Daily Archives: September 22, 2015

Myths Vs Facts about Vitiligo

Recent developments in the field of dermatology has enabled doctors to cure vitiligo, a common skin disease that produces white patches, to a great extent.

Second only to leprosy, in courting ostracism and social rejection, vitiligo has probably the most myths and unscientific theories associated with it. We hope that by educating people about the disorderies we can begin to change the public perception.

Here are some common myths surrounding vitiligo and an attempt to debunk them:

Myth 1: Vitiligo is caused by the wrath of God for our wrong doings. Other superstitions suggest certain types of deodorant set off vitiligo or that you can get it by patting dogs with white spots on their head.

Fact: Factually, none of these superstitions are true because if at all any of this was true then almost everyone on this earth would have had atleast one white patch on their skin.

Therefore, notions like these are baseless and arise from a lack of understanding of the disease. Scientifically, it has been found that vitiligo is caused by the destruction of melanocytes, the pigment producing cells of the skin. When these stop functioning, no pigment is produced and hence the skin in that area becomes white in colour.

Myth 2: Vitiligo is a result of wrong combination of foods, like, drinking milk shortly after eating fish brings on the disease.

Fact: In reality, vitiligo has no connection with diet. It is unreasonable to deprive patients of sour foods like curd, lemon, pickles and tomatoes in the hope of decreasing the severity of the disease.

However, factors which are believed to aggravate vitiligo are injuries — new patches appear where skin is subject to friction of trauma like scratches, burns, cuts, emotional stress, pregnancy and pressure sores.

Myth 3: Vitiligo patients are inferior in their physical or mental capabilities.

Fact: Please remember, vitiligo is restricted exclusively to the skin. Therefore, it has no connection with, or does not affect or influence any other body part, organs or intelligence level.

Myth 4: Vitiligo is a type of leprosy and is contagious.

Fact: Vitiligo is in no way related to leprosy. It is not contagious and therefore, cannot spread from one person to another via touch, saliva, blood, inhalation, sexual intercourse or sharing of personal items (drinking bottle, towels).

Myth 5: Vitiligo is related to other skin disorders such as albinism and skin cancer.

Fact: There are clear distinctions between each of these disorders, none of them being related to vitiligo.

Individuals with albinism are born with little or no melanin in their skin, whereas vitiligo onset occurs during one’s lifetime as the melanocytes become damaged. Also, vitiligo rarely encompasses the entire body like albinism.

While skin cancers arise from mutations in DNA, the genetic information within skin cells cause them to behave abnormally and grow uncontrolled unlike vitiligo, which is a completely separate skin disorder, occurring through different mechanisms.

Myth 6: Vitiligo is untreatable.

Fact: Medical science has given us an entire armament to battle the disease — treatments like immunomodular drugs, steroids, Ultraviolet A and the newer narrow band Ultraviolet B are available. In addition, various surgical options like punch grafting and split thickness grafting, can be done.

The latest technique is melanocyte transfer, in which only melanocytes from normal skin are harvested and inoculated into the vitiliginous patches.

Treatment is no doubt difficult and slow and not all patients respond alike; however, it is more important to treat the stigma than the disease as the mental impact is far more than the effect on physical well-being.

Share This:

Published by:

Cancer and its Potential Warning Signs that People Too Often Ignore

Health experts emphasize the importance of paying attention to warning signs and symptoms that could indicate undiagnosed cancer. If cancer is the cause, early detection by doctors greatly improves the chances of successfully treating the condition.

Though the signs and symptoms described below do not necessarily indicate cancer, do not ignore them. If you experience any of these symptoms, analyze your symptoms and get an appointment with a doctor soon.

There are more than 200 types of cancer. The most common types include lung, prostate, breast, ovarian, bladder, colorectal, kidney (renal), pancreatic, and endometrial cancers as well as melanoma and leukemia. The survival rate for most of these cancers, especially lung cancer, is often quite poor because more often than not, they are not diagnosed until they are already in an advanced stage, making them harder to treat.

Here are some warning signs of cancer that you need to be aware of and address appropriately if you experience them.

1. Unexplained weight loss

Unexplained weight loss is often one of the first noticeable signs of cancer. It is particularly common in people suffering from solid tumor cancers like breast and lung cancer.

Weight loss often occurs when a cancer spreads to the liver and impairs its functioning, especially related to regulating appetite and removing toxins. Weight loss can also be an early sign of colon or other digestive cancers.

Unexplained weight loss is so common that:

  • as many as 40 percent of cancer patients report unexplained weight loss at the time of diagnosis, and
  • unexplained weight loss and cachexia (general ‘wasting’) are experienced in up to 80 percent of cases of advanced cancer.

If you have not been trying to drop some pounds by exercising and watching your diet but you are losing weight anyways, consult a healthcare provider. Losing 10 pounds a month or up to 10 percent of your weight in a span of six months can be cause for concern.

2. Frequent fevers or infections

Though a fever may simply indicate that your body is fighting an infection, a persistent or prolonged fever can be a sign of a cancerous condition, such as lymphoma. Leukemia, a cancer of the blood cells, can also cause symptoms like frequent infections, fevers, fatigue, aches, and other flu-like symptoms.

3. Weakness and fatigue

Weakness and fatigue that does not diminish, even when you get more sleep and rest, should be evaluated by a doctor. It can be a sign of a variety of cancers, so you and your doctor will need to consider other symptoms as well.

4. Wheezing or shortness of breath

Though wheezing and shortness of breath can be caused by a variety of conditions, these symptoms can be associated with lung cancer too. When a tumor in a lung presses against and narrows an airway, it may lead to wheezing – a whistling sound that occurs during exhalation due to constricted airways.

5. Chronic cough and chest pain

At times, symptoms of cancers like leukemia and lung tumors can mimic a bad cough or bronchitis. The problem may persist or come-and-go in repeating cycles. There may also be chest pain extending into the shoulder or down the arm. Consult a doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.

Also, get yourself checked by a doctor if you have a cough and hoarse voice for more than six weeks, especially if you smoke or have smoked in the past. Occasionally, a hoarse voice may be a symptom of laryngeal, thyroid, esophageal, or lung cancer.

6. Bloating

Unexplained abdominal bloating continuing on-and-off over a long period of time may be sign of ovarian cancer. Bloating accompanied by pelvic pain, swelling in the abdomen, and feeling full may be another tip-off to this condition. Similarly, pain or bloating in the stomach after eating can be a sign of stomach cancer.

7. Chronic heartburn

Heartburn is usually a symptom of acid reflux disease, but if it is persistent, it may be associated with Barrett’s esophagus or esophageal cancer.

A study published in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology in May 2012 found that inflammation of the tissue lining in the esophagus caused by chronic heartburn may increase the risk of esophageal cancer.

Moreover, a study by researchers at Rhode Island Hospital discovered a pathway linking Barrett’s esophagus to the development of esophageal cancer. The research was published in the American Journal of Cell Physiology in 2013.

8. Bowel problems

If you notice a change in your bowel habits (toilet habits) that lasts four weeks or longer for no obvious reason, consult your doctor as it may be a sign of bowel cancer, especially in older adults.

9. Difficulty swallowing

Trouble swallowing, or the feeling that food is stuck in the throat or chest, that gets worse with time can be a symptom of esophageal or throat cancer. Symptoms of these cancers also include pain or a burning sensation when swallowing food.

Esophageal cancer typically does not cause symptoms initially, so do not ignore these symptoms if they occur. Similarly, difficulty swallowing can be one of the first signs of lung cancer.

10. Jaundice

Jaundice is characterized by yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes. Though it is mostly considered a symptom of liver or gallbladder disease, it can also be caused by pancreatic cancer interfering with the bile duct and liver.

11. Unusual swelling or lumps in the body

Unusual lumps on the breasts, testicles, groin, neck, abdomen, underarms, or other parts of the body should be thoroughly checked by a doctor, especially if they last for three weeks or more.

At times, an enlarged lymph node or lump under the arm can be a sign of breast cancer. Red, sore, swollen breasts may indicate inflammatory breast cancer.

12. New or changing skin spots or moles

Changes on your skin rarely cause pain and often pose little or no health concerns, but experts recommend screening for cancer when you see:

  • new growths, spots, or sores on the skin that won’t heal, or
  • changes in symmetry, border, color or diameter of an existing mole.

13. Changes in nails

Unusual changes in fingernails can indicate several types of cancers, such as skin, liver, or lung cancer. While each of the following changes can occur for many reasons, they could be warning signs of cancer.

  • Black or brown spots under your nails may indicate skin cancer.
  • Clubbing of the fingers or toes (enlarged ends of the nails) may be associated with lung cancer. Diseases that reduce the amount of oxygen in the blood cause this problem.
  • Pale or white nails may indicate poor liver functioning, which may be due to various diseases including liver cancer.

14. Pelvic or abdominal pain

Pelvic or lower abdominal pain, accompanied by pelvic heaviness, may be a symptom of ovarian cancer. It may also cause changes in bathroom habits. Generally, women are more at risk of developing ovarian cancer if they:

  • have never been pregnant,
  • have a family history of ovarian, breast, or colorectal cancer, or
  • have been diagnosed with breast, colon, rectum or uterine cancer.

Plus, pain in the pelvic area may be a sign of uterine cancer or leukemia (when pain is due to an enlarged spleen).

15. Unexplained pain lasting more than four weeks

Though aches and pains tend to be vague, if you experience persistent unexplained pain or if it comes-and-goes over a period of four weeks or more, then it is better to get the problem checked by a doctor. Pain is often an early symptom of bone or testicular cancer.

16. Abnormal bleeding

Blood in your urine, though sometimes a symptom of a urinary tract infection, can be caused by bladder or kidney cancer. Similarly, blood in stools, though a common sight among those who have hemorrhoids, can be a symptom of bowel cancer.

Bleeding between periods or after menopause may indicate endometrial or uterine cancer. In rare cases, vaginal bleeding may be due to vaginal cancer. Bleeding from the gastrointestinal tract may be a sign of colorectal cancer.

Vomiting blood and coughing up blood may be signs of stomach or esophageal cancer and lung cancer, respectively. Excessive bruising and bleeding that does not stop could be signs of leukemia. While abnormal bleeding can be caused by other illnesses too, it still needs to be evaluated by a doctor.

So, apart from getting your recommended health check-ups and cancer screenings, be sure to keep an eye on the symptoms mentioned above. Try to adopt the “better safe than sorry” approach and get these symptoms checked out by a doctor, particularly if you do not have health issues that would otherwise cause such symptoms.









Share This:

Published by:

10 lifestyle changes to lower your high blood pressure

If you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure, you might be worried about taking medication to bring your numbers down. Lifestyle plays an important role in treating your high blood pressure. If you successfully control your blood pressure with a healthy lifestyle, you might avoid, delay or reduce the need for medication.

Here are 10 lifestyle changes you can make to lower your blood pressure and keep it down.

 1. Lose extra pounds and watch your waistline

Blood pressure often increases as weight increases. Being overweight also can cause disrupted breathing while you sleep (sleep apnea), which further raises your blood pressure.

Weight loss is one of the most effective lifestyle changes for controlling blood pressure. Losing just 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms) can help reduce your blood pressure. Besides shedding pounds, you generally should also keep an eye on your waistline. Carrying too much weight around your waist can put you at greater risk of high blood pressure.

In general:

  • Men are at risk if their waist measurement is greater than 40 inches (102 centimeters).
  • Women are at risk if their waist measurement is greater than 35 inches (89 centimeters).

These numbers vary among ethnic groups. Ask your doctor about a healthy waist measurement for you.

 2. Exercise regularly

Regular physical activity — at least 30 minutes most days of the week — can lower your blood pressure by 4 to 9 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). It’s important to be consistent because if you stop exercising, your blood pressure can rise again.

If you have slightly high blood pressure (prehypertension), exercise can help you avoid developing full-blown hypertension. If you already have hypertension, regular physical activity can bring your blood pressure down to safer levels.

The best types of exercise for lowering blood pressure include walking, jogging, cycling, swimming or dancing. Strength training also can help reduce blood pressure. Talk to your doctor about developing an exercise program.

3. Eat a healthy diet

Eating a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products and skimps on saturated fat and cholesterol can lower your blood pressure by up to 14 mm Hg. This eating plan is known as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet.

It isn’t easy to change your eating habits, but with these tips, you can adopt a healthy diet:

  • Keep a food diary. Writing down what you eat, even for just a week, can shed surprising light on your true eating habits. Monitor what you eat, how much, when and why.
  • Consider boosting potassium. Potassium can lessen the effects of sodium on blood pressure. The best source of potassium is food, such as fruits and vegetables, rather than supplements. Talk to your doctor about the potassium level that’s best for you.
  • Be a smart shopper. Read food labels when you shop and stick to your healthy-eating plan when you’re dining out, too.
 4. Reduce sodium in your diet
Even a small reduction in the sodium in your diet can reduce blood pressure by 2 to 8 mm Hg.

The effect of sodium intake on blood pressure varies among groups of people. In general, limit sodium to less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) a day or less. However, a lower sodium intake — 1,500 mg a day or less — is appropriate for people with greater salt sensitivity, including:

  • African-Americans
  • Anyone age 51 or older
  • Anyone diagnosed with high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease

To decrease sodium in your diet, consider these tips:

  • Read food labels. If possible, choose low-sodium alternatives of the foods and beverages you normally buy.
  • Eat fewer processed foods. Only a small amount of sodium occurs naturally in foods. Most sodium is added during processing.
  • Don’t add salt. Just 1 level teaspoon of salt has 2,300 mg of sodium. Use herbs or spices to add flavor to your food.
  • Ease into it. If you don’t feel you can drastically reduce the sodium in your diet suddenly, cut back gradually. Your palate will adjust over time.
 5. Limit the amount of alcohol you drink
Alcohol can be both good and bad for your health. In small amounts, it can potentially lower your blood pressure by 2 to 4 mm Hg.

But that protective effect is lost if you drink too much alcohol — generally more than one drink a day for women and for men older than age 65, or more than two a day for men age 65 and younger. One drink equals 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor.

Drinking more than moderate amounts of alcohol can actually raise blood pressure by several points. It can also reduce the effectiveness of blood pressure medications.

6. Quit smoking

Each cigarette you smoke increases your blood pressure for many minutes after you finish. Quitting smoking helps your blood pressure return to normal. People who quit smoking, regardless of age, have substantial increases in life expectancy.

 7. Cut back on caffeine

The role caffeine plays in blood pressure is still debated. Caffeine can raise blood pressure by as much as 10 mm Hg in people who rarely consume it, but there is little to no strong effect on blood pressure in habitual coffee drinkers.

Although the effects of chronic caffeine ingestion on blood pressure aren’t clear, the possibility of a slight increase in blood pressure exists.

To see if caffeine raises your blood pressure, check your pressure within 30 minutes of drinking a caffeinated beverage. If your blood pressure increases by 5 to 10 mm Hg, you may be sensitive to the blood pressure raising effects of caffeine. Talk to your doctor about the effects of caffeine on your blood pressure.

 8. Reduce your stress

Chronic stress is an important contributor to high blood pressure. Occasional stress also can contribute to high blood pressure if you react to stress by eating unhealthy food, drinking alcohol or smoking.

Take some time to think about what causes you to feel stressed, such as work, family, finances or illness. Once you know what’s causing your stress, consider how you can eliminate or reduce stress.

If you can’t eliminate all of your stressors, you can at least cope with them in a healthier way. Try to:

  • Change your expectations. Give yourself time to get things done. Learn to say no and to live within manageable limits. Try to learn to accept things you can’t change.
  • Think about problems under your control and make a plan to solve them. You could talk to your boss about difficulties at work or to family members about problems at home.
  • Know your stress triggers. Avoid whatever triggers you can. For example, spend less time with people who bother you or avoid driving in rush-hour traffic.
  • Make time to relax and to do activities you enjoy. Take 15 to 20 minutes a day to sit quietly and breathe deeply. Try to intentionally enjoy what you do rather than hurrying through your “relaxing activities” at a stressful pace.
  • Practice gratitude. Expressing gratitude to others can help reduce stressful thoughts.
9. Monitor your blood pressure at home and see your doctor regularly

Home monitoring can help you keep tabs on your blood pressure, make certain your lifestyle changes are working, and alert you and your doctor to potential health complications. Blood pressure monitors are available widely and without a prescription. Talk to your doctor about home monitoring before you get started.

Regular visits with your doctor are also key to controlling your blood pressure. If your blood pressure is under control, you might need to visit your doctor only every six to 12 months, depending on other conditions you might have. If your blood pressure isn’t well-controlled, your doctor will likely want to see you more frequently.

 10. Get support

Supportive family and friends can help improve your health. They may encourage you to take care of yourself, drive you to the doctor’s office or embark on an exercise program with you to keep your blood pressure low.

If you find you need support beyond your family and friends, consider joining a support group. This may put you in touch with people who can give you an emotional or morale boost and who can offer practical tips to cope with your condition.

Share This:

Published by: