03 January 2019
THURSDAY, Jan. 3, 2019 (HealthDay News) — An old acne drug may hold the key to developing a new, safer treatment, a study suggests. Isotretinoin (Myorisan, formerly branded as Accutane), is a form of vitamin A, and has been prescribed for acne for decades. It works by reducing oil in the skin, thus helping prevent acne. An additional benefit of the drug has recently come to light. It alters the bacteria on the skin of acne patients to more closely resemble the skin of people without acne, researchers report. This discovery might lead the way to create bacteria-based treatments, said lead researchers Makedonka Mitreva, an associate professor of medicine, and Dr. William McCoy, a dermatologist and instructor of medicine, both at Washington University in St. Louis. Although isotretinoin is effective, it can cause severe birth defects, so it’s dangerous when used in women of childbearing age, which is why an alternative is needed, the researchers explained. Antibiotics are often prescribed to target the bacteria called Cutibacterium acnes, also called Propionibacterium acnes. These drugs, however, aid the development of resistant strains of bacteria and can kill off potentially beneficial microbes. Isotretinoin isn’t an antibiotic. It’s believed to treat acne by drying out the skin, which makes it a less inviting place for acne germs to flourish. It’s the only treatment that reliably clears acne over the long term, the researchers noted. For the study, the investigators sampled bacteria from the skin of 17 patients treated with isotretinoin. They compared this bacteria with samples from eight people who hadn’t been treated — four had normal skin and four had acne. In isotretinoin patients, an increase in the diversity of microbes was seen on the skin. DNA sequencing identified four types of bacteria that bloomed with isotretinoin. None of these had been associated with improved acne before. With isotretinoin, a reduced amount of Propionibacterium acnes bacteria was also seen, even though diversity of bacteria increased. By understanding how isotretinoin works, it might be possible to develop a similar drug that is more effective and doesn’t have negative side effects, the scientists said. “Women often will go without treatment for acne during their pregnancies because there just aren’t good therapies that are totally safe to use during that time,” McCoy said in a university news release. “They need other options. Our study suggests there could be a way to provide some type of microbial ‘fertilizer’ or ‘weed killer’ on the skin to help promote the growth of healthy microbes,” said McCoy. “We’re conducting a larger study to look more closely at these questions.” The report was published recently in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology. More information The American Academy of Dermatology has more on acne.
31 December 2018
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31 December 2018
MONDAY, Dec. 31, 2018 (HealthDay News) — One of your New Year’s resolutions should be to be good to your skin, and dermatologists have 10 ways to help. “All the stresses and excesses of the holidays can leave your skin in bad shape, which makes you feel low, too,” said Dr. Megan Rogge, an assistant professor of dermatology the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. “At the start of a new year, we all want to look great,” she added in a university news release. “The good news is that with a little extra time and effort, or sometimes just breaking bad habits, you can change your skin condition for the better.” Here’s how: Chill out: Stress can cause many skin problems and make some worse. So try to relax. “Acne, psoriasis, eczema, and certain types of hair loss all get worse when you’re feeling stressed. Unfortunately, these are the four most common complaints of my patients,” Rogge said. Yoga or meditation can help you decompress, but even simple breathing exercises can make a difference, she said.” Give your diet a makeover: A healthy diet not only helps control weight, it also will make your skin look better. Dr. Rajani Katta, a clinical professor of dermatology at UT, urges her patients “to eat more foods rich in antioxidants, especially fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices, since they’ve been shown to help combat the effects of free radicals.” These take a toll on skin. Use sunscreen: “Even in winter, the sun’s rays still emit damaging ultraviolet radiation. I advise using a product with an SPF of 30, and placing it by your toothbrush so you don’t forget each morning,” Rogge said. Drink lots of water: It’s easy to become dehydrated in winter. Beyond fatigue and other health effects, “dehydration also accentuates fine lines and wrinkles,” Katta said. Remove makeup at day’s end: Use a gentle cleanser morning and evening. “Any buildup of dirt or oil in your skin can leave it looking flat. It can also block your pores, resulting in acne breakouts and irritations,” Rogge said. Get your zzzzzs: Scientific research supports the importance of beauty sleep. “Being sleep-deprived can increase those dreaded dark circles. Concealer can help hide the issue, but there’s no substitute for shut-eye,” Katta said. Use moisturizer: For best results, use thick creams, not lotions. “Applying twice daily is normally sufficient, and you can help lock in moisture further by applying while your skin is still damp,” Rogge said. Get plenty of fresh air: The effects of poor air quality can show on your face. “Secondhand smoke and pollution can also accelerate aging of the skin,” Katta said. Antioxidant-rich foods will help protect your skin from pollution and smoke-induced free radicals. Keep up with your skin routine: Great skin takes effort, particularly as you age. “Setting a routine morning and night is crucial because most skin care regimens give the best results when they are consistently followed,” Rogge said. Be patient: “Although it’s natural to want a product to have an immediate impact, it usually takes six weeks to be able to assess its effectiveness and start noticing any significant difference,” Rogge said. More information The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more about healthy skin.
27 December 2018
THURSDAY, Dec. 27, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Antibiotics are life-savers. But they’re being overprescribed and overused, leading to antibiotic-resistant germs stronger than the drugs available to treat them. This is also creating more drug side effects, allergic reactions and serious infections. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in one year alone, more than 262 million courses of antibiotics were prescribed on an outpatient basis — that’s 842 prescriptions for every 1,000 adults. For children up to age 9 and adults 65 and older, the rate was greater than one to one, meaning that many took more than one prescription over the course of a year. Urgent care centers, in particular, are prescribing antibiotics to walk-in patients at a very high rate, often because patients are demanding them, even when they’re not necessary. As a consequence, people are experiencing a growing number of infections caused by bacteria resistant to various antibiotics. These include MRSA, E. coli and strains of pneumonia. Antibiotics Overuse 411: The most commonly prescribed antibiotic among children and teens is amoxicillin; among adults, it’s azithromycin. Women are almost twice as likely as men to receive antibiotics. Antibiotic prescribing rates are higher in the South than other parts of the United States. Dermatologists, family practitioners and pediatricians prescribe more antibiotics than other types of doctors. Sometimes you do need an antibiotic, but other times you don’t. Follow these best practices to avoid antibiotic resistance: If you get sick, ask your doctor what tests you can have to make sure the right antibiotic is prescribed, should you need one. Take antibiotics exactly as your doctor prescribes — complete the course of treatment, even after you start feeling better. Only take antibiotics prescribed for you. Don’t share antibiotics — if you take the wrong medicine, you may not treat the problem correctly and allow bacteria to multiply. Don’t “save” antibiotics for a future illness. Don’t ask for antibiotics when your doctor thinks you don’t need them. Prevent infections with thorough hand washing and getting all recommended vaccines. Take steps to limit your exposure to antibiotics so that they’ll work for you when you really need them. More information The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has detailed information on antibiotic resistance to help you stay safe.
19 December 2018
WEDNESDAY, Dec. 19, 2018 (American Heart Association) — Leah Lizarondo continues to be amazed by how much food gets thrown away daily. Her Pittsburgh-based nonprofit, 412 Food Rescue, taps a huge network of volunteers to recover thousands of pounds of fresh fruits, vegetables, baked goods and other healthy food that otherwise would be thrown away by grocers, restaurants, universities, caterers and other businesses. “We often still can’t believe what kinds of food, and how much of it, gets thrown out, especially when we get alerted of large quantities, like from conventions,” said Lizarondo, 412 Food Rescue’s chief executive and co-founder. “Every single day, from all these meetings, a lot of good food gets thrown out, and whenever we collect from these events, it’s always, even for us, extremely shocking.” The food collected by the organization’s volunteers, or “food rescue heroes” as they’re called, is routed to housing authorities, soup kitchens and various nonprofits that help the elderly and others. “Our mission is to get food to where people already are. Where they live, where they work and learn, where they gather,” Lizarondo said. “A lot of households living in poverty or experiencing food insecurity are not very mobile – they don’t have access to cars or high-frequency transit. And some food pantries are only open a few times a month, so we mitigate what limits many people from accessing healthy food.” The idea behind 412 Food Rescue germinated after Lizarondo read a 2012 report from the Natural Resources Defense Council that found the United States wastes about 40 percent of its food, or an average 400 pounds of food per person annually. “I found that criminal, so reading that report was a catalyzing moment,” she said. Founded in 2015, 412 Food Rescue initially used social media to match food providers with volunteers who could pick up and then deliver the surplus to agencies in need. But that quickly became unwieldy as the organization and the number of its supporters grew. In November 2016, the organization launched an app that used technology similar to that of UberEats and DoorDash. “I thought, if restaurants are now using this shared vehicle system for delivering food, why can’t we use the same model for collecting food?” Lizarondo said. About 9,000 people have since downloaded the app, receiving notifications daily about opportunities to make rescues from roughly 500 Pittsburgh-area food retailers and drop them off with any one of 600 nonprofit agencies. Beth Slagle, 412 Food Rescue’s co-chair, credits Lizarondo’s leadership for the organization’s rapid success. “A lot of times people who are purely passionate about a nonprofit mission are not able to translate that passion into a business model. Leah was not only able to do that, she is making that business model into something huge and incredibly impactful,” Slagle said. Lizarondo realized early on that the organization needed better technology to manage the size of its ever-expanding volunteer base. The technology has been so successful that 412 Food Rescue is about to license its app to similar programs scaling their operations in Philadelphia, San Francisco and Cleveland. 412 Food Rescue also has started programs to complement its food rescue mission, including cooking classes that teach people on limited budgets how to maximize the healthy food they receive. It also forged partnerships with area farms, orchards and gardens to help redistribute produce “seconds,” or products deemed difficult to sell simply for cosmetic reasons, through an agriculture share program called UglyCSA. In October, Lizarondo and 412 Food Rescue won a $50,000 grant from the American Heart Association’s EmPowered to Serve Urban Health Accelerator for its ability to bring healthy food directly to food-insecure individuals. Slagle likened the organization to “the golden child of nonprofits” because of its growth and how well its mission has been received by the community. “Leah leads an amazing team. The staff are amazing, the volunteers are amazing. I haven’t seen an organization progress as rapidly as 412 Food Rescue,” Slagle said. “This organization has done what every other nonprofit wished it could do.”
18 December 2018
TUESDAY, Dec. 18, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Researchers say they’ve identified genetic mutations linked with a blood vessel defect that can lead to deadly brain bleeds in babies. A rare hereditary condition, called vein of Galen malformation, causes high-pressured blood to be pumped from arteries into veins. The veins aren’t meant to handle such pressure and can rupture, spilling blood into the brain. “The effect is like trying to connect your backyard garden hose to a fire hydrant — the veins simply cannot withstand such high pressures from pumping arteries,” explained study corresponding author Kristopher Kahle, of Yale University. He’s an assistant professor of neurosurgery, pediatrics, and cellular and molecular physiology. For the study, Kahle’s team conducted genetic analyses of 55 children with vein of Galen malformation and their parents. The investigators identified a number of genetic mutations associated with the condition. One mutation is in a gene called EPHB4, which plays a major role in the development of the vascular system, the study authors reported. The researchers also discovered that many parents who carry mutations of this gene had skin lesions caused by vascular irregularities. This information might help doctors diagnose vein of Galen malformation before a baby suffers a brain bleed, Kahle and his colleagues said in a Yale news release. Currently, the best treatment is a minimally invasive catheter procedure, but only a few facilities in the United States can perform the operation, the researchers said. However, there are drugs to treat other conditions caused by genetic disruptions identified in the study. Those drugs might prove helpful in treating children with vein of Galen malformation, Kahle said. The findings were published Dec. 18 in the journal Neuron. More information The Weill Cornell Brain and Spine Center has more on vein of Galen malformation.
15 December 2018
SATURDAY, Dec. 15, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Winter can be hard on your skin, but you can take steps to keep it soft and supple, dermatologists say. “When the weather changes, your skin care products should, too. For most of us, dry skin makes an appearance in the winter due to changes in temperature and humidity, so you need to think about appropriate skin care formulations,” said Dr. Rajani Katta. She’s a clinical professor of dermatology with the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. Katta and her colleague, Dr. Megan Rogge, an assistant professor of dermatology at the university, offered these tips to protect your skin: Choose thick skin creams over watery lotions. “Lotions are the least moisturizing, because they have such a high quantity of water. Creams are a better choice for those with dry skin,” Katta said in a university news release. Use sunblock. Rogge explained that “even when the temperature drops, the sun’s rays can still emit powerful ultraviolet radiation. If you’re close to snow or water, those UV rays can be even more potent due to the reflective surfaces, which makes wearing protection paramount.” Don’t take long, hot showers. “Many of us love to linger longer in steaming hot showers, particularly when it’s cold outside. These feel great, especially when your skin is itchy,” Rogge added. “But this can actually damage your skin barrier, and also exacerbate dry, itchy skin. That’s why it’s recommended to limit showers to 10 minutes, and use lukewarm water instead of hot water.” Soak and smear to help lock moisture into your skin. Katta said, “After soaking your skin, you want to smear on your moisturizer. In other words, after you take a shower, you’ll step out of the shower, pat dry just a little bit, then apply a moisturizer while your skin is still damp.” Wear gloves. “An important part of looking after your skin is using the right protective gear,” Katta noted. “Gloves keep your fingers warm and protect them, too.” Use a humidifier in your home. According to Rogge, “Winter dry skin gets worse once you start turning on the heat in your home. That heat starts to dry the air in your home, which in turn starts to dry your skin. A humidifier in your bedroom when you sleep can really help.” More information The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more on keeping your skin healthy.
14 December 2018
FRIDAY, Dec. 14, 2018 (HealthDay News) — As many as 20 million Americans have gallstones. Most don’t have any symptoms, but not all will escape a gallstone attack. The gallbladder is a small organ in the upper right abdomen. It’s a reservoir for bile, the fluid made by the liver to aid digestion. Experts aren’t sure why, but gallstones form from imbalances in the substances that make up bile, such as cholesterol. You can have one or hundreds of gallstones, and they can be as small as a grain of sand or the size of a golf ball. Gallstones: Who’s Most at Risk: Women. Anyone age 40 and older. Anyone with a family history of gallstones. Native Americans. Mexican Americans. “Silent” gallstones don’t interfere with the function of the gallbladder, liver or nearby pancreas. Often they’re discovered during an imaging test for another health concern. If a gallstone blocks any of the ducts that connect the gallbladder to the liver or pancreas, you can suffer a gallbladder attack. It often happens at night, after a heavy meal, and the pain can last for several hours. The attack usually stops when the stone moves. But if the duct remains blocked, you risk complications such as inflammation or infection. Untreated blockages can be fatal if they stop the pancreas from working normally. The good news is that serious gallbladder attacks affect only about 8 percent of people with stones, according to a Danish study. Most at risk are women in general and people who have one large stone or multiple stones. Whether or not you know you have gallstones, know the signs of a potentially serious gallstone event and contact your doctor even if the pain goes away. Warning Signs of Gallstone-Related Infection or Inflammation: Abdominal pain lasting more than 5 hours. Fever or chills. Jaundice, the yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes. Nausea and vomiting. Tea-colored urine and light-colored stools. If tests confirm stones, you may want — or need — to have your gallbladder removed, a very common operation. And because the gallbladder isn’t essential, you can live normally without it. More information Read more about gallstones at the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
13 December 2018
THURSDAY, Dec. 13, 2018 (HealthDay News) — The future of medicine may be here: Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology say they’ve developed an ingestible capsule that can be monitored outside the body for health data, using Bluetooth wireless technology. The capsule could deliver drugs as well as sense the condition of its surroundings in the gut, including infections or allergic reactions, the researchers explained. Once these health conditions were spotted, one of these so-called “gastric resident platform” devices could release the proper medicine in response. The goal is “customized ingestible electronics where the gastric residence period can be tailored, based on a specific medical application,” study lead author Yong Lin Kong explained in an MIT news release. He’s a former MIT postdoc researcher who’s now assistant professor at the University of Utah. Kong said the 3D-printed capsule could someday become “a personalized diagnostic and treatment that is widely accessible.” The device is ingested in a standard lozenge form like a pill. But sensory arms pop open once it’s inside the gut, revealing a Y-shaped device. One of the arms contains compartments large enough to hold medicines that could be time-released over several days, the researchers said. At the same time, the device’s sensors could monitor everything from heart rate to breathing levels and body temperature. Data might even be sent to a nearby smartphone, the MIT team noted. The data would stay within about an arm’s length range, Kong noted. That’s a security feature, limiting “unwanted connections” to the data and “providing a physical isolation for additional security and privacy protection.” The capsule is right now powered by a tiny battery, but in the future it might be powered remotely or even by harnessing energy from nearby stomach acid, the scientists added. Testing is already underway in pigs, and human trials are anticipated within two years. One gastroenterology specialist was enthused about the technology. “Sometimes truth is more fascinating than science fiction,” said Dr. David Robbins, who helps direct endoscopy at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “The long fantasized dream — that we could ingest micro-robots to battle whatever ails us — just got a few steps closer to reality with this report,” he said. The device “can not only withstand weeks of submersion in pools of corrosive stomach acid but also deliver precise doses of medication — all controlled from a smartphone,” Robbins said. He believes the potential of the new device could be limitless. “It won’t be long before we can direct not only drug delivery but also micro-surgery in the gastrointestinal tract — no skin incisions, needles or even trips to the hospital required,” Robbins said. For their part, the MIT team believes the technology has multiple uses. For example, it could release medicines as needed for people on strict drug regimens, such as people with HIV. Or it could give early warning of infection in people at high risk — patients on chemotherapy or immunosuppressive drugs, for instance. The new research was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the U.S. National Institutes of Health. The research team has also launched a company to help develop the technology. The findings were published Dec. 13 in Advanced Materials Technologies. More information There’s more on the gastrointestinal system at the American College of Gastroenterology.