Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Uterine Prolapse or Procidentia is the medical term used to describe the descent of the uterus into the lower part of the vagina. At times such a prolapse can be so profound that the cervix, which forms the lowest point of the uterus, can hang completely out of the body. Uterine Procidentia occurs when the ligaments in the abdominal wall that support the Uterus relax allowing the organ to sink in the body.

Uterine prolapse is more common in white women and in women who have given natural birth to many babies, given birth to exceptionally large babies, or who have had forcepts-assisted deliveries. It can often take many years for prolapse to occur after the aforementioned events. Sometimes women are predisposed to prolapse because of genetic abnormalities, such as a "tipped uterus." In the case of a tipped uterus, the uterus is in line with the vagina and can be pushed into the vagina by normal abdominal contractions (the piston effect.)

Risk factors for Uterine Prolapse include the following:

  • multiple vaginal births
  • giving birth to large babies (more than 9 pounds)
  • difficult instrumented deliveries (forceps, vacuum)
  • presence of a pelvic tumor
  • diabetes
  • obesity
  • asthma
  • chronic bronchitis
Depending on the severity of the prolapse, treatment options include:

  • pessary, a plastic doughnut-shaped device placed into the vagina to push up the uterus
  • round ligament suspension procedure, an operation to provide muscle support to the uterus
  • estrogen therapy given directly into the vagina with creams
  • hysterectomy, or surgery to remove the uterus
Since this sick is not life-threatening, but involves an organ falling out of a woman's vagina, I rate it a

1 on my "lethality scale" (1-10)
and a 6 on my "disturbing scale" (1-10)

Monday, April 27, 2009


Swine flu is a respiratory disease which affects pigs. From time to time, the flu strains found in pigs mutate making them capable of passing from pigs to human hosts. Once strains of swine flu have passed into the human population, the disease is able to be spread from person to person. Each time influenza passes from pigs to people the form of the virus is unique. Sometimes the virus is virulent, deadly and easily passed. Other times it is hard to pass and less lethal.

The 2009 strain of Swine Flu (H1N1) which infected people in Mexico, the U.S., and Spain is able to be passed from person to person and appears to have a mortality rate of between 1-7%. It is not yet known how easily this H1N1 strain can be passed. An infected person is contagious from 1 day prior to symptoms throughout the 7 day symptomatic period. It is important to take precautions to prevent infection. These include: Thoroughly washing hands with soap and water (for at least 20-25 seconds.), washing with antibiotic gels, covering mouth/nose when sneezing, getting plenty of rest, staying active, and eating healthy foods.

Symptoms are nearly identical to the common flu and include: fever, body aches, cough, sneezing, headache, chills and fatigue. In some cases people have reported diarrhea and vomiting. Tests exist to accurately indicate whether an ill person is suffering from H1N1 or common influenza.

The H1N1 strain of Swine Flu is susceptible to treatment with oseltamivir or zanamivir. The severity of illness varies greatly from person to person. Some people become only mildly sick, while others develop dangerous respiratory infections which require hospitalization.

Normally, influenza is only dangerous to the very young, very old or people with compromised immune systems. H1N1 has shown itself to be lethal to a broader swathe of society, primarily those between the ages of 20 and 40.

There is currently no vaccine for the H1N1 Swine Flu, but Baxter International, a pharmaceutical company, is working to develop a vaccine within 6 months.

Friday, April 24, 2009


Decompression Sickness, commonly referred to as "The Bends," is an ailment caused when dissolved gasses in the body turn into bubbles when atmospheric pressure on the body is decreased. Symptoms vary depending on where in the body the bubbles form.

In a typical case of The Bends, the bubbles form in the joints, where they push apart the tissues causing localized deep pain which can range from a mild to tingling to excruciating agony. When the bubbles form in the brain or spinal chord, the victim can experience neurological symptoms such as tingling or burning, vision distortions, paralysis, headaches, seizures, or confusion and memory loss. Bubbles in the lungs can cause breathing difficulties, a dry cough, and chest pain (which is aggravated by breathing.) Sometimes bubbles can form in the skin, which causes rash, swelling and the sensation of insects crawling in the skin.

Decompression Sickness is caused by reduction of pressure around the body. This can occur when someone leaves a high pressure environment (e.g., moving from a hyperbaric chamber to a normal room), when someone ascends from great depths, as at the end of a scuba dive, or when someone ascends to a great altitude without proper pressurization.

Mild cases of Decompression Sickness require medical attention, but often will disappear without intervention. More acute cases of The Bends, especially those affecting the lungs or nervous system might require hyperbaric oxygen treatment. In hyperbaric treatment the body is pressurized to a point where the bubbles dissolve and then gradually brought to lower pressures so that the body can recalibrate to the new pressure without producing bubbles.

When a diver receives hyperbaric treatment for the bends, it is unlikely that his or her health insurance will cover the treatment. Diving is considered a high risk activity. So, resulting expenses for medical emergencies will often come directly from the victim's pocket. Hyperbaric treatment costs thousands of dollars.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


Trichotillomania (Trich) is an impulse control disorder characterized by repeated pulling of the hair, often leading to bald spots. A patient suffering from Trichotillomania typically pulls hair from one specific spot on the body in a habitual, repeated way. Head hair, nose hair, eyebrows, and pubic hair are all common areas for Trich. The disorder is thought to be an amalgum of Obssessive Cmpulsive and Movement disorders. Since many people suffering from Trich are not even aware that they are pulling out their hair when they are doing it, many place it in the same category as nail biting, which has a similar habitual pattern.

Trichotillomania has an estimated prevalence rate of 1% worldwide. It is thought that the disorder was previously under reported but that reporting has increased in the past decades as the stigma surrounding compulsive disorders has lessened and psychological care has become more ubiquitous.

There are very stong indications that Trich is hereditary. Scientists isolated a gene they believed to be responsible for the behavior, and when they injected lab rats with it, those rats started to rip out their own and others hair. Stress is a common trigger for Trich behavior. Most trich patients will show no hair pulling behavior in a stress-free situation, but will immediately engage in the behavior when presented with stress.

Treatment often includes both behavioral and drug therapy. Tricyclic antidepressants are more effective than SSRIs (like prozac) in the treatment of Trich. Behavioral treatments have to do with understanding what situations serve as triggers for the behavior in order to increase awareness and develop strategies to avoid engaging in the behavior in those situations.