Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Embarrassed by incontinence? Now you don't have to be
What started as one woman's attempt to help her mother with an embarrassing condition has just won a major medical award - and could help transform the lives of thousands of others who suffer from incontinence.
The device - Incostress - had the most unlikely of beginnings.
On a shopping trip in Swansea ten years ago, Gaynor Morgan noticed her mother Carole freeze in the middle of a department store, and then panic, insisting that they had to go home immediately.
It was only when they were safely back that Carole burst into tears and explained that she had wet herself. She had coughed and leaked urine, and was terrified other shoppers would notice the wet patch.
'She was so embarrassed,' says Gaynor. 'It was only then that she told me it had been going on for months.'
Carole, then only 51, withdrew to the house, rarely going out - 'she wouldn't go shopping or out with friends for fear of wetting herself,' says Gaynor.
When Carole saw her GP and told her about the incontinence, he treated her for depression, prescribing antidepressants.
Prompted by her mother's distress, Gaynor searched the market for products that might help but found only incontinence pads.
The lightbulb moment came two years after Carole first developed the problem when she mentioned that it wasn't as bad during menstruation when using a tampon.
As Carole had previously been a nurse (for 15 years), and Gaynor had geriatric nursing experience, they used their physiological knowledge to devise something which would reduce the flow through the urethra and support the bladder.
The solution was a type of tampon. They sat down at the kitchen table to make a simple prototype using Gaynor's five-yearold daughter's art material - self-hardening clay - then sealing it with silicone sealant.
Carole covered it with a condom for hygiene reasons, and tested it.
'She started doing star jumps in the middle of the kitchen,' says Gaynor, 'and though she had a full bladder, she didn't leak at all. "It works, it works!" she yelled. She wore it every day after that, and started to go out again without the slightest leak.'
Her confidence - and social life - returned and she no longer needed antidepressants.
Carole told a friend about her transformation; the friend told another, who wanted one too, and soon the women had made half a dozen.
Then Gaynor found a liquid latex which dried faster than silicone - and in 2000, she got a patent for her groundbreaking invention.
Incostress is shaped like a ribbed tampon and made of medical grade silicone. Gaynor had samples made commercially, and once the product was properly validated to EC standards, in 2005, she approached urologists at her local hospital in Swansea to run trials.
'Though it didn't work for everybody it worked very well for between a quarter and a third of women,' says Simon Emery, consultant urogynaecologist at Singleton Hospital.
Although some women found it hard to hold the early prototype in, it's now been altered and the ribbing was added, so it stays in place more easily. So effective was it for some women that they took their names off the list for surgery.
As well as closing the urethra and supporting the neck of the bladder to stop an involuntary leakage, the minor effort to keep the device in place strengthens the pelvic floor, by encouraging the muscles to work. Those with weak pelvic floor muscles may need to remove the device to urinate normally.
Carole's sudden death in 2004, from fluid in the lungs after a heart attack, spurred Gaynor on to form her own company, and with backing from the Wales Innovative Network-UK she went into production with more sophisticated versions of the Incostress.
The device has just won a gold medal for innovation in the medical category at the British Innovation and Technical awards.
Urinary incontinence affects nearly ten million women in the UK, according to the charity Continence Foundation.
'It is a huge problem for millions of women in this country,' says Frank Chinegwundoh, consultant urological surgeon at Barts Hospital and Newham University Hospital in London.
'Although it's not painful, it is a socially embarrassing condition which can prevent women from going out or taking exercise, and can affect sexual relationships.'
As a consultant urological surgeon at Bristol Urological Institute, Marcus Drake regularly sees women who burst into tears in his clinic in despair.
'If it was cancer, say, there would be a huge amount of sympathy for these women. But incontinence is a huge problem which is massively underestimated and yet very prevalent. The trouble is, women daren't talk about it even with their closest friends - they're ashamed of it.'
The most common form is stress incontinence - when a small amount of urine is leaked during activity or coughing and sneezing.
This is sometimes combined with urge incontinence where the bladder suddenly empties.
Urine is held in the bladder and emptied through the urethra to outside of the body. The bladder is supported and kept in shape by the pelvic floor muscles, a large hammock of muscles. The openings from the bladder and urethra, bowels and vagina all pass through the pelvic floor.
Pelvic floor muscles naturally squeeze when put under pressure - for instance when you laugh, lift anything heavy or cough - and so ensure the bladder outlet remains closed. But these muscles can become weakened.
Ageing and being overweight can exacerbate the problem, but many women's problems start in pregnancy, as childbearing and childbirth weaken the pelvic floor.
One study found that 38 per cent of women experience continence problems three months after birth - and around 42 per cent of women wait 15 years before seeking treatment.
The good news, say the experts, is that something can always be done to improve - and cure - bladder weakness.
Last October, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence launched new guidelines for treatment.
The first step is lifestyle changes, including losing weight for women who are very overweight, and giving up smoking, since a chronic cough can make leakage worse.
Women then do pelvic floor exercises for at least three months.
If this doesn't work women may by offered drug treatment to - tighten the valve in the urethra.
And if this fails women can be offered surgery. One option is using a strip of synthetic tape to form a sling supporting the urethra.
'Surgery is reasonably effective, but all procedures carry risks, including infection and blood vessel injury,' says Dr Chinegwundoh.
'Things can go wrong, so women need to try simple methods before considering surgery.'
It seems nothing could be simpler than the Incostress - as Gaynor herself discovered when she, too, developed incontinence.
'I know now that there are lots of people like me, but they won't talk about it, and many won't look for help,' she says. 'But if the kitchen tap was leaking, we'd get it fixed, not just put a cloth under it.
'If you've got a leak, don't suffer in silence - go out and get some help, because you are not alone.'
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Taking statins can significantly cut the risk of having a repeat stroke, research has shown.
The drugs have already been prescribed to millions of Britons because they are believed to cut the risk of heart attacks.
They do this by reducing a patient's cholesterol - which is also believed to be a risk factor for strokes. A U.S. study found that those who had already had one ischaemic stroke - caused by a clot blocking a blood vessel in the brain - reduced their chances of having another by 16 per cent if they took a statin called atorvastatin.
However, a secondary analysis published in the journal Neurology discovered that this benefit was partially undermined by a slight increase in the risk of suffering a haemorrhagic stroke, where a ruptured blood vessel bleeds into the brain.
This type of stroke is far less common, accounting for just one in ten of all cases.
Of those taking atorvastatin, 2.3 per cent experienced a haemorrhagic stroke compared with 1.4 per cent of those taking a placebo.
However, the study in Neurology also backed up the U.S. research's findings that statins are effective at lowering the risk of the more common ischaemic stroke.
Experts said yesterday that having high cholesterol is one of the biggest risk factors for a stroke and patients should not stop taking preventative drugs without seeking medical advice. Ellen
Mason, of the British Heart Foundation, said: 'Haemorrhagic strokes are rare in comparison to ischaemic strokes, which are caused by blood clots.
"Taking a statin, such as atorvastatin, reduces the risk of having an ischaemic stroke and people should not be frightened of taking these."
She added: "People who have had a haemorrhagic stroke before will probably continue to benefit from taking atorvastatin - as there is a substantial drop in the overall risk of heart attacks and ischaemic strokes, but only a small increased risk of haemorrhagic stroke."
Around 3.4million Britons are prescribed statins, which are said to save around 10,000 lives a year.
The five-year study involved 4,700 patients, who had suffered a full-blown stroke or mini-stroke.
It was funded by Pfizer - the manufacturer of atorvastatin, which is also known as Lipitor.
It looked at patients aged around 63 from Europe, Africa, Australia, the Middle East and the U.S., who were recruited within six months of suffering a stroke.
Most were already being treated with aspirin - which thins the blood, reducing the chances of having a heart attack - and those with high blood pressure were taking medication to lower it.
The researchers randomly assigned patients to receive either the maximum recommended dose of atorvastatin or an inactive pill.
The study found that 80mg a day of statins reduced the risk of fatal and non-fatal ischaemic strokes by 16 per cent, probably by lowering levels of cholesterol.
This compared with an increase in the risk of haemorrhagic strokes of 0.7 points - from 1.4 per cent to 2.3 per cent.
Dr Larry Goldstein, of Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina, who led the study, said this small increase "must be balanced" against the overall drop in risk.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Hospital bugs 'hit communities'
Virulent bugs are spreading outside hospitals and inside the community and may put lives at risk, experts say.
They want doctors to be alert to a potentially lethal form of MRSA which can infect the lungs, and may strike young people in particular.
At the same time, Irish researchers say a drug-resistant bug behind bladder infections is becoming widespread.
The findings are being presented at the Federation of Infections Societies Conference in Cardiff.
Panton Valentine leukocidin (PVL) strains of community-acquired MRSA can cause a condition called necrotizing pneumonia, which destroys lung tissue.
This only affects a minority of those infected, but can be deadly.
The emergence of community MRSA underlines just how good bacteria are at evolving to present us with new and difficult problems to solve
Professor Kevin Kerr
The condition is spread outside of hospitals via skin-to-skin contact and appears as sores which look like insect bites. In the very worst cases, it can kill in a day.
"These new strains of bacteria appear to be able to stick to damaged skin and airways better than the hospital MRSA strains, and they can also multiply at a faster rate," says Dr Marina Morgan, of the Royal Devon and Exeter Foundation NHS Trust.
So far these strains are mainly spreading in the US, where 12% of all MRSA cases are community-acquired, but the UK has seen an increasing number of cases.
It is unclear why children seem to be at particular risk, but the speculation is that older people in the community have fewer cuts and abrasions - a key transmission route - and have less contact with other people.
Professor Kevin Kerr, consultant microbiologist at Harrogate District Hospital, said: "MRSA is often thought as a hospital superbug, but we are becoming increasingly aware of strains which are causing infections outside hospital.
"The emergence of community MRSA underlines just how good bacteria are at evolving to present us with new and difficult problems to solve."
The Department of Health noted the condition was treatable, and that it was currently trying to establish prevalence.
"Clinicians have already been asked to be extra vigilant and report cases direct to the Health Protection Agency," a spokesperson said.
Nursing home threat
Meanwhile, Irish researchers are examining a new breed of bacteria which carry enzymes called extended spectrum beta lactamases (ESBLs), which are capable of destroying a many common antibiotics.
They include a strain of E. Coli, which is spreading into nursing homes and communities across Europe.
This was held responsible for a severe outbreak of cystitis, a bladder infection, in the UK between 2003 and 2004.
"Although cystitis is not life threatening, it is the most common form of urinary tract infection, and the economic consequences of failing to treat an outbreak quickly and properly are considerable," said Dr Dearbhaile Morris, of the National University of Ireland.
"In severe infections, patients may suffer serious complications if the first antibiotic given to them does not work."
Mark Enright, professor of molecular epidemiology at Imperial College, said he was "not surprised" by the findings.
"The emergence and spread of ESBL E. Coli does give physicians problems in providing proper initial care for some patients especially those with urinary tract infections."
He added: "The control of infections in many nursing homes is inferior to hospitals despite the medication and specialist care required by some residents."
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2007/11/28 00:02:00 GMT
© BBC MMVII
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Radical new drug can reverse effects of MS in just weeks
Scientists have succeeded in repairing the devastating nerve damage behind multiple sclerosis.
The breakthrough raises the prospect of new drugs for the debilitating condition which affects 2.5million around the world including 85,000 Britons.
The symptoms of MS, which range from clumsiness to paralysis, are caused by "friendly fire" from the body's immune system.
This destroys myelin, the fatty protective sheath around nerve fibres in the brain and spinal cord.
Over time, the nerves become scarred and the transmission of signals is disrupted.
Existing drugs can ease symptoms, but they are not suitable for all and there is no cure for the condition. They involve calming down the immune system and reducing damaging inflammation.
Finding a way to repair damaged myelin is the 'holy grail' of MS research.
Now, American scientists have succeeded in using a human antibody to re-grow myelin in mice with multiple sclerosis.
Myelin repair normally occurs in the body spontaneously. But in MS and other disorders of the central nervous system the process is very slow or fails altogether.
The scientists found that a single low dose of the antibody was enough to kickstart the repair mechanism in mice.
The antibody drug was also effective when given in combination with the MS drug methylprednisolone.
The mice had the progressive form of the disease, in which the illness gradually worsens without any periods of remission.
Yesterday, the scientists who genetically engineered the healing antibody described their results as "very promising".
Dr Arthur Warrington, one of the team from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, said: "The findings could eventually lead to new treatments that could limit permanent disability."
Trials on humans are expected to allow further animal experiments.
British experts cautioned that the drug is still many years from the doctor's surgery.
Dr Laura Bell, of the MS Society, said: "Myelin repair is an exciting avenue of research that holds a lot of promise, which is why we have invested more than £3million in it at our research centres in Cambridge and Edinburgh.
"This is an exciting study but it is early days - we'll be keen to see how it works in people with MS."
Some MS patients suffer mild, intermittent symptoms for decades, while others steadily worsen, becoming blind or paralysed.
The discovery this year of two genes that increase the risk of MS was hailed as one of the biggest breakthroughs in fighting the condition in 30 years.
Friday, September 14, 2007
WEST LAFAYETTE, IN -- September 6, 2007 -- A biomedical engineer at Purdue University has developed a new method to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation that promises to be more effective than standard CPR because it increases nourishing blood flow through the heart by 25% over the current method.
A new technique is desperately needed because conventional CPR has a success rate of 5% to 10%, depending on how fast rescuers are able to respond and how well the procedure is performed. For every one minute of delay, the resuscitation rate decreases by 10%.
"In other words, at 10 minutes, the resuscitation is absolutely ineffective," said Leslie Geddes, Showalter Distinguished Professor Emeritus in Purdue's Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering. "Any medical procedure that had that low a success rate would be abandoned right away. But the alternative is not very good, either: Don't do CPR and the person is going to die."
Geddes has developed the first new CPR alternative, called "only rhythmic abdominal compression," or OAC-CPR, which works by pushing on the abdomen instead of the chest.
"There are major problems with standard CPR," Geddes said. "One is the risk of breaking ribs if you push too hard, but if you don't push hard you won't save the person. Another problem is the risk of transferring infection with mouth-to-mouth breathing."
The new CPR method eliminates both risks, Geddes said.
Findings will be detailed in a research paper appearing this month in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, published by Elsevier Inc. The paper was authored by Geddes and his Purdue colleagues Ann E. Rundell, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, biomedical engineering doctoral student Aaron Lottes, and basic medical sciences graduate students Andre Kemeny and Michael Otlewski.
In standard chest-compression CPR, which has been in practice since the 1960s, the rescuer pushes on the chest and blows into the subject's mouth twice for every 30 chest compressions. However, the risk of infection is so grave that many doctors and nurses often refuse to administer mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. In one 1993 study of 433 doctors and 152 nurses, 45% of doctors and 80% of nurses said they would refuse to administer mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on a stranger.
"This is the real world that nobody knows about, and it's a sobering thought," Geddes said.
OAC-CPR eliminates the need to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
The American Heart Association requires that rescuers administering CPR push with enough force to depress the chest 1 and a half to 2 inches at a rate of 100 times per minute.
"To depress the chest 1.5 to 2 inches takes 100 to 125 pounds of force," Geddes said. "So you have to push pretty hard and pretty fast, and two people are needed to perform it properly. One blows up the lungs and the other compresses the chest. And when the one who's compressing the chest gets tired, they change positions."
OAC-CPR requires only one rescuer.
Instead of two breaths for every 30 chest compressions, the new procedure provides a breath for every abdominal compression because pushing on the abdomen depresses the diaphragm toward the head, expelling air from the lungs. The release of force causes inhalation.
Researchers have known since the 1980s that pushing on the abdomen circulates blood through the heart. The idea was originated by Purdue nursing doctoral student Sandra Ralston, Geddes said.
"She made the remarkable observation that if you pushed on the abdomen after each chest compression you could double the CPR blood flow," he said. "So I started thinking, what would happen if you just pushed on the abdomen and eliminated chest compression entirely?"
The procedure provides a new way to effectively perform "coronary perfusion," or pumping blood through the heart muscle, which is critical for successful resuscitation because the heart muscle is nourished by oxygenated blood, Geddes said.
"Unfortunately, in standard chest-compression CPR, blood sometimes flows in the wrong direction, which means the coronary blood flow goes backward, bringing de-oxygenated blood back into the heart muscle," Geddes said. "This retrograde flow reduces the likelihood of resuscitation."
Findings showed that OAC-CPR eliminates this backward flow.
The Purdue researchers compared coronary artery blood flow during standard chest-compression CPR with the flow resulting from only abdominal compression CPR. Findings showed that using the new method and pushing with the same force recommended for standard CPR provided 25% more blood flow through the heart muscle without retrograde flow in the coronary arteries.
The researchers followed the standard recommended by the American Heart Association, pushing with 100 pounds of pressure 100 times per minute.
"With OAC-CPR, you really don't have to press as hard or as often, but we followed the American Heart Association standard to avoid possible criticism from people who could have said we didn't observe the standard," Geddes said.
Another benefit of OAC-CPR is that it eliminates rib fractures, which are commonly caused by compressing the chest. Rib fractures cause the chest to recoil more slowly, but effective CPR requires that rescuers wait until the chest recoils fully before compressing.
Geddes created a wooden "pressure applicator" that resembles a scaled-down version of a baseball home plate. It is contoured so that it can be used to compress the abdomen without pushing on the ribs. However, a rescuer could push with the hands to perform the procedure if no applicator were available.
Abdominal organs contain about 25% of the total blood volume in the body.
"You can squeeze all of that into the central circulation when you press on the abdomen," Geddes said.
Whether the procedure gains widespread acceptance depends on whether other researchers can duplicate the results.
"In research, you publish data and then the scientific community looks at the data and tries to duplicate it to verify that it works," said Geddes, who was awarded the National Medal of Technology from President George W. Bush in a White House ceremony on July 27. It is the nation's highest honor for technological innovation.
The research was funded by the Purdue Trask Fund.
SOURCE: Purdue University
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
A revolutionary technique being developed by British scientists could cure blindness in millions of people around the world.
The first 45-minute operations could take place within five years and could be as commonplace as cataract surgery in a decade.
The improvement is likely to be great enough to transform lives, allowing the blind to regain the ability to carry out everyday tasks such as reading or driving.
The pioneering stem cell surgery tackles age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the most common cause of blindness in the elderly. There are about 300,000 sufferers in this country and the number is expected to treble in the next 25 years to around one million as the population ages.
AMD, which affects a quarter of over-60s in the UK and more than half of over-75s to some degree, occurs in two forms. While the "wet" form can be combated with drugs, there is no treatment for the "dry" form which accounts for 90 per cent of cases.
The treatment centres on human embryonic stem cells grown in a laboratory. These are "blank" cells with the power to turn into different cell types and are used to create small patches identical to the cells damaged in the eyes of AMD sufferers.
Packaged into a syringe, the patch is injected into the back of the eye where it replaces damaged cells and restores sight.
The technique is being developed by scientists and doctors from University College London, Moorfields Eye Hospital, also in London, and Sheffield University, working together in the London Project to Cure Blindness.
Their work has been boosted by a £4million donation from an anonymous American benefactor.
Last night project director Professor Pete Coffey said: "This could have a tremendous effect on a huge population who have no current therapy."
The technique has been tested on rats suffering from a condition similar to AMD and their sight was restored.
Further evidence that the technique is likely to succeed comes from human operations. In these, the researchers restored vision using healthy cells taken from the corner of the patient's own eye.
In some cases, the transplants were so successful that the patients were able to read, cycle and use a computer.
However, such surgery is extremely complex and time-consuming and so unlikely to be suitable for large-scale use. Using "readymade" patches of cells would greatly simplify the operation, making it suitable for use on millions.
The scientists are now working on making such patches, measuring just four by six millimetres, which will be injected into the back of the eye under local anaesthetic in an procedure lasting between 45 minutes and an hour.
The patient, who would have to take drugs to stop the cells from being rejected by the body, could go home the same day. After two to three weeks, vision should start to improve.
It is not yet known how long the effects will last but the patients who had transplants of their own cells are still benefiting from the treatment which took place two and a half years ago.
While the patches are most likely to benefit those in the early stages of AMD, the researchers believe it should be possible to adapt them to treat those in later stages.
It is hoped that the technique might also benefit those who have lost their sight as a complication of diabetes.
Consultant surgeon Lyndon da Cruz of Moorfields Eye Hospital said that within ten years the procedure could become as commonplace as cataract surgery.
He said: "If we can do a single procedure in a person under local anaesthetic in 45 minutes, it's feasible.
"The science is something we can work on but the surgery has to be something we can deliver to many people."
Eye experts said the research offered real hope to sufferers of AMD. Tom Bremridge of the Macular Disease Society said: "This development is exciting and encouraging for current and future generations of AMD patients.
"While treatments for "wet" AMD are advancing rapidly, sadly, patients with "dry" AMD have had no prospect of any viable therapy."
Professor Alistair Fielder, of the charity Fight for Sight, said the research represented "a real chance to tackle an untreatable condition and bring hope to many".
He added: "It is marvellous to think that clinical trials could start within four years."
Although many believe it is wrong to use embryonic stem cells - plucked from an embryo in the first days of life - in medicine, sophisticated laboratory techniques mean it should be possible to generate a treatment for millions of people from cells derived from a single embryo.
Stem cell research offers hope for treating and curing a host of conditions.
In recent work, British experts have succeeded in growing a "miniliver" - a tiny bundle of liver cells - from stem cells, while Israeli scientists have grown a tiny section of beating heart tissue from stem cells gleaned from human embryos.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Study points to omega benefits for children
A SIMPLE dietary supplement may help improve concentration, memory and problem-solving in children.
Scans on four British children who took an omega oil supplement for three months showed their brains developed dramatically - by the equivalent of three years - over that period.
The four children in the pilot study on the effects of diet on young brains were aged between eight and 13 and were classified as overweight. They took two capsules a day of a supplement called VegEPA, which contains a combination of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, found in fish, flaxseed oil and sunflower oil. They were also encouraged to cut down on fatty snacks and to exercise more.
After three months the children's reading age had advanced by more than a year, their handwriting was neater and they paid more attention in class. The scans showed an increase in nerve fibres in their brain, said the lead researcher, Basant Puri, from London's Imperial College. "It means you have more connections and greater density of nerve cells, in the same way a tree grows more branches," said Professor Puri, whose study is yet to undergo peer review.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
A tiny magnet not much bigger than a 50p piece could ease away the symptoms of the menopause.
Tests on hundreds of women have shown that the LadyCare magnet can relieve symptoms from anxiety and mood swings to hot flushes and memory problems.
Many of the volunteers also lost weight, with some shedding more than a stone after wearing the magnet under their clothes for three months.
Nyjon Eccles, the Harley Street physician who led the study, believes the £19 gadget will prove popular with women who are reluctant to take HRT because of its links to breast cancer, heart disease and strokes, for example.
"We know that HRT is associated with risks of various kinds, so if there is a way of reducing symptoms that is cheap and effective, why not?" he said.
He added that while it was unclear how the magnet works, it is possible it raises levels of the female sex hormones that fall during the change of life.
Some 508 women who were going through the menopause were asked to attach a LadyCare magnet to their underwear, day and night, for three months.
Every woman experienced some benefit, with symptoms such as anxiety, mood swings, fatigue, sleeping problems, incontinence and breast tenderness being reduced by up to 70 per cent.
Hot flushes, night sweats and irritability improved by a third, as did loss of libido and lapses in concentration. In addition, one in five of the women lost weight.
Previous studies have shown that magnetic therapy can ease period pain and speed up wound healing.
Last year, a fleecy "wrap" made by Magnopulse, the company behind LadyCare, became available on the NHS as a treatment for leg ulcers, after trials showed it cleared up the ulcers quicker than the compression bandages usually prescribed.
It is thought the magnets affect the body in several ways, speeding up wound healing by improving circulation and easing pain by interfering with the nerve signals that pass information about discomfort to the brain.
In LadyCare’s case, the magnetic field may boost levels of oestrogen and progesterone. Falling levels of the hormones, which are produced by the ovaries, are responsible for many menopause symptoms.
Amber Valentine had tried everything from evening primrose oil to HRT to ease her passage through the menopause.
But interrupted sleep, night sweats, weight gain and depression continued to make her life a misery.
So, when she spotted an advert for recruits for the LadyCare trial, she felt she had nothing to lose. A month later, many of her symptoms had eased considerably.
The 48-year-old, from North London, said: "The first thing I noticed was that I could sleep — that was the main thing. And the sweats lessened — I was still getting them, but they were not nearly as bad."
Now, a year after first starting to wear the powerful magnet, Amber has lost much of the weight she put on when the menopause started.
She said: "I definitely advise other women to give it a go. It will reduce the symptoms, even if it doesn't alleviate them completely, and that must make life much easier.
"If women knew about this, they wouldn't have to suffer in silence."
Dr Eccles, who plans another trial, says: "There is no doubt the menopause can be a challenging time for women.
"The LadyCare device may prove to be one of the greatest natural solutions for alleviating symptoms."
However, many doctors remain sceptical about the benefits. Research published in the British Medical Journal concluded that any healing effect is likely to be minimal, and can be explained by patients believing in the power of the treatment rather than it really working
Thursday, February 08, 2007
An unhealthy diet filled with high-cholesterol foods can increase your risk of Alzheimer's Disease, say scientists.
Studies have found that eating lots of foods containing saturated fats, such as butter and red meat, can boost levels of proteins in the brain linked to dementia.
Now scientists have discovered this may be because such a diet affects cholesterol-clearing substances in the brain.
They hope the discovery could lead to new drugs which allow the clogging fats to be cleared more effectively and so help slow down the progression of the debilitating brain condition.
In Britain 500,000 people have Alzheimer's Disease in which the progressive loss of their brain cells leads to memory loss, mood changes and eventually death.
One of the key characteristics of people with the condition is the formation of clumps, or 'plaques' of beta amyloid proteins which are thought to destroy brain cells.
Scientists increasingly believe diet and lifestyle may affect the build up of these damaging proteins.
Studies have found a Mediterranean-style diet rich in plant foods and fish and low in red meat cuts the risk of developing the brain disease by up to two-thirds.
Research in mice has also found that those given high-cholesterol diets have more amyloid beta proteins in their brain.
And there is growing evidence that taking cholesterol-lowering statins makes people less likely to develop Alzheimer's later in life.
To understand what lay behind this trend, Dr Brett Garner, of the Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute in Sydney, Australia, and his colleagues used human and animal cells to probe how brain cells regulate their levels of cholesterol.
In the arteries it is known that ABC proteins help control cholesterol levels by expelling it from the immune cells.
The study, reported in the Journal of Biological Chemistry found these proteins were also present in the brain cells.
When the boosted levels of the proteins by tweaking genes that affect production, cell lines production of amyloid beta protein fell.
The study also identified another protein in brain cells called apoE that regulates cholesterol removal from brain cells.
Dr Garner told New Scientist magazine that drugs that increase expression of these proteins might slow the progression of Alzheimer's.
Similar drugs are already being used for research into heart disease.
He said: "A lot of people think there could be converging factors involved in these diseases."
Large amounts of harmful cholesterol are found in foods high in saturated fats such as red meat, butter, cheese and offal such as liver and kidneys.
If people have a diet high in saturated fats, their liver produces more of the harmful form of cholesterol called LDL, which is linked to a higher risk of heart disease and stroke.
Scientists increasingly believe an unhealthy diet may be a contributing factor in developing dementia.
Previous research has found fish oil capsules may help slow the mental decline of those with very mild Alzheimer's disease.
Last September a team from Vanderbilt University in Tennessee found drinking fruit and vegetable juices more than three times a week could dramatically cut the chances of developing the condition.
Researchers from who followed almost 2,000 volunteers for up to ten years found the risk of Alzheimer's was 76 per cent lower for those who drank juices more than three times a week compared with those who drank them less than once a week.
Japanese scientists also found last year that green tea could halve the risk of mental decline in old age.
They found those who drank the tea the most - more than two cups a day - had a 54 per cent lower risk of dementia than those who drank the least.
Sunday, February 04, 2007
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By RACHEL ELLIS - More by this author » Last updated at 22:34pm on 3rd February 2007
Transformation: Joanne Burke put autistic son Darryl on a special diet
The controversial doctor who started the MMR scare will return to Britain this week to issue a stark new warning about autism and claim many child victims don't need psychiatric help.
Dr Andrew Wakefield will claim that thousands of children with autism should not be receiving psychiatric help, but should be treated with drugs and a change in diet.
His assertion will anger the Government and doctors, who are desperate to draw a line under claims by Dr Wakefield in 1998 that the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine was linked to autism and bowel disease.
Share your thoughts on Dr Wakefield's opinions in readers' comments below...
Dr Wakefield will tell a conference on autism in Bournemouth that many children receive inappropriate care because it is largely considered a neurological condition. He is convinced that many are suffering from the bowel condition autistic enterocolitis and could be relieved of their symptoms - both physical and behavioural - if doctors were willing to treat it 'properly'.
He claims a climate of fear among doctors after the MMR controversy means few are willing to consider a link between autism and bowel disease.
The National Autistic Society says that some doctors are unaware of the treatment options. But it warns there is no established link between autism and bowel conditions.
"Most children diagnosed with autism tend to receive a psychological or behavioural programme because no other medical condition is indicated," said Richard Mills, director of research at the charity.
Dr Wakefield's rare trip back to Britain from America to speak at the Autism Is Treatable conference - funded by the parents of autistic children - comes amid growing criticism of his work.
At least 31 studies have found no association between MMR and autism and he has been ostracised by the medical profession.
But Dr Wakefield, who faces a General Medical Council hearing into his conduct this year, remains convinced there is a link.
He said: "The view among the medical profession is that autism is an incurable, untreatable problem, which it is not. The treatment is largely in the domain of psychiatrists.
"But it is not a psychiatric disease and it is not just a neurological disease. It is a disease that affects the brain rather than being simply a brain disease.
"A lot of the children's behaviour is linked to the pain they suffer. The children do something entirely appropriate for someone in pain whose ability to communicate is impaired.
"The changes we found in the intestines of some autistic children can be treated using diet or conventional anti-inflammatory drugs. When they are treated, a lot of the intestinal and behavioural problems are resolved.
"However, many children diagnosed with autism are not getting the treatment they need and, if they are, it is clandestine. There is a real fear among the medical profession about becoming involved in this whole area."
About one in 100 children is thought to suffer from autism.
Darryl Burke was two years old when a doctor found he wasn't speaking, making eye contact and had behavioural problems. He was diagnosed as autistic.
He also suffered from chronic diarrhoea, but NHS tests found no cause for the problem.
Then his mother Joanne was advised by a neighbour to change his diet. After four days of cutting out dairy and gluten products, his bowels were much improved.
Encouraged by the results, Mrs Burke found a diet on the internet for allergy-induced autism. She said: "Within a week he was looking at us, his bowels improved and he said his first words. He was almost four."
Unable to get further help on the NHS, Mrs Burke and her husband Peter went private. "We couldn't believe the difference between NHS testing and the private testing," she said.
"The private tests showed up all kinds of things - blood in the stools, bad bacteria, inflammation of the gut and the fact that he was lacking essential vitamins and minerals."
Mrs Burke, 36, from Manchester, said: "These children are treated for a psychological disorder but they have underlying medical problems. Treating these can lead to real improvements."
Darryl, now seven, attends a school for children with learning difficulties.
Monday, January 29, 2007
I have added a link under "Medical Sites" in the sidebar to a site called MediLexicon
Who are gradually gathering every Pharmaceutical and Medical Association in the world onto their site. The list is searchable by alphabetical letter or by using the search box on the site. Well worth looking at and keeping it as a favourite.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
The new plastic implant that restores perfect sightBy KATE MAXWELL - More by this author » Last updated at 13:16pm on 24th January 2007
Julie Young was one of the first people to be given revolutionary lenses to combat presbyopia — a form of longsightedness.
More than 23 million people in Britain suffer from presbyopia - a form of longsightedness which usually affects those aged 40 and over.
Until recently, it's been impossible to cure it, and most people had to use reading glasses. But now, lens implants remove the need for spectacles.
Last year, Julie Young became one of the first to have these revolutionary lenses. Julie, 47, who runs a beauty business and lives in Dorset with her husband Marc and daughter Camilla, 21, tells her story, while her specialist explains the procedure.
Turning 40 was a double whammy. Not only was it a milestone in terms of age, my eyesight also began to go. I'd always had 20/20 vision, but suddenly things when weren't as sharp as before and I would have to hold a book at arm's length to focus on it.
It was a real problem at work. I run a beauty salon where I do nail extensions and apply semi-permanent make-up, so I need to see clearly or my clients won't get 40. the look they're after.
The optician said I had presbyopia and needed reading glasses. At first, they made a difference, but over the next five years my sight began to deteriorate seriously.
I had to keep going back for check-ups every year and had the prescription changed every couple of years. It all perfect became rather expensive as I'd usually leave having ordered another pair of specs which had taken my fancy.
I must have ended up with about six pairs, including one I kept at work and another I kept in my handbag, plus a couple of prescription sunglasses.
Wearing reading glasses was also fiddly thanks and debilitating. I found that if I wore them while walking it made me dizzy because they are meant for near vision.
So I'd perch them on the top of my head until I needed to see something close up — but they'd keep falling off if I bent over.
Then last year I realised it wasn't just close-up things I couldn't see - the new middle distance was also becoming blurry. Things were actually clearer if I looked through my reading glasses, which I found very scary.
One of my clients told me she'd had a bacteria new procedure to correct her presbyopia. It was called refractive lens surgery, in which artificial lenses were put in her eyes to replace the natural lenses.
I winced when she told me how the surgeon had cut her eyes open, but she was so pleased with the results that I took down the details.
I went to see Robert Morris, the eye surgeon, in April, and he clinched it for me when he said that without surgery, within five years I'd need varifocal glasses to see anything, near or far.
Before the operation, I was given eye drops to dilate my pupils and a light sedative was injected into my hand.
I could just have had anaesthetic drops, but I didn't want to be fully conscious when the surgeon was rummaging around.
I could have gone for a full anaesthetic, but I thought being knocked out cold was a bit over the top for such a quick operation.
Mr Morris put a wire instrument on my right eye to stop me from blinking and I was told to look at the light of a microscope.
I was a little anxious, but I don't remember anything after the injection. Although I was conscious, the sedative acted like an amnesia drug. I woke up feeling fine, had a sandwich and a cup of tea and went home.
My eye wasn't sore at all. I was told not to do anything too strenuous for a week and had to put in antibiotic drops every day.
I was aware immediately that the vision had improved in my right eye, even though it was a bit blurry at first.
It was weird not being able to see properly out of the other eye — I still had to wear my glasses to work until it was operated on a week later.
When I went back to the surgery, Mr Morris gave me a book and asked if I could read it with my right eye.
When I said it was blurry, he told me to hold it a bit closer - my instinct was to hold it further away because that's what I'd been doing for the past five years. I did as he said and, suddenly, the words came into focus.
For the second operation, I was more relaxed and the results were instant - it was truly amazing. As soon as I woke up from the anaesthetic, my vision was sharp. I could even read the serial number of my iPod, which I hadn't been able to do before.
I was able to go back to work the next day. For a short while, things felt slightly tender around my eyeballs whenever I removed my make-up, but they didn't hurt.
It's wonderful not having to remember to take reading glasses with me wherever I go. It was well worth £4,550. If I live for another 30 years, I would have spent that much on specs anyway, and I'd far rather be without them.
Robert Morris is consultant ophthalmic surgeon at Southampton General Hospital and founder of Grange Eye Consultants, based at Wessex Nuffield Hospital. He says:
The eye is designed to adjust so that it can focus near and far, like a pair of binoculars.
It's the lenses that make this possible. In youthful eyes, the cilliary muscle contracts to change the shape of the lens, allowing it to focus at close range.
But as we age, our lenses become harder, thicker and less flexible, making it increasingly difficult for the muscle to adjust its shape, so the eye loses the ability to focus on near objects.
The eye is naturally set to focus at distance, so in the early stages of presbyopia, only near vision is affected.
However, as eyes deteriorate, the mid-range and distance vision also get worse. As a result, over the age of about 45, we are often less able to see near objects clearly and so need reading glasses.
Presbyopia is not the same as long-sightedness, which some people are born with, where the eyeball is 'shorter' than it should be or the cornea is too flat, so that light coming into the eye focuses at a point behind the retina.
Laser surgery is not an option for presbyopia because it is the lens that is the problem, and lasers simply cannot make it more flexible.
The new technique we use to treat presbyopia is similar to that already used for treating cataracts.
But while a conventional cataract lens is moulded into five 'zones' or ridges, with each zone a different power so it can focus on a different distance (like varifocal glasses), the ReSTOR lens has many more ridges, giving it a much wider range of distance.
Julie's poor vision was really beginning to affect her work and she could read only the top two or three lines of an optician's chart.
I have treated about 200 patients like her for presbyopia, and she was very enthusiastic, even after I'd explained the risks - 20 per cent of patients still need to wear glasses afterwards.
I measured the length and curvature of Julie's eyes to calculate the power of lens I would require - she needed similar lenses in both eyes. We always operate on one eye first and then leave it to recover for a week before operating on the second.
In Julie's case, we started with the right eye. I made a minute 2.6mm incision at the top of the eyeball, just below the lid, and inserted a tiny ultrasound wave-emitting probe.
This went through her cornea and pupil, to the lens which I was going to replace. The lens is like a plum, and you need to cut through the skin and remove the 'flesh' and 'stone' inside.
We do this by using ultrasound waves to emulsify the lens so that it turns from a hard jelly to a murky fluid that can be sucked out using the same probe.
Then I injected the new ReSTOR lens - which is made of acrylic and folded up tightly - through the incision with a device like a peashooter.
The great thing about these acrylic lenses is that they will last a lifetime - they won't age and change like natural lenses do, and there is no chance of a patient developing cataracts.
The incision is so small it seals itself without stitches and the lens unfolds by itself. The whole procedure lasts only 20 minutes.
Julie then had a cup of tea and a snack in the recovery room and was able to go home. The eye takes a couple of days to adjust to the new lens, during which time the vision will be blurry.
The operation went very well, and a week later Julie came back to have her other eye done. She is now set for life and should not need glasses again.
This operation costs £2,275 per eye. It is not available on the NHS. For more information, call 023 8025 8468 or go to www.grangeeyeconsultants.com
Doubts were have been cast on the value of "wonder drugs" prescribed to millions of Britons to prevent heart disease deaths.
A new study claims there is no evidence to show that giving statins to women keeps them free of heart disease.
There is also no data to suggest they help men over 69 who have only a moderate risk of getting problems in the future, say scientists.
The Harvard researcher behind the study concluded the drugs should no longer be regularly prescribed to these two groups of patients.
The suggestion is highly controversial as up to four million Britons are currently taking the cholesterol-lowering drugs at a cost of almost £1 billion to the NHS.
Other experts last night disputed the new research, insisting that there is very good evidence of how the drugs can cut heart disease and deaths from heart attacks.
At present, GPs are given guidance recommending they prescribe statins to anyone diagnosed as having a 20 per cent risk of a heart attack or stroke in the next ten years.
Up to four million Britons are therefore thought to be taking statins regularly because they are at risk of a heart attack or stroke.
The drugs are designed to reduce levels of bad cholesterol called LDLs which can fur up the arteries and lead to heart disease.
Past studies have suggested they could be saving around 7,000 lives a year in the UK alone.
But now Dr John Abramson, from Harvard Medical School, and Dr James M. Wright, from the University of British Columbia, have cast doubt on this.
They say the pills do help those aged between 30 and 80 who already have established heart disease and for them their use is "not controversial".
But from re-analysing eight major studies, they concluded there is no clear evidence they work as a primary prevention tool for women.
There is also little to support the idea of them helping men over the age of 69 who do not yet have heart disease.
They said even those men below 69 who are seen as being at high-risk of heart disease should be advised that around 50 patients would have to be treated for five years to prevent one serious heart attack.
"Statins did not reduce total coronary heart disease events in 10,990 women in these primary prevention trials," they said.
"Similarly in 3,239 men and women older than 69 years, statins did not reduce total cardiovascular events.
"Our analysis suggests that lipid-lowering statins should not be prescribed for true primary prevention in women of any age or for men older than 69 years."
Dr Malcolm Kendrick, a GP who has worked with the European Society of Cardiology welcomed the study published in The Lancet medical journal.
Dr Kendrick, a long-standing sceptic of giving statins to people with only a low risk of heart problems, said: "I hope this will reignite the debate about this and allow a more reasoned set of arguments to take place.
"I hope this at least makes people question things and then maybe the truth will come out that we are having the wool pulled over our eyes.
"There is no reason for women to take statins."
Meanwhile other new research released yesterday promoted the potential benefit of the drugs for people with breathing problems.
The study, published in the European Respiratory Journal, concluded the drugs could improve survival rates among those with chronic bronchitis or emphysema.
The researchers from the Akerhus University Hospital in Norway said this may be because many of those with these problems in fact have a form of heart disease that has not yet been diagnosed.
Some experts have in the past suggested the drug should be prescribed on a mass scale to those who have only a tiny risk of heart disease.
The Heart Protection Study Collaborative Group at Oxford University, writing in the British Medical Journal last year, claim those as young as 35 with a 1 per cent risk of a heart attack or stroke could benefit.
They claimed if they take cholesterol-lowering drugs for the next 35 years, they would gain nine months of extra life expectancy.
However earlier this month a study claimed that patients taking the cholesterol-busting drugs statins could be at a much higher risk of developing Parkinson's disease.
Researchers in the United States has found that patients with low levels of LDL cholesterol are three times more likely to have Parkinson's disease.
At the time UK experts immediately reassured patients the pills were safe.
They claimed it was unlikely that statins caused Parkinson's – and said they were more likely to protect against it.
Peter Weissberg, Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, said: "The benefits of statins in reducing blood cholesterol and preventing heart attacks in patients known to have artery disease are beyond doubt.
"However there is an ongoing debate about which patients who do not yet have the disease should also receive statins.
"Anyone currently prescribed statins should keep taking them."
Dr Iqbal Malik, consultant cardiologist St Mary's Hospital Paddington, said: "The research in the Lancet which prompts this discussion is a comment piece based on summary statistics and is yet to be peer reviewed.
"Meanwhile, very well-respected research in the UK and abroad shows a strong link between cholesterol and heart disease.
"My advice is that middle-aged men who don't have heart disease should take statins. If someone says their cholesterol is normal they should bear in mind that the normal UK man has a high risk of suffering a heart attack. One in five men will die prematurely of a heart attack or stroke. So for most people lowering their cholesterol is a good idea." He added: "As far as the cost to the NHS goes, you have to look at the cost to the wider economy. People who have heart attacks and have to give up their jobs are a big drain on the Exchequer.
"I am an Asian man nearing 40, with low risk factors for heart disease. I am about to start taking statin tablets to lower my risk of heart disease, and I'm prepared to take the small risk of side effects."