28 December 2017
THURSDAY, Dec. 28, 2017 (HealthDay News) — Among people with the skin disease psoriasis, could skin color play a role in whether or not they visit a dermatologist? An analysis of federal government health survey data from 2001 to 2013 found that black, Asian and other minorities are less likely than white people in the United States to see a doctor for treatment of the chronic inflammatory disease. The researchers found that among 842 people with psoriasis included in the study, nearly 51 percent of whites saw a dermatologist versus about 47 percent of Hispanics. In comparison, only 38 percent of blacks, Asians, native Hawaiians/Pacific Islanders and other non-Hispanic minorities saw a dermatologist for their psoriasis. White patients also visited a dermatologist more often, the study found. They averaged 2.69 visits a year, compared with 1.87 for Hispanics and 1.30 for non-Hispanic minorities. Nationwide, this would translate into more than 3 million fewer visits a year for psoriasis among non-Hispanic racial minorities than among whites. “While psoriasis is less common among minorities, previous research has shown their disease can be more severe,” senior author Dr. Junko Takeshita, an assistant professor of dermatology and epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania, said in a university news release. “Despite that, this study shows minorities are less likely to see a dermatologist for treatment,” Takeshita added. Psoriasis affects about 7.5 million Americans, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation. Along with affecting the skin, causing raised red patches with silvery scales, psoriasis has been linked with an increased risk for heart attack, stroke and premature death. “When you combine the results of our study with the knowledge that psoriasis severity and quality-of-life impact suggest a larger burden of psoriasis among minorities, it brings into focus the racial gaps that exist in psoriasis care,” Takeshita said. Further research is needed to learn more about the reasons for these disparities, the study authors said. “Ultimately, increasing awareness of these disparities is the first step in trying to provide equitable care and improve outcomes for all individuals with psoriasis,” Takeshita concluded. The findings were published recently in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. More information The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on psoriasis.
27 December 2017
WEDNESDAY, Dec. 27, 2017 (HealthDay News) — Holiday parties and gatherings mean more trips to nail and hair salons for some. But if you’re not careful, you might end up picking up more than you bargained for. In a recent small survey of nail and hair salon clients, more than two-thirds said they’d had one or more health issues after visiting a salon. These included skin problems, fungal infections and respiratory symptoms. “When it comes to safety, the most important thing is being aware of the dangers present in salons,” said Lindsey Milich, lead author of a study based on the survey. She’s a research analyst at the Rutgers School of Public Health in Piscataway, N.J. Nail and hair salons generally offer a wide range of services. Manicures, pedicures, applying artificial nails, removing hair with wax, hair styling and hair coloring are common offerings. However, many of these services involve exposure to chemicals that can be hazardous for the client or for the nail technician or stylist, the researchers said. These products can cause allergic reactions and skin irritation. In addition, because many of the tools are reused from one client to another, it’s possible to pick up bacterial and fungal infections if proper sterilization techniques aren’t used. The survey included 90 patrons of nail and hair salons from three counties in New Jersey. Nearly all (94 percent) were women. Survey participants were asked about health symptoms, as well as their knowledge of potential hazards and safety practices in salons. About 42 percent they’d developed skin issues and 10 percent reported fungal infections after salon visits. These problems included itchiness to the hands or face, cuts, burning or tingling sensations, pain or redness around the nail area, athlete’s foot, finger or toenail fungus, and nail discoloration. One in 6 survey participants reported respiratory symptoms, including runny nose, itching or watery eyes, trouble breathing and headache. Across the board, the percentages for reported problems were higher for nail salons than hair salons. Though the salon clients reported experiencing these problems after a salon visit, Milich noted that the study did not prove that these issues were caused by the salon. Milich was also involved in a second study, which looked at the health of nail salon technicians. That study — led by Derek Shendell from the Rutgers School of Public Health — included 68 workers from 40 nail salons whose owners agreed to their participation. Most of the nail salon workers were Asian women who said they’d had eye, nose, throat or skin symptoms they believed were related to their jobs. The study found that most workers had received training only in English, not in their primary language. The researchers suggested that salon workers needed “comprehensive chemical use training,” and urged that more research be done on the extent of salon workers’ exposure to hazardous materials. For those who frequent salons, what can you do to safeguard your health? First, check that the salon appears clean and is licensed by your state’s cosmetology board, Milich advised. Also check that the salon properly sanitizes any hair or nail tools that are reused from client to client. Dr. Debra Spicehandler, co-chief of infectious diseases at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, N.Y., agreed — adding that you also should make sure the equipment is sterilized in an “autoclave.” That’s a device that heats the tools to kill bacteria and looks like a small oven. “If they’re just putting the tools in chemicals, that’s not enough,” said Spicehandler, who was not involved with the studies. She also recommended going to a nail salon that uses a disposable plastic liner in the footbath used for pedicures. Spicehandler said it’s better to have your cuticles pushed back than cut, but if sterile equipment is used, it’s OK to have cuticles cut. If you do get an injury when they’re cutting, be sure to clean it well and apply an antibiotic ointment to the cut. “If you see any swelling or redness at the site of the cut, or you get an injury on the nail bed, see your doctor,” she said. Spicehandler also said that people with diabetes need to be extra careful when getting pedicures. “It’s best to go to a podiatrist to get your nails cut, but you can get your nail color at the salon,” she said. The study involving salon clients was published in the November/December issue of the Journal of Chemical Health and Safety. The study on nail salon workers was published last month in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. More information The U.S. Department of Labor has more about staying safe at a nail salon.
26 December 2017
TUESDAY, Dec. 26, 2017 (HealthDay News) — Seniors are wasting their time and money taking calcium and vitamin D supplements to ward off the brittle bones of old age, a new review concludes. It turns out there’s little evidence supplements protect against hip fractures and other broken bones in older folks, according to data gathered from dozens of clinical trials. “The routine use of these supplements is unnecessary in community-dwelling older people,” said lead researcher Dr. Jia-Guo Zhao, an orthopedic surgeon with Tianjin Hospital in China. “I think that it is time to stop taking calcium and vitamin D supplements.” Not all experts agreed with this conclusion, however. Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Daniel Smith says the study makes a “bold leap” by arguing that these supplements do no good at all. “The big picture, which seems to be lost in this study, is that the personal health cost of a hip fracture can be catastrophic,” said Smith, an assistant professor of orthopedics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. “The potential benefit of calcium and vitamin D supplementation in preventing even a small number of hip fractures far outweighs the otherwise minimum risks associated with routine calcium and vitamin D supplementation in at-risk populations,” Smith added. It’s been longstanding medical advice that aging people focus on getting enough calcium and vitamin D to preserve their bone health as they age. About 99 percent of the calcium in the human body is stored in the bones and teeth, and the body cannot produce the mineral on its own, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Too little calcium can lead to osteoporosis. The body also requires vitamin D to absorb calcium. The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends that women aged 50 or younger and men 70 or younger should get 1,000 milligrams (mg) of calcium per day. Men and women older than that should get 1,200 mg daily. For their analysis, Zhao and his colleagues combed through medical literature to find clinical trials that previously tested the usefulness of calcium and Vitamin D supplements. They wound up with data from 33 different clinical trials involving more than 51,000 participants, all of whom were older than 50 and living independently. Most of the clinical trials took place in the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia, Zhao said. The dosage of the supplements varied between the clinical trials, as did the frequency at which they were taken. The pooled data revealed no significant association between calcium or vitamin D supplements and a person’s risk of hip fracture or other broken bones, compared with people who received placebos or no treatment at all. Calcium and vitamin D are still essential to bone health, but these results indicate you should get them through your diet and lifestyle rather than from supplements, Zhao explained. “Dietary calcium is irreplaceable for skeletal health,” Zhao said. “Milk, vegetable, fruit and bean products are the most important food sources of calcium.” “Vitamin D is synthesized in the skin in response to ultraviolet-B radiation in sunlight, and dietary sources of vitamin D are limited,” Zhao continued. Exercising out in the sunshine should provide a person with all the vitamin D they need. Potential dietary sources of these nutrients prove one of the weaknesses of the evidence review, Smith argued. “While this study addresses concerns regarding calcium and vitamin D supplementation, it fails to address or even consider whether the patients in question are obtaining either adequate calcium and vitamin D intake in their diets or sunlight exposure, obviating the need for supplementation,” Smith said. The evidence review also included a large amount of data from the Women’s Health Initiative, a federally funded study of aging U.S. women, said Andrea Wong, vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs with the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a trade association representing dietary supplement manufacturers. “Unfortunately, the WHI data has been widely acknowledged as having limitations of its own having to do with subjects not taking the supplements as directed by the protocol, as well as those who took calcium and vitamin D supplements on their own, outside the protocol, before and during the study,” Wong said. Inclusion of the WHI might have skewed the overall results of the review, Wong argued. In addition, later reviews of the WHI data indicated that people who started taking calcium and vitamin D supplements had a reduced risk of hip fractures and other broken bones, Wong said. “CRN recommends that people discuss their individual needs for calcium and vitamin D with their health care practitioners,” she said. “If there is the possibility of reducing the risk of a devastating fracture by supplementing with calcium and vitamin D, as some research has found, people should not be dissuaded from supplementation by a meta-analysis that is meant as a general recommendation and may not apply to each individual,” Wong added. The new analysis was published Dec. 26 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. More information For more on calcium, vitamin D and bone health, visit the National Osteoporosis Foundation.
26 December 2017
TUESDAY, Dec. 26, 2017 (HealthDay News) — Cutting down on fat is a big part of any weight-loss diet. Fat has twice the calories of protein and carbs — so ounce for ounce, you can replace fat with twice the amount of those foods for the same calories. You do need some fat in your diet, but you want to lower the amount of saturated fat you eat. These are the fats in meat and dairy, and they contribute to high cholesterol. Cutting out saturated fat when you want to lose weight helps rein in calories, too. Use milk or yogurt rather than cream in recipes. Select low- or non-fat varieties when buying these dairy products. To adopt this healthy habit, reset your taste buds gradually. For instance, go from whole milk to 2 percent to 1 percent to fat-free in stages. Choose lean cuts of meat. If you can see any solid white fat, trim it off before cooking. You can cook poultry with the skin on to keep it moist — just remove and discard it before eating. Replace butter, lard and shortening with healthier plant-based oils, like olive, canola and nut-based oils. Limit calories by using just small amounts for flavor. Be careful with coconut and palm oils, which are higher in saturated fat than other plant oils. Although the cholesterol in eggs isn’t as dangerous as once thought, the yolks still have saturated fat and are relatively high in calories at about 60. Consider replacing half the yolks in recipes with an extra egg white for each one you eliminate. At the food market, become a label reader. Saturated fat can be hidden in the most unlikely of packaged foods. With this gradual approach, the only time you’ll notice the difference is when you step on the scale. More information For more on reducing fat in your diet, the Cleveland Clinic has details on the different types of fat and advice on making the best choices.
21 December 2017
THURSDAY, Dec. 21, 2017 (HealthDay News) — Allergies and asthma can be worse than the Grinch when it comes to ruining your holiday spirit. “People may not want to admit their allergies and asthma interfere with their holiday fun, but the truth is, symptoms can occur any time of the year,” said Dr. Bradley Chipps, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. “If you keep in mind some simple tips, you can prepare yourself — and your nose and eyes — for allergy symptoms that may crop up during the holidays,” he said in a news release from the organization. First of all, protect yourself from the flu by getting a flu shot and washing your hands regularly and thoroughly. People with asthma need to remember that very cold, dry air can trigger asthma symptoms. So if you have asthma, cover your mouth and nose with a scarf or face mask when you’re outside. That’s especially true if you’re exercising. Or, consider exercising indoors during cold weather. Real Christmas trees can have mold spores and pollen on them, which can trigger nasal allergies. Their sap can also cause contact skin allergies in some people. What to do? Rinse off live trees before bringing them into your home. And, even if your tree is artificial, clean it — and all decorations — before use because they, too, can gather dust and mold. Food allergies can also pose problems during the holiday season. The best advice is to alert hosts to any food allergies you or others in your family have — and consider taking a dish or dishes to parties to be sure they’ll be something that’s safe for you. If you’re hosting, let your guests know what dishes you plan to serve. More information The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers holiday health and safety tips.
19 December 2017
TUESDAY, Dec. 19, 2017 (HealthDay News) — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday called for tougher warnings and “additional research” into a dye commonly used with standard MRIs. The dye — a “contrast agent” — contains a metal called gadolinium. It made news recently after claims from actor Chuck Norris that its use during MRI scans seriously affected his wife’s brain. Contrast agents are injected into the body during an MRI scan to enhance image quality. In November, Norris and his wife, Gena, filed a lawsuit against several medical companies alleging she fell ill after exposure to gadolinium during MRI scans. The suit said Gena Norris was left weak, tired and suffering bouts of pain and burning sensations. After reviewing available data, the FDA on Tuesday recommended that radiologists consider how much gadolinium might be left behind in a patient’s body when selecting a gadolinium-based contrast agent [GBCA] for an MRI. The recommendation is especially important “for patients who may be at higher risk, such as those who may require repeat GBCA MRI scans to monitor a chronic condition,” explained Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the agency’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. Patients who are sent for an MRI should also now receive a medication guide outlining issues surrounding gadolinium, Woodcock added. But for most patients, “gadolinium retention has not been directly linked to adverse health effects,” the FDA stressed in an agency news release. It also said “the benefit of all approved GBCAs continues to outweigh any potential risks.” For now, the FDA says gadolinium agents have only one known health risk: A “small subgroup” of kidney failure patients has developed a rare skin condition that causes a painful thickening of the skin. But gadolinium can linger in the body “for months or years after receiving the drug,” the agency said, noting more research is warranted. It is asking manufacturers of GBCAs to “also conduct human and animal studies to further assess the safety of these contrast agents.” This is not the agency’s first warning on gadolinium. In September, an FDA panel called for a warning to be added to the agents’ labels. The warning specifies that trace amounts of gadolinium may be retained in various organs, including the skin, bone and brain. The big question remains, though: What, if any, are the harms? Doctors have used gadolinium-based agents for 30 years — totaling more than 300 million doses, said Dr. Vikas Gulani. He’s an associate professor of radiology at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. But, Gulani explained, researchers have only recently discovered that trace amounts of the metal can be left behind in the brain. One study on the issue was presented Nov. 29 at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America. It involved nearly 4,300 older adults and found no evidence that gadolinium exposure was related to faster mental decline over several years, according to a team led by Dr. Robert McDonald, of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. “This study provides useful data that at the reasonable doses 95 percent of the population is likely to receive in their lifetime, there is no evidence at this point that gadolinium retention in the brain is associated with adverse clinical outcomes,” McDonald said in a news release from the meeting. So, “at this point,” Gulani said, “we are not aware of any harms from these agents being retained in the brain.” Still, he added, the latest study does not rule out that possibility. There are open questions — including whether gadolinium exposure could be related to other neurological issues, such as movement problems. Also, any theoretical risks from the agents have to be balanced against their proven benefit in improving MRI image quality. However, there are cases where an MRI can be done without a contrast agent, Gulani said. “It’s reasonable for patients to ask their doctor whether it’s needed or not,” he added. Gulani helped craft the latest recommendations from the International Society of Magnetic Resonance in Medicine on using MRI contrast agents. They say that if a gadolinium-based agent is not necessary, it should be skipped. “It’s just like with any other medication,” Gulani said. “If you don’t need it, don’t use it.” More information The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more on gadolinium-based contrast agents.
19 December 2017
MONDAY, Dec. 18, 2017 (HealthDay News) — They may be touted as relatively harmless, but rubber and plastic bullets can cause serious injury and death, and should not be used when riots occur, researchers say. These types of bullets — widely used by police, military and security forces to disperse crowds — are meant to incapacitate people by causing pain or injury. But a team from the University of California, Berkeley, said the speed at which many rubber or plastic bullets leave the weapon is the same as live ammunition. In fact, the new study suggests “that these weapons have the potential to cause severe injuries and death,” said researchers led by Dr. Rohini Haar, of UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health. They looked at data from 26 published studies examining outcomes among nearly 2,000 people, mostly young adults, who suffered injuries after being hit by rubber or plastic bullets in numerous countries — Israel/Palestine, Britain/Northern Ireland, South Asian countries, the United States, Switzerland and Turkey. In total, 53 (3 percent) of the people died of their injuries, Haar’s team reported Dec. 18 in the journal BMJ Open. “Penetrative injuries” accounted for 56 percent of the deaths, and blunt trauma for 23 percent of the deaths, the research group said. Disability after being hit by a rubber or plastic bullet wasn’t rare, either: About 300 (16 percent) of survivors suffered permanent disability. Blindness and removal of the spleen or a section of the bowel due to abdominal injuries accounted for most of this disability, the study found. In fact, of the more than 2,100 injuries reported, 71 percent were judged to be severe, with injuries to the skin, hands and feet most common. Several of the studies also found that rubber or plastic bullets are highly inaccurate and can miss the target — injuring peaceful demonstrators and bystanders instead. The bottom line, Haar and her colleagues said, is that rubber and plastic bullets “do not appear to be an appropriate means of force in crowd-control settings,” and international guidelines on the use of crowd-control weapons are required to halt further needless injury and death. More information Find out more about traumatic injuries at the University of Florida.
15 December 2017
15 December 2017
FRIDAY, Dec. 15, 2017 (HealthDay News) — The skin disorder rosacea should be added to the list of chronic diseases linked to obesity, researchers report. Their large new study found that the risk for rosacea increases among women as weight rises. The researchers reviewed the records of nearly 90,000 U.S. women, tracked over 14 years. They found a 48 percent higher likelihood of rosacea among those with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 35 than among women of normal weight. A BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese. For example, a 5-foot-5-inch woman weighing 180 pounds has a BMI of 30. At the same height, someone who weighs 211 pounds has a BMI of 35. “Particularly considering the chronic, low-grade inflammatory state associated with obesity, and also the [blood vessel] changes caused by obesity, it is not surprising obesity may increase the risk of rosacea,” said study author Wen-Qing Li. He’s an assistant professor of dermatology and epidemiology at Brown University in Providence, R.I. “Our study holds general public health significance, [adding] rosacea to the list of chronic diseases associated with obesity,” Li said. “A healthier weight should definitely be encouraged for general health and well-being.” Rosacea is characterized by facial redness and flushing, bumps and pimples, skin thickening and eye irritation, according to the National Rosacea Society. It’s estimated to affect 16 million Americans. The condition typically develops after age 30. Symptoms can wax and wane, varying by patient. There’s no cure for rosacea, which is managed with oral and topical medications, antibiotics and laser treatments, among other therapies. Li and his team identified more than 5,200 cases of rosacea among tens of thousands of participants in the national Nurses’ Health Study. They were tracked from 1991 to 2005. Not only was the risk of rosacea markedly higher among those with BMIs above 35, but there was a trend toward higher risk for rosacea among those who had gained weight after age 18. What’s more, the likelihood of developing rosacea increased by 4 percent for every 10-pound weight gain in study participants. The researchers also noted significantly higher odds of rosacea as girth — waist and hip measurements — rose. Li said the findings may prompt dermatologists to advise their patients with rosacea to reach a normal weight to “relieve their disease,” though further clinical evidence is still needed. About a third of U.S. adults are classified as obese. Obesity has been linked to an increased risk for many health problems, including diabetes, cancer and early death, as well as inflammatory skin conditions such as psoriasis and acne. Li also noted that his research didn’t delve into the various subtypes of rosacea, which can be triggered by different factors. Also, the study only found an association between obesity and rosacea, rather than a cause-and-effect link. “It is warranted to examine the effect of obesity on each type separately,” Li said. “A large-scale clinical study would also be required to confirm that losing weight helps the relief of rosacea severity.” Dr. Ross Levy, chief of dermatology at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, N.Y., said he wasn’t surprised by the study’s findings. He agreed with Li that obesity-driven inflammation could account for the increased risk for rosacea with weight gain. “I would never tell somebody that if you lose weight your rosacea will get better, but I would probably hint to them that it might,” said Levy, who wasn’t involved in the new study. “Obesity is probably the No. 1 killer in the U.S. No one thinks of it that way, but it has such a great impact on everything.” The study was published in the December issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. More information The National Rosacea Society has answers to common questions about rosacea.