Treating Stomach Acid and Heartburn

When food is eaten, digestion actually begins in the mouth where the process of chewing, along with the production of selected enzymes, readies the food for swallowing and processing in the gastrointestinal tract. In order to perform its job, the stomach produces hydrochloric acid and some digestive enzymes to aid in the breakdown of the food that was just eaten.

In order to activate the digestive enzymes that it produces, the stomach must produce acid. This takes place in the parietal cells. The stomach lining normally has special secretions which protect it from the corrosive effects of this acid. Unfortunately, the lining of the esophagus does not. Sometimes excess acid production, or mishandling of the acid that is there, leads to some of it reaching the bottom of the esophagus causing heartburn. There are numerous ways to deal with this “burning issue”.

Regular Antacids

Common over-the-counter antacids have been around for many years. Consisting of compounds such as calcium carbonate or aluminum hydroxide or other similar chemicals, these substances are all alkaline in nature. When they enter the stomach they combine with the acid neutralizing it; that is they bring the pH of the stomach up from the acid range closer to neutral pH. These compounds are used by millions of people every day and are generally both well tolerated and safe with some exceptions.

Prokinetic Agents

One class of medicines that is used for short terms to treat sustained heartburn is known as “prokinetic agents”. Drugs such as metoclopramide (known widely as Reglan) increase the speed at which the stomach empties its contents into the small intestine. This class of drugs has been used extensively over the years but care must be taken as they are known to cause muscle movement problems, especially in older women.

Histamine Receptor Blockers

cimetidine
Drugs of this class are more recent additions to the armamentarium of treatments for problems related to stomach acid. Some of the more widely used forms of these drugs include: cimetidine (Tagamet), ranitidine (Zantac), famotidine (Pepcid). These drugs act by inhibiting the activity of a specific class of receptors for the chemical known as histamine. When the above drugs bind to these receptors on the parietal cells in the stomach, they act to interfere with the signals that tell these cells to produce acid.

Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs)

Stomach parietal cells produce acid because they can pump significant quantities of protons (H+ in chemistry terms) across their cell membranes. To counteract the ability of parietal cells to actually make acid, the proton pump inhibitors were developed. These drugs act directly on the cell membrane pump most responsible for the production of acid, blocking it and thus lowering the acidity of the stomach. This class of drugs includes medications such as omeprazole (Prilosec), lansoprazole (Prevacid), esomeprazole (Nexium), and pantoprazole (Protonix).

Drugs used to treat stomach acid and heartburn are some of the most widely taken compounds in the world. Remember that persistent heartburn can be a sign of more serious conditions. If you suffer from serious heartburn always remember to speak with your family health care professional.
To learn more about stomach acid and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) visit this informative site at the US National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK).

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Travel Health Advice


Suffering from traveller's tummy is a fear many people have when visiting a foreign place, especially a developing county. Research shows that one in three people may be genetically susceptible to traveler’s diarrhea, caused by an E coli bacteria. “In the future, we might be able to do a quick test to determine if someone is susceptible and if so, the logical thing would be to give them antibiotics before they travel, to prevent them from getting sick,” says Dr. Herbert DuPont, co-author of the University of Texas study.

In the meantime, the ‘boil it, peel it, cook it or forget it’ rule is sensible for visits to developing countries. To further guard against poor restaurant hygiene, Dr. David Shlim, medical director of Jackson Hole Travel and Tropical Medicine in Wyoming suggests ordering only freshly cooked dishes (like meat), avoiding reheated items such as lasagna or quiche and carrying a quick-acting antibiotic such as ciprofloxacin.

Heart Smart Travel

If you sit in a cramped airline, bus, train or car seat for hours at a time you may be at risk for a heart attack says a study from the University of Innsbruck. Comparing trips by plane and bus, the research showed that tight seating (not high altitude or low oxygen pressure) prompts coagulation of the blood and can make travelers prone to deep vein thrombosis (DVT)— a blood clot in the leg which can lodge in an artery and block blood going to the heart. To help prevent DVT, drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids and move your “ankles and legs every hour to work those calf muscles and get them pumping blood,” advises Dr. Bo Eklof, an expert on travelers’ thrombosis with the University of Hawaii, Honolulu. He also suggests wearing support hose and for those at high risk (recent surgery or seriously ill), getting a blood thinner injection before your trip.

See a Travel Medicine Expert

The Swine Flu crisis has brought awareness of travel health risks to the fore. However, findings of a survey by the European Travel Health Advisory Board (ETHAB) a few years ago revealed that the majority of travelers in the Asia-Pacific and U.S. did not seek travel health advice before going to an area with a risk for infectious disease. The survey reported that of 8,000 people questioned, the majority hadn’t had a hepatitis vaccine while 40 percent of Americans and 97 percent of the Asia-Pacific respondents did not carry anti-malarial medication. Dr. Francesco Castelli, a member of ETHAB, noted there was a “60 to 70 percent chance that a traveler will develop a health complaint on a trip to developing countries.”

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Ultram, Side Effects and Addiction

ultram

Ultram is indicated for treatment of moderate to severe pain. It is an opiate agonist and works by changing the way the body senses pain. Patients who are in chronic pain and need around-the-clock pain can be prescribed the extended-release version of Ultram.

Usage and Dosage of Ultram (tramadol)

Ultram is prescribed either as a regular tablet or an extended-release tablet. The regular form of Ultram is generally taken every four to six hours as needed for pain control. The extended-release form should be taken once a day, at the same time each day. The physician will generally prescribe a low dose of Ultram and increase the dosage of regular Ultram approximately every three days if needed, the increase for extended-release is done, if necessary, every five days. Never take more than 300 milligrams of Ultram in one 24-hour period.

This medication can be taken with or without food. Do take the medication with a full glass of water. Never crush, chew, break, or open an extended release tablet. This could cause the pill to release too much of the drug at one time. Serious side effects or death could result.

Side Effects of Ultram

Seek emergency medical treatment if there is any allergic reaction to Ultram. Symptoms can include hives, difficulty breathing, and swelling of the face, lips, throat, or tongue.

Stop taking Ultram and call a physician, if while taking this medication, a fever develops, fast heart rate, hallucinations, agitation, vomiting, nausea, diarrhea, loss of coordination, fainting, overactive reflexes, seizure, shallow breathing, weak pulse, or red, blistering and peeling skin rash.

Common side effects experienced while taking Ultram can include blurred vision, flushing, insomnia, nausea, vomiting, constipation, loss of appetite, weakness, drowsiness, and dizziness.

Drug Interactions with Ultram

Seizures are more likely to occur if Ultram is taken with certain other medications. Do not take this medicine without first telling the physician if an MAO inhibitor or an antidepressant is being taken. Inform the doctor before taking Ultram if taking any of the following; Tegretol, Coumadin, digoxin, Nizoral, erythromycin, rifampin, St. John's wort, quinidine, or any medication that causes drowsiness.

Considerations

Patients who have been addicted to drugs and or alcohol should not take Ultram. They have a higher risk of experiencing a seizure while taking Ultram if there is a history of drug or alcohol addiction, a history of epilepsy or other seizure disorder, history of head injury, a metabolic disorder, or if taking antidepressants, muscle relaxers, or medicine for vomiting and nausea.

Ultram has been known to cause impairment to thinking and reactions. Always use caution when driving or doing any type of function that requires a person to be awake and alert.

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Prevent West Nile Virus

west nile virus
The West Nile virus season has arrived. The season begins in spring and runs through the late fall. However, in the warmer states, West Nile virus is a year-round threat. The West Nile virus was first discovered in the 1930s in the West Nile district of Uganda. Now, the US has been plagued with this deadly disease too.

This is the time of year to worry about mosquito bites. The West Nile virus is an infectious disease, which is spread to humans by mosquitoes. This virus can cause serious problems. Symptoms can be as mild as a slight headache or as severe as respiratory failure. Discover how to prevent virus-carrying mosquitoes from breeding and biting. Become educated about the signs and symptoms of this potentially fatal disease. Knowing this information could be a matter of life and death.

Birds are the Culprits and Mosquitoes are the Carriers

The West Nile virus actually infects birds, not mosquitoes. The mosquito is merely the vehicle that carries the virus from an infected bird to an unsuspecting human. First the mosquito bites an infected bird and then it bites a human. The virus then goes into the human’s bloodstream. From there, it can spread to the spinal cord or the brain.

According to the Center for Disease Control, humans don’t spread the West Nile virus to other humans (except nursing mothers can transfer it to their babies). The germ that causes the West Nile virus is in a group called flaviviruses. Mosquitoes or ticks transmit these viruses. People need to learn how to prevent this life-threatening viral infection.

West Nile Causes Meningitis, Encephalitis, and Poliomyelitis

Anyone can contract this virus. However, people over 50 and those with autoimmune problems are at higher risk for potential problems. The most serious form of the disease is West Nile encephalitis. Encephalitis means inflammation of the brain.

The virus can also cause meningitis when the virus attacks and inflames the membrane around the brain and spinal cord. This can cause symptoms that vary greatly in intensity. An infected person may experience anything from a stiff neck to a coma.

West Nile poliomyelitis occurs as a result of inflammation of the spinal cord. This type of poliomyelitis can occur suddenly. People need to be diagnosed quickly and correctly. Testing blood and spinal fluid can pinpoint the problem so the correct treatment can be initiated promptly. Polio weakens muscles, paralyzes, and causes the lungs to stop working.

Prevent Mosquitoes From Breeding and Biting

Remove all freestanding water around the neighborhood. Water containers for birds and pets need to be emptied and cleaned weekly, at the least. Install, repair, or replace house screens. The Center for Disease Control recommends using insect repellents to protect against bites.
There are three often-recommended insecticides that are registered with the EPA.
  1. DEET
  2. Picaridin
  3. Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus
Spraying exposed skin and clothing will ward off potential trouble. However, don’t apply sprays to the skin that is under the clothes—that could cause irritation. Follow all directions carefully. (Be sure to wash off the insecticides after each use.) For the best protection, wear shoes and socks and long sleeved shirts and pants. Tuck in all clothes to avoid insects crawling next to the skin. Avoid the outdoors at dusk or dawn, as these are the times of day when mosquitoes swarm.

Learn How to Spot Potential ProblemsMost people who contract this virus don’t ever know it. The symptoms are mild and they fade away without treatment within a couple of weeks. Those symptoms are usually vague and mundane such as: headaches, body aches, and loss of appetite, fever, diarrhea and sometimes a rash. These complaints are minor so people usually don’t seek medical attention when they occur. Other symptoms are more severe: high fevers, severe headaches, stiff neck, confusion, convulsions, sudden weakness or coma. These problems are serious enough to warrant immediate medical attention.

Outcomes range from complete and rapid recoveries to little progress after a year of medical treatment. If anyone exhibits unexplainable symptoms, they might want to be screened for the West Nile virus.There is no specific treatment, so prevention is key. There is no specific protocol of treatment for the West Nile virus. Most often, no treatment is even recommended. The symptoms simply fade away on their own within two weeks. However, for people with more serious symptoms, misdiagnosis can delay life-saving treatment. Blood and spinal fluids can be tested to detect the West Nile virus.

For those with serious complications the treatments can be intense and long term. And even after all that, the damage sometimes can’t be repaired. Many scientists are working on it, but no vaccine has been developed yet. So prevention is the key to avoiding this mosquito transmitted, life threatening, virus.

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Sunburn Can Lead to Sunstroke

sunburn
Summer can be a killer. Every year people die from too much sun or heat. A simple sunburn can escalate into heatstroke in a matter of hours. Heatstroke can be fatal. Keep summer fun by avoiding too much sun.

Sunburn can turn deadly in less than 24 hours. Detecting and treating sunburn, sun poisoning, and heat cramps is important. However, recognizing heat exhaustion and heatstroke is critically important. Early detection and prompt intervention can save a life.

Sunburn is a First Degree Burn

Sunburn is a first-degree burn that causes redness, swelling, and pain. Fair-skinned people can burn in less than 15 minutes. Sun damage can cause wrinkles, premature aging, and darkening of age spots. Sunburn can cause cell damage that later leads to skin cancer.

Usually, sunburn is more of a pain than a true medical problem. When sunburn sizzles, no treatment seems fast enough or effective enough. However, moist and cool compresses, topical treatments, and NSAIDs such as Motrin® are still commonly recommended treatments.

Sun Poisoning is Not Quite as Serious as it Sounds

Sun poisoning is just another name for severe sunburn. While this is not quite as serious as it sounds, sun poisoning needs to be taken seriously. It can cause intense burning, blisters, fever, chills, dizziness, nausea, or rapid pulse. Avoid self-treatment when sunburn is severe. See a doctor to prevent complications such as dehydration and infection.

Heat Cramps Sound Harmless but They’re Not

Belly or muscle cramps can occur during strenuous activities in sweltering temperatures. Heat cramps sound harmless but they actually indicate a fluid and electrolyte imbalance. If the usual treatments of drinking juices, replacing electrolytes with sports drinks, cooling down, and rest don’t relieve the problem promptly – seek medical attention. Many people (especially athletes) ignore these symptoms… don’t. Left untreated, heat cramps escalate into a more serious problem – heat exhaustion.

Call 911 for Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion can cause profuse sweating, rapid breathing, rapid pulse, weakness, or dizziness. If these symptoms occur, call 911 immediately. Left untreated, a person with heat exhaustion can deteriorate rapidly. While awaiting an ambulance, keep the person cool and offer them decaffeinated and non-alcoholic drinks. Heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke in a matter of minutes.

Heatstroke Can be Fatal

Every summer people die (unnecessarily) from heatstroke. People usually have the warning signs of heat cramps and heat exhaustion before reaching the deadly stage of heatstroke. So, getting help at the heat cramp and heat exhaustion stages can prevent a heatstroke. Remember, heatstroke can be fatal, so know the symptoms and act fast.

One distinguishing symptom of heatstroke is that the skin is usually dry. A person with heatstroke may become confused or faint. The pulse may be slow or fast. And the body temperature can go very high, very fast. Call 911 immediately! While waiting for the ambulance, have the person lie down in a cool place. Offer them a cool, decaffeinated, non- alcoholic drink. Heat stroke can cause brain damage, organ failure, coma, or death.

The UV Index Projects Dangerous UV Radiation Levels

The smartest thing to do is prevent sunburn in the first place. Learn to use the UV index. To find a rating, type NOAA into a search engine. Then type UV index. Look up any location.
The EPA and the NOAA devised an index to predict UV radiation levels. The danger ratings look like this:
  • One or less ..........Low
  • Three-five ..............Moderate
  • Six-seven ..............High
  • Eight-ten ...............Very High
  • 11+ ........................Extreme

Prevention is the Best Possible Protection

Here are five easy steps to preventing sunburn.
  1. Apply sunscreen SPF # 15-30 (or higher) to all exposed skin.
  2. Always apply it 15-30 minutes before going outside.
  3. Wear a wide brimmed hat.
  4. Cover up when necessary.
  5. Avoid too much sun between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Here's the sunburn protection tip that most people forget...re-apply sunscreen at least every two hours.
Now go outside and have some fum in the sun!

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Seven Alternative Hemorrhoid Treatments

alternative hemorrhoid treatments
Millions of people have hemorrhoids. In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic, about half of all adults by age 50 are affected. Because of the embarrassing nature of the topic, many suffer in silence, dealing with the itching, discomfort and bleeding that often accompany a flare-up.

Hemorrhoid Symptoms and Causes

According to the Mayo Clinic, “hemorrhoids, also called piles, are swollen and inflamed veins in your anus and lower rectum.” They form when the lower rectum is under increased pressure, causing the veins to stretch, bulge or swell.

Hemorrhoid symptoms include painless bleeding during bowel movements, itching in the anal region, pain, discomfort, protrusions from the anus, swelling or lumps around the anal area, and leakage of feces. Hemorrhoids can be caused by the following factors:
  • straining during bowel movements
  • sitting for long periods of time on the toilet
  • chronic diarrhea or constipation
  • being over weight
  • pregnancy, especially pushing during labor and delivery
  • anal intercourse
  • heredity
  • age

Natural Treatments for Piles

Medications and surgery are often used to treat hemorrhoids, but for most sufferers, piles can be treated at home with lifestyle changes. Why use alternative therapies? Because surgery can be uncomfortable and expensive if not covered by insurance; and medicines, even over-the-counter ones, often contain toxic chemicals such as parabens. See the article Ten Synthetic Personal Care Ingredients to Avoid for more on chemicals in body care products.

Instead choose effective natural hemorrhoid remedies such as:
  • witch hazel – Soak a cotton pad in witch hazel and pat the affected area. Chilling the pads in the refrigerator before use will provide added relief.
  • cleanliness – Keep the anal area clean with daily baths or showers. Washing the area with water is enough, as soap may aggravate the problem. The Mayo Clinic recommends gently drying the area with a hair dryer to minimize moisture, which can cause irritation.
  • warm Epsom salt bath – Soak in a warm Epsom salt bath to relieve symptoms, or purchase a sitz bath at a medical supply store.
  • cold compress – Apply cold compresses such as chilled cotton pads or ice packs to the anal area to reduce swelling. Make an ice pack by putting ice cubes or crush ice in a plastic bag and cover with a towel.
  • baby wipes – Dry toilet paper can irritate hemorrhoids. Instead use unscented, chlorine and alcohol-free, hypoallergenic baby wipes such as Earth’s Best or Seventh Generation.
  • cranberry poultice – Puree a few tablespoons of raw cranberries, wrap one tablespoon in a cheesecloth and place over the anus for an hour. Hold in place with tight underwear.
  • essential oils – Mix two drops of lavender and geranium oil with one ounce of almond oil. Dab a small amount onto a finger and apply to the skin around the anus. Liquid lecithin can also be used.

Hemorrhoid Prevention

According to the Mayo Clinic, “the best way to prevent hemorrhoids is to keep your stools soft, so they pass easily.” To prevent piles and reduce flare-ups do the following:
  • eat a high fiber diet – Add more fruits, vegetables and whole grains to the diet. Not only is this good for over all health, but fiber-rich foods soften and increase the bulk of stools, thus reducing the need to strain and chances of developing or irritating hemorrhoids.
  • stay hydrated – Drink six to eight glasses of water a day, as well as other non-alcoholic beverages to keep stools soft.
  • use a fiber supplement – Most people get less than the recommended 20 to 35 grams of fiber a day. Add a natural psyllium fiber supplement to the diet.
  • stop straining – Avoid straining or holding the breath while trying to pass a stool to decrease pressure on the veins in the rectum.
  • don’t hold a stool – People should go to the bathroom when the urge strikes. Waiting can cause the stool to become dry making it harder to pass.
  • exercise – Exercise can aid in weight loss, reduce pressure on veins and prevent constipation.
  • avoid sitting or standing for long periods – Sitting for prolonged periods, especially on the toilet can increase pressure on veins in the anal area.
  • drink lemon water – Lemons can help strengthen blood vessel walls and capillaries. Make a lemon drink at home: slice a lemon in four parts, place lemon and distilled water in a non-reactive pot with a top, cover and boil for 10 minutes, cool. Drink one cup daily.
By following a healthy lifestyle that includes a high fiber diet and exercise, hemorrhoids can be prevented and flare-ups reduced. When existing hemorrhoids are aggravated, reach for natural remedies to treat, soothe and minimize symptoms. Having a good arsenal of alternative, at-home treatments can help the many sufferers deal with the discomfort caused by this common ailment.

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Screening for Severe Combined Immunodeficiency

severe combined immunodeficiency
Severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) is a genetic condition that is characterized by the absence of T lymphocytes; T lymphocytes are specialized white blood cells that develop in an infant’s thymus gland and then move into the bloodstream where they support the work of other immune cells.

Even if other immune cells are present in normal numbers – which is the case in some forms of SCID – they cannot function properly without the assistance of T cells. For example, B cells cannot effectively produce antibodies without receiving appropriate signals from helper T cells.
SCID occurs in one in 100,000 to one in 40,000 live births, but among certain populations it is much more common (among Navajo children, for example, the incidence of SCID approaches one in 2,500). SCID manifests in different forms – all of them caused by mutations in at least 10 different genes that produce at least four variations of the disease – but in all cases there is a paucity of T cells with a resultant loss of effective immune function.

Most infants who suffer from SCID develop serious opportunistic infections within the first few months of life, and – if left untreated – the disease is fatal before puberty.

The Deadly Course of Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID)

Without an effective immune system, humans do not have an adequate defense against potential pathogens: bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites, and even cancer cells can gain a foothold and spread unchecked unless they are recognized and destroyed by an army of fully functional white cells (leukocytes).

Because their immune systems are essentially nonfunctional, infants with SCID are at the mercy of their surroundings; they must live in protected environments (e.g., the "bubble boy") where exposure to infectious agents can be minimized.

By the age of six months, most children with SCID develop candidiasis (a yeast infection), diarrhea, pneumonia, or some other serious infection. Many will experience multiple bouts of infections by one year of age, and most will have received multiple courses of intravenous immunoglobulins (antibodies) and antibiotics.

Eventually, even with antibiotics, IV immunoglobulins, and other stopgap measures, children who do not receive definitive treatment succumb to overwhelming infections.

Treatment for Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID) Involves Stem Cell Transplants

Although antibiotics and antibody injections are helpful for dealing with SCID and delaying its course, these therapies are not curative. Definitive management – one that cures up to 95% of children affected by SCID (if the disease is diagnosed before the age of three months) – involves the use of bone marrow stem cell transplantation.

Bone marrow taken from an HLA-identical sibling restores immunity in nearly all SCID sufferers. For infants who don’t have HLA-identical marrow donors, parental bone marrow that has been depleted of mature T cells can be used instead.

Since children with SCID don’t possess their own T cells – thus eliminating the possibility of a rejection reaction – they do not need to go through chemotherapy prior to bone marrow transplantation.

New Guidelines for Diagnosing Severe Combined Immunodeficiency

On January 21, 2010, the Advisory Committee for Heritable Disorders in Newborns and Children (ACHDNC) unanimously voted to add SCID testing to the uniform newborn screening panel. This addition to mandatory infant screening protocols – performed under the auspice of state health departments – is the first such change to ACHDNC guidelines in five years.

Cost-effective SCID screening methods that evaluate T cell numbers and activity were first investigated by researchers in Wisconsin and Massachusetts; these methodologies have been refined, and now several other states have begun training personnel who will be involved in SCID screening.

Severe combined immunodeficiency is a relatively uncommon but life-threatening disorder that is curable if diagnosed early in life. With new screening guidelines, more children who would have succumbed to this illness will now be given the opportunity to lead normal, healthy lives.

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Scoliosis, or Spine Curvature, is Much More Than Back Pain

scoliosis

Scoliosis is a curving of the spine which bends sideways or away from the middle. While it may sometimes be caused by conditions such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy, the cause of the most common form of scoliosis is still unknown.

Most cases are mild, but severe cases can be disabling. Scoliosis is believed to have many causes, but the principal ones can be arranged into these three groups:
  • Congenital (present at birth) scoliosis is due to a problem with the formation of the spine bones (vertebrae) or fused ribs during development in the womb or in early life.
  • Neuromuscular scoliosis is caused by problems such as poor muscle control or muscle weakness, or paralysis due to diseases such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spinal bifida or polio.
  • Idiopathic scoliosis has no known cause and is by far the most common form of scoliosis. Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis (AIS), which develops in young adults around the onset of puberty, represents approximately 80% of idiopathic scoliosis cases.
Some people may be prone to spinal curvature. Most cases occur in girls. Curves generally worsen during growth spurts. Scoliosis in infants and young children are less common. Individuals with Marfan syndrome, a connective tissue disorder, frequently have scoliosis of varying severity.

The Warning Signs of Scoliosis

Family members or untrained observers may not notice the curving of the spine in its early stages, but several symptoms or warning signs together should prompt an appointment with a doctor. Such symptoms include:
  • shoulders of different heights or one shoulder blade more prominent than the other
  • head not centered directly above the pelvis
  • appearance of a raised, prominent hip
  • rib cages of different heights
  • uneven waist
  • leaning of entire body to one side
Other symptoms can include backache or low back pain and fatigue. There may be fatigue in the spine after extended standing or sitting. Pain will become persistent if there is irritation to the soft tissue and wear and tear on the spinal bones. An especially severe spinal curve can reduce the amount of space within the chest, making it difficult for the lungs to function properly.

What are the Scoliosis Treatment Options?

Most children with scoliosis have mild curves (usually less than 20 degrees), usually with no pain and probably do not require treatment other than regular checkups every four or six months to monitor the curvature of their spines.

For individuals with moderate to severe curves (above 25-30 degrees), the decision to begin treatment is always made on an individual basis. Factors to be considered include:
  • Spinal maturity: Is the patient's spine still growing?
  • Severity of curve: Larger curves are more likely to worsen with time
  • Location of curve: Curves located in the center (thoracic) section of the spine worsen more than do curves in the upper or lower section of the spine
  • Potential for progression: Patients who have large curves prior to their adolescent growth spurts are more likely to experience progression.

Back Brace or Surgery For Treating Scoliosis

A doctor may recommend a back brace for a patient with moderate scoliosis, especially for a child whose bones are still growing. Wearing a brace won't cure scoliosis or reverse the curve, but it usually prevents further progression of the curve. Most braces are worn day and night, with the effectiveness increasing the more hours per day it is worn. Braces are discontinued when the bones stop growing, which typically occurs about two years after girls begin to menstruate and when boys need to shave daily.

The choice of when to have surgery will vary. A child may need surgery before the bones of his skeleton stop growing if the spinal curve is severe or getting worse quickly. Curves of 40 degrees or greater usually require surgery. Scoliosis surgery, or spinal fusion, is intended to reduce the severity of the spinal curve and prevent it from getting worse.

Spinal fusion surgery involves straightening the curve and fusing the bones in the curve together. The bones are held in place with one or more metal rods secured with hooks, screws or wires until the bones heal together. Sometimes surgery is done through an incision in the back, on the abdomen, or beneath the ribs.

Scoliosis, mild, moderate or severe, can be a distressing physical, emotional and psychological life process for anyone to tolerate. When that person is a teenager – and chances are high that it will be – he or she is already being bombarded with physical, emotional and social changes. He or she may react with anger, insecurity, fear and lowered self-esteem. A strong peer support group can have a significant impact on a child or teen's acceptance of scoliosis and the bracing or surgical treatment that may be required. General kindness and acceptance by family and friends will also help in the process, as will organizations such as the National Scoliosis Foundation.

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