Posts Tagged ‘health concerns’

A Different Kind of Drug Problem

July 31st, 2017

The world has a drug problem! It’s getting so bad that the United Nations held a special meeting last September to discuss it. It was only the fourth time ever the UN called a high-level meeting on a global health issue. This time, the delegates discussed antibiotic-resistant infections – superbugs impervious to our current arsenal of germ-fighting drugs.Definition of Superbug

Drug-resistant bacteria, as well as drug-resistant parasites, viruses and fungi, have been lurking for a while. One superbug has been popping up, even here in the US, that is resistant to our last-ditch antibiotic. Without medications that can fight these germs, there will be untreatable infections that will have devastating consequences across the globe.

Already, it’s estimated that more than 700,000 people worldwide die each year from drug-resistant infections. And that’s a lowball figure because tens of thousands of deaths from these infections are not reported or are attributed to other causes. One review on antimicrobial resistance suggests that by 2050, 10 million people around the world will die each year from these infections!

Drug resistance happens naturally over time, usually through genetic changes. However, the overuse and misuse of antibiotics and other drugs developed to treat microbial infections accelerated this process. Using antibiotics for every little illness, especially for viral infections such as colds and flu, and to promote growth in livestock, are examples of this misuse. After years of doing this, we now have a resistance problem.

Macro of a virus StrandOne superbug that’s got everybody scrambling is a bacterium that can’t be killed by the drug of last resort, Colistin. Infections with this bacteria had been seen in animals and humans in China and Europe, but have been discovered in the US as well. Fortunately in those cases, the infections responded to other antibiotics, but the bacteria’s resistance to Colistin is significant.

Why? Without getting too technical, the genetic change that makes this bacteria resistant to Colistin can be spread to other strains of bacteria. That includes strains that are already resistant to all other antibiotics. That would create bacteria that are totally untreatable with any drug we currently have available.

With superbugs like these, routine medical procedures such as C-sections, hip replacements and chemotherapy become extremely high risk. Without effective antibiotics to treat them, minor infections could become life-threatening crises. Little, if anything, could be done to treat common conditions such as gonorrhea and pneumonia.

What can be done? At the UN meeting in September, World Health Organization director general Margaret Chan stressed that it is imperative for consumers and medical providers to rely less on antibiotics for disease treatment. She also appealed for more progress in antibiotic development. After all, only two new classes of antibiotics have reached the market in the past half-century.

As they brought the meeting to a close, the UN delegates signed a declaration committing to encouraging innovation in antibiotic development and increasing public awareness of the growing threat of drug-resistant infections. They also agreed to develop surveillance and regulatory systems on the sales and use of antimicrobial medicines for humans and animals.

Facing a new kind of drug problem, the world is poised to take on the challenge.

See to Your Eye Health!

August 10th, 2015
Woman getting an eye exam, looking at an eye chart

Public Domain Image

How often do you think about the health of your eyes? Do you care for them as you do the rest of your body? This National Eye Exam Month, we’re reminded that we need regular eye check-ups, just like regular physicals and screenings, to keep our eyes healthy and optimally functioning. And for some people, a routine eye exam could even be a vision saver.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes a laundry list of disorders that can affect the eyes. Some are primarily associated with aging, such as macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma. Diseases like these are the leading causes of blindness and low vision in the United States. All of them require close management by a qualified eye care professional. And, of course, regular eye exams are critical.

Eye disorders that get a little less attention but are just as important to the nation’s collective eyesight are the refractive errors, including myopia, hyperopia, astigmatism and presbyopia. These disorders are the most common eye problems affecting our country. In fact, recent studies by the National Eye Institute concluded that about 11 million Americans 12 and older could improve their vision with proper correction of their refractive conditions. They can be detected during a routine eye exam.

Myopia is more commonly known as nearsightedness. With myopia, objects that are up close, or near, can be seen clearly, but objects further away are blurry. Hyperopia, or farsightedness, is a little more complex than just the opposite of myopia. While in its truest sense near objects are blurry and objects further away are clearer, hyperopia can express differently in different people. For some, objects at any distance can be out of focus.


With astigmatism, the eye does not focus light properly on the retina. That’s the light-sensitive patch of tissue at the back of the eye that converts light into the messages that get sent through the optic nerve to the brain. Without the proper focus, images look blurry and can even seem stretched out. Presbyopia occurs as people age. In this case, the eye’s crystalline lens can no longer change shape well enough to focus clearly on near objects. That’s why people in their 40s and 50s start holding out that newspaper in order to read it!

To stay ahead of all these disorders and maintain good eye health, don’t forget to see to your eyes. An ophthalmic exam is nothing to fear.2 How often should you go? Well, for adults between 20 and 39, the recommendation is to have a complete eye exam every five to ten years.

Adults over 40 need more frequent exams. Those between 40 and 54 should be seen every two to four years. Those between 55 and 64 should be seen every one to three years, and those age 65 and older need exams every one to two years. Adults of any age who wear contact lenses should be examined yearly.2 Anyone with symptoms or risk factors for eye disease should follow their doctor’s recommendations.

If you’re interested in eye health and would like to know more, check out this web page. It has links to information about many eye disorders and treatments. Just don’t forget how important your eyes are to your overall health and wellbeing. Happy National Eye Exam Month!

Cancer or a Common Skin Problem? What Do I Do?

May 18th, 2015

It started out looking like a tiny wart. Then it grew, rapidly, swelling to monstrous size in just a few weeks beneath the surface of the skin. It looked to me like it could have been some sort of cancerous growth.

I made an appointment with a dermatologist and it turned out to be something benign but also obscure…at least to me. It was called a pyogenic granuloma, also known as a lobular capillary hemangioma.

A pyogenic granuloma is a benign vascular tumor, which occurs primarily in the skin or mucous membranes. Most frequently found on the hands or feet, these lesions also commonly occur on the face, head, neck, or inside the mouth.

A pyogenic granuloma will initially appear as a pinhead-sized bump or nodule. Most range from dark pink to red in color. Within weeks, the lesion may expand to several centimeters in size as it begins to protrude from the skin.

One of the most distressing aspects of a pyogenic granuloma is that it is subject to persistent bleeding: the slightest bump in the area of the tumor can cause it to bleed profusely. Because the lesion consists of new capillaries, sometimes the bleeding does not stop within the timeframe of a normal wound.

Even more disturbing is the uncertainty of the condition when it has not yet been diagnosed; it is, after all, a tumor, so it looks like a cancer to the layperson.

Surgery is the only way to remove a pyogenic granuloma. For mine, the procedure was a simple outpatient procedure under local anesthesia, and took less than fifteen minutes.

Pyogenic granulomas are mostly just an unsightly nuisance, but their resemblance to malignant tumors makes them a priority when they do appear. Anyone with a suspicious bump on the skin should visit a dermatologist promptly.

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