How common meds can hurt your skin

Medications, both prescription and over the counter, can relieve symptoms, hasten healing, and save lives. Even so, adverse reactions are always a risk with any drug. Some of these adverse reactions can involve the skin.

In a previous post I told you how smoking and sunlight affect our skin- premature aging, dryness, and increased risk of skin cancer. Here is a link for you to review or read if you missed it.

How smoking and sun affect your skin’s look and feel

Layers of the Skin diagram

Here is a review of the skin’s layers

Medications and skin -help and harm

In this post I’ll talk about ways medications can adversely affect skin health.

Medications, both prescription and over the counter, can relieve symptoms, hasten healing, and save lives. Even so, adverse reactions are always a risk with any drug. Some of these adverse reactions can involve the skin.

So it is vital that patients and doctors avoid unnecessary or inappropriate use of medications.

Sun sensitivity due to medication

As mentioned in the previous post , some medications can make your skin more sensitive to sun exposure, called drug-induced photosensitivity.

Any drug can cause a reaction, even if you have taken it before without a problem. Some of the more common “skin reaction drugs” include

  • Anti-inflammatory medications, the NSAIDs
  • Psychiatric medications
  • Chemotherapy drugs
  • Blood pressure lowering meds
  • Antibiotics
  • Statins-cholesterol lowering drugs

Reactions can vary from scaly rashes, blisters, redness, dryness, itching, to severe eruptions all over the body that can be painful and occasionally life threatening.

This is what your skin looks like under a powerful microscope.

Melasma-drug induced skin color change

Melasma (muh-LAZ-muh) is a common skin problem. It causes brown to gray-brown patches, usually on the face. It is much more common in women, probably because it is triggered by female hormones, so it often starts in pregnancy. Women of color are also more susceptible.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Melasma can be caused by

  • Sun exposure
  • Hormone medications-birth control pills, post -menopause hormonal therapy

Here is an excellent discussion and photos of melasma from the American Academy of Dermatology

Use antibiotics wisely for your skin’s sake

Probably the most common drugs that cause a rash or other adverse effects are antibiotics, probably because they are used so often. A

Antibiotics such as penicillin, amoxicillin, sulfa, tetracycline, and ciprofloxacin can cause several skin reactions .

  • urticaria, also known as hives
  • photosensitivity, mentioned above
  • a scaley rash that may peel off
  • a measles-like rash, called morbiliform
  • blisters

So doctors prescribe antibiotics only for infections that are serious enough that the risk of adverse reaction is worth the possible benefit.

Colds,  flu, and bronchitis are caused by viruses and don’t respond to antibiotics. Even sinus and ear infections don’t always need an antibiotic to resolve. Please don’t pressure your doctor for an antibiotic when you don’t need it. Read more about antibiotic misuse at my previous post

How to navigate the antibiotic highway

6 smart facts about antibiotic use
graphic created by the Centers for Disease Control, http://www.cdc.gov

The American Academy of Dermatology shares

10 skin care secrets for healthier skin

What you should and shouldn’t do now

Please understand I am not saying we should never use these medications as sometimes they are the best choice for our overall health. You should be aware of the potential for reactions and report them promptly to your doctor if they occur.

If you are taking any of the drugs listed here, do not stop without talking to your doctor.

Coming soon-more skin care tips

In a future post I’ll look at common skin injuries and how to help injured skin heal.

Thanks for joining me to explore skin problems and the HEART of health. Even if it’s winter where you live, don’t forgo sunscreen; the sun doesn’t take a holiday from damaging skin.

Please share this post and follow Watercress Words where we explore and share the HEART of health.

                              Dr. Aletha 

a cute monkey checks out his face in a mirrow
We all care about our appearance, including this cute monkey. Photo by Andre Mouton on Pexels.com
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How smoking and sun affect your skin’s look and feel

You can buy products to maintain youthful skin, restore youthfulness to aged skin, remove blemishes, lighten/brighten/darken skin, minimize or eliminate wrinkles, and tighten sagging or puffy skin. But as effective as these are, they work better on skin that is already healthy.

Skin health and beauty- big business

Browse social media or news sites online and you notice skin health and appearance is a priority for most people. Sales for skin care and appearance products and services is a multi-billion dollar industry. If you’re on social media, you’ve probably seen posts from friends who are involved in direct selling companies for skin care, maybe you are also.

(By way of disclosure, I am a consultant for a direct selling company offering skincare products and makeup but won’t discuss any of those products in this post. However there will be other affiliate links through which this blog can earn a commission if you make a purchase through them.)

As a family physician, I treat skin problems frequently. Some of these are primary skin problems, but some are the result of lifestyle habits, other medical conditions, and even medical treatments. While some of these may be unavoidable, others are preventable.

This post will look at two avoidable risks to skin health and appearance-smoking and ultraviolet light. 

HOW SMOKING AND SUN AFFECT YOUR SKIN'S LOOK AND FEEL

Skin Deep- cells and layers

First let’s take a deeper look at our skin, it’s more complex than you may realize. It has two layers-

the top layer, the epidermis

the lower layer, the dermis

Layers of the Skin diagram

The layers of the skin (epidermis and dermis), as well as an inset with a close-up view of the types of cells in the skin (squamous cells, basal cells, and melanocytes). Source: National Cancer Institute Creator: Don Bliss (Illustrator) This image is in the public domain and can be freely reused. Please credit the source and, where possible, the creator listed above.

Skin disease and trauma involve damage to one or both layers of the skin- the dermis or epidermis, or to the individual cells- squamous cells, basal cells, or the melanocytes-the cells with pigment that give our skin color.

Cancers can develop in any cell of the skin. Melanoma is cancer of the melanocytes.

(This photo is for illustration only and should not be used to diagnose a skin lesion. See a physician if you have a skin lesion that concerns you. )

photo of melanoma skin cancer

a melanoma skin lesion-Source: National Cancer Institute Creator: Unknown Photographer- This image is in the public domain and can be freely reused. Please credit the source

Smoking

I’ve previously discussed 7 reasons to be smoke free. One of those is skin health.

By decreasing circulation, smoking robs skin of nourishment and oxygen; this weakens skin , making it susceptible to infection, cancer, and aging.

Skin experts wrote in the Journal of Dermatological Science

“Smoking is associated with many dermatological (skin) conditions, including

  • poor wound healing,
  • premature skin aging,
  • squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma,(cancers)
  • acne,
  • psoriasis, and
  • hair loss

Tobacco’s effect on  skin appearance include

  • Facial wrinkles and furrows (eg, crows’ feet at corners of the eyes,  smoker’s lines around lips)
  • Baggy eyelids and slack jawline
  • Uneven skin coloring: grayish, yellow with prominent blood vessels (telangiectasia)
  • Dry, coarse skin.

Long term, the skin of a 40-year-old heavy smoker will resemble that of non-smoking 70-year-old. !

Other potential hazards from tobacco use include

  • increased risk for bacterial, yeast, and viral skin infections
  • impaired circulation increasing the risk of frostbite, Raynaud’s syndrome, and blood clots (thrombosis)
  • thrush and gingivitis

DermNet NZ offers this gallery of photos illustrating these ways tobacco use can damage our skin.       ALERT: These photos are graphic.

No Smoking sign with pumpkins

Ask your doctor about safe and effective ways to help you stop smoking.

Ultraviolet light

Basking in sunlight may enhance our mood, but too much of it can damage our skin.

The signs of photo-aging are obvious to physicians-

  • yellowing or sallowing of the skin complexion
  • dry and rough texture with wrinkling,
  • unevenly pigmented skin tone with dilated blood vessels.
  • stretched out
  • easy bruising

Visit this link from the Canadian Dermatology Association to see what photoaged skin looks like

Photoaging

Photoaging is premature aging of the skin caused by repeated exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UV), primarily from the sun but also from artificial UV sources, such as tanning beds. Besides aging, excess sun exposure can cause

  • Burns
  • Rash due to increased sun sensitivity when taking certain medications
  • Cancers- skin cancers are the most common type of cancer.

How to limit UV light exposure 

  • Use a broad spectrum sunscreen, SPF 15 or higher
  • Wear hats, sunglasses, sun protective clothing
  • Avoid sun exposure, especially from 10 am to 4 pm
  • No tanning bed use.

Learn more about the effects of sun exposure from familydoctor.org at this link.

What sun exposure does to our skin.

In future posts, I’ll talk more about what hurts our skin, and what helps our skin.

As always, I appreciate your time and interest in exploring and sharing the HEART of health with me. And I would especially appreciate if you will share this post wherever you hang out.

Thanks!

Dr. Aletha

a cute monkey checks out his face in a mirrow

We all care about our appearance, including this cute monkey. Photo by Andre Mouton on Pexels.com

7 Keys to a Healthy Heart

7 Keys to a Healthy Heart #HeartHealthMonth

February is Heart Health Month and Valentine’s Day, so let’s explore the heart and how we can keep ours healthy.

First, I suggest reviewing a previous post  about the HEART’S  anatomy and how it works.

diagram of the human heart
Heart diseases affect any and sometimes multiple parts of the heart- the atria, ventricles, the valves, the aorta, the pulmonary artery and veins, the walls and the coronary arteries (not shown in this diagram. )

At  this post we looked at ways the HEART can “break”.

7 important forms of HEART DISEASE.

  1. Congenital heart disease (problems present at birth)
  2. Cardiomyopathy- disease of the heart muscle
  3. Coronary artery disease/myocardial infarction ( heart attack)- the most common cause of death in the United States
  4. Congestive heart failure
  5. Sudden cardiac death
  6. Arrhythmia-irregular heart beats
  7. Hypertension- high blood pressure
EKG tracing
In sudden cardiac death, the heart stops beating abruptly

Now we’ll look at protecting our HEARTS from disease, disability and death. 

The first step is knowing what increases  your risk of developing HEART disease. There are

7 important risk factors for heart disease 

  1. smoking
  2. hypertension
  3. excess body weight
  4. sedentary lifestyle, too little physical activity
  5. high blood fats (cholesterol)
  6. high blood sugar (glucose)
  7. poor nutrition
complications of high blood pressure

There are other risk factors that cannot be changed. These include

  • Gender– unfortunately males are somewhat more at risk, especially at younger ages.
  • Age– our risk increases as our age does.
  • Ethnicity– some ethnic groups have a higher risk. In the United States these are African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics.
  • Family history– This means a close relative, like a parent or sibling, who developed heart disease young, or less than 50 years old.

Recognizing that you may have a heart problem can be the first step to getting effective treatment. Here are

7 Keys to a Healthy Heart-Watercress Words.com

7 symptoms that may indicate a heart problem

  1. Chest pain– this is probably the most recognized heart disease symptoms, but is not unique to heart disease, nor is it always found in heart disease.
  2. Shortness of breath– especially if it occurs with minimal exertion, or if you find you have less tolerance for exertion.
  3. Palpitations– this means feeling like your heart is beating too fast, too hard, or at irregular intervals.
  4. Fatigue- especially if out of proportion to physical activity, if you tire more easily or quickly, or seem to have less energy than in the past
  5. Unexplained weight gain or swelling in the feet and legs
  6. Dizziness or lightheadedness when standing or walking, especially after exertion.
  7. Syncope, the medical term for fainting or passing out, especially if no other obvious cause (some people know they faint at the sight of blood, or with certain smells; that form of fainting is usually harmless, unless injured from falling)

Keeping our HEARTS healthy involves doing what we can to change the first 7 risk factors I mentioned, what doctors often call the modifiable risk factors.

  1. Stop smoking– consider these  7 surprising reasons to be smoke free
  2. Control your weight– achieve  and stay at a healthy weight.6 steps to losing weight and gaining hope
  3. Be screened for diabetes and high cholesterol; if found, manage with your doctor’s supervision .10 Silent Signs of Diabetes
  4. Get more active, do some physical activity on a regular basis.Health lessons from the Women’s World Cup
  5. Eat less junk food,make healthier food choices. Learn easy ways to shop healthier from the American Heart Association
  6. Have your blood pressure checked regularly (ask your doctor how often). If you have hypertension,  follow your doctor’s management plan, which may include medication. Learn more from FamilyDoctor.org 
  7. Control and manage stress. Medical studies suggest that emotional stress can bring on cardiovascular disease. You can learn more from Dr. James Marroquin’s fascinating post.

Please share this post with your friends on social media. Have a HEART and help them keep theirs healthy too. Thank you.

                              Dr. Aletha 

I’m using Aaptiv to help keep my heart fit.

This affiliate also helps support this blog. If you use it I earn a small commission. Thank you for considering this and my other affiliates. 

non-drug ways to get well and stay well

In a previous post I introduced you to Mind Over Meds by Dr. Andrew Weil . I reviewed 7 classes of medications he teaches we should use less often. MIND OVER MEDS- book cover

In another previous post I shared 7 drug classes I consider overused, 4 of which he discusses in his book.

In this follow up post I list alternatives to drug therapy. These are also adjuncts to medication- meaning we recommend using them even if you do need medication.

Dr. Weil mentions these in his book, and I’ve pulled from other sources too.

This is a brief overview of several approaches, not a complete list. If you are interested in knowing more, I suggest exploring the reference links. I invite you to send me a message about a topic you would like me to explore in more depth here.

This post uses affiliate links  that support this blog and non-affiliate links that don’t.

EAT TO TREAT

I, Dr. Weil and most physicians recommend diet changes to treat and prevent many common medical conditions. Almost any health issue can be improved with better food choices.

bottle of olive oil
Olive oil is an important ingredient in the Mediterranean diet .

The Mediterranean diet, emphasizing fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish,  and healthy fats like olive oil, seems to protect against heart disease and increase longevity.

The DASH diet is the first choice to lower blood pressure. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension and also emphasizes fresh foods and healthy choices.

The American Diabetes Association offers extensive information on eating to control diabetes.

Food choices are also important in treating high cholesterol, GERD, allergy, heart disease, overweight, gout, kidney stones and other kidney disease, and possibly other conditions.

PLANTS THAT TREAT

Herbal medicines are endorsed by Dr. Weil; he points out that early synthetic drugs were derived from plants. Unfortunately most physicians have not had extensive training in their use. They are also not regulated as stringently as prescription drugs so quality may not be uniform.

Herbal medicines are used to treat a wide variety of conditions and symptoms including headaches, gastric distress, hot flushes, depression, insomnia, pain, allergy among others. Scientific confirmation of their effectiveness is lacking for most, but some patients find them helpful and some physicians endorse, or at best tolerate their use.

The unsupervised use of herbs and other dietary supplements can be dangerous, especially if combined with other drugs.

USING OUR MINDS

Mind-body therapies can be helpful in managing painful conditions such as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), migraine, joint pain, and anxiety/depressive disorders. These include

  • Hyposis
  • Biofeedback
  • Meditation
  • Relaxation techniques

 

 TAKE A DEEP BREATH

Breath work- changing habits of breathing and specific breathing techniques can relieve anxiety, and manage stress. Dr. Weil calls

Breathing: The Master Key to Self Healing and teaches how to do it in this recording. 

GET MOVING

Exercise and other forms of physical activity help manage all kinds of musculoskeletal pain, fibromyalgia, lowers blood pressure, aids weight loss,relieves anxiety and depression.  They may even have a role in preventing or delaying the onset of dementia. This includes

woman standing on a rock in a forest
Walking, especially outdoors, can relieve feelings of stress and tension as well as improve physical fitness.  Photo from Lightstock.com

graphic

Yoga

Tai chai

Aerobics

Strength training

Dance

Sports

Walking

Jogging

Bicycling

 TOUCH

Manual medicine is used to manage back, neck, and other musculoskeletal pain and headaches.

  • Chiropractic manipulation
  • Osteopathic manipulation
  • Acupuncture
  • TNS-transcutaneous nerve stimulation
  • Massage
  • Support with splints, wraps, slings, braces

TRAINING THE MIND

CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and other forms of psychotherapy should be a part of the treatment of most mental disorders and may be the only treatment needed for mild conditions. The use of therapy animals also fits here.

CHANGING OUR LIVES

Lifestyle evaluation and adjustments can improve any medical condition and is also one of the most important factors in prevention of disease.

 

Hygiene                           

a sink with colorful wall decorations
Who knew handwashing could be entertaining?

Hand washing is the most effective way to prevent many infections, especially those that can be transmitted by food and water. Proper food preparation and storage and kitchen clean up also contribute to safety.

 

 

 

 

Sleep

Habits that create sleep deprivation or poor sleep contribute to depression,musculoskeletal pain, headaches, fatigue, and even make us more prone to infection. Check out this previous post on how to get a good night’s sleep

a bed in a room
One’s sleep environment affects quality of sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chemicals and pollutants

Avoidance of allergens and toxins should be automatic. For allergy, any known allergens -substances that cause allergy symptoms-can often be eliminated from one’s immediate environment, although I have had patients who insisted on keeping pets that they were allergic to. If the allergens cannot be completely eliminated, you can at least minimize exposure.

At this affiliate link you can find products to help eliminate allergens in your home


 

It seems we call everything a “toxin” these days, and detox regimens are popular. (although our bodies naturally detox us every day).

Anything in excess can be harmful. But our overall health as a society would improve immensely if more people would avoid the obvious toxins of tobacco, excess alcohol, and illicit drugs.

sign says NO smoking, wilderness area
When walking, wear proper shoes; and don’t smoke.

Review 7 surprising reasons to be smoke free

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stress management 

Many of the techniques I’ve mentioned help with stress management. In turn, managing the stressful events and situations in our lives can help us feel more rested, less tense, more relaxed, calmer, and able to manage our other medical problems better.

FamilyDoctor.org offers these steps to Managing Daily Stress 

 

 

Dr. Weil recommends these resources about  integrative and complementary medical treatments

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

The Office of Dietary Supplements 

 

Dr. Weil’s books are also available at


Barnes & Noble – Free Shipping of $25+

 

If you found this post helpful, please share with friends and colleagues. And let me know too. I welcome feedback and use it to plan future posts.

Say Goodbye for Now- a book review

Say Goodbye for Now- a book review
#SayGoodbyforNow#CatherineHyde#PayItForward

Say Goodbye for Now

A novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Published by Lake Union Publishers

(This post contains multiple affiliate links.)

In 1959, Dr. Lucille Armstrong, or Dr. Lucy as she is called, practices medicine of sorts in a small Texas town. Although she is a “doctor of human beings”, she spends most of her time taking care of stray and injured animals.

To support them and herself, she occasionally treats people; “ it’s not a hobby, I do it for the money.” But because “people there didn’t take well to a woman doctor”, her patients are not always the town’s model citizens.

Dr. Lucy lives alone except for the menagerie of injured animals she has doctored back to life. She likes her life the way it is, until she opens her home to three  unexpected and unlikely guests.

SAY GOODBYE FOR NOW- A Novel
SAY GOODBYE FOR NOW by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Their effect on her life causes her to realize she doesn’t like being alone, it was “just better than being with most of the people I’ve known.”

Two of them were boys, Pete and Justin, who learn they live in a world where “just walking down the street together can get you viciously beaten.” The other, Calvin, a man who quit smoking, helps her learn to trust again. He remembers the day he quit because it was the day the Surgeon General announced smoking is harmful to health.

I  have reviewed several medical books, all of them non-fiction. I also enjoy medical fiction and have read many, mostly along the lines of medical mystery/thriller/drama. Probably the best known medical fiction are those written by physicians –

Michael Crichton- The Andromeda Strain,Robin Cook Coma,Tess Gerritsen- Life Support.

This book is different. I identified with the main character, a woman physician. Like her, I entered medicine when there were not many women physicians.  I like that she doesn’t read the newspaper because “the news breaks my heart.” ( It breaks mine too but I still read it.)  Dr. Lucy saves  letters; not just the ones she receives, but copies of the ones she writes.

As is true in the  practice of medicine, the main subject of this book is pain, along with loss,grief, injustice, loneliness, fear and anger.

But it is equally about resilience,recovery, friendship, love, sacrifice, and healing .

Almost like a surgeon, the author skilfully uses words to dissect and repair intense human interactions and emotions.

man and woman holding the letters L O V E
photo from Lightstock.com

The book intrigued me even more when I learned the author, Catherine Ryan Hyde, has written over 30 books, including Pay It Forward  (1999) named a Best Book for Young Adults by the American Library Association.

The book became a major motion picture, Pay It Forward.

In 2000 Ms. Hyde  founded the Pay It Forward Foundation, a 501 c3 Non-Profit Organization dedicated to promoting opportunities to do just that.

“The philosophy of Pay It Forward is that through acts of kindness among strangers, we all foster a more caring society. In the book, Reuben St. Clair, a social studies teacher in Atascadero, California, challenges his students to “Change the world”. That’s something we would all like to do, right? What if we could change the world, even in some small way?

One of the students in the class is Trevor, who takes the challenge to heart. As he goes about his day, he wonders what he could do, just a twelve year old student, to change the world. He starts by showing kindness to a stranger, and from there, moves on to the next person he can help.”

Besides mentioning the Surgeon General’s warning about tobacco use, Say Goodbye for Now references another historical event that impacted the characters’ lives.

In 1968 the Supreme Court considered the case Loving vs the Commonwealth of Virginia that challenged laws prohibiting interracial marriage. The ruling in favor of Mildred and Richard Loving changed their lives and thousands of  couples since.

The landmark ruling was detailed in a “documentary novel”, Loving vs. Virginia and dramatized in a 2016 movie, Loving.

LOVIE a movie
LOVING “A landmark film”

Like most good fiction, this book left me feeling  I made new friends. They were not perfect people , but none of my real friends or I are either. Each character faced the “rottenness of the world”, finding a way to live in it anyway and doctoring each other back to health.

This book is also sold at these affiliate links

 

use this link

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org
IndieBound.org

In the book Calvin successfully quit smoking. You can too. Consider these

7 surprising reasons to be smoke free

No smoking sign
If you need help, talk to your doctor or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

7 underused medications

Here are 7 medications we should use more often

This week I discuss 7 groups of medications that are underused. ( A previous post discussed 7 that are overused. ) Both of these posts contain a lot of information and several links; you may want to bookmark to review later. (This post also has affiliate links, which when used to make a purchase, help fund this blog. )

I call these drugs underused.  However, I do not mean

  • That you should always take them
  • That you should start using them
  • That your doctor should prescribe them
  • That you should take them even  if your doctor recommends against them
  • That they are good or perfect drugs

We should think more about when, why and how to use these drugs.

By drugs and medications, I consider any substance we put into our bodies to treat or prevent a disease or symptom, whether prescribed or over-the-counter (OTC), synthetic or “natural”. I’m not considering foods nor any substance that is illegal or mostly recreational in this discussion.

I picked classes of drugs that I am familiar with as a family physician, excluding highly specialized medications like cancer chemotherapy, cardiovascular drugs, anti-rheumatics and neurological drugs.

I based my assessment on my experience as well as medical literature and the opinions of other physicians. As always, your best source of information about the right drugs for your conditions is your personal physician.

I easily came up with the list of 7 overused drugs but this list was harder. I tend to be a minimalist in using drugs, both in prescribing them for patients and in using medication myself. But once I started considering the issue, I realized there are helpful meds that can be better utilized.

No smoking sign
Smoking cessation meds are available and effective.

Smoking cessation medications

I suggest  reviewing 7 surprising reasons to be smoke free 

Many people use e-cigarettes as a way to stop smoking cigarettes. But other smoking cessation aids are available and effective. There are several types of nicotine replacement products as well as non-nicotine pills which help with the craving for cigarettes. Patients sometimes complain about the cost of these products but if you are already paying for cigarettes, what’s the difference? And you may qualify to get them free through the smoking hot line www.quit.com.

Allergy medication

Many people suffer from seasonal or year round allergy symptoms-sneezing, itching, runny nose, itchy/watery eyes. Once you get the diagnosis confirmed, effective medications available without a prescription  can manage the symptoms.  The key is using them soon enough and consistently enough. Sometimes finding the right ones is trial and error. I see people give up too quickly.

Asthma control medications

In the last post I talked about the overuse of rescue inhalers. Persistent wheezing and shortness of breath indicate uncontrolled asthma that will not be completely controlled by using a rescue inhaler over and over.  You should check with your doctor as to if and  when it is wise to  start or stop an asthma maintenance medication.

The human respiratory system
Respiratory allergies and asthma involve the breathing tract from the nose all the way down to the lungs. (photo complimentary from Pixabay)

Migraine medication

Most people with “sinus headaches” have migraine, a complex disorder that involves more than a headache. While many sufferers get relief with OTC pain relievers, many do not. Opioid pain medication does not work well for migraine but there are other prescription options, mainly the triptan drugs. I find that many patients with migraine have never tried these, or the various preventive drugs available. It’s worth talking to your doctor about these options.

Psychotropic medications

While milder forms of depression and anxiety can be managed without drugs, the more severe forms often require medication to achieve remission. In cases where one’s personal life and work suffer due to a mental illness such as severe depression, mania, panic disorder, PTSD, and alcoholism,  medication may restore control and function. Unfortunately, many of these people quit medication once they feel better, and ultimately relapse.

Anti-viral medications

In my last post I told you we use too many antibiotics, drugs used for bacterial infections. We mistakenly use them for viral infections like colds and bronchitis even though they don’t help. We don’t have anti-viral drugs for colds, but we do have some for other viruses. You may already be familiar with the use of oseltamivir, Tamiflu, used both for prevention and treatment of influenza (flu). 

Here are 6 things you need to know to get through the flu season

Antiviral meds  are available for these infections- 

  • HIV-human immunodeficiency virus
  • HBV, HCV- hepatitis B and hepatitis C 
  • HSV, HZ – herpes simplex virus and herpes zoster (shingles).

For many of these, treatment needs to be started very soon after onset of symptoms, within a few days, for maximum effectiveness.

Supplements

This class made both lists. While there is little evidence that supplements in general are helpful, medical studies suggest some specific ones may be effective.  

Folic Acid, also known as folate a B vitamin (B9) . The USPSTF recommends folate intake for women who may become pregnant. Medical studies suggest that taking folic acid during pregnancy decreases the risk of neural tube defects such as anencephaly-impaired brain formation and spina bifida- spinal cord malformation. All women with childbearing potential should take 400 to 800 micrograms daily. Learn more at this link 

Fish oil lowers blood triglyceride (fats) levels. Triglycerides contribute to heart attack risk but we don’t know if lowering them with fish oil  decreases the risk. It is available as both OTC and prescription versions.

The herb ginkgo biloba improves mental and behavioral function in people with dementia, including Alzheimer’s patients. Results were similar to those for the prescription Alzheimer drugs.

Probiotics, such as Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium and Saccharomyces can prevent or limit diarrhea from antibiotics. They should be started within three days of starting  the antibiotics and continued for one week after.

St. John’s  Wort (Hypericum perforatum) shows effectiveness for treating mild to moderate depression.

This information is presented for your information only and should not be considered a recommendation for treatment or prevention of any condition.

Discuss the use of these medications with your personal physician if you think they may be helpful for you. 

Please follow this blog for future discussion of non-drug treatments for several common conditions, including allergies, colds, migraine, insomnia, pain, depression, and anxiety.

5 health resolutions worth keeping

advice on making and keeping 5 resolutions about health

I don’t make new year’s resolutions, but I do think the start of a new year, whether it’s the calendar year, your birthday, or some other anniversary date, is a good time to evaluate our priorities and what we are doing to make them happen.

So today I suggest 5 health issues we can evaluate and resolve to improve in 2017. I’ve listed links to previous blog posts and other sources that will help you set goals and make them happen.

milk, yogurt, fruits, vegetables
Resolving to make better food choices.

 Resolving to eat healthier and safer –

6 steps to losing weight and gaining hope

Less red meat + more vegetables = less cancer

 

Top Cancer-Fighting Foods from WebMD

 

 

 

 

jogging trail sign
Resolving to do more physical activity

 

Resolving to be more active physically

A tour of the U.S. Olympic Training Center, Colorado Springs, Colorado- Tuesday Travels

Use your phone to get fit

 

 

 

 

 

No Smoking sign with pumpkins
Resolving to quit smoking and to remain smoke free.

 

Resolving to quit  smoking

 

It’s never too late to stop smoking from the Chicago Tribune 

7 surprising reasons to be smoke free

 

 

 

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Resolving to read more- it helps the brain stay active. (photo by Dr. Aletha at Full Circle Bookstore) 

 

 

 

Resolving to learn more

Reading books may add years to your life  according to Harvard Medical School

 

6 Best Medical Books of the Past 75 Years

10 health blogs you should read- a pair of docs and more

 

 

 

 

 

let us love with actions and truth 1 John 3:18
Resolve to do more to help others.

 

 

Resolving to give more

The Good Samaritan

 

Please leave a comment about what health resolutions you have made or will make this year. I  want to encourage and cheer you on.

 

Next week, read here about 7 drugs that are overused, as we explore the heart of health.