Tag Archives: Medicine

Medicine: CT Scans & Radiation Exposure

Health: Distinguishing Between Flu & Covid-19

THE DOCTORS 101 CHRONIC SYMPTOMS & CONDITIONS #58: SPINAL STENOSIS

Spinal stenosis is a narrowing in the spinal canal. Constriction of the spinal nerves can produce pain that goes down one or both of the arms or legs, depending on the location of the stenosis. Malfunction of the nerves can cause numbness In the arms or legs, or weakness in muscles served by the affected spinal nerves.

Your doctor can confirm the diagnosis with imaging techniques such as MRI or CT scan.

The interesting part of this condition to me is the tremendous advances in surgical techniques that have taken place in the past decade. Many surgeries are now done through an endoscope, which limits the surgical disruption in the area. There is even a needle guided procedure to remove part of the ligament that is causing compression of the nerve.

Depending on the exact problem, small amounts of bone or other tissues can be removed, especially if the exact site of compression has been identified. If the extent of compression is more extensive, increasing amounts of bone is removed from the lamina (bony arches), facets , or nerve outlets (foramina) to give the nerves more room.

If there is slippage of the vertebra, a fusion is sometimes done. My understanding is that fusion is becoming less common. That being said, the Cloward procedure in the neck, with its approach from the front, is still sometimes used with neck pain.

Pain in the neck or back without any associated nerve malfunction is often best treated with physical therapy, steroid injections, or other conservative methods.

In my opinion spinal surgery is best done by trained neurosurgeons, who are familiar with minimally invasive surgery.

—Dr. C.

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Medicine: Is Metformin A Wonder Drug? (Harvard)

THE DOCTORS 101 CHRONIC SYMPTOMS & CONDITIONS #56: LUPUS

Lupus, which used to be called lupus erythematosus because of its butterfly rash and light sensitivity, is an auto immune disease, along with celiac disease and several other autoimmune diseases, it is the great imitator. It can affect almost any organ system.

The great variety of symptoms, and relative rarity leads to a difficulty in establishing the diagnosis. Eventually, you may be lucky enough to  find someone who figures it out.

The butterfly rash over the bridge of the nose and cheeks is the most typical finding but it’s not present in all patients. Rheumatoid symptoms, including fatigue fever and joint involvement is common. Chest pain and shortness of breath can occur. Headache confusion and memory loss occurs. Involvement of the kidneys can also occur, it is often the involvement that is life-threatening. These are symptoms maywax and wane over a number of years.

The cause of lupus may involve a black background of infection, the medication, or even sunlight. As with most auto immune diseases, the actual cause is obscure.

Laboratory findings may include an anemia, kidney or liver involvement, and especially anti-nuclear antibody’s. Most people with lupus have a positive ANA test, but not all people with these positive tests have lupus. Other test maybe necessary.

Treatment is usually with Drugs which diminish the immune system. Targeting the B-lymphocytes specifically with rituximab or bulimumab may be helpful.

Lupus, the wolf, can be stealthy and severe. Patients often have to be their own advocate in order to get properly treated.

Please see the following mail clinic article for more information.

—Dr. C.

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SCIENCE & MEDICINE: STORY BEHIND THE MRNA VACCINES

As mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines are deployed to protect hundreds of millions of people across the world from the deadly global pandemic, the University of Pennsylvania scientists whose research breakthroughs laid the foundation for swift vaccine development have been awarded the 2021 Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award. Here, mRNA vaccine pioneers Drew Weissman, MD, PhD, and Katalin Karikó, PhD, share the story behind their development of this groundbreaking technology, and what it means for the future of medicine.

THE DOCTORS 101 CHRONIC SYMPTOMS & CONDITIONS #53: GRAVES’ DISEASE

Graves’ disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism is an over activity of the thyroid gland, and can also be produced by an overgrowth in the gland called an adenoma.

The thyroid gland is an H-shaped structure sitting astride the wind pipe. If a physician palpates the front of your neck, she is most likely trying to see if she can feel the thyroid gland. Enlargement of the grand can interestingly be produced by either overactivity or under activity.

Graves’ disease is an auto immune disease, where the antibodies produced attach to the TSH receptor on the thyroid gland, stimulating overactivity.

Many  metabolic processes are regulated by the thyroid gland, and increased activity produces difficulties like insomnia, fast irregular heartbeat, shaking of the hands, heat intolerance, and irritability. Other symptoms are protrusion of the eyes, fatigue, muscle weakness, and unexplained weight loss.

The doctor suspects the disease because of the symptoms, and must do blood tests and perhaps imaging tests to make the diagnosis. Treatment consists of decreasing thyroid activity, either by radiation techniques, anti-thyroid chemicals, or surgery.

It is very difficult to reduce thyroid activity in exactly the right amount, so that thyroid administration will be necessary. This can be tricky, and requires several visits for adjustment.

The ultimate cause of Graves’ disease is unknown. The immediate cause is thyroid stimulating immunoglobulin. Graves is an auto immune disease, and is more common in people who suffer from other autoimmune diseases, such as type one diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or inflammatory bowel disease. The doctor will question you about some of these diseases.

Both causes of hyperthyroidism have occurred in friends of mine. The friend with the adenoma had an easier time with medication adjustment, and had no other problems. The one with the Graves’ disease has had a difficult time getting a proper dose of thyroid medication, and she has other problems with auto immunity. Women typically have more  autoimmune problems.

Interestingly, the commonest cause of low thyroid activity is also an autoimmune disease. Some of the symptoms of low thyroid are the opposite of excessive thyroid activity; sleeping is excessive, there is sensitivity to cold, unexplained weight gain, and sluggishness.

Check with the doctor if you have any of the symptoms mentioned.
There is a Cleveland clinic discussion of Graves’ disease following this article.

—Dr. C.

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DR. C’S JOURNAL: AMBLYOPIA

Amblyopia is an example of how the body suppresses or gets rid of activity that is not used. Amblyopia “ex anopsia” is the leading cause of poor vision in children, and the most common reason is a “lazy eye”. If the eyes do not work together for binocular vision, the weaker of the two eyes has suppressed development and eventually eyesight is lost.

I have a friend who was going in the pilot training, it was found to lack good depth perception, and could not proceed. He now complains occasionally of double vision, and may be an example of the suppressed eye with lack of binocular vision.

I have a muscle in balance which causes a rotation of my eye so that it’s hard to fuse on a horizontal linear object. I was probably able to fuse  when I was younger and avoid this loss of vision in the weaker eye.

So be on the alert for a squint, or wandering eye in children. Get them in early for treatment, the earlier the better, and it must take place before age 5 to 7.

—Dr. C.

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DR. C’S JOURNAL: WHAT IS AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE?

Our immune system contains cells that are part of us, and they evolved to protect us. They generally do a good job of this, as witnessed by our survival in a sea of viruses, microbes, and parasites.

However, just like our police force, occasionally the protective function goes awry and damage is done to our own body, in the protective act. For many years I was a practicing allergist, and observed this protective function misfiring. In allergic rhinitis and allergic asthma, tiny harmless particles in the air are interpreted by the body as a threat. The TH2 immune system, initially evolved to fight parasites, is activated, and causes considerable disease and misery.

Some of the antigenic determinants on the surface of the pollen, animal dander or dust particles are interpreted as being dangerous by the immune system, which causes chronic inflammation with acute allergy attacks.

Autoimmunity is a similar misreading, in which our own cells are deemed dangerous. In this case the immune agency is the more powerful Th-1 system, which often causes crippling or even fatal results.  

Millions of people are sickened by an immune system that is supposed to defend them.

An article in the September 2021 issue of the Scientific American lists 76 of these disorders, and classifies them as to frequency, patient gender and age of onset. It is worth reviewing, at least for the listing on page 32 and 33.

Auto immunity must be considered as a possible cause in any illness that is not easily diagnosed, common, and well known to your doctor. Many patients have to be their own advocates, and persist in trying to get themselves diagnosed.

Celiac disease, Lupus, and Addison’s disease come to mind as tricky customers. Although “autoimmune disease” in toto is common, many of the individual diseases occur in less than one in 1000 patients, and are not high on the diagnostic list of most doctors.

The skin, nervous system, endocrine system, and digestive system are the most common areas involved. Recent advances in blood and antibody testing offers to give needed diagnostic help to the medical profession. These illnesses must be detected early to avoid functional loss in the tissues and organs affected.

Treatments are improving. In the past, immune suppressing cancer drugs and cortisone were the main drugs available. With increasing knowledge of the mechanisms of the separate diseases, treatment can be directed towards the specific causative antibody, receptor, or interleukin involved, hopefully with less side effects than the shotgun drugs previously available.

As with medicine in general, these modern treatments are excessively expensive as a rule, because much money and research went into their development. Prevention is obviously preferable. A healthy diet, with its attendant healthy microbiome comes to mind, as well as the avoidance of cigarette smoking and environmental toxins.

Proper sleep, exercise, and stress relief should also be helpful.

—Dr. C.

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