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Achilles' Tendon Rupture
Acid Reflux
Acne
Acromegaly
Acute Cystitis

Acute Necrotizing Ulcerative Gingivitis (ANUG)
Acute Sinusitis
Addison’s Disease
ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder)
Adhesive Capsulitis
AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome)
Airplane Ear
Albinism
Allergic Rhinitis
Allergy - Drug

Allergy - Food
Alopecia
ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis)

Alzheimer’s Disease
Amenorrhea
Amyloidosis
Anal Itch
Anaphylaxis
Anemia - Aplastic
Anemia - Megaloblastic
Angina Pectoris
Angioedema
Angiitis
Anhidrosis
Ankylosing Spondylitis
Anorexia

Anthrax
Aortic Aneurysm
Aortic Stenosis
Aortic Valve Regurgitation
Appendicitis
Arrhythmias
Arthritis
Asbestosis
Asthma
Astigmatism
Atherosclerosis
Athlete’s Foot
Atrial Fibrillation
Autism

Achilles’ Tendon Rupture
Those who have experienced an Achilles’ tendon rupture usually say there was a pop and then pain in the lower heel that makes it difficult to walk or run. Achilles’ tendon connects the two large muscles of the calf to the heel. Achilles’ tendon and these muscles work together and allow you to point your toes, stand on your toes and generate the power needed to push off with the foot when you walk or run. You use Achilles’ tendon practically every time you move your foot.

If over-stretched, the tendon can rupture. Ruptures can occur anywhere along the tendon but are most common at the heel, where the tendon also will be sensitive to the touch. The degree to which you can use your foot and the degree of pain relate to whether the tendon is partially or completely ruptured.

Similar conditions include Achilles’ tendonitis or bursitis, which may result from inflammation that occurs when the tendon is overworked. However, unlike tendonitis and bursitis, which often improve with rest and the use of anti-inflammatory medications, a rupture usually requires surgical repair.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Acid Reflux
Other names: Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), heartburn, Barrett’s esophagus

Acid reflux typically occurs after you have eaten a large meal, settle into your favorite chair and begin to feel a burning sensation in your chest. Most people know it as heartburn. Sufferers may also experience a sour taste in their mouths or the sensation of food reentering their mouths. This occurs from gastroesophageal reflux, a condition in which food or liquid travels from the stomach back up into the esophagus. The partially digested food contains stomach acid and can irritate the esophagus, cause heartburn and other symptoms.

Normally, the lower esophageal sphincter prevents this from occurring. This circular band of muscle at the end of the esophagus doesn’t open until you swallow. However, if it relaxes abnormally or weakens, acid reflux may occur. Symptoms include:

  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Regurgitated blood
  • A black stool
  • Frequent throat clearing

Barrett’s esophagus is an irritation of the lining in the esophagus that is caused by gastric secretions. It occurs most frequently among those who suffer from acid reflux and increases the likelihood of developing cancer of the esophagus.

Most people manage acid reflux with lifestyle modifications, such as improved diet, antacids and weight loss. If severe, prescription medications are available to reduce symptoms. With Barrett’s esophagus, surgically removing a portion of the esophagus may be needed if a biopsy shows cellular changes that could lead to cancer.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Acne
Other names: Pimples, zits, cystic acne, comedones, acne vulgaris

More than four in five people between the ages of 12 and 24 have some form of acne at least once. The disorder is typically associated with teenagers, but it can affect people of all ages.

Acne occurs when pores, or tiny holes on the surface of the skin, become clogged. Normally, the oil glands help keep skin lubricated and remove old skin cells. Pores may become clogged when the glands produce too much oil and attract dirt, debris and bacteria. The blockage is called a comedone.

Acne commonly occurs on the face and shoulders but also may develop on the trunk, arms, legs and buttocks. Acne outbreaks may be triggered by:

  • High levels of humidity and sweating
  • Certain medications
  • Hormonal changes
  • Oily cosmetics, lotions or hair products

A number of over-the-counter medications are available that may help reduce acne. If over-the-counter medications do not correct the condition, you should see a physician.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Acromegaly
Other names: Excess growth hormone, somatotroph adenoma, gigantism

Acromegaly is an uncommon disorder that occurs in about 6 out of every 100,000 adults. Acromegaly, a chronic disorder, occurs when the pituitary gland produces excess growth hormone. (Excessive growth hormone in children causes gigantism rather than acromegaly.) It results in the gradual growth of hands, feet and face. Because the disorder is uncommon and the growth occurs gradually, it is sometimes not diagnosed immediately. However, if not diagnosed promptly, acromegaly can become serious and even life threatening.

The increased production of growth hormone usually begins with a benign tumor of the pituitary gland. It is most commonly diagnosed in people in their 20s and 30s, and typically several years after the first signs appear. Other symptoms include:

  • A deepened voice due to thickened vocal cords
  • An enlarged tongue
  • Headaches
  • Double vision
  • Severe snoring
  • Excessive sweating and body odor
  • Oily skin
  • Thickened ribs
  • Menstrual irregularities in women
  • Erectile dysfunction in men
  • Enlarged organs

Laboratory tests that measure excessive growth hormone levels in the blood are used to diagnose acromegaly. An MRI also may be ordered so the physician can determine if there is a tumor in the pituitary gland.

Treatment includes removal of all or part of any tumors in the pituitary gland. The surgery quickly improves symptoms relating to this disorder, but some patients may still require regular medication for the rest of their lives to control growth hormone levels.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Acute Cystitis
Other names: Overactive bladder, urge incontinence, unstable bladder, spasmodic bladder

Overactive bladder is a condition caused by inflammation and irritation of the lower urinary tract that results in pain and frequent urination. Causes may include nerve damage caused by abdominal trauma, bladder stones, drug side effects and neurological disease. Irritable bladder may occur at any age, and the US Department of Health and Human Services has reported that approximately 13 million people in the US suffer from irritable bladder and other forms of incontinence.

Urination involves urinary tract processes, the nervous system and the brain. When the bladder is about half full, the brain receives the message and suppresses the need until urination is initiated. The nervous system signals the bladder to empty. Once the bladder has been emptied pressure decreases, the bladder resumes its normal shape and the process begins again. Those with irritable bladder receive messages that they need to urinate immediately – often at inconvenient times. And, they may not be able to refrain from urinating until an appropriate time, which is embarrassing and interferes with work, daily routines and intimacy. Symptoms of irritable bladder include:

  • Sudden need to urinate
  • Frequent urination
  • Abdominal bloating and discomfort
  • Involuntary urinary leaks

Diagnosis of irritable bladder usually requires a physical exam as well as other tests such as a urinalysis, a urinary stress test and an abdominal ultrasound. What triggers episodes of irritable bladder may vary from person to person, so it is important to pay attention to what may trigger this condition and learn to avoid those things.

Basic treatment of irritable bladder begins with the consumption of large amounts of water to flush irritants out of the bladder. Your physician may also suggest periodically adding a bit of baking soda to the water being consumed. This may help sooth the irritated bladder. Warm baths, the use of heating pads and relaxation techniques may also help. Other dietary changes may include the avoidance of acidic foods such as coffee, tomatoes, citrus fruits and juices, etc.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Acute Necrotizing Ulcerative Gingivitis (ANUG)
Other names: Trench mouth, acute membranous gingivitis, necrotizing gingivitis, ulcerative gingivitis, Vincent’s gingivitis, Vincent’s infection and Vincent’s stomatitis

Acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis (ANUG) is a painful infection of the mouth and throat caused by infection from the gums. It can develop very quickly if the immune system is weakened.

Other factors that may contribute to the development of ANUG, which is commonly called trench mouth, include poor oral hygiene, smoking, poor nutrition and stress. ANUG is called trench mouth because many soldiers developed it during World War I. Symptoms include:

  • Painful ulcers on the gums and mouth that are covered with a gray membrane
  • Bleeding gums
  • Bad breath
  • Fever
  • Enlarged lymph nodes in the neck

Diagnosis of ANUG is based on evaluation of symptoms during a physical exam and possibly dental X-rays. Treatment may include an antibiotic for the bacterial infection and the removal of dead tissue. Rinsing with a half teaspoon of salt dissolved in 8 ounces of water may also relieve pain and speed the recovery process. A good oral hygiene plan and nutritious diet may also be recommended.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Acute Sinusitis
Other name: Sinus infection

Sinusitis is an infection of the sinus cavities. The sinus cavities are air-filled areas around the forehead, cheeks and eyes that are lined with mucous membranes. When healthy, sinus cavities are open and allow mucus to drain and air to circulate. They can become inflamed from viral colds and allergies. When this happens, they can get blocked, leading to bacterial infections. Symptoms include:

  • Nasal congestion and yellowish or greenish discharge
  • Sore throat and postnasal drip
  • Fever and chills
  • Reduced sense of smell or taste
  • Tooth pain
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Ear pain
  • Bad breath

Most cases of acute sinusitis may be effectively treated at home with over-the-counter decongestants. You should see your doctor if you have fever or chills or tooth pain along with some of the other above symptoms, or if your symptoms last for more than 2 weeks.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Addison’s Disease
Other names: Chronic adrenocortical insufficiency, adrenal insufficiency, adrenocortical hypofunction

This rare disease is the result of the body producing insufficient amounts of important hormones that are key to the operation of every organ and tissue in your body. It is usually caused by damage to the outer layer of the adrenal glands, which are located on the top of each kidney. This damage may be caused by autoimmune disease; several infections, including TB and HIV; hemorrhage, tumors and the use of blood-thinning drugs.

The adrenal glands produce several important hormones:

  • Gonadocorticoids, or sex hormones, which affect sexual development and reproduction
  • Glucocorticoid hormones, which help increase blood glucose levels
  • Mineralocorticoid hormones, which regulate sodium ions and water in the body

In Addison’s disease the adrenal glands produce too little cortisol, which is a glucocorticoid, and sometimes too little aldosterone, which is a mineralocorticoid. Symptoms of Addison’s disease may occur very gradually or very quickly. Symptoms include:

  • Low blood sugar
  • Muscle weakness and fatigue
  • Pain in the lower back, abdomen and legs
  • Persistent fever
  • Salt craving
  • Weight loss and decreased appetite
  • Low blood pressure
  • Abdominal pain with diarrhea, indigestion, vomiting and constipation
  • Darkening of the skin
  • Mouth lesions

The disorder may occur at any age, but affects only about 1 in 100,000 Americans. Treatment usually involves life-long hormone replacement therapy.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder)
Other names: Attention-deficit disorder (ADD), hyperactivity

ADHD is a group of conditions that affect a person’s ability to pay attention, concentrate, sit still and control impulsive behavior. ADHD begins in childhood and sometimes lasts into adulthood. It affects performance at school and work as well as inter-personal relationships. Symptoms include:

  • Difficulty sustaining attention in tasks and play
  • Not listening when spoken to directly
  • Not following through on instructions
  • Not completing tasks
  • Difficulty with organization
  • Being easily distracted
  • Fidgeting
  • Inappropriate running or climbing
  • Difficulty waiting
  • Intrusiveness
  • Low self-esteem

Most doctors believe it best not to diagnose the condition until symptoms have caused significant problems at home, school or work for at least six months in two or more settings. And even then, it is difficult to distinguish the behavior of a child with ADHD from normal, active children.

Several drugs, including Ritalin®, Concerta®, Adderall® and Dexedrine®, are currently being used to treat the condition. The medications can relieve the symptoms but do not cure the disorder. Studies also show that counseling, special accommodations in the classroom and family/community support are just as effective in solving the related problems as medication.

ADHD is a long-term, chronic condition. About half the children diagnosed with ADHD will continue to have some troublesome symptoms as adults.

Call your doctor if you suspect that your child has ADHD. If you suspect you may have ADHD, your healthcare provider may be able to test you for the disorder and prescribe appropriate treatment to control symptoms.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Adhesive Capsulitis
Other name: Frozen shoulder

Adhesive capsulitis usually affects only one shoulder. It occurs when inflammation develops in the capsule of the shoulder joint where the ligaments attach the shoulder bones to each other. It may last from four months to a year. Range of motion may be reduced by as much as 50 percent if the shoulder becomes frozen. It is best to avoid extreme movement at this time, but normal use is encouraged, to help the healing process.

Healing may occur on its own, but it is wise to consult your physician. Physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medications may be merited.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome)

AIDS is a chronic, life-threatening condition caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). By damaging or destroying the cells of your immune system, HIV reduces your body’s ability to fight the viruses and bacteria that cause disease. The term acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) refers to the later stages of the HIV infection.

AIDS is the fifth leading cause of death among people between the ages of 25 and 44 in the United States. About 47 million people worldwide have been infected.

The virus can be found in saliva, tears, nervous system tissue, blood, semen, vaginal fluid and breast milk. However, transmission of the virus has only been proven by:

  • Sexual contact – including oral, vaginal and anal sex
  • Contact with blood, either through transfusion or needle sharing
  • An infected woman transmitting the disease to her baby either during pregnancy or while nursing

Other, but less common, methods of transferring the disease include accidental needle injury, artificial insemination or organ donation. The disease is not spread by casual contact or by mosquitoes. It is not spread to blood donors in the US, because hospitals do not re-use syringes and sterilize all instruments. The likelihood of infection through a blood transfusion or organ transplant also is rare in the US because of thorough donor screening processes implemented after 1985.

People infected with the virus may not show symptoms for up to 10 years or longer and can infect others during the symptom-free period. Typically, those infected develop flu-like symptoms two to six weeks after being infected. However, because the symptoms are so minor, many people do not realize they are infected. Eventually, those infected may experience:

  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Cough and shortness of breath

More serious symptoms begin to occur in the last phase of HIV, typically about 10 years after infection. These include:

  • Soaking night sweats
  • Fevers exceeding 100° F for weeks and severe chills
  • Dry cough
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Persistent sores in your mouth
  • Blurred vision
  • Weight loss

Currently, no cure exists for AIDS; however, several treatments are available that delay the progression of the disease and improve the quality of life for those who have symptoms.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Airplane Ear
Other names: Barotrauma, barotitis media, ear popping

If you have ever experienced pressure, pain and muffled hearing during a flight, while scuba diving or driving through the mountains, you’ve had airplane ear.

Airplane ear often occurs during a flight if you have a cold, congestion, nasal allergy or sinus infection. The cause is a rapid change in altitude and air pressure. The pain occurs when unequal pressure exists in your middle ear and your environment, such as in the cabin of an airplane. Symptoms include:

  • Pain over the cheekbones and forehead
  • Dizziness
  • Ringing in ear
  • Slight hearing loss
  • Nosebleed (rarely)

Airplane ear is usually only a minor annoyance and goes away without treatment. If fluid drains from your ear, place a small piece of cotton in the outer-ear canal to absorb it. When flying, suck on candy or chew gum to help alleviate the pressure. Infants may be given something to drink. If self-help measures are not successful within a couple of hours, contact your physician.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Albinism
Other name: Ocular albinism

Albinism is a condition caused by altered genes that affect melanin production and cause absence of pigment in skin, hair and eyes.

This condition may be inherited and appears in different forms. A person with complete albinism will have skin, hair and eyes that are white. Most people with complete albinism also have problems with their sight. They may find sunlight painful to their eyes, have rapid eye movements and problems with their vision.

Albinism does not affect a person’s life expectancy.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Allergic Rhinitis
Other names: Hay fever, nasal allergies, seasonal allergies

About 10 percent of the US population is affected by allergic rhinitis or hay fever. These people suffer from sniffles and itchy or watery eyes during the spring when plants are blooming and pollen fills the air or when exposed to other irritants such as airborne particles of dust and dander.

Allergies are caused by an oversensitive immune system that reacts to substances that are normally harmless and do not cause an immune response. Hay fever involves an allergic reaction to pollen, but the same reaction occurs with allergies to mold, animal dander, dust and other inhaled allergens.

When a person with a sensitized immune system inhales an allergen, antibodies are produced, which cause a release of histamine. Histamine causes itching, swelling and mucus production.

It may be difficult to distinguish hay fever from a cold. If you’re not sure which you have, consider the following:

  • A cold will last two weeks or less, while allergies last throughout one or more seasons
  • Fever and body aches are more likely to be caused by a cold

The severity of symptoms varies from person to person. Treatment options include drugs, shots and lifestyle modifications.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Allergy - Drug
Drug allergies are symptoms caused by an allergic reaction to a medication. Just as in seasonal or food allergies, your body’s immune system, which normally wards off potentially harmful substances, triggers an immune response to a substance generally viewed harmless.

Allergic reactions may range from mildly irritating to life threatening. Penicillin and related antibiotics are the most common cause of drug allergies.

Often people will confuse an uncomfortable side effect from a medication with an allergy. Most drug allergies cause minor skin rashes or hives. Other symptoms include:

  • Itchy eyes
  • Wheezing
  • Swelling of the lips, tongue or face
  • Anaphylaxis, a serious, life-threatening allergic reaction

Symptoms of anaphylaxis are:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Hives
  • A hoarse voice
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Rapid pulse

Skin testing may confirm an allergy to penicillin-type medications. Testing may be ineffective for other medications. Antihistamines usually relieve mild symptoms such as hives and itching. Topical corticosteroids may also help in a localized area of the skin. Anaphylaxis requires an injection of epinephrine.

If you suspect you have a drug allergy, call your physician. If you are having a severe reaction, go to your local Emergency Room.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Allergy - Food
If you find you have hives, itching, swelling or trouble breathing after eating certain foods, you may have a food allergy. Normally, your body’s immune system wards off potentially harmful substances, but people who suffer from allergies have an immune response that is triggered by a substance generally viewed as harmless.

Only about one percent of adults and only about eight percent of children have true food allergies. More often people have food intolerances or indigestion rather than an allergy.

Any food can cause an allergic reaction, but the most common food allergies are in response to:

  • Eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Milk
  • Soy
  • Wheat
  • Shellfish
  • Nuts
  • Fish

Symptoms include:

  • Scratchy throat
  • Anaphylaxis, a serious allergic reaction
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Runny nose
  • Nasal congestion
  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Swelling
  • Hives

The food causing the allergy can be identified through a food elimination diet, a skin test or a RAST test.

Those suffering from food allergies should avoid the offending food and consult their physician for appropriate treatment options.

If you suspect you have a food allergy, call your physician. If you are having a severe reaction, go to your local Emergency Room.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Alopecia
Other names: Alopecia totalis, alopecia universalis, alopecia areata

Contrary to popular belief, hair loss is not limited to men. Women and children can suffer hair loss, and it may be the result of heredity, medication, aging or an underlying medical condition such as alopecia.

Alopecia is an immune system disorder where the immune system attacks the hair follicles, leading to partial or, in rare cases complete, bladness. In most cases of alopecia, hair loss occurs in small patches. Alopecia can affect the hair elsewhere on the body. In the most rare cases, alopecia can cause complete loss of hair on the entire body.

To minimize the harmful effects of hair loss associated with alopecia, protectants such as wigs, scarfs, sunglasses and hats may be worn. If there is a complete loss of hair, measures should be taken to help protect the inside of the nostrils from infection due to a loss of hairs there.

There is no cure for alopecia, but some medications may be used to promote temporary hair growth. These include corticosteroids, topical ointments and Minoxidil. Alopecia is not a serious or life-threatening disease. If hair loss affects the entire body, including the nostrils and eyebrows, there is a greater chance of infection caused by harmful bacteria.

Especially for women, the emotional aspects of living with alopecia and hair loss can be difficult. Group therapy with other women suffering from alopecia may help. Seeking out stylish and fun wigs, scarves and hats may divert attention from the difficulty of living with baldness.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis)
Other name: Lou Gehrig’s disease

ALS, which is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease after the famous New York Yankees baseball player who suffered from it, causes progressive loss of motor nerves in the spinal cord and brain that control your voluntary muscles. This interferes with the ability to perform routine activities such as walking, getting out of a chair or swallowing. Occasionally, breathing and swallowing muscles may be the first to be affected. ALS usually does not affect a person’s mind or sensory function.

Approximately 5,000 Americans are diagnosed with ALS each year, and it affects about 1 out of 100,000 people. Symptoms usually do not develop until after age 50. They include:

  • A decrease in muscle strength and coordination
  • Paralysis
  • Cramps
  • Voice changes
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Swelling
  • Weight loss

The specific cause of ALS is unknown, although it has been associated with genetic predisposition, mutated genes and possibly environmental factors. Advances in treatment have increased the life expectancy of those with the disease.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Alzheimer’s Disease
Other names: Senile dementia/Alzheimer’s type (SDAT)

Almost everyone knows a friend or family member who has this disease, which impairs a person’s memory, intellect and behavior to the extent that they don’t recognize loved ones and can’t carry out their normal routines.

Approximately 4 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, and this number is expected to increase dramatically as more people live into their 80s and 90s. Alzheimer’s typically develops in those 65 or older, but five to 10 percent of cases occur in people younger than 60. The disease’s rate of progression is different for each person.

An Alzheimer’s diagnosis requires a loss of memory as well as declines in a person’s language, judgment, attention or other areas. Most people with the disease have the following symptoms:

  • Forgetfulness
  • Difficulties with tasks that involve numbers and mathematics
  • Difficulties with reading, writing and finding the right words to express their thoughts
  • Disorientation
  • Impaired judgment
  • Difficulty performing normal tasks
  • Changes in personality

Dementia was once thought to be a normal part of aging, but the medical community now knows that it is caused by an underlying condition affecting the brain. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease at this time, but treatments are available to help improve the quality of life for those who suffer from it. If you think you or someone you love may have Alzheimer’s disease, call your physician to schedule an examination.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Amenorrhea
Other Names: Absent periods

Amenorrhea occurs when a woman of childbearing age does not experience a normal menstrual cycle. Three types of amenorrhea have been identified – primary, secondary and erratic.

Primary amenorrhea occurs when a young woman over 16 years of age has not begun to experience a regular menstrual cycle. This condition usually occurs because the woman is underweight or very active athletically. A normal amount of body weight is necessary to trigger the release of hormones associated with regular menstrual cycles.

Secondary amenorrhea occurs when a woman who has previously had a normal menstrual cycle has not had one for at least three months. This may be due to pregnancy, stress, weight loss, menopause, anemia, ovarian cysts, tumors and other factors.

Erratic menstruation occurs when a woman has had either several late or absent menstrual cycles during the course of a year.

If you are experiencing absent menstrual periods, see your physician. Your physician will conduct a thorough physical evaluation and make appropriate treatment recommendations.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Amyloidosis
Other names: Cardiac amyloidosis, primary cardiac amyloidosis, secondary cardiac amyloidosis, stiff heart syndrome, senile cerebral amyloid angiopathy, hereditary amyloidosis

Amyloidosis occurs when amyloid protein builds up in one or more organs and begins to replace normal tissue. This buildup interferes with the normal function of the organ affected.
This disease may be hereditary, result from cancer, result from long-term dialysis or occur randomly. It is a rare and potentially fatal disease that often affects the heart, spleen, kidneys, liver, nervous system and gastrointestinal tract. It also may be associated with certain types of cancer.

Symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling of ankles and legs
  • Weakness
  • Severe fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • Numbness in feet or hands
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Difficulty swallowing

Diagnosing amyloidosis is very difficult. There are two types of manifestations of amyloidosis: neurologic and cardiac. There is no cure for amyloidosis, but medications and special diets are available to help reduce the production of amyloid protein.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Anal Itch
Other names: Pruritus ani

Anal itch is an intense itch around the rectal area that can stem from a variety of causes. It’s embarrassing, uncomfortable, and a common problem that most people have experienced.

Burning and soreness sometimes accompany anal itch, which may be temporary or a recurring problem. The symptoms are usually stronger at night or immediately following a bowel movement.

Factors that may irritate the condition further include:

  • Moisture
  • Abrasive clothing
  • Sitting
  • Pin worms
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Caffeine

Talk to your physician if you are experiencing anal itch. This condition can be eliminated in most cases with treatment and steps that can be taken as part of a normal hygiene regimen.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Anaphylaxis
Other names: Anaphylactic shock

Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening allergic reaction that is brought on in response to any allergen. Common causes include insect bites or stings, medications and food to which a person may be allergic.

With normal allergies your immune system produces antibodies to ward off allergens. The antibodies release histamines that may cause your eyes to water and nose to run.

Anaphylaxis is a severe and sudden response that occurs after you have been exposed to an allergen. Symptoms include:

  • A sudden drop in blood pressure
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Unconsciousness
  • Hives
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain

Anaphylaxis can be severe enough to cause death. In fact, hundreds of Americans die from this allergic reaction each year. However, anaphylaxis is the least common form of allergic reaction.

Anaphylaxis requires immediate medical attention. Those who suffer from severe allergies may take preventative measures by carrying an Epi-Pen® or allergy kit.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Anemia - Aplastic
Other names: Secondary aplastic anemia

Your blood is made up of several components – red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. All of these components are produced in your bone marrow and are important to your health.

Anemia occurs when bone marrow does not produce enough blood cells to support your health. Aplastic anemia is characterized by a shortage of healthy red blood cells, which carry oxygen from your lungs throughout your body. With aplastic anemia, there is also a shortage of white blood cells, which fight germs, and the platelets that aid in blood clotting. With your defenses down, you are at greater risk for illness.

Aplastic anemia is fairly rare, but very serious. Symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Frequent infections
  • Fever
  • Pale skin

Similarly, secondary aplastic anemia may occur when bone marrow is damaged during pregnancy, chemotherapy or as a result of cancer or certain medications.

Aplastic anemia may be brief or linger chronically. While it can be fatal, new treatments are producing better results today.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Anemia - Megaloblastic
Other names: Folate deficient anemia, pernicious anemia

Megaloblastic anemia is a condition most commonly caused by a lack of folic acid or vitamin B-12 in the blood. Megaloblastic anemia is characterized by large, abnormally shaped red blood cells. Megaloblastic anemia may be caused by a diet low in folic acid that is especially common among the elderly, indigent and alcoholic. Natural forms of folic acid (folate) are found in oranges, romaine lettuce, spinach, liver, green leafy vegetables, beans, peanuts, broccoli, peas, asparagus, barley and rice. Symptoms may include:

  • Pale skin
  • Reduced appetite
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Diarrhea
  • A smooth, sensitive tongue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Depression
  • Lightheadedness

Megaloblasic anemia may also be cuased by other conditions, such as tropical and nontropical sprue, scleroderma, myeloma and diabetes. Certain agents in chemotherapy can also lead to the development of megaloblastic anemia.

Megaloblastic anemia is diagnosed with a review of your medical history, physical exam, review of symptoms and several blood tests. A barium study may also be performed.

Megaloblastic anemia is easy to manage with dietary supplements of folic acid. While the condition typically improves within a couple of weeks with the supplements, some neurological symptoms may continue and lead to complications, so it is important to see a physician and follow his or her recommendations.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Angina pectoris
Other names: Chest pain, stable angina, unstable angina, coronary heart disease, myocardial ischemia

Angina is the pain associated with coronary heart disease. Angina pectoris is a symptom of myocardial ischemia, which occurs when the heart doesn’t receive as much blood and oxygen as it needs due to a narrowing or blockage of vessels that supply the heart with blood.

Fortunately, many types of chest pain are not related to angina. For instance, you may experience chest pain as a result of acid reflux or a lung infection. Still, chest pain is nothing to ignore and should be checked out by your doctor. Emergency room doctors treat approximately 4 million people a year for chest pain.

Angina is a sign that you are at greater risk of having a heart attack or cardiac arrest. Some episodes of angina are fairly predictable. They may occur when you are exercising or under stress. The discomfort usually goes away with rest, nitroglycerin or both.

Others experience episodes that are not predictable and may even occur while resting. The most common cause of this type of angina is fatty buildup that clogs the arteries. This should be treated as an emergency.

Another form of angina – variant angina pectoris – almost always occurs during rest. It isn’t necessarily related to stress. Most episodes occur late at night or early in the morning. Attacks can be very painful and should be treated as an emergency.

Risk factors for angina include cigarette smoking, a family history of coronary artery disease and diabetes. Approximately 6.3 million Americans experience angina, and coronary heart disease is the single most common cause of death in the US. The death rate is almost one per minute, and more than half of those who die suddenly as a result of coronary artery disease have no prior symptoms. If you are experiencing chest pain, it’s important to see a physician.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Angioedema
Other names: Hives, urticaria

At some point, most people have experienced a reaction to something that caused itchy, red bumps of various sizes to appear, disappear and reappear on their skin. Those red bumps are hives or angioedema, if they occur around the lips, eyes, hands, feet or throat.

Angioedema is very common, especially among those with allergies. It is one of several symptoms that may occur when histamines are released in your body as a response to an allergic reaction.

A variety of substances can trigger an allergic response that results in hives, including medications, food, pollen, animal dander and insect bites or stings.

If symptoms are mild, angioedema may disappear without treatment. To reduce itching and swelling, you may use cool compresses, avoid tight clothing, take an over-the-counter antihistamine or apply calamine lotion.

If symptoms are severe, especially if you experience difficulty swallowing or breathing, swelling of the tongue or face, or fainting, you need to seek emergency treatment.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Angiitis
Other names: Vasculitis

Angiitis is an inflammation of the blood vessels that causes the vessels to thicken or weaken, and could lead to narrowing or scarring. The changes in the vessels are due to a shortage of blood in the affected area, which may cause organ and tissue damage or even death.

Several different types of angiitis exist. The cause is unknown but thought to relate to disturbances in the body’s immune system. Many types of angiitis, or vasculitis, are caused by adverse reactions to medications.The disease can be short- or long-term and severity varies. Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Round lesions
  • Itching or a burning sensation

The disease is not contagious and most forms of angiitis are treatable.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Anhidrosis
Most healthy people perspire, but sometimes the body’s cooling system doesn’t function properly and a person develops an inability to sweat, or anhidrosis.

This can be a life-threatening condition, because the body may overheat. Anhidrosis may be caused by neurological disorders, skin diseases that block sweat glands, congenital disorders, some drugs, trauma to sweat glands, burns and dehydration.

See your doctor if you experience an inability to sweat during rigorous exercise or in high temperatures. If you cannot see a physician immediately, you may take steps to reduce your body temperature at home, such as taking a cold shower, drinking fluids and staying in a cool place.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Ankylosing Spondylitis
Other names: Spondylitis, rheumatoid spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis is a form of rheumatoid arthritis that affects the joints between the spine and vertebrae. It may occur in men and women, but most often is diagnosed in men between the ages of 15 and 35.

If undiagnosed, this chronic disease can affect the rib cage and interfere with a patient’s breathing capacity as chest expansion becomes restricted. Eventually, the spine may lose its normal curvature and capacity for movement, becoming completely rigid. Symptoms include:

  • Lower back pain and stiffness, especially at night or early in the morning
  • Chronic stooping
  • Inflexible spine
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite

The cause of ankylosing spondylitis is unknown, but it is thought to be linked to genetics. In the US, ankylosing spondylitis occurs in fewer than 150 people out of every 100,000. Treatments, such as prescription medication, exercises and surgery, are available today to reduce pain and help prevent deformities and complications.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Anorexia
Other names: Anorexia nervosa

Anorexia is a life-threatening disorder that most often occurs among girls and young women who initially begin dieting to lose weight. Eventually, the idea of losing weight becomes associated with control and anxiety about body image. This obsession is sometimes compared to drug or alcohol addiction and can lead to starvation.

Those with anorexia typically try to hide the disorder and are reluctant to seek professional help because they do not believe they have a problem. Anorexia can affect other family members and lead to social withdrawal. Symptoms include:

  • Irritability
  • Disrupted sleep patterns
  • Fatigue
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Significant weight loss
  • Absence of menstruation in women
  • Depression
  • Discolored, yellow skin
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Limited food intake
  • Distorted self-image
  • Down-like body hair (lanugo)

Treatment programs have a success rate of about 65 percent. If you believe you or a member of your family has anorexia, call your physician.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Anthrax
Other names: Woolsorter’s disease, charbon

Many people were unfamiliar with the disease anthrax prior to the 2001 bioterrorist attacks, but some believe the disease is described in the early literature of the Greeks, Romans and Hindus.

Anthrax is an acute infectious disease caused by bacteria. In the US, only about five cases of anthrax were reported per year from 1955 to 1999. Most of those cases were among people who worked with animal carcasses or products. The disease is not transmitted from person to person.

There are three forms of anthrax – cutaneous, gastrointestinal and inhalational.

  • Cutaneous anthrax is the most common and occurs when infected animal products enter a break in the skin. A sore resembling an insect bite appears and develops into a painless blackened sore. Untreated, cutaneous anthrax can spread through the body, but this form of the disease is successfully treated with antibiotics and rarely fatal.
  • Gastrointestinal anthrax occurs when a person eats food contaminated with the bacteria. Symptoms include a fever, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea and loss of appetite. Sores may occur in the nose and throat. This form of the disease, which is not known to have occurred in the US, can also spread throughout the body and can be fatal if not treated promptly.
  • Inhalational anthrax is the type you heard about during the bioterriorist attacks in which the victims inhaled bacterial spores. Symptoms resemble a cold or sore throat and spores can travel from the lungs to lymph nodes, causing severe breathing problems and shock. Once the disease has reached this stage, treatment is difficult. Prior to the bioterrorist attacks, inhalational anthrax had not been documented in the US since 1976 when a California resident was infected by contaminated yarn that had been imported.

Several antibiotics can be used to treat anthrax if diagnosed early. An anthrax vaccine also exists, but health experts do not recommend it for general use due to the risk of adverse side effects. Scientists today are studying anthrax to determine how to prevent the disease.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Aortic Aneurysm
Other names: Abdominal aortic aneurysm

An aortic aneurysm is an abnormal bulge in the abdominal section of the aorta, which is the body’s largest artery. Fatty deposits that have weakened the artery wall are often the cause of this bulge.

Anyone can have an aortic aneurysm, but they are most common among men between the ages of 40 and 70 and in the abdominal section of the aorta. The size and degree of the aneurysm gradually increases over time. Symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Lower back pain
  • Dry mouth and thirst
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Excessive sweating
  • Increased heart rate

A rupture requires emergency surgery to stop excessive bleeding. This is a potentially life-threatening condition. Each year, thousands of Americans die from aortic aneurysms. Fewer than 50 percent of those with ruptured aortic aneurysms survive. However, with early detection, an aortic aneurysm can be surgically repaired.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Aortic Stenosis
Other names: AS, aortic valve stenosis

Aortic stenosis is a narrowing of the heart’s aortic valve that prevents it from functioning properly and obstructs blood flow from the left ventricle to the aorta. This is a fairly common condition that may be caused by many factors from aging to birth defects to infections such as rheumatic fever. In the US, aortic stenosis accounts for 3 to 5 percent of all congenital heart defects. Symptoms of aortic stenosis include:

  • Rapid or irregular heart beat
  • Fatigue
  • Visual disturbances
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fainting

Aortic stenosis progresses slowly and often those who have the condition show no symptoms for several years. Prescription medications may be used to control heart failure. Those with aortic stenosis need to see a physician every 6 to 12 months. This is a serious condition that may require valve replacement surgery or catheterization.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Aortic Valve Regurgitation
Other names: Aortic insufficiency, aortic incompetence, aortic regurgitation, aortic valve prolapse

Aortic valve regurgitation occurs when the heart’s aortic valve weakens and blood seeps back into the heart. This is called regurgitation and reduces blood flow throughout the body and to the heart itself.

This condition may occur quickly or gradually. When only a small amount of regurgitation occurs few, if any, symptoms may exist. With more severe regurgitation, symptoms may include:

  • Chest pain
  • Irregular heart rate
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fainting
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness

Aortic valve regurgitation may be caused by endocarditis, a separation of the inner layer of the aorta from the middle layer; congenital heart defects; hypertension; autoimmune diseases; inherited diseases, such as rheumatic fever; and more.

In the US, about five people in 10,000 have aortic valve regurgitation. Treatment varies based on symptoms and the degree of regurgitation. Physicians may prescribe medications to improve the heart’s overall function or reduce blood pressure. Surgery is usually required to correct the disorder once symptoms develop.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not beconsidered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Appendicitis
Appendicitis is the inflammation of the appendix, which is a small 3-to-4-inch narrow tube at the beginning of the colon. The appendix performs no known vital functions, but can become inflamed and burst, causing infection and death.

Appendicitis usually occurs in people between the ages of 10 and 30. The infection may be caused by a number of factors, but if the inflammation becomes severe enough, the appendix can burst and spread infection throughout the abdomen. Symptoms include:

  • Pain in the lower right side of the abdomen
  • Low-grade fever
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

A physician will usually examine the abdomen and perform a pelvic exam. The physician will move your leg and thigh during diagnosis and order blood and urine tests.

Surgical removal of the appendix is the only known cure for appendicitis. The surgery, which is often done laparoscopically, has little risk unless the appendix has ruptured. A ruptured appendix can be fatal if not treated. If you have symptoms of appendicitis, see a doctor immediately.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Arrhythmias
Other names: Dysrhythmias, abnormal heart rhythms

Arrhythmias occur when the heart’s electrical system doesn’t initiate contractions of the heart in its normal synchronized manner. When this occurs, the heart begins to beat too fast, too slow or irregularly.

Arrhythmias may be life-threatening if the amount of blood being pumped out of the heart and to the body is reduced significantly enough to cause damage to vital organs, such as the brain or kidneys. Arrhythmias may be caused by a variety of medications, pre-existing conditions or illegal substances. Symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Fainting
  • Paleness
  • Temporary interruptions in breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness

When determining if you have arrhythmias, your physician will listen to your heart with a stethoscope, check your pulse and blood pressure. Several diagnostic tests may also be necessary, including an electrocardiogram (ECG), echocardiogram, coronary angiography and heart rate monitoring.

Treatment will depend on the severity of the condition. If severe, electrical “shock” treatment (such as defibrillation), a temporary pacemaker or specific intravenous medications may be required to interrupt the irregular heartbeat. Long-term treatment may require daily medication to regulate the heart’s contractions.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Arthritis
There are more than 100 forms of arthritis, including juvenile rheumatoid, osteoarthritis, psoriatic, reactive and rheumatoid, but all forms of this disorder are characterized by pain, stiffness and swelling in and around the joints.

Arthritis limits the activity of millions of people in the US and is the second leading cause of work disability, following heart disease. About 40 million people suffer from chronic arthritis and approximately 50 percent of those 65 years of age and older have chronic arthritis.

The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. Most often osteoarthritis affects weight-bearing joints and results from long-term wear and tear or previous injuries. It is estimated that the vast majority of those 70 years of age and older suffer from osteoarthritis in at least one joint. Rheumatoid arthritis is the result of over-action of the immune system. While the cushioning tissues between the joints deteriorate in osteoarthritis, they become inflamed in rheumatoid arthritis. This form of arthritis may affect all the joints in the body. It tends to be diagnosed in patients between the ages of 25 and 50. Juvenile arthritis is another type of arthritis that affects only children. Symptoms of arthritis include:

  • Pain and stiffness in or near a joint
  • Bony area in the joint
  • Crackling noises from the joint during movement
  • Swelling, redness or tenderness in a joint

Lifestyle changes can help prevent some types of arthritis. For instance, maintaining a normal weight reduces the amount of stress on normal weight-bearing joints such as the knees, hips and back. Treatment depends on the type and severity of arthritis. Treatment may include medication, physical therapy or occupational therapy.

If you think you have arthritis, see your physician.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Asbestosis
Asbestosis is a form of severe lung disease and one of at least four asbestos-related diseases. It occurs when one is exposed to asbestos and the tiny glass-like asbestos particles are inhaled. The material causes scarring of the lung tissues called fibrosis and decreases the body’s ability to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide.

People are exposed to asbestos on the job or in the environment. Asbestos is a natural fiber that was mined during the last century and was a popular material for fireproofing and insulation in the 1970s. While it is no longer used for these purposes, it still exists in many buildings today.

Thousands of deaths occur each year in the US from asbestos-related diseases. The Environmental Working Group, an environmental research group, recently estimated that 100,000 people in the US will die in the next 10 years due to these types of diseases.

Those most likely to develop the disease are people who handle old asbestos on their jobs, such as vehicle mechanics, construction workers, shipyard workers and electricians. Others who work in similar environments or are close to those who do are also at risk of developing asbestosis.

Asbestosis can show up 20 years or more after exposure. Symptoms include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Cough
  • Chest pain
  • Chest tightness
  • Appetite loss
  • Restless sleep

Once symptoms develop they tend to progressively worsen. Currently, there is no cure for asbestosis. Those with the disease should prevent further exposure to asbestos, and those who smoke are advised to stop. Various treatment methods such as respiratory therapy are used to treat the disease. See your physician if you suspect you have asbestosis.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Asthma
Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease characterized by breathing difficulty. This difficulty occurs when hypersensitive airways become irritated and narrow.

Asthma attacks may be caused by inducers such as allergens and viral infections that result in inflamed airways. In addition, certain asthma triggers irritate airways and cause them to constric. These triggers include cold air, dust, strong fumes, inhaled irritants, and emotional upsets. Asthma attacks are caused by inducers, but airways respond more severely to irritating triggers if there is inflammation present caused by an inducer. During an attack, the narrowed airways may cause wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath and chest tightness.

Asthma is a treatable disease, but thousands of people in the US are hospitalized with the disease every year and some may die as a result. All asthma attacks give a warning, and early treatment can prevent attacks or reduce the severity of an attack. Warning signs include:

  • Shortness of breath or wheezing
  • Disrupted sleep patterns relating to breathing difficulty
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Increased use of medications that relax constricted airways

Several different tests may be used to diagnose asthma, and a variety of medications may be prescribed to manage this disease. If you think you may have asthma see your doctor.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Astigmatism
Astigmatism is a common condition that occurs when the cornea of the eye is more football shaped than the normal baseball-shaped cornea. Astigmatism may be so slight that it causes no vision problems, but it may also be so severe that it causes blurred vision, headaches and eye strain.

The cause of astigmatism is unknown, and it is usually present at birth. It often occurs along with nearsightedness or farsightedness, and is very common. Astigmatism may be corrected with glasses, contact lenses or surgery.

Astigmatism can be easily diagnosed during a standard eye exam.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Atherosclerosis
Other Names: Arteriosclerosis, hardening of the arteries, plaque build up - arteries

When most people think of atherosclerosis they think of a disease caused by a high-fat diet that results in clogged arteries. That’s partially true, but atherosclerosis is more complex than that. It starts in childhood and continues to develop as people age.

Fatty deposits, also called plaques, that build up in the inner lining of the arteries can restrict blood flow and weaken the walls of the arteries. These plaques also can rupture and cause blood clots that block blood flow and can travel to other parts of the body. Either the restriction of blood flow or the clots can create major issues. A clot or major restriction of blood flow in the brain may cause a stroke. Or, if this occurs in a leg, it can cause difficulty walking and eventually gangrene.

Often there are few if any symptoms of atherosclerosis until blood flow has become severely restricted. Factors that contribute to the progression of atherosclerosis include:

  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Physical inactivity

Those with a family history of cardiovascular disease have a higher risk of atherosclerosis.
Treatment includes lifestyle changes such as starting a low-fat diet and exercise program or not smoking. Other treatment options include prescription medications to reduce fats and cholesterol in the blood and reduce the risk of blood clots, and surgery to increase blood flow or remove plaque.

Consult your doctor before beginning any diet or exercise programs if you have been diagnosed with artherosclerosis or have had a heart attack.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Athlete’s Foot
Other names: Tinea pedis, tinea of the foot, fungal infection - feet, ringworm - foot

Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection that results in cracking, peeling and flaking skin on the feet – especially between the toes. It may last only a short time or for an extended period of time and may reoccur.

When the feet, and other parts of the body, stay moist and warm for an extended period of time, the trichophyton fungus can thrive and infect the top layer of skin. Contributing factors may include wearing plastic-lined, closed shoes; sweating; and developing a skin or nail injury.

Athlete’s foot is contagious and may be passed through direct contact, contact with items such as socks and shoes, shower and pool surfaces. Symptoms include:

  • Cracking and peeling skin
  • Pain and burning
  • Bleeding
  • Foot odor
  • Inflammation

Treatment includes keeping feet clean and dry, wearing breathable shoes and absorbent socks. Medicated powders, many of which are available over the counter, also help reduce moisture. Your physician also can prescribe other medications such as antifungal creams.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Atrial Fibrillation
Other names: Auricular fibrillation, A-fib

Atrial fibrillation is a type of arrhythmias affecting the upper heart chambers and characterized by an irregular, fast heart beat. The dysfunction in contraction may cause heart failure, chest pain and even stroke.

The abnormal heart function causes poor circulation, blood to accumulate in the lungs, and shortness of breath. In addition, if affects the movement of blood into the ventricles and over time this can result in a blood clot forming in a small section of the left atrium. If such a clot forms and is pumped out into the body, it may cause a stroke. And the unusual rhythm can trigger a domino effect that begins with less blood being pumped through the body and ultimately leads to an insufficient supply of oxygen-rich blood being available to meet the body’s demands.

Atrial fibrillation affects both men and women, primarily those 60 years of age or older. Symptoms, which may begin or stop suddenly, include:

  • Sensation of feeling the heart beat
  • Rapid or irregular pulse
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Confusion
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain and tightness in chest

Treatment options vary depending on the cause of the atrial fibrillation. Prescription medications can slow the heartbeat and reduce blood clots. Other patients may require surgery.

Call your physician if symptoms indicate that atrial fibrillation may be present.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)

Autism
Other names: Autistic disorder, infantile autism, pervasive developmental delay

Autism is a developmental disability that usually appears in the first three years of life. The parts of the brain that control social interaction and communication do not develop properly due to a neurological disorder. Those with autism typically have difficulty communicating and relating to others.

According to the Autism Society of America, autism is the most common of five disorders called pervasive developmental disorders. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that as many as 1.5 million Americans have some form of autism. It is four times more prevalent among males than females.

Children with autism may make eye contact, show affection and demonstrate a variety of emotions. They can learn and function productively with appropriate education and treatment. Symptoms range from mild to severe. Some may need help with most aspects of their daily lives, and others are even able to attend school in a regular classroom. People with autism may exhibit any of the following traits:

  • Tantrums
  • Insistence on routine
  • Difficulty expressing needs
  • Little or no eye contact
  • Spinning of objects
  • No fear
  • Lack of responsiveness to normal teaching methods
  • Sensitivity to sound

A clinician who is experienced in the diagnosis of autism and pervasive developmental disorders will use a set of strict, carefully planned guidelines for diagnosis.

Please note that this material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or instruction. Consult your healthcare professional for advice relating to a medical problem or condition. (return to top)