Our Health Care Tips

Are You at Risk for Developing Glaucoma?

Are You at Risk for Developing Glaucoma?

January marks Glaucoma Awareness Month, so it’s an important time to think about who is at risk for this disease. Glaucoma is an eye disorder that gradually leads to decreased sight due to optic nerve damage. Because there are no clear warning signs other than gradual vision loss, many people do not realize they have glaucoma until it is too late. On average, a person can lose up to 40 percent of their vision without noticing. Once your vision is lost to this disease, it cannot be restored.

Certain groups of people are more at risk for developing glaucoma than others. If you fall into one of these categories, it is essential to visit your eye doctor on a regular basis for a comprehensive exam that tests for glaucoma.

Adults 60 Years or Older

Seniors are more susceptible to a number of conditions as they age, so it’s no surprise that their risk for glaucoma increases as well. In fact, statistics show that you are six time more likely to get glaucoma when you are over 60.

People with a Family History of Glaucoma

If glaucoma runs in your family, unfortunately that puts you at a much higher risk of developing it. The most common kind of glaucoma is actually hereditary, meaning it can be passed on through different genes. This increases your risk of glaucoma between four to nine times.

African Americans and Asians

Specifically, these two races have a much higher risk of developing glaucoma than the rest of the population. It’s actually the leading cause of blindness in people of African descent and is six to eight times more common in African Americans than in Caucasians.

As for Asians, they are specifically at risk for a kind of glaucoma called angle-closure glaucoma, which accounts for less than 10 percent of all diagnosed cases.

Hispanic Adults Over 60

While we’ve already gone over the general risk for people over 60, it turns out that people of Hispanic descent over 60 have an even higher risk when compared to the general population.

Other Risk Factors

While you can’t change your race or your age, there are certain risk factors that are preventable. For example, steroid users were found to have a 40 percent increase in certain types of glaucoma compared to non-steroid users.

Additionally, eye injuries are a contributing factor to glaucoma. These often occur during sports such as baseball or boxing where the eye can be bruised.

Those who have high myopia, hypertension, and a central corneal thickness of less than .5mm are also at an increased risk.

 

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Are Warm Winter Temperatures Making You Sick?

Are Warm Winter Temperatures Making You Sick?

This winter, we’ve experienced some uncommonly warm winter temperatures – followed by a plunge to frozen extremes – then back again to balmy, jacket-free weather – all in the span of a week. While these variances in conditions might be toying with our emotions, could they also be toying with our immune system?

Many people believe that having up-and-down temperatures in winter can lead to increased sickness. However, medical experts do not agree with this urban legend.

“While the common cold is more common in the winter, it is a myth to believe that weather change will cause any viral or bacterial infections,” said Dr. Yolanda Yu, a pediatrician.

There you have it. Enjoy the warm weather while you can, because it’s not the cause of you getting sick with a cold or the flu.

However, it can be the cause of certain effects in your body, such as swelling in the sinus passages. This might mimic the appearance of a more serious illness, but can quickly and easily be relieved by taking an antihistamine, nasal spray, or nasal rinse.

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Could Alzheimer’s Be Detected by This Simple Test?

Could Alzheimer’s Be Detected by This Simple Test?

Scientists have discovered a new way to test for Alzheimer’s disease, and it involves peeing into a cup.

That’s right – a simple urine test could be a new non-invasive method to diagnosis Alzheimer’s disease in its early stages. Currently, there is no definitely test for living people, as the only way to know for sure if a person has the disease is to dissect the brain. The only sign scientists can observe is a buildup of amyloid plaque deposits in the brain, which is what seemingly causes the mental decline associated with the disease.

A study was performed on mice which had been genetically altered to have the gene thought to contribute to Alzheimer’s. The urine of these mice was then compared with mice who did not gave genetic changes.

In the mice with genetic alterations, a specific odor was detected that was not present in the urine of the unaltered mice. Using chemical analysis, scientists determined that no new compounds were present in urine. Instead, different concentrations of the existing compounds were present, creating the unique smell.

What’s more, the genetically altered mice had not yet shown signs of plaque buildup in the brain at the time the test was conducted, leading scientists to believe that the changes in urine were due to genetics themselves. Therefore, this test could be used as a method of detecting Alzheimer’s before plaque buildup in the brain actually occurs.

While the test won’t help stop Alzheimer’s from happening, it can give patients and families time to prepare for the future as well as begin preventative treatment for any forming symptoms. Further tests are required to determine efficacy in human subjects.

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National Influenza Vaccination Week

National Influenza Vaccination Week

Now that flu season is upon us, it is vital to get a flu vaccine. All of our patients are sick in some way, and many are elderly, which means that their chances of catching the flu are greatly increased. Often, the flu can lead to other serious complications such as pneumonia or death. The simplest way to avoid all of these threats is to get a flu shot.

You can get a flu shot from your doctor, from a clinic or local drugstore, or even from us! Just ask your nurse for more information. Typically, the flu vaccine takes two weeks to be effective, as your body needs time to build up antibodies against the flu virus. Even if you had a flu vaccine last year, it is important to get a new one this year because the influenza virus mutates constantly. Last year’s vaccine will no longer be effective. This year’s flu vaccine has been specially formulated to protect against the current strain of the virus.

Flu activity is highest from December to February, so don’t waste any time. Once a flu outbreak begins, it can be hard to stay healthy. Getting a flu shot will protect you most of the time and keep you healthy and safe.

Have you gotten your flu vaccine? It's not too late! It's National Influenza Vaccination Week.

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What Are Some Common Causes of Back Pain?

What Are Some Common Causes of Back Pain?

This week, we’re celebrating Bone and Joint Action Week. Over half of all Americans over the age of 18 suffer from some sort of musculoskeletal condition, such as arthritis, back pain, osteoporosis, and trauma. In fact, these conditions are the most common cause of severe long-term pain and physical disability worldwide. Over time, they can lead to decreased productivity in work or at home, as well as a diminish in quality of life.

While a lot of back pain stems from unavoidable ailments such as old age or disease, plenty of cases are caused by completely preventable situations. If you are a frequent sufferer of back aches, then you may want to consider the cause. By learning more about the common causes of back pain, you can figure out the best way to make it stop.

1. Lying Down or Sitting Too Much

Since all of our patients are homebound, many of them do not have the ability to walk around freely. Some patients are even confined to bed, too weak or sick to even get up at all. Unfortunately, this can wreak havoc on your back. This happens because the discs that line and cushion your vertebrae are compacted when you are sitting. This prevents fluid from reaching the discs, preventing them from getting the nutrients they need to keep doing their job. In fact, sitting puts more pressure on your back than standing or lying down, and can even cause long term damage if you do it all day every day. To prevent this, try and get up at least every 20 minutes to give your back a break, use a back support in your chair, and don’t lean forward too much.

2. Weakness in the Core

Again, because many of our patients are just coming out of the hospital and are weak, they usually don’t have great core strength. Your core includes your ab, back, side, pelvic, and buttock muscles, all of which work together to help support your spine. These are the muscles that allow you to twist, bend, rotate, and stand up straight. Without these muscles, your back is in danger of being unsupported. A core weak leads to slouching, which causes pain in your back. Remedy this problem by doing stretches and exercises like lunges, squats, and planks to strength your muscles.

3. Sleeping Incorrectly

You might not think there’s a wrong way to sleep, but there is. Laying on your stomach while catching some Zs actually puts a lot of pressure on your joints and muscles, keeping everything tight and compressed. Laying on your bed, on the other hand, allows your spine to stay long and neutral throughout the night. Additionally, it is important to choose the right kind of mattress to optimize spine comfort. Always go with a medium firmness as this is the best surface to keep your spine happy. Use a pillow that keeps your head in line with your spine throughout the night.

4. Emotional Instability

Mental illness is known for terrorizing the mind, but it can also have palpable effects on the body. A study from the University of Alberta has revealed that people with major depression were four times as likely to suffer from low back and neck pain. They think it’s because depression can trigger the release of the stress hormone cortisol, leading to increased muscle tension in the shoulders and back. Additionally, depression makes it hard to find motivation for moving or exercising. However, moving and being active is actually a treatment for both depression and back aches, so it’s important to try and overcome the urge to lay in bed.

Don’t forget to let your nurse or therapist know if you are suffering back pain. If you doctor agrees, we can have a physical therapist come to visit you and provide alleviating treatment. He or she will provide you with exercises to strengthen your core and get your back feeling better.

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Pneumonia and How to Avoid It

Pneumonia and How to Avoid It

You might take breathing for granted since it’s so simple. An unconscious effort drives your lungs to inhale and exhale, taking a backseat to other important thoughts you have throughout the day. However, since October is Healthy Lung Month, it’s important to shine a spotlight on one of the most important organs in your body. For many, breathing is not such a simple process.

In fact, people who catch pneumonia have quite a lot of trouble breathing. Pneumonia is an infection of the lung that is caused by bacteria, a virus, or fungi. Anyone can develop pneumonia regardless of age, race, or health. While it is typically a side effect of the flu, pneumonia can be caused by over 30 different things. Most people can recover from it in one to three weeks, but for some people it is fatal.

How Pneumonia Affects Your Body

Once the germs that cause pneumonia infiltrate your body and get past all of your defenses, you may start to experience coughing, fever, chills, and trouble breathing. This is because the air sacs (alveoli) in the lungs swell and begin to fill with fluid. Additionally, this may prevent oxygen from reaching your blood, leading to the death of cells in your body. Additional symptoms of pneumonia include:

  • Sharp or stabbing chest pain that worsens with breathing or coughing
  • Excessive sweating and clammy skin
  • Headache
  • Confusion (especially in the elderly)
  • Loss of appetite, low energy, and fatigue

How to Avoid Catching Pneumonia

Unfortunately, there is no cure or vaccine to prevent all strains of pneumonia. However, there are some things you can do to make yourself less likely to contract the illness. Standard procedures such as washing your hands and leading a healthy lifestyle can do wonders for keeping you germ free and your immune system healthy. It also helps to get vaccinated against the flu, as this is a common cause of pneumonia. Other risk factors that might exacerbate your chance of catching pneumonia include:

  • Smoking
  • Chronic lung diseases like COPD
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Living in a nursing facility
  • Recent surgery or trauma

What to Do if You Catch Pneumonia

Even when taking the utmost care, there’s still a chance you might get pneumonia. If you do, it is important to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. Also be sure to get plenty of rest as your body needs time to fight off the infection. If you have a fever, use aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to bring it down. Depending on the type of pneumonia you have, your doctor may prescribe anti-viral medication or antibiotics. Let your doctor know if you develop any severe symptoms or your illness doesn’t go away, as this could lead to complications such as:

  • Respiratory failure
  • Sepsis
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome
  • Lung abscesses
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