Five [PLUS] Senses Working Overtime. Are You Tuned In…?

Today is Celebration of the Senses Day – a time to consider your amazing sensory abilities and how they interrelate. We all learn as children humans have five basic senses: touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste. Science has done a fantastic job describing the organs associated with each, how they send information to the brain to help us understand and perceive the world around us, and has gone even further to uncover how they uniquely cross-talk for heightened awareness.

Touch

Touch is thought to be the first sense humans develop, according to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Touch consists of several distinct sensations communicated to the brain through specialized neurons in the skin. Pressure, temperature, light touch, vibration, pain and other sensations are all part of the touch sense and are all attributed to different receptors in the skin.

Touch isn’t just a sense used to interact with the world; it also seems to be very important to a human’s well-being. For example, touch has been found to convey compassion from one human to another.

Touch can also influence how humans make decisions. Texture can be associated with abstract concepts, and touching something with a texture can influence the decisions a person makes, according to six studies by psychologists at Harvard University and Yale University, published in the June 24, 2010, issue of the journal Science.

“Those tactile sensations are not just changing general orientation or putting people in a good mood,” said Joshua Ackerman, an assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “They have a specific tie to certain abstract meanings.”

Sight

Sight, or perceiving things through the eyes, is a complex process. First, light reflects off an object to the eye. The transparent outer layer of the eye – the cornea – bends the light that passes through the hole of the pupil. The iris (the colored part of the eye) works like the shutter of a camera, retracting to shut out light or opening wider to let in more light.

The cornea focuses most of the light. Then, it passes through the lens, which continues to focus the light.  The lens of the eye then bends the light and focuses it on the retina, which is full of nerve cells. These cells are shaped like rods and cones and are named for their shapes. Cones translate light into colors, central vision and details. The rods translate light into peripheral vision and motion. Rods also give humans vision when there is limited light available, like at night. The information translated from the light is sent as electrical impulses to the brain through the optic nerve.

People without sight may compensate with enhanced hearing, taste, touch and smell, according to numerous studies. Their memory and language skills may be better than those with sight, as well.

“Even in the case of being profoundly blind, the brain rewires itself in a manner to use the information at its disposal so that it can interact with the environment in a more effective manner.”  That’s according to Dr. Lotfi Merabet, senior author of a 2017 study and the director of the Laboratory for Visual Neuroplasticity at Schepens Eye Research Institute of Massachusetts Eye and Ear.

Hearing

This sense works via the complex labyrinth that is the human ear. Sound is funneled through the external ear and piped into the external auditory canal. Then, sound waves reach the tympanic membrane, or eardrum. This is a thin sheet of connective tissue that vibrates when sound waves strike it.

The vibrations travel to the middle ear. There, auditory ossicles — three tiny bones called the malleus (hammer), incus (anvil) and stapes (stirrup) — vibrate. The stapes bone, in turn, pushes a structure called the oval window in and out, sending vibrations to the organ of Corti.  This spiral organ is the receptor organ for hearing. Tiny hair cells in the organ of Corti translate the vibrations into electrical impulses. The impulses then travel to the brain via sensory nerves.

People retain their sense of balance because the Eustachian tube, or pharyngotympanic tube, in the middle ear equalizes the air pressure there with the air pressure in the atmosphere. The vestibular complex, in the inner ear, is also important for balance, because it contains receptors that regulate a sense of equilibrium. The inner ear is connected to the vestibulocochlear nerve, which carries sound and equilibrium information to the brain.

Smell

Humans may be able to smell over 1 trillion scents, according to researchers. They do this with the olfactory cleft, which is found on the roof of the nasal cavity, next to the “smelling” part of the brain – the olfactory bulb and fossa. Nerve endings in the olfactory cleft transmit scents to the brain, according to the American Rhinologic Society.

Dogs are known as great smellers, but research suggests humans are just as good as man’s best friend. Research published in the May 11, 2017, issue of the journal Science suggests humans can discriminate among 1 trillion different odors; it was once believed humans could discern only about 10,000 different smells.

“The fact is the sense of smell is just as good in humans as in other mammals, like rodents and dogs,” John McGann, a neuroscientist at Rutgers University-New Brunswick in New Jersey and the author of the new review, said in a statement. The Rutgers study backs up a previous study at the Rockefeller University in New York, whose findings were published in the March 2014 issue of the journal Science.

Humans have 400 smelling receptors. While this isn’t as many as animals that are super smellers have, the much more complicated human brain makes the difference.  In fact, poor smelling ability in people may be a symptom of a medical condition or aging. For example, the distorted or decreased ability to smell is a symptom of schizophrenia and depression. Old age can also lessen the ability to smell properly. More than 75 percent of people over the age of 80 years may have major olfactory impairment, according to a 2006 paper published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Taste

The gustatory sense is usually broken down into the perception of four different tastes: salty, sweet, sour and bitter. There is also a fifth taste, defined as umami or savory. There may be many other flavors not yet discovered. Also, spicy is not a taste. It is actually a pain signal, according to the National Library of Medicine (NLM).

The sense of taste aided in human evolution, according to the NLM, because taste helped people test the food they ate. A bitter or sour taste indicated that a plant might be poisonous or rotten. Something salty or sweet, however, often meant the food was rich in nutrients.

Taste is sensed in the taste buds. Adults have 2,000 to 4,000 taste buds. Most of them are on the tongue, but they also line the back of the throat, the epiglottis, the nasal cavity and the esophagus. Sensory cells on the buds form capsules shaped like flower buds or oranges. The tips of these capsules have pores that work like funnels with tiny taste hairs. Proteins on the hairs bind chemicals to the cells for tasting.

It is a myth that the tongue has specific zones for each flavor. The five tastes can be sensed on all parts of the tongue, although the sides are more sensitive than the middle. About half of the sensory cells in taste buds react to several of the five basic tastes. The cells differ in their level of sensitivity. Each has a specific palette of tastes with a fixed ranking, so some cells may be more sensitive to sweet, followed by bitter, sour and salty, while others have their own rankings. The full experience of a flavor is produced only after all of the information from various parts of the tongue is combined.

The other half of the sensory cells are specialized to react to only one taste. It’s their job to transmit information about the intensity — how salty or sweet something tastes.

Other factors help build the perception of taste in the brain. For example, the smell of the food greatly affects how the brain perceives the taste. Smells are sent to the mouth in a process called olfactory referral. This is why someone with a stuffy nose may have trouble tasting food properly. Texture, translated by the sense of touch, also contributes to taste, and recent studies even show color and shape can affect the way we perceive a properly attribute taste to a food.

The sense of space

In addition to the traditional big five, other senses help us translate a myriad of inputs into how we perceive and relate to the physical world.  One deals with how your brain understands where your body is in space. This sense is called proprioception.

Proprioception includes the sense of movement and position of our limbs and muscles. For example, proprioception enables a person to touch their finger to the tip of their nose, even with their eyes closed. It enables a person to climb steps without looking at each one. People with poor proprioception may be clumsy and uncoordinated.

Researchers at the NIH found that people who have particularly poor proprioception through mechanosensation — the ability to sense force, such as feeling when someone presses down on your skin — may have a mutated gene that is passed down from generation to generation. That comes from a September 2016 study in the New England Journal of Medicine. “The patient’s version of [the gene] PIEZO2 may not work, so their neurons cannot detect touch or limb movements,” said Alexander Chesler, a principal investigator at the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health and the lead author of the study.

Additional senses & variations

There are more-subtle senses that most people never really perceive. For example, there are neuron sensors that sense movement to control balance and the tilt of the head. Specific kinesthetic receptors exist for detecting stretching in muscles and tendons, helping people to keep track of their limbs. Other receptors detect levels of oxygen in certain arteries of the bloodstream.

While our five  basic sense seem to operate independently, as distinct modes of perceiving the world, in reality, they collaborate closely to enable the mind to better understand our surroundings. We can become keenly aware of this collaboration under special conditions.

In some cases, a sense may covertly influence another we think is dominant. When visual information clashes with that from sound, sensory crosstalk can cause what we see to alter what we hear. When one sense drops out, another can pick up the slack.  For instance, people who are blind can train their hearing to play double duty. Those who are both blind and deaf can train touch to step in—even to help them interpret speech.

Our senses must also regularly meet and greet in the brain to provide accurate impressions of the world. Our ability to perceive the emotions of others relies on combinations of cues from sounds, sights and even smells.  Perceptual systems, particularly smell, connect with memory and emotion centers to enable sensory cues to trigger feelings and recollections, and are incorporated within them.

The crosstalking of the senses provides some of the most magnificent material for interesting science, illusions, inventions and just plain art.  Here are a few of the best examples of the complex interactions – and extraordinary feats – of our cross-wired senses.

Calling to See

Bats and dolphins, among other animals, emit sounds into their surroundings —not to communicate with other bats and whales — but to “see” what is around them.  They read echoes of the sound waves, which bounce off objects, to identify and locate objects.

This sensory system is called echolocation. Although most of us can only imagine the pictures that form from sound, some sightless people have managed to master a form of echolocation. By uttering sounds and clicks, these individuals can use their ears to navigate. Some, such as Daniel Kish, have even taught others to use this form of human sonar. Kish once described human echolocation as “something like seeing the world in dim flashes of light.”

Fingers Do the Hearing 

People who are both deaf and blind are incredibly good at using other senses, such as touch, to navigate and understand the world. Some use the Tadoma Speechreading Method to perceive speech by touching the lips of another person as they talk. First taught in the 1920s, lip-reading by touch was a popular form of communication among the deafblind. Helen Keller was one of its early adopters.

If taught early in development, the Tadoma Method can help a deaf-blind child learn to speak as well as to understand others. Those who lose their sight and hearing later in life can use it to read lips.

But because the method is extremely difficult and time consuming to learn, by the 1950s it began to lose ground to American Sign Language as the dominant teaching method. Today, only about 50 people in the world still use of the Tadoma Method.

Still, In ASL, the deaf-blind place their hands over another signer’s hands and follow the motions with their fingers—which is easier because the movements are far less subtle.

Beep Baseball

Blind baseball seems almost impossible to even imagine, but since 1975, when a few blind Minnesotans invented “beep baseball”, those who lack sight have taken part in America’s favorite pastime. Thanks to a one-pound beeping oversized softball and some tweaks to the game, players can hit a home run without ever seeing the ball. They use the sound the ball emits to orient themselves, make contact using a bat and to field.  Special bases make it possible to round the diamond. They might be particularly well-suited to this form of the game, as previous research suggests that blind individuals can more easily localize sounds than sighted people can.

Then there is synesthesia

For a few individuals with a condition called synesthesia, the senses collide dramatically and uniquely to form a kaleidoscope world in which chicken tastes like stars, a symphony smells of fresh baked bread or words are bathed in red, green or purple.

People with synesthesia have a particularly curious cross wiring of the senses in which activating one sense spontaneously triggers another. They see colors when they hear noises, associate particular personalities with days of the week, or hear sounds when they see moving dots.

Synesthesia is thought to be genetic, and recent research even suggests it may confer an evolutionary advantage.  Most synesthetes don’t notice anything strange about the way they perceive their environments until it is brought to their attention.

Given that, at any moment in time, we are bombarded by such a diverse combination of sensory experiences, our appreciation of the individual senses can become somewhat muddled. Our taste experience is affected by the smell, texture and temperature of our food. Similarly, our hearing is said to decrease after overeating, and our sight is affected by noises around us. Sight can also be hampered after eating fatty foods.

Here’s another interesting snippet – if a sad, depressed person tells you their world is dull and grey, and flowers have lost their smell, they’re not just speaking metaphorically. Research shows sensory perception can actually be diminished in depressed individuals.  So focussing on a renewed appreciation of your senses can actually help one get out of an emotional rut.

Five senses? More than ten!

The categorization of our five primary senses (sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch) is attributed to Aristotle. While this basic list is still valid, humans have a number of additional ‘sensory abilities’ not covered above. These secondary senses include:

  • Sense of balance and acceleration– the ability to sense body movement, direction and acceleration, and to maintain balance and equilibrium.
  • Temperature sense– the ability to sense heat and the absence of heat (cold).
  • Sense of Pain– the sense of pain was previously believed to be an overloading of pressure receptors, but it has since been identified as a distinct phenomenon that intertwines with the other senses, including touch.
  • Sense of Time– the ability to perceive the passage of time, both short passages as well as longer time cycles.

We are gifted with a complex system of basic and intertwined senses designed to help us take it all in….If any of these seem a little “off” for you, consider seeing a physician who can help you with a tune up….At HealthLynked, we work every day to get you connected with physicians who will really have a great “sense” for what is going on….

Take a brief moment to get a “taste” for how being at the center of your care using the first ever HealthCare social ecosystem will, well, make you “feel”.  Go to HealthLynked.com to get started for free!

Sources:

livescience.com

idahoptv.org

 

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?

Go to HealthLynked.com to get started unlocking better health today!

 

sources:

npr.org

pbs.org

Nytimes.com

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Frontotemporal Dementia | Medical News

Dementia is a problem of the elderly, right? Generally that’s true. But there is one form of the disease that can strike people when they are very young, in their twenties or even their teens. It’s called Frontotemporal Dementia, or FTD. And while rare, it devastates lives by rapidly turning young, vital people into those who need constant care. Learn more: http://mayocl.in/2iLbj2g

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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.

Ready to get Lynked?  Got to HealthLynked.com to get started for free today.

 

 

Hashtags:

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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

 

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

Can tea tree oil treat eczema?

Tea tree oil is a typical ingredient in many skin care products designed for oily skin and acne. But, can it also help treat eczema? This article looks at the research on tea tree oil and its potential use as a treatment for eczema. Learn more about its antiviral, anti-itch, and anti-inflammatory properties.

Benefits of tea tree oil for eczema

 

While there are few studies specifically on tea tree oil as an eczema treatment, researchers do know quite a lot about its many skin-improving properties.

For example, a 2011 study found that tea tree oil was more effective in treating eczema than topical treatments of zinc oxide or ichthammol.

Other potential benefits of tea tree oil for eczema include:

1. Reducing inflammation

Tea tree oil contains the compound terpinen-4-ol. This compound has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help alleviate some of the redness, irritation, and swelling associated with eczema.

2. Wound healing

According to an article in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, tea tree oil reduced healing times for people with wounds infected with Staphylococcus aureus.

However, the experimental study was small, so more research needs to be done to test tea tree oil’s wound-healing abilities.

3. Reducing allergic reactions

One study found that applications of high-dose tea tree oil helped to reduce skin hypersensitivity reactions to nickel in people with a nickel allergy.

Eczema is sometimes triggered or made worse by skin allergens and irritants, such as nickel.

However, applications containing lower doses of tea tree oil did not produce the same results.

High-dose tea tree oil applications may produce unwanted side effects, especially in people with sensitive skin. A person should test the preparation on a small patch of the skin before applying to a larger area. People who are sensitive to tea tree oil can dilute it in a carrier oil.

4. Fighting off viruses

Not only can tea tree oil help to kill unwanted bacteria, but it also has antiviral properties.

An antiviral treatment, such as tea tree, can reduce the chances of an infection developing if the eczema causes broken skin or it is weeping.

5. Reducing dandruff

Tea tree oil has anti-fungal properties, which can help to reduce the activity of specific yeasts, such as those known to cause dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis. Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic form of eczema.

Tea tree oil is also used to treat athlete’s foot and nail fungus.

6. Relieving itching

Itchy skin is a hallmark of eczema. One review found that tea tree oil was effective in reducing itching when used for eczema on the scalp.

Where to use tea tree oil

While it is okay to use tea tree oil on virtually any external area of the body, it is essential to do so safely.

If applying to the face, use preparations specifically designed for the face, scalp, or eyelashes. The skin on the face and scalp is sensitive, so a person should take care when treating eczema, acne, and dandruff.

If using a pure essential tea tree oil, it is crucial to mix just a few drops into a carrier oil, such as coconut or almond oil.

It is best to do a test patch by applying a small amount of tea tree oil to a small area of skin and waiting 24 hours. If there is no reaction after 24 hours, it may be safe to use.

A person should always check with their doctor before using tea tree oil preparations to ensure they will not interfere with other eczema treatments.

Source MNT

12 Signs Your Gray Matter Needs a CheckUP!

My buddy had fallen off the radar.  After years of at least chatting on our birthdays and around the Army-Navy Game (Go NAVY!) and USNA homecoming, I wasn’t able to reach him and had not gotten a call from him the entire football season.  As the Chief Information Officer for a major medical center, he had taken a low profile on social media, and so had his spouse.  They were sometimes difficult to reach when they went dark.

Luckily, I knew I’d be traveling in his area, so I was not going to let too busy or too secretive get in the way of seeing him.  I went to the facility where he worked, which was more secure than most of the bases we’d served on in our Navy careers.  After finally getting his assistant on the phone, I was getting the sense there was something more to the runaround.  The last time we did actually speak, he told me he had not been feeling too great – headaches that wouldn’t go away and occasionally blurred vision.

I asked her to have someone – anyone – call me to let me know how to get hold of him after explaining how I’d known him so many years. I received a call from his wife about fifteen minutes later.  She told me how to get to his room, that she’d cleared me with security in the building where he was, and prepared me for what I would be walking into.

The funniest, sunniest man I knew was in a comma after surgery on a brain tumor.  The surgery had gone great.  It was the weakness he suffered after which caused him to fall and brought him, then me, to this room.

On this World Brain Tumor Day, and many days of the year, I lift up and hope to honor my dear friend.

WHAT IS A BRAIN TUMOR?

A brain tumor is an abnormal growth of tissue in the brain or central spine that can disrupt proper brain function. Doctors refer to a tumor based on where the tumor cells originated, and whether they are cancerous (malignant) or not (benign).

  • Benign:The least aggressive type of brain tumor is often called a benign brain tumor. They originate from cells within or surrounding the brain, do not contain cancer cells, grow slowly, and typically have clear borders that do not spread into other tissue.
  • Malignant:Malignant brain tumors contain cancer cells and often do not have clear borders. They are considered to be life threatening because they grow rapidly and invade surrounding brain tissue.
  • Primary:Tumors that start in cells of the brain are called primary brain tumors. Primary brain tumors may spread to other parts of the brain or to the spine, but rarely to other organs.
  • Metastatic:Metastatic or secondary brain tumors begin in another part of the body and then spread to the brain. These tumors are more common than primary brain tumors and are named by the location in which they begin.

There are over 120 types of brain and central nervous system tumors. Brain and spinal cord tumors are different for everyone. They form in different areas, develop from different cell lines, and may have different treatment options.

Causes

Brain tumors that begin in the brain

 Primary brain tumors originate in the brain itself or in tissues close to it, such as in the brain-covering membranes (meninges), cranial nerves, pituitary gland or pineal gland.

Primary brain tumors begin when normal cells acquire errors (mutations) in their DNA. These mutations allow cells to grow and divide at increased rates and to continue living when healthy cells would die. The result is a mass of abnormal cells, which forms a tumor.

In adults, primary brain tumors are much less common than are secondary brain tumors, in which cancer begins elsewhere and spreads to the brain.

Many types of primary brain tumors exist. Each gets its name from the type of cells involved. Examples include:

  • These tumors begin in the brain or spinal cord and include astrocytomas, ependymomas, glioblastomas, oligoastrocytomas and oligodendrogliomas.
  • A meningioma is a tumor that arises from the membranes that surround your brain and spinal cord (meninges). Most meningiomas are noncancerous.
  • Acoustic neuromas (schwannomas).These are benign tumors that develop on the nerves that control balance and hearing leading from your inner ear to your brain.
  • Pituitary adenomas.These are mostly benign tumors that develop in the pituitary gland at the base of the brain. These tumors can affect the pituitary hormones with effects throughout the body.
  • These are the most common cancerous brain tumors in children. A medulloblastoma starts in the lower back part of the brain and tends to spread through the spinal fluid. These tumors are less common in adults, but they do occur.
  • Germ cell tumors.Germ cell tumors may develop during childhood where the testicles or ovaries will form. But sometimes germ cell tumors affect other parts of the body, such as the brain.
  • These rare, noncancerous tumors start near the brain’s pituitary gland, which secretes hormones that control many body functions. As the craniopharyngioma slowly grows, it can affect the pituitary gland and other structures near the brain.

Tumors that begin elsewhere and spread to the brain

Secondary (metastatic) brain tumors are tumors that result from rogue cells that go awry  elsewhere in your body and then spread (metastasizes) to your brain.

Secondary brain tumors most often occur in people who have a history of cancer. But in rare cases, a metastatic brain tumor may be the first sign of cancer that began elsewhere in your body.

In adults, secondary brain tumors are far more common than are primary brain tumors.

Any cancer can spread to the brain, but common types include:

  • Breast cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Melanoma

Risk factors

In most people with primary brain tumors, the cause of the tumor is not clear, but doctors have identified some factors that may increase your risk of a brain tumor.

Risk factors include:

  • Exposure to radiation.People who have been exposed to a type of radiation called ionizing radiation have an increased risk of brain tumor. Examples of ionizing radiation include radiation therapy used to treat cancer and radiation exposure caused by atomic bombs or nuclear powered vessels.  My friend was a submariner, so this was likely his contributing environmental risk.
  • Family history of brain tumors.A small portion of brain tumors occur in people with a family history of brain tumors or a family history of genetic syndromes that increase the risk of brain tumors.

12 POTENTIAL Symptoms

There are times a person may have no symptoms when their brain tumor is discovered.  Brain tumor symptoms vary according to tumor type and location. These may include:

New onset or change in pattern of headaches

If you’re not the type to usually have headaches and suddenly find you are dealing with them regularly, it could be many things – including early signs of a brain tumor.

Headaches associated with brain tumors don’t respond to over-the-counter remedies the same way other headaches do. However, you shouldn’t panic if you’re having headaches: “Keep in mind that most headaches are unrelated to brain tumors,” according to WebMD.

Speech Challenges

The Cancer Treatment Centers of America note that depending on the location of the brain tumor, it can affect areas that are normally responsible for clear communication.

That being said, speech itself may become difficult for the affected person, or they may experience “language difficulties”. This typically means the person can’t find the right words to express something or is unable to comprehend what someone is telling them.

Hearing Loss

While the ability to choose the right words to be heard can be affected by a brain tumor, so can the ability to hear, according to the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada. While the ear is obviously important for hearing, it’s the brain the ultimately processes sound, notes the source. That means your ear and its inner structures could be fine, but the pathways and receptors in your brain are not.

One type of tumor that can impact hearing is called an acoustic neuroma, which may affect one or both ears. Tests for this generally show hearing loss in high frequencies, as well as poor recognition of words, it adds. Tumors can affect a smaller area where auditory relay systems are, or by “mass effects” such as creating pressure or even causing the brain to move depending on the size of the tumor.

Weakness in One Side

You may experience weakness in 1-side of the body, affecting the arm and leg on that side. On top of that, you may become confused about which side of your body is left or right, which are all linked to a tumor in the frontal or parietal lobe of the brain.

Another symptom of this type of brain tumor is an “altered perception” of touch or pressure, it adds. Sources note this could affect your ability to feel pain or different temperatures.

Muscle Twitches

Tumors sometimes form on the membranes covering the brain and nearby spinal cord. It says the tumor pressing against these 2-essential areas can cause involuntary movements of muscles – these are called convulsions, which are also sometimes referred to as motor seizures, adds the source.

While this can present as full-blown seizures with loss of bodily function, it can also be in the form of single/multiple muscle twitches, jerks or spasms, known as myoclonic seizures.

Vision problems, such as blurred vision, double vision or loss of peripheral vision

Cancer Treatment Centers of America notes that a tumor located near the optical nerve could result in blurred or double vision, and some other types of tumors can actually result in abnormal eye movements.

The American Brain Tumor Association paints a slight less rosy picture when it comes to the relation of brain tumors and vision: the source notes you may develop blind spots, loss of peripheral vision (seeing out of the corner of your eyes), or sudden blindness – which could indicate pressure from the tumor on the brain, it adds. If you’re experiencing sudden blindness, seek medical assistance immediately.

Seizures

Brain tumors can also trigger seizures, which “might be the first clue that something unusual is happening in the brain,” according to the American Brain Tumor Association. It notes seizures are more common with particular types of brain tumors, such as slow-growing gliomas, meningiomas (affecting the membranes of the brain and spinal cord), and metastatic brain tumors (cancer that starts elsewhere and spreads to the brain).

Characteristics of tumor-related seizures include a sudden onset of the problem, loss of body function, arrested breathing (for 30-seconds or so) that could lead to a “dusky blue” skin color, an overall short episode of 2 or 3-minutes, and weakness or numbness afterwards.

Personality Changes

Family members and caregivers could notice a change in your behavior if you’re dealing with a brain tumor. CureToday.com explains that personality changes in a patient can put extra burden on those already dealing with the illness.

As the frontal lobe of the brain is the “command center” for personality, tumors in this area of the brain will have a more severe impact. However, other locations of tumors can cause hormonal imbalances and severe frustration for the patient, especially if their ability to speak has been impacted. “A brain tumor patient that has lost their speech might desperately want to tell a grandchild how much they love them, but not be able to get the words out,” Cure offers.

Depression

Along with personality changes that could involve risky behavior, a person’s mood may drop due to the presence of brain cancer.  In some cases, this may result in a misdiagnosis of a psychiatric problem, when in fact it’s a physical change in the brain region causing the depression or other unusual mood or behavior, it adds

Cognitive Decline

A host of problems with the brain’s ability to process information might be a result of a brain tumor. Cancer Treatment Centers of America notes brain cancer (tumors) can make it difficult for a patient to remember things, concentrate on a task, or communicate clearly.

A variety of the symptoms – such as being confused and not being able to think clearly – may be subtle or show up gradually. These could be early red flags to prompt your doctor to have a closer look at the root cause.

Trouble with Balance and Coordination

Cancer.net explains there could be some telltale signs of a brain tumor that show up in physical ways, whether from the cancer itself or the treatments. As the brain and spinal cord are part of the central nervous system, brain cancer patients can experience a variety of these unwanted side effects.

Aside from the cognitive decline already mentioned, brain tumor patients may find they have trouble with walking and balance, and they could experience vertigo, which is the sensation of the room spinning. Problems with coordination (e.g. something simple like tying your shoelaces) might also be impacted.

Fatigue/Lethargy

TheBrainTumorCharity.com based in the UK discusses tumor-related fatigue, noting it is “the most common side effect” of brain tumors and brain cancer. Those with non-cancerous brain tumors may also experience fatigue (defined as tiredness that’s not relieved by resting), it adds. You may also feel like your limbs are heavier and it’s generally tougher to move around.

This tumor-related fatigue can disrupt your sleep patterns and vary in intensity day-to-day or even during the same day, it adds. Other sources note fatigue is also a side effect of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy – so if the tumor itself isn’t causing you to feel endlessly tired, the treatment might be. 

Get Help Today

Whatever symptoms you have, make an appointment and discuss them fully with your physician so everyone has the most accurate information.  Though working at a renowned cancer center, my good friend waited a little too long to talk to someone.  Too busy and too secretive, right?

Diagnosing a brain tumor can be a complicated process and involve a number of specialists, depending on where you live or where you seek medical attention.  One of the factors of survival is early detection and treatment. A brain scan, most often an MRI, is the first step. A biopsy may be necessary, so a pathologist can be brought in to help identify the brain tumor type.

Whatever health concerns you have today, making sure you are connected to the right physicians and they have all of your most up to date information is what HealthLynked is all about.  It is the first of its kind social ecosystem designed to “Lynk” patients with their healthcare team in new ways to ensure they receive the best possible care and are restored to the best health possible.

Ready to get “Lynked”?  Go to HealthLynked.com, right now, and get signed up for free.  Your brain will thank you!

Sources:

MayoClinic.org

ABC2.org

ActiveBeat.com

Emedicinehealth.com

 

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#braintumorawareness

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#cancer

 

 

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