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New products available for allergy treatment

For those with seasonal allergies, treatment can be as simple as an over-the-counter medication, but often requires more.  The good news is that there are a lot of options now. Some new products have been recently approved by the FDA to help individuals who are dealing with grass and ragweed allergies.

The treatment of nasal and eye symptoms from allergies includes antihistamines, nasal sprays and allergy shots.  Over the counter antihistamines include diphenhydramine (ex. Benadryl), loratadine (ex. Claritin), cetirizine (ex. Zyrtec), or fexofenadine (ex. Allegra).  Over the counter allergy eye drops are also available, such as ketotifen (ex.Zaditor).  Together, these help with itchy, sneezy, watery nose and eyes.  Nasal antihistamines are prescription and also help with these symptoms.  Nasal steroids help decrease congestion and postnasal drip.  

A long-standing solution ...

Facts and myths about antioxidants and cancer

Some of the most popular misconceptions surrounding cancer, cancer prevention and cancer treatment are about the role of antioxidants. Like many of the popular myths about cancer, there are facts, half-facts and outright falsehoods.
 
Fact: Damage to genes, particularly those involved in the regulation of cell division and cell death, is the key event in the development of cancer. 
Fact: Oxidants are substances, most often generated by our own body, that cause damage to chemicals, including the DNA that makes up our genes, by oxidizing them. The oxidation reaction most familiar to us is when metal rusts. 
Fact: Our bodies’ oxidants can contribute to cancer.
 
Half-fact: Antioxidants are chemicals we ingest that then run around neutralizing oxidants, rendering them powerless to promote cancer. The so-called antioxidant vitamins, of which vitamin C, E, and beta-carotene are the most well known are more properly called redox agents. In a particular environment, they prevent or reverse oxidation, called reduction. But they may change the acidity or even just the concentrations of the components of the reaction, and they may facilitate just the opposite. For example ....

Why aren't my bowel habits normal?

Do you have irregular, uncomfortable, or distressing bowel habits? Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is the most common gastrointestinal condition affecting an estimated 15% of the general population.  It is most common among women aged 30 to 49 years old.

IBS is a chronic condition of the digestive system that is not generally associated with more concerning findings of anemia, weight loss, family history of colorectal cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, or celiac disease. Symptoms of IBS include abdominal discomfort, constipation and diarrhea. Despite extensive research, no common cause of IBS has been identified. Some theories include:

When you should seek treatment for abdominal pain

As a general surgeon, the majority of my practice is spent evaluating patients with abdominal pain and deciding whether the cause of their pain requires surgical treatment. These patients are only a small fraction of the number of people who seek medical attention for abdominal pain. Abdominal pain is fairly common and something almost all of us have experienced. Usually it is not cause for alarm and resolves on its own after a limited course if we wait and treat symptomatically. We have all had a moment however when we wondered whether this time was more serious, and how would we know if it was?

Every organ in the abdomen and pelvis (including the muscles and skin of the abdominal wall) has nerve endings and can cause pain. While nearly everyone has experienced abdominal pain, it is usually self limited and mild. Think antacids for heartburn symptoms, diet modifications for food intolerances, fluids and time for gastroenteritis, stool softners for constipation. While more severe causes of abdominal pain are rare, it is important they are recognized as they may have more severe consequences to health.

Only 15%-20% of people with abdominal pain require surgical treatment (this number increases with age). The most common reasons for surgery are  ...

When do kids need antibiotics?

Winter can seem like one long continuous “sick day” for families - kids pick up frequent infections at school or daycare and pass them around to everyone at home.  Often it feels like by the time the illness has worked its way through the household, a new one has started!  Even for physicians, it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between viral and bacterial infections.  Since antibiotics cannot treat viruses, they are often over-prescribed - which can lead to significant side effects in children and also contributes bacteria becoming resistant to existing medications.  In November 2013, the American Academy of Pediatrics released an updated guidance regarding antibiotic treatment, helping answer the frequently asked question about when kids need antibiotics.

Here's what you should know about antibiotics in these situations:

  • Ear infections ...

FDA finally defines gluten free

On August 5th, 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) at long last published a formal rule regulating the use of the term "gluten free" on foods and beverages.  Even though this came with a big sigh of relief to the millions of people with celiac disease living in the US, consumers should be aware that the law gives manufacturers one year to be in full compliance (and goes into effect August 5, 2014).

As we head into the final months before the law’s final compliance date, I thought I’d highlight a few other key points about this brand new law:

1. No symbols needed.  The law does not require or recommend manufacturers use any particular symbol or food label, but if a label should include any of the following phrases, compliance must be ensured:
    •    “Gluten-free”
    •    “Free of gluten”
    •    “No gluten”
    •    “Without gluten”

2.  It’s voluntary.  A manufacturer may produce gluten-free foods, but just choose not to label them as such.   

3.  “Gluten-free” does not mean “zero gluten”. The new law defines "gluten-free" to mean that a food contains less than 20 parts per million (20 ppm) of gluten.  (This tiny amount can be visualized as less than a tenth of a grain of salt on a slice of bread, and is acceptable as the standard for people with celiac disease).

4.  As with any rule, there are exceptions.  Although ...

What you should know about multiple myeloma

Recent news about the health of the distinguished journalist, Tom Brokaw, has focused attention on multiple myeloma, a malignant disease of the bone marrow. Myeloma is characterized by an uncontrolled growth of marrow plasma cells, which normally produce antibodies for our immune system. In its advanced stages, the overgrowth of these cells and their associated proteins can cause anemia, painful bone destruction, and kidney failure.
 
Until about 10 years ago, advanced myeloma was uniformly fatal with a typical survival of about 3 years. Recent years, however, have seen a remarkable improvement in treatment possibilities for myeloma. This began with the discovery that autologous stem cell transplantation could produce complete remissions and longer survival. In addition, a variety of chemotherapy drugs administered in combination with corticosteroid drugs, now produce responses in up to 80% of patients. This means about 80% of patients are surviving longer than 3 years after chemotherapy and autologous stem cell transplant.
 
Not all patients with myeloma require chemotherapy. Myeloma can exist in an early stage for years. This is called smoldering myeloma. Chromosome analysis is routinely done on myeloma cells and allows us to identify patients with more aggressive forms of the disease, and those requiring treatment due to signs of organ damage or bone pain.
 
The Swedish Cancer Institute has been a participant in clinical trials leading to the development of some of the effective new treatments for myeloma. We are currently participating in a study of pomalidomide, a newly approved agent, for patients with relapsed myeloma. Another study offers an investigational drug, MLN9708, for newly diagnosed patients.
 
While the new drugs are more effective and better tolerated than previous chemotherapy, all  ...

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