Source: American Cancer Society
Related MedlinePlus Pages: Cancer Immunotherapy
While the bacterial infection can be mild in adults, if a baby who hasn’t received a full course of vaccinations is infected, whooping cough can be extremely serious.Mayo Clinic News Network reporter Vivien Williams has more on how to recognize and treat this disease.
What is a homocysteine test?
A homocysteine test measures the amount of homocysteine in your blood. Homocysteine is a type of amino acid, a chemical your body uses to make proteins. Normally, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, and folic acid break down homocysteine and change it into other substances your body needs. There should be very little homocysteine left in the bloodstream. If you have high levels of homocysteine in your blood, it may be a sign of a vitamin deficiency, heart disease, or a rare inherited disorder.
Other names: total homocysteine, plasma total homocysteine
What is it used for?
A homocysteine test may be used to:
- Find out if you have deficiency in vitamin B12, B6, or folic acid.
- Help diagnose homocystinuria, a rare, inherited disorder that prevents the body from breaking down certain proteins. It can cause serious health problems and usually starts in early childhood. Most U.S. states require all infants to get a homocysteine blood test as part of routine newborn screening.
- Screen for heart disease in people at high risk for heart attack or stroke
- Monitor people who have heart disease.
Why do I need a homocysteine test?
You may need this test if you have symptoms of a vitamin B or folic acid deficiency. These include:
- Pale skin
- Sore tongue and mouth
- Tingling in the hands, feet, arms, and/or legs (in vitamin B12 deficiency)
You may also need this test if you are at high risk for heart disease because of prior heart problems or a family history of heart disease. Excess levels of homocysteine can build up in the arteries, which may increase your risk of blood clots, heart attack, and stroke.
What happens during a homocysteine test?
A health care professional will take a blood sample from a vein in your arm, using a small needle. After the needle is inserted, a small amount of blood will be collected into a test tube or vial. You may feel a little sting when the needle goes in or out. This usually takes less than five minutes.
Will I need to do anything to prepare for the test?
You may need to fast (not eat or drink) for 8–12 hours before a homocysteine test.
Are there any risks to the test?
There is very little risk to having a blood test. You may have slight pain or bruising at the spot where the needle was put in, but most symptoms go away quickly.
What do the results mean?
If your results show high homocysteine levels, it may mean:
- You are not getting enough vitamin B12, B6, or folic acid in your diet.
- You are at a higher risk of heart disease.
- Homocystinuria. If high levels of homocysteine are found, more testing will be needed to rule out or confirm a diagnosis.
If your homocysteine levels were not normal, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have a medical condition needing treatment. Other factors can affect your results, including:
- Your age. Homocysteine levels can get higher as you get older.
- Your gender. Men usually have higher homocysteine levels than women.
- Alcohol use
- Use of vitamin B supplements
If you have questions about your results, talk to your health care provider.
Is there anything else I need to know about a homocysteine blood test?
If your health care provider thinks a vitamin deficiency is the reason for your high homocysteine levels, he or she may recommend dietary changes to address the problem. Eating a balanced diet should ensure you get the right amount of vitamins.
If your health care provider thinks your homocysteine levels put you at risk for heart disease, he or she will monitor your condition and may order more tests.
Elite gymnast Aly Raisman talks about how she prepares for competition and the foods she eats stay healthy.
Discover how Olympic athletes stay fit. Plus, get food and fitness tips for the everyday Olympian.
Reviewed By: Michael W. Smith, June 2012
SOURCES: Team USA Olympic Athletes, Uinterview, http://www.uinterview.com
© 2012 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved. Follow WebMD here:
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In a video originally posted on TheHeart.org | Medscape Cardiology, Sharonne Hayes, MD, and Regis Fernandes, MD, discuss the genetic disorder of familial hypercholesterolemia and appropriate steps for identifying and treating the disease.
Wondering the best way to take your toddler’s temperature? You have a few options when your child is 1-3 years old. Learn more: http://wb.md/2d3USrA
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What is a sweat test?
CF is a disease that causes mucus build-up in the lungs and other organs. It damages the lungs and makes it hard to breathe. It can also lead to frequent infections and malnutrition. CF is an inherited disease, which means it is passed down from your parents, through genes.
Genes are parts of DNA that carry information that determine your unique traits, such as height and eye color. Genes are also responsible for certain health problems. To have cystic fibrosis, you must have a CF gene from both your mother and your father. If only one parent has the gene, you will not get the disease.
Other names: sweat chloride test, cystic fibrosis sweat test, sweat electrolytes
What is it used for?
A sweat test is used to diagnose cystic fibrosis.
Why do I need a sweat test?
A sweat test can diagnose cystic fibrosis (CF) in people of all ages, but it’s usually done on babies. Your baby may need a sweat test if he or she tested positive for CF on a routine newborn blood test. In the United States, new babies are usually tested for a variety of conditions including CF. Most sweat tests are done when babies are 2 to 4 weeks old.
An older child or adult who has never been tested for CF may need a cystic fibrosis sweat test if someone in the family has the disease and/or has symptoms of CF. These include:
- Salty-tasting skin
- Frequent coughing
- Frequent lung infections, such as pneumonia and bronchitis
- Trouble breathing
- Failure to gain weight, even with a good appetite
- Greasy, bulky stools
- In newborns, no stools made right after birth
What happens during a sweat test?
Your health care provider will need to collect a sample of sweat for testing. The entire procedure will take about an hour and will probably include the following steps:
- A health care provider will put pilocarpine, a medicine that causes sweating, on a small area of the forearm.
- Your provider will place an electrode on this area.
- A weak current will be sent through the electrode. This current makes the medicine seep into the skin. This may cause a little tingling or warmth.
- After removing the electrode, your provider will tape a piece of filter paper or gauze on the forearm to collect the sweat.
- Sweat will be collected for 30 minutes.
- The collected sweat will be sent to a lab for testing.
Will I need to do anything to prepare for the test?
You don’t need any special preparations for a sweat test, but you should avoid applying any creams or lotions to the skin for 24 hours before the procedure.
Are there any risks to the test?
There is no known risk to a sweat test. Your child may have a tingling or tickling sensation from the electric current, but should not feel any pain.
What do the results mean?
If the results show a high level of chloride, there is a good chance your child has cystic fibrosis. Your health care provider will probably order another sweat test and/or other tests to confirm or rule out a diagnosis. If you have questions about your child’s results, talk to your health care provider.
Is there anything else I need to know about a sweat test?
While there is no cure for cystic fibrosis (CF), there are treatments available that help reduce symptoms and improve quality of life. If your child was diagnosed with CF, talk with your health care provider about strategies and treatments to help manage the disease.
It may start with a simple word you can’t pronounce. Your tongue and lips stumble, and gibberish comes out.
Misspeaking might draw a chuckle from family and friends. But, then, it keeps happening. Progressively, more and more speech is lost. Some patients eventually become mute from primary progressive apraxia of speech, a disorder related to degenerative neurologic disease.
Two Mayo Clinic researchers have spent more than a decade uncovering clues to apraxia of speech. Keith Josephs, M.D., a neurologist, and Joseph R. Duffy, Ph.D., a speech pathologist, will present “My Words Come Out Wrong: When Thought and Language Are Disconnected from Speech” on Sunday, Feb. 14, at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Washington, D.C.
In this video Dr. Duffy discusses the disorder.
Legionnaires’ disease is a severe form of pneumonia — lung inflammation usually caused by infection. Legionnaires’ disease is caused by a bacterium known as legionella.
You can’t catch legionnaires’ disease from person-to-person contact. Instead, most people get legionnaires’ disease from inhaling the bacteria. Older adults, smokers and people with weakened immune systems are particularly susceptible to legionnaires’ disease.
The legionella bacterium also causes Pontiac fever, a milder illness resembling the flu. Separately or together, the two illnesses are sometimes called legionellosis. Pontiac fever usually clears on its own, but untreated legionnaires’ disease can be fatal. Although prompt treatment with antibiotics usually cures legionnaires’ disease, some people continue to experience problems after treatment.
Legionnaires’ disease usually develops two to 10 days after exposure to legionella bacteria. It frequently begins with the following signs and symptoms:
- Muscle pain
- Fever that may be 104 F (40 C) or higher
By the second or third day, you’ll develop other signs and symptoms that may include:
- Cough, which may bring up mucus and sometimes blood
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Gastrointestinal symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
- Confusion or other mental changes
Although legionnaires’ disease primarily affects the lungs, it occasionally can cause infections in wounds and in other parts of the body, including the heart.
A mild form of legionnaires’ disease — known as Pontiac fever — may produce signs and symptoms including a fever, chills, headache and muscle aches. Pontiac fever doesn’t infect your lungs, and symptoms usually clear within two to five days.
When to see a doctor
See your doctor if you think you’ve been exposed to legionella bacteria. Diagnosing and treating legionnaires’ disease as soon as possible can help shorten the recovery period and prevent serious complications. For people at high risk, prompt treatment is critical.
The bacterium Legionella pneumophila is responsible for most cases of legionnaires’ disease. Outdoors, legionella bacteria survive in soil and water, but rarely cause infections. Indoors, though, legionella bacteria can multiply in all kinds of water systems — hot tubs, air conditioners and mist sprayers in grocery store produce departments.
Although it’s possible to contract legionnaires’ disease from home plumbing systems, most outbreaks have occurred in large buildings, perhaps because complex systems allow the bacteria to grow and spread more easily.
How the infection spreads
Most people become infected when they inhale microscopic water droplets containing legionella bacteria. This might be the spray from a shower, faucet or whirlpool, or water dispersed through the ventilation system in a large building. Outbreaks have been linked to a range of sources, including:
- Hot tubs and whirlpools on cruise ships
- Grocery store mist machines
- Cooling towers in air conditioning systems
- Decorative fountains
- Swimming pools
- Physical therapy equipment
- Water systems in hotels, hospitals and nursing homes
Although legionella bacteria primarily spread through aerosolized water droplets, the infection can be transmitted in other ways, including:
- Aspiration. This occurs when liquids accidentally enter your lungs, usually because you cough or choke while drinking. If you aspirate water containing legionella bacteria, you may develop legionnaires’ disease.
- Soil. A few people have contracted legionnaires’ disease after working in the garden or using contaminated potting soil.
Not everyone exposed to legionella bacteria becomes sick. You’re more likely to develop the infection if you:
- Smoke. Smoking damages the lungs, making you more susceptible to all types of lung infections.
- Have a weakened immune system as a result of HIV/AIDS or certain medications, especially corticosteroids and drugs taken to prevent organ rejection after a transplant.
- Have a chronic lung disease such as emphysema or another serious condition such as diabetes, kidney disease or cancer.
- Are 50 years of age or older.
Legionnaires’ disease is a sporadic and local problem in hospitals and nursing homes, where germs may spread easily and people are vulnerable to infection.
Legionnaires’ disease can lead to a number of life-threatening complications, including:
- Respiratory failure. This occurs when the lungs are no longer able to provide the body with enough oxygen or can’t remove enough carbon dioxide from the blood.
- Septic shock. This occurs when a severe, sudden drop in blood pressure reduces blood flow to vital organs, especially to the kidneys and brain. The heart tries to compensate by increasing the volume of blood pumped, but the extra workload eventually weakens the heart and reduces blood flow even further.
- Acute kidney failure. This is the sudden loss of your kidneys’ ability to perform their main function — filtering waste material from your blood. When your kidneys fail, dangerous levels of fluid and waste accumulate in your body.
When not treated effectively and promptly, legionnaires’ disease may be fatal, especially if your immune system is weakened by disease or medications.
Outbreaks of legionnaires’ disease are preventable, but prevention requires meticulous cleaning and disinfection of water systems, pools and spas.
Avoiding smoking is the single most important thing you can do to lower your risk of infection. Smoking increases the chances that you’ll develop legionnaires’ disease if you’re exposed to legionella bacteria.
Dr. Edythe Strand, Emeritus Professor and Consultant, division of Speech Pathology, Department of Neurology, Mayo Clinic, discusses basic approaches to treatment of CAS, providing a number of video examples of therapy.
For more information, visit http://mayocl.in/2ifnYX3