Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Early Symptoms of HIV: Is it really helpful?

As a health professional, we tend to face a lot of difficult questions. This is typically not because we do not have answer, but usually because there is no way to make firm statement. Today, we decided to address one of such situations that we face in day to day medical practice. It is about the "Early symptoms of HIV: Is it really helpful in elevating your anxiety?

I don't think that I need to explain the anxiousness and window period frustration demonstrated by patients after unprotected sexual exposure. Just keep in mind that only protected and safe sexual practices are considered safer in terms of STDs transmission risk. Once you are exposed, it is not uncommon to go over online to find out the potential risk of STDs. All STDs are associated to adverse health effects, but HIV carries more importance because of its lethal nature.

When you search "early symptoms of HIV" in Google, it will display more than 174,0000 posts. Now you can imagine the importance of this topic in Google, but is that really helpful to decrease your anxiousness?
I am sure these information will not resolve your anxiety permanently. For a while, you may think that you do not have any early symptoms of HIV, but is that enough to rule out HIV? Certainly not! Lets take another scenario: if you happen to develop early symptoms of HIV does it really conclude that you have HIV? Not really!

Just to summarize the early symptoms of HIV: Although most people do not develop any symptoms, but when they do, they do so within 2-4 weeks after an exposure. The commonly reported early symptoms of HIV are fever, headache, tiredness, lymph node enlargement, rashes etc. If you look closely, these are the same symptoms that you would develop after viral infection or any any other infection. Thus, it is very easy to misinterpret the common cold  viral symptoms with early HIV symptoms. It is also important to note that having early symptoms or not having does not really helps in final diagnosis. After all, the final diagnosis always depends upon the blood or oral mucus tests for HIV antibodies. However, early HIV tests are not accurate and everyone has to follow the recommended HIV testing guidelines for accurate test report.

The main purpose of this article is to aware our readers about the misconception of early HIV symptoms. I know you want to get a definitive answer, but even your physician can not determine HIV status based on these symptoms. So it is time to accept the fact that everyone has to have a HIV testing to make firm conclusions.

You can read our previous post on HIV Testing Timeline: How soon you should get HIV test?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Tracing the Source of Herpes Infection?

This is in response to the question that we received last week.
I have seen a lot of patients with herpes outbreaks. The first and foremost question they will have is - who gave it them? This is a very difficult situation and you do not have direct answer. In fact, you cannot conclude it based on the tab tests considering several modes of transmission including skin to skin contact.

In a straight forward case such as recent sexual contact followed by herpes outbreaks within few weeks, we may think the new sexual partner as a source of infection if you never had any STDs or sexual partner. But this is not the usual case; most people usually have complex relationships and multiple sexual partner at different time point in their lives. This is quite possible that someone was infected longtime ago and remain asymptomatic.

Just for your information, it may not be possible to detect the exact date of infection, but you can have some idea based on these facts. Most people remain asymptomatic after getting herpes infection. Probably, this is the main barrier why you can not predict the exact date. In a small number of cases, those who develop symptoms do so within 2 weeks of getting infection. Thus, you could have been infected as early as 2 weeks, otherwise you had the virus for a while inside your body, and this is just an outbreak. keep in mind that first outbreak is more severe and more painful, so you may want to take anti viral medication to decrease the severity of your symptoms and speedy recovery.

If you are in a relationship, it is better to have STDs testing for your partner. This is particularly important for preventing transmission, if he is not the source of infection. In the mean time avoid sexual contact with your partner.

You can read more about herpes from our previous post:
Are you scared of herpes? A potential cure.
HSV type1: Can You Get It In Genitalia?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Superfoods: Safe and Healthy Way to Reduce Your Weight!

Research indicates that evolving technology and luxurious lifestyle have significantly reduced our daily physical activity. However, our knowledge about healthy living, balance diet, and other health parameters have increased over decades. With changing time, people are becoming more cautious about their health and spending more time to keep themselves healthy.

There is no doubt that balanced diet has several health benefits, but sometimes it is not enough to keep yourself in a good shape. Keeping yourself withing the recommended normal weight is the key to healthy living. There are many different ways to loose weight, but one of the easiest way is by choosing right food!

As you become overweight or obese, your health risks also increase. If you explore the relationship between obesity and health issues, you will notice that obesity is associated with health problems in several organ systems. So it is better to do something right now in order to reduce your health risks in future.

Here comes the actual information that you are looking for: Loosing weight through healthy eating is safe and easy, but you don't want to restrict yourself to this list. Thus, a better way would be introduce these foods in your daily meals so that you can loose weight in a natural way. I am just going to list few of them here, and then you can read in details from the link provided.

The list of slimming superfoods include: Grapefruit, orange,pears,banana, black beans, white beans, kidney beans,garbanzo beans, oatmeal,avocados, salmon, brown rice,green tea, almonds, red wine etc. Each of them have specific nutrients that helps you reduce your weight. You can read in details about the nutrients and their actual benefits from this link, click here.

This is a great information provided by health.com
I am sure our readers will benefit from these information.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Is Canker Sore a Herpes Symptom?

Recently, I received a question from one of our readers: Is canker sore a symptom of herpes?
Just based on this single statement I knew that she was mixing up with canker sore and herpes. Then, I thought as a layman, many people might be getting confused with these two disorders, and today I decided to write a short article covering these topics.

Even though these disorders usually affect oral area, there is a vast difference between them. Lets talk about them one by one briefly. Canker sore is a common disorder affecting millions of people all over the world. An alternative name for canker sore is aphthous ulcer and is used synonymously. Canker sores are usually oval or round in shape with yellowish or whitish center and has red border. They are usually inside the oral cavity on your tongue, gum and inner side of lip or cheeks, but never on the surface of  your lip or corner of your mouth. Sometimes, tingling and burning can be associated with it. Occasionally you may also have fever and lymph node enlargement. There are different types of canker such as minor, major, and herpetiform, but the most common one is minor which has oval shape and heals without scaring in couple of weeks. The good thing is that in many cases no special treatment is required and most people recover from it without any complication in 1-2 weeks. It is worth noting that cancer sores are not contagious.

On the other hand, the word herpes scares most people even though oral herpes is not a sexually transmitted disease. Oral herpes is so common that most of us might have encountered it or would certainly encounter in our lifetime. Oral herpes is also known as fever blisters, cold sore. In contrast to canker sores, herpes usually affect your mouth, lips and other surrounding skin, but in some cases it can also appear inside your mouth. Herpes is contagious and can be transmitted to others very easily by skin to skin contact or kissing. They usually present with tingling, pain and itching followed by painful fluid filled blisters; these blisters rupture and become sore and ultimately heal without any treatment. The outbreak may usually range from 1-2 weeks. Just keep in mind that the risk of transmitting infection is very high during active oral outbreaks as compared to asymptomatic phase. It is also important to note that at present there is no cure for herpes, which means that infected virus will stay in your body forever just to cause recurrent outbreaks in future.

I think by now many people might differentiate canker sores from oral herpes. The aim of the article is to make you aware of these two disorders which may have similar overlapping symptoms. An ability to differentiate these two conditions would also put your mind at rest and avoid all those hassles for doctor visit.

You can also read my previous post on herpes from these links. 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Am I pregnant? Accuracy of Pregnancy Tests

Pregnancy is one of the biggest events in women's life, but unwanted pregnancy and its consequences are totally different than desired pregnancy. One of the most important question that every women has after unprotected sex is: am I at a risk of pregnancy? They will explore all sources of information including internet, forums, friends, and close relatives with a hope to find an answer. The reliability of the information provided by these sources cannot substitute the physician visit.

Today I am going to talk about a different scenario which possesses a risk for pregnancy and how can you confirm or rule out pregnancy. I believe that knowledge is the most powerful tool to reduce your stress. Just for your information, an unprotected sexual exposure has the biggest risk of pregnancy, but it is not a rule to get pregnant like that. A successful conception requires an unprotected sexual exposure at the time of ovulation, healthy motile sperm, favorable environment for sperm in female genital tract,  sperm compatibility, and many other factors. Problems in any of these factors may interfere with conception. Just keep in mind that adequate amount of sperm needs to be deposited inside genital tract to become pregnant. Thus, touching/ genital manipulation, sexual act while wearing undergarment, or presence of sperms in fingers practically does not poses any risk of pregnancy.  Moreover, pregnancy from these kind of sexual exposure is rare and not well documented. So you can ease your mind, if you had low risk exposure. Another important factor is timing of sexual exposure, if you have regular monthly period and your sexual exposure is within safe period, you are most likely in safer side. You can visit this link for safe period calculation, click here.

Our next important issue is an accuracy of pregnancy test. We all know the there are tons of different brands out there in the market. I am sure many of us knew that there are two different kind of pregnancy test such as urine pregnancy test and blood pregnancy test. Home pregnancy test (HPT) is an urine based test and you can buy the kit from over the counter whereas for blood pregnancy test you will have to visit a clinic to run the test. HPT is much easier, cheaper and faster than blood pregnancy test, but the drawback is that it is not 100% reliable. In general accuracy of HPT may range from 97-99% depending upon the brand.

It is generally recommended to do HPT after your period due date, if tested negative, repeat the HPT again after two weeks. Getting negative HPT two weeks after period due date is very reliable and rule out pregnancy in most of the cases. However, if you are having pregnancy symptoms, it is still better to go for blood pregnancy test. You can read more about this topic from this link, click here.

You can also read my previous post Missed period: Are you worried about pregnancy?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

HSV type1: Can You Get It In Genitalia?

Patients are always curious about herpes whether it's a oral or genital herpes. At one point, I started believing that they are actually scared of the word herpes itself. In recent years media, news paper, and internet have provided too much information about sexually transmitted disease. In a way it is good that people are being aware of all these potential infections, but at the same time an inappropriate information or inadequate information put them at lots of stress. The common questions that many herpes patients have are: Is HSV-1 same as HSV-2? Can you get HSV-1 in genital region? Is there any health risk? Is genital herpes always sexually transmitted? You will have to read through my previous post to get answer for these common questions, please click here.

Many patients believe that HSV type 1 causes oral herpes only and has nothing to do with genital herpes, but this is not completely true. Although oral herpes is caused by HSV-1 but increase in oral sexual practices have made it possible to have HSV-1 in genital region. HSV-1 presentation looks pretty similar to genital herpes and it would be very hard differentiate them just by looking at the skin lesions.

One more important information is that herpes can cause auto-infection. In simple words, if you touch the herpes lesion and then touch other body parts, you can transfer infection to other parts of your body. It is needless to mention that herpes can be transmitted by skin to skin contact. You can read more about herpes from my previous post, Are you scared of herpes?

The main reason for this article is to make you aware that oral herpes can be transmitted to other body parts including your genitalia. Taking precaution and preventive measures may avoid all these hassles.You can also read the herpes key information that you must know, please click here.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Missed Period: Are You Worried About Pregnancy?

Missed period is a very common issue in women! The cause of missed period or delayed period may vary, but most of the time women are worried about pregnancy. To some extent their anxiousness is justifiable because a lot of couples are not ready for new baby,  few couples may perceive it as a financial burden while others may have social limitation. In a simple word the major cause of stress is unwanted pregnancy. This article is focused on the potential causes of missed period and their risk of pregnancy.
Delayed period is frequently encountered in early menarche and in perimenopausal women. In most of the cases, this is mainly due to anovulatory cycles. Moreover, women are aware of this fact and do not get panic easily.

Once you start having regular cycle, and then missed a period, this is something that requires your attention. Just keep in mind that each cycle is different and you may have some variation in bleeding, flow and duration of period. A normal menstrual cycle may range from 21-35 days, any variation within this time frame may not be alarming. Missed period by itself does not mean pregnancy, you need to have unprotected sex during ovulation time, sign and symptoms of early pregnancy, and a positive home pregnancy test.

Many women start worrying without proper idea of actual cause of delayed period. There are many potential cause of delayed period some of them are stress, change in diet, change in environment, change in job, thyroid problem, high prolactin, sudden wt. loss, eating disorder, medications etc. Even though there is a big list of potential causes, but I must say that pregnancy is the one of the most common causes of delayed period.

I am giving you an easy solution to rule out pregnancy so that you can calm down your nerves.
1. Fist make sure you had unprotected sex during ovulation time (unsafe period)
2. Keep your eyes open for early sign and symptoms of pregnancy such as tiredness, nausea, mood changes, and morning sickness.
3. Do Home Pregnancy Test (HPT) after your period due date.

If your answer is no to above questions, then you are in safer side. If you have mixed response for above questions, you can repeat HPT two weeks after your period due date. If it is still negative, then you are in safer side. As long as the cause of delayed period is not pregnancy, you can safely wait for your next period. Yes, you don't have to rush to your OBG every time you have delayed period. However, if it is happening more frequently, then you may like to have proper evaluation and investigation to pin point the exact cause of the problem.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Blood in Stool: How Serious Is It?

Blood in stool is a fairly common problem affecting all age groups. You will be surprised to know that most of the time the causes of rectal bleeding are minor and treatable; in other words, they are benign in nature. Thus, it is very important to understand the nature of the problem and associated risks to keep your mind at rest.  I can understand the anxiousness after anal bleeding, patients start thinking about colorectal cancer without knowing their actual risks.

Just for your information, more than 90% of the colorectal cancer is diagnosed in older people, i.e. at age 50 or above. Young adult population is less frequently affected. This is a kind of relief for adult population, but in reality colorectal cancer is not the most common cause of rectal bleeding in any age group. If you look at the proportion of people presenting with anal bleeding, only small number of cases are actually diagnosed with colon cancer. Understanding these facts is a great reassurance for the patients who is waiting for test result.

Many times rectal bleeding is the first sign of disease, so proper evaluation is always required. There are many causes of blood in stool - some are more common at younger age such as hemorrhoids, fissures, polyps, inflammatory bowel disease; while others are common at older age like diverticulitis, angidysplagia, malignancy. The risk of colon cancer increases as you get older, similarly having a family history of colon cancer, sedentary life style, diabetes, smoking, obesity etc are also associated with increased risk for colon cancer.

I am sure by now you must have guessed that most of the time you are in safe side, but  you should always seek medical help to confirm the diagnosis. You may speculate the potential cause of rectal bleeding based on other associated symptoms, but it is often very difficult for layman to interpret it accurately.

The main purpose of this article is to aware our readers about the potential cause of rectal bleeding, and what to expect after evaluation and investigation. This article also serves for reducing the anxiety and provide much reassurance for a while you wait for physician visit. You can read more about colon cancer from this link, click here.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

HPV in Men: Is It a Health Concern?

The word HPV stands for Human papilloma virus. It is one of the most common causes of sexually transmitted disease. There are more than 100 types of HPV and each of them are capable of causing abnormal growth in different body parts such as  genital warts, common warts, plantar warts etc. Now the question is should we care about HPV in men! Health burden related to HPV is not equal in male and female; and as a result of this, we often get a lot of questions about HPV in men!
Even though they are a matter of concern from health prospective, not all of them are not equally lethal. In general, most people remain asymptomatic and are not aware of this infection unless they develop warts or other health related issues. The incidence of HPV related health problems are much higher in women and this is the main reason why HPV infection requires attention in women. Just keep in mind that warts producing HPV are not the same virus that causes cancer. Hence, information about sub type of HPV is more important than overall HPV status.

I just wanted to share a good news with you that if you are a healthy individual, your immune system will fight against this virus to eliminate it from your body. It may take up to 2 years for your body to completely remove this virus from your system.

Due to benign nature of HPV in men and low incidence of major health issues, HPV testing is limited to research purpose, and currently no tests are commercially available in the market to check HPV status. However, there are several measures including a vaccination that can be taken to minimize HPV transmission. You can read more about it from this link, click here.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

HIV Testing Timeline: How soon you should get HIV test?

I see that a lot of people are interested in knowing HIV testing timeline, and how soon they should get HIV test after an exposure. I can understand their feelings and frustrations during the window period that they had to wait before going for HIV testing.

Currently, we have many HIV tests available for commercial purpose, good news is that all of them are highly sensitive and specific for HIV. You can expect their sensitivity as high as 99.99%. Just for your information, the standardized lab based HIV testing is ELISA and western blot. As per the protocol those who test positive in ELISA HIV testing, they undergo a confirmatory test (western blot) before making a final conclusion. For those who test negative in ELISA or any other HIV test, they are not required to go for western blot HIV testing.

As far as the HIV testing timeline is concerned, there is a window period that you need to wait before going for HIV testing. This is the time taken by your body for seroconversion; in majority of the cases, infected person will test positive by 4 weeks, however in small number of cases it may take up to 12 weeks. Rarely the window period may extend up to 24 weeks. Thus, as per the current guidelines, recommended timeline for HIV testing is 4, 12, and 24 weeks after exposure. There is no documented data suggesting that a person could take longer than 6 months for seroconversion.

Thus, if you had any risky exposure and you want to know your HIV status, please wait for 4 weeks before going for HIV testing. If you decide to do HIV test early, it will increase the chance of false negative report which you don't want to have one. If you test negative at 4 weeks, you should go for retesting at 12 & 24 weeks to be 100% sure. You can read more about HIV testing from this link, click here.
If you want to know more about HIV, please read my previous post on Can you transmit HIV by kissing?