The most common causes of allergies

March 11, 2010 by  
Filed under ALLERGIES

Great Britain has the highest incidence of allergic diseases in the world. And health experts do not know why. In a BBC report, pediatric allergy expert Dr. Adam Fox explains the most common causes of allergies.


Food allergies are on the rise, health experts report. And nuts are the most likely culprit, most especially peanuts. In addition to nuts, milk and eggs are also sources of allergens, and lately, sensitivity to gluten is commonly reported as well. Allergic reaction to food can be mild to severe and can range from skin rashes to gastrointestinal problems to life-threatening anaphylactic reaction. To avoid allergic reaction, choose your food wisely. Pay attention to food labels as they often contain warnings about possible traces of nuts or eggs or gluten.

Dust mites

Millions of dust mites are present in our homes even though we cannot see them with the naked eye. It is not the mites as such that cause the allergic reactions but the fecal pellets and dead bodies of the mites. Allergic reactions to mites may manifestation in wheezing, sneezing and coughing. To minimize dust mites, frequent vacuuming and airing of your home is recommended.


Pet dander, hair, shed skin and saliva from animals are potential allergens. Allergy to pets can manifest as skin rashes, wheezing, and sneezing. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to avoid this allergy except to avoid hairy pets.

Hay fever

Spring is coming so watch out for hay fever. Pollens from trees and flowers are most likely responsible for allergies in spring time. In summer and early autumn, it’s probably mainly from grass pollen. Many of us are familiar with the symptoms of hay fever: itchy eyes and runny nose. Even avoiding the outdoors doesn’t work out well as pollens do get everywhere.

Unknown cause

Finally, if you are like me, you might be allergic to something but you don’t know what it is. I’ve been tested several times and I’ve tried to keep a diary to pinpoint the cause but never really discovered the culprit. Luckily, the symptoms were usually mild – skin rashes or hives. There have been cases, however, of so-called idiopathic anaphylaxis, severe allergic reactions which can be fatal but whose cause is not known.

At any rate, it is advisable that we should always have antihistamines at home, which are the first-line treatment for allergic reactions. Remember, serious allergic reactions can be fatal and needs emergency medical care.

Memory loss is not necessarily dementia

December 9, 2009 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

grandmothers_birthdayWhen we see an elderly person who is confused or incoherent, we tend assume it has something to do with senility or dementia. Loss of memory is not necessarily a sign of dementia and senility is not necessarily a sign of Alzheimer’s disease, even in the elderly. This is a comforting message from aging experts.

However, there can be other causes for memory loss. Stress is one. Side effects of medications are another. There are many more.

According to Mara Mather, reasercher on aging at USC:

“Memory loss is not always due to dementia and it’s not always due to aging… Stress has an impact on memory and long-term stress can diminish the size of the hippocampus and diminish memory abilities and it looks like to some extent that’s recoverable.”

In fact, there are many factors that can influence memory skills. Some of these are listed below (source:

  • Aging
  • Nutritional deficiency, e.g. deficiency in certain vitamins and minerals
  • Depression
  • Diseases and medical conditions such as diabetes or hypothyroidism
  • Oxygen deprivation of the brain, which can be cause by stroke, heart attack, or severe trauma
  • Structural abnormalities in or damage to the parts of the brain associated with memory formation
  • Free-radical damage.
  • Chemical poisoning, including consumption of alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drugs
  • Infections of the central nervous system (CNS) infections such as encephalitis, toxoplasmosis and neurosyphilis
  • Stress, emotional as well as physical
  • Sensory overload, e.g. when a person is trying to do too many tasks or worry about too many things at the same time, the brain is overloaded with information and cannot process short-term memories.
  • Low blood sugar
  • Genetic factors
  • Seizures, such as those related to epilepsy
  • Severe emotional trauma
  • Low estrogen levels in postmenopausal women

Thus, there is no reason to jump into conclusions about older people’s diminishing mental capacities. This could just well be temporary or “reversible” dementia due to one or more of the abovementioned factors. Instead, when signs of memory loss or confusion arise, we should first look at the possible factors involved. Is the person under mental or emotional stress? What sort of medications is the person taking? Family members and caregiver are also advised to talk to the patient’s doctor.

“To find the underlying cause of memory loss, your physician will obtain a detailed medical history, which documents the pattern, symptoms, and types of memory loss. He or she will also inquire about contributing factors that may worsen or trigger memory loss. A routine physical and detailed neuropsychological examination with a focus on memory function will be conducted. In addition, he or she will order several diagnostic tests.”

Photo credit: stock.xchng

Cardiac arrest: what makes the heart stop?

June 29, 2009 by  
Filed under Featured, HEART AND STROKE

artificial-heartResource post for June

The King of Pop Michael Jackson was said to have suffered from cardiac arrest but the actual cause of death is unknown. This statement confused many people – why can’t cardiac arrest be the cause of death? To answer this question, we have to brush up a bit on what we know about cardiac arrest.

What is cardiac arrest?

According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute

Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is a condition in which the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating. When this happens, blood stops flowing to the brain and other vital organs.

If the heart does not start beating within a few minutes, death occurs.

There many things that can cause the heart to stop or “arrest” and sometimes it doesn’t even have anything to do with heart disease. The heart runs on an internal electrical system that regulates the rate and rhythm of the heart beat. From time to time, the electrical system can have problems, causing abnormal rhythms called arrhythmias. These abnormal heart rhythms can be too slow (bradycardia) or too fast (tachycardia) or it can complete stop. Some arrhythmias can cause the heart to stop pumping blood, causing sudden cardiac arrest.

Now, it is important for us to know that cardiac arrest is not synonymous to a heart attack or myocardial infarction in doctor speak. However, a cardiac arrest may be a complication of a heart attack. Although, people with heart problems have a high risk of SCA, most SCAs happen in completely healthy people with no history of heart disease.

Whatelectricity causes cardiac arrest?

So what can cause the heart to stop beating and lead to cardiac arrest? There are many things that can interfere with the heart’s electrical system and these are:

  • Coronary heart disease (CAD)/Heart attack. Blocked coronary arteries can lead to heart attacks but also interfere with the electrical system of the heart. A large number of SAC cases are due to CAD or heart attack.
  • Electric shock/electrocution. A strong electrical shock can stop the heart. Electrocution and lighting strikes can easily lead to SAC.
  • Respiratory arrest. This can happen when people choke, or drown or can’t breath, cutting off the oxygen supply to the heart.
  • Overdose on certain drugs. It is a know fact that certain drugs can interfere with heart rhythms. This is why new drugs are screened for pro-arrhythmic effects before approval. When taken in excessive amounts, certain drugs complete halt the heart, resulting in SAC.
  • Trauma. A strong sudden blow to the heart, or an injury that damages the heart can also lead to cardiac arrest.
  • Unknown causes. Some cases of SAC cannot be explained, unless an autopsy is conducted.

What are the signs of SAC?

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the warning signs for SAC are

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Cessation of normal breathingheart-stethoscope
  • Absence of pulse
  • Absence of blood pressure

Death occurs within 4 to 6 minutes after cardiac arrest. It is estimated that 95% of SAC cases result in death.

How can cardiac arrest be reversed?

In SAC, every second counts. To save the patient, it is imperative that the heart be restarted as soon as possible. It can happen that heart function is restored but brain death has already set in due to interruption of blood and oxygen supply.

There are several ways to restore a normal heartbeat:

  • Electric shock using defibrillators, a scene that we often see in emergency rooms. In settings away from hospitals, the use of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) has saved many lives.
  • Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is to manually restore the heart beat by applying pressure on the chest region.

According to the AHA

Cardiac arrest can be reversed if it’s treated within a few minutes with an electric shock to the heart to restore a normal heartbeat. This process is called defibrillation. A victim’s chances of survival are reduced by 7 to 10 percent with every minute that passes without CPR and defibrillation. Few attempts at resuscitation succeed after 10 minutes… It’s estimated that more than 95% of cardiac arrest victims die before reaching the hospital. In cities where defibrillation is provided within 5 to 7 minutes, the survival rate from sudden cardiac arrest is as high as 30-45 percent.

Because SAC is very time critical, waitdefibrillator1ing for emergency services to arrive may be too late. This is why AEDs are available in crowded public places, e.g. airports, sports stadiums, public events where people gather. In Zurich, Switzerland, AEDs are strategically located in telephone booths in the city center. Equally important is bystander awareness. AEDs are designed to be used by almost anybody, even without any medical training. Yet, many people are hesitant to “get involved.” Health groups, including the AHA are campaigning for more active bystander involvement in the prevention of SAC.

Photo credit: stock.xchng

What Causes A Heart Attack

April 4, 2008 by  

By John Tahan

The heart is a muscular pump that needs a continuous supply of oxygen. It obtains oxygen from the blood, which flows to the heart muscle through arteries on the heart’s surface. These arteries are called the coronary arteries.

The underlying cause of heart attack is coronary heart disease (CHD) – the slow build-up of fatty deposits on the inner wall of the arteries that supply the heart muscle with blood. These fatty deposits, called plaque, gradually clog and narrow the inside channel of the arteries. It is a process that begins early in life and continues over the years.

A heart attack usually begins when an area of plaque cracks. Blood cells and other components of the blood stick over the damaged area and form a clot that suddenly and completely blocks the blood flow to the heart muscle. If the artery remains blocked, the lack of blood permanently damages the area of heart muscle supplied by that artery.

Know the signs of a heart attack, but be aware that symptoms can vary from person to person. Usual signs of a heart attack include chest pain, discomfort, heaviness or fullness in the chest, discomfort in arms, neck, jaw, stomach, shortness of breath, cold sweat or even nausea and vomiting. Sometimes these symptoms can come on suddenly but they can develop slowly. Not every chest pain is a heart attack, but it is impossible to know that before evaluation by a medical professional. Call 911 if you think you may be suffering from these symptoms. Do not drive yourself or anyone else to the hospital if these symptoms exist because during a heart attack, the possibility of life threatening rhythms exist, which can result in sudden loss of consciousness and death.

If you are rushed to hospital with a suspected heart attack, a number of tests will be performed to confirm the diagnosis and help your health care team decide on the best treatment for you.

These may include:

* Electrocardiogram (ECG) – During an ECG test, electrical leads are placed on your chest, arms and legs. These leads detect small electrical signals and produce a tracing on graph paper illustrating the electrical impulses travelling through the heart muscle.

* Blood tests

* Chest X-ray

* Angiogram – This is a special X-ray that shows whether your coronary arteries are narrowed or blocked. Under a local anaesthetic, a small tube (catheter) is inserted into an artery in your arm or groin and guided into the heart. Dye is injected through the catheter into the coronary arteries and X-rays are taken, giving detailed information about the condition of your coronary arteries.

Not every chest pain is a heart attack, but it is impossible to know without being evaluated by a medical professional. When having chest pain or related symptoms, it is best and safest to call 911. For those who have a history of coronary disease, previous coronary interventions (stents, angioplasty or open-heart surgery), transport to a PCI center is imperative. Primary PCI in the shortest amount of time is the best chance for survival and limiting of heart muscle damage.

For more information on the topic , please visit

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Thank you,

John Tahan

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Schizophrenia – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Methods

November 17, 2007 by  

By Juliet Cohen

Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe, and disabling brain disorder that has been recognized throughout recorded history. The first signs of schizophrenia typically emerge in the teenage years or early twenties. It is a form of psychosis, which is an impairment of thinking in which the interpretation of reality is abnormal. It is uncommon in children and is hard to recognize in its early phases. The term schizophrenia literally means split mind; however, many people still believe incorrectly that the condition causes a split personality (which is an uncommon problem involving dissociation). The cause of schizophrenia is still unclear. People with schizophrenia may hear voices other people don’t hear or they may believe that others are reading their minds, controlling their thoughts, or plotting to harm them. Certain psychotic disorders such as bipolar disorder in a manic phase and delusive disorder share some of the positive symptoms of schizophrenia but can have distinctly different courses and prognosis.

Schizophrenia can be caused by schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, drug abuse and other factors. It is not caused by childhood experiences, poor parenting or lack of willpower, nor are the symptoms identical for each person. The behavior of children with schizophrenia may change slowly over time. It affects approximately one percent of the world’s population, making it the most common psychosis. Schizophrenia and other mental health disorders have fairly strict criteria for diagnosis. Time of onset as well as length and characteristics of symptoms are all factors. Available treatments can relieve many of the disorder’s symptoms, but most people who have schizophrenia must cope with some residual symptoms as long as they live. A person with schizophrenia does not have a “split personality,” and almost all people with schizophrenia are not dangerous or violent towards others when they are receiving treatment.

Causes of Schizophrenia

The common causes and risk factor’s of Schizophrenia include the following:

The exect causes of schizophrenia are not known.

Genetic factors.

Chemical or subtle structural abnormalities in the brain.

Biological and environmental factors.

A Family history of Schizophrenia.

Psychological and social factors.

Symptoms of Schizophrenia

Some sign and symptoms related to Schizophrenia are as follows:

Loss of appetite.

The sense of being controlled by outside forces.


Incoherence (not understandable)

Regressive behavior.

Diminishment of the self.

Inability to take care of personal needs.



Lack of pleasure in everyday life.

Treatment of Schizophrenia

Here is list of the methods for treating Schizophrenia:

People who experience acute symptoms of schizophrenia may require intensive treatment including hospitalization.

Antipsychotic or neuroleptic medications (such as clozapine, risperidone, olanzapine, quetiapine, ziprasidone and aripiprazole) work by changing the balances of chemicals in the brain and are used to control the symptoms of the illness.

Supportive and problem-focused forms of psychotherapy may be helpful for many individuals.

If people with schizophrenia become depressed, it may be necessary to add an antidepressant to their drug regimen.

Individual therapy: Cognitive therapy involves a therapist helping you learn ways of coping with stressful thoughts and situations to reduce your risk of a relapse.

Patients who lack family and social support may be helped by intensive case management programs that emphasize active outreach and linkage to a range of community support services.

Juliet Cohen writes articles for diseases cure and health care information. She also writes articles on skin diseases.

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.