Category Archives: Health

Acute Otitis Media

What is Acute Otitis Media?

Otitis or acute otitis media, or more simply infection of the middle ear is common in children, and may come on in the middle of the night. It is occasionally described as a knife stabbing through the head. It may be very severe.

Often the child wakes up with an acutely painful ear, the pain coming from deep inside. There may be a fever, and small children may cry from the discomfort. Incidentally, it is also quite common if the child has been swimming in infected water. The germs invade the canal or the throat, and infection occurs from that side. It is important that backyard swimming pools be adequately sterilised. A fairly recent check in Sydney and Melbourne showed that up to 60 per cent of pools were not properly germ-free, simply because the owners had not carried out the instructions on the sterilising material properly. Too much is bad. Similarly, too little is also hazardous. It’s not hard to strike the happy medium.

Acute Otitis Media Causes

There are many causes. Commonly it tracks up from the back part of the throat and nose, perhaps during, or more likely several days or even weeks after, a simple sore throat or common cold. It may also follow sinusitis, or any of the infectious disorders, such as measles, mumps, rubella, tonsillitis or sinusitis.

Acute Otitis Media Treatment

It is well worth having the doctor check any ear pain, especially if it is related to a fever, or if it is worsening, or following some other type of infection.

It’s wise to have the doctor check an earache, especially if it worsens and there is a fever. Once again the physician will inspect the canal with the auriscope, and often the drum, normally a whitish, shiny colour, will be a fiery red. There may be swollen glands in front of or behind the ear, and a fever.

Usually antibiotics are prescribed. The semisynthetic penicillin (such as ampicillin or amoxycillin, or the cephalosporins) is often used with speedy results and excellent effect, but the doctor will decide what is best at the time. Infections in a district often run in a “fashion cycle,” and sometimes one particular antibiotic may be better than others.

Ear drops are not advised, for they do not help much. For pain relief and fevers, paracetamol elixir is effective and may be given with safety. Check the label for the dose that varies with age. Under no circumstances should anything be poked into the ear, unless under instruction from the physician.

Liver Disease

Some people turn yellow when their liver becomes infected. This is called jaundice, and it means that the liver cells have become infected and inflamed. A pigmented product called bilirubin that is produced in the liver and normally passed into the bowel for elimination is blocked as the inflamed cells and canals jam up.

More and more is channeled into the bloodstream, giving the skin and normally white parts of the body (such as the whites of the eyes) a yellowish tinge.

Liver Disease Causes

The most common type of liver disease is infectious hepatitis, or hepatitis A. It’s caused by a virus believed to be transmitted from infected fecal matter to food that subsequently finds its way into the system. Infectious particles of the hepatitis A virus are seen with the aid of an electron microscope. Symptoms can occur anywhere from 30 to 40 days after infection.

This is a similar kind, but it seems to act much more slowly, taking anywhere from 40 to 110 days (average 65 days) to produce symptoms. It is probably transmitted in a different way, and once it was believed to occur if infected needles or blood were used. Now researchers have found that the virus may be transmitted from person to person in a multitude of ways.

A product in the blood that pinpointed accurate diagnosis was first discovered in an Australian aboriginal, and for many years it was called Australian antigen. But now it is known as the hepatitis B (surface) antigen. When trying to confirm the diagnosis, doctors seek this particular element in the blood of the patient.

Liver Disease Symptoms

Often symptoms start abruptly, with fevers, headaches, aches and pains all over, loss of appetite and vomiting. After two to five days, a yellowing of the skin or eyes may occur, and this gives the signal that hepatitis may be present. However, this is not always so, and many cases occur in which there are only a few symptoms. Often the upper part of the abdomen is painful. This indicates the liver or spleen, two large organs tucked up under the ribs, are affected and swollen.

With symptoms of this kind, a wise parent will call the doctor. Diagnosis is often difficult, although if there is a local epidemic, it is much easier to predict. The doctor will most probably order special tests to confirm the diagnosis.

Liver Disease Treatment

There is no specific drug in use, but the doctor will give advice on the best routine to follow. Also, the doctor’s supervision is advisable, for serious complications may take place in which hospital care may become necessary. Fortunately the majority of cases does well with simple measures, and get well before long.

Reducing physical activity with a few days in bed gives the body’s recuperative powers the best chance to work at maximum capacity. Plenty of fluids, especially fruit juices with added powdered glucose D provide food in an easy digestible form and help allay nausea. Fluids help rid toxins and dead germs from the system. They also help reduce fevers. There are no strict food restrictions, but high-fat-content meals are usually unpalatable.

Most cases do well, especially those in whom the infection has been mild – this is so in most instances. However, hospital care is sometimes necessary, especially if symptoms are severe, and the youthful patient is not able to take normal food by mouth.

Hepatitis B is a far more severe and dangerous disorder, and the outlook is often much poorer.

A vaccine offering protection against hepatitis B is now available, and is given to persons at risk. The main risk is in mothers infecting their babies during pregnancy.

There is no vaccine for hepatitis A, but those coming into contact with the disease may gain protection by an injection of special serum containing the protective elements called gamma globulin. The doctor arranges this for you.

Purpura

What is Purpura?

Purpura means there is a tendency for the skin to bruise. It’s more likely in children under the age of six years, and often there may have been a tendency to bruise easily with simple knocks. A large number of purpuras exist, and they have a strange variety of names. Basically, the cause is a fault with the clotting mechanism of the blood. This usually involves tiny particles called platelets, which are part of the solid phase of the blood. There may be too few, or the place where they are produced, in the bone marrow, may be diseased.

Sometimes the condition follows a few weeks after a simple infection, often a viral one, or germs collecting in the urinary tract or teeth. There may be bleeding into the skin causing bruising. It may come from the nose, gums or urinary system these are the most common areas. Sometimes bleeding may occur into the bowel or pints or even into the nervous system, hit these are more unlikely. The child may run a fever, appear pale, but this varies. When the blood is examined, there is usually a reduced number of platelets.

Purpura Treatment

It can be a worrying time, and treatment may be needed for many months, often up to six or eight. Blood transfusions are given to restore the platelet count to normal, and these may be repeated depending on the child’s reaction.

Any infection is treated. The child is given a nutritious diet, probably with added vitamins, and the steroid drugs are sometimes used. Every effort is made to avoid injuring the body, for this will aggravate the bruising and bleeding. Certain of the newer drugs may also be used. It depends on the case, and the opinion of the doctors treating it. In continuing cases despite treatment (probably after six to twelve months of active therapy), the spleen, the large organ in the upper abdomen is sometimes surgically removed.

In most cases the results are favourable often with or without treatment, the vast majority of people recover within six months, but some may take longer and cases have continued for three years or more. Occasionally a purpura is fatal, but usually not.

Lyme disease

Lyme disease is the most commonly known disease caused by tick bites in the Northern Hemisphere. Approximately 70,000 cases are reported in the United States on an annual basis. Also called Lyme Borreliosis, the condition is thought to be caused by at least three members of the Borrelia family (a family of bacteria with over 36 types that are transmitted mainly by the bites of infected ticks and some species of lice). The disease received it name from Lyme, Connecticut in the US after the discovery of multiply cases (in children) in 1975.

Symptoms Lyme disease

Early symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, fatigue, depression, headaches and circular rashes on the skin called erythema migrans. The rashes can appear anywhere between one day to a month after being bitten by an infected insect. Contrary to popular beliefs, the rash is not indicative of an allergic reaction but a bacterial infection. In the absence of treatment, symptoms could progress to complications of the joints, central nervous system and the heart.

If left untreated or treated at a late stage, more severe symptoms can develop that are not only hard to treat but can also be disabling. In some instances, arthritis caused by Lyme disease as well as some after symptoms may remain after treatment suggesting that Borrelia can lead to autoimmunity (a condition in which the body recognizes parts of itself as harmful, causing the immune system to fight the cells or tissues thought to be foreign agents).

Stage two of Lyme disease is characterized by paralysis of the facial nerves, stiffness of the neck, abnormal heart rhythm, numbness of the extremities and weakness. The incubation period for the final stage of the disease is 6 week to 2 years after the infected bite or bites.

It is possible for Lyme disease to go untreated because the symptoms are similar to many other conditions, the most obvious sign is the rash resulting from the bite which can appear within the first 48 hours after infection takes place. However, since the range of time runs for 24 hours to 1 month, this telltale sign can also appear at a late stage in the infection. Rashes can still be misinterpreted even if they appear early since many people will mistake them for allergic reactions.

The vagueness of the symptoms that characterize Lyme disease is not the only problem when diagnosing the infection. The disease is one that can prove rather evasive during testing. Unlike most viral infections, this condition cannot be easily spotted using tissue cultures and blood tests are only successful if certain antibodies are produced. Even in these cases, the antibodies may be undetectable or show up late in the disease’s development. It often takes an evaluation of a person’s medical history, symptoms and test results for Lyme disease to be suspected.

Treating Lyme disease

2 to 3 weeks of antibiotics like Amoxicillin or Tetracycline is often sufficient to treat early stages of the disease while a long period and more intense treatment is needed for advance stages.

Childhood Infectious Diseases

For nine months, baby has been quietly developing in his own little world. Then all of a sudden, this comes to an abrupt stop. He is born, and has to face the big, bright, clamouring universe where, before long, he will be on his own.

No wonder the poor little guy yells and screeches within moments of leaving his mum’s warm, cosy inside! There is nothing around him in the womb to make life difficult. There is plenty of good food to digest, coming via his blood system and thanks to the umbilical cord that attaches him to this seemingly endless supply of nourishment.

There are no germs to bug him, and there is plenty of oxygen to keep him fit and well. It is hoped that his mum is a non-smoker. Babies developing inside smoking women are deprived of much oxygen in the blood supply, and that is why these babies are often below their normal birth weight when born. Their chances of being healthy on arrival are much less – in fact many die along the way, or shortly after birth.

A baby is covered with a thick protective layer from his mother at birth. A baby’s skin is free from germs, and this layer of creamy material that looks a bit like butter (doctors call it vernix caseosa) is aimed at keeping him free from germs and invading bacteria.

But that doesn’t last for very long. It certainly does not. After his first bath, away comes the protective barrier cream. Suddenly his skin and his system in general, is exposed to the plethora of viruses and bacteria that surround us all day and night.

Within hours, he seems to have commenced his adaptation to his new environment. After a few days, he appears to be enjoying life. The transformation from his sea world to a place where he is surrounded by air, light and noise is rapid. He eats, sleeps and seems to be at peace with the world – at least for most of the time.

Luckily baby inherits a lot of protection from his mother. Otherwise he might not cope too well, especially in the first year or so of his new life.

Before birth, there is a close relationship between baby’s blood and his mother’s. Although the blood supplies are separate, and do not come into direct contact, food, oxygen and other essentials are transferred from mother’s blood to baby’s.

Among these are minute amounts of chemicals called antibodies. These are the system’s protective mechanism. Throughout life, mother has been exposed to a variety of germs and diseases. In fact, she has probably suffered from a great many, especially those that come along during childhood.

Such as measles, mumps and chickenpox? Right, plus a whole lot more. Dozens of them in fact. Each time a new infection attacks, her system has reacted and built up antibodies aimed at quelling the effect of the invading germs. Frequently, once these are in the system, they are present for keeps. That is why one attack of some illnesses (not all to be sure, but many) imparts a natural resistance to further attacks.

Fortunately, these antibodies are transferrable to the developing baby before birth. That is why, in the first 12 months after birth, baby has a remarkably high resistance to many of the common rampant childhood diseases during the first few years of life.

Autism

What is Autism?

Autism is a strange problem of early childhood in which the child fails to develop normal relationships with the parent. The youngster is unresponsive and there is often a delay in language development. It comes from a Greek word autos, meaning self.

In 1943 Dr L. Kanner first talked about it. Since then it has become a well established condition. Fortunately it is quite rare, occurring in about five cases for every 10,000 under the age of five years. In the past few years a great deal of public interest has focused upon the problem.

It’s believed that about half of autistic children have brain damage, and it appears that more than half are severely mentally retarded. They have difficulty in relating to others. Often an autistic baby will not cuddle or “mould” into its mother’s body when being cuddled. It will tend to feel awkward and clumsy, and bend outwards rather than inwards in the customary comfortable manner of normal infants.

As they grow, their imaginative capacity is reduced. Therefore, they tend to repeat the same phrases over and over, using the same few words constantly.

Dr Kanner originally claimed that many of these children were of superior intelligence. Although quite a few appear to come from successful professional parents, his ideas have not been substantiated.

Autism is an uncommon condition, but more attention is being paid to autism as the community becomes increasingly aware of its existence.

It is a mental disorder rather than a physical one, and the cause is at present unknown. It is more likely there are several causes, each interacting.

Autistic children live in a world of their own. They are seemingly unresponsive to outside interests, and appear to reject the company and companionship of others, even those close to them, such as mothers.

They are aloof and indifferent, and treat others as remote objects. They even treat parts of their own bodies in a similar fashion. They are different from the average baby who adores company, and reacts in a happy, delighted manner.

They often learn basic skills, but seldom use these to communicate with others. For example, even after walking, they make little effort to approach their parents or to associate closely with anybody. They seldom bother to communicate with other children and indeed exercise no sense of interest in them. Being unable to communicate normally, speech is usually affected. Indeed, they may not learn to speak, or may invent their own strange jargon.

Many autistics are quite intelligent in their own strange way. But the odd behavior makes it difficult for them to use whatever talents they have. Others are mentally handicapped.

Autism Treatment

There is no remedial medical treatment for autism, but suitable management and education can help a great deal and bring to the surface whatever latent capacity is present in the child’s make-up. Of course the child’s entire future is inextricably linked with the ability to communicate with others, to talk, develop social awareness and acquire and develop technical skills.

In most cases, few autistic children become reasonable adults; many become eccentric. Some become outstanding musicians or develop other talents, but this is not usual. In most cities and countries around the world recognize the problem and many self-help and advisory centers have been created to help.

Long-term education by trained teachers who are prepared to spend an enormous amount of time and effort offers the only hope.

Unwanted Hair


Just as most people desire to have attractive, socially acceptable head hair, hair in other regions is despised as readily. Women regard hair in regions ranging from the pubic area and scalp as a masculine feature, and to be avoided at all costs.

The appearance of hair under the arms and in the suprapubic area is one of – normal secondary sexual characteristics of developing females. However, women show a distinct tendency to produce an above-average growth of hair other parts of the body as well. In majority of cases this does not indicate any hormonal imbalance. A check will tell if other members of the family have a similar problem.

Today there is good medical treatment for women with unwanted hair. Facial hair is usually the major problem (a “moustache “beard,” hated by all women). However hair on the breasts, legs and arms is s. often unpopular, especially when present in large, obvious amounts.

Unwanted Hair Treatment

Treatment should be under the supervision  vision of your physician, and involves of the drug spironolactonc (“Aldactons – as a 100 mg tablet. One (sometimes a tablet is taken daily, for a period of six-twelve months, or maybe more according to the results obtained. This drug balances the uptake of the male hormone testosterone by receptors in the hair which in turn restricts the growth of  hair. In the fullness of time it will thin out, and there will be no further growth while medication is being taken. Most noticeable result occurs after approximately  twelve months. If one tablet is insufficient, two tablets may be taken. The whole procedure is evaluated after 12-18 months.

Blood test for serum electrolytes is normally carried out by the doctor, and if results are abnormal, treatment is started. There are usually no adverse side effects. Men who have an oily skin, often with  lesions, may notice an improvement in skin texture. The drug is not new and has been in use medically for many  years for other purposes.

Although the medication seems suitable for most women, some will probably want to continue to use the methods have been available for many years. Here is a listing of the most common trouble areas, and some of the solutions that may be used if so desired.

Unwanted facial hair.

If this is dark and very obvious, simple bleaching often makes it less apparent. Depilatory creams give instant removal, but they must be reapplied as soon as new hair shows through. Although this may give the appearance of promoting a bristly stubble, this is not so. New hairs, due to their shortness, may appear firmer as they come through the skin. Waxes are not advised for facial hair (as they remove the very fine hairs normally present as well as the unwanted obvious ones). Electrolysis will give a permanent cure. It is imperative that you attend a person skilled in this procedure, otherwise satisfactory results may not occur.

In some very rare sex disorders of the male, the production of testosterone is below normal, and hair growth (in all areas except the scalp) does not occur or is markedly delayed. This disorder is seldom diagnosed under the age of 18 years. It is usually treated by specialists and experts in this field are fairly limited.  Many cases respond well to male hormone administration.

Men desiring greater growth of hair on the face, chest, underarms and pubic region may benefit from the administration of the male hormone in a similar manner. However, you should take over the problem with your family physician and under no circumstances taken without proper supervision.

Virilisation

If there has been excessive secretion of androgens from the adrenal cortex, this may give rise to precocious puberty if it happens in the pre-pubertal age.

Virilisation Symptoms

In females, of any age, this will result in virilisation. which means the appearance of typical male characteristics. There may be an increase in muscular development and hairiness (particularly the face and underarm), as well as enlargement of the clitoris, the equivalent of the male penis. In males the condition may be unnoticed until puberty is reached. Then precocious puberty occurs. This causes premature development of the external genitals, rapid bony growth and muscular development. The voice breaks prematurely, facial and body hair appears.

Libido increases, often dramatically, and can lead to psychosexual difficulties and social problems. Excessive male hormone causes the growing points of bones to close prematurely, so that growth may be stunted.

Apart from coming from the adrenals. the excess hormone may emanate from the pituitary gland due to a tumour that may press on the optic pathways, producing visual disturbances as well.

Virilisation Treatment

Substitution therapy with cortisone type drugs often successfully checks symptoms. However, if due to a tumour in the adrenals, the outlook may be poor. If cancer is causing the symptoms. spread can rapidly take place to other organs. Tumours of the pituitary must be treated either surgically or with radiotherapy. Sometimes hormonal therapy (medroxyprogesterone) by injection may assist if given long-term.

Underweight


Although there are far more overweight people around than underweight, the latter may be a problem in those afflicted. Sometimes disease can cause person to become underweight, often dramatically, and needs medical investigation by the doctor. However, there are many ways to improve weight; the methods are simple and practical.

It is a strange paradox, but while one of the world is today starving to the other half is eating itself to death!

Many developing lands, and in particular the developing world in general, suffer from undernourishment to a severe degree. Unfortunately, in many of these countries populations are constantly in hunger.

Warning: sometimes an attempt to gain weight is to anticipate nature increasing at an alarming rate. The population tends to catch up to the total food availability, and invariably goes way past it.

Therefore, in many lands there is under nutrition, underweight (with consequent inroads of disease and debility) and general body thinness. However, while the Western world in general has too much food, and an excess of availability of it, there are some people who are underweight. They are outnumbered by far by the overweight, but thin people contrast even more sharply with the well-fed people with whom they inevitably associate. This tends to make them stand out in stark relief. The very thin dislike their appearance almost as much as the overweight, although as a class they are far less vocal about it. Doctors are frequently visited by the underweight and asked for advice as to what to do.

Causes of Underweight

Of course, there are many causes. Just as there are constitutionally obese persons, so the reverse also holds true. There are many who have a genetic predisposition to be thin. “Small boned” is a common phrase, used in the hope of hiding the suggestion of any disability.

Just as many overweight people have been brought up on foods since babyhood that predisposed to adult obesity, so the underweight person most likely has been brought up on a dietetic intake that tends to produce a thin adult body.

Many thin people simply do riot enjoy the high-carbohydrate (and consequently high-kilojoule) foods. They do not eat sweets and chocolate and cake and pastry by choice. Their consumption of potato and allied products tends to be low. Their intake of sugar and sugar based foods is also much lower than average. They prefer foods to be unsweetened, don’t have sugar in their beverages, and drink simple water or unsweetened fruit juice in preference to bottled carbonated drinks, which are notoriously high in sugar (arid kilojoule) content.

On the whole, underweight people tend to be healthier as a class than the overweight. They tend to be quicker in their movements, be more active in the total daily volume of exercise, may he more mentally active, but not necessarily so.

However, a very underweight person, particularly one who is losing weight, may have some inherent disorder that must be corrected. Weight loss can be a sign of serious disease. Such wasting disorders as cancer and tuberculosis are notorious in this respect. Anaemia and many other illnesses cause the body to deplete its food stores quicker. It may be due to a reduced intake of kilojoules simply because the illness is making the person less hungry and consequently eat less. Or it may be due to increased metabolic rates. There are various views.

The sudden onset of weight loss should be considered a potentially serious symptom. It often follows acute illnesses, and in these events, if it is a relatively short lived, mild infection, may not be of consequence. For example, a bad bout of a viral influenza, particularly if accompanied with a gastric component where there is nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea, will quickly lead to a rapid weight loss. If this persists for a week or two, it can readily strip four to ten kilos from a pers frame. Many of these sicknesses or brief duration, and as soon as the illness is over, and the fluid losses are stop; and the normal eating pattern is resumed, the weight will gradually cc: on again.

Actually, some people welcome a short illness such as this, for it may strip away enough unwanted fat to bring weight to a level they may have striving to achieve for a long time. Once the weight has reduced, it is far easier keep it at a static level simply by diet and discretion.

If there is no obvious cause for be: underweight, if it is worrying the patient or if it has occurred suddenly for no apparent reason, a medical examination is worthwhile. The doctor may order to exclude serious causes, such as cancer or TB. In younger persons these are unlikely, but anything can happen. Do not say to yourself, “I’m only 30. Nothing serious could possibly happen to me.” It may, and the only way to be sure it won’t is to obtain an expert opinion.

Fiber

The discovery that an increased amount of crude fiber in the daily diet lowers intestinal pressure and rapidly reduces transit time is also a major step forward. Transit time is the duration it takes food to pass from one end of the bowel system to the other. The shorter the transit time, the less risk there is of bowel toxins coming into contact with the intestinal walls and causing adverse reactions.

The simple expedient of adding two tablespoonfuls (12 – 14 grams) of unprocessed bran to the meal three times a day can achieve a most desirable result. This should be continued for a minimum of two weeks, or until a bowel action is obtained without any straining. Some patients will require more, and up to several tablespoonfuls a day may be the requisite desirable amount. But the goal is a soft bowel action that can be passed without effort.

The effects of all this are far-reaching. Although many claims have been made by those investigating the use and value of unprocessed bran, at least some (and probably most) are feasible.

Reduced transit time helps reduce constipation. It will also help to normalize nonpathological diarrhea. Due to normal soft actions, and reduced pressure, there is a reduced risk of hemorrhoids (piles) developing. Also, painful fissures (common in those constipated) are less likely to occur and if present, will tend to heal more rapidly.

The consequence of this is that varicose veins in the lower limbs are less likely to take place.

By reducing pressure in the bowel, the outcrops, or pockets in the bowel wall (caused by pressure), termed diverticulosis, will occur much less often, and indeed it may prevent this from developing. In turn, infection of these pockets (called diverticulitis) is less likely. It may also prevent germs being pushed into the appendix, and may help prevent acute appendicitis.