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I Can Feel it in My Bones: The Ins and Outs of Arthritis

Written by Lisa Jillanza

Hand on a shoulder “I think it's going to snow, I can feel it in my bones.” Predictions like this are all too common from arthritis sufferers as the cold winter months settle upon us. Many people who suffer from arthritis believe that they can predict the weather with the increased pain that they might feel during cold, snowy and rainy weather. What would normally be an arthritic stiff joint or dull ache can easily become a shooting pain during the winter months.

Over 43 million Americans, or one in six people, deal with the pain associated with arthritis. It is a common condition with pain that can often become unbearable during the winter. In this winter-edition blog I have provided some information on the most common types of arthritis, warning signs, treatments, and how to deal with weather-induced aches and pains.

According to the National Institute on Aging, arthritis is the most common cause of disability in the United States, limiting the activities of nearly 19 million adults. There are many kinds of arthritis, each with different symptoms and treatments. Most types of arthritis are chronic however, meaning that they can go on for a long period of time. Below are the most common types of arthritis.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of arthritis in older people. OA starts when cartilage that pads bones in a joint begins to wear away. When the cartilage has worn away, your bones rub against each other. OA most often happens in the hands, neck, lower back, or the large weight-bearing joints of your body, such as knees and hips.

OA symptoms range from stiffness and mild pain that comes and goes to pain that doesn't stop, even when you are resting or sleeping. Sometimes OA causes your joints to feel stiff after you haven't moved them for awhile, like after riding in the car. The stiffness goes away when you move the joint. Over time, OA can make it hard to move your joints. It can cause a disability if your back, knees, or hips are affected.

Why do you get OA? Growing older is what most often puts you at risk for OA, possibly because your joints and the cartilage around them become less able to recover from stress and damage. Also, OA in the hands may run in families. Or, OA in the knees can be linked with being overweight. Injuries or overuse may cause OA in joints such as knees, hips, or hands.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease, a type of illness that makes your body attack itself. RA causes pain, swelling, and stiffness that lasts for hours. RA can happen in many different joints at the same time. People with RA often feel tired or run a fever. RA is more common in women than men.

RA can damage almost any joint. It often happens in the same joint on both sides of your body. RA can also cause problems with your heart, muscles, blood vessels, nervous system, and eyes.

Gout is one of the most painful kinds of arthritis. It most often happens in the big toe, but other joints can also be affected. Swelling may cause the skin to pull tightly around the joint and make the area red or purple and very tender.

Eating foods rich in purines like liver, dried beans, peas, anchovies, or gravy can lead to a gout attack. Using alcohol, being overweight, and taking certain medications may make gout worse. In older people, some blood pressure medicines can also increase the chance of a gout attack. To decide if you have gout, your doctor might do blood tests and x-rays.

Here are some warning signs that you might have one of these types of arthritis:

  • Ongoing joint pain
  • Joint swelling
  • Joint stiffness
  • Tenderness or pain when touching a joint
  • Problems using or moving a joint normally
  • Warmth and redness in a joint

If any one of these symptoms lasts more than 2 weeks, see a doctor. Properly treating any of these common forms of arthritis includes getting enough rest, doing the right exercise, eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, and learning the right way to use and protect your joints are keys to living with any kind of arthritis. The right shoes and a cane can help with pain in the feet, knees, and hips when walking. There are also gadgets to help you open jars and bottles or to turn the doorknobs in your house.

Some medicines may also help with pain and swelling. Acetaminophen might ease arthritis pain. Some people find NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), like ibuprofen, naproxen, and ketoprofen, helpful. Some NSAIDs are sold without a prescription, while others must be prescribed by a doctor.

Along with taking the right medicine and properly resting your joints, exercise might help with arthritis symptoms. Daily exercise, such as walking or swimming, helps keep joints moving, lessens pain, and makes muscles around the joints stronger.

Three types of exercise are best if you have arthritis:

Range-of-motion exercises, like dancing, might relieve stiffness, keep you flexible, and help you keep moving your joints.

Strengthening exercises, such as weight training, will keep or add to muscle strength. Strong muscles support and protect your joints.

Aerobic or endurance exercises, like bicycle riding, make your heart and arteries healthier, help prevent weight gain, and also may lessen swelling in some joints.

Along with exercise and weight control, there are other ways to ease the pain around joints. You might find comfort by using a heating pad or a cold pack, soaking in a warm bath, or swimming in a heated pool. Your doctor may suggest surgery when damage to your joints becomes disabling or when other treatments do not help with pain. Surgeons can repair or replace some joints with artificial (man-made) ones.

If you suffer from weather-induced arthritis there are several measures that can be taken. According to health.gmnews.com winter is a time when we not only catch colds and flu but also when chronic ailments are exacerbated by the cold, wind and damp. People with arthritis may experience their condition worsening in the winter months with even achier bones and joints. The cold and snow associated with winter can cause tendons, ligaments and muscles surrounding joints to contract and cavities in joints can also be affected by atmospheric pressure.

Although weather can affect arthritis, weather does not cause arthritis. No matter the cause, those painful joints can be the result. It is advised that arthritis sufferers wrap up affected areas very well if braving the elements and pay particular attention to extremities by wearing warm socks and gloves and try to maintain good circulation by moving around more.

It is also suggested that people with weather-induced arthritis keep warm, avoid the strains of activities of activities like shoveling snow, and to be careful on slippery surfaces to avoid injuries.

Slumber Setbacks: Sleep Disorder Problems

Written by Lisa Jillanza

sleep image 3 Sleep disorder problems haunt a vast number of people nightly. Chronic sleep disorders can be the result of a specific event or health condition, or they can surface for no apparent reason. But we all know that when we're not sleeping well, just a few rough days can trigger a downward spiral.

It's important to look at both the quantity and the quality of sleep to detect a problem. As found on health.com when it comes to sleep quality, problems aren't always obvious to the people who suffer from them. An insomniac who lies awake at night can easily tell that something is wrong, but someone with sleep apnea who repeatedly stops breathing in his sleep might have no idea there's a problem.

The most significant sign of a sleeping disorder is how you feel during the day. If you generally wake up alert and refreshed, you're a healthy sleeper. If you chronically wake up sleepy, irritable, and unfocused and stay that way throughout the day, you may have a sleep disorder.

"No matter what is bothering you, whether its difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, snoring, restless legs, fatigue and exhaustion during the day these conditions are not normal; they're not just something you should have to live with," says Gary Zammit, PhD, director of the Sleep Disorders Institute in New York City. “You don't have to wait until a sleep disorder destroys your life before you get help.”

Here are a few questions to ask yourself to determine if you may have a sleep disorder problem:

Am I experiencing performance or concentration problems during the day? Have my mood and social capabilities suffered? Do I feel refreshed and rested most mornings, or am I fatigued and not looking forward to starting the day?

Below is a list of some of the more common sleep disorders and symptoms associated with each according to health.com.

Insomnia The medical term for difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep is insomnia. Insomnia can include: Difficulty getting to sleep (taking more than 45 minutes to fall asleep). Frequent awakenings with inability to fall back to sleep. Early morning awakening. Feeling very tired after a night of sleep.

But insomnia usually is not a problem unless it makes you feel tired during the day. If you are less sleepy at night or wake up early but still feel rested and alert, there usually is little need to worry. Fortunately, home treatment measures successfully relieve occasional insomnia.

Occasional insomnia may be caused by noise, extreme temperatures, jet lag, changes in your sleep environment, or a change in your sleep pattern, such as shift work. Insomnia may also be caused by temporary or situational life stresses, such as a traumatic event or an impending deadline. Your insomnia is likely to disappear when the cause of your sleep problem goes away.

Short-term insomnia may last from a few nights to a few weeks and be caused by worry over a stressful situation or by jet lag.

Long-term insomnia, which may last months or even years, may be caused by:

  • Advancing age. Insomnia occurs more frequently in adults older than  age 60.
  • Mental health problems, such as anxiety, depression, or mania.
  • Medicines. Many prescription and nonprescription medicines can cause sleep problems.
  • Chronic pain, which often develops after a major injury or illness, such as shingles or back problems, or after a limb has been amputated (phantom limb pain).
  • Other physical problems, such as asthma, coronary artery disease, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  • Alcohol and illegal drug use or withdrawal.
  • Cigarettes and other tobacco use.
  • Drinking or eating foods that contain caffeine, such as coffee, tea, chocolate, or soft drinks (for example, Coke, Pepsi, or Mountain Dew).

Sleep apnea Sleep apnea is one of several sleep disorders. Sleep apnea refers to repeated episodes of not breathing during sleep for at least 10 seconds (apneic episodes). It usually is caused by a blockage in the nose, mouth, or throat (upper airways). When airflow through the nose and mouth is blocked, breathing may stop for 10 seconds or longer. People who have sleep apnea usually snore loudly and are very tired during the day. It can affect children and adults. See pictures of a normal upper airway during sleep and a blocked upper airway.

sleep image 2Narcolepsy Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that has distinct symptoms, including: Sudden sleep attacks, which may occur during any type of activity at any time of day. You may fall asleep while engaged in an activity such as eating dinner, driving the car, or carrying on a conversation. These sleep attacks can occur several times a day and may last from a few minutes to several hours. Sudden, brief periods of muscle weakness while you are awake (cataplexy). This weakness may affect specific muscle groups or may affect the entire body. Cataplexy is often brought on by strong emotional reactions, such as laughing or crying. Hallucinations just before a sleep attack. Brief loss of the ability to move when you are falling asleep or just waking up (sleep paralysis).

Parasomnias Parasomnias are undesirable physical activities that occur during sleep involving skeletal muscle activity, nervous system changes, or both. Night terrors and sleepwalking are two types of parasomnias. Sleep can be difficult for people who experience parasomnias. While "asleep," a person with parasomnia may walk, scream, rearrange furniture, eat odd foods, or pick up a weapon.

Parasomnia can cause odd, distressing, and sometimes dangerous nighttime activities. These disorders have medically explainable causes and usually are treatable.

Restless legs syndrome Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a condition that produces an intense feeling of discomfort, aching, or twitching deep inside the legs. Jerking movements may affect the toes, ankles, knees, and hips. Moving the legs or walking around usually relieves the discomfort for a short time.

The exact cause of restless legs syndrome is not known. The symptoms of restless legs syndrome most often occur while a person is asleep or is trying to fall asleep. The twitching or jerking leg movements may wake the person up, causing insomnia, unrestful sleep, and daytime sleepiness.

When a sleep problem or lack of time keeps you from getting a good night's sleep, excessive daytime sleepiness may occur. While almost everyone experiences daytime sleepiness from time to time, it can have serious consequences such as motor vehicle accidents, poor work or school performance, and work-related accidents. Sleep problems can also be a symptom of a medical or mental health problem. It is important to consider whether a medical or mental health problem is causing you to sleep poorly. Treating a long-term sleep problem without looking for the root cause may conceal the real reason for your inadequate sleep.

Visit your doctor if you suspect any type of sleep disorder problem. Besides disrupting your schedule, they may carry serious long-term health risks including depression, substance abuse, high blood pressure, and heart disease. With lifestyle changes, therapy, or medications, sleep disorders are largely manageable. The right treatment can largely enrich your days and your nights.

Guidelines for Sleep: How Much Sleep Should I Get?

Written by Lisa Jillanza

sleep image 1 Sleep is one of the richest and most studied topics in science today. The necessity for all living things to submerge into a daily state of subconscious in order to live well and thrive- it's fascinating. Scientists have been examining the guidelines for sleep for decades and unlocking the answers to an array of questions along the way- why we need it, why it can be hard to get, how much we need and how it affects our lives. So how much sleep should I get?

According to health.com there's no normal number of hours that quantifies a good sleep, just like there's no normal shoe size. Most adults require seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Others seem to manage just fine with six hours of sleep a night. A British study conducted in 2007 found that people who slept the same amount of time, seven hours each night lived longer than people who adjusted their schedules to either add or subtract ‘hours from their nightly slumber.

“Finding your own ideal sleep/wake cycle and staying consistent is key to healthy sleep,” explains Dr. Carol Ash, medical director of the Sleep for Life center in Hillsborough, N.J.

Daniel, Kripke, co-director of research at the Scripps Clinic Sleep Center in La Jolla, CA has been studying guidelines for sleep according to the Time Magazine website and is helping to answer the question, ‘how much sleep should I get?' In 2002, he compared death rates among more than 1 million American adults who, as part of a study on cancer prevention, reported their average nightly amount of sleep. His studies show that people, who sleep between 6.5 and 7.5 hours a night, live the longest. And people who sleep 8 hours or more, or less than 6.5 hours a night don't live quite as long. He believes that just as much risk is associated with sleeping too long as with sleeping too short.

It's possible to get too much sleep. Spending an excess amount of time in bed can even be a sign of other health problems such as depression or chronic fatigue syndrome. Morbidity and sickness is “U-shaped” in the sense that consistent very short sleep and consistent overly long sleep are associated with many illnesses including depression, obesity, and heart disease.

“I think we can speculate about why people who sleep from 6.5 to 7.5 hr. live longer, but we have to admit that we don't really understand the reasons. We don't really know yet what is cause and what is effect. So we don't know if a short sleeper can live longer by extending their sleep, and we don't know if a long sleeper can live longer by setting the alarm clock a bit earlier. We're hoping to organize tests of those questions,” Kripke explains.

But don't sell yourself short, that doesn't mean that you can shave off hours of much needed rest without consequence. In the same British study mentioned above, scientists found that people who are consistently sleep deprived (defined as sleeping five hours or less a night) are at greater risk for high blood pressure and cardiovascular problems- especially women.

Insufficient sleep also raises your risk for obesity, diabetes, depression, alcoholism, and automobile accidents. Plus, a 2007 University of California:Berkeley study confirmed the obvious: Sleep deprivation directly affects areas of the brain that deal with mood and concentration, leaving tired people grumpy, overly emotional, and unable to focus.

As with anything in life, moderation is essential. Red wine is good for the heart, but it's important not to overdo it. Exercise if good, but in moderation. Guidelines for sleep are much the same. So how much sleep should I get? Getting either too much or too little sleep can have health complications. Try getting between 6.5 and 8 hours of sleep per night. Try to avoid getting less than 6.5 hours, nor more than 9 hours a night. And try to get the same amount of sleep most nights.

Cranial Pain Primer: Types of Headache

Written by Lisa Jillanza

headache image Uh oh, you can feel it coming- the throbbing ache, the sensitivity to light, the pain creeping its way deep into your skull- another headache is on its way and you just don't have time to deal. An estimated 3 to 5 percent of adults worldwide experience chronic daily headaches. Millions more suffer less frequent headaches, but we can all agree that one headache is one headache too many. Stay tuned my unfortunate headache-prone reader for an introduction on cranial pain, types of headache you may be suffering from and how to manage.

Most people have headaches from time to time. But if you have a headache more days than not, you may be suffering from chronic daily headaches. For headaches to be considered chronic they must occur more than 15 days per month and for more than 3 months. The unrelenting nature of chronic headaches make them particularly hard to deal with. But with aggressive initial treatment and steady, long-term management may reduce overall pain and lead to fewer headaches.

These types of headache can be divided into 4 main subcategories: Chronic migraine, Chronic tension-type headache, New daily persistent headache, and Hemicrania continua. Symptoms vary for each type of headache. If you're not sure which type of chronic headache that you're suffering from, below is a guide on headache symptoms according to the Mayo Clinic website.

Chronic migraine Usually evolves from episodic migraine without aura Includes at least two of the following — affects only one side of your head, pulsating or throbbing pain, moderate to severe intensity, aggravated by physical activity Includes at least one of the following — nausea or vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound

Chronic tension-type headache Usually evolves from episodic tension-type headaches Typically hurts on both sides of your head Mild to moderate pain, often described as pressing or tightening May include mild nausea or sensitivity to light or sound

New daily persistent headache Starts suddenly and occurs daily within three days of onset Hurts on both sides of your head Feels like a tightening or pressing sensation, not throbbing Mild to moderate intensity Sometimes includes one of the following — mild nausea, sensitivity to sound or sensitivity to light

Hemicrania continua Hurts on only one side of the head and pain never shifts sides Daily and consistent, with no pain-free periods Moderate intensity, interspersed with brief instances of severe pain Includes at least one of the following — tearing or redness of the eye on the affected side, nasal congestion or runny nose, swelling or drooping of the eyelid

Although it's not completely understood why these types of headache occur, doctors have narrowed down a few underlying conditions that may cause constant cranial pain:

Inflammation or other problems with the blood vessels in and around the brain Infections, such as meningitis Intracranial pressure that's either too high or too low Pinched nerves in the neck Brain tumor Traumatic brain injury

In most cases chronic daily head pain doesn't have an underlying physical cause. They may occur, though, if you develop a heightened response to pain signals or if the part of your brain that suppresses pain signals isn't working properly. Doctors also believe that people who take pain medication too frequently may suffer from constant cranial pain. If you are taking pain medications, even over the counter analgesics, more than two days a week then you're at risk of developing rebound headaches.

Whatever the reason that you may be suffering from chronic headaches, it is best not to self-diagnose. Make an appointment with your doctor today and find out what's really going on in your head. Your life is too busy and too precious to worry about constant cranial pain.

Summertime and Sunscreen Use

Written by Lisa Jillanza

Swimming, picnics, green grass and lemonade-summer has officially arrived! The season of fun and sun is upon us. However, it's essential to also recognize the hazards associated with our favorite season. Sunscreen use is critical. If not protected, long and lazy sun-drenched days can quickly turn to uncomfortable burning, cracking, peeling or worse. Here are a few tips on sunscreen use that can help keep you and your family happy and protected this season.

When should I use sunscreen? The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that, regardless of skin type, sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays is water resistant and yields a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15 should be used year round. Sunscreen should be applied every day to exposed skin, regardless of if you're in the sun or not. And don't let the clouds fool you either, up to 80 percent of the sun's ultraviolet rays can pass through the clouds. Alternately, sand reflects 25 percent of the sun's rays and snow reflects 80 percent of the sun's rays.

What are UVA and UVB rays? Two types of harmful rays are found in sunlight- ultraviolet A rays and ultraviolet B rays. UVA rays penetrate deeper into your skin and are known to lead to signs of premature aging of the skin causing wrinkling and age spots. UVA rays can also pass through window glass. Alternately, UVB rays cause sunburn and are blocked by standard window glass. However, excessive exposure to both UVA and UVB rays can lead to the development of skin cancer.

What is SPF? SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. Sunscreens are rated by the strength of their SPF. The SPF numbers found on sunscreen can range from 2 to 50. This number refers to the product's ability to deflect the sun's burning and harmful rays.

According to the AAD sunscreen use the SPF ranking is calculated by comparing the amount of time needed to produce sunburn on sunscreen-protected skin to the amount of time needed to cause sunburn on unprotected skin. For example, if a sunscreen is rated SPF 2 and a person who would normally turn red after ten minutes of exposure in the sun uses it; it would take twenty minutes of exposure for the skin to turn red. A sunscreen with an SPF of 15 would allow that person to multiply that initial burning time by 15, which means it would take 15 times longer to burn, or 150 minutes. Even with this protection, sunscreen rubs off with normal wear, so it needs to be reapplied at least every two hours.

How much and how often should sunscreen be applied? Apply sunscreen 15-30 minutes before going outdoors and make sure to smear generous amounts to all exposed areas, paying specific attention to your face, ears, hands and arms. And don't forget your lips! Put on lip balm that includes sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. A good rule of thumb is one ounce (equal to about one shots glass) is needed to adequately cover the exposed areas of the body. Reapply sunscreen every two hour, after swimming or sweating profusely. Water resistant sunscreens even lose their effectiveness after 40 minutes in the pool so it's important to remember to reapply. Sunscreen rubs off as well, so if you towel-dried at some point, you'll need to reapply afterward.

Other Easy Ways to Protect Yourself from the Sun

Wear protective clothing-Wear long-sleeved shirts, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses when possible. Seek shade-Don't set up camp right in the sun, try the shade. And remember that the sun's rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If your shadow is shorter than you are, seek shade. Protect children-Play in the shade, wear protective clothing, and always apply sunscreen. Avoid tanning beds-Ultraviolet light from the sun and tanning beds can cause skin cancer, wrinkling and premature aging. If you prefer a bronzed look try using a sunless self-tanning product, but continue to use sunscreen with it. Regularly assess yourself-Take notice of anything changing, growing, or bleeding on your skin. If you see anything visit your doctor or dermatologist. Skin cancer is very treatable when caught early.

More than 1 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States every year. With just a little bit of knowledge and preparation, your summer can be care-free, burn-free and cancer-free.