Take Frostbite Seriously

February 3rd, 2014  |  The Blog

This is winter. Winter is cold. Excessive exposure to cold can lead to frostbite. Frostbite is serious and needs immediate medial attention to the potential long-term consequences and effects.

Unprotected body parts and those areas with less circulation are the most at risk. The most likely affected areas are:

  • Toes
  • Fingers
  • Nose
  • Ears
  • Cheeks
  • Chin

The Mechanics of Frostbite

The human body works hard to preserve heat when a person is outside in frigid cold temperatures. The circulatory system forces heat to the body’s core in an effort to keep the heart and lungs warm. This protective mechanism reduces blood flow to the fingers and toes, which makes them more susceptible to frostbite.

Here are some important facts and explanations about frostbite:

Toes are the most common body part to get frostbite.

This protective mechanism of frostbite reduces blood flow to the fingers and toes, which makes them more susceptible to freezing damage.

Frostbite happens quickly.

While most cases of frostbite happen with extended exposure, it can happen quickly. Bare skin can freeze in five minutes, if exposed to below zero degrees Fahrenheit temperatures.

Warm water helps to rewarm frostbitten areas. But, do these things first:

  • Get inside at the first sign of frostbite
  • Remove wet and/or restrictive clothes
  • Elevate the affected area
  • Rest the affected area
  • Do not touch any blisters
  • Do not rub or massage affected area
  • Drink warm beverages

Soaking the affected body part in warm water, not hot water, will make the tissue warm and flexible. The rewarming process can be painful. Over-the-counter analgesics can help to ease the pain. Frostbitten areas should not be rewarmed if there is a chance of refreezing.

Exercise helps prevent frostbite.

Exercise keeps blood flowing to the affected area. Caution must be taken to avoid exhaustion by over exerting.

Loose-fitting layers of wool help prevent frostbite.

Layers of loose-fitting clothes allow ventilation and insulation. Wool is a better choice than cotton because it still provides insulation, even when it gets wet.

A mix of different fabrics for different layers is ultimately the best choice for the best protection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend an inner layer of wool, silk or polypropylene. A wind-resistant outer layer will offer further protection. A water-repellent fabric is the ultimate outside layer.

Frostbite causes actual ice crystals inside the body.

The fluid within frostbitten tissue actually freezes and forms ice crystals. Blisters can develop as the skin thaws. There is a potential for infection where blisters burst.

Healing takes a long time. Once blisters form, then they scab and permanent scarring is possible.

All frostbitten fingers DO NOT have to be amputated.

Frostbite can be superficial or deep. Superficial wounds lead to blisters and usually a full recovery Deep frostbite affects muscles, tendons and bones, which can end with amputation.

Smoking, alcohol and heart disease increase the risk of developing frostbite.

Any action that constricts blood flow to high-risk body parts ads to the chance of developing frostbite.

Earrings and other metal jewelry can increase the risk of frostbite.

These items speed up the cooling of the skin and add to the frostbite risk.

Children are more likely to get frostbite than adults.

Children lose heat faster from their skin than adults and they are more likely to stay outside longer. Both of these facts make them more likely to develop frostbite.

Cats and dogs can get frostbite.

Fur does not make dogs and cats immune to frostbite. They are still at risk, especially their toes, ears, tail, stomach and face. Affected areas turn white, gray or blue.

The Best Advice

Knowing the facts is the first step to understanding this potentially dangerous medical condition. Frostbite must be taken seriously to avoid long-term complications. Seek medical attention immediately at the first sign of frostbite.

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Winter Superfoods

January 27th, 2014  |  The Blog

What is a superfood? A superfood is a fruit or vegetable that is loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and other plant nutrients. According to nutritionists at the Cleveland Clinic, superfoods are those foods that contain high quality nutrition.

Here are 10 of the most readily available winter superfoods. Yes, there are seasonal superfoods as they become plentiful to the consumer. The first two on the list carry over from the abundant fall superfood crops.

In an effort to convey all of the important points about each superfood, they are presented as bullet point lists:

Apples

  • A U.S. government list of the healthiest foods includes two specific apples, Red Delicious and Granny Smith
  • Apples contain antioxidants
  • They contain soluble fiber called pectin
  • A daily apple over 4 weeks can lower bad cholesterol or LDL
  • Apples require lots of chewing, which stimulates saliva production and helps reduce tooth decay
  • Some studies claim that regular apple consumption lowers cancer, diabetes and irritable bowel syndrome

Pumpkin

  • They have an antimicrobial effect
  • Proteins in the rind inhibit growth of Candida fungus, which is the source of yeast infections and diaper rash
  • Pumpkins contain plant chemicals called carotenoids, which help to prevent cancer effect

Sweet potato

  • The orange flesh contains beta-carotene, an antioxidant
  • They are full of fiber
  • Sweet potatoes contain protein
  • They are full of vitamins A and C

Pomegranates

  • Pomegranates help fight cancer from spreading because they slow the movement of the cells

Brussels sprouts

  • Brussels sprouts contain compounds that protect against DNA damage
  • They lower the onset of age-related diseases like cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease

Kale

  • Kale is the first vegetable that comes to mind with superfoods
  • It is rich in vitamins A and C, iron, potassium and calcium

Grapefruit

  • Grapefruit is a fruit high in vitamin C
  • It is rich in fiber to keep feeling full
  • Grapefruit helps lower cholesterol
  • It is comprised of 90% or more water
  • Red grapefruit has an added benefit of containing lycopene, an antioxidant also found in tomatoes
  • Lycopene can protect from certain cancers and the sun?s UV ray damage

Clementines

  • It is a citrus fruit with 60% of the recommended intake of vitamin C
  • Vitamin C, when eaten with iron-rich leafy green vegetables (kale and spinach), helps the body more easily absorb the iron

Carrots

  • Carrots are rich in vitamin A; a serving contains 400% of the daily recommended intake
  • They are a root vegetable

Parsnips

  • They are a root vegetable
  • Parsnips have a sweet and nutty flavor
  • They add great flavor to winter soups and stews
  • This vegetable is rich in fiber, vitamin C and potassium

A balanced diet, rich in winter super foods will provide a strong base to stay healthy during the cold and flu season. Sprinkle in the key winter superfoods throughout the day, starting at breakfast and continuing through the remaining snacks and meals.

 

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Peanut Allergy Resolution

January 20th, 2014  |  The Blog

Peanut allergies are serious, very serious. The best way for someone with a peanut allergy to avoid a problem is not to ingest any peanuts or peanut-containing products. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology has recently published a new report about easing severe peanut allergies.

Who Benefits?

When trace amounts of peanuts hide in baked goods or other foods or the product package states the standard, manufactured in a facility that process peanuts, it is beneficial if a patient can tolerate even a tiny amount of peanut exposure to avoid a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction.

It must be understood that the new protocol is not a cure. It allows patients with severe peanut allergies to tolerate trace amounts of peanuts, which might, otherwise, be fatal.

Who is Allergic to Peanuts?

The numbers of peanut allergies have tripled over the past ten years. Millions of children have an allergy to peanuts. Millions of children carry an Epi-Pen to school every day.

It is important to note that 80% to 95% of all general food allergies are peanut or tree nut related. Tree nuts include almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, cashews, chestnuts, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts and Brazil nuts.

Desensitization

This is a method of exposing a patient to tiny amounts of their allergen, in this case, peanuts, in a controlled medical environment. Patients are not given enough of the allergen to cause a reaction but given enough to help them begin to tolerate it. Over time, the dosage of the allergen is slowly increased.

Up to 30% of patients do suffer a severe reaction to even the smallest dose of their allergy trigger. In this situation, the desensitization process is stopped.

The Treatment Protocol

The patients involved with the study were pretreated with the anti-allergy medication, first with either monthly or bi-monthly injection for 12 weeks. Then, they began the desensitization process.

Powerful Anti-Allergy Medication

Omalizumab or Xolair, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved drug used to treat allergic asthma, has been shown to enhance the desensitization process. It works by attaching to the body’s IgE antibodies. The IgE antibodies are produced by the immune system when a trigger food is introduced into the system. Xolair helps to prevent allergic reactions.

Methodical Desensitization Process

To start, one-tenth of a milligram of ground-up peanut is ingested by the patient. This is a miniscule piece of one single peanut. The dosage is increased by tiny amounts every 30 minutes. The process is so slow and gradual that at the end of six hours, a patient has ingested about 2 1/2 peanuts, in total.

The desensitization process, including the Xolair pre-medication, continues for eight weeks, during which the patients are given larger numbers of peanuts. The goal is for the patient to consume 10 peanuts everyday with no reaction or a very mild reaction, at worst.

The next step in the process is to stop the Xolair pre-medication and continue ingesting the daily peanuts for the balance of one year.

Downside of the Treatment

Xolair is an expensive drug. It is not FDA-approved for treatment of food allergies. For this reason, health insurance companies do not cover the cost. The hope is that, once the study and results are confirmed, the payment process will change.

The Outcome

Patients with a life-threatening peanut allergy trigger can suffer the consequences by ingesting as little as one-quarter of one peanut.

Being desensitized to tolerate two peanuts is certainly enough to protect a patient from the aforementioned trace exposure.

At the end of the desensitization process, patients need to continue eating peanuts, daily peanut M & Ms or Reese’s so their body continues to tolerate them. This will keep the IgE antibodies against peanuts on the downslide. Interestingly, some patients with a severe peanut allergy do not like the taste of peanuts so the daily intake becomes drudgery.

Researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital are trying to find different ways to provide daily peanut intake for those who do not like the taste of peanuts. A couple of the options include peanut flour, which can be substituted in cookies or other baking recipes or a capsule or pill, which can be swallowed whole.

What is Next?

The researchers who worked on the peanut allergy desensitization hope to begin working with other food allergies and, perhaps, multiple food allergies at one time.

 

 

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One Last Flu Update

January 13th, 2014  |  The Blog

It is time, one last time, to revisit the subject of the flu 2013-2014. As the flu begins to hit some areas of the country quite aggressively, it is important to encourage those who have not received the flu shot to do so, as soon as possible. It is not too late.

How Well It Works

The flu vaccine prevented 6.6 million cases of the flu last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That number translates into 80,000 fewer hospitalizations for this potentially serious illness.

The CDC feels strongly that the general population can improve those numbers because, as of November 2013, only 40% of all eligible Americans had been vaccinated. That number is up from 37% at the same time last year, November 2012.

Who Are the Holdouts?

Only 40% of pregnant women have been vaccinated, despite their higher risk of complications.

The other group of concern is healthcare workers. Nationwide, only 63% of them have had a flu shot. This is a serious deficit because healthcare workers can easily spread the flu to their patients.

In simple terms, almost everyone over 6 months old should get the flu shot, with the exception of the patients delineated below. The very limited groups who should not get the flu shot include, but are not limited to:

  • Anyone who has had Guillain-Barre
  • Patients who are moderately sick on the day they are scheduled to get the vaccine

Flu Shot Availability

There is still plenty of flu vaccine available throughout the country. There is a simple-to-use app available to find flu vaccine availability near where a patient lives. Check out this site:?http://vaccine.healthmap.org. There are at least 50 pharmacies listed, as well as the type of flu vaccine that is available at each location.

There are several types of flu vaccine including:

  • Nasal spray, which is a live attenuated flu vaccine
  • Cell-based vaccine for those with an egg allergy
  • Trivalent or the standard vaccine, which covers two A strains and one B strain
  • Quadrivalent vaccine, which protects against four circulating viruses

Flu Symptoms Nobody Wants

The flu comes with concerning and miserable symptoms, which include:

  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Runny nose
  • Muscle aches
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Complications of the flu include:

  • Pneumonia
  • Sinusitis
  • Ear infections
  • Dehydration

More than half of hospitalizations for the flu are patients over 65 years old.

The Bonuses of Getting a Flu Shot

Number One

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the flu shot can reduce a patient’s risk of having a heart attack, stroke or heart failure, especially if they already have established heart disease. The risk is 36% lower than someone who did not have the flu shot.

Why? The theory is that flu viruses cause inflammation, which can cause cardiac arrhythmias, fluid around the heart or the release of plaque in an artery resulting in blocked circulation to the heart muscle or and subsequent heart attack.

Number Two

Getting the flu shot protects a person from this miserable and potentially dangerous illness. Very importantly, getting the flu shot also protects not only the patient but everyone else around the patient.

Do yourself and everyone around you a favor. Just get a flu shot, if you have not already done so.

 

 

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Antibacterial Soap or Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizer?

January 6th, 2014  |  The Blog

Germaphobes beware! There is a new concern by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about the safety and effectiveness of antibacterial soaps. Make note: this does not include alcohol-based hand sanitizers; it is about antibacterial soaps only.

An interesting fact in the big picture of the soap industry: Antibacterial soaps comprise almost half of the current $900 million liquid soap industry in the U.S.

The Ingredients of Concern

There are two basic antibacterial soap ingredients causing concern in the health profession. They are:

Triclosan

This chemical was originally, the 1970s, used by surgeons as an antimicrobial. It was not intended for consumer use but has become a popular component in bar soaps.

Triclocarban

Originally intended for use in bar soaps and has become a popular and standard ingredient in current day antibacterial soaps.

Technically, they are both pesticides, of sorts, so the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mandates that triclosan and triclocarban be safe for the overall environment. They wash down household drains into water supply and soil so the recent discussions have become paramount concerns for the EPA.

In March 2013, the EPA opened a safety review of triclosan, five years ahead of plan, due to environmental concerns. Interestingly, Canada has declared the chemical to be toxic and is in the process of banning products containing triclosan from being sold in the country.

The Concern

There is a proposed regulation to ban triclosan and triclocarban from popular soap products. The active ingredients include triclosan are found in liquid soaps and triclocarban is found in bar soaps. Household cleaning products can also contain these active ingredients.

Manufacturers must prove that using these chemicals in their products is safe and more effective than plain soap and water for preventing the spread of infection

Long-term exposure to the active ingredients in these soaps, according to the FDA:

  • Create health risks, including growth of bacterial resistance
  • Cause hormone level disruption, especially in women and children
  • Some experts have coined the chemicals to be a public health threat.

Triclocarban

  • Might be dangerous for nursing babies
  • Disrupts the endocrine system and how hormones function in the body causing long-term effects

Triclosan

  • Increases the risk of allergies and immune system function in children

Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizers

These products, like Purell and anti-bacterial wipes, do not contain the triclosan or triclocarban. They are alcohol-based leave on products. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are not affected by the new FDA concerns.

Toothpaste Regulations

There is some toothpaste that contains triclosan. One such brand is Colgate Total. These toothpastes will not be formally affected by the FDA regulations because previous clinical trials of the toothpastes have already shown that the benefits of the products outweigh the risks.

What Will Need to be Done

Manufacturers must prove that their product works better than plain soap and water and that they pose fewer health risks. The fewer health risk portion of this scenario is a difficult one to prove. At that point in the process, the manufacturers will need to:

  • Reformulate bar soap, liquid soap, body washes and dishwashing soap in order to maintain the antibacterial and antimicrobial products on the store shelves
  • Change labels to stop making promises that are not fully accurate
  • Or, stop making the products

The Plan

There is a six-month window for the manufacturers of the affected products to respond to the regulation. The six months allows for public comment.

Then, there is a 60-day rebuttal period following the six-month comment period.

Depending upon the data and outcome of the comments, the proposed FDA rule can be finalized.? If the new FDA recommended standards are accepted, they would take effect one year later. The full regulation changes will not be started until 2016.

The FDA recommends the following for hand-washing, until such time that the anti-bacterial component is clarified:

  • Avoid using antibacterial soaps
  • Use plain soap and water to wash hands
  • If soap and water is not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, which is at least 60% alcohol

Voluntary Compliance

In 2012, Johnson & Johnson voluntarily removed triclosan and triclocarban from all baby products. The company plans to remove triclosan from adult products by 2015.

The manufacturer of Lysol brand products, Reckitt Benckiser Group, has started to phase triclosan out of their products.

General Help

A group called Beyond Pesticides works diligently in Protecting Health and Environment with Science, Policy and Action. They provide a comprehensive list of products containing triclosan, which should be avoided. The link to their website and list is:

http://www.beyondpesticides.org/antibacterial/products.php

Until the facts and regulations are sorted out and approved by the FDA, the best advice is to avoid products that claim to be antibacterial or antimicrobial. Check labels before purchasing any of the potentially affected products.

 

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Eye Jewelry

December 30th, 2013  |  The Blog

Eye jewelry. Really? There is a new kind of bling available for those who are looking for a unique way to dress up their eyes. This goes far beyond the traditional eye shadow and mascara.

The new trend, eyeball jewelry implantation, started in Los Angeles (LA), California and has recently spread to New York’s Park Avenue. It takes the meaning of ophthalmology to a whole new level.

It is important to note that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve the eye jewelry implantation procedure.

The Eye Bling

The cost of the procedure varies from $3000-$4000 for one tiny implant, depending upon the specific physician. The first eye jewelry implant, done in LA, was very small heart-shaped piece of platinum.

Why are patients undergoing this totally optional and frivolous procedure for their eyes? The two main reasons delineated by patients who have had it done include:

  • The bling being a conversation starter
  • The uniqueness of the eye jewelry.

The Eye Jewelry Procedure

A board-certified ophthalmologist should be the healthcare professional performing the eye jewelry implantation procedure. There are only a few ophthalmologists from coast-to-coast who have come forward stating that they perform eye bling implants.

The basic steps of the eye jewelry implantation procedure include:

  • Open and stabilize the eye with a speculum
  • Make an incision, using surgical scissors, between the sclera (white of eye) and the conjunctiva (clear part of eye)
  • Place the eye jewelry under the superficial conjunctiva, a filmy membrane that covers the sclera

The bling placement is quick and has very little discomfort associated with it.

Side Effects

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), which represents the ophthalmologists around the country, there are the potentially serious complications from the procedure. These include:

  • Temporary and local bleeding in the eye
  • Severe bleeding or hemorrhage in eye
  • Puncture wound to eye
  • Infection
  • Conjunctivitis or, more colloquially, pink eye
  • Blindness from infections

Most ophthalmologists opt to have the patient use antibiotic eye drops to prevent infection after the placement of the eye jewelry.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) recommends avoiding placing any foreign body or other material in the eye that is not approved by the FDA.

Post-Procedure Care

It is imperative to follow-up with the treating physician to evaluate and assess the patient’s response to their new eye adornment.

If you or your patients are looking for a new, very new, way to dress up your eyes, consider an eye jewelry implant but wait until the FDA sanctions it with their approval. Please.

 

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Cotton Balls for Dinner?

December 23rd, 2013  |  The Blog

Every teen wants to carry a fabulous figure. Every teen wants to fit in. Some teens will go to more extremes than others to accomplish these feats, even if they can cause serious medical conditions or death.

There is a new diet circulating among the younger population. It is called the Cotton Ball Diet. This diet is all over YouTube and various chat rooms. The most popular age range for using this diet trend is 9-to-16-years old.

Alarming Diet

The cotton ball diet involves the teen dipping a cotton ball(s) into orange juice, lemonade, a smoothie or water before swallowing them. The serving size is up to five cotton balls.

The cotton balls make the teens feel full so they do not eat as much, or any, nutritional real food. They feel full and do not gain weight. Some teens swallow the cotton balls before a meal to cut their total food intake while others, even more dangerously, only ingest the cotton balls and no real food.

The act of eating the cotton balls or any other non-edible item is an eating disorder called pica. Nutrition experts report that people with nutritional deficiencies often crave non-edible substances like cloth, clay or in this case, cotton balls. The cotton ball diet is clearly and most often an act driven by teens with an eating disorder.

Adverse Effects

There are risks and adverse effects to eating non-edible items, including cotton balls. The cotton balls can become lodged in the intestines. This can cause a painful intestinal tract obstruction, which needs immediate and potentially emergency surgical removal. The trapped mass causing an obstruction is called a bezoar. This situation can be life-threatening.

It is also important to note that cotton balls are not really made of pure and natural cotton. They are made of bleached, polyester fibers, which contain some chemicals. It can be compared to eating a T-shirt dipped in orange juice or lemonade.

There is also the choking risk. A wad of cotton can easily become lodged in the throat and cause the teen to choke.

Malnutrition is a major risk to this diet.There is no nutritional value to cotton balls so teens are missing important and vital vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.

The Ultimate Diet Outcome

The outcome of the cotton ball diet has no desirable long-term benefit for any teen. Patients who are using this diet need professional counseling and guidance through an obvious eating disorder.

This diet should be avoided at all cost. It is dangerous and not healthy.

 

 

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What is an RNS Stimulator?

December 16th, 2013  |  The Blog

Some patients with epilepsy are resistant to drug treatment. There is a new U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved device that has promising results. The device is called the RNS Stimulator.

Seizures 101

When neurons within the brain fire abnormally, seizures can occur. Many affected patients respond well to epilepsy medications. But, if a patient fails to respond to two or more of the available epilepsy drugs, a further evaluation is indicated to assess whether surgery is a potential treatment.

Depending upon where in the brain the seizure activity originates and whether there are one or several areas of the brain from which they are originating, a determination is made for a recommended course of treatment.

RNS Stimulator Facts

Here are some straight facts about the new implanted device to treat epilepsy:

  • NeuroPace manufactures the new device, a neurostimulator called the RNS Stimulator.
  • It is the first FDA approved brain implant for epilepsy.
  • The device is the first implant that works by responding to brain activity.
  • Each RNS Stimulator costs between $35,000-$40,000.

How the Device Works

The RNS Stimulator works differently than the previous brain implants that have been used to treat Parkinson’s disease and dystonia. It is also different from the vagal nerve stimulator used to treat some forms of epilepsy.

Here is how the new device works. The RNS Stimulator detects abnormal function in the brain. It then sends electrical signals via implanted wires in the brain to stop a seizure from occurring.

The parts that make up the device include:

  • RNS neurostimulator, a programmable, battery-powered microprocessor
  • Depth leads
  • Cortical strip leads

The neurostmulator is implanted in the cranium. It is connected to one or two leads, which are implanted in the brain near the patient’s seizure focus or area of origin.

There are also external components for the device. They include a programmer, laptop computer and telemetry interface to provide communication with the neurostimulator. This allows the physician to non-invasively program the detection and stimulation limits of the RNS Stimulator device. The physician can also monitor the patient’s electrical activity in the brain via an electrocorticogram or ECoG.

The neurostimulator detects abnormal electrical brain activity and then delivers electrical stimulation to correct brain activity BEFORE a seizure transpires.

The End Result

It is important to note that the RNS Stimulator is not a cure for epilepsy. It helps to reduce the amount of seizure activity but there are very few patients who are seizure free after having the implant.

Every patient and their epilepsy diagnosis and disease specifications are unique. A full neurological evaluation by a qualified neurosurgeon will determine if a patient is a candidate for the implant, as well as assure the best and safest outcome if surgery is the treatment of choice.

 

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Pregnant or Not?

December 9th, 2013  |  The Blog

A pregnancy needs timely and appropriate medical care. The sooner the patient knows they are pregnant, the better. The earlier in a pregnancy that a woman seeks prenatal care, the better. It is important for both the woman and the unborn baby.

The At-Home Pregnancy Test

The standard at-home pregnancy test has a simple straight line or plus sign indicator, which only tells that the woman is pregnant or not. It is a simple yes or no indicator. No further details are disclosed with the standard test.

A new and improved at-home pregnancy test is now available and has an important added feature. The Clearblue Advanced Pregnancy Test with Weeks Estimator was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in December 2012 and became widely available to the general public in the U.S in September 2013.

This new test indicates whether the patient is 1 to 2 weeks pregnant, which is right around the time when the woman’s menstrual period is due, 2 to 3 weeks pregnant or more than 3 weeks pregnant. This is additional and important information was not previously available with the simple and standard home pregnancy test.

The Clearblue Advanced Pregnancy Test with Weeks Estimator is 99% accurate in detecting pregnancy and 93% accurate in estimating the number of weeks a woman is pregnant. The cost of the test is slightly higher than the standard home pregnancy test; it costs about $16.

How it Works

The standard at-home test detects the presence of the pregnancy hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). It is a very simple and only tells if pregnant or not using a straight line or plus sign indicator.

The hCG level rises to a predictable level during the first three weeks of pregnancy and continues to do so until the 11th week, when it drops lower.

The Clearblue Advanced Pregnancy Test with Weeks Estimator has an additional strip, which measures the hCG levels. This gives an estimate of the number of weeks pregnant the woman actually is at the time of the testing.

Benefits of the New Pregnancy Test

Early prenatal care is i the best interest of the mother-to-be and the unborn child. The Clearblue Advanced Pregnancy Test with Weeks Estimator has several benefits:

  • Helps women with irregular menstrual cycles know how long they have been pregnant
  • Helps women carrying an unplanned pregnancy, who might not know the date of their last menstrual period
  • This additional information will, hopefully, prompt women to seek prenatal care earlier in their pregnancy

Cautions

It is important to note that this is an at-home test, its is not a substitute for professional medical care. This test should not be used in place of the traditional first trimester ultrasound, the golden standard of pregnancy testing to verify the gestation of the pregnancy.

 

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Statins, Statins and More Statins

December 2nd, 2013  |  The Blog

There are significant changes to the cholesterol treatment guidelines. Significant enough that the number of Americans taking cholesterol-lowering statin drugs could potentially double. How is that possible?

Current Statin Usage

Currently, there are 36 million Americans taking cholesterol-lowering statin drugs.

Who is in the high-risk category and takes the most statins?

  • 50% of white males in the 50′s
  • 60% of African-American males in the 50′s
  • All males 70 years and older
  • The vast majority of African-American females in the 60′s
  • One-third of white women in the 60′s

The usual course of statin treatment starts when the bad cholesterol hits a target number. According to the National Cholesterol Education Program, when the bad or LDL cholesterol reaches 130 mg/dL, statins are indicated to get the number below 100 mg/dL. Some physicians target lowering the LDL to 60 or 70mg/dL, which is an impossible task without taking statins.

Potential Statin Usage

Under the new guidelines, the number of American who can subsequently end up taking statins is 72 million. This is about 30% of the American adults.

The most commonly prescribed statins are: atorvastatin or Lipitor, rosuvastatin or Crestor and simvastatin or Zocor. The new guidelines strongly encourage physicians not to use drugs, other than the proven-effective statins, to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.

The cost for statin therapy ranges from $4-$150 per month.

Who Developed the New Guidelines?

One in three Americans die from a heart attack or stroke, according to Dr. Sidney Smith of the University of North Carolina, one of the guideline authors. Something within the healthcare system needed to change in order to lower this staggering statistic.

The guidelines were commanded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, a federal agency but were actually developed by two prestigious and well-respected groups, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association. The basis of the guidelines is founded in the timeliest research on cardiac disease and stroke prevention.

The Guidelines

The new guidelines lower the threshold for patients who are determined to have a significant risk for a heart attack or stroke. This includes patients who do not have elevated cholesterol levels.

The equation for the new guidelines to determine a patient’s risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the next 10 years include the following factors:

  • Race
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Heart disease risk factors including high blood pressure and family history

Treatment Recommendation

According to the new guidelines, statins are recommended for:

  • Any patient between the ages of 40 and 70 years whose 10-year risk is 7.5% or higher.
  • Patients with Type 2 diabetes or those who have had a previous heart attack or stroke.
  • Those with other heart disease risk factors based on bad LDL cholesterol levels above 130 mg/dL, not the previous 190 mg/dL level.

In simple terms, treatment with statins is suggested for:

  • Patients with known cardiovascular disease, as indicated by a previous heart attack, stroke or symptoms of chest pain or leg pain, which indicates clogged arteries
  • Patients who are 20 to 75 years old with LDL level above 190
  • Patients with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes between the ages of 40 to 75 years old

Statin Concerns

Overall, statins are considered relatively safe. Obviously, treating more patients increases the risks associated with taking statins, especially when the dose is increased. They potential side effects include:

  • Muscle aches in about 5% of cases
  • Rhabdomolysis or irreversible muscle destruction; this is a minute risk
  • A 20%-30% increased risk of developing diabetes while taking the drug

The muscle aches and pains can usually be reduced by lowering the dose of the statin or switching to a different statin.

It is important to note that statin therapy is a lifelong commitment to the drug.

The Outcome

Taking statins to lower cholesterol is a combination therapy. Lifestyle changes, including dietary intake, weight loss, blood pressure control and exercise, are imperative.

According to recent data, taking statins to lower cholesterol reduces the risk of suffering a heart attack, stroke or needing a future interventional cardiac procedure by 25%.

If no heart disease is diagnosed, taking stains lowers the annual risk of heart complications by 0.4%. If there is a history of previous heart disease, the annual risk is reduced by 1.1%. Type 2 diabetics taking statins have a 1% lower risk of cardiac complications.

It is imperative to discuss the pros and cons of statin therapy, based upon the new guidelines and a patient’s personal medical history,with a board certified cardiologist before starting a the course of treatment.

 

 

 

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