Posts Tagged ‘Medicine’

Diverticulitis

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

Diverticulitis is a disorder that comes from diverticulosis, which is characterized by small, bulging pouches in the digestive tract.

These pouches are also called diverticula, and they are common in the United States. Over half of the population older than 60 years of age has them; however, it is not limited to just those over the age of 60 as those younger can get the disorder as well. The pouches don’t always cause problems and many times, people do not know that they are there; however, the pouches can become infected or inflamed (diverticulitis). This can cause severe pain in the abdomen, fever, nausea, and changes in bowel habits. Diverticulitis happens when the diverticula become infected. Cases can range from mild to severe; the milder cases can be treated with antibiotics for the infection as well as rest and diet changes. The more severe cases require hospitalization and in some cases, removal of the affected part of the colon (bowel resection).

There is good news-most people with diverticulosis do not develop diverticulitis. This condition can be prevented by eating a well-balanced diet with food rich in fiber.

Symptoms of diverticulitis include:

  • Pain in abdomen and lower left side
  • Tenderness
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea and constipation

Other signs considered less common are:

  • Vomiting
  • Bloating
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Frequent urination
  • Pain while urinating
  • Tender abdomen

So what causes this in the first place? Diverticula are formed in weak places in the colon that give way under pressure. Then the pouches, which are about the size of a marble, protrude through the colon wall. The pressure in the colon can lead to infection of the diverticula. It was once thought that nuts, seeds, corn, and popcorn were to be avoided by those who had diverticulosis; however, recent research has shown that not to be the case and in fact, a higher intake of nuts and corn could possibly help to avoid diverticulitis in male adults.

Diagnosis is usually by CT scan and its 98% accurate in diagnosing diverticulitis. Other diagnostic studies include barium enema and colonoscopy; however, these are only done when the inflammation has subsided due to the possibility of perforation.

Shingles

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

Elderly citizens age 60 and over should receive a vaccine to protect them against shingles, or herpes zoster.  The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta recommends a single dose of the zoster vaccine, Zostavax, for adults age 60 and over. This is even if they have had a previous outbreak of shingles.

A new recommendation that was published in the CDC’s Mortality and Morbidity recently replaced a former provisional recommendation made in 2006. This provisional recommendation was made after the vaccine was licensed by the United States Food and Drug Administration.

In those ages 60 and over that received the vaccine, the occurrence of shingles was reduced greatly. Particularly with those ages 60-69, it reduced the occurrence rate by 64 percent.

Side effects of the vaccine from those that had it seem to be redness, pain and tenderness, swelling at the injection site, itching and headache.

It is reported that half of the people living to age 85 have had or will get shingles.

Shingles is characterized by clusters of painful blisters which develop on one side of the body in a band-like pattern and can cause severe pain that may last for weeks, months or years. Shingles is caused by the childhood disease chickenpox that becomes dormant within the nerves and reactivates later in life. It is said that over 95 percent of people are infected with the varicella zoster (chickenpox) during their lifetime. About one in three persons will develop shingles during their lifetime, resulting in about one million cases of shingles per year.

Chickenpox is usually mild, but it can be serious, especially in young infants and adults. The risk of contracting shingles increases with age starting at around 50 and is highest in the elderly.

Many Elderly Below San Francisco’s Poverty Line

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

Richard Ow, an 80 year old gentleman, lives in the North Beach Hotel. He has been a resident there for the past 40 years. He earns less than $24,000 a year from his pension as a former postal worker. He retired 20 years ago. By what the federal government says, this man is not poor; but by San Francisco’s calculations, this elderly Chinatown man is living in poverty.

Mr. Ow considers himself fortunate; some of his friends are earning less than $800 a month from Social Security. The average check in San Francisco is $11, 319 annually which is a mere $500 above the federal poverty line.

Elderly residents are increasing in numbers to line up for the food banks and free meals. And, in the same breath, the federal government doesn’t consider them poor enough to qualify for many of the federal assistance programs.

For example, the federal government considers a single person earning $10, 830 or less a year as living in poverty; however, there are many seniors that earn as much as double that figure and still living in impoverished conditions.

A recent report by the Insight Center for Community Economic Development showed that 61% of San Francisco residents ages 65 and over earn less than $27,282 annually which is the bare minimum that a senior needs to cover necessary costs of living.

To help bridge the gap in costs, seniors will end up skipping meals or cutting pills in half to make them last longer. The economic recession has added to the problems of homelessness among senior citizens. In San Francisco, the number of food stamp, or SNAP, cases have grown by 55% in the past 17 months and the San Francisco Food Bank has seen a 25% increase in their case load over the past 12 months.

Based on an article located here; please visit for more information

Flu in the Elderly

Saturday, October 9th, 2010

The flu puts the elderly and those with chronic diseases at risk for problems associated.  Those 84 and older are at the greatest risk, age 74 and older, the second highest, and children age 4 and under is the third highest risk.

The flu symptoms in the elderly may include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Fatigue (can last 2-3 weeks)
  • Extreme exhaustion
  • General aches and pains
  • Chest discomfort, cough (can become severe)
  • Sore throat (not always)
  • Runny or stuffy nose (not always)

Although more common in children, the elderly can also suffer from symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea with the flu; however, these symptoms tend to be more common with the swine flu.

Complications of flu in the elderly may include:

  • Pneumonia
  • Dehydration
  • Worsening of chronic medical conditions such as asthma, emphysema, and heart disease (Congestive Heart Failure)

It’s important to see your doctor immediate if you have any of these flu complications. The sooner you start medical treatment, the faster it can work to treat the more serious symptoms.

The best way to prevent the season flu is to get a flu vaccine annually. Getting a season flu shot helps reduce the risk of being hospitalized due to serious complications, however, the season flu viruses change each year, so the elderly need to get a new flu shot each fall. Flu shots can be obtained at your doctor’s office, drug stores, and various other locations.

The American Lung Association offers an online flu shot. Please visit here and enter your zip code and a date and you will receive information about flu shot clinics in your area.

Erectile Dysfunction

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

Many men experience erectile dysfunction at some point in their life. A large percentage of these men are age 55 and over. Sadly, only a small percentage talks with their doctor about this problem.

Impotence can happen at any age, however, most men feel that it is an age-related problem and that it is normal to have an simply do not talk to their physician. And let’s face it, it’s a personal matter and embarrassing to some, so men just avoid the subject all together for the most part. In a survey of men age 60 or over, 61% reported being sexually active, and nearly half derived as much if not more benefit from their sex lives as they did in their 40s (About.com: Health Topics A-Z, 2010).

Erectile dysfunction in elderly men is more of a side effect with disease than age. Older men are more likely to have conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure than younger men. Sometimes, these conditions and/or some of their treatments (medications, etc) are in fact to blame for impotence.

There are in fact, many physical and psychological reasons that can cause brief periods of impotence; this should be considered as normal as getting a cold. To be honest, getting a cold could be a common reason that could cause temporary impotence. Most men do experience this from time to time in their life. Persistent problems should be discussed with a physician, particularly since it is treatable. It may also be a symptom of another type of problem. When in doubt, speak with your doctor (About.com: Health Topics A-Z, 2010).

Works Cited

(2010). Retrieved October 3, 2010, from About.com: Health Topics A-Z: http://adam.about.com/reports/000015_1.htm

Pet Therapy

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

For many years, dogs have been trained to aid the blind. Now, in more recent years, animals are being trained for other medicinal purposes such as for those with seizures and the elderly.

Therapy animals are specifically chosen to visit nursing homes, senior centers, day care centers, hospitals, prisons, and children’s homes in hopes of bringing physical and emotional comfort to people. Oftentimes, these animals are just your everyday ordinary animal who has an owner who is willing and able to volunteer their time with their pet to those in need of some sort of comfort. Ideally, for an animal to be considered for an activity such as this, the animal should be sociable, gentle, friendly, not afraid, and has the ability to get along with anyone.

Many scientists and doctors alike believe that the mind-body connection is closely related. For example, those individuals who feel isolated (as many elderly do) have a tendency to give up on life. Also, people who are sick are more likely to heal and get well if they are happy and comfortable. This is where animal therapy comes in. There are many advantages of this type of non-conventional therapy, ranging from physical to emotional.

Therapy animals have been known to:

  • Lower blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Increase physical motivation
  • Decrease pain
  • Encourage speech
  • Make patients more receptive to medical treatment and eating
  • Generally increase a patient’s will to live

Therapy animals affect people of all ages in a positive way. The animals bring a myriad of emotional and physical benefits to those in hospitals, nursing homes, and other places. These animals are reported to save many lives and also provide love, kindness, and comfort in the finals hours of life for many individuals.

Ways To Improve Heart Function

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

As people get older, body systems do not seem to work as well as they did at a younger age. This makes it important to take care of ourselves the best we can; diet, exercise, and rest will all help to keep our bodies working well. Unfortunately, sometimes no matter how well we take care of ourselves, illness and disease can take hold of us. In the elderly, it seems that heart problems are prevalent.

Here are a few tips to help keep your heart in tip-top shape:

  • Loose weight~Your heart will not have to work as hard to send blood to all parts of a slimmer body.
  • Avoid hard exercise~This puts a sudden pumping demand on your heart.
  • Engage in mild exercise~Walking or joining a doctor approved cardiac rehab program could help strengthen your heart.
  • Wear loose clothing~Wear clothing that encourages good blood flow in the legs; tight socks or hose with tight tops could slow blood flow to your legs thus causing clots.
  • Avoid extreme temperatures~The body works harder to keep the body temperature normal when you are too hot or too cold.
  • Avoid colds/flus~Try to stay away from those who are sick; also ask your doctor about yearly flu shots and the pneumonia shot.
  • Limit alcohol~Talk with your doctor about how much alcohol is safe for you (though it should be avoided altogether) as alcohol weakens the heart; heart failure could improve if alcohol is eliminated.
  • Get plenty of rest~Your body needs 8 hours of sleep a day.
  • Drink plenty of water~8 (8oz) glasses per day is recommended.
  • Keep legs elevated when sitting~This will help to increase circulation. Having your legs hanging down for extended periods of time can cause the blood to pool in your lower extremities thus putting you at risk for blood clots.
  • Most importantly, LISTEN to your body and on days you feel well, do more and on days you feel sick, do less.

Mental Health in the Elderly

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Mental health concerns exist for many individuals; however there are specific concerns in the area of geriatrics (pertaining to the study of elderly or the aging). Issues such as dementia, delirium, psychosis, and depression seem to rate the highest. In general, elderly folks are more sensitive to mental health medications and their side effects; especially women.

  • Dementia comes in many forms that are known to occur in elderly individuals. Alzheimer’s seems to be the most prevalent. Mental deterioration due to Alzheimer’s dementia can last 5-20 years and can occur with the following symptoms: delirium, delusions, depressed mood, and behavioral disturbances. Other symptoms such as memory loss, language difficulties, and difficulty in performing motor skills or failure to identify objects or people are all classic signs of the early stages of dementia. Dementia itself is untreatable; however, medications can be given to treat other symptoms such as depression or aggressive behavior.
  • Delirium can often be misdiagnosed and can be caused by an extreme sensitivity to surgery and anesthesia, drug toxicity and infections. Some common symptoms include inability to focus, disturbed consciousness, impaired judgment, or a decrease/increase in motor activity. Diagnosis can be made by doing an EEG (electroencephalogram) which will show slowing in brain activity. Treatment can be effective once the underlying cause can be found. Medications can be given to try to reduce the symptoms.
  • Psychosis is usually another term for schizophrenia or bipolar disorders. Schizophrenia is a group of mental disorders that involve disturbances in thinking, mood, and behavior. Bipolar disorders involve periods of depression followed by periods of mania. Mania can be accompanies by the feeling of being 10 feet tall and bullet proof, lack of sleep, and excessive activity. A well-known bipolar disorder is manic depression.
  • Depression is a common condition among elderly women. Statistics have shown that many depressed patients will go untreated due to improper diagnosis. Common symptoms include but are not limited to: disturbances in sleep, self esteem, sexual desire, appetite, energy, concentration, memory and movement, feeling guilty, thoughts of suicide (planned or attempts), or pain. Depression can be caused by several personal losses experienced in rapid sequence, which happens often with the elderly. Certain medical condtions seem to be associated with depression such as Alzheimer’s disease, Cancer, CHF (congestive heart failure), diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and sexual dysfunction. Some medications are known to be associated with depression such as anticancer drugs, anti-inflammatory drugs or progesterone. Psychotherapy along with certain medications is often a good treatment route. These drugs include tricyclics (imipramine, amitryptyline), heterocyclics, SSRI’s (Prozac), or MAOIs. Along with these drugs come a list of side effects such as blurred vision, dry mouth, confusion, or sexual dysfunction to name a few.

This is by no means an all-inclusive list of mental health issues in the elderly; it is merely a summary. It is the hope that information will arm you with the ability to seek out help for a loved one if needed.

The Future of Health Care

Friday, September 10th, 2010

By 2050 the elderly population will grow by a huge percentage and there will be a total of 90 million Americans out of the total population that is 65 and older. There are no industries that won’t be effected by this, and many are looking into ways to make sure that the growing percentage won’t be negatively impacted by so many in their peer group.

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Zinc Eases Pneumonia for the Elderly

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

Spending Qaulity Time

Pneumonia, even for the healthiest individuals is a dangerous disease. While most people get stuck in bed and miserable for a while, it can post much more severe issues for those with certain risk factors. In the elderly, pneumonia can be absolutely disastrous. Even if the disease itself is treatable, it can  easily create much more serious issues very quickly.

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