Archive for the ‘HIV’ Category

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.

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Safe Sex For Seniors

February 3, 2012

The days of the dirty old man are over. Let the truth be told; older men and women want to remain sexually active. Seniors have more open attitudes toward sexuality, better health among seniors, the option for Internet dating, and the availability of medications like Viagra, Levitra, and Cialis, many older adults are remaining sexually active. It is important to emphasize that seniors are also vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) just as younger adults. Therefore it is important that seniors make certain that they are practicing safe sex. This article will provide suggestions for safe sex for seniors.

Do your homework. Seniors need to know your partner’s sexual background before having sex. This includes oral sex, anal sex, as well as vaginal sex. All types of sexual intimacy can spread STDs. It is important for seniors to talk about their sexual histories, and tell one another whether they have recently been tested for STDs and share with each other the results of those tests. It is also important to ask if there has ever been a history of injecting illegal drugs. HIV/AIDS can also be spread via a shared hypodermic needles though the most common risk factor for older women is sex with an infected man.

Make sure you can pass this test! The best way to protect yourself and your partner is for both partners to get tested for HIV and other STDs before starting to have sex. If one of the partners has not been tested, then it is imperative that the tested partner encourage the other partner to obtain testing. Remember that STDs don’t always cause obvious symptoms such as a rash, discharge, fever, or urinary symptoms. Also, some symptoms of STDs or HIV, such as fatigue, can be mistaken for age-related health problems such as low testosterone levels in men.

Condoms count. I suggest that seniors use a condom as well as a lubricant every time you have sex until you are in a monogamous relationship and your know your partner’s sexual history and HIV status. Lubricants such as KY Jelly are important because they can lower the odds of getting a sore or a tiny cut on the penis or inside the vagina. These sores or cuts can significantly increase the risk of getting STDs.

Bring your doctor into the equation. Your doctor can offer additional advice about protecting yourself from STDs. He or she can also recommend treatments for common sexual problems such as vaginal dryness and erectile dysfunction (ED).

It is quote common for senior women to have vaginal dryness as a result of estrogen deficiency. Vaginal dryness results in discomfort when a woman engages in sexual intercourse and can make for an uncomfortable experience. Solutions range from over the counter moisturizers and lubricants or the use of supplemental estrogen prescribed by your doctor. Estrogen can be given by pills, topical vaginal creams and estrogen impregnated rings that are inserted into the vagina.

Though ED is more common with age, it isn’t an inevitable part of the aging process. ED is often due to an underlying medical condition such as heart disease, diabetes, or the side effects of medication. As a result there is a likelihood of nervousness with the onset of a new relationship. Since ED may be the first sign of an underlying medical condition, it’s particularly important to speak with your doctor if you are having difficulty obtaining or holding an erection adequate for sexual intimacy.

It is not uncommon for seniors to have lost a partner and to go without sexual intimacy for months or years after losing a spouse. Consequently, there is anxiety associated with embarking on a new sexual relationship. Occasionally, counseling is in order to help the seniors jump start their sex lives.

There are numerous medications for ED, which are not recommended for men who use any form of nitroglycerin. Other treatments for ED include testosterone replacement therapy for men who have symptoms of decreased libido, lethargy, and falling asleep after meals. Finally, there are operations which includes penile implants for men where oral medications are not effective.

Bottom Line: It is acceptable and even normal of seniors to engage in sexual intimacy. If a man and women are healthy, are free of STDs, and wish to be sexually intimate, they can plan to successfully engage in sexual intimacy. In 2012, no one needs to suffer the tragedy of the bedroom.