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Lactose Intolerance
Laryngitis
Lead Poisoning
Leukemia
Leukoplakia
Liver Cancer
Long QT Syndrome
Lung Cancer
Lupus
Lyme Disease

Lactose Intolerance
Lactose intolerance is the inability to properly digest dairy products due to the lack of the enzyme lactase in the digestive system. Lactase breaks down lactose, the natural sugar found in milk and milk products. Without lactase, lactose will pass through the body unchanged, stimulating the growth of bacteria, which in turn stimulates the development of gas and diarrhea.

The most common symptoms of lactose intolerance, which occur within two hours of the consumption of dairy products, include:

  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Cramps

If you are concerned with symptoms you experience after eating or drinking dairy products, visit your healthcare provider for one of three tests (two of which are for adults):

  • The hydrogen breath test determines if you are lactose intolerant or if you are experiencing the presence of abnormal bacteria in the colon. The hydrogen breath test measures the amount of hydrogen present in your breath after you drink a lactose-based syrup. Undigested lactose in the colon will produce gases, including hydrogen, and increase levels of hydrogen in your breath.
  • The lactose tolerance test uses blood tests over a two-hour timeframe to measure your blood glucose levels after you consume lactose, to see how efficiently your body digests lactose.
  • The stool acidity test is performed on young children and infants by measuring the acidity levels in a stool sample, which may be higher due to the presence of undigested lactose.

If you are diagnosed as lactose intolerant, you’ll need to cut out or minimize dairy product consumption. Certain medications will help you digest lactose if you have trouble giving up pleasures such as pizza or ice cream. If you are lactose intolerant, especially as a woman, you’ll need to compensate for a lack of calcium by seeking out other sources of calcium or taking a calcium supplement.

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)

Laryngitis
Laryngitis is inflammation or swelling of the larynx that causes a per son’s voice to become weak or hoarse. Laryngitis is usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection, but it may also be caused by overuse, exposure to cold, wet conditions or the inhalation of irritants, such as pollen. A bout of laryngitis may last a week or longer. Other symptoms of laryngitis include:

  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Cough
  • Fatigue

Your physician will diagnose laryngitis based on your conditions and a physical exam to determine if you have an infection. Laryngitis often goes away on its own once the irritant is eliminated and the voice well rested. Your physician may prescribe antibiotics to treat an infection.

Other steps you can take to help improve the condition or alleviate symptoms include not drinking alcohol or smoking, using a cool-mist humidifier or taking hot, steamy showers. Drinking plenty of fluids, especially warm liquids, and gargling with salt water may also help.

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)

Lead Poisoning
Lead is a naturally occurring substance, but most of the lead that pollutes our lives is man-made. Contaminating lead, which is present in water, food, dust, air and paint, is a seemingly invisible substance that may be harmful to your health. The lead present in these substances causes reactions in your body, including brain and nervous system damage, stomach and kidney problems, and high blood pressure. Lead poisoning is most dangerous for children and infants, whose nervous systems are still developing and can become seriously affected by exposure to lead. Many children who have experienced lead poisoning have a lower IQ and more behavioral problems than children who haven ’t been exposed to lead poisoning.

The most common cause of lead poisoning is gradual exposure to lead over a period of time, in a specific environment such as the home or workplace. The good news is that paint, water pipes, gasoline and other substances made now do not contain lead, thus lead exposure is greatly reduced today. However, much of the lead-based pollutants found today were made prior to these new developments. For example, many homes dating before 1980 contain paint made with lead; most public water systems still have traces of lead in the pipes. That ’s why prevention is very important. Check out your home, office and your child’s school or daycare facility to make sure lead levels are under control.

The symptoms of lead poisoning are subtle, and could be interpreted as the flu or a common cold. More serious lead poisoning cases include symptoms such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Tooth decay
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Behavioral problems such as irritability, decreased sex drive and poor concentration problems

In extreme doses, lead poisoning might cause coordination difficulties, physical weakness, headaches, convulsions and coma.

Specific hobbies and professions, such as welding, stained glass and pottery making, entail a high exposure to lead. It is best to take extra precautions and get tested regularly for lead levels if you fear you have a lead-exposed lifestyle. Some alternative medicines contain high doses of lead; check labels and sources for detailed information.

If you suspect you have been exposed to lead poisoning, your provider may administer a standard blood test, which will indicate the amount of lead present in your body. A urine test will also show the lead present in your body. The first step in treatment is to eliminate exposure to lead. Lead poisoning may be contained and cured through a closely monitored diet. Iron supplements might be recommended because iron helps the body absorb lead. In extreme cases, chelation therapy will be used to eliminate lead through the kidneys.

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)

Leukemia
Leukemia is a form of cancer that begins in the bone marrow, where blood cells are formed. It causes an excess of white blood cells, called leukocytes or leukemia cells, to develop.
Normally, the white blood cells help the body ward off viruses and bacteria. However, when excessive numbers of white blood cells develop, they may be damaged or immature and not as effective at fighting infection. In addition, the increased number of white blood cells lessens the production of oxygen-carrying red blood cells. If untreated, the leukemia cells may spill out of the bone marrow into the blood stream, and begin to affect other parts of the body.

A number of different types of leukemia exist, but the four most common types are acute lymphocytic leukemia, acute myelogenous leukemia, chronic lymphocytic leukemia and chronic myelogenous leukemia. Acute leukemias usually develop suddenly, while chronic varieties may take years to develop. Symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Abnormal bleeding
  • Excessive bruising
  • Weight loss
  • Bone or joint pain
  • Abdominal pain or fullness
  • Enlarged spleen, lymph nodes or liver
  • Colored rash
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing

Risk factors, which are not causes of leukemia, but are common factors among those diagnosed with the disease, include:

  • Age
  • Exposure to radiation
  • Long-term exposure to chemicals such as benzene, solvents, herbicides and pesticides
  • Down syndrome
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Chemotherapy or radiation treatment for previous cancer

Treatment varies but may include chemotherapy, interferon therapy, stem cell transplants and surgery.

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)

Leukoplakia
Other names: Oral cancer, erythroplakia

Leukoplakia is a serious precancerous condition. The only symptom may be flat, thickened white patches inside the mouth and throat that will not rub off.

Leukoplakia usually affects those 60 years of age and older. It is often caused by repetitive irritation in the mouth due to ill-fitting dentures, smoking or chewing tobacco, excessive alcohol use, radiation therapy or biting the inside of the cheek or lip.

A dentist or physician diagnoses leukoplakia in a physical exam. A biopsy may also be required. Treatment typically includes identifying and eliminating the source of the irritation. In some cases, surgical removal may be required.

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)

Liver Cancer
Liver cancer is the development of cancerous cells in the liver. The liver, which is the largest internal organ in the body, is made up of several different types of cells, so various types of tumors can develop there. Some tumors may be cancerous, and others may not be cancerous.

The liver is located under the right ribs beneath the right lung and diaphragm. It plays an important role in converting food into energy, and it filters and stores blood. It receives blood from two sources – the hepatic artery, which provides oxygen-rich blood, and the portal vein, which provides nutrients from the intestines.

Cancer that begins in the liver is called primary liver cancer, and liver cancer that spreads from some other part of the body is called secondary liver cancer. In the US, primary liver cancer is fairly uncommon.

Often those with liver cancer experience no symptoms. It may be diagnosed during a physical exam when a physician actually feels something abnormal or as a result of blood tests. Other tests to check for liver cancer include an ultrasound, MRI, angiogram and biopsy. When symptoms are present, they may include:

  • Pain in the upper abdomen on the right side, which may also affect the back and shoulder
  • Bloating
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Jaundice
  • Fever
  • A hard lump below the rib cage on the right side

Risk factors, which are not causes of liver cancer but are factors that are common among those diagnosed with liver cancer, may include cirrhosis, having a family history of liver cancer, being 60 years of age or older and having hepatitis.

Aggressive treatment has been known to cure or significantly prolong the life of many patients with liver cancer. Treatment options typically include various types of surgery depending on the stage of the disease, liver transplant, chemotherapy and radiation. Some physicians may also suggest that liver cancer patients consider taking part in clinical trials, which are studies testing new treatments.

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)

Long QT Syndrome
Other names: Romano-Ward syndrome, Jervell and Lange-Nielsen syndrome

Long QT syndrome is a hereditary disorder that disrupts the heart's normal electrical rhythm and results in an abnormally rapid heart rate, which can lead to loss of consciousness or sudden cardiac death.

A person’s heartbeat creates an electrical signal that may be recorded on an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG). The ECG uses letters to identify certain phases of the electrical signal. The time between point Q and point T is the time it takes for the electrical signal to complete its cycle through the heart’s lower chambers. This makes it possible for a doctor to determine whether the signal is moving through this cycle normally. With long QT syndrome, the cycle is too long.

Two forms of this disorder have been identified. One also involves deafness and is very rare. It is called Jervell and Lange-Nielsen syndrome. The other form is more common and is called Romano-Ward syndrome. The prevalence of long QT syndrome is uncertain, but it is thought that approximately 1 in 7,000 people may have the Romano-Ward form of this disorder.

Prescription medications are usually used to treat symptoms of long QT syndrome, but a maintenance program that limits strenuous exercise and other factors that can stress the heart also are 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)

Lung Cancer
Lung cancer is a disease caused by the rapid growth and division of cells that make up the lungs. Lung cancer is the most common form of cancer in the US with more than 90,000 men and 79,000 women diagnosed with the disease each year.

There are two primary types of lung cancer – non-small cell and small cell. Non-small cell lung cancer is the most common form of lung cancer and is associated with smoking. Non-small cell lung cancer is further categorized into three types – adenocarcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas and large cell carcinomas – based on the type of cell found in the tumor.

Small cell lung cancer is the most aggressive type of lung cancer and accounts for 20 percent of all cases. It also is associated with smoking and usually described as limited, which means confined to a specific area of the chest, or extensive, which means it has spread throughout the chest.

Eighty percent of lung cancers are due to smoking, but exposure to other carcinogens such as asbestos, nickel, copper and coal tar also can cause cancer. Symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Cough
  • Coughing up blood
  • Weakness
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Joint inflammation and pain
  • Weight loss

The method of diagnosis and treatment may depend on the type of lung cancer and how advanced it is. Typical treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

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)

Lupus
Lupus is an autoimmune disease that can affect nearly all the organs in your body, especially the skin, joints, kidneys, blood cells, heart, lungs, brain and spinal cord. In cases of lupus, the immune system attacks normal, healthy tissue for unknown reasons. Lupus is more common among women than it is among men. Lupus has no known or proven cause, and may be a combination of genetics, environment and hormones. Common symptoms of lupus include:

  • Achy or swollen joints
  • High and persistent fever
  • Rashes, usually on the cheeks and nose
  • Painful or swollen joints/ arthritis
  • Chest pain
  • Anemia
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Digestive problems
  • Swollen glands

There are three types of lupus. Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is the most common form and the most serious – affecting internal organs. Lupus may also be drug-induced, which doesn’t generally include the kidney and is reversible with discontinued use of the drug. Discoid, or cutaneous lupus is lupus of the skin, characterized by a rash on the face and nose and rarely affecting internal organs such as the kidney.

If you experience any of these symptoms, talk to your healthcare provider. Symptoms vary greatly among patients, depending on which tissues are affected. This can make diagnosis fairly difficult. However, lupus can be diagnosed through examination of symptoms, rashes and related disorders. A urinalysis may detect protein levels that can indicate kidneys affected by lupus. Blood tests may show anemia or other abnormalities. Chest X-rays and an ECG may also help to show signs of lupus.

Lupus can be treated to reduce the complications, but there is no cure. Anti-inflammatory drugs, immunosuppressive medications and corticosteroids are often prescribed to alleviate symptoms. Sometimes, anti-malarial drugs can help to prevent flares of lupus – even though there is no known link between lupus and malaria. The most serious consequence of lupus is kidney problems, which may lead to kidney failure and death. Because lupus can cause kidney failure, special attention to regulate the kidney is recommended for patients with lupus. The three major aspects of lupus treatment include treating flares, preventing flare-ups and minimizing complications.

A healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and exercise program will help to keep your body healthy and ready to cope with lupus. Ultraviolet light often triggers lupus flare-ups, so it is best to stay out of the sun. Lupus is a chronic condition that will affect your entire life, but it can be managed with extra effort. Women with lupus are increasingly becoming able to give birth to healthy infants. Talk with your provider about your individual situation to plan for a pregnancy, if possible. There is, however, a greater risk of premature birth, miscarriages and stillbirth.

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)

Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is cause by a bacteria carried by specific types of ticks and spread through tick bites. Not all ticks carry the bacteria. Only immature ticks, generally very small and difficult to see, commonly referred to as “deer ticks,” “bear ticks,” or “black-legged ticks”, carry it. Because these ticks are difficult to spot, the symptoms of lyme disease are sometimes not identified. Ticks that carry lyme disease are most prevalent in the Northeastern, mid-Atlantic, Northwestern and Midwestern states.

Symptoms for lyme disease vary among individuals, but usually begin with a characteristic rash that looks like a ring or a bull’s eye, with concentric rings. These symptoms tend to develop within a month of the tick bite. The rash is not always present in patients with lyme disease, although it is common. Lyme disease is also characterized by joint and muscle aches and flu-like symptoms, including:

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen lymph nodes

If lyme disease goes a long period of time untreated and unnoticed, it may cause neurological problems, including:

  • Meningitis
  • Bell palsy
  • Numbness and weakness of the limbs
  • Poor muscle movement

Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics to clear the infection from your body and prevent any further complications, such as the development of neurological problems. It’s best to talk to your doctor immediately if you experience any symptoms, or if you have a suspicious tick bite or rash, in order to get tested for lyme disease.

You can help prevent exposure to lyme disease by performing a tick check after you spend time outdoors. If you remove the tick before it has been attached to your skin for 24 hours, you greatly reduce your chances of contracting the disease. Cover your skin when in wooded or grassy areas by wearing light-colored, long-sleeve shirts and pants, and tucking your pant legs into your socks. Hats provide extra protection for the hair and scalp, favorite hiding places for ticks.

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)