Sunday, June 22, 2008

Proteus Syndrome: Beyond the Elephant Man

Proteus syndrome, also known as gigantism, is best know because it was the condition suffered by Joseph Merrick, the subject of the book, play, and film "The Elephant Man." Proteus syndrome causes the overgrowth of skin on the body and also deformed bone growth. The result can be club feet and hands (which is where the "Elephant Man" identification came from), as well as on the head and other areas of the body.

Proteus syndrome is a congenital disorder that can involve many different body systems, and besides the extreme disfiguration it causes, it presents some very serious health risks. Proteus syndrome is, fortunately, quite rare: it's estimated that only 100 to 200 people worldwide have it (or have been diagnosed with it, anyway).

You can find a good layman's overview of Proteus syndrome at the Web site. The Proteus Syndrome Foundation also features a lot of information, including definitions, symptoms, criteria for diagnosing Proteus syndrome, and a glossary of terms used.

For the more scientifically oriented reader, you'll find details and further reading at the Web site of the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

All About Food: Lose Weight with Red Wine, the Big Breakfast Diet, and Sweet News

A number of food-related developments in health news have gotten my attention in the last few days. So here's a quick summary with links:

  • Red wine has gotten another boost as a healthy ingredient of one's diet. Already linked to potential heart and cancer-fighting benefits, it has been mentioned in a study as having benefits for losing weight, too.

  • Another study has found that having a big breakfast can help people lose weight. Of course, what the study considers a "big breakfast" is a 600-calorie meal that has ample carbohydrates and protein, not a Denny's Grand Slam with bacon, eggs, and toast, all fried and smothered in butter and bacon grease. But people following the "big breakfast diet" "lose more weight long term than eating a modest breakfast and following a lower-carb eating plan," according to a WebMD article. The reason seems to be that folks having a bigger, heartier breakfast don't fee as hungry before lunch, or the rest of the day.

  • And finally, the American Medical Association has determined that there's no scientific proof that high-fructose corn syrup deserves the blame for the country's obesity epidemic—at least not any more than sugar or other sweeteners. High-fructose corn syrup is often accused for being worse for a person's health than other sweeteners.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Tim Russert Dies of Coronary Thrombosis - What Is It?

[UPDATED] TV newsman Tim Russert died today of what his doctor has said was a coronary thrombosis (it was originally reported as a coronary embolism)... so what is a coronary thrombosis?

A thrombus is a clot that can be made up of blood, cholesterol, and other material that forms in a part of the body and stays there (as opposed to an embolus, which migrates through the bloodstream). Thrombosis occurs when a thrombus creates a blockage in an artery, and in the case of a coronary thrombosis it's one of the coronary arteries that's blocked.

Since the coronary arteries supply blood to the heart. if the blockage is not cleared up the heart will be starved of oxygen, causing the death of heart muscle—what's known as a myocardial infarction (MI), commonly known as a heart attack.

Russert's internist has explained that cholesterol plaque had ruptured in an artery, causing sudden coronary thrombosis. He also said that an autopsy showed that Russert had an enlarged heart, according to NBC. And the doctor said that Russert had been diagnosed with asymptomatic coronary artery disease, and was taking medication and engaging in exercise to control it.

Monday, June 9, 2008

"Dry Drowning" a New Summertime Worry for Parents

Last week parents got a new hazard that may befall their children this summer: a little-known phenomenon called dry drowning. The condition burst onto the public's mind recently when it was reported that a 10-year-old South Carolina died more than an hour after being in a swimming pool.

It may sound unlikely that a person can drown on dry land, but that's exactly what happens in dry drowning. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported that 10 to 15% of drownings can be classified as dry drownings. (You can find a CDC fact sheet on drowning here.)

Even a small amount of water in the lungs after swimming can cause illness and even death, as reported in an article on WebMD. The article examines how dry drowning happens, what the signs and symptoms are, how long after water exposure dry drowning is a danger, and more.

As with many illnesses, dry drowning can be prevented if noticed and treated early. So before you head off to the pool or swimming hole with the family, learn the signs of drowning, dry and otherwise, and be safe.