Glass Half Full?

I’m really tired of moving.

I mean, where’s the “glass half full” part of life when you have a combined 120 years worth of stuff to deal with?

Well, the moving part itself isn’t so horrible as a general rule…except when it comes to packing that 120 years of stuff and considering that as a broken-jointed, ruptured disk, cartilage-less knee’d, 60 year old, old fossil I had to climb up and down steep stairs twenty times each day for six days, carrying boxes that weighed 30-40 pounds, on average. Of course, my disabled husband helped, as well as my two youngest sons and youngest daughter, all of whom work nights, who spent two days (when they should have been sleeping) doing the really heavy lifting and carrying.

Either way you look at it, though, by the seventh day I was completely worn down to the bone, physically. But, man, oh man! I’m so happy to finally be able to give up living in a second floor apartment and going into a single story house!

I think the worst part of moving this time is the unpacking. Who would have thought that finding places to put your stuff in a larger house would be more difficult than when going from a larger home into a smaller one?

Which is to say…I’m really tired of moving.

It’s easy enough to get discouraged when you’re exhausted. You want to simply kick your feet off…er, up…and put a cold cloth on your head, lay down in a cool, quiet dungeon somewhere, step off the world for a week or so and ignore that there’s anything you have to do. But you can’t, because some things just have to be done whether you’re tired or not.

Like unearthing your kitchen boxes that wound up in the bathroom, or your bathroom tissue that somehow, at the most inopportune time, wound up in the shed. Almost makes you want to break down into tears.

Really.

But even with all the aggravation, frustration and physical discomfort one suffers during a move, you want the experience to leave you with the positive feeling. This is a new beginning after all and how often does someone advancing in years find themselves in the possession of such a treasure?

So, I see my life as half over but the other half is ahead of me. Therefore, still, is the glass half full.

american-gothic

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Carpal Tunnel or Dupuytrens Disease?

So here I am, keyboarding away, writing this article, when all of a sudden I notice that my wrist is beginning to ache, my fingers and thumb are tingling and there is an increasing numbness in my hand.  Unbelievably, I’ve just finished reading all my resources pertaining to this very subject and, wait for it…yes, there it is: a pain that feels like a live electric wire is travelling up my arm to my shoulder. How ironic. I never thought about it before when it happened but, I think I may have developed Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Nothing is physically obvious on the outside, but from the inside…OUCH!

There are very specific symptoms to “Carpal Tunnel”, but if noticeable swelling or a deformed appearance to your palm is also in evidence, a more serious condition called “Dupuytrens Contracture“…aka: Dupuytren’s Disease… may be present. Either way, you should visit your doctor or an orthopaedic surgeon to rule out Dupuytren’s Contracture (“doh-pwee-trenz”), which can actually start out with much the same early symptoms.

Although neither Carpal Tunnel Syndrome nor Dupuytren’s Disease can be found amongst the standard labels of ‘Invisible Illnesses’, sometimes the symptoms of either condition may not be immediately visible. And because carpal tunnel is more common and successfully treated, people might “pooh pooh” complaints about the unique pain and disabilities that are part and parcel of the similar early symptoms of Dupuytren’s Disease.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

CarpalTunnel_A00005F02Just as general background information, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) centers around the median nerve. This nerve originates in a network of nerve fibers called the brachial plexis, around the spine. Sometimes hand and/or arm vibrations (such as those experienced by motorcycle/scooter drivers or power tool operators) or repetitive movement, such as typing or keyboarding, can cause the tissues which surround the tendons in your wrist to swell. In turn, those swollen tissues press against the median nerve, thus causing pain.

In some instances, CTS may simply be genetic in nature (run in families) as the size of the “tunnels” in the carpal bones of the wrist are often an hereditary condition. Another common occurance that may lead to CTS is fluid retention during pregnancy or menopause. If you have problems with obesity, smoking, alcohol abuse, or mental stress, you may also be at risk to develop CTS. And if all of those risks weren’t enough to think about, women are three times more likely to suffer CTS than men because, as a rule, womens’ bones are simply smaller than mens’!

“But wait! There’s more!”

Certain medical conditions, if present, can increase the tendency to carpal tunnel problems. These biologic conditions can include:

  •  trauma or injury to the wrist
  • overactive pituitary gland
  • hypothyroidism
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • the development of a cyst or tumor in the canal

On the Northside Hospital website (located in St. Petersburg, Florida), there is a video explaining Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and the surgery performed to correct the condition. This video, produced by Nucleus Medical Media, is highly recommended for its in-depth information on the subject.

Dupuytren’s Disease/Dupuytrens Contracture

Dupuytren’s Disease or Dupuytren’s Contracture was actually “discovered” in 1831 by a French surgeon, Baron Guillaume Dupuytren. Although the disease has been monitored in great detail, to this day its causes are still the subject of ongoing studies. Whether this condition may be an autoimmune dysfuntion or a biochemical reaction in the hand’s fascia (the tissue just underneath the skin, where lumps and pits in the palm may develop), the question still remains a puzzle.

CT  CTH 031710-HEALTH sc-health-0317-hand-drug MJWIf you develop this disease, you may notice thick cords which appear to be tendons (although they are not tendons), running from the palm of your hand to your fingers, usually the ring and little fingers (you’re looking at your hands, aren’t you!). Eventually, in the later stages of this condition, these cords will act like drawstrings in your hand, causing your fingers to bend inward toward the palm or even at an odd angle. This is called ‘contracture’. Either one or both hands can be affected, however, usually the condition affects one hand more seriously than the other.

As opposed to CTS, Dupuytren’s Disease is more likely to occur in men over the age of 40 and is usually found in those of Northern European descent (Caucasian), with the highest percentage of sufferers carrying Scandinavian heritage. Also, whereas Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can be brought on by injury, continuous repetitive motion or vibration, no evidence exists to indicate that these kinds of conditions will lead to Dupuytren’s Contracture.

Again, initial symptoms of Dupuytren’s Disease may be quite similar to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, but as a rule it isn’t as painful as it is inconvenient…unless, of course, you attempt to force your digits to straighten out! And the progression of this disease isn’t always predictable, either. Sometimes only lumps and noticeable cording may be all that occurs, while others may suffer the severely bent fingers. Fortunately (sort of), if the disease is going to be one of the more severe cases, it will usually be evident early on.

One study in London showed that Dupuytren’s Contracture/Disease will normally present in women, aged 60-70, while the incidence in men is closer to those aged 70 or older. It is a sad fact that if onset occurs around age 30, there is a greater likelihood that the condition will lead to a more severe case and also increases recurrences if corrective surgery was performed.

Alleopathic or Homeopathic Treatments?

(Click the picture link for informative video about homeopathy)

(Click the picture link for informative video about homeopathy)

With both CTS and Dupuytren’s Constricture, if you catch it before it becomes too problematic, you can ease the pain, discomfort and inconvenience you will initially have to deal with.

Severe Carpal Tunnel Syndrome might be avoided by simply identifying the activities you perform which seem to trigger the pain or restriction of movement. Using a mouse pad with gel wrist support, taking more frequent breaks from the aggravating activity, using a wrist brace made specifically for CTS sufferers and/or purchasing one of the re-freezable wrist packs designed for wrist stress can delay, or even halt, the onset of a severe case of this condition. However, if it recurs often enough, or you’re unable to get relief, high-tail it to your doctor and hope that surgery can be avoided.

The increasing symptoms of Dupuytren’s are not so easily dismissed. Generally this is a progressive disease which has, historically, been treated by the surgeon, although the same supports, rest and manipulation of the hand may help the discomfort and inconvenience…in the beginning…if the disease is recognized for what it is.

There is good news, though: Surgery may not be your only option, as newer treatments have been discovered. In 2010, FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved a more homeopathic sort of treatment by way of enzyme therapy (sic), by which the nodules and ‘cording’ can be diminished or even returned to normal (see reference to the Chicago Tribune article, below).

Bottom Line…

So Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Dupuytren’s Disease aren’t officially “Invisible Illnesses”, but because we don’t tend to stare at peoples’ hands, the fact that our co-workers, family members or friends may be suffering will not be immediately evident. But if the conditions are brought to our attention, don’t dismiss their complaints as “hypochondria in action.” Instead, be supportive. Direct them to the many support groups who will be able to explain the options about which, perhaps, their doctors may have neglected to tell them.

Many people with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or Dupuytren’s Disease suffer in silence. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.

Citations:

(1)  The Mayo Clinic Staff. (n.d.). Dupuytren’s Contracture. In The Mayo Clinic. Retrieved 4 December 2013, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/dupuytrens-contracture/DS00732.

(2)  ASSH. (n.d.). Dupuytren’s Disease. In American Society for Surgery of the Hand. Retrieved 4 December 2013, from http://www.assh.org/Public/HandConditions/Pages/DupuytrensDisease.aspx.

(3) PDLabs. (n.d.). What is Dupuytren’s Disease?. In PDLabs.net. Retrieved 4 December 2013, from http://www.pdlabs.net/dupuytrens/whatisdupuytrens.html.

(4) SCOI. (n.d.). Dupuytren’s Disease. In Southern California Orthopedic Institute. Retrieved 4 December 2013, from http://www.scoi.com/dupuytrens-disease.php.

(5)  Clay, R MD. (1944). Dupuytren’s Contracture: Fibroma of the Palmar Fascia. In Dupuytren Foundation.org. Retrieved 4 December 2013, from http://dupuytrenfoundation.org/DupPDFs/1944_Clay_1188.pdf.

(6)   Johns Hopkins Staff. (n.d.). Dupuytren’s Contracture. In Johns Hopkins Medicine. Retrieved 4 December 2013, from http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/plastic_surgery/dupuytrens_contracture_85,P01110/.

(7)  Northside Hospital Staff. (n.d.). Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Related Media: Carpal Tunnel Release. In Northside Hospital (St. Petersburg FL). Retrieved 5 December 2013, from http://northsidehospital.reachlocal.com/?scid=3050457&kw=7472251&pub_cr_id=34057645591.

(8)  National Institute of Health Staff. (n.d.). Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Fact Sheet. In NIH National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Retrieved 5 December 2013, from http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/carpal_tunnel/detail_carpal_tunnel.htm.

(9)  University of Maryland School of Medicine Staff. (n.d.). Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. In University of Maryland Medical Center. Retrieved 5 December 2013, from http://umm.edu/health/medical/reports/articles/carpal-tunnel-syndrome.

Telemedicine THEN: More on Telemedicine and the VA

The year is 2003 and Brian*, a cancer patient, is having a miserable day, after an even more miserable night. The day before started out alright, but by late morning he was having difficulties breathing and he was unable to hold down any food. On top of that (even though he had remarkably high tolerance) he was beginning to feel real pain. Having had no sleep or rest he was physically exhausted and felt completely unable to cope with the stress brought on by a usual day.

Brian lived 45 miles away from his VA medical center. Because of his medications, he was unable to drive, even if he did have a car. Finances were too tight to call for a taxi and his closest friend, who stayed with him on the weekends, would not arrive until the wee hours the following morning. He just wasn’t sure he would be able to hold on.

He called his oncologist , who told him, “Listen Brian, there’s a shuttle available to your area today so just come on in to the office. You missed your last appointment so, even though it sounds like all you need is a med adjustment, today would be a good day to play ‘catch up’.” Then he added, “Besides, I think have a solution to the problem of scheduling visits.”

Enter “Telemedicine”.

Cancer patients who are either trying to deal with their ‘end of life’ issues or are at a stage where they require chemotherapy have always been an underserved demographic. They’re subject to a type of stress that most people cannot understand. Perhaps they’re unable to get transportation when they need it because they are living within a strictly fixed income. Maybe their discomfort or pain level has led them to the point where they ‘just don’t care anymore’. Constant travel back and forth to the doctor, which may only be inconvenient to some, can evolve into severe stress for patients with life threatening conditions like cancer. Either way, care during chemotherapy and end of life has suffered. Some solution has been needed.

Healthcare Innovation by Design

Healthcare Innovation by Design – one of many sources of telemedical devices

Because of collaboration that developed between the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) from the mid to late 1990’s to the early 2000’s **, the problem was tackled and initial solutions found. Cancer patients were given the option of electronic monitoring of their symptoms so that the unique health problems they encountered could be addressed quickly and effectively. One such solution was a device called the “Health Buddy”, which could be connected to a telephone, giving them immediate access to their care coordinators.

Daily calls to a central terminal would enable the patients to report concerns and issues they may be experiencing, such as pain, breathing problems, depression, nausea or any other symptoms. This would be done through responses to detailed, multiple choice, voice-prompt questions relating to a dozen symptoms, entered on the phone handset numeral buttons. These responses would then be analyzed by the patient’s oncology team provider, whether the oncologist him/herself or the oncology nurse. If responses appeared to indicate complications requiring face-to-face consultation or that intervention such as a change in medications or dosages were needed, such action(s) could be affected immediately rather than having to wait for a consultation appointment.

Getting back to Brian, his visit with his oncologist resulted in the needed change of medication to ease his pain and discomfort but, more importantly, his physician introduced him to the “Health Buddy” system. Brian was soon provided the device to use at home and his stress level, hence other health issues, improved immensely.

The subject of Telemedicine and Telehealth has progressed far beyond this technology since then. It is destined to see increased efficiency, collaboration between facilities in not only cancer care but all other branches of medicine and home health care and accelerated research on a multitude of diseases and genetic conditions.

Thanks to the VA’s decision to pursue this technology, telemedicine has already helped veterans from all walks of life gain more immediate care for their medical conditions. From telephone consultations to web based teleconferencing “doctor visits”, Telemedicine has proven its worth to the health care issues of the day.

 *Not his real name.
**Sources consulted did not provide exact dates.
www.richardcrossenphotography.co.uk/

Life and Health Can Be Easy Like Sunday Mornin’!

Many thanks to Richard Crossen, Pembrokeshire, West Wales, UK…photographer extraordinaire, for his kind permission to use his photos on this site. To see his wonderful collection of nature photographs, you can visit his gallery or his blog site

I’m a ‘glass half full’ kind of person. I rarely worry about what I don’t have because I’m too busy being thankful for the things I do have. Well, except when my gas tank has only one gallon in it the day before payday.  If I had to define my thoughts on the subject, I’d say my outlook on life is “…easy like Sunday mornin’ ” (that’s a song from the ’60s for those who wouldn’t remember that era!).

A lot of times, when some great, blue funk or another tries to overtake me, my Granny comes to mind. I remember her always trying to teach us that God takes care of His own, regardless of how hard we try to screw things up. She was good at backing up her beliefs with scripture, like “…behold the fowl of the air” or “…consider the lilies of the field” as a way of showing the difference between what we need and what we want.  Yes, I learned from an early age to see the best in every situation and to find the most positive things inside of the worst possible scenarios.

This is what true balance is all about. It’s taking life as it comes and striving to make each moment count for something positive. You know the old saying, “When life hands you lemons, learn to make lemonade!”

It’s easy enough to fool yourself into feeling miserable simply by wallowing in misery, but by the same token it’s equally simple to fool yourself into being content, regardless of how your life has transitioned. Finding something good either in a situation, about a situation or what good thing can eventually happen because of a situation is the key to distracting you from whatever hardship you might be facing.

Your health is as much emotionally as physically based. You must learn to  b r e a t h e  when you feel stress creeping up on you. Find something relaxing to do whether it’s meditating, reading a good book, writing a letter to someone you love…or even just stopping your day and thinking deep thoughts!

Biofeedback, which became a ‘craze’ back in the ’60s, has been used to teach people to regulate their body rhythm and has proven that they can learn to control many “automatic” physiological functions, including slowing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure and respiration (then again, so does yoga!). Considering that even these three functions alone can cause health problems, being able to control them can help you to avoid stress related health conditions.

There are also simpler routes to controlling the “mind over matter” part of your health. You can schedule an at-home regime of relaxation, including meditation, aromatherapy and exercise using techniques designed to produce and release natural endorphins, an opium-like hormone.

Also, if you don’t already belong to one, a lot of spas and health clubs offer incentives for new members and specials for current ones, that may include anything from deep tissue massage to yoga classes or whirlpool spas to herbal wraps. These great benefits  can come by means of contests, filling out surveys, trial memberships or redeemable coupons.

Coupons for such things can be found in the newspaper or even online. The internet is a wonderful resource for finding the best deals in your area. You may even find purchasing clubs, such as Good Deals 24/7or Groupon that can help you save money on anything you need for health and beauty aids or even travel deals for a relaxing vacation.

Don’t wait until stress overtakes your life and creates illness and dis-ease (as in ‘un-easy health’) in your body. Even if life can be difficult it needn’t be hard to adapt to or accommodate its uncertainties. Learn to roll along this bumpy road with grace and acceptance. After a bit of practice, it almost becomes easy. Easy like Sunday morning.

” M O M M Y ! I’M ALL STICKY AND THERE’S SAND IN MY SUIT ! ! “

The Benefits of Salt, Sun and Yes, Even Sand

Hollywood_Beach_panorama

Ah, those were the days! As a school aged child living in Florida I always looked forward to the weekends when, either Daddy would go fishing and maybe, just maybe, I’d be invited to go along, or better yet, it would be one of those glorious two days that we would go spend in a cottage at the beach. Sand castles, salt spray on my tongue – oh, and sand in my bathing suit.

Coquina Key. That was my favourite, but that story belongs on a different post.

DannyGreen_11%20Sanderling%20running%201Now mind, I couldn’t swim until I was 12 years old (kinda crazy considering I grew up in Florida) but I did love to chase the waves, the seagulls and the small, quick sanderlings…the tiny birds who also chased the waves, and then let the waves chase them back!

Sea shells and seaweed, broken pieces of coral, the occasional shark’s tooth and sand dollars…all found their way into my little pail to stink up the car on the way home and draw flies as they dried in the sun on the shelves of our front stoop.

Once in the water, I would follow Mama out as far as she would let me, then make my way back to shore, letting the salt water buoy me up while I used my hands to “walk” on the bottom. Invariably, the waves would wash not only me up onto the beach, but always gave me going away present in the form of a bathing suit full of sand. All in the wrong places.

So I’d go back in the water and shake…things…trying to rinse it out. Of course as short as I was, I couldn’t go too far out…only a few feet away from where I had collected all that sand to begin with so it didn’t do a whole heck of a lot of good.

crying-girl

I didn’t burn but one time each summer, but boy that one time was uncomfortable as all get out…not because it was a bad burn, but because the salt made me sticky and the residual sand I couldn’t get rid of was scratchy.

One year, I think I may have been 13 or so, I overheard some teenage girls talking about how good the sun, salt and sand was for your skin. Having just become a teen and worried about the possible onset of the dreaded  A C N E , I eavesdropped. Strange, the things you remember, because I never had a single problem with my skin until now, 47 years later.

hey-culligan-man-cartoonThe spokesman of the group mentioned things like “Hey Culligan Man!” (for those of you who remember, that was the jingle for the water softener company), exfoliation and Vitamin D.  I didn’t understand a thing she was talking about but, somehow, I never forgot.

But I got old.

One year I noticed that the skin on my legs and arms were just as flaky as a pie crust. Nothing I did helped. I’d stand under the shower until the hot water was used up, scrubbing everything with a loofah sponge and then rinse off, just knowing I’d scoured it all off. Of course, my towel would tell me otherwise when I’d dry myself.

And my hair? Oh my heck, the chlorine in the city water supply played havoc with it, conditioner or not, and seemed to be causing my skin to itch as well.

I was almost ashamed to put on a bathing suit…people can be cruel when you aren’t perfect, you know. So I just didn’t go to the beach at all for years, even though I loved it. When I finally did go, I hid at the water’s edge, covering up my legs with the wet sand. When it was time to go, I rubbed the sand off of my legs, rinsed myself off thoroughly under the public shower head (no sandy britches and hair for me!), wrapped up and went home.

When I eventually got home I re-rinsed from the neck down under the garden hose and went in to shower…and made the most amazing discovery! No flakes! Not only that, my hair was just as soft and shiny as it could be! I just couldn’t figure it out, until I remembered that incident at the beach as a teenager. And like all the old wives who tell tales, I spouted my experience to everyone I knew who was old and dried up like me.

There are so many bath products available these days: some diminish oily skin, some moisturize, some open the pores and some exfoliate (ah ha!) with tiny grains of everything from salt (again!) to apricot kernals.

4961048424_92dc1b87b8Florida sand is very fine, especially at the water’s edge. You wouldn’t be the first person to bury your legs in the sand at the beach, so while you’re at it, apply it to your arms and elbows. Then, as you rinse it off, use a little pressure. I wouldn’t advise scrubbing the tender skin of your face with beach sand though!

Water softener systems use salt to neutralize chemicals in the water and remove impurities. Now, if salt will soften city water, it can’t hurt your hair (no, I’m not saying pack your head in salt). Natural salt water has healing/antiseptic properties, you know, so it’s good for people who have skin problems like acne; as a desiccant it helps to dry up excess facial oils as well.

Vitamin D is a natural advantage to spending time in the sun. It’s not really a vitamin, by the way; it’s more like a “sun hormone”, but whatever it is, people who suffer from Winter Seasonal Affective Disorder are usually prescribed vitamin D supplements. Do the math.

istock_photo_of_sunburn_peelingOne more thing, and it’s not something I would advise doing on purpose, and nor would my cousin, Michael (now quite a famous doctor). As a teenager, he developed a bad case of acne. It was aggravated by some other skin condition or allergy, or something, that I was just too young to be interested in at the time.

His first full day in the summer sun always resulted in a bit of a sunburn…not bad, but just enough to where he would begin to peel…very thin layers…within a day or so. After that first peel, his skin would look almost healthy and it would last right up until it started turning cooler. Again, you don’t want to go getting a fierce sunburn on purpose, just to see if it would work on your flare ups, but the sun does have its advantages if you’re careful.

Okay. You’ve read everything I’ve written. Now the trick is to take it all with a grain of sea-salt, because nothing, I mean nothing, is cut and dried.

Getting a sunburn can be a dangerous thing, especially during certain times of the day…or even season. Scrubbing down indiscriminately with sand can cause minute tears in your skin and if the beach you’re visiting isn’t clean…the water is polluted or there are so many seagulls that you can’t walk in the sand without stepping in “bird squat”, as Mama used to call it…or it’s a “ghetto beach” where people pee, defecate or spit all over the place…then this is not the place to risk getting a bacterial infection from hell.

And although salt is generally good external medicine, occurrences like red tide, a vessel sinking off shore or an oil spill is going to give you contaminated water, antiseptic sea salt and all.

The only thing you want to hear by way of complaint at the beach is the kids crying, “MOMMY! I’M STICKY AND THERE’S SAND IN MY BATHING SUIT!!”

So play it safe. Use common sense. Test the waters before you leap in (pun intended!). And if you or your children or companions come up with a rash, abnormally burning eyes that can’t be explained by the salt in the water, nausea, light headedness or swelling in your extremeties, flag down the nearest life guard and call a doctor immediately.

Ain’t No Cure for the Summertime Blues?

SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder Isn’t Only for Winter

For the past two years I’ve been able to control that “cabin fever” that usually comes with mid-winter, even in Florida. I know all about SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and so tried to spend as much time outdoors in the sun as possible. But for some reason, even though I escaped SAD in the winter, I have been miserable come spring and on into summer.

Every year on the first morning that you can actually taste springtime, I will wake up, get dressed in gardening clothes and take a cup of coffee outside to sit and anticipate the relaxing activities of re-potting and planting for my annual “herb garden”. This ritual is one that I use to transition from the low activity levels of winter to increasingly higher levels, beginning in spring and reaching the “busy bee” peak for summer.

But this year…this year…

One morning on my way to work, there was just the least, residual hint of chill in the early air, the sun was beautifully hot and a chance breeze blew across my face and whispered, “Spring…” softly in my ear.  I smiled, planning in my mind how I would be spending the first day of the coming weekend.

Saturday rolled around. I had been having a hard time getting to sleep and an equally as difficult time trying to wake up.  Trying to get organized was next to impossible and I’d wind up with this excess of energy, running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off. It looked like today would be no different.

Regardless of waking up on the wrong side of the bed so to speak, I was determined to keep my date with the first “real” spring morning and took my coffee out to the patio table. My husband joined me a few minutes later with a cheery, “Good morning, sweetheart!”, for which he received a disgruntled frown and growl.

“Why are you so depressed? SPRING HAS SPRUNG!”

angry_old_woman

“Don’t make me come out there!”

I probably shouldn’t post my response on a “No Adult Content” blog.

You get the picture.

It was time to study the phenomenon called “Seasonal Affective Disorder”…in depth.

Nearly everyone knows what Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is. Common SAD occurs during late-autumn and winter and generally lets up come spring. Studies indicate that the primary culprit is lower levels of natural light that cause sufferers to become depressed, lethargic and generally out of sorts. The usual treatment includes light therapy and the use of Vitamin D supplements (because Vitamin D is absorbed through sunlight). The most common symptoms of SAD include:

  • depression
  • hopelessness
  • anxiety
  • weight gain
  • oversleeping
  • trouble concentrating

But not that everyone knows that there is an opposite to SAD.

Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder occurs when the sun is brighter, most times beginning in early spring and lasting all the way through summer. the symptoms of Reverse SAD are similar to common SAD but there are definite exceptions. Depression and anxiety are common to both; the exceptions include:

  • insomnia
  • agitation (jitters)
  • weight loss
  • irritability
  • loss of appetite
  • increased libido (sex drive)

3204_398_583-scn-pineal-melatoninAs a little FYI for Dummies, light, or sunlight, follows a path from your retina to a group of cells in the hypothalamus. These cells send signals to the pineal gland, telling it how much or little melatonin it should produce (if you click on the image at right you can view a full sized illustration of how this process works). The maximum amount produced aids sleep while the least amount results in a depressed desire to sleep.

Along with other chemical signals, the schedule of production of melatonin falls into a type of pattern that can be altered or interrupted by outside stimuli, such as the change in the direction from which the sun shines, or its intensity, depending on the season. This pattern is what is referred to as Circadian Rhythm, or one’s Circadian Clock. When the stimuli are imposing enough to knock your Circadian rhythm off, your brain’s chemical balance is thrown off; too much melatonin at the wrong rate of production: Winter Seasonal Affective Disorder. Too little at the wrong rate/wrong time: Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder.   Not strictly scientific, but close enough to get the idea, right?

Well, that’s about enough of the scientific explanation anyway. Suffice it to say that there is an explanation at all, and if I can understand the logic of it, then it must make sense!

Before you decide whether or not you are suffering from either Seasonal Affective Disorder or Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder, keep track of the symptoms you are exhibiting.  Sometimes these symptoms can indicate something more serious, such a Bipolar Disorder. If you notice that you (or someone you know) have symptoms like extended periods of mood “highs” and “lows”, extreme enthusiasm which is out of context with a given situation or show signs of rapid thoughts or speech, you should consult a doctor immediately to consider making an appointment for testing.

Sun/Heat Stroke or Heat Exhaustion…What’s the Difference?


Long ago in the early to mid 1900s, a young English teacher travelled from Michigan to Florida with his wife and two young sons. It was a long time coming, this decision to “fly south”; perhaps the idea to do so stemmed from a long-standing, ongoing correspondence with a chum by the name of Thomas Edison, who knows? Regardless of what prompted the decision, Mr. Pearl packed up his little family and moved and soon he had taken up horticulture and did, indeed, work with Mr. Edison in his gardens! In the process of discovering his love of working outside with all things growing, he also learned a valuable lesson on the subjects of sun stroke and heat exhaustion!

It took awhile for their systems to adjust to the climate and eventually he learned the hard way that special care and certain precautions must be taken if one plans to live comfortably and safely  with the weather in Florida.  First he fell victim to heat exhaustion and then later, not having quite mastered recognizing the signs, had a heat stroke which was severe enough to send him to the hospital. “It was no fun, I’ll tell you,” I remember my grandfather telling me.

Funny thing about the weather in Florida. It can be only 78 degrees and yet feel as if it’s 108. Tropical humidity does that.

But then you have those wonderful tropical breezes (as long as you’re on the ‘seashore’) which seem to cool things down so dramatically. And therein lies a perception problem…and the posibilities of suffering from heatstroke.

Heat, or sun, stroke and heat exhaustion are relatively simple to avoid as long as you pay attention to the signals your body gives you. Fortunately, heat exaustion will respond readily to prompt treatment if you keep an eye out for the signs and symptoms, which are very obvious and easily interpreted. They include:

  • headache
  • nausea
  • weakness
  • thirst
  • giddiness
  • confusion and/or slurred, disjointed speech (much like a cerebral stroke)

Heat stroke is very serious and should not be dismissed lightly. It is not uncommon for fainting (“heat collapse”) to occur when one is suffering from heat exhaustion. This happens because blood pools in the extremities, causing a lack of oxygen bearing blood to the brain, interfering in the body’s natural cooling “mechanism” trigger. Worse, the onset of heat collapse is rapid and unpredictable and can be dangerous if not treated as a medical emergency.

Anyone suffering from heat exhaustion should be removed to a shady, cool location. Cool compresses, or ice packs wrapped in a cloth should be applied to the back of the neck, the armpits and groin areas and cool (not iced) water, or Gatorade which has added electrolytes, should be administered in small sips to avoid cramping and nausea. Misting the skin with a spray bottle of water will help cool things down by virtue of evaporation, which is what happens when we sweat.

It would probably be a wise practice to have small instructional posters placed in strategic locations near the most active areas outside of your home, like the patio, garage or even laundry room. Alongside of those, you might also consider something for your pets as well.

Dogs, cats and other pets are at an even greater risk for heat stroke and heat exhaustion than human beings, simply because they can’t tell you what’s wrong. And they don’t only suffer heat stroke by being closed up in a car, either. Any day that a great deal of humidity and heat can kill an animal unless you are just as aware of their comfort and safety as your own.

Make sure your pet has fresh cool water available at all times. You also want to provide   a shady place that’s well ventilated where he can escape the heat. And remember that the signs of heat stroke or heat exhaustion are quite the same for animals as they are for we two-legged critters. Confusion can be recognized by a glazed, unfocused look to the eyes when you speak to your pet, and they can become wobbly on their feet, too.

The same treatment applies to your pet who begins to show signs of a heat related condition: cool compresses in the front leg/arm pits, back of neck and groin, mist your pet with a spray bottle to utitlize the cooling effect of evaporation and offer small amounts of cool, not icy, water.

Don’t assume that spraying your dog while he’s playing in the sunshine, chasing the kids in the sprinkler, or that by jumping in the pool he will stay cool without a shady spot. Don’t forget, that fur coat your pet is wearing is going to turn into a steamy, water laden burden if he stays in the sun and there’s no breeze. Be as considerate and kind to your pets as you are with yourself and your other loved ones!

The bottom line with heat stroke, sun stroke or heat exhaustion is the same as with any other medical condition:  Be Aware! Pay Attention! Prepare in advance for any emergency situation or potential safety issue.

Above all, don’t be afraid to talk to a doctor if any or all of the symptoms of heat stroke begin to show.  Just as with any other type of stroke, detected early enough you can avoid serious, life threatening consequences. Learn the signs and keep emergency numbers on a notepad by your phone, and don’t forget to include the number to your nearest animal hospital emergency!

BABY GOT CAP!

EEWWW! What’s that crud all over your kid’s head??!!”

It’s Cradle Cap.

No, it’s not something you put on your baby when you put him to bed for his nap! Believe it or not, there are people out there who have never heard of Cradle Cap…usually people who have never had, or spent time around, babies.

“Cradle Cap”, or seborrheic dermatitis, is close kin to the dandruff which often affects older children and adults.Cradle Cap can also develop on older babies and toddlers. It presents as a patchy, sometimes yellowish crust that forms on newborns’ scalps. It can spread to the face, ears and neck if not treated.

Basically harmless, cradle cap can be a cause of discomfort to babies and an embarassment to parents who feel they are neglecting their babies’ health and hygiene.

Cradle Cap and dandruff are both often caused by Malassezia yeasts and, depending on how they are treated. Once can find a plethora of home remedies on the internet and old wives’ tales abound. For the most part, for a relatively new condition, these remedies will do the trick.

Parents must use common sense, though, when choosing a remedy for their child’s Cradle Cap, as some home remedies may exacerbate, or complicate, the condition. Also, when trying to get rid of it by combing it out, you can really hurt your baby!

The most common home remedy for Cradle Cap is the application of oil to baby’s scalp. The trick is finding the best kind of oil to use. Some advocate vegetable or olive oil, others: baby oil, still others say mineral oil is the best oil to use to “cure” cradle cap. But because the exact causes of cradle cap are not known, the type of oil used as a home remedy may be the difference between cure and complication.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “…one contributing factor may be hormones that pass from the mother to the baby before birth. These hormones can cause an abnormal production of oil (sebum) in the oil glands and hair follicles.

Another factor may be a yeast (fungus) called malassezia (mal-uh-SEE-zhuh) that grows in the sebum along with bacteria.” (Cradle cap: Causes. (nd). Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/cradle-cap/DS01074/DSECTION=causes on May 7, 2013.).

Cradle cap isn’t really harmful, just disconcerting. It generally clears up by itself within a month without medication so you can simply wash your baby’s hair once a week with a mild baby shampoo, then brush his hair with a soft baby brush to loosen the scales.

If you want to take a more active approach, you can use one of the home remedies. The most popular is to massage oil into your baby’s scalp, one to three times a day, wash baby’s hair with baby shampoo and towel dry. Using a baby comb, which is fairly flexible, comb the hair in the “wrong direction”, opposite of how the hair grows, lifting the scales up and away. Apply the oil again after baby is all bathed and ready for bed.

You have to be very careful about not applying too much pressure when combing out the baby’s hair, though, or you may damage his scalp and cause it to become painful. Use short, quick strokes…just enough to get underneath the scales. Don’t continue to go over the same spot over and over again. If you do this carefully, within a few days to a week, the cradle cap will be gone.

 imagesCAR1AQ44                    White-Mineral-Oil-60N-70N-100N-

A word or two on the types of oil to use. Baby oil is mild and formulated for baby’s skin but, because of the perfumes often found in it, perhaps mineral oil may be the best choice. Olive oil has the added advantage of being all natural and also contains a natural sunscreen, which can be beneficial to babies who have very little hair.

HOWEVER, vegetable or olive oils are not the best choice if the cradle cap has been there for awhile and should only be used if you’ve just noticed its presence. This is because the Malassezia yeast will actually feed on the fatty acids in the sebum (the oily substance produced by hair follicles). So the nutrients in these oils can only make the yeast thrive! As a matter of fact, when scientists want to grow a culture of the Malessezia yeast, they grow it in olive oil!

If frequent washing of baby’s hair, or treatment with home remedies aren’t working, talk to a doctor. He may recommend a stronger shampoo or a hydrocortisone cream to reduce inflammation of your baby’s scalp. NEVER use over the counter anti-fungal creams without being advised by your baby’s pediatrician, as only he knows your baby’s health as well as, or better, than you.

Just an FYI:  There are a lot of websites that offer money-saving, printable coupons for baby supplies and a lot more! Try GoodDeals247 and see if you can find a bargain worth going after!

Invisible Illnesses…Who Will See?

Invisible Illness 1: Fibromyalgia

When she was in her 30’s it was laziness. When she entered her 40’s she was told she was suffering from “depression”, with a bit of bi-polar thrown in, because she was going through a mid-life crisis. In her mid-fifties it was “hypochondria” and now, in her sixties, it’s a combination of “brain fart” and “old age complaints”. No one ever believed that she didn’t want to sit around all day, that she really did hurt all over, all the time…real, bone deep pain. As time wore on, no one was really interested anymore anyway, because she was “just getting up in years” and the best they had to offer her was “why don’t you just put your feet up and take a nap?”

Some illnesses and diseases are nearly impossible to recognize

Research into conditions that used to be considered merely female trouble, mental dysfunction and dis-ease amongst the elderly have unearthed a great deal of knowledge about the why’s and the wherefore’s  of them. But for all the medical discoveries that have occurred even in the past half century, there are still questions about some “enemies” of human physiology that remain unanswered.

“Invisisible illnesses” fall into this category  because, though they are physiologically real,  their symptoms are not immediately discernable.

Fibromyalgia is one of them.

The simplest definition of fibromyalgia (FM) is that it is a common, chronic, generalized pain syndrome of unknow cause. Pain, tenderness at particular points of the body, fatigue, uneven sleep or disturbance of the sleep cycle, inability to concentrate and even chest pains are common symptoms of fibromyalgia. And although there is no evidence to suggest that having fibromyalgia will definitely result in psychiatric problems, a good estimate of those with the illness suffering from depression and/or anxiety runs around 35%, more or less. These symptoms are sometimes so severe as to be disabling.

Why can’t anyone else see the signs?

Along with symptoms which are impossible to measure, comes cessation of physical activity, withdrawing from social functions and even deep emotional distress when those closest to them cannot understand what is wrong.

Fibo2

There is an intense feeling of victimization and loss of control when a fibromyalgia patient comes to only expect what, to them, is ineffective treatment. They know first hand that their condition may be misdiagnosed many times before the condition is properly identified. Even then treatment cannot be directed to the root, as there are no absolute answers as to its origin. And so, one possible solution after another is attempted. In the meantime, everyday tasks take longer to accomplish and quality of life lessens more and more.

DON’T GIVE UP!

Studies show that, just as for arthritis, gentle exercise can help with pain management. Yoga, stretching, swimming…all have been shown to help with the discomfiture of fibromyalgia. Meditation and relaxation techniques, a sort of biorythmia practice, can also help to understand your pain threshold.

Studying your dietary habits will also help. Learn about what’s in the stuff that you put into your body, as some foods contain substances that may exacerbate your condition. Simply by following a more natural diet, though, has been known to help regulate your body’s chemical balance.

Pain is an indicator that something is wrong in your body and it is important to seek medical advice when you become aware that it’s become chronic. Because there are so many illnesses and diseases which share symptoms, testing for all the “usual suspects” will help to narrow down the illness with which you are suffering.

Educate yourself about your health. Seek medical advice if you think you may be suffering from fibromyalgia. Talk to a doctor about your concerns and don’t be afraid to go to your physician for testing.

Invisible Ilnesses can only be seen if you open your eyes and look.

Adapted from “Invisible Illnesses…Who Will See?” by PL Kirkby

Information is not advice!! If you suffer any of the symptoms mentioned above, don’t self-diagnose and always, ALWAYS, talk to a doctor before self medicating.