Conjunctivitis, or pink eye as it is more commonly known, is a common winter time malady. Striking in its appearance and often feared by schools and daycares due to its contagious nature, it is nonetheless usually a benign and self-limiting condition.
U.S. consumers spend over $12 billion on vitamin and mineral supplements each year. Over one-third of Americans are taking a daily supplemental multivitamin. Though there are several health conditions that necessitate vitamin supplementation, many people take supplements in hopes of preventing chronic diseases, or boosting energy and immunity.
Topping most of our lists of New Year’s resolutions is to lose weight and exercise. Many of the chronic diseases that affect Americans can be controlled by these two activities alone – diet and regular exercise.
In the midst of the holiday season, the last thing we want to think about is illness. However, the cold weather, travel and get-togethers with family and friends make the perfect combination for the spread of common winter viruses.
November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. Diabetes is the common condition in which the body is unable to correctly process sugar. There are two major subgroups of diabetes, Type I, which is juvenile-onset or insulin dependent diabetes, and Type II, which is adult-onset or non-insulin dependent diabetes.
Though the incidence of tuberculosis (TB) is and has been quite low in Virginia over the past several years, 2.9 per 100,000 individuals, two recent cases identified at a local Richmond school remind us that it is still around.
Screening tests can be an important part of maintaining our health. There’s screening for heart disease, cancers, blood vessel blockages; there’s tests such as colonoscopies, mammograms, and screening blood tests for cholesterol and prostate. There’s also mobile screening available to check for aneurysms and thyroid problems.
Shoulder pain is among the most common musculoskeletal complaints for those seeking medical care. Injuries to the shoulder can occur suddenly, such as with a fall, or develop over a longer period of time due to repetitive overuse, such as with throwing or repeated lifting.
Summer is winding down and we look forward to the coming school year. Not only must we prepare with books and other tangible school supplies, but it is important to keep in mind health promotion and prevention in our school-aged children as well.
Excessive heat and humidity are the norm for summers in Central Virginia. Already we have experienced several days with heat indices over 100 degrees. While most of us will fare just fine, taking shelter in air-conditioned homes and work places...
Green tea and green tea extracts are rapidly growing dietary supplements in the United States. They have been touted as effective for anything from cancer prevention to promoting longevity. But do these supplements really do what they are purported to do?
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is the one of the most common “functional” conditions of the intestines. A functional disorder is a disease in which there is no physical cause detectable by currently available diagnostic techniques (lab tests, x-rays, etc.). This makes it a difficult disease to diagnose.
Kidney stones are a common medical condition affecting about five percent of the general U.S. population. The kidneys are located in the mid-back of the abdomen. They are responsible for the maintaining the body’s fluid and electrolyte balance, as well as eliminating unwanted waste products filtered from the blood. The kidneys empty into the urinary bladder via the ureters.
With the advent and ensuing media coverage of Angelina Jolie’s prophylactic breast cancer surgery, the interest of the general population has now been piqued and many are wondering about breast cancer and genetic testing.
Gout is an inflammation within a joint caused by the buildup of uric acid. It is often thought of as an “old man’s” disease. In reality, it affects about 2 percent of men over age 30 and women over age 50.
Regular exercise is among the most beneficial health-promoting activities we can do for ourselves. There is no drug or medical treatment that can even come close to the benefits gained with regular physical activity.
Many of the symptoms of relatively simple and benign medical conditions can mimic those of more serious illnesses. For example, individuals suffering from a panic attack or gastroesophageal reflux disease may think they are having a heart attack.
Nosebleeds (epistaxis) will occur in up to sixty percent of all individuals. Episodes are more common in children less than ten years old and then peak again after age fifty. Fortunately, most cases are minor and self-limited, not needing medical attention.
The spleen gets very little respect. It was thought in ancient times that the spleen was the seat of emotions and passion, ill temper and melancholy. Hence, the phrase “to vent one’s spleen”. Like the appendix, one can live without a spleen.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is recommending that all “Baby Boomers,” individuals born between 1945 and 1965, be tested for Hepatitis C virus infection. Adults who were born between these years make up 75 percent of hepatitis C infected adults.
As we enter the cold and flu season, it is important to re-visit the topic of antibiotics. Antibiotics are medicines used to treat infections. But they can cause more harm than good when they aren’t used the right way. You can protect yourself and your family by knowing when you should use antibiotics and when you should not.
“Sugar diabetes” or diabetes mellitus is the common condition wherein the body is unable to correctly process sugar. There are two major subgroups of diabetes. Type I is juvenile-onset or insulin-requiring diabetes. Type II is adult-onset or non-insulin requiring diabetes.
One of the most common causes of visual impairment as we get older is cataracts. Less than five percent of persons younger than age 65 will have cataracts. In contrast, 50 percent of individuals over age 75 will be diagnosed with this eye problem.
Cholesterol is generally viewed as a bad thing. But, it is actually a necessary substance for bodily function. Our bodies use it to make bile for digestion, cell walls, hormones, and vitamins. We get cholesterol by eating cholesterol-containing foods and by manufacturing it in our livers from simple nutritional building blocks.
With the return of cooler temperatures to Central Virginia come rises in many of the common respiratory illnesses. Complaints such as pharyngitis, or sore throat, are intensified by autumn’s swings in temperature, environmental contributors such as weeds, leaves and molds, and exposure to sick classmates or co-workers.
Cases of West Nile Virus infection are on the rise in the U.S. Already over 1,100 cases and 41 deaths have been reported in 47 states. Though most cases of the infection are relatively mild, more severe infections can be life-threatening, particularly in the elderly.
Chigger bites are a regular summertime annoyance in Central Virginia. Most commonly found in grassy fields, gardens, forest areas, and parks, chiggers thrive in moist, vegetated areas with high humidity, hitching a ride on the unsuspecting human passer-by.
There are many medical conditions that are fairly common, but oftentimes go unrecognized by both the patient and the physician. This can be due to the mildness of the disease’s symptoms, making it difficult to identify as a treatable condition. Acne rosacea is one of these conditions.
There are countless diseases that affect the heart. Sometimes it is easiest to look at heart problems in terms of two simplistic categories: plumbing and electrical. Plumbing problems include heart attacks, high blood pressure, valve disorders, and congestive heart failure.
The brain, like all body systems, is highly complex and specialized. Though we don’t know everything there is to know about how the brain works, we do know that brain cells are irreplaceable. That is, whereas most cells in the body can regenerate, the individual cells which are the working units of the brain, called neurons, cannot.
Infections of the urinary tract are among the most common diagnoses seen in the primary care physician’s office. It is the fourth most common diagnosis treated by your family doctor. The overall chance of getting a urinary tract infection (UTI) in one’s lifetime is about 20 percent in women and about 0.5 percent in men.
The human body relies on a constant flow of blood carrying oxygen and other vital nutrients through the blood vessels to the cells. Blood must be kept liquid so that it can easily travel through the arteries, veins and capillaries. But, it must also be able to form a clot to prevent blood loss if a vessel is damaged.
Allergy to poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac is estimated to occur in close to 70 percent of all individuals. The chemical that is responsible for the skin reaction is found in the sap of these plants and is called urushiol.
About 25 percent of adults believe that they either have had a food allergy or know someone who does. However, the frequency of a true food allergy in the general population is only about 4 percent in adults and 5 percent in children.
There are a host of diseases whose names get bounced around a lot, but with which very few are extremely familiar. Fortunately, many of these diseases are relatively rare, but they can be devastating for those who suffer from them. One such disease is multiple sclerosis (MS).
A case of pertussis (whooping cough) was confirmed in a child attending Chesterfield County Schools earlier this month. The incidence of this disease has increased in certain parts of the country within the last couple of years. Most severe cases have been in infants, less than five months of age.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a disease of the respiratory system causing damage to the lungs and bronchial tubes. It encompasses two related diseases called emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
Vitamins are essential for normal function of our bodies. The word comes from the roots vit- meaning life and –amine which refers to a chemical component of many biological molecules. They are “vital” because most vitamins cannot be made by the body. These nutrients must be obtained by outside sources, that is, food.
Our respiratory system is designed primarily to exchange gases. Each time we inhale, oxygen is brought into the lungs to be absorbed into our blood stream and distributed throughout the body for energy production. When we exhale, carbon dioxide, a byproduct of normal metabolism, is eliminated.
The average American gains five to ten pounds during the holidays. The New Year is the perfect time to focus on getting back on the health track. Regular exercise is among the most beneficial health-promoting activities we can do for ourselves.
Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) refers to a condition wherein the blood flow to the legs is diminished due to blockage in the arteries. It affects about 5% of the U.S. population. Symptoms and changes related to the disease can be very subtle, making it difficult to diagnose in a timely fashion.
Lead poisoning has occasionally surfaced in health news due to toys containing lead. Lead toxicity has generally decreased in the U.S. since the 1970’s when lead was removed from house paints and in the 1990’s when lead-containing gasoline was banned.
The long-term effects of concussions have been at the forefront of sports news over the last several months. They have been responsible for rule changes and new guidelines from high school leagues on up to pro sports.
Over the last couple of months, several food poisoning illnesses and deaths have been linked to cantaloupes infected with Listeria. The contaminated cantaloupes were reportedly shipped out of Colorado at the end of July and the beginning of September.
The gallbladder is an organ that is largely ignored and poorly understood by many, that is until it starts acting up. Individuals can have their gallbladder removed without any major health consequences – much like the appendix.
Sleep is one of the most important daily functions in regard to our general health and well-being. It’s like the body’s mental and physical recharge when the battery gets low from daily use. Like a reboot when you computer starts going haywire. But most Americans probably are not getting enough sleep each day.
There are over 15 million asthma sufferers in the U.S. The incidence of this disease has risen four-fold in the last two decades. This time of the year can be hard for individuals with asthma and other chronic respiratory problems due to the heat, high humidity, and environmental irritants.
Hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid gland, is the second most common disease of the endocrine system, behind diabetes. That being said, only about 5 percent of Americans will be diagnosed with the condition.
As the summer sun gets hotter and more prevalent, it is time to pay special attention to our skin. Excessive ultraviolet (UV) exposure and repeated sunburns, especially at a young age, can lead to serious skin concerns later in life. Damaging rays may lead to both benign and malignant skin lesions, as well as loss of elasticity of the skin (wrinkles).
Over the last four years Virginia has seen a significant increase in cases of Lyme disease. Two main reasons for this are that more people are moving into rural areas of Virginia and there is a heightened awareness of Lyme disease and its diagnosis.
Arthritis is the general medical term for any type of inflammation in a joint. Most individuals who suffer from arthritis pain have osteoarthritis (degenerative arthritis or degenerative joint disease, DJD)
I had the unfortunate displeasure of running across a couple of copperhead snakes a couple weeks ago in my neighborhood. This got me thinking about how often venomous snakes affect the health of others in the Commonwealth.
Every year I find it difficult not to write about allergies in April. When I see all the yellow stuff flying around outside, it’s hard to ignore. Many Virginians suffer from allergies to tree pollens which are produced mainly in the springtime. It’s called allergic rhinitis, also referred to as “hay fever”, “sinus”, or seasonal allergies.
Tremors are a very common physical finding. They mainly affect the hands, but can also be seen in the head, arms, legs and the voice. Most people will notice their hands tremble a little from time to time and this is normal. The problem comes when tremors are persistent and/or interfere with normal activities.
Though still in its infancy, the study of antioxidants and their effects on the human body has been a hot topic over the last few years. Nutritional and supplement advertisers have even used the buzzword to entice consumers to use their “healthier” antioxidant-containing products.
We hear so much about the evils of cholesterol, but in fact it is a necessary substance for bodily function. Our bodies use it to make hormones, bile for digestion, cell walls, and vitamin D. We get cholesterol by eating cholesterol-containing foods and by manufacturing it in our livers from simple nutritional building blocks.
Blood clotting generally is a good thing. Without it a person could bleed to death from a simple paper cut or by flossing their teeth. On the flip side, however, blood clots can also become a life threatening occurrence.
RSV is the abbreviation for the respiratory syncytial virus. It is a common cause of respiratory infections during the winter months. Some of these infections can be severe in very young children, leading to thousands of hospitalizations per year in the U.S.
January has been glaucoma awareness month. I didn’t know this until I was researching the latest information on the disease and noticed it on an “awareness month” list. Glaucoma is a serious medical condition in that it is the second most common cause of blindness in the U.S. Cataracts are the leading cause.
The winter months can be tough on the skin. The chill, the low humidity and the dry heat we use to warm our homes can more than just nip your nose. It can lead to relentless dry skin and, as a result, itching.
Anemia is a very common medical condition with a wide variety of causes. Literally, anemia means lack of “heme,” or blood. Hemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Without adequate hemoglobin, the body doesn’t get enough oxygen to carry out normal cell functions.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a disease of the respiratory system causing damage to the lungs and bronchial tubes. It encompasses two related diseases called emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
This year there has been an increase in food-borne illness in the state of Virginia. Every year there are millions of cases of gastrointestinal (GI) infections in the U.S. Most of these are viral infections (“stomach flu”). However, 2010 saw a 100-percent rise in Vibrio bacterial infections in the commonwealth.
Commonly referred to as “mono,” is an infection caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). Like any virus, it can be spread from person to person. However, it is usually less contagious than the common cold, since the virus is mainly present in saliva; hence its nickname, “the kissing disease.”
Shingles, or herpes zoster, is a viral infection that affects mainly the skin and nerves. The virus is called the herpes varicella-zoster virus (VZV). Varicella is the medical name for chicken pox and zoster for shingles. The reason for the double name is that this single virus causes both chicken pox and shingles.
Reports of bed bug infestations in U.S. cities’ hotels have sparked an increased interest in the insect. These parasitic bugs have been around for thousands of years, but until about the mid-1990’s they had not created much of a stir in our nation.
The discovery and use of antibiotics to treat infections was a giant step in medical science. And though these medicines continue to do wonders for countless numbers of people every day, concern has been growing regarding the development of bacterial resistance to their effects.
Cases of pertussis (whooping cough) are at an all-time high in certain parts of the country this year. Most of the more severe cases have been in infants less than 5 months of age. Children this age are susceptible because they are too young to have received all of the recommended booster shots.
The recent salmonella infections from contaminated eggs have caused concern across the nation. Salmonella are bacteria that cause diarrhea illness in humans. They were discovered by American scientist Dr. Daniel E. Salmon over 100 years ago.
Arteriosclerosis is the medical term used to describe changes within the lining of an artery leading to “hardening” of the arteries. It is the chief precursor to heart attacks, peripheral artery disease (PAD) and some strokes.
It is estimated that about 18 million Americans have sleep apnea. It is seen more often in men and people who are over 40 years old, but it can affect anyone at any age. People who have sleep apnea stop breathing while they are sleeping.
Swimmer’s ear, or otitis externa, can be contracted at any time during the year, but the heat, humidity and extra moisture of summer and pool activities make it more likely to occur in the summertime. Otitis simply means an inflammation of the ear. An inflamed ear canal is called otitis externa.
The threat of insect-transmitted diseases makes it necessary to think about skin protection during summer outdoor activities. Tick-borne diseases include Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and mosquito-borne diseases include West Nile Virus and other types of encephalitis.
Vertigo is a type of dizziness in which you feel like you’re moving or spinning. It is different from lightheadedness or the sensation that you are going to faint. The most common type of vertigo is benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. This means it happens suddenly and in relation to the position and movement of your head. Other causes can be more serious, but are much less common.
Warmer weather in Central Virginia means the ticks are becoming more active. Ticks can harbor and transmit a host of diseases. Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease reported in Virginia and it is transmitted to humans via the deer tick.
Every summer, numerous individuals will suffer from exposure to urushiol. Urushiol is the chemical that’s produced in the sap of poison ivy, oak and sumac. In susceptible individuals, contact with the chemical causes an allergic reaction in the skin. It’s estimated that nearly 70 percent of the population is allergic.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of the most commonly treated conditions in a family doctor’s office. It has been called a silent killer, because most people with high blood pressure do not experience any symptoms. It is usually not until they are seen in the office for other problems that the blood pressure is found to be elevated.
Spring allergy season is upon us. Many suffer from allergies to tree pollens, which are produced mainly in the springtime. It’s called allergic rhinitis, also referred to as “hay fever,” “sinus” or seasonal allergies. Unfortunately, Central Virginia’s plant life and humid environment presents a host of possible allergens during all four seasons.
Varicose veins are enlarged and twisting veins. The term “varicose” literally means abnormally swollen or knotted. They are usually most evident on the legs. In general, varicose veins are not harmful; however, they can present cosmetic concerns and, in some, they may be symptomatic.
It seems that every couple weeks or so the news is reporting on how another highly-touted drug is causing bad outcomes in its users. This week it was the drug Fosamax, which is used for the treatment of osteoporosis. It may be causing a higher risk of fractures after prolonged use.
Seasonal affective disorder, also called SAD, is a kind of depression that follows the seasons. The most common type of SAD is called “winter depression.” It usually begins in late fall or early winter and goes away by spring or early summer. The condition is thought to be related to changes in the amount of daylight we get.
Normal hearing begins with a sound wave. The wave enters the external ear canal and causes a thin membrane of tissue, the eardrum, to vibrate. These vibrations are translated through the middle ear by three small bones – malleus, incus and stapes, or hammer, anvil and stirrup – to the cochlea. It is here that tiny hair cells move in response to the vibrations and begin the nerve impulses to the brain to be interpreted as specific sounds.
Sore throats are one of the most common illnesses this time of year. Many will come and go so quickly that no treatment is necessary. Others will be caused by germs that can lead to serious infections and complications. Not every sore throat is a strep throat.
The brain, like all body systems, is highly complex and highly specialized. Though we don’t know everything there is to know about how the brain works, we do know that brain cells are essentially irreplaceable.
Once school begins, a host of common illnesses begin to be passed around in the community. The close environment of the classroom provides easier transmission of infections from child to child and, subsequently, from child to family. Fortunately, most are caused by viruses and are self-limiting.