October 15, 2009

Medical Edge Roundup

By Kelley Luckstein

Mayo Clinic Medical Edge: Treatment for Spasmodic Dysphonia Can Offer Help

DEAR MAYO CLINIC: My 79-year-old mother has suffered from spasmodic dysphonia for many years. Has any progress been made for a treatment or cure?


ANSWER: Although there is no current cure for spasmodic dysphonia -- a disorder that affects the vocal folds and muscles in the voice box (larynx) -- treatment can offer help. And researchers are working to identify causes and new treatment options for the disorder.


The vocal folds are two flexible bands of muscle tissue that sit at the entrance to the windpipe (trachea). When you speak, the vocal folds come together and vibrate to make sound. The rest of the time, they are relaxed in an open position, so you can breathe. In people who have spasmodic dysphonia, the vocal folds and other muscles in the larynx spasm involuntarily, interfering with speech.


My Fox 8 – North Carolina, Medical Edge, 09/09/09


Mayo Clinic Medical Edge: Vitamin D Deficiency Common But Easily Treated With Supplements

DEAR MAYO CLINIC: At my last checkup, my blood work showed a vitamin D deficiency. My doctor recommended a vitamin D supplement but didn't say how much to take. I'm a healthy 51-year-old woman and eat a well-balanced diet. How much vitamin D do I need?

ANSWER: Vitamin D has been in the headlines recently. Researchers are learning more about the many ways it benefits health -- and, as a result, increasing the recommendation for vitamin D intake.

It's well established that vitamin D helps with calcium absorption and helps keep bones strong. There's also evidence that vitamin D helps reduce the risk of common cancers, muscle and joint pain and perhaps even multiple sclerosis. Newer studies, including one published last year in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, found that low levels of vitamin D are associated with increased risk of heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.


Fox 59 – Indiana, Medical Edge, 09/02/09


Parents, Caregivers: Consider H1N1 Vaccination for Yourselves to Protect Those at Higher Risk of Flu Complications

DEAR MAYO CLINIC: I'm confused about whether or not to get the H1N1 vaccination once it's available. I stay home with small children, which puts me in the "higher risk" category, but I wonder how necessary it is. If I am otherwise healthy, should I really subject myself to a new vaccination that we know little about?

ANSWER: Caregivers, such as yourself, and others who frequently come in contact with children younger than 6 months of age should receive the vaccine as one of our first priorities in vaccinating against the novel H1N1 influenza virus. This is because younger infants are at higher risk for influenza-related complications but are too young to receive the vaccines, as the vaccines will not work to give them immunity against the virus. Getting an H1N1 flu vaccine will help protect yourself, your children, and others by preventing your infection and transmission of the virus to those around you.

Other priority groups who should receive the vaccine first include those at high risk for getting the flu and complications from the flu, including pregnant women, all people 6 months to 24 years of age, and adults 25 to 64 years of age with health conditions that increase their risk of medical complications from the flu. Also in this first group are health care providers and emergency response personnel.


KFSM 5 News – Arkansas, Medical Edge, 10/15/09



Mayo Clinic Medical Edge: Drooping on the Side of the Face Often Associated With Bell's Palsy

DEAR MAYO CLINIC: Two weeks ago, I noticed that my face was slightly droopy on one side, so I immediately went to my doctor. He was able to rule out a minor stroke and told me I most likely have Bell's palsy. What caused this, and will it really take care of itself, as he suggested?

ANSWER: You did the right thing by going to your doctor when you noticed the slight drooping. Anytime half of your face seems to abruptly weaken or go limp, it's important to quickly get to the emergency department since this could mean you're having a stroke.

The nerve that controls your facial muscles passes through a narrow corridor of bone on its way to the face. If the nerve becomes inflamed or swollen, typically due to a viral infection, it can become compressed, irritated and injured in this corridor, resulting in Bell's palsy.

KFSM 5 News – Arkansas, Medical Edge, 10/15/09



Mayo Clinic Medical Edge: Low Platelet Count Often Related to Underlying Disorder

DEAR MAYO CLINIC: I was told after my recent annual exam that my platelet count is low. Is this something I should be concerned about? What could be causing this?

ANSWER: Low platelet count -- the medical term is thrombocytopenia -- can affect your blood's ability to clot. If platelet levels fall low enough, severe bleeding is possible. Often, the problem is related to an underlying disorder. Once that disorder is treated, platelet counts usually improve.

Bone marrow produces most of the blood cells in your body, including your platelets and red and white blood cells. Platelets are colorless blood cell fragments responsible for containing the damage when blood vessels are injured. They create microscopic "plugs" in vessel holes and release chemical messengers that trigger clotting.


NW 32 – Oregon, Medical Edge, 09/2/09



Excess amniotic fluid can cause pregnancy complications

DEAR MAYO CLINIC: I am 32 weeks pregnant and have been diagnosed with polyhydramnios (too much amniotic fluid). My doctor doesn't seem overly concerned and has ruled out the most serious causes, but I have heard that the condition can create problems during the pregnancy and/or delivery. What do I need to look for in the coming weeks?


There are a number of possible causes for polyhydramnios, ranging from maternal metabolic abnormalities, like gestational diabetes, to fetal congenital abnormalities. Provided your physician has ruled out the more concerning causes for polyhydramnios, then the issue becomes the effects of the polyhydramnios itself. There are three significant complications that can arise from the presence of excess amniotic fluid.

First, the increased volume of fluid causes the uterus to stretch beyond normal size to accommodate the excess fluid. That uterine stretching can result in contractions, and in your case, being 32 weeks pregnant, it increases the risk of preterm labor and preterm delivery. (Preterm labor refers to contractions that begin to open the cervix before week 37.) You should be particularly aware of regular, predictable and painful contractions, which could be a sign of preterm labor. If you notice contractions, contact your health care provider right away.


Post-Bulletin, Medical Edge, 10/12/09



New Cardio Monitor Could Help Lower Hospital Visits

In Health Watch: 25 billion dollars... That's how much money is spent every year in the U.S. on patients with heart failure. Much of that money is used on hospital visits. But Vivien Williams shows us how a new device could eliminate many of those visits.


Heart failure patient Clive Kells says this small monitoring device taped to his chest is like a security system for his health. Clive says "you have somebody right there by you all the time."


Dr. Charles Bruce says "I like to think about it as sort of like a guardian angel."


Dr. Bruce and colleagues have teamed up with engineers at mayo clinic to design a monitor that will help prevent patients like Clive from having complications that could put him in the hospital.


KEYC 12 Fox – Mankato, MN, Medical Edge, 10/8/09



Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy Effective for an Assortment of Medical Conditions

DEAR MAYO CLINIC: What is hyperbaric oxygen therapy? What is it used for?

ANSWER: Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized room to increase the blood-oxygen level.

Historically, hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been used for deep-sea divers who experience decompression sickness -- also known as "the bends" -- which occurs when dissolved nitrogen gas bubbles form in the body's tissues when a diver returns to the water surface too quickly. But HBOT can be used to treat an assortment of other medical conditions, too, including serious infections, bubbles of air in the blood vessels (arterial gas embolism), wounds that won't heal due to diabetes or radiation injury, carbon monoxide poisoning, crush injuries, gangrene, brain abscesses, burns, skin grafts or skin flaps at risk of tissue death, and severe anemia.


The Morning Call, Medical Edge, 10/8/09



Effective Migraine Treatments Available

DEAR MAYO CLINIC: I'm a migraine sufferer, along with millions of others. Is there a cure available? Not a cocktail of prescription drugs, but a cure, whether it be a pill or surgery?

ANSWER: At this time, no cure exists for migraine headaches. But that doesn't mean you have to just suffer through them. Although there isn't one pill doctors can prescribe or a surgery we can recommend to cure migraine, effective treatment is available. For many people, a combination of medication and lifestyle changes decreases the frequency and severity of migraine attacks and reduces the disruption migraine has on daily life.

Some people think of a migraine as just a very painful headache. Migraine headaches are associated with moderate to severe -- often throbbing pain that gets worse with routine physical activity, such as climbing stairs. But additional symptoms, including nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light and sound, set migraine apart from other headaches.


Baltimore Sun, Medical Edge, 07/27/09

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