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All you need to know about inflammation

Inflammation is a defense mechanism in the body. The immune system recognizes damaged cells, irritants, and pathogens, and it begins the healing process.

When something harmful or irritating affects a part of our body, there is a biological response to try to remove it. The signs and symptoms of inflammation can be uncomfortable but are a show that the body is trying to heal itself.

Fast facts on inflammation
  • Inflammation is the body’s attempt at self-protection to remove harmful stimuli and begin the healing process.
  • Inflammation is part of the body’s immune response.
  • Infections, wounds, and any damage to tissue would not be able to heal without an inflammatory response.
  • Chronic inflammation can eventually cause several diseases and conditions, including some cancers and rheumatoid arthritis.

What is inflammation?

Inflammation is part of the body’s immune response.

It can be beneficial when, for example, your knee sustains a blow and tissues need care and protection. However, sometimes, inflammation can persist longer than necessary, causing more harm than benefit.

Wound healing

Our immediate reaction to a swelling is to try and decrease it. However, it is important to remember that inflammation is an essential part of the healing process.

The first stage of inflammation is often called irritation, which then becomes inflammation. Inflammation is followed by the discharging of pus. The granulation stage comes next, and new tissue is formed in the wound.

Without inflammation, infections and wounds would never heal.

Innate immunity

When a person is born, certain defenses in the immune system are naturally present in the body. This is known as innate immunity.

It is different from adaptive immunity, which we develop after an infection or vaccination when the body “learns” to fight a specific infectious agent.

Innate immunity is generally nonspecific, while adaptive immunity is specific to a particular pathogen. Inflammation is one example of an innate immune response.

Symptoms

Symptoms of inflammation vary depending on whether the reaction is acute or chronic.

The effects of acute inflammation can be summed up by the acronym PRISH. They include:

  • Pain: The inflamed area is likely to be painful, especially during and after touching. Chemicals that stimulate nerve endings are released, making the area more sensitive.
  • Redness: This occurs because the capillaries in the area are filled with more blood than usual.
  • Immobility: There may be some loss of function in the region of the inflammation.
  • Swelling: This is caused by a buildup of fluid.
  • Heat: More blood flows to the affected area, and this makes it feel warm to the touch.

These five acute inflammation signs only apply to inflammations of the skin. If inflammation occurs deep inside the body, such as in an internal organ, only some of the signs may be noticeable.

For example, some internal organs may not have sensory nerve endings nearby, so there will be no pain, such as in certain types of lung inflammation.

Symptoms of chronic inflammation present in a different way. These can include:

  • fatigue
  • mouth sores
  • chest pain
  • abdominal pain
  • fever
  • rash
  • joint pain

Causes

Inflammation is caused by a number of physical reactions triggered by the immune system in response to a physical injury or an infection.

Inflammation does not necessarily mean that there is an infection, but an infection can cause inflammation.

Three main processes occur before and during acute inflammation:

  • The small branches of arteries enlarge when supplying blood to the damaged region, resulting in increased blood flow.
  • Capillaries become easier for fluids and proteins to infiltrate, meaning that they can move between blood and cells.
  • The body releases neutrophils. A neutrophil is a type of white blood cell filled with tiny sacs that contain enzymes and digest microorganisms.

A person will notice inflammation symptoms after these steps take place.

Acute inflammation

An acute inflammation is one that starts rapidly and becomes severe in a short space of time. Signs and symptoms are normally only present for a few days but may persist for a few weeks in some cases.

Examples of diseases, conditions, and situations that can result in acute inflammation include:

Chronic or acute inflammation

These are the two types of inflammation that differ in how quickly symptoms escalate and how long they last.

The following table shows the key differences between acute and chronic inflammation:

Acute Chronic
Caused by Harmful bacteria or tissue injury Pathogens that the body cannot break down, including some types of virus, foreign bodies that remain in the system, or overactive immune responses
Onset Rapid Slow
Duration A few days From months to years
Outcomes Inflammation improves, turns into an abscess, or becomes chronic Tissue death and the thickening and scarring of connective tissue

What’s to know about inflammatory bowel disease?

Inflammatory bowel disease refers to a number of long-term conditions that involve inflammation of the gut. Click here to learn more.
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What is chronic inflammation?

This refers to long-term inflammation and can last for several months and even years. It can result from:

  • failure to eliminate whatever was causing an acute inflammation
  • an autoimmune disorder that attacks normal healthy tissue, mistaking it for a pathogen that causes disease
  • exposure to a low level of a particular irritant, such as an industrial chemical, over a long period

Examples of diseases and conditions that include chronic inflammation:

Rheumatoid arthritis involves chronic inflammation.

Although damaged tissue cannot heal without inflammation, chronic inflammation can eventually cause several diseases and conditions including some cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, periodontitis, and hay fever.

Inflammation needs to be well managed.

Is inflammation painful?

When people have inflammation, it often hurts.

People will feel pain, stiffness, discomfort, distress, and even agony, depending on the severity of the inflammation. The type of pain varies. It can be described as constant and steady, throbbing and pulsating, stabbing, or pinching.

Inflammation primarily causes pain because the swelling pushes against the sensitive nerve endings. This sends pain signals to the brain.

Other biochemical processes also occur during inflammation. They affect how nerves behave, and this can enhance pain.

Common treatments

As mentioned earlier in this article, inflammation is part of the healing process. Sometimes, reducing inflammation is helpful, though not always necessary.

Anti-inflammatory medications

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be taken to alleviate the pain caused by inflammation.

They counteract an enzyme that contributes to inflammation. This either prevents or reduces pain.

Examples of NSAIDs include naproxen, ibuprofen, and aspirin, which are available to purchase online.

Avoid the long-term use of NSAIDs unless advised by a doctor. They increase a person’s risk of stomach ulcers, which can result in severe, life-threatening bleeding.

NSAIDs may also worsen asthma symptoms, cause kidney damage, and increase the risk of having a stroke or heart attack.

Acetaminophen, such as paracetamol or Tylenol, can reduce pain without affecting the inflammation. They may be ideal for those wishing to treat just the pain while allowing the healing factor of the inflammation to run its course.

Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids, such as cortisol, are a class of steroid hormones that prevent a number of mechanisms involved in inflammation.

There are two sets of corticosteroids:

Glucocorticoids: These are prescribed for a range of conditions, including:

  • arthritis
  • temporal arteritis
  • dermatitis
  • inflammatory bowel disease (IBS)
  • systemic lupus
  • hepatitis
  • asthma
  • allergic reactions
  • sarcoidosis

Creams and ointments may be prescribed for inflammation of the skin, eyes, lungs, bowels, and nose.

Mineralocorticoids: These are used to treat cerebral salt wasting, and to replace important hormones for patients with adrenal insufficiency.

The side effects of corticosteroids are more likely if taken by mouth. Taking them with inhalers or injections can reduce the risk.

Inhaled medications, such as those used long-term to treat asthma, raise the risk of developing oral thrush. Rinsing the mouth out with water after each use can help prevent oral thrush.

Glucocorticoids can also cause Cushing’s syndrome, while mineralocorticoids can cause high blood pressure, low blood potassium levels, connective tissue weakness, and problems with the levels of acids and alkalis in body tissue.

Herbs for inflammation

Discuss any possible use of herbal supplements with a doctor.

Harpagophytum procumbens: Also known as devil’s claw, wood spider, or grapple plant, this herb comes from South Africa and is related to sesame plants. Some research has shown it may have anti-inflammatory properties. Various brands are available to purchase online.

Hyssop: This is mixed with other herbs, such as licorice, for the treatment of some lung conditions, including inflammation. The essential oils of hyssop can lead to life-threatening convulsions in laboratory animals. Caution is advised.

Ginger: This has been used for hundreds of years to treat dyspepsia, constipation, colic, and other gastrointestinal problems, as well as rheumatoid arthritis pain. Ginger may be purchased online in supplement form.

Turmeric: Current research is looking into the possible beneficial effects of turmeric in treating arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and some other inflammatory conditions. Curcumin, a substance found in turmeric, is being invested for the treatment of several illnesses and disorders, including inflammation. Supplements with turmeric and curcumin are available.

Cannabis: This contains a cannabinoid called cannabichromene, which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. However, cannabis is not legal in many places.

Inflammation diet

There are several foods that can have been shown to help reduce the risk of inflammation, including:

  • olive oil
  • tomatoes
  • nuts, such as walnuts and almonds
  • leafy greens, including spinach and kale
  • fatty fish, such as salmon and mackerel
  • fruit, including blueberries and oranges

Avoid eating foods that aggravate inflammation, including:

  • fried foods, including French fries
  • white bread, pastry, and other foods that contain refined carbohydrates
  • soda and sugary drinks
  • red meat
  • margarine and lard

While these dietary solutions do not alone hold the key to controlling inflammation, they can help prime the immune system to react in a measured way.

We picked linked items based on the quality of products, and list the pros and cons of each to help you determine which will work best for you. We partner with some of the companies that sell these products, which means we may receive a portion of revenues if you make a purchase using a link(s) above.
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What are the best foods for heart health?

Heart disease is still the number one killer in the United States. In this Spotlight, we outline 16 foods that, when consumed as part of a well-rounded diet, might help to keep your heart healthy.
Heart-shaped fruits

How can you improve your heart health with food?

There are many things you can do to help keep your heart healthy and disease-free.

You can schedule an annual checkup, exercise daily, quit smoking, or take steps to reduce the level of stress in your life.

All of these things can have a positive effect on heart health. But, one of the simplest lifestyle changes that will benefit your heart is watching what you eat.

Nearly 6 million people are currently living with heart failure, and around half of these will die within 5 years of being diagnosed.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warn that eating foods high in fat, cholesterol, or sodium can be very bad for the heart. So, when taking steps to minimize the risk of heart disease, diet is a good place to start.

In this article, we examine some of the best foods for ensuring that you keep a robust and healthy heart.

1. Asparagus

Asparagus is a natural source of folate, which helps to prevent an amino acid called homocysteine from building up in the body. High homocysteine levels have been linked with an increased risk of heart-related conditions, such as coronary artery disease and stroke.

2. Beans, peas, chickpeas, and lentils

Beans, peas, chickpeas, and lentils — otherwise known as pulses or legumes — can all significantly reduce levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad cholesterol.” They are also packed with fiber, protein, and antioxidant polyphenols, all of which have beneficial effects on the heart and general health.

3. Berries

Berries are also full of antioxidant polyphenols, which help to reduce heart disease risk. Berries are a great source of fiber, folate, iron, calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin C, and they are low in fat.

4. Broccoli

Some studies suggest that regularly eating steamed broccoli can lower cholesterol levels and prevent heart disease.

5. Chia seeds and flaxseeds

These seeds are a rich plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids, such as alpha-linolenic acid. Omega-3s have many beneficial effects, such as helping to lower levels of triglycerides, LDL, and total cholesterol. They also reduce blood pressure and minimize the buildup of fatty plaques in the arteries.

Omega-3s decrease the risk of disorders that can lead to heart attack, such as thrombosis and arrhythmias.

6. Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate is a rare example of a food that tastes amazing and is good for you (in moderation).

Heart health dark chocolate

Dark chocolate: delicious and heart-healthy.

Scientists now believe that dark chocolate has protective benefits against atherosclerosis, which is when plaque builds up inside the arteries, increasing risk of heart attack and stroke.

Dark chocolate seems to prevent two of the mechanisms implicated in atherosclerosis: stiffness of the arteries and white blood cell adhesion, which is when white blood cells stick to the walls of blood vessels.

What is more, studies have found that increasing dark chocolate’s flavanol content — which is the compound that makes it tasty and moreish — does not diminish these protective benefits.

7. Coffee

Also in the “almost too good to be true” camp is coffee. One recent study found that regularly drinking coffee was linked with a decreased risk of developing heart failure and stroke.

However, it is important to bear in mind that this study — which used machine learning to assess data from the Framingham Heart Study — can only observe an association between factors, and cannot conclusively identify cause and effect.

8. Fish high in omega-3s

Fish is a strong source of heart-helping omega-3 fatty acids and protein but it is low in saturated fat. People who have heart disease, or are at risk of developing it, are often recommended to increase their intake of omega-3s by eating fish; this is because they lower the risk of abnormal heartbeats and slow the growth of plaque in the arteries.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), we should eat a 3.5-ounce serving of fatty fish — such as salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, or albacore tuna — at least twice per week.

9. Green tea

A 2011 systematic review found that drinking green tea is associated with a small reduction in cholesterol, which, as we know, is a main contributor to heart disease and stroke. But the review could not pinpoint how much green tea someone would have to drink to receive any health benefits.

In 2014, another review studied the effects of drinking green tea on people with high blood pressure. The report concluded that green tea was associated with a reduction in blood pressure. But, the authors were unable to determine if this modest reduction could help to prevent heart disease.

10. Nuts

Almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts are all heart-healthy nut options. These nuts are full of protein, fiber, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. Like fish and flaxseeds, walnuts are also ripe with omega-3 fatty acids, making them a heart-healthy snack to have on the go.

11. Liver

Of all the organ meats, liver is the most nutrient-dense. In particular, liver is bulging with folic acid, iron, chromium, copper, and zinc, which increase the blood’s hemoglobin level and help to keep our heart healthy.

12. Oatmeal

Because oatmeal is rich in soluble fiber, it may help to reduce the risk of heart disease. A 2008 review of the evidence concluded that oat-based products significantly reduce LDL and total cholesterol without any adverse effects.

13. Red wine (sort of)

Many studies have noted the potential health benefits of the antioxidants in red wine. However, it is unlikely that the benefits of the antioxidants outweigh the dangers of alcohol.

Red wine and heart

Red wine contains beneficial antioxidants, but bear in mind that it should only be consumed in moderation.

Recently, however, a new study proposed that these same antioxidants could form the basis of a new stent for use during angioplasty — the process where narrow or obstructed veins are widened to treat atherosclerosis.

The researchers behind that study are currently developing a new kind of stent that releases red wine-like antioxidants into the blood to promote healing, prevent blood clotting, and reduce inflammation during angioplasty.

It is worth noting that drinking alcohol, in general, is not healthy for your heart. In fact, it is vitally important for cardiovascular health to drink alcohol in moderation, if at all.

14. Spinach

You can help to maintain a healthy heart rhythm by regularly consuming good sources of magnesium. Spinach is one of the best sources of dietary magnesium, and consumption of Popeye’s favorite food is associated with a raft of health benefits.

15. Tomatoes

Tomatoes have lots of nutrients that might help keep our hearts healthy. The little red fruits are chock-full of fiber, potassium, vitamin C, folate, and choline, which are all good for the heart.

As well as helping to keep heart disease at bay, potassium benefits muscles and bones, and helps prevent kidney stones from forming.

Scientists have argued that increasing potassium intake while decreasing sodium intake is the most important dietary change when attempting to reduce the risk of heart disease.

16. Vegetables

The AHA advise that we eat eight or more servings of fruit and vegetables each day. Vegetables are low in fat and calories but rich in fiber, minerals, and vitamins. A healthful amount of veggies in the diet can help to moderate weight and blood pressure.

What is a normal blood pressure?

Normal blood pressure is vital to life. Without the pressure that forces our blood to flow around the circulatory system, no oxygen or nutrients would be delivered through our arteries to the tissues and organs.

However, blood pressure can become dangerously high, and it can also get too low.

In this article, we will discuss what blood pressure is, how it is measured, and what the measurements mean for our health.

What is blood pressure?

A garden hose

Without a pump or water tank, no water will flow. Hose pipe properties also affect water pressure. Similar principles apply for blood flow.

Blood pressure is the force that moves blood through our circulatory system.

It is an important force because oxygen and nutrients would not be pushed around our circulatory system to nourish tissues and organs without blood pressure.

Blood pressure is also vital because it delivers white blood cells and antibodies for immunity, and hormones such as insulin.

Just as important as providing oxygen and nutrients, the fresh blood that gets delivered is able to pick up the toxic waste products of metabolism, including the carbon dioxide we exhale with every breath, and the toxins we clear through our liver and kidneys.

Blood itself carries a number of other properties, including its temperature. It also carries one of our defenses against tissue damage, the clotting platelets that prevent blood loss following injury.

But what exactly is it that causes blood to exert a pressure in our arteries? Part of the answer is simple – the heart creates blood pressure by forcing out blood when it contracts with every heartbeat. Blood pressure, however, cannot be created solely by the pumping heart.

Function

Our circulation is similar to a highly sophisticated form of plumbing – blood has ‘flow’ and arteries are ‘pipes.’ A basic law of physics gives rise to our blood flow, and this law also applies in a garden hose pipe.

Blood flows through our body because of a difference in pressure.

Our blood pressure is highest at the start of its journey from our heart – when it enters the aorta – and it is lowest at the end of its journey along progressively smaller branches of arteries. That pressure difference is what causes blood to flow around our bodies.

Arteries affect blood pressure in a similar way to the physical properties of a garden hose pipe affecting water pressure. Constricting the pipe increases pressure at the point of constriction.

Without the elastic nature of the artery walls, for example, the pressure of the blood would fall away more quickly as it is pumped from the heart.

While the heart creates the maximum pressure, the properties of the arteries are just as important to maintaining it and allowing blood to flow throughout the body.

The condition of the arteries affects blood pressure and flow, and narrowing of the arteries can eventually block the supply altogether, leading to dangerous conditions including stroke and heart attack.

Measurement

Lady having her blood pressure checked by a doctor

When the pressure from the arm cuff stops the pulse briefly, it gives the top figure of arterial blood pressure that we are familiar with from medical dramas – for example, “140 over 90”

The device used to measure blood pressure is a sphygmomanometer, it consists of a rubber armband – the cuff that is inflated by hand or machine pump.

Once the cuff is inflated enough to stop the pulse, a reading is taken, either electronically or on an analogue dial.

The reading is expressed in terms of the pressure it takes to move mercury round a tube against gravity. This is the reason for pressure being measured using the unit millimeters of mercury, abbreviated to mmHg.

Readings

A stethoscope identifies the precise point when the pulse sound returns and the pressure of the cuff is slowly released. Using the stethoscope enables the person measuring the blood pressure to listen out for two specific points.

Blood pressure readings consist of two figures – the systolic pressure first and the diastolic pressure second. The reading is given as, for example, 140 over 90 mmHg.

The systolic pressure is the higher figure caused by the heart’s contraction, while the diastolic number is the lower pressure in the arteries, during the brief ‘resting’ period between heartbeats.

Ranges

[Blood pressure what is normal chart]

Chart explaining what constitutes high and low blood pressure.
Adapted from source

The National Institutes of Health cite normal blood pressure to be below 120 mmHg systolic and 80 mmHg diastolic.

However, blood pressure changes naturally, a fact that is best described in a quote from cardiologists writing about blood-pressure variability in a paper published by Nature in March 2013:

Blood pressure is characterized by marked short-term fluctuations occurring within a 24-hour period (beat-to-beat, minute-to-minute, hour-to-hour, and day-to-night changes) and also by long-term fluctuations occurring over more prolonged periods of time (days, weeks, months, seasons, and even years).”

The guidelines state that for blood pressures above a figure of 115/75 mmHg, every rise of 20/10 mmHg doubles the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Since 2017, the American Heart Association (AHA) has advised that high blood pressure should be treated at 130/80 rather than 140/90.

The overall guidelines for high blood pressure received an update in December 2013, drawing from the evidence to recommend that anyone aged 60 years or more with hypertension should aim for a blood pressure level of less than 150/90 mmHg.

Tips

The guidelines for doctors list the following measures patients can take to help keep a healthy blood pressure:

  • Keep a healthy body weight.
  • Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products.
  • Cut down on sodium salt in the diet.
  • Take regular aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, for at least 30 minutes a day, most days of the week.
  • Moderate your alcohol intake. Men should drink fewer than two alcoholic beverages a day for men. Women and men with a lower body weight should consume a maximum of one alcohol drink a day.

Taking these steps can reduce the risk of health problems further down the line.

What’s to know about MRI scans?

A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan is a common procedure around the world.

MRI uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of the organs and tissues within the body.

Since its invention, doctors and researchers continue to refine MRI techniques to assist in medical procedures and research. The development of MRI revolutionized medicine.

This article looks specifically at MRI scans, how they work, and how doctors use them.

Fast facts on MRI scanning

  • MRI scanning is a non-invasive and painless procedure.
  • Raymond Damadian created the first MRI full-body scanner, which he nicknamed the Indomitable.
  • The cost of a basic MRI scanner starts at $150,000 but can exceed several million dollars.
  • Japan has the most MRI scanners per capita, with 48 machines for every 100,000 citizens.

What is an MRI scan?

MRI scan

MRI scans can produce a detailed image.

An MRI scan uses a large magnet, radio waves, and a computer to create a detailed, cross-sectional image of internal organs and structures.

The scanner itself typically resembles a large tube with a table in the middle, allowing the patient to slide in.

An MRI scan differs from CT scans and X-rays, as it does not use potentially harmful ionizing radiation.

Uses

The development of the MRI scan represents a huge milestone for the medical world.

Doctors, scientists, and researchers are now able to examine the inside of the human body in high detail using a non-invasive tool.

The following are examples in which an MRI scanner would be used:

  • anomalies of the brain and spinal cord
  • tumors, cysts, and other anomalies in various parts of the body
  • breast cancer screening for women who face a high risk of breast cancer
  • injuries or abnormalities of the joints, such as the back and knee
  • certain types of heart problems
  • diseases of the liver and other abdominal organs
  • the evaluation of pelvic pain in women, with causes including fibroids and endometriosis
  • suspected uterine anomalies in women undergoing evaluation for infertility

This list is by no means exhaustive. The use of MRI technology is always expanding in scope and use.

Preparation

MRi prep headphones

A person can listen to music in headphones to mask the loud and sometimes alarming sound of the MRI machine.

There is very little preparation required, if any, before an MRI scan.

On arrival at the hospital, doctors may ask the patient to change into a gown. As magnets are used, it is critical that no metal objects are present in the scanner. The doctor will ask the patient to remove any metal jewellery or accessories that might interfere with the machine.

A person will probably be unable to have an MRI if they have any metal inside their body, such as bullets, shrapnel, or other metallic foreign bodies. This can also include medical devices, such as cochlear implants, aneurysm clips, and pacemakers.

Individuals who are anxious or nervous about enclosed spaces should tell their doctor. Often they can be given medication prior to the MRI to help make the procedure more comfortable.

Patients will sometimes receive an injection of intravenous (IV) contrast liquid to improve the visibility of a particular tissue that is relevant to the scan.

The radiologist, a doctor who specializes in medical images, will then talk the individual through the MRI scanning process and answer any questions they may have about the procedure.

Once the patient has entered the scanning room, the doctor will help them onto the scanner table to lie down. Staff will ensure that they are as comfortable as possible by providing blankets or cushions.

Earplugs or headphones will be provided to block out the loud noises of the scanner. The latter is popular with children, as they can listen to music to calm any anxiety during the procedure.

During an MRI scan

Once in the scanner, the MRI technician will communicate with the patient via the intercom to make sure that they are comfortable. They will not start the scan until the patient is ready.

During the scan, it is vital to stay still. Any movement will disrupt the images, much like a camera trying to take a picture of a moving object. Loud clanging noises will come from the scanner. This is perfectly normal. Depending on the images, at times it may be necessary for the person to hold their breath.

If the patient feels uncomfortable during the procedure, they can speak to the MRI technician via the intercom and request that the scan be stopped.

After an MRI scan

After the scan, the radiologist will examine the images to check whether any more are required. If the radiologist is satisfied, the patient can go home.

The radiologist will prepare a report for the requesting doctor. Patients are usually asked to make an appointment with their doctor to discuss the results.

Side effects

It is extremely rare that a patient will experience side effects from an MRI scan.

However, the contrast dye can cause nausea, headaches, and pain or burning at the point of injection in some people. Allergy to the contrast material is also seldom seen but possible, and can cause hives or itchy eyes. Notify the technician if any adverse reactions occur.

People who experience claustrophobia or feel uncomfortable in enclosed spaces sometimes express difficulties with undergoing an MRI scan.

Function

water molecules

MRI scans work by rearranging water molecules in the body with magnets.

An MRI scanner contains two powerful magnets. These are the most important parts of the equipment.

The human body is largely made of water molecules, which are comprised of hydrogen and oxygen atoms. At the center of each atom lies an even smaller particle called a proton, which serves as a magnet and is sensitive to any magnetic field.

Normally, the water molecules in the body are randomly arranged, but on entering an MRI scanner, the first magnet causes the water molecules to align in one direction, either north or south.

The second magnetic field is then turned on and off in a series of quick pulses, causing each hydrogen atom to change its alignment when switched on and then quickly switch back to its original relaxed state when switched off.

Passing electricity through gradient coils, which also cause the coils to vibrate, creates the magnetic field, causing a knocking sound inside the scanner.

Although the patient cannot feel these changes, the scanner can detect them and, in conjunction with a computer, can create a detailed cross-sectional image for the radiologist.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)

Functional magnetic resonance imaging or functional MRI (fMRI) uses MRI technology to measure cognitive activity by monitoring blood flow to certain areas of the brain.

The blood flow increases in areas where neurons are active. This gives an insight into the activity of neurons in the brain.

This technique has revolutionized brain mapping, by allowing researchers to assess the brain and spinal cord without the need for invasive procedures or drug injections.

Functional MRI helps researchers learn about the function of a normal, diseased, or injured brain.

fMRI is also used in clinical practice. Standard MRI scans are useful for detecting anomalies in tissue structure. However, an fMRI scan can help detect anomalies in activity.

In short, fMRI tests what tissues do rather than how they look.

As such, doctors use fMRI to assess the risks of brain surgery by identifying the regions of the brain involved in critical functions, such as speaking, movement, sensing, or planning.

Functional MRI can also be used to determine the effects of tumors, stroke, head and brain injuries, or neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.

FAQs

How long will an MRI scan take?

MRI scans vary from 20 to 60 minutes, depending on what part of the body is being analyzed and how many images are required.

If, after the first MRI scan, the images are not clear enough for the radiologist, they may ask the patient to undergo a second scan straight away.

I have braces or filings, should I still undergo the scan?

Although braces and fillings are unaffected by the scan, they may distort certain images. The doctor and technician will discuss this beforehand. The MRI scan may take longer if additional images are required.

Can I move while I am in the MRI tunnel?

It is important to stay as still as possible while in the MRI scanner. Any movement will distort the scanner and, therefore, the images produced will be blurry. In particularly long MRI scans, the MRI technician may allow a short break halfway through the procedure.

I am claustrophobic, what can I do?

The doctor and radiologist will be able to talk the patient through the whole procedure and address any anxieties. Open MRI scanners are available in some locations for certain body parts to help patients who have claustrophobia.

A person can take medication prior to the test to ease anxiety.

Do I need an injection of contrast before my MRI scan?

A contrast dye can improve diagnostic accuracy by highlighting certain tissues.

Some patients may need to have a contrast agent injected before the scan.

Can I have an MRI scan if I am pregnant?

Unfortunately, there is no simple answer. Let a doctor know about the pregnancy before the scan. There have been relatively few studies on the effect of MRI scans on pregnancy. However, guidelines published in 2016 have shed more light on the issue.

Typically, doctors do not recommend contrast material for women who are pregnant.

MRI scans should be restricted during the first trimester unless the information is considered essential. MRI scans during the second and third trimester are safe at 3.0 tesla (T) or less. The tesla is a measurement of magnetic strength.

The guidelines also state that exposure to MRI during the first trimester is not linked to long-term consequences and should not raise clinical concerns.

Respiratory depression: Causes, symptoms, and treatment

Respiratory depression means that a person’s rate and depth of breathing are lower than normal. This results in low oxygen levels and high carbon dioxide levels in the blood.

Without treatment, the condition can cause life-threatening complications, including coma and death.

Anything that depresses the central nervous system (the brain) can cause respiratory depression since the brain controls a person’s respiratory drive. In minor cases, symptoms may be unnoticeable.

Other symptoms in most cases include slow and shallow breathing. Oxygen therapy and respiration machines may be used in treatment, depending on the severity of each case.

Fast facts on respiratory depression:

  • Sedative medication, narcotic pain medications, and substances that depress brain function, such as alcohol and certain illegal drugs, are known to cause or increase the risk.
  • Symptoms include slow, shallow breathing, and in severe cases, respiratory failure or death.
  • Treatment options for respiratory depression depend largely on the severity of the case.

What is respiratory depression?

Doctor listening to patients breathing.

Respiratory depression is characterized by low, shallow breathing.

Respiratory depression refers to a failure of the lungs to exchange carbon dioxide and oxygen. This is a result of slow and shallow breathing.

Respiratory depression is also known as central hypoventilation. In most cases, breathing rates are reduced to 8-12 breaths per minute.

The condition can cause acid to build up in the body and lead to respiratory acidosis, a life-threatening condition associated with organ failure.

Common causes

Certain medications, in particular sedatives, and specific health complications are known to cause or increase the risk. Common causes of respiratory depression include:

  • opiate or opioid (morphine, tramadol, heroin, fentanyl) overdose
  • postoperative (after surgery) opioid-induced or anesthetic related respiratory depression
  • stroke that affects the lower brain stem
  • ethanol overdose or poisoning
  • barbiturate overdose or poisoning
  • sedative overdose or poisoning
  • benzodiazepine overdose or poisoning
  • congenital (present at birth) central hypoventilation syndrome (CCHS)
  • central sleep apnea
  • severely elevated blood ammonia as seen in liver failure and cirrhosis
  • brain tumor pressing on the brain stem at the respiratory center

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of respiratory depression depend on the severity of the case.

In more severe cases, the symptoms of respiratory depression become more evident.

Symptoms of respiratory depression

White pills.

Respiratory depression may be caused by poisoning or overdose from different substances, including opioids, sedatives, and barbiturates.

Associated symptoms include:

Associated signs include:

  • shallow, slow breathing with little noticeable chest movement
  • vomiting
  • headache
  • high or low blood pressure
  • reduced or pinpoint pupils
  • decreased breathing sounds and a distinct whistling or crackling sound while breathing
  • tremors
  • apnea, or abnormally long pauses between breathing followed by a deep sigh sounding breath
  • bluish-colored or tinted skin, especially in the toes and fingers
  • seizures
  • rapid heart rate

If left untreated, severe respiratory depression can result in the following:

  • respiratory arrest
  • cardiac arrest
  • brain damage
  • coma or death
  • reduced heart rate

If respiratory depression is suspected, or if several of the typical symptoms occur, seek medical attention immediately. If someone is in the company of someone with these symptoms, it is vital to keep the person alert and moving as much as possible.

Diagnosis

electroencephalogram (EEG).

An electroencephalogram (EEG) may be performed in order to diagnose respiratory depression.

Doctors will usually begin by asking questions about symptoms and reviewing a person’s individual medical history and medication profile. They will then perform a physical exam to look for signs of abnormal breathing and heart rhythms.

After an initial visit, a doctor will usually order diagnostic tests to help confirm respiratory depression and evaluate its extent.

Tests used to diagnosis the condition include:

  • urine and serum drug screens
  • alcohol level
  • screen for other toxins
  • serum ammonia level
  • blood gas test, to calculate the ratio of acid/base and the amount of carbon dioxide and oxygen in the blood
  • computed tomography scan (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain to check for stroke or tumor
  • electroencephalogram (EEG)

Treatment

Common therapies and medications used to treat the condition include:

  • oxygen therapy
  • if caused by overdose, detoxification, often using medications that work against the effects of opioids, such as naloxone, methadone, and Suboxone
  • fluid therapy, either intravenously or orally administered
  • continuous positive airway pressure, CPAP, or BiPAP, machines
  • mechanical ventilation

Prevention

Some cases of respiratory depression are unpreventable, caused by accident or sudden disease. Some cases, however, can be prevented.

Ways to reduce the chances of developing the condition include:

  • avoiding, or taking extra precautions when using sedative medications
  • monitoring children while taking prescribed medications
  • avoiding excessive alcohol use
  • avoiding or taking extra precautions when using narcotic medications

What is causing this headache?

Headaches are one of the most common medical complaints; most people experience them at some point in their life. They can affect anyone regardless of age, race, and gender.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that almost half of all adults worldwide will experience a headache in any given year.

A headache can be a sign of stress or emotional distress, or it can result from a medical disorder, such as migraine or high blood pressure, anxiety, or depression. It can lead to other problems. People with chronic migraine headaches, for example, may find it hard to attend work or school regularly.

Causes

[headache]

Headache is a common complaint worldwide.

A headache can occur in any part of the head, on both sides of the head, or in just one location.

There are different ways to define headaches.

The International Headache Society (IHS) categorize headaches as primary, when they are not caused by another condition, or secondary, when there is a further underlying cause.

Primary headaches

Primary headaches are stand-alone illnesses caused directly by the overactivity of, or problems with, structures in the head that are pain-sensitive.

This includes the blood vessels, muscles, and nerves of the head and neck. They may also result from changes in chemical activity in the brain.

Common primary headaches include migraines, cluster headaches, and tension headaches.

Secondary headaches

Secondary headaches are symptoms that happen when another condition stimulates the pain-sensitive nerves of the head. In other words, the headache symptoms can be attributed to another cause.

A wide range of different factors can cause secondary headaches.

These include:

As headaches can be a symptom of a serious condition, it is important to seek medical advice if they become more severe, regular, or persistent.

For example, if a headache is more painful and disruptive than previous headaches, worsens, or fails to improve with medication or is accompanied by other symptoms such as confusion, fever, sensory changes, and stiffness in the neck, a doctor should be contacted immediately.

Types

There are different types of headache.

Tension headaches

[brain freeze]

Eating something very cold can lead to a “brain freeze.”

Tension headaches are the most common form of primary headache. Such headaches normally begin slowly and gradually in the middle of the day.

The person can feel:

  • as if they have a tight band around the head
  • a constant, dull ache on both sides
  • pain spread to or from the neck

Tension-type headaches can be either episodic or chronic. Episodic attacks are usually a few hours in duration, but it can last for several days. Chronic headaches occur for 15 or more days a month for a period of at least 3 months.

Migraines

A migraine headache may cause a pulsating, throbbing pain usually only on one side of the head. The aching may be accompanied by:

  • blurred vision
  • light-headedness
  • nausea
  • sensory disturbances known as auras

Migraine is the second most common form of primary headache and can have a significant impact on the life of an individual. According to the WHO, migraine is the sixth highest cause of days lost due to disability worldwide. A migraine can last from a few hours to between 2 and 3 days.

Rebound headaches

Rebound or medication-overuse headaches stem from an excessive use of medication to treat headache symptoms. They are the most common cause of secondary headaches. They usually begin early in the day and persist throughout the day. They may improve with pain medication, but worsen when its effects wear off.

Along with the headache itself, rebound headaches can cause:

  • neck pain
  • restlessness
  • a feeling of nasal congestion
  • reduced sleep quality

Rebound headaches can cause a range of symptoms, and the pain can be different each day.

Cluster headaches

Cluster headaches usually last between 15 minutes and 3 hours, and they occur suddenly once per day up to eight times per day for a period of weeks to months. In between clusters, there may be no headache symptoms, and this headache-free period can last months to years.

The pain caused by cluster headaches is:

  • one-sided
  • severe
  • often described as sharp or burning
  • typically located in or around one eye

The affected area may become red and swollen, the eyelid may droop, and the nasal passage on the affected side may become stuffy and runny.

Thunderclap headaches

These are sudden, severe headaches that are often described as the “worst headache of my life.” They reach maximum intensity in less than one minute and last longer than 5 minutes.

A thunderclap headache is often secondary to life-threatening conditions, such as intracerebral hemorhage, cerebral venous thrombosis, ruptured or unruptured aneurysms, reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome (RVS), meningitis, and pituitary apoplexy.

People who experience these sudden, severe headaches should seek medical evaluation immediately.

Treatment

The most common ways of treating headaches are rest and pain relief medication.

Generic pain relief medication is available over the counter (OTC), or doctors can prescribe preventative medication, such as tricyclic antidepressants, serotonin receptor agonists, anti-epileptic drugs, and beta-blockers.

It is important to follow the doctor’s advice because overusing pain relief medication can lead to rebound headaches. The treatment of rebound headaches involves the reducing or stopping pain relief medication. In extreme cases, a short hospital stay may be needed to manage withdrawal safely and effectively.

Alternative treatments

[acupuncture for headache]

Acupuncture is an alternative therapy that may help relieve headaches.

Several alternative forms of treatment for headaches are available, but it is important to consult a doctor before making any major changes or beginning any alternative forms of treatment.

Alternative approaches include:

  • acupuncture
  • cognitive behavior therapy
  • herbal and nutritional health products
  • hypnosis
  • meditation

Research has not provided evidence to confirm that all these methods work.

Sometimes, a headache may result from a deficiency of a particular nutrient or nutrients, especially magnesium and certain B vitamins. Nutrient deficiencies can be due to a poor quality diet, underlying malabsorption issues, or other medical conditions.

Home remedies

A number of steps can be taken to reduce the risk of headaches and to ease the pain if they do occur:

  1. Apply a heat pack or ice pack to your head or neck, but avoid extreme temperatures.
  2. Avoid stressors, where possible, and develop healthy coping strategies for unavoidable stress.
  3. Eat regular meals, taking care to maintain stable blood sugar.

A hot shower can help, although in one rare condition hot water exposure can trigger headaches. Exercising regularly and getting enough rest and regular sleep contributes to overall health and stress reduction.

Symptoms

Headaches can radiate across the head from a central point or have a vise-like quality. They can be sharp, throbbing or dull, appear gradually or suddenly. They can last from less than an hour up to several days.

The symptoms of a headache depend to some extent on what type of headache it is.

Tension headache: There may be general, mild to moderate pain that can feel like a band around the head. They tend to affect both sides of the head.

Migraine headache: There is often a severe throbbing pain in one part of the head, often the front or the side. There may be nausea and vomiting, and the person may feel especially sensitive to light or noise.

Cluster headaches: These can cause intense pain, often around one eye. They usually happen around a particular time of year, possibly over a period of 1 to 2 months.

Diagnosis

A doctor will usually be able to diagnose a particular type of headache through a description of the condition, the type of pain, and the timing and pattern of attacks. If the nature of the headache appears to be complex, tests may be carried out to eliminate more serious causes.

Further testing could include:

  • blood tests
  • X-rays
  • brain scans, such as CT and MRI

The WHO points out that headaches are often not taken seriously because they are sporadic, most headaches do not lead to death, and they are not contagious.

They call for more resources to be allocated for the treatment of headache disorders, because of the huge health burden they represent.

Everything you need to know about cirrhosis

Cirrhosis of the liver describes a condition where scar tissue gradually replaces healthy liver cells.

It is a progressive disease, developing slowly over many years. If it is allowed to continue, the buildup of scar tissue can eventually stop liver function.

For cirrhosis to develop, long-term, continuous damage to the liver needs to occur. When healthy liver tissue is destroyed and replaced by scar tissue, the condition becomes serious, because it can start blocking the flow of blood through the liver.

This MNT Knowledge Center article explains the symptoms, causes, and treatments of liver cirrhosis, including information about complications.

Symptoms

blood being tested in a lab

One of the primary methods of diagnosis is through a blood test.

Symptoms are not common during the early stages of cirrhosis.

However, as scar tissue accumulates, the ability of the liver to function properly is undermined. The following signs and symptoms may occur:

  • blood capillaries become visible on the skin on the upper abdomen.
  • fatigue
  • insomnia
  • itchy skin
  • loss of appetite
  • loss of bodyweight
  • nausea
  • pain or tenderness in the area where the liver is located
  • red or blotchy palms
  • weakness

The following signs and symptoms may appear as liver cirrhosis progresses:

  • accelerated heartbeat
  • personality changes
  • bleeding gums
  • lost mass in the body and upper arms
  • difficulties processing drugs and alcohol
  • confusion
  • dizziness
  • fluid buildup on ankles, feet, and legs, known as edema
  • hair loss
  • higher susceptibility to bruising
  • jaundice, or yellowing of the skin, whites of the eyes, and tongue
  • loss of sex drive
  • memory problems
  • more frequent fevers and increased risk of infection
  • muscle cramps
  • nosebleeds
  • pain in the right shoulder
  • breathlessness
  • stools become black and tarry, or very pale.
  • urine becomes darker.
  • vomiting blood
  • problems with walking and mobility

The liver tissue is replaced by fibrous scar tissue. Regenerative nodules may also form. These are lumps that appear as the liver tries to heal the damage.

Treatment

If the cirrhosis is diagnosed early enough, damage can be minimized by treating the underlying cause or the various complications that arise.

Treatment for alcohol dependency: It is important for the patient to stop drinking if their cirrhosis was caused by long-term, regular heavy alcohol consumption. In many cases, the doctor will recommend a treatment program for treating alcohol dependency.

Medications: The patient may be prescribed drugs to control liver cell damage caused by hepatitis B or C.

Controlling pressure in the portal vein: Blood can “back up” in the portal vein that supplies the liver with blood, causing high blood pressure in the portal vein. Drugs are usually prescribed to control the increasing pressure in other blood vessels. The aim is to prevent severe bleeding. Signs of bleeding can be detected via an endoscopy.

If the patient vomits blood or passes bloody stools, they probably have esophageal varices. Urgent medical attention is required. The following procedures may help:

Banding: A small band is placed around the base of the varices to control bleeding.

Injection sclerotherapy: After an endoscopy, a substance is injected into the varices, which triggers a blood clot and scar tissue to form. This helps stem the bleeding.

A Sengstaken-Blakemore tube with a balloon: A balloon is placed at the end of the tube. If endoscopy does not stop the bleeding, the tube goes down the patient’s throat and into their stomach. The balloon is inflated. This places pressure on the varices and stops the bleeding.

Transjugular intrahepatic portosystemic stent shunt (TIPSS): If the therapies mentioned above do not stem the bleeding, a metal tube is passed across the liver to join the portal and hepatic veins, creating a new route for the blood to flow through. This reduces the pressure that was causing the varices.

Other complications are handled in different ways:

Infections: The patient will be given antibiotics for any infections that arise.

Screening for liver cancer: Patients with cirrhosis have a much higher risk of developing liver cancer. The doctor may recommend regular blood tests and imaging scans.

Hepatic encephalopathy, or high blood toxin levels: Drugs can help treat excessive blood toxin levels.

In some cases, the damage caused by cirrhosis covers most of the liver and cannot be reversed. In these cases, the person may need a new, transplanted liver. It can take time to find a suitable donor, and this procedure is often advised only as a last resort.

Outlook

The survival rate of a person with liver cirrhosis depends on the severity of the scarring.

A 15-year follow-up study of 100 people in Norway with severe alcoholic cirrhosis showed that 71 percent of the people in the study lived for 5 years after diagnosis, and 90 percent lived for 15 years.

Continued alcohol consumption and advanced age were linked to a higher mortality rate in people with cirrhosis.

This is a limited study, but it shows that cirrhosis is a serious condition that severely reduces life expectancy and impairs quality of living.

Cirrhosis is responsible for 12 deaths in every 100,000 members of the United States population.

Stages

Cirrhosis is graded on a scale called the Childs-Pugh score as follows:

  • A: Relatively mild
  • B: Moderate
  • C: Severe

Doctors also classify cirrhosis as either compensated or decompensated. Compensated cirrhosis means that the liver can function normally despite the damage. A liver with decompensated cirrhosis cannot perform its functions correctly and usually causes severe symptoms.

Rather than being viewed in terms of its own stages, cirrhosis is often seen as a final stage of liver disease.

Causes

pouring a glass of vodka

Frequent heavy drinking is a cause of cirrhosis.

Common causes of cirrhosis are:

  • long-term alcohol abuse
  • hepatitis B and C infection
  • fatty liver disease
  • toxic metals
  • genetic diseases

Hepatitis B and C together are said to be the leading causes of cirrhosis. Other causes include:

Regularly drinking too much alcohol

Toxins, including alcohol, are broken down by the liver. However, if the amount of alcohol is too high, the liver will be overworked, and liver cells can eventually become damaged.

Heavy, regular, long-term drinkers are much more likely to develop cirrhosis, compared with other, healthy people. Typically, heavy drinking needs to be sustained for at least 10 years for cirrhosis to develop.

There are generally three stages of alcohol-induced liver disease:

  1. Fatty liver: This involves a build-up of fat in the liver.
  2. Alcoholic hepatitis: This occurs when the cells of the liver swell.
  3. Approximately 10 to 15 percent of heavy drinkers will subsequently develop cirrhosis.

Hepatitis

Hepatitis C, a blood-borne infection, can damage the liver and eventually lead to cirrhosis. Hepatitis C is a common cause of cirrhosis in Western Europe, North America, and many other parts of the world. Cirrhosis can also be caused by hepatitis B and D.

Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)

NASH, in its early stages, begins with the accumulation of too much fat in the liver. The fat causes inflammation and scarring, resulting in possible cirrhosis later on.

NASH is more likely to occur in people who are obese, diabetes patients, those with high fat levels in the blood, and people with high blood pressure.

Autoimmune hepatitis

The person’s own immune system attacks healthy organs in the body as though they were foreign substances. Sometimes the liver is attacked. Eventually, the patient can develop cirrhosis.

Some genetic conditions

There are some inherited conditions that can lead to cirrhosis, including:

  • Hemochromatosis: Iron accumulates in the liver and other parts of the body.
  • Wilson’s disease: Copper accumulates in the liver and other parts of the body.

Blockage of the bile ducts

Some conditions and diseases, such as cancer of the bile ducts, or cancer of the pancreas, can block the bile ducts, increasing the risk of cirrhosis.

Budd-Chiari syndrome

This condition causes blood clots in the hepatic vein, the blood vessel that carries blood from the liver. This leads to liver enlargement and the development of collateral vessels.

Other diseases and conditions that can contribute to cirrhosis include:

  • cystic fibrosis
  • primary sclerosing cholangitis, or hardening and scarring of the bile ducts
  • galactosemia, or inability to process sugars in milk.
  • schistosomiasis, a parasite commonly found in some developing countries
  • biliary atresia, or badly formed bile ducts in babies
  • glycogen storage disease, or problems in the storage and energy release vital for cell function

Diagnosis

Because there are rarely symptoms early on in the condition, cirrhosis is often diagnosed when the patient is being tested for some other condition or disease.

Anybody who has the following symptoms should see their doctor immediately:

  • fever with shivering
  • shortness of breath
  • vomiting blood
  • dark or tarry stools
  • episodes of drowsiness or confusion

A doctor will examine the patient and feel around the liver area to determine whether it is enlarged. The patient will be asked about their medical history and lifestyle, including drinking.

The following tests may also be ordered:

  • Blood test: These measure how well the liver is functioning. If levels of alanine transaminase (ALT) and aspartate transaminase (AST) are high, the patient may have hepatitis.
  • Imaging tests: Ultrasound, CT, or MRI scans can be used to see whether the liver is enlarged and detect any scarring or nodules.
  • Biopsy: A small sample of liver cells is extracted and examined under a microscope. The biopsy can confirm cirrhosis and its cause.
  • Endoscopy: The doctor inserts a long, thin tube with a light and video camera at the end goes through the esophagus and into the stomach. The doctor looks out for swollen blood vessels called varices than can be a sign of cirrhosis.

Complications

Cirrhosis can lead to several other conditions, some of which are life-threatening. These include:

Ascites or edema: Ascites is a buildup of fluid in the abdomen, and edema is a buildup of fluid in the legs. They can be treated with a low-salt diet and water pills. In severe cases, the fluid may have to be drained repeatedly. Surgery is sometimes needed.

Varices and portal hypertension: These are large, swollen veins in the esophagus and stomach. They can increase pressure in a blood vessel called the portal vein that carries blood from the spleen and bowel to the liver. Varices can rupture, causing severe blood loss and clots.

Hepatic encephalopathy: This refers to high levels of toxins in the blood where the liver is no longer successfully filtering them all.

Hepatocellular carcinoma: This is the most common type of liver cancer. It is the third-leading cause of cancer mortality across the globe.

Hepatopulmonary syndrome (HPS): Doctors define HPS as a combination of liver disease, dilated blood vessels in the lungs, and abnormalities in the exchange of gases. It is linked to an increase in the mortality rate of people waiting for a liver transplant.

Coagulation disorders: Cirrhosis can cause problems with blood clotting, leading to potentially fatal bleeds and clots.

Prevention

Staying within recommended daily and weekly alcohol limits is highly recommended to avoid cirrhosis. Please refer to the following helpful information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about drinking in moderation.

Individuals who have cirrhosis should avoid alcohol completely. Alcohol accelerates the progression of the disease.

To avoid contracting hepatitis B and C, be sure to take the following precautions:

  • Use a condom when having sex.
  • Do not share needles when injecting drugs.
  • People at risk of becoming infected with hepatitis B, such as healthcare workers, social care workers, and police personnel, can be vaccinated

As cirrhosis cannot be reversed or repaired once it reaches a certain stage, prevention is often considered the best form of treatment.

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Fatigue: Why am I so tired and what can I do about it?

Fatigue is a common problem involving a physical and mental state of being extremely tired.

Physical and mental fatigue are different, but they often occur together. Long-term physical exhaustion can also lead to mental fatigue.

Poor sleep can lead to fatigue if ongoing, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 3 Americans say they do not get enough sleep. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) recommend sleeping 7 to 8 hours a day for adults over 18 years of age.

Poor sleep is associated with a variety of medical problems and health conditions. These include:

  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • heart disease
  • obsesity
  • depression

Lack of sleep can prevent a person from fulfilling their usual tasks. It can make it hard to get out of bed in the morning. When it affects safety, for example, on the road, it becomes a public health concern. In severe cases, a person may show signs similar to that of an intoxicated state.

Fast facts on fatigue:Here are some key points about fatigue. More detail is in the main article.

  • Fatigue can be due to a variety of medical conditions and health problems..
  • Some causes can include anemia, thyroid conditions, diabetes, lung and heart disease, and having recently given birth.
  • If a health condition, such as diabetes, is diagnosed and properly managed, the fatigue may go away.
  • A healthful diet and regular physical activity can help reduce fatigue for many people.

Types

Fatigue can make it hard to stay awake or to get up in the morning.

Fatigue can make it hard to stay awake or to get up in the morning.

There are different types of fatigue.

Physical fatigue: A person finds it physically hard to do the things they normally do or used to do, for example, climbing stairs. It includes muscle weakness. Diagnosis may involve a strength test.

Mental fatigue: A person finds it harder to concentrate on things and stay on task. The person may feel sleepy, or have difficulty staying awake while working.

Sleepiness or fatigue?

Sleepiness can happen when a person does not have enough good-quality sleep, or when there is a lack of stimulation. It can also be a sign of a medical condition that interferes with sleep, such as sleep apnea or restess leg syndrome.

Typical sleepiness is more likely to be short term. Sleepiness and drowsiness can often be solved by getting regular and consistent sleep.

Fatigue, especially chronic fatigue, is usually linked to a medical condition or health problem. It may also be its own chronic condition known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) or chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).

Causes

Fatigue is associated with many health conditions.

1) Mental health issues

It can result from stress, bereavement and grief, eating disorders, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, anxiety, moving home, boredom, and divorce. It can occur with clinical depression, either due to the depression itself, or because of associated problems, such as insomnia.

2) Endocrine and metabolic reasons

Conditions such as pregnancy, Cushing’s disease, kidney disease, electrolyte problems, diabetes, hypothyroidism, anemia, and liver disease can all lead to fatigue.

3) Drugs and medications

Some antidepressants, antihypertensives, statins, steroids, antihistamines, medication withdrawal, sedatives, and anti-anxiety drugs can cause fatigue. Changes in doses or stopping medications can also be a cause.

4) Heart and lung conditions

Pneumonia, arrhythmias, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), valvular heart disease, coronary heart disease, congestive heart failure, GERD, acid reflux, and inflammoatory bowel disease (IBD) can cause fatigue, among many other heart, lung and digestive diseases.

5) Sleep problems

Working late, shift work, jet lag, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, insomnia, and reflux esophagitis can lead to a lack of sleep and fatigue.

6) Chemicals and substances

Vitamin deficiencies, mineral deficiencies, poisoning, and consuming too many caffeinated or alcoholic beverages may disrupt normal sleep, especially if these are consumed too close to bedtime.

7) Various diseases, conditions, states, and treatments

Cancer, chemotherapy, myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), radiation therapy, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), fibromyalgia, systemic lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, obesity, massive blood loss, and weakened immune systems can all cause fatigue.

Fatigue can also be a sign of infection. Some infections that cause extreme tiredness include malaria, tuberculosis (TB), infectious mononucleosis, cytomegalovirus (CMV), HIV infection, flu, and hepatitis, among many others.

8) Chronic pain

Patients with chronic pain often wake up frequently through the night. They typically wake up tired and poorly rested, unable to get good quality sleep. The combination of pain and lack of sleep can cause persistent tiredness and fatigue.

Some diseases and conditions where pain is the main symptom, such as fibromyalgia, may also be linked to other conditions, such as sleep apnea. This further worsens syptoms of fatigue. In one study on fibromyalgia and sleep, half of the individuals with fbromyalgia also had sleep apnea.

9) Being overweight or underweight

Being overweight increases the risk of fatigue, for various reasons. These include having to carry more weight, being more likely to have joint and muscle pain, and being more likely to have a condition where fatigue is a common symptom, such as diabetes or sleep apnea.

Similarly, a person who is underweight may tire easily depending on the cause of their condition. Eating disorders, cancer, chronic disease, and an overactive thyroid, can all cause weight loss along with excessive tiredness and faituge.

10) Too much or too little activity

A person who feels fatigued may not exercise, and lack of exercise can cause further fatigue. Lack of exercise may eventually cause deconditioning, making it harder and more tiring to perform a physical task.

Fatigue can also affect healthy individuals after prolonged, intense mental or physical activity. Working or staying awake for long hours without a break, especially when driving, increases the risk of errors and accidents. Statistics have shown that, among truck and bus drivers, longer hours of staying awake lead to more motor vehicle accidents.

It is important not to drive while sleepy. A survey carried out by the CDC found that around 1 in 25 drivers aged 18 years and above had fallen asleep while driving in the previous 30 days.

The most common Causes of Miscarriages

 

Image result for common causes of miscarriages word images

First of all, what is a miscarriage??

A miscarriage is a spontaneous loss of a woman’s pregnancy before the 20th week that can be both physically and emotionally painful.

 

There quite many causes miscarriage out there of which many of some are not avoidable. Get insight into the most common causes of miscarriage. Now as humans, i most cases many women i find and have worked and have experienced this unfortunate happen ask why did i get an abortion?

Related Article Earliest Signs Of pregnancy – Could You be pregnant? Read Our Article

Today i bring you the most common causes of Abortion.

1. Lifestyle Some lifestyle habits, such as drug abuse, alcohol use during pregnancy, and smoking have been found to be causes of early miscarriage and pregnancy loss in later trimesters as well. Optimizing your health leading up to your pregnancy could help reduce your risk of miscarriage. Now in many cases pregnancies are unplanned, which means women are often not best prepared for pregnancy when it occurs. Most women i work on do not realize they are pregnant until a couple weeks after missing period. Preparing for pregnancy by modifying diet and exercise, limiting stress, optimizing chronic medical disorders and beginning prenatal vitamins is ideal for all pregnancies. This calls for our people to go for antenatal services as immediate as they think they are pregnant.

Image result for alcohol images

 2. Physical complications Less common, but still significant occurrences of miscarriage can be caused by physical problems with the mother, such as uterine abnormalities including septum or polyps, or cervical incompetency, and mostly occur in the 2nd or 3rd trimesters.

 

3. Blood clotting disorders Like physical abnormalities, miscarriages caused by blood clotting disorders (such as Factor V Leiden), are more rare, but do occur.

4. Diabetes Women with diabetes need to work with their primary care physician or endocrinologist to optimize their sugar control because Uncontrolled insulin-dependent diabetes in the first trimester can lead to increased miscarriage rates and also a markedly increased risk of major birth defects.

Victims of diabetes, the best action plan is to see your nurse prior to becoming pregnant to optimize your health. Chronic medical disorders including diabetes, hypothyroidism, hypertension and autoimmune illnesses need to be addressed and well-controlled prior to pregnancy.

Also Read Earliest Signs Of pregnancy – Could You be pregnant? Read Our Article

 

5. Chromosomal abnormalities The most common reason for a miscarriage is problems with either the egg or sperm’s chromosomes during embryo formation. While some chromosomal abnormalities are compatible with life, such as trisomy 21, the most common type of Down syndrome, other chromosomal disorders are simply incompatible with life.

 

6. Thyroid disorders Whether it be hypo (too low) or hyper (too high) thyroidism, thyroid disorders can lead to problems with infertility or cause recurrent miscarriage.  In cases where a woman’s thyroid function is low, her body will try to compensate by producing hormones that can actually suppress ovulation; conversely, a thyroid that is producing too many hormones can interfere with estrogen’s ability to do its job and make the uterus unfavorable for implantation or lead to abnormal uterine bleeding.

Now lastly is this terrible one causing recurrent Miscarriages

7. Immunological disorders Certain autoimmune disorders do play a role in miscarriage, especially with recurrent miscarriages. Although the exact role of immunologic factors in miscarriage is “complicated. But here the body’s immune system fights the fetus, it views it as a foreign body and dangerous to it so it fights it till you get a miscarriage.

Also Read Earliest Signs Of pregnancy – Could You be pregnant? Read Our Article

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