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.