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Subacute Combined Degeneration of the Spinal Cord

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In this serious disease of the spinal cord, the so-called white matter gradually degenerates and produces symptoms due to this fact. It is caused by a deficiency of vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamin), and is frequently associated with Pernicious Anemia. It is now seen much less often, probably due to the widespread use of the vitamin B complex in today’s modern society.

Vitamin B12 is essential for the normal production of the blood, and its deficiency also leads to a fatal form of anemia if left untreated. However, as symptoms invariably lead to prompt diagnosis (on a blood count and examination of a “blood film” by the pathologist) treatment is always commenced early, so that advanced cases of the disease are now rarely encountered.

Subacute Combined Degeneration of the Spinal Cord Symptoms

These usually commence gradually, with numbness and tingling in the feet being a common set of initial symptoms. To a lesser extent this sensation may lingers. Sometimes the patient may complain of coldness or swelling in the feet, or feeling similar to stepping on cotton wool. Usually the sensory loss gradually extends to cover the “sock” area, and later on to the “stocking” area. Gradually the patient becomes insensitive to temperature and pain, and the sense of position. Unsteadiness in walking follows.

As the condition progresses, there is wasting of the muscles, usually those below the knee being affected first. These paralyzed muscles may become very painful and tender, and movement may be difficult and cause pain. Sometimes there is visual impairment, and mental changes may take place. Apathy, memory loss and confusion are common. Often routine blood tests will detect the anemia.

Subacute Combined Degeneration of the Spinal Cord Treatment

Treatment is usually successful and often spectacular, particularly in early cases, by the injection of vitamin B12 regularly. It is less successful in advanced cases, but any patient with this disorder should be treated vigorously with vitamin B12 therapy.

POST VIRAL SYNDROME Dealt with more fully under Upper Respiratory Tract Infections, post viral syndrome deserves mention here. It has been around for centuries, being well-known in the 1800s and early 1900s as “neurasthenia”. Feeling tired and incapable of performing a normal day’s work are the key symptoms. A check indicates this is followed by a simple bout of the flu. It may take days or weeks to become noticeable. Often swollen glands in the neck, armpits, groin and elsewhere occur. Before diagnosed, all other possible causes must be excluded by tests. It is a diagnosis of elimination and history. Fortunately, many patients gradually improve over a period of months or even years.

Occasionally it may persist and worsen, causing partial paralysis, a condition known as ME (Myalgic Encephalomyalgia). This is rare, with the patient in severe cases being confined to a wheelchair. Much research attention by major universities and teaching hospitals around the world is focused on the disease, its cause and treatment. Australia is in the forefront of research. At present, encouragement, adequate rest, exercise within a person’s tolerance, sensible nutrition, probably vitamins are the mainstay of treatment. There is no specific drug or routine that is curative. Several self help organizations provide information, counseling and support for the various nerve-related disorders. Persons wishing to contact any of these self help organizations should check their local telephone directory for locations

Lead Poisoning in Children

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More children will inevitably suffer from the ill effects of this, as more lead comes into the atmosphere. At one time, lead poisoning was almost solely blamed on lead-based paints. Children often picked off peeling paint and ate it, so enabling it to accumulate in the system and cause adverse effects.

But in more recent times with the enormous sale of leaded petrol (which is said to increase the efficiency of motor cars), more lead is being pumped into the air. However, this should now gradually lessen in Australia with the reintroduction of unleaded petrol.

The concept is that increased lead in the atmosphere inevitably increases the amount children inhale. Young children are very sensitive to inhaling it. But it may also come from other sources of pollution, and children living near lead mines are said to often have higher than normal levels.

Lead Poisoning Symptoms

They may come on insidiously. Irritability, nervousness, being jumpy, ill at ease, spiteful, bad tempered, feeling weak and lacking normal energy and vitality, are some of the symptoms reported. There may be nausea, vomiting, being off one’s normal food, constipation, headaches, cramps, pains in the abdomen. Occasionally teeth will show a telltale “lead line.” If it worsens, there may be fits. It is possible to undergo special tests to measure the lead levels in the system.

Quite often the child will be referred to a major centre geared to diagnose cases with vague symptoms for which there may not, on the surface, be obvious causes. Diagnosis may be difficult. Investigation and therapy is best carried out at a major centre. After this, endeavoring to shield the child against further lead exposure is the idea. But this may be more of a wish than a possibility.

Children may hold the breath, probably after an emotional upset, or if frightened or angry. They simply stop breathing, and may even go blue in the face or may have a convulsion or two and go unconscious. Various levels occur.

Herein may lay the crux of the problem. The child may know that the episode will guarantee the attention desired – maybe lots of TLC that had been missing! Infants are often smarter than parents give them credit for!

Lead Poisoning Treatment

Ignoring the whole situation is the best idea. The more fuss and attention given to such children, the more they are likely to continue playing on their mother’s goodwill, and will continue with the attention-getting routine. By totally ignoring it, the exercise then has a negative effect and they will soon become tired of this little game. Parents should not blame themselves for it. No harm will befall the infant, who will not suffer any disability and certainly will not become mentally retarded as a result. The parents may have been breath holders themselves, so the baby is merely repeating history.

A child-specialist colleague suggested to me that placing icy-cold flannels over the child’s head and face (with the nose sticking out) invariably caused the child to suddenly inspire, and the procedure was at an end. It sounded a good idea to me. Why not give it a try, if this happens to be your problem?

Stomach Cancer

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This serious disease rarely causes symptoms until it is well advanced and the chances of successful surgery are small. It is a common disease, and is among the most frequent causes of cancer deaths in men. Ninety-five percent of cases occur in persons past 45 years of age. There may be a family history of gastric cancer. Pernicious Anemia, Achlorhydria (no acid secretion in the stomach) and Chronic Gastritis are believed to be precursors. Constitutional factors also seem to play a part, for there is some association between stomach cancers and persons with blood group A.

It is extremely common in Japan, where it is responsible for nearly half of all cancer deaths. However when a Japanese person moves to the United States, the rate of occurrence soon approximates that of the local population. The prevalence is high in North Wales, but relatively lower in other areas of the United Kingdom. Although it is believed that some gastric ulcers may turn into cancer, it seems more probable that they arise primarily as cancers, giving the outward appearance of an ulcer. As such any ulcer that does not heal within a few weeks of intensive therapy should be reappraised and possibly receive surgical attention.


Invariably there are no early symptoms for this disease. In advanced stages there is weight loss, anemia, an abdominal mass and progressive gastric malfunction. The patient will also experience a loss of appetite, fullness after food and many symptoms indistinguishable from an ulcer may appear. There may also be pain and dyspepsia.

When dyspepsia and abdominal symptoms suddenly appear and persist for more than three weeks in any adult over the age of 45 years, immediate medical attention is mandatory. It could be stomach cancer, and the sooner medical attention is obtained, the better is the outlook. Diagnosis is made by endoscopy or with the use of radiological examination.

Stomach Cancer Treatment

Surgical resection is the only possibility of a cure, and the cure rate is not high. The cancers often grow rapidly, even in a period of weeks, and cells spread to outlying organs. Only about twenty-five percent of patients are suitable for major surgery, and only about fifteen to twenty percent of these patients will survive for five years. However, the prognosis (future outlook) for patients with very superficial gastric carcinomas is much better.

Today, endoscopic examination is quick, simple, readily available and highly accurate. Never neglect symptoms of the gastrointestinal system.

Poison Ivy

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This is the most common causes of allergic contact dermatitis among both children and adults. When the leaves of these plants are broken or crushed, they release an oily substance that can provoke a significant allergic response in many (but not all) people. When this substance penetrates the skin, it stimulates the immune system to respond more vigorously to it in the future. The person is now sensitized to the plant, and the next time it touches his skin an intense, itchy inflammation of the skin (or dermatitis) erupts at the point of contact. This rash is an internal response of the allergic individual and is not contagious, however, if the oil from the plant is not washed from one person’s skin or clothing, it can be transferred accidentally to someone else through direct contact. This can give the misleading impression that plant dermatitis is contagious. Despite their dangerous sounding names, these plants do not contain any poisons or toxins that directly damage skin.

Reactions to one of these plants will vary from person to person and will depend on the size of the exposed area and the thickness of the skin involved. Thick skinned areas such as the palms and soles tend to suffer little reaction, while thin skinned areas such the forearm and face develop a rash more quickly and severely.

In the sensitized person, a skin rash will break out within a few hours of new contact with the plant. Itching is common and often intense, and blisters may form on the involved areas. There is often an oozing yellowish liquid, which can become crusted. Contact of the plant with eyelids or with male genitalia may provoke marked swelling in these areas. Areas exposed to less of the plant allergen may respond several days giving the misleading impression that the eruption is spreading. In the absence of complications or continued exposure, the eruption rarely lasts longer than several days.

Due to the fact that it takes about ten minutes for the plant allergen to penetrate the skin, rinsing the affected area with water immediately after exposure may prevent sensitization or an allergic response. Do not try soap which removes protective oils from the skin and may increase the allergen’s penetration.

Once the rash develops, nothing will reduce its effect. However, if the area of skin involved is relatively small, early application of a steroid cream can reduce the severity of the dermatitis. One percent hydrocortisone cream (nonprescription) may be used, or a strong preparation may be prescribed by a physician. If it is widespread, the doctor may prescribe oral steroids. When used as directed for several days, this medication can help calm an intense allergic response.

Cool, moist compresses and calamine lotion can reduce itching and irritation. Oral antihistamines such as Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) can reduce itching, and their sedative action may promote sleeping.

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