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?