Archive for August, 2012

What is CRP?

Posted on:

What is CRP?

CRP is C-reactive protein, a protein found in the body that reacts to inflammatory response. Called a complement protein, CRP and other proteins like it respond to tissue damage.   When there is an injury anywhere in the body, these proteins and other aggregates of the inflammatory causeway react to help repair it.  This quick reaction to tissue damage and inflammation is part of our immune response.

CRP-hs blood test

Reactions to Inflammation

Because of how it responds, CRP levels are understandably elevated after surgery or accidental physical trauma. Vascular events that leave tissue without oxygen, such as heart attacks or strokes, can also affect CRP levels.  It is often after myocardial infarction or heart attack, that CRP levels are often watched, along with other blood tests to prevent another episode.

CRP & Infection

CRP levels will also be elevated when people are actively fighting infections, such as appendicitis, influenza, or pneumonia.  CRP levels, along with white blood cell counts, can help determine if a treatment is effective at eliminating the infection.

Autoimmunity and CRP

Autoimmune disorders are diseases where the body’s immune system begins to target its own cells.  Some examples of autoimmune diseases are rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s Disease, lupus, and hypothyroidism in some cases.  In addition to physical symptoms of pain and fever, autoimmune diseases will increase the inflammatory response.  In many cases, C-reactive protein levels will be evaluated by doctors, again, with other tests, to help determine the severity or progression of the disease or episode.

CRP & Heart

Since CRP is elevated after heart attack,  most doctors will follow its levels in patients after coronary events.  Initial CRP levels over 2.4 mg/dL are considered at risk for coronary events.  It is desirable to have CRP levels less than 1.0 mg/dL.  Statin drugs treated for hyperlipidemia reduce CRP levels, another reason to keep at risk patients on these drugs.  It is apparent that patients who consistently have higher CRP levels are more likely to have hypertension, diabetes and heart disease.

CRP levels may be elevated in some cancers and is often very high during acute or chronic kidney failure.  Alone, a CRP blood test doesn’t diagnose a single disease, but can be significant in the presence of other symptoms.

Take control of your health.

 

Medical Disclaimer:  The information included on this site is for informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her health care provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.  The writer is not a physician or other health provider.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
twittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutube

Vitamin D and Calcium for Bone Health

Posted on:

Most of our bone mass is acquired during childhood and adolescence and is completely done forming by the age of 18.   It is very important to have adequate calcium during the the young years of high growth in order to have a better outlook for bone health in the future.  If there is insufficient calcium deposited in bones during childhood, the bones may become weak later in life and could increase the probability of osteoporosis.  As we know, fragile bones can easily fracture or break especially in vulnerable areas such as the hip, spine and wrist.

Bone Health

How Much Calcium is Enough?

According to the American Dietetic Association, women need 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day for healthy bones.  After age 50, a woman’s calcium needs increase to 1,200 milligrams a day.  Converting milligrams needed to serving sizes is the best way to help identify the calcium-rich foods that are required.

Women need at least three servings a day of these calcium rich foods and a serving of calcium is equivalent to:

  • 1 cup low-fat or fat-free milk
  • 1 cup low-fat or fat-free yogurt
  • 1 ounce low-fat or fat-free cheese
  • 1.5 cups cooked soybeans
  • 1 cup calcium fortified orange juice
  • 3 oz canned sardines with bones

Other types of food that have high calcium content include:

  • spinach
  • fortified breakfast cereals
  • almonds
  • white beans
  • kale

How Does Vitamin D Help with Calcium Absorption?

Aging bodies have a harder time absorbing calcium and it is important to add vitamin D to your diet which helps calcium absorption.  Vitamin D is difficult to get from dietary sources so it’s a good idea to get a Vitamin D blood test to see if the body has sufficient vitamin D to help with calcium absorption.  There are vitamin D supplements that can help with the daily recommended amount of vitamin D: 400-800 IU for younger women.  Older women, above 50, need increased amounts and it is recommended to have 800-1000 IU per day.

Many women undergo a bone density test in their 40s.  This will establish a baseline of the bone density and the test can be repeated, as necessary, to assess bone density throughout the later years.  Besides calcium and vitamin D there are other ways to keep the bones strong:

  1. conducting weight bearing exercises
  2. participating in strength training exercises
  3. avoiding smoking and minimizing drinking alcohol

Take Control of Your Health!

Medical Disclaimer: The information on this site is for informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her health care provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan. The writer is not a physician or other health provider.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
twittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutube

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a chronic disease that causes pain, stiffness, swelling, and loss of function in the joints.  The immune system mistakenly starts attacking healthy tissue which can result in permanent joint destruction.   A Mayo Clinic study found that obese individuals were 25% more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis.  Naturally, one would think that obese individuals would put more stress on their joints and thereby having increased pain, but the study indicated that it could be the fat cells contributing to RA.

joint image

How do the fat cells affect RA?

We know that obesity rates have risen over the years and so has the incidence of RA and additional studies have shown that the RA drugs are not very effective in obese patients.  It appears that losing weight can have a significant impact on the joints which naturally alleviates the pain and wear and tear on these weight bearing joints.

  1. fat cells are mediators of inflammation; which attack the lining around joints.  Logically, minimizing fat cells should help in minimizing inflammation.
  2. fat cells produce the female sex hormone estrogen and woman are more at risk to developing RA then men as there seems to be a hormone link.

Changing your diet to lose weight could help minimize the number of fat cells and lessen the inflammation surrounding the joints.  Weight seems to be a contributing factor in many diseases and can be controlled.  /

Testing for Autoimmune Diseases such as RA

Many physicians order the following tests to help your physician diagnose autoimmune diseases, but since there are many autoimmune diseases that have similar test results, it is important to have a physician properly review your medical history and symptoms.

  1. Anti Nuclear Antibodies (ANA)
  2. Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate (ESR)
  3. C-Reactive Protein (CRP)
  4. Rheumatoid Factor

ANA – The ANA test identifies the presence of antinuclear antibodies (ANA) in the blood. ANA is a group of special antibodies produced by a person’s immune system when it fails to adequately distinguish between “self” and “nonself.” These autoantibodies attack the body’s own cells. *

ESR – Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) is an indirect measure of the degree of inflammation present in the body. *

CRP – C-reactive protein (CRP) is a protein made by the liver and released into the bloodstream within a few hours after tissue injury, the start of an infection, or other cause of inflammation.*

Rheumatoid Factor (RF) –  RF is an autoantibody, an IgM (immunoglobulin M) protein that is produced by the body’s immune system. Autoantibodies attack a person’s own tissues, mistakenly identifying the tissue as “foreign.”

Since RA is difficult to diagnose, there is not one test nor physical finding to determine if you have RA.  A physician will normally check your joints for swelling, redness and warmth along with blood tests and maybe even x-rays.

* more details at www.Labtestsonline.org

Medical Disclaimer:  The information included on this site is for informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her health care provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.  The writer is not a physician or other health provider.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
twittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutube

Urinalysis is examination of the urine by a physician, nurse or lab personnel.  Chemical and microscopic examination of urine is a simple way to determine a large variety of conditions.
testing urine image resized 600

First, the color and clarity are noted.  Ideally urine should be pale yellow and clear.  Darker urine can indicate more concentrated urine and is seen in dehydration.  Usually, this is due to the fact that many people do not drink enough water.  Brownish reddish urine can be a sign of kidney or liver function.

After initial examination, urinalysis consists of assaying the urine’s chemistry.   This consists of testing for the presence of glucose, protein, bilirubin ( a by-product of liver function), pH, ketones, white blood cells and red blood cells.  The presence of glucose is indicative of diabetes, as is the presence of ketones, although ketones in the urine can indicate dehydration, as well.

Microscopic examination of the urine usually follows.  This part of the urinalysis consists of taking a drop of urine on a slide and noting what is present.  Epithelial cells are commonly found, bacteria may be present, red and white blood cells may be present as well as an occasional sperm or crystal.

The presence of red and white blood cells can indicate a urinary tract infection.  If urinary tract infection is possible, the doctor may order a urine culture to determine the cause of the infection and the best antibiotic to treat it.   In kidney disease, casts can be seen. These are rod shaped tubules discarded in the urine if kidney function is declining.

Uric acid, calcium oxalate or triple phosphate microscopic crystals can be seen in gout, kidney stones, or dietary means.  They can be significant or not clinically significant depending on the patient’s overall condition.

Urinalysis has long been used by doctors to assist of many conditions. It is probably the oldest laboratory test, but still vital in diagnosing disease.

Other Urine Tests

  • A qualitative test for pregnancy can be performed on urine.  Qualitative means that it will only detect the presence or absence of the human chorionic gonadotropin, (HCG). Quantitative levels can be determined in blood serum to determine the actual level of HCG, which helps determine how far along a pregnancy is.
  • Drug screening can also be done on urine.
  • The STDs, Trichomonas, Chlamydia & Gonorrhea, can be seen and identified in urine, as well.

Take control of your health!

Medical Disclaimer:  The information included on this site is for informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her health care provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.  The writer is not a physician or other health provider.


Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
twittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutube

Cataracts – Potential Causes

Posted on:

eyeball image

What is a Cataract?

A cataract is a clouding of the lens, typically from a buildup of protein, that can impair vision.  Almost half of all Americans that are 65 years or older have cataracts which prevents light from passing through the lens ultimately causing some loss of vision.

There is not an effective drug therapy to prevent cataracts but those that smoke cigarettes, take certain medications, have had previous eye injury, excess exposure to sunlight, are diabetic or obese can increase their risk of cataracts. 

Decreasing Your Risks for Cataracts:

  1. Stop smoking as smoking may reduce the nutrients in the blood that are needed to maintain lens health.
  2. Wean yourself from corticosteroids, if your physician advises.  A study of individuals taking 15 mg oral prednisone for 1-2 years, 80% developed cataracts.
  3. Wear sunglasses and avoid the sun.  Prolonged exposure to UV radiation in sunlight more than doubles the risk of cataracts.
  4. Regulate your blood sugar.  Those with diabetes are at increased risk to get cataracts.
  5. Lose weight.  The link to obesity and cataracts is unclear, but studies show that maintaining a proper weight may reduce cataract formation by decreasing blood glucose levels.

What are Symptoms of Cataracts:

Since cataracts develop slowly, you may not notice the symptoms right away.  Symptoms can include:

  • blurry, foggy or cloudy vision
  • changes in the way color is seen
  • difficulty driving at night especially glare from headlights, streetlights and rain
  • double vision
  • sudden change in eye glasses or contact lens prescription

Treatments for Cataracts:

The least invasive treatment for cataracts is a new eyeglass prescription or magnifiers to help the individual see better.  However, cataract surgery is the most successful at restoring vision and is performed quite frequently.  The prognosis of cataract surgery is great:  most surgery recipients regain vision between 20/20 and 20/40.

What does the surgeon do?

The surgeon removes the clouded lens and replaces it with a intraoccular plastic lens.  The advances of these lens help patients correct vision for near/far sightedness and can also offer UV protection to avoid damage to the retina.

Most patients have improved vision within days after the surgery and the eye is completely healed within 6 weeks.

Interestingly, people who underwent cataract surgery lowered their risk of hip fracture according to a study in JAMA.  Visual impairment is a high predictor of an increased risk of fractures as sight provides information for postural balance and stability.  With a cloudy lens, the risk for falling can increase.

Take Control of your Health!

Medical Disclaimer:  The information included on this site is for informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her health care provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.  The writer is not a physician or other health provider.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
twittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutube

What is Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA)?

PSA is a substance produced by the prostate and released into a man’s blood.  Healthy men usually have low amounts of PSA in the blood.  The amount of PSA in the blood normally increases as a man’s prostate gland enlarges; which is typical as a man ages.  Elevated levels of PSA may suggest prostate cancer, however there are other reasons why elevated levels may be present:  as a result of an injury, a digital rectal exam, recent (24 hours) sexual activity (ejaculation), or inflammation of the prostate gland (prostatitis).  When combined with a digital rectal exam at your doctor’s office, the test increases the chance of detecting prostate cancer.  A PSA level within the normal ranges does not mean that prostate cancer is not present.  Also, some men with prostate cancer have normal PSA levels.

How Often Should Men Have a PSA Test?

First, it is important to determine if the man has increased risk for prostate cancer.  This would include if there is a family history of prostate cancer and/or if you are of African decent; both of which would put a man at higher risk for prostate cancer.  It is recommended that PSA testing occur more frequently if you are high risk.

For those not at high risk, the American Urology Association recommends a baseline PSA screening at 40 and 45, followed by annual screenings at age 50.  Establishing a baseline PSA value is a way to track what level is normal, as it varies by individual, and determining if the PSA levels change over time.

Discount PSA testing

What if a PSA Test Result is High?

Some studies indicate that high test results may lead to unnecessary treatment in some patients, but a good clinician can assess the best protocol given the health history of the individual.  Many times, a repeat test will be done to rule out any actions that could elevate the prostate temporarily. It is important to discuss all test results with your physician.  They have the knowledge, family history background and expertise to properly diagnose.

If the physician believes there is cancer, it is important to discuss the various treatments available:  watchful waiting, aggressive treatments, or something in between.  Age, health status, family history and potential side effects should be discussed to determine the best protocol.

Why Should I Get Tested?

Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer (besides skin cancer) in men and the second cancer killing illness of men in the US.  The PSA test allows for early detection and is an easy blood test.  A small amount of blood is taken from a vein and tested.  It’s an easy test yet provides potentially life saving information.

A PSA test can help detect certain types of prostate cancer early; this can be critical for some cancers. Elevated PSA results may reveal prostate cancer that could spread to other parts of your body (metastasize), or they may reveal a quick-growing cancer that’s likely to cause other problems.

Early diagnosis typically leads to early treatment before the cancer becomes life threatening or causes serious symptoms.  If a less aggressive treatment can be used early, then there is a reduced risk of side effects such as erectile dysfunction and incontinence.

Take control of your health and get your PSA blood test now.


Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
twittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutube

If you have a child going to school you probably are receiving those lengthy health forms to complete prior to the start of the school year.  Most schools want a copy of the child’s immunization records. What if you don’t have those records? You can:

  1. Get all the immunizations again if your health provider will allow you or
  2. Get a titer test to show that your child has the antibodies for those immunizations.

Titer Tests for School Admissions

An antibody titer is a laboratory test that measures the presence and amount of antibodies in blood. The antibody level in the blood is a reflection of past exposure to an antigen or to something that the body does not recognize as belonging to itself. Serum titers are blood tests that measure whether or not you are immune to a given disease.

If you were vaccinated as a child for Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) then your titer test would be positive indicating that you have sufficient antibody levels in the blood to reflect the past exposure to the vaccine.  This test is typically called a MMR Immunity blood test.

You can order a MMR Immunity Profile and send the results to the school as proof of immunity.

Varicella-Zoster Virus or Chicken Pox Antibody, is another frequently required  vaccination or proof of immunity.  This titer test is also available and recently been seen as part of the health requirements for admission into college and/or nursing school.

Lastly, Hepatitis B is another titer test that is available to fulfill requirements for Hepatitis immunity.

Please check your school requirements to be sure they will accept the titer tests in lieu of an immunization record.  It’s also a good idea to have them review the test to be sure they will accept them at the school’s health department.

Take Control of Your Health.

Medical Disclaimer: The information included on this site is for informational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her health care provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan. The writer is not a physician or other health provider.


Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail
twittergoogle_pluslinkedinrssyoutube