Mar 20, 2011

How to Diagnose Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

Diagnostic criteria for PTSD based on Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders IV, Text Revision

To make the formal diagnosis of PTSD the following diagnostic criteria must be met:

1. Exposure to traumatic event
  • Experiencing, witnessing or being confronted with an event involving serious injury, death or a threat to person’s physical integrity
  • Response, involving helplessness, intense fear or horror
  • Agitation or disorganized behavior for children

2. Persistent re-experiencing
  • Thoughts or perception, images, dreams, illusions, hallucinations, dissociative flashback episodes, intense psychological distress or reactivity to situations that remind of the event
  • Children re-experience the event through repetitive play.

3. Avoidance and emotional  numbing - 3 or more of the following must be present:
  • Avoidance of thoughts, feelings or conversations that are associated with the event
  • Avoidance of places, people, or activities that may trigger recollection of the event
  •  Inability to recall important aspects of the event
  •  Significantly diminished interest or participation in important activities
  • Feeling of detachment from others
  • Narrowed range of effect
  • Sense of having a foreshortened future

4. Hyperarousal – 2 or more of the following symptoms must be present
  • Difficulty sleeping or falling asleep
  • Decreased concentration
  •  Hypervigilance
  • Outbursts or anger or irritable mood
  • Exaggerated and started response

5. Duration of symptoms for more than 1 month
If the above-mentioned symptoms are present, but 30 days have not elapsed, the individual is diagnosed with Acute Stress Disorder.

6. Significant impairment in functioning

Children may react differently to trauma than adults.

For children 5 years or younger:
  • Typical reactions can include fear of being separated from parent, crying, whimpering, screaming, immobility, aimless motion, trembling, frightened expressions, excessive cling.
  • Regressive behavior may also be observed.

Children aged 6-11 years may show:
  • Extreme withdrawal, disruptive behavior, inability to pay attention, regressive behavior, nightmares, sleep problem, irrational fears, irritability, refusal to attend school, outbursts of anger, fighting
  • Somatic complaints without medical basis
  • Depression, anxiety, feeling of guilt, emotional numbing


Related Articles:

Mar 9, 2011

Pathophysiology of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

Biochemical changes in the brain and body have been observed in majority of people diagnosed with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.  In laboratory studies it was seen that cortisol secretion in the urine is decreased, while catecholamine (norepineprine and epinephrine) is elevated in PTSD cases. Consequently, norepinephrine/cortisol level is higher than in normal individuals.  On the other hand, catecholamine level in the brain is low, whereas corticotrophin-releasing factor (CRF) concentration is high. These findings suggest abnormality in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.

The key areas of the brain that are implicated in the development of PTSD are amygdala, prefrontal cortex and hippocampus.

  • Amygdala is associated with the formation of emotional memories, especially fear-related.  Research has shown that traumatic stimuli lead to fear conditioning which results to activation of amygdala, hypothalamus, locus cereleus, periaqueductal gray and parabrachial nucleus and its accompanying neurotransmitters. Thus, the symptoms of PTSD are produced.
  • The Vietnam Head Injury Study showed that damage to the prefrontal cortex may actually be protective against later development of PTSD.
  • Gurvits et al found out that combat veterans who suffered from PTSD had 20% reduction in the volume of their hippocampus compared to veterans who were not afflicted with it.

  1. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Wikipedia
  2. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Overview. Medscape
  3. Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Diagnosis. Medscape
Related Articles
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Overview
How to diagnose Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

Mar 7, 2011

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

Pfc. John Dwyer,  a medic during the Iraq war, who died
after suffering from PTSD 

Imagine yourself in the midst of the strong earthquake that had just hit the town of Christchurch in New Zealand, seeing buildings crumbling in a blink of an eye. Or how about witnessing how the chaos in Libya unfolds and being in the hordes of people, joining the exodus. How do you think you would react?  Can you easily erase that harrowing ordeal from your memory? Probably not. Children who came home to the Philippines after, escaping the war-torn Libya were reported to have been showing some inadequate behaviors like, crying without apparent reason, trembling and trouble sleeping. These children might develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder without proper intervention.

Post-traumatic stress (PTSD) disorder belongs to a group of anxiety disorder. It can develop after exposure to traumatic events, such as war, natural disaster, violent assault, sexual assault, kidnapping, accidents, terrorist attacks and other life-threatening conditions. Children may even develop PTSD symptoms after having been bullied.

Patients with PTSD may complain of flashbacks, difficulty sleeping or nightmares, feeling alone, angry outbursts and feeling worried, guilty or sad.  These signs may start soon after the frightening event or even years later. To be considered a PTSD the symptoms should be present for 1 month or more. It should be persistent enough to cause disruption of daily activities or functional impairment.

PTSD can happen on anyone at any age, including children.

PTSD can be acute (symptoms lasting less than 3 mos.), chronic (symptoms lasting 3 mos. Or more), or delayed onset (6 mos. elapses from the event to symptom onset).

The earliest description of PTSD was made by the Greek historian Herodotus in 490 BC. An Athenian soldier became permanently blind after witnessing the death of a fellow soldier in the Battle of Marathon.

The United States Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that 830,000 Vietnam War veterans suffered symptoms of PTSD.

Surveys of about 3,700 people who survived the World Trade Center attack found that about 96% still had at least one symptom of PTSD two to three years later.

In recent history, 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the Haiti earthquake may have caused PTSD in many survivors and rescue workers.

PTSD has a lifetime prevalence of 8-10%. Females are at higher risk than males. Sexual assault has the most impact on women, whereas for men it is combat trauma.

Risk Factor for PTSD

Researchers identified the following as the predisposing factors for the development of PTSD:

  •     Characteristics of the trauma exposure itself (proximity , severity and duration of exposure)
  •     Characteristics of the individual prior to trauma exposure (family history of prior psychiatric illness,  gender)
  •      Post-trauma factors (availability of social support, emergence of avoidance, numbing, hyperarousal and re-expereincing symptoms)

  1. Post-traumatic stress disorder. Wikipedia
  2. Post-traumatic stress Disorder. Emedicine
  3. Post-traumatic Stress Disorde. National Institute of Mental Health
Related Articles:
Pathophysiology of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
How to diagnose Post-traumatic Stress Disorder


Feb 11, 2011

Death of a General

Wake of the retired general Angelo Reyes

Depression and Suicide

On February 8, 2011 the whole Philippines was stunned by the sudden death of the retired General Angelo T. Reyes.  He committed suicide in front of his mother’s tomb by shooting himself on the chest. His death brought an end to a political career marked with controversy, culminating in a corruption scandal that involved at least 3 former military chiefs during the Arroyo administration. He was 65 y.o.

What could have prompted Reyes to end his life? I had the impression of him being tough. He was never seen smiled in public.

First of all, who was Gen. Angelo Reyes? Angelo Reyes was born to a family of teachers. He exhibited excellence in academics by graduating a valedictorian in high school and 7th in his class in the Philippine Military Academy. He became a decorated military officer. He was appointed as Chief of Staff during Estrada administration in 1999, but gained national attention with his role in the EDSA 2 revolution, thus gaining the favor of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. He continued to occupy the post of Chief of Staff until 2001, after which he was appointed to various cabinet posts:  Secretary of Department of National Defense (2001-2003), Secretary of Department of Interior and Local Government (2004-2006), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (2006-2007), and Department of Energy (2007-2010).  His political career ended together with the end of Gloria Arroyo’s presidency. His bid to run for Congress failed due to disqualification case filed against him.

Two weeks ago in lieu of the accusation by his former military budget officer George Rabusa of him pocketing P50 million in military funds upon his retirement as AFP chief in 2001, he was summoned to the senate to testify. After the hearing he admitted on interviews that he was hurt by the harsh interrogation and insults hurled at him in the senate. He was publicly humiliated. Senate inquiries, especially on controversial issues are broadcasted live on national TV. His wife recounted how she saw the agony on his face when he came home on that day. According to his lawyer Bonifacio Alentajan, Reyes appeared disturbed and had lost some weight after the said incident. Few days before his death, as if imparting a farewell message he told his wife and children to be strong and to take care of each other. Experts said, those were the signs of depression.

So what is depression?
Depression is more than sadness or blues that we experience in our day to day lives. Some describes it as a ‘black-hole or a feeling of impending doom.  It is a sadness that doesn’t disappear. It engulfs your day-to-day life, interfering with your ability to work, study, eat, sleep, and have fun. The feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and worthlessness are intense and unrelenting, with little, if any, relief.
Major depression is a disease that impacts approximately 5% of people globally. In 2004, Americans were found to be the most depressed population
Physiology of depression
For three decades scientists have attributed a chemical imbalance in the brain as the source of major depression. Mood-related chemicals such as serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine– are low in the brain during major depressive episodes. In a study by Dr. Jeffrey Meyer results showed that brain monoamine oxidase A (MAO-A) — an enzyme that breaks down chemicals like serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine– was higher in those with untreated depression. On average, MAO-A was 34% higher. Having more MAO-A leads to greater breakdown of key chemicals like serotonin.”

Depression is also being linked to Some structural abnormalities in the amygdala, basal ganglia and prefrontal cortex.

PET (Positron Emission Topography) and SPECT (Single Proton Emission Computed Topography) scans are two types of brain scans which show how active or inactive the different areas of the brain are. PET scans of depressed brains compared to normal ones show a significant reduction in overall brain activity. This is why everything seems ten times harder when you're depressed and why it's much harder to concentrate and remember things.

PET scans of depressed and normal brains
Causes and Risk factors of Depression
  • Loneliness
  • Lack of social support
  • Recent stressful life experiences
  • Family history of depression
  • Marital or relationship problems
  • Financial strain
  • Early childhood trauma or abuse
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Unemployment or underemployment
  • Health problems or chronic pain
Signs and Symptoms of Depression
  • Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. A bleak outlook—nothing will ever get better and there’s nothing you can do to improve your situation.
  • Loss of interest in daily activities.  No interest in former hobbies, pastimes, social activities, or sex. You’ve lost your ability to feel joy and pleasure.
  •  Appetite or weight changesSignificant weight loss or weight gain—a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month
  •  Sleep changesEither insomnia, especially waking in the early hours of the morning, or oversleeping (also known as hypersomnia).
  • Irritability or restlessnessFeeling agitated, restless, or on edge. Your tolerance level is low; everything and everyone gets on your nerves.
  • Loss of energyFeeling fatigued, sluggish, and physically drained. Your whole body may feel heavy, and even small tasks are exhausting or take longer to complete.
  • Self-loathingStrong feelings of worthlessness or guilt. You harshly criticize yourself for perceived faults and mistakes.
  • Concentration problemsTrouble focusing, making decisions, or remembering things.
  •  Unexplained aches and pains. An increase in physical complaints such as headaches, back pain, aching muscles, and stomach pain.
Depression and Suicide

Depression is a major risk factor for suicide. The deep despair and hopelessness that goes along with depression can make suicide feel like the only way to escape the pain. Thoughts of death or suicide are a serious symptom of depression, so take any suicidal talk or behavior seriously. It's not just a warning sign that the person is thinking about suicide: it's a cry for help.
Warning Signs of Suicide include:
  • Talking about killing or harming one’s self
  • Expressing strong feelings of hopelessness or being trapped
  • An unusual preoccupation with death or dying
  • Acting recklessly, as if they have a death wish (e.g. speeding through red lights)
  • Calling or visiting people to say goodbye
  • Getting affairs in order (giving away prized possessions, tying up loose ends)
  •  Saying things like “Everyone would be better off without me” or “I want out.”
  • A sudden switch from being extremely depressed to acting calm and happy.
Treatment of Depression
Treatment of depression varies on each individual. No one treatment is appropriate in each cases. The underlying cause of depression must first be established to overcome the problem. In most cases, the best approach involves a combination of social support, lifestyle changes, emotional skills building, and professional help.
How can you help a friend or relative who is depressed?
The first and most important thing you can do to help a friend or relative who has depression is to help him or her get an appropriate diagnosis and treatment. You may need to make an appointment on behalf of your friend or relative and go with him or her to see the doctor. Encourage him or her to stay in treatment, or to seek different treatment if no improvement occurs after six to eight weeks.
To help a friend or relative:
  • Offer emotional support, understanding, patience and encouragement.
  • Engage your friend or relative in conversation, and listen carefully.
  • Never disparage feelings your friend or relative expresses, but point out realities and offer hope.
  • Never ignore comments about suicide, and report them to your friend's or relative's therapist or doctor.
  • Invite your friend or relative out for walks, outings and other activities. Keep trying if he or she declines, but don't push him or her to take on too much too soon. Although diversions and company are needed, too many demands may increase feelings of failure.
  • Remind your friend or relative that with time and treatment, the depression will lift.
What do you need to do if you are depressed?
If you have depression, you may feel exhausted, helpless and hopeless. It may be extremely difficult to take any action to help yourself. But it is important to realize that these feelings are part of the depression and do not accurately reflect actual circumstances. As you begin to recognize your depression and begin treatment, negative thinking will fade.
To help yourself:
  • Engage in mild activity or exercise. Go to a movie, a ballgame, or another event or activity that you once enjoyed. Participate in religious, social or other activities.
  • Set realistic goals for yourself.
  • Break up large tasks into small ones, set some priorities and do what you can as you can.
  • Try to spend time with other people and confide in a trusted friend or relative. Try not to isolate yourself, and let others help you.
  • Expect your mood to improve gradually, not immediately. Do not expect to suddenly "snap out of" your depression. Often during treatment for depression, sleep and appetite will begin to improve before your depressed mood lifts.
  • Postpone important decisions, such as getting married or divorced or changing jobs, until you feel better. Discuss decisions with others who know you well and have a more objective view of your situation.
  • Remember that positive thinking will replace negative thoughts as your depression responds to treatment.
  1. Death of a general: Who was Angelo Reyes?ABS-CBN News
  2. Depression. National Institiute of Mental Health
  3. Understanding Depression. Help Guide
  4. Physiology of depression. Hard to Swallow  
  5. How Depression Works/ Discovery Health
  6. Depression’s Chemical Imbalance Explained/PscheCentral

Feb 6, 2011

Are you having abnormal bleeding?

How to recognize cervical cancer

It happened several years ago during one of my night duties as a resident doctor at Laguna Doctor’s Hospital. The images of that scene are still vivid in my mind. A woman clutching a blanket between her thighs was brought into the emergency room. The cloth was all soaked in blood. She was bleeding profusely. Cervical cancer was the cause of her suffering. That’s how dreadful this disease is.
In the Philippines women usually do not go for cervical screening as part of their routine medical check-ups. Most see a doctor only when they already have symptoms, which is indicative of advanced stage. This can be attributed to economic factors and the apparent lack of awareness campaign on cervical cancer in the country. Lack of knowledge about cervical cancer can lead to late diagnosis and death.

Facts and data  on cervical cancer:
  • According to WHO cancer of the cervix uteri is the second most common cancer among women worldwide, with an estimated 529,409 new cases and 274,883 deaths in 2008.
  • The disease is the second or third most common cancer among women (cervical cancer and colorectal cancer are virtually tied for second place after breast cancer).
  • About 86% of the cases occur in developing countries, representing 13% of female cancers.
  • In Asia Pacific, about 266,000 cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed each year, with 140,000 women dying from the disease. It is the second most common female cancer in the region – where a woman dies of cervical cancer every 4 minutes.
  • Each year, approximately 12,000 women in the United States get cervical cancer. In 2010 4210 was the reported death from it.
  • Cervical cancer ranks as the 2nd most frequent cancer among women in the Philippines, and the 2nd most frequent cancer among women between 15 and 44 years of age.
What is cervical cancer?

The cervix is the lower, narrow end of the uterus. The cervix connects the vagina (birth canal) to the upper part of the uterus. The uterus (or womb) is where a baby grows when a woman is pregnant.
Cervical cancer is an abnormal growth that forms in tissues of the cervix. It is usually a slow-growing cancer that may not have symptoms but can be found with regular Pap tests (a procedure in which cells are scraped from the cervix and looked at under a microscope).  All women are at risk for cervical cancer.

Joey Albert, a cervical cancer survivor
Like all cancers, cancer of the cervix is much more likely to be cured if it is detected early and treated immediately. A classic example of a cervical cancer survivor is Joey Albert, a famous Filipina pop and jazz singer in the 80's.

What are the causes and risk factors of cervical cancer?

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)

HPV is the main cause of cervical cancer. Because HPV can be transmitted by sexual contact, early sexual contact and having multiple sexual partners have been identified as strong risk factors for the development of cervical lesions that may progress to cancer.

Cigarette smoking
The chemicals in cigarette smoke interact with the cells of the cervix, causing precancerous changes that may over time progress to cancer.
Oral contraceptives
The pill may increase the risk for cervical cancer, especially in women who use oral contraceptives for longer than 5 years.
What are its symptoms?
Early cervical cancer usually has no symptoms. In most instances signs do appear when the cancer is more advanced. This does vary from woman to woman. You need to report to your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following:
  • Abnormal bleeding. Women with cervical cancer may experience abnormal vaginal bleeding. This can be heavy or light bleeding during the month. 
  • Unusual heavy discharge. An increased vaginal discharge is also a symptom of cervical cancer. It may be foul smelling, watery, thick, or contain mucus.
  • Pelvic pain. Pelvic pain that is not related to the normal menstrual cycle can be a cervical cancer symptom. Many women describe them ranging from a dull ache to sharp pains that can last hours. It can be mild or severe
  • Pain during urination. Bladder pain or pain during urination can be a symptom of advanced cervical cancer. This cervical cancer symptom usually occurs when cancer has spread to the bladder. 
  • Bleeding between regular menstrual periods, after sexual intercourse, douching, or pelvic exam. Bleeding after sexual intercourse, douching, or pelvic exam can be cervical cancer symptoms. This is due to the irritation of the cervix during these activities. While a healthy cervix may have a very small amount of bleeding, many conditions may cause bleeding after activities like sex.
How is cervical cancer detected?

The Pap smear is the most common screening test. Because of the Pap smear test, the number of cervical cancer cases has dropped over the past twenty years.
The American Cancer Society recommends the following guidelines for early detection:
  • All women should begin cervical cancer screening about three years after they start having sexual (vaginal) intercourse. A woman who waits until she is over 18 to have sex should start screening no later than age 21. A regular Pap test should be done every year. If the newer liquid-based Pap-teast is done, testing can be done every two years.
  • Beginning at age 30, women who have had three normal Pap test results in a row may be tested every 2 to 3 years. Some women should continue getting tested yearly, such as those who were exposed to DES before birth and those with weakened immune system (with HIV infection, organ transplant, chemotherapy and chronic steroid use.)
How to reduce the risk of cervical cancer

1.   Get a regular Pap smear. The Pap smear can be the greatest defenses for cervical cancer. The Pap smear can detect cervical changes early before they turn into cancer
2.   Limit the amount of sexual partners you have. Studies have shown women who have many sexual partners increase their risk for cervical cancer. They also are increasing their risk of developing HPV, a known cause for cervical cancer. 
3.   Quit smoking or avoid secondhand smoke.Smoking cigarettes increases your risk of developing many cancers, including cervical cancer. Smoking combined with an HPV infection can actually accelerate cervical dysplasia. Your best bet is to kick the habit.
4.   If you are sexually active, use a condom. Having unprotected sex puts you at risk for HIV and other STD's which can increase your risk factor for developing cervical cancer. 
5.   Follow up on abnormal Pap smears. If you have had an abnormal Pap smear, it is important to follow up with regular Pap smears or colposcopies, whatever your doctor has decided for you. If you have been treated for cervical dysplasia, you still need to follow up with Pap smears or colposcopies. Dysplasia can return and when undetected, can turn into cervical cancer. 
6.   Get the HPV vaccine. If you are under 27, you may be eligible to receive the HPV vaccine, which prevents high risk strains of HPV in women. The HPV vaccine, Gardasil, was approved by the US FDA to give to young girls as young as 9. The vaccine is most effective when given to young women before they become sex. The available brands of this vaccine in the Philippines at present are Cervarix and Gardasil. 

7.   Eat healthy and watch your weight. Women who eat less fruit and vegetables may be at increased risk for cervical cancer. Overweight women are more likely to develop this cancer.


1.    Cervical Cancer Statistics. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 
2.    Who Gets Cervical Cancer? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 
3.    Cervical cancer. National Cancer Institute 
4.    Philippines Human Papillomavirus and Related Cancers, Fact Sheet 2010 (Sep 15,    2010). WHO/ICO Information Centre on HPV and Cervical Cancer. 
5.    Human Papillomavirus and Related Cancers in World. Summary Report 2010. WHO/ICO Information Centre on HPV and Cervical Cancer (HPV Information Centre) 
6.    Cervical Cancer Overview.Emedicinehealth. 
7.    Vaccine Protects Against Virus Linked to Half of All Cervical Cancers. National Cancer Institute 
8.    Cervical Cancer Symptoms. Lisa Fayed, Guide. 
9.    Cervical cancer vaccine: Who needs it, how it works. Mayo Clinic.  



Jan 21, 2011

What is hormonal imbalance?

What are hormones?

Hormones are the body's chemical messengers. They travel in the bloodstream, sending signals in between cells. Hormones regulate numerous physiological processes such as growth and development, metabolism, fertility, reproduction, mood swings, pain control and activation or inhibition of the immune system. Some hormone also regulates the production and release of other hormones
Endocrine glands, which are special groups of cells, produce hormones. The major endocrine glands are pituitary, pineal, parathyroid gland, thymus, thyroid, adrenal glands, pancreas, testes for men and ovaries for women. Hypothalamus is considered a neuroendocrine organ. Other tissues and organs such as bone marrow, heart, kidneys, duodenum, liver, skin, stomach, adipose tissue, placenta and uterus during pregnancy also produce hormones.

Examples of hormones include adrenaline, aldosterone, calcitonin, cortisol, growth hormone, human-chorionic gonadotropin, insulin, follicle-stimulating hormone, melatonin, progesterone, testosterone, thyroxine and serotonin.

Hormonal Imbalance

Hormone release is regulated through a feedback mechanism, allowing the body to keep itself balanced. However, sometimes this delicate balance is disrupted, giving rise to hormonal imbalance. Hormonal imbalance happens when there is excessive amount or deficit of a particular hormone in the body.

Causes of hormonal imbalance

Various aspects of modern-day living can trigger hormonal imbalance. Diet rich in saturated fats and caffeine, nicotine, alcohol in can induce this imbalance. On the contrary, low fiber content in food and deficiency of some essential minerals can also cause this kind of disequilibrium. Lack of physical exercise, sedentary lifestyle, stress , environmental factors like pollution or exposure to harmful chemicals can also be held responsible for this.
Other causes can be genetics, obesity, tumors, birth control pills, pregnancy and lactation auto antibody production and the natural process of ageing.

Some diseases and conditions manifesting with hormonal imbalance 

  • Diabetes - elevated blood sugar levels due to low production or poor reception of insulin, a hormone responsible for metabolizing sugars.
  • Gigantism - Overproduction of the growth hormone from the pituitary glands causes a massive and sometimes uncontrollable growth spurt, causing individuals
  • Hyperthyroidism presents with abnormally high level of thyroid hormones, causing palpitation and arrhythmia, tremor, intolerance to heat, irritability, difficulty sleeping and weight loss with increased appetite.
  • Hypothyroidism on the other hand is deficiency of thyroid hormones. Some of its symptoms are cold intolerance, weight gain, poor muscle tone and high cholesterol.

Hormonal Imbalance in women        

acne, thinning of hair and weight gain  on a woman with Polycystic Ovaries
  • Menopause is the permanent cessation of the function of the ovaries, which is production of estrogen and progesterone. This is the end of the reproductive period of a woman. A woman has reached menopause when she has not had a period for one year. Changes and symptoms can start several years earlier. They include change in periods - shorter or longer, lighter or heavier, with more or less time in between, hot flashes and/or night sweats, trouble sleeping, vaginal dryness, mood swings, trouble focusing, less hair on head, more on face.
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome – is one of the most common female endocrine disorders affecting approximately 5%-10% of women of reproductive age (12–45 years old).Polycystic ovaries develop when the ovaries are stimulated to produce   excessive amounts of male hormones (androgens), particularly testosterone, either through the release of excessive luteinizing hormone (LH) by the anterior pituitary gland or through high levels of insulin in the blood in women whose ovaries are sensitive to this stimulus. The syndrome acquired its most widely used name due to the common sign on ultrasound examination of multiple (poly) ovarian cysts. These "cysts" are actually immature follicles, not cysts.Two-thirds of women with PCOS are overweight and most are insulin resistant. Symptoms include irregular or absent periods (oligo- or amenorrhea), infertility, unusual body hair growth (hirsutism), severe acne, darkened skin patches and rapid weight gain.

If you suspect you may have a hormonal imbalance, you should seek help from a health care practitioner. This is a health problem which should not be ignored because it can lead to serious complications in the future.

Jan 3, 2011

Firecrackers and Tetanus

a child with painful muscle spasm
New Year’s Eve is being celebrated worldwide. Partying and noisemaking with firecrackers and fireworks are common elements of this occasion. If in other countries there are public displays of fireworks organized by city governments or private corporations, in the Philippines almost each household lights up firecrackers to welcome the New Year. It is a tradition that was passed to us by the Chinese.  It is originally meant to drive away bad spirits and bring good luck to the family. Accidents occur most of the time with firecracker usage. Despite the annual campaign by the Department of Health Filipinos could not completely veer away from using firecrackers. As of January 3, 2011 the reported casualty after the New Year celebration reached 794. It was even higher by 8% from last year’s statistics. This includes firecracker-related injuries, injuries due to stray bullet and firecracker ingestion.
Firecracker-related injuries, just like any other injuries presenting with open wounds could be contaminated. Patients with these kinds of wounds can therefore contract tetanus.

What is tetanus?

        Tetanus is a medical condition affecting the nervous system. It is characterized by a prolonged and painful contraction of skeletal muscle fibers. The primary symptoms are caused by tetanospasmin, a neurotoxin produced by the Gram-positive, obligate anaerobic bacterium Clostridium tetani. Infection generally occurs through wound contamination and often involves a cut or deep puncture wound. As the infection progresses, muscle spasms develop in the jaw (thus the name "lockjaw") and elsewhere in the body. It can interfere with the ability to breathe and, ultimately, threaten the life of the patient.

The bacteria that cause tetanus, Clostridium tetani, are found in soil, dust and animal feces. It is an anaerobic bacterium, meaning it and its endospores survive well in an environment that lacks oxygen. Tetanus begins when spores of Clostridium tetani enter damaged tissue. The spores transform into rod-shaped bacteria and produce the neurotoxin tetanospasmin.

Mortality rates reported vary from 48% to 73%. In recent years, approximately 11% of reported tetanus cases have been fatal. The highest mortality rates are in unvaccinated people and people over 60 years of age.

The incubation period of tetanus ( the time before the signs and symptoms appear)  may be up to several months but is usually about 8 days. In general, the further the injury site is from the central nervous system, the longer the incubation period; the shorter the incubation period, the more severe the symptoms.

Tetanus cases can also develop from the following types of injuries: puncture wounds (including from splinters, body piercings, tattoos, injection drugs), gunshot wounds, compound fractures, crush injuries, burns, surgical wounds, ear infections, dental infections, animal bites, infected foot ulcers in people with diabetes, infected umbilical stumps in newborns born of inadequately immunized mothers.

Common signs and symptoms of tetanus, in order of appearance, are spasms and stiffness in your jaw muscles, stiffness of your neck muscles, difficulty swallowing, stiffness of your abdominal muscles, painful body spasms, lasting for several minutes, typically triggered by minor occurrences, such as a draft, loud noise, physical touch or light. Other signs and symptoms may include fever, sweating, elevated blood pressure and rapid heart rate.
Cleaning the wound is essential to preventing growth of tetanus spores. This involves removing dirt, foreign objects and dead tissue from the wound.  Your doctor may give you a tetanus antitoxin, such as human tetanus immune globulin.  Antibiotics are usually given, either orally or by injection, to fight tetanus bacteria In order to prevent future tetanus infection the patient needs to receive tetanus vaccine as well.  Doctors generally use powerful sedatives to control muscle spasms. Severe cases of tetanus require admission to intensive care units for supportive management in ventilation and nutrition.