Archive for the ‘glaucoma’ Category

Preventive Healthcare For Women – What You Need To Know

January 21, 2013

Women have had an interaction with the healthcare profession from birth to old age. They have achieved good health as a result of frequent visits to their doctors and practiced good health habits. This blog is written for the purpose of providing women with suggestions for continuing the process of maintaining good health.

Why Screening Tests Are Important
Remember that old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”? Getting checked early can help you stop diseases like cancer, diabetes, and osteoporosis in the very beginning, when they’re easier to treat. Screening tests can spot illnesses even before you have symptoms. Which screening tests you need depends on your age, family history, your own health history, and other risk factors.

Breast Cancer
The earlier you find breast cancer, the better your chance of a cure. Small breast-cancers are less likely to spread to lymph nodes and vital organs like the lungs and brain. If you’re in your 20s or 30s, your health care provider should perform a breast exam as part of your regular check-up every one to three years. You may need more frequent screenings if you have any extra risk factors.

Screening With Mammography
Mammograms are low-dose X-rays that can often find a lump before you ever feel it, though normal results don’t completely rule out cancer. While you’re in your 40s, you should have a mammogram every year. Then between ages 50 and 74, switch to every other year. Of course, your doctor may recommend more frequent screenings if you’re at higher risk.
Cervical Cancer
With regular Pap smears, cervical cancer (pictured) is easy to prevent. The cervix is a narrow passageway between the uterus (where a baby grows) and the vagina (the birth canal). Pap smears find abnormal cells on the cervix, which can be removed before they ever turn into cancer. The main cause of cervical cancer is the human papillomavirus (HPV), a type of STD.
Screening for Cervical Cancer
During a Pap smear, your doctor scrapes some cells off your cervix and sends them to a lab for analysis. A common recommendation is that you should get your first Pap smear by age 21, and every two years after that. If you’re 30 or older, you can get HPV tests, too, and wait a little longer between Pap smears. Both screenings are very effective in finding cervical cancer early enough to cure it.
Vaccines for Cervical Cancer
Two vaccines, Gardasil and Cervarix, can protect women under 26 from several strains of HPV. The vaccines don’t protect against all the cancer-causing strains of HPV, however. So routine Pap smears are still important. What’s more, not all cervical cancers start with HPV.
Osteoporosis and Fractured Bones
Osteoporosis is a state when a person’s bones are weak and fragile. After menopause, women start to lose more bone mass, but men get osteoporosis, too. The first symptom is often a painful break after even a minor fall, blow, or sudden twist. In Americans age 50 and over, the disease contributes to about half the breaks in women and 1 in 4 among men. Fortunately, you can prevent and treat osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis Screening Tests
A special type of X-ray called dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) can measure bone strength and find osteoporosis before breaks happen. It can also help predict the risk of future breaks. This screening is recommended for all women age 65 and above. If you have risk factors for osteoporosis, you may need to start sooner.
Skin Cancer
There are several kinds of skin cancer, and early treatment can be effective for them all. The most dangerous is melanoma (shown here), which affects the cells that produce a person’s skin coloring. Sometimes people have an inherited risk for this type of cancer, which may increase with overexposure to the sun. Basal cell and squamous cell are common non-melanoma skin cancers.
Screening for Skin Cancer
Watch for any changes in your skin markings, including moles and freckles. Pay attention to changes in their shape, color, and size. You should also get your skin checked by a dermatologist or other health professional during your regular physicals.
High Blood Pressure
As you get older, your risk of high blood pressure increases, especially if you are overweight or have certain bad health habits. High blood pressure can cause life-threatening heart attacks or strokes without any warning. So working with your doctor to control it can save your life. Lowering your blood pressure can also prevent long-term dangers like heart disease and kidney failure.
Screening for High Blood Pressure
Blood pressure readings include two numbers. The first (systolic) is the pressure of your blood when your heart beats. The second (diastolic) is the pressure between beats. Normal adult blood pressure is below 120/80. High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is 140/90 or above. In between is prehypertension, a sort of early warning stage. Ask your doctor how often to have your blood pressure checked.
Cholesterol Levels
High cholesterol can cause plaque to clog your arteries (seen here in orange). Plaque can build up for many years without symptoms, eventually causing a heart attack or stroke. High blood pressure, diabetes, and smoking can all cause plaque to build up, too. It’s a condition called hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis. Lifestyle changes and medications can lower your risk.
Checking Your Cholesterol
To get your cholesterol checked, you’ll need to fast for 12 hours. Then you’ll take a blood test that measures total cholesterol, LDL “bad” cholesterol, HDL “good” cholesterol, and triglycerides (blood fat). If you’re 20 or older, you should get this test at least every five years.
Type 2 Diabetes
One-third of Americans with diabetes don’t know they have it. Diabetes can cause heart or kidney disease, stroke, blindness from damage to the blood vessels of the retina (shown here), and other serious problems. You can control diabetes with diet, exercise, weight loss, and medication, especially when you find it early. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of the disease. Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults.
Screening for Diabetes
You’ll probably have to fast for eight hours or so before having your blood tested for diabetes. A blood sugar level of 100-125 may show prediabetes; 126 or higher may mean diabetes. Other tests include the A1C test and the oral glucose tolerance test. If you’re healthy and have a normal diabetes risk, you should be screened every three years starting at age 45. Talk to your doctor about getting tested earlier if you have a higher risk, like a family history of diabetes.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. It’s spread through sharing blood or body fluids with an infected person, such as through unprotected sex or dirty needles. Pregnant women with HIV can pass the infection to their babies. There is still no cure or vaccine, but early treatment with anti-HIV medications can help the immune system fight the virus.
HIV Screening Tests
HIV can be symptom-free for many years. The only way to find out if you have the virus is with blood tests. The ELISA or EIA test looks for antibodies to HIV. If you get a positive result, you’ll need a second test to confirm the results. Still, you can test negative even if you’re infected, so you may need to repeat the test. Everyone should get tested at least once between ages 13-64.
Preventing the Spread of HIV
Most newly infected people test positive around two months after being exposed to the virus. But in rare cases it may take up to six months to develop HIV antibodies. Use a condom during sex to avoid getting or passing on HIV or other STDs. If you have HIV and are pregnant, talk with your doctor about reducing the risk to your unborn child.
Colorectal Cancer
Colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death after lung cancer. Most colon cancers come from polyps (abnormal masses) that grow on the inner lining of the large intestine. The polyps may or may not be cancerous. If they are, the cancer can spread to other parts of the body. Removing polyps early, before they become cancerous, can prevent it completely.
Screening for Colorectal Cancer
A colonoscopy is a common screening test for colorectal cancer. While you’re mildly sedated, a doctor inserts a small flexible tube equipped with a camera into your colon. If she finds a polyp, she can often remove it right then. Another type of test is a flexible sigmoidoscopy, which looks into the lower part of the colon. If you’re at average risk, screening usually starts at age 50.
Glaucoma
Glaucoma happens when pressure builds up inside your eye. Without treatment, it can damage the optic nerve and cause blindness. Often, it produces no symptoms until your vision has already been damaged.
Glaucoma Screening
How often you should get your eyes checked depends on your age and risk factors. They include being African-American or Hispanic, being over 60, eye injury, steroid use, and a family history of glaucoma. People without risk factors or symptoms of eye disease should get a baseline eye exam, including a test for glaucoma, at age 40.
Bottom Line: It’s good health sense to talk with your doctor about screening tests. Some tests, such as a Pap test or breast exam, should be a routine part of every woman’s health care. Other tests might be necessary based on your risk factors. Proper screening won’t always prevent a disease, but it can often find a disease early enough to give you the best chance of overcoming it.

Screen Tests Are Not Just For Male Movies Stars

February 9, 2012

Getting the right screening test at the right time is one of the most important things a man can do for his health. Screenings find diseases early, before you have symptoms, when they’re easier to treat. Early colon cancer can be nipped in the bud. Finding diabetes early may help prevent complications such as vision loss and impotence. The tests you need are based on your age and your risk factors.

Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer is the most common cancer found in American men after skin cancer. It tends to be a slow-growing cancer, but there are also aggressive, fast-growing types of prostate cancer. Screening tests can find the disease early, sometimes before symptoms develop, when treatments are most effective.
Screenings for healthy men may include both a digital rectal exam (DRE) and a prostate specific antigen (PSA) blood test. The American Cancer Society advises men to talk with a doctor about the risks and limitations of PSA screening as well as its possible benefits. Discussions should begin at:
• 50 for average-risk men
• 45 for men at high risk. This includes African-Americans.
• 40 for men with a strong family history of prostate cancer
The American Urological Association recommends a first-time PSA test at age 40, with follow-ups per doctor’s orders.

Testicular Cancer
This uncommon cancer develops in a man’s testicles, the reproductive glands that produce sperm. Most cases occur between ages 20 and 54. The American Cancer Society recommends that all men have a testicular exam when they see a doctor for a routine physical. Men at higher risk (a family history or an undescended testicle) should talk with a doctor about additional screening. I suggest that most men learn how to do a self-examination. You can gently feeling for hard lumps, smooth bumps, or changes in size or shape of the testes. If you find an abnormality, contact your doctor. For more information on testis self-examination, please go to my website: http://www.neilbaum.com/testes-self-examination-tse.html

Colorectal Cancer
Colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of death from cancer. Men have a slightly higher risk of developing it than women. The majority of colon cancers slowly develop from colon polyps: growths on the inner surface of the colon. After cancer develops it can invade or spread to other parts of the body. The way to prevent colon cancer is to find and remove colon polyps before they turn cancerous.
Screening begins at age 50 in average-risk adults. A colonoscopy is a common test for detecting polyps and colorectal cancer. A doctor views the entire colon using a flexible tube and a camera. Polyps can be removed at the time of the test. A similar alternative is a flexible sigmoidoscopy that examines only the lower part of the colon. Some patients opt for a virtual colonoscopy — a CT scan — or double contrast barium enema — a special X-ray — although if polyps are detected, an actual colonoscopy is needed to remove them.

Skin Cancer
The most dangerous form of skin cancer is melanoma (shown here). It begins in specialized cells called melanocytes that produce skin color. Older men are twice as likely to develop melanoma as women of the same age. Men are also 2-3 times more likely to get non-melanoma basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers than women are. Your risk increases as lifetime exposure to sun and/or tanning beds accumulates; sunburns accelerate risk.
The American Cancer Society and the American Academy of Dermatology recommend regular skin self-exams to check for any changes in marks on your skin including shape, color, and size. A skin exam by a dermatologist or other health professional should be part of a routine cancer checkup. Treatments for skin cancer are more effective and less disfiguring when it’s found early.

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
Your risk for high blood pressure increases with age. It’s also related to your weight and lifestyle. High blood pressure can lead to severe complications without any prior symptoms, including an aneurysm — dangerous ballooning of an artery. But it can be treated. When it is, you may reduce your risk for heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure. The bottom line: Know your blood pressure. If it’s high, work with your doctor to manage it.
Blood pressure readings give two numbers. The first (systolic) is the pressure in your arteries when the heart beats. The second (diastolic) is the pressure between beats. Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80. High blood pressure is 140/90 or higher, and in between those two is prehypertension — a major milestone on the road to high blood pressure. How often blood pressure should be checked depends on how high it is and what other risk factors you have.

Cholesterol Levels
A high level of LDL cholesterol in the blood causes sticky plaque to build up in the walls of your arteries (seen here in orange). This increases your risk of heart disease. Atherosclerosis — hardening and narrowing of the arteries — can progress without symptoms for many years. Over time it can lead to heart attack and stroke. Lifestyle changes and medications can reduce this “bad” cholesterol and lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.
The fasting blood lipid panel is a blood test that tells you your levels of total cholesterol, LDL “bad” cholesterol, HDL “good” cholesterol, and triglycerides (blood fat). The results tell you and your doctor a lot about what you need to do to reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Men 20 years and older should have a new panel done at least every five years. Starting at 35, men need regular cholesterol testing.

Type 2 Diabetes
One-third of Americans with diabetes don’t know they have it. Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to heart disease and stroke, kidney disease, blindness from damage to the blood vessels of the retina (shown here), nerve damage, and impotence. This doesn’t have to happen. Especially when found early, diabetes can be controlled and complications can be avoided with diet, exercise, weight loss, and medications.
A fasting plasma glucose test is most often used to screen for diabetes. More and more doctors are turning to the A1C test, which tells how well your body has controlled blood sugar over time. Healthy adults should have the test every three years starting at age 45. If you have a higher risk, including high cholesterol or blood pressure, you may start testing earlier and more frequently.

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. It’s in the blood and other body secretions of infected individuals, even when there are no symptoms. It spreads from one person to another when these secretions come in contact with the vagina, anal area, mouth, eyes, or a break in the skin. There is still no cure or vaccine. Modern treatments can keep HIV infection from becoming AIDS, but these medications can have serious side effects.
HIV-infected individuals can remain symptom-free for many years. The only way to know they are infected is with a series of blood tests. The first test is called ELISA or EIA. It looks for antibodies to HIV in the blood. It’s possible not to be infected and still show positive on the test. So a second test called a Western blot assay is done for confirmation. If you were recently infected, you could still have a negative test result. Repeat testing is recommended. If you think you may have been exposed to HIV, ask your doctor about the tests.
Most newly infected individuals test positive by two months after infection. But up to 5% are still negative after six months. Safe sex — abstinence or always using latex barriers such as a condom or a dental dam — is necessary to avoid getting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. If you have HIV and are pregnant, talk with your doctor about what needs to be done to reduce the risk of HIV infection in your unborn child. Drug users should not share needles.

Glaucoma
This group of eye diseases gradually damages the optic nerve and may lead to blindness — and significant, irreversible vision loss can occur before people with glaucoma notice any symptoms. Screening tests look for abnormally high pressure within the eye, to catch and treat the condition before damage to the optic nerve.
Glaucoma Screening
Eye tests for glaucoma are based on age and personal risk:
• Under 40: Every 2-4 years
• 40-54: Every 1-3 years
• 55-64: Every 1-2 years
• 65 up: Every 6-12 months
Talk with a doctor about earlier, more frequent glaucoma screening, if you fall in a high-risk group: African-Americans, those with a family history of glaucoma, previous eye injury, or use of steroid medications.

Bottom Line: There’s a saying New Orleans that if ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Well that doesn’t apply to maintaining your car and it certainly doesn’t apply to your health and well-being. Men need to have screening tests in order to detect disease states early when they are treatable and curable.