Category Archives: Medical
None of us lead pure and blameless lives, especially when it comes to our health and fitness habits. Every now and then, just like when we were in school, we need to check up on how we’re doing in certain areas to make sure we’re on the right track. Luckily for us, life science research has armed our healthcare providers with an almost endless supply of tests to aid in diagnosing both common and rare conditions. These diagnostic tests may just save our lives, or at least prolong them, if they find something that can be treated. Certain tests are recommended at certain ages and under certain conditions, and just like those tests in school, how well we do can determine our happiness and our future. Let’s take a look at a few of the more common diagnostic tests and what they can tell us about our health.
- Lipid panel – This test is more commonly known as the cholesterol check. A blood sample is taken to determine the extent of lipid peroxidation–in other words, how much cholesterol is in your bloodstream. The higher the levels of “bad” cholesterol, the worse off you are and the more medication and/or dietary changes you’ll need. Lipid panels are recommended for all male patients over the age of 35 and for all patients over 20 years old if at risk for coronary heart disease. Women should only worry about lipid screening if at risk for coronary heart disease.
- P24 ELISA – This is not your run-of-the-mill diagnostic assay, but it is recommended for those with what is termed an “at risk” lifestyle. The P24 ELISA diagnosis HIV and is recommended for everyone who may have been exposed through either blood or sexual contact.
- Cardiac stress test – Strap on your sneakers for this one, gang! This is the dreaded treadmill test that shows any abnormalities in your cardiac blood supply. This, in turn, shows how healthy your heart is and how at risk for a heart attack you just might be. Men over 45, postmenopausal women, anyone with high blood pressure or high cholesterol, smokers, diabetics, and those with a family history of heart disease are all likely candidates for the physician’s office 5K.
- Mammogram – Women over 40 should be well acquainted with the “boob mashing monster” known as the mammogram. This test checks for breast cancer and other abnormalities in breast tissue. The test is recommended for younger women with certain health factors or symptoms, such as pain and swelling, or who have a family history of breast cancer.
Knowing about these tests and having these tests performed can save or add years to your life. While no studying is required, these are tests that everyone should want to pass with flying colors!
Chances are, if you’ve ever been in a hospital and rang the bell for the nurse, the first person to answer was probably a certified nursing assistant, or CNA. These men and women are the backbones of clinical hospital care. They fill your water pitcher, help you dress, assist you with your bath, deliver your meal trays, and in some settings even change your sheets. They bring you an extra blanket, take your vital signs on a routine basis, and notify the registered nurses or other staff assigned to you of more serious situations that they aren’t qualified to handle.
CNA training is some of the shortest and most readily available of all the hands-on nursing care fields. Many vocational schools train high school students and young adults in a matter of months. CNA certification programs are also popular with junior colleges, community colleges, and other adult education facilities. Getting CNA certified can be the end of your training and the beginning of your career in nursing or can simply be the beginning–a stepping stone to greater things–as you can earn a living and pursue further education.
Certified nursing assistants are often overlooked by individuals looking for a career in healthcare because they think of CNAs as poorly paid, poorly educated, and in large supply. None of this is necessarily true. We have already stated that most CNA training programs are short term–typically 6 to 12 months–but there is a great deal of training packed into that short period of time. CNAs must show mastery of:
- How to properly lift and transfer patients from beds, gurneys, chairs, wheelchairs, and other equipment without causing injury to themselves or the patient.
- How to properly and safely bathe a patient or assist a patient with his or her bathing.
- How to assist a patient with other areas of personal care–eating, dressing, grooming, personal hygiene, toileting.
- How to change bed linens, with or without the patient in the bed.
- How to perform other housekeeping duties, such as cleaning up after a feeding or toileting, personal grooming, and handling biohazardous materials.
- How to properly take a patient’s vital signs during regular rounds using both manual and electronic equipment.
- How to properly document all the care that the CNA has given to his or her patients.
It is true that CNAs are often the lowest paid of the nursing professions, but they are in high demand with expected growth in the occupation at 20% over the next 10 years or so. Nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, hospitals, clinic,s and even some physician’s offices all require the skills of a certified nursing assistant, and as the population continues to age, these facilities will see more and more patients needing care. If you’re looking to get your foot in the door of professional nursing or wish to fulfill a desire to truly care for and help others, you may just want to give CNA training a try!
Medicine has existed for thousands of years, and yet healthcare professionals are still only “practicing” it…so goes the old physician’s dinner joke. But there’s a great deal of truth to that old joke. For all that we know, for all that we can do, for all the diseases and conditions that used to spell only death or disfigurement, that have been cured or controlled or conquered, there are still so many things we don’t know, can’t do anything about, and have yet to understand. And that’s where the “practicing” comes in–we have yet to master medicine, anatomy, or disease. We are still journeymen, perhaps even apprentices, learning and growing and developing new skills and techniques all the time. And that’s where life science researchers come in.
We owe a great deal to those lab rats in their white coats and sterile environments. In days gone by, doctors often did their own research, and some still do. Home or hospital research laboratories overseen by curious or desperate physicians have given us everything from aspirin to the polio vaccine to x-rays. Now, most research is conducted in dedicated facilities–university labs, commercial research firms, government R&D facilities. And instead of practicing physicians, we have dedicated research staff–technicians, professional researchers, former clinicians–and they are just as busy seeking answers and innovations as those back room pioneers of long ago.
What have we gained from our lab rats recently? A lot of time and money is going into diabetes research, cancer research, and understanding the workings of the body at the smallest, most basic levels–cellular anatomy, biochemistry, and physiology. Diabetes research has helped us understand the process of advanced glycation and what happens to certain foods when they are cooked in certain ways. It’s helped us understand the link between obesity and diabetes and how we can avoid the disease altogether with proper diet and exercise. Cancer research has resulted in better understandings of cell life, death, and mutation. Just how cells can go from healthy to cancerous, how they can be influenced by free radicals, how they can migrate from one part of the body to another, all came about from the hard work and tireless efforts of lab researchers. Cell migration assays, among other techniques and tools, have been developed to help in these efforts. Many of these tools and methods begin in the realm of the research lab only to become the common life science products of hospital and clinic labs in years to come. What researchers use today may be the diagnostic tools of tomorrow. And that’s all part of the “practice” of medicine, in the lab and out.
Of all the ophthalmic instruments in your optometrist’s or ophthalmologist’s office, the corneal topographer is one you know well but you don’t even realize it. You know what it is, most likely, from your most recent exam, but you probably don’t know how it works or what it is used for. So, in the interest of educating our readers, and in making you more familiar with a common eye care tool, let’s meet the corneal topographer.
The corneal topographer is a machine that you sit down in front of and stare into. The little aperture or opening you stare into features a light with black concentric rings inside. Some of the surfaces are red while others are orange or yellow in color. The black rings are pretty standard. What you may not realize is that the center ring or dot is actually the lens of the digital camera. The topographer creates a 3D map or image of your eye’s outermost surface, or cornea. Now why would you and your optometrist or ophthalmologist want a map of your eye’s surface? Several good reasons actually, including:
- Diagnosis – several eye diseases can change the shape of the cornea, including glaucoma. Changes in the cornea’s shape or topography can indicate an eye health problem.
- Vision Correction – an accurate mapping of the outermost surface of your eye is vital to proper fit and use of contact lenses. Since corneal topography became more accurate and readily available, many patients have noticed a great improvement in how their contacts feel and work.
- Pre-Op/Post-Op Evaluation – A patient who needs to undergo LASIK surgery to correct vision problems will benefit greatly from corneal topography as the ophthalmologist has an accurate image of the cornea to use both before and after surgery to evaluate the surgery’s results.
Like the excimer laser used in many eye surgeries, the corneal topographer came into common use in the 1990s, though unlike the laser, its beginnings date about 100 years prior. A Portuguese ophthalmologist used a disk with painted black and white rings to roughly map the surface of his patients’ corneas based on the reflection of the disk’s rings on the cornea. He then drew maps, similar to those produced by geologists, of the surface of his patients’ eyes. Computer technology in the 1990s allowed for systems that both mapped the topography of the cornea and then produced digital images and maps. Fully automated corneal topography was now readily available.
So the next time you’re sitting in the eye doctor’s office, instead of wondering why you have to stare at a bunch of little circles in a round hole, you’ll know that you can count on the corneal topographer to map your eye’s health.
We all know that computers have taken over almost every facet of our lives, from the cars we drive to the way we communicate to the way we cook our dinners at night. And medicine is no different. EKG machines, ventilators, MRIs; even pulse, blood pressure, and breathing are all monitored by some computerized electronic gadget. Even our pet’s health care is monitored by digital veterinary equipment that’s just as high tech as that used on us. And since we’ve been focusing on healthcare careers, especially those you might not think of right off the bat, we thought we’d discuss a few more that bring a definite high-tech twist to health care.
- IT. With computers taking over so much of our health care, from computerized records software to 3D ultrasound scans to computer chips in prosthetic limbs, there’s a definite need for skilled IT workers. Medical equipment and machines all over the country see serious amounts of use, from medical equipment in San Diego hospitals, to the X-ray machine in the clinic in rural Wyoming, to the dental office in suburban Boston. So wherever you are, there’s a good possibility that someone in the health care field needs your expertise to keep their gadgets and goodies in tip-top shape.
- Development. Got a flair for designing new things? Improving old ideas? Fixing the faults in someone’s failed innovation? You may find that your skills and talents are welcomed into the world of medical equipment development and research. Someone had to come up with the idea for the MRI, or the computer chip in the wounded vet’s new leg, and the next big thing to hit medicine could come from a computer or electronic guru like you. Software is also a big area in medicine. Not only do all these machines and gizmos need the code that makes them do what they do, but nurses and doctors and other professionals are always looking for new and better ways to keep their records. Each patient presents new and different challenges, and new software is needed to meet these challenges.
- Public awareness. As the health care field becomes ever more competitive, many facilities are turning to social media to attract and keep patients. Now you may not have to have a degree in IT or R&D to do this, but you do need some computer savvy. As the markets become more mobile, medicine will have to keep up with that, too. So, if you can tweet with the best and know SEO like the back of your hand, a local health care facility or professional may just be in need of your services soon.
Healthcare is a growing, constantly changing field. As techniques and innovations develop so too do the individuals involved in serving patients. With the depth and breadth of the healthcare field and its careers, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to write an article on all the skills necessary for success in all the various jobs under the wide umbrella of healthcare. However, there are some skills and knowledge that are necessary to healthcare careers in general, and that’s what we’ll examine today.
- Research – Whether you’re a scientist developing a new life science product or a lab technician performing a P24 Elisa assay, keeping up to date with the developments and innovations in your field is vital to success in any healthcare career. In such a fast growing field, staying on your toes could mean the difference between life and death for one of your patients. It’s no surprise that most healthcare professionals have to undergo continuous education every year.
- Attention to Detail – Missing a symptom, incorrectly measuring a dosage, skipping a line in another professional’s reporting, mixing up samples or specimens–all this could lead to disastrous results for either you or your patient. A good eye for detail and the ability to stay focused on what you are doing each moment of your working day are highly valuable skills in a healthcare career.
- Compassion – Healthcare professionals, even those who see the inside of a research lab more than they do a patient’s body, must have a great deal of compassion and concern for their fellow man. How could you not? Most healthcare practitioners tend to see their patients at their worst or are motivated to prevent that worst from happening. An individual would have serious trouble doing his job well for long without a kind heart and a compassionate attitude.
- Desire to Change the World – Healthcare professionals all have a bit of the crusader in them. They want to make a difference in the lives of others. They want to improve the world and secure it for our future generations. From discovering the hidden chemistry of lipid peroxidation to discovering a sick child’s favorite flavor of medicine, wanting to know, needing to know, something that can better humanity is a day in the life of a healthcare professional. After all, you can’t make a change until you know what needs to be changed.
We often speak of health care professionals here on the I Love 2 B Healthy Blog. Healthcare is a pretty big field, and most of us, when we see or hear the term, only think of a few of the “big professionals” whom deliver healthcare. In the spirit of fun and to teach you a little something along the way, we’ve decided to feature a few of the lesser-known, not quite as commonly thought of careers in the realm of health care. These professionals are definitely unique, and some are, well, just downright odd.
- Researchers – Without the devoted and talented lab residents behind life sciences research, there wouldn’t be much news to report from the world of medicine or fitness. Whether it’s a technician overseeing a cell migration assay, a physiologist uncovering the mysteries of advanced glycation, or a group of doctors, nurses, and pharmacists working within a pilot program to test the efficacy of the newest wonder drug or treatment, without the time, care, curiosity, and courage of researchers, very few advances or innovations would ever see the light of day. Without all their efforts, we’d still be practicing 19th century healthcare.
- Laughter Therapists – Not clowns or comedians, these psychiatrists and psychologists are treating their chronically, clinically depressed patients with laughs instead of drugs. By teaching patients to smile and experience joy in their everyday lives, these specialists in laughter medicine see promising results. By using the laughter therapy techniques, patients can experience laughter and positive feelings more often, negating the need for chemical antidepressants.
- Sleep Technician – No, this guy doesn’t get to sleep on the job, nor does he teach others how to get a good night’s sleep. A sleep technician monitors patients during sleep studies. He has to keep an eye on the computer sensors and on the patient’s vital signs. He has to keep records of things like dreams, trips to the bathroom, teeth grinding, snoring, and even how many times you yawn. For those who may need a sleep aid or have a life threatening condition like sleep apnea, a sleep tech is the guy you want to spend time with.
- Art or Music Therapist – Like the laughter specialists, these dedicated individuals use their talents and training to help patients suffering from physical or psychological difficulties. Through music and art, patients can deal with traumatic memories, depression, loss of motor skills, anxiety, and dementia. A group of music therapists, for example, have discovered that listening to music from their era can help seniors suffering from memory loss and depression. Art therapy is often used with stroke and traumatic injury patients to help them recover and redevelop fine motor skills. This month, an art exhibit in Philadelphia will feature the art of women recovering from eating disorders.
While doctor or nurse may be the first healthcare professional to come to mind, there are myriads of other healthcare careers out there, helping us make a better life.
Medical laser equipment falls into one of two categories: cold and hot. Hot lasers are used in cauterizing and as laser scalpels, slicing through tissues with precision and ease. Cold lasers, also known as low level lasers, however, have many and varied uses. Cold laser treatments have been used for everything from pain control to body sculpting. In fact, low level or cold laser treatments’ many faces are changing the face of medical science forever. The many faces of cold laser therapy include the following:
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – The FDA has cleared low level laser therapy to relieve the pain and numbness in the wrist and forearm caused by carpal tunnel syndrome. This technique is preferred as a form of non-invasive, non-drug treatment for CTS. Some patients report immediate relief with no side effects or downtime.
- Allergic Rhinitis – Even if you don’t know what allergic rhinitis is, you’ve probably suffered from it at some point. Allergic rhinitis is when an allergen causes inflammation and pain in the nasal passages. When this inflammation is caused by pollen, it is known as hay fever. Cold laser treatments have shown to be effective in about 70% of hay fever sufferers, alleviating the pain and inflammation in their poor, abused noses.
- Fibromyalgia – Some fibromyalgia patients have shown a remarked decrease in the pain and discomfort caused by their condition when undergoing low level laser therapy. It is believed that the photostimulation of tissues from the laser treatments alleviates the aggravated nerves and muscles causing the patient’s pain.
- Tennis Elbow – In a study conducted in the late ’90s, 82% of patients with acute epicondylitis–tennis elbow–and 66% of chronic sufferers experienced complete pain relief and restored mobility in the effected arm after experiencing cold laser treatments.
- Osteoarthritis – In another study, patients with pain, swelling, and stiffness in their hands caused by osteoarthritis showed marked improvement after receiving cold laser therapy. Some saw all symptoms relieved, while others saw a significant reduction in their pain, discomfort, and lack of mobility.
- Laser Acupuncture – Cold lasers prove to be just as effective as traditional acupuncture without having to break the skin. The laser’s pinpoint accuracy can simulate the needle’s punch, stimulating the same nerves in the same manner. Acupuncture has been proven to alleviate all sorts of problems, from headaches to stomach ailments.
- Wound Healing – Low level lasers have been studied in several different trials of wound healing. In most cases, wounds healed 50% faster under laser therapy than when left on their own.
- Body sculpting – So-called “laser liposuction” is the result of using a cold laser to emulsify fatty tissue deposits by breaking down the cell walls and allowing the fat and water inside to dissolve into the body’s lymphatic system and eventually flush from the body.
Cold lasers are an amazing technological achievement. The next time you find your health ailing, consider seeking some form of low-level laser therapy.
Here at I Love 2 B Healthy, we’re passionate about health and well-being, but that passion doesn’t stop with ourselves or the kids. At my house, we have a regular domestic zoo–2 dogs, 4 cats, a hamster, and a fish (I keep wanting the kids to name the next rodent resident “Bait” but they won’t comply, for some reason). And with all these non-human citizens of our little world, pet health is a big priority for us. And I’m sure many of you readers are animal lovers, too. So, with no further ado, we thought we’d take this post to discuss some of the ways in which our little friends can benefit from our knowing how to keep them healthy and happy, too.
Heart Disease: Did you know that your cat or dog can suffer from heart disease, just like humans? If your dog develops a cough, becomes lazier than usual, or has difficulty breathing and pants a lot, you might want to have her checked by the vet for heart disease.
Dogs can suffer cardiac arrest, and an EKG machine can register the same irregularities in your canine friend as it can in you or me. In fact, it’s just one piece of veterinary equipment that’s very similar in looks and usage as a people doctor’s office or clinic.
Heart disease in cats is often more difficult to recognize. It makes them lethargic, but they’re cats, so laziness comes naturally. It can also cause sudden paralysis of the hind legs, if a blood clot travels down the aorta. Of course, by then, it’s too late.
To keep your pet heart healthy, your vet may prescribe a blood thinner or even blood pressure medication. Diet doesn’t seem to have any effect on heart disease in animals, but a good healthy diet is always best for your pets. Also, while exercise doesn’t do much for heart disease in our critter companions, it can help combat obesity, which has a whole host of problems associated with it.
Obesity: The expanding waistline isn’t just something that plagues humans. As we have grown more sedentary, so have our pets. As our diets have sunk into heavily processed, sugary, fat filled offerings day in and day out, so have our pets’ choices in food, especially if they “share” from our plates. Many dog foods list corn or a derivative as their main ingredient. All this grain is creating portly pups. As our feline furbabies share our ice cream and pizza cheese, we do them no favors, either.
The answer is diet and exercise–for us too. Take that pudgy pooch and your poochy belly for a walk every evening. Change both your diets to lean meats and less fat, salt, and sugar. Put down the tub of Ben and Jerry’s and pick up a cat toy for your friend to chase and pounce on. It’ll do you both a great deal of good.
Stress: Your cat and dog can feel your stress. They can become stressed out in their own way over lifestyle changes and situations, such as moving, a new baby, or even just bad weather. Just like you and me, though, there are things we can do to ease their uptightness and help them find some relief.
Again, regular exercise–walks, play time–can help. Their favorite treats–catnip, a new tennis ball, a trip to the dog park–can ease the tension too. And then there’s pet massage. No required medication or medical equipment, in San Diego or elsewhere. Giving your dog or cat a good massage can do wonders for the stressed-out fur-ball in your house. And a happy pet is a sign of a happy home!
We tend to think of some medical procedures as “new,” innovative, or products of the “Modern World.” In some cases, we’re right–gamma knife treatments are less than 65 years old, laser surgery less than 50, and most antibiotics aren’t quite senior citizens yet themselves. While many may think of “complicated” procedures, such as the treatment of tumors, acoustic neuromas, and trigeminal neuralgia, as newfangled and fresh, in actuality, many of today’s brain surgery procedures have an old and distinguished past, perhaps not as old as obstetrics, but ancient none the less.
Brain surgery, believe it or not, dates back to the Stone Age. That’s right, Grak and his caveman buddies were candidates for the earliest skull cracking medicine men. Skip ahead a bit to 3000 B.C. and we actually have papyrus scrolls left by Egyptian physicians describing brain surgery procedures. In fact, it’s in those scrolls that we have the first recorded usage of the term “brain” for that grey squishy thing we carry above our shoulders and between our ears. The Pre-Incan civilizations of Peru also practiced early forms of brain surgery. We’re talking 2000 B.C. here. In all of prehistory, civilizations that performed brain surgery did so with amazing success. Archaeological evidence tells us that patients lived for years after enduring their cranial operations.
Ancient brain surgeries were performed to cure or heal diseases and conditions that included mental illness, epilepsy, headaches, osteomyelitis, and head injuries from battle and everyday accidents. Some forms of brain surgery were performed for magical or spiritual practices. Often these surgeries were reserved for the elite–priests, kings, chieftains, and nobles. The procedures were first performed with obsidian knives, shaped from razor sharp volcanic rock. Later, tools made from bronze were commonly used.
Skip ahead to ancient Greece and the “Father of Medicine,” Hippocrates, who left us with several treatises on brain surgery. Many of the topics of his texts–spasms, seizures, and head injuries like contusions, fractures, and depressions–are still in good stead today, 2000 years later. Not to be outdone, ancient Rome had its very own rock star brain surgeon. While Hippocrates would not operate on skull depressions or do much to treat those suffering from brain injuries, Celsus did. Celsus described both procedure and treatment in his works from the first century A.D.
There was a time when the Muslims more or less ruled the Western world, during Europe’s Dark Ages. During this time, two Islamic surgeons, Abu Bekr Muhammed el Razi and Abu l’Qluasim Khalaf, made great strides and had a great deal of influence on the science of brain surgery.
During the Renaissance, even with the ban on the study of anatomy, many scientific minds were great physicians and surgeons, including Leonardo da Vinci, who left us his superb anatomical drawings and diagrams in his portfolio. While da Vinci didn’t do any brain surgery that we know of, his notebooks are still inspiring and instructing scientists today.
Brain surgery as we know it didn’t really come about until the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but when we consider the work of all those who came before–both great and unknown–our new and innovative procedures are merely another step in the long road of brain surgery’s history. I wonder if Grak would be proud?