Friday, December 10, 2010

Sore throat: Conservative treatment at home

With the changing climate, many of us may have suffered from sore throat which is quite common in winter session. Many times sore throat has been associated with a number of other symptoms, this is mainly due to the fact that various problems can lead to sore throat. In other words, you will have symptoms of sore throat along with other problems such as common colds, allergy etc. The most important decision is whether to visit a doctor or manage it at home. Thus, all of us want to know sore throat conservative treatment at home, if possible.

Sore throat is specifically referred to the primary symptoms of pharyngitis - inflammation of pharynx or throat. Most commonly, sore throat is caused by viral infection, but bacterial infection can also result in sore throat in few cases. Some viral illnesses that may cause sore throat include common cold, influenza, mono, measles, chickenpox, and croup. On the other hand,  strep throat, diphtheria, and whooping cough are some major bacterial illnesses that accompanies sore throat. However, many other factors can also lead to sore throat such as allergy, dryness in room, irritants, GERD, tumors, etc. Whatever may be the cause, in general, most of time sore throat can be treated at home with conservative measures.

Usually sore throat presents with pain or scratchy sensation in throat, difficulty in swallowing, swollen tonsils, dry throat, swollen glands in neck. Of course, you may also have fever, chills, nausea, cough, headache, runny nose and sneezing. It is not necessary to have full set of symptoms to be diagnosed as sore throat. If you visit your doctor, they will do physical exam along with blood test and throat swab to pin point the cause so that it can be treated effectively.

As I'd mentioned before, since sore throat is usually due to viral infection, no specific treatment is required. If you mostly remain healthy at other times, then a self recovery from sore throat is expected in 5-7 days. Good news is that most people recover from it without any complications. Thus, all you need is conservative measures at home by the time your body fights against viral infection. Just keep in mind to visit a doctor if you do not recover within a week, you get repeated sore throat, have severe symptoms which is gets worse, or persistent high grade fever.

Some of the conservative measures are rest, adequate liquid, saltwater gargle, use of humidifier, avoid irritants (such as smoke,solid food), use lozenges, and take warm liquids (broth, caffeine free tea). In the meantime, you can also use OTC medication for pain and fever. Using OTC decongestant and cough medications are also appropriate as per your symptoms. You will see gradual improvement with time. You can read about preventive measures from this link, click here.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Can you transmit HIV by kissing?

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection is one of the most dangerous infections that you always want to know about so that you can prevent it.Understanding the risks and types of exposure may help lots of people who might be exposed to a potential risky situation. Now the question is can you transmit HIV by kissing? Many people may think that since it is a viral infection you may get it easily just like flu or herpes, but in reality getting HIV is not possible from skin to skin contact or by being close to someone who has HIV.

Over the decades HIV awareness has increased so much that almost every educated person knows about HIV, but few existing myths and fear of getting HIV always create anxiousness in an individual after an exposure. Most commonly HIV is transmitted by unprotected sexual activities, needle sharing, blood transfusion, and from mother to child during pregnancy, delivery or breast feeding. Just for your information, risk of HIV transmission varies from types of exposure and number of exposures. You can view the data from this link, click here.

Just keep in mind that adequate number of virus is required to transmit HIV, and this is the one of the reasons for variation in HIV transmission rate from one type of exposure to another. We all know that unprotected sexual activities puts you at risk, but risk is higher for the receptive partner as compared to penetrating partner. However, oral sex is not considered equally risky and the risk of  HIV transmission is low as compared to vaginal or anal sex.

Depending upon the type of exposure, more or less people know about their risks, but when it comes to kissing, touching or being together with HIV patient, many of us become anxious and think about potential exposure. I would like to tell our readers that the risk of HIV transmission after kissing or touching is almost zero, and there is not a single documentation stating that casual kissing could transmit HIV infection. This is just a myth and does not happen in reality unless someone has really deep kissing resulting into bleeding and bruises.

In conclusion, I must say that  your skin acts as a protective barrier for HIV transmission and prevent HIV transmission from touching, handshaking or being close to HIV patient. Of course there is no doubt that you are still safe after kissing as well. You can read more about HIV from this link, click here.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sciatica: Associated risk and treatment

Many times, we get confused with the word sciatica and backache, and may use it alternative to each other. However, the reality is that backache is just a symptom and there is a wide list of causes which can produce backache ranging from infection, trauma, musculoskeltal, degenerative joint disease, neurogenic issues to a tumour. You can view the complete list from click here.

By now, you would certainly guess that sciatica is one of the potential causes for backache. Yes, that's right! The word sciatica refers to the pain that radiates through the sciatic nerve. Although sciatica may cause pain any anywhere in the path of sciatic nerve, but most commonly it presents as a radiating or a shooting pain from your back through your buttock to your back of leg.

As far as its causes are concerned, anything that puts pressure on the sciatic nerve may produce clinical symptoms of sciatica; few common causes are herniated disk, spinal stenosis, osteoarthritis or tumor/cyst. Just for your information, these symptoms are due to compression or irritation of sciatic nerve. You can read more about it from click here.

If you visit your doctor, they may diagnose it based on your symptoms, physical finding and investigations. Usually x-ray spine or MRI/CT scan is good enough to confirm the diagnosis.

The good news is that most of the people feel better with conservative measures at home such as pain meds, rest, physical therapy and heating pad. However, if it's bothering you a lot, then you must visit your doctor for proper evaluation and investigation to conform the diagnosis. Treating the cause is a key to success and your doctor may suggest you different treatment option depending upon the severity of your symptoms. If these conservative measures are not helpful or you develop complications, your doctor may suggest you surgical options which is the last resort.

Although most of the people recover from sciatica with conservative measures, but some of them may develop complication such as numbness, muscular weakness, bladder or bowel control. If you are experiencing one of them, then you should always consider a doctor visit.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Are you scared of herpes? A potential cure.

The word herpes has become so common that almost everybody in developed country must have heard about it at least once in their lifetime. If you have not heard about it, then you are in the right place.

Herpes is the name given to a group of viruses. In this article, we will be discussing Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV), two different types of HSV such as HSV-1 & HSV-2 is responsible for health problems. Infection caused by HSV-1 is commonly called as oral herpes whereas infection caused by HSV- 2 is called as genital herpes. Initially, it was thought that oral and genital herpes were always caused by HSV-1 & HSV-2 respectively, but due to increasing trend of oral sex you can have oral herpes caused by HSV-2 and genital herpes caused by HSV-1.

Generally, infection caused by HSV- 1 is not considered as sexually transmitted disease (STD) whereas HSV- 2 infection is a part of STD. Herpes infection is highly contagious and can be transmitted to close contacts by direct skin to skin contact, sharing belongings or by sexual activities. Risk of  transmission is higher during outbreaks, but transmission is also possible during viral shedding period even though there is no active skin lesions.

It is very important to know that a person would remain asymptomatic after infection, but those who develop symptoms do so within 2 weeks of exposure. Most commonly herpes starts with itching and pain sensation followed by painful bumps, blisters, sores. The bumps and blisters rupture leaving behind the rawness and sore. Eventually, scab forms and the ulcer heals. The majority of  healthy people recover without any complications.

It is usually seems that first outbreak is more severe and is associated with a lot of discomfort. Even though we don't have any cure for herpes at this time, but taking anti viral medication such as acyclovir, famciclovir, valacyclovir may reduce the severity and duration of illness. Here is the key information about herpes that you must know, please click here.

Researchers are working hard to discover a permanent solution for herpes. You will be happy to know that Duke University is currently doing research to cure herpes. Their approach is to force virus out of the latent stage, allowing it to be killed by anti viral medication. This is still in experimental phage and  if it becomes successful, then you will see a cure for herpes in near future. At the same time, Harvard university is working on to develop vaccine which will prevent herpes infection. You will hear more about these research in near future. At conceptual level, if the trick works there is a good chance of herpes cure.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Understanding Arthritis Treatment: Is there any cure?

I am sure most of us might have heard the word arthritis. Yes! it is one of the most common problems in all age groups though causes may vary. These days, the word arthritis is commonly used by layman for joint pain, but its meaning for medical professional may be little bit different.

Although many people perceive arthritis as a joint pain but in reality arthritis is an inflammation of joint, which may present with various symptoms and one of them is pain. The medical terminology for joint pain is arthralgia. As I stated arthritis is a common problem in all age group but causes can be drastically different. In general, an arthritis that affect children is called juvenile arthritis whereas all others are addressed with some additional word such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, autoimmune arthritis. Even though all these diseases contain the word arthritis, they are totally different diseases.

I must say that if you ever had arthritis, then you might recall joint pain, swelling, redness, increase local temperature and decrease joint movement. Yes, it is an awful moment and you certainly want to get rid of it as soon as possible. As with any other diseases, recovery from arthritis depends upon the severity and cause of arthritis. There are wide number of causes that can lead to arthritis ranging from trauma, infection, aging, autoimmune disease or systematic diseases. The most commonly used conservative measures to get rid of symptoms are rest, anti inflammatory pain meds, ice pack/heating pad. Even though most of the patients will have significant improvement with the above conservative measures, these treatment modalities do not cure arthritis permanently.

Unless we overcome the cause of arthritis and reverse the damage caused by it, it is not possible to cure arthritis. I think cure is an ultimate success for which we are struggling each day to reduce suffering of millions of people. The word cure can be only used for  a small proportion of arthritis caused by infection or systematic disease, if treated in early phase of disease people may recover completely without any residual problems. However, with advancing medical science and technology, we are able to offer a lot of treatment options which will take care of your problem. Depending upon the nature of problem, you may require regular medication or off and on treatment.

In cases of trauma and osteoarthritis, conservative measures are the 1st line of treatment and the majority of people will benefit from it. There are many other medications that are used for arthritis such as pain meds (Tramadol, Opiods, Tylenol), Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory drugs (Ibuprofen, Naproxen, Diclofenac), counterirritants (Menthol, Capsaicin), disease modifying drugs (Methotrexate, Hydroxychloroquine), biologics (Infliximab, Etanercept), and corticosteroid (prednisone, cortisone). In addition, physiotherapy is helpful in some of the cases. If none of these measures work, your doctor may suggest you for surgery.

Even though many people would try OTC anti inflammatory meds for arthritis, these drugs are associated with a lot of side effects and our major concerns are drug induced stomach ulcers. If you are required to take these meds for a longer time, then you are at risk. Recently, a new medication called celecoxib is approved by FDA for arthritis treatment. It is a selective COX 2 inhibitor and is rarely associated with stomach ulcers. Thus, I would encourage you to go for celecoxib as fas as GIT side effects are concerned. You can read more about celecoxib from click here.

Some other tips that are helpful in arthritis are weight reduction, regular exercise, and use of device (canes, walkers) to reduce stress on your joint. Even though we don't have cure at this time, but currently available treatment options have certainly minimized our suffering and disability to a certain extent. In near future, you may expect to see new treatment modalities which may cure arthritis.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Do you really need a doctor visit for gastroenteritis?

Most of us might have encountered gastroenteritis once in our lifetime. Yes, this is a very common problem and affect millions of people in a year world wide. Although there are many possible causes for gastroenteritis ranging from viruses, bacteria, parasite and chemicals, but viral and bacterial causes are more predominant. You are more likely to get viral gastroenteritis if you eat or drink contaminated water or food, or share utensils, towels or food with infected person. By now, you already know that it is a contagious disease and can spread to other people.

I am sure some of you might have heard the term "stomach flu", this is just an alternative name for gastroenteritis. When you suffer from stomach flu, most likely you will develop watery diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, body aches and fever. Depending upon the severity of symptoms and amount of water and electrolyte loss, you may also develop signs of dehydration.

Good news is that most of the gastroenteritis are caused by viruses and typically antibiotics are not required. Even though you seem to develop a lot of symptoms in short time, but usually it does not last longer and the majority of people recover from it without any specific treatment.

In addition, you always need to know at what point you should consider doctor visit. There are many signs and symptoms but I will list some of them here for you: repeated vomiting for 48 hours, unable to drink liquid for 24 hours, fever greater than 104, blood in bowel movements, blood in vomitus, moderate to severe dehydration(dry mouth, increase thirst, yellow urine or decrease amount of urine, dizziness, lightheadedness, generalized weakness).

If you decide to visit your doctor, he/she may diagnose it based on your history, physical exam and test report. Generally, blood and stool tests are good enough to make final diagnosis. If the final conclusion is viral gastroenteritis, then all you need is rest, liquid and symptomatic treatment. Your doctor may suggest you to avoid eating and drinking for few hours to rest your stomach, encourage you to drink clear liquid, sprite, 7up, gatorade, and broths. After a while, you will start introducing soft diet and easy to digest food such as soda crackers, toast, gelatin, banana, rice and chicken. If you are a healthy person, then most likely you will recover form it without any complication in few days.

Thus, if you suffer from gastroenteritis symptoms don't panic, just follow the conservative measures and take rest. Try your best to maintain water and electrolyte balance to avoid dehydration. However, if you develop any alarming features stated above don't hesitate to see your doctor for proper evaluation and investigation. You can read more about it from this link, click here.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Why should we care about PSA?

Many people are not clear about exact PSA guidelines and its importance in prostate cancer screening. The PSA stands for Prostate Specific Antigen and has a lot of health implications. PSA level is measured in blood and its normal reference range is below 4 nanograms. Whether PSA should be included in the routine screening is still debatable and the main reason behind this ambiguity is the lack of PSA screening to increase life span. Till now there is no consensus on a particular guideline which needs to be followed. You can read more about different guidelines put forward by various organizations from click here.

Again, the question is why should we care about PSA level if it is not helpful! Actually, it is not completely true; PSA has many other benefits that your physician want to consider based on your health status. There are many possible causes for increase in PSA level, some of them are prostate enlargement, prostate infection, prostate cancer, prostate biopsy, recent ejaculation, digital rectal exam, bicycle riding and aging. Yes, aging is one of the factors and PSA level increases as you age. Though there are many factors that can increase your PSA level, some of them causes temporary increase only but your physicians are particularly interested in repetitive persistent increase in PSA level because it is more reliable than a single spikes. A single spikes of PSA could be due to many minor issues and usually get back to normal as soon as you recover whereas repetitive increase suggest major concern in terms of prostate cancer and prognosis monitoring after prostate cancer treatment.

Thus, you can see that increase in PSA is not that alarming as compared to repetitive persistent increase. It is generally perceived that there is no added benefits of PSA screening after the age of 75 because prostate cancer is a slow growing tumour and it is not certain that PSA screening actually saves lives. However, major implication of PSA test is for people with family history of prostate cancer and for those undergoing prostate cancer treatment. Technically, PSA level play a vital role in monitoring cancer treatment efficacy and its relapse.

Although PSA screening is not mandatory at this time, but is it strongly recommended for someone at age 45-75 having increased risk for prostate cancer. However, its benefits in a sub population cannot be ignored.

Monday, September 27, 2010

How to win battle with Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) in women?

Many people have asked us to provide information about the most common problem in women - Urinary Tract Infection(UTI). Few commonly used words to indicate this problem is water infection, urine infection or just UTI. The word UTI does not always mean simple water infection as it does not indicate severity or the exact location of infection. In general, lower urinary tract infections are more common and less complicated than upper urinary tract infection.

You must be thinking that why women are prone to get UTI at much higher rate than male counterpart. This is mainly due to the anatomical location of urethra near anus and lack of prostatic secretion which has bacteriostatic properties. Just for your information, UTI is more common in child bearing age and small children are not prone to it. In fact, UTI in small children are usually seen in the setting of anatomical structural problem which obstruct the normal urinary flow and increases the risk of infection.

Lets come to the point; if someone has UTI symptoms, does it always mean water infection? No, in most of the cases patients have enough symptoms to support the diagnosis of UTI and a course of antibiotic will cure it. However, this is not always easy, few people do not recover and come back again to their physician. Then, what is the next step? The best way is to go for a proper evaluation and investigation along with urine culture and sensitivity. This will disclose the exact causative organism and the most effective antibiotics to cure it. At this point, most of the patients are symptom-free.

Now, the question is what to do if they do not recover again? This only happens occasionally where the cause is different than bacteria such as yeast infection. Yes, it is possible to have urinary symptoms due to vaginal yeast infection. Actually, symptoms are overlapping and patients seek medical attention for urine infection only. This is probably one of the possible causes of repeated urinary symptoms in someone who is not responding to antibiotic.

Thus, it is important to remember that if you suffer from repeated vaginal yeast infection and urinary symptoms, taking care of yeast infection may cause significant improvement in your urinary symptoms.