A Prescription for Healthy Living

A Prescription for Healthy Living

Coping With Rheumatoid Arthritis

posted by Ranya Elguendy

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic condition that results in tender swollen joints, and may also affect certain internal organs. The exact etiology of this condition is not known; however, it is classified as an autoimmune disorder. Under normal circumstances, a properly functioning immune system will attack any invading substances, but in cases where an immune system is compromised, it actually attacks itself. It is believed that rheumatoid arthritis may result from a conglomeration of genes, the environment and certain hormones; however, this is speculative. It has also been suggested that rheumatoid arthritis occurs due to various infectious factors such as a certain virus, bacteria or fungus.

Rheumatoid arthritis most commonly strikes the 40-60-year-old age group; however, it has been known to hit any age group. Reports indicate that more women than men develop rheumatoid arthritis, although the reason for this imbalance is not clear. Rheumatoid arthritis equally affects the joints on both sides of the body. In the earlier stages of the disease, the smaller joints, such as the fingers, wrists, ankles and toes, are affected. As the disease progresses, the large joints, such as the shoulders, elbows, neck and jaw, are targeted. This type of arthritis is also known to affect the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, blood and nerves.

What are the Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Many, if not most, of the symptoms associated with this disease revolve around the various joints of the body. The list below is by no means exhaustive; therefore, if you experience a symptom not mentioned on this list, speak with your healthcare provider for an evaluation and conclusive diagnosis. The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include the following:

– Pain in the joints
– Stiffness upon rising out of bed
– Generalized fatigue
– Loss of appetite/weight loss
– Unexplained muscle aches
– Anemia
– Low-grade fever
– Deformities of the hands and feet
– Itching, burning and discharge from one or both eyes
– Numbness and/or tingling of the extremities
– Hard bumps underneath the skin of the arms

Rheumatoid arthritis differs in severity on a person to person basis. Some people have reported periods when their particular symptoms feel unmanageable, while others feel they have the disease under control. These periods of flare-up and remission can be taxing on a person with rheumatoid arthritis from a physical, emotional and mental stand-point.

Are There Risk Factors Associated With Rheumatoid Arthritis?

While there is no rhyme or reason as to who does or does not develop this disease, there are a few factors that may be considered as markers that put one at a higher risk of developing this type of arthritis. Just because you happen to fall into one of the below-mentioned categories does not mean that you have the disease, or ever will have it, it simply means you may be predisposed to it. The following is a list of risk factors:

Gender: There is no conclusive reason why this disease strikes more women than men.

Age: Most people who develop this disease are between the ages of 40-60. However, rheumatoid arthritis has been known to hit people who are younger than 40.

History: Having a family member with rheumatoid arthritis puts you at an increased risk of developing it. While the condition is not believed to be passed on, doctors have suggested a person may be predisposed to the condition.

Smoking: Smoking cigarettes also increases a person’s chances of developing the disease. There are already so many reasons to quit smoking. Add rheumatoid arthritis to the list.

How Can Rheumatoid Arthritis Be Treated?

There is no known cure for this disease at this point in time; however, encouraging strides are being made towards developing treatments that will alleviate symptoms more effectively, ultimately allowing the sufferer a chance to enjoy a better quality of life. The most commonly prescribed treatments for this disease include the following:

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDS): These drugs not only reduce inflammation, but they can also alleviate the pain associated with joint swelling.

Steroids: In addition to reducing inflammation, corticosteroids also aid in slowing down the damage done to the affected joint(s).

Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDS): These drugs not only have the ability to slow down the rate at which rheumatoid arthritis develops, but can also protect the joints from being permanently damaged. The downside to this drug is that the side effects can be very severe. Speak with your healthcare provider to see if this particular type of medication is right for you.

The physical affects of this disease can be debilitating. Be sure to discuss with your doctor which treatment would best address your symptoms. Additionally, the psychological aspect of the disease can be equally upsetting; therefore, it is wise to set up meetings with a counselor, or have some other support system to lean on when your body goes through periods of exacerbation.

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Menopause: Dealing with “The Change”

posted by Ranya Elguendy

Menopause is the time in which menstruation ends. Although it is a normal part of life, menopause can bring about some major changes in a woman’s life, ranging from the physical to the emotional. As a woman heads towards menopause, the ovaries produce a decreased amount of estrogen and progesterone, two hormone chemicals that regulate menstruation.

Menopause occurs in two stages: Perimenopause and menopause. Perimenopause precedes menopause and lasts between three to five years. Menopause takes place over the course of years. The period of menopause ends when a woman has missed at least 12 cycles (one year). Keep in mind that you can still get pregnant during this time; therefore, it is wise to continue using birth control until you have reached that one-year mark.

The onset of menopause is different for all women. It has been reported that most women have started menopause by the age of 51. However, there are some women who begin the process between the ages of 40-59. If you are trying to estimate when you will start menopause yourself, use your mom as a guide. Most women begin menopause around the same age as their mom did. If your periods stop before the age of 40, speak with your gynecologist as there may be another reason aside from menopause that is causing you to miss your period.

Women who have undergone surgical removal of both ovaries will go through what is called a “surgical” menopause that will take place at the time of surgery. If only the uterus is removed, then she will stop having periods but will not go through the surgical menopause stage.

What are the Signs of Perimenopause and Menopause?

As mentioned, perimenopause is the period of time that occurs prior to the onset of menopause. Some of the symptoms that may be experienced during this time include the following:

- Irregular periods: As you enter the perimenopause stage, you will notice that your periods may change in terms of flow and duration. There may be some months you miss all together.

- Hot flashes: Almost 75% of women experience the infamous hot flashes. Most women report that this is one of the most difficult parts of perimenopause to get used to.

- Difficulty sleeping: The uncomfortability and randomness of hot flashes seem to be the reason for the development of this common symptom.

- Mood changes: Due to all of the hormonal changes going on inside the body, women tend to experience some sort of change in their mood–whether it is marked by irritability or tears.

- Decreasing fertility: While most women are out of the baby stage by the time they reach their 40s, the possibility of conception during this time of perimenopause still exists. If you do not wish to get pregnant during this time, be sure to use some form of birth control until you have missed at least 12 consecutive periods.

- Vaginal problems: A decrease in estrogen means a decrease in vaginal elasticity resulting in painful intercourse. Additionally, lack of estrogen may leave a women more susceptible to urinary tract infections.

- Bone loss: As the estrogen level decreases, the possibility of bone loss increases. Scheduling a bone density test during this time is vital; as bone density decreases, the risk for developing osteoporosis increases.

- Cholesterol: Cholesterol levels are also affected during this change in a woman’s life. The bad cholesterol tends to increase due in part to decreasing levels of estrogen. Unfortunately, the good cholesterol also decreases, increasing a woman’s risk of heart problems.

The Emotional Part of Menopause

For some women, the emotional part of this journey is more difficult to deal with than the physical aspect. Some of the emotional symptoms a woman may face include sadness, bouts of crying, anxiety, irritability and mood swings. Some of these symptoms may be severe.

What is Hormone Replacement Therapy?

Hormone replacement therapy is a man made hormone that is created to ward off the symptoms mentioned above. The therapy may include estrogen alone or estrogen in tandem with progestin, and is effective in eliminating these pesky symptoms. However, hormone replacement therapy is not for everyone. Clinical studies reveals that for some women, the risks may outweigh the benefits when it comes to replacement therapy. Speak with your gynecologist to find out if hormone replacement therapy is right for you.

If hormone replacement therapy is not right for you, there are other medicines that can be used to deal with the above-mentioned symptoms. For example, estrogen cream and certain antidepressants may address the symptoms. Herbal supplements such as black cohash may also be helpful to alleviate certain symptoms.

Talk Therapy

Perimenopause and menopause are difficult stages in a woman’s life. Between the physical changes, the emotional changes, and not knowing what to expect during this time, menopause will take some getting used to. But as you acclimate yourself to the changes, be sure to talk with friends who may already have experienced “The Change” and can offer you the emotional support you will need during this stage in your life.

 

 

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Psoriasis: It’s Only Skin Deep

posted by Ranya Elguendy

There is nothing more annoying than having an unsightly skin disorder, especially in the warmer months when more of our skin is on display. Psoriasis is a chronic skin condition that is characterized by red, raised patches of skin covered in dry, silvery scales. These patches form due to an abnormality in the immune system that causes the cells in certain areas of the body to regenerate more rapidly than in other areas. Psoriasis patches, also known as plaques, range in size, but are generally form on the knees, elbows, scalp and feet.

The exact etiology of psoriasis is not known. It is suspected that the immune system plays a key role in the formation of these plaques; however, research reveals that psoriasis may run in families making it a hereditary disorder.

It is also believed that certain medications may be responsible for triggering an onset of psoriasis. Among the medications believed to share responsibility in the formation of psoriasis include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, lithium (used to treat mood disorders), beta blockers (used to treat hypertension) and antimalarial medication. Other possible triggers include excessive stress, injury to the skin, exposure to sunlight (although sunlight is also known to actually help psoriasis flare-ups), smoking, extremely cold weather, HIV infection, streptococcal infection and even hormonal changes.

Symptoms of Psoriasis

There are many symptoms common to psoriasis. These include, but are not limited to, the following:

– Itchiness

– Raised and thick patches of skin

– Red in color

– Silver, scaly patches

Psoriasis may form anywhere on the body. Most cases of psoriasis tend to be mild to moderate in the number of plaques that form. Psoriasis most commonly affects jointed areas of the body such as the knees, elbows, hands and feet. Psoriasis can also form in the scalp and in the fingernails. Children with psoriasis tend to develop plaques that are less scaly than adults. Most people experience remission of their psoriatic flare-ups during summer months, and have a more difficult time managing the skin condition in the colder months.

While psoriasis is annoying, it is treatable, it is not life-threatening, and it is not contagious. Your dermatologist will prescribe the best method of treatment for you depending on the severity of your psoriasis. If you suffer from a mild form of psoriasis, meaning the number of plaques on your body are few, your doctor will most likely prescribe a topical steroid solution in the form of a cream, gel or ointment. People with mild psoriasis tend to respond well to topical treatments. For those with a more severe case of psoriasis, oral or injected steroids may be a wise course of action. Finding the right medication or combination of medications may initially be trial and error, so don’t lose heart. Keep in mind that treatment does vary from person to person and what works well for one may not for another.

There are certain things you can do to help keep your psoriasis under control. For example, keep your skin moisturized to avoid the dryness and flaking that is common to psoriasis. Oatmeal baths may help to lessen inflammation and minimize itchiness. Some psoriasis sufferers report that bath salts also seem to help relieve their symptoms. It has been reported that some sunlight may help to improve psoriasis.

Although there is no known cure for psoriasis, it is a common condition that is treatable and manageable. Much research is currently being done in an effort to understand why some people are more susceptible to psoriasis than others. Be encouraged, a cure may be closer than we think!

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Take Care Of Your Heart

posted by Ranya Elguendy

Heart disease is a complex issue and one that cannot be completely expounded upon here. In any case, it is a serious problem and one that causes more hospitalizations yearly than any other health-related problem. This article is far from exhaustive; however, it will provide the more important aspects of the disease, warning signs, and things you can do to prevent further heart-related damage.

 

Coronary heart disease, also known as coronary artery disease (CAD) is defined as a constriction of the blood vessels responsible for supplying blood and oxygen to the heart. This narrowing occurs when a substance known as plaque forms and builds up in the vessels that lead to the heart. Plaque is a conglomeration of fat, protein and inflammatory cells. As plaque builds up in the vessels, blood flow becomes hindered and can either slow down or stop all together. The result of this radical obstruction of the flow of blood may result in angina or even a heart attack.

 

Knowing the symptoms of coronary heart disease can help you to identify the onset of potentially problematic issues regarding your own health or the health of a loved one. This list of symptoms is not exhaustive; therefore, if you experience an unusual symptom not mentioned here, seek immediate medical attention. It may be nothing, but it is always better to be safe than sorry. The symptoms of coronary heart disease include, but are not limited to, the following:

 

– Chest pain which has often been described as feeling like an elephant is sitting on your chest

– Feelings of discomfort, pressure, burning and/or numbness

– Palpitations

– Weakness

– Nausea

– Sweating

– Pain that radiates to the left shoulder blade, arms, back, neck or jaw

 

There are many risk factors associated with coronary heart disease, most of which can be addressed in order to minimize the risk of heart-related health issues. Again, this list is not exhaustive. If you are concerned that a particular habit is putting you at risk for developing coronary heart disease, speak with your doctor or healthcare professional. The following is a list of potential risk factors associated with coronary heart disease:

 

– Diabetes, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia

– Smoking

– Substance abuse

– Obesity

– Depression/stress

– Heredity

– Unhealthy lifestyle

– Kidney disease

 

If one or more of the above risk factors apply to you, then it is important to begin implementing some changes in your lifestyle in order to minimize your risk of developing coronary heart disease. As previously mentioned, most of the risk factors such as smoking, substance abuse, obesity, depression, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and living an unhealthy lifestyle can all be changed. If you have untreated diabetes, now is the time to get the help you need from an endocrinologist before you develop irreversible damage. Blood pressure and cholesterol can be regulated by diet, exercise and perhaps prescribed medication. If you struggle with smoking or alcohol/substance abuse, then seeking counseling or a treatment program would be most beneficial to you.

 

If your doctor has you on an aspirin regimen, then take as it has been prescribed to you. Make sure you are taking the proper strength aspirin as there are two available on the market today. If you have already been prescribed medication to help control your existing heart condition, make sure to follow your doctor’s advice. if you think you are at risk of developing a heart-related condition, speak to your doctor regarding your concerns and put together a preventive plan to minimize your potential risk.

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