’t male-specific and are preventable. These include increases in smoking, alcohol consumption, sedentary lifestyles and obesity.

According to WHO, there’re other factors that can contribute to a poorer life expectancy for men. For instance, men generally have greater exposure to occupational hazards such as physical or chemical hazards. They tend to engage more often in behaviors involving risk-taking, they’re less likely to see a doctor when they’re sick, and when they do, they’re less likely to fully report their symptoms.

A board member of the Men’s Health Network notes that certain conditions common in men, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, have no detectable symptoms. Many cancers also have few detectable symptoms in their early, most treatable, stages, so health care monitoring is crucial.

That’s where women can come in. We can help our men be aware of screenings, adopt healthy eating habits and promote exercise by setting an example and doing it with them. We can also encourage them to see the doctor when they complain of not feeling well or show signs of illness. They’re protecting the family by staying healthy.

So, what are the big health issues facing men? I read a couple of articles that listed the Top 10 or Top 5 Men’s Health Issues, but I’m going to condense the list to three big ones. You can read more at these three sites:

Still high on the list is cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association tells us that one in three men have some form of cardiovascular disease. It’s the leading cause of death for men in the US, responsible for one of every four male deaths. Another condition that’s common in men and can contribute to cardiovascular disease is high blood pressure, which slowly damages the heart and blood vessels over time. These disorders can be controlled if detected early.

Here’s one you might not have thought of but is a growing problem. It’s skin cancer. Men 50 and older are at high risk for developing skin cancer, more than twice as likely as women. The reason is because men have generally had more sun exposure and tend to have fewer visits to the doctor for skin checks. More men than women die of melanoma, a lethal form of skin cancer. Regular skin checks can catch skin cancer in its early stages.

Diabetes is a problem in itself, and it can result in a whole bunch of other problems. It can lead to erectile dysfunction and lower testosterone levels. Low testosterone also decreases a man’s muscle mass and energy level. Low blood glucose can cause depression and anxiety, as well as damage to the nerves and kidneys and lead to heart disease, liver disease, stroke and vision issues. Routine blood work can monitor blood glucose levels and detect pre-diabetes.

Men face many more health issues that affect them not just physically, but mentally as well. This month, encourage the men in your life to take advantage of screenings, get regular physicals, lead a healthy lifestyle and see the doctor when necessary. Help them take control of their health and live longer.

“Brain Attack” Can Strike Anyone, Anytime

May 31st, 2018

Strokes don’t just happen to the elderly. They can disable or kill men and women of working age, too. That fact is just one of the awareness-raising messages the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association is spreading during May, which is American Stroke Month.

A stroke or “brain attack” happens when blood flow to part of the brain is cut off. As a result, brain cells are deprived of oxygen and begin to die, which threatens the abilities controlled by that area of the brain, such as muscle control, speech or memory.

Someone who suffers a minor stroke may have only temporary challenges, such as slurred speech or weakness of an arm or leg. But more serious strokes may lead to permanent paralysis or inability to speak. More than two-thirds of stroke survivors are left with some form of disability.

The faster a stroke victim receives treatment, the better the chances for survival and recovery. For each minute a stroke goes untreated and blood flow to the brain is blocked, the patient loses about 1.9 million neurons, which are nerve cells that transmit information throughout the body.

Be alert for these common symptoms of a stroke and call 9-1-1 immediately if they occur. Also, note the time the first symptom appears, because that can affect treatment decisions.

  • Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, an arm or a leg, especially on one side of the body;
  • Sudden confusion, difficulty speaking or understanding what’s going on or being said;
  • Sudden difficulty seeing out of one or both eyes;
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness or loss of balance or coordination;
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause.

There are two types of “brain attacks” classified as strokes. A hemorrhagic stroke happens when a brain aneurysm bursts or a weakened blood vessel leaks. An ischemic stroke is caused by a blood clot that blocks a vessel carrying blood to the brain.

A transient ischemic attack, commonly known as a TIA, can mimic stroke-like symptoms and lasts less than 24 hours. A TIA occurs when blood flow to part of the brain stops for a short period of time. While they generally don’t cause permanent brain damage, TIAs are a serious warning sign of a future stoke and shouldn’t be ignored.

Some risk factors for strokes can’t be controlled, including age, gender or family history. But people can minimize other things that make them more susceptible, such as high blood pressure and/or cholesterol, smoking, drug and/or alcohol abuse, poor diet and lack of physical activity.

The bottom line: Up to 80 percent of strokes can be prevented.

Here, courtesy of the National Stroke Association and the American Heart Association, are other stroke facts by the numbers:

  • A stroke happens every 40 seconds.
  • Nearly 800,000 people experience a new or recurrent stroke every year.
  • Stroke is the leading cause of adult disability in the United States.
  • Stroke is the No. 3 cause of death in women and the fourth leading cause of death of men in this country. Some 185,000 people die from a stroke each year.

Women have higher risk of fatal strokes

May 29th, 2018

Some 55,000 more women than men have a stroke each year, and more women die as a result, according to the American Heart Association, which has deemed May as American Stroke Month.

Women share many of the same risk factors as men, such as high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, diabetes, depression and emotional stress. But for women, hormones, reproductive health, pregnancy and childbirth also can influence how likely they are to suffer a stroke.

For instance, stroke risk increases during a normal pregnancy because of natural changes in the body such as increased blood pressure and stress on the heart. And women who have preeclampsia, or high blood pressure that develops during pregnancy, double their risk of a stroke later in life.

Women who have more than one miscarriage may be at greater risk for blood clots, which in turn increases their stroke risk.

Taking birth control pills, meanwhile, may double the risk of stroke, especially for women with high blood pressure.

Many women undergo hormone replacement therapy to relieve menopause symptoms, including hot flashes, night sweats and pain during sex. Once thought to lower stroke risk, hormone replacement therapy actually slightly increases it.

Irregular heartbeat, or atrial fibrillation, quadruples stroke risk and is more common in women than men after age 75.

Strokes also are considerably more common in women who suffer from migraines with aura (flashing or shimmering lights, zigzagging lines or stars) and who also smoke.

Autoimmune diseases such as diabetes or lupus can increase the risk of stroke, too.

Because women generally live longer, a stroke is more apt to negatively impact their lives. They also are more likely to be living alone when they suffer a stroke and to end up in a long-term health care facility, and they have a more difficult recovery, according to the National Stroke Association.

Some stroke symptoms are unique to women, including hiccups, seizures, sudden behavioral change and hallucinations. Those might not be recognized as signs of a stroke, however, which could delay treatment and magnify the damage caused. The most effective stroke treatments are only available if the stroke is diagnosed within three hours after the first symptoms appear.

While strokes typically affect women in their later years, doctors now are focusing on helping women reduce their risk earlier in life. That means more screening for high blood pressure – which is more common in women than in men – along with other health challenges.

Eating right and exercising can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases and improve overall health for anyone. A healthy diet includes vegetables (dark green, red and orange), legumes (beans and peas), fruits (especially whole fruits), grains (at least half of them whole grains), fat-free or low-fat dairy, oils and proteins (seafood, lean meats and poultry, nuts, seeds and soy products). Limiting saturated and trans fats, added sugars and sodium also is part of eating healthier.

As for physical activity, a recent study shows that people can reduce their stroke risk if they exercise five or more times per week.

 

Principles of PHN

May 22nd, 2018

Each year, about one million Americans are affected by shingles, that itchy, burning, blistery and usually very painful rash that can break out anywhere on your body. Shingles is caused by the herpes virus, varicella-zoster, the same bug that causes chickenpox.

So, if you’ve had chickenpox as a kid, that nasty virus can hang around inside your body, hiding in the nerves, and show up again later as shingles. This sneaky germ can lie dormant for decades before reactivating and causing shingles.

For many people who get shingles, the symptoms last from two to six weeks then go away, and you feel better. But an estimated one out of five people ends up with continuing pain after the shingles bout is over. The technical name for this pain complication is postherpetic neuralgia or PHN.

PHN is the result of the virus damaging the nerves of the tissues at the rash site. It’s thought to affect the proper functioning of the nerves that register sensations such as pain, pressure and touch. PHN pain can be rather mild, or it can be excruciating, prompted by the slightest stimulation, such as the touch of clothing or a breeze over the skin.

PHN pain can go away after one month or persist for months and even years after the shingles rash has gone away. No one knows why PHN goes away rather quickly in some people and lasts a long time in others.

There are several factors that increase your risk for getting PHN. They include older age, gender (the risk for longer-lasting PHN is higher in women) and having had shingles that affected the eyes. Having a family history of PHN also puts you at increased risk for developing the painful complication.

Most of the symptoms of PHN occur at the site of the original shingles rash. Some of the things to look out for include an occasional burning, shooting pain and a constant throbbing or aching pain. You may also feel extreme sensitivity to touch and/or temperature. Itching and numbness at the rash site also may occur.

If the nerves that control muscle movement are affected by the PHN, you could experience muscle weakness and even paralysis. Fortunately, this is rare.

Treatment for PHN is not the same for everybody. It is tailored to your specific symptoms and response to medications. There are several types of medications used to treat PHN pain. Your doctor may refer you to a pain management specialist to determine the right medication or combination of treatments that works best for you.

Some of the common medication treatments used for PHN include:

  • Lidocaine or capsaicin pain patches are applied directly to the skin.
  • Pain medications may include non-opioid and opioid drugs.
  • Antidepressants in lower doses than used to treat depression have been shown to help relieve pain.
  • Anticonvulsants traditionally used to treat seizures stabilize abnormal activity of the nerves.

Some people find transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, or TENS, beneficial for reducing the pain of PHN. Its effectiveness has not been proven through research, however.

Some experts believe that PHN can be prevented or its impact lessened if you’re treated with antiviral medication soon after your shingles is diagnosed. Others say the research doesn’t bear this out. Still, it’s often used as a therapy to shorten the course of the shingles outbreak and, hopefully, avoid PHN.

The best way to protect yourself against PHN is to get vaccinated against chickenpox, if you’ve never been, and especially against shingles. The shingles vaccine is not 100 percent effective, but it can greatly reduce the chance of getting the disease and its complications, including PHN.

It is recommended that everyone 50 and older, especially those over 60, get the shingles vaccine to help protect them against an outbreak of shingles and resulting PHN. It’s a little step. You can get the shot at most pharmacies, so it’s readily available.

It’s better to take a few minutes to get a quick shot in the arm than to risk spending months or years in horrible pain. It’s really an easy decision!

Fetal Alcohol Facts

May 15th, 2018

This past February, researchers presented their results of a study, published in JAMA, on the prevalence of fetal alcohol disorders in American children. It was alarming. In their study results, the researchers conservatively estimated 1.1 to 5 percent of kids are affected by alcohol-related disorders, up to five times the previous estimates.Fetal Alcohol Facts

As part of the study, researchers evaluated nearly 3,000 school-aged children in four US communities. They also interviewed children’s mothers about their alcohol use during pregnancy. In all, they identified 222 children who met the criteria of one of the fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.

The results of the February study were immediately challenged by some experts. Opponents cited problems with the study’s design and the reliability of its results. First of all, only 60 percent of eligible families permitted their children to be evaluated. In addition, more than a third of the mothers declined to answer questions about their alcohol use during pregnancy.

The opponents of the study results believed the children not evaluated by researchers likely represented the most high-risk individuals. They also pointed out that mothers were likely unwilling to talk about their alcohol use because admitting to drinking alcohol during pregnancy identifies them as mothers who harmed their babies.

Collectively called fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), alcohol-related disorders in children include a range of conditions that can cause physical problems as well as problems with behavior and learning. The most severe of the fetal alcohol spectrum disorders is fetal alcohol syndrome or FAS.

FASD are the result of individuals having been exposed to alcohol prenatally. While they’re still growing inside their mothers’ wombs, babies’ livers are not fully developed. They can’t break down the alcohol, so it’s free to travel through the babies’ bodies and damage their brains and other organs.

Among the effects of alcohol in developing babies is it lowers protein-calorie intake, which stunts cell growth. It also causes zinc and iron deficiencies, and alters the healthy level of cholesterol in the blood. In addition, it depletes a chemical that is needed to make an important neurotransmitter in the brain. Neurotransmitters help brain cells relay messages.

It is difficult to pinpoint how many people actually have FASD because some of the symptoms can be subtle. In addition, some symptoms are similar to those of other disorders, including ADHD, making misdiagnosis possible. Some of the more common symptoms of FASD include:

  • Abnormal facial features such as a smooth ridge between the nose and upper lip
  • Small head and body size
  • Learning disabilities and low IQ
  • Hyperactivity
  • Poor memory
  • Speech and language delays
  • Sleep and suckling problems as a baby
  • Problems with the heart, kidneys or bones

Alcohol, including wine and beer, is the leading cause of preventable birth defects in the US. The bottom line is there is no “safe” amount of alcohol to drink during pregnancy, and no “safe” time during pregnancy to drink. The brain develops throughout pregnancy, and even small amounts of alcohol can have a negative effect on that development.

Some women drank during one pregnancy and had healthy babies and think they can drink during subsequent pregnancies with no consequences. Don’t take that chance. FASD can still occur. There’s no way to predict how alcohol will affect your baby, and problems can occur with one baby even though you’ve already had a healthy baby.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends women stop drinking alcohol entirely when they’re pregnant. They even go so far as to warn women trying to get pregnant not to drink because they could be pregnant for three or four weeks before they even know it.

The message is clear: If you want a baby without FASD, don’t drink during pregnancy.

Suffering from shin splints?

May 7th, 2018

It’s not just fitness fanatics adamant about getting in their daily jog who are in danger of developing shin splints. Anyone who has flat feet, poorly fitting shoes or weak ankles, hips or core muscles are susceptible to shin splints as well.Stock photo from istockphoto.com.

Referred to by some doctors as medial tibial stress syndrome, shin splints usually develop as a result of continuous force being applied to the shin bone (tibia) and the connective tissue that attaches the shin bone to the muscles around it.

That continuous force can lead to a swelling of the muscles around the tibia. When those muscles are swollen, more pressure is applied to the tibia and the result can be a variety of symptoms, most of which are more annoying than anything else.

For example, someone suffering from shin splints may feel nothing more than a dull ache in their shins or a swelling in the lower leg. Others, however, may experience sharp, jabbing pains in and around their shin during exercise or numbness in their feet.

In more severe cases, the shin of someone suffering from shin splints may feel hot or painful to the touch, the lower part of their legs may feel weak, or they may experience prolonged bone or muscle pain in the lower leg and calf.

In those more severe cases, some of which are the cause of small cracks or fractures in the bone, it may be best to consult a doctor. In most cases, however, shin splints can usually be treated by adhering to some common treatment methods.

The most effective treatment method is rest – and lots of it. Depending on the cause of your shin splints, the time needed to recover properly can be anywhere from three to six months. In less severe cases, however, a few weeks of rest may do the trick.

That may seem like a lot, particularly for a workout warrior type who is accustomed to hitting the gym three or more times a week or running every day, but there are other activities that can be done to maintain good fitness while shin splints are healing.

Riding a bike, swimming or using an elliptical machine provides many of the same cardiovascular benefits that running does, and none of those activities put the same degree of stress on the legs that running does.

In addition to rest, icing the area of the leg that is painful or uncomfortable for 20 to 30 minutes three to four times a day until the pain is gone helps to reduce the bothersome effects of shins splints, too.

As is the case with a lot of aches and pains, taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines such as ibuprofen, naproxen or aspirin if your doctor allows it will further advance the healing process as well.

With extensive use of all the above, though, some side effects such as bleeding and ulcers can develop. Always be sure to follow label directions specifically when using those over-the-counter aids and if possible consult your doctor before taking them.

Finally, for those whose shin splints are more a result of physical issues such as flat feet or poor-fitting footwear, the use of orthotic shoe inserts or a better fitting pair of shoes can make all the difference in the world.

You’ll know your shin splints are gone when you resume whatever constitutes normal activity and you can apply pressure to the area that used to hurt without feeling pain or run and jump without feeling any pain in or around the shins.

Prior to that, though, strengthening your core muscles and the area around your hips and increasing your intake of foods such as milk and yogurt that are high in calcium and Vitamin D can help prevent shin splints from coming back.

Remember, it’s not just weekend warriors and fitness fanatics who get shin splints. Anyone can get them. The good news is that no one has to suffer from them for very long.

Minding Mental Health

May 1st, 2018

May is a great month. Spring’s in full bloom (which isn’t entirely GOOD news for those of us with allergies), and it’s time to celebrate our very special Moms. There’s another tradition we celebrate in May.Minding Mental Health

Having been deemed Mental Health Month it is the time we become more aware of mental health and mental illness. Mental illness is a big issue, and there’s still a lot of misinformation about it swirling in the air.

For starters, the American Psychiatric Association defines mental illness as “any health condition involving changes in thinking, emotion or behavior (or a combination of these). Mental illness is associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities.” Still, the majority of people with mental illness continue to function in their daily lives despite their illness.

Almost everyone is touched in some way by mental illness. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that approximately one in five American adults, or 43.8 million people, experiences mental illness in a given year. One in 25 has a serious mental illness, one that limits major life activities. Serious mental illnesses include diseases like major depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. I’m not done. One in 12 people has a substance abuse disorder.

Why are so many people affected by mental illness? The exact cause of mental illness is unknown, but researchers have uncovered a few factors that may contribute to its formation. One is genetics. Many mental illnesses run in families, suggesting people inherit at least a susceptibility to developing a particular illness.

An imbalance of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters have been linked to some types of mental illness as well. These chemicals help brain cells communicate with each other. If they can’t communicate properly because the chemicals are out of whack, clear messages can’t get through from the brain.

Another contributing factor is psychological trauma such as severe physical, emotional or sexual abuse endured as a child, witnessing a traumatic event or experiencing significant loss. Environmental factors can also contribute. These include the death of someone close to you, a divorce or a big change in your life, like a new job. These factors often foster substance abuse.

Whatever the cause, mental illness is just that, an ILLNESS, not a weakness in your character.

Mental illness runs the gamut, from mild depression to psychotic schizophrenia. Each illness has its own set of symptoms, but I’m giving you a few general symptoms so you know what to watch out for, in yourself and others. These are some of the more common symptoms of mental illness in adults. For more, go to the American Psychiatric Association website.

  • Confused thinking
  • Feeling sad or irritable
  • Feeling extreme highs and lows
  • Excessive fears or worries
  • Social withdrawal
  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Seeing or hearing things that aren’t there

If you notice these symptoms and are willing to get help, consult a qualified psychiatrist or psychologist. They understand mental illness and can recommend the best course of treatment for you. If you ever feel like hurting yourself or others, call your local crisis hotline or 911.

The treatment chosen is based on the type of mental illness you have and the severity of your symptoms. The most common methods of treatment are medication and psychotherapy, or a combination of both. There are other options that may be considered including hospitalization, day treatment, group therapy and specific therapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy.

In most cases, treatment is effective, but you’ve got to be compliant. If you’re prescribed medication, take it. If it causes intolerable side effects, tell your doctor. Maybe you can try another drug. Counseling helps more than you might think, but you’ve got to participate. Treatment may take time to work, but if you comply, you’ll likely feel better and function fully.

What a Pain

April 24th, 2018

Diagnosing and Treating Sciatica.

  • When you stand, does pain shoot from your lower back, down your thigh and maybe to your knee?
  • Do you have tingling, numbness, weakness or difficulty moving your leg or foot?
  • Does one side of your buttocks constantly ache?
  • Do you have hip pain?
  • Does your discomfort worsen when you bend at the waist, cough, sneeze or sit?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, there’s a good chance you’re suffering from sciatica.

This common condition, which often shows up in middle age, involves irritation to or inflammation of the largest nerve in the body. The sciatic nerve starts from nerve roots in the spinal cord in the low back and extends through the buttocks to send nerve endings down the lower limb.

Sciatica – not to be confused with other back pain – is often caused by a herniated disc in the lower back pressing on or pinching the sciatic nerve. Other causes include spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spinal canal; nerve irritation from adjacent bone; tumors; infections; arthritis; injury; pregnancy; or prolonged sitting on an object such as a wallet in a back pocket.

Sometimes, no direct cause of sciatica can be found.

Doctors diagnose sciatica by conducting a physical exam and taking the patient’s symptoms and medical history into consideration. Sometimes, x-rays and other tests such as a CT scan, an MRI and an electromyogram are used as well.

Pain management specialists, chiropractors, orthopedists, rheumatologists, internists, general practitioners, physical therapists and massage therapists are among the health care professionals who evaluate and treat sciatica. It can last for days or weeks, or it can become a chronic ailment.

Traditionally, bed rest was the recommended treatment for sciatica. But how realistic is that approach? Many people, especially those who have jobs, children or other responsibilities, don’t have the luxury of lying around and doing nothing for weeks.

And there’s no guarantee that lying low will ease a bout of sciatica. One study by a research team in the Netherlands showed that patients who rested for three months showed a level of improvement equal to those who practiced “watchful waiting” during that period. The two groups also had similar rates of absenteeism from work and of surgical intervention.

Stock photo from istockphoto.com.So, what can you do to ease the agony of sciatica? Don’t expect to find a lasting solution from over-the-counter pain medications, heating pads, cold packs or dietary supplements. They either don’t help or provide only temporary relief.

Chiropractic adjustments performed over multiple sessions can be effective. TENS units, which send stimulating pulses across the surface of the skin and along the nerve strands, are sometimes useful, too.

Physical therapy, as well as low back conditioning and stretching exercises, are other options, as are muscle relaxers, cortisone injections, prescription medications, acupuncture and activity restrictions. For those whose sciatica results from nerve compression at the lower spine, surgery sometimes is required.

Once patients recover from sciatica, they need to use common sense and a healthy lifestyle to prevent it from coming back. That means exercising regularly, maintaining proper posture and bending at the knees while lifting heavy objects.

The Eyes Have It

April 17th, 2018

By the time he had reached the end of this 20-year playing career, basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabaar had become known as much for the safety goggles he wore during games as the skyhook he used to become a 19-time NBA All-Star and six-time NBA most valuable player.

Kareem Abdul-Jabaar

Kareem Abdul-Jabaar

It was the result of repeated eye injuries, the last one being a second scratched cornea that he suffered midway through the 1974 season he spent with the Milwaukee Bucks, that prompted Abdul-Jabaar to don the goggles, explaining “I’m down to my last pair of eyeballs.’’

Nearly 50 years later, the chances of an athlete suffering an eye injury such as those that prompted Abdul-Jabaar to don his goggles are still great as more than 25,000 professional and recreational sports participants seek care for sports-related eye injuries each year, according to Prevent Blindness®.

Just as great are the chances of preventing most of those injuries. With the use of proper eye-ware, 90-percent of all eye injuries, including many that occur during sports or recreational activities, can be prevented, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

The AAO has thus designated April as Sports Eye Safety Awareness Month, and the organization’s timing could not be better. With spring-like temperatures already upon us and summer drawing near, more and more people will begin engaging in water and pool activities, which is where most eye injuries occur.

According to statistics provided by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 6,000 eye injuries occurred during water and pool activities in the calendar year of 2016. During the same calendar year, more than 5,700 eye injuries were suffered by athletes participating in basketball.

Virtually all sports and recreational activities, including golf, fishing and cycling, carry some risk of eye injuries. As we noted, though, most of those injuries can be prevented by following some simple, common-sense rules and knowing wearing equipment designed to protect wearers from eye injuries.

For anyone playing basketball or racquet sports, for example, a pair of proper safety goggles – those labeled as ASTMF803 approved – can go a long way toward preventing serious eye injuries. So can the use of helmets with face shields for those participating in baseball, football and hockey.

One thing to keep in mind is that regular prescription eye glasses do not provide enough protection to prevent serious eye injuries. In some cases, they can even increase the chances of an eye injury being more serious than it needed to be. That’s why, for many athletes, it’s makes good sense to get a good pair of prescription eye guards.

Eye guards are becoming more prevalent, not just in professional sports, but throughout the youth sports culture as well, and for good reason. A good pair of eye guards costs between $20 and $40 dollars, which could be a fraction of what the cost associated with repairing even a minor eye injury could be.

A pair of prescription eye guards will be more costly, of course, but that cost may not be any greater than the cost of replacing a pair of contact lenses. And as Abdul-Jabaar pointed out all those years ago, the cost, no matter how great, will always be cheaper than that associated with replacing the only set of eye balls you’ll ever have.

Oral Cancer Concerns

April 10th, 2018

Let’s discuss something we don’t usually think about and don’t often hear about: oral cancer, or more specifically oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer. Often grouped together, these cancers are not among the most hyped, but they’re disfiguring – and deadly – just the same.Stock photo from istockphoto.com.

Where are we talking about? The oral cavity, essentially the mouth, includes the lips, inside lining of the lips and cheeks, teeth, gums, front two-thirds of the tongue, floor of the mouth under the tongue, and bony roof of the mouth, or hard palate.

The oropharynx is the top part of the throat that starts in the back of the mouth. It begins where the oral cavity ends. The oropharynx generally includes the area behind the wisdom teeth, the last third of the tongue, the back part of the roof of the mouth (soft palate), the tonsils, and the side and back wall of the throat.

Anatomy of the pharynx (throat). The three parts of the pharynx are the nasopharynx, oropharynx, and hypopharynx.

There’s a lot we don’t know about what causes cancer, but we know it often occurs when mutations in certain genes cause certain cells to grow out of control, causing tumors to form. What researchers are trying to pin down in most cases is what causes the mutations in the first place. That’s a really simplistic explanation.

Here, I’m going to tell you about risk factors and symptoms, so maybe you can catch an oral cancer in its early stages. Then, I’ll give you a few strategies for prevention, but if you want the full scoop on oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer, read this information from the American Cancer Society.

One of the things you’ll read is that the American Cancer Society estimates 51,540 American will get oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer in 2018, and an estimated 10,030 of them will die from it. Fortunately, the death rate has actually been declining over the last ten years. These cancers are much more common in men than women.

Let’s start with risk factors. What traits and behaviors put you at greater risk for becoming one of those estimated 51,500 people to get one of these cancers. The top two risk factors are using tobacco and drinking alcohol. The tobacco risk increases the more you use it and the longer you’ve done so.

Also, about seven out of ten people with oral cancer are heavy drinkers. The risk is increased even more in people who use tobacco and drink heavily. Some studies suggest the combination leaves people as much as 100 times more at risk than people who don’t smoke or drink.

There are some genetic syndromes that can lead to oral cancer, and a weakened immune system can make a person more susceptible. Risk also increases with age and is affected by an unhealthy diet. Researchers are now finding that infection with the HPV virus is a rising risk factor for some forms of oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer.

These cancers generally appear as a growth or sore in your mouth that doesn’t go away. It can be on anywhere in your mouth, including your lips, tongue and cheeks Here are a few other symptoms to watch out for:

  • White, red or speckled patches in your mouth
  • Unexplained bleeding
  • Loss of feeling
  • Pain or tenderness
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing
  • Hoarseness or persistent sore throat
  • Lump in the neck

There are other signs and symptoms as well.

Oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer are generally treated with chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery, or a combination of these treatments. The choice of treatment depends on the patient’s age and how advanced the cancer is, it’s stage. Treatment can leave you disfigured or with problems speaking or eating. Additional treatment may be necessary.

Today, patients also have the benefit of biological and targeted therapies. These therapies kill cancer cells without damaging the surrounding healthy tissues.

Some of the risk factors can’t be controlled, but these are things you can do to reduce your risk or find oral cancer early. These include:

  •  Limit your tobacco use
  • Drink alcohol in moderation
  • Eat a healthy diet with lots of vegetables
  • Protect yourself against HPV infection
  • Examine your mouth at least once a mouth and look for lumps or spots
  • See your dentist regularly. The dentist can often spot suspicious areas in your mouth before you do.

You don’t want to be one of the 51,500 who will get oral cavity or oropharyngeal cancer this year, and you especially don’t want to be one of the 10,000 who don’t make it. Now that you know about these cancers, be aware of your risk factors and on the lookout for symptoms.

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