28 March 2018
WEDNESDAY, March 28, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Tempted to cheat on your diet? You might want to think twice. Tiny tooth-mounted sensors can now provide real-time information about what you eat and drink. The technology could prove important in health care and clinical studies, according to the Tufts University School of Engineering team that developed it. The flexible, 2-millimeter sensors communicate wirelessly with a mobile device to provide information about a person’s intake of sugar, salt and alcohol. Study corresponding author Fiorenzo Omenetto said the sensors can, in theory, be modified to target other chemicals, too. Future versions could provide a wide range of nutrient, chemical and biological data, according to the paper scheduled for publication in the journal Advanced Materials. “We are really limited only by our creativity,” Omenetto, a Tufts professor of engineering, said in a news release from the Medford, Mass., university. The sensors are designed to overcome issues with other wearable diet-monitoring devices. Some required a mouth guard or bulky wiring, and their sensors often deteriorated rapidly. Omenetto said the new sensors are versatile. They can, he said, “read and transmit information on its environment, whether it is affixed to a tooth, to skin, or any other surface.” More information The U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases offers advice on diet and nutrition.
27 March 2018
TUESDAY, March 27, 2018 (HealthDay News) — The human body is full of surprises. The latest: A newly identified “organ” that might affect major diseases. Using updated technology, U.S. scientists report they’ve discovered a “highway of moving fluid.” Layers of the body long believed to be dense, connective tissues are actually interconnected, fluid-filled compartments, the scientists report in a new study. “This finding has potential to drive dramatic advances in medicine,” said study co-senior author Dr. Neil Theise, a pathology professor at NYU Langone Health in New York City. “The direct sampling of interstitial fluid may become a powerful diagnostic tool,” Theise added in an NYU news release. This discovery, his team said, could also lead to new ways to treat a wide range of health issues, including cancer and age-related conditions. The newfound network lies below the skin’s surface and between muscles, lining the digestive tract, lungs and urinary systems, and surrounding arteries and veins, the researchers said. They suspect the fluid-filled spaces may act like shock absorbers that prevent the tearing of tissue in organs, muscles and vessels as they move during normal functioning. The network drains into the lymphatic system, and may explain why cancer that gets into this “highway” is much more likely to spread through the body, the researchers said. The cells that reside in this network may also play a role in many other body processes, from skin aging to the stiffening of limbs and the progression of inflammatory diseases, according to the report. The U.S. National Institutes of Health funded the study. According to the authors, it’s the first study to recognize the interstitium as an organ in its own right, and one of the largest of the body. So, how did these fluid-filled spaces go undetected for so long? Until now, the medical field was dependent on fixed tissue on microscope slides. The tissue is prepared by treating it with chemicals, slicing it thinly and dying it to highlight important features. However, the fixing process causes fluid loss and collapse of the previously fluid-filled compartments, the researchers explained. The tissue then appeared solid. The recent discovery was made using a newer technology called probe-based confocal laser endomicroscopy, which provides a microscopic view of living tissues instead of fixed ones. The report is published in the March 27 issue of Scientific Reports. More information The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more on anatomy.
24 March 2018
SATURDAY, March 24, 2018 (HealthDay News) — The good news is that the fungus that causes athlete’s foot and other nasty skin and toenail infections is headed for extinction. The bad news is it could take millions of years. Scientists analyzed samples of Trichophyton rubrum fungus and concluded it may have lost its ability to sexually reproduce as it adapted to grow on humans. “It is commonly thought that if an organism becomes asexual, it is doomed to extinction,” said study senior author Dr. Joseph Heitman. He is chair of molecular genetics and microbiology at Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, N.C. “While that may be true, the time frame we are talking about here is probably hundreds of thousands to millions of years,” he added in a university news release. But this research may help uncover vulnerabilities in the fungus that could result in better medications to fight it, according to authors of the study recently published online in the journal Genetics. About 25 percent of the world’s population have fungal infections, and T. rubrum is often to blame. It is difficult to cure and may be drug-resistant. People can become infected when walking barefoot around swimming pools, showers or locker rooms, or when sharing personal items such as towels or nail clippers. More information The American Podiatric Medical Association has more on athlete’s foot.
23 March 2018
FRIDAY, March 23, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Though doctors recommend an early introduction to peanuts, many new moms prefer to delay giving them to their babies, researchers report. Allergy experts now say that infants should be exposed to the allergen by the time they are 4 to 6 months old. “Food allergies are scary, so it’s understandable that parents would hesitate to introduce a food they might see as dangerous,” said study co-author Dr. Edmond Chan. He is director of the allergy clinic at BC Children’s Hospital at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. “Parents should consult with their pediatrician to help walk them through the process of early peanut introduction for their infant,” Chan said. For years, doctors instructed parents to delay exposing children to peanuts and other common food allergens, particularly those at high risk for peanut allergy. But this longstanding recommendation was reversed in 2017. Why? Mounting evidence showed that introducing peanuts to high-risk babies early in life could help lower their risk of developing a peanut allergy. The updated guidelines were endorsed by the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). But the new survey of 1,000 pregnant women and 1,000 new mothers found that many are still hesitant to give their babies peanut products. “The new guidelines are a breakthrough for preventing peanut allergy,” Chan said. “But we’re still working on helping parents and pediatricians understand how important the guidelines are for preventing peanut allergies.” The study, published March 19 in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, revealed that 53 percent of the women surveyed discounted the importance of the updated guidelines. Study lead author Dr. Matthew Greenhawt said, “Since early peanut introduction is a relatively new idea, we were not surprised to find that more than half of those surveyed said following the guidelines was of no or limited importance.” Greenhawt is chair of the ACAAI’s Food Allergy Committee, and also co-director of the Children’s Hospital Colorado Food Challenge Unit. “We saw that, overall, 61 percent of respondents had no or minimal concern about their child developing a food allergy, and only 31 percent of respondents were willing to introduce peanut-containing foods before or around 6 months,” he added in a journal news release. In addition, the mothers were almost as reluctant to try to determine whether their child had a peanut allergy, the study authors said. Only 49 percent of the women were willing to allow their babies to undergo a peanut allergy skin test, and only 44 percent were willing to have their child complete an oral food challenge for peanut allergy during their first year of life, the findings showed. More information The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more about peanut allergy.
23 March 2018
FRIDAY, March 23, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Piling on pounds is bad for your health from head to toe. So say Korean researchers, who report that unhealthy weight gain ups a person’s odds for disfiguring toenail fungal infections. In fact, people who are statistically obese have more than double the rate of the infection, known as onychomycosis, compared to slim people, the study of nearly 9 million adults found. Any unhealthy increase in weight was “associated with an increased incidence of onychomycosis,” concluded the team led by Dr. Ji Hyun Lee, of the Catholic University of Korea College of Medicine in Seoul. U.S. dermatologists said the finding isn’t surprising. “I definitely tend to see onychomycosis more in overweight patients and prediabetic and diabetic patients,” said Dr. Michele Green, a dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. She noted that the infection is “extremely common.” It can also be “debilitating,” Green added, “since for some patients it can be very painful and lead to having other co-infections.” In advanced cases, onychomycosis also necessitates the use of painful medicinal injections around the nail bed. Dr. Victoria Sharon directs dermatologic surgery at Northwell Health in Great Neck, N.Y. She said some studies have estimated that up to a quarter of U.S. adults live with onychomycosis. “In the majority of cases, onychomycosis is not life-threatening and is often asymptomatic [symptomless], with patients being most bothered by the unsightly look of their nails,” Sharon noted. In the new study, Lee’s group examined the health records of millions of South Koreans over age 20. The researchers looked specifically at changes in the individuals’ weight between 2005 and 2012, as well as their incidence of onychomycosis. The study found that the odds of developing the toenail infection rose as weight increased. Among slim people — those with a body mass index (BMI) of 18.5 or lower — there were just 12.5 cases of the infection per 1,000 people. But among the statistically obese — people with a BMI of 30 or more — that number rose to 29.7 cases per 1,000, more than a doubling of the rate. Of course, the best way to reduce your risk of onychomycosis is to stay slim, or slim down if you’re already overweight. But Green stressed that there are effective treatments if the fungal infection strikes. “The best treatments start when you catch it early and you can use topicals such as Penlac nail lacquer or Jublia,” she said. “More severe cases require oral antifungal drugs such as Lamisil for at least three months to treat these nail fungal infections.” The new study was published in the March issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. More information Find out more about onychomycosis at the American Academy of Dermatology.
20 March 2018
TUESDAY, March 20, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Doctors should start early with skin cancer prevention advice when their patients are light-skinned, suggests new guidelines that bump that starting point back to the age of 6 months. This recommendation, from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, updates a 2012 recommendation that advised doctors not begin this education until children reached the age of 10. “Clinicians should counsel children, their parents and young adults to use sun-protective behaviors. Doing things like using sunscreen, wearing sun-protective clothing, and avoiding indoor tanning can help prevent skin cancer later in life,” said task force member Dr. John Epling, Jr. He is a professor of family and community medicine at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, in Roanoke, Va. For adults aged 24 and older, the task force recommends that doctors assess each patient’s risk for skin cancer and provide advice on how to prevent this disease on an individual basis. Task force member Karina Davidson added, “We have more evidence now that tells us that counseling people to practice sun-protective behaviors can benefit some adults with fair skin types.” She is director of the Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health at Columbia University Medical Center, in New York City. “When deciding whether to counsel adults over the age of 24, clinicians should talk with their adult patients about their risk for skin cancer,” Davidson said in a task force news release. Children and teens who are exposed to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation are at greater risk for developing skin cancer in adulthood, the task force explained. This exposure is particularly risky for people with fair skin that burns easily, freckles and light-colored hair and eyes. Those who use tanning beds or have a history of skin cancer or sunburns are also at higher risk for the disease. The new recommendations were published online March 20 in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The task force is an independent, volunteer panel of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine that make recommendations about screenings, counseling services and preventive medications. More information The American Cancer Society has more about skin cancer.
19 March 2018
MONDAY, March 19, 2018 (American Heart Association) — Lee Matzeder’s heart was racing and his chest felt tight during the Kansas City Royals’ World Series victory parade in downtown Kansas City in 2015. But it wasn’t from the excitement of being surrounded by 800,000 likeminded fans celebrating a world championship. The 55-year-old elementary school physical education teacher later learned he was having a heart attack. Fortunately for Matzeder, a complete stranger who just happened to be a registered nurse saw him among the packed crowd, recognized the symptoms and took action. While he doesn’t remember her name, Matzeder said the nurse offered him a granola bar, then escorted him to a medical tent when the snack didn’t help his condition. “It was like divine intervention,” he recalled. Onsite medical staff told Matzeder his blood pressure was dangerously high at 165/135. When staffers found his wife Tina and the rest of the family, she knew right away that her husband was in trouble. “I’m a certified medical technician and have worked in home health nursing for 26 years,” Tina Matzeder said. “So with his chest pain, his skin discoloration and his muscle weakness, I knew he needed immediate medical care.” At the University of Kansas Hospital, a dye test showed two of Matzeder’s coronary arteries were almost completely blocked. A third artery was 70 percent blocked. While heart disease runs in his family — his father died of a heart attack — Matzeder said he still was shocked by the news. “I’m 5-foot-8 and weigh 180 pounds, so I always thought I was in pretty good shape,” he said. The following day, doctors performed a triple bypass operation on Matzeder. The procedure was successful and he remains healthy, according to Janae Carlson, his nurse practitioner at Shawnee Mission Cardiology in Leavenworth, Kansas. “His cholesterol is down, his blood pressure is good and he takes his meds as directed,” she said. “He’s a teacher, so he knows the value of education, and he listens to what I and his doctors tell him.” The story could have ended there with Matzeder living a happy, healthy life, but it didn’t. Soon after he returned to teaching at his school, one of his first-grade students, Chase Maltbie, lost his 39-year-old father to a heart attack while stationed in Korea with the U.S. Army. “Chase was six when he lost his father,” Matzeder said. “And I was six when I lost mine.” Chase and Matzeder developed a strong bond over their shared loss. Matzeder encouraged Chase to help raise funds for the American Heart Association’s Jump Rope For Heart, a program the school had been involved in for many years. Chase turned out to be a fundraising dynamo, raising $1,785 in 2016, and $2,260 in 2017. “That is the most money any student of mine has ever raised in the 21 years I’ve been involved in Jump Rope For Heart,” Matzeder said.
16 March 2018
FRIDAY, March 16, 2018 (HealthDay News) — The odds of surviving severe burns have steadily increased in recent decades, researchers report. “Remarkably, a patient up to the age of 40 who has sustained a 95 percent body burn now survives half the time, whereas in earlier times a 50 percent body burn killed that same person,” Dr. David Herndon said in a news release from the American College of Surgeons. He’s director of research at the Shriners Hospitals for Children in Galveston, Texas, and director of burn services at the University of Texas Medical Branch. Herndon led a team of researchers who analyzed the records of more than 10,300 adults and children who were burn patients at those two hospitals between 1989 and 2017. Over that time, the risk that burn patients would die fell about 2 percent a year, the study found. The risk was highest among people who were older, those who had burns over a large area and those who had lung damage from inhaling smoke. The researchers credit the reduction in deaths to improvements in the standard treatment for burn patients. That includes: New protocols for managing inhalation injury. Nutrition to fight infection and promote healing. Early burn excision and skin grafts immediately after the injury. Improved transfer of critically ill patients to hospitals and burn centers has also played a role, according to the researchers. “The most dramatic decreases in [deaths] most recently have been in patients over age 40,” Herndon said. “For example, a woman over the age of 40, with very large burns, is a patient who can survive today if these protocols are implemented,” he explained in the news release. Along with reducing the risk that a burn victim will die, researchers also need to identify treatment methods to improve survivors’ quality of life, Herndon said. And, “burn specialists also need to focus on implementing the protocols that have allowed this improvement in survival to occur,” he added. “We hope our findings will inspire other burn units to try to keep people alive with extensive burns because it’s clear that it can be done,” Herndon said. The study was published online March 9 in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons. More information The U.S. National Institute of General Medical Sciences has more on burns.
16 March 2018
FRIDAY, March 16, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Thinking about a vasectomy? Now — as March Madness begins — might be just the time for the procedure. The NCAA basketball tournament and other major “sporting events are a popular time for men to schedule a vasectomy because we advise them to take it easy for two to three days after the procedure,” Dr. Jim Dupree, an assistant professor of urology at the University of Michigan, said in a school news release. “For most men, this means sitting on the couch in front of their television, and sporting events offer them something to watch while resting,” he said. In fact, an athenahealth study found that urologists in its network did 30 percent more vasectomies during the first week of March Madness in 2016 than in an average week during the rest of the year. Each year, about 500,00 men in the United States have a vasectomy, according to Dupree. Men need to know that the procedure is quick and precise, he said. It takes about 20 minutes and is done under local anesthesia. “Most of the time we don’t need to use a scalpel, and we make a small hole in the scrotal skin with a pointed instrument,” Dupree explained. “This no-scalpel vasectomy has less bleeding, swelling and pain, making it easier and more comfortable for men to recover.” Men should ice the area during recovery and take over-the-counter pain medications, he said. Most men can return to work the next day or the day after. “Complications are rare, including a 1 percent risk of bleeding and infection,” Dupree said. More information The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on vasectomy.