News

  • Appendectomy (Appendix Surgery)

    Halfpoint / Getty Images
    Halfpoint / Getty Images
    Medically reviewed by Scott Sundick, MDMedically reviewed by Scott Sundick, MD

    An appendectomy (also known as appendix surgery) is the surgical removal of your appendix. The appendix is a small organ attached to your large intestine.

    While the exact function of the appendix is not yet known, researchers believe that your appendix may play an important role in digestion and immune health. However, when your appendix becomes infected or inflamed, you may develop appendicitis, which often requires surgery to improve painful symptoms.

    Purpose

    The purpose of an appendectomy is to remove an infected appendix, often caused by appendicitis. When you develop appendicitis, the condition can decrease blood flow to the appendix wall, leading to tissue death. In serious cases, appendicitis can cause the appendix to burst or rupture, which can cause infection of the entire abdomen and, sometimes, death.

    Your healthcare provider may recommend appendix surgery if you are experiencing appendicitis symptoms such as:

    Types of Appendectomy

    There are two main types of appendix surgeries: open and laparoscopic appendectomy. The type of surgery you'll need will depend on your symptoms, the severity of your condition, and your overall health status.

    • Open appendectomy: One large incision (cut) in the lower right side of the abdomen, which helps your surgeon pull out the appendix completely
    • Laparoscopic appendectomy: One to three small incisions in the abdomen, which helps your surgeon insert a laparoscope (a long tube with a light and camera attached) to see inside the abdomen and remove the appendix

    How Does It Work?

    Both types of appendectomies involve the removal of the appendix by making cuts or incisions in the abdomen. If you're receiving one of these surgeries, you'll be placed under general anesthesia so that you are asleep during the procedure. Getting an appendix surgery can be overwhelming or worrisome, but knowing how to prepare and what to expect during the procedure can help.

    Before the Surgery

    Before undergoing an appendectomy, your healthcare provider will likely recommend several tests, such as a complete blood count, abdominal ultrasound or computed tomography (CT) scan, pelvic exam, and urinalysis (urine test), to ensure the surgery is appropriate for you.

    When you get the all-clear, your provider will schedule the surgery and give you specific instructions on how to prepare for the procedure—which typically will last an hour.

    On the day of your surgery, you'll arrive at the hospital, where you'll need to fill out some paperwork. A healthcare provider will guide you into the surgery room, where you will change into a hospital gown and lie on the surgical table.

    Your healthcare team will insert an intravenous (IV) line to administer anesthesia, fluids, and medicines. In some cases, your provider may also place a tube down your throat to help you breathe during the surgery.

    During the Surgery

    During an open appendectomy, your surgeon will make a large incision of about 2-4 inches in the lower right side of your abdomen and take out the appendix. They will then wash the area using a sterile fluid to decrease the risk of infection. A drainage tube is often placed from the inside to the outside of the abdomen to remove excess fluids. Your surgeon will then close the incision with absorbable stitches covered with glue-like bandages.

    If you're receiving a laparoscopic appendectomy, your surgeon will make 1-3 small cuts in your abdomen and then insert a small nozzle into one of the incisions to supply the gas, which helps inflate the abdomen. This process allows your surgeon to visualize the appendix more clearly. Then, they will insert a laparoscope into one of the cuts and remove the appendix. Once the appendix is properly removed, they'll clean the area and use stitches, staples, or bandages to close you up.

    After the Surgery

    After an appendectomy, your healthcare team will monitor your status, including your heart rate, oxygen levels, breathing, urine output, and blood pressure. They do this to ensure you are safe and well after the surgery.

    You can generally go home the next day, but you may need to stay longer if you had a ruptured appendix. When you're discharged and ready to go home, you'll likely need someone to drive you back from your appointment.

    You might experience pain and discomfort 24-48 hours post-surgery, but these symptoms gradually decrease as you recover. To mitigate symptoms, your surgeon may recommend Advil (ibuprofen) or Tylenol (acetaminophen) to relieve pain. If you experience additional symptoms or worsening pain, it's important to tell your healthcare team as soon as possible. You can also expect to come back for a follow-up appointment within a few weeks of your surgery.

    Risks and Precautions

    An appendectomy is generally safe, and complications of this procedure are rare. However, there is a small risk of certain complications, which may include:

    • Wound infection: Infection at the site of the incision if not cleaned properly, which is more common after laparoscopic appendectomies
    • Blood clot: Longer surgery time and bed rest during recovery can increase the risk of blood clots in the legs
    • Intestinal obstruction: Swelling of the tissues around the intestine can prevent stools and fluids from passing
    • Heart complications: Heart problems can worsen due to general anesthesia, which in rare cases can trigger a heart attack
    • Abscess: While rare, a build-up of pus may occur after surgery if the appendix inflammation was severe

    How To Prepare for Appendectomy

    While your healthcare team will give you specific instructions on how to prepare for your procedure, it can help to keep these tips in mind:

    • Wear loose-fitted, comfortable clothes and slip-on shoes that you can easily take on and off at the hospital
    • Leave valuables and jewelry at home
    • Avoid eating and drinking at least eight hours before the surgery
    • Ask your surgeon if it's okay to continue taking your regular medications
    • Bring your ID and insurance card with you
    • Call your insurance company or hospital billing department to learn what out-of-pocket costs you'll need to pay
    • Ensure that you have a loved one who can take you to your appointment and bring you home

    Recovery

    Full recovery from appendectomy takes a few weeks to a couple of months, depending on the type of appendix surgery you're having. Generally, recovering from the procedure is faster if you're having a laparoscopic appendectomy. To ensure that you're recovering safely, your healthcare provider may offer the following suggestions:

    • Drink at least eight glasses of water per day
    • Eat a high-fiber diet
    • Avoid lifting heavy items or performing strenuous exercise for two weeks after surgery
    • Walk every hour to prevent blood clots
    • Wash your hands before and after touching your incision site
    • Wear loose-fitting clothes that don't rub against the site of your incision

    A Quick Review

    An appendectomy is a surgery that removes an infected appendix caused by appendicitis. Depending on your symptoms and needs, you'll either undergo a laparoscopic or open appendectomy. Both surgeries are considered safe, but the recovery time for a laparoscopic appendix surgery is usually shorter.

    Having appendix surgery can feel overwhelming, but following your healthcare provider's instructions before and after the surgery can help you be prepared for the procedure and recover well.

    For more Health.com news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

    Read the original article on Health.com.

  • New Research Shows Eating More of This Pantry Staple Could Help You Reach Weight-Related Goals

    Fact checked by Nick BlackmerFact checked by Nick Blackmer

    Fast Facts

    • Eating more canned and dried beans contributes to higher diet quality and decreased body weight compared to no-bean consumers, according to a new study.
    • Beans are an excellent source of shortfall nutrients, nutrients that Americans typically underconsume, such as choline, folate, iron, magnesium, and vitamin E.
    • This research contributes to the growing body of evidence for including more canned and dried beans as an important source of plant-based protein.


    Simply adding more canned and dried beans and chickpeas into your diet could improve your overall diet quality and may even help you reach weight-related goals, new research shows.

    The claim comes from a new study published in Nutrition Journal that looked at the quality of adult diets that included beans and chickpeas compared to diets that didn’t. Results showed that people who ate beans and chickpeas experienced a range of benefits, including better diet quality, higher intakes of essential nutrients, and improved weight-related outcomes.

    “Most people are aware that beans and chickpeas are good for your heart, but our new research shows they are really good for so much more—like improving nutrient intake and healthier dietary patterns," study author Yanni Papanikolaou, MPH, vice president of Nutrition Strategies, Inc., said in a news release.

    “Our analysis shows that canned and dry beans and/or chickpeas help close nutrient gaps, and fuels nutrient-dense diets in the US," Papanikolaou added. "Conversely, the data suggests that avoiding beans and/or chickpeas may lead to nutrient deficits and public health consequences in adults.”

    Here’s what you need to know about diets that include beans and chickpeas, how they can benefit your overall health, and how to add more pulses to your daily eating plan.

    <p>Alessio Bogani / Stocksy</p>

    Alessio Bogani / Stocksy

    Eating Beans Improves Diet Quality

    For the study, funded by the Coalition for the Advancement of Pulses and Cannedbeans.org, researchers used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which takes information from free-living people across the U.S. and is compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

    The analysis focused on one 24-hour period in which people recalled their diet via in-person interviews. Bean consumption patterns and population weights were used to identify the differences among dietary patterns. Bean consumption was defined as eating kidney beans, black beans, chickpeas, and pinto beans.

    Four different bean patterns were identified along with a "no consumption" group. The four bean patterns (Bean Dietary Patterns 1–4), differed in their percentage of calories coming from beans and overall diet quality.

    Bean Dietary Pattern 1 and 2 had the largest contribution of calories from vegetables and Bean Dietary Pattern 4 had the greatest contribution from sweets and snacks. Bean Dietary Pattern 3 had over one-third of calories derived from mixed dishes, which have greater amounts of sodium and saturated fat. All Bean Dietary Patterns included approximately 1.7–2 servings of beans per day.

    When compared to the no bean consumption group, all four bean dietary patterns of consumption showed significantly higher diet quality. Individuals in all four categories consumed greater amounts of vegetables, greens, beans, seafood, and other plant proteins. They also showed better fatty acid ratios, which are higher levels of heart-healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats compared to saturated fats.

    "Current U.S. dietary patterns show that Americans are not meeting recommendations for nutrient intakes and diet quality, which can have negative effects on public health and disease incidence," Papanikolaou told Health. "Our study showed that adults consuming about two servings of canned or dried beans per day had a 25% improvement in total diet quality compared to adults avoiding beans."

    How Beans Benefit Nutrition and Weight Management

    Dietary patterns rich in beans are associated with higher diet quality scores due to increased intake from other food groups including vegetables, greens, seafood, and plant proteins.

    Beans are an excellent source of fiber, which supports heart health, a healthy gut microbiome, and decreases low-grade inflammation that is associated with many cardiometabolic diseases such as high cholesterol, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes.

    According to registered dietitian Lori McCall, MS, RD, LDN, “beneficial gut bacteria help you break down resistant starch that gives beans their fetid fame during digestion. If you don’t feed them that starch consistently, those healthy strains won’t stick around to do the job.” Dishes and dietary patterns that contain beans are often naturally rich in other nutrients as well, contributing to overall better diet quality.

    Those who consume beans also show higher intakes of shortfall nutrients, which include choline, alpha-linolenic acid, folate, iron, magnesium, and vitamin E.

    “Shortfall nutrients are those that are typically deficient in the diet,” registered dietitian Moushumi Mukherjee, MS, RDN told Health. “They are nutrients that are marked as health concerns by professionals because people don’t usually consume enough of them.”

    Additional nutrients of public health concern include dietary fiber and potassium, which are significantly elevated in bean consumption patterns. Increased intake of these nutrients contributes to lower systolic blood pressure, reduced cardiovascular disease risk, decreased diabetes risk, and reduced risk for cancer.

    Two of the bean dietary patterns were also significantly associated with improved weight-related outcomes. Adults in Bean Dietary Patterns 1 and 2 had lower BMIs (body mass indexes). Further, adults who consume a variety of beans showed a 29% lower risk of having an elevated waist circumference compared to non-consumers.



    Note: Body mass index, or BMI, is a biased and outdated metric that uses your weight and height to make assumptions about body fat, and by extension, your health. This metric is flawed in many ways and does not factor in your body composition, ethnicity, sex, race, and age. Despite its flaws, the medical community still uses BMI because it’s an inexpensive and quick way to analyze health data.



    This is likely due to beans’ high fiber and protein content, which makes them and meals that contain them filling and satisfying. “Certain diet-related diseases can disrupt the metabolic process, therefore, consuming a well-balanced diet that includes beans can aid in achieving weight-related goals,” Mukherjee adds.

    This research adds to the growing body of evidence for eating more beans and legumes as part of a nutrient-dense dietary pattern. “Eating beans daily in combination with regular physical activity and a dietary pattern that includes greater intake of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, dry nuts, and seeds, and limiting intake of added sugar, saturated fats, and sodium can have significant health benefits,” Papanikolaou told Health. The avoidance of beans may exacerbate nutrient deficiencies and public health concerns in adults.

    Related: The Benefits of Soaking Your Beans Before Cooking

    Adding More Beans to Your Diet

    Beans are a diverse, convenient plant-based protein that add flavor, color, and texture to many dishes. Dried beans typically cook anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours where canned beans are ready instantly out of the can, and both are extremely nutrient-rich. Beans can be added as the main protein in a vegetarian dish or used in meat dishes to bulk them up with additional protein and fiber.

    “Add your favorite variety to any savory, mixed-texture dish like casseroles, stews, stir-fries, and salad,” McCall told Health. Sneak beans into soups and sauces for more protein and a creamy texture or even into black bean brownies for a higher-fiber sweet.

    While canned beans are convenient, some have high sodium content. Drain and rinse your beans to reduce the salt content in the brine, or try cooking dried beans for full control over the sodium content. You can even add garlic, herbs, and spices to the water you cook your beans for maximum flavor.

    For more Health.com news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

    Read the original article on Health.com.

  • How To Improve and Maintain Good Posture With Ankylosing Spondylitis

    <p>Phynart Studio / Getty Images</p>

    Phynart Studio / Getty Images

    Medically reviewed by Stella Bard, MDMedically reviewed by Stella Bard, MD

    Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a chronic (long-term) inflammatory condition that primarily affects the spine, leading to pain, stiffness, and changes in posture. At least 1.7 million adults in the United States have this condition.

    Ankylosing spondylitis symptoms vary from person to person. Common early symptoms are frequent pain and stiffness in the lower back and buttocks.

    This condition can significantly affect posture, causing issues such as forward head posture, reduced lumbar curvature, and pelvic rotation.

    How Ankylosing Spondylitis Can Affect Your Posture

    Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of arthritis that causes inflammation in the joints and ligaments of the spine. It can also affect joints like the ankles, knees, and hips.

    Your spine's joints and ligaments normally help you move and bend easily. However, if you have AS, the inflammation can make these joints stiff. In severe cases, it can even make the bones in your spine grow, or fuse, together. This makes your spine less flexible.

    This stiffness can affect your posture because your spine can't move as it should. Some people with this condition have mild back pain and stiffness that comes and goes, while others have more constant and severe pain.

    Depending on which other parts of your body are affected by the disease, you may also have other symptoms like uveitis (inflammation of the eyes). AS may also affect the joints between your breastbone and ribs, making it difficult to expand your chest as you normally would.

    Common Posture Symptoms

    Common posture symptoms in ankylosing spondylitis include:

    • Forward head posture: The head may jut forward from the shoulders, leading to neck strain and discomfort.
    • Reduced lumbar lordosis: The natural curve in the lower back (lumbar spine) may decrease, resulting in a flatter back appearance.
    • Kyphosis (hunched upper back): The upper spine may curve forward excessively, causing a rounded or hunched appearance.
    • Pelvic tilt: The pelvis may tilt backward, affecting the alignment of the spine and hips.
    • Limited spinal mobility: Stiffness and reduced flexibility in the spine can lead to difficulty in bending or twisting the torso.

    Not addressing posture issues in AS may lead to several consequences, including increased pain and stiffness, reduced range of motion, and spinal deformities.

    Why Is Good Posture Important?

    Posture refers to the way you position and hold your body, encompassing both dynamic and static aspects:

    • Dynamic posture: How your body is positioned during movement, such as walking, running, or bending
    • Static posture: Your body's alignment at rest, such as when sitting, standing, or sleeping

    Maintaining good posture is crucial for overall well-being. The backbone of good posture lies in the alignment of your spine, which naturally forms three curves: at the neck, mid-back, and lower back. Proper posture preserves these curves without exaggerating them, ensuring that your head aligns with your shoulders and your shoulders align with your hips.

    The effects of posture on health can be significant. For example:

    • It may lead to misalignment in the musculoskeletal system, potentially causing discomfort and dysfunction.
    • It can contribute to spinal wear and tear, making the spine more vulnerable to injuries.
    • It is often associated with neck, shoulder, and back pain, limiting comfort and mobility.
    • It can reduce flexibility and compromise joint movement.
    • It can affect balance, increasing the risk of falls and injuries.
    • It can interfere with digestion and respiratory function, affecting overall health and well-being.

    How To Improve Ankylosing Spondylitis Posture

    Ankylosing spondylitis primarily affects the spine, leading to pain, stiffness, and reduced flexibility. Maintaining proper posture can help alleviate symptoms and improve the quality of life for people with this condition. Proper posture training may also help prevent falling.

    Here are some tips and strategies for improving posture and incorporating these changes into everyday life.

    Standing Posture

    When standing, think about aligning your body from your ankles through the top of your head:

    • Stand tall with your shoulders back
    • Keep your head level (e.g., tuck your chin a bit if it tends to jut forward)
    • Avoid slouching or leaning forward
    • Stand with your feet firmly on the ground
    • Keep your weight even distributed in your feet, but lean slightly onto the balls of your feet

    Sitting Posture

    When sitting, try to keep your head in line with your hips, which can help prevent forward slouching. Avoid sitting for long periods of time by taking frequent movement (e.g., walking) or stretch breaks. You can also do some simple seated stretches or change your seated position if you can't get up. Here are some more tips:

    • Keep your back straight
    • Relax your shoulders to avoid them creeping up toward your ears (imagine a string gently pulling your shoulder blades downward)
    • Use a cushion to support your back
    • Keep your computer screen at eye level
    • Keep your elbows close to your body, around 90-120 degrees, when working at a desk
    • Avoid sitting in cramped positions
    • Avoid looking down at your phone ("texting neck") by keeping your phone at eye level
    • Alternate between standing and sitting to prevent stiffness

    Sleeping Posture

    You can even practice posture in bed. How you sleep can greatly affect how you feel during the day. Here are some ideas:

    • Sleep on a mattress that evenly distributes your weight and has a supportive foundation
    • Sleep on your back with no pillow or a thin pillow
    • Place a pillow between your knees if you sleep on your side
    • Avoid sleeping on your stomach
    • Ensure your head, neck, and spine are aligned during sleep
    • Try gentle stretches before bed to reduce stiffness and improve sleep quality

    Physical Therapy

    A physical therapist (PT) can design a tailored exercise program to improve your posture and reduce pain. They can help with joint-directed exercises that promote spinal extension (the opposite of a hunched-over posture) and mobility.

    PT might include:

    • Strength exercises (e.g., to strengthen back abdominal muscles)
    • Flexibility exercises to support mobility
    • Low-impact aerobic exercise like swimming, bike riding, and walking
    • Deep breathing exercises to support chest expansion and oxygen and blood flow to your body

    Medications for Symptom Relief

    Talk to your healthcare provider about medications that can reduce your symptoms and support your ability to perform posture-related exercises. For example:

    • First-line pain medications include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
    • For localized joint swelling, corticosteroid injections into the joint or tendon sheath can be quickly effective.
    • In the case that these above medications are ineffective, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) may be used to relieve symptoms and prevent joint damage.
    • Some biologics (a class of drugs that require a living component) may help treat spinal and peripheral joint symptoms.

    Improving posture with AS requires a multifaceted approach that includes proper standing, sitting, and sleeping habits, as well as regular exercises and stretches. Incorporating these strategies into your daily routine can help alleviate symptoms and improve your overall quality of life.

    A Quick Review

    Incorporating proper posture habits and regular exercises into your daily routine can significantly r reduce symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis. For example, you can focus on maintaining a tall, aligned posture whether standing, sitting, or sleeping to reduce strain on your spine.

    Regular stretching and strengthening exercises and physical therapy can improve flexibility and mobility. Medications can also be crucial in managing symptoms like pain and increasing your ability to engage in posture-improving activities.

    Talk with your healthcare provider to discuss how you can effectively manage the effects of ankylosing spondylitis.

    For more Health.com news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

    Read the original article on Health.com.

  • Causes and Risk Factors of Rosacea

    <p>Yuliya Shauerman / Getty Images</p>

    Yuliya Shauerman / Getty Images

    Medically reviewed by Susan Bard, MDMedically reviewed by Susan Bard, MD

    Rosacea is a frequent and persistent skin issue often seen on the face, particularly in those with fair skin. Symptoms vary with subtypes but may include redness, swelling, acne-type sores, tender skin, visible blood vessels, thick or dry skin, and/or eye irritation. These symptoms may appear and disappear, primarily affecting the nose, cheeks, and forehead. Rosacea is a complex condition with multiple possible causes and risk factors.

    Although the exact cause of rosacea is unknown, researchers have identified genetic, environmental, microbial, immune, and vascular factors that can contribute to its development. Recognizing the contributing factors can help effectively manage the condition and minimize flare-ups. By identifying personal triggers and adopting a proactive skincare and lifestyle routine, those with rosacea can greatly enhance their quality of life.

    Ultraviolet (UV, Sun) Exposure

    Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light—or sunlight—can activate specific channels in nerves and skin cells that release inflammatory mediators. These mediators can potentially trigger the onset of rosacea.

    UV light exposure also causes vasodilation, a process that causes your blood vessels to widen, increasing blood flow to the skin's surface. This makes your skin more susceptible to damage and irritation. 

    In addition to UV exposure being a potential cause of rosacea, it is also a significant trigger. Prolonged exposure to the sun's rays often results in rosacea flare-ups, characterized by redness, visible blood vessels, and a burning feeling on the face.

    To manage their condition effectively, people with rosacea are advised to minimize sun exposure, wear broad-spectrum sunscreen daily, and wear protective clothing.

    Immune Dysregulation

    When the immune system detects a germ or allergen, it activates histamine, a chemical messenger, as part of a protective response. Histamine then triggers inflammation and vasodilation to help your body defend against potential threats. But sometimes, the immune system overreacts, causing the blood vessels to widen too much, leading to redness and inflammation. 

    In addition, cathelicidin is a protein made by your body's immune system and found in the skin. It helps protect the skin from germs and infection. However, how your body processes cathelicidin can affect whether you get rosacea. Instead of providing protection, the processing of cathelicidin can trigger and inflammatory response in your skin. This response can cause your immune system to overreact, triggering rosacea symptoms. 

    Bacteria


    Certain bacteria, like Bacillus oleronius, Staphylococcus epidermidis, and Bartonella quintana, are found at higher levels on the skin of individuals with rosacea.

    Some evidence also suggests that people with rosacea might have more Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria in their stomachs. However, not everyone with an H. pylori infection has or develops rosacea.

    Demodex Mites


    Mites are tiny organisms too small to see without a microscope. Demodex mites live on everyone’s skin and in your hair follicles and are typically harmless. However, they are found in larger amounts in those with papulopustular rosacea (PPR). It’s not clear if the mite causes rosacea or if rosacea causes an increase in mites. Researchers are also studying demodex mites' role in other types of rosacea.

    Vascular Abnormalities 

    Vascular abnormalities refer to the excessive widening of both blood and lymphatic vessels in your skin, leading to noticeable symptoms such as flushing and persistent redness.

    Blood vessels an important part of blood circulation, delivering essential nutrients and oxygen to your tissues and organs. Lymphatic vessels are responsible for transporting lymph fluid, which contains white blood cells and assists in eliminating waste and toxins from tissues. When these vessels become excessively widened, they disrupt the normal flow of blood and lymphatic fluid, contributing to the redness and inflammation seen in rosacea.

    Neurovascular Dysregulation

    Neurovascular dysregulation interrupts the balance between nerves and blood vessels, causing excess vasodilation and redness.

    Unlike vascular abnormalities, which are structural differences in blood vessels, nerve dysregulation specifically involves how nerves control blood flow. When these signals are impaired, blood vessels widen too much, leading to the persistent redness and flushing seen in rosacea.

    Causes by Subtypes

    Rosacea has subtypes that present with distinct symptoms. Known causes vary by subtype, but much is still unknown. Potential causes of each subtype include: 

    • Erythematotelangiectatic: Redness and flushing are likely due to problems with blood or lymphatic vessels, sunlight, or temperature changes.
    • Papulopustular: Redness and bumps associated with this subtype are similar to acne and likely due to an imbalance in microorganisms like Demodex mites.
    • Ocular: This type affects the eyes, causing dryness and itchiness. Experts are still determining the specific cause.
    • Granulomatous: This presents as firm, red, or yellowish bumps and is likely due to abnormal immune responses and inflammation.
    • Phymatous: This type causes skin thickening due to an overgrowth of specific tissues and glands. It is likely worsened by inflammation or genetics.

    Is Rosacea Hereditary? 

    Rosacea often runs in families, suggesting a genetic link. Research notes that:

    • Up to 50% of those with rosacea have a family member with it.
    • It's more common to inherit it from the maternal (mother's) side.
    • About 15% of the connections were between siblings or cousins.
    • Around 62% of the connections were between generations, like great-grandparents and grandchildren.

    Who Gets Rosacea? 

    Rosacea can affect anyone, but the following groups are more likely to develop it: 

    • Age: Adults between the ages of 30 and 50
    • Sex: Those assigned female at birth 
    • Ethnicity: Those with fair skin who sunburn easily, often from Celtic or Scandinavian ancestry

    Certain groups, such as those with mild symptoms or limited access to healthcare, might not be adequately accounted for in rosacea data. 

    Risk Factors 

    Genetics, environmental factors, and individual susceptibility play significant roles in determining who is more likely to develop rosacea.

    Smoking

    The association between smoking cigarettes and rosacea is controversial. However, many studies note that smoking increases the risk of developing rosacea. It constricts blood vessels and reduces oxygen supply, leading to inflammation and skin damage, among other symptoms. Nicotine, a component of cigarettes, can trigger vasodilation and inflammation.

    Smoking also weakens your immune system and disrupts skin barrier function, making your skin more vulnerable to rosacea.

    Alcohol

    Alcohol, especially in moderate to heavy amounts, can contribute to the development of phymatous rosacea. Consuming alcohol can widen your blood vessels, disrupt your immune system and skin barrier, and increase the development of inflammatory substances in your body like cytokines.

    Wine (both white and red) and hard liquor are more likely to trigger rosacea than other types of alcohol.

    Stress

    Stress activates the nervous and immune systems, which can affect your skin and overall health. The stress hormone cortisol can make your skin red, itchy, and vulnerable to bacteria that cause rosacea. Stress can also make other skin concerns like acne, hair loss, eczema, and psoriasis more severe.

    Other Conditions

    The exact relationship between the following health conditions and rosacea is an ongoing research topic. However, they are often seen together, suggesting they share common underlying factors or pathways:

    • Allergies
    • Anxiety disorders
    • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
    • Autoimmune diseases (like lupus)
    • Depression
    • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
    • Hormonal imbalances 
    • Metabolic disorders (like diabetes)
    • Neurological disorders (including migraines and Parkinson's disease)
    • Digestive conditions
    • Respiratory illness

    Medications

    Long-term use of topical (on the skin) steroids on the face can lead to steroid-induced rosacea.  Topical steroids, or corticosteroids, are medications you apply to your skin to reduce inflammation, itching, and irritation from various skin conditions such as eczema. They suppress the immune response, reducing the release of inflammatory substances.

    Triggers

    While the above risk factors increase your risk of someone getting rosacea, the following triggers can cause flare-ups for those who already have it:

    • Alcohol
    • Caffeine
    • Dairy products, spicy foods, vanilla, cinnamon, and histamine-rich foods (avocado, bananas, papaya, and pineapples)
    • Hot beverages
    • Niacin (vitamin B3) 
    • Formaldehyde
    • Harsh skin care products 
    • High-intensity exercise
    • Nicotine
    • Rough fabrics (like wool)
    • Stress
    • Sun exposure
    • Wind exposure
    • Vasodilating medications (used to widen blood vessels)

    A Quick Review 

    While the exact cause of rosacea is unknown, it is likely connected to genetic, environmental, microbial, immune, and vascular factors, each contributing more or less to different subtypes. Sun damage, disruptions in the immune system, Demodex mites, infections, blood vessel abnormalities, and nerve dysfunction can all contribute to rosacea development.

    Rosacea is more common in people ages 30-50, people assigned female at birth, and those with fair skin. Smoking, drinking alcohol, stress, sun exposure, certain health conditions, and some medications likely increase your risk of developing rosacea.

    If you suspect you have rosacea, it is important to consult a dermatologist for a proper diagnosis and tailored treatment plan.

    For more Health.com news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

    Read the original article on Health.com.

  • FDA Issues Warning Over Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning After Oyster, Clam Recall—What to Know

    Fact checked by Nick BlackmerFact checked by Nick Blackmer

    • The FDA has issued a warning about certain oysters, clams, and other shellfish harvested from Oregon and Washington between May 26 and May 30.
    • The shellfish could be contaminated with toxins that could cause paralytic shellfish poisoning.
    • Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, tingling in the arms and legs, and temporary paralysis.


    Certain oysters, clams, and other shellfish harvested in Oregon and Washington could be contaminated with dangerous paralytic toxins, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

    In a notice posted on June 5, the agency said the affected shellfish could contain high levels of a certain toxin that, when ingested, causes paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP).

    About 30 minutes after eating shellfish contaminated with this paralytic toxin, people may experience symptoms such as tingling or numbness in their mouth, arms, or legs, dizziness, headache, or temporary paralysis in their extremities. In very rare cases, the toxin may cause life-threatening paralysis of the respiratory system.

    The Oregon and Washington state departments of health first alerted the FDA to the issue on May 30.

    Oregon issued a recall of oysters and bay clams harvested in Netarts Bay and Tillamook Bay anytime on or after May 28. The state of Washington recalled all shellfish harvested in multiple regions of Willapa Bay—the exact recall dates depend on the specific growing area, though they range between May 26 and May 30.

    The Oregon clams and oysters exposed to high amounts of paralytic toxins were shipped to restaurants and food retailers in Oregon and New York, and possibly contaminated shellfish harvested in Washington was distributed in Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. 

    However, the FDA said the recalled shellfish could’ve also been shipped to other states. The agency is waiting for more information on where the harvested shellfish was distributed and said it will update the safety alert when it knows more.

    Restaurants and food retailers who may have received clams, oysters, or other shellfish from these specific regions should not serve or sell them and should discard them, the FDA recommended. The same is true for consumers who think they may have purchased contaminated shellfish.

    The FDA did not mention any illnesses in connection to shellfish sold in restaurants or by commercial retailers. However, at least 21 people got sick with PSP after consuming mussels recreationally harvested off the Oregon coast in late May. No illnesses have been reported in Washington, though recreational shellfish harvesting is also closed in certain parts of the state.

    If a person thinks they’re experiencing any symptoms of PSP after consuming shellfish, they should reach out to their healthcare provider.

    Here’s what experts had to say about PSP and how to stay safe while enjoying oysters, clams, and shellfish this summer.

    <p>Oscar Wong / Getty Images</p>

    Oscar Wong / Getty Images

    Where Does PSP Come From? 

    The paralytic toxins that can contaminate shellfish come from the algae they feed on, said Courtney Temple, MD, assistant professor of emergency medicine at Oregon Health and Science University and medical toxicologist at the Oregon Poison Center. 

    “Paralytic shellfish poisoning typically occurs from ingesting shellfish mollusks that are filter feeders,” she told Health. “[They] are contaminated by naturally occurring marine toxins, produced by algae.” 

    More specifically, PSP is often linked to phytoplankton of the genus Alexandrium, which can produce saxitoxin, a neurotoxin, added Vera Trainer, PhD, marine program director and research scientist at the University of Washington Olympic Natural Resources Center.

    These specific algae are often found in coastal waters in the Pacific Northwest, Trainer told Health, but in the summer especially, it can bloom—posing a risk for people consuming shellfish.

    “We typically see events like this during times of harmful algal blooms,” Temple explained. “There may be varying degrees of this marine algae during different time periods throughout the year, but it’s really this period of robust overgrowth that leads to excessive accumulation within the shellfish that makes it dangerous for consumption.”

    It’s typical for the Pacific Northwest to see some beach closures due to unsafe levels of paralytic shellfish toxin throughout the summer months, Temple and Trainer said. However, the scope of this current issue is out of the ordinary.

    “Recalls are not common,” said Trainer. “This is one of the largest events on the outer coast of the [U.S.] However, there are often closures due to PSP toxins in bivalve shellfish in Puget Sound, Washington.” 

    The same goes for Oregon: “We typically don’t see this number of closures, and we certainly haven’t seen a cluster like this in Oregon for quite some time. So now we have nearly 30 patients who have had some degree of symptoms from this toxin,” Temple added.

    How Do These Toxins Affect the Body? 

    People run the risk of developing PSP when they consume clams, oysters, or other shellfish that have high levels of saxitoxin or another paralytic toxin. 

    These paralytic toxins can affect a person’s tissues and cause symptoms that can vary quite significantly in severity. 

    “Symptoms typically begin about 30 minutes after eating the [contaminated] shellfish, and most of them involve some component of stomach upset—so nausea, vomiting, diarrhea—and that is along with numbness or tingling around the lips or mouth,” Temple explained.

    These mild cases are the most common, she added. There’s no antidote or treatment for PSP, but most people eventually pass the toxin from their bodies and recover with no lingering effects.

    However, certain PSP cases can be more serious. It can be hard to determine who is more likely to develop a severe case, Temple said, though eating more contaminated seafood is risky.

    “[PSP] does tend to be dose-related,” she explained. “For one person who eats one clam or mussel versus someone who eats 30 clams or mussels, that person who’s ingested more is more likely to have more severe symptoms.”

    In these severe instances, PSP patients may experience “profound weakness, difficulty breathing, and then eventual paralysis that would require admission to an intensive care unit,” Temple said. Severe cases could also lead to more lingering or residual effects from the toxin, she added, or very rarely, can lead to asphyxiation and death.

    How to Stay Safe While Enjoying Shellfish

    As common as saxitoxin-producing algae are, experts agreed people don’t need to be too concerned about getting sick with PSP while enjoying clams, oysters, or their other favorite shellfish

    “There is active surveillance that’s always taking place along the coast—especially in the Pacific Northwest, where there is a risk of several different kinds of marine toxins,” Temple explained. “Shellfish, mussels, clams, oysters—those are all tested to ensure that the levels of saxitoxin do not exceed the threshold for consumption.”

    Because of this surveillance, Trainer said there’s little risk of contracting PSP from shellfish at a restaurant or from one you harvested locally, so long as there isn’t an active warning or beach closure posted.

    However, people should do their homework and check for beach closures before harvesting shellfish recreationally, especially because shellfish contaminated with toxins may look, smell, and taste normal.

    “People should look at their local health departments website before harvesting shellfish recreationally,” said Trainer. “The public should be very cautious now harvesting any shellfish recreationally on the U.S. West Coast and Alaska. There are some very high levels of toxins in bivalve shellfish right now.”

    And in addition to being mindful of where your shellfish is coming from, it’s also important to seek care and call your state poison center if you do think you might be sick with PSP, said Temple.

    “[If] they are experiencing symptoms like nausea, vomiting, tingling, numbness in the mouth or face, they should seek medical attention as soon as possible,” she advised. “We can certainly give further guidance, and we are in constant contact with the health authorities in the state to continue reporting and monitoring for additional cases.”

    For more Health.com news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

    Read the original article on Health.com.

  • How Is Whooping Cough (Pertussis) Treated?

    <p>bluecinema / Getty Images</p>

    bluecinema / Getty Images

    Medically reviewed by Amelia MacIntyre, DOMedically reviewed by Amelia MacIntyre, DO

    Whooping cough, medically known as pertussis, is a potentially serious infection caused by Bordetella pertussis bacteria. The highly contagious infection causes coughing fits, after which some people might make a whooping sound as they breathe in.

    A pediatrician or primary healthcare provider can diagnose and treat whooping cough. The main goal of treatment is to clear the infection. Typically, this is done through antibiotics. Frequently, infants need to be hospitalized to help them overcome a whooping cough infection.

    Most people eventually fully recover from whooping cough. Even though antibiotics will clear the original infection, symptoms may last for several more weeks. Coughing fits may return after treatment, especially with other respiratory infections. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to minimize its impact.

    Medications

    The primary treatment for whooping cough is antibiotics. These medications fight the bacteria causing the infection.

    It is important to start antibiotics as soon as you are diagnosed with whooping cough. The earlier you begin taking antibiotics, the faster your symptoms may improve and the less severe they may be. You will also be less likely to pass the infection to someone else.

    If you start antibiotics three weeks into the illness, the medication won't be effective in treating whooping cough. By this point, the bacteria would already be gone from the body, so the antibiotics wouldn't have anything to fight. Even though the bacteria are gone, the lack of previous antibiotic treatment can make you more susceptible to airway damage that takes longer to heal.

    The antibiotics most commonly prescribed for whooping cough are macrolide antibiotics, including:

    • Erythromycin (sold under brand names like Erythrocin and ERY-C)
    • Azithromycin (sold under brand names like Zithromax and Zmax)
    • Clarithromycin (sold under the brand name Biaxin)

    Depending on the antibiotic your healthcare provider prescribes, you might have to take the drug for 2-5 days.

    Like all medications, macrolide antibiotics can cause side effects. Specific side effects vary depending on the drug, but common side effects include:

    • Diarrhea
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Stomach pain
    • Heartburn
    • Gas
    • Loss of appetite
    • Change in the way things taste
    • Headache

    Take your prescribed antibiotic exactly as your healthcare provider instructs. For example, you may need to take the medication at a certain time of day or shake it up before you take it. You should also always take the full course of your antibiotic, even if you start to feel better before you finish it.

    Macrolide antibiotics are not safe for infants under 4 weeks old. Instead, healthcare providers sometimes give critically ill infants corticosteroids to help them heal.

    Isolation

    Because whooping cough is extremely contagious, you should isolate as soon as you are diagnosed with it. You can transmit the infection for about two weeks after coughing begins. 

    Once you begin taking antibiotics, you should keep isolating for at least five more days. All of your close contacts, including everyone in your household, should begin taking an antibiotic as soon as possible to prevent them from becoming infected.

    Supportive Care

    The symptoms of whooping cough will slowly go away over the course of several weeks. To help your body heal, you can do the following at home:

    • Get lots of rest to help your body recover
    • Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration
    • Eat small meals often instead of three large meals to help prevent nausea and vomiting
    • Eliminate coughing triggers from your home, including smoke, dust, and harmful fumes
    • Try using a humidifier to help lessen cough symptoms
    • Do not use over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicine unless your healthcare provider says it's okay

    Hospitalization

    In severe cases of whooping cough, hospitalization may be necessary. This is often the case for infants. At least a third of children younger than 12 months old must be admitted to the hospital for whooping cough. Some experts recommend admitting all children under this age because of the high risk of life-threatening complications. Newborns should be taken to intensive care right away.

    In the hospital, treatment typically centers around enabling the person to breathe well, often by keeping the airways clear and giving supplemental oxygen. Medical staff also may provide fluids through a vein (intravenous) to prevent dehydration.

    Living With and Managing Whooping Cough

    Most people with whooping cough will make a full recovery. However, whooping cough can lead to several complications, especially in children who did not receive their diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTaP) vaccine and infants under 2 months whose birthing parent didn't receive a tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (Tdap) vaccine during pregnancy.

    Infants less than 12 months old who have not received any or all of their DTaP vaccines have the highest risk of severe disease and death from whooping cough. While less severe, complications are also possible in adolescents and adults.

    The most common complications among infants are apnea (pauses in breathing) and pneumonia (lung infection). About 33-50% of infants with whooping cough are hospitalized. The younger the child, the more likely they are to need hospitalization.

    Of the babies who are treated at the hospital, about 20% will get pneumonia, and 1% will die. When death does occur, it is usually in babies younger than 3 months old.

    Vaccines and Other Protection Tips

    Fortunately, whooping cough cases and deaths are significantly lower than before vaccination became available. Vaccination can help prevent whooping cough in the first place and make the symptoms less severe if you do get whooping cough.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all children receive the DTaP vaccine five times by age 6. Then, adolescents and pregnant people should get a Tdap vaccine. People older than 7 years old who have never had a DTaP shot should also get a Tdap vaccine.

    If you have whooping cough, you can help prevent its spread by covering your mouth when you sneeze or cough and washing your hands often. You should also stay home and isolate from others until your healthcare professional tells you it is safe to be around others.

    A Quick Review

    Whooping cough (pertussis) is a highly contagious bacterial infection that spreads primarily through respiratory droplets. Its first symptoms resemble a common cold but can progress to severe coughing fits.

    Antibiotics called macrolides are the main treatment, but infants often must be hospitalized for treatment. Avoiding contact with others and implementing supportive care practices like rest and hydration can also help with treatment.

    Seek medical care if you have extreme coughing fits or your child has trouble breathing. Starting whooping cough treatment early can help prevent serious complications and reduce the severity of symptoms.

    For more Health.com news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

    Read the original article on Health.com.

  • Uses and Side Effects of Muscle Relaxers

    <p>RealPeopleGroup / Getty Images</p>

    RealPeopleGroup / Getty Images

    Medically reviewed by Kristie Reed, PharmDMedically reviewed by Kristie Reed, PharmD

    Muscle relaxers are a group of medications that relax and reduce muscle tension (spasms). They also help decrease the pain associated with stiff and rigid muscles (spasticity). Muscle relaxers are useful for managing medical conditions that cause muscle stiffness and preventing the movement of muscles during surgery. 

    Muscle relaxers are prescription medications available in oral or injectable forms. While the relaxers are typically tolerable for most people, their use may require strict medical supervision due to the associated possible risks.

    What Do Muscle Relaxers Do? 

    There are two ways muscle relaxers can relax muscles. Some muscle relaxers block the transmission of nerve signals in the brain or spinal cord so the signals can’t be sent to the muscle. Other muscle relaxers target the muscle fibers directly so that the muscles relax.

    Muscle relaxers can relax either smooth muscles or skeletal muscles: 

    • Smooth muscle relaxers: Act on smooth muscles— muscles you can’t voluntarily control that are found in internal organs like your intestines as well as in blood vessels
    • Skeletal muscle relaxers: Act on skeletal muscles—muscles you use to move, such as the muscles in your legs and arms

    Healthcare providers such as primary care physicians, neurologists, and pain specialists may prescribe muscle relaxers to treat various conditions that cause muscle stiffness and pain. These conditions can include musculoskeletal disorders (injuries or disorders that can affect your muscles) and neurological conditions (conditions that affect your nervous system, including your brain, spinal cord, and nerves).

    In musculoskeletal disorders, like muscle spasms and lower back pain, muscle relaxers act directly on the muscles or in the brain to reduce muscle stiffness and pain.

    In neurological conditions that can cause muscle stiffness, such as cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, and spinal cord injuries, muscle relaxers act in the brain to decrease muscle rigidity.

    Types of Muscle Relaxers

    There are two major classes of muscle relaxers: antispastics and antispasmodics. The two differ based on how they work.

    Antispastics

    Antispastics are muscle relaxers that act directly on the spinal cord or skeletal muscles. Healthcare providers typically prescribe antispastics for brain and spinal cord injuries that cause muscle spasms or stiffness (spasticity).

    These types of injuries can cause muscles to lose their interaction between the brain and spinal cord. The lost interaction causes some nerves to become hyperstimulated, leading to muscle rigidity. Muscle relaxers that act on the spinal cord block or inhibit the effects of these hyperstimulated nerves. The drugs reduce muscle tension and stiffness, which relaxes muscles and decreases pain associated with muscular rigidity and tightness.

    Common antispastics include Lioresal (baclofen) and Dantrium (dantrolene). Lioresal can reduce muscle pain, stiffness, and tightness from multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, or other spinal cord diseases. Dantrium can reduce muscle stiffness, tightness, and spasms associated with spinal cord injuries, stroke, multiple sclerosis, or cerebral palsy.

    The drugs may not be suitable for everyone. For example, since using dantrolene may pose a higher risk of liver damage in some people, providers may choose to limit its use in people at higher risk for liver disease.

    Antispasmodics

    Antispasmodics work in the brain, altering the transmission of nerve signals between brain neurons. These altered nerve signals block the nerve signals from the brain to the muscles, managing muscle spasms.

    There are two types of antispasmodics: benzodiazepines and non-benzodiazepines. 

    Benzodiazepines block the activity of a specific brain neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). They may help with acute lower back pain. 

    A common benzodiazepine is Valium (diazepam). Valium can help if you are unable to move parts of your body (paraplegia) or have abnormal muscle contractions (athetosis). The muscle relaxant can also help manage stiff-person syndrome, cerebral palsy, and other neurological disorders that cause muscle rigidity. Besides its muscle-relaxing effects, Valium might also be prescribed to manage anxiety disorders and seizures.

    Non-benzodiazepines can act on both the brain and spinal cord. They are used in the short term—along with rest and physical therapy—for strains, sprains, and other muscle injuries. Non-benzodiazepines include:

    • Soma (carisoprodol)
    • Flexeril (cyclobenzaprine)
    • Skelaxin (metaxalone)
    • Robaxin (methocarbamol)
    • Norflex (orphenadrine) 

    How Are Muscle Relaxers Taken?

    Muscle relaxers come in different forms. They are available as tablets, capsules, liquid solutions, or injections. The injections can be administered intravenously (through a vein) or intramuscularly (through a muscle).

    For instance, carisoprodol, cyclobenzaprine, and metaxalone are commonly available in oral forms, while diazepam is available in both oral and injection formulations.

    The severity of the symptoms or medical condition and individual preferences can influence the form you take. Healthcare providers typically prescribe oral tablets or capsules because they are easier to administer. However, injections are preferable for severe cases. 

    How long it takes for muscle relaxers to work can vary depending on factors such as the type of muscle relaxant and whether it was taken as an oral or injectable.

    Potential Side Effects of Muscle Relaxers

    Generally, muscle relaxers can cause the following side effects:

    • Drowsiness
    • Fatigue
    • Dry mouth
    • Dizziness
    • Nausea
    • Headache 

    The specific side effects may vary based on each type of muscle relaxer. For example, here are some side effects that have been linked to certain types of muscle relaxers:

    Baclofen

    This muscle relaxant acts in the brain and spinal cord. Its common side effects include:

    • Weakness
    • Dizziness
    • Drowsiness
    • Vertigo
    • Insomnia

    Metaxalone

    This is an antispasmodic that acts in the brain. Common side effects include dizziness, drowsiness, nausea, and vomiting. Rare but serious effects include:

    • Hemolytic anemia (low red blood cell count because the cells are destroyed faster than they can be replaced)
    • Low white cell count
    • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes) 

    Diazepam

    This is both an antispasmodic and antispastic muscle relaxer. Side effects include:

    • Drowsiness
    • Fatigue
    • Ataxia (lack of muscle coordination)

    Carisoprodol

    This is another antispasmodic muscle relaxer. Its potential side effects include:

    • Drowsiness
    • Dizziness
    • Headaches
    • Excessive sleepiness
    • Seizure

    Other Considerations 

    When taking muscle relaxers, consider their risks. For example, prolonged use of some muscle relaxers, such as carisoprodol and diazepam, increases the risk of dependence and abuse.

    You should especially speak to your healthcare provider about the potential risks of muscle relaxers if any of the following pertains to you:

    • You take other medications: Some medications might interact with muscle relaxers. This includes opioids, which slow brain activity. Because muscle relaxers like diazepam can also slow brain functions, especially at higher doses, taking the two medications together could cause serious complications like central nervous system depression (when your brain and spinal cord activity slows down too much). 
    • You have a chronic medical condition: Intake of muscle relaxers in people with pre-existing chronic medical conditions, such as chronic liver and kidney diseases, requires caution. These chronic disorders can increase the risk of developing adverse drug effects.
    • You are pregnant or older: Certain muscle relaxers may be unsafe for these groups, or the safety risk may be unknown. If you need a muscle relaxer, discuss your safest options with your healthcare provider.

    You should also take precautions when using muscle relaxers. The dizzying or sedative effects of most muscle relaxers can affect your level of mental alertness. Therefore, performing certain tasks after use may not be feasible for some people. Instead, you’ll want to wait to perform those tasks until the drug’s effect has worn off.

    When To Call Your Healthcare Provider 

    When taking muscle relaxers, contact your healthcare provider with any concerns or if you notice any of the following:

    • Worsening side effects
    • Persistent muscle spasms or pains
    • Risk of multidrug interactions
    • Presence of allergic reactions such as rash, itching, or facial swelling

    Some allergic reactions are life-threatening and may warrant emergency care. Thus, seeking immediate, proper medical attention when you notice them is important.

    A Quick Review

    Muscle relaxers are a group of medications that can help manage muscle spasms and spasticity and their associated symptoms, like pain. The medications can be used to treat conditions that affect muscles, such as cerebral palsy, spinal cord injuries, and lower back pain.

    There are different types of muscle relaxers. Antispastics act on the spinal cord or directly on muscles, while antispasmodics influence nerve signals in the brain. Depending on the type, the relaxers are available in oral or injectable forms. 

    Common side effects of muscle relaxers include drowsiness, fatigue, dry mouth, dizziness, nausea, and headache. If prescribed muscle relaxers, follow your provider’s instructions and seek medical assistance if you notice any significant changes.

    For more Health.com news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

    Read the original article on Health.com.

  • COVID Variant KP.3 Surges to Dominance—Here's What You Need to Know

    Fact checked by Nick BlackmerFact checked by Nick Blackmer

    • Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that a new COVID variant called KP.3 has risen to dominance in the United States.
    • KP.3 accounts for 25% of cases, while another variant, KP.2, makes up about 22% of cases.
    • Experts said that KP.3 isn't likely to cause more severe symptoms than other COVID strains.


    A new COVID-19 variant called KP.3 has surged to dominance in the United States, according to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

    As of June 8, KP.3 accounted for 25% of cases, per the CDC. The variant has surpassed the previous dominant variant, KP.2, which now makes up about 22% of cases. Both have knocked down JN.1, the top strain circulating this past winter.

    With SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID, mutating consistently, it’s natural to be concerned each time a new variant rises to prominence. 

    Here’s what you need to know about KP.3, including whether experts are worried about its speedy spread.

    <p>JulPo / Getty Images</p>

    JulPo / Getty Images

    What Is KP.3?

    KP.3 is part of a newly identified group of variants dubbed “FLiRT,” which are part of SARS-CoV-2’s Omicron lineage. In addition to KP.3, the FLiRT variants also include KP.2 and KP.1.1. They all descend from JN.1.

    KP.3 is similar to JN.1 in its structure except for two changes in the spike protein, Carlos Zambrano, MD, a board-certified infectious disease physician and the head of the COVID-19 Task Force at Loretto Hospital in Chicago, told Health.

    The spike protein is located on the virus’s surface and facilitates its entry into human cells.

    “One change was observed in the XBB.1.5 lineage, which was predominant in 2023,” he said. “The second change was observed in viruses circulating in 2021.”

    Why Is KP.3 Involved in So Many Cases?

    According to C. Leilani Valdes, MD, a pathologist and medical director at Regional Pathology Associates in Victoria, Texas, the KP.3 variant has become the frontrunner because it spreads quickly and easily. 

    It is “very good at jumping from one person to another,” she said. “This means more people are getting infected with KP.3 compared to other variants.”

    Does KP.3 Cause More Severe Illness Than Other COVID Strains?

    Both experts agreed that there is currently no clear evidence that KP.3 causes more severe illness than other strains, including the JN.1 strain or its derivatives. As such, people who contract KP.3 can expect to experience symptoms characteristic of other recent COVID variants.

    “KP.3 symptoms resemble typical COVID-19 symptoms, including fever, cough, fatigue, and loss of taste or smell,” Valdes said. “Some individuals may also experience a sore throat, headache, or muscle pain.”

    Are COVID Cases Rising?

    “COVID cases are on the rise, and we can expect the number of cases to continue to increase, especially with the KP.3 variant spreading quickly,” Valdes said. 

    The CDC reported last week that COVID-19 infections are “growing or likely growing in 30 states and territories.” Cases are “stable or uncertain” in 18 others and are likely declining in one—Oklahoma.

    Do Vaccines Protect Against KP.3?

    Per Zambrano, all three COVID vaccine manufacturers—Pfizer, Moderna, and Novavax—have said that their new vaccines slated for August 2024 will target the JN.1 variant.

    Because the JN.1 variant is closely related to the FLiRT variants, experts have said that matching the vaccines to JN.1 will offer better protection.

    Valdes stressed that vaccination remains “one of the most effective tools” against COVID. “Staying up to date with booster shots significantly reduces the risk of severe illness and hospitalization,” she said. “Wearing masks, washing hands, and keeping distance from others can help prevent the spread.”

    “The most important takeaway as we head into the summer is that KP.3 spreads easily,” she added, “so it’s important to be careful.”

    For more Health.com news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

    Read the original article on Health.com.

  • Lipase Test

    <p>stefanamer / Getty Images</p>

    stefanamer / Getty Images

    Medically reviewed by Soma Mandal, MDMedically reviewed by Soma Mandal, MD

    A lipase test is a blood test that measures the level of lipase in your blood. Lipase is an enzyme mostly produced in the pancreas but also made in the stomach and salivary glands. It helps in the digestion of fats in the body.

    A lipase test can indicate whether you have high or low lipase levels in your body. Lipase test results are often used to diagnose pancreatitis. They can also indicate other health conditions such as intestinal obstruction, gall bladder diseases, chronic kidney diseases, salivary gland disorders, peptic ulcers, alcohol use disorders, and pancreatic cancer. 

    Purpose

    A lipase test helps to determine the levels of lipase in your blood. High or low lipase levels may indicate several health conditions, usually involving the pancreas. A few of such conditions include:

    • Acute or chronic pancreatitis: Inflammation of the pancreas
    • Cholecystitis: Inflammation of the gallbladder
    • Intestinal obstruction: Blockage of the small or large intestine
    • Appendicitis: Inflammation of the appendix
    • Diabetic ketoacidosis: High levels of ketone in the body
    • Kidney failure: Kidneys can no longer function due to an underlying condition

    Your healthcare provider may recommend a lipase test if you have symptoms of pancreatic disorders. A few common symptoms are:

    • Pain in your abdomen that sometimes spreads to your back 
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Swelling of the abdomen
    • Weight loss

    In some cases, your healthcare provider may also recommend an amylase test (another blood test) along with the lipase test to confirm the diagnosis of your pancreatic disorder.

    How Does It Work?

    A lipase test involves drawing blood from a vein in your arm using a small needle. Blood sample collection usually occurs at your healthcare provider’s office, a diagnostic clinic, or a hospital. Talking to your healthcare provider before the test helps you to understand what to expect during the test and how to prepare.

    Before the Test

    Your healthcare provider may ask you not to drink or eat anything 8-12 hours before the test. You may also want to inform your healthcare provider about any medications or supplements that you take. Certain medications, including birth control pills, opiates, and certain types of diuretics can interfere with the test results.

    The test mostly requires you to sit comfortably in a chair. However, you can also lie down if you have a history of panic attacks or fainting during blood tests.

    During the Test

    During the lipase test, your healthcare provider or a phlebotomist (a medical professional trained to draw blood) draws blood from a vein in your arm. The blood drawing process involves:

    • Cleaning of the area using an antiseptic solution
    • Putting an elastic band on the upper arm that puts pressure on the area
    • Inserting the needle into the vein and collecting blood in an airtight vial or a tube attached to the needle
    • Removing the needle and band from your arm
    • Putting a bandage on the needle site

    The entire process usually takes less than five minutes.

    After the Test

    You may feel slight pain or a stinging sensation at the needle site. There might also be slight throbbing at the site after drawing blood. However, such symptoms should go away quickly.

    You can go home almost instantly after the test is over. People who experience dizziness or nausea after the test may be asked to stay until they feel better.

    Risks and Precautions

    Risks from blood drawing during a lipase test are rare. Some people may experience:

    • Infection at the needle site
    • Collection of blood under the skin
    • Lightheadedness
    • Bleeding from the needle site
    • Pain in and around the needle site
    • Nerve damage

    How To Prepare for a Lipase Test

    Talking to your healthcare provider before the lipase test will help clear any confusion and ensure the test goes smoothly. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

    • Location: The test usually takes place at the healthcare provider’s office, a diagnostic clinic, or a hospital per your provider's recommendation.
    • Attire: You may want to wear short or loose sleeves that you can fold up easily to make your arm accessible for the test.
    • Food and drink: Your healthcare provider may recommend you not drink or eat anything for 8-12 hours before the test.
    • Medications: Certain medications or supplements can interfere with your test results. You should inform your healthcare provider about any medication or supplements you take. They will let you know whether you can continue or should stop for the test.
    • Items to bring: You may want to bring your health insurance card for the test. You may also ask your healthcare provider if you need to bring any other documents along.
    • Emotional support: You can bring someone to accompany you for the test, especially if blood tests make you feel anxious or uncomfortable.
    • Cost and insurance: You can ask your insurance provider about your benefits and coverage to understand if they will cover the cost of the test or if you'll be paying any amount out of pocket.

    Results

    The time it takes to get your lipase test results varies by clinic. Then, based on your result, your healthcare provider may recommend further tests or treatment procedures.

    Normal lipase levels in the blood range from 0-160 units per liter (U/L) or 0-2.67 microkat/L (µkat/L). Different providers may vary the ranges slightly, but significant deviations from these levels may indicate pancreatic disorders or other health conditions.

    High Lipase Levels

    High lipase levels may be indicative of certain health conditions, including:

    • Acute pancreatitis: This is a short-term condition causing inflammation of the pancreas. Lipase levels increase after about 3-6 hours of onset of acute pancreatitis.
    • Pancreatic cancer: High lipase may indicate cancer in the cells of the pancreas.
    • Peptic ulcer: This is when the acid in your stomach damages the lining of your stomach or intestine and leaves an open sore.
    • Intestinal obstruction: Lipase levels can indicate a small or large intestine blockage.
    • Gallbladder diseases: Diseases affecting the gallbladder, such as cholecystitis, can lead to high lipase levels.                           
    • Chronic kidney diseaseHigh lipase levels can indicate kidney damage, which may lead to loss of renal function.       
    • Celiac disease: Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition where the small intestine reacts negatively to gluten. 
    • Salivary gland disorder: High lipase levels may suggest problems with salivary glands, such as infection or cancer.
    • Alcohol use disorder: Lipase levels can be high due to uncontrolled or frequent alcohol use.

    Low Lipase Levels

    Low lipase levels often mean permanent damage to your pancreatic cells that make lipase. This can occur due to:

    • Chronic pancreatitis: This is a long-lasting condition that causes permanent damage to the pancreas.
    • Cystic fibrosis: This is a genetic condition that affects the cells that produce mucus, sweat, and digestive fluids. It causes a build-up of thick, sticky fluids which can damage the pancreas.

    A Quick Review

    A lipase test helps to determine lipase levels in your blood. Both high and low lipase levels may indicate pancreatitis, as well as other health problems. Your healthcare provider may recommend a lipase test if you have abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, abdominal swelling, weight loss, and other symptoms.

    Your provider might recommend treatment approaches or further diagnostic tests depending on your test results.

    For more Health.com news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

    Read the original article on Health.com.

  • Uses and Benefits of a Clay Mask

    <p>staticnak1983 / Getty Images</p>

    staticnak1983 / Getty Images

    Medically reviewed by Susan Bard, MDMedically reviewed by Susan Bard, MD

    Clay masks are at-home or in-office skin treatments made from naturally occurring clay. They are thought to offer a variety of skin benefits depending on the type of clay.

    People have used clay masks for centuries because of clay's therapeutic properties. Historical accounts include Aristotle using "healing clay" and Cleopatra maintaining her beauty by using wraps made with mud or clay from the Dead Sea.

    While there is limited research on the effectiveness of using clay masks today, the studies available show positive results. Clay masks can potentially improve your skin's texture and tone, absorb oil, and help manage acne.

    You do not need to apply a clay mask every day. Instead, use it once or twice a week to see results and minimize side effects like skin irritation. There are many types of clay masks, so it's important to choose the best one for your skin type and concerns.

    Types of Clay Masks

    Several types of clay can be used to create a clay mask, each with a different purpose. Some clays are better for reducing oil and breakouts, while others may soothe inflammation and redness.

    Bentonite Clay

    Bentonite clay, which is extremely absorbent, comes from volcanic ash and is formed when tiny glass particles break down. It's named after Fort Benton, Montana, where it was first discovered.

    Today, the primary producers of bentonite clay in the United States are located in Wyoming, Montana, California, Arizona, and Colorado. This clay is also mined and produced in other countries, including Greece, Brazil, Argentina, and Canada.

    While bentonite is popular in clay masks used on the skin, the absorbent material is also used for other purposes. For instance, bentonite is sometimes used to remove oil from fast food wastewater. Research has shown that bentonite clay can remove as much as 50-70% or more of its dry weight in oil. It can also remove seven times more oil than activated carbon, another absorbent agent.

    For this reason, bentonite can be very drying when used in a clay mask. Bentonite also contains some antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and can help heal breakouts. A bentonite clay mask may be helpful for oily skin types, but due to its extremely strong absorbency, it's not ideal for dry skin.

    Kaolin Clay

    Kaolin clay is a soft white clay named after the hill in China (Kao-ling), where it was first mined. This clay, popular in clay masks, is also used to make china, porcelain, and paper. A French Jesuit missionary imported the clay to Europe in the 1700s.

    Kaolin clay masks are often used to control oiliness, or sebum, on the skin without excessively drying it. Kaolin can also extract impurities and may be beneficial for people with acne.

    One study found that kaolin clay masks (and bentonite clay masks) reduced the appearance of skin flaws and decreased skin discomfort. The participants also had fewer breakouts. Typically, kaolin clay is considered a more mild clay than bentonite clay.

    Although kaolin clay is typically white, it can come in different colors depending on additional ingredients. For instance, Australian pink clay—a form of kaolin clay suited for sensitive skin—is pink rather than white.

    French Green Clay

    French green clay, loosely referred to as a "healing clay," is a mineral-rich clay sourced from the coast of France. It gets its green color from decomposed plant matter. Like other clays, French green clay helps pull impurities from your skin’s pores. It may also help promote circulation.

    While research on green clay is slim, one older study found that green clay can prohibit bacterial growth. The researchers noted that it could be used to treat Buruli ulcers (a chronic, necrotizing skin disease) as well as other skin conditions.

    More research is needed to determine how green clay affects the body and the skin in particular.

    Rhassoul Clay

    Rhassoul clay, also called ghassoul clay or red clay, comes from Morocco. Derived from the Arabic word "ghasala," which means to wash, rhassoul clay has been used for centuries on skin and hair.

    Proponents of the clay claim it's especially beneficial for sensitive and mature skin, improving texture and rejuvenating appearance. Some say rhassoul clay can fight acne, remove impurities, and improve skin elasticity. However, there is limited evidence of its uses and effectiveness.

    One review of three very small case studies found that rhassoul clay was useful in treating skin breakdown in people with an ostomy (a surgical opening). For this reason, researchers suggest rhassoul clay may be an affordable way to protect the skin and act as a barrier for further breakdown.

    How To Use

    The method of applying a clay mask is usually the same for all clay types, whether you're using it to absorb excess oil, brighten skin, or remove excess buildup of makeup, dirt, and other impurities. However, some masks may differ in the duration and frequency of use.

    Before applying the mask, read the instructions on the product packaging. The package should indicate how often to apply the clay mask, how long to leave it on, and the best method for removal.

    Here are some general guidelines for applying a clay mask:

    • Cleanse your face: Always apply a clay mask to a clean face so the clay's properties can better penetrate your skin. Apply a gentle, alcohol-free cleanser, using your fingertips to gently rub it into the skin in circular motions. Rinse with warm water and pat your skin dry with a towel.
    • Apply the clay mask: Remove excess moisture from your skin, and apply the mask according to the package instructions. Start with a thin layer of clay and smooth it over your face. Use your ring finger to apply the mask, especially near your eyes, because it is your weakest finger and will be less likely to pull your skin. Some products may have an applicator, like a small brush or spatula.
    • Allow the mask to dry: Once you have applied the mask in an even layer all over your face, wait for it to dry. Usually, this takes about 5-10 minutes. As it dries, the mask absorbs oils, dead skin, and impurities, improving the skin's texture. If you have dry skin, you may want to remove the mask sooner to avoid dryness and irritation.
    • Remove the mask: Once 5-10 minutes have passed, rinse off the mask with warm water. Warm water is less drying than hot water, making it easier for your skin to absorb moisturizers.
    • Apply a moisturizer: After completely removing the mask, rinse your face again and pat dry with a soft towel. Apply a moisturizer that suits your skin type. If your skin is dry, choose a moisturizer that contains hydrating ingredients, like ceramides or hyaluronic acid. If you have sensitive skin, you may want to avoid organic moisturizers. Sometimes the natural ingredients used in these products can irritate your skin or cause allergic reactions.

    Typically, clay masks should be used once or twice a week. Applying them more than that could irritate or dry your skin.

    If you experience any burning or irritation while using or after using a clay mask, remove it immediately and don't use it again before talking to a healthcare provider, like a dermatologist (a medical doctor specializing in skin health).

    Safety and Side Effects

    Most people can use a clay mask and not experience any issues, but it is possible to be allergic to the mask or to develop skin irritation—especially if you use it more frequently than recommended. People with dry or sensitive skin should be particularly careful when trying clay masks. They can be irritating or drying for some skin types.

    Most dermatologists recommend testing new skin products on a small section of skin the first time you use them to ensure you don't have a reaction. Put a quarter-size amount of the product in the bend of your elbow and use it like you would on your face. Do this twice weekly for two weeks to see how your skin responds. If you don't develop a rash or irritation, you can try it on your face.

    If you develop an irritation or the product makes your skin uncomfortable, wash it off and apply a cool compress. You can also try applying petroleum jelly to soothe your skin if needed. If these two approaches do not work, contact a dermatologist for an evaluation. They can provide ideas on how to manage your symptoms.

    Choosing a Clay Mask

    Choosing the right clay mask for your skin type is crucial for getting the results you're looking for without any irritation, sky dryness, or other issues. To do this, you need to know your skin type. Then, you need to consider your specific concerns and your goals.

    Know Your Skin Type

    When selecting a clay mask, start by considering your skin type. Most skin falls into one of these categories:

    • Dry: The skin feels rough, itchy, or tight. There may be flakiness in certain areas. There is minimal oil or shine on the skin.
    • Oily: The skin appears shiny. There is excess oil that continues to build throughout the day.
    • Combination: Some areas of the face, such as the nose and cheeks, have oily skin, while others, such as the chin, have dry skin.
    • Normal: The skin is clear and appears moisturized without being oily. It's not sensitive or easily irritated.
    • Sensitive: The skin easily becomes red or irritated, especially after using certain products, and may feel like it's burning.

    Once you know your skin type, look for a clay mask product that indicates it's best for your skin type. Kaolin clay tends to be gentle on the skin and may be appropriate for most skin types, including sensitive skin. Meanwhile, bentonite clay may be better suited for oily skin due to its intense oil-absorbing capabilities.

    Consider Your Specific Concerns

    Before using a clay mask, consider what skin concerns you have and how a clay mask might benefit or otherwise impact those issues. For instance, clay masks are usually helpful in managing acne when used alongside a skincare routine. However, a clay mask may not be a good choice if you have an infection or wound on your face.

    If you have certain skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis, you should talk with your healthcare provider or dermatologist to determine if using a clay mask would be appropriate for you.

    Determine Your Goals

    After considering your skin type and skin condition, determine your goals for the mask.

    If you have extremely oily skin and want to control oil, you may want to choose a bentonite clay mask. If your skin is dry, dull, and rough, you may opt for a kaolin clay mask, as this clay tends to be gentler on the skin. Other masks, like a French green clay mask, may be better for clearing blackheads and reducing acne.

    Research the brand you are considering to ensure it's reputable, safe, and aligns with your goals. You can also ask a healthcare provider or dermatologist to recommend a quality clay mask product that can address your skin needs and concerns.

    A Quick Review

    Clay masks have been used for years to improve the appearance and texture of skin. Certain types of clay can absorb excess oil and remove dead skin cells and other impurities, leaving skin feeling smooth and clear.

    If you are considering a clay mask, look for one that aligns with your skin type and goals. Talk to a healthcare provider or dermatologist for additional guidance on choosing a clay mask.

    For more Health.com news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

    Read the original article on Health.com.

  • Uses and Benefits of Colloidal Oatmeal

    <p>jirkaejc / Getty Images</p>

    jirkaejc / Getty Images

    Medically reviewed by Brendan Camp, MDMedically reviewed by Brendan Camp, MD

    Oats have been used for centuries to treat skin conditions. Colloidal oatmeal is a finely ground oat-based skincare ingredient that treats dry skin, eczema, and skin irritation. As an over-the-counter (OTC) moisturizer, colloidal oatmeal acts as an emollient—a type of moisturizer that creates a barrier over the skin to retain moisture and protect dry or injured skin.

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lists colloidal oatmeal as a skin protectant. The FDA requires that all over-the-counter products that claim to treat atopic dermatitis include colloidal oatmeal or hydrocortisone (a steroid treating inflammation) as an ingredient. It can be used alone as a bath soak or added to moisturizers, soaps, and cleansers.

    Types of Colloidal Oatmeal and Their Uses

    Colloidal oatmeal skincare products include moisturizers, soaps, cleansers, and bath soaks. When added to these products, colloidal oatmeal can help protect and relieve dryness and protect sensitive skin.

    The epidermis (outer layer of your skin) naturally holds water to create a hydrating skin barrier to protect your skin. If you have dry skin, damaged skin, or eczema, your epidermis loses more water, causing itchiness, flakiness, and irritation. 

    Compounds in colloidal oatmeal have anti-inflammatory properties effective for treating and managing atopic dermatitis, a type of eczema that causes scaly patches of red, purple, or gray skin. Allergies, irritants, or stress can trigger atopic dermatitis symptoms.

    Moisturizers

    You can apply moisturizers containing colloidal oatmeal to your body or face as a lotion, cream, balm, or ointment. Many moisturizers may include other hydrating ingredients like lactic acid, urea, or glycerol.

    Colloidal oatmeal moisturizers help hydrate and strengthen dry, injured skin by forming a protective barrier that heals damaged skin and helps the skin retain more water. These products also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can help soothe irritation.

    Colloidal oatmeal lotions also treat irritation and dryness caused by cancer radiation treatments.

    Soaps and Cleansers

    Adding colloidal oatmeal to bar soaps and liquid cleansers makes them more moisturizing and soothing for your skin. After cleansing, it is not uncommon for skin to dry out, especially for people with dry, sensitive skin. Colloidal oatmeal soaps and cleansers help restore moisture to damaged skin barriers.

    Bath Soaks

    A colloidal oatmeal bath can help soothe itchy skin caused by eczema, bug bites, and rashes. Many people take a colloidal oatmeal bath if they have an allergic reaction like a rash after coming into contact with poison ivy. Like other forms of colloidal oatmeal, these products help hydrate the skin and soothe dry, flaky patches. 

    You can find bath soaks either made with 100% colloidal oatmeal or combined with other hydrating ingredients like mineral oil. Colloidal oatmeal bath soaks are often recommended by a dermatologist (a doctor specializing in skin, hair, and nail conditions) for children with eczema who can’t stop scratching their skin.

    Your dermatologist may also recommend creating a wet compress (or wet dressing) with colloidal oatmeal soaks to help treat eczema.

    How To Use

    Colloidal oatmeal soaps or cleansers can be used twice daily, typically with your morning and evening skincare routine. Gently lather the product onto your skin and rinse it away with lukewarm water.

    Dermatologists also recommend using topical colloidal oatmeal creams, lotions, or ointments twice daily to manage and treat eczema and dry skin. Apply colloidal oatmeal moisturizers to slightly damp skin after cleansing.

    Using colloidal oatmeal bath products can make baths slippery, so be careful when entering or exiting the tub. To use a colloidal oatmeal soak:

    1. Add about 1 cup of colloidal oatmeal (or the prepackaged treatment amount) as you fill the tub with lukewarm water (less for infant tubs)
    2. Soak in the bath for 10-30 minutes
    3. After exiting the bath, gently pat the skin with a towel until the skin is slightly damp
    4. Apply a moisturizer to damp skin within three minutes of your bath

    If your dermatologist recommends a colloidal oatmeal compress to treat eczema, you can typically apply these as needed or directed. To create a colloidal oatmeal compress:

    1. Combine at least one-third of colloidal oatmeal with two-thirds warm water in a shallow container or bath
    2. Soak a clean, soft cloth in the mixture
    3. Apply the wet compress loosely to the area you are treating
    4. Leave the compress on for 15-30 minutes

    Safety and Side Effects

    Using colloidal oatmeal is generally safe for most people. Studies have found that creams, cleansers, and lotions that contain the ingredient rarely cause skin reactions–even in people with sensitive skin. Still, skin burning, rash, or stinging are possible. It’s always a good idea to patch-test a small area of skin with a colloidal oatmeal product before using it on your whole body.

    However, people with an oats food allergy should avoid using colloidal oatmeal. Using colloidal oatmeal skincare or soaks can sometimes lead to allergic reactions like hives or rashes. In extreme cases, people with an oat allergy may experience side effects like:  

    If you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, consult with a healthcare provider before trying colloidal oats. The oats can be cross-contaminated with gluten-containing wheat, barley, or rye. Oats also contain a protein called avenin, which can activate immune cells that react to gluten in some people with celiac disease.  

    Choosing a Colloidal Oatmeal Product

    Picking the right colloidal oatmeal product will depend on your skincare needs. If you experience a lot of dryness and irritation, bath soaks may be ideal for reducing symptoms all over your body. To target specific areas, consider using a lotion or cream to treat dry skin patches or rashes on the body or face. Thick balms or ointments are even better for severely cracked or dry areas of skin. 

    Most effective colloidal oatmeal products contain no less than 0.007% colloidal oatmeal. However, 0.5-1% colloidal oatmeal is often more effective for mild irritation and moisturizing sensitive, dry skin. People with eczema or itchy skin may need higher concentrations above 1%. For colloidal oatmeal bath soaks, products should contain between 50-100% colloidal oatmeal.  

    If you have eczema, you may also want to consider choosing products with the National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance. This seal indicates that a panel of dermatologists, allergists, and eczema experts has tested the product for its safety and effectiveness in treating eczema. The panel also ensures that products intended to treat eczema contain no harmful ingredients.

    You also want to look for colloidal oatmeal products that do not contain alcohol or fragrance. These added ingredients can further irritate skin and strip it of natural oils that help moisturize it. When using colloidal oatmeal moisturizers or cleansers, look for products with other moisturizing ingredients like urea, ceramides, lactic acid, or glycerol. These ingredients can help heal the skin and restore a damaged skin barrier.

    A Quick Review

    Colloidal oatmeal is a skincare ingredient made from finely ground oats that helps skin retain moisture and relieve itchiness. It is added to moisturizers, soaps, and cleansers to help soothe dry, irritated skin—including skin affected by eczema. Colloidal oatmeal can also be dissolved in a bath to help treat eczema or skin reactions to plants or bug bites.

    Colloidal oatmeal is safe for most people, but people with oat allergies may have adverse reactions like hives or rashes. Before you try colloidal oatmeal products, always do a patch test and speak with your dermatologist if you have an existing skin condition like eczema. 

    For more Health.com news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

    Read the original article on Health.com.

  • How To Cope With Difficult Situations in a Healthy Way

    <p>FG Trade / Getty Images</p>

    FG Trade / Getty Images

    Medically reviewed by Dakari Quimby, PhDMedically reviewed by Dakari Quimby, PhD

    Everyone deals with stressors in life, but each person responds to difficult situations differently. The way you manage life stressors is known as a coping mechanism.

    There are two main types of coping mechanisms: adaptive and maladaptive. Generally, adaptive coping mechanisms tend to include healthier ways of coping, while maladaptive coping mechanisms are usually less healthy and sometimes self-destructive.

    Why Do People Need Coping Mechanisms?

    Coping mechanisms are a natural reaction to stressful situations. When stress occurs, your fight-or-flight system becomes activated, which causes you to feel on edge and alert. This response also releases stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.

    When stress is coursing through you, you can't simply stay in a state of high stress because it would be extremely difficult to function in daily life. That's why coping mechanisms are necessary.

    Psychologists Richard Lazarus and Susan Folkman first described coping mechanisms in 1984. They characterized them as cognitive and behavioral ways of managing external and internal threats to a person’s overall well-being. Many studies have found that coping mechanisms play an essential role in your life and are one of the key ways people deal with stress.

    Types of Coping Mechanisms

    There are two main types of coping mechanisms: adaptive and maladaptive. Adaptive coping mechanisms are generally considered a healthier way to manage stress than maladaptive mechanisms.

    Adaptive Coping Mechanisms

    Adaptive coping mechanisms describe productive reactions to stress. In most cases, these coping mechanisms consistently lead to more positive outcomes. There are four types of adaptive coping mechanisms, including:

    • Problem-focused coping: Uses strategies like planning, problem-solving, eliminating harmful activities, and seeking support
    • Emotion-focused coping: Involves decreasing the negativity that stress can induce by accepting the stress, reframing the situation, engaging in spiritual or religious practice, and using humor to cope
    • Meaning-focused coping: Includes implementing strategies to help you find meaning in a stressful situation
    • Social coping: Refers to reducing stress by reaching out for community support

    Maladaptive Coping Mechanisms

    Maladaptive coping mechanisms refer to harmful or unhealthy ways of coping. These types of mechanisms tend to be associated with negative mental health outcomes. Maladaptive coping mechanisms are often how people initially act in stressful situations until they build more resilience and find healthier ways to manage stress.

    There are a few types of maladaptive coping mechanisms, which may include:

    • Avoidant coping: Refers to coping mechanisms that use avoidant behaviors like substance use, violence, or self-harm
    • Disengagement: Uses strategies like withdrawing from a relationship or situation
    • Emotional suppression: Makes a conscious effort to put a disturbing feeling, thought, or event out of your mind by distracting yourself

    Examples of Coping in Challenging Situations

    Anytime you experience a stressor, it's important to cope with it. Coping mechanisms can help you navigate challenges, but the outcomes depend on what type of coping style you're using and the exact situation you're experiencing. Consider the examples below.

    Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

    Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) occurs after someone witnesses or experiences a traumatic event, such as natural disasters, domestic violence, child abuse, war, and mass shootings. Symptoms can linger long after the event, which may include hypervigilance, nightmares, flashbacks, difficulty concentrating, and anxiety.

    There are many different ways that people cope with PTSD. Avoidance is one way that many people manage their symptoms. This might look like turning to alcohol or drugs to cope, working too much, and avoiding people or situations that are causing you stress.

    Avoidant-focused coping mechanisms aren't the only way to cope with PTSD symptoms. More adaptive coping mechanisms include:

    • Learning more about PTSD and trauma
    • Reaching out to others for support
    • Talking about your experiences and feelings
    • Engaging in relaxation methods like deep breathing, yoga, exercise, meditation, and journaling
    • Seeking care from a licensed mental health professional

    COVID-19 Pandemic

    The COVID-19 pandemic was a unique situation where everyone faced a stressful situation that we had little control over. However, not everyone coped with the pandemic in the same way. Various studies have examined how people managed their stressors, feelings, and experiences during the pandemic and which coping mechanisms helped. Here’s what they found:

    • A 2020 study showed that positive reframing, humor, and acceptance of the pandemic were associated with better mental health. Disengagement tactics and self-blame contributed to poorer emotional well-being.
    • A 2021 study examined the effect of various coping mechanisms among college students during the pandemic. They found that adaptive, emotion-focused coping worked best for decreasing mental health concerns.
    • A 2022 study looked at deaf students during the pandemic. The researchers found that students who used constructive (adaptive) coping mechanisms fared better emotionally than people who relied on destructive (maladaptive) coping mechanisms. Most importantly, the students who fared best were the ones who received family support for their mental health.

    How To Build Resilience

    No one can remove stress completely from their life. However, you can develop healthy ways to cope. One way to do this is by building your resilience. Resilience refers to your ability to withstand difficult circumstances. It involves adapting to adversity, overcoming trauma, and coping with everyday stress in families, work, and relationships.

    Resilience isn’t something you have or don't have. You can cultivate resilience by intentionally managing and coping with your emotions and dealing with challenging situations. Here are some ideas for building up resilience in your life:

    • Prioritize meaningful relationships and connections with people who are loving, compassionate, trustworthy, and positive
    • Be active in your community, local civic organizations, or groups related to your hobbies or passions
    • Create a wellness plan for yourself, which may include eating a nutritious diet, engaging in physical activity regularly, practicing meditation, and prioritizing sleep
    • Avoid self-destructive activities like using drugs, drinking alcohol, or binge eating
    • Find meaning and purpose in life, whether that be through activities like creating art, community engagement, supporting a friend who is in crisis, or volunteering for an important cause
    • Practice positive coping skills like keeping things in perspective, learning to accept change and life uncertainties, and learning to grow from past mistakes

    When to Contact a Mental Healthcare Provider

    It can be very difficult to cope with stressful or traumatic situations. If you find that you are engaging in maladaptive coping mechanisms, such as acting out in anger, burying your feelings, avoiding situations or people, or turning to drugs, alcohol, or binge eating, it’s time to reach out for help.

    A licensed mental health professional (such as a psychiatrist or psychologist) can help you understand why you are coping this way and offer techniques to manage your stress more positively.

    A Quick Review

    Coping mechanisms refer to the different ways people manage stress during challenging situations. Adaptive coping mechanisms are generally considered healthier than maladaptive coping mechanisms.

    Building resilience via seeking social support, putting situations into perspective, and practicing self-care can all help you improve your coping style and, ultimately, your well-being.

    For more Health.com news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

    Read the original article on Health.com.

  • What Is a T-Cell Lymphoproliferative Disorder? Inside Halsey's Diagnosis

    Fact checked by Nick BlackmerFact checked by Nick Blackmer

    • In a series of Instagram posts, Halsey shared that they were diagnosed with lupus and a T-cell lymphoproliferative disorder.
    • A T-cell lymphoproliferative disorder is an umbrella term for a host of diseases related to the overproduction of lymphocytes.
    • These conditions can be serious, but people may be able to reach remission with treatment.


    Halsey, 29, was diagnosed and treated for both lupus and a rare white blood cell disorder, according to a series of recent Instagram posts.

    The singer said they were first diagnosed two years ago with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), the most common form of the autoimmune disease.

    Lupus can affect several parts of the body and can cause symptoms such as fatigue, joint pain, muscle aches, skin rashes, and sometimes organ dysfunction, Erik Peterson, MD, an immunologist and associate professor of medicine at the Center for Immunology at the University of Minnesota Medical School, told Health.

    Following their lupus diagnosis, Halsey discovered they also had a T-cell lymphoproliferative disorder—an umbrella term for a host of diseases that are all related to the overproduction of a kind of white blood cell called lymphocytes.

    “Long story short, I’m Lucky to be alive,” Halsey wrote in a post caption on June 4.

    Halsey had a “rocky start” at the beginning of their illness—they posted a video of treatment that featured clips of the singer receiving medications via IV, lying in hospital beds, and crying.

    Now on the other side of this treatment process, Halsey said they’re “feeling better” and their conditions are being managed. However, the singer noted the conditions are ones that they’ll “likely have for the duration of [their] life.”

    Here’s what experts had to say about T-cell lymphoproliferative disorder, how it’s connected to lupus, and what it’s like living with and managing these diseases.

    <p>Neilson Barnard/amfAR / Contributor / Getty Images</p>

    Neilson Barnard/amfAR / Contributor / Getty Images

    What Is a T-Cell Lymphoproliferative Disorder?

    Despite the complex name, lymphoproliferative disorders have a relatively simple definition—the term encompasses any disorder where the body makes too many lymphocytes. In addition to higher concentrations of white blood cells, this can lead to swollen lymph nodes and issues with the normal function of bone marrow.

    Although many diseases technically fall under this umbrella, they’re split into two groups. A disease’s categorization depends on which of the two white blood cell types is affected: T-cells or B-cells.

    “T-cell lymphoproliferative disorders include more than a dozen different diseases,” Changchun (George) Deng, MD, PhD, medical director of lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia at the University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center in Cleveland, told Health.

    And these numerous T-cell lymphoproliferative disorders can vary in severity, Deng explained. Some of them are more mild, while others are considered malignant, or cancerous.

    Malignant disorders include T-cell lymphoma (a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma), the blood cancer Sézary syndrome, and T-cell prolymphocytic leukemia, among others.

    However, in the case of Halsey, it’s not clear if they have a malignant or non-malignant form of T-cell lymphoproliferative disorder. The umbrella term does not automatically denote cancer, Deng emphasized.

    “A diagnosis of T-cell lymphoproliferative disorder is not equivalent to T-cell lymphoma,” he said. “If there is enough evidence to make the specific diagnosis of T-cell lymphoma, typically the more general term of T-cell lymphoproliferative disorder may be avoided.”

    Related: What Is Lymphoma?

    What Causes Lymphoproliferative Disorders? 

    Due to the wide variety of conditions considered lymphoproliferative disorders, there are also several potential causes and risk factors.

    Some people have lymphoproliferative disorders that stem from genetic mutations, said Jennifer Yeh, MD, PhD, a clinical assistant professor of dermatology and co-director of the dermatology-rheumatology multidisciplinary clinic at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

    These mutations might be inherited or acquired at some point in a person’s life, she told Health.

    Lymphoproliferative disorders are also more common in people who are immunocompromised. Immunosuppression—which can happen when someone has an organ transplant or is taking drugs to suppress their immune system for some other reason—could somehow be related to this overproduction of white blood cells, Yeh said.

    Though experts agree lupus and T-cell lymphoproliferative disorders aren’t commonly seen together, there is some evidence that the two could be linked in some way.

    “One common feature of lupus is abnormal expansion of several types of white blood cells,” Peterson said. “These white blood cells have separate but critical roles in protecting the person from infection.”

    You can imagine a well-functioning immune system like a car that can accelerate and brake as needed, Peterson said. But for people with both lupus and a T-cell lymphoproliferative disorder, that ability to stop is compromised, he explained.

    The mechanism behind this immune dysregulation isn’t clear. One potential explanation is that both lupus and certain lymphoproliferative disorders have been linked to the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). EBV is a common virus and typically mild, but in some people, it can raise the risk of cancer, chronic fatigue, neurological conditions, and autoimmune disorders.

    However, despite all of these different possibilities, many people don’t end up with a clear explanation as to why they developed a T-cell lymphoproliferative disorder. Most often, “there may not be an obvious cause,” Deng said.

    Managing Lymphoproliferative Disorders

    People with T-cell lymphoproliferative disorders experience different symptoms based on the specific condition they have, Yeh said.

    However, “common symptoms can include swollen lymph nodes, spleen or liver enlargement, elevated white blood cell counts, atypical bleeding or bruising, bone pain, fatigue, weakness, weight loss, night sweats, and frequent infections,” she said.

    The general prognosis for this group of conditions is considered poor, but they can be treated and managed.

    In situations where someone has a cancerous lymphoproliferative disorder, such as leukemia, “powerful medications to kill the malignant or uncontrollably expanding [white blood cells] are given,” Peterson explained. This could include anti-viral drugs or chemotherapy.

    But if someone has a non-cancerous disorder, doctors will usually use drugs to suppress the immune system rather than kill white blood cells.

    “Those immunosuppressive medications tend to slow down the metabolic, or the respiratory, or the cellular functions of these abnormal cells,” said Peterson.

    Though these conditions can be life-threatening, thanks to improved treatments, it’s possible that patients with both lupus and T-cell lymphoproliferative disorders “[live] with near normal quality and quantity of life,” Peterson said. Outcomes are even better when the disease is caught and treated early, Yeh added, and some patients do reach remission.

    For more Health.com news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

    Read the original article on Health.com.

  • What To Know and Do About Deltoid Pain

    <p>katleho Seisa / Getty Images</p>

    katleho Seisa / Getty Images

    Medically reviewed by Oluseun Olufade, MDMedically reviewed by Oluseun Olufade, MD

    Your deltoid is a large, triangle-shaped muscle that supports the movement and stability of the shoulder joint. This muscle covers the upper arm and forms the rounded contour of the shoulder. The deltoid is responsible for arm movements like lifting, rotating, and swinging.

    A problem with the deltoid muscle can affect the range of motion and function of the arm, making everyday activities like getting dressed, carrying groceries, and reaching overhead difficult. Deltoid pain most commonly occurs due to an injury to the muscle or surrounding structures, including the nerves, bones, and tendons.

    If deltoid pain is disrupting your daily life, seeking medical attention can be the first step toward a solution. By understanding the cause of your deltoid pain and finding the most effective treatment, you can restore the function of your arm and ensure a swift recovery.

    How Deltoid Pain Presents 

    The deltoid muscle has three distinct parts: the anterior (front), lateral (side), and posterior (rear) deltoid. Each part contributes to different arm movements: 

    • Anterior (front) deltoid: Lifts the arm forward
    • Lateral (middle) deltoid: Moves the arm outwards to the side and away from the body
    • Posterior (back) deltoid: Extends the arm backward

    Injury to any of these three parts can cause deltoid pain. Pain can also develop from an injury or problem with the nearby structures, including tendons, nerves, joints, or blood vessels. 

    Deltoid pain can make lifting or moving your arm difficult, and pressing on a particular spot within the muscle may cause a sharp increase in pain. Depending on the affected area and the underlying cause, deltoid pain may feel like: 

    • Aching
    • Soreness 
    • Sharpness or stabbing
    • Burning
    • Gnawing
    • Tingling 
    • Tenderness

    Potential Causes of Deltoid Pain

    Deltoid pain typically develops due to injury to the muscle or nearby structures. This may include a muscle strain, nerve injury, or problems your rotator cuff, among others.

    Muscle Strain 

    A deltoid muscle strain occurs when the muscle fibers become overstretched or torn. Muscle strains can happen suddenly due to forceful movements like lifting heavy objects with improper form or falling on an outstretched arm. They can also develop gradually from repetitive movements and overuse, such as playing sports or performing exercises that overstress the deltoid muscle.

    Deltoid strains are most common in athletes and people who engage in repetitive activities involving the deltoid, such as heavy lifting or frequently reaching overhead. Symptoms of a deltoid muscle strain may include: 

    • Dull, aching soreness that worsens with certain movements or activities
    • Muscle pain or stiffness
    • Spasms or cramping

    Rotator Cuff Injuries 

    The rotator cuff is a group of tendons and muscles that cover the top of the humerus (a bone in your upper arm) and attach to the shoulder. A rotator cuff tear, which occurs when one of the rotator cuff tendons becomes detached from the arm bone, is a common cause of deltoid muscle pain. 

    A rotator cuff tear can limit your shoulder's range of motion, making the deltoid muscle work harder to keep the shoulder moving and compensate for the loss of function in the rotator cuff. This can lead to deltoid pain, stiffness, and soreness. Rotator cuff injuries typically develop from overuse or natural wear and tear due to aging. Symptoms of this type of injury include: 

    • Pain when resting or lying on the affected shoulder
    • Soreness during certain activities, such as lifting or lowering your arm 
    • Arm pain or weakness 
    • Crepitus, or the crackling or clicking sensations when moving your shoulder 

    Axillary Nerve Injury 

    The axillary nerve supplies sensation and motor function to the deltoid muscle. Damage to the axillary nerve can occur from injuries like shoulder dislocation, humerus fractures, or surgery. This type of injury can also develop from improper use of crutches or systemic (bodywide) health conditions that cause nerve inflammation.

    Depending on the severity of the nerve injury, symptoms may include:

    • Numbness or tingling in the deltoid muscle
    • Sharp, shooting pains in the shoulder 
    • Limited range of motion in the affected arm
    • Muscle weakness, especially during certain movements like lifting your arm

    Deltoid Rupture 

    A deltoid rupture is a rare but serious injury where the deltoid muscle tears fully or partially away from its attachment to the shoulder, collarbone, or shoulder blade. Symptoms of a deltoid rupture include: 

    • A rip or popping sound followed by severe, sharp shoulder pain
    • Swelling, warmth, and redness in the shoulder
    • Arm weakness or the inability to raise and move the arm
    • Visible dip or deformity in the affected shoulder  

    Shoulder Impingement Syndrome 

    Shoulder impingement syndrome occurs when a tendon inside the shoulder rubs against nearby bone and soft tissues, causing pain. The pain associated with shoulder impingement is usually in the deltoid muscle's lateral (middle) and anterior (front) portions. 

    Repetitive overhead motions, such as swimming, baseball, tennis, painting, or lifting, can contribute to shoulder impingement syndrome. Symptoms of this condition include: 

    • Pain that radiates from the front of the deltoid down the side of the arm 
    • Sudden, worsening pain with lifting and overhead reaching movements 
    • Aching pain at night
    • Arm weakness 
    • Limited range of motion in the affected arm 
    • Difficulty reaching overhead or zipping or buttoning clothing 

    When to Contact a Healthcare Provider

    Some deltoid pain may resolve with rest and self-care measures, such as ice therapy. Still, it's important to see a healthcare provider if your pain: 

    • Feels severe or persists for more than a week or two
    • Interferes with daily activities or causes sleep deprivation
    • Is accompanied by weakness, numbness, or tingling in the arm
    • Occurs alongside swelling, bruising, or redness in the shoulder area
    • Follows a recent injury, fall, or surgery

    Seek prompt medical attention for severe or sudden deltoid pain that occurs after an accident or fall or if you have a fever or a visible deformity in your shoulder. 

    Diagnosis

    If you decide to see a healthcare provider for your pain, it can help to know what to expect at your appointment. Diagnosing the cause of deltoid pain involves a medical history review, physical examination, and imaging tests. Your healthcare provider will begin by reviewing your medical history and asking about your symptoms, including: 

    • Have you had a recent or past shoulder injury?
    • What does your pain feel like?
    • When did the pain start?
    • Are there any activities or movements that worsen or relieve the pain?
    • Do you live with any underlying conditions that can affect the function of your joints, muscles, or bones (e.g., arthritis)?

    Once they learn more about your symptoms, your healthcare provider will perform a physical exam to check your deltoid and shoulder for signs of injury—such as swelling, tenderness, or deformity. They may ask you to move your arm in certain ways to test your shoulder's range of motion and strength. 

    Depending on what they observe during the physical exam, your healthcare provider may order diagnostic tests to provide an accurate diagnosis. These tests may include:

    • X-rays: Takes images of your shoulder bones to check for injuries like joint dislocation or fractures
    • Computed tomography (CT) scan: Combines multiple X-ray pictures with computer technology to create detailed images of the deltoid muscle and surrounding bones and soft tissues to diagnose injuries
    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan: Creates detailed images of the deltoid muscle and surrounding structures to identify and diagnose injuries or nerve compression
    • Electromyography (EMG): Measures the electrical activity of the axillary nerve and deltoid muscle while at rest and during movement to check for injury to the muscle or nerve 

    Treatment

    Fortunately, several treatments can help relieve deltoid pain. Treatments for deltoid pain depend on the cause of your symptoms and the severity of your condition. Generally, your provider may recommend home remedies, medical interventions, or a combination of both.

    Home Remedies

    Self-care strategies can help relieve deltoid pain. In most cases, home remedies may be enough to reduce pain while you wait for your injury to heal. These include: 

    • Rest: Refrain from activities that cause pain in your shoulder to allow the muscle to heal and prevent further damage
    • Ice and heat therapy: Apply an ice pack to the deltoid muscle for 15 minutes at a time and use a heating pad after a few days of ice therapy to increase blood flow to the deltoid muscle
    • Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers: Take medications like Aleve (naproxen) or Advil (ibuprofen) to help reduce pain and inflammation or try Salonpas (capsaicin) patches that you can apply to your shoulder directly to relieve muscle pain
    • Gentle stretches: Try gentle stretches to help improve shoulder flexibility and range of motion
    • Good posture: Maintain proper posture to reduce strain on the deltoid muscle and surrounding ligaments and tendons

    Medical Treatments

    Medical treatments can help provide relief from deltoid pain for more serious injuries or severe pain when home remedies are ineffective. Your provider may recommend one or more of the following treatments:

    • Prescription medication: Stronger pain relievers or anti-inflammatory medications can help relieve more severe deltoid pain
    • Physical therapy (PT): A physical therapist can help you perform exercises to improve strength, flexibility, and stability in your deltoid muscle and shoulder to prevent further injury
    • Corticosteroid injections: Injecting corticosteroids directly into the deltoid muscle or surrounding area can reduce inflammation and relieve pain
    • Surgery: Some injuries, such as a deltoid rupture, rotator cuff injury, or shoulder impingement, may require surgery to repair the damaged deltoid muscle or address the cause of deltoid pain 

    A Quick Review

    In most cases, deltoid pain develops due to injury to the muscle or a nearby structure, such as ligaments, bones, or nerves in the shoulder. Deltoid pain often responds well to home remedies, including rest, ice therapy, and gentle stretches.

    If your pain is severe or persistent, however, your healthcare provider may recommend medical treatments like medications, physical therapy, or surgery to support your recovery.  

    For more Health.com news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

    Read the original article on Health.com.

  • Nail Melanoma

    Medically reviewed by Susan Bard, MDMedically reviewed by Susan Bard, MD

    Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that starts in the epidermis, the top layer of skin. Specifically, this type of cancer affects the melanocytes, the cells that give your skin its pigmentation or color. When melanoma begins in or around the fingernail or toenail, it’s called subungual melanoma, or nail melanoma for short.

    Nail melanoma is uncommon. As part of a broader category of cancers called acral-lentiginous melanoma, it’s only responsible for about 2-3% of skin melanomas. However, nail melanoma is often found in its later stages, which affects treatment success.

    Nail Melanoma Symptoms

    <p>DermNet</p>

    DermNet

    Many people know to check their skin for warning signs of cancer, like new or changing moles, but forget to examine their nails for any changes. These are the most common signs and symptoms of nail melanoma: 

    • Dark streak: Also called longitudinal melanonychia, this is the most common symptom of nail melanoma and often the first to appear. It looks like a dark brown or black streak running vertically along the entire length of the nail plate.
    • Inflammation: You may notice red or pink bumps on or under your nail or experience swelling or infection of the nail.
    • Skin discoloration: The skin around the edges of your nail may become discolored. It may look brown or black, also called Hutchinson’s sign. It could lack normal pigmentation (amelanotic), appearing pinker or redder than your normal skin tone.  
    • Nail splitting: The nail may split or crack vertically down the middle.
    • Onycholysis (nail bed separation): Nail melanoma can cause the nail to lift away from the nail bed or even fall off completely.
    • Bleeding: The areas around or underneath your nail plate may bleed, causing thin red streaks.

    What Causes Nail Melanoma? 

    Subungual melanoma is usually caused by a type of cancer called acral-lentiginous melanoma. When an excess amount of melanocyte cells is produced, some may grow abnormally, causing tumors or destroying surrounding tissue. Nail melanoma usually starts in the nail matrix, which is located at the base of the nail and is responsible for forming new nail growth.

    Unlike many other melanomas, nail melanoma is usually not caused by ultraviolet (UV) light exposure. The most common causes are your overall melanin production, physical trauma or damage to the nail, or certain medical conditions (like nail psoriasis).

    Risk Factors

    Nail melanoma is rare compared to other types of melanomas and skin cancers, but some people are more at risk of developing it than others, primarily because of their family history, ethnicity, and age: 

    1. Family history: You are more likely to develop nail melanoma if you have a first-degree relative with any type of acral-lentiginous melanoma.
    2. Age: Nail melanoma is most commonly diagnosed in people between the ages of 50-70.
    3. Ethnicity: Although subungual melanoma affects all races fairly equally, it represents a far greater percentage of melanomas in African Americans, Asians, and Hispanics. 

    Diagnosis

    To diagnose nail melanoma, your healthcare provider will take your medical history and do a physical examination. After that, some type of biopsy—a tissue sample taken to be studied under a microscope in a lab—is usually needed to confirm that you have melanoma and not another condition with similar symptoms. The biopsy is typically taken from your nail matrix but could also come from your nail bed.

    Sometimes, a non-invasive nail clipping taken by your provider can give them enough information to diagnose you with melanoma or another condition. But many people need to have one of several types of biopsies performed to diagnose nail melanoma:

    • Punch biopsy: Your provider may use a sharp circular tool to extract a tissue sample from a deeper layer of the epidermis.
    • Shave biopsy: Less invasive than a punch biopsy, a shave biopsy removes skin cells from the skin's surface with a surgical blade.
    • Excisional biopsy: This type of biopsy involves making an incision somewhere in the nail (in the nail matrix or nail bed or along one of the nail folds) to remove tissue surgically.

    Depending on the part of your nail affected and the type of biopsy being done, your provider may need to remove part of the nail plate from the finger being biopsied. Nail biopsies can be painful, so you can expect to receive local anesthesia.

    Bleeding and scarring are common complications of all nail biopsies, and the nail may not grow back correctly after your procedure.

    Stages of Nail Melanoma

    The stages of subungual melanoma follow the typical staging for all types of melanoma cancers: stage 0 through stage 4. The condition of the tumor, whether or not the cancer has reached the nearby lymph nodes, and whether or not the cancer has metastasized to other parts of the body all determine the stage of melanoma.

    • Stage 0: The tumor is small and only located in the epidermis (melanoma in situ). 
    • Stage 1: The tumor is less than two millimeters thick and has crossed into the dermis (the skin layer beneath the epidermis). The skin surrounding the tumor may or may not be ulcerated (broken down).
    • Stage 2: The tumor is at least one millimeter thick and could be more than four millimeters thick. It may or may not be ulcerated.
    • Stage 3: The tumor is any size and may or may not be ulcerated. It has spread to nearby lymph nodes but not other body parts.
    • Stage 4: The tumor is any size and may or may not be ulcerated. It may or may not have spread to nearby lymph nodes but has spread to other body parts.

    Treatments for Nail Melanoma 

    Most people with nail melanoma will need to undergo a surgical procedure to remove the tumor-affected tissue, stop cancerous cell growth, and prevent cancer spread. Radiation and immunotherapy are also options. 

    • Surgery: Historically, providers have always recommended amputation of the affected nail or finger. More recently, some evidence has shown that the use of more conservative surgeries that only remove the cancerous areas and preserve more of the nail and finger are effective in some early-stage cases. Your healthcare provider can help you determine the best course of action for your diagnosis.
    • Radiation: Typically, radiation and chemotherapy aren’t used to treat subungual melanoma unless it has spread to nearby lymph nodes or other parts of the body.  
    • Immunotherapy: For people with certain stages of cancer, immunotherapy treatments may increase the success rate of the surgery and decrease the risk of melanoma returning. Immunotherapy medicines help your immune system work better, identifying and destroying cancerous cells. These treatments may be provided before or after surgery.

    How To Prevent Subungual Melanoma

    Unlike other skin melanomas, limiting your exposure to UV light won’t reduce your risk of nail melanoma since this type of cancer is not caused by UV light. You also can’t prevent nail melanoma's most common risk factors—family history, ethnicity, and age.

    The only preventable factor that increases your risk for nail melanoma is injury or trauma to the nail. While this isn’t always unavoidable, you can reduce your risk of nail injury by:

    • Keeping nails trimmed, clean, and dry to prevent infection
    • Wearing protective footwear and gloves during physical activity, such as sports and manual labor
    • Wearing well-fitting and supportive shoes
    • Avoiding nail biting or picking
    • Avoiding cutting your cuticles during manicures or pedicures

    Complications

    Treating nail melanoma as early as possible reduces the risk of complications. This type of melanoma can be difficult to detect and—since surgery is almost always required—there are potential complications even from early treatment.

    • Infection: Because surgery and cancer growth both disrupt the skin barrier, there is a risk of local infection before and after treatment for nail melanoma.
    • Scarring: The nail is a relatively small area to treat with surgery, so removing affected tissue without damaging the nail and surrounding skin is difficult. In some cases, the cancerous cells themselves can cause scarring.
    • Metastasis: If left untreated, nail melanoma can spread to other parts of the finger and hand and—in later stages—metastasize to nearby lymph nodes or even other parts of the body.

    A Quick Review

    Nail melanoma, or subungual melanoma, is a type of skin cancer affecting the skin's top layers—the epidermis and dermis. It’s caused by an overproduction of melanocytes, the cells responsible for giving your skin its pigment.

    Unlike other skin melanomas, exposure to UV light doesn’t increase your risk for nail melanoma, which makes it difficult to prevent. Nail injury or trauma is the most common cause. People with dark skin and people of Asian descent are also more likely than other ethnicities to develop nail melanoma.

    When found early, nail melanoma is usually treatable with surgery and has a high survival rate. However, nail melanoma is harder to detect than other skin melanomas, and the survival rate is lower in the later stages of the disease.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is the survival rate for nail melanoma?

    The survival rate depends on the stage of your illness and the timing of diagnosis and treatment. People with stage 1 nail melanoma have a five-year survival rate of at least 92% and a 10-year survival rate of at least 86%. The survival rates for stages 3 and 4 are much lower (below 40% after five years and 25% after 10 years), emphasizing the need for early detection.

    What does early nail melanoma look like?

    In about two-thirds of people with nail melanoma, the main symptom is longitudinal melanonychia, a dark vertical streak or line under the nail plate. It may be thin or thick, and light brown to black. This symptom often appears before the nail splits, cracks, thickens, or separates from the nail bed.

    Is a black line on your nail always melanoma?

    Melanin deposits can form under the nail due to hormonal changes or medications. Fungal nail infections can cause discoloration of the nail. Hematomas (blood clots caused by broken blood vessels) can appear under the nail after injury or trauma and may look black as they heal. 

    For more Health.com news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

    Read the original article on Health.com.