Beliefnet
A Prescription for Healthy Living

Have you ever experienced pain in your head that was so intense all you could do was lay down in a dark room with a wet rag on your forehead and pray for the feeling to pass, or that the pain pills would kick in quickly and knock you out? Migraines, while not technically considered a headache, are often so severe that they are literally enough to make a grown man cry. But, what causes migraines and how can they be avoided?

What Causes a Migraine?

While the primary reason migraines occur in some people and not others is not fully known, it is believed that when blood vessels dilate, chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin can cause further dilation accompanied by intense, even violent, pain.

Migraine Symptoms

Migraines can cause many symptoms. The most common symptoms associated with migraines include, but are not limited to, the following:

– Violent throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head
– Nausea with or without vomiting
– Fatigue
– Feelings of intense cold or heat
– Blurred vision
– Stiff neck

The above list is not exhaustive. If you experience any other side effects not mentioned here, contact your doctor or healthcare professional immediately.

Migraine Triggers

If you are prone to migraine headaches, you know there are certain things such as food and drink that can act as a trigger. Among these are the following:

– Foods such as chocolate, cheese, nuts, avocados, lentils, beans, figs, monosodium glutamate (MSG), onions, pickles, sauerkraut, soy sauce and canned or processed meat.
– Alcohol
– Stress
– Hormonal imbalance in women
– Birth control pills
– Smoking

These are just a few of the more common triggers associated with migraine headaches. Again, if there is a certain food or drink that you know will spark an episode, avoid it like the plague. Eating canned meat is not worth the risk of experiencing the intense pain a migraine is capable of inducing.

Phases of a Migraine

Often, migraine sufferers are able to tell they are about to have an episode, as there are certain phases they experience prior to the onset of symptoms. These phases include the following:

Prodrome – This is the theme song from the movie Jaws that warns you something bad is about to happen. This could describe changes in mood, depression, irritability, feelings of fatigue, sleeping too much, and muscle tension.

Aura – An aura is a visual disturbance that affects most migraine sufferers.

Headache – This pain can occur on one or both sides of the head. The pain is usually accompanied by nausea and vomiting, and a sensitivity to light and sound.

Headache Termination – Migraine pain tends to subside when a person is sleeping.

Postdrome – This phase includes certain symptoms following the migraine episode such as feelings of tiredness, difficulty concentrating and no appetite.

Migraine Treatment

If you have experienced migraine pain long enough and are familiar with the symptoms leading up to an episode, then it is wise to take your medication at that time. Some over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen are effective in treating migraine symptoms. Some people report that caffeine helps shorten the duration and severity of symptoms. Check with your doctor before you begin any pain relievers to make sure there are no contraindications. If your over-the-counter medication does not cover the pain, check with your doctor regarding pain medication that can be prescribed to get you through these intense episodes of pain.

For most people, using the bathroom is a relief. But for those people who have hemorrhoids, just the thought of having a bowel movement is enough to send shock waves up and down a person’s spine! Hemorrhoids can cause such excruciating pain that most sufferers would rather deal with constipation than experience the pain of a bowel movement. While some hemorrhoids are largely painless, others can actually interfere with a person’s quality of life.

What are Hemorrhoids?

A hemorrhoid is a swollen vein that is located in the anus and/or rectum. Sometimes hemorrhoids will produce a mass of tissue and blood vessels that protrude from the anus, and are often the genesis of the pain.

What Causes Hemorrhoids?

While it is not clearly known why a hemorrhoid protrusion occurs, it is believed that the straining associated with having a bowel movement may be the culprit. Likewise, hemorrhoids are a common complaint from pregnant woman. It is assumed that the greater pressure in the pelvic area is largely to blame. Therefore, sitting on the toilet for long periods of time can create hemorrhoids because of the amount of pressure being produced.

Symptoms of Hemorrhoids

The following is a list of the most common side effects associated with hemorrhoids. This is not an exhaustive list of side effects. If you experience any side effects not mentioned here that are particularly troublesome, contact your physician.

– Bleeding during a bowel movement
– Itching in anal area
– Rectal pain or discomfort
– Swelling of the tissue surrounding the anus
– A lump near the anus that may be sensitive and/or painful

Types of Hemorrhoids

The symptoms of hemorrhoids listed above may vary according to the type of hemorrhoid you have. The names of the types of hemorrhoids correspond with the set of hemorrhoidal veins they happen to affect.

Internal Hemorrhoids: This type of hemorrhoid involves the veins inside the rectum, and is usually painless, although it is known to bleed during bowel movements.

Prolapsed Internal Hemorrhoids: This type of hemorrhoid occurs when the hemorrhoid stretches down until it protrudes from out of the anus. Prolapsed internal hemorrhoids are painful.

External Hemorrhoids: External hemorrhoids involve the veins around the anus and are known to bleed easily due to rubbing and/or straining.

 

Treatment of Hemorrhoids

There are a number of over-the-counter topical pain relievers that work effectively for the type of hemorrhoid you happen to have.

Local anesthetics – Benzocaine, Lidocaine and Dibucaine fall into this category. Unfortunately, some people experience burning and itching upon application of these products. If you experience either of these symptoms, discontinue use immediately as this may be the sign of an allergic reaction.

Vasoconstrictors – This category of medication helps shrink the blood vessels which in turn reduces the amount of swelling. If you have high blood pressure, diabetes or thyroid problems, do not use this medication without first getting approval from your doctor or healthcare professional.

Astringents – Believe it or not, many people experience relief from the pain and itching associated with hemorrhoids by using such products as witch hazel, calamine lotion and zinc oxide.

Corticosteroids – This type of medication can help reduce the amount of inflammation as well as the itching, but is not recommended for extended use. Prescription corticosteroids contain a much higher potency than those available over-the-counter.

Sitz Baths – Provides temporary relief of pain and itching.

While hemorrhoids can be a real pain in the behind, there are many treatments available in addition to the ones listed above. Check with your doctor or healthcare professional to find out the best treatment available for you.

Ever stop and think about the amount of time you spend tending to your tresses? Ever notice how long you spend in the hair care aisle comparing shampoo and conditioner ingredients, or the hours spent poring over hair style magazines in search of your next cut and style? Let’s face it: Male or female, we all want to have a beautiful head of hair. And although we take good care of our locks, it is shocking when we see all the strands that end up in the hairbrush or on the bathroom floor.

 

What Causes Hair Loss?

 

Did you know that the average person loses between 100-150 hairs each day? While this number may sound a bit high, it is a perfectly normal part of the hair’s life cycle. Hair grows in three phases:

 

Anagen Phase: The Anagen Phase is also known as the active phase in which the hair grows.

 

Catagen Phase: The Catagen Phase is the part of the cycle when the hair begins to break down.

 

Telogen Phase: The Telogen Phase is also known as the resting phase. This is the phase in which you will notice the amount of hair you shed daily.

 

Of course there are many people who lose more than the average number of strands per day. In such cases, there may be an underlying health condition responsible for the premature fall-out. Stress, hormones and changes in diet can do a number on your hair. Women who have just given birth tend to lose more hair than normal because their bodies are undergoing certain hormonal changes. Hair loss can also be associated with such health conditions as anemia or thyroid problems. These types of hair loss are all quite normal, and in most cases, normal hair growth will resume once the factor causing the loss has been identified and addressed. There are, however, cases in which the hair falls out and is not able to grow back. They are:

 

– Involutional Alopecia: This type of hair loss occurs as we age and more hair enters the Telogen or resting phase. As a result, our hair becomes noticeably thinner.

 

– Androgenic Alopecia: This is the technical term for baldness, a genetic condition that can begin as young as the 20s for men and the 40s for women.

 

– Alopecia Areata: This is a sudden hair loss that occurs in patches and can affect children as well as adults. In most cases, hair loss of this type eventually grows back.

 

– Trichotillomania: This is a condition in which a person will pull out his or her own hair. This type of hair loss occurs as a result of behavioral changes, and may require counseling and/or medication in order to break the habit.

 

Treatment

 

Certain over-the-counter hair restoration treatments such as Minoxidil can help to slow down the rate in which hair loss occurs. Check with your doctor before using any of these types of topical treatments, as people with heart conditions may experience adverse affects.

 

Finasteride is a prescription medication that could potentially reduce hair loss. Side effects include, but are not limited to, impotence or a decrease in sex drive. Women who are pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are breast-feeding should avoid any contact with this medication.

 

Certain prescription medications administered for an enlarged prostate actually works to treat hair loss in men.

Bimatoprost Solution, an eye drop used to treat glaucoma, was also found to be an effective treatment of hair loss in men. Supplements specifically designed to support healthy skin, hair and nail growth will also work in some cases of hair loss. Certain hair styles such as cornrows, tight hair rollers and pigtails could also induce hair loss. Likewise, chemical treatments such as permanents, relaxers and hair dye may also promote hair loss.

 

Nourish your locks with shampoo and conditioner that contain gentle and healthy ingredients. Limit the amount of time in which you use heating appliances on your hair. Let your hair air dry when possible. Avoid chemical processes when able. Take care of your hair, and your hair will take care of you.

Heartburn is often described as a painful, burning sensation that occurs mid-chest, behind the breastbone. The effects of heartburn are most often felt after eating a large meal, or one of the “trigger” foods mentioned below. Episodes of heartburn may also be accompanied by a bitter taste in the throat and the mouth.

 

What causes Heartburn?

At the end of the esophagus, the tube that spans from the throat to the stomach, is the sphincter, a muscle that opens and closes, allowing food and drink to pass. A normally functioning sphincter closes tightly after this passage takes place. A weakened sphincter does not close completely or quickly enough; therefore, contents from the stomach are able to pass through on their way back up through the throat. This is also known as reflux. If you experience symptoms of heartburn only following a large meal, you may have indigestion, but if symptoms occur regularly, then you may have a condition known as gastroesophageal reflux disease. It is important to have this condition evaluated because some heart conditions can mimic symptoms of heartburn and reflux. Seek immediate medical attention if your heartburn and reflux symptoms are accompanied by excessive sweating, palpitations and/or shortness of breath.

 

Managing Your Heartburn

 

There are many lifestyle changes that can be made in order to alleviate episodes of chronic heartburn. These include, but are not limited to, the following:

 

– Avoid beverages containing caffeine

– Avoid such foods as chocolate and peppermint

– Avoid acidic foods such as tomatoes and tomato sauces

– Avoid lying down following a meal. Do not eat a meal late in the evening.

– Heartburn is known for being worse at night. If you experience worsening symptoms at bedtime, elevate the head of your bed. This can be done by placing lifters underneath the top half of the bed. Do not use many pillows to sleep on, as this might make things worse by increasing the pressure on the stomach

– If you smoke, now is a good time to quit. Smoking is an irritant and can induce more frequent or worsening episodes of heartburn.

– If you drink alcohol, limit the amount of your intake as alcohol is also a known catalyst for heartburn.

– There are a number of prescription-strength over-the-counter medications that are safe and effective to address occasional episodes of heartburn. Among these are omeprazole, lansoprazole, ranitidine and famotidine. Most of these medications are recommended to be taken one hour prior to eating.

– Eat meals that are low in fat and high in protein

– Do not wear tight clothing

 

If you experience any of the following symptoms, contact your doctor as further evaluation and diagnostic testing may be necessary:

 

– Difficulty or pain upon swallowing

– Vomiting blood (may have the color and texture of coffee grounds)

– Stools may be bloody or black

– Heartburn that occurs more than three times a week

 

Remember to always inform your doctor of the medicines, both over-the-counter and prescribed, that you are presently taking as certain medicines may cause or aggravate heartburn symptoms.

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