Lupus, the Mystery Disease

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There are about 1.5 million people in America with lupus and about 16,000 reported new cases each year. But what exactly is lupus and how do you get it? Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes something in the body to go wrong, rendering the body’s defenses helpless, unable to protect healthy cells and tissues.

Lupus from the Latin word meaning “wolf”, because of the destructive lesions the disease has been known to cause (reminiscent of bites), has been around a very long time and still, it is a mystery to the scientific community who don’t know what causes it. They can only speculate that it develops in response to a combination of factors both inside and outside the body, including hormones, genetics, and environment.

Women are more prone to the disease than men. And women of different ethnicities, in particular African American, Hispanic, Asian and Native American women are more likely to get lupus than Caucasian women.

What are the symptoms?

According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases these are the more common symptoms:

  • Pain or swelling in joints
  • Muscle pain
  • Fever with no known cause
  • Red rashes, most often on the face
  • Chest pain when taking a deep breath
  • Hair loss
  • Pale or purple fingers or toes
  • Sensitivity to the sun
  • Swelling in legs or around eyes
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Swollen glands
  • Feeling very tired

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Less common symptoms include:

  • Anemia (a decrease in red blood cells)
  • Headaches
  • Dizzy spells
  • Feeling sad
  • Confusion
  • Seizures

The disease is difficult to diagnose because symptoms come and go, and might vary from person to person. Some people with the disease might develop problems with heart, lungs, kidneys, blood cells or nervous system, as well as having some of the other signs. No one test has yet been developed, so doctors still rely on medical history, complete blood work, urinalysis, in addition to assessing the condition of both the kidneys and liver.

The Lupus Foundation of America lists the following examples of triggers that might set the illness in motion:

  • ultraviolet rays from the sun
  • ultraviolet rays from fluorescent light bulbs
  • sulfa drugs, which make a person more sensitive to the sun, such as: Bactrim® and Septra® (trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole); sulfisoxazole Gantrisin®); tolbutamide (Orinase®); sulfasalazine (Azulfidine®); diuretics
  • sun-sensitizing tetracycline drugs such as minocycline (Minocin®)
  • penicillin or other antibiotic drugs such as: amoxicillin (Amoxil®); ampicillin (Ampicillin Sodium ADD-Vantage®); cloxacillin (Cloxapen®)
  • an infection
  • a cold or a viral illness
  • exhaustion
  • an injury
  • emotional stress, such as a divorce, illness, death in the family, or other life complications
  • anything that causes stress to the body, such as surgery, physical harm, pregnancy, or giving birth

What about treatment?

Treatment for lupus depends on individual symptoms – how the disease manifests itself. The most common treatments used to control the disease include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Antimalarial drugs
  • Corticosteroids
  • Immune suppressants

There is still much research being done to better understand this disease.

If you are on prescribed medications for any condition, and you need help affording your prescriptions, download a free Watertree Health Prescription Discount Card or request a card be mailed to you. It provides significant discounts on almost all recommended medications (brand and generic). Most experts agree, taking your medicines as prescribed improves overall health and wellbeing and lowers cost of health care for everyone.

References: Medscape.com, niams.nih.gov, WebMD, Lupus.org, Mayo Clinic, EverydayHealth.com

By WHBlogger
 05/30/2014

Instructions and Disclaimer: The content on this website is designed for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses. Always consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your health.

Tell us if this was helpful and let us know what other topics you might like to see us cover in our blog.

America’s Mental Health Crisis

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month, but America’s mental health crisis is something we need to focus on year-round. According to research conducted by the CDC, 1 out of 7 children in the U.S. between the ages of 2 and 8 years old has a mental, behavioral, or developmental disorder. The National Institute of Mental Health places the overall numbers at 43.4 million American adults, 18 or older with some form of mental health issues. Despite these high numbers, only half of these children and 59% of these adults receive mental health services or treatment.

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So, what exactly is mental health?
It goes deeper than simply feeling happy, or feeling emotionally stable today but not so much on another day. Mental health is everything including emotional, psychological, and social well-being. These factors all play into all aspects of our lives and are important through the many life-transitions we make – from childhood through the aging process.

Believe it or not, signs indicating that something is off are often quite visible, but they are often dismissed, ignored or simply allowed to get worse due to lack of resources. The problem is not just that many individuals needing treatment are neglected, but that the mental health care system itself is not functional – it is broken. However, we can all do our part to ensure that the people we know, love and care for remain safe.

MentalHealth.gov suggest the following early warning signs that might signal problems:

  • Eating or sleeping too much or too little
  • Pulling away from people and usual activities
  • Having low or no energy
  • Feeling numb or like nothing matters
  • Having unexplained aches and pains
  • Feeling helpless or hopeless
  • Smoking, drinking, or using drugs more than usual
  • Feeling unusually confused, forgetful, on edge, angry, upset, worried, or scared
  • Yelling or fighting with family and friends
  • Experiencing severe mood swings that cause problems in relationships
  • Having persistent thoughts and memories you can’t get out of your head
  • Hearing voices or believing things that are not true
  • Thinking of harming yourself or others
  • Inability to perform daily tasks like taking care of your kids or getting to work or school

Remain aware of noticeable changes in people you know well, family and friends, and don’t be afraid to speak up, to talk, to seek help. Mental Health issues should never be something to be ashamed of.

If you are on prescribed medications for any condition, and you need help affording your prescriptions, download a free Watertree Health Prescription Discount Card or request a card be mailed to you. It provides significant discounts on almost all recommended medications (brand and generic). Most experts agree, taking your medicines as prescribed improves overall health and wellbeing and lowers cost of healthcare for everyone.

References: US News & World Report, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Kaiser Family Foundation, The Guardian, MentalHealth.gov, NIMH.NIH.gov

By WHBlogger

Originally Posted: 05/29/2014

Edited: 05/19/2017

Instructions and Disclaimer: The content on this website is designed for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses. Always consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your health.

Tell us if this was helpful and let us know what other topics you might like to see us cover in our blog.

Summer Hydration

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You might think that “hydration” would be a routine part of everyone’s day. A natural thing to do; you get thirsty – you drink a beverage to quench your thirst, right? Well, the simplest things to do are often the hardest.

The human body is made up of about 50–65% water and as infants that number is even higher (75-78%), and it can differ based on age and gender. So it is easy to see why as humans, we can survive longer without food if we have water, than the other way around. Water is an essential component of life.

According to experts, water helps:

  • lubricate internal surfaces
  • flush toxins through the kidneys
  • transport nutrients throughout the body
  • maintain healthy blood pressure
  • regulate body temperature and sustain healthy vital organs
But the body is constantly losing water through sweat/perspiration, urine, and other vital bodily functions. Summer hydration is very important. With higher temperatures, longer days, and possibly more outdoor activities and exercising, the body can get easily dehydrated.

Symptoms can include the following:

  • headache
  • dry mouth
  • confusion
  • dizziness or lightheadedness
  • lack of tears
  • fatigue, sleepiness
  • extreme thirst
  • reduction or darker colored urine
And you don’t have to be out in the desert to experience these symptoms. Many individuals think that drinking a beverage is the same as drinking water, but water can do more for your body than other beverages.

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It’s also important to beware of sports drinks; they are often laden with sugar and high in calories. If you are out in the sun, running, biking, walking, swimming, try water or if you choose a sports drink, make sure that it is low in sugar and calories, and has electrolytes.

What are electrolytes, you might ask?

This is the medical term for salts or ions (electrically-charged particles). Our body fluids have a high concentration of sodium chloride and other electrolytes including potassium, calcium, magnesium, bicarbonate, phosphate, sulfate, so you might see how loosing these without replacing them, can eventually be harmful to the general health of the body.

For many people, water is one of their least favorite beverages, even if it should be an important part of any healthy regiment. Some good ways to get around the displeasure of drinking water – try putting berries, lemon or lime, a slice of orange or any favorite fruit in your water to make it tasty. Opt for a piece of fruit instead of substituting fruit juice for water. A piece of fruit contains vital nutrients like vitamins in addition to fiber and water.

For example:

  • Apple (100 g) = 84% water
  • Blueberry = 80% water
  • Cantaloupe = 89% water
  • Peach = 89% water

Remember, you don’t have to be in the desert to need hydration, your body requires water to maintain its healthy state and to ensure that you remain beautiful and healthy inside and out.

If you are on prescribed medications for any condition, and you need help affording your prescriptions, download a free Watertree Health Prescription Discount Card or request a card be mailed to you. It provides significant discounts on almost all recommended medications (brand and generic). Most experts agree, taking your medicines as prescribed improves overall health and wellbeing and lowers cost of health care for everyone.

References: EatDrinkBetter.com, nchpad.org, Family Doctor.org, health.howstuffworks.com, WebMd.com.

By WHBlogger
05/22/2014

Instructions and Disclaimer: The content on this website is designed for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses. Always consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your health.

Tell us if this was helpful and let us know what other topics you might like to see us cover in our blog.

Summer Stings

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About three percent of the population is allergic to bee or other insect stings and that includes wasps and hornet stings as well. Along with everything else that this time of the year brings – it brings blooming plants, and they attract bees and wasps and other flying insects that may result in summer stings. A simple walk in the park or a picnic can be filled with anxiety for someone who can end up in the ER or worse if an unexpected encounter with an insect ends in a sting.

But you don’t have to become a hermit or exclude outdoor activities during the summer. Take precaution, be smart and know your limits.

When outdoors, simple but effective measures can reduce chances of things going wrong. Most experts will tell you to:

  1. Avoid wearing cologne or perfumes; it’s like a magnet for bees and wasps.
  2. Wear less colorful clothing, especially floral prints; bees might mistake you for a flower.
  3. When you are outdoors, stay away from foods and beverages with lots of sugar, including fruits.
  4. Wear clothing that isn’t loose or baggy where bees or wasps might get trapped.
  5. Avoid walking barefoot, especially in grassy places with small flowering plants.
  6. Do not panic if bees or wasps happen to be flying about. Quick or swatting movement will provoke them.
  7. Stay away from flowering gardens, bees and wasps will most certainly nectar there.
  8. Keep car windows rolled up when parked at home or other places to ensure bees and other insects do not get trapped looking for a way out.
  9. If you recycle and have an outdoor trash bin, make sure that you rinse all cans and bottles to lessen the attraction to sugar residue.

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For the average individual, a bee or insect sting will result in swelling, itching and tenderness. But for someone who is allergic, a simple sting can become life threatening.

Symptoms of Anaphylaxis shock can include:

  • hives, itching, swelling
  • swelling of the tongue and/or face
  • shortness of breath, tightness in the chest
  • dizziness or a feeling you might faint

If you or someone else is showing signs of an allergic reaction to a sting, seek immediate medical help. Call 911, or take the individual who has been stung to the hospital. If that person is you, do not attempt to drive, dial 911 or ask someone else to drive you to the hospital as you might lose consciousness.

What to do if you get stung but are not allergic?

While any sting is painful, bee, wasp or hornet stings can be particularly so. There are oral and topical treatments such as antihistamines that can help with itching and swelling.

Check the spot of the sting for a stinger and remove it at once using your fingernails, or the edge of a credit card, both are effective tools. Wash the spot of the sting with soap and water. Using a cold compress can usually sooth the spot.

Have a safe and fun summer.

If you are on prescribed medications for any condition, and you need help affording your prescriptions, download a free Watertree Health Prescription Discount Card or request a card be mailed to you. It provides significant discounts on almost all recommended medications (brand and generic). Most experts agree, taking your medicines as prescribed improves overall health and wellbeing and lowers cost of health care for everyone.

References: WebMd, About.com, emedicinehealth.com.

By WHBlogger
05/19/2014

Instructions and Disclaimer: The content on this website is designed for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses. Always consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your health.

Tell us if this was helpful and let us know what other topics you might like to see us cover in our blog.

Summer Sun Safety Tips

No matter where in the country you happen to be residing, this winter was a long hard one. Now that Memorial Day has passed, everyone is looking forward to the start of summer and lots of outdoor fun in the sun in the coming months. summer sun

Here are a few sun safety tips that won’t dampen your summer outdoor activities, including visits to the beach, hiking, biking and backyard fun:

  • Whether sunny or cloudy, protect against UV rays year round.
  • Remember that sunlight during the hours from 10am-4pm (9am-3pm daylight savings), is the most dangerous.
  • Seek shady areas during the noon hours.
  • Protect arms and legs with appropriate clothing.
  • Use a hat that protects face, head and ears.
  • Use sunglasses that block UVA and UVB rays.
  • Make sure to use sunblock/sunscreen (SPF 15 or higher).

According to the American Cancer Society, melanoma is one of the most common forms of cancer. And while the numbers are low, the mortality rate is high – of the over 75 thousand new melanoma cases that will be diagnosed this year, over 9,500 people are expected to die (more men than women). And like all other cancers, it does not discriminate; African Americans and Latinos are also at risk. A Mayo Clinic study revealed that “skin cancer among middle-aged adults, 40 to 60 years old, has increased nearly eightfold between 1970 and 2009.”

The American Academy of Dermatology suggests the following:

  • Be aware of the warning signs change in size, shape, or color of moles or skin lesions, the appearance of sores or skin growth.
  • Regularly conduct self-exams and check for any abnormalities.
  • Take into account a few factors skin type, how much sun exposure you’ve had, family history when you determine if you should have a full body exam.

Experts also suggest avoiding tanning salons.  And don’t forget to schedule a visit to a dermatologist at least once a year.

If you are on prescribed medications for any condition, and you need help affording your prescriptions, download a free Watertree Health Prescription Discount Card or request a card be mailed to you. It provides significant discounts on almost all recommended medications (brand and generic). Most experts agree, taking your medicines as prescribed improves overall health and wellbeing and lowers cost of health care for everyone.

References:  CDC, American Cancer Society, The American Academy of Dermatology, Science Daily

By WHBlogger
05/19/2014

Instructions and Disclaimer: The content on this website is designed for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses. Always consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your health.

Tell us if this was helpful and let us know what other topics you might like to see us cover in our blog.

The Angelina Effect

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Source: Wikimedia

For breast cancer awareness month, we recall May 14, 2013, the day the news broke that the world’s most beautiful woman, international humanitarian and Hollywood leading lady, Angelina Jolie, had quietly undergone a double-mastectomy. In a New York Times op-ed piece, the mother of six delivered the shocking news, in her own words.

She spoke candidly about discovering that she was at extremely high risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer because of a mutated gene known as the BRCA1. Her mother Marcheline Bertrand had died of ovarian cancer at age 57, and that gave her pause. With an 87% chance of developing breast cancer she made, what had to be, one of the most painful decisions, and one that millions of women around the world face each year.

The fact that this iconic beauty chose to share her story, unafraid of judgment, was significant. More significant was the idea that for many women, she removed the stigma affiliated with mastectomy. She defied the idea that she was any less a woman and that this action meant the loss of her femininity. Time Magazine would later dub this – the Angelina Effect.

Jolie’s story has done much to reshape the conversation and has helped place the spotlight on the most important aspects of this issue:

  • The lack of access that so many women face, to the kind of health care options that she is privileged to, simply based on finance.
  • The importance of the developing science of genetic diagnosis and DNA profiling.
  • The faulty stigma affiliated with this type of radical, yet life-saving surgery.

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In making this decision, Angelina put her family front and center. Wanting to be around to see her children grow up, and wanting them to have her in their lives for as long as possible, made everything else unimportant. She reignited a conversation that is worth having whether you agree with what she did or not. And the debate has not lost any of its thunder, one year after the news broke.

At the time of the op-ed, NPR’s Linda Holmes wrote that Angelina’s ability to still feel just as beautiful after the procedure as she did before, might just be what helps another woman going through this,

It will be powerful to someone whether it should be or not. Someone will think about having a mastectomy and remember that Angelina Jolie had one, and she wasn’t embarrassed, and she still felt pretty, and she told everyone that it can be survived.

When celebrities use their name and recognition to focus attention on important health issues and mobilize individuals, governments and the health community, it can be the most powerful tool and use of their positions in culture.

A reminder to all women, whether you have children or not – do something valuable for yourself:

  • Remember to care for yourself, as much as being a care-giver.
  • Set aside time for regular and routine check-ups.
  • Make sure you know your family’s health history (what you might be prone to).
  • Get screened for breast and ovarian cancer as well as for heart disease (early detection is your best protection).

Don’t let others define who you are as a woman – a lesson well worth learning from one of the most beautiful women in the world.

If you are on prescribed medications for any condition, and you need help affording your prescriptions, download a free Watertree Health Prescription Discount Card or request a card be mailed to you. It provides significant discounts on almost all recommended medications (brand and generic). Most experts agree, taking your medicines as prescribed improves overall health and wellbeing and lowers cost of health care for everyone.
References: New York Times, Time Magazine, The Huffington Post, The Independent, NPR, National Cancer Institute
By WHblogger
05/05/14
Edited: 9/30/16
Instructions and Disclaimer: The content on this website is designed for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses. Always consult your health care provider with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your health.

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