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Dehydration and Kidney Stones

During the summer months the heat is turned up and your chance of becoming dehydrated is increased. One of the possible side effects of dehydration is the development of kidney stones. When urine is too concentrated from lack of fluids, minerals can build up and form stones.

Stones vary in size from tiny crystals that can only be seen with a microscope to stones over an inch wide. Tiny stones may pass out of your body without your even noticing. With larger stones, you won’t be so lucky. Stones that are larger than a pencil eraser can get stuck in the urinary tract—and some have described the pain as the equivalent to childbirth —causing more than a million people per year to take a trip to the emergency room.

One out of 11 people in the U.S. will be affected by a kidney stone. They can form at any age, but kidney stones usually appear in 40 to 60 year olds. Of those who develop one stone, half of those will develop at least one more at some point in the future.

The best way to prevent kidney stones is to drink more water in the warmer months than you normally drink so you don’t become dehydrated.

If you experience any of these symptoms, seek medical attention:

Frequent & Painful Urination – One of the earliest and most common warning signs that you may have kidney stones is a sudden and unexplained increase in the frequency and urgency of urination. You may feel the need urinate, but are unable to ‘go’.

Spreading Back Pain – Oftentimes patients report pain that begins in their sides and back, just below the rib cage (where the kidneys are located). The pain may travel to the lower abdomen into your groin area and into your lower back.

Blood in Urine –  Rather than being clear or yellow in color, your urine can have a pink tint to even a red or brown color. As the condition worsens, you may notice blood in your urine.

Nausea & Vomiting – Some patients feel nauseated and sometimes it’s so severe that it will cause vomiting. One of the causes of vomiting can also be the intense pain associated with passing a kidney stone. Vomiting can also be caused by the body trying to eliminate toxins and waste, since the kidney stones are impairing the kidneys ability to properly function.

Pungent Smelling Urine – Not only will urine be discolored or cloudy, it may also have a foul odor. Normal urine may have a slightly bitter smell from time to time, but if you have a kidney stone, the urine will have a distinct sharp stench due to the concentration of toxins.

Inability to Sit – Sitting and lying-down can put additional pressure on the affected areas of the body which can make the pain even more intense if you have a larger kidney stone.

Fever & Chills – Most people do not leave kidney stones untreated. However, in a few small cases, the kidney stone remains small and doesn’t cause intense pain and other symptoms. However, the stone can create small internal cuts and scratches along the urinary tract creating small wounds which could become infected.

Kidney & Abdominal Swelling – If kidney stones reach a large size they can block the normal flow of urine, preventing urine from traveling through the urethra on its way out of the body. One of the earliest signs that things are reaching this critical stage is intensely painful swelling of the kidneys. When kidneys swell, you will notice inflammation near your lower back that is painful to the touch. It’s critical that you seek medical attention should you notice these symptoms. If left untreated, your body can go into septic shock as it’s unable to rid itself of toxins.

To detect kidney stones, your doctor may order lab or imaging tests. Lab tests look in urine for blood, signs of infection, minerals (like calcium), and stones. Blood tests can also detect high levels of certain minerals. About 80% of all stones are made of calcium oxalate. Knowing what the stones are made of can help guide treatment.

Treatment also depends on the stone’s size and location. CT scans or plain X-ray imaging can help your doctor pinpoint the location and estimate the size of a kidney stone. Depending on what your doctor finds, you may be prescribed medicine and advised to drink a lot of fluids. Or, you might need a procedure to break up or remove the kidney stone.

There are different procedures for breaking up or removing kidney stones. One method delivers shock waves to the stone from outside of the body. Other strategies involve inserting a tool into the body, either through the urinary tract or directly into the kidney through surgery. After the stone is located, it can be broken up into smaller pieces.

Don’t let the pain of kidney stones send you to the emergency room. Keep hydrated! But if you develop any of the symptoms listed above, call your doctor immediately.

Cataract Awareness Month

Does it feel like when you look at things, they aren’t as crisp, clear or colorful as they used to be? Do things look cloudy or blurry even when you’re wearing glasses? These could be symptoms of cataracts.

Cataracts is one of the leading causes of vision loss in the US and the primary cause of blindness in the world. More than 24 million Americans over 40 are currently living with cataracts. Though rare, children can be affected by cataracts, too.

A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eyes that affects vision. By the age of 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery in one or both eyes.

What causes cataracts?

The lens of your eye lies behind the iris and the pupil and it works much like a camera lens. The lens focuses light onto the retina at the back of the eye and it also adjusts the eye’s focus. The lens is made of mostly water and protein. The protein is arranged in a precise way that keeps the lens clear and lets light pass through it.

But as we age, some of the protein may clump together and start to cloud a small area of the lens. This is a cataract. Over time, the cataract may grow larger and cloud more of the lens, making it harder to see.

How do cataracts affect vision?

When a cataract is small, the cloudiness affects only a small part of the lens. You may not notice any changes in your vision. Cataracts tend to “grow” slowly, so vision gets worse gradually. Over time, the cloudy area in the lens may get larger, and the cataract may increase in size. Seeing may become more difficult and your vision may get duller or blurrier.

The clear lens slowly changes to a yellowish/brownish color, adding a brownish tint to vision.

As the clear lens slowly colors with age, your vision gradually may acquire a brownish shade. At first, the amount of tinting may be small and may not cause a vision problem. Over time, increased tinting may make it more difficult to read and perform other routine activities. This gradual change in the amount of tinting does not affect the sharpness of the image transmitted to the retina.

If you have advanced lens discoloration, you may not be able to identify blues and purples. You may be wearing what you believe to be a pair of black socks, only to find out from friends that you are wearing purple socks.

Who is at risk for cataract?

The risk of cataract increases as you get older. Other risk factors for cataract include:

  • Certain diseases (for example, diabetes)
  • Personal behavior (smoking, alcohol use)
  • The environment (prolonged exposure to ultraviolet sunlight)

What are the most common symptoms of a cataract?

  • Cloudy or blurry vision.
  • Colors seem faded.
  • Glare. Headlights, lamps, or sunlight may appear too bright. A halo may appear around lights.
  • Poor night vision.
  • Double vision or multiple images in one eye. (This symptom may clear as the cataract gets larger.)
  • Frequent prescription changes in your eyeglasses or contact lenses.

These symptoms also can be a sign of other eye problems. If you have any of these symptoms, check with your eye care professional.

Are there different types of cataract?

Yes. Although most cataracts are related to aging, there are other types of cataract:

  1. Secondary cataract. Cataracts can form after surgery for other eye problems, such as glaucoma. Cataracts also can develop in people who have other health problems, such as diabetes. Cataracts are sometimes linked to steroid use.
  2. Traumatic cataract. Cataracts can develop after an eye injury, sometimes years later.
  3. Congenital cataract. Some babies are born with cataracts or develop them in childhood, often in both eyes. These cataracts may be so small that they do not affect vision. If they do, the lenses may need to be removed.
  4. Radiation cataract. Cataracts can develop after exposure to some types of radiation.

How is a cataract detected?

Cataract is detected through a comprehensive eye exam that includes:

  • Visual acuity test. This eye chart test measures how well you see at various distances.
  • Dilated eye exam. Drops are placed in your eyes to widen, or dilate, the pupils. Your eye care professional uses a special magnifying lens to examine your retina and optic nerve for signs of damage and other eye problems. After the exam, your close-up vision may remain blurred for several hours.
  • Tonometry. An instrument measures the pressure inside the eye. Numbing drops may be applied to your eye for this test.
  • Your eye care professional also may do other tests to learn more about the structure and health of your eye.

How is cataract treated?

The symptoms of early cataract may be improved with new eyeglasses, brighter lighting, anti-glare sunglasses, or magnifying lenses. If these measures do not help, surgery is the only effective treatment. Surgery involves removing the cloudy lens and replacing it with an artificial lens.

A cataract needs to be removed only when vision loss interferes with your daily activities, such as driving, reading, or watching TV. Talk to your eye care professional about the benefits and risks of surgery so you can make an informed decision about whether cataract surgery is right for you. In most cases, delaying cataract surgery will not cause long-term damage to your eye or make the surgery more difficult. You do not have to rush into surgery.

Sometimes a cataract should be removed even if it does not cause problems with your vision. For example, a cataract should be removed if it prevents examination or treatment of another eye problem, such as age-related macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy.

If you have cataracts in both eyes that require surgery, the surgery will be performed on each eye at separate times, usually four weeks apart. Cataract removal is very common and is one of the safest and most effective types of surgeries with 90% of people having better vision afterwards.

Make sure your doctor knows of all the medications you are taking prior to cataract surgery as certain medications can increase the risk of bleeding during surgery. After surgery, you must keep your eye clean, wash your hands before touching your eye, and use the prescribed medications to help reduce the risk of infection. Serious infection can result in loss of vision.

What can you do to protect your vision?

  • Wearing sunglasses and a hat with a brim to block ultraviolet sunlight may help to delay cataract.
  • If you smoke, stop.
  • Researchers also believe good nutrition can help reduce the risk of age-related cataract. They recommend eating green leafy vegetables, fruit, and other foods with antioxidants.
  • If you are age 60 or older, you should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once every two years. In addition to cataract, your eye care professional can check for signs of age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, and other vision disorders. Early treatment for many eye diseases may save your sight.

 

What you should know about Testicular Cancer

It’s rare, but it does happen. A man’s chance of getting testicular cancer is about 1 in 263 which translates to a about 20,000 men every year. Testicular cancer is rare, accounting for about 1% of all male cancers. However,testicular cancer is the most common form of cancer in men ages 15-35. The good news is that with early prevention, the survival rate is 96-99%.

Testicular cancer or cancer of the testis occurs when cancer cells form in one or both testicles. These cells begin to change and grow uncontrollably, forming a mass or tumor. The cells can also invade the bloodstream and lymph system and spread, leading to tumors in other areas of the body.

There are two main types of tumors that account for the majority of testicular cancers:

  • Seminoma: There are two sub-types of seminomas, and the classical (typical) seminomas are more likely to occur in men between ages of 30 and 50. Seminomas are testicular cancers that grow slowly. They’re usually confined to the testes, but the lymph nodes may also be involved.Spermatocytic seminomas are less common and are found more frequently in men 55 years and older. However, both types of seminoma tumors may occur in all age groups.
  • Non-seminoma: There are four main sub-types of non-seminoma tumors: embryonal carcinoma, yolk sac carcinoma, choriocarcinoma, and teratoma. These types of tumors generally occur between the teen years and early 40s. They also tend to grow and spread rapidly to distant organs in the body including lungs, bones, and the brain.

What are the risk factors for testicular cancer?

The most important risk factor for testicular cancer is undescended testicles. In the womb, the testicles develop in a male baby’s abdomen. They usually move down into the scrotum at birth or in the first year of life. Other risk factors include:

  • Having had abnormal development of the testicles.
  • Having a personal history of testicular cancer.
  • Having a family history of testicular cancer (especially in a father or brother).
  • Being caucasian.

How can I prevent testicular cancer?

  1. Do the exam after a warm shower or bath.
  2. Use both hands to examine each testicle.
  3. As you feel the testicle, you may notice a cord-like structure on top and in back of the testicle.
  4. Feel for any lumps.
  5. You should also get a physical exam once a year.

What are the symptoms of testicular cancer?

  • Swelling or discomfort in the scrotum
  • A painless lump or swelling in either testicle.
  • A change in how the testicle feels.
  • A dull ache in the lower abdomen or groin.
  • A sudden build-up of fluid in the scrotum
  • Pain or discomfort in the testicle or in the scrotum.

If your own exam reveals a change, or any of these symptoms are present, call your doctor for a complete medical exam.

To determine whether a lump is testicular cancer, your doctor may recommend an ultrasound and blood tests. Other tests and scans are required to determine which stage of cancer the man is in. In its final stage, it spreads throughout the body. If the cancer is aggressive and left untreated, it can lead to death. 95% of testicular cancers will spread if left untreated.

Doctors providing your treatment may include:

  • A urologist: a surgeon who specializes in treating diseases of the urinary system and male reproductive system.
  • A radiation oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with radiation therapy.
  • A medical oncologist: a doctor who treats cancer with medicines such as chemotherapy.

Depending on the type of cancer, treatment options can include surgery to remove the testicle, radiation, and chemotherapy. Testicular cancer does not often return as a local recurrence because the entire testicle is removed. For recurrent testicular cancer, treatment usually includes chemotherapy and surgery.

Certain treatments for testicular cancer can cause infertility that may be permanent. Patients who may wish to have children should consider sperm banking before having treatment. Sperm banking is the process of freezing sperm and storing it for later use.

 

Sources: National Cancer Institute, Cancer.org and WebMD.

Traveling Abroad this Summer?

If you’re like us, you look forward to school being out and spending time together with family on a vacation. If you are lucky enough to take a trip out of the country, the Centers for Disease Control have some specific guidelines for you to ensure you stay healthy wherever your travels take you.

Take note of travel notices. The CDC’s website has country-specific information for travelers about current health issues. These issues could include disease outbreaks, special events or gatherings, natural disasters, or other conditions that may affect your health. Travel categories include:

Watch Level 1: Practice Usual Precautions

This means there is a usual baseline risk or slightly above baseline risk for the specific destination, and limited impact to the traveler.

Watch Level 2: Practice Enhanced Precautions
With watch level two, travelers are at increased risk in defined settings or associated with specific risk factors; certain high-risk populations may wish to delay travel to these destinations.

Watch Level 3: Avoid Nonessential Travel

This level has the highest warnings and travelers are at a high risk if they must travel to the destination.

Aedes mosquitoes spread dengue, chikungunya and Zika viruses. There is a risk to anyone traveling to a tropical or subtropical regions of the world where these viruses are found.

Zika is still a concern among many destinations that American’s frequent including, Costa Rica, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic, to name a few.

Before Travel

There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika, but you can protect yourself by preventing mosquito bites:

  • Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Use EPA-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) and always use as directed.
    • Pregnant and breastfeeding women can use all EPA-registered insect repellents, including DEET, according to the product label.
    • Most repellents, including DEET, can be used on children older than 2 months. (OLE should not be used on children younger than 3 years.)
  • Use permethrin-treated clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents). You can buy pre-treated clothing and gear or treat them yourself.
  • Stay in places with air conditioning and window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
  • Sleep under a mosquito bed net if air conditioned or screened rooms are not available or if sleeping outdoors.
  • Mosquito netting can be used to cover babies younger than 2 months old in carriers, strollers, or cribs to protect them from mosquito bites.

After travel

Many people infected with Zika virus do not feel sick. If a mosquito bites an infected person while the virus is still in that person’s blood, it can spread the virus by biting another person. Be sure to take steps to prevent mosquito bites for 3 weeks after your trip, even if you don’t feel sick, so that you don’t spread Zika to uninfected mosquitoes that can spread the virus to other people.

If you have a pregnant partner, you should either use condoms or not have sex during the pregnancy.

If you are thinking about pregnancy, talk with your healthcare provider about how long to  wait to become pregnant. You also should use condoms after travel to protect your partner from Zika even if you are not pregnant or trying to become pregnant.

No matter where you are traveling, it’s important to be up to date on all routine vaccines. These vaccines include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot.

Ask your doctor what vaccines and medicines you need based on where you are going, how long you are staying, what you will be doing, and if you are traveling from a country other than the US.

Hepatitis A: CDC recommends the hepatitis A vaccine because you can get it through contaminated food regardless of where you are eating or staying.

Hepatitis B: You can get hepatitis B through sexual contact, contaminated needles, and blood products, so CDC recommends this vaccine if you might have sex with a new partner, get a tattoo or piercing, or have any medical procedures.

Malaria: Some travelers to certain areas who are at higher risk for complications from malaria (such as pregnant women) may need to take extra precautions, like antimalarial medicine. Talk to your doctor about how you can prevent malaria while traveling.

Typhoid: You can get typhoid through contaminated food or water. CDC recommends this vaccine for most travelers, especially if you are staying with friends or relatives, visiting smaller cities or rural areas, or if you are an adventurous eater.

Rabies: Rabies can be found in dogs, bats, and other mammals in some countries so CDC recommends this vaccine for the following groups:

  • Travelers involved in outdoor and other activities (such as camping, hiking, biking, adventure travel, and caving) that put them at risk for animal bites.
  • People who will be working with or around animals (such as veterinarians, wildlife professionals, and researchers).
  • People who are taking long trips or moving to certain countries.
  • Children, because they tend to play with animals, might not report bites, and are more likely to have animal bites on their head and neck.

Yellow Fever: Certain governments require proof of yellow fever vaccination only if you are arriving from a country with risk of yellow fever. This does not include the US. If you are traveling from a country other than the US. Your doctor can help you decide if this vaccine is right for you based on your travel plans.

Being proactive and researching the risks with your travel destination, and being safety conscious when abroad are key to staying healthy. Following these simple tips can be the difference in good memories or a bad experience:

  • Get vaccinated
  • Take antimalarial meds
  • Eat and drink safely
  • Prevent bug bites
  • Keep away from animals
  • Reduce your exposure to germs
  • Avoid sharing body fluids
  • Avoid non-sterile medical or cosmetic equipment

 

Source: CDC