With only two months remaining for the year 2018 to come to an end, people have already started to analyse the events and news that made headlines this year. Though it is the political & financial news, that people find most appealing, but sometimes the news from health sector also has it’s share of amazement. Our topic of discussion here mentions, the development and the surprises that the health sector experienced this year. The news reflects the hopes, courage, weirdness and colossal misfortunes of the concerned people, that created ripples – sometimes large & sometimes barely perceptible, in the health sector. The events are not necessarily based on chronological order, and they are certainly not related to some path breaking invention or discovery (although couple of them might fit that description). The events mentioned here are just for highlighting the illogical and unpredictable nature of human life.
It is believed that 25% of men below the age of 40 years, suffer from Erectile dysfunction. In higher age group, this rate is much more. Causes for Erectile dysfunction are many and can range from – increased blood pressure, diabetes, increasing age, hardening of arteries (atherosclerosis), hormonal imbalance, alcohol intake in excessive amount, prostate surgery, injury, drug abuse and psychological factors. The treatment is directed towards the cause and lifestyle modifications like – stopping smoking, decreasing alcohol use & weight reduction. Medications like Viagra and Vacuum devices to increase blood flow to penis are also commonly used, but soon an alternative may emerge.
A study done in Denmark on a small number of people, who had undergone prostate removal by surgery for malignancy (cancer) has shown some interesting results. These gentlemen were suffering from various degree of impotency, as the surgery had affected the nerves and blood vessels. Injection of 20 million stem cells, into the base of the penis gave some miraculous results. These stem cells were obtained from fat removed from the abdomen of the participating member. The results were very positive and included reversibility of erectile dysfunction and also apparent lengthening of the penis (which is not seen in Viagra).
It is believed that these results were obtained from revitalization of the blood vessels and the nerves. The medical team involved, believe it can also help people suffering from impotency due to ageing and heart disease. Although very promising results were obtained in the study, but the use of small number of subjects and limited duration of follow up (over a year), makes it necessary for further investigations, before advocating its use for the general public.
Many people may not be aware of the fact, that there is a scale to measure the spiciness of a chilli, which is known as Scoville Heat Unit or SHU in short. According to this scale, the hottest chilli in the world is Carolina Reaper, which is usually found in South Carolina, USA. Carolina Reaper has more capsaicinoids – a compound which produces more spicy effect, than any other chilli. Spiciness of 2.2 million SHU makes it, the most strongest Chilli of the world. When it comes to knowledge about this chilli, ignorance is indeed a bliss, as our man in question later must have felt. This is a story, which made news in April 2018. A 34 year old man tried an experiment, which is best left not attempted. After eating the hottest chilli known – Carolina Reaper, the gentleman in question, was forced to seek medical attention in Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit (USA).
He presented to the emergency room with complaints of, motions and sensation of vomiting without producing any vomit, which was also associated with pain. But it was his severe repeated headache, which bothered him the most. The diagnostic CT scan of the brain revealed constricted arteries. Treatment was started and consisted of – pain medication, supportive medications and close monitoring. A repeat CT scan done 5 weeks later showed that blood vessels of his brain had returned to their normal size.
Although Capsaicin has certain health benefits like – promoting weight loss, boosting metabolism and decreasing joint pain; but it is better to avoid the strongest variety of Chilli. Although in many places of the world contests are held, where people try to outdo each other by eating more and more of Chilli pepper, to demonstrate their toughness, but these can lead to serious health concerns. Besides the health complaints mentioned above, there are also chances of heart attack and stroke, if blood vessels of heart and brain are involved, respectively.
The above mentioned headline from Manitoba, Canada created quite a stir in the first half of the year. For the sceptics, it is better to mention that this modern day miracle was made possible, due to in vitro fertilisation. Lauren, the woman who chose this unconventional method of motherhood, says she has a pituitary disorder – hypopituitarism (which causes hormonal imbalance), due to which she does not have any sexual interest. Lauren’s past negative experience of online dating and her religious community background, may also may have contributed to her decision of becoming a virgin mother.
Pituitary gland secretes many hormones and hypopituitarism symptoms may vary depending on the effected hormone, and the level of severity. Absence of the hormones may create characteristic symptoms like -- Loss of weight, weakness, loss of appetite, increased sensitivity to cold, decreased sex drive, irregular periods, absent pubic hair, inability to produce milk for breast feeding, infertility and anaemia. Here it would be important to mention that, decreased sex drive is not seen in all people suffering from this disorder and hormonal replacement therapy may be useful in many cases. However, Lauren has opted for a sex free life and has instead chose motherhood by IVF technology. At the end of the day, every person has their choice to lead the life they want, as long as their freedom doesn’t encroach on freedom of others.
Visual impairment is one of the gravest disability, that a person can suffer from, and there are many different reasons which can contribute to the same end result. However, researchers all over the world are searching for different methods, that can alleviate suffering of mankind. In this respect, it is believed that a significant development has occurred in treatment of a degenerative eye condition, known as macular degeneration – a leading cause of blindness. The main feature of this disease, is seen in the late stage, where retinal pigment epithelium cells die off, which can lead to blindness.
Researchers from London Project to Cure Blindness, ran some tests on mice and pigs. These tests were done to ascertain the ability of stem cell therapy to cure blindness, caused by macular degeneration. Two patients suffering from a severe case of the mentioned problem, had a patch of stem cell inserted in their eyes, which were believed to help in formation of retinal pigment epithelium cells. After the surgery, these patients had a tremendous improvement in their visibility, manifested as the ability to read far more letters in the eye chart, than what was present before surgery.
One of the patients also expressed gratitude for, the ability to read newspapers and helping his wife, with the gardening. As the involvement of only two people in the latest treatment, leaves many things open to criticism, so studies involving a larger group of people would be needed before coming to any firm conclusion. The medical professionals involved in the research project are optimistic and believe that within another 5 years, this treatment would be freely available worldwide.
For the uninitiated Apitherapy is a branch of alternative medicine, where substance produced by honeybees, are used to treat different medical conditions. In spite of being questionable benefits and controversial methods, Apitherapy is becoming popular worldwide, from traditional use in East Asia, to the rest of the world. Bee acupuncture, a rather extreme variety of Apitherapy, uses live bees for stinging purpose (when bee venom is released) instead of needles, as used in conventional acupuncture. Supporters of this therapy believe that it is beneficial for Arthritis & Rheumatism and decreases pain. Melittin in the bee venom has anti-inflammatory properties, which many believe to be helpful. Unfortunately, all the benefits attributed to this kind of unconventional treatment have not been supported by scientific evidence and most of modern medical professional have no faith in this kind of treatment.
The technique uses Laser to lighten the skin of genitals and sometimes also, the anal and groin area. The Laser used causes a bleaching of the private areas, by damaging the cells that produce melanin, the pigment responsible for the skin colour. The results are obtained over multiple sessions, with each session lasting around 15 minutes. The cost of the procedure is around $ 650. Although there is a small risk of complication like infection and scarring, but that has not deterred the steady flow of men between 22 and 55 years of age, who come for the treatment. The hospital maintains, that they take adequate safety precautions, as the procedure is done on a sensitive part of the body. Popularity of bleaching private parts is not just restricted to Thailand; as some clinics in London also offer this service, which have gained popularity in the west after certain Hollywood celebrities, admitted publicly of having these procedures done.
Before anybody makes any assumptions, let it be very clear that those unfortunate individuals, had a very genuine reason for sleeping in the workplace. A Staten Island University Hospital dispatcher, a Greyhound bus driver & a would be garbage collector have sued their companies, when they felt that they were discriminated against, because of their medical disability. The medical disability in this context is Sleep Apnoea. Sleep apnoea is a sleeping disorder in which the breathing is very irregular and it manifests as loud snoring at night and excessive tiredness on waking up after a full night’s sleep. These patients have difficulty in sleeping at night and headache in the morning & excessive daytime sleepiness. These individuals also have difficulty in paying attention, while awake and are quite often very irritable. However not all the symptoms are manifested equally always.
However, in the incidence in New York city discussed above, the individuals effected believed that their medical problems would not Impair their ability to do their jobs. Many in the medical fraternity believe that sleep apnoea is not a disability, but a manageable disease, and with the right treatment people can lead a normal life and do their jobs properly. However, the incidence of Hoboken collision of 2016 and Long Island Rail Road incident of 2017, were two big train crashes attributed to sleep apnoea of their engineers; which can effect the final verdict of the case.
A rather strange news surfaced from China, around April of 2018. The news was centred on a couple from China, who had frozen several embryos, for having a child through In Vitro Fertilisation technique in the year 2013. The unforeseen events started when the couple died in a car accident and a claim on the embryos stored in a hospital in Nanjing city, was put forward by the parents of the dead couple. The absence of clear laws about ownership regarding the embryo, in case of death of concerned parents led to a protracted legal battle between the would be grandparents and the authorities. Finally, the grandparents were granted the ownership of the embryos.
The 2nd stage of the problem started soon after, as surrogacy is not legal in China. The grandparents enlisted the service of a surrogacy agency in Laos, where surrogacy is legally allowed. As the airlines refused to transport a bottle of liquid nitrogen (containing the frozen embryos), the would be grandparents had to drive all the way themselves. After a successful surrogacy completed to the term, the surrogate was brought to China in a tourist visa (for the baby to get Chinese citizenship), and the healthy baby boy – Tiantian was finally born in mainland China.
Every now and then, a new research paper gets presented in the medical fraternity, that challenges our whole perception. Studies regarding alcohol often fall in this category. A study presented at the yearly meeting of American Association for the Advancement of science, which was held in February 2018, says that drinking could help a person live longer. The study mentions that, people who are older than 90, have been observed to drink moderately.
The study has been conducted by a neurologist and her team, from University of California, Irvine. Since the year 2003, they have been studying the lifestyle habits of people who live to be 90 and older. The factors considered were their dietary habits, daily activities and associated medical history. The conclusion of the study was based on the findings, obtained by studying 1700 people, who were between 90 to 99 years. In a nutshell, the final result could be interpreted as – people who drank 2 glasses of wine or beer would possibly have 18% less chance of dying prematurely, than normal population.
Unfortunately, the mentioned study fails to mention the mechanism by which, lifespan increased in the studied group. Many other experts believe that although alcohol may provide some health benefits, but the complications associated with drinking far outweighs the benefits. Alcohol has been found to increase the probability of many cancers. Some of these are – Oral cancers, Oesophageal cancers, cancer of larynx, Colon cancers and Breast cancer. It is very obvious, that experts are clearly divided on the issue. Many health professionals believe, that more elaborate studies are needed, which would be able to provide more detailed analysis of the complicated matter. Till then, people should not try similar stunts in their home.
Although the events occurred in August 2016, but it was published in February 12, 2018 in American Journal of Tropical medicine, hence included in this discussion. Parasitic infestations are not rare findings in human beings. But when a person’s eye is involved -- in an infection, which is first of the kind, that too occurring in a country like United States; then it certainly makes news. Thelazia Gulosa, a type of nematode cattle worm, which is spread by face flies and found in the eyes of cattle; was for the first time found in human beings (according to CDC officials) – in a woman belonging to Oregon, USA. The woman in question – Abby Beckley, suffered from eye irritation from quite some time, which she had attributed to a foreign body. Finally, she was able to take out a worm from her eye, which forced her to take a medical opinion. The doctor and later on, the optometrist examining her managed to pull off, couple more of these worms -- which were translucent and less than half an inch long.
As this kind of infection was never seen previously, so this case evoked considerable interest. Further investigation into the matter, showed that, she may have acquired the infection, while horse riding in Gold Beach, Oregon, where cattle farming is quite common. It is believed that a face fly, feeding on the tear film of the eye, may have introduced the larva of the worm. The study published on 12 February, 2018 in American Journal of Tropical Medicine, also reported about removal of 14 worms from the left eye of the subject, over a period of 20 days. If the worms wouldn’t have been removed on time; then in cases like this there are even chances of corneal scarring happening, leading to total blindness.
Another similar incidence which also figured in the news in February 2018 was, the discovery of pork tapeworm in eye of a man from Florida. Sam Cordero had acquired an intestinal infection with adult tapeworms (Taenia solium) after eating contaminated pork. Although in contrast to the previously mentioned case, infection by tapeworm from consuming contaminated pork is rather common but the involvement of eye is extremely rare. There are only 20 such recorded cases in the entire world. In the case of Sam Cordero, the worm was present behind the eye lens, in the vitreous chamber (a fluid filled area). The worm had a possibility to move to the brain, where tissue destructions would have caused seizures. By surgery, the 3 mm worm was taken out, which on examination showed to be containing thousands of eggs. Any further delay in surgery, would have led to their hatching and spread to different tissues, including the brain, with disastrous consequences.
Although health news does not get the same amount of publicity; as political affairs, celebrity gossips or even sports news, but they make more difference in society compared to the other types of news described earlier. As the people, whose life were touched by the events described above would remember them for ever. Sometimes the things, about which the people know the least, has the ability to make the maximum impact in their life. This article was written with the aim to help people to be more aware about matters, that may affect their life. When people know that others have faced similar challenge as they are facing & triumphed over them, they get the courage to be more & do more and finally rise above their condition.