Type 1 Diabetes: When the Pancreas Is Under Attack

There are two types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. In this article, we’re going to take a look at what causes type 1 diabetes, how to tell if you might have it, and what to do if you’re diagnosed.

Type 1 diabetes mellitus, or type 1 diabetes for short, affects approximately 1.25 million people in the United States, or around 4% of Americans diagnosed with diabetes. Like type 2 diabetes, type 1 diabetes can lead to a whole host of negative consequences, especially if it’s poorly controlled. However, the two types don’t share the same cause. In this article, we’re going to take a look at what causes type 1 diabetes, how to tell if you might have it, and what to do if you’re diagnosed.

Types of Diabetes

As mentioned, there are two types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Type 2 is by far the more common type and occurs when a person develops insulin resistance—a condition that results when the body doesn’t use insulin properly.

When resistance becomes an issue, the pancreas—which is responsible for regulating blood sugar levels—tries to compensate by making more and more insulin, but over time it becomes overwhelmed and can no longer keep blood glucose levels balanced. In its early stages, type 2 diabetes can be managed, and even reversed, with dietary changes and exercise. However, in its more advanced stages, medications and insulin are generally required.

By contrast, type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that arises when the immune system attacks islet cells in the pancreas called beta cells, mistaking the healthy insulin-producing cells for foreign invaders like bacteria or viruses. If the immune system destroys enough of these cells, the pancreas can eventually lose its ability to produce insulin altogether.

If you’re a member of a certain generation, you probably remember that type 1 diabetes was once referred to as juvenile diabetes. However, even though it is more commonly diagnosed in childhood, the condition can develop at any age. Likewise, type 2 diabetes was once known as adult-onset diabetes, but childhood obesity has led to more and more children being diagnosed with the illness, so the term is no longer used.

Why Is Insulin So Important?

Glucose is a type of sugar that the body’s cells use as their main source of energy. But to be used by the cells, glucose first has to have insulin to get across the cell walls. If the body becomes resistant to the effects of insulin or the pancreas loses its beta cells or begins to malfunction and can no longer keep up with the body’s demands, sugar can’t get into the cells and instead builds up in the bloodstream. And this can lead to a variety of health problems.

Risk Factors for Type 1 Diabetes

A number of factors can increase a person’s risk of developing type 1 diabetes. These include:

  • Family history: People with a family history of type 1 diabetes have a greater risk of developing the condition.
  • Age: Children between the ages of 4 and 7 and 10 and 14 are at greater risk of type 1 diabetes.
  • Genetics: People with certain genes have a higher risk of developing type 1 diabetes.
  • Geography: Interestingly, people who live farther away from the equator have a greater risk of developing type 1 diabetes.

Symptoms of Type 1 Diabetes

It’s not uncommon for the symptoms of type 1 diabetes to appear quite suddenly. Symptoms to watch out for include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Fruity breath
  • Extreme hunger
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Irritability and other mood changes
  • Yeast infections (women and girls)

Complications of Type 1 Diabetes

Like type 2 diabetes, type 1 diabetes can result in profound and life-threatening complications affecting a variety of organ systems. Some of the conditions associated with this disease are:

  • Heart disease: Type 1 diabetes dramatically increases the risk of various heart problems, including coronary artery disease, heart attack, stroke, and high blood pressure.
  • Neuropathy: Elevated blood sugar levels can lead to nerve damage by damaging the walls of the tiny blood vessels (capillaries) that feed nerves. This can result in tingling, numbness, burning, pain, and eventual loss of sensation in the affected area.
  • Nephropathy: Type 1 diabetes can damage the filtering system of the kidneys, which may lead to end-stage kidney disease, dialysis, or kidney transplant.
  • Retinopathy: Type 1 diabetes can damage the blood vessels of the retina and lead to blindness. Uncontrolled blood sugar levels are also associated with a greater risk of developing cataracts.

Diagnosing Type 1 Diabetes

If your health care provider suspects type 1 diabetes, they’ll order blood tests to check markers for the disease. Common tests used to diagnose type 1 diabetes include:

  • Glycosylated hemoglobin (A1c): This test measures the body’s average blood sugar level over the previous 2 or 3 months by testing the percentage of blood sugar attached to hemoglobin. A higher percentage indicates that blood sugar has been elevated.
  • Random blood sugar: As the name suggests, a random blood sugar can be performed at any time of the day. A level greater than 200 milligrams per deciliter is suggestive of diabetes, regardless of when the last meal was eaten.
  • Fasting blood sugar: This test is performed after fasting overnight. A level between 100 and 125 milligrams per deciliter indicates prediabetes, while two or more readings of 126 or higher confirm the diagnosis of diabetes.

Treating Type 1 Diabetes

If you’ve been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, your treatment plan will consist of the following:

  • Regular monitoring of blood sugar levels
  • Insulin administration
  • Dietary modifications
  • Carbohydrate, fat, and protein tracking
  • Regular physical activity
  • Healthy weight maintenance

Unfortunately, because type 1 diabetes destroys the ability of the pancreas to produce insulin, people with the disease will need to take supplemental insulin for the rest of their lives. The different types of insulin that may be prescribed are:

  • Regular
  • Fast-acting
  • Intermediate-acting
  • Long-acting

Moreover, insulin can’t be taken orally because the same enzymes that digest food also break down insulin, rendering it inactive. Therefore, people with type 1 diabetes must administer insulin using either an insulin pump, which is a wearable device that automatically dispenses insulin, or injections.

While an insulin pump can be programmed to dispense specific amounts of rapid-acting insulin at regular intervals, people who choose insulin injections usually require a variety of insulin types, administered multiple times throughout the day.

In addition, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved the first artificial pancreas device system for the treatment of type 1 diabetes. This device works by automatically adjusting the amount of insulin entering the body based on glucose levels measured by a sensor.

Amino Acids

Amino acids are known as the building blocks of life because they’re essential for the creation of protein and other chemicals the body requires for proper functioning. And new research is beginning to shed light on the role these important substances may play in the development of type 1 diabetes.

For example, a 2013 study published in the journal Nutrition and Diabetes found that children who develop type 1 diabetes during the first 6 years of life exhibit low levels of the amino acid carnitine as infants.

These findings suggest that neonatal screening for amino acid deficiencies may be beneficial in children at risk of type 1 diabetes, and that carnitine supplementation may be helpful for those found to be lacking in this important amino acid. However, it’s important to remember that amino acids work in concert with one another, so look for a formula that supplies a balanced mixture of all essential amino acids, and be sure to speak with your health care provider before beginning an amino acid regimen.

Type 1 diabetes is a serious illness that can lead to a number of potentially debilitating or life-threatening conditions. However, with appropriate diabetes care, including a healthy diet, social support, and avoidance of both high and low blood sugar levels, it’s possible to reduce your risk of health problems and lead a long and productive life. So if you or someone you love is experiencing worrisome symptoms, don’t hesitate to speak with your health care provider right away.

There are two types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, and it occurs when a patient has insulin resistance. In type 1 diabetes the immune system attacks pancreatic cells and destroy them. The attack prevents the pancreatic cells from doing their job of making insulin.

What to Take for Laryngitis

A whispering, squeaking, husky voice usually means one thing: laryngitis. Curious what to take for laryngitis? The best medicine for laryngitis may be in the cupboard, rather than at the pharmacy.

A whispering, squeaking, hoarse voice usually means one thing: laryngitis. Typically lasting days or weeks, ordinary laryngitis is an inconvenience but not a life-threatening problem. Curious what to take for laryngitis? The best medicine for laryngitis may be in the cupboard, rather than at the pharmacy.

Laryngitis Symptoms

Laryngitis is an inflammation or swelling of the voice box (larynx). When a bout of laryngitis attacks, the vocal cords—folds in the larynx mucosa—become swollen. Normally, the vocal cords open and close very smoothly, producing sound through movement and vibration. When they become swollen, the sound produced by the air passing through the vocal cord is distorted, causing the patient’s voice to sound husky.

A fairly common condition, laryngitis usually occurs in children and the elderly because of their poor resistance. A person with laryngitis experiences hoarseness, loss of voice, and throat pain. Additional symptoms of laryngitis in adults may include pain from swallowing, fullness in the throat or neck, fever, swollen lymph nodes, or a congested or runny nose. Symptoms in infants or children, usually associated with croup, may include a hoarse laryngitis cough and fever.

It is recommended that adults see a doctor if they are in pain, hoarse for more than 2 weeks, coughing up blood, have a temperature above 103 °F, or have trouble breathing. Consulting a physician is recommended if a child is…

  • Younger than 3 months old and has a temperature of 100 °F or higher
  • Older than 3 months old and has a fever of 102 °F or higher
  • Is having difficulty swallowing or breathing
  • Is making high-pitched sounds when inhaling
  • Is drooling more than usual

A doctor will examine the patient’s throat, take a culture, and use an endoscope, a narrow tube equipped with a camera. There may be a skin allergy test or an X-ray taken to rule out other issues.

Acute laryngitis typically clears up on its own within a few weeks. Laryngitis is termed chronic laryngitis when it lasts longer than 3 weeks. Chronic inflammation from laryngitis can cause the formation of nodules or polyps on the vocal cords.

Laryngitis in children can develop into croup, a narrowing of the airways, or epiglottitis, an inflammation of the flap at the top of the larynx that can be life-threatening. In adults, complications of laryngitis from GERD include pneumonia, chronic bronchitis, and vocal cord paralysis.

Causes of Laryngitis

Factors that can trigger laryngitis are upper respiratory infection or the common cold; overuse of the vocal cords by talking, singing, or screaming; smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke; or exposure to dry or polluted air. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can also play a role in laryngitis; strong acids can travel up from the stomach into the larynx, causing irritation and loss of the voice. Laryngitis caused by GERD, which is a common cause among the elderly, can make people feel as if they have something stuck in the windpipe.

When infections cause laryngitis, it can be contagious. Although it’s usually virus-related, there are also continual, or chronic, forms of laryngitis, typically brought on by smoking and alcohol abuse. Other origins of chronic cases of laryngitis include: allergies, bacterial infection, fungal infection, injury, inhalation of chemical fumes, and sinus disease. Some health conditions, including cancer, can also instigate laryngitis.

Laryngitis Cure and Prevention

In most cases, laryngitis will disappear on its own. Treatment of laryngitis involves drinking plenty of fluids, resting the voice, humidifying the air, making some common-sense lifestyle changes, and using natural and home remedies for symptom relief. Many of these remedies are easy to find and prepare.

Limit conversation to rest the voice. Speak softly as if seated with a friend in a café, eliminate yelling or speaking loudly, and avoid whispering and clearing the throat. Without the stress of everyday use, a person’s voice usually recovers on its own. If the need to speak clearly is urgent, a doctor may prescribe corticosteroids that act like hormones that the body makes naturally to reduce swelling. To relieve pain, you can take ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Midol) or acetaminophen (Tylenol).

Take supplements that reduce inflammation. BCAAs (branch-chained amino acids) are a group of three essential amino acids: leucine, isoleucine, and valine. These amino acids, along with glycine, reduce inflammation in a variety of diseases and conditions. It’s highly preferable to take a complete essential amino acid supplement, rather than a BCAA supplement or single amino acid therapy.

Here are some lifestyle changes that can reduce the chance of getting laryngitis in the first place or help in the healing process:

  • Reduce or eliminate caffeine and alcohol to avoid dehydration.
  • Use artificial saliva to moisten the mouth and throat.
  • Stop smoking and avoid smokers.
  • Avoid recreational drugs, which can be harmful to the larynx.
  • Use a humidifier or vaporizer to add moisture to indoor air.
  • Avoid dusty environments.
  • Beware of certain drugs such as antihistamines and diuretics that can dry out the mouth and throat.
  • Be hyperaware of washing your hands with warm water and soap. Keep surfaces, such as the telephone and door handles, clean with vinegar and a fresh cloth.
  • Know what to take for laryngitis. Stay hydrated and soothe your throat by drinking water throughout the day. Fruit juices and non-caffeinated drinks can be both moistening and soothing.
  • Start and end the day with steam by boiling water, placing the pot on a protected surface, and breathing the steam in gently for 10 to 15 minutes.

A whispering, squeaking, husky voice usually means one thing: laryngitis. Typically lasting days or weeks, ordinary laryngitis is an inconvenience but not a life-threatening problem. Curious what to take for laryngitis? The best medicine for laryngitis may be in the cupboard, rather than at the pharmacy.

Laryngitis Home Remedies

Most home remedies for laryngitis are already in the house or easy to find. Here are our favorites.


Quite possibly the the best medicine for laryngitis, honey contains sugars and amino acids beneficial for health and bolsters the resistance of the human body. Rich in minerals and considered a natural antibiotic that fights pathogens, honey combats laryngitis symptoms, such as a sore throat, dry cough, phlegm, and seasonal allergy symptoms. It has antifungal and antioxidant activities.


Loaded with antimicrobial properties that kill bacteria and viruses, garlic acts as a natural expectorant. When sliced or crushed, garlic releases the antimicrobial substance allicin, making it effective in treating laryngitis.

The oil from garlic is rich in glucine, aliin, and phytonoxite, which have bactericidal, antiseptic, and anti-inflammatory effects, and garlic also contains large amounts of vitamins A, B, C, D, PP, carbon tetrachloride, polysaccharide, inulin, fitoxterin, and other minerals necessary for the body, such as iodine, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and trace elements.

Garlic is rich in antioxidants to help restore the activity of cells in the body, improve resistance, and help the body resist diseases.


An herbal remedy for some common ailments such as colds, pharyngitis, and bronchitis, licorice reduces sputum. It enhances expectoration and dilutes the mucus in the respiratory tract. Glycyrrhizic acid in licorice improves the function of the adrenal glands, and cortisol in licorice has anti-inflammatory properties. Licorice, which boosts the immune system by activating interferons in the body, helps to prevent viral infections.


Good for the throat and for throat infections, fresh ginger comforts inflamed mucous membranes of the larynx. Ginger’s complex chemical composition contains anti-inflammatory and antioxidant health benefits. It can be sweetened with honey if needed.


Its strong antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties kill bacteria and help the body produce excessive mucus. In addition to boosting the immune system, turmeric has three natural plant compounds called curcuminoids that reduce enzymes in the body that contribute to inflammation.

Onion Syrup

Onions have high levels of antioxidants and sulfur compounds, and onion syrup acts as a natural expectorant and a natural cure for larynx inflammation. Onions are rich in vitamins A, B, C, as well as natural folic acid, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, chromium, iron, and fiber.

Apple Cider Vinegar

With some serious antimicrobial properties to stave off infections, apple cider vinegar also helps balance stomach acid levels. Being naturally acidic, it can lower pH level in the stomach and offer probiotics and enzymes to improve food digestion and fight GERD and acid reflux. Apple cider vinegar also repels infections and other acute conditions due to its antimicrobial properties.

Peppermint Essential Oil

Natural antispasmodic activity helps fight off contractions that make people cough, while cutting irritation to the vocal cords. Peppermint essential oil also helps treat allergies, a potential cause of laryngitis. It relieves scratchy throats, colds, and coughs; serves as an expectorant; discharges phlegm; and reduces inflammation of the vocal cords.


With numerous vitamins and antioxidants, tea can relieve inflammation and harmful bacteria in the throat. Soothing the throat and the stomach, chrysanthemum and mint tea are especially helpful when used with a few drops of honey. Mullein tea can also soothe a sore throat and reduce inflammation. A mild astringent and antibacterial agent, it can help to treat laryngitis that comes from an infection of the larynx.

Marshmallow Root and Slippery Elm

Prized for their mucilage, marshmallow root and slippery elm help coat the throat to relieve irritation. They also help subdue swelling in the lymph nodes, bolster the healing process, and reduce aggravating dry laryngitis cough.


Various gargles with household items are helpful for laryngitis. A saltwater gargle soothes infected and inflamed vocal cords and sore throats and kills bacteria. Gargling with vinegar, a weak acid, can reduce the buildup of infectious organisms. A lemon juice and salt gargle stimulates saliva flow and kills many microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses because of its acidity, which is increased by the salt. It also aids in loosening mucus.

Understanding Hypothyroidism Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

If left untreated, hypothyroidism can result in a number of serious health problems. So come with us as we delve into this common condition, uncover its causes and symptoms, and discuss available treatments and what you can do to take care of your thyroid and protect your long-term health.

According to the American Thyroid Association, more than 12% of people in the United States will develop some type of thyroid disorder in the course of their lives. And the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) estimates that approximately 5% of Americans over the age of 12 have symptoms of hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid. If left untreated, hypothyroidism can result in a number of serious health problems. So come with us as we delve into this common condition, uncover its causes and symptoms, and discuss available treatments and what you can do to take care of your thyroid and protect your long-term health.

What Is the Thyroid, and What Does It Do?

The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland that sits near the bottom of the neck, below the larynx, or voice box. The thyroid gland makes two main hormones, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), the levels of which are controlled by another hormone called thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH). TSH is in turn produced by the pituitary gland—an organ found in the brain that’s sometimes referred to as the body’s master gland.

Together, the thyroid hormones regulate the body’s use of energy and affect the function of almost every organ. In fact, many of the processes we take for granted, such as heartbeat, breathing, body temperature, metabolism, and menstrual cycles, couldn’t take place without thyroid hormones.

But sometimes the thyroid’s ability to produce enough hormones to maintain healthy functioning is compromised. And when this happens, hypothyroidism results.

Causes of Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism may be caused by a number of factors, from autoimmune diseases to iodine deficiency, but some of the most common causes include:

Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, or Hashimoto’s disease, is the most common cause of hypothyroidism in America. An autoimmune disorder in which the immune system mistakes the thyroid for a foreign invader and creates antibodies against it, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis results in chronic inflammation of the thyroid that damages the gland’s ability to produce thyroid hormones.


People who’ve undergone thyroidectomy to treat certain thyroid diseases, including overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), thyroid nodules, and thyroid cancer, can develop hypothyroidism. Some forms of thyroid surgery preserve thyroid function by removing only part of the gland, but individuals who’ve had surgical removal of the entire gland must receive supplemental thyroid hormones for the rest of their lives.

Radiation Therapy

People with head and neck cancers who undergo radiation—including radioactive iodine for the treatment of thyroid cancer or hyperthyroidism—may experience thyroid damage that leads to hypothyroidism.

In addition to the above, other less common causes of hypothyroidism may include:

  • Congenital hypothyroidism: This type of hypothyroidism occurs when an infant is born with a thyroid gland that’s either defective or missing.
  • Pituitary gland tumor: If the pituitary gland fails to produce adequate levels of TSH—usually as a result of a tumor—hypothyroidism can occur.
  • Iodine deficiencyThe trace mineral iodine is necessary for proper thyroid hormone production, and deficiencies can lead to hypothyroidism.

Risk Factors for Hypothyroidism

Although anyone can develop hypothyroidism, certain factors may predispose an individual to developing the condition. Some of the most common risk factors include:

  • Family history: People with a family history of thyroid disorders are more likely to develop hypothyroidism.
  • Sex: Women have a greater risk of developing hypothyroidism.
  • Age: People over the age of 60 are at greater risk of having the condition.
  • Autoimmune conditions: People with a history of other autoimmune disorders, such as type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, have a higher risk of developing hypothyroidism.

Complications of Hypothyroidism

Many people may think of hypothyroidism as a relatively benign condition that causes little more than fatigue and weight gain. However, untreated hypothyroidism can lead to a number of serious health issues, including:

  • Heart disease
  • Heart failure
  • Depression
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Myxedema coma

Symptoms of Hypothyroidism

The symptoms seen in cases of hypothyroidism vary depending on the severity of the disease. And because the condition tends to develop slowly over many years, it can be easy to dismiss symptoms as merely the result of the aging process. However, as the disease continues to progress, symptoms will become harder to ignore. Some of the most common symptoms to watch out for include:

Chronic fatigue Cold intolerance
Constipation Dry or puffy skin
Hair loss Weight gain
Hoarseness Muscle and joint pain
Muscle weakness Joint swelling
Elevated cholesterol Irregular menstrual periods
Decreased heart rate Depression
Memory difficulties Thyroid enlargement (goiter)

Diagnosing Hypothyroidism

To diagnose hypothyroidism, your health care provider will first speak with you regarding your symptoms and then perform a physical exam to evaluate for signs of the condition, including thyroid enlargement, dry skin, and slow heart rate. If findings lead your health care provider to suspect hypothyroidism, blood tests will then be conducted to assess thyroid hormone levels.

While the most commonly measured thyroid hormone is TSH, your doctor may choose to evaluate levels of T4 as well. A finding of elevated TSH levels and decreased T4 levels is indicative of clinical hypothyroidism. However, in cases where TSH is elevated but T4 is normal, a diagnosis of subclinical hypothyroidism may be given. If this occurs, your health care provider might choose to do nothing, or they might offer a trial of thyroid hormone replacement or recommend dietary changes and nutritional support.

Treating Hypothyroidism

After receiving a diagnosis of hypothyroidism, treatment usually involves thyroid hormone replacement in the form of levothyroxine—a synthetic hormone. This medication is provided in pill form and is usually given once a day. When therapy first begins, TSH will need to be checked on a regular basis to ensure the proper dosage has been prescribed.

If you experience symptoms of too much thyroid hormone, including increased appetite, insomnia, and palpitations, your dose of levothyroxine will need to be lowered. However, side effects are generally minimal after the appropriate dose is found, and treatment usually requires only yearly monitoring to make sure further dosage changes aren’t needed.

Diet and Nutrition

As mentioned, diet and nutrition play an important role in thyroid health and can be very helpful when used as adjunctive therapy in the treatment of hypothyroidism.

While people with hypothyroidism may be advised to limit their consumption of goitrogenic foods like broccoli and kale—as they may interfere with the production of thyroid hormones—there are many foods and nutritional supplements that can actually help support the thyroid and even decrease the need for medication. These include foods high in B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants as well as:

  • Vitamin D: Studies have shown that people with hypothyroidism tend to have lower levels of vitamin D.
  • Selenium: The thyroid gland contains more selenium than any other organ in the body and we must have this important mineral in order to convert inactive T4 into active T3 (triiodothyronine).
  • Inositol: When used with selenium, inositol has been shown to decrease both TSH and the levels of antibodies seen in autoimmune thyroid disorders.
  • Zinc: Like selenium, zinc is also required by the thyroid gland for converting T4 into T3.
  • Ashwagandha: This well-known adaptogen not only helps the body adapt to stress but has also been shown in studies to assist in balancing thyroid hormone levels.
  • Amino acids: Known as the building blocks of life, amino acids play a critical role in almost every biological process, including thyroid function. One amino acid in particular—tyrosine—is combined with iodine in the thyroid to create both T3 and T4.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of hypothyroidism, be sure to speak with your health care provider. Testing is quick and easy, and early treatment can help prevent long-term complications.

Hypothyroidism is proof that size doesn’t matter. The small thyroid gland can cause big health problems when it isn’t working correctly. When the thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormones to maintain a healthy body, the result is a condition called hypothyroidism, or underactive thyroid.

Sickle Cell Anemia: Cause, Symptoms and Treatment

Sickle cell anemia, or sickle cell disease, affects millions of people worldwide. People with sickle cell anemia produce red blood cells that cannot move so easily and often get stuck inside blood vessels and cause blockages. These blockages prevent blood and oxygen from getting to various parts of the body. Learn about the latest in treatment.

Millions of Americans have a condition called anemia in which they either don’t produce enough red blood cells or their red blood cells don’t function properly. Red blood cells carry oxygen, and the lack of properly functioning red blood cells leads to a lack of oxygen flow throughout the body, including to vital organs.

Anemia is very common, and there are multiple types of anemia. It can be brought on by a deficiency of iron in the diet, it can be due to an autoimmune condition like pernicious anemia, or it can be inherited, like sickle cell anemia.  Sickle cell anemia, or sickle cell disease, affects millions of people worldwide and an estimated 100,000 Americans.

What Is Sickle Cell Anemia?

According to the American Society of Hemotology, between 70,000 and 100,000 Americans have sickle cell anemia (SCD). This blood disorder appears more commonly in certain ethnicities.

  • African-Americans (1 in 12 carries a sickle cell gene)
  • Hispanic-Americans from Central and South America
  • People of Middle Eastern, Asian, Indian, and Mediterranean descent

People with sickle cell anemia, or sickle cell disease, produce red blood cells like everyone else, but due to abnormal hemoglobin, their red blood cells do not function properly. Instead of healthy, round, red blood cells, their red blood cells are misshapen and take the form of a sickle, or crescent moon.

Normal red blood cells are flexible and flow throughout the body, easily carrying oxygen through blood vessels to organs and tissue. Sickle cells, however, cannot move so easily and often get stuck inside blood vessels and cause blockages. These blockages prevent blood and oxygen from getting to various parts of the body.

What Causes Sickle Cell Disease?

Sickle cell anemia is an inherited disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an individual with sickle cell anemia inherited a hemoglobin gene called a sickle cell trait from his or her parents. Those who inherit the gene from only one parent may have sickle cell trait but usually do not develop sickle cell anemia. People who inherit the gene from both parents have a greater risk of developing sickle cell anemia.

If someone has inherited sickle cell trait but never develops sickle cell anemia, he or she can still pass the trait onto his or her own children. If you are unsure if you carry the sickle cell gene, you can take a blood test to check for the gene before having children.

Symptoms of Sickle Cell Disease

Signs of sickle cell disease typically don’t originate until the first year of life because of the hemoglobin generated by the developing fetus. This fetal hemoglobin prevents red blood cells from sickling. After 5 months old, fetal hemoglobin is no longer produced in red blood cells, and sickling and symptoms begin.

The disorder frequently manifests as anemia, which is marked by a low number of red blood cells, frequent infections, and chronic pain. Other symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Severe pain
  • Swelling of the hands and feet
  • Arthritis
  • Leg ulcers
  • Liver congestion
  • Pooling of blood in the spleen
  • Vision problems
  • Bone and joint damage

Pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the lungs) is a potential complication of sickle cell anemia that results in shortness of breath and fatigue. The condition can be fatal and requires immediate medical care. Because sickle cell disease can also trigger a stroke, symptoms such as numbness or weakness in the face or side of the body, visual troubles, or difficulty speaking should also be watched for.

Sickle cell anemia symptoms

What Is a Sickle Cell Crisis?

While it is common for sickle cell patients to experience episodes of pain, sometimes the pain becomes so severe that it is considered a sickle cell crisis. A sickle cell crisis, or a pain crisis, occurs when the sickled cells can’t pass through small blood vessels and end up creating a blockage. The blockage cuts off blood flow and oxygen to part of the body, creating a painful episode that can last from hours to days and can potentially cause organ damage, particularly in the spleen, kidneys, brain, and lungs.

A sickle cell crisis, as well as a lung infection, can induce acute chest syndrome that makes it difficult to breathe and incites chest pain and fever. Some episodes can be treated with pain medication or antibiotics, while others may be severe enough to warrant a trip to the emergency room.

Common sickle cell crisis symptoms include:

  • Pain in the:
  • Pain that is:
    • Throbbing
    • Stabbing
    • Sharp
    • Dull
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Weakness

Certain factors are thought to trigger a sickle cell crisis, such as dehydration. The CDC recommends sickle cell patients take the following precautions to help prevent a sickle cell crisis.

  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Stay at a comfortable temperature, don’t let yourself get too hot or too cold
  • Avoid high altitudes such as flying or mountain climbing
  • Avoid low oxygen exposure such as intense exercise

Diagnosing Sickle Cell Anemia

According to the Mayo Clinic, all babies born in a United States hospital are automatically tested for the inherited sickle cell gene as part of a newborn screening. If the test is negative, then it is determined that the baby is not at risk for sickle cell anemia. If the test is positive, then further testing can be done to determine if the baby inherited two sickle cell genes, one from each parent, and the likelihood of developing sickle cell anemia.

If older children, teens, or adults were not tested as newborns and would like to be tested, a simple blood draw will determine if they have the sickle cell gene and if so, how many. If the results are positive, then the physician will likely refer the patient to a genetic counselor knowledgeable about sickle cell anemia, the chances of developing it, and the likelihood of passing it on to the patient’s children.

Treating Sickle Cell Anemia

Sickle cell anemia treatment takes many forms and is often dependent on the age of the patient. Exciting research is underway, as scientists are currently studying gene therapy in the hopes of being able to one day change or replace the gene responsible for the disease. Until then, common treatments include medications, vaccinations, blood transfusions, and bone marrow transplants.


A variety of medications may be used to treat sickle cell anemia. These include:

  • Antibiotics: Children with sickle cell anemia are at a greater risk of life-threatening infections and may be prescribed antibiotics for the first few years of life.
  • Pain relievers: Physicians may prescribe pain relievers to help alleviate the painful episodes associated with sickle cell anemia.
  • Hydroxyurea (Droxia, Hydrea): This drug helps prevent the formation of sickle cells in newborns, decreases painful episodes, and may reduce the need for blood transfusions.


Those with sickle cell anemia, particularly children, have a higher risk of severe bacterial and viral infections. In addition to the recommended vaccinations for newborns and children, additional vaccines may be suggested for children and adults with sickle cell anemia. These may include the pneumonia vaccine and an annual flu shot.

Blood Transfusions

A blood transfusion is sometimes used to help relieve symptoms for those with severe anemia. A blood transfusion involves a sickle cell anemia patient receiving blood from someone with healthy red blood cells. This increases the number of healthy red blood cells in the sickle cell patient and helps relieve their symptoms by boosting blood and oxygen flow throughout the body.

However, in addition to increasing the number of red blood cells, the level of iron in the sickle cell patient’s blood may also increase. Excess iron in the blood can be damaging to organs. Treatment to reduce iron levels may be necessary to keep the sickle cell patient at a healthy iron level.

Bone Marrow Transplants

A bone marrow or stem cell transplant may be recommended for those who have severe symptoms of sickle cell anemia. The sickle cell patient will first undergo radiation or chemotherapy to destroy bone marrow stem cells. Next, healthy stem cells are injected into the patient’s bloodstream to replace the bone marrow that has been damaged. Once in the bloodstream, the healthy stem cells should begin making new blood cells. Before a patient can have a bone marrow transplantation, a donor must be found who does not have sickle cell anemia. Siblings are often a match.

Amino Acids

In 2017, the American Journal of Healthy-System Pharmacy reported that the FDA approved the amino acid L-glutamine for the treatment of sickle cell anemia in patients 5 years and older. Amino acids are essentially the building blocks of a healthy body. They help the body form protein and make chemicals that are critical to healthy organ function, including brain function.

The FDA approved L-glutamine after a study showed that patients being treated with this amino acid experienced fewer episodes of sickle cell pain and had fewer hospitalizations than those treated with a placebo. Although L-glutamine has been shown to have positive effects for some sickle cell anemia patients, it’s best to take a balanced mixture of all essential amino acids to make sure that the blood concentration of amino acids is optimal. Patients thinking of using amino acids should consult their health care provider first, especially if there is an underlying condition like sickle cell anemia present.

The Canker Sore Cure: 12 Home Remedies and When to See a Doctor

Canker sores are small painful sores in the inside of your mouth that can appear for any number of reasons. Here are 12 canker sore home remedies that help soothe your discomfort, tips for preventing canker sores, and signs that indicate you should get in to see your doctor. Read on for the cancer sore cure!

You can often recognize the familiar pain and sting as soon as a canker sore appears. The irritating ulcer inside your mouth may be small, but it sure can pack a punch. Canker sores (aphthous ulcers) are so uncomfortable they make it difficult to eat or drink. Thankfully, there are several DIY treatments around your house that offer a canker sore cure.

Here are 12 canker sore home remedies that help soothe your discomfort, tips for preventing canker sores from popping up, and signs to watch out for that indicate you should get in to see your doctor.

What Is a Canker Sore?

You will most likely feel a canker sore before you see it, since they cause pain and swelling inside your mouth, on the underside of your lips, gums, or sides of the tongue. Canker sores are a type of ulcer that are typically colored white, gray, or yellow with a red border. They are very common, specifically targeting women over men. You also may be more susceptible to getting a canker sore if the tendency runs in your family or you are fighting another condition like an autoimmune disease.

While they make look similar and have comparable symptoms, canker sores differ from cold sores. Cold sores, sometimes called fever blisters, show up due to the herpes simplex virus. These types of sores are very contagious and can be passed from person to person through direct contact or through the sharing of a drink or toothbrush. If you have a canker sore, don’t worry, you cannot spread them to anyone else directly or indirectly.

Most canker sores are minor and will clear on their own within a couple weeks, and will likely start feeling better after 7 days. Sometimes a larger sore can develop that is much deeper and bigger than a minor sore and may leave behind a scar after it disappears in several weeks. Not as common, herpetiform sores are small ulcers that can appear in very large groups of one hundred or more.

Causes of Canker Sores

Canker sores have a way of showing up during times of stress, infection, or when your immune system has recently taken a hit. Certain medications can also cause canker sores, as can some deficiencies in some B vitamins, such as vitamin B12, iron, folic acid, and zinc. A canker sore may form if any of the tissues in your mouth are irritated, burned, or injured.

You can injure your mouth with a rough jab of your toothbrush or irritation due to braces, causing a sore to form. Sometimes a face injury from playing sports or other physical activities can also lead to a canker sore forming. Other canker sore causes include:

  • Stress
  • Acidic and spicy food
  • Allergies to food or medicine
  • Toothpaste made with sodium lauryl sulfate
  • Menstrual cycle or hormones
  • Smoking
  • Underlying disease or condition that affects your immune system

Signs It’s a Canker Sore

Canker sores let you know they’re coming by sending a burning feeling to the area before you even spot their appearance.

Other signs it’s a canker sore include:

  • Pain and irritation at the site
  • Red-bordered ulcer that is yellow, gray, or white in the middle
  • Eating and drinking discomfort

Canker Sore Home Remedies

Finding canker sore relief is most likely at the top of your mind as soon as one pops up. Most of the time, canker sores will heal on their own after a week or so, without you having to do much but avoid irritants. However, if you are looking to soothe your mouth with a canker sore cure and speed up the healing process, you can go the over-the-counter route and use a topical medication or mouthwash available at your local drugstore. You can also find many ingredients right in your home that make excellent treatment options for subduing inflammation and pain.

Ice Compress

Ice may not reduce the duration of a canker sore breakout, but it can ease the discomfort and inflammation. Apply a cold pack directly to the sore for temporary pain relief or hold crushed ice in your mouth near the sore and allow it to slowly melt.

Salt Water Rinse

One of the easiest canker sore remedies to make is simple salt water. Salt helps reduce acid and uses natural healing properties and minerals to get that ball rolling when trying to heal injuries or infections. Rinse your mouth with 1 teaspoon of salt water and a half cup warm water for 30 seconds to help your canker sore heal.

Baking Soda Rinse

The acids within your mouth that help break down food and fight bacteria can also wreak havoc on a canker sore. Baking soda neutralizes those acids while helping to kill bacteria and allowing your sore to heal quickly. To make a rinse, fill a cup with warm water and mix in 1 teaspoon of baking soda. Swish for several minutes, spit out, and repeat twice a day.

Clove Oil

Clove oil, or eugenol oil, is a valuable natural remedy for canker sores. When applied directly to the sore, the active ingredient of eugenol, an anesthetic, will help temporarily numb the area. You are better off using pure oil instead of ground cloves from the pantry to get the most benefit and pain-fighting ability.


You probably reach for the aloe for a sunburn, but it can also be useful for canker sore relief. Apply a small amount of aloe to a dried canker sore using a clean finger or Q-tip. Try to avoid eating or drinking for at least an hour after application.

Tea Bag Compress

A warm compress using a steeped tea bag can help soothe an irritated mouth sore. Tea is packed with many great benefits, including astringent properties that can help heal the swollen tissue from a canker sore. After steeping a tea bag for several minutes, let it cool slightly and apply directly to your sore.

Zinc Lozenges

Zinc is often used to bolster the immune system, and in the case of canker sore treatment, its antibiotic properties create an environment that makes it difficult for canker sores to thrive. You can find zinc in the form of zinc lozenges that may help relieve pain and speed your canker sore healing time. You can suck on a lozenge a couple times a day, or dissolve one or two zinc lozenges in a half cup of hydrogen peroxide and a half cup of water to gargle several times a day.

Sage Rinse

Sage is another natural remedy that totes anti-infection and anti-inflammatory properties. (You may spot it in some brands of toothpaste!) To make your own rinse to soothe a canker sore, use a tablespoon of fresh sage and steep in boiling water for several minutes. Remove the leaves and allow the liquid to cool completely. Swish it as you would mouthwash and spit out. You can store the rinse in your refrigerator and use as needed.

Milk of Magnesia Rinse

You can use milk of magnesia’s antacid properties to your advantage by creating a rinse that helps neutralize the acids in your mouth that are irritating your painful sores. Swish for several minutes and spit out. You can also apply a little directly to your canker sore using a cotton swab. For a variation of this rinse, add a teaspoon of liquid Benadryl and mix well. The Benadryl acts as a numbing agent that helps to reduce the amount of pain the sore registers when irritated.

Hydrogen Peroxide

There is always a risk that your canker sore can become infected, extending how long it takes to heal. Luckily, a common staple in your medicine cabinet can offer protection and disinfection. Hydrogen peroxide can be used as a mouthwash when you have a canker sore to keep it clean and free of germs. To make a rinse, combine 1/4 cup of water, 1/4 cup of hydrogen peroxide, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon baking soda. Swish twice daily, and be sure to spit out all the mixture.

Licorice Tea

Found in many natural grocery stores, licorice tea can help soothe and speed up canker sore healing. Steep a bag in boiling water and allow to cool. You can drink the tea, swishing it around in your mouth, as well as applying the steeped bag directly to the canker sore site.

Goldenseal Rinse

Goldenseal is a top-selling herbal product that has been used for fighting a variety of issues, from respiratory infections to digestive disorders. It has also been helpful in treating canker sores and mouth irritations. In 1 cup of warm water, mix 1/4 teaspoon of salt and the contents of one goldenseal capsule. Use this as a mouth rinse twice daily while your canker sore persists.

Canker Sore Signs, Causes, Home Remedies and Prevention

When to See a Doctor

Sometimes canker sores are a red flag that something else may be going on. If you spike a fever, are losing weight, are fighting fatigue, or have other symptoms, seek medical advice from a health care professional. If you get canker sores frequently, it’s a good idea to see your doctor as well, as there may be an underlying medical condition at play, such as lupus, Crohn’s disease, or celiac disease. Also contact your doctor or dentist if your canker sores are:

  • Growing in size
  • Multiplying
  • Not healing after several weeks
  • Preventing you from eating or drinking

Preventing Canker Sores

Canker sores are very common and sometimes your body’s way of telling you to slow down and take better care of yourself. There are, however, several canker sore prevention methods to employ. Some general tips include:

  • Cut back on acidic foods such as citrus fruits or spicy foods that irritate canker sores.
  • Opt for brushes with soft bristles and don’t brush too hard.
  • Avoid the toothpaste ingredient sodium lauryl sulfate.
  • Reduce stress as much as possible through relaxation techniques, ample rest, and exercise.

Supplementing Vitamin Deficiencies

Vitamin deficiencies may be responsible for your canker sores, especially if you get them more frequently. For instance, not having enough of the amino acid L-lysine causes canker sores. Lysine is an amino acid that is available in both food sources and in supplemental form. It is an essential amino acid, which means your body does not manufacture this amino acid from other sources and you must get it from your diet or by supplementation.

In research studies, L-lysine promotes the healing and prevention of canker stores by supporting skin and oral health and giving an overall boost to your immune system.

Arginine is another amino acid, found naturally in foods, that breaks down dental plaque and helps reduce gum disease and improve your overall dental health. To amp up arginine levels in the body, it is best to take a complete essential amino acid supplement that contains citrulline, which, unlike arginine, can pass through the liver and be converted to arginine in the kidneys and then released into the bloodstream and to the rest of the body.

A complete amino acid powder with citrulline also contains lysine and a correct mix of amino acids to provide you with a safe and healthy balance that offers the most benefits.