You Need to Know

6 Symptoms You Should Never Ignore

June 05, 2012

Heart-rateGot a headache? Probably a brain tumor, right? Actually, not very likely.

Noticed a small tremor in your hand? Probably Parkinson’s disease? Maybe; it all depends on your age and what other symptoms you might be having.

With the wide accessibility of medical information on the internet, it’s easy to convince yourself that you have some serious disease or condition you’re going to die from – usually pretty soon too!  There’s no filter on the internet – it’s hard to tell what’s good information versus useless advice. And it seems that everybody that searches for medical information ends up believing they have some rare or life-threatening condition.

So how do you tell if a symptom is serious or just a normal part of aging or something that will go away without you even having to do anything?

There are a couple of weird symptoms or more likely common symptoms that are just a little bit different that should cause some concern. What are they?

1. Sparks or flashes of light in your visual field. Or maybe it feels like a curtain is coming down on one eye. Do not mess around when you have vision changes. What I just described is extremely serious - it could represent a condition called retinal detachment. If not recognized and treated immediately, you will likely go blind.

2. Feeling full after eating small amounts of food. If you’re feeling full often, especially when you’re not trying to diet, this raises concern. I’m even more concerned if you are nauseous with the small amount of food you’re consuming. Usually, these symptoms are related to an ulcer or reflux disease. But if you’re losing weight, I’d be concerned about cancer. Stomach and pancreatic cancer as well as some types of leukemias can cause you to feel full after eating just a few bites. If you’re having these symptoms, you need to be checked out.

3. Lost sense of smell. The fancy medical term is anosmia. As we get older, our sense of smell decreases, but it should never go away completely - and certainly not suddenly. If you have lost your sense of smell, it’s most likely due to a polyp in your nose, but it could also be due to a low thyroid. So ask to have your thyroid checked. More concerning is a certain type of brain tumor that affects the area that controls smell.

Abdominal-pain-sm

Photo Source: Thinkstock/iStockphoto

4. Abdominal pain that starts around your belly button but then gradually moves to your lower right side over several hours. We all get belly pain – and 99 out of a 100 times, it’s due to something we ate. But the key here is whether or not the belly pain resolves in a few hours. If it gets better over time, not worse, than it's most likely something minor. When I hear the pain is getting worse, and it moved from the middle of the lower abdomen to the right side, I start to get worried. If there’s nausea and constipation, I’m even more concerned. If there’s fever – it’s time to get to the ER. Appendicitis is a condition that requires urgent surgery. People can die of appendicitis if it’s not diagnosed and treated.

5. We all have had a hoarse voice at some point in our lives; either after shouting at friends or children, or maybe during allergy season. But a hoarse voice accompanied by chest pain that radiates straight to the back could represent impending disaster. Chest pain is always something you should take seriously; if it radiates to the back and you are hoarse, you may actually have an immediate life-threatening condition called a dissecting aortic aneurysm. The aorta is your largest and most important blood vessel; its delivers blood to every part of the body. In a dissection, there’s damage that basically can cause it to explode. The hoarseness would tell me the tearing is occurring at the arch – a very bad thing. If you or a loved one has these symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately.

6. Tingling, sometimes associated with numbness or burning in various parts of the body. We’ve all gotten that “pins and needles” feeling at some point. But usually it only happens a few times a year, not a couple of times a week. And it is unusual to have that sensation in multiple areas of the body, including the face. Tingling and numbness can be associated with nerve damage as well as diabetes. But they can often be one of the earliest signs of multiple sclerosis. So if you’re experiencing tingling or numbness, you need to see the doctor right away.


More on Preventative Care:

5 Most Dangerous Recreational Sports

Do Probiotics Really Do Anything?


Photo Source (upper right): Thinkstock/iStockphoto

Can Early Signs of Frostbite Go Undetected?

January 06, 2012

FrostbiteBrrrr…Winter has definitely arrived! I know a lot of you love the cold  weather and all it involves - skiing, hot chocolate, making snowmen with children and of course snuggling with your loved one! But the cold weather can also bring danger. We have all heard stories about those hikers who get lost in a blizzard and die from hypothermia. Many of you think you don’t have to worry about frostbite during the winter because you don’t go hiking or engage in winter sports, and it doesn’t seem to get “too cold” depending upon where you live. The reality, however, is that frostbite is a real concern for all of us during these winter months. I’ve seen many patients who have suffered from frostbite who mistakenly thought it only happens to stranded skiers and folks who live in New England. Don’t make the same mistake!

Frostbite occurs when a body part has tissue damage from exposure to cold weather (or cold water). Don’t let its name fool you – just because its name has the word “bite” doesn’t mean it’s like a “dog bite” or “cat bite.” Frostbite is a medical emergency that if left untreated can result in death of the body tissue and even death itself.


So what are the signs of frostbite?

  • The first sign is usually reddish skin that eventually turns whitish or waxy in color. The skin feels cold and seems to be hard. 
  • Numbness of the area and even sometime itchiness.
  • The affected area often becomes swollen; it looks like it’s getting bigger – this is often pretty noticeable.
  • Blisters start to form when frostbite is becoming severe.
  • Black scabs develop when tissue is already dying – a very bad sign.


How do you protect yourself when the thermostat takes a big drop?

  1. Treat the cold as your enemy and be prepared to do battle! The best initial strategy is to minimize your time outdoors when the weather gets below 32 degrees (0 degrees Celcius for you metric lovers). If you don’t need to be outside for more than 30 minutes, don’t.
  2. Make sure you wear layers of clothing and make sure those layers stay dry. Too often, people fall in the snow and their clothes get wet - or they’re sweating profusely. Dry clothes keep you warm - not wet clothes. And take windy days seriously – those days that talk about “wind chill” are important since wind can make you lose heat more quickly.
  3. Keep in mind that it’s the hands, ears, nose and feet that are most at risk. Knowing that, you will hopefully wear a hat! More than 25 percent of heat is lost through the head. Guys - baseball caps are OK if you have nothing else, but you really need to wear a hat that covers the ears. Gloves are an absolute necessity! Two pairs of socks is a good idea if you’re going to do a lot of walking.
  4. I’ve had patients suffer tissue damage when they go outside “for a smoke” with little outer clothing on because they thought the smoking will generate heat. Wrong! Smoking actually increases heat loss from our body and the nicotine decreases circulation. 

Remember that certain health conditions can make you more at risk for frostbite. This includes diabetes and heart disease because they affect blood flow. Also, peripheral vascular disease and even rheumatoid arthritis add an extra risk. Certain medications such as beta blockers can also put you at risk since they impact blood flow. And being older is riskier when we’re outside in the cold since our bodies do not regulate body temperature as well once we pass age 60.


More on Cold Weather Safety:

Cold Weather Safety

Moisturizing in a Cold Climate

Find the Right Cold Weather Gear


Photo Source: Thinkstock/iStockphoto

Aging And Your Eyes

November 14, 2011

Man-with-glassesHave you been holding books or the newspaper at arm’s length so you can read it more clearly?  If you’re over 40, I bet you are. The truth of the matter is that once we approach our forties, our eyes have already begun changing – sometimes normal, sometimes not-so-normal. So how do you know if the vision changes you are experiencing are serious, or just a natural part of aging? Well, you can do so by learning how aging affects our eyes.

What Really Happens

As we get older, our pupils become smaller and our field of vision decreases. The lens also becomes more rigid. As a result, our ability to focus on objects both near and far becomes more difficult. Our vision also becomes less sharp. You probably have noticed this because it’s hard to read fine print. This usually starts to occur in our forties.

You might even have needed to get a pair of reading glasses lately or been told you need bifocals – all a natural part of aging. You probably have also noticed that you need more light to read clearly as you’ve gotten older.  I’ve noticed this when I’m in a nice restaurant. The restaurant is usually dimly lit, which can provide a nice atmosphere but makes it tough to read the menu or decipher the numbers on the bill when it arrives. This is normal because as you get older, you need more light to see clearly.

But if you get headaches or your eyes seem to get tired after reading small print, you may have presbyopia.  Presbyopia is the medical term for the loss of elasticity of the lens which results in loss of sharp focus for near objects, and it is a normal part of aging. 

Nearly 111 million people in the United States have presbyopia, and that number is supposed to grow to 123 million people in by 2020. Yet only 10% of this population knows that they have this disease.

You can help correct your vision with multifocal glasses or contact lenses to help see clearly at all distances. But it will take more than just a pair of glasses: Correcting presbyopia means your brain will have to adapt to various vision correction prescriptions. Multifocal contact lenses, like AIR OPTIX, are designed to help with all stages of presbyopia and may be a valuable option for those who prefer not to wear glasses. 

Common Problems

Many middle-aged patients come to see me about a common problem called “floaters.”  This refers to the experience of seeing spots or specks that float across the visual field. This can be very scary, especially the first time it occurs.  However, it’s usually normal. To understand floaters, it’s helpful to learn about the vitreous. The vitreous is a jelly-like substance that fills the body of the eye.  It’s attached to the retina, and is typically clear.  However, as we age, it becomes less jelly-like and more water-like.  Sometimes it even detaches from the retina. The floaters are actually little clumps of the jelly-type substance, which then cast shadows.  Again, this is usually normal.  However, if the onset of floaters coincides with a flash of light, or seem to be associated with any sudden physical weakness, see your doctor, as these symptoms can indicate a retinal detachment or even a stroke.

Have you been worried that you seem to have lost some of your ability to discern the difference between colors, or different shades of the same color? Maybe when you’re at a store and take your black sweater to the register, you suddenly realize that it’s actually blue. While we don’t become color-blind as we become older, our ability to distinguish greens and blues can be affected. This is because the lens of the eye begins to yellow with age. You may have even noticed this while watching television or looking at photos – you thought it was HD but now it doesn’t look so crisp! Issues with color does not happen until after age 50, and generally does not cause major problems.  Luckily, traffic lights are red, yellow and green and not blue, yellow and green!

Sudden vision loss is never normal at any age, and needs to be evaluated by a doctor immediately. Do not wait around thinking it might get better. If vision suddenly goes dark or suddenly blurry, get to the emergency room right away.

Eye pain and red eye also need to be discussed with a physician since they typically are symptoms of a disease. Just because you get older doesn’t mean you should have pain in the eye or your eyes should be red several days in a row - that is not normal.

 

Want to learn more about the aging process? Check out Is This Normal? The Essential Guide to Aging.

 

More on Vision Problems:

Vision Problems

Refractive Vision Problems

Color Vision Test

 

Photo Source: Thinkstock/Goodshot

 

Are Frequent Bathroom Breaks Normal at My Age?

October 31, 2011

ToiletIt’s one of the most common and embarrassing problems for many of us as we get older– keeping control of our urine output. Other than sex, it seems like urination is the topic most people don’t want to talk about when they come to the doctor. As we age, it’s normal to have some problems urinating, but those problems are probably not what you think. Because few people talk about it, patients often do not realize what is normal and what is not normal.

The process of making urine is pretty fascinating. It’s the body’s process of removing waste. Basically, urine is a liquid that is secreted by the kidneys. While traveling through the kidneys, urea, water and other waste combines to form urine.  Urine then travels through two tubes  to the bladder. The bladder is the final stop for urine before you use the bathroom to void. When the bladder becomes full and it starts to stretch, a nerve tells the brain it’s time to urinate.


What's Normal?

You might be surprised to learn that the capacity of the bladder is only one to two cups. That’s not a lot of space, and is important to keep in mind when you are having urinary problems. Age does work against us in maintaining normal bladder function. Increased age is associated with decreased bladder capacity and decreased bladder function. So as we get older, those factors are going to impact our ability to make, hold and control urine.

It’s also good to know that the normal pattern of urination is a decrease in urine output at night.  In other words, you should be voiding more times during the day rather than at night. If I asked most people, what’s considered a normal number of times to go to the bathroom a day, most people have no clue.  Some cannot even remember how many times they go a day!

So what’s the answer? When should you become concerned about the number of times you go to the bathroom? In terms of a total day, seven is the magic number – meaning it’s normal to urinate up to seven times a day.  It’s abnormal to urinate eight or more times a day.


Men vs. Women

Problems with urinating are usually thought of as a condition affecting women. That’s mostly true and in general twice as many women than men are affected. It’s partly due to their anatomy as well as the impact pregnancies have on the urinary system.

However, you’ll be surprised to learn that for some urination problems, that ratio changes as we age. Men also have problems urinating, and like women it occurs throughout their lifetime. The problems increase as men age. One doesn’t usually begin to notice problems until around age 60. By age 60, about 20 percent of men experience problems with urinating. By 85 years of age, however, the prevalence is almost 35 percent. This is not surprising since the majority of men’s urinating problems are related to benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH).

 

No one wants to admit he/she has a problem with bladder control. So here are the questions I ask patients to determine if bladder control is normal:

  • Do you have or ever had loss of urinary control?
  • Do you ever leak or lose urine when you cough, laugh, or sneeze?
  • How often do you have difficulty holding your urine until you can get to the bathroom?
  • Do you ever use pads, tissue or cloth in your underwear to catch urine?

If you answer yes to any of those questions, you need more tests.

I’ve realized over time that it is when people get up to pee at night that they start to worry something might be wrong. Regardless of age, you should not be getting up more than twice a night to relieve your bladder. Any more often than twice a night is not normal, and requires a trip to the doctor’s office. Getting up at night to pee can indicate more serious disease such as diabetes, congestive heart failure, kidney disease, sleep apnea, or even Parkinson’s. Don’t dismiss it as a normal part of aging!

If you are having problems urinating, you are not alone. But you need to talk to your doctor! Less than half of women and less than 20 percent of men who have urinary problems ever seek care! That’s a tragedy since urinary problems significantly impact one’s quality of life. It’s associated with depression, work-related absences, and in the elderly increases the risks of accidental falls.


Want more explanations to those aging concerns? Check out "Is This Normal? The Essential Guide to Middle Age and Beyond"!


More on Aging:

What's a Blue Zone? Am I Living in One?

Top 10 Countries with the Highest Life Expectancy

Are You Younger Than Your Years?


Photo Source: Thinkstock/Polka Dot

Is Your Hearing Loss Normal?

October 17, 2011

118368697“What did you say?” That’s a frequent question we ask as we get older. To understand how hearing changes as we age, and what’s normal and what isn’t, let’s review how the ear works. The ears may be small but they’re quite powerful!


Believe it or not, it is actually tiny hairs inside our ears that allow us to hear. The outer portion of our ear catches sounds waves and pushes them down through the auditory canal. The hairs pick up the sound waves and change them into nerve signals that the brain interprets as sound. Different groups of hair cells are responsible for high versus low frequencies. Hearing loss occurs when the tiny hairs inside the ear die or become damaged. The problem is that unlike the hair on our head, hair cells in our ears do not regrow, so hearing loss is usually permanent.


Some hearing loss is a natural part of aging; we even have a medical word for it – presbycusis.  As we get older, several things happen: the tiny bones become less flexible, our auditory nerve becomes weaker and hair cells die. All of this causes hearing loss.


At first, it’s most difficult to hear high-frequency sounds, such as someone talking. A spouse or the child of an elderly parent will often comment that the television volume is quite loud. Or typically, the wife will tell me she has to shout at her husband or repeat what she has said to get a response. (I know, I know…hearing loss isn’t the only reason some husbands do not respond) As hearing gets worse, it becomes more difficult to hear sounds at lower pitches.


It’s important to know that most hearing loss does not become noticeable until we’re in our sixties. And it typically gets worse each decade after age 60. By the time we approach age 70, nearly half of us will have some hearing loss. And age-related hearing loss is typically in both ears, not just one. As you would expect, most of the loss of hearing occurs slowly over time.  Rapid or sudden hearing loss is never normal.


Heredity plays an important part in determining whether you will develop significant hearing loss. So if your parents and grandparents had hearing problems, you will be more likely to as well.


There are some other risk factors for hearing loss. If you had jobs where there was a lot of noise, you’re more likely to have hearing problems as you get older. Examples include construction workers or airplane mechanics. And it is true that if you blast the music in your ears through your headphones, you are likely causing damage that will manifest years later. 


Repeat ear infections can also cause hearing problems later in life. Diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and smoking can also cause hearing problems or make them worse. It’s important to watch your overall health to maximize how well you hear.


When evaluating hearing loss and trying to decide whether it’s a normal part of aging, I ask the following questions:

  • When did the hearing loss start?
  • How has it changed over time? Gotten better? Gotten worse?
  • How well can you understand conversation?
  • Is the problem with background noise or is there hearing loss in a quiet setting?
  • Is there any type of drainage from the ear?
  • Are you experiencing any ear pain?


Remember, normal hearing loss due to aging starts around our 60's, worsens slowly over time, is not painful and doesn’t cause any type of oozing from the ears. 


Hearing loss can be frustrating for both the person talking and the person listening. If you or a loved one has hearing loss, consider getting a hearing aid. Hearing aids have improved tremendously in the last five years; they’re no longer those large pieces hooked on the side of the ear. They also regulate sound much better with less interference. Too often, people with hearing loss become socially isolated because they’re embarrassed that they can’t hear. In addition, we now know that hearing loss can lead to dementia. It is important to have regular hearing tests to help prevent and deter these more serious conditions.


 Want to learn more about what your aging symptoms really mean? Check out Is this Normal? The Essential Guide to Middle Age and Beyond

 

More on Aging:

Aging IQ Quiz

5 Most Surprising Age-Related Changes

5 Myths About Your Aging

 

Photo Source: Thinkstock/istockphoto

 

How Do I Know If the Symptoms I’m Experiencing Are Normal?

October 06, 2011

Aging-quiz

  • "How many times is normal to get up at night and go to the bathroom?” 
  • “If I’m having trouble hearing the television, am I going to go deaf?” 
  • “Is it normal to forget where you parked your car - I’m only 40!”
  • “Is it ok if my mom is taking naps during the day, or should I be concerned? She did just retire.”

 

These are common questions that I get from patients as they get older. And it can be challenging to know the answers when you’re not a medical professional. Yet, it is important to be able to tell the difference between what is a normal part of aging versus a disease. Just because you’re getting older doesn’t mean you should be having ten different medical problems. Yes, you will have some problems such as trouble reading fine print by the time you’re 40, but you’re not going to start having a life of aches and pains just because you’re older. 

 

I find there are two sorts of patients – those that come in whenever they have any change in a body function, have scoured the internet and now think they have a brain tumor; and then there are those folks who rarely ever come into the office with complaints because they attribute it to “I’m just getting old.” The reality is that it is often diseases that make getting old frustrating, not the normal changes associated with aging. As we get older, too often we are embarrassed to bring up concerns to our doctors, or even get advice for our aging parents. So people needlessly live with pain, depression, bladder problems, vision problems – all the time thinking that these are normal changes, when sometimes they are not!

 

So I’m here to help you get some more information as to when you should be concerned about that mole on your back, and when you should say that’s just a normal part of aging.  Take the quiz, and let’s see how you do.

 

More on Aging:

5 Stereotypes About Aging That Aren't True

How Do My Sleeping Habits Change as I Age?

How Does Aging Affect Driving Ability?

7 Ways to Keep Fit

August 22, 2011

Yoga Well, it’s almost the end of summer. I know some of you have been quite active – swimming, hiking, running. Others I’m sure keep saying they’ll wait for Labor Day to get back to the gym. Whichever best describes you, I have some tips to make being active your daily mantra.

Most of us are familiar with the numerous benefits of exercise and daily physical activity, but it can be challenging to find the time to work out regularly. You’ll be more successful by having the mindset of becoming more physically active rather than simply adding “exercise” to a long list of daily chores.


1. Do what you love.

Are you a dancer, runner, or perhaps a swimmer? Getting exercise by doing what you already love is a great way of incorporating physical activity into your life. Even if your favorite thing to do is play video games, there’s a way nowadays to make it active! You could play games that use motion sensor technology, allowing you to move while you play. Or pick dance titles that let you move.

If going to the gym is more your thing, find one that’s close to home, or, even better, within walking distance. You’re more likely to use that gym membership if it’s nearby. If you do have to drive there, don’t spend 20 minutes circling for a close parking spot. You’re there to work out, remember? Instead, park far away and walk all the way to the exercise machines. And don’t forget to bring your favorite music –it makes gym time much more fun!


2. Set realistic goals.

Getting some exercise, even if it’s not for the full hour you had hoped, is better than none.  Don’t let the perfect workout be the enemy of good. Go easy on yourself at first. No one, especially your doctor, is expecting you to run a marathon the first day. Even 30 minutes of activity broken up into three 10-minute segments throughout the day has a proven benefit. If you haven’t been active in a long time, try aiming for even 5-10 minutes of activity. Remember, slow and steady wins the race every time. Too often, people set lofty goals and then become frustrated when they can’t reach them.

When setting exercise goals, I often tell patients to decide whether you’re a morning gym person or an afternoon/evening type. Believe me - you know which one you are! Working out in the morning can give you energy for the whole day and keeps your metabolic rate up – but if you are a zombie before that morning coffee, it’s not going to work. Evening workouts after work can be perfect for folks who get a second wind after 5 pm.


3. Move while at work.

Again, this is where having the mind set of moving and being physically active can really help. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk to speak with people rather than calling them or emailing them. Go old-school! In the age of online social networking, nothing beats old-fashioned, real face-time.

Stand, rather than sit, whenever you can. While waiting for those photocopies, do some stretches at the copier. Sure, it might look a little strange at first, but you might actually live longer! During your lunch hour, take a walk outside around the building.


4. Be active at home.

Exercise while watching your favorite TV show. Come on – is it really that hard to do a few pushups or sit-ups during commercial breaks? Try it!


5. Find a buddy or partner to exercise with you.

Nothing ensures success like having someone to motivate and push you on those days when you’d rather just be lazy or quit. Getting your kids involved in sports can also help them learn healthy habits early on and is a great bonding experience for everyone.


6. Take a vacation.

Yes, you read that right! Let the next vacation be one that incorporates some physical activity like hiking. Tour a new city by walking, jogging or biking. Sorry, Segway tours don’t count.


7. Keep a journal.

Keeping a record of your goals and accomplishments is one way to give yourself a pat on the back when you see how far you’ve come. It also helps to have those fitness goals written down somewhere. And if you really want to be bold - tell your friends your goals;  that way, they’ll be asking you about it every so often!

Being active isn’t meant to be painful. Many times, it can actually be fun. See how these tips can help improve your fitness level. The little changes you make to your lifestyle now can yield big results. Years from now, your body will thank you for it!

 

More Fitness Tips:

Walking to Lose Weight

Total Body Workout Routine

5 Office Exercise Tips

 

Photo Source: Thinkstock/Valueline

How to Deal with Psoriasis

August 02, 2011

Psoriasis Have you heard? Kim Kardashian has a rash...Well, before you jump to any conclusions, let me tell you that it’s actually a common skin condition…it’s called psoriasis. 

 

Common Symptoms

If you have psoriasis, you’ll typically notice itchy, dry, red patches covered with thick, silvery, scales. There might be some burning and pain. These patches usually appear on the elbow, knees, legs, lower back, feet and hands. They can even get into your scalp. Sometimes, there’s also pitted nails or stiff joints.

Psoriasis is often misdiagnosed as poison ivy, eczema, rosacea and sometimes even acne. Kim’s sister thought it was ringworm…which it wasn’t. (And that’s why you shouldn’t rely on your non-dermatologist friends to diagnose your rashes!) Psoriasis can be both embarrassing and painful. But there’s no need to remain silent about psoriasis—your doctor may be able to offer you treatments to alleviate your psoriasis symptoms.


Where Did It Come From?

So how did you get it? Is it contagious? Psoriasis is thought to be a problem of your immune system. Your body has a type of special cell called a T-cell that travels throughout your body patrolling for foreign substances (like bacteria) and either kills them or alerts your body that these invaders need to be destroyed. This is usually a good thing. In psoriasis, though, your T-cells accidentally attack healthy skin - triggering new skin cells to be created more quickly than normal.

Basically, your skin is tricked into thinking that it’s damaged and needs to rebuild itself, so your skin produces more cells than it can handle - leading to the inflammation and thick scales that appear in psoriasis. It’s not contagious. But there are some factors that can put you at increased risk - these include stress, smoking and obesity. Genetics play a role too. It’s not surprising that Kim’s mother also suffers from psoriasis; nearly 40% of those afflicted have a family member who is also affected.


How Do I Get Rid of It?

Most of the time, symptoms come and go; flare-ups occur and then there’s a time when symptoms subside. But I’ve got news - the symptoms almost always return. Although there’s not a cure for psoriasis, there are a few remedies that you can try at home to alleviate mild or moderate symptoms. 

  • Take a daily soak in the tub for at least 15 minutes with oatmeal, Epsom salts or bath oil to calm inflamed skin and remove scales. After bathing, apply a fragrance-free moisturizer to your skin before it completely dries.
  • Apply an ointment-based moisturizer to your skin before bed, and then wrap the area with plastic wrap. I know, I know…sounds like you’re becoming mummified! Removing the wrap in the morning and then taking a shower or bath can help to wash away scales. Make sure the water temperature is warm but not hot.
  • Apply coal tar to the skin, one of the oldest and most effective treatments. No one knows exactly how it works, but if you’re willing to put up with the odor and the stains it may make on your clothes or bedding, it could be the treatment for you. Coal tar is available over-the-counter in shampoos and creams. The challenge is many people don’t like the smell.
  • Use cream/ointment with corticosteroids. These help to reduce inflammation and itching. These should not be used every day because they may lose their effectiveness if used for too long, and they also can weaken skin elasticity on the face.
  • A natural way to find relief from psoriasis is through sunlight – that’s right, exposing your skin to sunlight for brief periods of time can relieve symptoms. The UV rays found in sunlight kill T-cells in the skin - reducing the scaling and swelling they create. Keep in mind, though, that too much sun exposure may be equally bad for your skin - leading to worsened symptoms and more permanent skin damage. Thirty minutes or so, three times a week is usually sufficient. There are also various forms of laser therapy that may help in treating your psoriasis.


Severe Psoriasis

If your psoriasis is particularly severe, your doctor may prescribe a variety of oral drugs as well as drugs that require an injection. While on any medication for your psoriasis, be sure to avoid alcohol, as alcohol has the potential to decrease the effectiveness of psoriasis treatments.

Although psoriasis flare-ups can be frustrating, embarrassing and painful, you can and should get relief. If you think your skin irritation is more than just a common rash or if it just won’t go away, talk to your doctor - he or she will be able to guide you toward the support you need.

 

More on Psoriasis:

How Psoriasis Works

Fact or Fiction: Psoriasis

How Scalp Psoriasis Works

28 Home Remedies for Psoriasis

 

Photo Source: Thinkstock/iStockphoto

6 Tips for Better Eye Health

July 25, 2011

Sunglasses As a physician, I find patients often overlook one of the most important aspects of their health - their vision!  During the summer, people often think about protecting their skin. But what about their eyes?  Whether you’re on the beach, walking the dog or even driving in the high-heat of summer, it’s easy to find yourself squinting as bright sunlight reflects off water, the road, sidewalks and buildings. So what can you do to protect your eyes from the sun and keep your eyes healthy all year long?  I’ve got a few tips: 


Look stylish and protect your eyes at the same time. Sunglasses can be much more than a fashion accessory - they provide protection from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. You can reduce your risk for some eye conditions by wearing sunglasses that block out nearly 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation. UV damage can add up over time, so make sure to start encouraging your kids to wear shades too! Be careful of those sunglasses that are only a few dollars - cheap glasses usually offer limited protection. 


Bring vision "power foods" to your next potluck.  We used to think it was just carrots that helped with vision.  Now we know that a diet that includes daily fruits and vegetables like oranges, carrots and dark leafy greens, and fish like salmon and tuna, are important for keeping your eyes healthy. Key nutrients to include in a healthy eye diet include vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, lutein and omega-3 fatty acids.


Start a conversation. If your next vacation or BBQ includes family, take some time to ask about their eye health history. Many eye conditions are actually hereditary, so knowing what other members of your family have experienced with their eyes can help you discover whether you are at higher risk for certain eye problems.


Get moving! Just like our heart and other organs of the body, our eyes need good circulation and plenty of oxygen to perform at their best. Exercise helps get your blood flowing to provide essential nutrients to your eyes. Another benefit of regular exercise? It can help keep our weight in the normal range - reducing the risk of diabetic eye disease.


Move away from the computer.  We strain our eyes by looking at screens for hours at a time both at work and at home. You can reduce computer-use eye strain by moving your computer screen at least two feet away from you, making sure your work area is properly lit to reduce any glare and taking regular breaks from looking at the screen.


Say no to smoking. Smoking is bad for your eyes and the rest of your body. Period. Research has shown that smoking is linked to an increased risk of conditions that cause blindness, including cataracts, macular degeneration and optic nerve damage.

 

If you follow these tips and get a yearly eye exam, you’ll be well on your way to seeing good eye health!


More on UV Safety:

How UV Radiation Works

How to Care for Your Eyes

Eating for Eye Health

 

Photo Source: Thinkstock/Stockbyte

Is This Normal? The Essential Guide to Middle Age and Beyond

July 20, 2011

Book Is it normal to forget where you parked your car? Do we really shrink as we grow older? Does everyone experience lower libido as they age?

More than 78 million American adults are nearing the age when unexpected aches and pains, weight gains, sudden illnesses and confusing mental changes begin to occur. As children, our questions about how our bodies will change are met with knowledge and patience—anything to make the transition as seamless as possible. But at 50 or 60, there’s no one to help us figure out whether the changes we’re experiencing are a cause for concern or just a normal part of aging.

Is This Normal? is a guidebook that focuses on putting this generation at ease by answering their most common questions. From superficial concerns to everyday aches and pains to more serious medical problems, Dr. John Whyte, chief medical expert at Discovery Channel, cuts through the confusion and provides practical answers for the most common age-related health issues. In Is This Normal?, he answers a broad range of questions, such as:

  • How much weight gain is normal as we age—and why is it so hard to lose?
  • Is it normal to need a pair of reading glasses just to decipher a restaurant menu?
  • What are the signs of Alzheimer’s versus normal memory loss?

With compassion, reassurance, and friendly guidance, Dr. Whyte provides cutting-edge medical advice for the effects of aging we face every day—from gray hair and wrinkles to cardiovascular health. Is This Normal? arms readers with the essential knowledge and preventive strategies they need stay healthy and vital for decades to come. 

Buy the Book Today!


More Aging Myths, Tips and Tricks:

7 Anti-Aging Tips

Aging IQ Quiz

5 Myths About Aging and Your Health

5 Stereotypes About Aging


John J. Whyte, MD, MPH is the Chief Medical Expert & Vice President for Continuing Medical Education where he develops, designs and delivers health programming.
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