Monthly Archives: April 2017

Lady Gaga’s Chronic Pain: What Is Fibromyalgia?

Singer Lady Gaga recently revealed that she has fibromyalgia; the painful condition is often hard to diagnose, and its causes are still unclear.

Yesterday, the singer said on Twitter that her upcoming Netflix documentary “Gaga: Five Foot Two” will touch on her struggles with chronic pain.

“In our documentary, the #chronicillness #chronicpain I deal w/ is #Fibromyalgia,” she wrote on Twitter. “I wish to help raise awareness & connect people who have it.”

The chronic disorder causes pain throughout the body, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). People with the condition have “tender points” — for example, on their necks, shoulders, backs, hips, arms and legs — that hurt when touched or when pressure is put on them, the NIH says. Most often, this pain affects the muscles, but it can sometimes affect joints or even the skin, according to the American College of Rheumatology (ACR). [5 Surprising Facts About Pain]

(The word “fibromyalgia” literally means “muscle and tissue pain,” coming from the Latin term “fibro,” meaning fibrous tissue, and the Greek words “myo,” meaning muscle, and “algia,” meaning pain, according to the NIH.)

In addition to pain, people with fibromyalgia often experience other symptoms, including fatigue, trouble sleeping, headaches, tingling or numbness in the hands and feet, and problems with thinking and memory.

An estimated 5 million U.S. adults have fibromyalgia, according to the NIH. About 80 to 90 percent of those with fibromyalgia are women, but men and children can also have the condition.

The exact causes of fibromyalgia are still unknown, but it’s likely that many factors contribute to the condition, according to the Mayo Clinic. For example, certain genes may make a person more susceptible to fibromyalgia. In addition, experiencing a physically or emotionally traumatic event may trigger the condition, the Mayo Clinic says.

Researchers now think that changes caused by fibromyalgia affect the way the brain and body communicate. These changes may involve increased levels of certain brain chemicals that signal pain, the Mayo Clinic says. Additionally, receptors in the brain may develop a “memory” of the pain, which causes them to overreact to pain signals, the clinic says.

Diagnosing fibromyalgia can be challenging, in part because its two main symptoms — pain and fatigue — are common in many conditions, according to the NIH. This means that doctors often have to rule out other possible causes of pain and fatigue before diagnosing a patient with fibromyalgia. There’s no single diagnostic lab test for the condition, either.

But doctors familiar with fibromyalgia can diagnose it based on certain symptoms, including widespread pain that lasts for more than three months and that doesn’t have another medical explanation, according to the Mayo Clinic.

There is no cure for fibromyalgia, but symptoms can be treated with medication as well as nondrug treatments, according to the ACR. Often, people have the best results when they use multiple treatments, the ACR said.

There are three approved drugs to treat fibromyalgia symptoms: duloxetine, milnacipran and pregabalin. Duloxetine and milnacipran work by changing the levels of brain chemicals that help control pain levels, and pregabalin works by blocking excessive activity of nerve cells, the ACR said. Over-the-counter painkillers, including acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) may also help the ease pain and stiffness caused by fibromyalgia.

Nondrug treatments for fibromyalgia include low-impact exercises, such as walking, biking and swimming, as well as yoga and tai chi. In addition, mindfulness-based therapies may help with fibromyalgia, according to the ACR. These are therapies in which people learn to increase their awareness of the present moment and their acceptance of difficult thoughts and feelings.

Sleep Paralysis: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Sleep paralysis is the inability to move or speak immediately after waking up. This can be an exceptionally scary time for those afflicted with this weird phenomenon, but despite former beliefs, the feeling of paralysis is not caused by supernatural beings.

During rapid eye movement (REM) sleep the brain has vivid dreams, while the muscles of the body are essentially turned off. While sleeping, the muscles are unable to move so that the person won’t be able to act out dreams with their body. Sleep paralysis happens when a person wakes up before REM is finished. The person will be conscious, but the body’s ability to move hasn’t been turned back on yet.

Several things can bring on episodes of sleep paralysis. For example, sleep deprivation, some medications and some sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, are triggers. Also, sleep paralysis is commonly seen in patients with narcolepsy, said Dr. Shelby Harris, director of Behavioral Sleep Medicine at the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at the Montefiore Health System in the Bronx, New York.

Youth seems to be a factor in the occurrence of sleep paralysis. According to the Mayo Clinic, this disorder is more likely to happen to people between the ages of 10 and 25. Sleep paralysis is also more prevalent in those with post-traumatic stress disorder and panic disorder, according to a 2017 report published by the National Institutes of Health.

Sleep paralysis may also be genetic, according to a study done on 862 twins and siblings. “It’s still a preliminary finding,” said Daniel Denis, a psychologist at the University of Sheffield in England, and co-author of the study published online February 2015 in the Journal of Sleep Research, but added that it provides “a general inkling that something to do with the control of circadian rhythms is probably involved in sleep paralysis.” [Sleep Paralysis Linked to Genetics]

According to a study in 2011 by Pennsylvania State University, 7.6 percent of the general population has problems with sleep paralysis. People with mental disorders such as anxiety and depression are more likely to experience sleep paralysis. According to the study, 31.9 percent of those with mental disorders experienced episodes.

Those afflicted with sleep paralysis are often unable to move their bodies or speak immediately after waking up. This can last one to two minutes, according to the Mayo Clinic. People experiencing sleep paralysis may also feel a weight on their chest or a choking feeling.

In the past, it was believed that demons caused sleep paralysis by holding people down or sitting on their chest. This was often due to hallucinations, which are a common symptom during sleep paralysis because the brain is still in a dream state. People have reported seeing ghosts, demons and other strange apparitions while experiencing paralysis.

For most people, there is no treatment for sleep paralysis. The key is prevention and the treatment of any underlying causes.

After one episode of sleep paralysis, it may not be necessary to get a doctor’s appointment right away. “If you have rare episodes of sleep paralysis, but haven’t been seen by a sleep specialist, make sure your sleep hygiene is solid. For example, sleep paralysis can be a sign that you’re sleep deprived,” Harris told Live Science. Harris suggested that those experiencing sleep paralysis should make sure to get enough sleep on a regular basis, avoid alcohol, nicotine and drugs all night, starting three hours before bedtime. They should also limit caffeine after 2 p.m. and keep electronics out of the bedroom.

“If these things don’t help, and you’re having episodes that are becoming somewhat more frequent, see a sleep specialist to see if there’s any underlying medical disorder that might be causing the sleep paralysis,” Harris said.

According to the U.K. National Health System (NHS), sleep paralysis is not dangerous, though those experiencing extreme sleep paralysis may be prescribed a short course of antidepressant medication, such as clomipramine (Anafranil).

During the attack, it is important to stay calm and realize that it will pass soon. “There’s not much you can do during an attack besides say to yourself, ‘This is only temporary. It will pass very shortly and I will be able to move soon,'” Harris said. “This really only works if you’ve had an episode or two before and know what to expect. These attacks can be quite scary to experience, especially if you’ve never had one before.”

Why Selena Gomez Needed a Kidney Transplant

Singer Selena Gomez revealed today (Sept. 14) that she recently had a kidney transplant due to complications from lupus. But how does lupus affect the kidneys, and why do people with the condition sometimes need kidney transplants?

In an Instagram post, Gomez, who is 25, explained to fans why she appeared to be “laying low” over the summer. “I found out I needed to get a kidney transplant due to my Lupus and was recovering,” Gomez said. “It was what I needed to do for my overall health.” The post included a photo of her in the hospital with friend Francia Raisa, who donated the kidney to Gomez.

Lupus is an autoimmune disorder, which means the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues, according to the Mayo Clinic. This leads to inflammation that can cause damage in many parts of the body, including the joints, skin, kidneys, heart and lungs.

Damage to the kidneys is one of the most common health problems for people with lupus, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). About half of adults and 80 percent of children with lupus have kidney disease, the NIH said.

In the kidneys, lupus can cause swelling and scarring of the small blood vessels called glomeruli that filter waste products from the blood, according to the National Kidney Foundation.

People with lupus who have inflammation in their kidneys are treated with medicines to suppress their immune systems, according to the NIH. These medicines often work well to control the inflammation, but up to 30 percent of people with lupus who also have related kidney inflammation will develop kidney failure, the NIH said. (Kidney failure means that the kidneys stop working properly and can no longer meet the body’s needs.)

Most patients with lupus-related kidney failure are good candidates for kidney transplant, according to a 2005 review paper. People who undergo kidney transplants need to take drugs for the rest of their lives to stop their bodies from rejecting the new organ, but these drugs are similar to the medications already used to treat lupus, according to the National Kidney Foundation.

Gomez was diagnosed with lupus in 2013, and she first revealed her diagnosis to the public in 2015.

In her post today, Gomez had a special note of thanks to her friend for donating the kidney.

“There aren’t words to describe how I can possibly thank my beautiful friend Francia Raisa. She gave me the ultimate gift and sacrifice by donating her kidney to me,” Gomez said.

Tramadol: Dosage & Side Effects

Tramadol is a prescription medication used to treat moderate to moderately severe pain. It is sold under the brand name Ultram in the United States, and as Ralivia, Dromodol and other names elsewhere. It is intended to work by changing the way the central nervous system responds to pain.

Tramadol is effective on two fronts: About 20 percent of its painkilling effects come from opioids, and 80 percent from ingredients that inhibit the reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine, two chemicals in the brain associated with mood and responsiveness to pain, said Dr. Lewis Nelson, a professor of emergency medicine at New York University’s Langone Medical Center.

Because tramadol has less opioid content than other addictive painkillers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and morphine, “a lot of doctors inappropriately view this as safer,” Nelson told Live Science. But tramadol carries risks: People can still abuse and overdose on tramadol because of its opioid component. Its interaction with serotonin can also affect people taking other serotoninlike drugs, such as antidepressants, he said.

However, tramadol’s opioid and serotonergic effects are important because they allow tramadol to treat both pain and the psychological components of pain, he said.

Researchers first synthesized tramadol in the 1970s, and the Food and Drug Administration approved it for treatment of acute and chronic pain in 1995. The Drug Enforcement Administration identified it as a Schedule IV drug in 2014 to show that tramadol has potential for abuse.

Tramadol is available in several forms: tablet, orally disintegrating tablet, extended-release capsule and extended-release tablet, orally disintegrating tablet and suspension. The extended-release tablets and capsules are prescribed for patients who need round-the-clock pain relief.

Safe dosage of tramadol varies based on the patient and his or her needs. For chronic pain, doctors often prescribe a low dose at first, usually after surgery. Doctors also prescribe tramadol to treat arthritis, fibromyalgiaand other chronic pain conditions. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the regular tablet and disintegrating tablet are usually taken with or without food every four to six hours as needed. The extended-release tablet and extended-release capsule should be taken once a day.

Patients should not take a larger dose or take it more often or for a longer period of time than prescribed. The NIH advises that if you miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember, unless it is very close to the time for the next dose. Then, skip the missed dose and continue the regular schedule. The dosage may be increased by the doctor, but should not be increased by the patient.

It is also important not to suddenly stop taking tramadol, according to the NIH. Doing so may cause withdrawal symptoms, such as nervousness, panic, sweating, difficulty falling asleep, runny nose, chills, nausea, diarrhea and hallucinations. Your doctor will likely decrease your dose gradually.

Children younger than 12 should not take tramadol, according to 2017 rules from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). “Our decision today was made based on the latest evidence and with this goal in mind: keeping our kids safe,” Dr. Douglas Throckmorton, deputy center director for regulatory programs at the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in a statement.

As noted, tramadol can interact with drugs that affect serotonin levels, such as antidepressants, sometimes leading to serotonin syndrome, described as uncontrollable shaking, altered mental status, rigidity and high body temperature, Nelson said.

Seizures have been reported both in animals and humans taking tramadol. Seizures can happen even at recommended doses, but are more common if a person misuses or overdoses on the drug, or if tramadol interacts with another drug, especially antidepressants, according to a 2009 study published in the journal Psychiatry.