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Archive for Health Advice

Gout

Gout is a type of arthritis that is caused by the formation of uric acid crystals in one or more joints.  Uric acid forms when the body breaks down purines, which are normally dissolved by the body and pass through the kidneys into the urine.  With people who have gout the uric acid builds up and then forms sharp crystals in the joint spaces, which causes pain and swelling.

What Causes Gout?Image Source: http://www.gout.com/what-is-gout#/causes-triggers

 

Eating foods that are rich in purines may increase the risk of getting gout.  These are foods such as salmon, organ meats, sardines, asparagus, mushrooms, and herring.

People are more likely to develop gout if they:

  • are overweight
  • drink excessive amounts of alcohol
  • have high high cholesterol
  • have diabetes
  • have high blood pressure

Men develop gout more often than women.  However, women are more likely to develop gout after menopause.  Gout also tends to be hereditary.

Some medications also may cause gout.  These include:

  • Certain diuretics (water pills)
  • Niacin (B complex vitamins)
  • Low dose aspirin
  • Some drugs used to treat cancer

The symptoms of gout may be sudden and usually start at night , often in the big toe joint.  It can also occur in the joints of the feet, ankles, knees, hands and wrists.  The affected area becomes red, feels hot and aches.  The joint also hurts more when touched.

During a gout attack, resting in bed and placing an ice pack on the joint may help to ease the pain.  Medicines that reduce inflammation, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, may help the symptoms.  While having a gout attack reduce the amount of animal protein you eat and avoid alcohol completely.  The sooner you receive treatment, the sooner the pain will go away.  With treatment, the gout attack should go away within a few days.

Without treatment, a gout attack can last days or weeks.  This could cause more joints to get affected.  If you have gout for many years, you can develop tophi.  This is uric acid crystals that form lumps under the skin, which could lead to kidney stones or kidney disease.  Your doctor can also prescribe medicines to prevent future gout attacks.  These medications help flush the uric acid from your joints and reduce swelling.

If you are experiencing any of these painful symptoms, please give our office a call to schedule an appointment, 757-488-3333.

~Keeping you well, Dr. Abdelshaheed

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What is A-Fib?

Atrial Fibrillation is an irregular heart beat that is usually very fast.  A person’s risk for atrial fibrillation (A-Fib) tends to increase as he or she gets older. In fact, over 13% of all Americans over the age of 70 have been diagnosed with A-Fib. Since life expectancies for Americans are on the rise, so too is the number of people with A-Fib. Hospitalizations due to atrial fibrillation in the US have also increased greatly in recent years. They are now 2 to 3 times what they were 20 years ago.

The heart has 4 compartments called chambers.  The top 2 compartments are called atria.  The bottom 2 chambers are called the ventricles.  During atrial fibrillation, the atria stop beating regularly.  Instead they tremble in a disorganized way.  This can cause an irregular and very fast heart beat.

A-Fib is most common in people older than 60 years of age; however, it can appear at any age.  Sometimes atrial fibrillation has no cause, yet the risks increase with the following conditions:

  • Heart disease due to high cholesterol
  • Larger heart size caused by high blood pressure
  • Damage to the heart valve
  • Overactive thyroid gland
  • Heavy alcohol intake
  • Use of certain medications

The most common symptom of atrial fibrillation is feeling your heart beat rapidly, for no reason.  This is known as heart palpitations.  Other symptoms include irregular pulse,  feeling tired, shortness of breath and chest pain.  Other times atrial fibrillation may have no symptoms.  Atrial fibrillation can also cause blood clots to form in the heart.  This blood clot can travel to the brain and lead to stroke.

The treatment for atrial fibrillation depends on the severity of symptoms and the patient’s past medical history.  That is, it depends on how the person is feeling and if they have a history of stroke or high blood pressure.  Your doctor will make this evaluation and establish a unique treatment plan that is appropriate for you.

Treating the cause of atrial fibrillation will often return the heart to a normal state.  Those who are taking blood thinning medicine will probably need regular blood tests, as well.

If you or a loved one is experiencing any of the symptoms of A-Fib, make an appointment to discuss this with me today – 757-488-3333.

~Keeping you well! Dr. Abdelshaheed

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Hemorrhoids

We know this is an “uncomfortable subject”, but a very common problem many of our patients deal with.

Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in your rectum or anus. There are three types of hemorrhoids; internal, prolapsed, and external. Internal hemorrhoids involve the veins inside your rectum. Internal hemorrhoids usually don’t hurt but they may bleed painlessly. Prolapsed hemorrhoids stretch down until they bulge outside the anus. A prolapsed hemorrhoid may go back inside the rectum on its own, or can gently be pushed it back inside. Finally, external hemorrhoids involve the veins outside the anus. They can be itchy or painful and can sometimes crack and bleed.

Relieving the pain

  • Take warm baths.
  • Clean your anus after each bowel movement by patting gently with moist toilet paper or moistened pads such as baby wipes.
  • Use ice packs to relieve swelling.
  • Use acetaminophen (one brand name: Tylenol), ibuprofen (one brand name: Motrin) or aspirin to help relieve pain.
  • Apply a cream that contains witch hazel to the area or use a numbing ointment. Creams that contain hydrocortisone can be used for itching or pain.

Hemorrhoids are caused by increased pressure in the veins of the anus or rectum. One of the main causes is straining when having a bowel movement. This may happen if  constipated or have diarrhea. It may also happen when on the toilet too long. Hemorrhoids can also be caused by obesity, heavy lifting, child birth,  or any other activity that caused you to strain.  Just about everyone has hemorrhoids at some time, but some things may make someone more likely to get them. People whose parents had hemorrhoids may be more likely to get them. Pregnant women often get hemorrhoids because of the strain from carrying the baby and from giving birth. Being very overweight, or standing or lifting too much can make hemorrhoids worse.

Preventing constipation

  • Include more fiber in your diet. Fresh fruits, leafy vegetables, and whole-grain breads and cereals are good sources of fiber.
  • Drink plenty of fluids (except alcohol). Eight glasses of water a day is ideal.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Avoid laxatives, except bulk-forming laxatives such as Fiberall, Metamucil, etc. Other types of laxatives can lead to diarrhea, which can worsen hemorrhoids.
  • When you feel the need to have a bowel movement, don’t wait too long to use the bathroom.

 

See your doctor if you notice bleeding to make sure the cause is hemorrhoids and not some other problem. Bleeding from your rectum or anus or bloody stools may be a sign of something more serious, such as cancer.

Don’t use hemorrhoid medicine without talking to your family doctor first. Painful hemorrhoids usually stop hurting on their own in 1 to 2 weeks. If yours keep causing problems, talk with your doctor.  Rubber band ligation can be used to treat internal hemorrhoids. It involves placing a small rubber band around the base of the hemorrhoid. This stops the flow of blood to the area and the hemorrhoid withers away. Internal hemorrhoids can also be destroyed by injecting them with a chemical. A hemorrhoidectomy (surgical removal of the hemorrhoid) may be needed if internal hemorrhoids are prolapsed or very large.

 

If you are suffering from hemorrhoids, call the office at 757-488-3333 and make an appointment today. Treatment is available!

~Dr. Samir Abdelshaheed, MD

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What is Fifth Disease?

Fifth disease typically produces a distinctive rash on a child’s face that makes the face appear slapped It is common in kids between 5 and 15 years old.  It is a virus, and many children recover quickly and without complications.  It occurs every where in the world, with outbreaks mainly in winter and early spring. The virus begins with a low grade fever, headache and mild cold like symptoms.  These symptoms will pass, and a few days later a rash will appear on the face that will later spread to the body extending down to the trunk, arms and legs.  It may take 1 to 3 weeks for the rash to completely clear.  Other symptoms that may occur with Fifth disease include swollen glands, red eyes, sore throat, diarrhea, and sometimes blisters from the rash.  In some cases relating to adults and older teens, Fifth disease may be followed by swelling or pain in hands, wrists, knees and ankles. A blood test for the virus would indicate if someone has the disease.

Fifth Disease - Slapped Face

*Photo courtesy of the CDC.

 

A person with Fifth disease is most contagious during the period where they have respiratory symptoms and a fever.  Once the rash appears, the child is no longer contagious. Once a person is infected with the virus causing Fifth disease, they will develop immunity to it and won’t become infected again.  If Fifth disease is developed during pregnancy, it may create complications to the fetus.  Nonetheless, 50% of women have already been infected and have immunity to the virus. Some children with weak immune systems and certain blood disorders, may become significantly sick with the infection that could cause anemia. This may cause the red blood cell levels to drop to dangerously low levels.  Please call your doctor if the rash is widespread over the body, accompanied by other symptoms, or if you’re pregnant and develop a rash and have been exposed to Fifth disease.

 

There is no vaccine for Fifth disease, and no good way to prevent the spread of the virus.  Practicing good hygiene, like hand-washing, is always good prevention against the spread of viruses.   Although antiviral medicines are now available for many viruses, none are available that will treat Fifth disease.

 

If you have questions about the prevention and treatment of Fifth disease, please call our office today at 757-488-3333.

~Dr. Samir Abdelshaheed, MD

Image Source 1

 

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Getting a Good Night’s Sleep, at ANY age.

There’s more and more evidence that sleep problems such as insomnia and excessive daytime sleepiness are more prevalent in older people.

Some of the reasons include:

  • medication side effects
  • increasing disease
  • pain
  • depression & anxiety
  • limited mobility

Even changes in a person’s living situation, such as a move to an assisted living facility or a nursing home, and even a hospital stay, can affect sleep. Cognitive deficits and Alzheimer’s can also have drastic effects on a person’s sleeping habits.

In general, older people need less sleep than younger ones; and their sleep is less deep.  Yet, insomnia is not a normal part of aging and can and should be treated.  Recent studies in the journal, Sleep, found that getting too little sleep is a risk factor for depression.  Older adults with poor night time sleep are more likely to have attention and memory problems.  Lack of sleep has been associated with an increased risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes as well.

If you are having trouble sleeping at night, ask you doctor to help you determine if any of your current medications have connection to your sleep problem.  Then you may determine if any daytime activities, such as naps are creating such sleep issues.  Daily naps should be halted or at least reduced.  Go outside for fresh air and sunlight, exercise, and to socialize with friends.  Just exposure to sunlight may be helpful. Sleep disturbances result from disruption of the body’s circadian rhythms which are controlled by light and dark patterns.  Age related changes in the eye may also reduce the amount of light that reaches an older person’s retina.

Most importantly is good sleep hygiene.  Establish a bed time ritual such as a bath and quiet relaxing activity, such as meditation or prayer.  A light snack in the evening is preferable and fluids should be restricted a few hours before bedtime to avoid the need to urinate during the night.  Caffeine and alcohol should be limited.  The bedroom should be dark, quiet and a little cool.  If sleep enhancing techniques with out medication fail to work, prescription sleep medication should be considered.  All sleep medications should be used with caution, as side effects are frequent.  Such medication should be used in the lowest dose and intermittently rather than nightly, if possible.

Good Night's Sleep

 

If you are having trouble sleeping, please call the office today at 757-488-3333, so we can discuss your treatment plan. You don’t have to “live exhausted”!

~Dr. Samir Abdelshaheed, MD

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