HEALTH & FITNESS

AIDS: greater threat to women
Dr Meenal Kumar
Globally, women and girls are more susceptible to HIV than men and boys, with studies showing they can be 2.5 times more likely to be infected with HIV as compared to their male counterparts. Their vulnerability is primarily due to inadequate knowledge about AIDS, insufficient access to HIV prevention services, inability to negotiate safer sex, and a lack of female-controlled HIV prevention methods such as antibiotics.

Recurrent cough and cold in winter
Dr Vikas Sharma
A
FTER the scorching spell of Indian summer, winter is a big respite for many, but for some it brings its own set of miseries. Sensitivity to cold weather can really disturb one’s life. Recurrent cough and cold are the main diseases that affect these individuals during this period. These can lead to episodes of sinusitis and may even trigger attacks of asthma in some patients.

EYESIGHT
Convergence insufficiency
Dr Mahipal Sachdev
A
S an infant, Richa was withdrawn and could not make eye contact. By preschool, she needed to smell and squeeze every object she saw. A software engineer was annoyed as he started getting headaches after working for half an hour on his computer. He got his glasses checked but was not happy particularly while doing near work. He consulted doctors to check if the glasses made were correct or not.

Health Notes
Your handwriting may predict heart disease risk
Melbourne: A new research at the UK’s Poole Hospital has revealed that handwriting analysis may predict the early signs of heart disease, an idea others have likened to palm reading.





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AIDS: greater threat to women
Dr Meenal Kumar

Globally, women and girls are more susceptible to HIV than men and boys, with studies showing they can be 2.5 times more likely to be infected with HIV as compared to their male counterparts. Their vulnerability is primarily due to inadequate knowledge about AIDS, insufficient access to HIV prevention services, inability to negotiate safer sex, and a lack of female-controlled HIV prevention methods such as antibiotics. This makes HIV/AIDS a serious human rights issue for women. The problem is more common among married monogamous women.

Women in monogamous relationships are placed at the risk for infection when their husbands or partners engage in high-risk sexual activity. What makes the situation particularly complex is that the women have low self-perception of HIV risk since traditionally HIV/AIDS education and prevention programmes have targeted “high risk” populations – sex workers, drug users and so on. This is ironic given that female sex workers form less than 1 per cent of the infected female population in India.

It is very difficult for married women to ask their husbands to use condoms during sex. Women’s vulnerability is further heightened because couples are not encouraged to discuss sex, and women have limited ability around sexual negotiation in married relationships, limited information on protection, and limited access to services. 

In India, violence and the threat of it limit women’s ability to protect themselves from HIV.  Women also tend to marry or have sex with older men who may have more than one sexual partner. They also tend to require blood donations more frequently because of reproductivity-related issues like childbirth and abortion. At a biological level, women are also more vulnerable because the mucosal surface of the vagina is more exposed during intercourse; because semen has a much higher concentration of HIV than vaginal fluid; and initiation into sex at a younger age makes women physiologically more susceptible to HIV.

The other factors that make women more vulnerable:

1. Economic and financial dependency on men. 2. Poor reproductive and sexual health, leading to serious morbidity and mortality. 3. Neglect of health needs, nutrition, medical care etc. All forms of coerced sex – from rape to cultural/economic obligations to have sex when it is not really wanted — increases the risk of infection and, therefore, of sexually transmitted infections (STI) or HIV infection. 4. Stigma and discrimination in relation to AIDS (and all STIs) is much stronger against women who risk violence, abandonment, neglect, destitution, ostracism from family and community. 5. Women are often blamed for the spread of disease, and always seen as the “vector” even though the majority of women have been infected by their only partner/husband.

There is an urgent need for HIV prevention methods like female condoms and local antibiotics creams that do not require the cooperation of the male partner. They are currently undergoing research as a gel, film, sponge, lubricant or suppository and are among the most promising options on the horizon because they are undetectable and can be applied hours before sexual intercourse. A safe and effective antibiotics / microbicide cream will put the power of protection from HIV infection and other sexually transmitted diseases in the hands of women and will save millions of lives.

The writer is a Chandigarh-based gynaecologist.

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Recurrent cough and cold in winter
Dr Vikas Sharma

AFTER the scorching spell of Indian summer, winter is a big respite for many, but for some it brings its own set of miseries. Sensitivity to cold weather can really disturb one’s life. Recurrent cough and cold are the main diseases that affect these individuals during this period. These can lead to episodes of sinusitis and may even trigger attacks of asthma in some patients. It is not winter that is the culprit but their body’s sensitivity to cold that makes them suffer. The symptoms that they develop are runny or stuffy nose, dripping of mucus in the throat from the back of the nose, throat pain, fever and at times discharge of thick yellowish-green or grayish mucus in large quantity.

Sinusitis is a frequent complication for such individuals. Recurrent colds or prolonged cold attacks make them more susceptible for inflammation in the sinuses (sinusitis). The classical symptoms of acute sinusitis include heaviness and pain in the face over the area of the infected sinus, nasal congestion and discharge, postnasal drip, sore throat, headache, cough, fatigue and fever at times.

Recurrent cough attacks and even bronchitis are very common in those who are sensitive to chill. Small children seem to be more affected by frequent attacks of cough and breathing problems.

Homoeopathy offers an effective solution to this cold sensitivity problem. It can be used in three stages to combat this problem effectively and permanently. At the first stage, homoeopathy should be used immediately after the exposure. As soon as the first symptoms appear, those who are very sensitive to cold are advised to take a dose of Aconitum Napelus 30 c. This drug, also known as Aconite, has wonderful results in aborting attacks of cold if taken immediately when the symptoms start appearing. At the second stage (here you would require to consult your physician), when the symptoms have developed and the attack is in its full intensity, homoeopathic treatment will depend upon the symptoms that are presented in the case.  This type of symptomatic treatment is also very helpful in developing resistance against the diseases.

The third stage (which is the most important and can be handled only by a physician) is curing the body’s sensitivity to cold. This requires a detailed analysis of the patient’s physical and mental constitution with an important consideration of their sensitivity to cold. The prescription based on this will eventually help the patient to get rid of the cold sensitivity problem. One should not expect miracles to happen within a week or so, as treating such sensitivity often takes a longer time like a season or two before one sees a major change.

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EYESIGHT
Convergence insufficiency
Dr Mahipal Sachdev

AS an infant, Richa was withdrawn and could not make eye contact. By preschool, she needed to smell and squeeze every object she saw.

A software engineer was annoyed as he started getting headaches after working for half an hour on his computer. He got his glasses checked but was not happy particularly while doing near work. He consulted doctors to check if the glasses made were correct or not.

The actual problem is that there was convergence insufficiency in both cases. Here the muscles responsible to turn our eyes in to look at an object are weak and the eyes cannot focus an object for long. They can get headaches or jumbling/running of letters together after reading for some time.

Specialists conducted a battery of tests for Richa. The possible diagnoses mounted the autism spectrum disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and anxiety disorder.

Though she had already got two eye examinations done, finding her vision as 20/20, a school reading specialist finally suggested another. And this time the ophthalmologist did what no one else had: he put his finger on Richa’s nose and moved it in and out. Her eyes jumped all over the place. Within minutes, he had the diagnosis: convergence insufficiently, in which the patient sees double images because the eyes cannot work together at close range.

Experts estimate that 5 per cent of schools-age children have convergence insufficiency. They can suffer headaches, dizziness and nausea, which can lead to irritability, low self-esteem and inability to concentrate.

Doctors and teachers often attribute this to attention disorders or seek other medical explanations.

A doctor should look at it when there is a history of poor school performance. Complete eye check-up, including a dilated eye exam and a check-up of the eye teaming and focusing skills is necessary. Testing includes using a pen or a finger to test for the “near point of convergence,” as well as a phoropter, which uses lenses and prisms to test the eyes’ ability to work together.

For Richa, the treatment was relatively simple, for nine months she wore special glasses that use prisms to help the eyes converge inward. She then had three months of vision therapy. She has just entered the fourth grade and is reading at the grade level.

Even adults with convergence insufficiency need to do convergence exercises, which routinely solve the problem. At times, we need to prescribe them glasses with prisms to do the near work.

Convergence insufficiency is often missed on examination and then it makes the patient to run from doctor to doctor as his basic problem is not solved with simple glasses but needs specific treatment!

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

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Health Notes
Your handwriting may predict heart disease risk

Melbourne: A new research at the UK’s Poole Hospital has revealed that handwriting analysis may predict the early signs of heart disease, an idea others have likened to palm reading.

Christina Strang, a handwriting researcher, said that she had analysed the handwriting of over 100 people in their early 60s, including 61 patients at the hospital’s cardiac clinic, as well as 41 people who had not been diagnosed with cardiac disease.

She analysed magnified samples of writing for various features, including breaks in the writing, malformed ‘o’s and resting dots, where the pen rests momentarily in the middle of a pen stroke. — ANI

‘Micro’ livers to aid drug screening

London: Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a technology to create tiny colonies of living human liver cells that model the full-sized organ.

The researchers say that their method may pave the way for better screening of new drugs that may be potentially harmful to the liver, and reduce the cost of drug production thereby.

Liver toxicity often compels pharmaceutical companies to pull drugs of the market. Such dangerous drugs slip through approval processes due in part to the shortcomings of liver toxicity tests.

Existing procedures for the screening of drugs rely on liver cells from rats, which do not always show the same response to toxins as human cells do. Sometimes dying human cells, which survive for only a few days, are used in the tests.

With the advent of new technology, the researchers will be able to arrange human liver cells into tiny colonies, only 500 micrometers in diameter, which act much like a real liver and survive for up to six weeks. — ANI

New ‘untreatable’ killer hospital infection

London: A leading expert from Imperial College, London, has warned that a new “untreatable” hospital infection has been claiming hundreds of lives each year.

Professor Mark Enright, an authority on healthcare-acquired infections, says that pseudomonas is dangerous because it is not only virulent in intensive care units, but is also increasingly developing resistance to treatment.

“Pseudomonas is a nightmare for hospitals — a real struggle,” the Telegraph quoted Professor Enright as saying. — ANI

How body’s immune system can keep cancer dormant

London: A research by a team of multinational researchers has for the first time shown that the immune system can stop the growth of a cancerous tumour without actually killing it.

Scientists have for years worked on a technique known as immunotherapy, by using the immune system, to eliminate cancer. They found that an alternate approach existed, that is, when immune attacks cannot kill the cancer, it is possible to find ways for the immune system to contain it.

The results also helped explain why some tumours suddenly stop growing and go into a long-lasting period of dormancy. — ANI

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