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Incontinence

Approximately 13 million American women suffer from incontinence, or loss of bladder control.  Pregnancy and childbirth distress the bladder and other conditions, such as aging muscles, infection, and irritation, can cause incontinence, too.  Aging, infection, and irritation can also lead to incontinence in men.

Surgery and medication can relieve symptoms but a recent study, called the Program to Reduce Incontinence by Diet and Exercise (PRIDE), proved it’s possible to relieve symptoms by simply losing weight.

The PRIDE study enlisted 338 women, all overweight or clinically obese, and who experienced 10 or more episodes of incontinence in a typical week.  One-half of them spent six months in an intensive weight-loss program involving behavior modification, diet, and exercise.  The second group received only information describing the benefits of weight loss and exercise.

In six months, the women in the weight-loss program had lost 17 pounds on average, or 8% of their original weight.  They’d also reduced the number of incontinence episodes by 47%.

The group getting only literature lost just 3 pounds on average, or 1.6% of body weight, and reduced their incontinence events by only 28%.

Jaundice

Some diseases and medical conditions affect the way the body processes the parts of a cell after it’s died.  When this cellular breakdown results in a concentrated amount of the pigment, bilirubin, jaundice occurs.

Most people associate jaundice with a yellowed look to the skin and yellowing in the whites of the eyes.  It’s this reaction that gives the medical condition its name.  Jaune is the French word for yellow.

Jaundice is closely associated with the health of one’s liver and alcoholics frequently experience jaundice when cirrhosis is diagnosed.  Hepatitis, malaria, sickle cell anemia, and kidney diseases, among others, also cause jaundice.

Newborn babies often develop neonatal jaundice, which often appears on day 2 after birth and subsides naturally around day 8.  Premature babies may experience this form of jaundice for as long as two weeks.

While almost always harmless, neonatal jaundice is linked to hearing loss.  All babies born in the United States get a bilirubin test at birth.

Kaposi’s Sarcoma

Hungarian dermatologist Moritz Kaposi first identified this form of viral cancer in 1872 while working at the University of Vienna.  The human herpesvirus 8 (HHV-8) causes Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS), a form of skin cancer, although the link between the virus and the cancer was not proven until 1994.

While HHV-8 causes all forms of Kaposi’s sarcoma, it affects various peoples in various ways.  Elderly men of Eastern European descent are prone to KS, especially those from the Mediterranean basin area, and young people in sub-Saharan Africa are prone to KS, especially on their lower limbs.  About 50% of the sub-Saharan population is thought to be infected with HHV-8.

Transplant-related Kaposi’s sarcoma affects organ transplant patients, too.  In some cases, an organ harboring HHV-8 is transplanted or the transplant recipient has already been exposed to the virus but the surgery releases it from dormancy.

The KS rate in AIDS patients is so high it’s become a diagnostic measure to determine when an HIV-positive patient is said to have developed AIDS.  The KS rate among AIDS patients is 300 times higher than in transplant patients.

Lung Cancer

While it’s common knowledge that cigarette smoking causes more cases of lung cancer than any other factor, most people are surprised to learn that the #2 leading cause of lung cancer comes from the ground.

When certain elements of the soil – rock, water, and naturally occurring uranium - decompose, they form the gas, radon, which can seep into a home through leaks and cracks.  Damp, drafty basements, because they are situated all or partially under ground, can be especially risky.

Radon exposure is thought to be responsible for as many as 21,000 lung cancer deaths in the United States each year.  The cancer risk increases when a smoker also experiences radon exposure but as many as 2,900 people who’ve never smoked cigarettes die each year from lung cancer thought to be triggered by radon exposure.

Many hardware stores and most county public health agencies carry radon-testing kits that range in price from about $5 to $15.  The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Surgeon General’s Office recommend testing for radon in the room most often used for family activities to get the most relevant reading.

There is no readily discernable evidence of radon’s presence so testing is vital.  In a 2007 test of homes in Madison, Wisconsin, two-thirds of them tested positive for radon at concentrations exceeding safe levels.  There is no way to prevent the formation of radon but homes can be made more secure when leaks, holes, sumps, cracks, and other openings in a basement are sealed effectively.

The EPA has designated January as National Radon Action Month.

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