Alzheimer’s Disease – Knowing Your Risk

Friday, September 21, 2012 8:39 AM comments (0)

Alzheimer's DiseaseIt’s one thing for an elderly relative, friend or loved one to be forgetful from time to time, but if you begin to notice changes in memory, thinking and problem solving you may want to consider getting him or her screened for Alzheimer’s disease. While the progression of this condition may vary from person to person, there are tell-tale signs to help determine diagnosis.

Felise Zollman, MD, Neurologist with NorthShore, recommends looking for the following warning signs for those who may be suffering from Alzheimer’s disease (AD):

  • Forgetting important dates, such as family members’ birthdays and anniversaries
  • Repetitively asking the same questions during conversation
  • Getting lost or disoriented in familiar surroundings
  • Frequently forgetting common words
  • Having trouble managing your finances and/or checkbook when it never used to be a problem 

While it can be normal to have any of these problems occur once in a while, they become concerning if they begin to affect the person’s daily life. 

Along with warning signs, Dr. Zollman also outlines some of the most common risk factors for developing this condition, including:

  • Age and sex: Alzheimer’s is most common in those who are 65 years of age or older, and more frequently affects women.
  • Family history:  Those with a first-degree relative (parent or sibling) with Alzheimer’s disease have a modest increased risk of developing the condition themselves.
  • Genetics:  Inheriting certain genes, like the APO-e4 , can increase the chance that a person will develop AD—but having the gene does not make development of the condition inevitable.   More rarely, and usually associated with early onset of AD, there are inherited genes which do run in families and directly cause the condition.

Do you know someone with Alzheimer’s disease? What recommendations would you have to others who are just finding out someone they know has this disease?

Prostate Cancer – Identifying your Risk and Getting Screened

Tuesday, September 18, 2012 8:58 AM comments (0)

Prostate HealthProstate cancer is one of the common cancers found in men (especially in those over 65). Although diagnosis of any type of cancer can be scary and lead to feelings of uncertainty, in most cases, prostate cancer is slow growing and can be easily managed and treated when identified at its early stages.

Michael McGuire, MD, Urologist at NorthShore, offers the following tips to men about determining their risk and identifying prostate cancer:

  • Know your family history. It is recommended that men starting at age 50 get screened for prostate cancer. If you have a family history of prostate cancer (especially from either your father or brother), earlier screening may be recommended.
  • Be aware of changes to your urinary system and sexual health. If you notice changes in your urination or erections, or find blood in your urine or semen, it is recommended to see a physician. It is important to note that these symptoms may be caused by another condition.
  • Maintain healthy living standards.  Eating a nutritious, balanced diet and staying active can help promote recovery and quality of life if you are diagnosed with prostate cancer.

While there are mixed reviews about when you should receive the Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) test, it is important to talk to your physician about any of your health concerns during your annual visit.

Do you know if your family medical history includes prostate cancer?

Ovarian Cancer – Simple Screening that Could Save your Life

Wednesday, September 12, 2012 12:48 PM comments (0)

Ovarian-CancerSeptember is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and an important time to recognize that this disease is the 5th leading cause of cancer deaths in American women.  The cause of ovarian cancer is poorly understood, and in addition, ovarian cancer can be much more difficult to detect than other types of cancer.

Symptoms of ovarian cancer may be vague and may mimic other common women’s health conditions.  Women and health professionals may attribute symptoms to menopause, aging, stress, changes in diet or depression.  This may result in a delay in the diagnosis of ovarian cancer.  The most common symptoms include:

  • Bloating or increased abdominal size
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Urinary symptoms
  • Difficulty eating or feeling full

Carolyn Kirschner, MD, Gynecological Oncologist at NorthShore, identifies some strategies available for women:

  1. In general, symptoms that last longer than a month, or become more frequent or severe than before, should be investigated.  This may be as simple as a pelvic exam in your doctor’s office, a pelvic ultrasound or more extensive testing.
  2. Become familiar with your family history.  The most important risk factor for ovarian cancer is a family history of breast or ovarian cancer.  A family history of ovarian cancer in a mother, sister or daughter triples your risk.  A personal or family history of breast cancer prior to age 50 or of bilateral (both breasts involved) breast cancer may indicate increased risk.  NorthShore’s Center for Medical Genetics can access your family cancer history and provide recommendations based on your personal risk.
  3. Currently, the only group of women for whom routine screening, in the absence of symptoms, is recommended are those with high risk, primarily carriers of the BRCA genetic mutation.  Prophylactic (preventive) removal of tubes and ovaries may be considered in these women.  The surgery is usually done using a laparoscopic technique which requires general anesthesia but is an outpatient procedure.  For women in the childbearing age group, birth control pills may have a protective effect on ovarian cancer.

Have you known someone with ovarian cancer? Do you know if it’s in your family history?

Guest Post: Beth Pieroth, PsyD, ABPP –Academics Performance After Concussion

Monday, September 10, 2012 9:21 AM comments (0)

Concussion-AcademicsConcussive injuries in sports have been a hot topic for a number of years.  As of July 2011, a new Illinois State law requires that any athlete who exhibits the signs of a concussion must be removed from that practice or game, and cannot be returned to play until he or she has been cleared by an appropriately trained healthcare professional.  However, the law makes no mention of academics and most youth athletes will attend school before they are cleared to return to the field of play.  Our attention should then turn to addressing the issues of injured students.

A concussion occurs when a person suffers a blow or force to the head that results in changes in his or her mental status; this includes confusion, disorientation, memory or mental cloudiness.  The individual may complain of headache, dizziness, nausea, visual changes or fatigue, and may experience problems with attention and memory.

It is often difficult for a newly concussed student to manage the demands of school and their grades may suffer if their injury is not appropriately addressed. If a student athlete suffers from a concussion the following steps for an optimal recovery are recommended:

  • After the student has been evaluated by an emergency room physician, primary care physician, athletic trainer or a concussion specialist, have them rest.  They should avoid stimulating activities, such as loud televisions or music, video games or computer use. 
  • It is often best to allow the student to stay home from school for a few days.  The noise and chaos of a school environment, along with the demands of focusing in the classroom, can cause an increase in the student’s symptoms.  Many students will attempt to go to school, only to end up in the school nurse’s office with a headache.
  • If symptoms are manageable, I encourage students to return to school.  Missing too many days of school will often result in increased anxiety about the amount of schoolwork to be made up and isolation from friends.  However, it is recommended that the students not be required to complete homework, quizzes or tests during the acute recovery period. 
  • Most students will require brief academic accommodations, typically 1-2 weeks.  Some may not require any accommodations because they do not have significant cognitive deficits from their concussions.  However, a small percentage of students will benefit from additional accommodations and this should be handled on an individual basis.  The student should undergo cognitive testing to better determine that type of impairment he or she is experiencing and ways to manage the symptoms.

Migraine Headache Surgery: A New Treatment Option

Thursday, September 06, 2012 9:39 AM comments (0)

Migraine-SurgeryRelief from migraine headaches can come in many different forms – from pain medication, preventative drugs, massage and acupuncture to at-home remedies including relaxation techniques and proper sleep.

Approximately 20 percent of women and 10 percent of men in the United States suffer from migraine headaches. Those who are able to identify “trigger” sites on the head or face where the migraine pain starts or localizes may be able to consider a plastic surgery treatment option. Botox, traditionally used to relax facial muscles to reduce wrinkles, can also be used to relax muscles around the nerves that may trigger migraines.

Michael Howard, MD, a plastic surgeon at NorthShore, works closely with our neurologists to evaluate candidates for migraine headache surgery.  Dr. Howard identifies some of the factors that may help determine if a patient is a good candidate for this surgery:

  • A diagnosis of migraine headache is confirmed with the patient’s neurologist. In most cases, success in reducing pain has not been achieved through other treatment methods, such as medication.
  • Specific trigger sites for headaches can be determined. These are often caused by a compression or entrapment of specific nerves in the head and neck region. 
  • A Botox injection test is performed at the trigger sites.
  • Patients with a positive result from injection—a 50 percent or greater reduction in migraine frequency, duration or severity —may be considered for this treatment.
  • Once patients are considered appropriate candidates, and trigger sites have been identified, the procedure finds the nerves responsible for the headaches through a small incision in the skin. The nerves are then cut and the incisions are closed. Recovery is fast and most patients are able to resume their normal activities within a few days.

Do you suffer from migraine headaches? Do you know your trigger sites?

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