Tag Archives: Chronic Symptoms

THE DOCTORS 101 CHRONIC SYMPTOMS & CONDITIONS #37: EYE IRRITATION

‘Something is in my eye” is a feeling that everyone has had, and it doesn’t take much to create that sensation. A speck of dust, a grain of sand, a gnat or an ill-behaved eyelash will do it. Most of the time your eye will tear up and the offender is washed away.

As I get older, this sensation is more frequent. I look at my eyes in the mirror, and there is no one-sided redness, displaced lash or anything else I can see. When I saw the doctor for my cataract surgery a couple of years ago, he took a sample of my tears, and found a deficit in the fatty component. He recommended twice daily, five minute warming of my eyes, but I stopped doing it after a while.

I have so many picky little things I do that this extra time didn’t see worth it. I know that my eyes are dry, which is common in older people, and often use “Refresh-plus” individual, preservative-free ampoules, which seems definitely worth the trouble. It makes my eyes feel better, alleviates the gritty sensation, and even clarifies my vision. I have also resumed warming my eyes with a clean washcloth, moistened with hot water, when I take my shower.

I fancy that I am stimulating my meibomian glands like the eye surgeon intended, to increase the lipid content of my tears. I’ll keep you posted. There are a number of other disorders which can cause the eye symptom, as the accompanying article indicates. Be sure that if the discomfort is more than trivial, or the affected eye is red, or if vision is affected, that you consult your eye doctor, or at least your primary care Physician.

Dr. C.

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THE DOCTORS 101 CHRONIC SYMPTOMS & CONDITIONS #31: COLD SORES

“Fever Blisters”, or “Cold sores” are caused by infection, almost always, with the Herpes Simplex 1 virus. Herpesvirus infestations are present in 50% of the population, usually causing little disturbance. The symptoms on first exposure depend on the Age the virus is first acquired.

NEONATAL Herpes can be extremely serious, due to the immaturity of the infant immune system. Herpes acquired in CHILDHOOD, or Primary herpetic Gingivostomatitis, can cause very dramatic FEVER, with blisters in the mouth, that lasts for a week to 10 days, causing lots of misery and hand-wringing but having a good outcome.

I had one such case early in my pediatric residency at Walter Reed Army Hospital, a young French boy named Didier Dupont. He screamed with pain, and wouldn’t eat or drink. His parents thought that he was going to die, and that I saved his life, neither of which was true. My roommate and I lived in the same housing complex as the Duponts, and enjoyed many fine french meals with them, one of the few positive events to result from an encounter with Herpes Viruses.

The first acquaintance with Herpes in ADULTHOOD produces outcomes ranging from no symptoms at all, to a flu like syndrome with mouth blisters. Many people have positive blood tests for herpes, but cannot recall any mucosal burning, blisters or pain, so Herpes can enter the body without producing memorable symptoms.

The Herpes 1 Virus gains entrance to the body through the lining of the lips, mouth or nose(or through broken skin), and travels up the local nerves to the cell body in the local Trigeminal ganglion. There it remains quietly, until some STRESS reduces the resistance, allowing it to awaken and travel back down the nerves to the “mucocutaneous junction”, where the skin thins out into the lining of the nose, mouth, or occasionally the eyes.

There it multiplies and forms painful blisters, or “cold sores”. Sunburning of the lips, a “cold”, or psychological strain are examples of the stresses that can trigger cold sores. Reduced resistance is the common factor.

The Acyclovir family of drugs is usually effective in treatment, and works by inhibiting DNA Polymerase. These oral medications can be given to curtail each episode, if cold sores are infrequent, or continuously to reduce the number of outbreaks.

Herpes 1 is a double stranded DNA Virus in a family that includes Herpes 2, Chickenpox, the EB virus of mononucleosis fame, and Cytomegalovirus, which is the bane of organ transplant recipients. A nasty Clan indeed, and very successful in evolutionary terms.

–Dr. C.

THE DOCTORS 101 CHRONIC SYMPTOMS & CONDITIONS #30: ACNE (Vulgaris)

ACNE is almost a rite of passage in adolescents, although it is not totally restricted to the teen years; women may experience acne during pregnancy, or at the time of menopause. It afflicts about 90% of kids during their PUBERTAL growth spurt, though is moderate or severe in only 15%.

Acne is caused by PLUGGING of the sebaceous glands of the skin. Infection by certain skin BACTERIA follows. Check the accompanying video for a description of the battle between the “Good guys”, Staph epidermidis and Cutibacterium acnes, vs. the bad guy, Proprionibactrium
acnes.

Acne tends to run in families. The steroid HORMONES like Testosterone and Cortisone promote Acne. STRESS tends to chronically raise Cortisol and is a factor in Acne, and many chronic illnesses as well.

A person who is having trouble with Acne should avoid sweets and greasy foods, which is a good idea for everybody. Skin cleansers, using salicylic or azelaic acids and benzoyl peroxide may help, and creams containing retinoic acid derivatives may be useful..

The doctor may prescribe an antibiotic like tetracycline in resistant cases. Cystic acne may be scarring, but otherwise “the zits” depart with the pubertal years.

–Dr. C.

Further reading at Mayo Clinic

THE DOCTORS 101 CHRONIC SYMPTOMS AND CONDITIONS #28: CERVICAL POLYPS

Cervical polyps are fairly common, particularly in young women who have had children. They are rare before periods start, and uncommon after menopause. Polyps are often silent, without symptoms.

Polyps are often silent, without symptoms. Polyps are often associated with INFLAMMATION, and may be discovered because of vaginal DISCHARGE. They may bleed and betray themselves by heavy periods, or BLEEDING between periods.

My Daughter, a Student Health Physician, recently saw a patient who presented with a foul discharge and examination revealed a large polyp. A blood count showed a severe ANEMIA.

Although cancer is rare, the polyp should be biopsied or removed and examined to be sure there is no malignancy. Cervical Polyps are often discovered on a routine Physical Examination. Preventative Physical and Vaginal examinations in young women are important to check for such conditions as Polyps, do PAP smears, and, in sexually active women, screen for STDs.

–Dr. C.

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THE DOCTORS 101 CHRONIC SYMPTOMS AND CONDITIONS #26: HYPERTENSION

Hypertension places an extra load on the blood vessels and heart, and eventually causes them to become diseased. High Blood Pressure is therefore bad for the entire body, which depends on the blood vessels for delivering the nutrients and oxygen necessary for life.

Most hypertension happens from subtle changes in the body’s signalling systems, and often runs in families; This is called “essential hypertension”. Additionally, there are a number of diseases and conditions of which hypertension is a symptom. It is important to know if you have hypertension, and fortunately it is easy to discover.

A visit to the doctor, or even to the pharmacy will make a reading available, and if you are concerned, an automatic cuff is available for $20. A healthy lifestyle and weight Will help prevent and treat hypertension, as in so many other chronic conditions.

A variety of medications are available to treat hypertension, but ANY MEDICATION CAN PRODUCE SIDE EFFECTS. It is rare for an effective medication to produce only a single, desired effect on the body. I have never known a person who at some time did not experience some side effect from antihypertensive medications.

Be sure to maintain contact with your Doctor. The dose may be too high, causing episodes of LOW blood pressure with fainting. When I was in practice, any number of patients came to me with a chronic cough, which I “cured” by having their doctor replace their ACE Inhibitor with another medication.

Please read the accompanying Mayo Clinic article for a complete discussion of this important condition.

–Dr. C.

Mayo Clinic article

THE DOCTORS 101 CHRONIC SYMPTOMS AND CONDITIONS #24: CONSTIPATION

One of my previous posts, “bad breath”, was so well received that I am emboldened to deal briefly with another important, if politically incorrect, topic; Constipation.

I have anemia, and take regular IRON, which produces constipation. A high fiber diet solved it. My bones have also been thinning over the years into Osteopenia, a deficiency of Calcium. I Increased my calcium intake with some CALCIUM citrate powder, and developed one of the worst episodes of Constipation I have ever had, in spite of my high fiber diet.

Stopping the Calcium leaves me with the osteopenia worry, but was a great relief. Many other medications can cause constipation. Ask your Pharmacist for a list.` Hypothyroidism, and a variety of autoimmune, intestinal and neurological conditions have constipation as a symptom.

As I struggled with something that should be automatic, I worried about possibly pushing out a hernia, ballooning out one of my colonic diverticula, or developing hemorrhoids. These are all complications of constipation, not to mention the big waste of time. Regularity is much to be desired.

If you have regular SLEEP and EXERCISE a low Calorie density, high fiber diet, and are not taking a lot of drugs and supplements, you most likely don’t have constipation. If you have constipation, you might consider examining your sleep, diet, exercise and medications. If you don’t want to change your habits and medication, try METAMUCIL and drink lots of WATER.

–Dr. C.

Read more from Mayo Clinic

THE DOCTORS 101 CHRONIC SYMPTOMS & CONDITIONS #22: MIGRAINE HEADACHE

Migraine Headache in its classic form is a unique syndrome, or grouping of symptoms. There is often a PRODROME of anxiety, mood changes or fatigue a day or two before the Headache. There may also be an AURA, such as visual or other sensory symptoms, preceding the headache by minutes.

The Headache is often ONE-SIDED (hence the name, HeMigraine). The Headache is SEVERE, and accompanied by NAUSEA AND VOMITING, a “sick” Headache.

There are a variety of TRIGGERS, such as ripened Cheeses, Red wine, Nitrate-containing foods like hot dogs and pepperoni, and missing your cup of coffee. Stress and Hormonal Changes (menstrual periods) may trigger Migraine.

Migraine often has a FAMILY HISTORY. If one parent has migraine, the risk is 50%, and if both parents, 75%. It is more common in women. During the Headache, Migraine sufferers often seek out a quiet, dark room, and avoid stimulation.

My own experience with Migraine is with isolated OPHTHALMIC MIGRAINE. I have the aura, but luckily have no pain. In my day, 50 years ago, Migraine was considered a Vascular Headache Problem, with Vasodilation being the cause. Many triggers result in Vasodilation.

After a half century of intense study, including the discovery of Calcitonin Gene Related Product (CGRP) in the blood during Migraine, It is now considered a NEUROVASCULAR Headache Problem, and there is optimism for future progress.

TREATMENT can be to abort, to shorten the attack after the warning Prodrome or Aura start. If the attacks are too frequent, such as several times a week,

PREVENTATIVE treatment may be needed. Medications include a host of chemicals, including Hormones, and most recently, CGRP. Many of these chemicals are vasoconstrictors, which narrow blood vessels.

Please refer to the Mayo Clinic article for more information.

–Dr. C

THE DOCTORS 101 CHRONIC SYMPTOMS & CONDITIONS #19: DIVERTICULOSIS

Your large bowel, or colon, is at the end of the Gastrointestinal tract. It starts on the right side of your abdomen, where the small intestine empties into the caecum. This is also where the Appendix bulges down, looking like a little finger coming from the caecum. The 5 foot long large intestine is the final processing area of your food, after the nutrients have been absorbed.

The Colon contains virtually all of the microbiome, reduces the volume of the fecal matter, and propels it to its final destination. The propelling muscles are an inner circular ring, and 3 outer longitudinal strips. These outer strips of muscle do not completely encircle the Colon, allowing for protuberances of lining membrane and circular muscle to balloon out into prominences called Taenia.

It is in these weakened areas, especially where blood vessels penetrate that little herniations form over the years. Diverticulosis occurs in 50% of people more than 60 years of age, and in almost everybody more than 80 years.

Diverticulosis is a condition where pressures up to 120 mm or mercury, generated by the colonic muscles gradually push out little pouches of lining membrane called diverticula. Nobody knows why some people get an INFLAMMED diverticulum.

Age, of course, is a factor, as are Obesity, diabetes, smoking and poor diet; a tendency toward inflammation is common in all of these risk factors. Comparing diverticulitis with Appendicitis is an interesting exercise. The symptoms are mirror images of each other. Appendicitis occurs on the right side.

Diverticulitis usually occurs on the left side, except in asian people. The asian DIET seems to favor diverticula on the right side. When asians immigrate to the U.S. and start eating more Red meat and fewer vegetables, the diverticula shift to the left side.

Signs of Diverticulitis include gastrointestinal symptoms, such as pain, tenderness,nausea, cramps, constipation, and Fever. Rectal bleeding can sometimes occur. Treatment includes antibiotics.

If the condition worsens, serious complications, such as abcess may develop and require surgery. As usual, Prevention, including diet and exercise, is better than Treatment. A HIGH FIBER DIET is the best prevention.

–Dr. C.

Article #1 to readDiverticular disease of the colon: New perspectives in symptom development and treatment

Article #2 to readManagement of Colonic Diverticulitis | Effective Health Care Program

THE DOCTORS 101 CHRONIC SYMPTOMS & CONDITIONS #18: SKIN INFECTIONS

The skin is the protective barrier between the inside of our bodies and the outside world of microorganisms, parasites and toxins. It is often the site of inflammation and infections.

In past times, before the advent of cleanliness and antibiotics, mankind was plagued by erysipelas, boils, carbuncles, and other severe infections of the skin, which are rarely seen now. The beta hemolytic streptococcus and Staphylococcus aureus were ubiquitous in the past, and mostly are contained today.

Severe Infections presently require some skin abnormality, immune deficiency, neglect, animal bite or other breach of skin integrity to be a problem. Antibiotic resistance, however, is allowing some organisms like MERSA to make a comeback.

ECZEMA. or Atopic Dermatitis, was common in my medical practice. This condition weakens the skin barrier, allowing Staphylococcal infection to gain a foothold. In my day, If there were a flare of eczema severity, antibiotics would often help. Leg edema and swelling. such as from heart failure, especially coupled with diabetes and blood vessel disease is also an invitation to infection, such as cellulitis.

Redness, swelling, warmth and pain- the classic rubor, tumor, calor and dolor- as well as swollen local lymph nodes and fever often betray infection of the skin. Please see the recently posted infographic on celulitis.

IMMUNE DEFICIENCY raises the likelihood and risk of severe skin infections. Infection from “flesh-eating bacteria”, often beta hemolytic streptococci in deep tissue planes , is a medical emergency. Immediate surgery is often needed.

Disproportionate PAIN after injury or surgery is often a clue. Certain age groups have characteristic skin infections, such as the scalded skin syndrome of infants, and the acne of adolescents. Viruses, molds, and arthropods can also infect the skin.

Viruses, such as herpes in particular can simulate bacterial infection. Ringworm from fungi is easy to distinguish, but arthropod bites, and especially bee sting can look very much like bacterial infection. Scabies and mite infestation are so itchy as to be distinct.

Topical antibiotics applied on skin breaks like cuts or breaks are useful in preventing infection. These ointments and creams are like “artificial skin”. Once again, prevention is key.

–Dr. C.

THE DOCTORS 101 CHRONIC SYMPTOMS & CONDITIONS #18: ACTINIC KERATOSES

Red hair and freckles are associated with MCR-1 gene variants, and large areas of skin with lowered melanin protection against the adverse effects of the sun. I have red hair and freckles, for which I was teased. My response was that I had a lot of Iron in my blood, and that the freckles were Rust. This is ironic (no pun intended).

Since becoming an Octogenarian, I have had trouble keeping my Iron levels normal. I live in a beach area, where all the young ladies are sunning themselves to promote the socially desirable “bronze goddess” effect, and all of the older ladies hide their leathery skin and wear broad-brimmed hats.

The sun has a good reputation as a health-giver. Being outside does correlate with a lot of beneficial effects, such as enhancing production of Vitamin D. My recommendation, however biased, is to get your Vitamin D in capsule form, and reduce sun exposure.

SUNSHINE, however salutary, is accompanied by invisible, high energy photons capable of breaking DNA strands, and ultimately causing SKIN CANCER. Not accidentally,Visible light has insufficient energy to break bonds, although the rhodopsin in rods and cones do release electrons if stimulated by light.

Actinic Keratoses are the roughened plaques of skin, often on the face, which have a small but definite risk of turning into Cancer. I have a dermatology check every 6 months for precancerous areas to be frozen and destroyed by CO2 spray.

PREVENTION of UV Skin damage is advisable. I wear a broad brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses (UV can promote cataracts and retinal damage as well) when outside in the sun. When swimming I wear a “rashguard” shirt with UV protection in the fabric.

Also, I try to limit my exposure to the Evening and Morning sun, because the light is warmer, and contains less UV. Even with these precautions, I use Sunscreen creams and lotions. I always wondered how a transparent lotion can block UV light.

The explanation lies in the chemicals contained. Such chemicals as Avobenzone and Homosalicylate actually absorb the energy of UV light. Protect yourself now for later health.

–Dr. C.