15 THINGS PEOPLE WITH SCOLIOSIS WANT YOU TO UNDERSTAND

Scoliosis – adults have certainly heard the term and know that it refers to a curved spine. They don’t think about it much, though, because it isn’t publicized as a serious condition. And, they don’t really think of it as a handicap or disability either. It’s just one of those things that some people have.

Moderate to severe scoliosis, however, can be really debilitating and really painful, not to mention dangerous to lungs and the heart. While people don’t mean to be critical or mean, their lack of understanding about this condition often causes them to seem to be. So, here are 15 things that Scoliosis sufferers want others to know, so that these non-sufferers can have some empathy for the victims of the condition.

1. We have a real disability

No one really knows the cause, but I‘ve had it since the age of 11, and it got worse as I grew older. It now really impacts my life a lot, and there are lots of things I avoid because of it, not because I am anti-social or lazy.

2. We are in a lot of pain on the bad days

If I am complaining about back pain, it is because it has gotten so bad that I just can’t keep it in any longer. Please don’t make statements like I must have just “slept wrong” the night before. It would be nice to hear you say that you are sorry that I am in such pain and is there anything you can do? Just offering to get me a cold drink so I can down my pain meds would be appreciated.

3. We already feel really self-conscious about our looks

We are trying our best to stand up straight as much as we can. When you make comments like, “Don’t you think it would be good for you if you forced yourself to stand up straight?” you only make us more self-conscious. If I could stand straight more, I would — believe me. I don’t enjoy looking like this either. But it’s something I have to live with.

4. We feel it differently every day

Some days the pain is minimal, other days it is so bad I even have to pull off the road until the spasms subside. So, if you see us doing pretty well one day and very badly the next, please don’t ask if we think some of it might be “mental.” It’s not. The nature of this condition is that there are good and bad days, and no one really knows why. That’s the frustrating part – there just aren’t the answers that all of us who have scoliosis really want and need. Research funding for Scoliosis is pretty minimal, since there are so many other life-threatening diseases that must take precedence.

5. We find desk work particularly hard

We “slouch” in our chairs as it is probably the most comfortable position anyone with scoliosis can get themselves into. Even the newer ergonomic chairs available in most offices don’t help much. Don’t make comments about how I am not using the chair properly — it is because I can’t.

Stand desks can be our best buddies, especially those DIY models you can assemble up to your liking. However, we can’t spend too much time in front of them either. We are not being picky or restless when it comes to our working places. It’s just a tad bit difficult for us to find the optimal position we can comfortably spend the whole day in.

6. We can’t make plans ahead of time

This is because we never know what kind of day we’ll be having. When we have to cancel something at the last minute, please know that we are as upset about the cancellation as you are. But please don’t get angry with us. If we had plans for an after-work Happy Hour, and we cancel, it is because the best we can do right now is get home and try to find some comfortable position that will ease the pain. We really do want a social life, but the scoliosis often gets in the way.

7. We don’t just have a crooked spine

That crooked spine causes many other things too. One of my hips is higher than the other, one shoulder blade protrudes more than the other, one of my legs is longer than the other. And my ribs push on my lungs, making it more difficult to breathe. If I am out of breath after walking around a bit, please don’t kid me about being out of shape. It’s my ribs that are out of shape, not me. I get as much exercise as I am able, but my breathing issues do keep me from a lot of the physical activity that you take for granted. Even walking up and down hills is really tough for me.

8. We have to turn down offers to join the office volleyball team and most other group activities

When we turn down offers to be on the office volleyball/baseball/golf/any other team, please don’t think we are being “standoffish” or “unsociable.” We would love for someone to ask us to come and be the scorekeeper or perform some other supportive duty. In fact, we usually volunteer in these circumstances. We really do want to be a part of what others are doing, but often we have to participate in a different way.

9. We experience certain emotional consequences to scoliosis

We don’t just have good and bad days related to the levels of pain. We have emotionally good and bad days too. The lack of being able to lead a normal life, the pain, and the physical appearance just really get to us sometimes. We try to put on a “tough” exterior, but we can’t always keep it together. So if we seem depressed or if you see us getting teary-eyed, please don’t tell us to put a smile on our face and “snap out of it.”

Some days I just don’t want to, and others days I just can’t. If you could put yourself in my position, if only for a day, you would understand, I know. But since you cannot, please just give me a kind empathetic statement, like “I am sorry you are having a bad day. If there is anything I can do, please tell me.” That lets me know you care, and that is important.

10. We have troubles with finding clothes that fit well

Given that one shoulder and one hip are higher than the other, given that my stomach and butt may protrude, given that my ribs are protruding on one side, I have to carefully select the clothing I buy in order to hide as much of my physical deformities as possible.

Most of us actually prefer winter because we can look quite stylish in clothes that are bulky. Spring and summer are the bad months, because the clothing reveals so much more of the body. So, if we seem really out of style with our clothing selections, especially in the warm seasons, please understand that we would love to dress more fashionably, but we just cannot make ourselves expose the “deformities.”

11. We can suddenly experience tremendous pain

Simple things can send our back, legs, and ankles into spasms of pain. I dread colds, because a simple cough or sneeze can “do me in.” If I bump into a desk or chair, or have a little minor fender bender, I can be in pain for hours afterward.

It’s easy to think of us as hypochondriacs, I know, but please understand that we are not exaggerating the pain, and that we are not looking for sympathy. Please just acknowledge that our pain is real. When we see you and someone else rolling your eyes at one another while we are experiencing spasms of pain, it starts hurting even more!

12. We are not lazy

Very basic activities, like cleaning the house, involve some pretty major planning. First, we can only do this on the “good days.” Second, it takes us twice as long as someone else to complete the same cleaning chores. We have to mop, dust, and vacuum very carefully and slowly. We have to avoid bumping into things. We have to watch our stretching, pulling, and pushing.

So, if you should visit me at my house and it is not clean, please do not think I am a bad housekeeper. Understand that I probably have not had a good enough day to get the house cleaned this week. And please don’t go out and comment to others about the condition of my home. It’s hurtful, and giving people the impression that I am lazy is not fair.

13. We don’t usually go to the pool or to the beach

I don’t do this because I would never put on a swimming suit. If I ever do attend an outing of that type, the best I can do is shorts and a good-sized T-shirt. I may dangle my feet into the pool from the side or walk into the shallow part of the lake or ocean, but I will not be swimming.

Please don’t chide us for not bringing a swimsuit – we feel badly enough about it already. Swimming is actually a good exercise for us, and we do go to rehab centers often because they have a pool and we can swim with other Scoliosis patients.

14. We will gladly explain Scoliosis if asked

When people ask us to explain the condition, it makes us feel good. Obviously, the person wants to understand why we have the symptoms and why too many activities are so difficult and/or painful for us. Believe me, I keep up on all of the latest research and treatments because I want to take advantage of anything that might ease my symptoms. How much time have you got?

15. We may not be active participants in all of our kids’ activities

We really want to be. So, if the girl scouts are planning a weekend campout, we do want to go. We will bring our pain meds and we will tell you what we can and cannot do. We may not be able to paddle a canoe, and we may not be able to go along on a nature hike up and down hills, but we will bring the guitar and teach the girls some great fun songs around the campfire at night.

We may not be able to participate in the parent-son softball game, but we would love to help out in some other way on game day. We’ll volunteer to pass out drinks. We’ll wash the team uniforms after the game. We’ll be the best vocal cheerleaders ever. Please find a spot for us!

Scoliosis is permanent. And that realization to sufferers is very difficult to deal with. Most who have it started out with a very mild form that developed during a growth spurt period before puberty. Over the years, however, it gradually worsened, and no one really knows why. Some people develop a very mild form that stays very mild all of their lives. Others are severely handicapped by it as adults. If you work or socialize with someone who has moderate-to-severe Scoliosis, it would be really nice to do a bit ofresearch so that you can understand the condition better.

8 Things to Understand About Heroin Addiction Treatment

Heroin addiction is a deceptive, dangerous and relentless killer. It takes the lives of thousands every single year and without effective educational outlets and messages being distributed, the lethal opiate will continue to reign on in what has been labeled as an “epidemic” by health officials in the US. Thankfully, there are countless resources to get help in heroin addiction treatment, to escape the abuse that takes so many lives, and hurts so many people each and every day.

8 Things You Should Know About Heroin Addiction Treatment

Education means knowing substance abuse facts. What addiction looks like, what it is and especially what to do about it. If you’re new or simply curious to know more about the heroin epidemic, here are some heroin addiction facts that you must know:

8 Things to Understand About Heroin Addiction Treatment

Timing is Everything in Heroin Addiction Treatment

If you or your loved one suffer from a substance abuse problem, the longer you wait the deeper and more treacherous the situation becomes. The right time to get into heroin addiction treatment is now.

Know That Drug Addiction Help is Available

There are many resources to assist in escaping the grips of substance abuse. Among such resources are substance abuse programs like AA and NA among others. There are specially designed substance abuse treatment facilities that feature both inpatient and outpatient options, like The Discovery House.

8 Things to Understand About Heroin Addiction Treatment

The Difference Between Substance Abuse and Addiction

Understanding the primary difference between substance abuse vs. addiction and knowing what you are facing makes it easier to get the most effective help. The difference lies in the control one has over their own lives. While addiction is most often classified at this point as a disease and causes one to actually lose control over their lives, impacting relationships, employment and almost every other area of their lives, abuse implies that control is still being maintained.

Recognizing Substance Abuse Symptoms is Essential

Such things as drinking to the point of blacking out or being arrested for DUI can be indicators of a problem, and such tools as substance abuse worksheets can be helpful in substance abuse evaluation. Education is necessary and will enable not only the user but those around them to be better equipped to face the road ahead.

Getting into Heroin Addiction Treatment Programs

Once it is discovered or recognized, attacking the problem on several fronts can be most effective, such as locating the right substance abuse counselor or substance abuse rehab center that might do better to combine different avenues of treatment, such as counseling and substance abuse group therapy.

Drug Addiction Recovery is Possible

Substance abuse recovery is possible and the substance abuse behaviors can be changed or corrected. The life of the abuser doesn’t have to suffer one day longer, it is vital to proclaim this because without hope there is no way out.

8 Things to Understand About Heroin Addiction Treatment

Understanding Co-Occurring Disorders in Heroin Addiction Treatment

Additionally, it is important to know that substance abuse and mental health are often closely linked. If someone has a substance abuse disorder, then healing that individual will do more than correct the abusive behaviors, but will also put them on the path to a better and healthier mental state as well. Substance abuse mental health is the action of healing the whole person, and helping to ensure that a relapse won’t occur.

It Is Possible But It’s Going to Be Tough

The last thing to know is that this road can be expected to be long and hard. Don’t be discouraged, because at the end of the road is that better, healthier and happier life that we all hope and pray for, and with hard work, support and guidance it can and will be done.

Rheumatoid Arthritis: How to Reduce Your Risk

Popping joints and cracking knuckles can be like nails on a chalkboard for some people, but for others, it’s a necessary force of habit that eases the daily pain of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). A painful condition that causes person’s immune system to attack the body’s tissues, rheumatoid arthritis typically affects the joints. When left untreated, the inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis can lead to damage in other parts of the body, as well. In short, it can be seriously debilitating.

Worse yet, the American College of Rheumatology explains the exact cause of RA is unknown. While there is no guaranteed way to prevent the disorder, there are some things you can do to lessen your chances of getting RA (Genetics play a large role in RA — yet another disease you can blame your parents for). In addition to keeping inflammation at bay and discussing treatment options with your doctor, take a look at these ways you can reduce your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.

1. Quit smoking

person smoking cigarette

Smoking can cause more than just cancer | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

In case you’ve missed the important PSA regarding smoking cigarettes and tobacco use over the past several decades, smoking causes a whole host of health problems. Just don’t do it, OK? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “smoking is the strongest and most consistent modifiable risk factor for RA.” This means you can easily lower your risk by dropping the cigs.

Furthermore, the CDC also says people who have been exposed to maternal smoking as children are twice likely to develop RA as adults. The power is in your hands, literally. So put down the cigarette and commit to a healthier lifestyle.

2. Breastfeed (maybe…)

douple with a baby in their bedroom

Breastfeeding could help reduce your risk of RA | iStock.com

Breastfeeding comes with its perks. And now, you can add reducing your risk of RA to the list of benefits (as if saving on formula weren’t reason enough). According to the CDC, evidence suggests women who breastfeed are less likely to have RA. It’s important to note, though, this may just be coincidence. There’s no way researchers can actually link the two. But if you’re planning on having children anyway, it may be worth considering breastfeeding.

3. Oral contraceptives (another maybe)

Although oral contraceptives were at one point considered helpful in decreasing a woman’s risk of RA, this one is currently up for debate. The estrogen concentration in birth control pills today is far less than what it was when they were first introduced in the 60s, which may account for a more recent lack of association with a decreased risk of RA. Still, some recent evidence has shown oral contraceptives can help. Additionally, some research has determined that, while oral contraceptives may not protect against RA, they may help prevent the progression of RA. We may not know why these medications seem to help, but you may want to consider starting a conversation with your doctor.

4. Exercise

man stretching in field

Low-impact exercises are best for bad joints | iStock.com

Because symptoms of arthritis revolve so heavily around joint swelling, pain, and stiffness, leading an active lifestyle seems like an obvious precaution. “If you have healthy joints right now,” the Arthritis Foundation says, “do all you can now to maintain mobility and function and avoid the pain and disability associated with arthritis.” And if you don’t have healthy joints right now, try low-impact exercises that are sure to keep you fit without putting extra stress on your body.

Sugary Soda Linked to Increased Rheumatoid Arthritis Risk

Drinking one or more sugary sodas a day, including regular cola, caffeine-free cola, and other sugar-sweetened carbonated sodas, may significantly increase a woman’s risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA), according to a study published recently in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

But substituting skim milk for sugar-sweetened soda may decrease this risk, possibly because of milk’s beneficial vitamin D, researchers say, adding that the study doesn’t show that drinking sugar-sweetened soda actually causesRA, only that there’s a strong association between the two.

“We would not say soda would definitely lead to [an] increased risk of RA no matter how often people drink [it],” says lead researcher Yang Hu of the Harvard School of Public Health. Rather, people who drink “too much soda may be more susceptible to RA.”

A Mysterious Disorder

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory and autoimmune disorder, which develops when the immune system erroneously attacks healthy tissue, causing long-term redness, swelling, warmth, and pain in the joints. In 2007, some 1.5 million adults over the age of 18 had RA in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

RELATED: 7 Healthy and Cheap Food Swaps for Arthritis Relief

It’s unknown what, exactly, causes RA, but genetic and environmental factors are likely involved, including lifestyle and diet choices. It’s known, however, that cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes are more common in people with RA than the general population. Additionally, added sugar might contribute to the development of these two health issues by inducing obesity, insulin resistance, and inflammation — factors that may be also involved in the development of RA.

“The added sugar is different from the sugar from carbohydrates,” Hu says. “It is basically a source of sugar that exceeds the need of daily consumption.”

Sugar-sweetened soda is the primary source of added sugar in the American diet, and might increase a person’s risk of developing both cardiovascular disease and diabetes, according to a 2010 study in the journal Circulation. So Hu and his colleagues wondered if sugary soda also affects RA risk.

The Link Between Sugary Soda and RA

To find out, the team prospectively followed 186,900 women from two large cohort studies that ran from 1980 to 2008 and 1991 to 2009, respectively. Every two years, the women reported their physical activity, weight, and medical history, and every four years they reported about their diets, including what they drank.

After analyzing the data, the researchers found that women who drank one or more sugar-sweetened sodas a day were 63 percent more likely to develop RA than women who only drank less than one sugary soda a month. This risk appeared to be even stronger for women over 55 years old, suggesting the additive detrimental effects of soda over many years may cause chronic inflammation, which eventually leads to RA.

This risk is likely the same for men, but showing this would require a larger study, since the incidence of RA is two to three times higher in women than in men, according to the CDC. “Under ideal situations, I think similar findings could be found,” Hu says.

According to the study, frequently drinking diet soda, which contains artificial sweeteners rather than sugar, didn’t affect the participants’ RA risk either way. Interestingly, neither did drinking fruit juice, which often contains added sugar. But unlike sugary soda, fruit juices also contain many beneficial components, such as vitamins, minerals, and soluble fiber, which may prevent inflammation, Hu explains.

Weight gain and obesity doesn’t explain the link between sugary soda consumption and RA risk, the study found. And though the soda-RA association cannot be said to be causal at this stage, the researchers have some ideas about what’s going on.

For one thing, dietary sugar, particularly sucrose, can cause periodontal diseases, and studies have suggested a link between gum disease and RA, Hu says. Alternatively, sugary soda may increase the amount of certain molecules in the body that promote inflammation (cytokines).

Easy Ways to Reduce Your Sugar Intake

Because the study focused on healthy women, it doesn’t directly speak to people who already have RA. “But I think reducing the consumption of soda and adopting a Mediterranean diet pattern that emphasizes fruits and vegetables are helpful for relieving the symptoms [of] people who already have RA,” Hu says.

Aside from cutting out sugar-sweetened sodas, there are numerous other ways that people with RA can reduce their added sugar intake.

“Fruit is the best cure for a sweet tooth — especially fruit spaced throughout the day,” says Bethany Thayer, MS, RDN, director of Henry Ford Health System’s Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and president-elect of the Michigan Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Try enjoying a piece of fruit every four hours while you are awake for a week and notice your desire for other sugary treats fade away.”

But if you’re going to eat fruits, try to stick to whole fruits. Canned fruits, jams, and dried fruits sometimes contain added sugar, which you may not be aware of unless you read the ingredients label.

Aside from eating whole fruits, fill your diet with other foods that are “as close to nature as possible,” Thayer says. “The closer you can stay to the naturally occurring foods, the less sugar you are going to take in.” Avoid processed foods and beverages, and instead eat things like:

  • Fresh vegetables
  • Grains
  • Unprocessed meat
  • Low-fat dairy

Soy, rice, and almond milk are healthy alternatives to regular milk if you’re lactose intolerant, but many commercial products have added sugar to improve the taste. “And if it’s flavored, there is most likely some sugar that’s added to it,” Thayer says. Check the ingredients label before deciding on a milk alternative, especially if you are looking at the chocolate, vanilla, or other flavored varieties.

If you do decide to eat processed food or ingredients, whether it’s pasta sauce, BBQ sauce, salad dressings, cereal, crackers, or even bread, “be aware of what’s in them and make your decision on that,” Thayer says. Keep in mind that there are a variety of terms to denote added sugar on food labels, including:

  • Corn syrup
  • Fructose
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Sucrose
  • Molasses
  • Dextrose
  • Nectars
  • Cane juice

If you want to add sweetness to your food or drink, there are numerous artificial sweeteners out there, including saccharin, sucralose, acesulfame potassium, and aspartame. “Low-calorie sweeteners are highly researched and tested for safety before they hit the market, so it really becomes a matter of taste preference and what you might be using it for,” Thayer says. “You should experiment and taste test to find the [sweeteners] that work for you.”

Finally, Thayer advises, keep a food diary that lists everything you eat and drink, and review it often to find areas where sugar is sneaking into your diet more than you’d like. For instance, you may find that you’re ingesting one too many fancy coffee drinks, snacks and treats in the office, or sweetened lemonades while eating out at restaurants.

“Having a diary and reviewing it can help you in a number of ways, not just in reducing sugar,” Thayer says.

5 Best Diet Tips For Rheumatoid Arthritis

Diet Tips For Rheumatoid ArthritisThough it is still arguable among scientist community as to how diet affects Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) but there is a consensus that a nutritious well balanced diet helps in relieving symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis and maintain overall health.

Though there is no specific diet which will benefit all RA patients but evidence suggests that certain foods help people reduce inflammation and relieve symptoms. Since all people respond differently to nutritional changes, it is important to determine which foods make you feel better and which do not come across kindly to you.

Various Diet Tips For Rheumatoid Arthritis

Make Mediterranean Diet Your Staple Diet

Whole Grains For Rheumatoid ArthritisMediterranean diet includes whole grains, fish, fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts and olive oil. All these foods are high in good nutrients like phyochemicals, unsaturated fats, fiber and antioxidants. Phytochemicals and antioxidants are especially beneficial in reducing inflammation. Unsaturated fats keep cardiovascular diseases at bay which is another perk for RA patients as they are more prone to catch cardiovascular problems.  The other benefit of following Mediterranean diet is that it helps in losing weight and less weight means less strain on joints of legs.

Include Iron Rich Foods In Your Diet

Iron Rich Foods For Rheumatoid ArthritisTiredness and constant fatigue is a very common symptom of RA. Anemia can make your fatigue worse hence it is very important to eat iron rich foods.Your anemia can be worse if you have been on non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for long time which can lead to internal bleeding and stomach ulcers. Rich sources of iron include liver, green leafy vegetables, eggs, pulses, legumes, etc.

Control Your Sugar Intake

Control Your Sugar IntakeExcessive sugar intake is bad for your overall health including RA. Sugar increases your body’s acidity levels, raises the risk of hypertension and promote inflammation. Excessive sugar consumption can also lead to a weaker immune system by causing WBC to stop fighting infection. Avoid refined sugars from your diet. Include healthy sugars like jaggery and honey in your diet.

 

Eat More Omega -3 Fatty Acids

Omega -3 Fatty Acids For Rheumatoid ArthritisOmega -3 fatty acids are found in fish which may be helpful in reducing inflammation. Fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, etc contain good amount of omega-3 fatty acids. Fish oil is also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. According to American College of Rheumatology, some people have reported less pain and tenderness after consuming fish oil for regularly for 3-4 months. Vegetarian sources of omega-3 fatty acids include walnuts, flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, seeds, etc.

Include Calcium Rich Foods

Calcium Rich Foods For Rheumatoid ArthritisIt is important that everybody eat enough calcium to keep bones and teeth healthy. This is an ever bigger consideration for people suffering from RA because such people are on high risk of developing osteoporosis. Foods rich in calcium include green leafy vegetables, milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs, almonds, fish, fortified orange juice, etc. Our body needs vitamin D for absorbing calcium.

Most of us get enough vitamin D from sunlight but those who live in extremely cold areas can fulfill this need by consuming vegetable oils, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, fish, eggs and fortified cereals. These dietary changes should help you in getting relief from RA symptoms however, make sure to consult with your doctor before you make any drastic dietary changes or take any dietary supplement.

 5 Best Diet Tips For Rheumatoid Arthritis

8 things I wish I’d known before being diagnosed with bipolar disorder

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder just six months ago after years of being treated under the mental health services.

Despite receiving help in the form of therapy from the age of 15 and my mother having a bipolar diagnosis, I wasn’t totally prepared for being diagnosed myself.

It led to me having a lot of misconceptions about what the diagnosis meant and how I would be viewed as a person as, I’m sure, is the case for many people.

Here are 8 things I wish I’d known before being diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

1. It is not what defines you

I’ve got so used to people describing themselves as ‘being bipolar’ that I forget that what they mean is they ‘have bipolar’. I feel it’s important to remember that bipolar disorder is an illness, and not simply a personality trait.

2. There isn’t a quick fix

As far as I was concerned, I’d be totally okay once they put me on the right medication plan. What I didn’t realise is how long that medication plan can take. I’ve come to learn it’s all about (lots of) trial and error.

Schitzotribe_Illustration_Liberty Antonia Sadler_Metro schizophrenia illustration
(Picture: Metro.co.uk/LibertyAntoniaSadler)

3. It’s not as black and white as it seems

I assumed bipolar was being up and down, manic or depressed. I didn’t realise how much went on in between, that you can have periods of feeling normal or even mixed-state episodes where you’re feeling both up and down at the same time.

4. Manic doesn’t equal happiness

Before being diagnosed myself, I’d assumed manic meant you were happy and depressed meant you were sad. I didn’t realise manic was also classed as being agitated, irritable and angry, with the inability to slow your mind down.

5. Being manic is scarier than being depressed

Though I must admit I am much more motivated when I’m manic, I’m also like a ticking time bomb. And that’s scary. When I’m manic, I tend to not sleep much, I carry out every idea in my head, I’m impulsive and my credit card becomes my best friend (and worst enemy). And that’s dangerous. Alongside this, when I’m manic, I’m forever waiting for my mood to crash.

(Picture: Liberty Antonia Sadler)
(Picture: Liberty Antonia Sadler)

6. My depressed side highlights my insecurities

When I’m manic, I feel like I have the world at my fingertips. That the world owes me something. I convince myself that I’m going to do great things and I have a million ideas run through my head all at once. When I’m in a depressed state, all of my insecurities come out and I have some sense of realness again. Though it’s not nice, it’s comforting to know that there is that part of me that wants to do better.

7. The diagnosis is made easier to understand when a loved-one is suffering with the same thing

I must admit, bipolar disorder for me has been easier to deal with knowing my mum is living with it too. She can offer me advice, experience and can lift me up when I’m at my lowest.

 

Gastro bugs boost growth of Crohn’s bacteria in mice

Infectious diarrhoea can lay the groundwork for chronic bowel conditions to set in, according to a study in mice.

Biologists in Canada found the bacterium associated with Crohn’s disease fuelled bowel inflammation after bacterial gastro was cleared away, putting the mice at greater risk for developing a chronic condition down the track.

The work, published in PLOS Pathogens, could help develop interventions for people at risk of contracting Crohn’s disease.

Bowel disease is on the rise in Western society, and although genetics play a major role in this, research increasingly shows a link between bowel wellbeing and gut microbiota.

It’s known that patients who develop certain types of gastroenteritis, such as that caused by salmonella, are more prone to Crohn’s disease – an inflammation of the intestines that can cause chronic diarrhoea and abdominal pain.

Crohn’s sufferers also tend to have higher numbers of a type of gut bacteria known as adherent-invasive Escherichia coli, or AIEC.

The condition can develop years after a patient’s bout of food poisoning and the relationship between these two conditions isn’t well understood.

To shine some light on the subject, Cherrie Small at McMaster University and colleagues set about observing how mice respond to gastro.

In the test, half of the mice were infected with the AIEC gut bacteria associated with Crohn’s disease. The whole group was then exposed to acute gastro.

The mice with high levels of AIEC fared a lot worse than those without – symptoms were much more severe and levels of AIEC appeared to increase with the onset of gastroenteritis.

The researchers suggest that the AIEC gut bacteria “exploit the unique host environment imprinted by the action of pathogenic microbes that have been linked to short- and long-term risk of inflammatory bowel disease”.

They add that the study warrants research into new methods of diagnosis for at-risk patients: “Based on this work, AIEC status might be an important measure in the management of Crohn’s disease risk in individuals following episodes of food poisoning.”

6 things to know about ticks and Lyme disease

A deer tick under a microscope in the entomology lab at the University of Rhode Island in South Kingstown, R.I.

This year 97 percent of blacklegged ticks, commonly known as deer ticks, survived the Connecticut winter and are hungry for blood as temperatures warm.

These arachnids can transmit bacteria that cause Lyme disease and are likely thriving in your backyard, according to Connecticut Chief Entomologist Kirby Stafford.

About 3,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported in the state each year, the state Department of Public Health reports, but Stafford says that most cases aren’t reported. The true number is closer to 35,000, he estimates. “Under-reporting is more likely to occur in highly endemic [widespread] areas, whereas over-reporting is more likely to occur in non-endemic areas,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Connecticut is definitely a highly endemic area. In 2015, more than 2,500 Lyme disease cases were reported statewide, with infection rates the highest in Windham, New London and Middlesex counties. Nationally, 96 percent of Lyme cases occur in just 14 states, including Connecticut.

People can and do catch Lyme disease year-round in the state, but most cases occur in June and July, when people spend more time outdoors. During the summer season, young, or nymphal, deer ticks, so small they are difficult to detect, are out in force.

But you can protect yourself by knowing more about ticks and how they spread disease.

1. TICKS LOVE KIDS

A study of Lyme infection in Connecticut found that nearly half the offending tick bites happened while the victim was playing outside, making children the group most at risk for Lyme disease. Many others were doing yard work or gardening when the infection occurred. Hiking was a relatively infrequent contact activity, the study said. The danger is not in the woods so much as in your backyard.

Stafford recommends moving children’s play equipment away from wooded or brushy areas frequented by ticks. That may also mean paying more attention to sun protection as the sandbox comes out from under the tree. Kids should be checked, head to toe, for ticks after outdoor play.

2. TICKS ARE DELIVERY SYSTEMS

Ticks are “vectors,” scientists say. Deer ticks don’t have Lyme disease, but they feed off creatures that carry the disease. When they bite a human, they can transmit the disease. Taking measures to keep the animals ticks feed on, like deer and mice, away from your home is also a good way to avoid Lyme.

3. TICKS DON’T ALWAYS TRANSMIT LYME DISEASE

Only deer ticks carry Lyme, and only about half the deer ticks found in Connecticut are carriers. Even if an infected tick bites you, transmission takes some time. If you remove the tick within 24 hours, your risk of infection is zero. Checking yourself and your kids after being outside is an effective way to prevent the disease from developing.

4. TICKS SHOULD BE REMOVED PROMPTLY AND CORRECTLY

The Internet is full of suggestions about how to remove ticks, such as smothering them with petroleum jelly or holding a hot match to them. Both can actually drive the tick deeper. Devices marketed as tick removers vary in reliability and are often designed to remove large ticks. In the summer you are most likely to pick up young deer ticks, about the size of a poppy seed. Thin tweezers are your best bet. Clean the area with alcohol after removing the tick.

Putting clothes in the dryer on high heat for one hour will kill any ticks hiding there.

5. DON’T RELY ON THE BULL’S EYE

The circular red rash associated with Lyme only occurs in 70 to 80 percent of cases. Unfortunately, other early Lyme symptoms, like fever, headache, and muscle and joint pain, are common in many illnesses, making diagnosis difficult. There are blood tests available for Lyme, which are done in two stages. Some providers skip the first stage, however the CDC recommends against this as incomplete testing can lead to false positives. Tests will usually be negative in the first few weeks of the infection.

Connecticut residents who remove embedded ticks may send them to their local health departments for free testing to see if they carry bacteria that cause Lyme.

6. TICKS CAN BE KEPT DOWN WITH INSECTICIDES, REPELLENTS AND YOUR TRUSTY WEED-WHACKER.

The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station recommends using a repellent or insecticide on your clothes or person to keep ticks away and offers a fact sheet on the relative benefits of different products. There are a number of other measures you can take to protect yourself. For example, you can tuck your pants into your socks. Ticks latch on close to the ground and quickly climb up your body to find a comfortable spot. Tucking a pant leg cuts off their route. Or you can trim back that shady border. Ticks hate sunlight.

Deer ticks can also transmit babesiosis, an emerging illness that can be life-threatening in the elderly, those with weak immune systems, have other serious health conditions or who have had their spleen removed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

15 Fascinating Facts About Epilepsy

Epilepsy, also known as seizure disorder, is a serious condition in which a person experiences a sudden surge of electrical activity in the brain, affecting how they act or feel. There are many portrayals of this disorder in television (all of which are wholly inaccurate and for plot reasons only). Being personally afflicted with the most commercially patchable form of this disease, the most accurate description I could describe you with would be to tighten all your muscles as hard as you can, past the point of discomfort. You’re starting to cramp, aren’t you? Now conceptualize this: while your muscles are tensing, you are repeatedly bashing your appendages and your head against other solid objects (Do not try). It is a disquieting scene to witness a man attempting to stand on his own two feet, but his muscles have been strained to the point that it’s too painful to do so. In order to enlighten some of you about epilepsy, the following list is fifteen facts I have learned about epilepsy through research, trauma and treatment.

15. Hippocrates wrote the first book on epilepsy, On the Sacred Disease, around 400 BC, recognizing that it was a brain disorder and claiming that people with epilepsy did not have the power of prophecy.

14. Single tonic-clonic (otherwise known as grand mal) seizures lasting less than 5-10 minutes are not known to cause brain damage, contrary to the belief that seizures cause brain damage, they are actually more likely to stem from head trauma.

13. You cannot swallow your tongue during a seizure; you cannot swallow your tongue now, can you?

12. There have been some recent implications that have caused many to believe epilepsy goes hand in hand with anxiety and depression.

11. Like a diabetic who is misinterpreted as a drunk driver, epileptics can often have a seizure that manifests itself as bizarre behavior, such as: repeating the same word, not responding to questions, speaking gibberish, undressing, or screaming. (In my case I was considered a threat to an entire classroom while I was suffering from a seizure of this nature.)

10. Early in the 19th century, people with severe epilepsy were cared for in asylums, but one of the reasons they were kept separate from psychiatric patients was because of the misconception that seizures were contagious.

9. Everyone is born with a seizure threshold. If your threshold is high, you are less likely to have a seizure. However certain activities or things, known as triggers, can lower your threshold, such as drinking alcohol, sleep deprivation, stress, illness, flickering lights and hormones (for women mostly) can have an impact on your seizure threshold.

8. Only in about 30% of cases is the cause of epilepsy determined. The other 70% remain unanswered, in what is referred to as idiopathic epilepsy.

7. About 1 in 20 epileptics are sensitive to flickering light, or photosensitive epilepsy. The contrast, or change in light, can trigger a seizure.

6. The official color for Epilepsy Awareness is Lavender, with the pantone swatch of PMS 2593.

5. Towards the start of the 20th century, some US states had laws forbidding people with epilepsy to marry or become parents, some even permitting sterilization.

4. Seizures have a beginning, middle, and end. The beginning, referred to as the aura, can have signs of the oncoming seizure such as smells, sounds, tastes, lightheadedness, or deja and jamais vu. The middle, is the seizure itself, whether it be a grand mal seizure, or a simple partial seizure. The end of the seizure is called the postictal phase and is the brain recovering, which can take anywhere from seconds to hours and is usually accompanied with disorientation and memory loss.

3. The proper treatment for someone having a tonic-clonic seizure is not what you see in TV shows (multiple people pressing their body weight down on a seizing person). Here’s what you should do: Pay attention to how long the seizure lasts, move objects that they could strike out of the vicinity, simply block their way to prevent them from moving too far (or into water, fall off a bed, etc.). Put them on their side after the episode and don’t put anything in their mouth. If it lasts for more than five minutes call an ambulance.

2. Diastat, or diazepam, is the medicine used to treat a prolonged seizure or cluster of seizures. It is a gel supplied in a plastic applicator that, most unfortunately, has to be inserted rectally.

1. Epilepsy is usually not a lifelong disorder, with only 25% of those who develop seizures developing difficult to control seizures. And in my experience, those who have lifelong seizure disorders have more serious conditions at play.

10 Interesting Facts About Heroin

What you should know

Credit: Alex Malikov/Shutterstock.com

What you should know

The same poppy plant that blooms with the fragrant red flowers often depicted in beautiful paintings, as well as produces poppy seeds to top breads and bagels, also makes the substances in heroin, one of the world’s most highly addictive opiate drugs.

Heroin is derived from morphine, a naturally occurring substance that can be extracted from the seedpods of some varieties of poppy plants.

Heroin goes by the chemical name diacetylmorphine, and it’s the fastest-acting of the opiate drugs. Whether it’s injected, smoked or snorted, heroin enters the brain quickly and can cause a range of physical and psychological effects.

“The United States is currently in the midst of a heroin epidemic,” said Dr. Daniel Ciccarone, who has done research on heroin and is a professor of family and community medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. The country has experienced heroin epidemics before, but in this latest one, a large set of heroin users are people who have previously abused prescription opioids, he said.

These new users are getting hooked on heroin because it is cheaper and easier to obtain than prescription pain relievers such as OxyContin and Vicodin.

But new users bring old problems. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the rate of heroin-related overdose deaths nearly quadrupled between 2002 and 2013. In fact, heroin claimed the lives of more than 8,200 Americans in 2013.

Here are 10 interesting facts about this dangerous illegal drug. Reading them may give people good reason to avoid trying heroin in the first place.

Being "on the nod" is a dangerous state

Credit: Diego Cervo/Shutterstock.com

Being “on the nod” is a dangerous state

When heroin first enters the brain, users will feel a sense of euphoria, or rush. But this high is followed by a period when users experience a state that alternates between drowsiness and wakefulness for several hours. It is referred to as being “on the nod.”

“On the nod” is not a medical term, Ciccarone said. He compared it to a college student in a boring lecture who has his head down but is trying to stay awake — his head will nod and drop lower as he gets sleepier, and then his head will eventually jerk awake.

This nodding occurs because heroin is a sedative, and it can cause a person to go from feeling awake but sleepy into such a deep sleep that he or she cannot be shaken awake. This can seem like a desirable state for a heroin user, but it can be the first step on the road toward excess sedation, Ciccarone said.

“Being on the nod is the first baby step on a slippery slope toward overdosing,” he said. [The Drug Talk: 7 New Tips for Today’s Parents]

The nod can be especially dangerous if a person is sedated to the point where he or she loses consciousness. People can slip into a comatose state, and sink into overdose, where breathing becomes severely slowed and sometimes stops, Ciccarone said.Severe itching is a side effect of heroin use

Credit: ampyang | Shutterstock

Severe itching is a side effect of heroin use

When heroin enters the brain, it converts into morphine, which binds to opioid receptors in the brain and in the body. This produces a surge of euphoria, or rush, and a warm flushing of the skin.

But an unexpected side effect of heroin use is severe itchiness. Opiate drugs can cause histamines — the compounds the body produces during allergic reactions — to be released, and histamines irritate the skin, Ciccarone said. Heroin and other opiates can make people’s skin crawl and itch, and they may want to scratch their skin for relief.

A lot of users think something is wrong with their heroin when their skin gets itchy, but it usually means the drug is strong and not contaminated, Ciccarone told Live Science.Products containing heroin were once sold over the counter

Credit: sumire8/Shutterstock.com

Products containing heroin were once sold over the counter

Although it was first made from morphine in 1874, heroin was introduced for medical use in 1898 by The Bayer Company of Germany. Three years earlier, a chemist at Bayer was attempting to create a safer pain reliever that could be a substitute for morphine — one that was less addictive and also had fewer side effects. He accidentally synthesized diacetylmorphine, which he thought was a more dilute form of morphine, and he coined the term “heroin” for it, supposedly for its heroic qualities as a strong medicine.

In the early 1900s, products containing heroin, such as cough syrups and remedies for infant colic, were marketed and sold over the counter in the United States and other countries. Doctors also reported that people who used these products seemed to sleep better.

But within a few years, heroin was found to be two to three times more potent than morphine, and more rapidly absorbed by the brain. Physicians also quickly realized that heroin was even more addictive than morphine.

"Heroin chic" was a '90s fashion movement

Credit: Serg Zastavkin/Shutterstock.com

“Heroin chic” was a ’90s fashion movement

In the mid-1990s, there was a movement in fashion photography referred to as “heroin chic.” It featured waif thin, emaciated fashion models, such as Kate Moss, who looked in photos as if they were strung out on drugs. The look’s other hallmarks included blank stares, dark circles under the eyes and pale skin.

While this cultural phenomenon was taking place in fashion media, a new, cheaper version of heroin was entering the United States from Colombia, and it outcompeted heroin coming from Asia and Southeast Asia, Ciccarone said. The Colombian heroin was so cheap and pure from a street point of view that it increased both the number of heroin users and the depth of their drug use, he said.

In 1997, not long after a fashion photographer died of a heroin overdose, and in the midst of a growing heroin problem in the United States from the influx of cheap heroin, then-President Bill Clinton condemned the “heroin chic” images and advertisements. In a drug policy speech, Clinton suggested the look glamorized addiction in order to sell clothes. [7 Beauty Trends That Are Bad for Your Health]

Around this time, “heroin chic” fell out of favor, and the fashion industry replaced the superskinny look with a new trend: healthier-looking models.Smugglers "body pack" heroin

Credit: bilderpool/Shutterstock.com

Smugglers “body pack” heroin

People who work as so-called “drug mules” transport illegal drugs from one country to another in extremely risky ways. A case report published in 2009 in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings illustrated the dangers involved in trafficking drugs this way.

The report described a 50-year-old woman who was attempting to transport a substantial amount of heroin into the U.S. by carrying it inside her body. To do so, she swallowed 50 pellets of packed heroin, each containing 12 grams of the drug.

Because the woman had a history of drug trafficking, customs agents were suspicious of her, and she was detained at the airport. She was brought to a hospital emergency room, where a physical exam and blood tests showed nothing abnormal about her, but a CT scan of her abdomen revealed numerous rectangular-shaped masses in her colon.

Those rectangular masses, which are visible on the scan, turned out to be pellets of heroin. The woman was given a solution to drink to pass the drugs out of her bowel.

Customs officials recovered 49 intact pellets of packed heroin and took the woman into federal custody.

None of the heroin pellets had caused any infections or obstructions in her body, or opened up while they were within her digestive system.

“Body packing is intensely dangerous,” Ciccarone said. If one of those heroin packets explodes in the woman’s body, she could overdose and go into a coma, he said. If she quickly received treatment for the overdose, she might survive, he added.An anti-heroin campaign ran during the Super Bowl

Credit: Africa Studio/Shutterstock.com

An anti-heroin campaign ran during the Super Bowl

It may seem odd that among the commercials for beer, cars and junk food that aired during the TV broadcast of the 2015 Super Bowl, there was also a 60-second, anti-heroin spot.

The ad, which can be viewed here, was seen only by people in the St. Louis TV market and was created by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse.

Designed to increase people’s awareness of the deaths in the St. Louis area attributed to heroin or prescription opioid abuse, the ad shows dramatic images of a mother discovering her young son dead in his room after overdosing on heroin. A cheerful-sounding song plays in the background with lyrics describing the son’s tragic journey from abusing prescription opiates to heroin addiction.

The ad creators said the contrast between the upbeat music and the grim visuals were intentional, meant to make people pay attention to the commercial, talk about it and recognize the extent of the drug problem in their community.

There is often a question about whether to use positive or negative messaging in drugeducation campaigns, Ciccarone said. The first time viewers see an anti-drug ad with negative messaging, such as the one that ran in St. Louis, people might be awed or wowed or bothered by it, he said. But with repeat viewing, people may get immune to these effects.

This commercial did not show what the mother could have done to prevent her son from using heroin, but it could have depicted the steps a parent could take to help an addicted child, Ciccarone said. It could have provided information about calling 911, and having the drug naloxone in a medicine cabinet to administer to help reverse a heroin overdose, he said.Heroin comes in three different colors

Credit: Di Studio/Shutterstock.com

Heroin comes in three different colors

Heroin is sold as a white or brown powder, or as a sticky black substance known as “black tar heroin.”

Heroin that comes from Colombia tends to be brown and chalky, Ciccarone said. Heroin from Pakistan and Afghanistan is also brown, and it tends to be sold in Europe, he noted.

White-powder heroin — which is more refined and pure, and used to arrive from Southeast Asia — is becoming rarer in the United States, Ciccarone said. He said much of the powdered heroin sold in the U.S. has fillers or contaminants added, such as sugars, starches and powdered milk.

“Black tar” heroin comes to the U.S. from Mexico, which is the only country that produces it, Ciccarone said. It looks like a black Tootsie Roll; when the drug is cold, it’s a hard substance, but when it’s warm, it’s sticky, like roofing tar.

Black-tar heroin is formed by an industrial process, so the drug is not purified and is lower-grade, Ciccarone said. It’s also more similar to opium in its chemical makeup than other forms of heroin, and it has other opioid drugs — such as morphine and codeine — in it, he said.Some familiar phrases originated from heroin withdrawal symptoms

Some familiar phrases originated from heroin withdrawal symptoms

People who are addicted to heroin have a very difficult time overcoming their addiction, Ciccarone said. Getting off of heroin is a long-term process that requires a great deal of individual commitment and a lot of patience from family and friends. [5 Bad Habits You Should Still Quit]

But our language has been influenced by what happens when people quit using heroin.  For example, the expression “kicking the habit” is thought to have originated from the kicking leg movements seen in people going through heroin withdrawal.

During heroin use, a person’s muscles become lethargic and heavy, and move slowly, Ciccarone said. So when a heroin abuser goes through withdrawal, his or her leg muscles may become twitchy, crampy and uncontrollable, which can lead to kicking, he said.

Experiencing cold flashes with goose bumps is another heroin withdrawal symptom that may be responsible for the phrase “going cold turkey.”

When a person withdraws from heroin, the tissues in the skin become more active, and it goes from being calm to hyperactive, Ciccarone said. This results in goose bumps and probably led to the notion of going “cold turkey.”

These expressions are old terms and likely originated 50 to 70 years ago, Ciccarone said.Heroin goes by many names

Credit: Evdokimov Maxim | Shutterstock

Heroin goes by many names

On the street, heroin may be referred to as “H,” “horse,” “smack,” “thunder” and “junk.” In some cases, the street word used may refer to the drug’s looks or chemicals, such as brown sugar, black tar or hell dust.

Sometimes, it may be called by a brand name, like Toyota or Gucci, especially in inner-city heroin markets, Ciccarone said.

A street name might also be bragging about the potency of the heroin, such as DOA (dead on arrival) or comatose, in which the dealer is making claims about the supposed quality of the drug, Ciccarone said. The various street names for heroin are not meant as a way for users to speak in code to avoid law enforcement, he noted.

The names for heroin that have long been spoken aloud on the street may be disappearing these days because many users are using text messages and cellphones to obtain the drug, Ciccarone said.Babies can be born addicted to opiates

Credit: stock.xchng

Babies can be born addicted to opiates

A baby who was exposed to heroin in his or her mother’s womb can be born physically addicted to the drug.

“This is not only true for a woman who has used heroin during pregnancy, but it could also apply to any opiate drug, such as a mother who has been taking methadone (a synthetic opiate used to withdraw from heroin) or prescription opiates,” said Barry Lester, a national expert on prenatal drug exposure and a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Brown University Alpert Medical School in Providence, Rhode Island.

When a pregnant woman takes opiates, the developing embryo is regularly exposed to the drug, Lester said. But once born, the baby is cut off from a drug supply it has become dependent on, and goes through withdrawal.

Known as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), its symptoms — such as excessive crying, slow weight gain, fever, irritability and vomiting — usually take about 72 hours to appear in the newborn.

“Hospital nurseries are seeing a major uptick of babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome,” Lester told Live Science. He said this is due to the growing number of women who are abusing prescription opioids.

Although the majority of babies born to women who abuse opiates during pregnancy are born addicted to these drugs, studies have found that about 25 to 30 percent of these babies never develop NAS symptoms, Lester said. [7 Ways Pregnant Women Affect Babies]

Researchers are trying to understand why this happens, and Lester said they suspect there is something fundamentally different about these babies, both genetically and in the makeup of their brains, that may protect them.

Babies who develop NAS need treatment. They are put back on opiates, either morphine or methadone, and these drugs are gradually withdrawn over time until the newborn no longer has symptoms, Lester said.

He said it’s unclear whether babies born with NAS have any long-term effects from this early opiate exposure because the studies done so far have shown inconsistent results.