14 Injections of Fact and Folklore Surrounding the first “Killed” Vaccine

Just 60 years ago, polio was one of the most feared killers in the U.S.

Every year, as the warmer months approached, panic over polio intensified. Late summer was dubbed “polio season.” Public swimming pools were shut down. Movie theaters urged patrons not to sit too close together to avoid spreading the disease. Insurance companies started selling polio insurance for newborns.

The fear was well grounded. By the 1950s, polio had become one of the most serious communicable diseases among children in the United States. In 1952 alone, nearly 60,000 children were infected with the virus; thousands were paralyzed, and more than 3,000 died. Hospitals set up special units with iron lung machines to keep polio victims alive.

Then in 1955, the U.S. began widespread vaccinations. By 1979, the virus had been completely eliminated across the country. Now polio is on the verge of being eliminated from the world. The virus remains endemic in only two parts of the globe: northern Nigeria and the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

On this day, June 23rd, 1995, the creator of the first ever “killed” vaccine, which started the US down the path of eliminating the disease, died. Dr. Jonas Salk was 80 years old. Here are a few facts about the medical genius and the disease he and his colleagues worked to eradicate.

Although polio was the most feared disease of the 20th century, it was hardly the top killer.
The first major polio epidemic in the United States hit Vermont in 1894 with 132 cases. A larger outbreak struck New York City in 1916, with more than 27,000 cases and 6,000 deaths. As the number of polio cases grew, the paralytic disease changed the way Americans looked at public health and disability.

Polio, while definitely on a meteoric rise in the 1950’s, was not the rampant killer it has been portrayed to be. During the 50s and 60s, 10 times as many children died in accidents and three times as many succumbed to cancer. Polio inspired such fear because it struck without warning, and researchers were unsure of how it spread from person to person. In the years following World War II, polls found the only thing Americans feared more than polio was nuclear war.

Salk was rejected by multiple laboratories after medical school.
After graduating from medical school at New York University and completing his residency training, Salk applied to laboratories to work in medical research. Rather than treat patients as a practicing physician, Salk hoped to work on the influenza vaccine, a research area he began studying in medical school.

Although he was rejected from multiple labs, perhaps due to quotas that discriminated against Jewish people, he didn’t get discouraged. “My attitude was always to keep open, to keep scanning. I think that’s how things work in nature. Many people are close-minded, rigid, and that’s not my inclination,” he revealed in his Academy of Achievement interview.

Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman proved instrumental in the vaccine’s development.
A year after his nomination as a Democratic vice presidential candidate, rising political star Franklin D. Roosevelt contracted polio while vacationing at his summer home on Campobello Island in 1921. The disease left the legs of the 39-year-old future president permanently paralyzed. In 1938, five years after entering the White House, Roosevelt helped to create the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, later renamed the March of Dimes Foundation, which became the primary funding source for Salk’s vaccine trials. Employing “poster children” and enlisting the star power of celebrities from Mickey Rooney to Mickey Mouse, the grassroots organization run by Roosevelt’s former Wall Street law partner Basil O’Connor was raising more than $20 million per year by the late 1940s.

In 1946, President Harry Truman declared polio a threat to the United States and called on Americans to do everything possible to combat it. “The fight against infantile paralysis cannot be a local war,” Truman declared in a speech broadcast from the White House. “It must be nationwide. It must be total war in every city, town and village throughout the land. For only with a united front can we ever hope to win any war.”

Science initially failed
Early attempts to develop a vaccine ran into numerous hurdles. A vaccine tested on 10,000 children by two researchers at New York University provided no immunity and left nine children dead. Other vaccine trials used “volunteers” at mental institutions.

Salk challenged prevailing scientific orthodoxy in his vaccine development.
While most scientists believed that effective vaccines could only be developed with live viruses, Salk developed a “killed-virus” vaccine by growing samples of the virus and then deactivating them by adding formaldehyde so that they could no longer reproduce. By injecting the benign strains into the bloodstream, the vaccine tricked the immune system into manufacturing protective antibodies without the need to introduce a weakened form of the virus into healthy patients.

Many researchers, such as Polish-born virologist Albert Sabin, who was developing an oral “live-virus” polio vaccine, called Salk’s approach dangerous. Sabin even belittled Salk as “a mere kitchen chemist.” The hard-charging O’Connor, however, had grown impatient at the time-consuming process of developing a live-virus vaccine and put the resources of the March of Dimes behind Salk.

Since Sabin and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital couldn’t gain political support in the U.S. for what he viewed as his superior vaccine, he moved testing to the Soviet Union instead.

Salk tested the vaccine on himself and his family.
After successfully inoculating thousands of monkeys, Salk began the risky step of testing the vaccine on humans in 1952. In addition to administering the vaccine to children at two Pittsburgh-area institutions, Salk injected himself, his wife and his three sons in his kitchen after boiling the needles and syringes on his stovetop. Salk announced the success of the initial human tests to a national radio audience on March 26, 1953.

The clinical trial was the biggest public health experiment in American history.
On April 26, 1954, six-year-old Randy Kerr was injected with the Salk vaccine at the Franklin Sherman Elementary School in McLean, Virginia. By the end of June, an unprecedented 1.8 million people, including hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren, joined him in becoming “polio pioneers.” For the first time, researchers used the double-blind method, now standard, in which neither the patient nor person administering the inoculation knew if it was a vaccine or placebo. Although no one was certain that the vaccine was perfectly safe—in fact, Sabin argued it would cause more cases of polio than it would prevent—there was no shortage of volunteers.

Salk did not patent his vaccine.
On April 12, 1955, the day the Salk vaccine was declared “safe, effective and potent,” legendary CBS newsman Edward R. Morrow interviewed its creator and asked who owned the patent. “Well, the people, I would say,” said Salk in light of the millions of charitable donations raised by the March of Dimes that funded the vaccine’s research and field testing. “There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?” Lawyers for the foundation had investigated the possibility of patenting the vaccine but did not pursue it, in part because of Salk’s reluctance.

Although a tainted batch of the Salk vaccine killed 11 people, Americans continued vaccinating their children.
Just weeks after the Salk vaccine had been declared safe, more than 200 polio cases were traced to lots contaminated with virulent live polio strains manufactured by the Cutter Laboratories in Berkeley, California. Most taken ill became severely paralyzed. Eleven died. In the haste to rush the vaccine to the public, the federal government had not provided proper supervision of the major drug companies contracted by the March of Dimes to produce 9 million doses of vaccine for 1955. Although the United States surgeon general ordered all inoculations temporarily halted, Americans continued to vaccinate themselves and their children. Outside of the “Cutter Incident,” not a single case of polio attributed to the Salk vaccine was ever contracted in the United States.

A rival vaccine supplanted Salk’s in the 1960s.
Once Sabin’s oral vaccine finally became available in 1962, it quickly supplanted Salk’s injected vaccine because it was cheaper to produce and easier to administer. Ultimately, both vaccines produced by the bitter rivals nearly eradicated the disease from the planet. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there were only 416 reported cases of polio worldwide in 2013, mostly confined to a handful of Asian and African countries. Since Sabin’s live-virus vaccine, which is responsible for about a dozen cases of polio each year, is seen as the final obstacle to eliminating the disease in most of the world, the WHO has urged polio-free countries to return to Salk’s killed-virus vaccine.

Salk was the stepfather of Pablo Picasso’s Children
In 1970, Salk married Françoise Gilot, a French artist who had two children, Claude and Paloma, with Pablo Picasso. In an interview in 1980, Paloma remembered the fear people had of polio, and that as a child, she didn’t visit her father’s house in the South of France due to a polio outbreak. She also revealed that she got along well with her stepfather: “He’s very cute. He’s a wonderful person,” she said. After his death in 1995, Gilot continued her late husband’s legacy by working at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.

Salk worked on cures for cancer and AIDS
After Salk developed the polio vaccine, he tried to develop vaccines for cancer, AIDS, and multiple sclerosis. Although he wasn’t ultimately successful, he did patent Remune, a vaccine for AIDS to delay the progression of HIV into AIDS. In 2001, six years after Salk died, Pfizer stopped funding clinical trials for Remune due to a lack of evidence that it worked.

Salk was much maligned by the medical community
At the University of Pittsburgh, Salk launched what was then the largest human trial in history and introduced new scientific rigor now used as the gold standard in development of new treatments and tests for pathology. When it was announced that his vaccine worked, Salk was hailed as a humanitarian hero. By 1957, new polio cases had fallen below 6,000.

While heads of state around the globe rushed to celebrate him, many in the medical community derided his efforts. According to Dr. Charlene Jacobs in a interview with the Oxford Press, this was for many reasons:

  1. He preferred the “killed” vaccine, which most in medicine feared would be too weak.
  2. He worked in secret and with a small team.
  3. They claimed he grabbed the limelight and failed to share credit with others.
  4. It appeared he pandered to the press, crossing an imaginary line medicine had set up between science and the media.

Salk won few awards for what is still considered one of the greatest medical breakthroughs
While nominated several times, he did not win the Nobel Peace prize, and he was blackballed from the Academy of Sciences. He won a great deal of social celebrity, for sure, but his insistence on using intuition as much as rigor left many wondering what he really was doing. His dismissal in actual scientific communities is attributed to envy by many who review the history of the time.

Over the years, polio was found to be a highly contagious disease that spread, not in movie theaters or swimming pools, but from contact with water or food contaminated from the stool of an infected person. Along with the vaccine, much was done to improve hygiene in the Americas, The U.S. recorded its last case of polio in 1979, among isolated Amish communities in several states. Then the effort to eradicate polio globally began in earnest. The Western Hemisphere reported its last case, in Peru, in 1991.

Both Salk’s and Sabin’s vaccines are still used today. Although Jonas Salk is credited with ending the scourge of polio because his killed-virus vaccine was first to market, Albert Sabin’s sweet-tasting and inexpensive oral vaccine continues to prevent the spread of poliomyelitis in remote corners of the world. While the later version, which requires just two drops in a child’s mouth, proved much easier to use in mass immunization campaigns, today, it is being marked as the final barrier to truly eliminating polio – it does occasionally infect patients. The complete return to Salk’s vaccine has been promoted by the World Health Organization (WHO) since 2000.

Advances in medicine sometimes come from great intuition complimented with heavy doses of experience and meaningful development. These three make a powerful elixir. HealthLynked could be that kind of breakthrough – a good mix of real world wisdom, a touch of intuition and a love of professional rigor.

At HealthLynked, we are all working to clean up the errors created by missing information and put the patient back at the center of the medical relationship. Ready to get Lynked with medical professionals advancing wellness in New and exciting ways?

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sources:

npr.org

pbs.org

Nytimes.com

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14 Bolts of Inside[r] Info on Lightning | National Safety News

This weekend, for Father’s Day, I had the opportunity to celebrate early with my oldest, her husband and their newborn.  They asked me what I wanted to do, and I volunteered a boat ride to a distant restaurant on the lake we all love.  I say this, but I know my wife, wisely, does not always enjoy the ride, mostly because of the wicked weather that often kicks up on the warm afternoons where we live.

We always check the satellite and motored out after seeing we were clear for the rest of the day.  After dinner, we checked again before shoving off to see a few storms were popping up about 45 miles away.  NO threat to our return leg.

As we headed home, a cloud to the east, where we were headed, started to take on a more ominous shape and started spitting a little rain.  Then, it deeply darkened, and streaks of lightning shot to earth underneath.

We skirted the storm for 30 minutes and headed to a place we knew we could find shelter.  We hunkered down for about an hour, then headed home, a little more tired but safe after the slight scare.  While we did a lot of things right, I recognize now, we also were at significant risk.  The wide eyed look of my granddaughter will always remind me of this.

Summertime across the country means barbecues, festivals, sporting events, boating, hitting the beach, camping, and many other recreational activities. In short, summertime means a lot more people are spending a lot more time in the great outdoors.

We always look forward to the outdoor adventuring this time of the year brings, but it is also the peak season for one of the nation’s deadliest weather phenomena — lightning. Lightning typically receives less attention than other storm-related killers because it does not result in mass destruction or mass casualties like tornadoes, floods, tsunamis or hurricanes often do.

Consider these lightning statistics:

  • About 25 million cloud-to-ground lightning strikes occur in the United States each year. Around the globe, there are about 100 strikes every second!
  • Over the last 30 years, the U.S. has averaged 51 lightning fatalities per year. The great news:  2017 was the least lethal year since we started recording the stats in 1940, with only 16 deaths.  This is most likely due to increasing awareness.
  • Only about 10% of people struck by lightning are actually killed. The other 90% must cope with varying degrees of discomfort and disability, sometimes for the rest of their lives.
  • People struck by lightning are not electrified! They will need your immediate medical attention or first aid.  Help them immediately.
  • Typically, the vast majority of lightning victims each year are male (in 261 instances from 2006-2013, 81% of lightning fatalities were male and 19% were female).

The purpose of Lightning Safety Awareness Week is to educate and raise awareness about the hazards of lightning in order to lower the number of deaths and injuries caused by lightning strikes. Remember, lightning makes every single thunderstorm a potential killer, whether the storm produces one single bolt or ten thousand bolts. 

 Lightning Fatality Statistics

From 2006 through 2017, 376 people were struck and killed by lightning in the United States.  Almost two thirds of the deaths occurred to people who had been enjoying outdoor leisure activities.  The common belief that golfers are responsible for the greatest number of lightning deaths was shown to be a myth.  During this 12-year period fishermen accounted for more than three times as many fatalities as golfers, while beach activities and camping each accounted for about twice as many deaths as golf.  From 2006 to 2017, there were a total of 34 fishing deaths, 22 beach deaths, 19 camping deaths, and 17 boating deaths.

Of the sports activities, soccer saw the greatest number of deaths with 12, as compared to golf with 10.  Around the home, yard work (including mowing the lawn) accounted for 14 fatalities.  For work-related activities, ranching/farming topped the list with 17 deaths.

Males accounted for 80% of all fatalities, and more than 90% of the deaths in the fishing, sports and work categories.  Females had comparatively fewer deaths than men in every category, with their highest percentages in the boating-related activities (35%) and routine daily/weekly activities (34%).

June, July, and August are the peak months for lightning activity across the United States and the peak months for outdoor summer activities.  As a result, more than 70% of the lightning deaths occurred in the months of June, July, and August, with Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays having slightly more deaths than other days of the week.

Ages of the victims varied from young children to older adults with the greatest number of fatalities between the ages of 10 and 60.  Within that age range, there was a relative minimum in deaths for people in their 30s, possibly due to parents of young children being less involved in vulnerable activities.

Based on the media reports of the fatal incidents, many victims were either headed to safety at the time of the fatal strike or were just steps away from safety.  Continued efforts are needed to convince people to get inside a safe place before the lightning threat becomes significant.  For many activities, situational awareness and proper planning are essential to safety.

To put this all into perspective, while you are more likely to be struck TWICE  by lightning than win the lottery, you are TWICE as likely to be killed by a dog attack than lightning.  Some small comfort.

Lightning Myths and Facts

 

Myth: A lightning victim is electrified. If you touch him, you’ll risk being electrocuted.
Fact: The human body does not store electricity, and lightning victims require immediate medical attention. It is perfectly safe to touch a lightning victim in order to give them first aid. Call 911 for help.

Myth: If it’s not raining or there aren’t any clouds overhead, you’re safe from lightning.
Fact: Lightning often strikes several miles from the center of a thunderstorm, far outside the rain or thunderstorm cloud. In fact, “bolts from the blue” can strike as far as 25 miles out from the parent thunderstorm. That’s why it’s important to seek shelter at the first indication of a thunderstorm and stay there until 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder.

Myth: The rubber soles of shoes or rubber tires on a car will protect you from a lightning strike.
Fact: Rubber-soled shoes and rubber tires provide NO protection from lightning, but most vehicles with metal tops and sides do provide adequate shelter from lightning because the charge travels through the metal frame and eventually into the ground. Just be sure to avoid contact with anything inside the vehicle that conducts electricity. Remember, convertibles, motorcycles, bicycles, open-shelled outdoor recreational vehicles and cars with fiberglass shells offer no protection from lightning.

Myth: “Heat Lightning” occurs after very hot summer days and poses no threat.
Fact: Many people incorrectly think that “heat lightning” is a specific type of lightning. Actually, it is just lightning from a thunderstorm that is too far away for any thunder to be heard (thunder is seldom heard beyond 10 miles under ideal conditions). If the storm approaches, the same lightning safety guidelines above should be followed.

Myth: Lightning never strikes the same place twice.
Fact: Lightning often strikes the same place or object repeatedly, especially if it’s tall, pointy, and isolated. The Empire State Building is struck by lightning nearly 100 times each year.

Myth: If caught outside during a thunderstorm, you should seek shelter under a tree.
Fact: Seeking shelter under a tree is one of the leading causes of lightning related fatalities. Remember, NO PLACE outside is safe when thunderstorms are in the area. If you are caught outside in a thunderstorm, keep moving toward a safe shelter.

Myth: Metal structures or metal on the body (jewelry, watches, etc.) attract lightning.
Fact: The presence of metal has no bearing on where lightning will strike. Mountains are made of rock but get struck by lightning many times a year. Rather, an object’s height, shape, and isolation are the dominant factors that affect its likelihood of being struck by lightning. While metal does not attract lightning, it obviously does conduct electricity, so stay away from metal fences, railings, bleachers, etc. during a thunderstorm.

Myth: If caught outside during a thunderstorm, you should lie flat on the ground.
Fact: NO PLACE outside is safe when thunderstorms are in the area. If you are caught outside in a thunderstorm, keep moving toward a safe shelter.

 Lightning Safety Guidelines

Lightning is one of the most erratic and unpredictable characteristics of a thunderstorm. Because of this, no one can guarantee an individual or group absolute protection from lightning. However, knowing and following proven lightning safety guidelines can greatly reduce the risk of injury or death.

Most lightning victims are not struck during the worst of a thunderstorm but rather before or after the storm reaches its greatest intensity. This is because many people are unaware that lightning can strike as far as 25 miles away from its parent thunderstorm – much farther out from the area of rainfall within the storm!  “Blue sky” lightning is common at 10 miles from an area storm.

Therefore, if you can hear thunder, you are within striking distance. Seek safe shelter immediately. Remember this lightning safety rule: WHEN THUNDER ROARS, GO INDOORS…and stay there until 30 minutes after the last clap of thunder. Do not wait for the rain to start before you decide to seek shelter, and do not leave shelter just because the rain has ended.

The best way to protect yourself and your family from the dangers of thunderstorms is to be prepared. If you have outdoor plans, be sure to familiarize yourself with the latest weather forecast before heading out. Upon arriving on-site, determine where you will seek shelter in the event of a thunderstorm and how long it would take to reach that shelter. A sturdy, enclosed structure with plumbing and electrical wiring is safest, but if one is not available most enclosed metal vehicles are safe alternatives.

Cancel or postpone outdoor activities if thunderstorms develop.  During your outdoor activities, keep an eye to the sky for developing thunderstorms. If thunder is heard, if lightning is seen, or even if thunderclouds are developing, get to your place of shelter without delay! Have a lightning safety plan.

WHERE NOT TO GO:

Not all types of buildings or vehicles are safe during thunderstorms. Buildings with exposed sides are NOT safe(even if they are “grounded”). These include beach shacks, metal sheds, picnic shelters/pavilions, carports, and baseball dugouts. Porches are dangerous as well.

Convertible vehicles offer no safety from lightning, even if the top is up. Other vehicles which are NOT safe during thunderstorms are those with open cabs, such as golf carts, tractors, and construction equipment.

WHERE TO GO:

The safest location during a thunderstorm is inside a large enclosed structure with plumbing and electrical wiring. These include shopping centers, schools, office buildings, and private residences. If lightning strikes the building, the plumbing and wiring will conduct the electricity and eventually direct it into the ground.

If no substantial buildings are available, then an enclosed metal vehicle such as an automobile, van, or school bus would be a suitable alternative.

While being inside a house or other building with electrical wiring and plumbing is your safest option during a thunderstorm, it does not guarantee you will be 100% safe from lightning. There are still some lightning safety guidelines you must follow while inside a place of shelter to keep yourself safe.

  • Don’t use corded phones:  Using a corded phone during a thunderstorm is one of the leading causes of indoor lightning injuries. However, it IS safe to use cordless or cell phones as long as they are not being charged.
  • Stay away from windows and doors:Sitting on an open porch to watch a thunderstorm is also dangerous. It is best to be in an interior room during a thunderstorm.
  • Don’t touch electrical equipment or cords:  Any device that uses electricity (e.g. computers, televisions, household appliances, etc.) is susceptible to a lightning strike. Electrical surges caused by lightning can damage electronics (even at some distance from the actual strike), and a typical surge protector will do little to protect the device (or the person using it) if lightning should strike. So, consider unplugging certain appliances or electronics, but for your own safety do this BEFORE the storm arrives.
  • Avoid plumbing:  Metal plumbing and the water inside are both very good conductors of electricity. Therefore, do not wash your hands or dishes, take a shower or bath, do laundry, etc. during a thunderstorm.
  • Refrain from touching concrete surfaces:Lightning can travel through the metal wires or bars in concrete walls and flooring, such as in the basement or garage.
  • If inside a vehicle:  Roll the windows up and avoid contact with any conducting paths leading to the outside of the vehicle (e.g. metal surfaces, ignition, portable electronic devices plugged in for charging, etc.).

While we won’t be there to warn you of an impending strike, we will always be there with Ready medical Information if you ever need to call for emergency services.  With HealthLynked, you are able to compile and safely collate all of your medical information in one convenient place should you ever need to access it fast.

Come in out of the rain and steer clear of the storm of finding a physician just right for you.  Go to HealthLynked.com today to sign up for Free and take comfort knowing your health information is with you wherever you may go….

Stay safe!

Sources:

weather.gov

nationalgeographic.com

  

 

 

 

World Sickle Cell Day | Symptoms and Emerging New Treatments

Approximately 70,000 to 100,000 Americans have sickle cell disease.  Though rare, it is the the most common form of inherited blood disorders. In Africa, the burden is much higher – Sub-Saharan Africa has an estimated 64% of the 300, 000 people born annually with sickle cell disease in the world,  Sickle Cell Day each June 19th provides an opportunity to examine progress and persistent challenges in managing the disease.

Sickle Cell, present in affected individuals at birth, causes the production of abnormal hemoglobin. Normal hemoglobin protein, which resides inside red blood cells, attaches to oxygen in the lungs and carries it to all parts of the body. Healthy red blood cells are flexible enough to move through the smallest blood vessels.

In sickle cell disease, the hemoglobin is abnormal, causing red blood cells to be rigid and shaped like a sickle – the shape from which the disease takes its name.  In order for a child to inherit sickle cell disease, both parents must have either sickle cell disease (two sickle cell genes) or sickle cell trait (one sickle cell gene). There are variations of sickle cell disease called sickle C or sickle thalassemia, which are serious conditions but sometimes less severe. If you have sickle cell disease, you will pass one sickle cell gene to your children.

Signs and symptoms of sickle cell disease usually begin in early childhood. Characteristic features of this disorder include a low number of red blood cells (anemia), repeated infections, and periodic episodes of pain. The severity of symptoms varies from person to person. Some people have mild symptoms, while others are frequently hospitalized for more serious complications.

Sickle cells can get stuck and block blood flow, causing pain and infections. Complications of sickle cell disease occur because the sickled cells block blood flow to specific organs. The worst complications include stroke, acute chest syndrome (a condition that lowers the level of oxygen in the blood), organ damage, other disabilities, and even premature death.

These signs and symptoms of sickle cell disease are caused by the “sickling” of red blood cells. When red blood cells sickle, they also break down prematurely, which can lead to anemia. Anemia can cause shortness of breath, fatigue, and delayed growth and development in children. The rapid breakdown of red blood cells may also cause yellowing of the eyes and skin, which are signs of jaundice.

Painful episodes can occur when sickled red blood cells- stiff and inflexible – get stuck in small blood vessels. These episodes deprive tissues and organs of oxygen-rich blood and can lead to organ damage, especially in the lungs, kidneys, spleen, and brain.

A particularly serious complication of sickle cell disease is high blood pressure in the blood vessels that supply the lungs (pulmonary hypertension). Pulmonary hypertension occurs in about one-third of adults with sickle cell disease and can lead to heart failure.

Mutations in the HBB gene cause sickle cell disease.

Hemoglobin consists of four protein subunits; typically, two alpha-globin subunits and two beta-globin subunits. The HBB gene provides instructions for making beta-globin. Variations of beta-globin result from different mutations in the HBB gene. One particular HBB gene mutation produces an abnormal version of beta-globin known as hemoglobin S (HbS). Other mutations in the HBB gene lead to additional abnormal versions of beta-globin, such as hemoglobin C (HbC) and hemoglobin E (HbE). HBB gene mutations can also result in an unusually low level of beta-globin; this abnormality is called beta thalassemia.

In people with sickle cell disease, at least one beta-globin subunit in hemoglobin is replaced with hemoglobin S. In sickle cell anemia, hemoglobin S replaces both beta-globin subunits in hemoglobin.

In other types of sickle cell disease, just one beta-globin subunit in hemoglobin is replaced with hemoglobin S.  The other beta-globin subunit is replaced with a different abnormal variant, such as hemoglobin C.  For example, people with sickle-hemoglobin C (HbSC) disease have hemoglobin molecules with hemoglobin S and hemoglobin C instead of beta-globin.  If mutations that produce hemoglobin S and beta thalassemia occur together, individuals have hemoglobin S-beta thalassemia (HbSBetaThal) disease.

Sickle Cell Trait

Sickle cell trait is an inherited blood disorder that affects approximately 8 percent of African-Americans. Unlike sickle cell disease, in which patients have two genes that cause the production of abnormal hemoglobin, individuals with sickle cell trait carry only one defective gene and typically live normal lives without health problems related to sickle cell. Rarely, extreme conditions such as severe dehydration and high-intensity physical activity can lead to serious health issues, including sudden death, in individuals with sickle cell trait.

Risk Factors

Sickle cell disease is more common in certain ethnic groups, including:

  • People of African descent, including African-Americans (among whom 1 in 12 carries a sickle cell gene)
  • Hispanic-Americans from Central and South America
  • People of Middle Eastern, Asian, Indian, and Mediterranean descent

Because sickle cell disease symptoms can begin by four months of age, early diagnosis is critical. All newborns in the United States are now tested for the disease. Sickle cell disease can also be identified before birth by testing a sample of amniotic fluid or tissue from the placenta. People who carry the sickle cell gene can seek genetic counseling before pregnancy to discuss options.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of sickle cell disease can be mild or severe enough to require frequent hospitalizations. They may include:

  • Anemia (looking pale)
  • Dark urine
  • Yellow eyes
  • Painful swelling of hands and feet
  • Frequent pain episodes
  • Stunted growth
  • Stroke

Treatment

There are no standard treatments that cure sickle cell disease. However, there are regiments that help people manage and live with the disease. Treatment relieves pain, prevents infections, minimizes organ damage, and controls complications. At times, blood transfusions and other advanced options are needed.

Clinical trials provide access to experimental therapies for treating sickle cell disease. The American Society of Hematology (ASH) provides information on clinical trials for which you may be eligible. Researchers are looking at new drugs and also exploring the use of bone marrow transplants to treat sickle cell disease. Stem cell transplants, associated with significant risks, are appropriate only for some patients with severe forms of sickle cell disease and closely matched donors –  typically family member.

Beyond this, the completion of the Human Genome Project and the use of CRISPR/Cas9 for gene editing have begun to transform the diagnosis and management of disease. Sickle cell disease has been considered a perfect model for genomic research because: 1) it is a monogenic disease and 2.) it has no cure despite the significant incidence of morbidity and mortality. Recent use of gene editing to minimize disease severity, and a single report of a patient who received successful treatment with gene therapy, highlight the potential for translating genome-based knowledge into health benefits for sickle cell patients.

It is important for you to talk with your doctor if you believe you may have sickle cell disease. If you carry the sickle cell trait, make sure you tell your doctor before getting pregnant as well. Depending on your condition, your doctor may refer you to a hematologist, a doctor who specializes in blood conditions.

Finding the right physician or medical care team just got that much easier.  Using HealthLynked, you can locate physicians in your area who know how to help and are focused on giving you the best possible care.  They will collaborate with you to make sure all your relevant and real time health information is available to enhance your wellness.

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Week Three of National CMV Awareness Month – “CMV is Preventable”

 

National legislation has been passed designating the month of June as “National Cytomegalovirus Awareness Month” recommending “more effort be taken to counsel women of childbearing age of the effect this virus can have on their children”.   In this thhird week, the theme is “CMV is Preventable”.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that 1 in every 150 children is born with congenital CMV (cytomegalovirus). CMV is the most common congenital (meaning present at birth) infection in the United States and is the most common viral cause of birth defects and developmental disabilities, including deafness, blindness, cerebral palsy, mental and physical disabilities, seizures, and death.

CMV is a common virus, present in saliva, urine, tears, blood, and mucus, and is carried by 75 percent of healthy infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and children who contract the virus from their peers. About 60 percent of women are at risk for contracting CMV during pregnancy, posing a major risk to mothers, daycare workers, preschool teachers, therapists, and nurses. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the CDC recommend that OB/GYNs counsel women on basic prevention measures to guard against CMV infection. These include frequent hand washing, not kissing young children on the mouth, and not sharing food, towels, or utensils with them.

CMV is Preventable

  • Pregnant women who already have young children, or who work with young children, are at highest risk of catching CMV
  • CMV is found in home and daycare settings
  • 75% of toddlers have CMV in their urine and saliva in studies at childcare settings
  • Avoid contact with saliva – kiss kids under the age of 6 on the forehead instead of lips or cheek
  • Wash your hands after contact with bodily fluids of children under the age of 6
  • Don’t share utensils, drinks, or toothbrushes with children under the age of 6

Want to help raise awareness of CMV?  Join National CMV’s hashtag awareness campaign and share infographcs, photos, and stories on social media!  National CMV maintains a website-based tagboard – a curated public display of all social media posts with the hashtags #stopcmv and #cmvawareness. You can check out the tagboard by simply scrolling down on their homepage!

Each week of June will have a different themed awareness infographic, as well as ideas for a weekly photo that you can post to social media to tell the world about your experience with CMV. They suggest you get creative and be authentic, even if the suggested photos may not apply to your experience–all of our stories are important!

 

 

#KnowAboutCMV

#CMVAwareness

#pregnancy

#patientcare

#StopCMV

#HealthCare

#HealthLynked

 

 

 

Seven Signs of Autism | Autistic Pride Day

The annual Autistic Pride Day is observed each year on June 18 using an ongoing theme of neurodiversity. The pride label – all colors across the spectrum with an infinity symbol –  is intended to encourage a celebration of autistic differences, rather than reinforcing stereotypical perceptions of autism as a disease. Autistic Pride Day educates people directly, drawing on the experiences of autistic people themselves and celebrating autistic lives.  The aim: to promote progress in awareness and recognize the achievements of autistic people.

The first event was celebrated in June 2005, and it is lead by several organizations supporting the children and their families who are living with autism.  Society is still far from understanding and accepting the range of autistic differences, and changing attitudes is a necessary step towards enabling autistic people to lead fulfilling lives without discrimination, allowing them to participate in and contribute to all aspects of society.

What is Autism?

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are a set of diverse neural development variables that are characterized most commonly by difficulty with social interactions and behavioral integration while providing potentially heightened or advanced skills in certain areas. The condition starts in childhood, and the characteristics may be visible within the first two years of the child’s development.

Manifested in a range of presentations affecting how an autistic person thinks, learns, uses their senses, moves their body, communicates, and relates to other people, the spectrum is increasingly described by the autistic community, and by some clinicians and researchers, as a condition rather than a disorder.

Prevalence is 1–1·5% of the population – that is 1 in 68 children in the US, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Autism has previously been thought to be more common in men and boys, but current debates suggest this might be an effect of basing diagnosis on behavior, which varies between sexes. Diagnoses centered on behavioral issues can lack precision, as behavior may be suppressed, camouflaged, and “normalized” by autistic people in order to fit in and avoid social stigma.

Causes of Autism

There is great concern rates of autism have been increasing in recent decades without acceptable explanation as to why.  Scientists believe both genetics and environment likely play a role in ASD. Researchers have identified a number of genes associated with the disorder. Imaging studies of people with ASD have found differences in the development of several regions of the brain.

Studies suggest that ASD could be a result of disruptions in normal brain growth very early in development. These disruptions may be the result of defects in genes that control brain development and regulate how brain cells communicate with each other. Autism is more common in children born prematurely.

Environmental factors may also play a role in gene function and development, but no specific environmental causes have yet been identified. The flawed theory that parental practices are responsible for ASD has long been disproved.

Symptoms of Autism

Neurodiversity encompasses the breadth of autistic characteristics; every person has a unique experience of autistic life. A society that accepts neurodiversity requires cooperation and input from multiple stakeholders, including autistic people, neurologists and mental health professionals, parents, teachers, researchers, and employers. Society needs to embrace neurodiversity in order to accept differences and variation, and to reduce stigma. Mental health professionals can provide interventions and support if there is an understanding of the details of autistic experience.

The  terms “Autistic” and “autism spectrum” often are used to refer inclusively to people who have an official diagnosis on the autism spectrum or who self-identify with the Autistic community. While all Autistics are as unique as any other human beings, they share some characteristics typical of autism:

  1. Different sensory experiences.For example, heightened sensitivity to light, difficulty interpreting internal physical sensations, hearing loud sounds as soft and soft sounds as loud, or synesthesia.
  2. Non-standard ways of learning and approaching problem solving.For example, learning “difficult” tasks (e.g. calculus) before “simple” tasks (e.g. addition), difficulty with “executive functions,” or being simultaneously gifted at tasks requiring fluid intelligence and intellectually disabled at tasks requiring verbal skills.
  3. Deeply focused thinking and passionate interests in specific subjects.“Narrow but deep,” these “special interests” could be anything from mathematics to ballet, from doorknobs to physics, and from politics to bits of shiny paper.
  4. Atypical, sometimes repetitive, movement.This includes “stereotyped” and “self-stimulatory” behavior such as rocking or flapping, and also the difficulties with motor skills and motor planning associated with apraxia or dyspraxia.
  5. Need for consistency, routine, and order.For example, holidays may be experienced more with anxiety than pleasure, as they mean time off from school and the disruption of the usual order of things. People on the autistic spectrum may take intense pleasure in organizing and arranging items.
  6. Difficulties in understanding and expressing language as used in typical communication, both verbal and non-verbal. This may manifest similarly to semantic-pragmatic language disorder. It’s often because a young child does not seem to be developing language that a parent first seeks to have a child evaluated. As adults, people with an autism spectrum diagnosis often continue to struggle to use language to explain their emotions and internal state, and to articulate concepts (which is not to say they do not experience and understand these).
  7. Difficulties in understanding and expressing typical social interaction.For example, preferring parallel interaction, having delayed responses to social stimulus, or behaving in an “inappropriate” manner to the norms of a given social context (for example, not saying “hi” immediately after another person says “hi”).

Diagnosing Autism

An autism diagnosis most commonly takes place in the first 2 years of a child’s life—early detection brings more effective intervention. However, there is a need to improve detection and accommodation of autism in adulthood. A diagnosis late in life can help people to understand why they feel they are different to others, can help to understand accompanying mental health challenges, and may provide the beginning of a helpful clinical pathway—as well as providing clarity, it can be a signpost to relevant support.

Autism is a relatively new diagnosis, becoming widely used only since the 1990s. In the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published in May, 2013, the diagnostic criteria were broadened as various diagnostic entities were pulled together.  Pre-school children were included, and prevalence subsequently increased considerably as a range of autistic traits were newly identified as part of the spectrum.

Neurological research in the field remains difficult and sometimes controversial, and there is an ongoing lack of knowledge of the neurological bases for autism. Future understanding of causes, including genetic causes, will hopefully help to shape a more tailored approach to diagnosis and treatment management.

Treatment of Autism

Regarding treatment and societal support, external systems need to adapt to embrace variations in behavior that include adults with late diagnoses. This shift is elusive: Public and even medical perception still has some way to go to embrace differences among those with autism.  Each child or adult with autism is unique and, so, each autism intervention plan should be tailored to address specific needs.

Management can be complex, as people with autism are more likely to have additional mental health diagnoses and higher rates of suicidal ideation. Approaches to intervention need to be highly personalized to suit each individual and to identify comorbidities correctly. Professionals also need to understand and accept neurodiversity—a lack of empathy could lead to a repeat of past approaches that forced people to conform to “normal” behavior, which is neither effective nor acceptable.

There is no cure for autism spectrum disorder, but there are several behavioral and therapeutic interventions that may improve some symptoms.  Intervention can involve behavioral treatments, medicines or both. Many persons with autism have additional medical conditions such as sleep disturbance, seizures and gastrointestinal (GI) distress. Addressing these conditions can improve attention, learning and related behaviors.

Early intensive behavioral intervention involves a child’s entire family, working closely with a team of professionals. In some early intervention programs, therapists come into the home to deliver services. This can include parent training with the parent leading therapy sessions under the supervision of the therapist. Other programs deliver therapy in a specialized center, classroom or preschool.

Typically, different interventions and supports become appropriate as a child develops and acquires social and learning skills. As children with autism enter school, for example, they may benefit from targeted social skills training and specialized approaches to teaching.  Adolescents with autism can benefit from transition services that promote a successful maturation into independence and employment opportunities of adulthood.

Typically, autism treatment involves:

  • Behavioral and educational interventions – this is where therapists use intensive and high structured skills in training an autistic child so that they can improve language and social skills.
  • Medications – the physician may prescribe drugs that can help in management of some of the symptoms, like depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Alternatively, or in addition, novel Therapies are being developed.  These therapies, including light and sound treatments, might be introduced to families living with autism.  Some are controversial, and parents should be cautious before adopting any method.

Purpose of Autistic Pride Day

The day helps to create an awareness  in society  around the condition and how it is managed. The day asserts that autism is not a sickness but rather a state in which the individual affected will exhibit varied characteristics that may provide them with challenges or rewards unlike their peers who do not have autism.  Autistic pride day helps in coming up with initiatives where the public is educated on the challenges that are faced by autism community.

Autistic pride day helps in organizing rights movements for people who are living with autism. The movement is usually led by self advocates of autism who ensure that autistic people are given a voice and are recognized in the society. The movement encourages community members to accept people living with autism in the society.

The autistic pride day also provides a good platform for the care giver to be appreciated. The people who take care of autistic children may have diminished physical and emotional energy as they can be drained while responding to the needs of autistic children. Care givers are encouraged to take care of themselves and to get as much help as possible to provide their best while offering their services.

What can be Done on Autistic Pride Day?

Participation on this day may  include providing information to families that include people who live with autism by teaching them on the causes, signs and symptoms , management and treatment. The family members will also be taught how to participate most fully in the life of someone with autism and to embrace their neurodiversity.

You might provide financial support for the organizations that pioneer autism research or volunteer and give to those groups who promote awareness and provide support to families and those with autism.

Caregivers and those with autism can come together and share their stories of life with autism or loving and caring for people with autism. This will help to reduce any stigmas associated with the disorder as each person expresses themselves.

Message Shared on Autistic Pride Day

Autistic pride day is a time set aside to appreciate and celebrate those who live with autism.  The message shared on this day is that the people who suffer from autism are not sick, they are neurodiverse. Autism should not be viewed as a disease but as a different state of being.

If you are looking for the right specialists and way to really join your care team together, consider HealthLynked.  Our platform is designed so that medical practitioners and the diverse patient population they care for can truly collaborate on wellbeing, and it is designed to especially enhance the efficient exchange of health information.

As teams work to discover the causes and research cures, the effective exchange of relevant health information becomes essential in caring for those with ASD.  Safe, secure and convenient, HealthLynked allows patient members and their providers to immediately share and collaborate on their must up to date medical information. This exchange ensures the best possible care is provided, critical when working with autism.

Ready to get Lynked?  Go to HealthLynked.com today to sign up for free!

 

Sources:

autismspeaks.org

ninds.nih.gov

autisticadvocacy.org

thelancet.com

 

6.5 Ways to Refocus on Health this Father’s Day

At HealthLynked, we believe every day is a great day to focus on wellness and remind those around you health is true wealth.  Today, Father’s Day, is another great opportunity to heighten the awareness of preventable health disorders and disease and encourage the men in your life to be more active and health conscious.

For Father’s Day, we serve up these gentle reminders of 6 ways you can refocus on your health, courtesy of the CDC:

  1. Get Enough Sleep

Aim for seven to nine hours per night.  Your mind and muscles need the recovery.

  1. Stop Smoking

If you quit now, you’ll lower your risk for cancer, COPD, and other smoking-related illnesses.

  1. Exercise More

Enjoy at least 2 ½ hours of aerobic activity, plus muscle-strengthening exercises, each week.

  1. Eat Healthy

Your diet should include a variety of well proportioned proteins and fruits and vegetables daily.

  1. Reduce Stress

You’ll feel much more relaxed if you avoid drugs and alcohol, connect socially, and find support.

  1. Get Regular Checkups

You need to know your blood pressure and cholesterol numbers; if they’re elevated, your risk for heart disease and stroke goes up…. High blood pressure may even increase your risk for erectile dysfunction!  You also need screening for colorectal and prostate cancer.  Across every spectrum of disease, positive outcomes are more likely with early detection.

The Truth

Men simply do not visit caregivers as often as they should. According to a CDC report, women are 100% more likely to visit a physician for preventive services and routine checkups.  The same report remarks men are 33% less likely to see their doctor for any reason, even when symptomatic.

The American Heart Association outlines the following 10 common excuses men give for not seeing a doctor:

“I don’t have a doctor.”

Step one toward staying healthy is finding a doctor you trust, and you’ll never know if you trust one unless you try. Check your insurance company and our healthcare ecosystem for one in your area. Call their offices and ask questions.

“I don’t have insurance.”

Everybody should still have insurance under the Affordable Care Act. If you don’t, there are plenty of resources available from state, local and charitable organizations to pay for your care.  Seek them out….

“There’s probably nothing wrong.”

You may be right, but Some serious diseases don’t have symptoms. High blood pressure is one, and it can cause heart attack and stroke. (That’s why they call it “the silent killer.”)  High cholesterol is another often-symptomless condition. Ditto diabetes. Finding a health problem early can make an enormous difference in the quality and length of your life.

“I don’t want to hear what I might be told.”

Maybe you smoke, drink too much, or have put on weight. Even so, your doctor’s there to help you. You can deny your reality, but you can’t deny the consequences. So be smart: Listen to someone who’ll tell you truths you need to hear. Be coachable.

“I don’t have time.”

There are about 8,766 hours in a year, and you want to save … two? When those two hours could save your life if you really DO need a doctor? If you want to spend more time with your family, these two hours aren’t the ones to lose.

“I don’t want to spend the money.”

It makes more sense to spend a little and save a lot than to save a little and spend a lot. If you think spending time with a doctor is expensive, try spending time in a hospital.

“Doctors don’t DO anything.”

When you see a barber, you get a haircut. When you see the dentist, your teeth get cleaned. But when you get a checkup, the doctor just gives you tests. It may seem like you don’t get anything, but you do. You get news and knowledge that can bring better health, if you act on it.

“I’ve got probe-a-phobia.”

You don’t need a prostate cancer exam until you’re 50. Even then, remember that your chances of survival are much better if it’s caught early. So, it’s worth the exam, and it’s only one small portion of a physical. Don’t let one test stop you from getting all the benefits of an annual physical.

“I’d rather tough it out.”

If pro athletes can play hurt and sacrifice themselves for the team, you ought to be able to suck it up, right? Wrong! The Game of Life is about staying healthy for a long time – a lifetime.

“My significant other has been nagging me to get a checkup. I’m a Rebel!”

OK, so you don’t want to give in, but isn’t it POSSIBLE you could be wrong? Give in on this one. See the doctor.

The risks of avoiding preventive care are real and can be devastating. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the 10 leading killers of American men (regardless of age or ethnicity and in order) are:

Heart disease

Cancer

Unintentional injuries

Chronic lower respiratory diseases (such as COPD)

Stroke

Diabetes

Suicide

Alzheimer’s disease

Influenza and pneumonia

Chronic liver disease

Unlike the majority of women, who tend to seek medical care when even when they do not have symptoms, men often believe if you “feel fine,” there’s no reason to go to the doctor. It is important to note many can feel normal with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or abnormal blood sugar levels. Even when men don’t feel so great, they tend to wait for symptoms to go away on their own — like when they drive around aimlessly because asking for directions admits weakness!

Be aware, you do not need a “one-size-fits-all” physical.  Collaborate with your healthcare provider, and depending on your profile and lifestyle, decide which screenings, diagnostic tests, and immunizations are right for you. The timing and frequency should be based on your risk factors for developing a condition or disease, including family or personal history, age, ethnicity, and environmental exposure.

In honor of Father’s Day, dads and those who care for them, go to the HealthLynked.com to find a physician you really connect with….Spend a few moments building a healthier life by collaborating with physicians who care, and begin building a health record for yourself that will help you set records for living a full life.

From all of us here at HealthLynked, consider our Free profiles a great gift for becoming the best version of you!  We all wish you the very best today and every day!

 

 

Hard Word, Harder Disease: Scleroderma

Scleroderma (skleer-oh-DUR-muh) is a group of rare diseases that involve the hardening and tightening of the skin and connective tissues — the fibers that provide the framework and support for your body.  “Sclero” means “hard” and “derma” means “skin”.

The combined forms of scleroderma, including localized, systemic, recurring and related conditions, affect an estimated 300,000 Americans – primarily females who are 30 to 50 years old at onset. The overall occurrence is approximately 1 in 1,000, or .1% of the 328+ million U.S. population, and the ratio of women to men is about four to one.  While there is currently no cure for this rare autoimmune disorder, a variety of treatments can ease symptoms and improve quality of life.

Hardening of the skin is just one of many symptoms scleroderma sufferers experience. Stiff joints, digestive issues, lung scarring,  kidney failure—all can result and sometimes be fatal. Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease with no known cause and no cure.  Research is vital, but because so few people are aware of the disease, researchers don’t always get the resources they need.   Patients often find themselves becoming their only available expert.

The Scleroderma Foundation has been fighting to spread awareness, help educate the public about and improve funding for research around this devastating disease for more than 15 years. Please join the fight and stand alongside them for June’s Scleroderma Awareness Month.   All they are asking this year is that you pledge to tell at least one person and to help put an end to “sclero-what?”

Symptoms

Scleroderma’s signs and symptoms vary, depending on which parts of your body are involved:

  • Nearly everyone who has scleroderma experiences a hardening and tightening of patches of skin. These patches may be shaped like ovals or straight lines and may cover wide areas of the trunk and limbs. The number, location and size of the patches vary by type of scleroderma. Skin can appear shiny because it’s so tight, and movement of the affected area may be restricted.
  • Fingers or toes.One of the earliest signs of scleroderma is an exaggerated response to cold temperatures or emotional distress, which can cause numbness, pain or color changes in the fingers or toes. Called Raynaud’s disease, this condition also occurs in people who don’t have scleroderma.
  • Digestive system.In addition to acid reflux, which can damage the section of esophagus nearest the stomach, some people with scleroderma may also have problems absorbing nutrients if their intestinal muscles aren’t moving food properly through the intestines.
  • Heart, lungs or kidneys.Scleroderma can affect the function of the heart, lungs or kidneys to varying degrees. These problems, if left untreated, can become life-threatening.

Causes

Scleroderma results from an overproduction and accumulation of collagen in body tissues. Collagen is a fibrous type of protein that makes up your body’s connective tissues, including your skin.

Doctors aren’t certain what prompts this abnormal collagen production, but the body’s immune system appears to play a role. In some genetically susceptible people, symptoms may be triggered by exposure to certain types of pesticides, epoxy resins or solvents.

Risk Factors

Scleroderma occurs much more often in women than it does in men. Choctaw Native Americans and African-Americans are more likely than Americans of European descent to develop the type of scleroderma that affects internal organs.

Complications

Scleroderma complications range from mild to severe and can affect your:

  • The variety of Raynaud’s disease that occurs with scleroderma can be so severe that the restricted blood flow permanently damages the tissue at the fingertips, causing pits or skin sores (ulcers). In some cases, gangrene and amputation may follow.
  • Scarring of lung tissue (pulmonary fibrosis) can result in reduced lung function, reduced ability to breathe and reduced tolerance for exercise. You may also develop high blood pressure in the arteries to your lungs (pulmonary hypertension).
  • When scleroderma affects your kidneys, you can develop elevated blood pressure and an increased level of protein in your urine. More-serious effects of kidney complications may include renal crisis, which involves a sudden increase in blood pressure and rapid kidney failure.
  • Scarring of heart tissue increases your risk of abnormal heartbeats (arrhythmias) and congestive heart failure; it can cause inflammation of the membranous sac surrounding your heart (pericarditis). Scleroderma can also raise the pressure on the right side of your heart and cause it to wear out.
  • Severe tightening of facial skin can cause your mouth to become smaller and narrower, which may make it hard to brush your teeth or to even have them professionally cleaned. People who have scleroderma often don’t produce normal amounts of saliva, so the risk of dental decay increases even more.
  • Digestive system.Digestive problems associated with scleroderma can lead to acid reflux and difficulty swallowing — some describe feeling as if food gets stuck midway down the esophagus — as well as bouts of constipation alternating with episodes of diarrhea.
  • Sexual function.Men who have scleroderma often experience erectile dysfunction. Scleroderma may also affect the sexual function of women by decreasing lubrication and constricting the vaginal opening.

Diagnosis

  • Because scleroderma can take so many forms and affect so many different areas of the body, it can be difficult to diagnose.
  • After a thorough physical exam, your doctor may suggest blood tests to check for elevated blood levels of certain antibodies produced by the immune system. He or she may remove a small tissue sample (biopsy) of your affected skin so that it can be examined in the laboratory for abnormalities.

Your doctor may also suggest breathing tests (pulmonary function tests), a CT scan of your lungs and an echocardiogram of your heart.

Treatment

In some cases, the skin problems associated with scleroderma fade away on their own in three to five years. The type of scleroderma that affects internal organs usually worsens with time.

Medications

No drug has been developed that can stop the underlying process of scleroderma — the overproduction of collagen. But a variety of medications can help control scleroderma symptoms or help prevent complications. To accomplish this, these drugs may:

  • Dilate blood vessels.  Blood pressure medications that dilate blood vessels may help prevent lung and kidney problems and may help treat Raynaud’s disease.
  • Suppress the immune system.  Drugs that suppress the immune system, such as those taken after organ transplants, may help reduce scleroderma symptoms.
  • Reduce stomach acid.  Medications such as omeprazole (Prilosec) can relieve symptoms of acid reflux.
  • Prevent infections.  Antibiotic ointment, cleaning and protection from the cold may help prevent infection of fingertip ulcers caused by Raynaud’s disease. Regular influenza and pneumonia vaccinations can help protect lungs that have been damaged by scleroderma.
  • Relieve pain.  If over-the-counter pain relievers don’t help enough, you can ask your doctor to prescribe stronger medications.

Therapy

Physical or occupational therapists can help you to:

  • Manage pain
  • Improve your strength and mobility
  • Maintain independence with daily tasks

Surgery

Used as a last resort, surgical options for scleroderma complications may include:

  • If finger ulcers caused by severe Raynaud’s disease have developed gangrene, amputation may be necessary.
  • Lung transplants.People who have developed high blood pressure in the arteries to their lungs (pulmonary hypertension) may be candidates for lung transplants.

Lifestyle and home remedies

You can take a number of steps to help manage your symptoms of scleroderma:

  • Stay activeExercise keeps your body flexible, improves circulation and relieves stiffness. Range-of-motion exercises can help keep your skin and joints flexible.
  • Don’t smoke . Nicotine causes blood vessels to contract, making Raynaud’s disease worse. Smoking can also cause permanent narrowing of your blood vessels. Quitting smoking is difficult — ask your doctor for help.
  • Manage heartburn.  Avoid foods that give you heartburn or gas. Also avoid late-night meals. Elevate the head of your bed to keep stomach acid from backing up into your esophagus (reflux) as you sleep. Antacids may help relieve symptoms.
  • Protect yourself from the cold.  Wear warm mittens for protection anytime your hands are exposed to cold — even when you reach into a freezer. When you’re outside in the cold, cover your face and head and wear layers of warm clothing.

Coping and support

As is true with other chronic diseases, living with scleroderma can place you on a roller coaster of emotions. Here are some suggestions to help you even out the ups and downs:

  • Maintain normal daily activities as best you can.
  • Pace yourself and be sure to get the rest that you need.
  • Stay connected with friends and family.
  • Continue to pursue hobbies that you enjoy and are able to do.

Keep in mind your physical health can have a direct impact on your mental health. Denial, anger and frustration are common with chronic illnesses.

At times, you may need additional tools to deal with your emotions. Professionals, such as therapists or behavioral psychologists, may be able to help you put things in perspective. They can also help you develop coping skills, including relaxation techniques.

Joining a support group, where you can share experiences and feelings with other people, is often a good approach. Ask your doctor what support groups are available in your community.

Finding the Right Physician

You’ll probably first bring your symptoms to the attention of your family doctor, who may refer you to a rheumatologist — a doctor specializing in the treatment of arthritis and other diseases of the joints, muscles and bone. Because scleroderma can affect many organ systems, you may need to see a variety of medical specialists.

To get the right help, find a rheumatologist or other physician who knows how hard it is to endure a disease so few understand and can truly help.  Go to HealthLynked.com today to build a Free patient profile and begin communicating there with those who will collaborate on your wellness.

 

Note:  This writing is strictly  informational. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are intended to spark discussion and raise awareness about issues herein.

 

Sources:

MayoClinic.org

sclerodermaaware.org

scleroderma.org

 

 

Hashtags

#NationalSclerodermaAwarenessMonth

#autoimmunedisease

#Scleroderma

#Awareness,

#HardWord

#SpeakUp

#HealthCare

#PatientCare

#HealthLynked

 

 

 

 

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What is knee arthroscopy | Medical News Florida

Knee arthroscopy is a surgical procedure. A surgeon inserts a tool called an arthroscope through a small incision. Using this scope and the camera attached, they can confirm diagnoses and often correct any issues affecting the joint. In this article, learn how to prepare and what to expect from knee arthroscopy.

Uses and benefits

Knee arthroscopy is less invasive than open forms of surgery. A surgeon can diagnose issues and operate using a very small tool, an arthroscope, which they pass through an incision in the skin.

Knee arthroscopy may be helpful in diagnosing a range of problems, including:

  • persistent joint pain and stiffness
  • damaged cartilage
  • floating fragments of bone or cartilage
  • a buildup of fluid, which must be drained

In most of these cases, arthroscopy is all that is needed. People may choose it instead of other surgical procedures because arthroscopy often involves:

  • less tissue damage
  • a faster healing time
  • fewer stitches
  • less pain after the procedure
  • a lower risk of infection, because smaller incisions are made

However, arthroscopy may not be for everyone. There is little evidence that people with degenerative diseases or osteoarthritis can benefit from knee arthroscopy.

How to prepare

Many doctors will recommend a tailored preparation plan, which may include gentle exercises.

It is important for a person taking any prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medications to discuss them with the doctor. An individual may need to stop taking some medications ahead of the surgery. This may even include common OTC medications, such as ibuprofen (Advil).

A person may need to stop eating up to 12 hours before the procedure, especially if they will be general anesthesia. A doctor should provide plenty of information about what a person is allowed to eat or drink.

Some doctors prescribe pain medication in advance. A person should fill this prescription before the surgery so that they will be prepared for recovery.

Procedure

The type of anesthetic used to numb pain will depend on the extent of the arthroscopy.

A doctor may inject a local anesthetic to numb the affected knee only. If both knees are affected, the doctor may use a regional anesthetic to numb the person from the waist down.

In some cases, doctors will use a general anesthetic. In this case, the person will be completely asleep during the procedure.

If the person is awake, they may be allowed to watch the procedure on a monitor. This is entirely optional, and some people may not be comfortable viewing this.

The procedure starts with a few small cuts in the knee. Surgeons use a pump to push saline solution into the area. This will expand the knee, making it easier for the doctors to see their work.

After the knee is expanded, the surgeons insert the arthroscope. The attached camera allows the surgeons to explore the area and identify any problems. They may confirm earlier diagnoses, and they may take pictures.

If the problem can be fixed with arthroscopy, the surgeons will insert small tools through the arthroscope and use them to correct the issue.

After the problem is fixed, the surgeons will remove the tools, use the pump to drain the saline from the knee, and stitch up the incisions.

In many cases, the procedure takes less than 1 hour.

Recovery

Recovering from arthroscopy is usually quicker than recovering from open surgery.

Most people leave the hospital on the day of the operation with specific instructions about how to handle recovery.

General recovery tips can include:

  • applying ice packs to the dressing and surrounding area to reduce swelling and pain
  • keeping the leg elevated for several days after surgery
  • resting well and often
  • changing the dressing regularly
  • using crutches and following the doctor’s recommendations about applying weight to the knee

Doctors will typically give specific instructions before a person leaves the hospital. They may also prescribe painkillers or recommend OTC drugs for pain management.

In some cases, doctors may recommend taking aspirin to reduce the risk of blood clots.

Recovery times can vary. A person may be able to return to light activity in 1–3 weeks and resume most other physical activities in 6–8 weeks.

Source – https://www.medical news today.com/articles/322099.php