The Effectiveness of Antidepressants

For most patients, a prescribed antidepressant only starts to take full effects after several weeks of taking the recommended daily dosage.

While it is human nature to come off medication once you start to feel better, this should only ever be done under the guidance of your doctor. Stopping too early can lead to withdrawals symptoms, not to mention the return of your depression.

It is worth noting that a large percentage of patients do not respond to their prescribed antidepressants. For those patients, all is not lost, as switching to a different medication or adding another may lead to improved results. Others may see no response, no matter what they try. Whatever the case, keeping an open dialog with your doctor is important.

Common Side Effects of Antidepressants

The most common antidepressant side effects include the following:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weight gain
  • Diarrhea
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Sexual issues

Your doctor may need to prescribe several different medications before finding the one that works for you.

Potential Serious Health Risks

When prescribing an antidepressant, your doctor should talk to you about the potential health risks, some of which are discussed below:

Suicidal thoughts: Back in 2004, manufacturers of antidepressants were prompted by the FDA to add warning labels to all antidepressant medications. The labels are used to warn of the potential for an increased risk of suicidal thoughts or behavior in both children and adolescents in the initial treatment phase, as well as during an increase in dosage. The FDA required the warning to include young adults up to the age of 24 on labels after 2007.

You should immediately call your doctor if you, or someone you know, is having suicidal thoughts. Other options include a visit to the emergency room at your local hospital or a call to the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Birth defects: Pregnant women run the risk of harm to the fetus when taking antidepressants. If you are pregnant, plan on becoming so, or are breastfeeding, it’s important that you talk to your doctor about all the potential health risks that come when taking antidepressants.

High blood pressure: This health risk is most common in those taking MAOI’s for depression. Foods that contain high levels of the chemical tyramine should be avoided. These foods include, but are not limited to certain cheeses, pickles, and wines, as well decongestants and other medications. The combination of this chemical and MAOI’s can lead to a dangerous spike in blood pressure that can bring about a stroke. Talk to your doctor about a suitable diet when you are prescribed antidepressants.


 

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Nails are a lot more complicated than you think. What you see on the surface has actually been in the works for quite a while. So if you’re not looking after them from the inside out, it’s likely to lead to your nails splitting and peeling.

Brittle splitting nails is a common condition marked by thin or weak fingernails or toenails that are prone to splitting, chipping, pealing and breaking. This condition is also known as onychoschizia and it can occur if nails are either dry and brittle from too little moisture or soft and brittle from too much moisture.

More than 20 percent of the population has brittle nails. Brittle splitting nails most commonly affect women. The condition is also more common in older adults. This is due to the fact that nails grow more slowly as people age. The nails of older people have also undergone more exposure to sun and other conditions that cause brittle splitting nails.

Patients who have trouble with brittle splitting nails should consult a dermatologist about the best way to treat this condition. Brittle splitting nails are often treated by applying lotions that contain alpha hydroxy acids or lanolin. These substances can be applied to nails both before and after wetting the hands. Agents with urea or lactic acid are also effective at treating dryness. Taking a multivitamin with zinc, iron and biotin may increase the strength of nails. Olive oil is also an inexpensive treatment.

In addition, people can take other steps to prevent their nails from become split. It is best to avoid allowing the nails to repeatedly become wet and dry. Cotton-lined rubber gloves can protect the nails by keeping them dry during household chores, such as dishwashing. The gloves will also protect the nails from exposure to harsh cleaning products. People with an occupation that involves frequent wetting and drying of the nails will benefit from wearing gloves at the workplace.

Depression, or major depressive disorder, is a serious medical condition that affects a large percentage of the world’s population. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that as many as 350 million people worldwide may be suffering from depression at any given time.

Sufferers often misdiagnose depression, believing that they are either just suffering from a lack of sleep or a poor diet. Even those who are aware that they are depressed may feel too ashamed to seek the help that they need.

For some, depression can be treated without medication, but for others, meds are an essential part of the treatment process. Antidepressants approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are what are prescribed to help tackle the symptoms of depression.

Depression: The Diagnosis

The diagnosis of depression should only ever come from a health professional. They will look at several factors, such as severity, duration, and the appearance of some or all of the following symptoms”

  • Change in mood
  • A loss of interest in activities that previously brought joy
  • Weight loss and change of appetite
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Restlessness or slowed movements
  • Fatigue and loss of energy
  • Feeling of guilt and worthlessness
  • An inability to make decisions or concentrate for extended periods
  • Persistent thoughts of suicide or death

To begin your mental health evaluation, your doctor will usually take into account your previous medical history. They will then take a look at your current symptoms, ruling out other potential health issues, such as Parkinson’s disease and thyroid disease, before arriving at a diagnosis of depression.

There is also a better than average chance that your doctor will screen for bipolar disorder, a brain issue that can come with many of the same symptoms as depression. This screening is especially important, as a patient suffering from bipolar disorder who is prescribed with depression medication can end up suffering from elevated moods that border on mania. A person who becomes manic can very quickly turn psychotic.

Treating Depression with Medication

Medications used to treat depression are believed to work by altering the brain chemicals – serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, etc. – referred to as neurotransmitters. It is these chemicals that are responsible for regulating your mood.

Antidepressants tend to fall into certain classifications, such as:

  • selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs); these include the likes of Paxil (paroxetine), Prozac (fluoxetine), and Celexa (citalopram)
  • serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs); these include Cymbalta (duloxetine) and Effexor (venlafaxine)
  • tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs); these include Pamelor (nortriptyline), Elavil (amitriptyline), and Tofranil (imipramine)
  • monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs); these include Parnate (tranylcypromine) and Nardil (phenelzine)

Doctors may also prescribe the following antidepressants:

  • Remeron (mirtazapine)
  • Wellbutrin (bupropion)

The medications that are prescribed to treat depression have very different effects on the neurotransmitters in the brain. SSRI’s are designed to increase serotonin signaling, while MAOI’s block the enzyme responsible for breaking down neurotransmitters.

Mitchell Mathis, M.D., director of the Division of Psychiatry Products at the FDA, believes that there is evidence showing that a combination of prescribed antidepressants and talk therapy is the most effective way to treat patients with medication. It all begins with talking to your doctor about a diagnosis and the best form of treatment for you.

 

Mammography

December 5, 2017

It may come as a surprise to some to learn that mammograms are still the most effective from of screening for breast cancer. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) actively ensures that facilities that provide screenings are certified, and that all new mammography devices are declared safe before use.

The Mammography Process – Does it Hurt?

A mammogram is essentially an X-ray of the breast performed at low dosage. Mammograms are still effective because they are able to detect breast lumps at a time when they are still too small to be detected by feel lone.

It should be noted here that nipple aspirate tests and thermograms are not substitutes for mammograms. In regards the scheduling and frequency of mammograms, Helen J. Barr, M.D., director of the Division of Mammography Quality Standards in FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH), suggests that the decision should be left in the hands of your health care provider.

When you go for a mammogram, you will be asked to remove your shirt and bra. You will them be asked to stand in from of the machine, after which a technologist will place your breast on a small platform. Your breast will then be pushed down by a clear plastic plate as the device takes the mammogram.

Many women skip this important test for fear that it will hurt, but most women will tell you that there is not much in the way of pain. There is certainly a little discomfort when pressure is applied to the breast, but it only lasts a few seconds. Barr explains that the compression is requires so that no breast tissue overlap occurs, allowing for a clearer mammogram result.

The FDA have strict regulations in place regarding the results of your mammogram. Those rules dictate that you should receive a full report within 30 days of the test, and that every effort should be made to contact you sooner of the results indicate some sort of potential health issue. If the results are not received within that timeframe, you should call your provider.

Between mammograms, you should also perform self-exams, and should talk to your health care provider if you notice issue such as lumps or nipple leakage. In fact, any type of change to the appearance of your nipple may indicate a possible health issue.

The Importance of Facility Certification

A U.S. law known as the Mammography Quality Standards Act (MQSA) requires that all facilities performing mammograms be certified by the FDA or an approved certifying agency. The goal here is to ensure that all facilities are safe and staffed by qualified technicians.

When talking about certification, Barr makes it clear that all facilities need to meet the high standards set out by the MQSA, as this will ensure that high quality mammograms are performed, allowing for the best chance at early detection.

All mammography facilities undergo an annual inspection performed by a trained evaluator. Equipment is inspected, and all staff are checked to ensure that they have the proper training and qualifications. Facilities also undergo an in-depth accreditation process every 3 years.

It is only certified facilities that can legally perform mammograms. Your health care provider should be able to refer you to such a facility, but you should also check for the certification, which should be on display, when you arrive.

No one wants to get sidelined with a ligament injury. Ankle sprains and injuries to the knee, particularly ACL injuries (anterior cruciate ligament) are common in young athletes. Is there anything you can do to prevent yourself from missing valuable playing time? Absolutely!

Learn how to move with good alignment so you protect your knees. Develop body awareness, strength, and balance to support your knees and ankles. Always jump, land, stop, and move with your knees directly over your feet. Do NOT let your knees collapse inward. Develop strength in your hips and thighs. Warm up and stretch before games and practice. Perform a variety of drills until the movement patterns are second nature and you don’t have to think about it. Say to yourself:

  • Chest high and over knees
  • Bend from the hips and knees
  • Knees over toes
  • Toes straight forward
  • Land like a feather

Successful injury prevention programs may differ in specific exercises and drills but they share a common focus: improving flexibility, strength (particularly of the core, hips, and legs), balance, agility, and your ability to jump and land safely.

Don’t let a packed schedule of practices, games, and schoolwork leave you so tired that your technique gets sloppy. Rest is essential for gains to occur. Adequate sleep, rest days, and alternating hard workouts with easier workouts are all important strategies in reducing your risk of injury and making you a strong, powerful athlete.

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Doctors routinely prescribe the medications required to get you back to a healthy state, but are you aware of the proper dosage for those meds?

When you get a report back from the lab that is confusing, are you comfortable with asking your doctor about the results?

When you read the Nutrition Facts Label when grocery shopping, do you really know what all the information means?

Being able to answer “YES” to those questions means that you have a high health literacy, according to the good folks at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Jodi Duckhorn serves as the Director of Risk Communications for the FDA, and it is her job to ensure that the average person is able to understand all the messages sent out by the FDA. This ensures that more people will be health literate, and therefore able to make better health decisions.

Health Literacy Explained

When asked to explain what health literacy is, Duckhorn responded that it is the ability to understand the basics of health issues and medical services so that making an informed health decision is that much easier.

Unfortunately, it is estimate that only about 12% of the adult population in the U.S. an be described as having high health literacy, as per the National Assessment of Adult Literacy. The remaining 88% of the population may not have the essential knowledge required to make informed decisions about their health.

The federal Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, believes that health literacy begins with a basic knowledge of subjects such as heart health and nutrition. Your doctor will pass on all the information you need to make good health decisions, but too many people fail to ask questions when they do not fully understand what they are being told.

Duckworth is of the belief that it is those lack of questions that can lead to confusion and poor health choices. For example, a patient being told that their test results are “negative” may think that negative means a bad result as opposed to a good one. If they fail to seek further information, they may leave the doctor’s office believing that they are in poor health when they are actually fine.

The Negative Consequences of Low Health Literacy

The most obvious negative consequence of having reduced health literacy means that you feel ill-equipped to ask pertinent questions and make important healthcare decisions. It also makes it close to impossible to interpret even the most basic lab results, or to understand things such as dosages and information on nutrition labels.

Being unaware of the healthcare options available to you also means an increased risk of hospitalization. Prevention is one of the best ways to stay healthy, but if you are unaware of the services that are out there, prevention often goes out the window, leading to higher health costs.

The FDA and the Promotion of Health Literacy

The FDA takes health literacy extremely seriously, which is why they go out of their way to communicate complex health topics in a manner that the layman can understand. They use a variety of different techniques to get accurate information out to the patient, as well as to the healthcare providers who look after them.

 

Dandruff Prevention

November 1, 2017

Dandruff

Dandruff is a common, non-contagious skin condition that affects the scalp (the skin that covers the top and back of the head) and causes flakes of skin to appear. Non-contagious means that you cannot catch dandruff from someone who has the condition. Dandruff can vary in severity- it can be mild, moderate or severe.

Mild dandruff can affect anyone, although it tends to affect men more than women. Dandruff often occurs after puberty and is most common in people in their early twenties. Puberty is the period of life when the body reaches sexual maturity and causes physical, psychological and behavioral changes. In adults, dandruff and seborrhoeic dermatitis may return at any time.

There is not much you can do for dandruff prevention. However, using an antidandruff or antifungal shampoo once a week (or as prescribed on the bottle) after the scalp is clear may help to prevent dandruff and seborrhoeic dermatitis of the scalp.

Dandruff Prevention

Try the following steps for dandruff prevention:

  • Try not to scratch your scalp when using shampoo. Gently massage your scalp without scratching as this will not damage your scalp or your hair.
  • Brush your hair daily and wash it at least three times a week. After washing your hair, rinse it thoroughly to get all the shampoo out. Using a shampoo that contains tea tree oil daily may help reduce dandruff. It contains an antifungal and antiseptic and can be bought in health shops.
  • Avoid using chemicals on your scalp, such as those used in hair colouring products. The chemicals reduce the number of bacteria on the scalp that are needed to fight against yeasts.
  • Using hair products, such as hair gels and hair sprays, can build up oils and can irritate the scalp in some people. You may want to stop using a product for a while to see if your dandruff improves, or change products completely.
  • Spending time outdoors can help reduce dandruff. However, ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun can damage your skin, as well as increasing your risk of developing skin cancer. Make sure you protect yourself from the sun by using a sun screen with the appropriate skin protection factor (SPF) for your skin type.
  • Managing stress can reduce your risk of getting dandruff. Stress can have an adverse effect on your overall health and can increase your risk of becoming ill. Stress can also trigger dandruff or make existing dandruff worse. If you feel stressed or under pressure, your GP can recommend a variety of different ways to help treat your stress.