31 July 2018
TUESDAY, July 31, 2018 (HealthDay News) — There’s been a sharp spike in Lyme disease cases in the United States, and the tick-borne illness has now spread to all 50 states, a new report shows. “Lyme disease is a bigger risk to more people in the United States than ever before,” said Dr. Harvey Kaufman, senior medical director for Quest Diagnostics, which conducted the study. “Our data show that positive results for Lyme are both increasing in number and occurring in geographic areas not historically associated with the disease,” Kaufman said in a company news release. “We hypothesize that these significant rates of increase may reinforce other research suggesting changing climate conditions that allow ticks to live longer and in more regions may factor into disease risk,” he added. The researchers analyzed data from more than 6 million laboratory tests conducted in the United States over the past seven years, and they found a significant increase in positive tests between 2016 and 2017. In the past, Lyme disease was concentrated in the New England states and Pennsylvania, but it has now been detected in every state and the District of Columbia. The largest recent increases in positive tests for Lyme were in California and Florida, states that have not previously had significant rates of the disease. California had 483 positive tests in 2017, a 195 percent increase from 2015. Meanwhile, Florida had 501 positive tests in 2017, a 77 percent increase from 2015. Other states with notable increases included Arizona, Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. The Northeast still had the highest number of Lyme disease cases. Combined, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont accounted for 61 percent of all positive Lyme disease test results in 2017, according to the study released July 31. Pennsylvania had 10,001 positive Lyme disease tests in 2017, the highest of any state and nearly as many as all the New England states combined (11,549). There are more than 300,000 cases of Lyme disease in the United States each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and a characteristic “bulls-eye” skin rash. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system, according to the CDC. Most cases can be treated with a few weeks of antibiotics. To prevent infection, use insect repellent and remove ticks promptly. Also, apply pesticides to reduce the tick habitat, according to the agency. More information The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on Lyme disease.
30 July 2018
MONDAY, July 30, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Organ transplant recipients are at increased risk for skin cancer and need to protect themselves, a dermatologist warns. “Individuals who receive organ transplants need to take immunosuppressive medications for the rest of their lives, and this makes it more difficult for their bodies to fight disease, including skin cancer,” said Dr. Christina Lee Chung. She is former director of the Drexel Dermatology Center for Transplant Patients in Philadelphia. “On top of that, some of these medications make the skin more sensitive to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays, which can further increase patients’ skin cancer risk,” she added in an American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) news release. Transplant patients with the highest risk of skin cancer include those with lighter skin, men and anyone with a pre-transplant history of skin cancer. If they received their new organ at age 50 or older, or had a lung or heart transplant, they are also at higher risk. “It’s important for all organ transplant patients, regardless of skin tone, to recognize their skin cancer risk,” Chung said. They need to avoid sun exposure, “which could further increase that risk, and regularly examine their entire body, including the genital area, for signs of skin cancer so they can detect the disease early, when it’s most treatable.” In addition, organ transplant recipients “should establish a relationship with a board-certified dermatologist after their procedure,” Chung recommended. “A dermatologist can evaluate your unique risk factors and help you ensure the health of your largest organ: your skin,” she said. Everyone should protect their skin from the sun by wearing protective clothing, generously applying a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to exposed skin, and seeking shade when possible, the AAD advises. The academy also recommends regular skin cancer self-exams, and asking a partner to help you check hard-to-see areas, including your back. If you notice any new spots, any suspicious spots that appear different from the others on your skin, or anything changing, itching or bleeding, see a doctor. More information The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on skin cancer.
30 July 2018
MONDAY, July 30, 2018 (HealthDay News) — An experimental drug reversed hair loss, hair whitening and skin inflammation in mice that were first fed a diet high in fat and cholesterol. Previous research has suggested a link between fatty diets and hair/skin issues in people. The researchers emphasized that it’s not known if the drug is safe and that the results in mice do not mean the drug would work in people. However, the findings may point to possible treatments for hair loss/graying and skin wounds in people, the team from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore said. “Further research is needed, but our findings show promise for someday using the drug we developed for skin diseases such as psoriasis, and wounds resulting from diabetes or plastic surgery,” said researcher Subroto Chatterjee, a professor of pediatrics and medicine. The experimental drug, called D-PDMP, stops production of fats called glycosphingolipids (GSLs), which are major components of skin and other cell membranes. Previous research has shown that GSLs are common in the cells that comprise the uppermost layer of the skin, and also in cells involved in pigmentation of the eyes, skin and hair. In this study, mice that were fed a diet high in fat and cholesterol developed hair whitening, hair loss and skin lesions. But those problems were reversed when the mice were given the experimental drug. “Our findings show that a Western diet causes hair loss, hair whitening and skin inflammation in mice, and we believe a similar process occurs in men who lose hair and experience hair whitening when they eat a diet high in fat and cholesterol,” Chatterjee said in a Hopkins news release. Further animal research is needed to determine how well and what amount of the drug might promote hair growth and heal wounds, the researchers noted. Their study was published July 30 in the journal Scientific Reports. “Hopefully someday in the future this can mean faster, more effective recovery from baldness, hair whitening in aging populations and wound healing,” Chatterjee said. More information The American Heart Association offers advice on healthy eating.
28 July 2018
SATURDAY, July 28, 2018 (HealthDay News) — When you’re out having fun in the sun this summer, remember to take steps to prevent sunburn. Along with being painful, sunburns can cause lasting damage that can lead to a number of skin problems, including skin cancer, warned Dr. Suzanne Olbricht, chief of dermatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. “The sun’s UV rays damage the DNA in the cells of your skin,” she explained in a medical center news release. “These harmful DNA changes can be quite profound and you will sometimes see the damage in the form of peeling skin.” All skin types can burn, Olbricht added. “The darker one’s skin, the more melanin is present and therefore the greater the UV protection,” she said. “But no matter the color, your skin can burn. Everyone should take precautions when heading out into the sun.” Use a broad spectrum sunscreen with a strong sun protection factor (SPF). “SPF measures how well the sunscreen protects your skin compared to if you were not wearing it,” Olbricht said. “For example, if it normally takes 20 minutes for your skin to turn red, a product with SPF 15 will typically prevent sunburn 15 times longer.” Use lots of sunscreen and reapply regularly. One ounce, or a shot glass full, of sunscreen will cover your entire body, including your face, ears and scalp. “A rule of thumb for reapplying is every two hours,” Olbricht said. “But if you’re swimming or sweating a lot, you will want to reapply more often.” Try to stay out of the sun when its rays are strongest, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Wear sunglasses with UV protection, a wide-brimmed hat, and clothing with UPF protection (ultraviolet protection factor). “A lot of children’s summer clothing and swim attire can be found with UPF 50+, which helps block 98 percent of UVA/UVB rays,” Olbricht said. More information The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on sun safety.
27 July 2018
FRIDAY, July 27, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Gym rats are trying to get healthy. So why do so many U.S. gyms have tanning beds, researchers want to know. Since indoor tanning raises the risk of skin cancer, this common combo sends a conflicting message to gym users, University of Connecticut researchers say. “By pairing exercise with tanning beds, gyms send the message that tanning is part of a healthy lifestyle. It is not,” said study author Sherry Pagoto. She’s a professor of allied health sciences. Pagoto and her colleagues surveyed more than 600 people who had used a tanning bed at least once in their life. Nearly one-quarter had tanned in a gym at least once, the findings showed. Those who had tanned at a gym tended to be heavier tanners overall, and were more likely to be what the researchers called “addictive” tanners. Tanning more often was associated with more frequent exercise, which is especially concerning, because of the association between heavy exercise and skin cancer risk, according to the authors. It’s not clear why more exercise is associated with an increased risk of skin cancer. “Exercise and tanning are both things people use to look better, which may be why we see a connection between these two behaviors, and why gyms are providing tanning beds to patrons,” Pagoto said in a university news release. However, “indoor tanning is the same class of carcinogen as tobacco, radon and arsenic,” Pagoto said. “Those are not things you’d want around you while you’re working out.” Ongoing, occasional use of tanning beds triples a person’s lifelong risk of melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer, according to the Melanoma Research Foundation. The study was published July 18 in JAMA Dermatology. More information The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on the dangers of indoor tanning.
27 July 2018
FRIDAY, July 27, 2018 (HealthDay News) — As much of the United States continues to swelter through 90-plus temperatures and high humidity, one emergency physician is offering advice on keeping safe. First, Dr. Robert Glatter said, it’s important to know that anyone can be a victim of heat stroke, but some people are at particular risk. “Heat stroke develops when the body is unable to effectively sweat to cool itself down,” said Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital, in New York City. “As core temperatures rapidly elevate, the skin becomes dry and your heart rate begins to elevate.” When body temperature rises, damage to the brain and other organs can occur unless help comes quickly. The very old and the very young are at highest risk, Glatter said. “Children are at higher risk for hyperthermia and consequently heat stroke due to their reduced ability to thermoregulate their body temperatures,” he explained. Kids have a “higher ratio of surface area to body mass, which reduces their ability to cool their bodies efficiently and effectively,” Glatter said. Too often, kids don’t hydrate themselves as they should, so parents need to be sure youngsters drink plenty of water when temperatures soar. “It’s important to drink plenty of cool fluids in the heat and even stay ‘ahead’ of your thirst,” Glatter said. “Water is preferable, but low-sugar sports drinks are recommended if you are working in the heat or exercising for more than one hour.” Two types of drinks — alcohol and sugary soft drinks — won’t help in the heat and may even harm, dehydrating you further. Elderly people also need to take special care, especially when air conditioning isn’t available, Glatter said. Check on seniors to see how they are feeling, he advised. “Make sure, if possible, that they have access to air conditioning and plenty of cool fluids. It’s also vital to have a ‘heat response’ plan to help reduce the chances for heat stroke developing in the first place,” he said. Compared to younger adults, seniors have a reduced ability to sweat and cool their bodies, making them particularly vulnerable in heat waves, Glatter noted. “They also may be taking medications to treat blood pressure [such as diuretics] that can reduce their ability to sweat effectively,” he said. Other drugs that make heat stroke more likely are antihistamines, antidepressants, antipsychotics and benzodiazepines. “Hypertension, coronary artery disease and kidney disease — common in the senior population — all elevate the risk for developing heat stroke, due to reduced cardiac reserve and plasticity of blood vessels,” Glatter said. “These are major risk factors for heat stroke.” How to tell if you or a loved one is suffering heat stroke? “Confusion is a common presenting symptom of patients who develop heat stroke, and this can even mimic a stroke,” Glatter said. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, other signs include a body temperature above 103 degrees Fahrenheit; red, hot and dry skin with little or no sweating; a rapid, strong pulse; throbbing headache; dizziness; nausea; and loss of consciousness. Remember, heat stroke is “a medical emergency, and it’s vital to seek treatment immediately in the emergency department by calling 911,” Glatter said. “A patient requires rapid cooling and attention to their airway and blood volume status to effectively resuscitate them.” More information Find out more about heat stroke at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
26 July 2018
THURSDAY, July 26, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Karolina Jasko was a high school senior when a nail salon worker pointed out the black vertical line on her right thumbnail. Because she typically painted her nails, the black line had gone unnoticed and unheeded, but then it started to show signs of infection. At that point, Jasko sought out medical advice and got her diagnosis: a melanoma of the nail. “My mom was freaking out even more than I was, I think, because she had melanoma before, so she knew what it was like,” said Jasko, who’s now a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, as well as the current Miss Illinois USA 2018. That diagnosis led to three surgeries and the eventual loss of the nail, but luckily, not the thumb itself. “I’m a little self-conscious about it, but I was lucky,” Jasko said. “The doctors originally thought they would have to remove my whole thumb, and you never realize how much you use your right thumb until you think about losing it.” And she knows it could have been a lot worse. “If I had waited any longer to see a doctor and have my first surgery, the melanoma could have spread through my whole body,” Jasko said. Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, can occur anywhere in the body — including in your nails. And, as it happened with Jasko, nail melanoma is commonly overlooked, according to Dr. Shari Lipner, a New York City dermatologist. Because of this, patients may face amputation of the affected toe or finger or even death, Lipner said in an American Academy of Dermatology news release. “It’s important to regularly examine your whole body for signs of melanoma and other skin cancers, and that includes your nails,” she added. Unlike melanoma of the skin, ultraviolet radiation exposure is likely not an important risk factor for nail melanoma. The two main risk factors for nail melanoma are previous nail trauma and a personal or family history of melanoma, Lipner said. Anyone can develop nail melanoma, but rates are higher among older individuals and people with skin of color. The main sign of nail melanoma is a brown or black band in the nail, often on the thumb or big toe, Lipner said. It’s usually on your dominant side. “Because early detection plays such a big role in nail melanoma prognosis, it’s important to keep an eye on your nails and be aware of any changes to them,” Lipner said. “If you notice a new dark band on your nail, or any band that is getting wider or darker, you should see a board-certified dermatologist as soon as possible.” There’s no reason to panic: Such discolorations can also be caused by other issues, such blood pooling under the nail due to injury or too-tight shoes, or a bacterial or fungal infection. But it’s best to have a dermatologist look at the affected nail to be sure. Other warning signs of a potential nail melanoma include dark pigment on the skin around the nail, splitting or bleeding of the nail, or infection-like symptoms such as drainage, pus and pain. As with other types of melanoma, any change to the nail is also an important warning sign. Jasko agreed: better safe than sorry. “People may not realize that you can get melanoma in your nails, but it’s important to be aware of that risk,” she said in the news release. “If you have the slightest concern about something on your nail, go and get it checked out by a dermatologist; it could end up saving your finger or your life.” More information SkinCancer.net has more on nail melanoma.
26 July 2018
THURSDAY, July 26, 2018 (HealthDay News) — A study of more than 3,500 French psoriasis patients found that the healthier their diet, the less severe their symptoms. Specifically, the closer an individual adhered to the nutritious “Mediterranean” diet, the less onerous their psoriasis became. This was true regardless of whether or not the patient was obese, the French researchers noted. The Mediterranean diet is heavy on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, olive oil and nuts, and light on red meat, dairy and alcohol. It’s long been recommended as “heart healthy” by groups such as the American Heart Association. Now, the new research bolsters the notion that the regimen might also help fight immune-system disorders such as psoriasis. One U.S. dermatologist agreed the idea has merit. “If this finding is confirmed by further studies, it would lead to a significant change in the way dermatologists manage psoriasis, as it would mean that even a patient who is not overweight could improve their psoriasis through dietary modifications,” said Dr. Scott Flugman. He practices dermatology at Northwell Health’s Huntington Hospital, in Huntington, N.Y. The new study was based on data from a nationwide health survey of citizens in France, involving almost 36,000 respondents. More than 3,500 of them had some form of psoriasis, said the team led by Dr. Celine Phan, of Henri Mondor University Hospital in Creteil, France. Besides asking psoriasis patients about the severity of their symptoms, the survey also gauged how closely they approached the ideal Mediterranean diet. Participants were divided into three groups — a “bottom” third whose diets were furthest away from the Mediterranean diet, a middle third whose eating habits were moving closer to the diet, and a top third who were closest to the Mediterranean diet. The researchers adjusted their findings for age, exercise levels, obesity, smoking and other potential risk factors for psoriasis. Compared to people in the bottom third, those in the middle and top groups were 29 percent and 22 percent less likely to have severe symptoms, Phan’s group found. The researchers stressed that the study couldn’t prove cause and effect. For example, it might not be that the Mediterranean diet itself somehow eases symptoms, but instead that its opposite — the fatty, sugary “Western” diet — exacerbates psoriasis. But the investigators pointed to research that the inflammatory-dampening Mediterranean diet might have direct, healthy effects on the lymphoid (immune) system or the “microbiome” of healthful germs in the human gut. The Mediterranean diet is rich in vitamins A, D, E, folate and omega-3 fatty acids, all of which have an anti-inflammatory effect, the research team said. In contrast, it’s long been known that Western diets set up an unhealthy, pro-inflammatory state in the body. “Dermatologists have for years have seen mounting evidence linking psoriasis with systemic inflammation,” Flugman noted, and “we see psoriatic patients who exhibit significant improvement in their skin after lifestyle changes,” especially when that change involves weight loss. But he stressed that psoriasis severity eased for people eating the healthier diet, even if their weight wasn’t an issue. Dr. Michele Green is a dermatologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. Reviewing the new findings, she agreed that “with the Mediterranean diet, individuals consume more nutrient-dense foods, which are not processed. The ‘cleaner’ your diet, the less likelihood of triggering an autoimmune response.” The findings were published July 25 in JAMA Dermatology. More information The National Psoriasis Foundation offers more on psoriasis.
25 July 2018
WEDNESDAY, July 25, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Many people apply sunscreen too thinly, and that could mean far less sun protection than they hoped for, new research shows. So, it might be a good idea to use sunscreens with a higher sun-protection factor (SPF) to begin with, the British researchers advised. “What this research shows is that the way sunscreen is applied plays an important role in determining how effective it is,” said study author Antony Young of King’s College London. In its study, Young’s team assessed DNA damage skin samples from 16 fair-skinned people who used different amounts of sunscreen. The skin samples were exposed to levels of ultraviolet (UV) light similar to that occurring during a day out in the sun, or during a long beach vacation. The study showed that typical amounts of SPF 50 sunscreen applied by people — less than the recommended coverage manufacturers use to determine their SPF rating — provided only a maximum of 40 percent of the expected protection from the sun’s harmful rays. The research showed that even at thinner applications, sunscreen did prevent at least some UV damage to exposed skin. But that level of protection rose as the amount of sunscreen applied reached manufacturer-recommended levels. However, “given that most people don’t use sunscreens as tested by manufacturers, it’s better for people to use a much higher SPF than they think is necessary,” Young said in a university news release. One U.S. dermatologist said the findings are in line with the advice he gives to his patients. “Dermatologists typically instruct patients that they should use sunscreens of SPF 30 and above, because if they use an SPF 15 on vacation they are likely only getting a third to one-half of the SPF protection as specified on the label,” said Dr. Scott Flugman. He’s a dermatologist at Northwell Health’s Huntington Hospital in Huntington, N.Y. But even if applied more thinly than recommended, high-SPF sunscreen provides “significant protection from DNA damage, even though this sunscreen dose was much less protective than the heavier applications,” he said. Dr. Michele Green practices dermatology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. She recommends that people “reapply sunscreen every two hours if outdoors. In addition, if you are fair-skinned with a predisposition to skin cancers, you should wear SPF of 50+ and protective clothing.” Clothing can be a key factor, she added. “There is an abundance of sun-protection clothing on the market which will provide additional protection against the damaging rays of the sun,” Green said. “It also helps as most people only apply sunscreen on their face and do not spend the time to apply on their body as well.” The study was published July 25 in the journal Acta DV. More information The American Academy of Dermatology has more on sunscreen.