Saturday, February 24, 2007

Chemical Contaminants In Your Home

Volatile organic compounds (VOC) Used in construction, furnishing, curtains and carpets. Released in the air from burning fuel (gasoline, wood, coal), solvents, paints, glues and other products commonly used and stored in homes and offices. People exposed to formaldehyde suffer irritation of the eyes, nose and throat; higher levels of exposure result in drowsiness, loss of memory, sneezing and skin rashes. It increases the risk of several types of cancer, and causes poor sleep, impaired memory, poor concentration and nausea.

Methylene chloride is a suspected carcinogen. Exposure to methylene chloride has resulted in fatal heart attacks in people with heart conditions, according to the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Exposure to toluene causes headaches, nausea and central nervous system depression. Benzene is a known carcinogen. Cresol is corrosive to tissue, damages the liver, kidneys, lungs, pancreas and spleen.

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC or vinyl) is used in piping, sliding, flooring, roof membranes, wall coverings, carpet backing, furniture, window and door frames, shades and blinds, moldings, among others. Several toxic chemical stabilizers such as lead, cadmium and phthalate plasticizers and added in the manufacture of PVC. These chemicals leach, flake or outgas from the PVC over time, causing problems that include asthma, lead poisoning and cancer. Xylene and perchloroethylene are other substances that cause injury.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Controlling And Preventing Dengue

The only method of controlling and preventing dengue and dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) is to combat the vector mosquitoes. In Asia and the Americas, Aedes aegypti breeds primarily in man made containers like earthware jars, metal drums and concrete cisterns used for domestic water storage as well as used automobile tires and other items that collect rainwater, In Africa, it also breeds extensively in natural habitats such as tree holes and leaf axils.

In recent years, Aedes albopictus, a secondary dengue vector in Asia has become established in the United States, several Latin American and Caribbean countries, in parts of Europe and in one African country. The rapid geographic spread of this species has been largely attributed to the international trade in used tires.

The application of appropriate insecticides to larval habitats, particularly those which are considered useful by the householders, prevent mosquito breeding for several weeks but must be reapplied preriodically. Small mosquito eating fish and copepods have also been used with some success. During outbreaks, emergency control measures may also include the application of insecticides as space sprays to kill adult mosquitoes using portable or truck mounted machines or even aircraft.

Regular monitoring of the vectors susceptibility to the most widely used insecticides is necessary to ensure the appropriate choice of chemicals. Active monitoring and surveillance of the natural mosquito population should accompany control efforts in order to determine the impact of the program.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Hormone Replacement Therapy And Stem Cells

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has long been a widely accepted treatment for the effects of menopause on older women. In 2000, the Women's Health Initiative study (WHI)changed all this. The WHI, a group studying the effects of HRT among 16,000 women between ages 50 and 79, found the risk of the therapy far outweighs its benefits and recommended that women stop taking estrogen progestin combinations. Results of the study showed that per 10,000 women on HRT the risk of breast cancer increased by 8, colorectal cancer decreased by 6, heart attacks increased by 7, Hip fractures decreased by 5, blood clots increased by 18 and stroke increased by 8.

Stem cells have the remarkable potential to develop into many different cell types in the body. In theory, they serve as on the fly repair systems for the body, dividing without limit to replenish other cells as long as the person or animal is alive. In November 1998, a team of scientist from the University of Wisconsin reported the first successful derivation and prolonged culture of human embryonic stem cells, cells that are parent cells of all tissues in the body.

Many diseases such as Parkinson's and type 1 diabetes mellitus, occur because of the death or dysfunction of just one of a few cell types. Replacing those cells would provide lifelong treatment. To treat heart disease, for example, heart muscles could be injected directly to shore up failing heart tissue.


Monday, February 12, 2007

Compliance Is The Best Weapon Against Tuberculosis (TB)

Tuberculosis (TB) is a contagious infection caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It usually affects the lungs but can attack almost any organ of the body. Like the common cold, TB spreads through the air. Only people who are sick with TB in their lungs are infectious. When infectious people cough, sneeze, talk or spit, they propel TB germs, known as bacilli, into the air. A person needs only to inhale a small number of these to be infected.

Left untreated, each person with active TB disease will infect an average between 10 and 15 people every year. But people infected with TB bacilli will not necessarily become sick with the disease. The immune system walls off the TB bacilli which, protected by a thick waxy coat, can lie dormant for years. However, when a person's immune system is weakened, the chances of becoming sick with TB increases.

To treat TB, two or more antibiotics with different mechanisms of action are always given, because treatment with only one drug can leave behind a few bacteria resistant to that drug. The most commonly used antibiotics are ethambutol, rifampicin, isoniazid, and pyrazinamide. These antibiotics may be contained a single capsule, reducing the number of pills a person has to take each day and reducing the chance of developing drug resistance. Poorly supervised or incomplete treatment of TB is worse than no treatment at all. While drug resistant TB is generally treatable, it requires extensive drug therapy that is prohibitively expensive and is also more toxic to patients.


Sunday, February 11, 2007

Fast Tracking Diabetes

According to a new research, people who eat fast food frequently are more likely to gain weight and develop insulin resistance plus such earring habits may increase the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. These findings suggest that frequent fast food consumption cannot be a part of a healthful diet despite claims to the contrary by the food industry.

The repercussions of obesity and type 2 diabetes continue far and wide. A new study by UCLA researchers found that advance heart failure patients with diabetes who are treated with insulin have a death rate four times higher than similar patients treated with oral medications. Because the obesity epidemic has come on so rapidly, most experts point to so called environmental factors as the root cause. One such factor could be fast food. According to the Lancet study, fast food accounts for 10 percent of total energy consumed by children, up from 2 percent in the late 1970s.

To try to isolate the effect of fast food on excess weight and insulin resistance, two major risk factors for type 2 diabetes. The findings point only to an association between fast food and obesity and insulin resistance, not a cause and effect relationship. Nevertheless, the link seems to make sense. Fast food inherently contains some of the worst aspects of a wide variety of dietary factors, including large numbers of calories packed in very calorie dense servings


Saturday, February 10, 2007

Snoring Should Be Taken Seriously

Movies and television depict snoring as funny and hilarious. But snoring is no joke: Its a medical problem that can have some serious health and social implications. Up to half of adults snore at some time. Of those, half are habitual snorers who may keep their partners awake just about every night by snoring in most sleeping positions. When you hear someone snoring, it means air is not flowing freely through the back of the throat. The sound occurs when air causes vibration of the soft palate and the uvula, the tiny pink flap that hangs down at the rear of your throat.

The average snorer is a man in his early 40s or older. In fact, snoring affects men more often than women. About 20 to 50 percent of snorers may have sleep apnea, which obstructs the airway so badly that the snorer actually stops breathing for 10 seconds or more, up to 300 times a night. Each time people awaken very briefly. People with sleep apnea never feel well rested and decreased alertness makes them more prone to accidents. Severe cases can cause a 10 percent drop in oxygen, straining the heart.

The standard treatment for sleep apnea involves wearing a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) mask on the noses when sleeping. But your doctor can also recommend other treatments, including a bite guard fitted by a dentist to move the lower jaw forward slightly.

To limit snoring:

  • Control your weight. Extra weight can worsen snoring.
  • Avoid smoking.
  • Keep a routine schedule with adequate sleep.
  • Sleep on your side. On your back, the tongue tends to fall into the throat reducing airflow. You snore as you breathe through your mouth to compensate.
  • Avoid alcohol, sleeping pills and tranquilizer. They blunt the body's drive to breathe, worsening sleep apnea.


Thursday, February 08, 2007

High Blood Pressure In Children

As is kids don't have enough sickness to deal with in this modern age like being overweight, chicken pox, mumps and measles. Now add high blood pressure is among children's medical woes.

A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical association found a strong upward shift in the blood pressure levels among 5,582 American children aged 8 to 18 who were tracked for the last 16 years. From 1988 up to 1994, the children's average systolic blood pressure was 104.6 mm Hg and their average diastolic pressure was 58.4 mm Hg. By 1999 to 2000 their average systolic pressure was 106 mm Hg and their average diastolic reading was 61.7 mm Hg.

A big reason for the blood pressure problem among American kids is that too many of them are carrying too much weight. An estimated 15 percent of American children between 6 and 19 are overweight, according to the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But other factors such as poor diets and a lack of exercise are also to blame.

In response to the blood pressure problem and its potential health implications, the American Heart association has published guidelines to help doctors and parents focus on the risks of cardiovascular disease in children and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is formulating new clinical guidelines that revise blood pressure tables and recommended lifestyle and drug therapies for children with high blood pressure, also known as hypertension.


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Warning On The H5N1 Influenza Virus

Avian Influenza or bird flu refers to a large group of different virus that normally infect only birds and less commonly, pigs. However on rare occasions, these viruses have crossed the species barrier to infect humans.

Eight years after a new strain of an influenza virus in birds claimed the lives of its first human victims. The World Health Organization (WHO) issued a warning that it is no longer a question of if an influenza pandemic will occur. It is now only a question of when. Human casualties could be in the order of millions.

WHO issued the warning in the wake of the latest outbreaks of a highly pathogenic strain of influenza virus, the H5N1 that began in Southeast Asia in the middle of 2003. Despite the death and destruction of an estimated 150 million birds, the virus is now considered endemic in many parts of China, Thailand, Cambodia and Loa People's democratic republic.

According to WHO, the H5N1 virus has met the two of the three conditions necessary for a pandemic to occur: its is a new virus for humans and has infected more than a hundred people, killing over half of them. The only prerequisite missing is the establishment of an efficient and sustained human to human transmission of the virus. Unless global efforts are undertaken to contain the circulation of the virus in birds, WHO says that the third condition for a pandemic will be met.

Experts believe that H5N1 circulation in birds continue for years. Once H5N1 adapts and becomes contagious among humans; it will no longer be a bird virus, this is a new human flu virus will set off the next influenza pandemic that experts predict will dwarf the human and economic toll of SARS.


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Breakthrough Vaccine For Invasive Pneumococcal diseases

Streptococcus pneumoniae, a germ that causes invasive pneumococcal diseases that can strike anyone, but the most vunerable are the elderly, people with special health problems and the very young.

Invasive pneumococcal diseases can lead to serious infections of the lungs (pneumonia, the blood (bacteremia) and the covering of the brain (meningitis).
About one out of every twenty people who get pneumococcal pneumonia die from it, as do two people out of ten who get bacteremia and three people out of ten who get meningitis. According to the Center for disease control and prevention (CDC) in the United States. A study done at RITM shows a 35% mortality rate from invasive pneumococcal diseases among children less than 5 years of age. People with special health problems, such as alcoholism, heart or lung disease, kidney failure, diabetes, HIV infection or certain types of cancer; are even more likely to die from the disease.

antibiotics were once effective in treating invasive pneumococcal diseases; however; these diseases have become more resistant to antibiotics, making treatment of pneumococcal infections more difficult. This makes prevention of these disease through vaccination even more important, particularly for children.

The good news is that there is now a breakthrough vaccine called pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, 7 - valent that helps protect infants (even those below 2 years) and toddlers from potentially life threatening invasive pneumococcal diseases. Infants and toddlers whore are vaccinated will be protected when they are at greatest risk for serious disease. According to the Kaiser Permanente Study involving more than 38,000 children, pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, 7 - valent reduced the incident of pneumococcal diseases (IPD) by 97 percent.


Monday, February 05, 2007

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea (apnea is a Latin word meaning "without breath") is a serious disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops long enough during sleep to decrease the amount of oxygen and increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the blood and brain. There are three types of sleep but the most common is called obstructive sleep apnea.

Obstructive sleep apnea is characterized by repetitive pauses in breathing during you sleep due to the obstruction and collapse of the upper airway (throat), usually accompanied by a reduction in blood oxygen saturation, and followed by an awakening to breathe. It most commonly occurs in obese people who tend to sleep on their backs. Obesity, in combination with the aging body tissues and other factors lead to narrowing of the upper airway.

Symptoms of Obstructive sleep apnea:

  • Loud and frequent snoring, periodic breathing cessation and gasping during sleep.
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness and fatigue.
  • Grogginess, dullness, morning headaches, severe dryness of the mouth upon awakening.

To help prevent Obstructive sleep apnea, it is recommended that:

  • Losing weight
  • Quitting smoking
  • Not drinking alcohol excessively
  • Avoiding sleeping aides
  • Sleeping on one's side or elevating the head of the bed.


Sunday, February 04, 2007

Thalassemic or Mediterranean Anaemia

Many Southeast Asians are thalassemia carriers without knowing it. Naturally evolved as a resistance against malaria, it becomes a fatal genetic blood disorder when inherited from both parents. Nonetheless, there have been tremendous advances in treatment over the years.

While life long transfusion and intensive iron chelation therapy challenge the patient's compliance to the routine and safety of the blood supply with the question of safety of blood supply in most countries posing an additional problem, transplants have overcome these problems. Over 1,500 bone marrow transplants for major thalassemias have been performed world wide since the first success in 1982.

In recent years, hematopoietic stem cell transplants are yielding very encouraging results, even without related donors, Singapore has witnessed more than a dozen such transplantions using cord blood, with positive outcomes. Also, there has been virtually zero thalassemia birth in Singapore since the National Thalassemia Registry's active screening of all males during National Service recruitment and all females during pregnancy. Hope that this will inspire and prompt more people to take up thalassemia screening in their respective countries.


Saturday, February 03, 2007

Respiratory Allergy

An allergy is a reaction in the body to a normally harmless substance. Usually the immune system functions as the body's defense against invading bacteria and viruses. In most allergic reactions, the immune system is responding to a false alarm. When a person inhales an allergen - a substance that causes allergies, their immune systems release chemical substances that inflame the linings of the noses, sinus, eyelids, lungs and eyes. This causes itching, sneezing, runny nose watery eyes, coughing and wheezing.

Researchers suggest that you can inherit respiratory allergy from your parents if they have also respiratory allergies. Substances that causes the most respiratory allergic reactions include pollen, mold, dust mites and pets.

Here are some medications to help you fight respiratory allergies:

  • Antihistamines - Can be used to counter the effects of histamine, which is the chemical released by the body that causes allergy symptoms. Antihistamines can cause drowsiness; however, some of the newer medications available by prescription do not. One of these newer medications, loratide, is now available without prescription.
  • Corticosteroid nasal sprays - Are very effective against allergy symptoms. It can take 10 days to get maximum relief.
  • Decongestants - Can relieve conditions caused by nasal allergies. They are available as oral medications and as nose drops and sprays, but drops and sprays should be used for a few days. When used for longer periods, they can make symptoms worse.
  • Immunotherapy - This can be used to reduce allergy symptoms over a longer period. Allergy shots contain a small amount of the substance that you are allergic to and you will be desensitized over a period of time.


Friday, February 02, 2007

Occupational Asthma On The Rise

Occupational asthma has become the most common forms of occupational lung disease in industrialized nations and accounts for 8 percent to 14 percent of all adult asthma cases, according to a report issued by the American Journal Of Respiratory And Critical Care Medicine.

The report stated that the most cost effective way of lowering the rate of occupational asthma is to reduce workers exposure to offending agents as soon as possible to prevent sensitization. Sensitization occurs when a persons airways become inflamed and narrow due to repeated exposure to a noxious substance in the workplace.

Workers in construction, metal, rubber, plastic, printing, and industrial cleaning fields have the greatest risk of occupational asthma, based on the report. The most common form of occupational asthma is induced by the immunoglobulin E (IgE) mechanism, which accounts for about 90 percent of the cases. These include wood dust, epoxy compounds in spray paints, animal, plant, insect and fungal allergens, cleaning agents, flour dust and food and animal protein.

Irritant induced asthma accounts for about 7 percent of occupational asthma cases. Metal refining, fertilizer manufacturing with ammonia and mining are among the industries where workers can develop irritant based asthma.


Thursday, February 01, 2007

What You Need To Know About Cervical Cancer

A hundred years ago, women who develop cervical cancer were those whose husbands traveled frequently, whose previous wife had died of cervical cancer or fitted from one partner to another. Its was just 20 years ago that one of the main causes of cervical cancer was identified as a malevolent virus called the human papillomavirus or HPV.

Cervical cancer is the most common cancer of the female reproductive tract and is the second most common cancer in women next to breast cancer. It was revealed that there are more than 70 distinct site specific types of HPV, growing on one part of the body but not on another. HPV is acquired through love making and it infiltrates the lining cells of the genital organs. The virus apparently can thrive in the cells of the human body without killing them and without inducing immunological reactions. The body ignores the virus allowing it to alter the genetic code of cells. As a result cancerous cells multiply and become lethal after many years.

Test that indicate if a woman has the strains of HPV that increase the risk for cervical cancer are now invaluable. The HPV DNA test using the Hybrid Capture II System developed by a company called Digene recently became commercially available. The test has a sensitivity of more than 90 percent, and a negative predictive value of over 90 percent. The test entails taking cervical swabs much like pap smear using the brush from a Digene sampler. Pap smear collected with a broom collection device and rinsed in the ThinPrep System PreservCyt solution may also be used to provide the same specimen for HPV testing.