Endometriosis is a little-known womb condition that affects 1 in 10 women, leaving them in great pain and in some cases infertile. Campaigners say lack of services and awareness about the condition are adding to sufferers’ woes.
The crippling condition occurs when cells from the endometrium, which lines the womb, migrate to other parts of the body – normally the pelvic cavity.
These cells, just like the endometrial tissue in the womb, break down and bleed each month. However, unlike a period, the blood has no way of leaving the body. This causes inflammation, severe abdominal pain, adhesions, scar tissue and cysts on the ovaries. About 30 per cent of people with endometriosis become infertile.
Robert Music, chief executive of The National Endometriosis Society, says, “It’s an awful condition to get. It has a severe impact on your quality of life. When it’s at it’s worst you can’t work, you can’t even get out of bed.”
Around 2 million women in the UK live with this condition. So what is being done to help them and their families?
Sadly, it seems services are pretty scarce and the disorder is sorely neglected. According to Robert, there aren’t enough specialists in the NHS, awareness among health professionals is patchy – resulting in a mixed approach to the problem across the UK – and there is a serious lack of investment in key services and research.
“The condition has been recognised for years, but there is still a problem with awareness among health professionals as well as the general public,” says Robert.
Part of the problem is that medical students aren’t widely educated about the illness. Considering the number of women affected by the condition – and the toll endometriosis can take – much more time needs to be spent dealing with it, the organisation says.
Failure to do so can see the problem go undiagnosed – on average, for seven years. The classic symptoms are painful periods, painful sex and infertility. Sufferers may also experience heavy or irregular bleeding, bowel and bladder problems, and extreme tiredness.
Because of this, symptoms can be confused with other conditions – irritable bowel syndrome, heavy periods, inflammatory pelvic disease – and women are given incorrect treatment.
“Some GPs are aware, some aren’t; some maybe wouldn’t think the symptoms that their patient is presenting with are endometriosis,” says Robert. The organisation wants to get GPs to start thinking that endometriosis is a possibility and refer women to specialists. This delay in diagnosis and treatment is also wasting millions of pounds a year, he adds.
In need of specialists
But lack of specialists is another problem. At a recent meeting of the Endometriosis All-Party Parliamentary Group, gynaecologists told Public Health Minister Hazel Blears one of the biggest issues they faced was coping with demand. “The waiting list for women to see them is a year sometimes because there aren’t enough specialists,” says Robert.
And levels of expertise also vary, says Robert. He cites “unacceptable” cases of women being told they have endometriosis as they come around from laparoscopy (investigative surgery) – a time clearly not best suited to the news.
“We want to have consistency across the board because there are some excellent people out there,” he says.
The charity says the best solution would be the development of specialist centres. “One of the things about having a specialist centre is that when someone comes around from a laparoscopy, ideally there will be a specialist nurse who will then talk them through what endometriosis is, so when they go away they’re not so scared,” says Robert.
“Specialist centres are needed to look at surgical and drug treatments, but also pain management, complementary therapies, a full-time endometriosis nurse, maybe some counselling; really have a multi-disciplinary approach,” he adds.
Speaking to Karen, 44, from Dorset, the need for specialist centres is clear. She was diagnosed with endometriosis when she was 35 after three years of excruciating pain. “It was frustrating knowing that something was wrong but not having a diagnosis,” she says.
Karen also highlights the need for support during treatment. The lack of knowledge about what causes endometriosis means there is no cure. Treatment options include drug therapies and surgery, and while they help many women, they offered Karen no relief.
While taking drug therapies, she found that instead of suffering the effects of endometriosis, she had menopausal symptoms caused by the drugs. “I was getting hot flushes, night sweats and aching joints. These symptoms were preferable to the endometriosis symptoms for a while until it became almost as bad. The aching joints made it difficult for me to walk a long way, go up or down stairs or even lift a kettle,” she says.
At 39, she eventually underwent a hysterectomy – a radical surgery, always treated as a last resort. However, this did not clear up all Karen’s problems. Taking HRT, which is necessary to protect bone density, caused the endometriosis to flair up again. Any small deposits of endometrial tissue will become reactivated when you start HRT, she explains.
Unfortunately, the HRT failed to protect Karen’s bones and she now has borderline osteoporosis. “Sometimes I feel very angry and cheated. But on the other hand I know there is no cure for endometriosis so you just have to keep trying different things.
“I would like to see doctors taking women seriously when they complain about painful periods. Pain is your body’s way of telling you that there’s something wrong,” she says.
Robert wants initiatives in schools to help to raise the public’s awareness and dispel myths about the condition. The society is also pushing for guidelines from the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE). However, the campaign for better information and for specialist centres will be a long process, he says.
In the meantime, the society provides support services run by volunteers with endometriosis ranging from a helpline, self-management courses, and support groups where women, partners and families can meet other people and talk about their situation.
“That’s an incredibly important part of our work,” says Robert. Because endometriosis can take so long to diagnose and people often feel like they’re on their own, it’s like a “secret disease”, he says. “It’s just the most enormous relief to just offload and share experiences and realise you’re not on your own.”
Fat and high calcium intake may not, as widely thought, be a cause of prostate cancer but instead may encourage its progression from a localised to an advanced disease, say US researchers.
Consumption of fat and calcium has no apparent impact on the risk of prostate cancer in its early stages, say Dr Alan Kristal and colleagues at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.
The researchers looked at the correlation between calorie, fat, calcium and vitamin D intake on prostate cancer risk among 1,200 men between the ages of 40 and 64 living in the area of Seattle.
Half of the men had recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer and the remainder were healthy.
The subjects were quizzed about their dietary intake three to five years before diagnosis or, for healthy subjects, during a similar time period.
The authors of the study discovered that men with diets in which fat accounted for no more than 30 per cent of their daily calorie intake had half the risk of late-stage cancer of those with a high fat diet. But they discovered no association between fat intake and early-stage diagnosis.
No link between monounsaturated fats or omega-3 fatty acids and an increased risk of advanced prostate cancer was found, but an association was detected with saturated fats found in foods such as meat and dairy products.
The risk of advanced prostate cancer was found to be 112 per cent higher among men who consumed the most calcium, identified as up to 1,200mg per day, as opposed to those whose intake was as little as 500mg.
Total calories consumed by the men carried an equal risk of both early and advanced prostate cancer.
Men who ingested the most calories each day more than doubled their risk of localised prostate cancer and their risk of advanced cancer was nearly twice that of men who consumed the least.
“Our findings clearly show decreased risk for late-stage disease in men with diets that are low in fat and moderate in calcium, perhaps because these diets slow progression of prostate cancer into more aggressive disease,” says Dr Kristal.
He says that one implication of the research is that men who are diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer may benefit from a diet low in fat and calories.
And he adds, “This finding…suggests that moderating fat and calcium consumption may reduce the risk of cancer recurrence following treatment.”
Many experts believe these physical and mental compulsions are an exaggeration of the worries, fears, doubts and superstitious beliefs that are little more than an irritation for the general population.
The US charity Obsessive-Compulsive Foundation describes the disorder as a “case of mental hiccups” – a source of enormous irritation that simply will not go away.
Among the most well-documented manifestations of OCD are obsessions with hygiene and the hoarding of possessions. However, there are many other extreme and bizarre examples of behaviour that sufferers engage in as a response to mental anxiety.
Colin Smith, a 44-year-old from London who has OCD, lives in perennial fear of people harming or attacking him even though he knows such anxieties are unfounded. A former associate TV producer for LWT, he is now a voluntary press officer for the charity Obsessive Action.
He describes OCD as “the enemy within” and says his understanding of the disorder is “that my brain sends off alarm signals at completely inappropriate moments”.
“At the moment my OCD takes the form of obsessive ruminations about people wanting to hurt me. When I was a kid it was much more of a textbook OCD case and I would obsessively tap objects and turn lights switches on and off.”
Colin takes antidepressants and has cognitive behavioural therapy to help him cope with his condition. However, he admits that he is far from being cured. “If you imagine someone repeatedly poking you hard in the chest – well, this is like a mental manifestation of that.”
OCD, however, is not always reflected in an endless catalogue of misery. One of the most unusual examples of obsessional behaviour must be that of Helga Schmidt*, a woman living in Germany, who has a compulsion to fling her handbag into the abyss when crossing bridges.
Her sister Renata estimates that in her lifetime Helga has thrown away “at least three dozen handbags” and, along with them, money, keys, passports and travellers cheques.
Renata laughs as she explains, “Helga has been engaging in this behaviour for so long that our family is just accustomed to it. Fortunately, we are aware of what she will do and before approaching a bridge her husband will take her handbag from her.
“It is an overwhelming compulsion and none of us have any idea where it springs from. It can obviously be a great inconvenience and while it is without doubt obsessive behaviour it is far from running her life.”
For Adrian Cohen, 43, from Cambridge, the disorder is far more damaging. He describes his OCD as a condition that “mutates”. “When I was younger I believe it was the pressure of O levels which prompted me to start compulsively tapping things,” he says.
Now Adrian, who takes antidepressants and has therapy for OCD, compulsively picks things up from the street, repeatedly shouts sexual expletives in public and feels the need to stamp his feet a certain number of times when he leaves his front door. He also says he experiences “deep unease” at any object or symbol which has an apex – such as the “the letter A” or “church spires”. He does not have a full-time job, and instead does voluntary work for several organisations including Amnesty International.
So what is it that causes what could be considered the “normal neuroses” that affect us all to mutate into such bizarre fears and behaviours?
Aware of irritations
Ian Hancock, a consultant clinical psychologist at Dumfries and Galloway NHS Trust who specialises in the disease, believes OCD is caused by both a genetic predisposition to the illness and environmental factors.
He says this kind of obsessive behaviour becomes troublesome when the sufferer sees it as a problem and it starts to interfere in their work and relationships. He also confirms that one characteristic of the condition is that sufferers are completely aware of the irrationality of their anxieties.
“One of my patients had to complete certain mathematical calculations because, even though she knew it made no sense, she believed that unless she did so there would never be any peace in the Gulf,” he said.
Finding a way out
However, he believes that cognitive behavioural therapy offers OCD sufferers a real hope of release from an illness that was once considered incurable.
“By talking patients through their behaviour and their thinking, it’s possible through what I call ‘behavioural homework’ to get them to change their patterns of thought from irrational to rational.”
Optimism about treating OCD cannot come quickly enough for sufferers such as Colin, who says that if there were a magic drug to cure the condition he would take it immediately.
As he graphically puts it, “When my OCD gets really bad I just take myself to bed. Suffering severe OCD is like being in hell – the bombardment of thoughts of people wanting to harm me is very wearing.”
*Not her real name
“They told me to stand in the shower and let the water wash the tears away,” says mother-of-three Sue of the time she spent recovering from an ectopic pregnancy. “You were ‘the ectopic’. Nobody talked about it – what you’d actually lost.”
“They told me to stand in the shower and let the water wash the tears away,” says mother-of-three Sue of the time she spent recovering from an ectopic pregnancy. “You were ‘the ectopic’. Nobody talked about it – what you’d actually lost.”
Sue was 43 and already a mother when the acute stomach pain she was experiencing was diagnosed as an ectopic pregnancy, a potentially fatal development that occurs in around 1 in every 125 pregnancies.
The condition was in the news recently after the Countess of Wessex was diagnosed with an ectopic pregnancy and underwent emergency surgery.
Ectopic literally means “out of place”, and ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilised egg implants itself outside the womb. It may implant in the ovary, the stomach or the cervix, but most commonly in the fallopian tube.
Dr Gabrielle Downey, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at the City Hospital in Birmingham, says, “The problem with it is that, as the pregnancy grows and progresses, the tube ruptures and causes quite profound bleeding.”
Dr Downey says that between four and five women die each year in the UK from an ectopic pregnancy, usually because the condition was not diagnosed in time.
Older women and those undergoing fertility treatment are at higher risk of having an ectopic pregnancy, and a previous ectopic increases the chances of another occurring.
Unfortunately, no ectopic pregnancy can be saved, and in the vast majority of cases surgery is necessary to remove the embryo, although drugs are sometimes used to stop it growing. If the fallopian tube is badly damaged, this will also be removed.
Sue had one of her ovaries and one of her fallopian tubes removed, which she says brought on early menopause. Although she spent only a few days in hospital, she suffered acute post-operative pain followed by bouts of depression.
Sue’s story shows that, on top of this physical trauma, there is great emotional stress. She says it took her two years to recover completely from the experience.
“On the Saturday when I went home and realised just how much I’d lost it was awful,” she says. “I just couldn’t stop crying. I’d sit with my husband and we’d both cry.”
Ruth Bender Atik, director of the Miscarriage Association, says that the speed with which ectopic pregnancies need to be terminated can be very traumatic for a woman and her partner, and people often underestimate the distress it can cause.
“People say things like, ‘Well it wasn’t really a baby yet was it. It was only eight weeks,’” Ruth says.
“I imagine in the Countess of Wessex’s case, like other women who have ectopic pregnancies, they’ll be saying ‘God that must have been so frightening. You should be grateful to be alive.’ And one might be grateful to be alive, but she’s also lost a baby, and has in some way limited her future fertility.”
The chances of conceiving again will vary from woman to woman. Dr Downey says that, provided there is a remaining healthy fallopian tube, a woman’s fertility will be 80 to 85 per cent of what it was before the ectopic pregnancy.
“Most women who have had an ectopic pregnancy go on to have a normal uterine pregnancy,” says Ruth.
Bruce Jeffers* used to cover more than 50,000 miles a year in his job as a commercial traveller. But his trips came to an abrupt end when the relatively fit 64-year-old suffered a mild stroke and ended up in hospital – one more case to add to the millions worldwide each year.
But there is hope. Results from a recent study have suggested that a new course of treatment could prevent people like Bruce having further strokes in the future, enabling them to lead much happier, more fulfilling lives.
Stroke, or brain attack, is a leading cause of death and disability in the world and a drain on national healthcare budgets. “Stroke is a huge global health problem,” says Professor Stephen MacMahon, an expert in cardiovascular medicine at the University of Sydney, Australia, and lead researcher of the new study. “It is the second leading cause of death and one of the leading causes of disability.”
Prof MacMahon estimates that each year about 5 million people – men and women of all ages – are killed by stroke, and at least 15 million have non-fatal strokes. According to the charity The Stroke Association, about a third of sufferers will die within a year and another third will be left with severe disabilities. The remainder may make a good recovery.
A stroke occurs when a clot blocks a blood vessel or an artery, interrupting blood flow to an area in the brain. There are two main types: ischaemic, which is the most common, and is caused by blood clots that prevent blood flow to the brain; and haemorrhagic, which is caused when a weakened blood vessel ruptures and bleeds into the surrounding brain.
Bruce has had to battle with the side effects of his mild haemorrhagic stroke, which affected his ability to swallow, walk and speak. But his positive attitude helped him through. It was the non-visible aspects that he found frustrating, such as the impact on his sense of taste. “Imagine not being able to taste malt whisky and having a metallic taste in your mouth all the time,” he says.
Although his sense of taste returned, long-term effects remained, such as post-stroke central pain, which regularly creates acute pain in his feet, similar to pins and needles.
When he was discharged from hospital four days later, his doctor suggested he enrol in a study aimed at assessing the effectiveness of lowering blood pressure in preventing another stroke in people who have already suffered a stroke or transient ischaemic attack – also known as mini-stroke.
The study was co-ordinated by Prof MacMahon and a team of researchers at the Institute for International Health in Sydney and was known as PROGRESS (Perindopril pROotection aGainst REcurrent Stroke Study).
More than 6,000 patients with high blood pressure were treated with either a placebo or a specific combination therapy of drugs, and examined over a four-year period. The first results were delivered in June last year and showed that treatment based on the drug perindopril reduced the risk of further strokes and heart attacks among stroke patients by between a quarter and a half.
The study investigators said the results were massively important for dealing with the global stroke problem. Prof MacMahon said, “The PROGRESS results provide clear evidence of major health gains for these high-risk patients. If the findings are applied widely, many millions of stroke sufferers worldwide will be spared unnecessary suffering.”
Taking part in the study has had immediate benefits for Bruce too. He believes he has avoided further strokes because of the regular blood pressure monitoring and check-ups he receives as part of the trial.
However, the job is not over for the PROGRESS researchers. They recently presented encouraging findings from the study on the effects of the treatment on dementia and cognitive impairment, and are soon expected to publish data on the combination therapy’s effect on disability.
Bruce has also been busy. These days, he visits other stroke patients to motivate them and inspire them to get back on their feet if they are feeling low. He says, “Experiencing a serious condition such as a stroke makes you stand back and look at life differently. You evaluate the stressful things you do which aren’t important really and appreciate the good things in life.”
* Not his real name
Body Mass Index Gives Insight Into General Health
When it comes to getting healthy, many numbers signal health ailments — but it’s not just the number on the scale.
The American Cancer Society and Weight Watchers have joined forces to make us more aware of another important number: the body mass index, or BMI.
Weight Watchers stresses losing weight isn’t just about looking better. It’s a matter of health, and sometimes life and death.
Excess pounds increase our risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
But how do you know what a healthy weight is? Weight Watchers and the American Cancer Society say that’s where your body mass index comes in.
BMI is a calculation that considers your height and weight and gives you a healthy range.
For instance at 5 feet 4 inches tall, a healthy body mass index is between 110 and 145 pounds. At 5 feet 8 inches, the range is between 125 and 164 pounds. And at 6 feet 2 inches, the ideal weight is between 148 and 194 pounds.
The Body Mass Index chart is the same for men and women.
And don’t despair if it seems like you need to lose a lot of weight. According to the American Cancer Society, losing 5 to 10 percent of your current weight can help prevent or correct weight related health issues.
I am sure looking at the name readers know the type of allergy we are here to talk about. The name itself is self explained as to the onset of this allergy type, it’s the pollen season when human beings are most affected.
Not all the symptoms of pollen allergy are identical; it mainly depends on the source through which pollen enters our body and also the part of the body where it reacts. Irrespective of the source of the pollen whether from tree or grass it affects most of the body organs of the affected like throat, nose, trachea, syrinx and many more resulting in pain.
If Pollen affects a person frequently it leads to dreadful disease like asthma. Along with pollen symptoms like running nose, congestion, watery eyes, headache if a person also feels shortness of breathe and tightness in the chest, it is the indication that his bronchial tubes have been affected.
Pollen Allergy can be treated with various nasal drops and eye drops such as Antihistamine which reduces the after effects of histamine and the sneezing also reduces. Capsules with antihistamine component helps in cutting down the number of times a person sneezes or the itching in the throat and mouth.
The main source that causes severe anaphylactic allergies or allergic reactions is peanuts. Too much intake of peanuts cause peanut allergy. Did you know about it? Well, now you know it.
Skin irritation, wheezing, vomiting or loose motions are the main symptoms of this health problem. Consuming nuts or peanuts for almost an hour or more than an hour non-stop can cause such allergy.
We know that children often are affected with allergies but in this case, the ratio of adults in contact with this allergy is higher than children. And the best part is that people with this kind of allergy are least bothered. They are simple not concerned.
Almost 50% of the people, who are affected with peanut allergy, do not consult a doctor at all. Now, isn’t this shocking? It is really important to give a real thought about the critical factors of have this nut allergy.
As peanuts are also the carriers of allergens and can cause food allergy, proposals of banning peanuts on planes and also peanut-free zones in many other areas have become very important nowadays.
This kind of health problem is found in almost 1.1% of American population. This is a real fact and was found by health circles.
The main common health problem that occurs most of the time between children and adults are Allergies. The best way to treat yourself from such problem is to avoid what prompts Allergies and ease the symptoms and make your easy.
Use above precautions for an allergy free life.
The common type of allergy is caused by common house dust. Many people sneeze or sniffle in dusty areas. The components of house dust that can cause allergic reaction include molds, pet and human dander, and waste of cockroaches. However, the dust mite- also found in ordinary house dust–is usually the major cause of the allergy.
Dust mites are microscopic, spider-like creatures found in homes. They usually stay in carpets, upholstered furniture, and mattresses and can thrive wherever there is humidity in generally warm location. These creatures feed on shed scales from human skin. It is the waste products of dust mites that can cause allergic reaction. These waste products can continue to cause allergic reaction even after the mite that produced them has already died.
Research has shown that patients taking extra steps to avoid dust mite in bedrooms can lead to a significant decrease in allergic reactions and symptoms. The reason for the focus on the bedroom is that many people spend almost one-third or more of their day that place. This is the ideal location for the greatest concentration of dust mites in the house.
Avoiding exposure to dust mites is an important thing to do in preventing dust allergy. Make sure that the room is always clean and well ventilated to discourage colonies of dust mites.
When it comes to colds, coughs are one of the more common symptoms. Once you’ve caught a cold has it developed into something that can be described as bronchitis? Or is it just a cold? Knowing what is normal and knowing what is serious is important when it comes to maintaining the health of your lungs. When an already nasty cold turns into bronchitis here’s what you need to know.
When should I call the doctor?
Coughs are so common when it comes to colds many people hesitate to call the doctor for any kind of cough. Nature has designed coughs to rid the lungs of phlegm and mucus. If you’ve gotten rid of your cold and a cough is still around you should consult with your doctor.
Your doctor will want to know how long you’ve had the cough. He or she should also be aware of any activities or environmental factors that bring it on. Tell your doctor if you feel somewhat unusual when you cough up phlegm or mucus as well.
Seek medical attention if any of the following are occurring:
• You have a fever higher than 101°F
• You are wheezing continually
• The phlegm that you cough up is thick and greenish or yellow
• You are coughing up blood
• You experience night sweats
These symptoms indicate that a more serious illness may be present and further diagnosis and additional treatment is likely to be required.
Asthma needs to be ruled out as well if your cough is persistent. It’s possible you are suffering from something called cough variant asthma. The causes of this widely under-diagnosed and neglected condition typically revolve around infections such as colds or influenza. This condition may also be mis-diagnosed as an allergy. An asthma attack may be the only sure indication that asthma is involved.
If your lungs are inflamed and producing excessive amounts of mucus you have bronchitis. Next you need to determine which of the two types of bronchitis you have.
The more common type of bronchitis is acute bronchitis. It’s usually caused by a viral infection such as the flu or a cold. Some people simply called acute bronchitis or just called, which is okay. Smoking can bring acute bronchitis on. If you bronchitis is described as being at least one step worse than a normal cold, but not nearly as bad as pneumonia.
Chronic bronchitis is less common and involves a cough that lasts for two to three months each year and process over a two-year period in that fashion. Smoking is by far the most common reason that chronic bronchitis develops.
Common symptoms of bronchitis:
• Persistent wheezing
• Persistent coughs that produce mucus
• Possibly a fever
You should contact the health care provider or your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms:
• You cough up blood
• Shortness of breath
• You are wheezing continually
• You see there is greater than 102° F
• Your chest cold lasts longer than two weeks