MIGRAINE: Recognizing an Aura

(HealthDay News) — March 25, 2010 – About one in five migraine sufferers experiences an aura that warns of a pending migraine, the National Headache Society says.

Scientists believe aura results when nerves in the brain are activated just before a migraine and become super “excited.”

 The society says aura may be characterized by:

  • Seeing lights that flash.
  • Seeing lights that appear in a zigzag pattern.
  • Developing blind spots.
  • Having distorted vision.
  • Sensing a tingling or “pins-and-needles” feeling in one arm or leg.


Therapy Via Teleconference?

Therapy Via Teleconference? Professor Studies Remote Psychotherapy

ScienceDaily (Mar. 24, 2010) — Obtaining therapy via teleconference is just as effective as face-to-face sessions, according to a new research by Stéphane Guay, a psychiatry professor at the Université de Montréal.

“Previous studies have shown that phobia therapy via teleconferencing was just as efficient as face to face contact,” says Dr. Guay, who is also director of the Trauma Studies Centre at the Louis-H. Lafontaine Hospital’s Fernand-Seguin Research Centre. “We wanted to see if the process could also be used for post-traumatic stress treatment.”

Continue reading “Therapy Via Teleconference?”

National Study Offers New Insight On How Physicians Prescribe Psychiatric Drugs

(National News Today) – March 24, 2010 – A new study sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) outlines the conditions that physicians around the country reported treating with psychiatric drugs such as antipsychotics, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety drugs.

Psychiatric medications are one of the most widely prescribed categories of drugs in the nation; yet few studies have comprehensively examined the types of illnesses being treated with these medications. In particular, there has been a great deal of interest and some concern about how psychiatric drugs are being prescribed for medical conditions not included in their Food and Drug Administration-approved labeling – or “off-label” — use. In most instances it is legal and a common practice for physicians to prescribe drugs off-label, even though less may be known about a drug’s risks and benefits for an unapproved indication.

Continue reading “National Study Offers New Insight On How Physicians Prescribe Psychiatric Drugs”

Secondhand Smoke Can Harm Children

(HealthDay News) — March 23, 2010 – Secondhand smoke is particularly dangerous to young children, whose lungs are still developing, the American Academy of Pediatrics says.

The academy cites the following health problems that are more likely to develop in children exposed to secondhand smoke:

  • Asthma.
  • Respiratory tract infections.
  • Insufficient lung growth.
  • Reduced tolerance for exercise.
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).


Topiramate Effective for Alcohol Dependence

Source:  Medscape Today

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) Mar 22 – The anticonvulsant topiramate (Topamax) helps treat alcohol dependence, but serious side effects might limit its use, researchers say.

In their systematic review, Dr. Ann K. Shinn and Dr. Shelly F. Greenfield from Harvard Medical School in Boston found “robust” evidence supporting use of topiramate in alcohol-dependent patients.

On the other hand, they found no support for using topiramate to treat dependence on nicotine, cocaine, methamphetamines, benzodiazepines, opioids or Ecstasy.

Continue reading “Topiramate Effective for Alcohol Dependence”

Depression: Antidepressants Beneficial in Physically Ill Patients

ScienceDaily (Mar. 17, 2010)Antidepressants are effective against depression in patients suffering from physical illnesses, according to a new systematic review by Cochrane researchers at King’s Health Partners Academic Health Sciences Centre in the UK. The researchers found the drugs were more effective than placebos at treating depression in these patients.

One of the most neglected areas of healthcare research is the effects of physical illness on an individual’s mental health. Research suggests that more than ten percent of patients suffering from physical diseases also suffer from depression. For reasons that are not entirely clear, depression may amplify the symptoms of physical disease and increase the risk of these patients dying. Studies suggest that doctors are less likely to prescribe antidepressants to people who are physically ill because they are unsure if they are helpful for these patients. Therefore, it is important to know whether antidepressants can be effective in people with physical illness.

Continue reading “Depression: Antidepressants Beneficial in Physically Ill Patients”

Brain damage linked to prenatal meth exposure

WASHINGTON (AFP) – March 16, 2010 – A developing fetus exposed to methamphetamine can cause far more damaging brain, cognitive and behavioral problems than prenatal exposure to alcohol, a study said Tuesday.

University of California Los Angeles professor Elizabeth Sowell and her colleagues used structural magnetic resonance imaging (sMRI) to evaluate the specific effects of prenatal meth-exposure by comparing the brain scans of 61 children.

Among the participating children, 21 had prenatal meth and alcohol exposure, 13 had heavy alcohol exposure only and 27 were not exposed to either meth or alcohol.

The scientists showed for the first time that children whose mothers consumed meth during pregnancy — with or without alcohol — had structural abnormalities in the brain that were more severe than those seen in children whose mothers abused alcohol alone.

They found that the caudate nucleus, a structure important for learning and memory, motor control and motivation, was one of the brain regions more reduced by meth than alcohol exposure.

Earlier studies have shown that alcohol-exposed children have some smaller brain structures. Sowell and her colleagues found the affected brain regions were similar for meth-exposed children, with some of the brain regions even smaller and others larger than normal.

The larger volume in meth-exposed children was found in the cingulate cortex, an area linked to control and conflict resolution.

Continue reading “Brain damage linked to prenatal meth exposure”

Combination Treatment May Help Depressed Alcoholics

MONDAY, March 15 (HealthDay News) — Combined treatment with the antidepressant Zoloft (sertraline) and the alcoholism drug naltrexone improves the likelihood that people with both major depression and alcohol dependence will be able to stop drinking, U.S. researchers report.

Their 14-week study of 170 patients found that 54 percent of those who received the combined treatment were able to stop drinking, compared with 21 to 28 percent for patients who received a placebo, Zoloft only, or naltrexone only.

Continue reading “Combination Treatment May Help Depressed Alcoholics”

Smoking, but Not Past Alcohol Abuse, May Impair Mental Function, Study Suggests

ScienceDaily (Mar. 18, 2010) — Men and women with a history of alcohol abuse may not see long-term negative effects on their memory and thinking, but female smokers do, a new study suggests.

In a study of 287 men and women ages 31 to 60, researchers found that those with past alcohol-use disorders performed similarly on standard tests of cognitive function as those with no past drinking problems.

The findings were not as positive when it came to tobacco, however.

In general, women who had ever been addicted to smoking had lower scores on certain cognitive tests than their nonsmoking counterparts. The same pattern was not true of men, however, the researchers report in the March issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

Continue reading “Smoking, but Not Past Alcohol Abuse, May Impair Mental Function, Study Suggests”

Deadly: Inhalant Abuse

12 Year Olds More Likely to Use Potentially Deadly Inhalants Than Cigarettes or Marijuana

ScienceDaily (Mar. 14, 2010) — More 12 year olds have used potentially lethal inhalants than have used marijuana, cocaine and hallucinogens combined, according to data released March 11 by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in conjunction with the 18th annual National Inhalants & Poisons Awareness Week.

The National Inhalant Prevention Coalition (NIPC) and SAMHSA kicked off National Inhalants and Poisons Awareness Week at a press conference featuring information and personal stories about the dangers of inhalant use or “huffing.” One of the leading participants in this year’s event was the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), which represents more than 67,000 osteopathic physicians (DOs). The organization urged its members to take continuing education programs designed to help enhance physician awareness of this risk to youth.

Continue reading “Deadly: Inhalant Abuse”



You hurt all over, and you frequently feel exhausted. Even after numerous tests, your doctor can’t find anything specifically wrong with you. If this sounds familiar, you may have fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterized by widespread pain in your muscles, ligaments and tendons, as well as fatigue and multiple tender points — places on your body where slight pressure causes pain. Fibromyalgia is more common in women than in men. Previously, fibromyalgia was known by other names such as fibrositis, chronic muscle pain syndrome, psychogenic rheumatism and tension myalgias.

Although the intensity of your symptoms may vary, they’ll probably never disappear completely. It may be reassuring to know, however, that fibromyalgia isn’t progressive or life-threatening. Treatments and self-care steps can improve fibromyalgia symptoms and your general health.

More on this topic can be found at Mayo Clinic which will also describe the: signs & symptoms, causes, risk factors, when to seek medical advice etc.  Hope this helps anyone coping with this painful condition.


Risk Of Developing Cataracts Increased By Anti-Depressants

(Medical News Today) Mar 09, 2010 – Some anti-depressant drugs are associated with an increased chance of developing cataracts, according to a new statistical study by researchers at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute and McGill University.

Continue reading “Risk Of Developing Cataracts Increased By Anti-Depressants”

Abused Children More Likely to Suffer Unexplained Abdominal Pain, Nausea or Vomiting

ScienceDaily (Mar. 9, 2010) — Children who have been abused psychologically, physically or sexually are more likely to suffer unexplained abdominal pain and nausea or vomiting than children who have not been abused, a study led by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers concludes.

“Therefore, when young patients complain about unexplained gastrointestinal symptoms, their doctors should ask questions to determine if they might have been abused,” said Miranda van Tilburg, Ph.D., lead author of the study, an assistant professor of gastroenterology and hepatology in the UNC School of Medicine and a member of UNC’s Center for Functional GI & Motility Disorders.

Continue reading “Abused Children More Likely to Suffer Unexplained Abdominal Pain, Nausea or Vomiting”

Only The Beautiful Need Apply

(Medical News Today) – March 2010 – New study flags damaging effect of joining a sorority on body image and eating behaviors.

Undergraduate women who join a sorority* are more likely to judge their own bodies from an outsider’s perspective (known as self-objectification) and display higher levels of bulimic attitudes and behaviors than those who do not take part in the sorority’s recruitment process. Over time, those women who join the group also show higher levels of body shame. These findings¹, part of Ashley Marie Rolnik’s senior honors thesis² at Northwestern University in the US, are published online in Springer’s journal Sex Roles.

On college campuses across the US, thousands of women join sororities every year through a structured recruitment process – the sorority rush. Although these sisterhoods provide college women with opportunities for personal growth and enrichment, they have been criticized for their potential to lead their members to focus excessively and unhealthily on their appearance.

Continue reading “Only The Beautiful Need Apply”

Stress: Do You Grind Your Teeth At Night?

ScienceDaily (Mar. 5, 2010) — People who are stressed by daily problems or trouble at work seem to be more likely to grind their teeth at night. Researchers writing in BioMed Central’s open access journal Head & Face Medicine studied the causes of ‘sleep bruxism’, gnashing teeth during the night, finding that it was especially common in those who try to cope with stress by escaping from difficult situations.

Maria Giraki, from Heinrich-Heine-University, Düsseldorf, Germany, worked with a team of researchers to study the condition in 69 people, of whom 48 were ‘bruxers’. She said, “Bruxing can lead to abrasive tooth wear, looseness and sensitivity of teeth, and growth and pain in the muscles responsible for chewing. Its causes are still relatively unknown, but stress has been implicated. We aimed to investigate whether different stress-factors, and different coping strategies, were more or less associated with these bruxism symptoms.”

Tooth grinding was measured by thin plates that were placed in trial participants mouths’ overnight, while stress and coping techniques were assessed by three questionnaires. Bruxing was not associated with age, sex or education level, but was more common in people who claimed to experience daily stress and trouble at work.

Giraki adds, “Our data support the assumption that people with the most problematic grinding do not seem to be able to deal with stress in an adequate way. They seem to prefer negative coping strategies like ‘escape’. This, in general, increases the feeling of stress, instead of looking at the stressor in a positive way.”


Vitamin D Lifts Mood During Cold Weather Months

(Medical News Today) – Mar 04, 2010 – A daily dose of vitamin D may just be what Chicagoans need to get through the long winter, according to researchers at Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing (MNSON). This nutrient lifts mood during cold weather months when days are short and more time is spent indoors.

“Vitamin D deficiency continues to be a problem despite the nutrient’s widely reported health benefits,” said Sue Penckofer, PhD, RN, professor, MNSON. “Chicago winters compound this issue when more people spend time away from sunlight, which is a natural source of vitamin D.”

Diet alone may not be sufficient to manage vitamin D levels. A combination of adequate dietary intake of vitamin D, exposure to sunlight, and treatment with vitamin D2 or D3 supplements can decrease the risk of certain health concerns. The preferred range in the body is 30 – 60 ng/mL of 25(OH) vitamin D.

Continue reading “Vitamin D Lifts Mood During Cold Weather Months”

People Still Trust Their Doctors Rather Than the Internet

WEDNESDAY, March 3 (HealthDay News) — The Internet has made vast amounts of health information available to the general public, but all that virtual “noise” has made people more likely than ever to trust their doctor with medical decisions, a new survey finds.

“As the environment gets noisier, the more you need the physician to help you decipher that noise,” explained Bradford W. Hesse, one of three researchers from the U.S. National Cancer Institute who produced the survey. “Part of noise is there’s good information and there’s bad information. We have a hard time understanding which is which. But doctors are credible. They’ve gone through a lot of training, and they can help you sort the good information from the bad.”  Continue reading “People Still Trust Their Doctors Rather Than the Internet”

Psychosurgery Makes Comeback

ScienceDaily (Mar. 4, 2010) — Psychosurgery is making a comeback. Recently published case series have shown encouraging results of so-called deep brain stimulation (DBS) in treatment-resistant obsessive-compulsive disorder, depressive disorders, and Tourette syndrome.

In the current issue of Deutsches Ärzteblatt International, authors Jens Kuhn (University of Cologne) and Theo P J Gründer (Max Planck Institute, Cologne) and their co-authors provide an introduction to the method.

In order to determine the clinical utility of DBS in psychiatric disorders, the authors evaluated therapeutic studies from 1980 to 2009. They found improvement rates of between 35% and 70% in treatment-resistant obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, and Tourette syndrome. The rate of side effects associated with DBS was usually low and mostly reversible by modulating the stimulation parameters.

This favourable side effect profile is not all that surprising because DBS is a procedure that is well known; it has been in use for 20 years. In Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor, the method has proved to be so effective that it has been licensed as a therapeutic option for many years. To administer DBS, two electrodes are implanted into the patient that deliver continuous, high frequency, short electrical impulses, enabling modulation of the functional neuronal circuits. The electrodes are connected via a cable to an impulse generator, which is usually implanted below the collarbone.

Although DBS seems to offer new perspectives for the treatment of psychiatric disorders, further studies into its efficacy, mechanisms of action, and side effect profile — and especially its long term course — are needed.


Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Individuals Risk Psychiatric Disorders from Discriminatory Policies

ScienceDaily (Mar. 2, 2010) — A Mailman School of Public Health study examining the effects of institutional discrimination on the psychiatric health of lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) individuals found an increase in psychiatric disorders among the LGB population living in states that instituted bans on same-sex marriage. The study, published in the March issue of the American Journal of Public Health, is available online.

Deborah Hasin, PhD, professor of clinical Epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health and senior author, and colleagues at the NYS Psychiatric Institute and Harvard University analyzed data from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC). Participants were initially interviewed during 2001 — 2002 (Wave 1) and again during the period 2004-2005 (Wave 2), at which time participants’ sexual orientation was assessed.

“To address the impact of institutional discrimination on mental health, we examined whether LGB individuals living in states that instituted constitutional amendments banning gay marriage via the 2004-2005 elections evidenced increased rates of psychiatric disorders between Wave 1 and Wave 2 of the survey,” according to the authors.

Among LGB study participants living in these states, the prevalence of mood disorders, generalized anxiety disorder and alcohol use disorders increased significantly between Wave 1 to Wave 2, with the greatest increase, more than 200%, in generalized anxiety disorder. The prevalence of any psychiatric disorder also increased slightly among heterosexual respondents, but to a much lesser extent than their LGB counterparts.

“Before this study, little was known about the impact of institutional discrimination toward lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals in our society,” said Dr. Hasin. “The study highlights the importance of abolishing institutional forms of discrimination, including those leading to disparities in the mental health and well-being of LGB individuals.”

Institutional discrimination is characterized by societal-level conditions that limit the opportunities and access to resources by socially-disadvantaged groups.

During the 2004 election and soon after, the authors note, 14 states approved constitutional amendments restricting marriage to unions between heterosexual couples.


Teen pot smokers at high risk of mental illness

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – March 1, 2010 – Young people who use marijuana (cannabis) are at increased risk of suffering hallucinations, delusions or other reality-distorting “psychoses.” And the more time that’s passed since first use, the higher the risk.

The findings from a study by Dr. John McGrath, of the Queensland Center for Mental Health Research in Wacol, Australia, and colleagues confirm previous smaller studies that have suggested that pot smoking may be linked to mental illness.

The study, appearing in the Archives of General Psychiatry, involved roughly 3,800 people born in Brisbane between 1981 and 1984, who were followed up at age 5, 14 and 21 years. When they were 20 years old on average, researchers asked them about marijuana use and assessed their mental health.

Continue reading “Teen pot smokers at high risk of mental illness”


A Primer on Migraine Headaches

ScienceDaily (Feb. 27, 2010)Migraine headache affects many people and a number of different preventative strategies should be considered, states an article in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal). The article, a primer for physicians, outlines various treatments and approaches for migraine headaches.

Migraine headache is a common, disabling condition. When migraine headaches become frequent, therapy can be challenging. Preventative therapy for migraines remains one of the more difficult aspects, as while there are valid randomized controlled trials to aid decision making, no drug is completely effective, and most have side effects.

Medications used for migraine can be divided into two broad categories: symptomatic or acute medications to treat individual migraine attacks, or preventative medications which are used to reduce headache frequency. Symptomatic migraine therapy alone, although helpful for many patients, is not adequate treatment for all. Patients with frequent migraine attacks may still have pain despite treating symptoms, and when symptomatic medications are used too often, they can increase headache frequency and may lead to medication overuse headache.

Physicians need to educate patients about migraine triggers and lifestyle factors. Common headache triggers include caffeine withdrawal, alcohol, sunlight, menstruation and changes in barometric pressure. Lifestyle factors such as stress, erratic sleep and work schedules, skipping meals, and obesity are associated with increased migraine attacks.

Overuse of symptomatic headache medications is considered by headache specialists to make migraine therapy less effective, and stopping medication overuse is recommended to improve the chance of success when initiating physician prescribed therapy.

When preventative therapy is initiated, 1 of 3 outcomes can be anticipated. Patients may show improvement, with 50% or more a reduction in headache frequency which can be assessed using a headache diary. People may develop side effects such as nausea or weight gain, or the drug may be ineffective in some individuals.

An adequate trial of medication takes 8 to 12 weeks, and more than one medication may need to be tried. There is little evidence about how long successful migraine treatment should be continued but recent studies suggest that most patients relapse to some extent after stopping medication.


Stress Raises Risk of Mental Decline in Older Diabetics

ScienceDaily (Feb. 27, 2010) — Stress raises the risk of memory loss and cognitive decline among older people with diabetes, research suggests.

University researchers studied more than 900 men and women aged between 60 and 75 with type-2 diabetes.

Evaluating brain function

Scientists evaluated mental abilities with a range of tests, including memory function and how quickly participants processed information.

They compared this with general intelligence levels, using vocabulary tests, to work out whether brain function in participants had diminished over time.

They found that brain function slowed in participants with higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

Edinburgh Type-2 Diabetes Study

The study, published by Diabetes Care, took into account factors such as education, cardiovascular disease, smoking and mood.

It is part of the Edinburgh Type-2 Diabetes Study set up four years ago to better understand why people with diabetes may have memory problems.

Researchers are now inviting people who enrolled when the study was set up to take part in follow-up research to repeat the memory tests.

Memory and diabetes

Type-2 diabetes tends to be more common after the age of 40.

It is linked to problems with memory, but the reason behind this is unclear.

The scientists, who have been funded by the Medical Research Council, will now look at other factors which may also impact on memory problems.