30 April 2007

Hepatitis - Risk Factors and Symptoms

What are the risk factors?

Risk factors are circumstances or conditions that can increase the chances of developing a condition. Some of these behaviors can be changed and taking special precautions may be helpful for limiting others. Risk factors for hepatitis B include:

  • Being tattooed or having body or ear piercing with contaminated instruments
  • Immigration from areas where the disease is common, especially among children
  • Injectable drug use
  • Poor socioeconomic conditions
  • Sexual activity with homosexual or bisexual men
  • Sexual activity with more than one partner in 6 months
  • Travel to high-risk countries in Africa, Asia, South America, and Eastern and Mediterranean parts of Europe

Other individuals who may be at greater risk are:

  • Dialysis patients
  • Health care workers
  • Individuals who received a blood transfusion prior to July 1992
  • Individuals with hemophilia, especially those who used blood-derived clotting factors before 1987
  • Infants born to infected mothers
  • Sexual or household contacts of infected individuals

What are the symptoms?

Many individuals who contract HBV are not even aware that they have hepatitis because the symptoms may be so mild. The most common symptoms of hepatitis B are often mistaken for the flu and they may not be recognized because they may not appear until one to 6 months after becoming infected. Some of these symptoms may be:

  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mild fever
  • Muscle or joint aches

Additional symptoms that may appear a few days after the initial symptoms include:

  • Bitter taste in the mouth or bad breath
  • Clay-colored (light) stools
  • Confusion
  • Dark urine
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pain on the right side below the ribs
  • Widespread itching
  • Yellow colored skin or white areas of eyes (jaundice)

The following symptoms of more serious liver damage may occur months to years later in individuals with chronic hepatitis B:

  • Bruising easily or the appearance of “spider veins” broken blood vessels that form a tangled, spiderlike appearance under the skin
  • Changes in personality or behavior (encephalopathy)
  • Pain on the upper left side of stomach (due to an enlarged spleen)
  • Red coloration of the palms of the hands
  • Swelling of the legs and stomach (ascites)
  • Vomiting bright red blood or dark, grainy "coffee ground" material (as a result of bleeding from enlarged blood vessels in the oesophagus and stomach)

Labels: ,

25 April 2007

Hepatitis B - Who gets it, What causes it?

Hepatitis B

What causes it?

HBV is transmitted from individual to individual through contact with infected bodily fluids, such as blood. Because chronic carriers of HBV are often unaware that they have the virus, they may transmit the disease to others unknowingly. Injecting illegal drugs with contaminated needles or having sex with an infected individual are common ways to become infected. Sharing and reusing diabetes blood testing supplies with any infected individual may also cause an individual to become infected. In addition, instruments such as those used for tattooing and body piercing can spread hepatitis if they are not properly sterilized between uses. A mother who is infected can transmit HBV to her baby during childbirth. However, it is not transmitted through breast-feeding.

Once HBV makes its way to the liver, it multiplies. Symptoms usually develop within one to 6 months. Exactly how liver cells are damaged or why some individuals acquire chronic infection or liver cancer is unknown.

Who has it?

Of all the serious transmittable diseases, hepatitis is the most common. Up to 100,000 new cases of hepatitis B are reported each year in the United States, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1.25 million Americans are infected with chronic hepatitis B.

Hepatitis B affects individuals of both sexes and all ages, ethnic groups, and sexual orientations. About one-fifth of the world’s population will have hepatitis B at sometime in their lives. It is more common in males, with the highest occurrence between the ages of 20 and 49 years. Individuals with hemophilia may be slightly more at risk, if they use clotting factors that are made from human blood.

In the United States, the acute form of hepatitis has been declining due to the availability of an effective vaccine and the aggressive promotion of vaccination among children and teenagers. Changes in high-risk behavior may also contribute to the decrease. In 1990, approximately 21,000 Americans were believed to have acute hepatitis B. By 2002, that number had dropped to approximately 8,000.

Chronic hepatitis B affects an estimated 1.25 million Americans and about 400 million chronic carriers are believed to exist in the world population. As the number of acute cases goes down, the number of chronic carriers of hepatitis B is also expected to decline. However, increases in occurrence have been observed among the major risk groups: individuals with compromised immune systems, sexually active individuals, and injectable drug users.

Labels: ,

15 April 2007

Benign Prostate Hyperplasia

Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is enlargement of the prostate gland - a gland found only in men, which produces the milky fluid in which sperm are ejaculated. The enlargement results from uncontrolled growth of the gland. As the prostate gland progressively becomes larger, the urethra - a tube through which urine is passed out of the body - may become constricted because it is surrounded by the prostate gland. This constriction can obstruct the flow of urine out of the bladder and this constriction and/or obstruction is thought to cause the urinary symptoms characteristic of BPH.

The exact cause of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is unclear, although researchers believe it may be caused by hormonal changes that occur during the aging process. One theory is that as a man ages, the amount of testosterone in his blood decreases, leaving a higher proportion of oestrogen (estrogen) in his blood. The disproportion of estrogen may contribute to cell growth within the prostate gland. Another possible hormonal change involves dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a by-product of testosterone. If levels of DHT accumulate in the prostate, overgrowth of cells in the prostate can occur.