‘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.
The common cold is one of the most frequent of human diseases, and causes billions of dollars in lost work yearly. I haven’t heard of many cases of colds or flu recently, in the Era of Covid.
Distancing, mask wearing, and hand washing prevents colds too. The common cold spreads by AEROSOL transmission, and autoinnoculation into the nose from contaminated surfaces, just like Covid.
By far the most common cause of the Common Cold is the RHINOVIRUS, of which there are 100 serotypes. Coronaviruses, Influenza, Parainfluenza, RSV and enteroviruses also produce cold-like symptoms. The large number of viruses causing the Common cold makes developing an effective vaccine difficult.
Adults eventually encounter most of the serotypes prevalent in their community, and don’t catch many colds. However, when adults travel, they experience a new, unfamiliar group of viruses endemic to their destination. How often do we take a trip and come back with a Cold, or worse. We lack immunity to the microorganisms we have not yet encountered, just like children.
When I was in pediatric allergy practice, I feared nothing so much as the cold temperatures in October. The kids would come back to school, and start getting colds, averaging 7-8 per year. It is commonly thought by researchers that cold symptoms are not produced so much by viral damage to the respiratory membranes, as by the body’s immune response to those viruses.
My experience confirms that opinion. A cold was a worry for my patients. Rhinovirus infection often triggered a severe ashmatic response, sometimes sending the children to the ER if not the Hospital ICU.
It was the allergic reaction to the virus that caused the severe wheezing. After the epidemic of Covid subsides, and becomes endemic, don’t give up all of your newly-acquired habits. Hand-washing, distancing, and even masks prevent other respiratory disease transmission too.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Old age is an inevitable condition if you are lucky enough to live a long life. Middle aged people say it begins at 70 years of age. According to an Elysium survey of people 40 and older, the average American FEELS old for the first time at age 47 years.
In the distant past, 50 was CONSIDERED to be old. The generally better conditions and Medicine of modern times keeps extending LIFESPAN, if not always HEALTHSPAN. Old age is certainly a Condition, and it is for sure Chronic, thereby qualifying for inclusion, but is it a Disease?
It is not considered a disease by the authorities, and so it doesn’t gather research funds like it should. What exactly IS old age? Being 88 Years old, and a physician, I feel qualified to comment. Old age is a collection of past accidents and sports injuries plus complications of past illnesses engrafted on a gradually deteriorating body.
Where does Obesity and Metabolic syndrome fit in this rubric? The Plague of our time fits in the disease category. It is definitely preventable, although with difficulty. Please search past postings for more information on this topic.
In what way does the body gradually deteriorate? Any organized, non-random high information structure gradually becomes more disordered, and “worn away” with the passage of TIME, the destroyer. Entropy (disorder) gradually increases, in the absence of corrective energy input.
Even rocks and mountains eventually erode, given enough time. One of the most interesting characteristics of life is that it maintains its integrity for an inordinate amount of time, given its complexity and furious dynamism.
Every day our DNA sustains thousands of molecular ruptures from high energy radiation and other stressors. Proofreading and repair mechanisms are employed, at high energy cost, to repair these breaks. This corrective is especially efficient when we are young and vigorous; In our youth, our reproductive years, growth and repair predominate. Gradually, growth ceases, repair mechanisms age, and we become old.
Our Darwinian “warranty” expires. We are left with an aging body, unimportant to evolution. We are long on experience and short on future. But we still have a marvelous metabolism at our disposal, depending on our lifestyle. There are a number of metabolic pathways which affect aging, 2 of which have been more studied.
The mTOR pathway is most attuned to youth, senses nutrients and gears up for ANABOLISM, or growth. If you have not been careful to tailor your food intake to suit your decreasing requirements, your efficient metabolism stores it away for a rainy day, around your belly and in your arteries, a bad effect from an essential mechanism. Antagonistic Pleiotropy is the name for a body mechanism that can be good for one function (or age) and bad for another.
The Sirtuin system is also important in aging, and has a variety of housekeeping functions, including mitochondrial maintenance. It is activated by exercise. The cells of our bodies change with aging. In old tissues, there are less stem cells and other young, functional units. There are more damaged, dysfunctional “zombie” cells that don’t do much but promote inflammation, and hence more inflammatory cells accumulate.
Controlling the mTOR System and promoting the sirtuins help increase apoptosis and get rid of dysfunctional cells, including cancer. DOCTORS SHOULD PRESCRIBE EXERCISE, as well as SLEEP AND DIET, like they do medicine, and maybe we wouldn’t need so many pills. We might also feel better into old age.
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.
Peripheral Neuropathy is a common problem, and almost a quarter of the population will eventually suffer from it. It is very common in diabetes and metabolic syndrome, alcoholism, and in cancer therapy.
Even getting older is a risk; almost 10% of individuals 65 years old have some symptoms. There are more than 100 different types of peripheral neuropathy, and often it is just one feature of a primary illness.
Sometimes there is no known cause, such as in 2 of my older friends. I have a diminished vibratory sense in my feet, which causes me no noticeable problem. The longer nerves are more likely to be involved, except for the rare sensory ganglionopathy which is symptomatic of some cancers ( a “paraneoplastic disorder”) , some infections and autoimmune diseases.
When the sensory ganglia are involved, the numbness, tingling or pain can be more central, such as in the face or upper arm. There are 3 types of nerves that can be involved in peripheral neuropathy; Sensory, Motor and autonomic.
The sensory nerves deal with sensations, such as hot, cold, touch, pain, tingling, and numbness. Motor nerve involvement results in weakness or paralysis of an arm, leg or other area under Voluntary control. The autonomic nervous system coordinates activities beyond voluntary control, such as sweating, salivation, food propulsion and heart rate, which can be activated or inhibited.
The symptoms of neuropathy depend upon the type of nerve involved. Balance is a complex ability that can be disturbed by a lack of proper sensory nerve function (Position sense or proprioception) motor weakness, vision or coordination which involve higher centers.
The medical evaluation of peripheral neuropathy begins with a family practitioner or internist who does a detailed history, asking about such things as diet, medications, alcohol consumption, and injuries. Vitamin intake is important, but can be overdone.
Peripheral nerve symptoms can actually be caused by excessive B6, pyridoxine. The upper limit is 100 Mg.. A physical exam checks for weakness, sensory problems, reflexes and balance. Blood tests may reveal diabetic, kidney, liver, thyroid or immune problems problems.
A major disorder associated with neuropathy may be revealed and pursued. If nothing turns up, and the neuropathy is significant, referral may be needed to a neurologist, or other appropriate specialist. Many specialized tests and treatments may be needed.
Even with the best of care, a specific “cure” may not be found. Peripheral neuropathy can often be avoided by a healthy lifestyle.