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Paget's Disease
Pancreatic Cancer
Pancreatitis
Panic Attacks
Parkinson's Disease
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
Peptic Ulcer
Perforated Eardrum
Pericarditis
Periodontitis
Peripheral Neuropathy
Peritonitis
Petit Mal Seizure

Phantom Pain
Pharyngitis
Phlebitis
Phobias

Plague
Plantar Fasciitis
Pleurisy
Pneumonia
Poison Ivy, Sumac and Oak Allergies
Poliomyelitis
Polycystic Kidney Disease
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Polymyositis
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Postherpetic Neuralgia
Premature Birth
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
Pseudomembranous Colitis
Psoriasis
Psoriatic Arthritis
Pulmonary Edema
Pulmonary Embolism
Pulmonary Hypertension


Paget’s Disease
Other name: Osteitis deformans

Paget’s disease is a disease in which bone is destroyed and regenerated, changing the bone’s original shape and strength and leading to deformity. The disease usually affects the pelvis, collarbone, spine, skull, arms and legs.

Paget’s disease typically begins in adults between the ages of 50 and 70. It affects an estimated 4 percent of people 55 years of age and older and is more common among men than women. The cause of Paget’s disease is not known. Symptoms include:

  • Bone pain
  • Joint pain and stiffness
  • Headache
  • Spinal curvature
  • Bowed legs
  • Neck pain
  • Barrel-shaped chest
  • Changes in vision or hearing

Paget’s disease is diagnosed through a variety of tests including bone X-rays and blood tests. Paget’s disease is not contagious. Prescription medications may be administered to reduce pain and to prevent abnormal bone resorption. In some cases, surgery may 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)

Pancreatic Cancer
Other name: Cancer of the pancreas

Pancreatic cancer is the rapid development of cancerous cells within the pancreas that destroy healthy tissue. The pancreas makes enzymes that help digest food and produces hormones that are released directly into the bloodstream .

Risk factors, which are not causes of pancreatic cancer but are often common among those who are diagnosed with the disease, include being age 50 or older, smoking, eating a diet high in meat and fat, having a history of cirrhosis or diabetes and having a history of surgery to the upper digestive tract. Symptoms, which are gradual and may not even be noticed by the patient, include:

  • Jaundice
  • Weight loss
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Glucose intolerance
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Diarrhea
  • Chills
  • Muscle spasms

Pancreatic cancer is difficult to diagnose and highly aggressive. If the cancer is small and has not spread outside of the pancreas, the response to treatment is generally good.

Treatment strategies will depend on a number of factors including how advanced the disease is and the overall health of the patient. Most often, treatment includes surgery, chemotherapy and radiation 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)

Pancreatitis
Other name: Inflammation of the pancreas

Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas, which is responsible for producing digestive fluids that aid in digestion and hormones that help metabolize sugar. Pancreatitis may either occur suddenly as a single acute attack or may be chronic.

Acute pancreatitis may vary in severity from mild to potentially life threatening. However, with acute pancreatitis, the pancreas can usually return to normal function. With chronic pancreatitis, the pancreas may become permanently damaged and reduce the pancreas’s capacity to produce the necessary digestive enzymes and hormones.

Gallstones, alcohol abuse, trauma, high levels of fat in the blood, and some medications often cause acute pancreatitis, which affects an estimated 80,000 people in the US each year. Chronic pancreatitis has many of the same causes and symptoms as acute pancreatitis. Symptoms of both include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever
  • Abdominal pain
  • Chest or lower back pain
  • Jaundice
  • Heartburn

Diagnosis of pancreatitis will most likely include a full medical exam, X-rays or other form of imaging, such as a CT scan or ultrasound, and blood tests. Treatment may require admission to a hospital, IV fluids, antibiotics and dietary changes. In most cases, symptoms will subside within 48 hours with proper treatment. Chronic pancreatitis may also require lifestyle changes to avoid factors that aggravate the condition.

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)

Panic Attacks
A panic attack is a condition in which a person suddenly becomes overwhelmed by intense fear that is out of proportion with the actual circumstances. An estimated 2.4 million adults in the US are affected by panic attacks, which usually begin in the teenage years or during early adulthood.

Panic attacks are not dangerous but can be frightening. Panic attacks also can lead to phobias, depression, substance abuse and suicide.

The causes of panic attacks are unknown, but studies indicate that a combination of factors may be involved – from a family history of panic attacks to abnormalities in the brain to substance abuse. In addition, stressful situations can trigger panic attacks. Symptoms, which tend to last around 10 minutes, include:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Intense fear
  • Chest pain
  • Choking
  • Sweating and trembling
  • Hot flashes or chills

In most cases, panic attacks are treated with a combination of therapy techniques that help patients change their way of thinking about things that may trigger an attack. Relaxation techniques may be a helpful form of treatment. In some cases, anti-anxiety medications or antidepressants may be prescribed.

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)

Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder of the central nervous system. Parkinson’s disease is one of the most common movement disorders, characterized by shaking and walking trouble. It affects approximately one in every 250 people 40 years of age or older.

Currently, the cause of Parkinson’s disease is unknown. The symptoms result from deterioration of the part of the brain that controls movement. Symptoms include:

  • Tremors or shaking
  • Poor balance
  • Depression
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Difficulty with speech
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Sexual dysfunction

A diagnostic test for Parkinson’s disease does not exist, but most physicians conduct a thorough exam checking for the physical signs of the disease and order a variety of diagnostic tests, such as blood tests, a spinal tap and CT scans, to rule out other diseases that may have similar symptoms.

Since researchers have yet to identify the actual cause of the disease, a cure for Parkinson’s has not been developed. Still, many of those diagnosed with the disease live full and productive lives. Prescription medications may be recommended to help alleviate the symptoms. Surgical procedures, which are considered the last resort among treatment options, also have been developed.

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)

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
Pelvic inflammatory disease is a serious infection of one or more pelvic organs, including the uterus, cervix and fallopian tubes, and is usually caused by a sexually transmitted disease. PID may require hospitalization and can become life threatening if left untreated.

Symptoms of PID may be mild or severe, and usually one of the first signs is abdominal pain that is not related to a menstrual period. In addition to sexually transmitted diseases, causes of PID may include abortion, child birth or a pelvic procedure. Symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Chills
  • Back pain
  • Painful sexual intercourse
  • Thick, yellow vaginal discharge
  • Irregular spotting or bleeding

Diagnosis of PID typically includes a pelvic exam, rectal exam, blood tests, a pelvic ultrasound and possibly an examination of the inside of the fallopian tubes. Treatment depends on the severity of the condition. Your physician may prescribe antibiotics and give you an injection. In extreme cases, surgery 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)

Peptic Ulcer
Other names: Gastric ulcer, intestinal ulcer, duodenal ulcer, stomach ulcer

A peptic ulcer is a raw area in the lining of the stomach or intestines. A peptic ulcer most often develops in the first section of the small intestine called the duodenum and may also be called a duodenal ulcer. Peptic ulcers that develop in the stomach also are known as gastric ulcers. It is projected that one in 10 Americans develop an ulcer during his or her lifetime.

Most people believe that an ulcer is caused by stress or by eating a lot of spicy food, but actually most ulcers are caused by a bacterial infection. Helicobacter pylori is a bacteria that has been associated with ulcer formation. Blood tests or stomach biopsies are often used to diagnose a bacterial infection. Antibiotics are used to treat peptic ulcers caused by bacteria.

Some ulcers are caused by medications such as aspirin, which can weaken the lining of the stomach and intestines. Cancer also may cause an ulcer. Ulcers occur more often among men, smokers and those who take medications that weaken the lining of the stomach and intestines. Symptoms include:

  • Abdominal pain or pain under the breastbone
  • More severe pain after consuming spicy food
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach pain that awakens you early in the morning
  • Blood in stools or black, tarry stools
  • Frequent burping and bloating

Diagnosis includes an examination of the stomach and intestines with an endoscope or barium X-ray, and most physicians will perform a biopsy to determine if cancer is a factor. A number of prescription medications are available to treat ulcers. These medications may reduce the amount of acid produced in the stomach or intestines, protect the lining and destroy specific bacteria. In some cases surgery 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)

Perforated Eardrum
Other name: Tympanic membrane

A perforated eardrum occurs when a hole develops in the eardrum, which is a thin membrane between the ear canal and middle ear. This condition is generally caused by trauma or infection and results in some degree of hearing loss. The extent of the hearing loss will depend on how large the perforation is and the location of the hole in the eardrum.

A perforated eardrum may occur if the ear is struck with an open hand, if the person has a head injury, after a loud explosion or if an object is pushed too far into the ear canal.

Most eardrum perforations heal without treatment within a few weeks. During this time, the ear needs to be protected from further trauma. It may also be advised to avoid bringing the ear into contact with water. Some cases may require surgery. Before a decision about surgery is made, a hearing test is usually given. Some physicians may want to observe the perforation for a while for signs that it is healing and surgery may not be required.

At times, physicians will try to repair the eardrum during an outpatient procedure. This procedure may need to be repeated several times before the perforation is 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)

Pericarditis
Pericarditis is inflammation of the layers of tissue that cover the outside of the heart. These layers, called the pericardium, help prevent excessive movement of the heart and protect it from infection.

Pericarditis is fairly common and most often caused by a viral infection. Those in their 20s and 30s who contract pericarditis have usually had a recent upper respiratory infection. Those who develop the condition will likely have at least one relapse within two years. After two years, relapses are less likely to occur.

Pericarditis also may be caused by bacteria, fungus and other diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, cancer or kidney failure. It may follow a heart attack or injury to the heart. Sometimes the cause of pericarditis cannot be identified.

The most common symptom is chest pain below the ribs and on the left side of the chest or in the upper back or neck. Movement, such as breathing or changes in position, may affect the pressure on the pericardium too. If shortness of breath develops the patient should seek immediate medical attention because this may indicate a critical amount of fluid is building up between the pericardium and the heart. Other symptoms may include a dry cough, a feeling of anxiety, weakness, fever and chills.

In diagnosing pericarditis, your physician will probably listen to your heart with a stethoscope and request several tests, including an EKG, X-ray, CT scan or heart catheterization.

Pericarditis often will heal naturally; however, medications may be prescribed to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. In some cases, removal of part or all of the pericardium may be required. Pericarditis is not usually life threatening, and most people fully recover within a few months.

Chest pain should always be taken seriously. Anyone experiencing chest pain should seek immediate medical attention.

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)

Periodontitis
Periodontitis is a painless gum disease that usually affects adults as a result of poor dental hygiene. The disease causes the gums to pull away from the teeth, and the affected teeth may become loose and eventually fall out. Symptoms include:

  • Bleeding gums
  • Bad breath
  • A bad taste in the mouth
  • Pockets between the gum and tooth that may fill with pus

Diagnosis of periodontitis requires a dental exam and X-rays. Treatment includes improved dental hygiene at home as well as cleaning and polishing by a dentist or hygienist. If the disease is in a more progressed state, surgical removal of diseased gum tissue may be required. Additionally, your dentist may recommend an antimicrobial medication to be applied to the gums.

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)

Peripheral Neuropathy
Other names: Peripheral neuritis, polyneuropathy, polyneuritis

Peripheral neuropathy is damage to the nerves in the peripheral nervous system, which includes the nerves outside the brain and spinal cord. Peripheral neuropathy may affect anyone and may be caused by injury, exposure to toxic substances, poor nutrition, infection or any number of conditions. Worldwide the most common cause of peripheral neuropathy is leprosy, but in the US the most common cause is diabetes. Guillain-Barre syndrome is a form of peripheral neuropathy. Often the cause of peripheral neuropathy cannot be identified.

Symptoms vary based on the location of the nerve damage. Damage to sensory nerves tends to result in a tingling sensation, while damage to motor nerves causes general muscle weakness. Those who experience severe pain from sensory damage describe it as a stabbing or burning sensation. As peripheral neuropathy from motor nerve damage progresses, the nerves deteriorate. Peripheral neuropathy may eventually lead to complete paralysis.

In diagnosing peripheral neuropathy, your physician will recommend several diagnostic tests, including blood tests and various tests to evaluate the responsiveness of your nerves. Some tests may be ordered to rule out other possible causes, and a biopsy may be required to make a definitive diagnosis.

Treatment varies based on the cause of the condition. For instance, if the nerve damage is caused by a bacterial infection, it may be treated with antibiotics. If diabetes is the cause, better control of blood sugar levels will be required. If pressure on a nerve is causing peripheral neuropathy, surgery may be needed to relieve the pressure. Medications may be recommended to relieve the pain, and physical therapy may be required to maintain strength. The likelihood of a full recovery from peripheral neuropathy varies greatly, for it can be a totally reversible condition or a potentially fatal one.

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)

Peritonitis
Peritonitis is the inflammation of the tissue that lines the inside of the abdomen and all the abdominal organs.

Peritonitis is caused by an accumulation of fluid in the abdomen, which creates an environment for bacteria to grow, or by an infection in the abdominal cavity due to a ruptured appendix or infected diverticulum. Other causes may include infection that has spread from the gallbladder, ulcer or through the female reproductive system. Symptoms include:

  • Sudden abdominal pain
  • Abdominal tenderness
  • The desire to pull knees to chest to relieve muscle tension
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness

Peritonitis may be diagnosed based on observation of the symptoms, a physical exam and diagnostic tests such as blood work, X-rays and testing a sample of abdominal fluid. When a clear diagnosis can be made, antibiotic drug therapy is usually the main method of treatment. When a clear diagnosis cannot be made, emergency surgery may be required to determine the cause and repair any damage. Hospitalization and IV fluids to prevent dehydration are usually 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)

Petit Mal Seizure
Other names: Absence seizure, absence epilepsy

A petit mal seizure is a brief loss of consciousness. The seizure occurs when the brain’s normal electrical function is momentarily disrupted, but the cause of the disruption is not known.

Petit mal seizures usually only last a few seconds, and those who experience them recover without any complications. Petit mal seizures occur most often among children. The child experiencing a petit mal seizure may stop talking or walking and stare off into the distance until the seizure has passed. The child probably will not be aware that the seizure occurred.

The frequency of petit mal seizures may vary. They may occur for weeks or months before anyone notices, because they often occur during times of rest. Symptoms include:

  • Changes in muscle activity, such as the rapid blinking of eyelids
  • Unusual twitching or jerking of hand, arm or leg
  • Staring off into the distance
  • Lack of awareness

Diagnosis usually includes a physical exam and diagnostic tests such as an EEG, X-ray, CT scan or MRI.

Your physician will probably prescribe a medication to reduce the number of seizures. Most children respond well to this form of drug therapy. Most people who experience petit mal seizures as children live fairly normal lives. In some cases, the seizures will stop when the child gets older. If a seizure lasts longer than a minute or two, call 911 for emergency medical attention.

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)

Phantom Pain
Phantom pain occurs when a person who has had a limb amputated experiences pain in the amputated area – even though the limb is gone. The degree of pain experienced varies from person to person, and those who have lost a limb suddenly or who have complications after a surgical amputation are more likely to experience phantom pain. Unfortunately, the cause of this disorder is not known.

Physicians diagnosing phantom pain often try to begin by identifying and correcting any related conditions that may be contributing to or causing the pain, such as deteriorating tissue or bone spurs. Treatment may include oral medication, nerve block treatments, epidurals, or injections of anesthetics and anti-inflammatory medications into the painful area. Behavior modification, such as counseling, biofeedback and relaxation techniques, may also be beneficial.

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)

Pharyngitis
Other name: Sore throat

Most often a virus causes pharyngitis, commonly known as a sore throat. Pharyngitis is more prevalent in the winter and is often caused by a viral upper respiratory infection that causes postnasal drip, such as a cold or allergy. Strep throat, which is caused by the streptococcus bacteria, is another common cause of pharyngitis. Symptoms include:

  • Painful swallowing
  • Redness in throat
  • A sense that there is a lump in the throat
  • Swollen lymph nodes in neck
  • Fever

Pharyngitis is easily diagnosed based on a review of symptoms and examination of the throat and lymph nodes in the neck. A throat culture may be required to determine if bacteria is present. Generally, a sore throat will go away without treatment in a few days. Resting, drinking plenty of fluids, gargling with warm salt-water, taking acetaminophen and using a humidifier will help relieve 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)

Phlebitis
Other names: thrombophlebitis, deep vein thrombosis, phlebothrombosis, venus thrombosis

Phlebitis occurs when a blood clot forms in a vein and the vein becomes enlarged. This condition may occur either near the surface of the skin (superficially) or in a significantly deeper vein. When the clot occurs close to the skin, there is less concern about it breaking loose and leading to more serious conditions. However, a clot in a deep vein is more likely to break loose, form an emboli and reduce or cut off blood supply, causing serious and potentially fatal conditions. Symptoms include:

  • Redness and swelling
  • Pain and tenderness
  • Fever
  • Muscle stiffness

Diagnosis may be based on appearance and palpation if the affected vein is close to the skin. Diagnosis of phlebitis in a deeper vein will probably require an ultrasound and X-ray along with a dye injection.

Treatment of phlebitis may include the use of anti-inflammatory and blood thinning medications, antibiotics if an infection is present, resting, elevating the affected area and applying warm, moist compresses. In many cases, the clot will go away in a week or two.

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)

Phobias
Phobias are long-term, unrealistic fears about particular objects or situations. Phobias can affect anyone at anytime, and an estimated 4 percent of the US population has at least one phobia. People with phobias experience extreme anxiety when they encounter or think about encountering their fear.

Phobias may start during childhood for unknown reasons or develop as a result of a traumatic event. Symptoms of phobias include:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Perspiration
  • Chest or abdominal pain
  • Feelings of panic, dread and terror

Phobias may be categorized as agoraphobia, the fear of public situations, or leaving the home alone; a social phobia, the fear of being watched or humiliated in front of others; and specific phobia, which is a fear of something specific, such as spiders or snakes.

Treatment of phobias usually includes behavior therapy or anti-anxiety medication. In behavior therapy, a patient meets with a trained therapist and confronts his or her fears. Medication may be used to control anxiety associated with social phobia and agoraphobia.

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)

Plague
The plague is mostly associated with history. In the 14th century, the “Black Death” wiped out nearly one third of the population of Europe. Today, plague, in its natural form, is relatively rare, and the major threat is the use of plague in bioterrorism. Plague is transmitted through infected fleas that live on rodents. The fleas contain bacteria called Yersinia pestis, which cause severe reactions in both rodents and humans. While the rapid spread of plague among rodents and humans in densely populated urban areas has relatively died out, people are still affected by plague from encounters with wild rodents, particularly squirrels.

There are three forms of plague:

Bubonic plague, the most common form, affects the lymph system. Bubonic plague is not highly contagious. Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Chills
  • Weakness
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Swollen, tender lymph glands

Septicemic plague occurs when the bacteria multiplies in the bloodstream. Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Bleeding underneath skin
  • Weakness
  • Bloody or watery phlegm
  • Abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting
  • Bleeding from bodily orifices
  • Shock
  • Blackening of tissue in extremities – fingers, toes and nose

Pneumonic plague is the most serious form of plague today. Pneumonic plague occurs when the bacteria infects the lungs. Pneumonic plague is highly contagious among people and can be caused by inhaling infectious air from other people or animals. Symptoms include:

  • Sudden onset of rapidly progressing pneumonia
  • Headache
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Severe coughing
  • Chest pain
  • Bloody or watery phlegm

All types of plague spread rapidly and may cause serious complications such as respiratory shock and death within days of infection. In fact, if an infected person doesn’t receive antibiotics within 24 hours of infection, they may die. Plague can be diagnosed by testing blood or sputum. Only about 10 to 20 people contact plague each year in the US, and small outbreaks occur rarely in Asia, Africa and South America. Bioterrorism is the biggest threat concerning plague. Some suggest plague can be transmitted through an aerosol spray distribution.

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)

Plantar Fasciitis
Other names: Heel pain, heel spurs, post-static dyskinesia

The plantar fascia is a wide band of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot and attaches to the heel. Plantar fasciitis is inflammation that occurs when this band of tissue has been stretched excessively.

Plantar fasciitis may be caused by flat feet or a foot with an unusually high arch, a sudden increase in physical activity, excessive weight and improperly fitting shoes. Flat feet are the most common cause of plantar fasciitis. The primary symptom of plantar fasciitis is acute pain in the morning or after an extended period of rest during which the foot muscles tighten up.

The key to effectively treating plantar fasciitis is to determine the cause of the excessive stretching. If the cause is flat feet, a specially made orthotic may be required to provide arch support. If the cause is a high arch, a heel cushion may help absorb the shock and reduce pain.

Other common treatments include stretching exercises to reduce tightness. In severe cases, surgery 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)

Pleurisy
Pleurisy is irritation or inflammation of the pleura, the membrane surrounding the lungs. Pleurisy may be caused by an infection, particularly pneumonia. However, other diseases and conditions such as lupus, pulmonary embolism, rheumatoid arthritis, pancreatitis, cancer, chest injury or tuberculosis also cause pleurisy.

Pleurisy is characterized first and foremost by sharp, severe and sudden chest pain. This pain may or may not subside between breaths. Other symptoms include:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Dry cough
  • Pain worsening during sneezing, coughing or movement
  • Fever
  • Chills

Sometimes, pleurisy is accompanied by fluid build-up in the pleural cavity, which will serve as lubricant and ease the pain. Fluid build-up can worsen breathing difficulties or cause infection. A “friction rub” can be heard through a stethoscope or by placing an ear up to the chest. This friction is caused by the inflamed pleural surfaces rubbing together.

Most often, pleurisy can be diagnosed based on symptoms and a physical exam. The next step is to identify the cause of pleurisy. Treatment always depends upon the cause, because so many different circumstances can lead to pleurisy. Pain relief is usually recommended to deal with the stabbing chest pain that accompanies the disorder. If pleurisy is linked with pneumonia, an antibiotic will help – but if a virus or another disorder causes pleurisy, other forms of treatment will be used.

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)

Pneumonia
Pneumonia is a disease of the lungs that can be caused by bacteria or a virus. Rarely, fungus, parasites or other organisms may cause pneumonia. Pneumonia may develop as a complication related to the flu or another type of upper respiratory infection. It also may be caused by inhalation of mucus, food, infected air particles or other substances into the lungs.

Some forms of pneumonia may be prevented with the pneumococcal vaccine. The vaccine is recommended for anyone over the age of 65, or anyone at an increased risk or chronic health problems. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all children under age two get the pneumococcal vaccine. Symptoms of pneumonia include:

  • High fever
  • Breathlessness and difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Cough
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle aches
  • Fatigue and weariness
  • Chills
  • Increased heart rate

Pneumonia may be diagnosed through a physical exam and a chest X-ray. Your physician will thoroughly review your symptoms such as cough and heart rate to make sure there are no other health concerns. The chest X-ray will reveal any changes in the lungs that might indicate pneumonia. Sometimes, a culture will be performed on a sample of infected mucus to determine the source of pneumonia and to prescribe the appropriate treatment. Some forms of pneumonia, those caused by bacteria, will be treated with antibiotics.

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)

Poison Ivy, Sumac and Oak Allergies
Poison ivy, sumac and oak are poisonous plants that cause a skin rash if they make contact with your skin. An itchy and uncomfortable red rash with blisters characterizes the reaction. Sometimes the rash may also look like hives. These rashes may clear up on their own, but lotions and medicines also may be used to help control the itching. The degree of the allergic reaction to these plants varies, depending on the individual.

Most people contract the rash by directly touching the oil, or sap, that is secreted by these plants or by touching something that has this oil on its surface. The rash sometimes can be contracted through the air surrounding the plants. Rashes associated with these poisonous plants are treated through the use of:

  • Calamine lotion
  • Oral antihistamines
  • Hydrocortisone cream
  • Oatmeal baths
  • Prescription-strength cortisone lotions
  • Corticosteroids
  • Antibiotics

It's helpful to be able to identify these plants in order to avoid them. Poison ivy grows close to the ground, has three oval leaves per stem and changes colors according to the seasons while maintaining a shiny luster. Poison sumac also grows low to the ground, and has three leaves to a stem, but its leaves look more like oak leaves. Poison sumac is located in marshy areas and has nine smooth-edged leaves.

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)

Poliomyelitis
Other name: Polio

Poliomyelitis is a highly communicable infectious disease caused by the poliovirus, transmitted from person-to-person contact, oral-fecal transmission or through secretions from the mouth or nose. The poliovirus primarily affects the nervous system and the muscles, which in turn affect the entire body – the respiratory and digestive symptoms in particular. Nerve cells called motor neurons in the spinal cord become damaged, and the nerves' ability to transmit messages from the brain to muscles is weakened or disabled.

Prior to the development of the polio vaccine in the 1950s, polio was epidemic in the US. A concerted effort to control the infection with immunizations has eliminated nearly all cases of polio. The last “wild case” was in 1979. Today, only a handful of cases of polio occur each year, due to improper administration of the live oral poliovirus vaccine (OPV). Because of this, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended administering only the inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) – four doses for children at varying ages before six years. Talk to your healthcare provider about the IPV.

Most cases of polio are asymptomatic at first, and some can go unnoticed. This can be problematic because the infection is so contagious. During the polio epidemic, the majority of infected individuals were infants and young children.

Symptoms of polio vary greatly among individuals. Polio can be contracted in three forms:

Abortive poliomyelitis
This is a mild case of polio, marked by slight, if any, symptoms including:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Decreased appetite
  • Constipation
  • Cramps
  • Sore throat
  • Red throat
  • Fever
  • Malaise
  • Same symptoms as abortive poliomyelitis
  • Diarrhea
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Pain in back, arms, legs, abdomen
  • Stiff muscles
  • Muscle tenderness
  • Muscle spasms
  • Neck pain
  • Neck stiffness
  • Skin rash
  • Total muscle weakness
  • Constipation
  • Bladder paralysis
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Weak cough
  • Muscle paralysis
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Bloating
  • Drooling
  • Extreme irritability

Poliomyelitis may be diagnosed through a stool or urine test, throat washings or cerebrospinal fluid test. Poliomyelitis is fully preventable, but it is not curable. Instead, symptoms may be treated with pain relievers and antibiotics for infections caused by polio, such as bladder infections. The outcome is not always permanent, although one- third of cases prior to 1950 ended in permanent paralysis.

Polio is a relative non-issue in the US today. However, polio is still problematic in many Third World countries, particularly India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Niger and Nigeria. Do not travel to these countries without the proper vaccination and immunization proof.

  • Muscle weakness and pain
  • Fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Difficulty breathing

Most cases of PPS are diagnosed based on symptoms and personal history – you can’t have PPS if you never had polio. Tests will be conducted to make sure that no other diseases or conditions such as arthritis are causing the symptoms.

PPS is treated with lifestyle modifications, limiting physical activity to low-impact, gradual and sporadic habits. Balancing rest with carefully monitored exercise will help patients live with the symptoms of PPS. Sometimes, pain relief and physical therapy may be prescribed.

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)

Polycystic Kidney Disease
Other names: Kidney cysts, polycystic kidney

Polycystic kidney disease is an inherited disease that causes fluid-filled cysts to develop in the kidneys. These cysts cause the bean-shaped organs to become inflamed, destroy normal kidney tissues and decrease normal kidney function.

Polycystic kidney disease affects people of all ages. Infants with the disease are often stillborn or pass away during the first few years of life. Adults who develop the disease usually begin to exhibit symptoms between the ages of 20 and 50. Kidney deterioration occurs more slowly in adults than in infants. However, this disease tends to lead to kidney failure and eventually death among adults unless they undergo dialysis or receive a kidney transplant.

Symptoms or other associated medical conditions, which are not always present, include:

  • Frequent infections
  • Blood in the urine
  • Anemia
  • Kidney stones
  • Hernia
  • Heart murmur
  • Aneurysm
  • Abdominal distension
  • Back pain

Your physician probably will be able to feel an enlargement of the kidneys during a physical exam. A kidney biopsy may be recommended so that tissue can be examined under a microscope. Other tests such as a urinalysis or blood work may also indicate this disease.

Currently, there is no treatment to prevent cysts from forming, but your physician may make recommendations on how to control your symptoms and maintain kidney function. High blood pressure puts a strain on the kidneys, so it is important to maintain a healthy blood pressure level, which may be accomplished with blood pressure medication or a low-salt diet. Surgery may be necessary if cysts bleed or become infected.

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)

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
Other name: Stein-Leventhal syndrome

Polycystic ovary syndrome occurs when large numbers of cysts form on the ovaries. It is a common condition caused by hormonal or metabolic disturbances that affects up to 10 percent of women.

The cause of the hormonal or metabolic disturbances relating to PCOS is unknown, but research indicates that it runs in families. These disturbances prohibit the ovaries from releasing eggs. These unreleased eggs form ovarian cysts. Symptoms include:

  • Several cysts in the ovaries
  • Irregular periods
  • Increased body and facial hair
  • Acne
  • Infertility
  • Pelvic pain
  • Weight gain
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Skin tags
  • Abnormal cholesterol levels

PCOS is usually diagnosed when a woman visits her physician regarding one or more symptoms. The condition may be difficult to diagnose, because the symptoms are so similar to those of other diseases or conditions. A pelvic exam helps aid in the diagnosis since the physician can note the size of the ovaries. Blood tests, a glucose-tolerance test and an ultrasound may be required.

Treatment often includes a weight-loss plan and medication. If these efforts do not correct the condition, surgery is sometimes 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)

Polymyositis
Polymyositis is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects muscles, and the exact cause is unknown. Most professionals concur that polymyositis is associated with the immune system. White blood cells randomly invade muscles and cause weakness that can become debilitating in the muscles closest to the neck and torso. Polymyositis usually begins to affect individuals in the teens and 20s. The disease is extremely rare. Symptoms of polymyositis include:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Loss of muscle power
  • Fatigue
  • General discomfort
  • Low fever
  • Weight loss

Sometimes polymyositis is associated with cancers, particularly lymphoma, breast, ovarian and colon cancer.

Polymyositis is diagnosed through a physical exam and blood tests. The blood test will look for enzymes from inflamed muscles. An MRI of muscles, electromyography or a muscle biopsy might be needed to identify the disease further if blood tests are ineffective. Because the cause of the disease is unknown, treatment focuses on managing symptoms. Treatment begins with a steroid prescription, particularly corticosteroids and prednisone. With treatment, patients can live with the symptoms and rehabilitate their muscles, with periods of inflammation and longer periods of remission.

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)

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post-traumatic stress disorder occurs when the feelings most people experience after a traumatic event don’t subside after a “natural progression of time”—anywhere from a few weeks to a few years. Events that may trigger PTSD include violent personal assaults, accidents, military combat or a natural disaster.

PTSD may occur at any age, and symptoms usually begin within three months after the traumatic event. However, in some cases symptoms of PTSD may not develop until years later. The severity and duration of PTSD varies from person to person. Symptoms include:

  • Emotional detachment or numbness toward something reminiscent of the trauma
  • Flashbacks, unsettling memories or nightmares
  • Depression
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Outbursts of anger
  • Guilt feelings

If you are experiencing PTSD, speak with your physician or a trained counselor. Diagnosis requires persistent PTSD symptoms for at least a month. Forms of psychotherapy and antidepressants or anxiety-reducing medication have been effective in helping people overcome PTSD. Some people recover from PTSD in six months and others take much longer.

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)

Postherpetic Neuralgia
Post-herpetic neuralgia is the burning sensation and heightened sensitivity that some people experience after having shingles. Shingles is the reactivation of the virus that causes chicken pox.

In some people, the chicken pox virus remains in the nerve roots of their bodies long after the initial infection. What reactivates the virus is not known. Only people exposed to chicken pox in the past can get shingles, and a person with shingles cannot pass shingles to someone who has had chicken pox. However, a person with shingles can pass the chicken pox virus on to someone who has never had the childhood disease.

Post-herpetic neuralgia occurs after the rash associated with shingles has healed. The condition may last for several months, and is more common among those 60 years of age or older. It can be a lifelong condition. The person may be so sensitive to sensation that even a light breeze is painful. Most people with post-herpetic neuralgia report pain particularly after exposure to cold. Symptoms include:

  • Rash
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Painful aching, burning sensation
  • Cutting or stabbing feeling
  • Heightened sensitivity

Shingles may be treated with a variety of prescription-strength medications. Postherpetic neuralgia may be treated with a specific type of anti-seizure medication or a lidocaine patch. In a few cases, the patient may need to see a pain specialist to evaluate other treatment options.

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)

Premature Birth
A baby is considered to be born prematurely if it is born before its due date or before a 37 week gestation. If a baby is born too early, it may have a low birth weight, respiratory problems, underdeveloped organs, learning disabilities and a higher risk for disease.

Often babies born prematurely will be hospitalized until their conditions stabilize, which can be several weeks. Not all premature births can be prevented, but steps can be taken to reduce the risk. The following steps are recommended to help prevent premature births:

  • Take the right amount of folic acid, which may be found in a dietary supplement
  • Avoid smoking
  • Avoid drinking alcohol
  • Do not take illegal drugs
  • Get regular dental exams, since women with periodontal disease are at a higher risk
    of having a premature birth

When physicians expect a premature birth, they will provide direction on steps the mother can take to delay birth, such as bed rest and specific medications that relax the muscles involved in labor and delivery.

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)

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
Premenstrual syndrome is partially caused by hormonal changes that occur prior to menstruation. These hormonal changes may cause a number of disruptive symptoms for up to two weeks prior to menstruation.

Premenstrual emotional and physical changes occur in nearly 80 percent of menstruating women, and an estimated 40 percent have PMS symptoms that make life difficult. Experts believe a combination of physiological, genetic, nutritional and behavioral factors contribute to PMS.

As many as 150 symptoms of PMS have been identified, varying from woman to woman. Symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Cravings
  • Headache
  • Heaviness and bloating
  • Breast tenderness
  • Emotional changes

A diagnostic test is not available for PMS, but diagnosis is usually based on the symptoms prior to menstruation.

PMS may be treated several different ways. Your physician may recommend a diet consisting of six small meals a day that are high in complex carbohydrates and low in simple sugars. Dietary supplements, such as multivitamins with B6, B complex, magnesium, Vitamin E and Vitamin C, are believed to help alleviate irritability, joint aches, anxiety, depression, fatigue and breast tenderness. Regular exercise may also be beneficial. In some cases, your physician may recommend medications to help alleviate the 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)

Pseudomembranous Colitis
Other names: Antibiotic-associated colitis, clostridia difficile colitis, necrotizing colitis, antibiotic-associated enterocolitis

Pseudomembranous colitis is an acute inflammatory disease of the colon. About 100 years ago pseudomembranous colitis was a fatal disease that often occurred after surgery. Today, it is a common complication of antibiotic use that is usually treated easily.

Any antibiotic may cause pseudomembranous colitis. The use of antibiotics causes a bacteria that normally exists in the intestines to overproduce and release a toxin that causes the disease. Symptoms include:

  • Loose stool
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramping
  • A fever of 103°F or higher
  • Blood in the stool

Treatment includes ceasing the use of the antibiotic that has caused the disease. Other forms of treatment include the use of prescription medications and rehydration to replace fluids lost through diarrhea. The recovery rate for pseudomembranous colitis is usually very good, but the disease can still be fatal, especially among those who are elderly or have an underlying condition such as 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)

Psoriasis
Psoriasis occurs when skin cells grow at a more rapid rate than normal causing thick, white or red patches of skin to develop. These patches may vary in size and location.

Psoriasis usually occurs on the knees, elbows, scalp, hands, feet and lower back. The condition can occur at any age but is most common among adults. The condition may go away untreated and flare back up again at a later date. Symptoms include:

  • White or red raised patches of scaly looking skin
  • Tiny areas that bleed when the scales are picked or scraped off
  • Itching
  • Nail disorders
  • Joint swelling
  • Buildup of debris under the nails

Psoriasis is diagnosed through a physical exam, a review of the patient’s medical history and a review of symptoms.

Treatment, which depends on the severity of symptoms, includes keeping the skin moisturized with various creams and lotions and using oral medications such as antibiotics or ultraviolet light treatments. Physicians may also refer patients to an allergist because some studies indicate a food allergy or intolerance may contribute to this condition.

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)

Psoriatic Arthritis
Other names: Psoriasis, polyarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic inflammatory arthritis, spondylitis

Hundreds of conditions fall into a group that is often referred to simply as arthritis and millions of Americans suffer from the pain associated with these conditions. Arthritis – all varieties of it – causes pain and physical limitations associated with the inflammation of the joints, muscles, tendons and bones.

Psoriatic arthritis is one form of arthritis that typically affects large numbers of Americans between the ages of 30 and 50. It is a chronic inflammatory disease commonly associated with psoriasis. In the US, psoriatic arthritis affects 5 to 7 percent of patients with psoriasis. Psoriatic arthritis was not clinically distinguished from rheumatoid arthritis until the 1960s, and it is thought to occur in only 1 percent of the US population. Symptoms which range from mild to severe, include:

  • Swollen joints
  • Pitted, discolored nails
  • Separation of nail from nail bed
  • Buildup of skin debris under nails
  • Pain and discomfort at joints

If left untreated, psoriatic arthritis can cause deformity and joint damage, but medications, physical therapy and lifestyle chances can relieve pain and slow the progression of joint damage.

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)

Pulmonary Edema
Pulmonary edema is a potentially life-threatening disease caused by an abnormal accumulation of fluid in the lungs that can interfere with the lungs’ ability to oxygenate the blood.

Pulmonary edema may be related to a variety of factors, including a heart attack or heart disease, infection, radiation therapy or radiation sickness. In rare cases, pulmonary edema may be caused by altitude sickness. Infants given too much fluid also may be diagnosed with pulmonary edema. Symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • A cough that contains phlegm and blood
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Excessive sweating
  • Low blood pressure
  • Cold skin
  • Inability to sleep flat
  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety

A physician diagnosing pulmonary edema will probably use a stethoscope to listen to the patient’s heart for crackling sounds. A chest X-ray and ECG may also be ordered so that the physician can see the lungs and determine if they contain excess fluid.

Pulmonary edema is treated with oxygen that is administered through a face mask or through the trachea. Medications may also be ordered to remove fluid in the lungs and improve heart function. When pulmonary edema is diagnosed and treated, many patients have a full recovery.

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)

Pulmonary Embolism
A pulmonary embolism is a blood clot, fat, tumor, tissue or air that lodges itself in the lungs and blocks a pulmonary artery, causing reduced blood supply to the lungs and heart. The American Heart Association estimates that 600,000 Americans develop a pulmonary embolism each year and approximately 60,000 die as a result.

A pulmonary embolism is a very serious condition that can be fatal without even presenting any symptoms as warning signs. It may be caused by complications relating to conditions such as deep vein thrombosis or blood clots in the leg or pelvis. The majority of cases are related to deep vein thrombosis. Symptoms include:

  • Rapid breathing
  • Anxiousness
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness and fainting
  • Rapid pulse
  • Low-grade fever
  • Coughing up blood
  • Swollen veins in the neck
  • Swollen legs

Diagnosis involves a thorough physical exam and review of medical history as well as diagnostic tests such as a chest X-ray, lung scan, ECG, arterial blood gas measurements and a pulmonary angiography.

Treatment requires hospitalization, oxygen therapy and drug therapy with medications that either prevent or dissolve clots. In some cases, surgical implantation of a device that filters blood returning to the heart and lungs may be necessary.

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)

Pulmonary Hypertension
Pulmonary hypertension is high blood pressure in the arteries that supply blood to the lungs. Normal blood pressure in the lungs is lower than blood pressure in the rest of the body. With pulmonary hypertension, the small arteries in the lungs are constricted and the pressure increases, making it more difficult for the heart to pump the blood through the lungs.

Pulmonary hypertension is a potentially life-threatening disease. Many factors can contribute to pulmonary hypertension, such as congenital heart defects, medication, HIV infection and liver disease. Symptoms are usually the first indication that a person has pulmonary hypertension, but often by the time symptoms are present the disease has progressed to a more serious stage. Symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Swelling of ankles

Diagnosis involves a physical exam and review of the patient’s medical history. Diagnostic tests such as a chest X-ray, ECG and spirometry will also be ordered to confirm that the patient has pulmonary hypertension.

Pulmonary hypertension may be treated with a variety of medications that lower pressure in the arteries that supply the lungs in order tp reduce the risk of blood clots. Other treatments, such as oxygen therapy, may also be recommended by the 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)