Friday, August 26, 2016

8 Things to Know Before You Get Lasik

You’ve worn glasses or contacts forever, and frankly, you’re tired of the hassle. You want to see clearly from the second you wake up in the morning till the moment you drift to sleep at night. But if you’re considering Lasik, you probably have some questions like, "Will I be laid up for days?“ "Will it hurt?" And: "What are the odds it’ll work?" Before you go under the laser, here are a few things you should know. 

How is Lasik done?

After your eye surgeon applies numbing drops, she makes an incision in the cornea and lifts a thin flap. Then a laser reshapes the corneal tissue underneath, and the flap is replaced. "The patient can see very quickly,” says Wilmington, Delaware-based ophthalmologist Robert Abel, Jr., MD, author of The Eye Care Revolution“You get off the table and think, ‘Wow.’" 

Who can get the procedure?

Lasik is used to treat the common vision problems nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. To find out if you’re a good candidate for the surgery, see an ophthalmologist for an eye exam. “You need to make sure your cornea is uniform, you don’t have severe dry eye or other eye conditions, and your prescription is stable,” explains Dr. Abel.

Lasik can also be used to fix presbyopia—that maddening effect of aging that makes it harder to focus close-up—but you need to have one eye corrected for near vision and the other for distance. This technique, called Monovision Lasik, affects depth perception and sharpness, so you may still require glasses for visually demanding activities like driving at night, or reading fine print for long periods of time. (The FDA recommends doing a trial with monovision contact lenses first.)

Also know that as you get older, your vision may continue to get worse, so you may need another Lasik procedure or glasses down the road, says Dr. Abel.

What’s the success rate?

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, 90% of Lasik patients end up with vision somewhere between 20/20 and 20/40

There’s chance you will still need to use corrective lenses sometimes: A 2013 survey by the Consumer Reports National Research Center found that more than 50% of people who get Lasik or other laser vision-correction surgery wear glasses or contacts at least occasionally. Still, 80% of the survey respondents reported feeling "completely” or “very satisfied” with their procedure.

According to the FDA, results are usually not as good in people who have very large refractive errors. Make sure you discuss your expectations with your ophthalmologist to see if they’re realistic.

RELATED: The Surprising Effect of Pregnancy and Nursing on Eyesight

What are the risks?

While the thought of a laser boring into your eye may seem, well, terrifying, the procedure is overwhelmingly safe, Dr. Abel says, noting that the risk of problems is about 1%.

That said, it’s important to weigh the risks against the benefits, as the potential complications can be debilitating. The FDA has a list on its site, including severe dry eye syndrome, and a loss in vision that cannot be fixed with eyewear or surgery. Some patients develop symptoms like glare, halos, and double vision that make it especially tough to see at night or in fog. 

There are also temporary effects to consider. According to the Consumer Reports survey, many respondents experienced side effects—including dry eyes, halos, and blurry vision—that lasted six months or longer.

One thing you don’t have to worry about: Flinching or blinking during the procedure. A device will keep your eyelids open, while a suction ring prevents your eye from moving.

How long will I be out of commission?

You will need someone to drive you home after the procedure, but you can go back to work the very next day. 

How much will this cost?

According to Lasik.com, the cost can range from $299 per eye to more than $4,000 per eye. Geography, technology, and the surgical experience of the doctor all factor into the price. Insurance companies don’t typically cover the surgery, but you can use tax-free funds from your FSA, HSA, or HRA account to pay for it.

RELATED: 5 Foods for Healthy Eyes

Is Lasik the only option?

Epi-LASIK is a similar laser procedure, but it’s done without making a surgical incision, says Dr. Abel. “The risk of complications is even lower than traditional Lasik, and that’s why a lot of people are opting to get Epi-Lasik.“ The catch: The recovery takes longer. You’ll need to wait 4 days before you can drive, he says, and 11 days to see really well.

How can I find a good doctor?

With nearly every daily deal site offering discounts on laser eye surgery, it can be tempting to choose the cheapest doc. But it’s important you see someone with a wealth of experience, says Dr. Abel. After all, these are your eyes we’re talking about. Dr. Abel suggests calling your local university hospital and asking an administrative assistant or nurse where they refer their Lasik patients. “You want to go to someone with good follow-up care and an extended warranty or guarantee of at least three years in case you need a correction later in life,” says Dr. Abel.



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How to Break a Bad Habit in 3 Steps

You’re a nail biter. Spend too much time on the couch watching TV. A chip fiend and chronic late-night snacker. But here’s some good news if you have a weakness you just can’t seem to shake: Research is shedding light on the most effective ways to break a habit for good. Here, three simple tactics to help you quit once and for all.

Tune in to the urge

One study of smokers found that mindfulness training was twice as effective at helping people quit as a more standard, behavior-based cessation program. The researchers believe mindfulness can work for any type of pattern you’re trying to fix. Plugging into the feelings associated with a craving helps you become less in thrall to it, so you can learn to let it go. 

RELATED: Women Feel Better About Their Bodies Than They Used To

Change your environment 

Your surroundings can encourage a bad habit or facilitate a good one. Practical pointers: To stave off autopilot snacking on sweets, for example, swap the cookie jar with a fruit bowl. Or, if you need to stop checking your phone at red lights, move it from the cup holder to your zipped handbag. 

Replace that habit with a healthier one

Bad habits tend to have triggers (like stress) that prompt you to engage in them. So come up with a plan ahead of time for how you will respond to those cues: If you, say, chew your nails when you get frazzled at work, start practicing deep breathing each time you feel overwhelmed. 



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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Fast Action Can Prevent Sepsis Death, CDC Says

TUESDAY, Aug. 23, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Many cases of life-threatening sepsis could be recognized and treated long before it causes severe illness or death, U.S. health officials report.

Sepsis, or septicemia, occurs when the body has an extreme response to an infection. Without prompt treatment, organ failure can quickly follow.

Researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that about 70 percent of patients with sepsis had used health care services recently or had chronic diseases that required regular medical care.

That means there are many opportunities for health care providers to intercept sepsis along its potentially deadly course, according to the CDC report.

“When sepsis occurs, it should be treated as a medical emergency,” CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden said in an agency news release. “Doctors and nurses can prevent sepsis and also the devastating effects of sepsis, and patients and families can watch for sepsis and ask, ‘Could this be sepsis?’”

Infections of the lung, urinary tract, skin and gut most often lead to sepsis. In most cases, the germ that caused the sepsis-triggering infection can’t be identified. But when they are identified, the most common culprits are Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli (E. coli), and some types of Streptococcus, the report said.

Patients with infections who are most likely to develop sepsis are aged 65 and older, less than 1 year old, people with weakened immune systems and those with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes.

But even healthy children and adults can develop sepsis from an infection, the CDC said in its Aug. 23 Vital Signs report.

Signs and symptoms of sepsis include: shivering, fever, or feeling very cold; extreme pain or discomfort; clammy or sweaty skin; confusion or disorientation; shortness of breath and a high heart rate.

Health care providers play a critical role in preventing sepsis. This includes following infection control measures such as hand washing and by ensuring patients get recommended vaccines, the CDC said.

It’s also essential to educate patients and their families about the need to prevent infections, manage chronic health conditions and seek immediate medical care if an infection doesn’t improve.

The CDC had additional advice for health care providers: Know the signs and symptoms of sepsis. If sepsis is suspected, order tests to determine if an infection is present, where it is and what caused it. Start antibiotics and other recommended medical care immediately.

Also, monitor patients closely and reassess antibiotic treatment within 24 to 48 hours or sooner to determine whether the type of antibiotics, dose and duration are correct, or need to be changed.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of General Medical Sciences has more on sepsis.



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5 Times You Really, Seriously Need to Go to the ER

There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for hypothyroidism. It may take a few trips to the doctor to get the right remedy, and over time, your prescribed medication may change. Heres a brief look at the possibilities:

Synthetic hormones.
Most people with hypothyroidism first receive a synthetic thyroid hormone known as levothyroxine; the brand names are Synthroid, Levoxyl, Unithroid, and Levothroid. This medication often gets you back to normal within weeks. And youll take it for the rest of your life. But it doesnt work for everyone.

“About 80 percent of patients who test positive for hypothyroidism get a prescription for levothyroxine and feel better,” says endocrinologist Theodore Friedman, MD, PhD, an associate professor of medicine at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science and the University of California, Los Angeles. “For the other 20 percent, we need to be flexible. I get the patients who tell me conventional treatment isnt working. And I believe them.”

Combination therapy.
Your thyroid produces two hormones, but synthetic levothyroxine replaces only one, known as T4. The biochemistry can get complicated, but basically your body has to convert T4 into yet another hormone called T3 for your thyroid to work well.

Experts like Friedman and Baylor Universitys Ridha Arem, MD, a nationally known endocrinologist, believe T4 treatment alone doesnt do the job for some patients. For them, Friedman also prescribes a small amount of supplemental T3 (brand name Cytomel), so-called combination therapy.

Other animal-based hormones.
Some experts may even reject this approach in favor of animal-based hormone treatment (the most common brand is Armour). Manufactured in the United States for more than 100 years, this medication is made from the desiccated thyroid tissue of pigs.

The major thyroid organizations consider it outdated, but some specialists swear by it. “I clearly have patients who do better on Armour,” Friedman says. Even its strongest advocates arent sure why Armour would be more effective. But it contains both T3 and T4, as well as lesser-known hormones called T1 and T2 and other substances.



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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

6 Mistakes You're Making With Your Contacts

Proper contact lens hygiene is nothing to roll your eyes at: A new government report warns that bad habits (like wearing your lenses to bed) can lead to eye infections and possibly permanent injuries. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) examined more than 1,000 cases of contact lens-related infections reported to a federal database over the last decade, and found that nearly 1 in 5 of those infections resulted in eye damage—either a decline in vision, a scarred cornea, or the need for a corneal transplant. Yikes.

But the agency also found that by simply using your contacts the way you’re supposed to, you can protect your peepers: About 25% of the reported cases involved behaviors known to put a person at greater risk of eye infection.

“Contact lenses are a safe and effective form of vision correction when worn and cared for as recommended,” said Michael Beach, PhD, director of the CDC’s Healthy Water Program, in a press release about the survey. “However, improper wear and care of contact lenses can cause eye infections that sometimes lead to serious, long-term damage.” 

Below, seven mistakes you might be making, and what to do instead.

RELATED: 5 Foods for Healthy Eyes

You sleep in your contacts

The enzymes and antibodies that protect the surface of your eyes require oxygen to fight off germs. When your eyes are closed at night, the air supply is reduced; wear your contacts to bed and there’s even less oxygen available. The bottom line: When the PJs come on, the contacts should come out.

You handle your lenses with dirty fingers

To avoid transferring oil, dirt, and bacteria to your eyes (ew), clean your hands before you clean your contacts.

You’re not rubbing your contacts

Even if you use a ‘no-rub’ contact solution, it’s still a good idea: Give your lenses a rub in your (well-cleaned) palm to remove germs and protein buildup.

You don’t change your solution daily

As Reena Garg, MD, an assistant professor of ophthalmology at the Icahn School of Medicine in New York City, told Health in a prior interview, "That’s like doing your laundry in dirty water.“ According to the CDC, you should always use fresh multipurpose saline solution (never water!), and don’t mix old saline solution with new in your contact case. In fact, you should empty the case after putting in your contacts, rinse it with fresh saline, dry it with a fresh, clean tissue and store it upside down on a clean tissue (with the lids off), until you are ready to use it again.

RELATED: 9 Worst Eye Care Mistakes You’re Making

You shower and swim with your contacts in

The CDC advises keeping your lenses away from water (including pool water) to avoid a rare but potentially blinding infection caused by an amoeba called Acanthamoeba, as well as other types of infections. Bacteria and parasites in water can get caught under your lenses. If you’re a swimmer, you may want to invest in prescription goggles. 

You leave your lenses in too long

When you’re at home and on weekends, give your eyes a break and wear your glasses, says Berkeley, Michigan-based ophthalmologist Steven Shanbom, MD. In a prior interview with Health, he recommended that lens wearers keep their contacts in for no more than 12-14 hours a day.



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Smartphones Are Making Us Think Less, Google More

When was the last time you memorized a friend’s new phone number? How about the last time you pulled out your phone to Google a random trivia fact? Chances are you’re doing far more of the latter these days—but that kind of convenience may have a downside. A new study suggests that our brains’ reliance on smartphones may be taking a toll on our thought processes for problem solving, memory recall, and learning.

Researchers call the tendency to use the Internet (and specifically, those always-at-our-fingertips smartphones) as a memory aid “cognitive offloading.” And this habit, they say, is actually changing the way the brain works: While we may think of memory as something that happens inside our heads, it is increasingly happening with the help of outside devices. Whether this is a good or bad thing, they say, is a more difficult question to answer.

The authors of the new report, published in the journal Memory, wanted to see how likely it was that people would reach for a computer or smartphone when quizzed on different topics. So they divided volunteers into two groups—one that was told to use Google and one that was not—and asked them challenging trivia questions about sports, pop culture, and history. Next, they asked much easier questions, giving both groups the option of using the Internet if they wanted.

Even though the second set of questions required less knowledge, the people who had previously used Google were significantly more likely to go back to the search engine for help than those who had previously used only their memories. The Googlers also spent less time consulting their own memories before reaching for the Internet—and nearly a third of them did not even attempt to answer a single simple question from memory.

The results suggest that our habit for cognitive offloading increases after each use, says lead author Benjamin Storm, assistant professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. “Whereas before we might have tried to recall something on our own, now we don’t bother,” he says. “As more information becomes available via smartphones and other devices, we become progressively more reliant on it in our daily lives.“

That’s not necessarily all bad, he points out: The Internet is obviously more comprehensive, and in many cases, faster and more dependable, than human memory. It’s helpful to have that wealth of knowledge always available—and to not have to keep every trivial fact or figure in our heads for easy recall. The Internet can also be beneficial, Storm points out, for older adults whose own cognitive capacities have begun to decline.

But the broader implications of this research are ultimately much more nuanced, he adds.

“Certainly there are advantages to becoming reliant on the Internet, especially given the breadth and depth of the information to which it gives us access, but there are also likely to be disadvantages,” he says. “To what extent, for example, does our capacity for wisdom and creative insight depend on the accumulation of internal knowledge?  These are the sorts of questions that will need to be answered.”

Storm wants more research into the ways humans might manage their relationship with the Internet to take advantages of the benefits while minimizing those potential costs. For now, he says, Internet use in “healthy moderation” seems like the best course of action for those who want to keep their recall and problem-solving skills sharp.

And maybe the next time someone asks you a question you’re not sure about, really think on it for a minute or two before whipping your phone out. “There might be something to be said about practicing one’s cognitive and memory abilities outside the context of the Internet,” Storm says.

This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.



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Unhappy at Work in Your 20s? You May Be Unhealthy in Your 40s

MONDAY, Aug. 22, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Millennials, take heed: Job dissatisfaction in your 20s or 30s can undermine your health by mid-life, new research suggests.

But really rewarding work may pay health dividends.

“Those who are, on average, very satisfied versus satisfied tend to have better health in their 40s,” said study lead author Jonathan Dirlam. He is a doctoral candidate in the department of sociology at Ohio State University.

By their 40s, disenchanted workers had worse mental health. They were more likely to suffer from routine sleep trouble and anxiety compared with satisfied or increasingly satisfied participants, the study found.

Seth Kaplan, an associate professor in industrial/organizational psychology at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., said, “We know that there are some major job-related factors that contribute to poor psychological health.”

According to Kaplan, who wasn’t involved in the study, “Having an abusive supervisor, not having control over one’s work, and having to worry about losing one’s job—and the corresponding financial repercussions—are among the big ones.”

Kaplan added, “If at all possible, try to avoid jobs with those characteristics.”

For the study, Dirlam’s team analyzed survey responses from more than 6,400 men and women participating in a long-running study that began in 1979. Between the ages of 25 and 39, these adults were asked annually whether they liked or disliked their jobs.

Answers were correlated with mental and physical health outcomes when participants entered their 40s.

Roughly 45 percent consistently expressed “low” job satisfaction. On average, Dirlam said, this reflected relative dissatisfaction, rather than outright dislike for their work.

By contrast, 15 percent of respondents consistently noted they were “happy” with their jobs.

In addition, nearly one-quarter indicated that their satisfaction with work got worse over time, while 17 percent said they became more satisfied, the findings showed.

Once the participants reached their 40s, mental health status was gauged in terms of depression, sleep trouble and anxiety.

Overall physical health was also ranked, along with incidence of high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, heart disease, chronic lung disease, back and leg trouble, stomach and liver complications, and anemia.

The researchers found that physical health appeared to suffer among those who consistently expressed low satisfaction with work or whose satisfaction fell over time.

These people reported more difficulty with certain issues, such as back pain and cold frequency. However, the researchers saw no impact on their overall ability to function physically, or in their risk for serious illnesses such as diabetes or cancer.

Nor was consistently low job satisfaction or falling satisfaction linked with a greater likelihood for developing depression.

However, these dissatisfied workers were more likely to be in poorer mental health overall, the findings showed.

The research team theorized that mental health difficulties could actually trigger more physical health complications as participants’ age.

But no negative impact on physical or mental well-being was seen among those who reported greater satisfaction with work over time, the study authors said.

Still, the investigators did not examine health status after age 49. They also acknowledged that the relationship is complex and said it’s not possible to establish cause and effect.

For example, “[early] health problems may lead to lower levels of job satisfaction rather than the reverse,” the authors said.

Dirlan noted that “those in manual labor jobs may have lower job satisfaction and increased physical health problems as a result of their jobs in later life. We are unable to rule out this possibility.”

For those desiring more satisfaction from their work, Kaplan highlighted the concept of “job crafting.” This embraces the notion “that we can, to some extent, objectively and subjectively change our jobs to make them more meaningful.”

Dirlam and his colleagues were scheduled to present their findings Monday in Seattle at a meeting of the American Sociological Association. Data and conclusions presented at meetings are usually considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

More information

The American Psychological Association has more about job satisfaction.



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