HEALTH & FITNESS

Breakthrough in fight against malaria
The fight against malaria has entered a new phase
with an insecticide specifically targeted at older
mosquitoes, which scientists believe will be more
effective than existing pesticides.

Ulcerative colitis can be life-threatening problem
Ulcerative colitis is the inflammatory condition of the digestive tract. It is also classified under the inflammatory bowel disease. Ulcerative colitis is marked by inflammation in the large intestine (colon) and the rectum.

Diabetes: a leading cause of blindness
What do Wasim Akram and Halle Berry have in common?
Nothing, except that they are all at the risk of losing
their vision.

Autism forces family moves
LONDON: One in 10 parents of autistic children are forced to move home because of a postcode lottery in services for those affected by the condition, says a survey.

The benefits of being positive
Forget the pills and potions, hold the tissues, and be positive. It just may be a good way to avoid a cold.

Aged need healthcare with dignity
That dark winter evening doctor was called to attend the mother of Goud, who had been ailing for some time.

Health Notes

Radiation therapy ‘highly effective’ against early lung cancer
Five lifestyle changes that can cut colorectal cancer risk
10 per cent young Oz women take illicit drugs to lose weight

 

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Breakthrough in fight against malaria
Steve Connor

The fight against malaria has entered a new phase with an insecticide specifically targeted at older mosquitoes, which scientists believe will be more effective than existing pesticides.

Most malaria infections, which kill about one million people a year, result from humans being bitten by older mosquitoes.

Yet existing insecticides kill mosquitoes of all ages and, as a result, the chemicals soon become ineffective because the insects develop pesticide resistance. Killing the younger creatures encourages the development of that resistance.

Researchers have begun the development of slow-acting pesticides that kill mosquitoes only after they have reached a certain age in their lifecycle, when they are most likely to transmit the malaria parasite to human hosts.

"If we killed only older mosquitoes we could control malaria and solve the problem of resistant mosquitoes," said Andrew Read, professor of biology and entomology at Penn State University.

"It is one of the great ironies of malaria. Most mosquitoes do not live long enough to transmit the disease. To stop malaria, we need to kill only the old mosquitoes."

Female mosquitoes transmit malaria when they feed on blood, which they need to make their eggs.

After they pick up a malarial parasite, it takes between 10 and 14 days, or two to six cycles of egg production, for the parasite to migrate to the insect's salivary glands, from where the malarial parasite can be transmitted.

Existing pesticides kill mosquitoes of all ages which exerts immense selection pressure on the insect to develop resistant strains, which can then quickly spread, making the chemical useless as a means of malarial control.

"Insecticides sprayed on house walls or bed nets are some of the most successful ways of controlling malaria, but they work by killing the insects or denying them the human blood they use to make eggs," Professor Read said.

"This imposes an enormous selection in favor of insecticide-resistant mosquitoes." A study, in the online journal Public Library of Science, found that late-acting insecticides will not have much, if any, impact on the spread of resistance because younger mosquitoes will already have bred several times.

Professor Mathew Thomas, of Penn State, said: "We are working on a fungal
pesticide that kills mosquitoes late in life. We could spray it on walls or on
treated materials such as bed-nets, from where the mosquito would get
infected by the fungal spores."

It would take between 10 and 12 days for the fungi to kill the insects, so destroying the old, dangerous mosquitoes, and dramatically reducing the demand for the insects to develop resistance, Professor Thomas said.

Using data on mosquito lifespan and malaria development from hotspots in Africa and Papua New Guinea, the scientists found that insecticides killing only mosquitoes that have completed at least four cycles of egg production reduce the number of infectious bites by about 95 per cent.

Critically, the researchers also found that resistance to late-acting insecticides spreads much more slowly among mosquitoes, compared to conventional insecticides, and that in many cases, it never spreads.

Mosquitoes: The killer facts

Only female mosquitoes transmit malaria because, unlike males, they need a blood meal to make eggs. They produce several batches of eggs during their lifecycle.

Mosquitoes find their human hosts by detecting carbon dioxide on peoples' breath, from up to 1,000ft away.

When she gets closer, the female mosquito makes her final choice using body odour, other volatile chemicals and sight, which accounts for why some people get bitten more than others.

Most mosquitoes remain within about a mile of their breeding site. They need water to lay eggs and for larvae to develop. But they can cross continents on aeroplanes.

Mosquito bites often do not hurt. But the immune reaction of the body to the foreign proteins released into the bloodstream can result in a painful swelling.

The malaria parasite, or plasmodium, infects the mosquito when the insect feeds on an infected host.

But the mosquito itself does not become infectious until the plasmodium migrates from the insect's gut to its salivary glands.

—The Independent

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Ulcerative colitis can be life-threatening problem
Dr Vikas Sharma

Ulcerative colitis is the inflammatory condition of the digestive tract. It is also classified under the inflammatory bowel disease. Ulcerative colitis is marked by inflammation in the large intestine (colon) and the rectum.

It affects the innermost lining of the large intestine and rectum, producing ulcers. Loose stools mixed with blood are characteristic symptoms of ulcerative colitis.

Weakness caused by recurrent bloody diarrhoea seriously affects of one’s quality of life and can also lead to life-threatening complications.

Homoeopathy has an effective solution for ulcerative colitis. It can (in the long run) control and cure even the severest forms of ulcerative colitis.

An additional benefit with homoeopathy is the safety of the treatment; carefully prescribed medicines for ulcerative colitis do not produce any side-effects.

The symptoms produced by ulcerative colitis depend upon the area in which it affects. When ulcerative colitis affects only the rectum (terminal part of the intestine), rectal bleeding may be the only sign. Some may experience a constant desire to pass stool (also known as tenesmus).

When ulcerative colitis affects the entire colon (also known as pancolitis), it
produces bouts of bloody diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, fatigue, weight loss
and night sweat.

The most dangerous form of ulcerative colitis is called fulminant colitis. This is a rare but life-threatening complication. It affects the complete colon and can produce severe pain the type of diarrhoea. That can lead to dehydration and shock.

Another complication that can occur in this type of ulcerative colitis is that the colon can rupture and produce what is called toxic megacolon.

This occurs when the colon becomes severely distended. In all forms of ulcerative colitis, the chances of developing anaemia are high, as diarrhoea and blood loss is regularly present.

It is not clear how ulcerative colitis occurs, but researchers believe that our immune system has a lot to do with its occurrence.

They believe that there could be two ways in which our immune reactions cause
ulcerative colitis.

First, the immune reaction targets a bacteria or a micro-organism in our gut, and ulcerations are a fallout of the immune cells destroying the micro-organisms.

The second could be a purely misdirected immune reaction where the cells that line our colon and rectum get targeted (by mistake) by the defence cells.

Homoeopathic medicines can be of great help in treating ulcerative colitis. As it is a symptom-based system of medicine, the choice of medicine for ulcerative colitis depends totally on the individual symptoms of the patient.

The most commonly used homoeopathic medicines in the treatment of ulcerative colitis are Merc Sol , Merc Cor, Nux Vomica, Sulphur, Phosphorus, Hamemelis, Ferrum Phos and Ferrum Metallicum.

Merc Sol leads the table and is very useful for a classical case of ulcerative colitis; where the symptoms are of bloody slimy stool with a strong and constant desire to pass stool and the “never get-done” feeling is present.

Hamemelis is useful in controlling the bleeding aspect of the disease. Ferrum phos and ferrum metallicum are useful for correcting anaemia ( low hemoglobin levels in blood). Medicines should, however, be used only under professional guidance.

The writer is a Chandigarh-based homoeopath.
Email: vikas@drhomeo.com.


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Diabetes: a leading cause of blindness
Dr Mahipal Sachdev

What do Wasim Akram and Halle Berry have in common? Nothing, except that they are all at the risk of losing their vision.

All are long-standing diabetics, and if they do not get regular preventive eye examinations, chances are that they may fall prey to one of the most common causes of blindness in the world — diabetic retinopathy.

The longer a person lives with diabetes, the more prone he becomes to diabetic complications which can affect the eyes, kidneys, nerves and other organs.

The eye is among the organs most commonly involved in diabetes. Not only
are diabetics more likely to develop cataract early, but their retinas are also
vulnerable to damage.

The retina is like the screen on which the image of whatever we see falls and any damage to this can lead to permanent vision loss.

In diabetics, the small retinal blood vessels get damaged. This has two consequences: The vessels become more leaky, resulting in the accumulation of fluid in the central part of retina called the macula.

This accumulation of the fluid in the central retina leads to diabetic maculopathy, which causes vision loss which affects the ability to read.

Secondly, the peripheral vessels become obliterated and their closure hinders the supply of oxygen and nutrition to the retina.

This results in the development of brushes like new fragile vessels which finally bleed and cause cloudiness of vision, blind spots, floaters or even sudden loss of vision in the late stage.

In early stages, usually diabetic retinopathy does not produce visual symptoms strong enough to get noticed.

As in most lifestyle-related disorders, diabetics can keep their eyes healthy by keeping their glucose and lipid profile levels under control.

Cutting out smoking and maintaining a healthy level of fitness with a normal blood pressure would certainly help.

Diabetic retinopathy creeps silently. The earliest form of diabetic retinopathy is called non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy. In non-proliferative diabetic retinopathy (NPDR), there are next to no symptoms.

As it progresses, it reaches the proliferative stage (proliferative diabetic retinopathy) with the development of fragile vessels.

If not treated even by this stage, the patients are at the risk for going blind due to the occurrence of vitreous haemorrhage and its sequelae.

What does the eye specialist look for?

Microaneurysms, dot blot haemorrhages and hard or soft exudates
Growth of new blood vessels
Pre-retinal or vitreous haemorrhage
Retinal detachment

How does the doctor check the eye?

A Fundus Fluroscein Angiography (FFA) is done by injecting a dye in the arm and checking the retina of the for leakages and blockages.

An optical coherence tomography (OCT) is done to know the thickness (swelling) of the retina which may aid in forming the treatment plan.

What is the treatment?

Laser treatment or laser photocoagulation is the most common line of action.
But remember, laser treatment can only save the existing sight level and
cannot make it better.

Laser photocoagulation seals the micro-aneurysms that are leaking fluid into
the retina. This is called the focal or grid laser photocoagulation and is done
in a single sitting.

If new blood vessels are growing then more extensive laser treatment has to be carried out which is called Pan Retinal Photocoagulation (PRP) and is carried out over two or three sittings spread over one-two weeks.

In most cases, laser treatment causes the new blood vessels to regress and the swelling to subside.

Laser treatment usually takes three to four months to be fully effective.

Vitrectomy: Sometimes the new blood vessels bleed into the gel-like centre (vitreous) of the eye. This condition — vitreous haemorrhage — can lead to the sudden loss of vision.

If the vitreous haemorrhage is persistent, then a procedure called vitrectomy is recommended. This is a microsurgical procedure which removes the blood and scar tissue from the centre of the eye. Many patients can have improved vision after vitrectomy.

Keys to limiting diabetic retinopathy

Early detection.

Vision damage due to retinopathy is preventible if detected early.

There are no early symptoms.

So, a regular preventive eye check-up is a must.

Important points to remember

You must get a complete eye check-up done.

Early detection.

Vision damage due to retinopathy is preventable if detected early.

20 per cent of new diabetics who got eye examinations done showed signs of
early retinal damage.

Such patients need an eye examination on a six-monthly or three-monthly basis.

There are no early symptoms.

Regular preventive eye check-ups are must.

The writer is Chairman and Medical Director, Centre for Sight, New Delhi.
Email: drmahipal@gmail.com.


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Autism forces family moves

LONDON: One in 10 parents of autistic children are forced to move home because of a postcode lottery in services for those affected by the condition, says a survey.

TreeHouse, an autism education charity, claims that the sparsity of high quality care services are leaving parents feeling "isolated, confused, and judged", and that early diagnosis, offered by only a few local authorities, can make a "dramatic difference to a child realising their potential".

Among those parents disappointed at the discrepancy in the quality of care services are Nick Hornby, the author of About a Boy, whose son, Danny, is autistic.

He said: "When my son was diagnosed with autism there was a total lack of information on what we should do next. It seems that little has changed - and that is a national scandal."

TreeHouse found that nearly a quarter of 37 local authorities it approached did not know how many autistic children lived in their areas.

More than half (54 per cent) admitted they did not know how much money they spent on children's autism services, and 81 per cent said they did not employ anyone specifically to look after such services.

Seven in 10 local councils could not give specific details of what autism-related training they provided for teachers in state schools.

A separate survey conducted by the charity discovered that while 10 per cent of parents had moved house to get better access to care services, a further 30 per cent said they would consider doing so.

— The Independent

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The benefits of being positive
Roger Dobson

Forget the pills and potions, hold the tissues, and be positive. It just may be a good way to avoid a cold.

People with a positive emotional style - happy, lively, and calm - were nearly
three times less likely to develop a cold after being exposed to a virus than the
negative-minded volunteers.

They were infected by the bug, but their body's reaction to it meant they were less likely to have a cold.

"We found that the tendency to express positive emotions was associated with greater resistance to developing a cold,'' say the researchers.

Common colds are not the only health problem to be avoided or lessened by being positive. New research shows that men and women with so-called dispositional optimism - defined as having positive expectations for the future - were less sensitive to pain.

Positive folk may also be less likely to die prematurely and to live seven or more years longer than the more miserable.

They recover more quickly from surgery, may be less likely to develop cancer, suffer a stroke, die from heart disease, or suffer from depression.

"The more positive people expect their futures to be, the better their mood, the fewer their psychiatric symptoms, and the better their adjustment to diverse situations including pregnancy and cardiac surgery," says Dr Suzanne Segerstrom, of the University of Kentucky.

While it's long been accepted that negative emotions such as anger, depression and anxiety have an effect on health, increasing evidence is showing that positive emotions may be associated with lower rates of illness and less severe symptoms.

Researchers at Yale University who investigated longevity found that those people who had positive attitudes about ageing when they were young lived more than seven years longer that those with a less positive attitude.

"Our study carries two messages. The discouraging one is that the negative self-
perceptions can diminish life expectancy; the encouraging one is that positive self-
perceptions can prolong life expectancy," says Dr Becca Levy, who led the study.

The link between a positive mind and health may also lead to new ways of tackling disease. "It is an important area," says Dr John Weinman, professor of psychology as applied to medicine at the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College, London.

"For years, what we have tended to do is to focus on people who have problems, those with illnesses. We have maybe over-focused on these people and why they have problems in coping with illness.

"We would actually learn a lot from people who do well despite having major health problems, those who get back to functioning quickly, and who survive for longer periods of time.

"What is especially interesting is the long-term survival of people with major health problems which we know should shorten their lives. In type one diabetes, for example, which is known to reduce life expectancy by about 15 years, there are people out there who are in their seventies and eighties who have lived since childhood with diabetes. What is it about those people? That is the big question."

Just how a positive and optimistic outlook has such an effect is not known. Some theories suggest that it is because such people tend to look after their health better, be more focused and know what they want, and are more likely to shun health-threatening behaviours.

But other research suggests something else at work. In the common-cold research at the University of Pittsburgh, the researchers found that it was not so much that the positive people did not get infected with the virus, but that they tended to have fewer signs and symptoms of illness.

That, say the researchers, appears to suggest that the link may be down to differences in the release of immune system cells involved in the inflammatory response to the infection.

Researchers at Miami University have suggested that many hormones that play a key role in health are affected by emotions, including cortisol, norepinephrine, dopamine, prolactin, and oxytocin.

—The Independent

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Aged need healthcare with dignity
Dr R. Kumar

That dark winter evening doctor was called to attend the mother of Goud, who had been ailing for some time.

The doctor was ushered in a dark small and dingy room, where everything seemed to be gathering dust (in the palatial house). “Where is the mother?” the doctor asked.

Goud pointed towards the quilt. The mother was reduced into a small mass of bones with all the limbs shrivelled and the body bore bedsores all over.

The stench of the decaying human flesh filled the doctor’s nostrils. She was barely breathing. “Who is looking after her?” the doctor asked.

“We all,” was the short and prompt reply. The doctor revealed after examination that the patient had severe malnutrition, dehydration, deformed limbs and infected bedsores; all signs of neglect.

Her treatment may be beyond medicines alone. She was advised to be shifted to a sunny and airy room besides good nutrition and a good nursing care.

“Management of bedsores is always a challenge for any doctor or nurse, but it was easier to prevent”, the doctor counselled.

As such, she didn’t have any definite diagnosis, nor were any investigations or interventions required in her medical management.

A few days later a photograph of the old lady was published in the obituary columns. It signalled that callousness had set in Indian homes.

Venkatraman proves the doctor wrong!

Recently the doctor had to visit the house of another friend to have a look at his ailing mother, who had been bedridden for quite some time.

The doctor was pleasantly surprised to find that the mother was given the bigger room in the front portion of the government house and the rest of family was living in the smaller room at the back.

There were no odors and the room gave a feeling of “nursing home care” with all the family members concerned about the health of the grandmother and taking pride in owning and caring her.

“We don’t mind spending for our mother on any medicines, equipment or furnishings that may be necessary in her treatment or engaging a nurse if that can help her”, Venkataraman told the doctor in a matter-of-fact manner.

A few days later he informed the doctor that the bedsore of her mother had healed. Could it be true? Yes.

Bedsores can be life-threatening

Bedsores are caused by unrelieved pressure on any part of the body. In its most basic description, a bedsore is an open sore.

These are marked by a breakdown of the tissue in an ulcerated area, high risk of infection, and a long-healing time.

The following merit attention

Pressure sores develop quickly, progress rapidly and are often difficult to heal if allowed to progress, but can be cured with proper care.

Key preventive measures can also encourage healing.

Patients transferred from a hospital to a nursing home are particularly vulnerable,
with 10 per cent to 35 per cent having sores at the time they are admitted to
the nursing home.

Studies show that 50 per cent of the patients with pressure ulcers are over the
age of 70 and among these elderly bedsores mean a fourfold increase in the rate
of death.

About 60,000 deaths a year are attributed to complications caused by bedsores in the US. Incidence of bedsores varies among nursing homes anywhere between 12 and 26 per cent.

Bedsores can lead to other severe medical complications — infections, arthritis,
scar carcinoma, etc.

The writer is a Chandigarh-based author of medical books.

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Health Notes
Radiation therapy ‘highly effective’ against early lung cancer

WASHINGTON: A high-tech type of radiation treatment called stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) has been found to be "highly effective" in treating early-stage lung cancer for the patients who are not eligible for surgery.

This therapy uses very large doses of high-energy radiation (x-rays), which are aimed directly at tumours with great precision and accuracy, thus sparing the surrounding, healthy tissue from damage.

"I think of this as 'lung-sparing' treatment, in which many patients with early-stage lung cancer can have effective treatment in as few as three treatment sessions with a low risk of side-effects," said Dr. Ronald McGarry, clinical associate professor and vice-chairman of radiation medicine at the UK College of Medicine. — ANI

Five lifestyle changes that can cut colorectal cancer risk

WASHINGTON: Changes in five lifestyle factors can help significantly reduce the incidences of colorectal cancer, especially among men.

One of the recommendations made by Prof Donald Maxwell Parkin of Cancer
Research UK Centre for Epidemiology, Mathematics and Statistics, London, is
that people’s consumption of red and processed meat should not be more than
80 or 90 grams per day.

He also suggests that people consume at least five portions of fruit, vegetables and fibre every day.

The third recommendation is to exercise at least 30 minutes on five or more
days per week.

The experts also suggest that men should not consume more than 21 units of alcohol per week, and women should restrict their intake to 15 units. — ANI

10 per cent young Oz women take illicit drugs to lose weight

SYDNEY: One in 10 young Australian women take illicit drugs to reduce weight,
according to a survey. Conducted for Grazia magazine, the survey has shown
that 10 per cent of women used stimulants like cocaine and speed in a bid to
shed weight.

While 67 per cent were in a healthy weight range, 57 per cent of the young
women considered themselves overweight, of which another 57 per cent wanted
to be size 8 or smaller.

According to the survey involving 993 women, aged between 15 and 35 years,
17 per cent reported suffering from an eating disorder, or having suffered from
one in the past.

Nearly 18 per cent said that they had vomited after eating, and 26 per cent said
that they had abused laxatives and diet pills. — ANI

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