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Photo: Lyuba Burakova

Itchy eyes, scratchy throat, and sneezes that nearly knock you off your feet over and over (and over!) again: Most of us have experienced the telltale signs of dreaded seasonal allergies at some point in our lives. But for many of us, allergies are a year-round affair—and when you consider the ragweed and mold in the fall; pet dander and dust mites in the winter; and tree, grass, and flower pollen in the spring and summer, allergies can feel like a never-ending season of misery.

Unfortunately, a lot of the factors that influence seasonal allergies—like the weather, where you live, humidity, and rainfall amounts—are completely out of your control. But here’s the good news: Even though you don’t have a say over if and when seasonal allergens may strike, you do have control over how your body reacts to them…and it all starts with your gut health.

Understanding the allergy-immune system connection.

So where do allergies come from in the first place? Simply put, allergies happen when your immune system overreacts (in varying degrees) to an external substance. It’s not something everyone experiences, but it’s indeed a sign that there’s some imbalance in your immune function. When this important system is weakened or suppressed, your first line of defense might not adequately defend you from bacterial attackers, which leaves you susceptible to all the detrimental germs that surround us. That being said, if it’s too sensitive, your immune system can overreact, producing antibodies to attack what it perceives as a “dangerous” substance, even if it’s just a fragrant flower. This is when you’ll find yourself with a runny nose, watery eyes, itchiness, skin reactions, and other traditional allergy symptoms.

So what exactly does the gut have to do with all this? You see, nearly 80 percent of your immune system resides in your digestive tract, and it turns out that the trillions of microbes that also live there—known collectively as your gut microbiome—have a huge influence on the balance and performance of your immune function, including:

  • Crowding out and killing the bad guys. Your friendly flora (called probiotics) produce antimicrobial substances and acids—like lactic acid—that can eradicate bad bacteria and other microbes that can make you sick.
  • Protecting your gut barrier. Your intestinal barrier is an important part of your immune system that protects your bloodstream from the external environment of your gut (and all that goes into it!). The good bacteria in your microbiome help increase your gut barrier’s protective mucus layer, and they work to fortify and seal gaps in the intestinal wall.
  • Increasing antibody levels. Beneficial bacteria promote antibody secretion, and they also increase levels of cells that produce immune-boosting antibodies like SIgA.

It’s clear that your gut microbiome plays a big role in how your immune system handles true threats like harmful bacteria or viruses—but we now know that a lack of enough beneficial bacteria in the gut can contribute to the immune system’s inability to distinguish friend from foe, leading to the dreaded immune system overreactions known as allergies.

Uncovering the root cause of allergies: the gut.

From the moment we’re born, we’re exposed to an endless number of microbes—from our mom’s birth canal, in breast milk, from skin-to-skin contact, and from our environment—that begin to form our microbiome. In fact, the microbes we encounter in our first few years are crucial to determining how well our immune system functions for the rest of our life, and researchers are finally beginning to understand why.

It turns out that the more microbial exposure we have at a young age—and the more diverse our microbiome—the healthier we are long-term, because all those microbes we encounter in our early years train and challenge our immune system to respond appropriately, whether that means taking action against toxins and harmful microbes or laying low when confronted with harmless allergens.

In one study, scientists discovered that a lack of bacterial diversity in the guts of 3-month-old babies was associated with a high risk of developing asthma, which is often triggered by an allergen. In another, babies without certain gut microbes at just one month of age had a three times higher risk of developing allergic reactions by age 2 and asthma by age 4!

The implications on immunity, allergies, and lifelong health of not having a diverse microbiome as a small child are huge—and all the more reason to do all you can to support your baby’s microbial healthfrom the get-go. But what can you do as you age to keep your immune system from overreacting to every little thing?

Fortunately, research shows that beneficial bacteria have a regulating effect on your immune system throughout your life, and replenishing your microbiome with probiotics now can ward off and treat annoying seasonal allergies. In a trial of 173 adults suffering from seasonal allergies, eight weeks of probiotic supplementation led to improved quality of life and fewer allergy-related nose symptoms. Other studies show that probiotic supplementation can reduce nasal congestion, prevent and treat atopic eczema, and lessen symptoms of allergic rhinitis.

If you’re one of the 20 million adults in America who struggles with hay fever (or you’re a parent to one of the more than 6 million kids who are afflicted), this is great news!

Finding a connection between seasonal allergies and food allergies.

There’s no doubt that probiotic exposure very early in life—primarily from a vaginal birth and exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months—helps to seal the “open guts” of babies, thereby preventing foreign substances like food particles from escaping through the intestinal wall into the bloodstream and stimulating allergic immune reactions that can last a lifetime.

But exciting new research is showing that by modulating the immune response, probiotics may be able to lessen allergic responses to foods later in life as well! In a randomized trial conducted in 2013, researchers gave 62 kids with peanut allergies either placebo or probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus combined with increasing amounts of peanut protein for 18 months. At the end of the study, more than 80 percent of the children in the probiotic group were able to tolerate peanuts, compared to less than 4 percent in the placebo group. Even better? The researchers completed a follow-up studyand found that nearly 70 percent of the probiotic kids were still able to eat peanuts four years later, and almost 60 percent showed long-lasting tolerance to peanuts. (And this is several years after stopping probiotic treatment.) Keep in mind that you should always talk to your doctor.

Although there’s a definite need for more research on how probiotics can help decrease true (often frightening) allergic reactions to food, studies show that probiotics are able to decrease and improve symptoms of food sensitivities, such as gluten sensitivity and lactose intolerance.

Healing your gut and kicking allergies to the curb.

Whether you’re deep in the throes of allergy season, are just looking to fortify your system for the next pollen onslaught, or simply want to start enjoying that one food again that seems to always cause irritation, making sure your gut health is in tiptop shape is the key to preventing over-the-top immune reactions. Here’s how:

1. Take a high-quality, effective probiotic supplement.

Replenish your microbiome so it can support your immune function by taking a daily, multi-strain probiotic supplement. The only way your immune system can benefit from a healthy microbiome is if you have enough of the good guys in your digestive tract working on your behalf to make a real difference. Ingesting billions of these hardworking gut bugs day in and day out will create armies of immune-regulating bacteria that are ready to stand guard and go to battle for you.

2. Feed your probiotic armies.

Your beneficial bacteria need to eat—a lot—and their favorite food is the prebiotic fiber available in many whole, plant-based foods, like bananas, onions, garlic, and asparagus. To keep your gut bugs flourishing and able to excel at their immune-regulating jobs, fill your meals with as many prebiotic fiber-packed foods as possible. Since it’s nearly impossible to get as much fiber as you need to adequately fuel your trillions of microbes, aim to include at least one scoop per day of an organic, food-based prebiotic powder supplement.

3. Embrace the dirt and welcome the bugs.

The alarming and epidemic rise of allergy and asthma rates in the United States can be explained by one relatively simple concept (aka the hygiene hypothesis): Our environment has become far too clean. Remember how our immune system needs the challenge of microbial exposure to learn how to respond to both perceived and real threats? As the obsession with sanitizing and antimicrobial everything has become ingrained in our society, we have much less exposure to those all-important immune-challenging microbes that teach our immune systems how to behave. So do whatever you can to get a little more dirty—refrain from using antibacterial cleaners, get a pet, spend time out in nature, hand wash your dishes, and garden in the mud. By adding a little more dirt (and many more microbes) to your life, you may just be giving your immune system the exact provocation it needs to become more balanced!

When you look at them from an immune perspective, allergies are just like an overly sensitive, hypervigilant child who hasn’t yet been taught how to respond to all the stimulation that comes his way. With patience, guidance, and a lot of prebiotic and probiotic love (and don’t forget, a healthy dose of dirt!), your childlike immune system can begin to mature into the wondrous, intelligent foundation of health it was meant to be. Now bring on those summer picnics in the grass!

Source: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/gut-health-and-seasonal-allergies

The cheapest way to discover if you have sleep apnea

Diagnosing sleep apnea by going to a sleep study is one of the best decisions you can make in order to have a healthier sleep.

The laboratory diagnosis is correct most of the times, with plenty of additional information that can help your treatment for sleep apnea.

But what if you are in a situation where you can’t afford to have a sleep study, or you are not helped by an insurance company?

Well, you have a chance to diagnose sleep apnea at home by you, or with a little help from your spouse.

These tips to diagnose sleep apnea in a cheap way are not as effective as a sleep study, but it can help you understand what happens with you during sleep and motivate you to take the decision to see a doctor.

Tips for Diagnosing Sleep Apnea

If You Are Single

Being single makes the sleep apnea diagnosis more difficult, because nobody is watching your sleep.

Watching an apnea event in the middle of the night can be a terrifying experience for your spouse, so she/he can give you the first warnings.

But when you live alone, you have no idea what happens during your sleep. So you have to figure it out by yourself.

If you live alone, you need to pay attention to these symptoms:

1. Morning headaches, Short term memory and Poor concentration

If you have sleep apnea, not enough air enter into your lungs during sleep. The amount of oxygen in your blood decreases. With low blood oxygen level, your brain is affected.

The brain will release stress hormones that will raise you blood pressure, risk of heart attackstroke and irregular heart rhythm.

For more info about headaches from sleep apnea, see Sleep Apnea Headaches.

2. Heart Problems

There is a powerful link between sleep apnea and heart problems. If you don’t treat sleep apnea in time, your heart health will be one of the targets.

This heart problem can be prevented if sleep apnea is treated correctly.

To learn how can sleep apnea affects your heart, see Congestive Heart Failure.

3. Excessive Daytime Sleepiness

The daytime sleepiness is common to people with sleep apnea. Did you notice that you often fall asleep during the day?

“Maybe I am getting old…” you’ll think. But it’s not normal to sleep at weddings, at sport events, at work, or at wheel while driving.

This symptom is very important in diagnosing sleep apnea, and there are some tests that can help you discover how much sleepy are you during the day.

Tests that measure your sleepiness during the day:

4. Drowsy at Work or While Driving

The excessive daytime sleepiness may lead to problems at work, problems with the family, and problems dealing with friends.

It often causes irritability, decreased productivity or injuries on the job, motor vehicle accidents, and disruptive family and social relationship.

Are you in this situation?

For more info about driving a car while suffering from sleep apnea, see Drowsy Driving.

5. Being Overweight or Obese

You don’t need a bed partner to tell you that you are overweight. You can see yourself in the mirror. Obesity is very common among people with sleep apnea.

But not everyone who has sleep apnea is necessarily overweight.

A thick neck with a lot of fat can obstruct your airway. For example, men and women with large neck size: 17 inches or more for men, 16 inches or more for women, are in danger to manifest sleep apnea symptoms.

For more info about obesity in people with sleep apnea, see Sleep Apnea and Obesity.

6. Pickwickian Syndrome

Pickwickian Syndrome is a type of sleep apnea associated with extreme obesity. This syndrome was mentioned for the first time during during the time of Alexander the Great.

This disorder can be improved with a personalized diet and weight loss program, but sometimes surgery is necessary.

To learn how to deal with extreme obesity, see Pickwickian Syndrome.

Do You Want to Test OSA at Home?

Are you interested in diagnosing sleep apnea at home, with a simple and cheap method?

The article about home testing can get you very close to diagnose sleep apnea.

Read about Home Testing for Sleep Apnea

Diagnosing Sleep Apnea With Your Partner’s Help

Bed partners are crucial informants in diagnosing sleep apnea. Your bed partner can save your life. If you don’t have a partner, then buy one!

If you are single and living alone, diagnosing sleep apnea can be difficult.

Do you know if you snore during sleep? I am sure you don’t. You need someone to tell you that.

“Someone” is maybe your bed partner.

Regardless of the situation, you must find out if you have a sleep disorder.

Untreated, sleep apnea can evolve in time, worsening over the course of many years, until it presents a real threat to life.

Your bed partner can be your best friend in diagnosing sleep apnea. A detailed history from bed partners is imperative in all cases of suspected or undiagnosed sleep apnea.

Snoring is the cardinal complaint reported by the bed partner. Typically, the snoring is loud, nightly, and has existed for many years. Snoring may be so disruptive that partners may be driven to sleep in another room.

A bed partner may report a witnessed apnea that is often followed by loud snorts or gasps at the end of apneic episodes. This can be extremely concerning to the partner and serve as the trigger to seek medical attention.

Bed partners might see the following sleep apnea symptoms during your sleep:

1. Snoring, Gasps and Snorts

If your partner has irregular snoring, with breathing that stops briefly, with struggle to breathe…then you must be careful. This is a common symptoms of sleep apnea.

Apnea snoring is noisy and powerful. You may suspect sleep apnea if these symptoms are present, but diagnosing sleep apnea must be confirmed with an apnea monitor or sleep monitor. This monitor will reveal pauses in breathing, sleep arousals and low blood oxygen level.

For more info about snoring, see Sleep Apnea Snoring.

2. Pauses in Breathing During Sleep

Tip for the spouse

A patient with sleep apnea syndrome might not even be aware that he woke up 500 to 1000 times during the night! But YOU will know!

A normal person has irregular breathing at certain times during sleep. But a person with sleep apnea stops breathing entirely and may hold his breath for at least 10 seconds. And it may happen more than 5 times during a sleep to a couple of hundreds!

The most strange thing is that your partner is not aware of such effort of breathing.

For more info about apnea episodes, see Stop Breathing While Sleeping.

Source: https://www.sleep-apnea-guide.com/diagnosing-sleep-apnea.html

After a staggering 80 visits to the doctor in one year alone, 23-year-old Nadia didn’t know how else to prove her illness wasn’t related to her mind.

anxiety

GETTY IMAGES

23-year-old Nadia Tasher had never heard of lupus when she began suffering from unusual, persistent symptoms that would eventually lead to her visiting the doctor over 80 times in a year. Doctors believed she was a hypochondriac who was suffering from a bad case of anxiety, but Nadia was insistent that wasn’t what it was.

And she was right, she wasn’t suffering from anxiety or any other mental health issue; in fact she had severe lupus, the life-threatening, chronic illness that even many qualified doctors have very little understanding of.

Lupus affects mainly women (90% of sufferers are female, in fact) and is a disease that causes your immune system to attack all your healthy organs and tissues. It can affect various parts of the body, but becomes most dangerous when it begins attacking the heart and lungs, potentially causing blood clots and in some instances, heart attacks.

'Doctors diagnosed me with anxiety, but I was actually suffering from a chronic illness'
NADIA TASHER

The first sign that something was wrong appeared four years ago, when Nadia started noticing a butterfly rash on her face. “My cheeks were really red as well as the bridge of my nose, and I was getting more rashes across my arms,” Nadia told Cosmopolitan.com/uk. The rash eventually began spreading down her legs and left her feeling self-conscious, but that wasn’t the only symptom which seemed to emerge from out of the blue.

“It started off with my hair just feeling like it was getting thinner, but it got to a point where I would brush my hair and clumps would fall out,” Nadia said. Baldness and hair thinning, it turns out, is another symptom of lupus, as a person’s immune system starts fighting against the healthy follicles and preventing them from growing new strands of hair. “I always had really thick hair, so it was one of the things that knocked my confidence the most because it was one of the only things I really liked about my body,” she said.

'Doctors diagnosed me with anxiety, but I was actually suffering from a chronic illness'
NADIA TASHER

Nadia also began losing a lot of weight, which – at first – she was pleased about. Her boyfriend had not long proposed and, being as she describes “overweight” at the time, she had plans to diet and exercise ahead of the wedding.

“I was really quite overweight,” Nadia explained, “so I started eating a lot healthier and in four months I started seeing some expected weight loss. It was very stable and not at all dramatic to begin with, but six months down the line I’d stopped dieting and lost three stone nonetheless, so it became clear there was something else causing the weight to drop off”.

As if the rashes, the weight loss and the hair thinning weren’t enough of an indication something wasn’t quite right with Nadia, she began experiencing severe joint pain. This is something that can occur in lupus sufferers, she now knows, because the condition wears away the tissue in between the joints, causing them to rub and making movement very painful.

“Their only solution was to tell me to go home and rest”

“I get really bad hip and neck pain, which stops me from walking too far,” said Nadia. And tackling staircases can be even worse; “I look fine – I don’t have crutches and I’m not in a wheelchair – so people just expect you to manage it, but I feel like I’m old before my time. Every movement is painful and it can often feel like I’ve been beaten up,” she added.

But despite the symptoms, as well intense fatigue which compromised Nadia’s ability to work, go out and about and lead a normal life, doctors wouldn’t seem to believe the psychology graduate when she complained about how bad things were getting.

“They insisted I was suffering from anxiety, and said all my symptoms were as a result of stress and panic attacks,” Nadia explained. “I’d go in and say to them ‘I’m really worried because…’, but that word ‘worried’ would instantly lead them to the conclusion I was suffering from anxiety, so their only solution was to tell me to go home and rest”.

'Doctors diagnosed me with anxiety, but I was actually suffering from a chronic illness'
Nadia with her fiancè

NADIA TASHER

The doctors were so set on anxiety as a diagnosis, in fact, that they gave her a prescription of anti-anxiety medication which Nadia refused to take. “I knew it wasn’t anxiety because when I’d suffered from it before when I was younger, and it was completely different.

“I would go in with a list of my symptoms because there were so many I was worried I’d forget, but that would make them think I was even more paranoid. They told me I was a hypochondriac, and one GP even said she was going to have to refer me to a psychologist because ‘I’d invented an illness in my head’,” Nadia told us.

In some ways it’s understandable why doctors put it down to hypochondria and anxiety, with her record of more than 80 visits to the GP surgery in one year. But the incorrect diagnosis was a struggle for Nadia, who was by now at her wits end.

“I began to wonder if it really was all in my mind”

“It had been going on so long that eventually I did think to myself, ‘maybe I am being irrational, maybe there’s nothing wrong with me’,” she said. “I did doubt myself at times, and wonder if it really was all in my mind, but then I knew the symptoms were there because I could see and feel them.”

Despite the fact she had even started doubting herself, Nadia continued to investigate her symptoms and eventually stumbled upon some information about lupus after an intensive Google search. With the descriptions really resonating, Nadia insisted the doctors do a series of blood tests to check whether lupus was what had been causing her ill-feeling for so long.

The three tests she did came back as positives, but astoundingly Nadia’s doctors stillinsisted she didn’t have lupus and regarded the results as ‘false positives’. It’s not surprising, then, that she decided to seek out a private consultation from a doctor specialising in the condition. Within half an hour of meeting with this specialist consultant, Nadia was diagnosed with severe lupus, which came with an indescribable feeling relief.

“He could do that in half an hour and I’d been waiting for about four and a half years,” she said. “It was a weight off my shoulders to have confirmation it wasn’t anxiety.”

Doctors diagnosed me with anxiety, but I was actually suffering from a chronic illness
Nadia’s rash spread across her face.

But while the diagnosis was a relief, it was also an extremely difficult thing to accept because the nature of a chronic illness like lupus is that there is no cure. It means Nadia will go through life simply managing her symptoms with different medications, and will try to live as normally as she can. But inevitably it takes its toll.

“I’ve been signed off work for weeks on end before when I literally haven’t been able to get out of bed, and even just having a shower is too difficult,” she said. At the moment, Nadia works part-time, but her diagnosis has meant she’s had to forego her dreams of a career in the police force because of the physical demand it would require.

“I worry about losing friends, too, because hardly anyone understands lupus so people expect you to be like you always have been.”

Other aspects of Nadia’s future have also been compromised by her lupus diagnosis, too, like her ability to start a family.

“That’s something I’m yet to properly discuss with my doctor,” she said. “But it can be high risk for the child and the mother because of the strain pregnancy can put on your heart.

“It’s a moral question too, over whether or not I’d want to have that risk of passing it on to a child, but I need to understand more about that first,” she added. At the moment, the cause of lupus isn’t properly known, but doctors believe it’s both a combination of a genetic predisposition as well as certain environmental factors which could trigger the condition, such as grief after the death of a loved one, for example.

Doctors diagnosed me with anxiety, but I was actually suffering from a chronic illness
NADIA TASHER

“I feel guilty about it for my fiancé, because I know he wants to have children and I feel bad that it’s not going to be a straight forward process. But he plays such a massive part in helping me to stay positive.

“I feel like my life has been stolen from me; I can’t have the career I’d planned to have, I might not be able to have the children I want to have, holidays and outings have to be planned way in advance and there’s never a day that I don’t suffer from the pain,” Nadia said.

“But what’s almost worse is the mental battle you have to go through because you look so ‘normal’ on the outside. Hopefully doctors will become more informed about lupus so other people don’t have to go through the struggle I did to get a diagnosis.”

Source: https://www.prevention.com/health/mental-health/a20662929/lupus-chronic-illness-mistaken-for-anxiety-hypochondria/

Photo: Joshua Ness

Research shows that constant grumbling, bewailing, and lamenting not only torments the people around us but harms our health and adds stress to our lives. Repeatedly feeling bad, sad, or powerless creates a circuit of chemicals in our brains, making it easier for unhappy thoughts to recycle and harder for you to feel the payoff of gratitude, appreciation, and well-being.

So why do we tell the same sad story and reinforce the misery despite the costs to our personal and professional lives? There is a growing body of research trying to understand this habit. With all the negatives associated with complaining, what positive end is this behavior trying to accomplish? Well, when I work with someone who is constantly criticizing their partner, I try to help them see the underlying desire within their gripes.

“You never talk to me about your day” suggests a longing for connection. “You always have an excuse when I ask you to go to dinner with my friends” is actually a longing for shared time. Rather than whining about what someone is doing wrong, it is important to learn to phrase things positively. This is an interpersonal skill that requires time to develop, but it can improve relationships drastically. Saying, “I miss hearing what’s going on with you” would certainly have a better outcome. Similarly, telling your partner, “I want to share you with my friends from work” would greatly increase the chance of a positive response.

When the complainer is someone we deal with regularly, like a friend or co-worker, there are a few things to remember. If we look at complaining as the misfired expression of a wish, there are three sources where it can come from:

A desire for control.

This happens in a difficult situation where complaining gives the person an illusion of control, as they are at least “able to protest.”

A need for validation or sympathy.

Chronic complainers usually want someone to say, “Oh, poor you,” as it can feel nurturing.

A fear of managing a problem directly.

It may be frightening to directly address a problem and request for something new to happen. This could be their way to let off steam about an ongoing issue without risking actual consequences.

If you know someone who is a complainer, here are two options you can use to make the outcome better for everyone:

Motivate.

Ask the person what things would look like if the situation became better for them. Encourage them to describe their ideal outcome and think of three things they could do to make that happen—if they are willing, of course. Have them create an action plan and let you know how this plan works for them.

Set boundaries, compassionately but firmly.

Tell them you want to talk to them when they are feeling unhappy, stuck, or troubled but that you don’t think having the same conversation is doing either of you a service. Be honest about the effect it is having on you; say that though you want things to change, you are starting to feel distressed, too. You might also suggest they talk to someone with the right skills to help them manage the issue more successfully.

It’s one thing to express sadness, grief, or anger about an event in your life. In fact, it is essential to our health that we recognize our feelings and pay attention to the message they give us. If we don’t allow ourselves to feel our sadness, it can get stuck in us as ongoing grief. If we don’t see our anger as a message that something needs to change, it can turn into resentment or feelings of being victimized in other situations. If we don’t use our fear to recognize present danger or if we focus on the fear from a dangerous situation in our past, it can turn into anxiety; we may imagine the worst-case scenario even if there is no reason to expect it.

Paying attention to our feelings is necessary, but complaining is not. Complaining does, however, point to a source of distress. If you suspect you are a constant complainer, look for the trouble underneath. Find the courage and support to deal directly with the issue, and focus on what needs to be different. Ask yourself what the positive intention of your complaining is, and see it as a message pointing to an action.

Source: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/what-it-means-when-someone-cant-stop-complaining

Image copyrightSCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

The HPV vaccine routinely offered to teenage girls in the UK is safe and protects against a virus that can cause cancer of the cervix, an independent review has found.

The analysis by the Cochrane Group provides solid evidence that should reassure parents considering having their daughters immunised, say experts.

It looked at 26 trials involving more than 73,000 girls and women.

Serious side-effects following the vaccine were rare.

Campaigners maintain the vaccine can cause harm and say this needs to be explored more fully.

Some parents say their daughters have become unwell after being immunised.

The European Medicines AgencyThe World Health Organization and now Cochrane have looked at the evidence and say HPV vaccination is safe and worthwhile.

Mary Ramsay, head of immunisations at Public Health England, said: “This study adds to the wealth of growing evidence from around the world which shows that the HPV vaccine is the most effective way for young girls to protect themselves against cervical cancer.

“Most women aged 15 to 25 years in the UK have now received the HPV vaccine.”

Robert Music, from Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said although uptake of the vaccine in the UK is high, it is slipping.

“We cannot afford to get complacent. We must strive to reduce the myths and stigma around the vaccine.”

Vaccine safety is kept under constant review and the Cochrane Group says that more data is required to provide greater certainty about very rare side-effects.

HPV vaccineImage copyrightSCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

What is the HPV vaccine?

Girls can get it free from the NHS from the age of 12 up to 18. It is designed to stop them getting infected with a virus – Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) – which can cause abnormal changes to the cells of the cervix or neck of the womb that, if untreated, can lead to cancer.

The jab used by the NHS is called Gardasil and it protects against four strains of HPV – 16, 18, 6 and 11. Types 16 and 18 are the “high risk” ones linked to cervical cancer.

Girls are offered the vaccine ideally before they become sexually active, meaning they are unlikely to have come into contact with the virus at that time.

How dangerous is HPV?

HPV infections are very common and don’t usually cause any symptoms, meaning most people won’t know they’re infected.

They can be caught by any close skin-to-skin sexual contact with another person who already has one.

In most cases, HPV goes away on its own and doesn’t cause any health issues. But some women with the high risk strains won’t clear it and may develop cancer.

Untreated, a third of high-grade cellular changes will lead to cervical cancer, which is why the NHS offers HPV jabs and smear tests to prevent or detect and treat any abnormalities.

What about HPV jabs for teenage boys?

In some countries, boys are also routinely offered an HPV jab – to protect them and their future partners. HPV can cause anal and penile cancer, as well as oral cancer.

In the UK, the vaccine is recommended for men who have sex with men.

What about older women?

The jab should be given before someone has come into contact with HPV.

The NHS does not offer the vaccine to women over the age of 18.

All women between the ages of 25 and 64 should still attend for regular smears even if they have been immunised. The smear test can be used to check for HPV infection and to look for any pre-cancerous cell changes that might need treating.

Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/health-44037863

Your pelvis, or at least the health of your pelvis, is under attack with the new “no-pelvic exam” advice. And it’s time to fight back.

PelvicExam

 

A little background: Every year, millions of women make that annual trek to their gynecologist, internist, or family doctor, and reluctantly climb into the stirrups and put up with a less than comfortable, sometimes humiliating exam. No one likes it, but from my point of view, it’s clearly worth the brief discomfort and possible embarrassment to make sure that all is well in gyne-land.

But not every professional medical organization is in agreement about the value of routinely checking out the vulva, vagina, and pelvic organs. In 2014, the American College of Physicians (internists, not gynecologists) issued a statement that there was no value in an annual pelvic exam unless someone had a specific complaint. But common sense will tell you that “no complaint” does not mean “no problem.”

Signs and Symptoms Seen in a Pelvic Exam Matter

Many women may not recognize that their vulvar itching could be the first sign of vulvar cancer. Most women assume that there’s no treatment for painful sex and vaginal dryness, so they don’t bother to mention it. In still other cases, a woman may assume her urinary incontinence is an inevitable consequence of aging and frequent the diaper aisle instead of getting appropriate treatment.

And most disturbing, a serious condition such as vaginal cancer may have no symptoms but be easily detectable by a gynecologist via a simple speculum examination of the vaginal walls.

You can’t treat something if you don’t know it’s there, and it’s been well established that being asymptomatic is NOT the same as being healthy.

The No-Pelvic Exam Statement by the USPSTF

June 2016, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) released a statement that questions the value of routine gynecologic exams. But here’s the astonishing part: The authors of the report looked at only four — that’s right, four — conditions:

  1. Ovarian cancer
  2. Bacterial vaginosis, a common vaginal infection
  3. Trichomoniasis, a sexually transmitted disease
  4. Genital herpes

They inexplicably concluded that since there was no benefit to a pelvic exam in diagnosing these specific conditions, an annual pelvic exam need not be performed for otherwise healthy women. This argument is so outrageous, so flawed, and so beyond the most basic logic that I am embarrassed for them.

For starters, it has already been well established in the medical literature that ovarian cancer isn’t detected on annual exams. Genital herpes is diagnosed only if it’s active, and bacterial vaginosis and trichomoniasis are detected only if a specific screen is performed. In other words, it’s not news that these particular four conditions are not generally going to be diagnosed during an annual exam. Any gynecologist will tell you that these conditions are not the reason for the exam!

Ovarian cancer, bacterial vaginosis, trichomoniasis, and genital herpes don’t even represent a fraction of the sorts of conditions a gynecologist screens for during your pelvic exam.

The Value of the Pelvic Exam After Menopause

The executive committee of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS) has come out publicly and stated, on July 1, that they “strongly disagree with the conclusion of the USPSTF draft evidence review, particularly as it applies to postmenopausal women.” And while it might be “reasonable to recommend against the pelvic exam for diagnosing those four conditions, there is no scientific basis for extrapolating beyond those four specific conditions to the myriad of conditions that affect women.”

It appears that women are perilously close to losing the right to a complete exam, with consequences that may not be evident for years.

But there’s something you can do that may change this recommendation.

Public Comments on the Pelvic Exam Are Open

The USPSTF has declared that this statement is only a draft and that they are willing to “hear public input” prior to making a final recommendation. Quite frankly, it’s pretty frightening that this recommendation will be based on public opinion as opposed to solid science. What’s next, a public “vote” on whether taking blood pressure is important?

In any event, you have until July 25 to go to the USPSTF site and read the report yourself, and to then leave a comment if you disagree with this recommendation.

You may want to tell the USPSTF about a condition that was diagnosed that you had no idea you had until it was discovered on a pelvic exam. Or you may want to explain that your annual gynecologic exam is your opportunity to discuss “below the belt” issues, such as incontinence or sexual function — or that it’s your opportunity to simply be reassured that everything is normal instead of treating your genitalia like some kind of no-fly zone that’s only examined or treated if you have excruciating pain, a zoo-like odor, or bleeding requiring a change of pad every 10 minutes.

Or you may simply want to tell the USPSTF that you are offended that, once again, women’s heath is marginalized by encouraging doctors and insurance companies to forego this critical part of your annual exam. And while you’re at it, ask for “proof” that listening to your lungs and heart, a screen performed by every internist, is an effective way to reduce mortality and improve quality of life.

PHOTO: Thomas Imo/Alamy

Here’s what your lightheadedness could say about your health.

woman with headache
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Ever fainted? It’s terrifying, but 90% of people who have passed out are absolutely fine, says Venkatesh Thiruganasambandamoorthy, MBBS, clinical epidemiologist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute and an assistant professor at the University of Ottawa. As for the other 10%, an underlying health condition, like an abnormal heart rhythm, is to blame, and that could mean potentially serious health concerns down the road.

Fainting, no matter why it happens, is the result of a short period of time when the brain’s blood supply is decreased, explains Lawrence Phillips, MD, an assistant professor of medicine in the cardiology division at New York University’s Langone Medical Center. “The cause can stem from many different parts of the body, including a person’s blood pressure going down, heart rate going down, and from neurologic reasons independent of the heart,” he says. “We try to find out why the blood pressure or heart rate would go down. Some of these reasons are common and not worrisome, but others need more evaluation.”

Even if you don’t faint from it, that drop in blood pressure or heart rate can cause lightheadedness, that very specific yet hard to describe feeling that you might pass out. (Dizziness, on the other hand, can include lightheadedness, but it also comes with the feeling that the room is spinning around you.)

It’s tricky to know when fainting or lightheadedness is a cause for concern—even doctors often feel stumped, which is why Thiruganasambandamoorthy has developed a screening tool that could help predict whether or not a person who has fainted is likely to have an underlying health problem. Below, 9 potential causes. And no matter what, play it safe by seeking medical attention for any new symptoms, or ones that don’t resolve themselves.

Dehydrated
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You’re dehydrated.

Some people are simply predisposed to feeling lightheaded or even fainting when they get hot and sweaty and lose too much fluid. “It’s common in a hot room, like standing in church in the summer,” Thiruganasambandamoorthy says. “Heat triggers a pathway in the nervous system that causes blood pressure to drop.” When you feel lightheaded because of dehydration and heat, lying down resupplies the heart and the brain with blood and you can feel better pretty quickly, he says. (Here’s how to tell if you’re dangerously dehydrated.)

Surprise
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You’re bowled over by a surprise.

A similar reaction can be triggered when your college roommate jumps out from behind the couch at your surprise 50th birthday party. Your nervous system essentially goes into overdrive in these scenarios, Thiruganasambandamoorthy says, and your blood pressure drops suddenly, leading to lightheadedness. Usually, you do get a little bit of a warning if you’re really going to faint: You might turn a little green and feel nauseated, he says.

 

Lightheaded after standing up
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You stood up too quickly.

Feeling lightheaded or even seeing black spots in your vision when you hop up quickly from a seated position actually has a name: orthostatic hypotension, which describes a sudden drop in blood pressure upon standing. It’s usually no biggie, but if it happens a lot or if it gets worse instead of better after a few minutes have passed, it’s worth bringing up with your doctor.

Abnormal heart rhythm
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You might have an abnormal heart rhythm.

Compared to the relatively slow onset of symptoms caused by “Surprise!”-related fainting, heart-related fainting comes on fast, so you might not even notice any lightheadedness. An irregular heartbeat, called an arrhythmia, means your heart beats either too slow or too fast, which can in turn affect the blood supply that reaches your brain, Phillips says. This kind of sudden fainting, often without any warning, is most concerning, says Melissa S. Burroughs Peña, MD, assistant professor of clinical medicine in the division of cardiology at the University of California, San Francisco. “Someone might be in the middle of talking and all of a sudden pass out and wake up on the floor without remembering feeling anything beforehand.” That kind of experience immediately makes emergency docs think of abnormal heart rhythms, she says, which are the most common cause of sudden cardiac death.

Cardiac arrhythmia
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Or a problem with a heart valve.

These are typically congenital issues, Burroughs Peña says, and are more likely to occur in younger people, whereas people 60 and up are at a higher risk of an arrhythmia. Valve problems can restrict blood flow and may cause lightheadedness or dizziness, especially during exercise, she says. (Here are 5 signs your heart isn’t working as well as it should.)

Medication
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Your medication’s to blame.

Certain meds, like painkillers and some anti-anxiety pills, can produce dizziness or lightheadedness, Burroughs Peña says, either because they affect your brain directly or they slow your heart rate or lower your blood pressure in a way that can provoke those symptoms, Phillips says. “Sometimes when a patient has recurrent lightheadedness and I can’t explain why, I’ll be surprised to find it listed among less common side effects in pharmacy reports,” Burroughs Peña says, so your doctor may need to double-check your medication list.

There’s also a small chance you could be allergic to a med you’re taking, she adds. In rare instances when people have an anaphylactic reaction to a med, they might become lightheaded or even pass out. “It’s a very dramatic immune system reaction,” she says, which results in the blood vessels dilating and blood pressure dropping. “It’s still a blood pressure change that causes the lightheadedness, but it’s an immune reaction that causes it,” she explains.

Stroke
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You could be having a stroke.

If you feel lightheaded (or dizzy) in conjunction with muscle weakness, difficulty speaking, or numbness and tingling, a stroke may be behind the symptoms, Phillips says, and you should seek emergency medical attention immediately. The decrease in blood flow to the brain that leads to feeling lightheaded could be caused by a blood clot in the brain, Burroughs Peña says, which can cause what’s called an ischemic stroke.

Hangry and lightheaded
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You skipped lunch.

And now you’re hangry. Low blood sugar can lead to lightheadedness if your brain isn’t getting the fuel—aka glucose—that it needs. Rather than an issue of heart rate or blood pressure, this is more of a metabolic concern, Burroughs Peña says. Most of the time, grabbing a bite to eat will resolve your symptoms. (Pro tip: Keeping filling, non-perishable snacks in your desk drawer can help you stay fueled on crazy busy days. We like KIND bars because they’re high in protein and satiating healthy fats. Get a box of 12 bars for $13, amazon.com.) But if you have diabetes and take medication to lower blood sugar, lightheadedness might be a sign your blood sugar is dipping dangerously, she adds, which can lead to seizures and unconsciousness.

In bed with the flu
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You have the flu.

Blame dehydration and low blood sugar: You probably don’t feel much like eating or drinking, but both can keep lightheadedness and other awful flu symptoms at bay, Burroughs Peña says. (Here are 7 myths about the flu you need to stop believing.)

Source: https://www.prevention.com/health/9-reasons-why-you-feel-lightheaded-and-when-to-be-concerned