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Showing posts from June, 2008

Marijuana Relieves Neuropathic Pain According to New Study

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The University of California Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research has supported a study to determine if medicinal use of marijuana provides relief of neuropathic pain. Many patients use “medical marijuana” exactly for this purpose, but to date, the National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) have found no studies to support its use.


"This study adds to a growing body of evidence that cannabis may be effective at ameliorating neuropathic pain and may be an alternative for patients who do not respond to or cannot tolerate other drugs," according to lead author Barth Wilsey, MD, from the VA Northern California Health Care System and the University of California, Davis Medical Center. Furthermore, "the clinical utility of cannabis in the United States remains mired in controversy. Akin to the medical and social controversy surrounding the use of opioids in chronic pai…

Study - Subtle Neurological Changes May Predict Stroke and Death in Older Adults

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Tremor, reduced reflexes, differences in hand strength and unstable posture have been found to predict the risk of stroke and death in otherwise healthy older individuals within 8 years, according to a study published in the June 23 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine. The findings may be so subtle that they are not likely to be reported by patients.

Marco Inzitari, MD, from the University of Florence, in Italy, and colleagues examined 506 individuals with an average age of 72.5 years who had no neurological disease. Fourteen percent of the participants had 3 or more subtle neurological abnormalities. The incidence of death and stroke was recorded over eight years, and it was found that those with three or more subtle neurological abnormalities had a greater risk of dying or having a stroke over an eight year period. The researchers were able to conclude that "a simple neurological examination seems to be an additional prognosticator of hard outcomes, particularly death, …

World Health Organization Pushes for Safer Surgery

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According to Margaret Chan, MD, director-general of WHO, "Preventable surgical injuries and deaths are now a growing concern." Estimates tell us that one half of surgery complications are preventable. The "Safe Surgery Saves Lives Initiative", first edition, is due for launch in 2008 following a thorough evaluation of pilot studies which show that the initiative will likely double the safety of surgical procedures through the implementation of a patient checklist - a standard developed for use in all health settings, in all parts of the world.

The Safe Surgery Saves Life Initiative involves 200 national medical societies and health ministries who have collaborated to set safety standards for patients and improve surgery outcomes worldwide. The program is led by Harvard School of Public Health.

Setting higher standards of surgical care has become a major issue as disparities are seen among low income populations and in areas where access to surgical facilities …

Disease Prevention: Know Your Family’s Health History

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© Photographer: Lammeyer | Agency: Dreamstime.com

The Office of the Surgeon General has developed an online tool, “My Family Health History”, to help people organize past medical issues that run in families. The impetus stems from the recognition that common diseases, such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease are preventable if you know you are at risk. Survey statistics show that only 33% of Americans have taken the time to gather health related information from their family, yet 96% feel it is important.

The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) at the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) are also involved in the program. The site is free to access, and no information is stored. Once you enter information at My Family Health History, you can discuss needed testing and risk factor modification with your physici…

Study Links Carbohydrates to Colorectal and Endometrial Cancer

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A study published in the June issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition warns that high consumption high glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load (GL) foods are associated with increased risk of colorectal and endometrial cancers. Patrizia Gnagnarella, from the European Institute of Oncology in Milan, Italy, and colleagues write, "The overall GI reflects the average quality of carbohydrates consumed, whereas the total dietary GL reflects both the average quantity and quality of carbohydrates." The risk of endometrial and colorectal cancer was compared to that of pancreatic and breast cancer from a pooled analysis of studies published prior to October 2007. When comparing the two, the chances of developing endometrial and colorectal cancer was increased.

Past studies have also shown an association between high insulin concentrations and other forms of cancer. The current study showed only a "modest" increase in cancer risk.

According to the authors, "Th…

Study Provides Insight into Memory Loss and Sleep Apnea

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High-resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) recently allowed researchers to look deep into the brain of patients with sleep apnea. Left mammillary bodies, structures that lie deep in the brain, were found to be 20% smaller when compared to a control study group. Mammillary bodies are responsible for memory, and lie very close to the bone and spinal fluid, making them difficult to image with standard MRI. During a press release, Rajesh Kumar, PhD, from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), and colleagues reported, “These findings are important because patients suffering from memory loss from other symptoms, such as alcoholism or Alzheimer's disease, also show shrunken mammillary bodies.” The findings are published in the June 27 issue of Neuroscience Letters.


Children and adults with sleep apnea experience interruptions in sleep patterns, as they struggle when breathing stops. The cause is usually structural, such as airway collapse, or abnormalities of the…

Childhood Asthma Linked to Early Antibiotic Use

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A new study shows that children given antibiotics during their first year of life are more likely to develop asthma by age seven. The authors have taken into account other well known risks for asthma, basing their conclusions on an analysis of 13, 116 children who received antibiotics for non-respiratory tract infections early in life. The incidence was highest for children who received more than four courses of antibiotics,


Anita L. Kozyrskyj, PhD, from the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada, and colleagues write, "Antibiotic use in early life was associated with the development of childhood asthma, a risk that may be reduced by avoiding the use of BS [broad-spectrum] cephalosporins." Cephalosporins are a widely used class of antibiotics that are a cousin to Penicillin, and treat a variety of bacteria. The strongest link was found in children whose mother did not have asthma and in homes without dogs.


The researchers are not exactly sure what contributes to the…

Once a Week Drug Shows Promise for Type 2 Diabetes

The diabetic drug exenatide (Byeta), injected twice a day, has been reformulated so it can be taken once a week. Two separate studies show promise for improved control of blood sugar, blood pressure reduction, and weight loss in diabetic patients with weekly dosing. John B. Buse, MD, PhD, CDE, president, Medicine & Science, of the American Diabetes Association presented his findings at the Late Breaking Clinical Studies section of the American Diabetes Association 68th Scientific Sessions.

Exenatide mimics the natural effect of hormones that naturally regulate blood glucose levels through delays in gastric emptying, inhibition of glucagon release (a hormone responsible for increasing blood sugar levels), and stimulation of insulin-dependent glucose release.

The first study enlisted 295 patients with type 2 diabetes, providing one group with weekly dosing, and the other with twice-daily treatment of exenatide. HgA1C level, a test that measures diabetic blood sugar control over a t…

Chronic Pelvic Pain More Prevalent in Women than Migraines

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More than on half of women with chronic pelvic pain have an undiagnosed cause, according to a recent review published June 1 in American Family Physician. Estimates in the U.S. show that 15% more women have chronic pelvic pain than migraines, asthma or low back pain, and 61% of women never learn why they have pelvic pain. According to David D. Ortiz, MD, from CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Family Medicine Residency Program, in San Antonio, Texas, the definition of chronic pelvic pain is “noncyclic pain that lasts six months or more; is localized to the pelvis, the anterior abdominal wall at or below the umbilicus, or the buttocks; and is of sufficient severity to cause functional disability or require medical care. Other definitions do not require that the pain be noncyclic. Because the definition of chronic pelvic pain varies, it is difficult to ascertain its exact prevalence."

Frequently, your doctor may discover endometriosis, irritable bowel syndrome, interstitial cystitis or adhesions …

New Medicare Rules Mean Better Hospital Care

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Medicare is changing their rules again. Starting in October, Medicare will no longer pay for hospital acquired illness, challenging hospitalists to rev up admission screening methods and remain vigilant about errors. Frequent visits to patients to check for new developments, such as bedsores and infection from invasive tubes and IV’s are on the agenda of daily "to do’s" for nurses, doctors and hospital team members.

The Medicare In-patient Prospective Payment System (IPPS) rules added eight conditions that fall under the category of non-payment Examples include falls that result in injury, and surgical instruments left inside patients. Does this mean that if your doctor makes a boo – boo, you’re going to pay? It unlikely that will happen. For years, hospitals have been getting the money when things go wrong. Hospitals will now have the increased burden of making sure that mishaps don’t occur, and that’s great news for healthcare consumers.

One way hospitals plan to tackl…

Moms – Are Your Babies at Risk for Vitamin D Deficiency?

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You cannot read anything these days without a mention of Vitamin D. Estimates show that 12% of our youngest children may be Vitamin D deficient, while another 28% are at risk, according to the June issue of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. Breast-feeding without extra Vitamin D supplementation is thought to be a contributing factor. Mother’s milk lacks sufficient Vitamin D, making it common for doctors to recommend vitamin D supplements for breast-fed infants. The problem is worsened by the use of sunscreens, necessary for skin cancer prevention. Toddlers who do not drink enough Vitamin D fortified milk are also at risk. Few foods supply Vitamin D, an essential nutrient for calcium absorption and strong bones, immune function, and prevention of certain types of cancer.

The findings come from a study of 380 children, age 8 to 24 months, who were found to have low bone density and clinically low levels of serum vitamin D, though standards are not well defined. The …

Recognizing the Benefits of Acupuncture

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© Piotr Rzeszutek | Dreamstime.com

Acupuncture is widely accepted for its benefits, primarily in the management of musculoskeletal, inflammatory, and neuropathic pain. It’s also a viable option for treating other conditions, such as urinary incontinence, addictions, mood and neurologic disorders. The scientific basis of acupuncture is sound. Research performed on animals show that acupuncture, through a series of reactions, releases adrenocorticotropic hormones and beta-endorphin. The result if pain inhibition. More recently, MRI and PET scans have confirmed the effect of acupuncture on the brain. (1, 2) Professor Bruce Pomeranz at the University of Toronto began research in the 1970’s, leading to its acceptance in Western medicine.

Acupuncture is safe. The needles are designed so as not to produce trauma. A look at twelve studies showed that the risk of adverse events from acupuncture is 0.05 per 10,000 treatments, and 0.55 per 10,000 individual patients. Reusable needles have ca…

Herbs and Nutritional Supplements for Pain Relief

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Many people, to relieve pain and treat existing illness, use complementary therapies. Herbal medicine use is widespread. A review of popular herbal remedies and nutritional supplements can help those with chronic pain make informed decisions about healthcare options for pain control. Research is lacking for many preparations, relying on tradition, but there is some scientific data available about the safety and effectiveness of the most popular remedies.

Willow Bark – The effect of willow bark is short term, but it’s been shown to be effective for pain relief. The most popular use is for headache, bursitis, tendonitis, low back pain and fever. A Cochrane review of willow bark revealed inconsistent results for those with low back pain or osteoarthritis, but short-term improvement in other types of pain was obtained combined with traditional rescue medication.

Cayenne (Capsicum frutescens) – Fibromyalgia patients received capsaicin plasters to measure the potential benefit. Caps…

Health and Sexuality in Women

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Female sexuality is complex. It also has been poorly studied. Since the creation of Viagra, healthy sexuality is more openly discussed - but mostly that of men. This is in part due to the strong correlation between erectile dysfunction and heart disease. What about women in midlife and older? Little research has been devoted to this area of a woman's health.

Data from the National Health and Social Life Survey (NHSLS) suggests that sexual problems affect 43 percent of women in the United States (compared with 31 percent of men).[1] This has spawned an interest from the pharmaceutical companies to develop medication to treat female sexual dysfunction. But where would they begin? The problem is that sexual dysfunction in women is poorly defined. What actually constitutes "sexual dysfunction" for a woman?

Erections are measurable. Discomfort during sex, female orgasm and sexual performance anxiety for women are not so easily measured. In other words, these are not physical…

Are You Feeling Aggressive? Try Omega 3’s

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© Piotr Rzeszutek | Dreamstime.com




According to a new study, eating fish can prevent aggressiveness. Dr. Adrian Raine, professor of Criminology, Psychiatry and Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania has produced findings that Omega 3 fatty acids can reduce violent behaviors. Dr. Raine presented his findings at IV Brazilian Congress of Brain, Behavior and Emotions, where he suggested that prison inmates should increase their intake of fish. Genetic dysfunction of the cerebral cortex is found in approximately 50% of criminal offenders.


Dr. Raine found evidence from a 2002 study conducted on 321 young English prisoners who took Omega 3 fatty acid supplements for at least two weeks. Violent behaviors decreased by 35% for five weeks. Another study, performed in 2003, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, showed that children who participated in a program that included a diet rich in fish, physical activity and cognitive stimulation had a 35% less incidence of crime when …