Vasculitis: Signs, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

A potentially life-threatening condition in which blood vessels become inflamed, vasculitis refers to a group of rare diseases with disparate effects. Without treatment, vasculitis patients may suffer serious organ and tissue damage.

A potentially life-threatening condition in which blood vessels become inflamed, vasculitis refers to a group of rare diseases with disparate effects. While there are multiple types of vasculitis, the primary symptoms include changes in the walls of blood vessels, especially thickening, narrowing, weakening, and scarring. Without treatment, vasculitis patients may suffer serious organ and tissue damage.

Vasculitis can be acute (short term) or chronic (long lasting). Early detection and treatment is the best way to prevent this condition from impacting quality of life.

Types of Vasculitis

There are 20 different forms of vasculitis give or take. While they all account for blood vessel inflammation, they affect different organs, present with different symptoms, and require different types of medication.

  • Behcet’s disease: Manifests as mouth and genital ulcers, as well as eye inflammation and skin rashes.
  • Buerger’s disease: Associated with smoking, Buerger’s disease impairs blood flow to the extremities and can damage skin tissue and lead to gangrene and skin infections.
  • Central nervous system vasculitis: Affecting the blood vessels in the spine and brain, central nervous system vasculitis is associated with autoimmune diseases such as lupus, RA, and dermatomyositis, as well as viral and bacterial infections and other vasculitic disorders, including GPA and Behcet’s.
  • Cryoglobulinemia: With a possible connection to hepatitis C infections and paraproteinemias, cryoglobulinemia is marked by red spots on the lower extremities.
  • Eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis (EGPA, previously called Churg-Strauss syndrome): This type of vasculitis affects the kidneys, lungs, peripheral nerves, skin, and heart and is linked to conditions such as asthma, nasal polyps, sinusitis, and elevated eosinophil counts.
  • Giant cell arteritis: Formerly known as “temporal arteritis,” giant cell arteritis is the most common form of vasculitis among North American adults. Older adults between 70 and 80 years of age are the most at risk, but the disease can strike anyone over 50 with symptoms including headache, fever, and jaw and scalp pain.
  • Granulomatosis with polyangiitis (GPA, previously known as Wegener’s granulomatosis): This type of vasculitis primarily affects the upper respiratory tract, lungs, and kidneys. GPA inflames the small and medium-sized blood vessels and causes tissue damage called granulomatous inflammation. Common symptoms are nasal congestion, frequent nosebleeds, shortness of breath, cough, joint pain, weight loss, and numbness and loss of function in the fingers and toes.
  • Henoch-Schönlein purpura/IGA Vasculitis (HSP): A type of hypersensitivity vasculitis that affects the small blood vessels, HSP causes symptoms such as rash, joint pain and swelling, abdominal pain, blood in the urine, and/or kidney disease. It is thought to be brought on by an immune system attack that can be triggered by upper respiratory tract infections.
  • Kawasaki disease: Most common in Japanese and Korean children under 5 years old, Kawasaki disease first strikes as a fever, and then as red eyes, a rash on the stomach, genitals, or chest, red or cracked lips, a sore throat, and swollen tongue, lymph nodes, hands, and feet.
  • Microscopic polyangiitis: Affecting the entire body, this vasculitis is believed to be triggered by a faulty immune system response that causes tissue and blood vessel inflammation and damage. Kidney, skin, nerves, lungs, and joints can all be impacted.
  • Polyarteritis nodosa: Inflammation of the small arteries and medium-sized blood vessels blocks the transport of food and oxygen to the body’s vital organs, particularly the nerves, intestinal tract, heart, and joints.
  • Polymyalgia rheumatica: Muscle pain and stiffness in the shoulders and hips are markers of this inflammatory disorder, which is often experienced in conjunction with giant cell arteritis.
  • Rheumatoid vasculitis: A serious complication that afflicts people with chronic and severe rheumatoid arthritis (RA), rheumatoid vasculitis symptoms include small sores around the fingernails, a painful red rash, skin ulcers, damage to the nerves resulting in numbness and tingling, loss of function of the hands and feet, lack of blood flow that can cause gangrene of fingers or toes, stomach pain, cough, chest pain, heart attack, and/or a stroke.
  • Takayasu’s arteritis: Most common in women of child-bearing age, this large vessel vasculitis can cause arterial blockages that trigger arm or chest pain, as well as high blood pressure that can bring on a cardiovascular event, such as a heart attack or stroke.

Early detection is the best way to prevent vasculitis

Vasculitis Symptoms

Vasculitis signs and symptoms vary based on the type of condition a patient is suffering from, though most involve decreased blood flow.

The symptoms of vasculitis differ upon the affected organs, with many patients experiencing fever, fatigue, headaches and other aches and pains, night sweats, and nerve problems. If vasculitis affects the skin, patients may experience rashes, discoloration, and ulcers. Vasculitis that affects the muscles causes muscle pain. Patients with vasculitis affecting the lungs may notice shortness of breath, while patients with heart vasculitis may develop congestive heart failure. Finally, vasculitis affecting the brain can lead to confusion, seizures, strokes, paralysis, and lightheadedness.

Vasculitis Causes

Doctors don’t know exactly what causes vasculitis. However, it’s believed that the condition results from genetic factors that cause the immune system to attack healthy blood vessel cells. When blood vessels bleed or become inflamed, the walls thicken, thereby limiting the flow of blood through the body. As a result, oxygen and nutrients are unable to reach bodily organs and tissues.

The following pre-existing conditions can increase one’s risk of developing vasculitis:

  • Hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and other infections
  • Blood cancers
  • Immune system disorders like rheumatic diseases and lupus
  • Taking certain drugs

Additionally, patients who smoke may be at an increased risk for vasculitis.

Diagnosing Vasculitis

A vasculitis diagnosis can involve a biopsy, an angiography, or a series of blood tests.

  • Diagnosing small-vessel vasculitis: Physicians typically test for small-vessel vasculitis using a biopsy, which involves surgically removing a small sample of tissue.
  • Diagnosing medium-vessel vasculitis: To diagnose medium-vessel vasculitis, doctors do a biopsy or take an angiography, which is an X-ray that checks for blood vessel abnormalities.
  • Diagnosing large-vessel vasculitis: This type of vasculitis requires an angiography and often a biopsy, such as with giant cell arteritis that requires a biopsy of the artery in the scalp.

Other types of vasculitis, including Kawasaki disease and Behcet’s, are diagnosed based on clinical findings versus a biopsy or angiography. Blood tests that check for antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies (ANCA) are useful for diagnosing GPA, microscopic polyangiitis, or EGPA.

Vasculitis Treatment

The goal of vasculitis treatment is to control inflammation and underlying conditions in order to minimize the effects of the disorder. Doctors may recommend maintenance therapy to prevent relapse. The drugs patients take and the timeline involved likely depends on the severity of the disease and what organs are impacted. While some patients experience many flare-ups, others are symptom-free for months or even years.

Corticosteroids are among the most commonly prescribed drugs for vasculitis. While prednisone and methylprednisolone are effective ways to control inflammation, they often result in serious side effects, including weight gain, bone thinning, and even diabetes. Doctors tend to prescribe the lowest steroid dose possible in order to keep side effects at a minimum. Another commonly prescribed drug, methotrexate (MTX) helps vasculitis patients by dampening the immune system response and encouraging remission.

In more severe cases, doctors may recommend surgical treatment for vasculitis. Some patients develop an aneurysm in the blood vessel wall that requires surgical intervention. Surgery may also be necessary for patients with blocked arteries.

Amino Acids and Heart Health

Researchers are just starting to understand the ways in which amino acids affect heart health. In a study of 200 women with healthy BMIs, doctors determined that the patients whose diets included the most amino acids also had the lowest blood pressure and least arterial stiffness. According to Dr. Amy Jennings of UEA’s Norwich Medical School, the project’s head researcher, the amino acids associated with the positive effects were glutamic acid, leucine, and tyrosine, all of which are from animal-based food sources. Doctors hypothesize that the blood pressure-lowering effect is due to a greater production of nitric oxide, which widens blood vessels and enables blood to flow through them more readily.

Studies show that taking L-arginine may help patients improve vascular health. Because the body converts L-arginine into nitric oxide, and NO improves circulation, individuals who consume more of this amino acid may enjoy benefits like:

  • Reduced risk of angina, heart attack, and stroke
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Enhanced brain function
  • Improved sexual function

You can increase your L-arginine intake by eating more poultry, fish, nuts, and seeds, as well as consuming certain protein shakes and supplements. When it comes to the most effective amino acid supplement for increasing arginine levels in the body, it isn’t arginine itself.

In order to elevate arginine levels sufficiently enough to improve blood vessel health, you have to take doses that are so high, they can cause stomach upset. For this reason, our expert team of amino acid researchers recommends supplementing with a balanced amino acid blend that contains citrulline. Citrulline doesn’t cause stomach distress and increases arginine levels much more than the same amount of arginine can.

Mercury Exposure: How to Know If You Have Mercury Poisoning and What to Do About It

Eating fish that contains methylmercury is the most common culprit of mercury poisoning in America, but there are also other carriers of mercury. Find out what they are, and what you should do if you think you’ve been exposed.

Mercury has different forms, and people get exposed to it in a variety of ways. Eating fish that contains methylmercury is the most common culprit of mercury poisoning in America, but there are also other carriers of mercury, such as a mercury thermometer that, when broken, emits elemental mercury into the air. And coal-burning power plants release the highest amount of mercury into the air. If you think you have mercury exposure, we recommend that you contact your doctor, who will investigate further to understand the degree of exposure and how to handle the situation.

Methylmercury Exposure

People can get exposed to three forms of mercury:

  • Methylmercury
  • Elemental (metallic) mercury
  • Other mercury compounds

Methylmercury is a toxic organic compound, and it is the most common form of mercury exposure. Our bodies might carry traces of methylmercury, but this trace amount does not affect our health.

The danger lies in eating fish and shellfish that are high in methylmercury. The mercury in fish can indeed have effects on our bodies. But how does methylmercury get into the fish and shellfish?

Mercury vapor infiltrates the air, and when it moves into the water, microorganisms transform it into methylmercury—in this way, it enters fish and shellfish.

Levels of methylmercury in seafood depend on what the fish eat, as well as where they fall in the food chain. The large predatory fish typically house the highest concentrations of methylmercury.

Experts recommend that you eat fish with low levels of mercury, such as:

Anchovies Flounder
Catfish Haddock
Sardines Salmon
Hake Trout
Pollock Mackerel
Butterfish Whitefish

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it is especially important to avoid eating fish high in mercury. Even with no symptoms as a warning, mothers exposed to high levels of mercury have given birth to infants with debilitating health conditions. The route of exposure is through the umbilical cord, and also through breast milk.

Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch is a terrific resource for checking which fish from which waters are the safest to eat.

Elemental Mercury Exposure

Although regulations have tightened, elemental mercury can still be found in older types of batteries, electronic devices, light switches, thermostats, and washing machines. When these products break, they release elemental mercury vapor in the air that’s toxic and easily inhaled, especially in warm and poorly ventilated environments.

Fluorescent lightbulbs and LCD TVs still contain mercury, but are safe unless they crack or shatter.

Mercury is also used in dentistry in dental amalgam, a dental filling material used to restore teeth. This 2016 study provides evidence that amalgam fillings can elevate levels of mercury in the body.

Here’s an EPA list of products that are sources of mercury.

Other Mercury Compounds

Other compounds of mercury, such as phenylmercury acetate and ethylmercury, have been used as fungicides, antiseptics, and preservatives, but their use is pretty much discontinued today, although some are still used in small amounts as preservatives in vaccines. FDA-approved thimerosal, for instance, is used to prevent microbial growths in American vaccines designed for children 6 years old or younger, but the FDA maintains that levels are too low to cause health problems.

These mercury compounds have not been discontinued throughout the world, and can show up in skincare products from other countries and sold illegally in the United States.

Mercury Poisoning Symptoms

The health effects of mercury exposure manifest according to the type of mercury, the amount of mercury, the length of exposure, the mechanism of exposure, and the age and health of the exposed at the time of exposure. The effects of mercury exposure may not be at all noticeable, or could range in severity from mild to severe.

High blood mercury levels can lead to neurological symptoms such as:

Higher levels of mercury exposure may appear as symptoms such as:

  • Muscle weakness
  • A metallic taste
  • Stomach upset or nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Motor skill impairment
  • Breathing, vision, hearing, or speech difficulties

Young children with high exposure might have:

  • Poor motor skills
  • Challenges with thinking and speaking
  • Hand-eye coordination issues
  • A lack of overall awareness

Research has yet to find a definitive link between mercury exposure and cancer, but extremely high doses of certain forms of mercury have encouraged the proliferation of cancerous tumors in rats and mice. Still, the EPA has concluded that mercury exposure is unlikely to cause cancer in humans.

Effects of Mercury on the Body

Exposure to methylmercury from eating high levels in seafood can result in symptoms such as:

  • Peripheral vision loss
  • Tingling in hands and feet
  • Trouble with balance and coordination
  • Difficulty speaking, hearing, walking

Exposure to methylmercury in the womb can lead to defects in the nervous system that impair cognitive processing, including memory, fine motor skills, attention, language, and visual-spatial skills.

Metallic mercury exposure breathed in as a vapor can cause the following symptoms:

  • Tremors
  • Heightened or unbalanced emotions
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Neuromuscular changes
  • Headaches
  • Impairments to sensations
  • Alterations in nerve responses
  • Poor mental function

Extreme cases of higher exposure can have life-threatening consequences such as kidney dysfunction and respiratory failure. Other complications cited include high blood pressure and the development of endometriosis, although these are more empirical symptom reports that have yet to be validated by research.

Inorganic mercury compounds can also cause:

  • Damage to the gastrointestinal tract
  • Damage to the nervous system
  • Damage to the kidneys
  • Skin rashes and dermatitis
  • Memory loss
  • Mental disturbances

What to Do About Mercury Poisoning

If you have concerns about mercury exposure, such as from a broken thermometer, call your health care provider or the poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. Follow these tips to minimize the effects of mercury exposure, reduce your long-term exposure, and cleanse your body.

Reduce Exposure

If you are aware of an increased risk of mercury, for instance, if you work at a hospital and elemental mercury is spilled from a product, then remove yourself from the exposure immediately. For example, if a fluorescent bulb ruptures,  the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency states to evacuate immediately and let the room air out for a minimum of 15 minutes.

Likewise reduce your exposure to seafood high in methylmercury. The most mercury-rich fish include tilefish, swordfish, shark, king mackerel, and bigeye tuna. Swap them out for mercury-free protein options such as beef and poultry.

Diet

What fish takes home the prize for mercury exposure? Everyone’s favorite: tuna, especially as it pertains to mercury exposure in the United States. Lower your exposure by eating light or skipjack tuna limited to no more than two servings weekly. Children should reduce their consumption to 12 ounces a week of canned light tuna and 6 ounces per week of canned albacore tuna, and pregnant women should cap tuna consumption at 4 ounces of albacore each week.

A good general rule regarding fish consumption is that the bigger predators contain the highest mercury levels, so go for the smaller fish in the sea. You have many choices, including protein-packed and omega-3-rich fish such as salmon, sardines, and anchovies.

Metal Detox

A heavy metal detox can help detoxify your body of mercury and other toxic substances. Plan your meals around:

  • Vitamin C-rich foods
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Cilantro

Chlorella, as tablets or in powder form, is a supplement touted for its heavy metal detoxification properties.

Chelation Therapy

Chelation therapy, developed in the 1950s as a cure for heavy metal poisoning, is another option to cleanse your body of mercury toxicity. EDTA, a chelation chemical, is introduced to the bloodstream via injection, where it then connects to excess minerals and ushers them out of the body, thereby removing toxins.

Help Your Bowels

Regular bowel movements are key to ensuring the mercury gets out of your system instead of reabsorbed. Eating a high-fiber diet, drinking plenty of water, and exercising regularly can keep constipation at bay and the detoxification process on track.

Probiotics

A 2012 study showed that probiotics can encourage heavy metal detoxification. According to the researchers, the species of good bacteria known as Lactobacillus can help the detoxification process by binding to chemicals such as mercury and ridding them from the body. You can find Lactobacillus in fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, and kimchi.

Are You Affected by Mercury Exposure?

Let’s take a look at the statistics on file.

Using the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) during 2003–2004, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) measured the total blood mercury of 8,373 participants aged 1 year and older and mercury levels in the urine of 2,538 participants aged 6 years and older.

Mercury in the blood registers levels of methylmercury, while urine mercury measures exposure to inorganic mercury exposure. Using these assessments, scientists determined the amount of mercury exposure and found that most participants had calculable levels of mercury in their bodies and that levels increase with age. However, that doesn’t mean these measurable mercury levels are high enough to have a serious health impact.

Scientists are continually conducting biomonitoring studies on mercury levels to determine reference values that can help physicians and public health officials ascertain mercury exposure and its health effects.

Understand the degree of mercury exposure.

Campylobacter Infection: Protect Yourself!

A common type of bacteria called Campylobacter can make you ill if you eat poultry or meat that isn’t fully cooked. Here’s the rundown on camplylobacter infection, the causes behind it, what symptoms let you know you’re sick, and most importantly, how to treat it.

Campylobacter Infection: Protect Yourself!

Many of us have heard the warnings about eating undercooked chicken because of the fear of becoming sick with Salmonella bacteria. But another type of bacteria called Campylobacter can also make you ill if you eat poultry or meat that isn’t fully cooked. Like a Salmonella infection, Campylobacter can cause diarrhea and sometimes other serious complications. Here’s the rundown on Campylobacter infection, the causes behind it, what symptoms let you know you’re sick, and most importantly, how to treat it.

What Is Campylobacter Infection?

Campylobacter infection, also known as campylobacteriosis, is an infectious disease caused by the Campylobacter bacterium, most commonly the Campylobacter jejuni species. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is one of the most common causes of food poisoning and gastroenteritis (bacterial diarrheal illness) in the United States, with an estimated 1.3 million cases every year. However, many more cases go undiagnosed or unreported.

Causes of Campylobacter Infections

Campylobacter bacteria can get into your body if you eat undercooked meat, typically raw poultry, or if you eat other food that has come into contact with undercooked or raw meat. The meat many of us eat, like that of cows, pigs, and poultry, have this bacteria living in their digestive systems.

You can also become infected by drinking unpasteurized milk or raw milk. Other foods, such as fruits and vegetables can not only be cross-contaminated during food preparation, but also from coming in contact with soil that has cow, bird, or other animal feces before it ever reaches your kitchen. Animal feces can also run off of fields and surrounding areas, contaminating streams, lakes, and other bodies of water.

Campylobacter bacteria can live in our intestinal tracts without making us sick, but studies have revealed that as few as 500 Campylobacter cells can cause illness.

Isolated cases of campylobacteriosis are more common, but outbreaks can occur, especially in a community location like a nursing home or hospital. Campylobacter infection is common in the developing world, and people who travel abroad have a greater chance of becoming infected, since the bacteria is often found in water and sewage systems. About 1 in 5 Campylobacter infections reported to the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network (FoodNet) are associated with international travel.

Who Is at Risk?

Campylobacteriosis can strike at any age, but the less developed systems of infants and young children are more susceptible to the Campylobacter infection. Males are also more likely than females to become infected; however, pregnant women can have more serious symptoms if they do become ill. Campylobacter can spread to the bloodstream and cause a life-threatening infection, particularly in individuals with weakened immune systems due to AIDS, cancer, blood disorders, or chemotherapy treatments.

Campylobacter Symptoms

Symptoms of Campylobacter infection usually occur within 2 to 10 days after you ingest the bacteria, and last around a week. The first signs you’ve been infected include:

  • Diarrhea (often bloody)
  • Fever
  • Abdominal bloating and cramping
  • Nausea and vomiting

It’s important to note, some infected people do not experience any symptoms, as their bodies are able to either fight the bacteria or it is a mild enough case to not alarm the person carrying it.

Campylobacter Diagnosis

If you are experiencing symptoms related to food poisoning and seek medical attention, your doctor will most likely give you a physical exam, discuss your condition, and possibly order tests. Diagnosis of Campylobacter infection is often confirmed with laboratory tests that detect the bacteria in stool samples, body tissue, or fluids. The test either isolates the bacteria through a culture or the bacteria’s genetic material is quickly detected in a diagnostic test.

Campylobacter Treatment

Most people with Campylobacter infection recover within a week without medication or medical intervention. To facilitate healing, implement the following strategies.

  • Drink up. Drinking water and extra fluids is a prerequisite as long as the diarrhea lasts to avoid dehydration.
  • Rest up. Try to get plenty of rest so your body and gut can heal with sleep.
  • Clear up. Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, don’t take any medicine that prevents diarrhea, since this is your body’s way of effectively clearing your system of the infection.
  • Clean up. It’s important to wash your hands with warm water and soap every time you use the bathroom, as you can spread the bacteria to other people. Others can contract the bacterial infection as long as it shows up in your feces, which may be 2 to 3 weeks after your symptoms have disappeared. Once the diarrhea has subsided, so, too, has the risk of passing along the infection.

When to See a Doctor

If you do have a weakened immune system or are very ill, antibiotics may be needed to get the infection under control. Erythromycin and azithromycin are usually prescribed to help clear bacteria from stool quicker.

If you begin to show signs of dehydration, like dark urine, dry mouth and skin, and dizziness, or have continual bloody diarrhea, it’s best to see a health care provider. If you begin having severe abdominal pain or pain in your rectum and spike a fever above 102°, seek medical attention immediately.

Possible Complications

Complications of the Campylobacter bacteria include urinary tract infections, reactive arthritis, meningitis, and a rare type of paralysis called Guillain-Barre syndrome.

About 1 in every 1,000 reported Campylobacter cases develops into Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS). If your immune system is kicked into gear by a previous infection, GBS can cause muscle weakness and paralysis that lasts for several weeks, and in some cases, for many years. Most people with GBS have a full recovery, but there are incidents of permanent nerve damage or cases that require extensive medical care.

While most people with a Campylobacter infection recover completely in less than a week, some illnesses can be fatal, resulting in an estimated 124 deaths each year.

Preventing Campylobacter Infections and Food Poisoning

Campylobacter prevention is the most important step. Always cook meat to a safe minimum temperature of 165 °F. Keep raw meat separate from other food and wash your hands thoroughly after handling it. If you’re concerned about Campylobacter infection, it is best to avoid drinking raw or unpasteurized milk.

Here are some other important prevention and food safety tips:

  • Wash utensils, cutting boards, dishes, and countertops with dishwashing soap and hot water after every use.
  • Use paper towels to clean kitchen counters. If you use dish towels, wash them after every use on hot in the washing machine.
  • Keep raw meat, poultry, and seafood separate when you are shopping and when storing in your refrigerator.
  • Do not use the same plate for cooked food that you used to prepare raw meat, poultry, or seafood.
  • Use separate cutting boards, one for fresh produce and one for raw meat.

If your child becomes sick with campylobacteriosis, keep them home from daycare or school until he or she is clear from diarrhea for 24 hours. Children and adults with Campylobacter infection should not swim until they have been free of symptoms for at least an entire day.

Reporting the problem is another way to control this bacterial infection and prevent others from becoming exposed to the source of contamination. If you experience symptoms of campylobacteriosis, be sure to contact your physician, even if you do not need to go in for treatment. Physicians who diagnose campylobacteriosis and clinical laboratories that identify this organism typically report their findings to the local health department.

Here’s the rundown on camplylobacter infection.

Egg Allergy: Symptoms and Healthy Egg Alternatives

Egg allergies are easy to treat and easy to avoid. Many companies are now creating egg-free products for vegans and people who are allergic or intolerant to eggs. If you have an egg allergy, amino acid requirements can be met with a complete essential amino acid supplement.

The amino acid balance of egg protein is almost perfect to meet human requirements. Eggs furnish such an excellent and complete source of amino acids and protein that they provide the gold standard for all foods.

While eggs are at the core of many delicious and nutritious meals, they are also one of the most common food allergies. Someone with an egg allergy can be allergic to the white, yolk, or both, but most people affected are allergic to egg-white proteins. Naturally those who are egg-allergic avoid eggs, but eggs may be lurking in processed and packaged foods as well as common types of vaccines, so extra vigilance is necessary.

Egg allergies are among the easiest food allergies to treat. Many companies are now creating egg-free products for vegans and people who are allergic or intolerant to eggs. Various healthy alternatives to eggs can be used in culinary creations. If a person is unable to eat eggs, essential amino acid requirements can be met with a complete essential amino acid supplement.

Egg Allergy Info

According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, egg allergy is a result of the immune system in the body developing a sensitivity and an overreaction to egg white or yolk proteins. When someone with an egg allergy consumes eggs, the immune system perceives that the protein is an invasive substance and manufactures chemicals to keep it from doing harm.  Allergic reactions are the result of the chemicals producing symptoms.

An egg allergy indicates previous exposure to eggs through either diet or vaccination that then caused the allergic reaction. When someone is allergic to eggs, the body’s immune system erroneously points the finger at egg protein as an invader not to be trusted. When that person comes into contact with eggs, the immune system sets off the release of histamine and other chemicals, triggering an allergic reaction of visible and internal symptoms in the body.

Egg allergies occur more commonly in young children than in adults. The ACAAI estimates that as many as 2% of American children are allergic to eggs. Skin conditions such as eczema make kids even more vulnerable. Egg allergies are prevalent in children who had infantile eczema, and the worst reactions happen when children are between 6 and 15 months old. Genetics heighten the likelihood of a food allergy, as children with parents who have food allergies or other allergies are more likely to have food allergies as well. Approximately 70% of children outgrow egg allergies by age 16.

Egg Allergy Symptoms

When a person has an egg allergy, the body’s immune system goes into overdrive to react to proteins in the egg. When something made with eggs approaches the digestive system, the body regards it as destructive. The immune system answers the call by developing specific antibodies to that food to repel the invader. These immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies cause the release of certain chemicals, including histamine, into the body.

Within a brief amount of time after eating or touching eggs, someone with an allergy can have reactions including:

  • Swelling
  • A rash
  • Hives
  • Eczema
  • Wheezing or difficulty breathing
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Watery or red eyes
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Anaphylaxis (a potentially fatal reaction that includes shortness of breath, swelling of the throat, and dizziness from a sudden drop in blood pressure)

Anaphylaxis is such a severe allergic reaction it can make a child pass out and may quickly lead to shock.

Allergy symptoms normally come on suddenly, are triggered by a small amount of food, occur every time someone eats the food, and can be life-threatening.

Egg allergy symptoms usually begin in childhood or young adulthood. Adults who eat eggs tend to have less intense reactions. The reactions may include a skin reaction or a bout of nausea.

Egg Intolerance

The major culprit in egg intolerance is albumen, which is the egg white. Most people who have problems with eggs can, nonetheless, tolerate the yolk. Unlike the chemical reaction of an allergy to eggs, an intolerance to eggs means that the body cannot handle and digest various components of the egg.

Egg Intolerance Symptoms

There are many symptoms of egg intolerance, but they are rare, gradual, and relatively harmless unless you eat a lot of eggs or eat them often. The most frequent symptoms are throwing up, feeling cramps or pain in the stomach, feeling bloated or flatulent, and being nauseous. Less frequent symptoms are heartburn, headaches, skin and breathing concerns, joint pain, irascibility, and tension.

Elusive Eggs

While people try to minimize their consumption of eggs on the table, they may not realize that many vaccines contain egg protein. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) website explains, “Most flu shots and the nasal spray flu vaccine are manufactured using egg-based technology. Most flu vaccines today are produced using an egg-based manufacturing process and thus contain a small amount of egg protein called ovalbumin.”

The yellow fever vaccine, often needed when traveling to various countries, also entails egg protein. According to researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “The measles virus used in the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) and single measles vaccine is grown in cultures of fibroblasts from chick embryos, and there have been concerns raised about the possible presence of egg protein in the vaccines and the advisability of administration to individuals who are allergic to eggs.”

Egg proteins go by other names when used as ingredients in food and other products. They might be listed on food labels as albumin or albumen, globulin, lecithin, livetin, lysozyme, simplesse, and vitellin, and other words starting with “ova” or “ovo,” the prefix for ovum, the Latin word for egg.

People allergic to chicken eggs may also have an allergy to turkey, quail, duck, and goose eggs.

Egg allergy foods to avoid include bread, cakes, ice cream, mayonnaise, pancakes, puddings, quiches, sauces, and spreads. Egg substitutes may also contain egg whites, causing problems for people with egg allergies. Other household items, such as shampoos, makeup, finger paints, and certain medications may contain egg products as well.

Egg allergy symptoms usually begin in childhood or young adulthood.

Diagnosis of Egg Allergy

Clinicians use the skin-prick test, which involves placing a sample of egg-protein-containing liquid on the forearm or back, and then pricking it with a tiny, sterile probe so that the liquid oozes into the skin. If a raised, reddish spot appears in the next 15 to 20 minutes, an allergy is present. By adjusting the protein in the liquid, a skin-prick assessment can verify that the allergy is caused by egg white proteins or egg yolk proteins.

Egg-specific Immunoglobulin E (IgE) can predict persistent egg allergy. Clinicians use the IgE test to find out if there are IgE antibodies to egg protein by sending a sample of a patient’s blood to an outside laboratory.

When such tests come out with inconclusive results, the doctor may decide to use actual food to see how the patient reacts. Supervised by medical personnel, the patient consumes the food in question—in this case, eggs—to determine whether there is a reaction. Due to the potential severe reaction, this oral food test must be conducted at a medical facility or center that has medication and equipment to treat any problems that might develop.

There is another kind of test that eliminates food from a person’s diet to see whether it might be the cause of an allergy. If you show no symptoms when you stop eating eggs but symptoms reemerge when small amounts of eggs are re-introduced, an egg allergy is indicated.

Managing An Egg Allergy

The following four tips can help you manage and treat your egg allergy.

1. The Obvious: Avoid Eggs!

The optimal way to manage an egg allergy is to stop eating eggs and products containing eggs. If a person has an egg allergy, he or she must be very careful about not buying products that contain traces of eggs and not eating eggs that are part of meals consumed outside the home. The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 mandates that foods containing eggs must have specific labels. When packaged foods are sold in the United States, the manufacturers have to clearly label them as containing eggs or egg products.

2. Control the Symptoms

Antihistamines can help subdue the milder allergy symptoms such as rash and itching. Physicians also prescribe epinephrine (adrenaline) in an auto-injector that can be used in case of anaphylaxis. The auto-injector should be kept on your person 24-7 and used immediately upon the appearance of symptoms. Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention and emergency treatment. Even if epinephrine relieves the symptoms, it is possible they will recur.

3. Cook Egg-Free Cuisine

It is easy to modify recipes so that eggs do not need to be used. A tablespoon of oil, a tablespoon of water, and a teaspoon of baking powder can be substituted for every egg in a recipe that calls for three or fewer eggs. You could also take one package of unflavored gelatin and dissolve and mix it in 2 tablespoons of tepid water to substitute for eggs in a recipe. A third suggestion is to dissolve 1 teaspoon of yeast in a cup of tepid water.

4. Take an Amino Acid Supplement

Amino acid supplements can be used to substitute for the rich assortment of 18 amino acids found in eggs. One single large egg includes 6.28 grams of protein and contains all nine essential amino acids: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lycine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.

Eggs also contain glutamic acid, aspartic acid, and alanine, three of the four nonessential amino acids, as well as the semi-essential amino acids arginine, cysteine, glycine, proline, serine, and tyrosine. The yolk and white each contain the same 18 amino acids.

Stay Hydrated! 14 Signs of Dehydration

Dehydration occurs when the body loses too much water without being replaced. Preventing dehydration is especially critical for people who are active or who sweat a great deal. Read on for 14 must-know signs of dehydration.

The human body is 70% water. Fluids are important for protecting the joints, maintaining organ function, transporting oxygen to cells, and sustaining body temperature. Dehydration, which is most common during hot weather or strenuous workouts, happens when the body loses too much water without being replaced. Even mild dehydration can produce symptoms such as mood swings, headaches, muscle cramps, and fatigue.

Perspiration, hot weather, sun exposure, and lack of fluids throughout the day cause dehydration, which is the main determinant of heat exhaustion, which, in turn, can lead to life-threatening heat stroke. Preventing dehydration is especially critical for people who are active or who sweat a great deal. Read on for 14 must-know signs of dehydration.

Causes of Dehydration

Dehydration occurs when the loss of body fluids exceeds the intake. More water is exiting individual cells and the body than the amount of water ingested through drinking. When this happens, the body loses enough fluid to undermine its capability to function normally, and then demonstrates symptoms of the fluid loss. While infants and young children have a greater risk for dehydration, many adults, especially older adults, have critical risk factors.

People lose water every day when expelling body fluids, along with salts and electrolytes, and as water vapor when exhaling. Bodies are always readjusting the balance between intake and release of water, salts, and electrolytes. Losing too much fluid puts the body out of balance, or dehydrates. Mild and moderate dehydration can be adjusted by drinking fluids containing electrolytes or salts. Severe dehydration can be critical or even life-threatening.

Many conditions can increase your risk of dehydration:

  • Fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and increased urination when ill
  • Heat exposure, humid weather, too much exercise, or work-related activity
  • Diseases such as diabetes
  • Inability to seek appropriate water and food
  • Impaired ability to drink
  • Lack of access to safe drinking water
  • Skin infections or injuries

14 Signs of Dehydration

The symptoms of dehydration can sneak up on you, so beware of the most common dehydration alerts!

1. Fatigue

People feel very sluggish or tired when they are dehydrated. Chronic dehydration reduces blood flow and blood pressure because of decreased water content and oxygen in the blood. Muscles and nerves cease to function after exertion. The heart has to work harder to keep the skin and muscles supplied with oxygen and nutrients, which can cause you to feel drowsy or lethargic. When you feel fatigued after an illness, doctors recommend rest and fluids. Most bodily functions are impacted by fluid balance, making small changes significant in daily performance and activities.

2. Skin Elasticity Loss

Doctors pinch the skin to see how fast it bounces back. Skin that is properly hydrated snaps back to normal quickly, but dehydrated and dry skin stays elevated and goes back to normal slowly. Hydration keeps skin looking young and minimizes sagging. Properly hydrated skin looks doughy, while dehydrated skin demonstrates a lack of resilience and elasticity.

3. Lightheadedness, Confusion, and Irritability

When blood pressure drops because of dehydration, standing up too quickly causes dizziness, a condition called orthostatic hypotension. Severe dehydration can lead to intense confusion and dizziness. Dehydrated infants and children may become irritable, fussy, and confused, while blood pressure falls. A dehydrated person may seem delirious and lose consciousness.

Even mild levels of dehydration can affect mood and cognitive functions. Dehydration reduces water volume by 1.5%, impacting a person’s mood, energy, and ability to think coherently. Changes in electrolyte levels can also change levels of serotonin, which affects mood changes.

In physical activity, the body directs blood to the muscles. Dehydration removes the ability to direct enough blood to the brain, producing a dizzy spell. Exertion raises body temperature and breathing rate, diluting blood vessels in the brain and causing dizziness or lightheadedness.

4. Constipation

Water absorption is needed for proper digestion, including bowel movements. Fluids move things along, through the intestines and out of the body. Water maintains smooth and malleable intestinal walls. If you are dehydrated, the colon redirects fluid into the bloodstream.

5. Muscle Cramps

Hydration and electrolyte balance are critical to muscle contraction. If sodium and potassium levels are low, you can experience painful muscle spasms. If a muscle is unable to relax, there can be a muscle cramp or spasm. Dehydration can turn muscle spasms into muscle cramps when muscles contract and harden for a period of time, from a few seconds to a few hours. Hydrating can reduce the pain and eliminate continued cramping.

Lack of adequate fluid makes muscles hypersensitive. When the nerves that connect to the muscles are not surrounded by adequate water and sodium, there can be involuntary muscle contraction or spasms causing muscle cramps.

6. Discolored Urine

Concentrated, discolored urine indicates dehydration. When blood pressure levels fall, the kidneys try to store water instead of removing it from the body. Medications, foods, and certain diseases can change urine color as well.

7. Minimal Urine

The quantity of urine can predict a person’s state of hydration. It is a sign of dehydration if someone goes without a bathroom visit for a period of 4 to 6 hours. Children who become dehydrated can also produce a lack of wet diapers.

If urine is both minimal and discolored, it is likely that dehydration is the culprit. Dehydration occurs when the volume of water in the body is depleted. Kidneys, which filter waste, tell the body to retain water. Thus, there is less water in the urine, making it more concentrated and darker.

8. Heart Rate Increases

Dehydration is associated with plunging electrolyte levels, causing increased heart rate and heart palpitations or spasms in the actual heart muscle. When blood pressure decreases, breathing and heart rate accelerate to show potential dehydration.

9. Low Blood Pressure

Low blood pressure occurs when the blood flow is not sufficient for transporting enough oxygen and nutrients to various organs. While low blood pressure does not always signify dehydration, blood pressure can sometimes drop because of a lack of fluid in the body. When low blood pressure is caused by dehydration, fluid intake facilitates an increase in blood volume, which then helps increase the blood pressure reading.

10. Overheating

Fluid levels keep body temperatures regulated to avoid overheating or having heat stroke. Overheating can come from physical exertion or being in a hot environment. Bring water when working out or being outdoors in the heat.

11. Lack of Tear Production

Dehydrated children and adults can cry and stop producing tears. Adults can have dry mucous membranes, making the nose, mouth, and tongue dry and sticky. Eyes may appear sunken.

12. Dry Mouth

Dehydration can be indicated by a dry throat, mouth, and tongue. Some people feel hunger when dehydrated, which is why a University of Washington study indicated that a single glass of water can easily stop nighttime hunger pangs in almost all cases. Late stage hydration manifests as “dry mouth,” that dry, parched, thick feeling in the mouth that many of us have experienced.

13. Bad Breath

A person who is well hydrated has sufficient saliva in the mouth to keep it adequately moistened. Saliva has antibacterial properties to regulate bacterial growth in the mouth. When dehydrated, lower saliva production causes bacterial overgrowth that leads to bad breath.

14. Headaches

Dehydration can trigger stress that can cause a headache because it alters the body’s natural balance. The headache warns people that their physiological equilibrium is unbalanced.

Another reason for headaches is liquid deprivation, making the blood more concentrated and causing inflammatory proteins in the circulatory system to irritate nerves surrounding the brain.

The most serious warning signs of dehydration include:

  • Inability to urinate
  • Extremely dark, yellow urine
  • Parched skin
  • Dizziness
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Accelerated breathing
  • Sunken eyes
  • Fatigue and lack of energy
  • Confusion
  • Irritability
  • Fainting

If left untreated, dehydration can bring on confusion, urinary tract infections, kidney stones, weakness, pneumonia, and even death.

Dehydration Diagnosis

In addition to assessing your dehydration symptoms, doctors will start diagnosing dehydration by taking your blood pressure, which will be low. To ascertain just how dehydrated someone is, further tests are typically ordered. Blood tests measure electrolyte levels, especially sodium and potassium, as well as kidney function. Tests performed on the urine can determine the effects of dehydration and its extent and check for a bladder infection.

Dehydration Treatment

To treat dehydration, replace lost fluids and lost electrolytes. The best treatment approach depends on age, severity, and cause.

An over-the-counter oral rehydration solution formulated with water and salts is a helpful way to restore lost fluids and electrolytes to infants and children. Adults likewise need to replenish with fluids when experiencing mild to moderate dehydration from diarrhea, vomiting, or fever. Individuals who work or exercise outdoors in hot and humid conditions can stay hydrated with cool water or sports drinks containing electrolytes and a carbohydrate solution.

If children and adults are severely dehydrated, they need to be treated by emergency personnel who restore fluid volume and seek underlying causes. Hospitals can administer salts and fluids through a vein, enabling quick absorption to speed recovery time.

Home remedies can help with mild to moderate dehydration. They include:

  • Sipping small amounts of water
  • Drinking carbohydrate/electrolyte drinks, such as sports drinks
  • Sucking on popsicles made from juices and sports drinks
  • Sucking on ice chips
  • Sipping through a straw
  • Removing or loosening clothing
  • Being in an air-conditioned or fan-cooled area
  • Using a wet towel, spray bottle, or mister

Dehydration Prevention

Dehydration is easy to prevent. Preparation goes a long way.

  1. Drink plenty of fluids, including sports drinks that contain electrolytes, and bring water bottles to outdoor events and work areas where increased sweating, activity, and heat stress can increase fluid loss.
  2. Replace fluids at a rate equal to the loss.
  3. Avoid exercise and exposure when there is high air temperature with high humidity. Plan outdoor events at other times.
  4. Give older people, infants, and children enough drinking water and fluids containing electrolytes. Encourage incapacitated or disabled people to drink and give them adequate fluids.
  5. Minimize alcohol consumption in hot weather, because it increases water loss and interferes with the ability to notice early signs of dehydration.
  6. Wear light-colored and loose-fitting clothing and carry a personal fan or mister.
  7. Limit exposure to hot temperatures. Find air-conditioned or shady areas for cooling.
  8. Clemson University has developed recommendations for fluid intake when a person needs to endure outside activity in hot weather:
    1. Drink 2 cups of plain water (or diluted fruit juice) during the 2 hours before exercising; 1 to 2 cups within 15 minutes of the activity.
    2. Drink 1/2 to 1 cup every 15 to 20 minutes during exercise.
    3. Drink 3 cups for each pound of body weight lost.

Dehydration Prognosis

If dehydration is treated and the cause is determined, most people will recover well. If the cause is heat exposure, too much exercise, or decreased water intake, dehydration is easy to remedy. Severe dehydration is challenging, and the prognosis depends on how well the underlying cause responds to treatment.

Know the 14 signs of dehydration.

 

 

Blood Clot in the Leg: Deep Vein Thrombosis Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Blood clots are clumps of blood that have changed from a liquid to a gel-like or semisolid state. They are beneficial in preventing too much blood loss due to an injury or cut. A blood clot in the leg is the most common scenario, and could be potentially life-threatening.

Blood clots are clumps of blood that have changed from a liquid to a gel-like or semisolid state. They are beneficial in stopping bleeding and preventing people from losing too much blood when they are injured or cut. Blood clotting in the leg is the most common scenario.

When a clot forms inside one of the veins, it may not dissolve on its own, creating a potentially dangerous and even life-threatening situation. While an immobile blood clot is usually harmless, it can break free, travel through the veins to the heart and lungs, get stuck, and prevent blood flow, creating a medical emergency. A health care professional needs to look at the symptoms and medical history and determine an appropriate course of action.

Differences in Artery Clots and Vein Clots

The circulatory system contains veins and arteries that carry blood throughout the body. Blood clots can develop in both these types of vessels.

A blood clot that forms in an artery is called an arterial clot. It causes immediate symptoms, such as severe pain, paralysis of parts of the body (or both), and requires emergency treatment to prevent a heart attack or stroke.

A blood clot that forms in a vein is called a venous clot. While these clots usually build up more slowly over time, they can be life-threatening.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT), the most serious type of venous clot, forms in one of the major veins deep inside the body. It can happen in a leg, typically the lower leg, an arm, the pelvis, lungs, or brain. It can then travel through the bloodstream and become lodged in the lungs, a condition called pulmonary embolism (PE). Collectively DVT and PE are known as venous thromboembolism (VTE), a potentially fatal medical condition.

Injuries and problems inside blood vessels can lead the body to form blood clots. They develop when a mass forms as a result of plasma proteins and platelets coagulate.

At such time as these clots develop, it is possible that they will migrate elsewhere in the body, triggering harmful reactions. Such is the case with deep vein thrombosis (DVT) when it travels to the lungs and sparks pulmonary embolism (PE). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), DVT and PE impact as many as 900,000 Americans annually. About 100,000 Americans die from these conditions every year.

Knowing the most common symptoms and risk factors and seeking medical advice in a timely manner can help save your life or the life of a loved one. Unfortunately, blood clots may not manifest any symptoms, or the symptoms can mimic those of other diseases. Nonetheless, it is important to get medical attention if symptoms do appear. The chance of having a blood clot increases if the symptoms are isolated on one leg or one arm.

Deep Vein Thrombosis Causes

Certain risk factors increase the probability of having a blood clot. If a person has a recent hospital stay, especially a long one or one related to a major surgery, the risk of blood clots is much higher. Moderate risk factors include age, especially for people over 65; long trips, especially when sitting for more than 4 hours at a time; bed rest or being inactive for long periods of time; obesity; pregnancy; smoking; birth control pills; and a family history of blood clots.

Some forms of cancer increase the risk of a blood clot fourfold. Chemotherapy increases the risk as much as six times.

Symptoms of DVT

Nearly 50% of people with a blood clot in the leg (or deep vein thrombosis) have no symptoms

Diagnosing a blood clot by symptoms alone is very difficult. According to the CDC, nearly 50% of people with a blood clot in the leg (or deep vein thrombosis) have no symptoms. While an asymptomatic blood clot is usually a sign that the thrombosis has not yet reached a serious stage, this may not be the case. Even large blood clots needing immediate medical attention can sometimes cause no symptoms at all until the clot dislodges and travels through the bloodstream.

Let’s take a more detailed look at some symptoms of blood clots.

Skin Discoloration

Because of dense collections of blood under the skin surface, discoloration is one of the first warning signs of clot formation in a vein. When deep vein thrombosis skin redness persists over time or intensifies, it is time to seek medical attention.

Painful Swelling

When a blood clot forms, the clot site may swell up. This is particularly likely if the clot is in the calf, ankle, or leg. Because these areas have greater bone and tissue densities, it is harder for the body to clear a clot that is already forming. Swelling from a clot does not respond to treatments such as hot or cold compresses. It also becomes intense and happens without external injury to the affected area.

Skin Warmth

In blood clots in the leg, the skin near the area becomes warm to the touch. Sometimes, there is a persistent feeling of heat or tingling in the localized area.

Pain at the Blood Clot Area

Blood clots may bring on itchiness and throbbing that increase over time if not treated.

Dizziness

Fainting and dizzy spells are evidence that the body cannot dissolve the blood clot naturally or that the blood clot is migrating toward the lungs. There may be labored breathing as well.

Fatigue

When the leg clot gets bigger, the body will try to remove it. Vital organs, such as the heart, will work and pump harder, resulting in an accelerated heartbeat. If the blood clot leaves the leg, there could also be acute, stabbing chest pains that worsen with deep breathing. Increased heart rate can also trigger anxiety and panic attacks. Because the body’s defense systems are working extremely hard, there may be fatigue or exhaustion. Fatigue can be nonspecific and have no apparent cause.

Fever

A mild or low-grade fever can be the result of a blood clot breaking free and entering the bloodstream. There may also be sweating or shivering, an intense headache, body weakness, dehydration, and decreased appetite. As a result of a very high fever between 103 and 106 degrees, one might experience irritability, mood swings, confusion, convulsions, and hallucinations.

Distended Veins

Sometimes the skin surrounding the clot is tender to the touch with no evidence of bruising. Veins may become visible, but that usually happens when the blood clot becomes fairly large. Some blood clots manifest as distended veins near the area where they are developing. Most distended veins will not present complications, but a blood clot that is putting great pressure on surrounding blood vessels can cause internal ruptures.

Foot or Leg Pain

Deep vein thrombosis can cause foot pain. Because the blood clot in the leg is restricting blood flow, the tissues in the feet are being deprived of oxygen. Deep vein thrombosis leg pain can manifest as calf pain that might be mistaken for a muscle cramp. Deep vein thrombosis leg pain is most acute when a person is walking, bending, or flexing the foot upward.

Pale Foot or Ankle

Blood clots can also make the foot or the ankle pale because of decreased blood flow. These areas may turn blue and feel cold.

Coughing

A persistent, but unexplained cough can signal a pulmonary embolism when the blood clot has detached and migrated to the lungs. The cough may be dry, and it is sometimes accompanied by mucus or blood discharge.

Chest Pain

A pulmonary embolism can cause chest pain that feels like a heart attack. It may also cause shortness of breath.

Tests for DVT

Tests rule out other problems or confirm the diagnosis of DVT.

  • Duplex ultrasound: For this noninvasive and painless DVT test, the doctor spreads warm gel on the skin and rubs a sensor over the area where the clot might be. The sensor sends sound waves into the body, relays the echoes to a computer, and obtains pictures of blood vessels and blood clots.
  • Venography: This is a special X-ray in which the doctor injects a radioactive dye into a vein on the top of the foot to enable the visualization of veins and clots. It could cause more blood clots.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): MRI uses radio waves and a strong magnetic field to create detailed pictures of the inside of the body on a computer. MRI can find DVT in the pelvis and thigh, as well as provide imaging for both legs at the same time.

Deep Vein Thrombosis Treatment

DVT is treated with blood thinners and compression stockings. Graduated compression stockings help to increase blood flow in the legs and reduce swelling. Blood thinners prevent clotting, but can cause serious bleeding. They can be stopped without any change in dose, and their effect lasts for several days. People are likely to need preventive blood thinners and compression stockings during a hospital stay.

Moderate exercise such as walking or swimming is recommended for post-DVT therapy.  A return to one’s normal exercise routine depends on the physical condition before the clot and the severity and location of the clots. Exercise boosts circulation, lowers symptoms of venous insufficiency, and usually invigorates people. Aerobic exercise can bolster lung function after a pulmonary embolism.

Deep Vein Thrombosis Prevention

To help prevent deep vein thrombosis, avoid sitting for long periods of 2 hours or more. Take breaks and get up and walk to keep blood moving. During long-distance airplane travel, sit in seats that allow you to get up periodically and walk the aisle. For long car trips, stop and walk around frequently. Crossing one’s legs also interferes with circulation.

It is important to drink fluids when traveling, and all the time. Dehydration can lead to DVT.

Lifestyle changes can prevent blood clots. People can help themselves by losing weight, reducing high blood pressure, stopping smoking, and exercising regularly.

Bronchiolitis and Bronchitis: What’s the Difference?

Bronchiolitis and bronchitis, which are both infections of the lungs, are two distinct conditions that share some common symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing, and slight fever. However, there are major differences between the two illnesses.

Various lung-related conditions such as bronchiolitis and bronchitis can be triggered by both environmental causes and other factors. The treatment regimen varies with the condition and the length of time a person has it. Common-sense approaches, such as good hygiene and lack of exposure to chemicals in the air can go a long way to prevent complications.

Bronchiolitis vs. Bronchitis

Bronchiolitis and bronchitis, which are both lung infections, are two distinct conditions that share some common symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing, and slight fever. Both tend to occur more frequently in the winter and can be caused by viral infections. Cigarette smoke and other environmental pollutants are risk factors for both conditions. However, there are major differences between the two illnesses.

While most common in older children and adults, bronchitis affects people of all ages, causing the upper bronchial tubes to swell up and become inflamed. It can be either acute (short term) or chronic (long term).

Bronchiolitis, which occurs in younger children, mostly under the age of 2, involves swelling in the small airways in the lungs, the bronchioles, causing obstruction and making it difficult to breathe. In some toddlers and children bronchiolitis is no more severe than a common cold, but in other children it can be dangerous enough to require hospitalization.

Treatments for bronchitis and bronchiolitis are also very different.

Treatments for bronchitis can include:

  • Antibiotics to cure bacterial infections
  • Cough medicine to aid sleeping
  • Steroids and other medications to reduce inflammation
  • Inhalants to open the airways
  • Pulmonary rehabilitation for chronic bronchitis incorporating breathing exercises

Bronchiolitis treatments can include:

  • Helping a baby sleep with his or her head slightly raised by putting a pillow under the mattress
  • Having a child drink plenty of fluids
  • Going to the hospital for supplemental oxygen or IV fluids

To prevent both conditions, avoid cigarette smoke, including second-hand cigarette smoke, and any other environmental irritants. Maintain good hygiene to minimize the risk of infections. Wash hands regularly and encourage both visitors and children to do the same. Wipe down children’s toys regularly.

To prevent bronchitis, you can also get a flu vaccine every year. An infection after the flu can trigger many cases of bronchitis.

Let’s delve into each condition a little more specifically.

Bronchiolitis

Symptoms of bronchiolitis include:

  • A dry, raspy cough
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty feeding, especially in infants
  • Slight fever
  • Runny nose or stuffy nose

If an infant, toddler, or young child has difficulty breathing, breathes at a rate of 50 to 60 breaths per minute, has a temperature of 100.4 °F (38 °C) or higher, is unusually tired or irritable, has not required a diaper change in 12 hours or more, has eaten less than half of his or her normal amount during the last several meals, or develops a bluish facial color, consult a physician.

Bronchiolitis is spread to infants when they come into direct contact with nose and throat fluids of someone who has the illness. It can happen when someone who has a virus sneezes or coughs nearby and tiny droplets in the air are then breathed in by the infant. You can also transfer the virus to an infant by touching toys or other objects that are then touched by the infant. Risk factors include being or living in crowded conditions; being born before 37 weeks of pregnancy; and having heart disease, lung problems, or immune conditions.

When damaged or infected, bronchioles can become swollen or clogged, blocking oxygen flow. While usually affecting children, bronchiolitis can also concern adults.

Bronchiolitis manifests itself in two forms. Infants get bronchiolitis, which is usually caused by respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Every winter there are outbreaks of the virus in children less than a year old. The common cold or the flu can also cause the condition.

Many cases of bronchiolitis are minor and require no treatment or are easily treatable. Often, they are no more severe than a common cold. However, severe bronchiolitis must be treated to avoid recurrent wheezing and a reduced quality of life. Some complications of bronchiolitis can last into the teenage years, and some cases can be fatal if untreated. Most children recover at home in 3 to 5 days.

Infants at high risk of the RSV infection may receive the medication palivizumab (Synagis) to decrease the likelihood of RSV infections. For more severe cases in infants, hospitalization—which usually lasts less than 1 week—can provide oxygen, a nebulizer, and intravenous fluid treatments. While antibiotic medications are ineffective against viruses, some medications can help open a baby’s airways.

Dangerous and unusual in adults, bronchiolitis obliterans scars the bronchioles and obstructs the airway. Bronchiolitis obliterans, a rare condition, sometimes occurs for no known reason and can have severe consequences. Possible causes are fumes from chemicals including ammonia, bleach, and chlorine; respiratory infections; and adverse reactions to medications.

There is no cure for bronchiolitis obliterans scarring, but corticosteroids can eliminate mucus from the lungs, decrease inflammation, and create clearer airway passages. Oxygen treatments and immunosuppressant medications may help to regulate the immune system. Breathing exercises and stress reduction may ease breathing difficulties. In severe cases a lung transplant may be necessary.

Bronchiolitis obliterans and viral bronchiolitis have the same symptoms. They include coughing, labored breathing, rapid breathing, blue skin tone from oxygen deprivation, recessed ribs when children inhale, flaring of the nostrils in babies, rattling or crackling noises in the lung cavity, and exhaustion. Sometimes, chemicals trigger reactions—from 2 to 4 weeks with bronchiolitis obliterans and from a few months to a few years with lung infections.

Both types of bronchiolitis can be diagnosed with imaging testing, including chest X-rays. Spirometry, which measures how much and how quickly someone takes in air with each breath, is another analytical tool. There are arterial blood gas tests for both bronchiolitis types to measure how much oxygen and carbon dioxide are in the blood. Mucus or nasal discharge samples help doctors diagnose the type of virus causing the infection, especially in babies and small children.

Bronchitis

Bronchitis symptoms include cough, mucus production, shortness of breath, slight fever, chills, chest tightness or discomfort, and fatigue. People should see a physician if the cough lasts more than 3 weeks; is accompanied by wheezing, yellow or green mucus, or sputum that has blood in it; or makes it difficult to sleep.

Bronchitis may have a barking cough as a symptom. A barking cough simply is a cough that sounds unusual, resembling an animal bark. It is harsh, loud, and hoarse, usually indicating inflammation of the voice box or windpipe (trachea). It is frequently seen with conditions like croup but can also occur with other respiratory tract conditions.

Acute bronchitis is often caused by viruses, especially the flu and the common cold. The most common viruses that cause acute bronchitis are: influenza (which causes colds), parainfluenza, RSV, rhinovirus, adenovirus, and corona viruses.

Smoking cigarettes and exposure to lung irritants are cited as the biggest culprits in chronic bronchitis. A study published in The International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine showed that being exposed to passive smoking at work almost doubled the risk of chronic bronchitis (an 89% increased risk!). Passive smoking at home increased chronic bronchitis risk by more than two-and-a-half times.

Living close to a busy road almost doubles the risk, as does heating the home with hot air conditioning rather than electric heating. Close proximity to a diesel-burning power plant has also been associated with a 62% increase in the risk of chronic bronchitis.

Bronchitis can also be bacterial. Risk factors specific to bronchitis include: gastric reflux, which can cause throat irritation; regular exposure to irritants; and low immune resistance, especially after a virus or primary infection.

Doctors diagnose bronchitis by listening to the lungs with a stethoscope and asking about other symptoms and medical history. If they suspect pneumonia, they may order a chest X-ray, which can also rule out other conditions, such as lung cancer. Doctors may also order sputum tests to send to the lab for a culture or order a pulmonary function test to measure how well the lungs work and how well a person can breathe.

When clinicians suspect or find bacterial acute bronchitis, they treat it with antibiotics. While evidence suggests that antibiotics usually have little efficacy, somewhere between 65% and 80% of people who have acute bronchitis are treated with antibiotics. Experts do not recommend antibiotics for routine acute bronchitis treatment.

Home remedies that may be useful include:

  • Drinking fluids to stay hydrated
  • Using a humidifier to moisten the air
  • Avoiding dairy products that thicken mucus secretions
  • Eliminating alcohol and caffeine because of potential drug interactions
  • Reducing exposure to environmental smoke and other air pollutants
  • Taking OTC cough suppressants and cough drops to alleviate a near-constant cough

Robitussin and Delsym should not be used over the long term or too often, as coughing serves an important role in ushering irritants out of the air passages. Mucolytics (Mucinex, Mucomyst) remove sticky mucus from the airways. Acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and/or acetaminophen (Tylenol and others) may reduce inflammation and/or discomfort. Inhaler bronchodilators open airways, making it easier to breathe.

While bronchitis is not usually a cause for great concern, it can lead to complications such as pneumonia. Clinicians caution against ignoring bronchitis, especially recurrent cases that may be linked to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a lung disease that should never be ignored.

Common-Sense Prevention

To recover from both bronchitis and bronchiolitis, people need:

  • Extra rest
  • Increased fluid intake
  • Air free of smoke and chemicals
  • Moist air via humidifier

Recovery time for viral bronchiolitis in babies and children is usually less than a week with the proper treatment regimen. In the case of bronchiolitis obliterans, the prognosis is affected by the time and the condition of the person at diagnosis.

Common-sense ways to prevent the spread of bronchiolitis include:

  • Frequent hand washing
  • Minimizing contact with people who have a fever or cold
  • Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces
  • Covering coughs and sneezes
  • Covering the mouth and nose with a tissue
  • Using individual drinking glasses
  • Using a hand sanitizer

To keep the immune system strong against pathogens that cause bronchiolitis and bronchitis, you can also supplement with nature’s most vital nutrient: amino acids.

Bronchiolitis and bronchitis, which are both infections of the lungs, are two distinct conditions that share some common symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing, and slight fever. However, there are major differences between the two illnesses.

Getting Rid of Varicose Veins: Treatment and Prevention

Large veins that are often visible through the skin, varicose veins affect up to 35% of Americans. More common in females and older patients, they can cause distress, discomfort and even pose a long-term risk to patients’ health.

Varicose veins. If you have them, they probably need no further introduction. And if you do have varicose veins, you’re not alone. According to the Society for Vascular Surgery, as many as 35% of people in the United States may be affected by the condition. But what causes these gnarled, enlarged, superficial veins, and what can you do about them? In this article, we’re going to answer this question and discuss the various treatment options available for varicose veins as well as what you can do to help prevent them from occurring in the first place.

What Causes Varicose Veins?

As we just mentioned, varicose veins are twisted, engorged, superficial veins. While they can occur on various parts of the body, they’re typically seen in the legs and feet. Unlike arteries, which are responsible for sending oxygen-rich blood out to the body, veins carry blood back to the heart to prepare it for reoxygenation by the lungs.

The veins work against gravity to pump blood through a series of small, one-way valves. If these valves malfunction, blood can begin to flow backward and collect in the veins. When this happens, it causes pooling of the blood, which then puts pressure on the vein walls, causing them to weaken and swell and form varicose veins.

Varicose Veins vs. Spider Veins

Although both varicose veins and spider veins have the same basic cause, they’re not identical conditions. Varicose veins are large, bluish veins that can be felt right under the surface of the skin. By contrast, spider veins may be either red or blue. They also look like a spider’s web or branches of a tree and are rarely larger than a millimeter in size.

In addition, while varicose veins are caused by leaky one-way valves, spider veins may have other vascular causes. And spider veins are little more than a cosmetic concern, whereas varicose veins can cause unpleasant symptoms and sometimes lead to complications.

Varicose veins are actually normal veins that become damaged.

Complications of Varicose Veins

Although varicose veins rarely cause serious issues, complications can and do occur. The most common of these are:

  • Blood clots: Only a fraction of people with varicose veins develop blood clots, and these are usually self-limited and confined to the superficial veins. However, in about a quarter of cases, these superficial clots move to the deeper veins and cause a more serious condition called deep vein thrombosis. When blood clots enter the deep veins, they can sometimes travel to the lungs and cause a pulmonary embolism, which can lead to death.
  • Ulcers: If the leg veins have difficulty pumping blood back to the heart, the blood can back up, which can put pressure on the skin and lead to an open sore. These venous ulcers typically occur on the lower leg, near the ankle, and require immediate medical attention.
  • Bleeding: Because the walls of varicose veins are weak, they can occasionally rupture after even a minor trauma. Although varicose vein bleeding is usually insignificant, it can sometimes be profuse and require immediate care.

Risk Factors for Varicose Veins

While anyone can have varicose veins, certain individuals are at a greater risk of developing the condition. Factors that lead to a higher risk of varicose veins include:

  • Family history: People with family members with varicose veins have a greater risk of developing the condition.
  • Age: People over the age of 50 have a greater chance of developing varicose veins.
  • Sex: Women are more likely to have varicose veins, likely due to fluctuations in female hormones, which are known to relax vein walls.
  • Pregnancy: Women who are pregnant are more likely to develop varicose veins due to increased blood volume as well as the aforementioned hormonal changes.
  • Weight: People who are overweight or obese have a higher chance of developing varicose veins.
  • Activity: Standing or sitting for long periods of time leads to decreased blood flow and increases the risk of varicose veins.

Symptoms of Varicose Veins

Varicose veins often don’t cause any symptoms. However, when symptoms do occur, they may include:

  • Heaviness or aching in the legs
  • Lower leg swelling
  • Itching, burning, or throbbing in the legs
  • Pain after prolonged sitting or standing
  • Skin discoloration around the affected vein

Diagnosing Varicose Veins

After speaking with you about your history and symptoms, your health care provider will perform a physical exam that includes observing your legs for signs of swelling when you’re standing. In addition, an ultrasound may be performed to evaluate your varicose veins and assess them for blood clots.

Varicose Vein Treatment

Treatment for varicose veins depends on several factors, including symptoms and cosmetic concerns. If no symptoms are present, and aggressive treatment is neither required nor desired, conservative therapy will probably be recommended.

Conservative Therapy

There are a variety of self-care strategies and lifestyle changes that can be implemented at home to help reduce the symptoms of varicose veins. These include:

  • Regular exercise
  • Weight loss (in those who are overweight)
  • Avoidance of high heels, leg crossing, and tight legwear
  • Increased fiber intake
  • Limited salt intake
  • Leg elevation
  • Avoidance of prolonged sitting or standing
  • Use of compression stockings

The first recommendation of many health care providers is to wear compression stockings, as these garments apply steady pressure to the legs and help the veins and muscles pump the blood more efficiently against gravity.

However, several natural supplements have also been shown to improve the symptoms of varicose veins. And one of the most extensively studied is horse chestnut.

A 2006 review of five clinical trials found that horse chestnut seed extract is both safe and effective in reducing lower leg edema and alleviating leg pain, heaviness, and itching in patients with both varicose veins and chronic venous insufficiency, a related condition.

Similarly, a 2002 study involving butcher’s broom found the herb to be both safe and effective for the treatment of chronic venous insufficiency.

There’s also evidence that flavonoids can help shrink varicose veins by improving blood circulation.

In fact, a 2016 study demonstrated that the flavonoid-based medical food micronized purified flavonoid fraction (MPFF) is effective in reducing vein diameter and pain and increasing blood flow in patients with varicose veins of the pelvis. And a 2017 study found that the same substance is effective in healing venous ulcers and reducing the symptoms of edema associated with chronic venous diseases.

Procedures

For patients who don’t respond to conservative measures or who desire more aggressive treatment for cosmetic purposes, several procedures are available. These include:

  • Sclerotherapy: This procedure uses injection of an irritant to collapse and seal varicose veins. Sclerotherapy can be used with both varicose veins and spider veins.
  • Laser treatment: This noninvasive procedure uses bursts of light to fade smaller varicose veins and spider veins.
  • Radiofrequency ablation: This procedure utilizes a catheter inserted through a small incision to deliver radiofrequency energy to the varicose vein until it collapses and seals shut.
  • Ambulatory phlebectomy: This outpatient procedure can be used to remove smaller varicose veins through small punctures in the skin.
  • Vein stripping: This procedure, which is performed on either an outpatient or inpatient basis, is used to tie off (ligate) and remove a varicose vein via one or more small incisions. Vein stripping is generally performed on the greater saphenous vein.

Varicose Vein Prevention

Although it’s not always possible to prevent varicose veins, getting plenty of exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a diet rich in fiber and phytonutrients, and implementing the other self-care strategies and lifestyle changes detailed above can help you reduce your risk.

But if you’re already suffering from varicose veins and find that conservative treatment isn’t working or your symptoms are getting worse—or if you’re simply concerned about your appearance—don’t hesitate to contact your health care provider to discuss additional treatment options.

Colon Cancer: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Colon cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in the United States. Let’s explore the causes, symptoms, and treatments for colon cancer, as well as the screening options that can dramatically up survival odds.

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, and colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in the United States. Colorectal cancer originates in the colon (the large intestine) or the rectum, and is for this reason also called colon cancer or rectal cancer depending on its starting point.

Colon cancer affects men and women, and the American Cancer Society estimates that 101,420 new cases of colon cancer and 44,180 new cases of rectal cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2019. Let’s explore the causes, symptoms, and treatments for colon cancer, as well as the screening options that can dramatically up survival odds.

What Causes Colon Cancer?

Most colon cancers are caused by colon polyps. Polyps are growths on the colon or rectum and can be malignant or benign. Benign polyps shouldn’t be ignored, though, as they can sometimes become cancerous over time. Polyps are more likely to become cancerous if any of the following applies:

  • A polyp is larger than 1 centimeter.
  • More than two polyps are found.
  • Dysplasia is present after polyp removal. Dysplasia means that either the removed polyp or the lining of the colon or rectum has a spot where the cells look abnormal but are not considered cancerous cells yet. The abnormal cells make dysplasia a precancerous condition.

Most colon cancers are caused by polyps.

Once a polyp is cancerous, the cancer cells can spread from the polyp to the lining of the colon or rectum. From there, it can spread to blood vessels, lymph nodes, and potentially to other parts of the body.

Like other cancers, there are four stages of colorectal cancer. There is a stage zero, however, so one could technically say there are five stages. The higher the stage number, the further the cancer has spread in the body.

Most colon cancers are caused by polyps.

Colon Cancer Risk Factors

Some people may be at an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer. Factors that contribute to a higher risk for colorectal cancer include age, race, ethnicity, genetics, personal and family medical history, and lifestyle choices.

Age

Colorectal cancer most often occurs after age 50. However, that doesn’t mean that it cannot develop before age 50. Colon cancer can develop at any age.

History

A personal history of previous colorectal cancer, colorectal polyps, type 2 diabetes, or inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis increase one’s chances of developing colorectal cancer or getting colorectal cancer again. A family history of colorectal cancer or precancerous polyps also increases one’s chances of developing colorectal cancer. Family history refers to first-degree relatives, meaning parents, siblings, or children who have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer or polyps.

Race and Ethnicity

For reasons unknown, colorectal cancer is most common in the United States amongst African Americans. Globally, Jews of Eastern European descent have a greater risk of developing colorectal cancer than any other ethnic group.

Genetics

In some cases, colorectal cancer is linked to hereditary syndromes that get passed down in family members. Possible genetic causes of colorectal cancer include:

  • Lynch Syndrome
  • Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP)
  • Peutz-Jeghers Syndrome (PJS)
  • MYH-associated Polyposis (MAP)

Lifestyle

One cannot change one’s personal medical history, family history, age, or genetics. There are, however, certain lifestyle choices that carry an increased risk of colorectal cancer and can be changed to lower the risk. These include:

  • Weight: Being overweight or obese increases the risk of developing colorectal cancer.
  • Physical activity: Being active can help lower the risk of colorectal cancer while being inactive increases the risk.
  • Diet: Diets that are high in red meats and processed meats increase the risk of developing colorectal cancer.
  • Smoking: Smokers are more likely than non-smokers to develop various types of cancer, including lung cancer and colorectal cancer.
  • Heavy alcohol use: According to the American Cancer Society, moderate to heavy drinking has been linked to multiple types of cancer, including colorectal cancer.

Colon Cancer Symptoms

Symptoms of colorectal cancer may not appear right away. By the time symptoms do appear, they often include the following:

  • Change in bowel habits:
    • Diarrhea
    • Constipation
    • Narrower stools
  • An urge to have a bowel movement that is not relieved by actually having one
  • Rectal bleeding with bright red blood
  • Blood in the stool or darkened stool
  • Cramping and/or abdominal pain
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss without change to diet or exercise
  • Onset of anemia due to blood loss and bleeding into the digestive tract

Colon Cancer Screening and Diagnosis

Early detection is key for surviving colon cancer. Thankfully, there are many ways to screen for colorectal cancer and prevent colon cancer from developing.

If you are at average risk of colon cancer, most doctors recommend beginning colorectal cancer screening at age 50. However, if you have an increased risk for colon cancer, such as an underlying medical condition or family history of colon cancer or colon polyps, then your doctor may order a colonoscopy or other screening test earlier. The American Cancer Society recommends screening for colon cancer at age 45 with either a stool-based test or a visual exam of the rectum.

Colorectal screening tests include the following.

Colonoscopy

Although there’s some legwork involved with a colonoscopy (you’ll have to fast from solid food and drink a laxative), it’s the most thorough screening option because your doctor can view your entire colon and rectum, take biopsies of any suspicious tissues, and remove polyps. If no polyps are found, you’re good to go for another 10 years, but if polyps are found and removed or if there are any other risk factors found, your doctor will recommend a followup colonoscopy within 5 years time.

CT Colonography (Virtual Colonoscopy)

According to the National Cancer Institute, clinical trials are underway testing the efficacy of virtual colonoscopy compared to other colon cancer screening tests.

Not as invasive as a traditional colonoscopy, virtual colonoscopy uses a CT scan to generate pictures of the colon and rectum that can indicate polyps or other abnormalities. CT colonography is usually reserved for patients who aren’t candidates for a colonoscopy, such as those with a bowel obstruction, a history of colon cancer or polyps, a chronic inflammatory bowel disease, or acute diverticulitis.

Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

A flexible sigmoidoscopy is used as a cancer screening tool every 5 years (or 10 with an annual fecal test). It requires inserting a short, thin, flexible, lighted tube into the rectum to look for polyps. While the doctor can see all the rectum, only about a third of the colon is visible, and it’s not the most widely used screening test for colon cancer.

Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT)

Recommended annually for the early detection of colorectal cancer, the FIT, also called an immunochemical fecal occult blood test (iFOBT), checks for hidden blood in the stool. It’s easy to collect a sample at home using cards or tubes, and you don’t have to diet or take laxatives for this stool-based test. If results return positive, a colonoscopy will be required.

Guaiac-Based Fecal Occult Blood Test (gFOBT)

Using a chemical reaction, the guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT) looks for blood in the stool, but, like the FIT test, the gFOBT cannot assess where in the digestive tract the blood originates from—the colon or the stomach, for instance.

The gFOBT is recommended each year and requires some dietary modifications before collecting the multiple stool samples. Your doctor may instruct you to avoid NSAIDs a week before, and vitamin C over 250 mg as well as red meat 3 days before testing.

Stool DNA test

Colorectal cancer or polyp cells can produce DNA changes in specific genes, and these mutated cells can show up in stool. Cologuard® is a stool DNA test that can detect these DNA mutations in blood in the stool. You can collect samples with an at-home kit every 3 years. If results show DNA changes, then a colonoscopy will be required.

In addition to the above stool-based and visual tests, your doctor may order a blood test to check for a substance produced by cancer cells called carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA).

Colon Cancer Treatment

The treatment prescribed for colon cancer will depend upon the stage of the cancer. Common treatments include surgery and chemotherapy.

Surgery

If caught in the early stages, colorectal cancer can sometimes be treated with surgery alone, such as removal of the cancerous polyps. As the cancer progresses, however, more involved surgeries may become necessary, including removing part of the colon. Common surgeries used to treat colorectal cancer include:

  • Polypectomy to remove cancerous polyps
  • Local excision to remove cancer from the inside lining of the colon
  • Partial or total colectomy to remove part or all of the colon as well as nearby lymph nodes
  • Surgery to remove small cancer spots on other organs where the cancer has spread

Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is a medical protocol that uses drugs to kill cancer cells. It is a common treatment in many types of cancer, including colorectal cancer. Most patients who have been prescribed chemotherapy usually receive multiple rounds of the treatment and have to wait around two to four weeks between treatments to give their bodies a chance to rest and recover.

Chemotherapy may be given after cancer removal surgery to ensure that no cancer cells are left behind. It can also be given before surgery in an attempt to shrink large tumors. Shrinking large tumors increases the likelihood of successful tumor removal surgery. There are different ways that a patient may receive chemotherapy, including:

  • Systemic: Drugs are injected or taken orally to get the drugs into the bloodstream and distributed throughout the body.
  • Regional: Drugs are focused on the specific part of the body that is housing the tumor or cancer cells.

Common side effects of chemotherapy include:

  • Hair loss
  • Mouth sores, or ulcers
  • Decreased appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Reduced white blood cell count, which increases the likelihood of infections
  • Reduced blood platelets, which increases easy bruising and bleeding
  • Fatigue

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy is often used as a treatment option to relieve pain and discomfort when surgery is not possible. It can also be combined with chemotherapy for a targeted approach called chemoradiation or chemoradiotherapy.

More often prescribed for rectal than colon cancer, radiation therapy uses X-rays or protons (high-energy rays) to destroy cancer cells. For example, radiation is used to shrink cancerous tumors before surgery.

Colon Cancer Prevention

While there are variables, such as age and family history, that cannot be changed, colon cancer is preventable in the sense that a healthy, high-fiber, whole foods diet, consistent exercise, and healthy lifestyle (no smoking or drinking) can go a long way towards keeping your colon strong and healthy.

Although there will be a predicted 51,020 cancer deaths in America in 2019, the mortality rates from colorectal cancer have been steadily declining for decades, in large part due to screening tests and early detection. Discuss your colorectal cancer screening options with your health care provider at your annual physical exam, or sooner if you are exhibiting symptoms.

What Is Emotional Health and How to Improve It

Your emotional health is an integral part of your overall well-being and deserves equal attention when pursuing a balanced, fulfilling life. Learn why feeding your psychological side is as important as feeding the biological, and simple practices you can follow to improve your emotional health.

Taking care of our bodies is often the focus when we think of our health. We concentrate on eating right, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep. Having a strong body will definitely improve your energy and health, but often times we forget to nourish our minds too. Your mental health is an integral part of your overall well-being and deserves equal attention when pursuing a balanced, fulfilling life. Learn why feeding your psychological side is as important as feeding the biological, and simple practices you can follow to improve your emotional health.

What Is Emotional Health?

Your emotional health involves your thoughts, feelings, and how you process events, stress, relationships, and changes that occur throughout your life. We have a continual emotional interaction with whatever is going on around us, and it fuels our actions and how we choose to express ourselves.

Our feelings generate a ton of energy, and you may recall a time when you reacted to a person or incident with a great deal of emotion, maybe causing the interaction to not go as well as it could have. Even when our feelings are appropriate for the situation, we may feel overwhelmed and not know how to handle what is happening or how to cope.

Emotionally healthy individuals are able to identify and process their emotions in appropriate ways to minimize stress and neutralize an overly negative frame of mind. Emotional health isn’t about being happy all the time; it is about having the ability to understand and respond to the spectrum of emotions with thoughtfulness and confidence.

Why Is Emotional Health Important?

Taking care of your emotional health helps you realize your full potential and more feely embrace life, even when challenging or upsetting things happen. Effectively managing stress, anger, and sadness not only positively affects your mental state, but also supports your overall health.

Research shows that a positive outlook directly influences physical health and can reduce your risk for certain diseases, decrease blood pressure, and prevent weight gain. Referred to as the mind-body connection, your body reacts to the way you think, feel, and act.

Your emotions are so powerful that they can positively or negatively affect your biological functioning. All the systems within your body, including your emotional responses, share a common chemical language and are constantly communicating with each other. It is essential to work through emotions as they arise, especially when you’re feeling anxious or angry, so it does not turn into long-term physical or emotional problems.

How to Improve Your Emotional Health

Nourishing your emotional health takes time and certain skills. There are several practices you can adopt to improve your emotional well-being and enjoy a more balanced and gratifying life.

Achieve your optimal emotional health.

Learn Your Emotional Language

Living an emotionally rich life necessitates fostering a strong relationship with your feelings and developing effective communication skills. While there is no Rosetta Stone for learning your own emotional language, with practice and experience, you will be speaking the dialect in no time. Developing your emotional vocabulary helps you clearly discriminate between feelings and better communicate with yourself and others about those emotions.

So, what do we mean by your emotional vocabulary?

While many people might simply say they are feeling “bad,” emotionally healthy people can pinpoint whether they feel “irritable,” “frustrated,” “defeated,” or “anxious.”

The more specific your word choice, the better insight you have into exactly how you are feeling, what is causing it, and what you can do about it. You cannot clearly communicate something if you don’t first know how to identify it. Once you narrow down what word best expresses your current emotional state, you can often determine the underlying cause and reveal how to constructively deal with it.

An added benefit of establishing your own emotional language is that you become more empathetic to the other people in your life and gain a better understanding of their reactions and emotions. This allows for more open conversations and fewer misunderstandings and miscommunication.

Express Yourself

Suppressing feelings of sadness or anger adds to your stress level and can strain relationships at work or at home. Finding appropriate ways to let someone know something is bothering you prevents that negative emotion from building up and causing an outburst at a later time.

For example, you could say, “I feel very frustrated when you do not listen to what I have to say. It makes me feel insignificant and overlooked. I really have something I would like to discuss. Can I please have your undivided attention for a few minutes?” Oftentimes others do not realize how their actions affect you.

It is also important to express your feelings to yourself by giving them a name and a voice. For instance, “I am feeling extremely hurt right now because of a recent fight with a friend. Some of her unkind words really offended me and I’m angry right now, but that’s ok. It is completely acceptable to feel upset and to express these feelings in a healthy way. I need a little time to process it calmly before I move forward.”

If bigger issues pop up and you need help working through those feelings, do not hesitate to reach out to a family doctor, counselor, or religious advisor for guidance or to seek help from a support group.

Manage Stress

Stress is a natural part of life, and in small amounts can be beneficial by providing extra motivation and energy, as well as protection by elevating your senses. But when stress reaches high levels, especially for long periods of time, your overall well-being will feel it.

Watch out for signs of stress overload like irritability, anger, headaches, changes in your sleep or appetite, and anxiety. It’s important to identify your triggers and to find stress management methods that help lessen the impact of the person, activity, or event that causes it.

Eliminating all negative stress from your life is impossible, but incorporating relaxation methods into your regular day-to-day can reduce stress immensely. Meditation, yoga, deep breathing, listening to music, taking a walk, or partaking in your favorite activity can do wonders for lowering your blood pressure and calming your mind and body.

Develop Resilience

Emotionally healthy people are often resilient when faced with challenges or disappointment because they have a deeper level of self-confidence and a belief that they can navigate through any of life’s difficulties. Turning lemons into lemonade isn’t always simple to do, but it does get easier with practice as you become more in tune with your feelings and emotional responses. Cut out the negative self-talk when things do not go your way and take a step back to evaluate what happened, why you’re feeling the way you do, and how you can move forward.

For example, if you were to suddenly lose your job and are left feeling worried and scared, you want to allow those feelings in, but do not let them overwhelm you. Instead take it as an opportunity to reevaluate where you stand. Is this the career path I want to stay in? Is there something I have always wanted to do? Don’t let your self-esteem take a hit. It’s a matter of saying to yourself that sometimes unfortunate things happen, but no matter what, I’m going to learn from this and keep moving forward and enjoying my life.

Find Balance

Trying to gracefully manage the balancing act between work, home, family, and obligations is often like walking a tightrope. Certain areas of your daily life demand more attention, and it’s difficult to find time to fit in all the things you would like to be doing.

Making time for fun is easier said than done, but it is essential to your emotional health and level of happiness. Schedule time on a calendar, make dates with friends and family, or set a reminder to step away even for 15 minutes to focus on something that brings you joy. It’s also important to avoid being overcommitted and stretching yourself too thin. Only say yes to the people and activities you want to be involved with to ensure you still have time for yourself.

When it comes to emotions, you want to find balance here too. Focus on the things you are grateful for in your life and try not to obsess about your problems and negative feelings. Allow space for the uncomfortable emotions but don’t let them take over the show.

Try keeping a journal to write about what makes you feel happy, grateful, and peaceful. Also allow time to process the negative feelings, as writing about them can be very cathartic and help in letting them go. Finding balance allows the positive outlook to shine through and supports your overall emotional intelligence and welfare.

Take Care of Your Body

As discussed above, the mind and body are powerful allies. Making an effort to incorporate physical activity into your routine, eating a healthy diet rich in vitamins and minerals, and getting the rest and relaxation your body needs reduces anxiety, lifts self-esteem, and improves cognitive function.

Exercise floods the body with feel-good endorphins and provides a healthy distraction from your stress and problems. Plus, making a conscious effort to live a healthy life builds confidence and adds a sense of control to the occasional frenzy.

Find others who enjoy the same activities or discover a new hobby that challenges and excites you. Bottom line is when your body feels good, your mind can’t help but follow.

Practice Mindfulness

Life can be busy. You try to simultaneously make dinner, fold the laundry, and text back a friend, all while worrying about the huge presentation you have in the morning. When you’re preoccupied with the task at hand and rushing to check off everything on your to-do list, it’s difficult to be mindful of the moment, and you may very well miss what is happening right in front of you.

When you are focused intently on the moment, accepting all emotions whether they are positive or negative and tuning in to your inner self, you are practicing mindfulness. This practice is intertwined with meditation and is involved in stress reduction and maintaining emotional balance.

When you are mindful, you connect with life, you notice the beauty in things, and find a deeper appreciation for your loved ones, peers, and strangers. When you are in the moment, worries and tasks take a back seat and you feel less pressure about the past or the future, which can help alleviate any self-doubt or nagging negative emotions. Mindfulness means embracing all experiences, no matter how challenging, rather than avoiding them out of fear or discomfort.

Concentration meditation techniques, as well as other activities such as tai chi or yoga, can induce the well-known relaxation response and help you connect with the present moment. You can do a more formal exercise where, through meditation, you focus on your breathing and the emotions that arise, or simply try to incorporate mindfulness into your everyday life.

Take a moment while you’re eating, walking, playing with a child, or driving to become hyperaware of what is going on around you and the sensations you’re feeling. Try to keep your mind focused, slow down the process, and be fully present by allowing all your senses to activate.

Connect with Others

We are social creatures and need to have healthy, fulfilling relationships in our lives to feel connected, supported, and valued. Friends and family help boost our emotional well-being and give us the inspiration we need, especially in trying times. In fact, 71% of people turn to friends or family in times of stress. Having people to count on gives us the perspective and validation we sometimes need to keep us headed in the right direction.

Nurturing our social connections, and not just through social media but through actual face time, can help us feel happier and more secure, and can give us a greater sense of purpose. Research suggests meaningful relationships are a prescription for better emotional, mental, and physical health.

If you feel your current connections don’t provide enough support, you can take steps to form new ones. Join a club in your community, take on a new activity, enroll in a class, or volunteer. You have a good chance of meeting like-minded people who share your interests and of finding someone you can connect with on a deeper level.

Find Your Purpose

“To give life a meaning, one must have a purpose larger than self.” 

Having a sense of purpose is strongly linked to better physical and emotional health. Figure out what is important in your life and how you can let it grow and flourish. Whether you love your work, family, volunteering, teaching, caregiving, a hobby, or a talent—discover what makes you special and gets you out of bed in the morning.

To help discover your higher purpose, take a little self-reflective journey and find out what makes you tick. Creating a vision board is a great way to allow your mind to run free and answer the question, “What do you want to do more of in life?” You can create an online version or the good ole-fashioned poster board kind where you cut out pictures and words that inspire you and paste them to your board. See what story and patterns begin to emerge. You can gain a great deal of clarity about your passions and desired path when you start to piece together the things that represent your happiest, healthiest self.

As with physical health, maintaining good emotional health is an ongoing process that requires continual work over time. By continually applying yourself and developing a positive mindset, you can achieve your optimal emotional health, help guard against future health problems, and live a gratifying, vibrant life.