How to Prevent and Possibly Reverse Arteriosclerosis

We’re here to break down arteriosclerosis for you and explain what a diagnosis means for your heart and your health. We’ll also tell you how to treat and prevent arteriosclerosis as well as the latest news from doctors working to find a way to reverse arteriosclerosis.

Arteriosclerosis. Big, scary word that means something is wrong with the heart, right? Yes, arteriosclerosis has to do with heart health, and yes, it can seem like an intimidating medical word. But it doesn’t have to be scary. We’re here to break down this health condition for you and explain what a diagnosis means for your heart and your health. We’ll also tell you how to prevent arteriosclerosis, recommended treatments, as well as the latest news from doctors working to find a way to reverse arteriosclerosis.

What Is Arteriosclerosis?

Put simply, arteriosclerosis is what happens when the arteries that carry blood away from the heart lose their flexibility and become hardened. To fully understand why arteriosclerosis occurs, you must first understand the arteries and how they function.

Arteries are blood vessels, or tubes, through which blood flows away from the heart out to various parts of the body. Normal, healthy arteries are elastic and flexible, allowing blood to flow through them easily.

Arteriosclerosis occurs when the arteries become hardened, or stiff, and blood flow can become restricted as a result of the hardening. If the flow of blood through the arteries is obstructed, then a lack of blood flow and oxygen to various organs can occur, which can lead to serious health complications like coronary artery disease. Coronary artery disease can develop if the arteries that lead to the heart muscle become blocked, often resulting in heart attack or heart failure.

Types of Arteriosclerosis

Atherosclerosis

The names atherosclerosis and arteriosclerosis are often used interchangeably even though they are not the same thing. Atherosclerosis is a type of arteriosclerosis that occurs when substances like fat and cholesterol build up inside the arteries. This buildup results in narrowing of the arteries, which leads to the arteries becoming stiff and hard. Of the three types of arteriosclerosis, atherosclerosis is the most common type.

Arteriolosclerosis

Arterioles are the small parts of an artery that help blood flow from the artery to veins and throughout the body. Sometimes the walls of the arterioles can become thickened, leading to arteriosclerosis. When the walls of the arterioles become thickened, the arteries start to harden and can lead to a blockage of blood flow and damage to organs or other parts of the body.

Monckeberg’s Arteriosclerosis

A less common type of arteriosclerosis is Monckeberg’s arteriosclerosis, which occurs when the arteries become hardened from calcification. Calcification occurs when calcium deposits form in the middle of arteries, causing them to become stiff and rigid. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, Monckeberg’s arteriosclerosis is a benign condition which does not result in blood clots or blockages in the arteries and blood vessels.

Arteriosclerosis Causes

Hardening of the arteries has many determinants and often happens gradually over a long period of time. Some types of arteriosclerosis, such as atherosclerosis, can start as early as childhood. The onset of arteriosclerosis is often due to damage or injury to the arteries from instigators such as:

Once the arteries are damaged, substances can begin to collect or clump together at the site of the damage and form fatty deposits. These fatty deposits, called plaque, are usually comprised of cholesterol and fat. As the fatty deposits clump together, they cause narrowing and hardening of the arteries.

We’re here to break down arteriosclerosis for you and explain what a diagnosis means for your heart and your health. We’ll also tell you how to treat and prevent arteriosclerosis as well as the latest news from doctors working to find a way to reverse arteriosclerosis.

Arteriosclerosis Treatment

Arteriosclerosis is a treatable condition. Treatments for arteriosclerosis may vary depending on the type that you have.

We’re here to break down arteriosclerosis for you and explain what a diagnosis means for your heart and your health. We’ll also tell you how to treat and prevent arteriosclerosis as well as the latest news from doctors working to find a way to reverse arteriosclerosis.

Atherosclerosis Reversal

Doctors and scientists have thought for some time that certain lifestyle choices, such as a plant-based diet, may aid in the prevention or reversal of the most common type of arteriosclerosis, atherosclerosis. Until recently, no non-invasive method of reversing the condition has been available. However, in May 2018, the American Heart Association reported that a possible non-invasive, non-surgical injection could be available in the future to reverse atherosclerosis. Dr. Neel A. Mansukhani of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago stated that the trial injection given to mice during research contained nanofibers which included an amino acid sequence. The amino acid sequence is a critical component of the injection as it causes the cholesterol that is responsible for the blockage to dissolve. While this injection treatment has not yet been tested on humans, it is a significant step forward in finding a non-invasive means of reversing atherosclerosis.

How to Prevent Arteriosclerosis

How to prevent arteriosclerosis comes down to making healthy lifestyle choices. You can’t do anything about a family history of heart disease, but you can plan to eat healthily, exercise regularly, and quit any unhealthy habits such as smoking.

If you have certain health conditions that place you at risk for arteriosclerosis, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, talk with your doctor about ways to bring your numbers down with diet or possible medications.

A key part of maintaining healthy habits is good stress management. Sometimes, when people get stressed, they opt for “comfort” foods which are often filled with sugar and unhealthy fats. Other times, people may turn to alcohol or smoking during times of stress. If you’re experiencing a period of high stress, consider trying some of the following stress-management methods:

Amino Acids

Part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle is incorporating amino acids into your diet. Amino acids offer several benefits to the body, including helping the body to form protein, muscles, tissue, and chemicals needed to function properly.

A study published in The Journal of Nutrition revealed that amino acids also offer cardiovascular benefits to women, including blood pressure reduction. Several amino acids were used in the study, and it’s always best to take a balanced mixture of all essential amino acids to make sure that the blood concentration of amino acids is optimal.

What You Need to Know About Bed Bugs, Kissing Bugs and Chagas Disease

Many of us heard “don’t let the bed bugs bite” throughout childhood. Believe it or not, bed bugs are real. Kissing bugs are real too, and they are not as sweet as they sound. Bed bugs and kissing bugs are tiny insects that spread Chagas disease, which is no laughing matter.

“Don’t let the bed bugs bite.”

Many of us heard this phrase throughout childhood and probably dismissed it as a silly way to tuck kids into bed. But, believe it or not, bed bugs are real. Kissing bugs are real too, and they are not as sweet as they sound. Bed bugs and kissing bugs are tiny insects that spread Chagas disease, which is no laughing matter.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Chagas disease, sometimes called kissing bug disease, is found only in the Americas. Most cases occur in Latin America including Mexico, South America, and Central America. The majority of cases within Latin America are found in rural areas where poverty is prevalent. Some cases of Chagas disease have been reported in the southern United States as well, specifically in states that border Mexico such as Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.

Chagas disease is something a lot of people haven’t heard of since it mostly hasn’t affected the U.S. But it is a disease that everyone should be aware of, just in case. In fact, the CDC has declared Chagas disease a Neglected Parasitic Infection (NPI). NPIs consist of five parasitic diseases the CDC is prioritizing for public health action due to the number of infections being reported, the severity of the illness these infections cause, and the ability to prevent and treat them.

We realize all of this sounds rather ominous and you’re probably feeling itchy and swatting invisible bugs off your skin as you read. But don’t panic! We’re here to break down the difference between bed bugs and kissing bugs, as well as share with you everything you need to know about Chagas disease.

What Is Chagas Disease?

Chagas disease is caused by a parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi. It is an inflammatory disease that spreads through the triatomine bug, also called the kissing bug. The Trypanosoma cruzi parasite lives inside the kissing bug and is then spread through the bug’s bites and feces.

Chagas disease was discovered in 1909 by Brazilian physician Carlos Chagas, whom the disease was then named after. Chagas disease is a serious health concern affecting six to eight million people worldwide and causing approximately 50,000 deaths each year.

Causes of Chagas Disease

According to the Mayo Clinic, Chagas disease is spread through the feces of the kissing bug. Recent studies suggest that bed bugs may also spread the disease.

What Are Kissing Bugs?

Kissing bugs are insects that are known to carry the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, which is the parasite that causes Chagas disease. According to Texas A&M University, kissing bugs are active at night, which is when they feed on blood. They have earned the nickname kissing bugs because they tend to bite people around the mouth and eyes.

Kissing bugs can spread the Trypanosoma cruzi parasite to humans and animals. Animals that have been reported to have been infected by a kissing bug include:

  • Domestic dogs
  • Opossums
  • Woodrats
  • Armadillos
  • Coyotes
  • Mice
  • Raccoons
  • Skunks
  • Foxes

Most people who have reported kissing bug bites have said that they do not hurt and are in fact subtle bites. Remaining undetected is critical to kissing bugs because they need to be able to bite and feed without being noticed.

What Are Bed Bugs?

Bed bugs and kissing bugs are not the same, but they are cousins. Like kissing bugs, bed bugs feed at night by sucking blood out of humans and animals, leaving itchy bites in their wake. The big difference between the two bugs is their size. Bed bugs are very tiny, about five times smaller than kissing bugs.

Bed bugs have long been considered more of an irritation than a health concern. Until recently, they were not thought to spread disease the way that kissing bugs do. However, a 2014 study by researchers at Penn State Medicine revealed that bed bugs can spread Chagas disease through their feces like kissing bugs can.

Even if your home is clean and clutter-free, bed bugs can still sneak in. They often hitch a ride on travelers and luggage and have been found in airports, movie theaters, and hotel rooms. It’s a good idea to inspect your luggage immediately after returning home from traveling for any signs of tiny stowaways.

Many of us heard “don’t let the bed bugs bite” throughout childhood. Believe it or not, bed bugs are real. Kissing bugs are real too, and they are not as sweet as they sound. Bed bugs and kissing bugs are tiny insects that spread Chagas disease, which is no laughing matter.

Chagas Disease Symptoms

There are two phases of Chagas disease: acute phase and chronic phase. The acute phase occurs once a person has been infected and can last from weeks to months. During the acute phase, infected people may not experience any symptoms, or their symptoms may be similar to those of several other conditions, making it difficult for a physician to identify Chagas disease. The chronic phase of Chagas may not occur until years, even decades, after the infection has occurred. The chronic phase usually includes serious health issues including cardiac complications.

Many of us heard “don’t let the bed bugs bite” throughout childhood. Believe it or not, bed bugs are real. Kissing bugs are real too, and they are not as sweet as they sound. Bed bugs and kissing bugs are tiny insects that spread Chagas disease, which is no laughing matter.

Chagas Disease Treatment

Chagas disease is typically diagnosed through a blood test that checks for antibodies to the Trypanosoma cruzi parasite. Once diagnosed, treatment consists of killing the parasite and treating the symptoms. If caught in the acute phase, Chagas may be treated with antiparasitic prescription medications. The medications are only available through the CDC, however, so once a diagnosis is made, a patient’s physician will need to refer them for treatment. The two medications used during the acute phase are:

  • Benznidazole: approved by the FDA to treat Chagas disease in children ages 2-12.
  • Nifurtimox: not yet FDA approved.

In the chronic phase of Chagas, medications will not cure the disease. However, if the patient is under 50 years old, medications may be prescribed to help slow the progression of the disease. Additional treatments are available on a case-by-case basis depending upon the severity of the disease and the symptoms. Common treatments during the chronic phase of Chagas include:

  • Heart-related treatments:
    • Medications
    • Pacemaker
    • Heart transplant
  • Digestive-related treatments:
    • Diet changes
    • Corticosteroids
    • Medications
    • Surgery

Chagas is a serious disease and, like many diseases, the best possible outcome occurs when it is caught early. We realize you’re probably itchy after reading this article and ready to clean every crack and crevice in your house in the hopes of warding off unwanted parasite-carrying guests. We’re right there with you! Keep the following tips in mind to help prevent kissing bugs and bed bugs and protect your home.

Ascites: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment for Fluid in the Abdomen

Ascites is a medical term that means abnormal fluid buildup in the abdomen. It is a serious condition that should receive attention right away. We’re here to share the causes and symptoms of ascites so you can stay informed and be proactive with your health should any ascites symptoms pop up.

The occasional bloating or weight gain can be a normal occurrence. Several factors can cause the belly to suddenly expand, including eating certain foods, illness, or premenstrual syndrome in women. But if you have an underlying health condition with your liver, kidneys, or heart, abdominal swelling could be a sign of ascites.

Ascites is a medical term that means abnormal fluid buildup in the abdomen. It is a serious condition that should receive attention right away. We’re here to share the causes and symptoms of ascites so you can stay informed and be proactive with your health should any ascites symptoms pop up.

Causes of Ascites

Doctors believe the cause of excess fluid in the abdomen is a disruption in normal blood flow to the liver. If the blood vessels inside the liver experience an increase in pressure (a condition called portal hypertension), fluid may be redirected into the abdomen.

It’s important to understand that ascites itself is not a medical condition but rather a symptom of an underlying medical condition. Various underlying conditions may cause ascites, most of them relating to issues with the heart, liver, or kidneys.

Liver damage is considered the primary cause of ascites. According to the American College of Gastroenterology, cirrhosis of the liver is the most common type of liver damage that leads to ascites. Liver damage may also be caused by prolonged alcohol use or hepatitis B or C.

If cirrhotic ascites develops in a patient with liver disease, it usually indicates that the disease has progressed to late stage. The patient may be considered for a liver transplant at that point.

Other health conditions that may cause ascites include:

Ascites is a medical term that means abnormal fluid buildup in the abdomen. It is a serious condition that should receive attention right away. We’re here to share the causes and symptoms of ascites so you can stay informed and be proactive with your health should any ascites symptoms pop up.

Ascites Symptoms

Ascites often happens gradually, though it can sometimes occur quickly. So symptoms may appear suddenly or may go unnoticed for a few weeks. Ascites symptoms are the same as those of several other health conditions. Unless there is a known underlying health condition, ascites symptoms may initially be misdiagnosed or dismissed as something not concerning. But ascites is a serious indication that something is not working properly, and symptoms should never be ignored.

If you experience any of the following symptoms, speak with your doctor about the possibility of ascites or other potential health issues.

  • Fatigue
  • Sudden weight gain
  • Bloating
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Swollen/distended stomach
  • Shortness of breath/difficulty breathing
  • Decreased appetite
  • Abdominal discomfort/pain
  • Back pain
  • Constipation
  • Frequent urination/urgent urination
  • Heartburn

Ascites is a medical term that means abnormal fluid buildup in the abdomen. It is a serious condition that should receive attention right away. We’re here to share the causes and symptoms of ascites so you can stay informed and be proactive with your health should any ascites symptoms pop up.

Diagnosing Ascites

If you have a heart condition or another health condition such as liver disease and begin to experience the symptoms listed above, such as abdominal pain and loss of appetite, your doctor will likely suspect ascites and order tests to confirm the diagnosis. Common methods used to confirm an ascites diagnosis include a physical exam of the abdomen, an ultrasound of the abdomen, and a fluid sample from the abdomen.

If the symptoms of ascites are present but there is no known underlying health condition, then your doctor will order a series of tests to diagnose the underlying condition causing the ascites. These tests typically involve checking the condition of the liver and liver function since liver damage is the most common cause of ascites. Your doctor may also order some of the following tests to diagnose your condition.

  • Physical exam and full medical history including:
    • Previous liver problems
    • Previous hepatitis diagnosis
    • Previous cancer diagnosis
    • Alcohol use
    • Medication history
    • Family history of issues with the liver, heart, kidneys, or cancer
  • Ultrasound
  • CT scan
  • Blood tests:
    • A complete metabolic panel
    • A complete blood count

Ascites Treatment

The prognosis of ascites mainly depends on how far the underlying condition has advanced. If that condition can be treated, then the ascites should improve. We’ve curated a list of common treatments for health conditions that cause ascites.

Diet

Restricting salt (sodium) and increasing the amount of water in your body is a large part of treating ascites, particularly when caused by cirrhosis of the liver. Diuretics are often prescribed to help increase water intake. Increasing water intake helps combat the buildup of fluid by expanding the amount of urine and fluid leaving the body, as well as the amount of salt being filtered out of the body. While most people don’t react adversely to diuretics, they have been known to cause side effects, such as sleep disturbances, skin issues, low blood pressure, and exhaustion, in some individuals.

Paracentesis

In late-stage cases of liver disease or other conditions in which salt restriction and diuretics are not helping the ascites, paracentesis is the next step in treatment. Paracentesis is the process of removing large amounts of fluid from the abdomen. Therapeutic paracentesis is done by inserting a needle into the abdominal cavity to extract the fluid.

Liver Shunt

If a patient is not responding to ascites treatment, a shunt may be surgically placed inside the patient’s liver. A shunt is a tube that redirects blood flow to reduce the blood pressure in the liver and thereby reduce fluid retention in the abdomen. A shunt is a permanent procedure that remains in the liver once placed.

Amino Acids

A study published in Molecular Medicine Reports revealed that branched-chain amino acid supplements were successfully used to treat a patient who was suffering from severe ascites due to liver cirrhosis. Amino acids are often referred to as life’s building blocks because they help form protein, tissue, and chemicals the body needs to function properly. According to this study, amino acid supplements may also be used to treat ascites. When using amino acid supplements, it’s best to take a balanced mixture of all essential amino acids, not just the branched-chain amino acids, to make sure that the blood concentration of amino acids is optimal.

Liver Transplant

When all other means of treatment have been exhausted, a patient will often be evaluated for a liver transplant. The American College of Gastroenterology states that patients who develop ascites already have a severe problem with their liver, such as liver failure. While the treatments listed above may help relieve ascites symptoms, the primary issue that needs to be treated is the deterioration of the liver. Often liver deterioration is so severe by the time ascites sets in that a patient will require liver transplantation to have a chance at full recovery.

Ankylosing Spondylitis: Symptoms, Causes and How It’s Treated

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is an inflammatory disease that can erode your spine or fuse parts of it, leading to loss of mobility. We’ll take a closer look at the most common symptoms, who is typically affected, what causes AS, and the treatments available.

A healthy and strong spine is essential to your overall well-being, as it is the structure that holds you all together and allows you to do the activities that you love. Arthritis comes in many forms and affects all parts of the body, but there is a certain kind that can affect the joints and bones within your spine. Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is an inflammatory disease that can erode your spine or fuse parts of it, leading to loss of mobility. In advanced AS cases, this fusion can result in spinal deformity. We’ll take a closer look at this condition, the most common symptoms, who is typically affected, what causes AS, and the treatments available to help relieve the pain and stiffness associated with ankylosing spondylitis.

What Is Ankylosing Spondylitis?

Ankylosing spondylitis develops when parts of the spine and the sacroiliac joints become inflamed. Your sacroiliac joints are where your tailbone at the base of your low back meets the bones on either side of the upper buttocks of your pelvis. When the inflammation becomes a chronic condition, you can experience pain and stiffness in and around your spine, including your neck, middle back, lower back, and buttocks. As time goes on, this inflammation of the spine (spondylitis) can lead to a complete cementing together, or fusion, of the vertebrae (ankylosis). Ankylosis can lead to loss of mobility and flexibility of your spine.

Ankylosing spondylitis can also affect other tissues throughout your body, including joints besides the spine, as well as your organs, such as your lungs, kidneys, heart, and eyes.

What Causes Ankylosing Spondylitis?

The exact cause of AS remains unclear, but the tendency to develop ankylosing spondylitis may have a genetic link that runs in families.  Scientists have identified this genetic component and believe that people with AS carry the HLA-B27 gene. Your doctor may order a blood test as part of your diagnosis to detect the presence of this gene.

Researchers continue to investigate how and why inflammation occurs in different joints and organs in someone with ankylosing spondylitis. The illness appears in each person differently, and symptoms can vary greatly from patient to patient. Your immune system may be activated due to an illness or infection that kicks the inflammation into overdrive and sets the AS wheels in motion. In this case, your immune system is unable to switch off because it senses inflammation and continues to send out hormones and chemicals. If this persists for a long period of time and the inflammation becomes chronic, additional issues can arise and lead to AS and other autoimmune diseases.

What Are the Symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis?

Signs of ankylosing spondylitis include spine and joint inflammation, as well as inflammation in other areas of the body. If your back is the main focus of inflammation and pain, there is a probable chance you have AS. Your doctor will discuss other common symptoms to help identify the exact cause of your condition.

AS symptoms include:

  • Pain that does not improve with rest
  • Pain that disturbs your sleep
  • Back pain (not caused by injury) that starts gradually before the age of 40
  • Symptoms that continue three months or more
  • Spinal stiffness in the mornings, which improves with exercise and motion

As AS begins to develop, you may notice pain and discomfort in your lower back, traveling down into your buttocks. You may also feel especially stiff upon getting out of bed in the morning and if you are sedentary for a length of time. AS can affect other areas of your body, including parts of your feet, lower legs, and neck.

If your condition persists and turns into a chronic condition, the inflammation affecting your bones can cause ankylosis where parts of your spine begin to fuse together. Unfortunately, once this begins you start to lose flexibility and strength within your spine and movement and activities become very difficult. If allowed to progress, your upper torso can begin to curve, which is not only painful, but can affect your breathing capacity.

If AS is affecting your eyes, you may notice redness and pain or possibly experience vision issues. With the inflammation caused by AS, your risk for heart disease can increase. Symptoms include dizziness, difficulty breathing, and chest pain because parts of your heart and surrounding valves may be inflamed, making it difficult to pump blood properly.

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is an inflammatory disease that can erode your spine or fuse parts of it, leading to loss of mobility. We’ll take a closer look at the most common symptoms, who is typically affected, what causes AS, and the treatments available.

Who Is at Risk for Ankylosing Spondylitis?

Ankylosing spondylitis can affect either gender, but men more commonly suffer from AS than women. For women, other joints in the body besides the spine are typically affected. AS is seen in all ages, including children, but the most common age of onset is a person in their 20s and 30s.

Ankylosing Spondylitis Diagnosis

If you are experiencing any of the signs of AS, your doctor will discuss your symptoms, conduct a physical examination, and order any necessary tests during your appointment. No blood test can confirm AS, but certain tests can help determine a diagnosis and eliminate other causes. You may also be tested for other conditions to rule out inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. Imaging tests, including X-rays and an MRI, can take a closer look at any changes in your spine and pelvis and identify fractures, inflammation, or other issues.

Treating Ankylosing Spondylitis

AS is not curable and the damage is unfortunately irreversible, but on a positive note, there are treatments that can help alleviate symptoms, manage progression, and help maintain movement and posture. Options include physical therapy, exercises, and medications that reduce inflammation and pain. In rare cases, surgery may be necessary to correct a severe deformity.

If you are diagnosed with AS, you will routinely see a rheumatologist, since he or she specializes in inflammatory diseases and can help create a treatment plan that works for you. You will also likely meet with a range of specialists, including physical therapists, eye specialists, and gastroenterologists since AS can affect the whole body.

To ease your pain and inflammation due to AS, your doctor may prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen. Other options include taking codeine and acetaminophen, especially if NSAIDs do not work for you, or directly injecting medication into the affected site.

Physical Therapy Exercises

Physical therapy and at-home exercises can help alleviate your symptoms and slow the progression of AS. Many patients work with a physical therapist to help maintain mobility, flexibility, and strength of surrounding muscles and joints.

A couple exercises you can practice daily if you suffer from ankylosing spondylitis include:

  1. While standing with your back against a wall, heels flush, push your head back so it is straight against the wall. Do not tilt your head back. Hold for five seconds, take a break and relax your head, then repeat up to 10 times.
  2. With your feet spread and hands on hips, stand up straight. Turn to one side, keeping your hands on your hips, hold for five seconds, relax, and then turn to the other side. Repeat five times on each side.

Diet and Supplements

Following a well-balanced diet is important when living with AS and trying to minimize the pain and discomfort brought on by the condition. Include nutrition-rich foods with your meals to reap as many body-nourishing, inflammation-fighting benefits as possible. Suggested dietary supplements include:

Omega-3 fatty acids: Helpful at reducing inflammation, particularly in your joints, these fatty acids are important for many bodily functions. Fatty acids are found in foods such as salmon and tuna, flax and chia seeds, walnuts, soybeans, and also in supplement form.

Calcium and vitamin D: Healthy bones need calcium and vitamin D to help your body effectively absorb the calcium it requires to build strength. If you are someone with AS, these vitamins can help increase bone density, leaving them less susceptible to breaks and fractures. SInce AS often affects your spine, not having enough calcium and vitamin D can leave it more brittle and subject to injury. Foods that are rich in calcium and vitamin D include dairy products, spinach, okra, orange juice, soy milk, and egg yolks. You can also find calcium and vitamin D in supplement form.

Glucosamine and chondroitin: Used to build cartilage, glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate can help supplement the loss that occurs from the joint-wearing effects of AS. Since AS causes the body’s immune system to attack the joints, taking supplements that support joint health can be very beneficial. Glucosamine can lower inflammation, reduce joint pain and tenderness, protect and repair gut lining, and help rebuild tissue and stronger bones.

Amino acids: Known as our body’s building blocks, amino acids play a vital role in nearly everything that happens within our bodies. They are also very important for someone with an inflammatory disease such as ankylosing spondylitis.

  • The amino acid methionine is important for someone with AS because it can help relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and boost the development of cartilage.
  • Another beneficial amino acid is arginine, which helps develops bone strength and collagen production. Collagen is a protein that helps bring shape and structure to your connective tissues, skin, bones, and organs.
  • Histidine also plays a vital role in maintaining joint health and provides potent anti-inflammatory benefits to reduce swelling in and around your joints.
  • The amino acid lysine helps your body absorb calcium, which preserves your bone density and strength. If you take an amino acid supplement containing lysine along with your calcium supplement, your calcium absorption is given a greater boost. In addition, lysine works in tandem with vitamin D to build and nourish strong bones.

It’s preferable to take a complete amino acid supplement that provides the essential building blocks for enzymes, neurotransmitters, and hormones and is specially formulated to deliver a broad array of amino acids in optimal balance and form.

Ankylosing Spondylitis Outlook

How AS progresses in one person differs greatly from another. Sometimes symptoms appear and disappear, then return at a later time. Your doctor will better identify your prognosis based on how well your spine moves, the severity of inflammation, and if other areas of your body are affected. A few people can experience complications that damage the heart, digestive system, and lungs. Overall, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, weight, and exercise program can help lessen AS symptoms and improve your day-to-day life and general well-being.

Atrial Fibrillation: Irregular Heartbeat and Its Risks

Many influences can cause your heart rate to speed up or feel like it skips a beat. Nerves, anxiety, and even diet can all cause the occasional heart skip or flutter. But if you find that interruptions in your normal heartbeat (irregular heartbeat) happen frequently or continuously, it could be a serious condition called atrial fibrillation.

Many influences can cause your heart rate to speed up or feel like it skips a beat. Nerves, anxiety, and even diet can all cause the occasional heart skip or flutter. But if you find that interruptions in your normal heartbeat happen frequently or continuously, it could be a serious condition called atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation means an irregular heartbeat.

The heart has four chambers—two upper chambers called the atria and two lower chambers called the ventricles. Atrial fibrillation happens when the atria beat out of sync with the ventricles. A normal heartbeat has a steady, regular rhythm. With atrial fibrillation, the heart beats irregularly, which makes the heart’s job of transporting blood less effective.

We’re here to share the causes and signs of atrial fibrillation so you can stay informed and see your doctor should you exhibit any symptoms. We’ll also share some potential risks of and treatments for this condition.

Atrial Fibrillation Causes

The heart has a natural, internal system that tells it when to beat. This system is made up of a group of cells called the sinus node located in the upper right chamber of the heart. The sinus node is responsible for sending the signal to start each heartbeat. Each heartbeat sends blood pumping through the chambers of the heart and then out to the rest of the body. With atrial fibrillation, the signals that tell the heart how and when to beat become disorganized. This disorganization leads to an irregular and rapid heartbeat.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common causes of atrial fibrillation include damage or abnormalities to the heart including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attacks
  • Congenital heart defects
  • Underlying health conditions such as:
  • Past heart surgeries
  • Heart valve abnormalities
  • Medications or other stimulants including:
    • Tobacco
    • Alcohol
    • Caffeine

Atrial Fibrillation Symptoms

Not everyone with atrial fibrillation experiences symptoms. Sometimes the condition goes unnoticed until a physician detects it during a routine exam. Other times, symptoms will be present, and common symptoms include:

  • Fluttering or quivering heartbeat
  • Fatigue
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Perspiration
  • Pain or pressure in the chest

A normal heartbeat has a steady, regular rhythm. With atrial fibrillation, the heart beats irregularly, which makes the heart’s job of transporting blood less effective.

The Risks of Irregular Heartbeat

Those with atrial fibrillation are at risk of complications from the condition. The two biggest concerns are heart failure and stroke.

Heart Failure

The heart is a muscle, and sometimes atrial fibrillation can weaken the heart muscle to the point that it can no longer pump and circulate an adequate amount of blood. Heart failure is different from a heart attack. A heart attack occurs when there is a blockage of blood flow in the heart. Heart failure is when the heart is simply too weak to function properly.

Stroke

The irregular heartbeat that occurs with atrial fibrillation can lead to the formation of a blood clot. If a blood clot forms and enters the bloodstream, it can potentially lodge in the brain or a critical artery and lead to a stroke. According to the American Heart Association, those with untreated atrial fibrillation are five times more likely to suffer a stroke than those without the condition.

Atrial Fibrillation Treatment

Treatment for atrial fibrillation depends upon how long the condition has been present and any underlying health conditions or lifestyle choices that may be causing the atrial fibrillation. For example, if lack of exercise and excessive caffeine is causing atrial fibrillation, the treatment may be a matter of getting active and giving up or significantly reducing your caffeine intake. If an underlying health condition such as high blood pressure is causing the problem, then treating the high blood pressure may also resolve the atrial fibrillation. Other times, treatments may be needed to target the atrial fibrillation itself including:

  • Rhythm control—returning a regular rhythm to the heart
  • Rate control—slowing an excessively fast heart rate to a healthy rate
  • Medications such as blood thinners to reduce the risk of blood clots and stroke

A normal heartbeat has a steady, regular rhythm. With atrial fibrillation, the heart beats irregularly, which makes the heart’s job of transporting blood less effective.

How to Treat and Prevent Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is a heart disease that afflicts millions of Americans each year and is responsible for close to 16% of all deaths globally. It is important to identify CAD signs and risk factors early to help prevent its deleterious effects.

Coronary artery disease, or coronary heart disease, affects millions of Americans. In fact, it’s the most prevalent type of heart disease and the leading cause of death in the United States. However, while this monstrous health problem is responsible for the deaths of one in four Americans each year, it’s also largely preventable. So read on to discover how you can treat and even prevent coronary artery disease.

What Is Coronary Artery Disease?

Coronary artery disease is the result of plaque buildup (atherosclerosis) in the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart. In people with this condition, plaque lines the walls of the coronary arteries until the flow of blood is restricted and the heart doesn’t get enough blood—a condition known as ischemia. This restriction of blood flow to the heart can eventually damage the heart muscle, reducing its ability to pump blood efficiently.

Because coronary artery disease develops over time, symptoms depend on the stage of the condition and may be nonexistent, mild, or severe. In the most extreme cases, plaque buildup can suddenly rupture, forming a blood clot when blood platelets attempt to repair the damage. If the blood flow in the artery becomes completely blocked by this process, a myocardial infarction, or heart attack, occurs.

In most people, symptoms of coronary artery disease don’t appear until later in life. However, children and teenagers may sometimes develop the condition as well.

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is a heart disease that afflicts millions of Americans each year and is responsible for close to 16% of all deaths globally. It is important to identify CAD signs and risk factors early to help prevent the deleterious effects of coronary artery disease.

Coronary Artery Disease Risk Factors

Coronary artery disease is associated with a host of risk factors, many of which can be reduced with lifestyle changes. Unfortunately, though, some factors can’t be changed. These include:

  • Sex: According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), men are more likely to develop obstructive coronary artery disease (narrowed arteries due to plaque), and women are more likely to develop nonobstructive coronary artery disease (arteries with plaque that doesn’t obstruct blood flow).
  • Age: In men, the risk of developing coronary artery disease begins to increase after age 45. In women, the risk increases after menopause.
  • Family history: People with a family history of coronary artery disease have a higher chance of developing the condition.
  • Race: Coronary artery disease is the leading cause of death in most groups, regardless of race. However, for Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and American Indians, heart disease is second only to cancer.

Again, however, the vast majority of coronary artery disease risk factors are within our control. Some of these factors include:

  • Smoking
  • High cholesterol
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Elevated body mass index (BMI)
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic stress
  • Sleep apnea
  • Heavy alcohol use

Coronary Artery Disease Symptoms

As mentioned, the symptoms people experience with coronary artery disease depend on the stage of the disease. Sometimes the first symptoms noted are mild episodes of shortness of breath and chest pain (angina) with activity. But some people may not experience any symptoms until they have an episode of severe chest pain, or even a heart attack. And sometimes coronary artery disease causes no symptoms.

When this happens, it’s known as silent coronary artery disease. Unfortunately, this particular manifestation of coronary artery disease may not be diagnosed until it’s progressed to the point where a person begins to show signs of having a heart attack, heart failure, or irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia).

Acute signs of coronary artery disease, such as may occur during a heart attack, include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Angina
  • Cold sweats
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Neck pain
  • Nausea
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Weakness

Symptoms of chronic coronary artery disease may include:

  • Angina
  • Anxiety
  • Neck pain
  • Fatigue

Diagnosing Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary artery disease is diagnosed based on personal and family history; risk factors; physical exam; blood tests to measure levels of certain fats, cholesterol, blood sugar, and proteins; and diagnostic procedures. Common tests performed in the diagnosis of coronary artery disease include:

  • Chest x-ray: A chest x-ray may be the first test performed, as it’s able to identify overt abnormalities in the shape and size of the heart, lungs, and blood vessels.
  • Electrocardiogram: An EKG (or ECG) is a painless procedure that’s also the most commonly used test to screen for heart problems. Used to record the electrical activity of the heart, an EKG can detect arrhythmias, current or previous heart attacks, and the likelihood of coronary artery disease.
  • Echocardiogram: This ultrasound procedure, which is also referred to as an echo, may be recommended in the face of abnormal EKG results. The test uses sound waves to detect structural abnormalities in the heart.
  • Stress test: A cardiac stress test uses either exercise or medication (that mimics exercise) to measure the heart’s response to stress. The test can identify abnormalities in blood pressure and heart rate and rhythm as well as symptoms such as shortness of breath and chest pain.
  • Cardiac catheterization: This is an invasive procedure that may be performed if preliminary testing or symptoms lead your physician to suspect you have coronary artery disease. During the procedure, a flexible tube called a catheter is threaded to the heart, where dye is injected and an imaging procedure called a coronary angiography is performed to look for areas of blockage as the dye moves through the heart and its major vessels.

Treating Coronary Artery Disease

Treatment of coronary artery disease depends on several factors, including the severity of the disease, a person’s current health status, and whether they have any complicating health conditions. That being said, treatment may include:

  • Lifestyle changes
  • Medications
  • Procedures

Lifestyle Changes

The same lifestyle changes recommended to prevent coronary artery disease are also used to help treat it. And for many people with only early signs of the condition, lifestyle changes may be all they need. Typical lifestyle changes recommended for the prevention and treatment of coronary artery disease include:

  • Eating a heart healthy diet
  • Quitting smoking
  • Getting regular exercise
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Managing stress

In fact, controlling the risk factors for coronary artery disease has even been shown to help reduce the risk of heart disease by more than 80%.

Medications

If lifestyle changes aren’t enough, your doctor may also recommend medication to help relieve symptoms, lower cholesterol or blood pressure, or prevent blood clots. Some of these medications include:

  • Cholesterol-lowering drugs (statins)
  • Antiplatelet drugs (aspirin)
  • Beta blockers (metoprolol)
  • Calcium channel blockers (diltiazem)
  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors (lisinopril)
  • Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) (valsartan)

Procedures

For people in the more severe stages of coronary artery disease, lifestyle changes and medication may still not be enough. In these cases, surgery will be required. This may take the form of a coronary angioplasty to widen a blocked artery by inflating a tiny balloon or placing a wire mesh tube known as a stent or a coronary artery bypass graft, which involves using healthy arteries from the chest wall or veins from the legs to bypass blocked coronary arteries.

How to Prevent Coronary Artery Disease

By far, the best way to treat coronary artery disease is to prevent it before it starts. And as we’ve just discussed, a few simple lifestyle changes can reduce your risk by more than 80%.

Along with stopping smoking (or avoiding secondhand smoke), losing weight, getting regular exercise, and working on reducing your stress with techniques like deep breathing, meditation, and yoga, there’s no better way to prevent coronary artery disease than eating a heart-healthy diet.

If you’re looking for ways to get the most benefits out of your diet, think about including plenty of:

  • Lean proteins
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Fatty fish
  • Whole grains
  • Olive oil
  • Fruits
  • Beans
  • Nuts

While certain coronary artery disease risk factors—such as family history, age, and sex—can’t be changed, the majority can be decreased, or even eliminated. So speak with your health care provider, find out what your risks are, and make changes as necessary. Your heart will thank you.

Coronary artery disease (CAD) is a heart disease that afflicts millions of Americans each year and is responsible for close to 16% of all deaths globally. It is important to identify CAD signs and risk factors early to help prevent the deleterious effects of coronary artery disease.

Asperger’s Syndrome: Symptoms in Children and Adults

We’re here to explain what Asperger’s syndrome is as well as to share Asperger’s syndrome symptoms for children and adults. We’ll help you stay informed so you can seek medical care should you or your child have behavior that aligns with these symptoms.

Not all children develop at the same rate. Some children walk or talk early while other children may be the last in their age group to master a particular motor skill. Other children will develop awkward social skills that make them stand out from their peers. Developmental delays may be attributed to a number of factors, including developmental disorders. One disorder that has gained much attention over the last couple of decades is Asperger’s syndrome.

Children with Asperger’s syndrome tend to develop normal cognitive skills including speech and language but have difficulty socially. Because their other skills develop normally or even above average, children with Asperger’s can sometimes go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, leading to adults with undiagnosed Asperger’s syndrome. We’re here to explain what Asperger’s syndrome is as well as to share Asperger’s syndrome symptoms for children and adults. We’ll help you stay informed so you can seek medical care should you or your child have behavior that aligns with these symptoms.

What Is Asperger’s?

Asperger’s syndrome is named after Dr. Hans Asperger, a Viennese pediatrician who was the first to describe the syndrome in the 1940s. Considered a type of autism for years, Asperger’s has often been referred to as high functioning autism.

Autism is a developmental disorder in which developmental delays vary in severity from individual to individual. A common symptom of autism is a lack of speech or delay in speech development. Individuals with Asperger’s usually have symptoms that are less severe than those of autism. Most notably, the speech delays that are seen in autism are not seen in Asperger’s.

It wasn’t until 1994 that Asperger’s syndrome was officially named a separate disorder from autism by the American Psychiatric Association. Then in 2013, Asperger’s syndrome and autism disorder were both categorized under the umbrella diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Under the ASD umbrella fall various brain development disorders that involve repetitive behaviors, difficulties with communication, and social difficulties. Asperger’s is generally considered to be on the high end of the spectrum and is still described by some physicians as high functioning autism.

We’re here to explain what Asperger’s syndrome is as well as to share Asperger’s syndrome symptoms for children and adults. We’ll help you stay informed so you can seek medical care should you or your child have behavior that aligns with these symptoms.

What Causes Asperger’s?

According to the Autism Society, research has revealed that children with a disorder under the ASD umbrella have exhibited brain scans with shape and structural differences from children without ASD. This research leads physicians to attribute ASD to abnormalities in brain structure and brain function. But what causes the brain abnormalities? Physicians also believe that genetics play a role in ASD, as patterns of ASD have been discovered in many families. Further research is being conducted to determine what, if any, additional factors may contribute to the development of ASD, including genetics, issues during pregnancy or delivery, and environmental factors.

Asperger’s Symptoms

Asperger’s symptoms vary greatly, and rarely are all known behaviors associated with Asperger’s syndrome present in one individual. Asperger’s symptoms in children and Asperger’s symptoms in adults are often the same.

We’re here to explain what Asperger’s syndrome is as well as to share Asperger’s syndrome symptoms for children and adults. We’ll help you stay informed so you can seek medical care should you or your child have behavior that aligns with these symptoms.

The Autism Speaks website is a wonderful source for more in-depth information on Asperger’s, including symptoms.

Asperger’s Symptoms in Children

Asperger’s Syndrome is often initially misdiagnosed in children. Unlike children with autism, children with Asperger’s do not experience delays in language development or cognitive development. On the contrary, children with Asperger’s may exhibit exceptional language and vocabulary skills. The issue arises from the child’s inability to use language appropriately or the child’s tendency to use language awkwardly during social interactions.

Asperger’s syndrome is sometimes misdiagnosed in children as a behavioral disorder such as attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). But difficulties for children with Asperger’s don’t stem from an inability to focus or concentrate on something but rather on challenges with socializing.

Sometimes, children with Asperger’s will exhibit a delay in motor skills. Children with Asperger’s may have difficulty playing with other children. They may not understand how to play a sport, catch a ball, or play on the playground, even though they observe their peers doing these physical activities.

Asperger’s Symptoms in Adults

While Asperger’s does not develop in adulthood, it can be undiagnosed or misdiagnosed in children, leading to an adult diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome. The symptoms of Asperger’s in adults are the same as symptoms in children. Adults with Asperger’s will often be socially awkward, have difficulty understanding emotions and social issues, may lack empathy with others, and may have one-sided conversations with a focus on themselves or a particular topic that he or she finds interesting. Undiagnosed Asperger’s in adults can lead to several issues, including difficulties with relationships and job-related difficulties.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Know the Causes, See the Symptoms, Get Relief!

The pain in your carpal tunnel is due to excess pressure in your wrist and on the median nerve. This inflammation can cause swelling in your wrist and sometimes obstruct blood flow. Here is more information about carpal tunnel syndrome, the symptoms to look out for, and what treatments are available to provide relief.

Are you experiencing tingling or numbness in your hand and wrist, but are unsure what it is? Is the occasional shooting pain and discomfort a random glitch? Or could it be carpal tunnel syndrome? In a world where many of us work several hours at a desk or engage in repetitive motions as part of our everyday tasks, the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome can certainly be a concern. Here is more information about carpal tunnel syndrome, the symptoms to look out for, and what treatments are available to provide relief.

What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Your carpal tunnel is the narrow passageway that runs from wrist to hand and is made up of tendons, ligaments, and bone. The carpal tunnel has a median nerve passing through it that registers what you feel and sense with your thumb and index and middle fingers. If the surrounding tissue is altered or becomes inflamed, it can cause the carpal tunnel to irritate and put pressure on the median nerve. When this happens, you can feel a tingling and numbing sensation in the areas of your hand and wrist, known as carpal tunnel syndrome.

Carpal Tunnel Symptoms

The first signs you may be dealing with carpal tunnel syndrome are a tingling feeling in your hand and numb sensation in the area of the median nerve including your thumb, index, middle, and ring fingers. You may have the sensation that your hand is asleep or you may drop objects because you can’t quite get a firm grip.

Nighttime may cause the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome to worsen and disrupt sleep. When we sleep and lie horizontal, our wrists may flex, irritating the nerve and causing fluid to accumulate around the wrist and hand.

Carpal tunnel syndrome can be a temporary occurrence that eventually disappears, or it can get more severe with time and adversely affect your home and work life.

Carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms include:

  • Itching, tingling, or burning in the fingers or the palm side of the hand
  • Inability to get a firm grip to pick up objects
  • Intense pain in your wrist or radiating through your arm
  • Hand or wrist feels asleep with the need to shake it awake
  • A decrease in hand sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures

As carpal tunnel syndrome progresses, you may start to feel a burning or cramping in your wrist, and your hand may begin to gradually lose grip strength. Chronic carpal tunnel syndrome that is left untreated can sometimes cause your hand muscles, particularly in the palm and the base of the thumb, to atrophy and become difficult to use.

What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

What’s causing the pain in your wrist and hand? The excess pressure that has built up on the median nerve. This pressure and inflammation can cause swelling around your wrist, leading to a blockage in blood flow. Some of the most common conditions tied to carpal tunnel syndrome are:

  • Fluid retention from pregnancy or menopause
  • Fractures or trauma to the wrist
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Thyroid dysfunction
  • Obesity
  • Autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis

If you have a job or do an activity that overextends your wrist repeatedly, symptoms will likely be more intense. When you repeatedly move your wrist, especially in the same motion, it can cause swelling and compression of the median nerve. This may be the result of:

  • How you position your wrists while typing on a computer or using a mouse
  • Using hand tools or power tools with extreme vibration
  • Repeated movements that overextend your wrists (i.e, playing the piano)

Carpal tunnel syndrome can often show up temporarily during pregnancy due to the increased fluid retention and hormone-related swelling that commonly goes along with carrying a baby. It can happen at any point during the 40 weeks of pregnancy, but your chances increase after 32 weeks. Most people see their symptoms resolve within 12 months after delivery.

Who Is at Risk for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Women are 3 times more likely to have carpal tunnel syndrome than men, and it often begins to affect people in their 30s to 60s. Certain conditions like diabetes, arthritis, and high blood pressure increase your risk for developing carpal tunnel syndrome.

If you are a smoker, obese, eat a diet high in salt, or do not exercise, your risk for carpal tunnel syndrome increases. Jobs that involve repetitive wrist movement also boost your chances of developing carpal tunnel syndrome. These occupations include:

  • Manufacturing
  • Construction work
  • Assembly line work
  • Typing and computer work

Diagnosing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

To diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome, your doctor will assess your medical history, conduct a physical examination of your neck and joints like your wrists, elbows, and shoulders, and look at results from nerve conduction studies.

Many other conditions can mimic carpal tunnel syndrome, so it’s important to rule these out to successfully identify what is going on. Your doctor may look at your wrists for swelling, tenderness, discoloration, and heat. Your physician may do the Tinel test in which he or she taps the front of your wrist to see if you experience a tingling sensation in your hand.

To measure the rate of speed of electrical impulses as they travel down a nerve, a procedure called a nerve conduction velocity test can take a closer look at how your nerve is functioning and reacting. With carpal tunnel syndrome, the impulse will slow as it passes through the carpal tunnel. Along with this test, you may have an electromyogram (EMG) to rule out other conditions causing your symptoms.

Your health care provider may also order blood tests to identify medical conditions associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. Tests that look at your complete blood count, thyroid hormone levels, and blood sugar can help pinpoint the culprit of your discomfort. You may also have an X-ray of your wrist and hand taken to spot any abnormalities of the wrist bones and joints.

Treating Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The choice of treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome depends on the severity of your symptoms and any underlying disease that might be causing your condition.

Nonsurgical Treatment

If you are experiencing mild symptoms and discomfort, your doctor may suggest resting the hand and wrist, putting your wrist in a wrist splint, and occasionally applying ice to the area. If you have an occupation that worsens your symptoms, you should try to find ways to modify your actions and reduce the motions that aggravate your condition. For example, you may need to adjust your chair height at your desk or the position of the computer keyboard to improve your comfort and decrease strain.

Stretching exercises that help loosen and flex your hands and wrists can help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms from worsening or negatively affecting your day-to-day life. If you have a wrist or hand fracture, an orthopedic specialist will help develop a pain management plan to help minimize your symptoms.

Conditions like rheumatoid arthritis will need to be treated specifically. If you are experiencing wrist swelling and carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms during your pregnancy, they often dissipate after you’ve delivered your baby.

Exercises

Hand exercises can help relieve your carpal tunnel symptoms. If your condition worsens or you feel pain while performing the following exercises, stop immediately. You may be given exercises specific to your condition that help strengthen the muscles and joints in your hands and wrists and improve overall flexibility and mobility.

  • Prayer stretch: With your palms together in a prayer pose, hold them below your chin in front of your chest. Lower your hands slowly toward your midsection while keeping your hands close to your torso and your palms together. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat several times.
  • Wrist flexor stretch: With your palm facing the sky, extend your arm in front of you. Point your fingers backwards toward the floor, feeling the stretch in your wrist. Using your other hand, gently push to increase the bend until you feel a mild stretch in your forearm. Hold for at least 30 seconds; repeat two to four times.
  • Wrist extensor: This time, place your palm down while extending your arm in front of you. While pointing your hand toward the floor, slowly bend your wrist. Using your other hand, gently push your wrist to increase the bend until you feel a mild stretch in your forearm. Hold for at least 30 seconds; repeat two to four times.

Massaging your own wrists for several minutes, especially after overuse, can help ease some of your discomfort. Using your opposite thumb, rub your wrist with your palm facing up, moving the pressure back and forth. Since you have muscles in your forearm that control your wrists and hands, also use your thumbs to massage both sides of your forearm, starting at your elbow and moving down to your wrists.

Medication

Several types of medications have been used in the treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome. There have been cases in which vitamin B6 has helped relieve symptoms, but how it works remains unclear. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be used to decrease inflammation and reduce pain, but this may only be a good option for acute cases. Long term use of NSAIDs can cause gastrointestinal issues and stomach ulcers. You should always take these medications with a meal. If you are having stomach issues, let your doctor know.

Corticosteroids are also an option that bring rapid relief and are either taken orally or injected directly into your wrist joint.

Surgery

Most people with carpal tunnel syndrome improve with noninvasive methods, medications, and exercises. Occasionally, if the pressure on the median nerve becomes persistent, it can lead to constant numbness and weakness. In these severe cases, surgery can help prevent permanent nerve and muscle damage.

During the surgical procedure, called carpal tunnel release, the band of tissue around the wrist (the carpal ligament) is severed to alleviate the pressure on the median nerve. This can be performed using an arthroscope or, in some cases, an open wrist procedure is necessary. Surgery is followed up by physical rehabilitation and an at-home exercise program to strengthen hand and wrist muscles.

Can You Prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

You can prevent carpal tunnel syndrome by making lifestyle changes and avoiding risk factors. Pay closer attention to your posture and how you use your hands during certain activities. It can be very beneficial to modify job tasks that overextend your wrists. It’s also very important to work with your doctors to manage diabetes, high blood pressure, and arthritis to help keep carpal syndrome from developing.

Tackling potential factors that may lead to carpal tunnel syndrome provides a bigger preventative success rate. It’s important to lose weight if necessary and incorporate healthy practices into your life.

Choose foods that help reduce inflammation and encourage healing and regeneration of healthy tissue. A diet that includes amino acids, vitamins, minerals, omega-3 and 6 fatty acids, and probiotics supplies your body with the resources and tools it needs to keep working properly and fight potential issues. Always incorporate fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and adequate amounts of water into your daily routine.

To protect your joints, you must nourish and strengthen your muscles, so activities like resistance exercise and low-impact aerobics are essential in both treating and preventing carpal tunnel syndrome. Also follow the necessary regimen for treating any underlying conditions.

Benefits of Amino Acids

Amino acids are required for the production and maintenance of almost every function and tissue in our bodies. They play critical roles in how our bodies function and are the building blocks of our bones, muscles, and hormones. When looking at managing pain, specific amino acids produce neurotransmitters that can help decrease pain levels.

Not only do amino acids produce chemicals and hormones in reaction to pain and inflammation, but they are essential for building and maintaining the health of our soft tissues, muscles, and bones. If you already have carpal tunnel syndrome, amino acids can be helpful in combating chronic pain by supporting your body’s pain relief system. If you lack or have low levels of specific amino acids, you fall short on the needed pain-fighting hormones and chemicals that are essential to managing stress. You can obtain certain amino acids through your diet, as well as through supplementation, but taking a balanced amino supplement of the essential aminos is ideal.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Outlook

Treating your carpal tunnel syndrome early with physical therapy and lifestyle changes can reduce your symptoms and produce a much more positive long-term outlook. When left untreated, carpal tunnel syndrome can lead to permanent nerve damage, loss of hand strength and feeling, and constant tingling or pain. If your muscles begin to atrophy, your strength begins to decrease and it becomes difficult to open and close your hand, hold objects, and move your fingers freely. Unfortunately, once damage to your muscles occur, it cannot be reversed and managing your symptoms becomes much more difficult.

Never wait until the wrist and hand pain become so disruptive and uncomfortable that you begin to lose movement. When treated early, you can fully recover from carpal tunnel syndrome without any long-term side effects.

The pain in your carpal tunnel is due to excess pressure in your wrist and on the median nerve. This inflammation can cause swelling in your wrist and sometimes obstruct blood flow. Here is more information about carpal tunnel syndrome, the symptoms to look out for, and what treatments are available to provide relief.

Understanding Autism: Signs, Characteristics and Coping

We’re here to share the signs and characteristics of autism so you can stay informed as you monitor your child’s development. We’ll also share some common methods of coping with an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis.

According to the National Institutes of Health, approximately 2.41% of children in the United States have autism spectrum disorder. The term autism refers to a type of developmental disorder that strongly impacts an individual’s social and communication skills. Autism is not a single disorder but rather is the abbreviated term for autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Under the ASD umbrella lie various types of developmental disorders, including Asperger syndrome, that affect individuals to varying degrees. According to the American Psychiatric Association these include:

  • Autistic disorder
  • Childhood disintegrative disorder
  • Pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS)
  • Asperger’s syndrome

Basically, autism doesn’t look the same on any two individuals but rather manifests differently in each person. There are, however, common autism characteristics, such as difficulties with communication and social interaction.

While various factors can cause a child to experience developmental delays, such as speech delays, ASD should never be ruled out as a potential cause. We’re here to share the signs and characteristics of autism so you can stay informed as you monitor your child’s development, as early intervention is key to improving daily life for both those with autism and their caregivers. We’ll also share some common methods of coping with an ASD diagnosis.

What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Autism is a developmental disorder that specifically affects an individual’s verbal and social skills development. What is important to understand about autism is that it is a spectrum. This means that one may fall on the high or the low end of the spectrum. Those on the low end have more severe developmental disabilities, behavioral challenges, and social communication symptoms, while those on the high end are thought to have less severe symptoms, or what is referred to as high-functioning autism.

Autism affects both children and adults. Autism does not develop later in life but sometimes goes misdiagnosed or undiagnosed in young children, particularly if the children are high functioning. Misdiagnosing and underdiagnosing leads to adults with ASD who don’t know that they have ASD and who likely never received any treatment.

What Causes Autism Spectrum Disorder?

ASD is believed to be caused by abnormalities in brain structure and brain function. What causes these abnormalities has not yet been determined. Health care providers do believe, though, that genetics play a role in ASD. A diagnosis of autism has been linked to genetic disorders such as Rett syndrome and fragile X syndrome. Certain genetic mutations may increase the risk of autism, while other genes can influence brain development and affect patterns of behavior or severity of symptoms.

Patterns of ASD in families have been observed, although a specific gene or identifying genetic marker has not yet been found. Researchers continue to study genetic factors as well as environmental factors, such as viruses or air pollutants, which may contribute to the development of ASD.

Autism and Vaccines

For several years, there has been a concern among parents about whether common infant and childhood vaccines may lead to autism. After extensive research, various reputable health organizations have concluded and asserted that vaccines are not a risk factor for autism. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Mayo Clinic, and Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital have each stated that there is no link between vaccines and autism and that the studies which suggested there may be a link have not been able to provide any reliable research to back up their claims.

One of the earliest studies, published in 1998, suggesting a connection between a vaccine and autism has since been proven false, leading to the loss of the medical license of the physician who wrote it, as well as the article being pulled from publication. To date, no research has been able to provide a viable link between vaccines and autism.

We’re here to share the signs and characteristics of autism so you can stay informed as you monitor your child’s development. We’ll also share some common methods of coping with an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis.

Signs of Autism

According to the Autism Speaks website, signs of autism may appear as early as 18 months old, though the most apparent autism characteristics typically don’t emerge until around age 2 or 3. Autism causes developmental delays, so as a child ages it becomes evident if he or she is not hitting certain milestones. It’s important to note that not everyone with ASD will exhibit the same symptoms, and those who do share symptoms may experience them to varying degrees. Autism Speaks lists the following common signs of autism to help parents evaluate their child’s development.

6–24 months:

  • No social facial expressions, such as smiles, directed at people
  • Limited or no eye contact
  • No vocal sounds or nonverbal communication such as smiling
  • No babbling
  • Does not use gestures that babies typically use to communicate, like pointing, reaching, waving
  • Does not respond when name is called
  • No words

At any age (including in teens and adults):

  • Avoids eye contact
  • Prefers to be alone
  • Lacks the ability to understand other people’s feelings
  • Is nonverbal or has delayed language development
  • Repetitive speech, especially words or phrases over and over
  • Repetitive behaviors, like flapping, rocking, or spinning
  • Unusual movement or body language
  • Relies on routine and gets upset over minor changes
  • Very restricted interests
  • Unusual and intense reactions to senses including:
    • Sounds
    • Smells
    • Tastes
    • Textures
    • Lights
    • Colors

Coping with Autism

Learning that a family member has autism is taxing on the entire family, especially parents and siblings. The earlier a child receives a diagnosis of ASD and begins treatment, the better the outcome may be for the child. There is no cure for ASD and no one treatment is effective for every ASD patient. However, when ASD is diagnosed early, intervention may help a child with ASD develop essential social, communication, and behavioral skills. If your child has been diagnosed with ASD, the best approach to take in helping your child is to talk with your physician about creating a treatment plan. Keep in mind that treatment will change over time as your child ages.

Autism Treatments and Therapies

Common ASD treatments include:

  • Family therapies
  • Behavioral and communication therapies
  • Educational therapies
  • Individualized therapies depending upon needs such as:
    • Speech therapy
    • Occupational therapy
    • Physical therapy
  • Medications to control some symptoms such as hyperactivity
  • Treatments for accompanying health issues such as:

Amino Acids

A 2012 study published in the journal Science revealed that a rare form of autism that is complicated by epilepsy might be treatable using an amino acid supplement. Amino acids help the body form protein, tissue, muscles, and chemicals needed for proper functioning, including proper brain function. Autism Speaks reported on the study, in which an amino acid supplement successfully reduced symptoms of autism and seizures in mice. While further research is needed to determine the potential effects of the amino acid supplement on humans, this is a step forward in finding new ways to treat autism disorders.

Recovering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A 9-Step Plan

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a debilitating long-term illness, yet its cause remains a mystery. Chronic fatigue sufferers often experience extreme fatigue, pain, and sensory issues that can prevent them from performing simple daily tasks, like getting out of bed. Here’s a 9-step plan for chronic fatigue recovery.

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a debilitating long-term illness, yet its cause remains a mystery. CFS is also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), or systemic exertion intolerance disease (SEID)—a new name that some health advocates insist more aptly describes the complex, aggregate nature of the disease’s cognitive, physical, and emotional components. According to a 2015 report published by the Institute of Medicine, chronic fatigue syndrome affects an estimated 836,000 to 2.5 million Americans.

Chronic fatigue sufferers often experience extreme fatigue, pain, and sensory issues that can prevent them from performing simple daily tasks, like getting out of bed. Any level of physical or mental exertion can worsen symptoms which do not improve with rest and which can’t be explained by the presence of other ailments. Roughly one-third of chronic fatigue syndrome patients are either bed-ridden or housebound at some point during their illness.

Chronic fatigue syndrome has been described as a social illness, since it severely limits patients from participating in family, work, and other social activities. It is estimated that the United States economy loses $17 to $24 billion annually in incomes and medical costs, as a result.

What Causes Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

There is no clear cause of chronic fatigue syndrome. Investigators suspect there may be more than one factor that triggers CFS. A compromised immune system may either be a cause or an effect of the illness, as progressively poor immunity to infections is a hallmark of the illness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has suggested that chronic fatigue syndrome may be the end result of infectious disease. Human herpesvirus, Ross River virus (RRV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), and rubella are viruses that have been studied in relation to CFS. Mycoplasma pneumoniae and Coxiella burnetii are suspected bacterial triggers. In addition to a weakened immune system and microbial infections, psychological distress and hormonal imbalances may further aggravate or initiate CFS, either jointly or separately.

Chronic Fatigue Risk Factors

Chronic fatigue syndrome is most prevalent among adults between the ages of 40 and 60 years old, but it can affect people of all ages, including children. Females are two to four times more likely than males to develop the illness. Some people may be genetically predisposed to CFS. Although the disease is diagnosed in Caucasians more than in other racial group, it is estimated that 90% of people living with chronic fatigue syndrome are not diagnosed. Here are other factors that may increase the risk of developing CFS:

  • Environmental pollutants
  • Allergens
  • Stress
  • Recent or previous infectious disease
  • Obesity
  • Alcohol use
  • Depression
  • Sleep disorders
  • Certain medications (e.g., antihistamines)

Chronic Fatigue Symptoms

The effects of chronic fatigue syndrome on every individual are different. Chronic fatigue syndrome patients may look completely healthy. Symptoms can be quite unpredictable and can appear similar to those of other illnesses. In fact, one or more symptoms may trigger other CFS symptoms. Some people can exhibit many or a few typical CFS symptoms that may come and go, or that may change in severity. Chronic fatigue symptoms are likely to change over the course of the illness.

Most CFS sufferers will never recover their pre-disease health status and often find it difficult to maintain a job, go to school, or participate in social activities. Chronic fatigue syndrome limits a person’s ability to do simple tasks—like making a sandwich, standing up, or bathing—and can lead to severe impairment lasting for many years.

Chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms include:

  • Sleep disorders (unrefreshed feeling after sleep, chronic insomnia)
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Frequent headaches and dizziness
  • Cognitive dysfunction (memory loss, concentration difficulties)
  • Depression
  • Pain (muscle pain, multiple joint pain with inflammation, redness, or laxity)
  • Poor immunity (inability to heal from infections, frequent sore throat)
  • Gastrointestinal issues (lack of appetite, nausea especially in the morning, abdominal pain, heartburn, feeling “full” after eating very little food, bloating, aversions to certain foods, irritable bowel syndrome)
  • Lymphadenopathy (tender, swollen, or enlarged lymph nodes, especially of the neck and armpit regions)
  • Fever
  • Gynecological problems
  • Allergies or serious intolerances to medications, toxins, or environmental elements
  • Nervous system abnormalities

Chronic fatigue syndrome usually induces a few keystone conditions. Orthostatic intolerance (OI) describes how a patient’s symptoms worsen while standing upright; however, symptoms tend to improve (but not completely, oftentimes) once the person lies down again. Post-exertional malaise (PEM) occurs when a patient attempts to perform as much as they want or need to, but their symptoms worsen as a result. PEM can occur 12 to 48 hours after physical or mental activity and the effects can last for days or weeks.

Chronic Fatigue Diagnosis

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a poorly understood disease, and its symptoms are often mistaken for those of other illnesses. CFS sufferers are strongly encouraged not to self-diagnose. There are no specific laboratory tests to verify chronic fatigue syndrome, making the disease difficult to diagnose. Nevertheless, a doctor should be able to eliminate the possibility of other illnesses based on the rigorous assessment of a patient’s symptoms, review of a patient’s medical history, review of a patient’s family history, a medical exam, and psychological evaluation.

Treatment of illnesses with symptoms similar to chronic fatigue syndrome is likely. Illnesses that exhibit some symptoms similar to chronic fatigue syndrome include: multiple sclerosis, lupus, mononucleosis, and fibromyalgia.

Doctors will investigate the severity and frequency of symptoms, as well as how these symptoms impact a patient’s daily life in order to determine the possibility of CFS. Patients who have experienced at least four of the aforementioned symptoms concurrently for more than six months are considered strong candidates for chronic fatigue syndrome.

Chronic Fatigue Recovery

There is no direct cure for chronic fatigue syndrome, but some symptoms can be treated or managed with proper medical supervision. Effectively managing CFS is a team effort. A network of physicians, mental health professionals, rehabilitation specialists, therapists, counselors, family members, and friends all working together is the best way to accommodate CFS patients’ care needs. Family members and friends, especially, should maintain a high degree of vigilance and be prepared to take over a patient’s immediate needs whenever necessary.

Although challenging, steps to recovery is incremental and should focus on improving a patient’s quality of life, as well as their perception of such. All involved, including the patient, should have a tolerant outlook for the months and years ahead. Each person may benefit from or suffer from different types of chronic fatigue treatment in a variety of ways, which is why self-care measures should be thoroughly vetted and revised when needed.

The following are 9 recommended steps to chronic fatigue recovery.

1. Identify Safe Healing Spaces

Patients who are able venture outside of home should do so with the understanding that there are safe safes available to them in the event they need to rest. Identify these spaces ahead of time inside the homes of friends and family members, at work, at community centers, and in places of worship. Private spaces in the patient’s home should be designated so that patient’s are assured privacy and peace. These spaces can be used for a number of relaxation rituals that include listening to music and engaging in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.

2. Educate All Participants

Education is a crucial aspect of managing CFS symptoms. Patient’s who maintain a clear and logical understanding of their illness will be in better mental condition to encourage their own healing. A well-informed team is better able to take over a patient’s duties and tend to a patient’s concerns if it knows what to expect. Doctors can begin the education process by talking with patients and team members about what they already know concerning chronic fatigue syndrome, while dispelling any myths about the illness and promoting healthy expectations regarding outcomes.

3. Regularly Monitor and Discuss Specific Symptoms

A patient’s care team can help foster a synergistic approach to managing a patient’s symptoms through effective communication. Seek health care professionals and counselors who are well-informed about chronic fatigue syndrome and encourage these professionals to speak with each other about best treatment options. A patient should feel comfortable expressing any fears or concerns about their illness or the care they are receiving, so it is important that all involved be sensitive to a patient’s perceptions. A patient may feel they are failing at treatment if they do not see noticeable improvements. Skilled professionals should master the art of revising treatment methods that address consistent issues. Pacing mental and physical activities can be effective when journaling a patient’s progress.

4. Develop a Treatment Strategy

Address symptoms that may hinder the improvement of other symptoms. For example, patients who experience sleep disturbances or chronic pain are likely to suffer profound emotional distress. Identify solvable problems that can remedy the sleep and pain issues to alleviate the patient’s emotional burden. Treatment strategies should include setting and recording goals, as well as time management methods. Setting and meeting even minor constructive mental or physical goals can be intellectually rewarding. Developing a daily routine is especially helpful for housebound patients, giving them something to look forward to. Instill a rewards system for achievements, especially for younger CFS patients who may feel excluded from more conventional activities.

5. Adhere to a Strict Sleep Regimen

Discourage napping during the day so that it does not affect a patient’s sleep at night. A family may try sleeping and waking at the same times as chronic fatigue syndrome patients so that patients do not feel like a burden. In any case, patients should aim to go to bed at the same time each night and wake up naturally around the same time each morning.

6. Engage in Physical and Cognitive Exercises Incrementally

Assess a patient’s ability to sit upright first before taking on any level of physical or mental activity. Some patients may feel more comfortable engaging in these activities while lying down. Patients can practice moving their limbs while lying down and stationary, or they can listen to and learn from audible literature and lessons through digital devices while supine. Higher functioning patients should not take on too much even if they feel okay during and after the activity. Symptoms may erupt hours or days later causing the patient to feel worse. This cycle is more widely known as “push-and-crash,” and can lead to quite serious complications. Pacing activities involves engaging in activities for short periods of time, then resting for adequate periods of time.

7. Adhere to a Sound Diet

Eating small meals throughout the day can encourage a healthy appetite and help combat insomnia. Avoid consuming too many fluids with meals to discourage bloating. Eating mild foods can help relieve gastrointestinal issues. Water is the ideal beverage. Infuse water with cucumbers and citrus fruits to improve taste and electrolytes. Alcohol and too much caffeine can worsen chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms. Patients with heart disease may need to closely monitor their salt intake.

8. Manage Pain, Depression, Infections, and Fatigue Effectively

Over-the-counter medications, like aspirin or acetaminophen, are rarely effective when managing CFS pain symptoms. Doctors may prescribe pharmaceuticals, such as dexamphetamine to address fatigue or methylphenidate for concentration issues. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors can address depression symptoms, while anticonvulsants are for widespread pain. Work with physicians and specialists to increase or decrease dosage when necessary, but never completely stop or start taking any medications without a doctor’s supervision, even if patients have taken this medication in the past. Intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) has been used to address chronic infections, but this treatment is not scientifically verified and can be costly. Antibiotics are widely prescribed to treat infections.

9. Use Vitamins and Supplements

Taking vitamins and supplements, such as a complete essential amino acid blend, can be a safe and easy way to improve chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms. Be sure to consult with your doctor before taking vitamins or supplements since they can interfere with current medications. Also, excess supplementation can irritate CFS symptoms.

  • Vitamin D is especially helpful for patients who lack sunlight. It can help relieve headache and pain symptoms if taken in proper doses.
  • Magnesium can encourage more restful sleep. Take with apple juice for better absorption before bedtime.
  • Probiotics can counter gastrointestinal issues, especially if patients take antibiotics to treat frequent infections.
  • Vitamin B12 aids brain function and helps to increase energy levels.
  • Amino acid L-carnitine and its derivative acyl-L-carnitines were shown to reduce physical and mental fatigue, while improving cognitive status and physical functions in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome.

Before starting any steps to recovery from chronic fatigue syndrome, it is important to work with your physician, who can help cater a treatment plan that best suits your specific needs. Many treatments that exist are not scientifically backed, may be costly, and may cause further harm.

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a debilitating long-term illness, yet its cause remains a mystery. Chronic fatigue sufferers often experience extreme fatigue, pain, and sensory issues that can prevent them from performing simple daily tasks, like getting out of bed. Here’s a 9-step plan for chronic fatigue recovery.