HEALTH & FITNESS

EYESIGHT
Children’s eyes: fact and fiction
Dr Mahipal Sachdev

There are certain myths regarding eyes being passed on since ages. It’s time to explode these myths. Generally, parents think that sitting close to the television will stress their children’s eyes. Normally, children can focus on nearer objects better than adults without eyestrain. Therefore, some of them develop this habit but they usually outgrow it. Those children who are nearsighted see images better if they sit close to the TV set.

How child abuse causes health problems
Dr R. Kumar

Child abuse has become a major public health problem, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). A recent study in India revealed that 50 per cent children suffer from one or another kind of child abuse. Seeing that 40 per cent of our population comprises children/ adolescents, the number of victims can be over 200 millions. The findings are so scary that each home appears unsafe for our young ones.

Health Notes
Enzyme producing anti-cancer agents

London: A team of US researchers has created a new form of an enzyme that has the capability of producing a range of potential new therapeutic agents with anticancer and antibiotic properties.

  • Stem cells in tendon may hold hope for injury

  • Additives that trigger hyperactive behaviour

  • Chemotherapy may be behind fatigue

 

 

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EYESIGHT
Children’s eyes: fact and fiction
Dr Mahipal Sachdev

There are certain myths regarding eyes being passed on since ages. It’s time to explode these myths. Generally, parents think that sitting close to the television will stress their children’s eyes.

Normally, children can focus on nearer objects better than adults without eyestrain. Therefore, some of them develop this habit but they usually outgrow it. Those children who are nearsighted see images better if they sit close to the TV set. However, there is no evidence that sitting close to the set will damage their eyes.

Wearing protective glasses is a bothersome and needless practice: This is a common myth, but the fact is that sports are the leading cause of eye injuries in children. To protect your child, make sure that he or she wears appropriate protective eyewear with polycarbonate lenses or wire shields when playing field sports such as cricket, basketball, racquets sports, soccer, baseball and field hockey. Ophthalmologists strongly recommend that children with good vision in only one eye wear glasses at all times to protect the good eye, even if they do not need glasses otherwise.

To provide a safe environment for your children, select games and toys which are appropriate for their age and responsibility level. Avoid projectile toys like arrows, beyblade, etc, and keep all chemicals sprays out of their reach. Do not allow them to ignite fireworks. When an injury occurs, it is advisable to have an ophthalmologist examine the eye as soon as possible because the seriousness of an injury may not be immediately apparent.

Using computers damages a child’s eyes: While using a computer for a long time, the eyes blink less than in the normal course (like they do when reading or performing other work). This makes the eyes dry, which may lead to a feeling of eyestrain or fatigue. So, it’s a good idea to make sure that your child takes frequent breaks from the computer or video games. However, working for long hours on the computer doesn’t harm your child’s eyes.

Reading in poor light or prolonged reading of a very fine print will ultimately harm your vision: Although reading in dim light is unwise because it may cause your eyes to feel tired or uncomfortable, it can’t hurt your eyes. Similarly, reading a small print or reading extensively cannot cause damage to the eyes. This is true even for people who already have poor vision.

Using a night light in your child’s room will contribute to nearsightedness: There is not enough evidence to support this claim. Keeping a nightlight on in your child’s room may actually help him or her learn to focus and develop important eye coordination skills when awake.

There is a general belief that an eye check-up is not necessary unless you are having some sort of a problem. Many eye diseases do not exhibit early symptoms. Therefore, a regular yearly eye examination can help detect a disease before it can damage the eyes.

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

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How child abuse causes health problems
Dr R. Kumar

Child abuse has become a major public health problem, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). A recent study in India revealed that 50 per cent children suffer from one or another kind of child abuse. Seeing that 40 per cent of our population comprises children/ adolescents, the number of victims can be over 200 millions. The findings are so scary that each home appears unsafe for our young ones.

We have to be ready to take care of particularly the girl child’ health in the long run as also in the short run.  

Physical consequences

The immediate physical effects of abuse or neglect can be relatively minor (bruises or cuts) or severe (broken bones, haemorrhage, or even death). In some cases, the physical effects are temporary; however, the pain and suffering they cause should not be discounted. Below are some outcomes researchers have identified:

Shaken baby syndrome: The immediate effects of shaking a baby, which is a common form of child abuse in infants, can include vomiting, concussion, respiratory distress, seizures and death. Long-term consequences can include blindness, learning disabilities, mental retardation, cerebral palsy, or paralysis.

Impaired brain development: Child abuse and neglect have been shown, in some cases, to cause important regions of the brain to fail to form properly, resulting in impaired physical, mental, and emotional development. In other cases, the stress of chronic abuse causes a “hyperarousal” response by certain areas of the brain, which may result in hyperactivity, sleep disturbances and anxiety as well as increased vulnerability to post-traumatic stress disorder, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, conduct disorder, and learning and memory difficulties.

Poor physical health: More than one quarter of the children have some kind of recurring physical or mental health problem e.g. sexually transmitted diseases, heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease, skeletal fractures and liver disorder.

Psychological consequences

The immediate emotional effects of abuse and neglect—isolation, fear and inability to trust—can translate into lifelong consequences, including low self-esteem, depression, and relationship difficulties. Researchers have identified links between child abuse and neglect and the following:

Poor mental and emotional health: 80 per cent of young adults who had been abused exhibit many problems, including depression, anxiety, eating disorders and suicidal tendencies. Other psychological and emotional conditions associated with abuse and neglect include panic disorder, dissociative disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and reactive attachment disorder.

Cognitive difficulties: children placed out-of-home care due to abuse or neglect tend to score lower than the general population on measures of cognitive capacity, language development and academic achievement.

Social difficulties: children who are abused and neglected by caretakers often do not form secure attachments to them. These early attachment difficulties can lead to later difficulties in relationships with other adults as well as with peers

What to do in case of child abuse:

  • Helping a stressed-out parent by offering medical aid, legal assistance, police help or just lending an ear.
  • Provide emergency support for parents 24 hours a day.
  • Strengthen family and community connections and support.
  • Identify and treat parents who abuse alcohol or drugs, and suffer from spousal abuse.
  • Education about stress management, coping and parenting skills such as appropriate discipline, knowledge of child development, nutrition and feeding problems, and safety issues.
  • Encourage children to speak out if they feel uncomfortable, unsafe or confused when an adult touches them. Children have the right instinct and know the difference between a friendly pat and an unwarranted touch.

The writer, an eye specialist, has many medical books to his credit.

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Health Notes
Enzyme producing anti-cancer agents

London: A team of US researchers has created a new form of an enzyme that has the capability of producing a range of potential new therapeutic agents with anticancer and antibiotic properties.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Pharmacy say that the novel enzyme is capable of changing the chemical properties of a variety of existing drugs and small molecules to make new agents to treat cancer and fight infection.

“We’re finding this enzyme glycosylates all sorts of molecules,” Nature magazine quoted Jon Thorson, professor of pharmaceutical sciences, as saying while describing the process of adding natural sugar molecules to other chemical molecules to enhance their biological effects.

Thorson likens the newly evolved enzyme, which he developed working with colleagues Gavin J. Williams and Changsheng Zhang, to a “Swiss Army enzyme”, a catalyst that can decorate many different chemical molecules with all sorts of sugars to alter their biological effects. — ANI

Stem cells in tendon may hold hope for injury

London: A new study has identified a set of unique cells within the adult tendon that have stem cell traits, including the capacity to proliferate and self-renew, offering hope for the treatment of tendon injuries caused by overuse and trauma.

“Clinically, tendon injury is a difficult one to treat, not only for athletes but also for patients who suffer from tendinopathy such as tendon rupture or ectopic ossification,” Nature quoted Songtao Shi from the University of Southern California (USC) School of Dentistry, as saying.

“This research demonstrates that we can use stem cells to repair tendons. We now know how to collect them from tissue and how to control their formation into tendon cells,” Shi added. — ANI

Additives that trigger hyperactive behaviour

London: A new study has revealed that 18 top-selling over-the-counter and GP-prescribed medicines for children contain one or more of artificial additives that can trigger hyperactive behaviour.

Researchers at Southampton University have found that cocktail of food colouings-including tartrazine(E102), ponceau 4R (E124), sunset yellow (E110), carmoisine (E122), quinoline yellow (E104) and allura red AC (E129)-may cause children without unruly behaviour to become more animate, loud, and impulsive.

They say that Calpol paracetamol is one medicine that gets its vivid pink colour from the red dye carmoisine. Sudafed children’s syrup has both the red dye ponceau 4R and sodium benzoate (E211), a preservative commonly used in soft drinks, they add.

According to scientists, a number of Benylin and Tixylis brand cough medicines also contain sodium benzoate, which helps prolong their shelf-life.

“The problem for parents with a sick child is that they often have an extremely limited range of medicines to choose from, which means they cannot always avoid these additives,” the Daily Mail quoted Ian Tokelove of the Food Commission, a campaign group, as saying. — ANI

Chemotherapy may be behind fatigue

Washington: A study has revealed that breast cancer survivors who underwent chemotherapy and radiotherapy suffer the most severe and prolonged fatigue.

Fatigue is a common complaint in the general population and, anecdotally, common among cancer patients. Comparative fatigue studies between the two populations, however, have been marred by methodological shortcomings, such as poorly matched controls and patient populations.

The studies do not consistently agree whether or not fatigue is a more common complaint among cancer patients compared to the general population.

Dr. Paul Jacobsen from the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida, and co-investigators followed 221 women with non-metastatic (early stage) breast cancer treated with either radiography (n=121) or a combination of chemotherapy and radiography (n=100) and 221 age- and geographically-matched healthy women (i.e., controls) at two, four, and six months after treatment.

These findings provide strong evidence that women with non-metastatic breast cancer treated with chemotherapy are at significantly greater risk for severe fatigue. — ANI

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