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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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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

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The Dreaded Mononucleosis: AKA “Mono”

Mononucleosis (often called “Mono”) is an infection caused by the Epstein-Barr Virus, a virus in the herpes family of viruses. 

Signs of mono include:

  • fever
  • sore throat
  • headaches
  • white patches on the back of the throat
  • swollen glands in the neck
  • feeling tired
  • loss of appetite

Mono is most common among people 15 – 35 years old. Once someone gets mono, the virus stays in the person’s body for life.  This doesn’t mean that they are always contagious. Over time, the virus becomes less contagious.  Mono is not spread as easily as the common cold.  It is found in saliva and mucus and usually passed through kissing, even though it could be passed in other ways, such as coughing, sharing toothbrushes, drinking straws, or eating utensils with someone who has the virus.  Signs of mono develop 4 – 6 weeks after being exposed to the virus.

Mono is confirmed through a simple blood test.  The main concern with mono is that the spleen will enlarge and rupture.  The spleen is a large gland located in the upper part of the abdomen on the left side; and in short, it helps filter blood to the body. Mono needs to run its course naturally, and usually last about 4 weeks.  Some people will feel tired for several weeks longer. However, Mono will go away on its own.

The main point of treatment is to relieve the symptoms:

  • Rest
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Gargle with salt water or suck on throat lozenges or hard candy for sore throats
  • Take either an acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve the symptoms
  • Avoid sports activities until the doctor tells you its safe

We are not exactly sure how long someone with mono stays contagious after symptoms are gone.  But it’s generally believed that a person can spread the infection for many months after the symptoms are completely gone.  Some studies show as long as 18 months. So, take the needed precautions to decrease the spread of germs, such as hand-washing, not sharing food or drinks, etc.

If you are having these symptoms, please call the office today at 757-488-3333 to schedule an appointment.

~Dr. Samir Abdelshaheed, MD

 

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A Healthy Prostate

Benign prostatic hyperplasia also called BPH is a condition that affects the prostate gland in men.  The prostate is a gland that is found between the bladder, where the urine is stored, and the urethra, where the urine passed through.  As men age, the prostate gland slowly enlarges.  This growth may press on the urethra and cause the flow of urine to be slower.  This enlargement typically isn’t caused by cancer or infection.

Most symptoms of BPH start gradually.  One symptom is the need to get up more often at night to urinate, and to empty the bladder often during the day.  Other symptoms include difficulty in starting the urine flow and dribbling after urination ends.  The size and the strength of the urine may also decrease.

Such symptoms can be caused by other things besides BPH.  They may be signs of more serious diseases, such as bladder infection or cancer.  Tell your doctor if you have these symptoms so they can evaluate your condition.

In order to know if you have BPH your doctor will perform a rectal exam, which will allow the doctor to feel the size of your prostate.  To ensure that the problem is benign the doctor may need to look a sample of the urine for signs of infection.  A blood test may also be in order.  An ultrasound or a biopsy of the prostate may help the doctor make the diagnosis.

Once the doctor is sure that the symptoms are caused by benign growth of the prostate gland, treatment can be recommended.  Surgery is considered the most effective treatment and is used in men with strong symptoms that persist after other treatments are tried.  Drug treatments are also available, which block a natural hormone that makes the prostate enlarge.  This medicine has side affects that have to do with sexual function.

Another medicine called alpha blockers, can also help the symptoms of BPH.  Alpha blockers have been used for a long time to treat high blood pressure, but they can also be used to help the symptoms of BPH, even in men with normal blood pressure.  These medicines may not work with all men.  The side affects include dizziness, fatigue, and lightheadedness.  The side affects go away once the medication is stopped.

If you are dealing with any of these symptoms, make an appointment today. Call 757-488-3333. Treatment is available.

~Dr. Samir Abdelshaheed

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