Archive for the HEALTH Category

Circulatory System: Facts, Function & Diseases

Posted in HEALTH with tags , on January 25, 2016 by 2eyeswatching

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Circulatory System: Facts, Function & Diseases

Lymphatic System: Facts, Functions & Diseases

Posted in HEALTH with tags , on January 25, 2016 by 2eyeswatching

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Lymphatic System: Facts, Functions & Diseases

The lymphatic system is a network of tissues and organs that help rid the body of toxins, waste and other unwanted materials. The primary function of the lymphatic system is to transport lymph, a fluid containing infection-fighting white blood cells, throughout the body.

The lymphatic system primarily consists of lymphatic vessels, which are similar to the circulatory system’s veins and capillaries. The vessels are connected to lymph nodes, where the lymph is filtered. The tonsils, adenoids, spleen and thymus are all part of the lymphatic system.

Description of the lymphatic system

There are hundreds of lymph nodes in the human body. They are located deep inside the body, such as around the lungs and heart, or closer to the surface, such as under the arm or groin, according to the American Cancer Society.

The spleen, which is located on the left side of the body just above the kidney, is the largest lymphatic organ, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM). It controls the amount of red blood cells and blood storage in the body, and helps to fight infection. If the spleen detects potentially dangerous bacteria, viruses, or other microorganisms in the blood, it — along with the lymph nodes — creates white blood cells called lymphocytes, which act as defenders against invaders. The lymphocytes produce antibodies to kill the foreign microorganisms and stop infections from spreading. Humans can live without a spleen, although people who have lost their spleen to disease or injury are more prone to infections.

Infographic: How the human body's lymphatic system works.
The lymphatic system helps keep the body healthy by eliminating infections and diseases.
Credit: by Ross Toro, Infographics Artist

 

The thymus is located in the chest just above the heart, according to Merck Manual. This small organ stores immature lymphocytes (specialized white blood cells) and prepares them to become active T cells, which help destroy infected or cancerous cells.

Tonsils are large clusters of lymphatic cells found in the pharynx. According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, they are the body’s “first line of defense as part of the immune system. They sample bacteria and viruses that enter the body through the mouth or nose.” They sometimes become infected, and although tonsillectomies occur much less frequently today then they did in the 1950s, it is still among the most common operations performed and typically follows frequent throat infections.

Lymph is a clear and colorless fluid; the word “lymph” comes from the Latin word lympha, which means “connected to water,” according to the National Lymphadema Network.

Plasma leaves the body’s cells once it has delivered its nutrients and removed debris. Most of this fluid returns to the venous circulation through tiny blood vessels called venules and continues as venous blood. The remainder becomes lymph, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Unlike blood, which flows throughout the body in a continue loop, lymph flows in only one direction — upward toward the neck. Lymphatic vessels connect to two subclavian veins, which are located on either sides of the neck near the collarbones, and the fluid re-enters the circulatory system, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Diseases and disorders of the lymphatic system

Diseases and disorders of the lymphatic system are typically treated by immunologists. Vascular surgeons, dermatologists, oncologists and physiatrists also get involved in treatment of various lymphatic ailments. There are also lymphedema therapists who specialize in the manual drainage of the lymphatic system.

The most common diseases of the lymphatic system are enlargement of the lymph nodes (also known as lymphadenopathy), swelling due to lymph node blockage (also known as lymphedema) and cancers involving the lymphatic system, according to Dr. James Hamrick, chief of medical oncology and hematology at Kaiser Permanente in Atlanta.

When bacteria are recognized in the lymph fluid, the lymph nodes make more infection-fighting white blood cells, which can cause swelling. The swollen nodes can sometimes be felt in the neck, underarms and groin, according to the NLM.

Lymphadenopathy is usually caused by infection, inflammation, or cancer. Infections that cause lymphadenopathy include bacterial infections such as strep throat, locally infected skin wounds, or viral infections such as mononucleosis or HIV infection, Hamrick stated. “The enlargement of the lymph nodes may be localized to the area of infection, as in strep throat, or more generalized as in HIV infection. In some areas of the body the enlarged lymph nodes are palpable, while others are to deep to feel and can be seen on CT scan or MRI.”

Inflammatory or autoimmune conditions occur when a person’s immune system is active, and can result in enlargement of lymph nodes. This can happen in lupus, according to Hamrick.

Lymphoma is cancer of the lymph nodes. It occurs when lymphocytes grow and multiply uncontrollably. There are a number of different types of lymphoma, according to Dr. Jeffrey P. Sharman, director of research at Willamette Valley Cancer Institute and medical director of hematology research for the U.S. Oncology Network.

“The first ‘branch point’ is the difference between Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL),” Sharman said. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is more common of the two, according to the Lymphoma Research Foundation.

The most common types of NHL are follicular, which accounts for about 30 percent of all NHL cases; diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), which comprises 40 to 50 percent of NHL cases; and Burkitt’s lymphoma, which accounts for 5 percent of NHL cases.  “The remainder of cases makes up the bewildering complexity of NHL,” Sharman said.

“Though there can be a significant range within an individual category, the clinical approach to each category is unique and the expectations of patient outcome varies by category,” Sharman said.

When a person has had surgery and/or radiation to remove a cancer, the lymphatic flow back to the heart and can result in swelling or lymphedema, Hamrick noted. This most commonly occurs in women who have had surgery to remove a breast cancer. Part of the operation to remove the breast cancer involves removing lymph nodes in the armpit.

The more lymph nodes removed the higher the risk of chronic bothersome swelling and pain due to lymphedema in the arm, Hamrick explained. “Fortunately modern surgical techniques are allowing for fewer lymph nodes to be removed, and thus fewer cases of severe lymphedema for breast cancer survivors.”

Castleman disease is a group of inflammatory disorders that cause lymph node enlargement and can result in multiple-organ dysfunction, according to the Castleman Disease Cooperative Network. While not specifically a cancer, it is a similar to a lymphoma and is often treated with chemotherapy. It can be unicentric (one lymph node) or multicentric, involving multiple lymph nodes.

Lymphangiomatosis is a disease involving multiple cysts or lesions formed from lymphatic vessels, according to the Lymphangiomatosis & Gorham’s Disease Alliance. It is thought to be the result of a genetic mutation.

Diagnosis and treatment

Diseases of the lymphatic system are usually diagnosed when lymph nodes are enlarged, Hamrick noted. This may be discovered when the lymph nodes become enlarged enough to be felt (“palpable lymphadenopathy”) or are seen on imaging studies such as CT scans or MRIs.

The majority of enlarged lymph nodes are not dangerous; they are the body’s way of fighting off an infection, such as a viral upper respiratory infection. If the lymph nodes become significantly enlarged and persist longer than the infection then they are more worrisome. There is no specific size cutoff, but typically nodes that persist at larger than a centimeter are more worrisome and warrant examination by a doctor.

Common symptoms of any lymphatic disorder include swelling of the arm or groin, weight loss, fever and night sweats, according to Stephanie Bernik, chief of surgical oncology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.  “A PET or CAT scan is usually ordered to further investigate.”

The diagnosis of lymphadenopathy depends on the location of the abnormal lymph nodes and other things that are going on with the patient. If the patient has a known infection, then the lymph nodes can simply be followed to await resolution with treatment of the infection. If the nodes are growing quickly and there is no obvious explanation then typically a biopsy is warranted to look for a cancer or an infection. If the node can be felt then this can be done at the bedside with a needle, according to Hamrick.

If the lymph node is deeper, such as in the abdomen or pelvis, Hamrick said the biopsy might need to be done by an interventional radiologist using image guidance to place the needle into the node. Sometimes the biopsy needs to be done by a surgeon in the operating room. This is often where the most tissue can be obtained to make a diagnosis, he said.

With many types of lymphoma and leukemia, there are unique treatment options for each type, according to Sharman. “There is no one ‘summary’ of treatment options.  Treatment options can include traditional chemotherapy, immunotherapy (such as using antibodies or immune modulating drugs), and even radiation.”

Treatment of lymphatic diseases depends on treating the underlying cause. Infections are treated with antibiotics, supportive care (while the immune system does its job, as in a viral infection) or antivirals. Lymphedema can be treated by elevation, compression and physical therapy. Cancers of the lymphatic system are treated by chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery, or a combination of those modalities, Hamrick noted.

In last several years, Sharman noted that there has been explosion of new treatment options.  “There are a handful of newly approved drugs that target the actual disease causing processes within cells. Ibrutinib, idelalisib, obinutuzumab, lenalidomide have been approved in various indications and it is likely that we will see multiple more in coming year.”

Man Gets 20-Foot Tapeworm from Eating Raw Meat

Posted in HEALTH with tags on January 22, 2016 by 2eyeswatching

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Man Gets 20-Foot Tapeworm from Eating Raw Meat

5 Health Benefits of Smoking

Posted in HEALTH with tags on January 19, 2016 by 2eyeswatching

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5 Health Benefits of Smoking

Does Your Colon Need Cleaning? 5 Things You Should Know

Posted in HEALTH with tags on January 19, 2016 by 2eyeswatching

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Does Your Colon Need Cleaning? 5 Things You Should Know

Cleaning out the colon is sometimes necessary— for example, before a medical procedure, such as a colonoscopy. But some people do it in the belief that the process will rid their colons of excess toxins that have accumulated over time from the foods they eat, the air they breathe, the water they drink and the lifestyles they lead.

Colon-cleansing enthusiastsbelieve that periodically cleaning from the inside out removes waste stuck to the colon walls. This waste buildup also supposedly produces toxins that enter the blood and may be slowly poisoning people, contributing to a variety of symptoms — fatigue, bloating, irritated skin and weight gain — and health problems, from depression and allergies to arthritis and cancer.

Cleansing proponents promote two ways to clean the colon. One method involves taking bowel-clearing laxatives, powders or supplements; using enemas; or drinking herbal teas topurportedly release colon waste and discharge toxins. But using this method might feel more like frequently running to the bathroom with diarrhea.

A second method is called colonic irrigation or colon hydrotherapy, in which a practitioner flushes out the colon by sending gallons of water into the body through a tube inserted into a person’s rectum. This procedure can cost about $80 to $100 per session.

But does colon cleansing flush out toxins, as its supporters suggest, or does itflush money down the drain?

Medical professionals say that the body comes well equipped with its own built-in mechanisms to eliminate harmful substances: the liver and kidneys. In fact, colon cleansing that is done to help remove toxins is an unnecessary and potentially dangerous practice, especially colon hydrotherapy.

“Every week, someone asks me whether colon cleansing is safe and whether a person should be doing it,” said Dr. Jacqueline Wolf, a gastroenterologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and the author of “A Woman’s Guide to a Healthy Stomach” (Harlequin, 2011).

She typically tells her patients there is little research on colon cleansing methods, and that most physicians don’t believe in these treatments or advise their use. [The Poop on Pooping: 5 Misconceptions Explained]

Wolf said people’s curiosity about cleansing possibly stems from the idea that the bowel is a dirty place, and that getting rid of waste is a good idea. She said she usually doesn’t recommend colon hydrotherapy, but has suggested it for a few people to use ascolonoscopy preparation when traditional methods have failed. She’s also recommended it for patients who had severe constipation, before there were strong drugs that could help remedy this problem.

“We don’t know enough about colon cleansing to know the real truth,” Wolf told Live Science. “It’s an area we should learn more about.”

Wolf outlined some of the potential side effects and dangers of colon cleansing methods.

1. Colon cleansing can cause side effects.

“We don’t have real data on either the healthy or unhealthy side effects from cleansing methods,” Wolf said. Most of the known side effects come from case reports described in the medical literature and not from research studies, of which there are few.

Colon cleansing with laxatives, herbal formulations or enemas might increase a person’s risk of becoming dehydrated if the individual does not drink enough fluids, Wolf said.

Inducing diarrhea can also change people’s electrolyte levels. Shifting levels of sodium might cause lightheadedness, and low potassium levels may cause leg cramps or abnormal heart rhythms, Wolf said.

Some herbal cleanses have also been linked with liver toxicity and aplastic anemia, a rare blood disorder.

Case reports suggest colon hydrotherapy may cause abdominal cramping, stomach pain, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. More-severe complications may include perforating the bowel, serious infections, electrolyte imbalances, kidney problems and heart failure.

2. There’s little scientific evidence that colon cleansing actually removes toxins from the body or improves health.

A review study published in 2001 in the American Journal of Gastroenterology concluded that there were no rigorous studies to support the practice of colon cleansing as a way of improving or promoting general health.

And because cleansing products and methods rarely name the specific toxins they supposedly remove from the body, there’s been no research measuring how effective cleansing practices may be at actually eliminating these substances, or demonstrating the health benefits of removing them, Wolf said.

3. Cleansing is not an effective strategy for weight loss.

A person who does a cleanse may initially lose a few pounds, but that is a temporary loss, resulting from the removal of water weight and stool, and not from a permanent loss of fat. Although it could be motivating to see results on the scale for a few days, cleansing is not a long-term solution to a weight problem, Wolf said. [5 Experts Answer: Is There Such Thing as a Healthy Juice Cleanse?]

4. Colon cleansing and colonic irrigation are not safe for everyone.

Wolf said she would worry about people with kidney disease or heart problems trying colon cleanses, because these individuals already have trouble maintaining fluid balance in their bodies, and the electrolyte shifts could be an issue. She said she would also tell people with gastrointestinal problems, such as Crohn’s disease (a condition involving inflammation in the GI tract), ulcerative colitis(which involves inflammation in the large intestine), and recurrent diverticulitis (in which a person develops inflamed pouches in the wall of the colon) to avoid colonics.

Colon hydrotherapy is also risky for people with connective tissue disorders, such as Marfan syndrome or Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, because of the possible risk of a puncturing a hole in the bowel, as well as anyone who had prior colon surgery or severe hemorrhoids.

Pregnant and breast-feeding women should also steer clear of colon cleanses.

5. Cleansing’s effect on gut bacteria is unknown.

Trillions of bacteria live in the colon, and eliminating them or changing the population of beneficial and harmful bacteria in that organ could be a problem.

“A colon cleanse would never get rid of all the bacteria, but research is increasingly finding that a lot of bacteria in the colon is very healthy,” Wolf said. Some of the good colon bacteria play a role inkeeping bad bacteria at bay.

Scientists don’t know if colon cleanses and colon hydrotherapy disrupt the bacteria in the colon or cause an imbalance in the microbiome, Wolf said. “It hasn’t been studied,” she said.

Follow Live Science @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Originally published on Live Science.

Colon Cancer: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Posted in HEALTH with tags , on January 19, 2016 by 2eyeswatching

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Colon Cancer: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Colon (Large Intestine): Facts, Function & Diseases

Posted in HEALTH with tags , on January 19, 2016 by 2eyeswatching

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Colon (Large Intestine): Facts, Function & Diseases

The body has two types of intestines. The small intestine is connected to the stomach and handles the middle part of the digestion process. The large intestine, also called the colon, is part of the final stages of digestion. It is a large tube that escorts waste from the body.

Size

The colon is much wider than the small intestine, but is also much shorter. According to theCleveland Clinic, the small intestine is 22 feet (6.7 meters) long. The colon is only 6 feet (1.8 m) long.

This 6 feet of dense muscle is divided into four parts: the ascending colon, the transverse colon, the descending colon and the sigmoid colon. Each part represents a location in the broken rectangle shape that the colon makes in the body. The ascending colon is the right arm of the broken rectangle. The beginning of the ascending colon is called the cecum. The cecum is connected to the small intestine and the appendix.

The transverse colon is the top arm that spans from the left side to the right side like a bridge. The left arm is called the descending colon. The sigmoid is the “broken” part of the rectangle that creates an S-shape that hangs off of the descending colon. It empties into the rectum.

Function

The function of the large intestine is to get rid of food left over after the nutrients are removed from it, bacteria and other waste. This process is called peristalsis and can take around 36 hours, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

First, liquid and salt is removed from the waste as it passes through the colon. Then, the waste makes its way to the sigmoid, where it is stored. Once or twice per day, when the body is ready for a bowel movement, the waste is dumped into the rectum.

Diseases & conditions

There are many diseases and conditions that are associated with the colon. Colorectal cancer is cancer that occurs in the colon or in the lower colon near the rectum.  It is one of the most common causes of cancer-associated death. The American Cancer Society estimates there will be 93,090 new cases of colon cancer in the United States in 2015 and one in 20 will get colorectal cancer in their lifetime.

Polyps are an abnormal growth of tissue on the inner lining of the colon or rectum that are benign, non-cancerous tumors, according to the American Cancer Society. These polyps can sometimes turn into cancer, but many times do not. There are several types of polyps. Adenomatous polyps can change into cancer and are considered pre-cancerous. Hyperplastic polyps and inflammatory polyps are not typically pre-cancerous, though some in the medical community think they may be signs of future colon cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Doctors usually remove all polyps, just in case.

Colon dysplasia is when a spot of cells on the lining of the colon look abnormal under a microscope. These cells are not cancerous, but can change into cancer over time. People who have had diseases such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease for many years can develop colon dysplasia.

Spastic colon, also called irritable bowel syndrome, is more than just a colon problem. It is the spontaneous contractions or loss of movement of the muscles in the small and large intestines, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Promoting good colon health

There are many ways to improve large intestine health. Eat a healthy, balanced diet that is full of fruits and vegetables, consume fiber-rich diet, drink adequate amounts of water, exercise regularly and follow recommended guidelines for colon cancer screening and colonoscopies, Dr. Ajay Goel, director of epigenetics, cancer prevention and genomics at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, told Live Science.

Supplements, such as curcumin and omega-3, can help reduce chronic inflammation, said Goel. Other vitamins can be helpful, as well. “Low vitamin B6 levels have been associated with increased risk of certain cancers, such as colon and cognitive decline,” Dr. Sherry Ross, women’s health expert at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, told Live Science.

study shows that taking both curcumin and boswellic acids may help prevent colon cancer. “We have known for a while that curcumin and boswellia both have potent anti-cancer properties,” said Goel, one of the study’s authors. “In this study, we investigated how they work in conjunction to reduce proliferation and increase cell cycle arrest and apoptosis (various mechanisms by which cancer cells are killed). We found that the two together activate a broader array of gene regulators called microRNAs, with a wider spectrum of impact compared to either compound individually.”

Colon cleanses

Many people use colon cleanses as a means to keep the colon healthy. This process includes taking laxatives, teas, powders or supplements, using enemas, or getting colonic irrigation (colon hydrotherapy) to flush out the colon. There can be side effects to cleansing, and some practices can even be dangerous. Doctors have varied opinions on cleansing. The colon’s very function is to remove toxins, so many doctors and medical groups, like the Mayo Clinic, believe that cleansing is unneeded and advise against it or to use caution. Others, like Goel, believe they can be helpful.

“Yes, colon cleanses can be very helpful in eliminating/washing away toxins from the body, but one must keep in mind that these cleanses (should be) as natural as possible and do not use strong/harsh chemicals, as these may provide temporary relief, but in the long run can negatively impact your colon health,” said Goel.