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'Minor & James' posts

Eczema season

"It's eczema season" is an often repeated phrase for me lately.

This time of year, I always find myself seeing more patients with eczema. The common presenting complaint is a persistent rash that itches so much that it disturbs sleep. The dry, itchy patches of skin are commonly seen on the back, sides of the torso, arms and legs, but can happen almost anywhere. People with a history of allergies, asthma, or childhood eczema are even more likely to develop eczema in the fall or winter.

There are a number of contributing factors to the increased incidence of eczema in the winter:

Furnaces run more, drying out the air inside homes and buildings. We wear more clothing, increasing the friction on our skin. Hot water feels better, so we tend to spend more time in the shower or bath.

That last one sounds counter-intuitive, but ...

Nails: A window to your health

Your fingernails and toenails are a window into your overall health. Many health conditions, such as heart and lung disease, are very visible in the nails. Bands or lines in multiple fingernails, as well as changes in color, can also indicate illness. Nails can even tell you how long you’ve been ill since fingernails need six months to grow, and toenails a whole year.

When was the last time you looked at your nails?

Did you know:

  • Nail pitting: Small depressions on the surface of the nail; is common in people with psoriasis
  • Clubbing: Enlarged fingertips with nails curving around the fingertips may indicate lung, liver, heart or inflammatory bowel disease, or AIDS
  • Spooning: Scoop-shaped nails that curve up may be a sign of anemia
  • Banding...

What is umbilical cord blood banking?

Umbilical cord blood banking is a procedure where your OB takes some of the blood (and now tissue) from the placenta and umbilical cord after your baby is born and the cord has been cut. You may never have thought about what we do with that stuff.

What happens to your baby's umbilical cord?

In the past, it has usually been discarded as medical waste, although some women want to take it home with them. Over the last two decades medical advances have been developed in which the cells from that blood can be used to treat several diseases. The cells have unique characteristics that allow them to change into a multitude of different cell types (called pluripotent cells.) The idea is that some children and adults with certain genetic abnormalities or certain cancers can benefit from these cells. The cells can be grown to replenish the normal cells or treat abnormal cells.

The options for umbilical cord banking are divided primarily into what’s called public and private cord blood banking.

Private cord banking

Private cord banking is just what it sounds like: we collect the blood at the time of your delivery and you send it to a business that processes it and stores it for you. The cost of this varies currently from somewhere between $2000 and $3000 for initial processing and from about $120 and $300 per year to store it. In this case, you are storing the cells for yourself and your family.

Public cord banking

Alternatively, public cord banking is something anyone who delivers at certain hospitals has the opportunity to do. There is a public cord blood system that has been growing since 1990 that is similar to the blood bank and is used for individuals who need the blood due to illness or injury.

At Swedish, all patients can donate cord blood to the Puget Sound Blood Center. The cord blood collected for this bank is available to all individuals based on need. The cord blood collected is not specifically available to the individual who donated it. We are happy to collect blood from all families, but are finding increased needs in patients who are ethnic minorities or a mixed race couple. The cord blood also can be directed to Fred Hutchinson Research Center for ongoing research regarding current and future treatments.

Isn't cord blood banking controversial?

There are ...

What you should know about your risk of falling if you have hearing loss

According to studies in Archives of Internal Medicine, the risk of falling is increased by 40% with every 10dB loss of hearing. Although this information has been researched and speculated for some time, it becomes crucial for us to consider this trend when we know people with hearing loss. This is especially important for our seniors.

How does hearing impact our balance?

It is speculated that our nervous system (specifically, the brain’s pathways) interact in such a way that one may experience “incident falls.” There are pathways which are believed to be responsible for encoding auditory and spatial information for our environmental awareness. Also, it is believed that there are pathways which incorporate auditory input into cognition and attention. To put it another way; hearing loss reduces our ability to take advantage of the auditory cues needed for knowing critical information about our surroundings. Therefore, we may fall and/or stumble more often.

As a result of a ...

How to have more good days with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)

Patients who are well educated about their medical conditions and who use self-management plans created in collaboration with their doctors have better outcomes in a number of chronic medical conditions. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes both chronic bronchitis and emphysema, is no exception. Patients who understand the disease process that causes COPD and who understand their treatment and management plans have fewer emergency room visits, fewer hospitalizations and fewer days with COPD-related symptoms.

If you are one of the 12 million people who know they have COPD, what can you do to have more days without COPD-related symptoms?

First...

Do self breast exams matter?

Self breast exams: to do or not to do?

Remember when there were monthly emails you could sign up for to remind you and your friends to do your self breast exams at home? Remember seeing the news anchors talking about their monthly self breast exams in an attempt to remind you to do your breast “due diligence?” What happened to self breast exams and are they still important?

Initially, self breast exams were recommended as a screening tool to help early detection of breast cancer. Unfortunately long-term studies have not confirmed that they actually live up to their hype. Two large studies looking at over 200,000 women in both Russia and China didn’t show any difference in breast cancer mortality after 15 years between the women who were performing routine self exams and those who were not. In fact, the women that were practicing self exams found more lumps and underwent more biopsies for benign reasons. Reviews of several other studies failed to show a benefit of regular breast self-examinations including no benefit of early diagnosis, or reductions in deaths or stage at diagnosis. Hence in 2009, the US Preventative Services Task Force advised that clinicians no longer recommend routine self breast examination as a screening tool for breast cancer detection.

Even though you don’t need to be doing a monthly self exam, you should...

Should I consider hearing aids if I have hearing loss?

Persons with mild hearing loss often begin thinking about the possibility of seeking help from hearing aids. But they may do so grudgingly because they have heard stories from friends suggesting that hearing aids are never without complications. And it is true. Hearing aids always bring with them a set of advantages and disadvantages. And the degree to which a person will accept and enjoy their hearing aids depends a great deal upon how much the hearing loss is impinging on their enjoyment of life.

If you have been noticing ....

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