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Being Multicellular

Explorations in science and medicine.

Are Vascular Diseases Preventable?

Vascular disease is the collective term for diseases that affect arteries and veins; blood vessels. Vascular disease is caused by weakness, inflammation and fatty deposits in the blood vessels. As these deposits build up, the blood follow to organs and muscles is decreased which causes pain and lack of mobility[1]. Vascular disease also leads to other issues like coronary disease, heart attacks and also causes strokes by affecting the arteries in the neck [1]. A common form is PAD where the arteries in the legs are affected, causing pain in the legs and ulceration.

So are these diseases preventable? Let’s explore the causes:

  • Family history of Vascular Disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Being overweight
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Lack of Exercise
  • Stress

Out of those causes from the circulationfoundation [1], only the hereditary risk of a family history of vascular disease is something that the individual cannot control or try to monitor as best as they can. I am becoming more and more aware of circumstances like this is medicine, where there are serious risks, like heart attacks, strokes that can be permanently debilitating, and yet, with a few lifestyle changes; going on a walk once a week, introducing more plant oils rather than animal fats into the diet- simple things, a life can be saved. Therefore, it is very important for people to be aware of vascular disease, to increase the chance of a lifestyle change which could then avoid such a painful condition.

[1]https://www.circulationfoundation.org.uk/help-advice

[2]https://www.world-heart-federation.org/resources/risk-factors/

©Being Multicellular 2017. All Rights Reserved.

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What Causes Migraines?

Migraines can cause throbbing or pulsing pains on one side of the head sometimes in addition to nausea and sensitivity to light and sound [2]. Migraines are thought to be due ‘abnormal brain activity temporarily affecting nerve signals, chemicals and blood vessels in the brain’ or changes in the brainstem and its interaction with the trigeminal nerve which is a major pain pathway[1][2]. It is thought that brain chemical imbalances like serotonin which is involved in regulating pain in the nervous system may be involved, as shown in how serotonin levels drop during migraines.

There are a number of triggers, according to the NHS website, that stimulate this supposed ‘abnormal brain activity.’

  • Hormonal changes

Some women experience migraines at particular times in their menstruation cycle, due to the changes of hormone levels, specifically fluctuations in oestrogen levels, this is called a menstrual related migraine. If a woman has migraines immediately before/during their period it is most likely due to hormonal changes as this is when there is a major drop in oestrogen level. Menopause and pregnancy can also trigger migraines or, in other cases alleviate them.

  • Emotional triggers

These include stress, anxiety, depression which are the expected emotional triggers but emotions like excitement can also cause migraines.

  • Environmental triggers

Bright lights, smoking, loud noises, and strong smells are examples of sensory stimuli that may trigger migraines and other external influences like changes in climate could have an effect.

  • Physical triggers

Causes include tiredness, jet lag, low blood sugar and also exercise if the individual is not used to strenuous exercise.

  • Dietary triggers

Include missed meals, dehydration, alcohol (especially wine), caffeine and some food additives and food items like chocolate and aged cheeses may trigger migraines.

  • Medication

Some sleeping pills, contraceptive pills can cause migraines.

Other factors include family history, age and sex; women are three times more likely to have migraines, but of course that is probably due to periods, pregnancy and menopause; major changes in hormone levels.

[1]http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Migraine/Pages/Causes.aspx

[2] http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/migraine-headache/symptoms-causes/dxc-20202434

©Being Multicellular 2017. All Rights Reserved.

What is Charcot–Marie–Tooth disease (CMT)?

Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease is a group of diseases that damage the nerves that are outside the brain and spinal cord- the peripheral nerves- which control the muscles and sensory stimuli. CMT is caused by an abnormality in one of the genes (sometimes inherited from parents) that control the development of the peripheral nerves leading to the nerves becoming damaged. The reason why CMT is the umbrella term for ‘a group’ of diseases is because no single gene or fault causes CMT, there are a range of genetic faults that can damage the peripheral nerves. One of the genes that cause CMT causes the myelin sheath to wear down and so the axon, the part of the nerve cell that transmits electrical impulses, become damaged without the protection the myelin sheath provides; therefore, impulses to the brain and muscles are affected leading to numbness and weakness.

It is a progressive condition; it gets worse as the individual gets older. CMT may cause muscle weakness and numbness in the feet, ankles, legs and hands, have very arched feet and curled toes, cold hands and feet due to poor circulation and having an uneven gait. These symptoms may appear in childhood, usually between five and fifteen years old, but they may not develop until middle age [1]. A common sign is when a child has difficulty walking due to having trouble lifting their feet of the ground.

There is no cure but there are treatments that can increase mobility and the independence of the individual such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy and walking aids and surgery can be used to flatten the arch of the foot and correct muscles contractures where the muscles shorten which limits the range of movement[1].

[1] http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Charcot-Marie-Tooth-disease/Pages/Introduction.aspx

©Being Multicellular 2017. All Rights Reserved.

What is hydrocephalus?

Hydrocephalus means ‘Water on The Brain’ and is caused by the build of cerebral spinal fluid (not water)-the fluid the brain floats in- within the ventricles of the brain usually due to an obstruction of some sort that prevents normal drainage. CSF is mostly made in the chordus plexus and when the system is working correctly, surplus CSF is removed through Continue reading “What is hydrocephalus?”

Health Risks Victims of Trafficking Face- World Day Against Trafficking in Persons 2017

Trafficked victims face many risks both concerning their mental and physical health which I will explore in this post for the World Day Against Trafficked Persons, arguably the individuals with the least rights in society, with little protection, enforceable protection, by governments all over the globe.

There are several barriers to healthcare for trafficked persons: Continue reading “Health Risks Victims of Trafficking Face- World Day Against Trafficking in Persons 2017”

What is Hepatitis?

It’s World Hepatitis Day and so I’d like to briefly explore what Hepatitis is. Before research for this post, I didn’t know that there were so many types of hepatitis and that for some of them, especially autoimmune, the causes are unknown.

Hepatitis is the term used to describe inflammation of the liver. The causes are viral infection or liver damage by alcohol. The type determines whether the hepatitis will

Continue reading “What is Hepatitis?”

What is C.diff?

While I was on hospital work experience, one of the nurses talked about C.diff, an infection that they are always alert of because it easily spreads and infects those that have recently received antibiotics, specifically broad spectrum or long-term antibiotics. Clostridium difficile is a bacterium that affects the bowel and can cause diarrhoea. Continue reading “What is C.diff?”

Sebum and Acne

Sebum is oil produced by the sebaceous gland which covers all of the skin except for the palms of hands and soles of feet. Sebum contains triglycerides, diglycerides, fatty acids, wax esters, squalene and cholesterol [1] and sebaceous glands lie just below the dermis layer of the skin and Continue reading “Sebum and Acne”

Why are GP practices closing down?

1 in 20 GP’s have closed down since 2012 [1] and in 2016 alone 58 practices closed down with 34 more closing down due to merging of practices.

So why is this? Reasons for this crisis include:

Too little resources

There has been increased demand for primary care but the percentage of the NHS budget spent on general practice has decreased from 11% in 2006 to less than 8.5% at the moment [1], in fact,

Continue reading “Why are GP practices closing down?”

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