Contact Lenses Hurt 34,000+ Kids Annually

More than 70,000 children and teens go to the emergency room each year for injuries and complications from medical devices, and contact lenses are the leading culprit, the first detailed national estimate suggests.

About one-fourth of the problems were things like infections and eye abrasions in contact lens wearers. These are sometimes preventable and can result from wearing contact lenses too long without cleaning them.

Other common problems found by researchers at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration include puncture wounds from hypodermic needles breaking off in the skin while injecting medicine or illegal drugs; infections in young children with ear tubes; and skin tears from pelvic devices used during gynecological exams in teen girls.

Malfunction and misuse are among possible reasons; the researchers are working to determine how and why the injuries occurred and also are examining the prevalence in adults. Those efforts might result in FDA device warnings, depending on what they find, said study co-author Dr. Brock Hefflin.

The most serious problems involved implanted devices such as brain shunts for kids with hydrocephalus (water on the brain); chest catheters for cancer patients receiving chemotherapy at home; and insulin pumps for diabetics. Infections and overdoses are among problems associated with these devices. Only 6 percent of patients overall had to be hospitalized.

Dr. Steven Krug, head of emergency medicine at Chicago’s Children’s Memorial Hospital, said the study highlights a trade-off linked with medical advances that have enabled chronically ill children to be treated at home and live more normal lives.

Home care can be challenging for families; Krug says he has seen children brought in because catheters were damaged or became infected.

“Health care providers need to be aware of these kids and their devices and how to recognize or diagnose” related problems, Krug said. He was not involved in the study.

The study appears in Pediatrics, published online Monday.

Hefflin and lead author Dr. Cunlin Wang work in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. They note there has been recent concern about medical device safety in children, particularly since many devices intended for adults are used in children.

The researchers analyzed medical records from ER visits reported in a national injury surveillance system. Based on data from about 100 nationally representative hospitals, they estimated that 144,799 medical device-related complications occurred during 2004 and 2005, or more than 70,000 yearly.

Almost 34,000 problems were linked with contact lenses in the two-year period. The rest were scattered among 12 other categories including general medical devices such as needles and catheters, gynecology devices and heart devices.

Hefflin said the study is the first to evaluate device-related injuries in children only. It did not include device problems in already hospitalized children.

Hospital ‘Center of Excellence Program’ launched by US Tele-Medicine

For Immediate Release:

Hospital ‘Center of Excellence Program’ launched by US Tele-Medicine

Qualifying hospitals and clinics can now earn revenues derived from Telemedicine referrals.  In addition, these hospitals and clinics will access a national Telemedicine provider as a solution to overflow issues and to support expansion.

“The global world of Telemedicine opens to these facilities without the major up-front costs and effort normally associated with developing an in-house Telemedicine department,” said Gideon Ilumin, Director of Business Affairs for US Tele-Medicine.

US Tele-Medicine, a national health care provider based in Beverly Hills, CA and licensed in twelve states, providing General Practice and Family Practice services, is forming joint ventures with hospitals and clinics in its territories. The program is called “Center of Excellence” and identifies these facilities as telemedicine approved.   In the agreements, US Tele-Medicine refers its telehealth patients to the joint venture partners for consultation, imaging, surgical procedures, and specialty care.

“We present a number of solutions. First we increase hospital/clinic revenues, as the nature of telemedicine referrals generally involve more expensive specialty procedures that a telemedicine doctor cannot accomplish on the phone or internet,” said Ilumin.  “Secondly our infrastructure brings a solution to clinics and hospitals wishing to expand their patient base, yet finding they are restrained by finances, personnel or structural limitations,” said Ilumin.

US Tele-Medicine supplies remote and wireless monitoring devices to patients that measure a number of vital signs and transmit that information to the US Tele-Medicine EMR (EHR) platform, for medical oversight.  The strength of US Tele-Medicine is providing management for many chronic conditions in a less expensive environment such as the home or office.

Randy Ryder, US Tele-Medicine’s Director of Patient Services says, “Most clinics and hospitals need to expand to stay afloat.  I understand that, but I also know that many people come to these facilities and wait, sometimes for hours, to see a physician, when all they are seeking is basic primary care or some support for a chronic condition. US Tele-Medicine is especially effective at treating this type of patient.”

“Imagine the improvement in ease of operation for a hospital or a clinic when you remove that patient load from over-utilizing facilities,” said Ryder.  “Hospitals can then concentrate on being hospitals, rather than Doctor’s offices, and expand their specialties or surgical centers, where their economic strengths come from.”

So what happens to these patients?  “They receive their care at home, in their offices or on the go,” answered Ryder. “Telemedicine is a modality proven to promote greater wellness, provide accessible medical care at reduced costs and do it immediately.”

Ilumin said “We are the most advanced telemedicine operation in the USA today, far ahead of others in the use of technology.  By referring their patients to US Tele-Medicine, hospitals and clinics enter the world of telemedicine without the substantial up-front investment.  Strategically this is very smart both financially and for reputations’ sake (marketing effectiveness) of that facility.  Adopting the “Center of Excellence” program increases revenues and demonstrates to the world the inclusivity and understanding of state-of-the art medicine as well as adding tremendous public prestige.”

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Hysteria is No Longer Diagnosed

In the Victorian era, hysteria was a catch-all diagnosis for women in distress. The symptoms were vague (discontentment, weakness, outbursts of emotion, nerves) and the history sexist (Plato blamed the wanderings of an “unfruitful” uterus).

The treatment for hysteria? “Hysterical paroxysm,” also known as orgasm. Physicians would massage their patients’ genitals either manually or with a vibrator, a task they found tedious but surprisingly uncontroversial. More contentious was the practice of putting “hysterical” women on bed rest or demanding that they not work or socialize, a treatment that often worsened anxiety or depression.

According to a 2002 editorial in the journal Spinal Cord, the diagnosis of hysteria gradually petered out throughout the 20th century. By 1980, hysteria disappeared from the DSM in favor of newer diagnoses like conversion and dissociative disorders.

Coffee Extract Prevents Bad Breath

We all know why Starbucks puts boxes of breath mints close to the cash register. Your morning latte can create a startling aroma in your mouth, strong enough to startle your co-workers too.

But intriguing new research from Tel Aviv University by breath specialist Prof. Mel Rosenberg finds that a coffee extract can inhibit the bacteria that lead to bad breath. New laboratory tests have shown that the extract prevents malodorous bacteria from making their presence felt ― or smelt.

“Everybody thinks that coffee causes bad breath,” says Prof. Rosenberg, “and it’s often true, because coffee, which has a dehydrating effect in the mouth, becomes potent when mixed with milk, and can ferment into smelly substances.”

But not always: “Contrary to our expectations, we found some components in coffee that actually inhibit bad breath,” explains Prof. Rosenberg. The findings were presented last month to members of the International Society for Breath Odor Research in Germany by Yael Gov, a researcher in Prof. Rosenberg’s laboratory

A “taster’s choice” for stopping bad bacteria
In the laboratory, the team monitored the bacterial odor production of coffee in saliva. In the study, three different brands of coffee were tested: the Israeli brand Elite coffee, Landwer Turkish coffee, and Taster’s Choice. Prof. Rosenberg expected to demonstrate the malodor-causing effect of coffee in an in vitro saliva evaluation developed by Dr. Sarit Levitan in his laboratory. To his surprise, the extracts had the opposite effect.

“The lesson we learned here is one of humility,” says Prof. Rosenberg. “We expected coffee would cause bad breath, but there is something inside this magic brew that has the opposite effect.”

Prof. Rosenberg would love to isolate the bacterial-inhibiting molecule in order to reap the biggest anti-bacterial benefits from coffee. “It’s not the raw extract we will use,” he says, “but an active material within it.” His latest discovery could be the foundation for an entirely new class of mouthwash, breath mints and gum. Purified coffee extract can be added to a breath mint to stop bacteria from forming, stopping bad breath at its source, instead of masking the smell with a mint flavor.

Prof. Rosenberg previously developed a popular mouthwash sold widely in Europe, a pocket-based breath test, and an anti-odor chewing gum.

Telemedicine Brings Immediate Relief

August 2, 2010 United States of America


Telemedicine reduces the expense, eliminates the bother and time needed for people to receive the primary medical care they require. In rural America the Telemedicine effect is dramatic.


August 2, 2010 — For Immediate Release

Telemedicine Brings Immediate Relief

Dora Johnson calls upon her neighbor or daughter whenever she needs to visit a Doctor. She suffers from high blood pressure and arthritis has wracked her legs into two misshapen appendages, which can no longer support her weight without experiencing excruciating pain. “It’s not so much the pain anymore,” explains Dora, “that is a constant. It is the embarrassment I feel when bothering other people just to get me to the doctor. After a while you just forgo the frequent doctor visits and do the best you can.”

When Dora does get her ride, she travels for thirty-five minutes to the county general hospital where she waits for two-three hours to see a physician. “All they ever do is take my blood pressure and send me home,” said Dora. It seems that “they” also check her prescriptions.

Dora and her friendly neighbor drove 50 miles and spent over four hours just to have her blood pressure checked. In addition to their expenses, the hospital billed some payor $450 – $600, inclusive of the hospital facility charges, for Dora’s visit.

This failing model of providing care is the standard in the USA today.

Dora is a now a patient of US Tele-Medicine. The Beverly Hills based operation provides care in eight states and furnishes patients with wireless remote devices that can check blood pressure, pulse, temperature and other vital signs. This data is then sent to the US Tele-Medicine EMR platform, which is accessible to Dora, her primary physician and the doctors at US Tele-Medicine.

“Why didn’t my insurance company or doctor suggest telemedicine for me?” asked Dora, “they know I have trouble getting around. Now I check my blood pressure whenever I need or when the telemedicine doctors tell me and I do it without bothering anyone or leaving the house.”

The convenience factor aside, US Tele-Medicine billed her payor about $200 for the telemedicine visit, the remote devices, and the support she receives on line 24/7. The difference is staggering. Dora’s insurance company saved about $250 – $400, Dora saved her neighborly relations, the pain she felt when moving in and out of a vehicle, she saved on gas money, and the four hours of time it once took, all to get her blood pressure checked.

Dora is just one of the thousands of patients enjoying the benefits of telemedicine in the USA. While still at an early stage of mass e-care, telemedicine and especially US Tele-Medicine have made great strides in remote sensing of vital information and the application of medical practices using the telephone, email and the Internet.

“Our focus is on a specific patient demographic,” said Gideon Ilumin, Director of Business Affairs for US Tele-Medicine. “The US Tele-Medicine business model operates at its most favorable condition when dealing with patients who are functional human beings, but suffer from some sort of chronic condition such as diabetes, obesity, allergies, even depression and require constant medical oversight.”

Ilumin continued, “These people lead full lives and the prospect of taking a day off of work or school to see a doctor is truly bothersome, leads to unnecessary absenteeism and is simply just expensive for everyone concerned: the employer, the patient and the payor.

Telemedicine removes the majority of the expense, the bother, and the time needed for these people to receive the care they require. If you are talking about rural America, then the difference, the savings and the benefits of Telemedicine are even more dramatic.”

Federal departments such as Commerce, Agriculture, Defense, and of course the HHS are funding telemedicine initiatives throughout the country. Most are smaller test groups or pilot ventures.

“Pilot programs now are a waste of time and indicative of the continued failed health care institutional thinking.” says Ilumin, “There have been countless of pilot studies for the past ten years worldwide, and all of them show the same conclusive results; patients become healthier, there is a marked decrease of hospitalization, costs for all concerned are reduced, and more patients receive more health care, than with any other model.”

Ilumin went on to say that the reason Telemedicine is slow to progress and find acceptance nationwide is medical communities themselves. Each individual institution needs original empirical data that is found acceptable by a group of doctors, while disregarding other studies not done by that institution, is slowing the acceptance of the Telemedicine process. Ilumin asked, “How often do you have to re-invent the wheel?”

Health insurers seem to be on the forefront of telemedicine, more so than the medical community. Anthem Blue Cross has published guidelines for Telemedicine Providers in their network. United healthcare is offering its services to Delta Airline employees, Blue Sheild is offering Telemedicine services to its patients in the San Fransisco bay area, and many others are launching this new product.

There are tens of millions of Dora Johnsons suffering chronic pain and individuals afflicted with conditions that allow them to function, but never live optimally. Right now these people are a drain on themselves, emotionally, spiritually and financially, a drain on payors who are shelling out excess dollars for their primary care, and on the system itself, that lacks the presence of family and managed care physicians for this population.

From all indications, the people with life-long medical conditions clog the medical structure, they disproportionately increase costs and never truly seem to obtain the level of care and support required to achieve wellness.
Tele-Medicine corrects these issues, lowers costs and provides immediate, personalized, refined and definitive health care to each person.

“My life is better, no question about that. I also feel safer and more cared for sitting in my house, than I ever did at any doctors’ office anywhere and the neighbors aren’t afraid to pick up my calls now.” Dora shares this sentiment with the thousands of US Tele-Medicine patients who are reaching higher levels of wellness and care, without the added bother or expense of visiting a doctor’s office.

Any patient may join by logging on to and clicking the “Join Now” tab found on that web site. US Tele-Medicine is a leader in national telemedicine care, founded in 2005, in network with the major carriers and serving patients throughout the United States.


Cholesterol Levels Explained

HDL Cholesterol

When it comes to HDL cholesterol — “good” cholesterol — the higher the number, the better it is for your health. This is because HDL cholesterol protects against heart disease by taking the “bad” cholesterol out of your blood and keeping it from building up in your arteries. The table below explains what the numbers mean.

HDL Cholesterol HDL-Cholesterol Category
60 and above High; Optimal; helps to lower risk of heart disease
Less than 40 in men and less than 50 in women Low; considered a risk factor for heart disease


Triglycerides are the chemical form in which most fat exists in food and the body. A high triglyceride level has been linked to the occurrence of coronary artery disease in some people. Here’s the breakdown.

Triglycerides Triglyceride Category
Less than 150 Normal
150 – 199 Borderline high
200 – 499 High
500 or higher Very high

Total Cholesterol

Your total blood cholesterol is a measure of LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and other lipid components. Doctors recommend total cholesterol levels below 200

Total Cholesterol Category
Less than 200 Desirable
200 – 239 Borderline High
240 and above High

What You Need To Know About Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is a term which encompasses a set of neurological conditions that cause physical disability in human development – they affect the brain and nervous system. The word cerebral refers to the area in the brain that is affected, while palsy means complete or partial muscle paralysis, frequently accompanied by loss of sensation and uncontrollable body movements or tremors. Cerebral means related to the brain or cerebrum. Cerebrum is a Latin word meaning “brain; top of the head, skull”. In the English language the cerebrum is the anterior (front) portion of the brain consisting of two hemispheres; it is the dominant part of the brain in humans.

What are the signs and symptoms of cerebral palsy?

A person with cerebral palsy will generally show symptoms during the first three years of life. A child/baby with cerebral palsy may have some of the signs and symptoms below:

  • Achieves developmental milestones, such as crawling, walking, or speaking, later than his/her peers.
  • Crawls in an unusual way.
  • Has abnormal muscle tone – the child will slouch while sitting. Muscle tone refers to a person’s automatic ability to tighten and relax muscle when required.
  • Has difficulty feeding and sucking.
  • Lies down in awkward positions.
  • Can be easily startled.
  • Favors one side of the body over the other.
  • Has overdeveloped or underdeveloped muscles (has floppy or stiff movements).
  • Has bad coordination and balance (ataxia).
  • Has involuntary, slow writing movements (athetosis).
  • Muscles are stiff and contract abnormally (spastic paralysis).
  • Has hearing problems.
  • Has problems with eyesight.
  • Has bladder control problems.
  • Has bowel movement control problems.
  • Has seizures.
  • Has problems swallowing.
  • Range of movements are limited.

There are several types of cerebral palsy

  Spastic cerebral palsy

  • Spastic hemiplegeia

    A child with spastic hemiplegeia will typically have spasticity (muscle stiffness) on one side of the body – usually just a hand and arm, but may also involve a leg. The side that is affected may not develop properly. The child may have speech problems. In the majority of cases intelligence is not affected. Some children will have seizures.

  • Spastic diplegia

    The lower limbs are affected, and there is no or little upper body spasticity. The child’s leg and hip muscles are tight. Legs cross at the knees, making walking more difficult. The crossing of the legs when the child is upright is often referred to as scissoring.

  • Spastic quadriplegia

    The child’s legs, arms, and body are affected. This is the severest from of spastic cerebral palsy. Children with this kind of cerebral palsy are more likely to have mental retardation. Walking and talking will be difficult. Some children have seizures.

  Ataxic cerebral palsy

The child’s balance and depth perception are affected. Depth perception refers to a person’s ability to judge where objects are in relation to where he/she is. It is the least diagnosed type of cerebral palsy. The child will find it difficult to tie his/her shoelaces, button up shirts, cut with scissors, and other fine motor skills. Because of balance difficulties, the child may walk with the feet far apart. There may be intention tremors – a shaking that starts with a voluntary movement, such as reaching out for a toy, the closer he/she gets to the toy the worse the tremors become. Most children with ataxic cerebral palsy are of normal intelligence and have good communication skills. Some may have erratic speech.

  Athetoid or dyskinetic (or athetoid dyskinetic) cerebral palsy

This is the second most common type of cerebral palsy. Intelligence will nearly always be normal, but the whole body will be affected by muscle problems. Muscle tone is weak or tight – causing random and uncontrolled body movements. The child will have problems walking, sitting, maintaining posture, and speaking clearly (tongue and vocal cords are hard to control). Some children drool if they have problems controlling facial muscles.

  Hypotonic cerebral palsy

Muscle problems will appear much earlier. The baby’s head is floppy, and he/she cannot control the head when sitting up. Some parents have described their child’s movements as similar to that of a rag doll. The baby gives only a moderate amount of resistance when an adult tries to move their limbs. The baby may rest with his/her elbows and knees loosely extended, compared to other infants whose elbows/knees will be flexed. Some babies may have breathing difficulties.

Injury to the cerebellum can result in this type of cerebral palsy.

What causes cerebral palsy?

The control of muscles takes place in the cerebrum. Cerebral palsy may appear to be a muscle condition, but it is, in fact, caused by damage to the cerebrum. The cerebrum is also responsible for our memory, ability to learn, and communication skills – that is why some people with cerebral palsy have problems with communication and learning. Cerebrum damage can sometimes affect vision and hearing.

Some babies are deprived of oxygen during labor and delivery (birth). Because of this, doctors used to think that asphyxia (oxygen deprivation) during birth was the cause of the brain damage. However, scientists discovered during the 1980s that less than one tenth of cerebral palsy cases were caused by oxygen deprivation during birth. Most cases of damage to the brain among cerebral palsy children occurred before they were born – more specifically, during the first six months of pregnancy. Experts believe the brain damage happened because of three possible reasons:

Periventricular leukomalacia (PVL)

This refers to the damage of the brain’s white matter. Experts believe that lack of oxygen may have caused destruction of the unborn baby’s brain cells. PVL may have been caused by the pregnant mother catching an infection, such as rubella (German measles), having very low blood pressure, giving birth too early (premature birth), or consuming an illegal drug during the pregnancy.

Abnormal development of the brain

If the development of the brain is altered, the way it communicates with the body’s muscles can be affected, as can other functions. Experts say that any abnormality in brain development has the potential to cause cerebral palsy. During the first six months of pregnancy the embryo/fetus is particularly vulnerable to abnormal brain development. This can be caused by mutations in the genes responsible for brain development, some infections, such as toxoplasmosis (parasite infection), herpes and herpes-like viruses, and trauma to the unborn baby’s head.

Intracranial hemorrhage

This refers to bleeding inside the brain caused by the unborn baby having a stroke. Bleeding in the brain can stop the supply of blood to vital brain tissue, which consequently becomes damaged or dies. The escaped blood itself can clot and damage surrounding tissue. Several factors can cause a stroke in a baby during pregnancy and during the birth:

  • A blood clot in the placenta that blocked the flow of blood
  • The baby had a clotting disorder
  • There were interruptions in arterial blood flow to the baby’s brain
  • The mother had pre-eclampsia that was not treated
  • An emergency cesarean had to be performed
  • The second stage of labor was prolonged
  • A vacuum extraction was used during delivery
  • The baby had heart anomalies
  • There was inflammation of the placenta
  • There were umbilical cord abnormalities
  • The mother had a pelvic inflammatory infection

Experts say that anything which tends to cause either a premature birth or a low-weight baby who is not developed enough to cope with the stresses of life outside the womb will raise the risk of cerebral palsy. These factors may also contribute to a higher risk of cerebral palsy:

  • Multiple births
  • Damaged placenta
  • STDs (sexually transmitted diseases)
  • Consumption of alcohol by the pregnant mother
  • Consumption of illegal drugs by the pregnant mother
  • Exposure to other toxic substances by the pregnant mother
  • The pregnant mother did not eat properly
  • Random malformation of the baby’s brain
  • Small pelvic structure of the mother
  • Breech delivery

Brain damage after birth

A small proportion of cerebral palsy cases happen because of damage after birth. This could have happened because of an infection, such as meningitis, a head injury, a drowning accident, or poisoning. When damage does happen, it will do so soon after the birth. Later on in life the human brain is much more resilient and can withstand far more damage.

Diagnosis of cerebral palsy

Any parent who is concerned about the development of their child should see their GP (general practitioner, primary care physician) or a pediatrician. In the UK the first person to see would be a GP, in other countries you may be able to go straight to a pediatrician. The doctor will ask the parents about the baby’s history and development characteristics. The mother’s medical history during her pregnancy will also be examined.

The doctor will examine the child, observing posture, movements, muscle tone, motor skills, and checking the child’s reflexes. If the child is a bit older than a baby the doctor may refer the child to an educational psychologist in order to asses his/her intellectual development.

Ruling out other conditions

Other conditions may have similar symptoms and need to be ruled out, such as a tumor or muscular dystrophy. The following tests will help the doctors carry out their diagnosis:

  • Blood tests
  • Cranial ultrasound – an ultrasound scan can help doctors see an image of the child’s brain tissue
  • MRI (magnetic resonance image) scan – this uses nuclear magnetic resonance of protons to produce proton density images
  • CT (computed tomography) scan – a series of X-rays are compiled by the computer to create a 3-D image of the baby’s brain

When a child is two to three years old a more comprehensive diagnosis of cerebral palsy can usually be made. However, its severity is not usually fully assessed until the child is about four or five years old.

A diagnosis of cerebral palsy requires regular assessments of the child. The assessments are used to make comparisons and determine what the developmental needs and issues are. A comprehensive and confident diagnosis is possible after time has been taken to carefully assess and evaluate various factors several times.

What is the treatment for cerebral palsy?

In the UK and much of Europe and Canada, when a child is diagnosed with cerebral palsy the family will be introduced to a team of health professionals and services who will be involved with looking after the child’s needs. They will include the GP, a pediatrician, a health visitor, a social worker, a physical therapist (physiotherapist), a speech and language therapist, an occupational therapist, an incontinence advisor, and an educational psychologist. In Western Europe and Canada all the professionals, services, equipment and treatments will be offered at no cost to the family. A care plan will be individually drawn up which addresses the needs and/or problems of the child and the family. As the child gets older the plan will be reviewed. In the UK a Keyworker is assigned to the child – this Keyworker is the first point of contact between the child/parents and the support services. At first the Keyworker most likely will be a Health Visitor, later on when the child is older and his/her needs change the Keyworker will be a Social Worker.

Cerebral palsy treatment depends entirely on the needs of the person. The aim is to help the child achieve as much independence as possible throughout his/her life.

Can cerebral palsy be prevented?

There are some things people can do to minimize the risk. However, in many cases cerebral palsy cannot be prevented. The pregnant mother should:

  • Make sure all her vaccinations are up-to-date
  • Go to all her antenatal appointments
  • Abstain from drinking alcohol throughout the whole pregnancy
  • Abstain from smoking throughout the whole pregnancy
  • Take regular exercise throughout the whole pregnancy (check with the doctor what you can do)
  • Eat a healthy diet throughout the whole pregnancy
  • Identify potential Rh incompatibility (usually for second and subsequent pregnancies)

Courtesy of:  Medical News Today

What Is Astigmatism?

Astigmatism is an eye condition with blurred vision as its main symptom. The front surface of the eye (cornea) of a person with astigmatism is not curved properly – the curve is irregular – usually one half is flatter than the other – sometimes one area is steeper than it should be.

When light rays enter the eye they do not focus correctly on the retina, resulting in a blurred image. Astigmatism may also be caused by an irregularly shaped lens, which is located behind the cornea.

Astigmatism may occur in children and adults; it is fairly common and is not contagious. It is usually congenital – is present at birth – but can develop after an eye operation or an injury to the eye. It belongs to a group of eye conditions called refractive errors. Myopia (short-sightedness), hypermetropia (long-sightedness) and presbyopia (aging of the lens in the eye) are types of refractive errors.

A refractive error means that the shape of the eye does not bend light properly, resulting in a blurred image. Light has to be bent (refracted) by the lens and the cornea correctly before it reaches the retina in order to see things clearly.

About half of all adults in the USA aged 20 and older have refraction errors in their eyes, a study carried out by researchers at the National Eye Institute revealed.

The two most common types of astigmatism are:

  • Corneal astigmatism – the cornea has an irregular shape
  • Lenticular astigmatism – the lens has an irregular shape

What causes astigmatism?

  • Corneal astigmatism

    The cornea is a clear (transparent) layer of tissue that covers the front of the eye. As well as transmitting and focusing light into the eye, it protects the eye from infection and damage. The cornea needs to have a perfect curve in order to bend (refract) light properly as it goes into the eye.

    If the cornea does not curve perfectly – if one half is flatter or steeper than the other – the light that hits it will not refract properly and the retina at the back of the eye will receive an imperfect image. The person will have blurred vision from that eye – astigmatism.

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People with astigmatism commonly have an oblong-shaped (oval-shaped) cornea rather than a perfect sphere shape. A ping-pong ball is a perfect sphere, while an American football or a rugby ball has an oblong shape. If the cornea’s curve is like an oblong the light rays will focus on two points in the retina, rather than just one.

Experts are not sure why some people are born with a cornea that does not curve properly. Some studies indicate a baby has a higher risk of having astigmatism if one or both of the parents have it.

A higher percentage of babies born prematurely, as well as those born with a low bodyweight have astigmatism, compared to other babies.

Certain types of surgery or eye injuries that cause scarring of the cornea may cause astigmatism.

Keratoconus, a degenerative disorder of the eye where the cornea gradually thins and changes to a more conical shape, can also cause astigmatism.

  • Lenticular astigmatism

    The problem is similar to corneal astigmatism, but exists in the lens rather than the cornea. The lens has variations in its curvature, rather than having a perfect curve, causing images to reach the back of the eye (retina) imperfectly. Most patients with lenticular astigmatism have a normally shaped cornea – the defect is only in the curvature of the lens.

    People with diabetes commonly develop lenticular astigmatism because high blood sugar levels can cause the lens to change shape. The process usually develops slowly and is generally detected when the patient starts receiving treatment for the diabetes. When diabetes is controlled through treatment and blood sugar returns to more normal levels the lens’ shape will also return to normal – many patients will notice the return as hypermetropia (long-sightedness). It is advisable for patients who start diabetes treatment to wait at least one month for the lens to settle down before being measured for glasses.

What are the symptoms of astigmatism?

  • Blurred or distorted vision at all distances.
  • Photophobia – sensitivity to light.
  • Headaches.
  • Excessive squinting.
  • The person is constantly closing his/her eyes.
  • Eye strain – occurs more often when the eye has to focus for long periods, as in reading from paper or a computer monitor.

How is astigmatism diagnosed?

The ophthalmologist, optometrist, or orthoptist may use the following tools to examine the eyes:

  • Visual acuity test – this involves reading letters on a chart. The letters become progressively smaller on each line.
  • Astigmatic dial – this is a chart showing a series of lines which make up a semi-circle. People with perfect vision will see the lines clearly, while those with astigmatism will see some more clearly than others.
  • Keratometer – also known as an ophthalmometer. This device measures the reflected light from the surface of the cornea. It measures the radius of the curvature of the cornea and can assess the degree of abnormal curvature of the cornea.
  • Keratoscope – also known as Placido’s disk – this device is marked with lines or circles and observes corneal reflex. It uses light to project rings on the cornea. By measuring the spacing between the rings it calculates the variations of curvature, which in turn calculates the degree of astigmatism. A videokeratoscope is a keratoscope fitted with a video.
  • The importance of regular eye tests

    Astigmatism is very common – experts say most of us are born with a degree of astigmatism. Most children who are born with astigmatism will not realize they have it until they have an eye test. Reading and concentrating at school may be affected if a child has undiagnosed astigmatism. Therefore, regular eye tests are important.

    In the UK babies have an eye test soon after they are born. They have a follow-up test about six weeks later. Doctors recommend that children receive a comprehensive eye test when they are four years old; and then every year up to the age of 16. Adults should have an eye test every couple of years.

What are the treatments for astigmatism?

If the astigmatism is very mild the health care professional will suggest no treatment at all.

Corrective lenses

Corrective lenses bend the income light rays in a way that compensates for the error caused by faulty refraction so that images are properly received onto the retina. Whether the corrective lenses are in glasses or contact lenses is up to the patient – they are equally effective.

Experts say children can wear contact lenses as long as they are careful about using them properly. This includes not wearing them for too long and cleaning them properly. This may be difficult to achieve if the child is under the age of twelve.

People of any age who use contact lenses need to be aware of good lens hygiene. Otherwise there is a significant risk of eye infection.

There are three types of contact lenses. 1. Rigid contact lenses. 2. Gas permeable contact lenses. 3. Soft contact lenses.

  • Rigid contact lenses – these are usually made of a combination of glass and plastic. The eye is more likely to produce new blood vessels which may eventually affect vision. This happens because rigid contact lenses stop oxygen from getting into the eye, so it produces new blood vessels which feed oxygen into those areas which had a drop in oxygen supply caused by the lens.
  • Gas permeable contact lenses (oxygen permeable contact lenses) – these use polymers; a type of plastic. Polymers are permeable – they do not stop oxygen from getting into the eye – and prevent the risk of new blood vessels appearing in the eye and obscuring vision.
  • Soft contact lenses – these are made of hydrogel, a combination of water and polymer. Soft lenses also allow oxygen to move through the lens and into the eye. The water in them lets the oxygen through, not the plastic. As the water soon evaporates soft lenses can only be worn for one day, and then discarded. Soft lenses made of silicone gel may be worn for longer.

Laser eye surgery

  • Photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) – some of the outer protective layer of the cornea is removed. An excimer laser changes the shape of the cornea by removing tissue. When the cornea heals it usually has a more even and spherical curve. This procedure can be moderately to very painful. It can take up to one month for vision to recover. An excimer laser is a laser device that does not produce heat.
  • LASEK (Laser epithelial keratomileusis) – alcohol is used to loosen the surface of the cornea, which is then removed – a much thinner layer is affected, making the eye less vulnerable to damage or injury, compared to PRK. A laser is then used to change the shape of the cornea. The cornea is then placed back. LASEK may be a better option for a patient whose cornea is thin. This procedure is usually less painful than PRK, but slightly more painful than LASIK, and can take up to one week for vision to recover.
  • Laser in situ keratectomy (LASIK) – the doctor uses a device called a keratome to make a thin, round hinged cut into the cornea. This can also be done using a special cutting laser. The flap is then lifted and an excimer laser sculpts the shape of the cornea under the flap. LASIK causes less pain than the other procedures, and the patient will recover his/her vision within a few days. Hence, LASIK is usually the preferred laser treatment option. Even so, vision won’t completely stabilize for about one month.

    A review of LASIK carried out by the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery found an overall patient satisfaction rate of 95.4%.

    LASEK and PRK are better procedures than LASIK if the cornea is thin.

Laser eye surgery is not suitable if:

  • The patient is under the age of 21 – The structures of the eyes of people under 21 are still changing and should not be altered. The minimum age in different countries varies from 21 to 18.
  • Vision is still changing – the vision of some older people may still be changing. Experts say that a person’s vision should be stable for at least three years before undergoing laser surgery.
  • Patients with diabetes – in some cases laser surgery may worsen abnormalities in the eye caused by diabetes.
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding mothers – during pregnancy and breastfeeding hormone fluctuations still exist within the eye, making it more difficult to carry out surgery accurately.
  • People with some immune conditions – people with rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or HIV, for example, may find it harder to recover after surgery.
  • People with other existing eye conditions – people other eye conditions will need to have those treated first, before becoming eligible candidates for laser eye surgery. Examples are cataracts and glaucoma.
  • People taking certain medications – if the patient is taking medications, such as Accutane or oral prednisone, he/she should not undergo laser eye surgery.

What are the risks of laser surgery?

  • Correction error – the surgeon may have taken out the wrong amount of tissue and the patient’s vision worsens.
  • Epithelial in-growth – the surface of the cornea starts growing into the cornea itself. This can cause vision problems and may need further surgery.
  • Ectasia – the cornea becomes too thin. This can result in worse vision. Sometimes the deterioration of vision may be severe.
  • Keratitis – the cornea becomes infected.

In most countries the risk of complications from laser eye surgery is very small. It depends on how experienced the surgeon is, and how accurately the patient was assessed beforehand. According to the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence, UK, the risks of complications in the UK for LASIK surgery are as follows:

Correction error – 0.6% chance
Epithelial in-growth – 1.3% chance
Ectasia – 0.2% chance
Keratitis – 0.16% chance

Patients should ask the surgeon about his/her experience with the procedure, success rates, what equipment is going to be used, and what follow-up program there is.

Sources: National Health Service (NHS), UK, The Mayo Clinic, Wikipedia, HHS (Department of Health and Human Services USA), NIH (National Institutes of Health, USA).

Courtesy of:  Medical News Today

Importance of Oral Re-Hydration

Oral rehydration therapy (ORT) involves the replacement of fluids and electrolytes lost during an episode of diarrheal illness. Diarrheal illnesses are pervasive worldwide, and they have a particularly large impact in the developing world. Children under the age of five are the major victims and account for over 3 million deaths a year due to dehydration associated with diarrheal illness. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that over one million deaths are prevented annually by ORT. An oral rehydration solution (ORS) is the cornerstone of this treatment. Between 90 and 95 percent of cases of acute, watery diarrhea can be successfully treated with ORT.

Ancient civilizations in India and China made use of sugar and starch solutions to treat dehydration. Oral rehydration solutions make use of the ability of glucose to increase the resorption of fluids and salts into the intestinal wall. The current understanding of ORT was developed in 1968 by researchers responding to a cholera epidemic that began in 1958 in Bangladesh. Intravenous rehydration was inaccessible to much of the population that diarrhea affected, and it was found that oral rehydration solutions could replace such treatment cheaply and effectively. Most importantly, it was easily accessible in the form of prepackaged or homemade solutions.

WHO and UNICEF are the principal sponsors of global rehydration projects. These projects involve the development and distribution of prepackaged solutions, combined with education efforts for instruction in home preparation and delivery. There is some variation among packaged solutions, but the principle ingredients are glucose, sodium, and potassium. The UNICEF recipe for a simple homemade solution contains five cupfuls of boiled water, eight teaspoons of sugar, and one teaspoon of salt, resulting in one liter of solution. Double-sided measuring spoons have also been distributed to standardize measurement. In addition, fruit juices, coconut water, and other indigenous solutions can adequately approximate ORS.

Oral rehydration therapy has increased in use since its development, and it has potential for even greater use. However, severe cases of dehydration continue to need supervised medical care.

Sitting Straight is Bad for Backs

Sitting up straight is not the best position for office workers, a study has suggested.

Scottish and Canadian researchers used a new form of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to show it places an unnecessary strain on your back.
They told the Radiological Society of North America that the best position in which to sit at your desk is leaning back, at about 135 degrees.

Experts said sitting was known to contribute to lower back pain.

Data from the British Chiropractic Association says 32% of the population spends more than 10 hours a day seated.

Half do not leave their desks, even to have lunch. Two thirds of people also sit down at home when they get home from work.

Spinal angles

The research was carried out at Woodend Hospital in Aberdeen.
Twenty two volunteers with healthy backs were scanned using a positional MRI machine, which allows patients the freedom to move – so they can sit or stand – during the test.
Traditional scanners mean patients have to lie flat, which may mask causes of pain that stem from different movements or postures.
In this study, the patients assumed three different sitting positions: a slouching position, in which the body is hunched forward as if they were leaning over a desk or a video game console, an upright 90-degree sitting position; and a “relaxed” position where they leaned back at 135 degrees while their feet remained on the floor.

The researchers then took measurements of spinal angles and spinal disk height and movement across the different positions.
Spinal disk movement occurs when weight-bearing strain is placed on the spine, causing the disk to move out of place.

Disk movement was found to be most pronounced with a 90-degree upright sitting posture.
It was least pronounced with the 135-degree posture, suggesting less strain is placed on the spinal disks and associated muscles and tendons in a more relaxed sitting position.

The “slouch” position revealed a reduction in spinal disk height, signifying a high rate of wear and tear on the lowest two spinal levels.
When they looked at all test results, the researchers said the 135-degree position was the best for backs, and say this is how people should sit.

‘Tendency to slide’

Dr Waseem Bashir of the Department of Radiology and Diagnostic Imaging at the University of Alberta Hospital, Canada, who led the study, said: “Sitting in a sound anatomic position is essential, since the strain put on the spine and its associated ligaments over time can lead to pain, deformity and chronic illness.”

Rishi Loatey of the British Chiropractic Association said: “One in three people suffer from lower back pain and to sit for long periods of time certainly contributes to this, as our bodies are not designed to be so sedentary.”

Levent Caglar from the charity BackCare, added: “In general, opening up the angle between the trunk and the thighs in a seated posture is a good idea and it will improve the shape of the spine, making it more like the natural S-shape in a standing posture.

“As to what is the best angle between thigh and torso when seated, reclining at 135 degrees can make sitting more difficult as there is a tendency to slide off the seat: 120 degrees or less may be better.”

How To Reduce the Risk of Dementia

You cannot alter your age or the genes you are born with, but there are lifestyle changes you can adopt which may reduce your chance of developing dementia by as much as 20%.
The BBC convened a panel of independent experts, chaired by the Alzheimer’s Society, which evaluated more than 70 research papers and articles to come up with a series of tips for reducing your risk.
It may sound young, but the age of 35, they suggest, is high time to start thinking about these recommendations. If more of us acted on these, thousands of cases of dementia could be prevented in the future.

There is very strong evidence for the following:


Prof Clive Ballard gives his top tips on how to cheat dementia
What is good for the heart is good for the brain. Exercise can have a beneficial effect at any age to help protect against dementia. To help reduce the risk at least 30 minutes of exercise, five times a week is suggested. It does not have to be the gym – a brisk walk is a perfectly acceptable alternative. Whatever form of exercise gets your heart pumping and leaves you somewhat out of breath is doing the trick. Exercise helps maintain a healthy weight and blood pressure, and so is indirectly thought to reduce the risk of dementia.
There is also growing evidence that regular exercise has other health effects such as promoting cell and tissue repair mechanisms including growth of new cells in the brain.


Being seriously overweight is deemed a risk factor for developing dementia. This really matters in mid-life – between the ages of 35 and 65. Obesity increases the likelihood of developing Type 2 diabetes – believed to be a risk factor – but whether this causes the disease, or is simply more likely to develop in those who are also more prone to dementia is unclear. Obesity is also associated with higher cholesterol and blood pressure – again, known to be risk factors. You are deemed clinically obese – very overweight – if you have a BMI of 30 and above.


Again, the key here is having consistently raised blood pressure in mid-life – anything above 140/90mmHg. It is thought that this increases the chance of dementia by causing damage to the brain. This may happen as a result of a stroke – in which blood supply to part or all of the brain is cut off – or due to microvascular disease, a condition which slows the flow of blood through the body thereby damaging cells and nerves in the brain. If you are over 40, or have a history of dementia or cardiovascular disease in your family, then get your blood pressure checked regularly.


It is mid-life levels once more which appear to pose the greatest problem. Like high blood pressure, high levels of cholesterol raise the risk of stroke and microvascular disease. But cholesterol is also thought to be involved in the mechanism which causes amyloid protein plaques – the protein deposits that characterise Alzheimer’s disease – to build up. Again if you are over 40 or have a family history, get your cholesterol checked. The Department of Health recommends a total cholesterol level of less than 5.0mmol/l.


This had been an area of confusion, as some studies had suggested nicotine could have a protective effect – with the chemical reducing plaques when administered to animals in water. But the way in which we smoke tobacco, and the other chemicals inhaled in the process, negates this benefit. As well as raising the risk of vascular disease – a risk factor for dementia – smoking can result in low oxygen levels in the brain which in turn can promote the production of the protein found in brain plaques.

It is possible the following may have an impact:


There is no need to start drinking if you do not already
In fact the studies are quite clear that drinking a modest amount appears to protect against cognitive decline. Moderate drinking is defined as keeping within the recommended daily limits – up to two small glasses of wine for a woman, and three for a man. The problem is that these studies compare drinkers with non-drinkers – and people who abstain may do so for health reasons, which in turn may affect their chances of developing dementia. The message is if you are drinking within your weekly guidelines there is no need to stop, but there is no need to take up drinking or increase the amount you consume, as heavy drinking may in fact increase your risk.


Several recent studies have highlighted the potential for this diet to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s Disease. It involves eating lots of fruit and vegetables, whole grain foods, fish and plenty of olive oil, but it is relatively low in dairy products and processed foods. Further long term research is needed to confirm the effects of eating this way.


Some evidence suggests that an active social life throughout life can be protective, with both the social ties one enjoys with others and non-physical leisure time deemed important. However, examining these factors and designing studies which can separate their effects is very difficult – consequently the conclusions which can be drawn from results are limited. One particular study has found that being single and living alone is a risk factor for dementia: social isolation is thought to have negative effects on health generally, increasing depression and cardiovascular disease.
Studies have also suggested that engaging in non-physical leisure activities such as gardening, and knitting may have a protective effect, a benefit that is likely to accumulate gradually over decades.

But the jury is out on:


It sounds both attractive and plausible that giving your brain a “workout” could guard against dementia, and there is some evidence that very intensive brain training under strict conditions can improve specific functions like reasoning and problem solving. But there is no evidence as yet that doing a crossword a day or a number puzzle – or even learning a new language at 50 – will protect against dementia. That does mean they do not – simply that the proof that they do is presently lacking.


There is no consistent evidence either way as to whether B vitamin supplements – folic acid, vitamin B12 or B6 – are effective in reducing the incidence of dementia. Research continues. However vitamin E supplements, which it was once hoped could prevent and even reverse early neurodegenerative changes, have not appeared to be effective in trials.

Telemedicine Can Reduce Corporate Health Care Costs By 25%

June 16, 2010 United States of America


Telemedicine reduces ER visits, incidences of hospitalization, promotes better health and reduces corporate health care costs by 25%.


( June 16, 2010 — Press Release

Contact: James McMann, 702-516-4047

For Immediate Release June 16,2010

Telemedicine Can Reduce Corporate Health Care Costs By 25%

(Beverly Hills) Self Insured Corporations are “avoidably” losing expensive days of production, income, and performance, because employees visit Doctors. Unfortunately, employees do fall ill from time to time and require immediate or urgent care.

Emergencies however are not too costly in terms of lost workdays; those are generally predictable short-term incidents. It is the days lost visiting doctors for allergies, anxiety, the cold, blood pressure, heart conditions, weight issues, diabetes, and many other “everyday lifestyle” health conditions that are chronic, which cost the most in the net loss of income, work and production.

A corporation employing 3,000 people will suffer a staggering 27,000 lost days of service, revenue, and performance – unnecessarily. Employees are away from work because they travel distances to medical offices, fill forms, wait, and finally, see a Doctor for five minutes. This really does require a full day off. It also generates employee frustration and anxiety. It is especially difficult for management considering not only the cost of the health care, but also the loss of time and effort.

US Tele-Medicine is a Family and General Practice medical provider in eight states using Telemedicine protocols and techniques, to care for employees in the comfort, safety, and privacy of their office or their home. This platform reduces out-of-work doctor office visits and days lost of income by a whopping 50%.

Telemedicine Medical Services costs less to any self-insured entity, simply because Family and General Medicine practitioners, charge 25% less for their services. Employers are paying excessively high prices for over qualified specialists performing basic medical tasks.

Corporations can save over 25% in health care costs in this new era of health connectivity through telemedicine.
Telemedicine actually condenses and strengthens the interaction between patient and doctor, irrespective of how many miles away the patient might be.

Employees use of a variety of compact state-of-the-art consumer wireless devices allowing physicians to monitor vital data remotely, providing real time, or scheduled time, diagnostic, and management markers. Many of these devices are standardized, further savings costs as more than one individual in an office or department can use them.

That means an employee receives consistent quality care, becomes a more informed and involved patient, shows a reduction in emergency physician services, suffers less chronic incident peak periods, and all this means significantly less costs for all concerned.

Today medical care is available when you need it, when you want it, at less cost and higher efficiency. That is the Telemedicine health revolution.

US Tele-Medicine Patient Web Site:

US Tele-Medicine Corporate Web Site


More information can be found online at

Leader in National Telehealth Service Opens Eighth State for Telemedicine

June 15, 2010 United States of America


US Tele-Medicine a leader in telehealth modalities offers its Family Doctor services to Arizona.


( June 15, 2010 — Press Release

Contact: James McMann, 702-516-4047

For Immediate Release June 15,2010

Telehealth Leader US Tele-Medicine Opens Eighth State

(Beverly Hills) A national leader in the emerging world of telemedicine, that is where email, telephone and consumer operated remote sensing devices are used to provide medical care, announces its expansion to the Eighth State offering Telemedicine care.

Arizona joins CA, NY, HI, WA, MN, MA, NV in providing insured people immediate access to Doctors on line and on the phone 24/7. US Tele-Medicine specializes in chronic care management for “lifestyle” conditions such as diabetes, blood pressure, OCPD, CHF, obesity, and even issues such as anxiety and depression. USTM cares for over twenty conditions that have shown to be responsive to the new telemedicine modalities.

State of the art telemedicine technology allows patients to send their vital signs data through wireless devices directly to the patient’s medical record at USTM. A person can send their vitals in the privacy of the home, office or even on the go – worldwide.

“Health Care When You Need It and When You Want It” is the operational philosophy at US Tele-Medicine. People no longer need to lose a day of work, school, or income or productivity, and have to endure traffic, the endless time in waiting rooms, just to see a Doctor for 5 minutes.

General medical needs

or, Family doctor issues and of course chronic care medical management services performed through US Tele-Medicine, saves money and promotes better health through greater physician/patient interaction.

US Tele-Medicine is one of the very few national health care providers accepting All PPO, Medicaid, Medicare, and union self-insured programs.

With an additional 30 million persons soon coming on to the health care rolls and the continuous increase in medical costs, telemedicine is quickly becoming one of the only viable and current alternatives to deal with General medical needs.

There are not enough General Practitioners and Family Practitioners in the USA and most people are treated by specialists, or Emergency Rooms where not necessary and incurring greater costs to insurers. US Tele-Medicine addresses and corrects these real problems in the system, by offering its Telemedicine platform.


For More information, please visit:

A Primer on Genetically Modified Foods

A GMO (genetically modified organism) is the result of a laboratory process of taking genes from one species and inserting them into another in an attempt to obtain a desired trait or characteristic, hence they are also known as transgenic organisms. This process may be called either Genetic Engineering (GE) or Genetic Modification (GM); they are one and the same.

But haven�t growers been grafting trees, breeding animals, and hybridizing seeds for years?

Genetic engineering is completely different from traditional breeding and carries unique risks.

In traditional breeding it is possible to mate a pig with another pig to get a new variety, but is not possible to mate a pig with a potato or a mouse. Even when species that may seem to be closely related do succeed in breeding, the offspring are usually infertile�a horse, for example, can mate with a donkey, but the offspring (a mule) is sterile.

With genetic engineering, scientists can breach species barriers set up by nature. For example, they have spliced fish genes into tomatoes. The results are plants (or animals) with traits that would be virtually impossible to obtain with natural processes, such as crossbreeding or grafting.

What combinations have been tried?

It is now possible for plants to be engineered with genes taken from bacteria, viruses, insects, animals or even humans. Scientists have worked on some interesting combinations:

  • Spider genes were inserted into goat DNA, in hopes that the goat milk would contain spider web protein for use in bulletproof vests.
  • Cow genes turned pigskins into cowhides.
  • Jellyfish genes lit up pigs� noses in the dark.
  • Artic fish genes gave tomatoes and strawberries tolerance to frost.
  • Potatoes that glowed in the dark when they needed watering.
  • Human genes were inserted into corn to produce spermicide.

Current field trials include:

  • Corn engineered with human genes (Dow)
  • Sugarcane engineered with human genes (Hawaii Agriculture Research Center)
  • Corn engineered with jellyfish genes (Stanford University)
  • Tobacco engineered with lettuce genes (University of Hawaii)
  • Rice engineered with human genes (Applied Phytologics)
  • Corn engineered with hepatitis virus genes (Prodigene)

What is a gene?

Every plant and animal is made of cells, each of which has a center called a nucleus. Inside every nucleus there are strings of DNA, half of which is normally inherited from the mother and half from the father. Short sequences of DNA are called genes. These genes operate in complex networks that are finely regulated to enable the processes of living organisms to happen in the right place and at the right time.

How is genetic engineering done?

Because living organisms have natural barriers to protect themselves against the introduction of DNA from a different species, genetic engineers have to find ways to force the DNA from one organism into another. These methods include:

  • Using viruses or bacteria to “infect” animal or plant cells with the new DNA.
  • Coating DNA onto tiny metal pellets, and firing it with a special gun into the cells.
  • Injecting the new DNA into fertilized eggs with a very fine needle.
  • Using electric shocks to create holes in the membrane covering sperm, and then forcing the new DNA into the sperm through these holes.

Is genetic engineering precise?

The technology of genetic engineering is currently very crude. It is not possible to insert a new gene with any accuracy, and the transfer of new genes can disrupt the finely controlled network of DNA in an organism.

Current understanding of the way in which DNA works is extremely limited, and any change to the DNA of an organism at any point can have side effects that are impossible to predict or control. The new gene could, for example, alter chemical reactions within the cell or disturb cell functions. This could lead to instability, the creation of new toxins or allergens, and changes in nutritional value.

Does the biotech industry hold any promise?

Genetic modification of plants is not the only biotechnology. The study of DNA does hold promise for many potential applications, including medicine. However, the current technology of GM foods is based on obsolete information and theory, and is prone to dangerous side effects. Economic interests have pushed it onto the market too soon.

Moreover, molecular marker technologies – so called Marker Assisted Selection (MAS) used with conventional breeding shows much promise for developing improved crop varieties, without the potentially dangerous side effects of direct genetic modification.

GMOs in Foods:

What kinds of traits have been added to food crops?

Although there are attempts to increase nutritional benefits or productivity, the two main traits that have been added to date are herbicide tolerance and the ability of the plant to produce its own pesticide.  These results have no health benefit, only economic benefit.

Herbicide tolerance lets the farmer spray weed-killer directly on the crop without killing it.

Crops such as Bt cotton produce pesticides inside the plant.  This kills or deters insects, saving the farmer from having to spray pesticides.  The plants themselves are toxic, and not just to insects.  Farmers in India, who let their sheep graze on Bt cotton plants after the harvest, saw thousands of sheep die!

Why do genetically engineered foods have antibiotic resistant genes in them?

The techniques used to transfer genes have a very low success rate, so the genetic engineers attach “marker genes” that are resistant to antibiotics to help them to find out which cells have taken up the new DNA. These marker genes are resistant to antibiotics that are commonly used in human and veterinary medicine. Some scientists believe that eating GE food containing these marker genes could encourage gut bacteria to develop antibiotic resistance.

What are the problems created through genetic engineering of food and crops?

Genetic engineers continually encounter unintended side effects � GM plants create toxins, react to weather differently, contain too much or too little nutrients, become diseased or malfunction and die.  When foreign genes are inserted, dormant genes may be activated or the functioning of genes altered, creating new or unknown proteins, or increasing or decreasing the output of existing proteins inside the plant.  The effects of consuming these new combinations of proteins are unknown.

What foods are GM?

Currently commercialized GM crops in the U.S. include soy (89%), cotton (83%), canola (80%), corn (61%), Hawaiian papaya (more than 50%), zucchini and yellow squash (small amount), and tobacco (Quest� brand). There are currently plans to grow GM sugar beets in 2008.

What are other sources of GMOs?

Products derived from the above, including oils from all four, soy protein, soy lecithin, cornstarch, corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup among others. Also:

  • meat, eggs, and dairy products from animals that have eaten GM feed (and the majority of the GM corn and soy is used for feed);
  • dairy products from cows injected with rbGH (a GM hormone);
  • food additives, enzymes, flavorings, and processing agents, including the sweetener aspartame (NutraSweet�) and rennet used to make hard cheeses; and
  • honey and bee pollen that may have GM sources of pollen.

The Health Dangers:

What are the potential dangers of eating GM foods?

There are a number of dangers that broadly fall into the categories of potential toxins, allergens, carcinogens, new diseases, antibiotic resistant diseases, and nutritional problems.

Hasn�t research shown GM foods to be safe?

No. The only feeding study done with humans showed that GMOs survived inside the stomach of the people eating GMO food.  No follow-up studies were done.

Various feeding studies in animals have resulted in potentially pre-cancerous cell growth, damaged immune systems, smaller brains, livers, and testicles, partial atrophy or increased density of the liver, odd shaped cell nuclei and other unexplained anomalies, false pregnancies and higher death rates.

But aren�t the plants chemically the same, whether or not they are GM?

Most tests can�t determine the differences at the level of the DNA. And, even if they appear to be the same, eyewitness reports from all over North American describe how several types of animals, including cows, pigs, geese, elk, deer, squirrels, and rats, when given a choice, avoid eating GM foods.

Haven�t people been eating GM foods without any ill effect?

The biotech industry says that millions have been eating GM foods without ill effect. This is misleading. No one monitors human health impacts of GM foods. If the foods were creating health problems in the US population, it might take years or decades before we identified the cause.

What indications are there that GM foods are causing problems?

Soon after GM soy was introduced to the UK, soy allergies skyrocketed by 50 percent.

In March 2001, the Center for Disease Control reported that food is responsible for twice the number of illnesses in the U.S. compared to estimates just seven years earlier. This increase roughly corresponds to the period when Americans have been eating GM food.

Without follow-up tests, which neither the industry or government are doing, we can�t be absolutely sure if genetic engineering was the cause.

What about GM hormones in milk?

Milk from rBGH-treated cows contains an increased amount of the hormone IGF-1, which is one of the highest risk factors associated with breast and prostate cancer, but no one is tracking this in relation to cancer rates.

Why do genetically engineered foods have antibiotic resistant genes in them?

A. The techniques used to transfer genes have a very low success rate, so the genetic engineers attach “marker genes” that are resistant to antibiotics to help them to find out which cells have taken up the new DNA. That way scientist can then douse the experimental GMO in antibiotics and if it lives, they have successful altered the genes. The marker genes are resistant to antibiotics that are commonly used in human and veterinary medicine. Some scientists believe that eating GE food containing these marker genes could encourage gut bacteria to develop antibiotic resistance.

But is there any documented instance of adverse effects of GMOs on people?

One epidemic was rare, serious, and fast acting, and therefore more easily discovered. Called EMS, it was traced to a GM brand of the food supplement L-tryptophan. In the 1980’s, the contaminated brand killed about 100 Americans and caused sickness or disability in about 5,000-10,000 others.

Why are children particularly susceptible to the effects of GM foods?

Children face the greatest risk from the potential dangers of GM foods for the same reasons that they also face the greatest risk from other hazards like pesticides and radiation, these include:

  • Young, fast-developing bodies are influenced most.
  • Children are more susceptible to allergies.
  • Children are more susceptible to problems with milk.
  • Children are more susceptible to nutritional problems.
  • Children are in danger from antibiotic resistant diseases.

How dangerous, or potentially dangerous, are GM foods relative to other food dangers, e.g., pesticides, irradiation, additives, preservatives?

Since so little research has been done on the safety of GM foods, it is not possible to rank its risks. Unlike the others, GM crops persist in the environment, and may continue to pose risks to health for centuries.

In addition, transfer of transgenes to gut bacteria may present long-term chronic exposure, since the foreign protein may continued to be produced inside of us after we no longer consume the GM food.

Dangers to the environment and traditional agriculture:

What is the effect of growing GM crops on the environment?

Studies have shown that pesticide-producing crops contaminate nearby streams, possibly affecting aquatic life. They may harm beneficial insects too.

As weeds adapt to herbicides, they develop resistance and what are recalled �super weeds� can evolve. When that happens, herbicide use increases and the benefits of herbicide resistant crops are diminished, if not lost.

Can the growing of GM crops effect nearby crops?

Pollen from GM crops can contaminate nearby crops of the same type, except for soy, which does not cross-pollinate.  In fact, virtually all heritage varieties of corn in Mexico (the origin of all corn) have been found to have some contamination. Canola and cotton also cross-pollinate.

Why is there an effort to create GM-free agricultural zones?

Using identity preservation (IP), farmers keep crop varieties separate from others to meet purity requirements of their buyers. Contamination is a key challenge to IP growers. Unwanted varieties may cross-pollinate or get mixed up in the seed, harvest equipment, or during storage and transport.

Some farm regions create entire zones that exclude unwanted varieties, where all the farms, and if possible all collection and distribution points, only handle approved grain.

Have any local efforts in the US been successful?

There are local efforts throughout the U.S. that are raising public awareness, changing laws, and creating commitments to non-GM ingredients. Most notably, voters in Mendocino and Marin Counties in California passed ballot initiative to ban GM crops.

Officials in Trinity County and Arcada California have passed ordinances banning the outdoor cultivation of GM crops as well. But since then, a California law was passed prohibiting this type of local initiatives.

In March 2008, voters at the Montville, Maine, annual town meeting overwhelmingly passed a binding ordinance banning the cultivation of  GM crops in their community.

Is it possible that organically grown crops can be infected by GM genes?

Yes. Organic standards do not allow the use of GM seeds and therefore steps are taken to try to prevent contamination. Tests are not required, although some vigilant organic companies require them. According to the organic standards, contamination by cross-pollination is not disallowed, but some companies reject contaminated product above some small amount such as 0.1%.

Organic canola farmers in Canada sued biotech companies, since cross-pollination has made it impossible for them to grow organic, non-GM canola.

Is the Natural Foods Industry doing something to insure the purity of its products?

Right now there are efforts underway for an industry wide clean up of foods labeled organic and non-GMO. A handful of noble companies took it upon themselves to ensure that consumers could rest assured that their organic and non-GMO foods are truly free of modified genes. They established The Non-GMO Project, which has created an industry-wide consensus-based set of standards and a third-party verification process with testing for GMO content.

Companies began to enroll their products in the spring of 2008 and the first �non-GMO� seals for companies who fully comply with the protocols will be issued in 2009.

Government Regulation:

Q. Hasn�t the FDA said that GM foods are safe?

The biotech industry claims that the FDA has thoroughly evaluated GM foods and found them safe. This is untrue. The FDA does not require safety studies. Instead, if the makers of the GM foods claim that they are safe, the agency has no further questions.

Q. Didn�t the scientists at the FDA study GM foods themselves?

No.  The FDA relies solely on information supplied by the biotech companies.

Q. What kind of information did the companies provide?

Calgene, the makers of the first GM crop, the FlavrSavr tomato, was the only company to submit detailed raw data from animal feeding studies to the FDA.  The rest provide only summaries and conclusions. Industry research can be rigged; data often is omitted or distorted.

In the FlavrSavr tests, lab rats refused to eat the tomatoes and had to be force-fed. Several developed stomach lesions, and seven of forty died within two weeks. Still, the tomato was approved, but has since been taken off the market.

Q. Based on the information that was supplied, did the FDA scientist have concerns?

Agency scientists did warn that GM foods might create toxins, allergies, nutritional problems, and new diseases that might be difficult to identify. Internal FDA memos reveal that the scientists urged their superiors to require long-term safety testing to catch these hard-to-detect side effects.

Q. What did the FDA do about these concerns?

Nothing was done that would protect consumers.  In fact, in the case of genetically modified bovine growth hormone, some FDA scientists who expressed concerns were harassed, stripped of responsibilities, or fired. The remaining whistleblowers had to write an anonymous letter to Congress complaining of fraud and conflict of interest at the agency

Q. How could the government approve dangerous foods?

A close examination reveals that industry manipulation and political collusion � not sound science � was the driving force.

The FDA official in charge ignored all warnings of the FDA staff scientists. The official, a former outside attorney for Monsanto, was a political appointee specifically to a new FDA post on GM policy, and left shortly after to become vice president at Monsanto.

Q. Why aren�t foods with GMOs at least labeled here?

The same political influence and money that got them past the FDA has prevented any labeling laws from being passed.  However, the Democratic Presidential candidate has pledged to support labeling laws if elected.

Q. So do the biotech companies always get everything they want?

No. The biotech companies have fallen far short of their goals due to consumer resistance. The GM potatoes and tomatoes were taken off the market, and other GM crops, although approved, were never commercialized.

Concerned consumers in Europe were able to get major companies to commit to eliminate GMOs within one week.  This was done with only a small percentage of the overall population.  Businesses do not want to lose even a portion of their customer base.  Everyone can vote with his or her pocketbook!

In 1998 the industry tried to get the USDA to let GM products pass as organic. During the public comment period, the Department received over 275,000 irate letters of protest from citizens, a public response unprecedented in the USDA’s history. Thanks to this public protest, GM products cannot be labeled organic in the USA.

Around the World

Q. What about in neighboring countries?

In Canada, government scientists also complained that they were being pressured to approve the GM hormone, which is injected into cows to increase milk supply. They were concerned about human health impacts. They testified that the drugs maker, Monsanto, offered them a bribe of $1-2 million to approve it. They also reported that documents were stolen from a locked file cabinet in a government office.

Mexico has resisted GMOs, but contamination has still occurred.

Other stories of pressure, bribes, and threatened whistleblowers are reported through the history of GM foods and their approval, research, and promotion around the world.

Q. What is happening with GM foods in the rest of the world?

A. All over the world, regions and even nations are demanding an end to GM crop cultivation. Twenty-two countries in Europe have regions wanting to be GM-free. States in Australia, regions in New Zealand and Brazil, the countries of Venezuela, Zambia, Sudan, Angola, and others, all want to be GM-free. Thus, world markets are shrinking.

In 2007 over three million Italians signed a petition, declaring their opposition to GM crops in their country.  France, Hungary, Italy, Greece, Austria, Poland and Romania have all banned Monsanto’s Mon 810 GM corn because of its documented hazards to biodiversity and human health. In Europe over 175 regions and over 4,500 municipalities have declared themselves GM-free zones. In Spain alone this includes over 50 municipalities and regions like Asturias, the Canary Islands and the Basque country.

Europe has greater rejection of GMOs due to a more balanced reporting by their press on the health and environmental dangers. In Europe, at least 174 regions, more than 4,500 councils and local governments have declared themselves GM free.

Q. Have any GM foods been banned?

The rules of the World Trade Organization (which the US and other 150 countries are members of) explicitly prohibit countries from banning GM products. Therefore, countries that ban them do so at great risk. If this weren’t the case, no doubt many countries would already have done so.

Some countries have banned GM crops entirely or not approved certain GM crops that are approved elsewhere.

In the US, GM wheat was not approved when wheat farmers banned together because they were concerned that contamination would seriously hurt exports.  So the reason was economic, not safety.

Using Alternative Medicine to Alleviate Thyroid Headache Pain

Health Implications

Headache pain is a common part of our daily lives and often is simply attributed to stress or other acute health conditions. For those with a thyroid disorder, the onset of chronic headache pain is part of the side

effects of hypothyroidism, and often can be challenging to treat. If you are looking for ways to alleviate your chronic headache pain, without impacting your thyroid treatment, you may want to consider using alternative medicine options.

Thyroid disorders, such as hypothyroidism, can cause chronic headache pain to develop – including the risk for developing migraine headache pain. In most cases, these head pain complications are attributed to the fluctuation in metabolism, digestion, and the fluctuation in hormone management. It is important, therefore, to not disrupt your thyroid treatment and to find ways in which to naturally cure, and prevent, your chronic headache pain from continuing.

Natural solutions for headache pain can be quite varied. Many thyroid disorder sufferers are turning to acupuncture as a viable way to not only treat headache pain but to also prevent headache pain from developing. With acupuncture treatment that is regular, typically once per week, many thyroid disorder patients are reporting improvement in their headache pain as demonstrated by reduced frequency.

Should acupuncture not be an alternative medicine approach you wish to consider for your headache pain, then you may want to talk to your doctor about the use of natural vitamins and other supplements. It is important not to initiate the taking of vitamins and supplements for your headache pain until your doctor has approved the use as some medications, vitamins, and supplements can adversely interact with your thyroid hormone replacement medications. Vitamins and supplements typically used to naturally alleviate headache pain include magnesium and Feverfew.