HEALTH & FITNESS

Retinal degeneration: don’t lose hope
Dr Mahipal S. Sachdev

Every time a patient of advanced retinal degeneration, age-related macular degeneration or retinitis pigmentosa goes to an ophthalmologist, the most common answer he gets to hear is that there is nothing that we can do. It is disheartening to know that one has no hope. Not only the patient but the doctor is also extremely disappointed to tell his patient that no treatment can be offered.

Ginger: more than a digestive aid
Dr R. Vatsyayan

Ginger is believed to have originated in India and was introduced to other parts of the world much later. There are frequent references to it in the ancient ayurvedic literature. Scientifically known as zingiber officinale, nowadays ginger is equally used as a spice and medicine all over the world. Perhaps the ancient Indian sages were prophetic in calling it vishva bhaishjam — the universal medicine.

Cancer drug could help cure inflammatory diseases
Washington: There is new hope for people who suffer from inflammatory diseases of the lung, joints and other organs. A new study by scientists at the University of Edinburgh shows that certain non-biological drugs, already being tested as cancer treatments, can dramatically reduce tissue inflammation.

Health Notes
Applying make-up everyday can be hazardous

London: Women who apply make-up on a daily basis should think twice before spending those 15 minutes in front of their mirror, as a research conducted in the UK has found that they could be inviting serious health problems.

  • New three-in-one heart pill

  • Eating cured meat bad for lungs

  • Americans don’t eat enough veggies

 

 

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Retinal degeneration: don’t lose hope
Dr Mahipal S. Sachdev

Every time a patient of advanced retinal degeneration, age-related macular degeneration or retinitis pigmentosa goes to an ophthalmologist, the most common answer he gets to hear is that there is nothing that we can do.

It is disheartening to know that one has no hope. Not only the patient but the doctor is also extremely disappointed to tell his patient that no treatment can be offered.

This is the reality status for now as far as the treatment of these diseases is concerned. But do we lose all hope? The answer would be a big NO!

Is there anything which can be offered to these patients? The answer may lie in using certain artificial devices that can be implanted onto neural retina. Using artificial devices means treatment of extreme vision impairment has come of reality during the past few decades.

What happens in these diseases that nothing can be done?

A variety of disease processes can affect the retina and/or the optic nerve. These disease processes may selectively damage certain parts of the retina or optic nerve.

The retina is the innermost part of the eye, which acts like the film of a camera. It is made up of cells known as rods and cones. These cells once destroyed cannot be regenerated, that is why these retinal diseases are potentially blinding.

Retina is made up of outer and inner layers. Diseases like age-related macular degeneration, pathologic myopia and retinitis pigmentosa involve the outer layer. Although these outer cells are lost, the inner retina is preserved and may help in designing retinal prosthesis (artificial retina)

Retinitis pigmentosa and advanced cases of age-related macular degeneration are incurable diseases that result in profound vision loss due to the degeneration of these cells.

Currently, there is no real treatment available for these blinding disorders that stem from the degeneration of retinal cells and affect at least 50 million individuals worldwide. There is no effective treatment for these patients with advanced ARMD, retinitis pigmentosa and associated diseases. The good news, however, is that studies are being carried out for the potential of the retinal cell transplantation to decrease the progression of these blinding diseases

A few surgical modalities like macular translocation and displacement of blood in certain cases of age-related macular degeneration have shown promising results. The aim of these surgeries is to utilise the function of the living residual cells. Experiments are being carried out to introduce such devices as cause magnification or surgical implantation of electronic devices.

What does the future hold?

With advances in microchip technology, surgical treatment of low vision is now showing promising results.

The artificial silicon retina (ASR) microchip which can be implanted onto retina offers an option to totally blind people in the future. This chip can take up the function of dying or dead cells. Certain devices for optic nerve are also being studied. But there is need to prove long-term safety for both human subject and the electronic implant.

The evolution of surgical methods to treat patients with low vision is leading to promising outcomes. Retinal surgery to provide telescopic magnification in low vision patients and retinal microchip implants, where no retinal function exists, are now a reality. Although still experimental, they provide a ray of hope for these patients Research is being carried out to create an implantable medical device that provides useful vision to patients who are left with no alternatives. These implants are still in their experimental stages.

Stem cells also form a significant potential source for ocular repair. The procurement of these donor cells is still a problem.

Stay clear of certain misconceptions!

l Certain claims are being made about the treatment of these diseases by acupuncture and other modalities. Definitive scientific proof is still lacking for the efficacy of these treatment modalities. As these patients are desperate to regain some amount of vision, they are easily taken for a ride by such claims.

l For a layman, eye transplant means the whole of the eye can be replaced. Actually, when we talk about eye transplant we only mean the anteriormost part of the eye, which is the cornea and can be replaced. It does not indicate that an old eye is replaced and a new one put!

The writer is Chairman and Medical Director, Centre for Sight, New Delhi. E-mail: msachdev@bol.net.in

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Ginger: more than a digestive aid
Dr R. Vatsyayan

Ginger is believed to have originated in India and was introduced to other parts of the world much later. There are frequent references to it in the ancient ayurvedic literature. Scientifically known as zingiber officinale, nowadays ginger is equally used as a spice and medicine all over the world. Perhaps the ancient Indian sages were prophetic in calling it vishva bhaishjam — the universal medicine.

The medicinal use of ginger involves the utilisation of its rhizome, in fresh called ardarka and in the dried form referred to as sonth or shunthi. Pungent in taste and hot in quality, ayurveda has additionally described fresh ginger as sharp, dry and heavy whereas the same when dried becomes light and unctuous in effect. In both forms ginger pacifies vitiated vata and kapha.

Ginger is an excellent appetiser and digestive agent. A famous ayurvedic sutra says that taking before meals a thin slice of fresh ginger sprinkled with a little of rock salt activates taste buds and enhances appetite. Not only does ginger stoke the digestive fire, it also improves assimilation and transportation of rightly gained nutrients to the body tissues and helps in nullifying many types of endotoxins or post-digestive impurities. Used in combination with other herbs, ginger is considered the best medicine to control mucous coming with stool.

Old ayurvedic texts additionally describe ginger to be a rubefacient (counterirritant), expectorant, cardiac stimulant, aphrodisiac and sialogogue herb (that produces saliva). Modern research has found it to be having pharmacological activity validating its anti-inflammatory, cholesterol reducing, anti-emetic, liver-protective and anti-phlegmatic effects. Ginger can also incite delayed menstruation, relieve menstrual cramps and lessen the intensity of migraine.

Ayurvedic physicians trust ginger as a foremost ama paachak herb (remover of post-digestive impurities). Since building up of these toxins is considered a reason for rheumatoid arthritis, ginger comes very handy to treat such conditions. Classic preparations like panchkol churna and vaishwanar churna which contain ginger as an important ingredient are viewed as the first step treatment to control the flare-up phase of RA. Clinical trials made by the Central Council of Research in Ayurveda and Siddha using it in combination with the famous anti-arthritic medicine guggul has shown very promising results.

Due to its anti-kapha properties ginger is a household remedy to treat upper respiratory afflictions arising due to exposures to cold or sinusitis. A tea-like preparation made with ginger, daal-chini, small cardamom and a few leaves of tulsi allays body- ache associated with cough and cold and acts as a freshening agent. The famous trikatu churna (ginger, black pepper and long pepper in equal parts) holds the same importance as Triphala, and 2 gm of it can be taken mixed with a little of honey in phlegmatic conditions.

Ginger is used in countless classic ayurvedic preparations. As a single drug, the dose of fresh ginger varies from 2 to 5 ml and of its dried powder from 1 to 2 gm in a divided amount. Ginger has its contraindications also. It should be used cautiously where the patient is suffering from hyperacidity, peptic ulcer, gall stones or has an overwhelming pitta prakriti.

The writer is a Ludhiana-based ayurvedic physician.. 

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Cancer drug could help cure inflammatory diseases

Washington: There is new hope for people who suffer from inflammatory diseases of the lung, joints and other organs.

A new study by scientists at the University of Edinburgh shows that certain non-biological drugs, already being tested as cancer treatments, can dramatically reduce tissue inflammation.

The scientists reported that certain drugs, known as CDK inhibitors, can destroy the inflammatory cells which cause the tissue damage and scarring that leads to organ failure and joint pain.

These cancer drugs trigger a process of cell ‘suicide’ called apoptosis in which the inflammatory cells, called neutrophils, destroy themselves before being removed by scavenger cells, called macrophages.

The Edinburgh scientists discovered that CDK inhibitors, like Roscovitine — which is already being tested in human cancer — are capable of inducing neutrophil apoptosis ‘in the test-tube’. Various laboratory tests conducted with the drugs suggest that it also reduces inflammation in models of rheumatoid arthritis and a devastating, currently untreatable, lung disease called fibrosing alveolitis.

This study offers new hope for patients with severe inflammatory diseases. Specific treatment for such conditions is poor, and the use of steroids is fraught with potential difficulties. — ANI

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Health Notes
Applying make-up everyday can be hazardous

London: Women who apply make-up on a daily basis should think twice before spending those 15 minutes in front of their mirror, as a research conducted in the UK has found that they could be inviting serious health problems.

The study discovered that every day the average woman applies 175 different chemicals to her body in the form of cosmetics and toiletries.

And out of those 175 cosmetic products, most of them contain a cocktail of different chemicals — many of which have been linked to various health problems.

The list of potentially harmful ingredients in everyday cosmetics includes chemicals linked to cancers, hormone problems and skin- irritations. — ANI

New three-in-one heart pill

BARCELONA: A three-in-one pill being developed to treat heart disease could save millions, particularly in developing countries where most heart attacks occur, experts said at the World Congress of Cardiology.

The so-called ``polypill’’ would contain aspirin, statins and ACE inhibitors — the three drugs known to prevent recurrent heart disease and used to reduce the occurrence of heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular health problems, the World Heart Federation said.

“Potentially, millions of lives could be saved worldwide by this,” Dr Sidney Smith, chairman of the federation’s scientific advisory board, said at the conference in Barcelona, Spain. “These therapies are known to reduce mortality by up to 50 per cent or more.” — AP

Eating cured meat bad for lungs

London: A new study by researchers at Columbia University Medical Center has found that eating large amounts of cured meat can reduce lung function by about 3 per cent — a difference that may have a visible effect in people with lung diseases such as bronchitis.

In the study, researchers, led by Graham Barr, analysed data from more than 7500 people surveyed in a national nutrition study — 20 per cent of whom never ate processed meats and another 20 per cent who consumed this type of food at least 14 times a month. — ANI

Americans don’t eat enough veggies

NEW YORK: The US government recently bumped up its recommendations for fruit and vegetable consumption, and a new study suggests it’s very likely Americans aren’t keeping up.

The United States Department of Agriculture had long recommended that everyone get at least five servings of fruits and veggies daily, but adjusted that requirement of 2 to 6-1/2 cups of fruits and vegetables daily in its new MyPyramid food guide, Dr. Patricia Guenther of the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion and colleagues note.

The guidelines specify recommended intake by age and sex, and spell out the variety of vegetables people should eat. — Reuters

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