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  • 8/21/2019 I continue to be amazed when I ask women what the number one killer of women is, the majority respond, “breast cancer.” While breast cancer is the number one cancer killer of women, and is estimated to have claimed about 40,000 women last year, it is not the biggest threat women face. It’s estimated that ten times that many died of heart disease last year.
    Cardiovascular disease is arguably the most important women’s health issue, and is largely preventable. How can women be so unaware that they have a one in 31 chance of dying from breast cancer but a much higher one in three chance of dying from heart disease? Could it be that breast cancer gets so much more coverage in mainstream and social media? Is breast cancer generally more frightening & potentially disfiguring? Is heart disease just plain boring to talk about?
  • 8/8/2019 I saw a young athlete last week who complained of shin pain. He had been upping his running mileage in preparation for the cross country season. The pain was due to a stress fracture. It is estimated that between 5 and 30 percent of athletes develop a stress fracture each year. Briefhaupt first described the condition in 1855 when examining military recruits, another group that frequently suffers this injury. 
    Everyone is familiar with bone fractures, especially those that result from acute trauma. These fractures are usually easy for an untrained person to see on an X-ray where the bone looks like a broken stick. Stress fractures, however, can be much more difficult to diagnose. 
    Stress fractures, as the name implies, result from repeated stress on the bone. This repetitive microtrauma causes disruption of the microscopic structure of the bone over time that eventually exceeds the bone’s ability to heal itself. A tiny crack subsequently develops in the bone that may or may not be obvious on an X-ray. Think of bending a piece of metal over and over; eventually it weakens and breaks.
    Stress fractures typically occur in bones that are prone to repetitive stress based on particular sports. The fractures can involve any bone, but the most common locations and their associated sports include the leg, hip and foot (runners & jumpers), the spine (gymnasts, divers & volleyball players), arms (throwers), and ribs (rowers). The forces experienced by bones in the feet and legs can be up to twelve times a person’s weight. Stress fractures are one of the five most common injuries in runners and account for up to half of injuries in soldiers.
  • 7/30/2019 Kidney stones are a topic near and dear to my heart as I’ve had the distinct pleasure of having four of them. Stones are also known as calculi, from the Latin for pebble. They can form and stay in the kidneys (renal calculi or nephrolithiasis) or move down the ureters, the tubes connecting the kidneys to the bladder (ureteral calculi or urolithiasis). Stones may also be found in the bladder.
    The ureters are very small tubes that contain smooth muscle cells. These cells contract involuntarily to help move the urine from the kidneys to the bladder. When a stone is too large to pass down the ureter, it can partially or completely block the flow of urine, causing pressure to build up. This pressure, along with contractions of the muscles in the ureter, causes deep, severe, unrelenting pain known as ureteral colic. Stones may also cause blood in the urine.
    The peak onset of kidney stones is in the third and fourth decades. It is rare after age 60. Men have about a 12 percent lifetime chance of developing a kidney stone while women have a seven percent chance. Interestingly, stones are more common in the Southeastern United States. The chance of developing a recurrence of stones is 14 percent at one year, 35 percent at five years, and 52 percent at ten years.
    Stones form when the urine becomes supersaturated. This means that minerals and compounds in the urine become so concentrated that they start to form crystals. These eventually grow to form stones. Maintaining adequate fluid intake to keep the urine diluted is therefore very important in reducing the risk of stone formation. Other types of stones may be formed by infection in the kidneys. 
  • 7/10/2019 Barbecue season is in full swing and it’s a good time to review food safety. Food-borne illness is something that almost all of us have experienced at some point in our lives.
    Food-borne illness is defined as more than two people having a similar illness with evidence of food as the source. The overall rate of these illnesses has gone down drastically in the last century with improvements in food handling and sanitation. However, we still hear about illness outbreaks.
    There are approximately 76 million cases of food-related illness in the United States each year. There are also about 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths. Underdeveloped countries, as a group, experience about one billion cases annually and four to six million deaths.
    The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 97 percent of all cases of food-borne illness come from improper food handling. Most of these (79 percent) are from commercial establishments, while the other 21 percent originate in the home.
  • 6/4/2019 Summer is just around the corner which means I’ll start to see patients complaining of “swimmer’s ear.” Doctors tend to see more of this malady in hot, humid weather, but it can also be brought on by other conditions as well.
    The medical term for swimmer’s ear is otitis externa, indicating inflammation of the external ear. This is in contrast to the more common otitis media, or infection of the middle ear (the air filled cavity just behind the ear drum).
    The number of people who suffer from swimmer’s ear is about four per 1,000 per year, or about three to five percent of the population. It afflicts males and females in equal numbers and tends to present between seven and twelve years of age, though older people can certainly be afflicted.
    The wax (cerumen) that everyone is always trying to get out of their ears is actually there to protect the external ear canal. There exists a delicate balance of too much or too little cerumen. If there is not enough present, the ear canal can dry out, crack and develop infection. If there is too much, the ear canal can become too moist. This leads to swelling and breakdown of the skin lining the ear canal.
  • 5/20/2019 Readers have asked me to address more summer safety issues. It’s great to see kids and adults out on their bicycles now that the weather has warmed up (especially kids who aren’t sitting on the couch). This will undoubtedly result in more bike accidents. Some of the saddest experiences I had during my Family Medicine residency were to have to take care of kids who were brain injured as a result of a bike accident.
    In 2017, there were 783 deaths from bicycle accidents in the United States, a decrease of about 7 percent from the previous year. Most of these deaths were the result of head injuries from people being hit by or running into automobiles. Bike accidents account for about half a million visits to emergency departments each year and account for over $10 billion in health care costs.
    While most kids own bike helmets, often they tell me they don’t wear them. Parents often bring up the fact that they never wore a helmet when they were kids. Most of the time, the reason is because helmets did not exist when they were kids.
  • 5/13/2019 It will soon be warm outside (hopefully) – time to starting thinking about summer. This week, I want to briefly review some sun and water safety tips.
    Most people enjoy a good day in the sun. Whether it’s lounging by the water or working outdoors, we all get our fair share of sun every summer. Everyone knows you can get a burn if you’re out in the sun too long. However, many people don’t realize that you can still get a burn in the shade or on a cloudy day. Ultraviolet rays come in two forms: UVA and UVB. UVA accelerates aging of the skin, while both UVA and UVB can cause skin cancer.
  • 5/6/2019 The summer sports season, gardening and other outdoor chores will be starting soon. If they haven’t already, weekend warriors will soon be doing all sorts of things to keep doctors who treat musculoskeletal injuries busy. I want to give everyone some pointers in how to take care of the inevitable sprains and strains of summer.
    It’s interesting to me how many people come to my office after suffering an injury and don’t have any idea how to do some initial first aid. It’s extremely important to treat injuries immediately to prevent additional damage and disability.
    When a musculoskeletal injury occurs, a biochemical chain reaction is triggered to begin the process of healing the injury. Injured cells release various messengers that start the process, but this also results in pain and swelling.
  • Hamilton Health - The Season of Sneezing
    4/29/2019 It’s once again time to run my annual column on allergies. Many of our readers are probably already cursing the annual return of allergy symptoms. The pollen levels in Indiana have already been quite high.
    Seasonal allergies are a major problem for many people. When allergy sufferers are asked about their quality of life, they generally rate allergies as more bothersome than heart disease and sometimes even cancer. There are many causes of allergies, but I want to focus on the seasonal type.
    Seasonal allergies are caused by pollen. Pollen contains the male genetic material of plants; it is analogous to sperm in animals. The goal of any biologic organism is to spread its DNA as far and wide as possible. Pollen is the perfect vehicle to accomplish this task.
  • Hamilton Health - What in the world is a thyroid anyway?
    4/22/2019 I’ve received a request to write about thyroid gland problems. Thyroid problems are common in a family medicine setting. For those who don’t know what the thyroid gland is or does, keep reading.
    The thyroid is an endocrine gland found in the front part of the neck below and to the sides of the larynx or Adam’s apple. Endocrine glands make hormones that are released into the bloodstream. The hormones then travel around the body and interact with cells in different tissues, biochemically instructing them to perform particular functions.
    The primary job of the thyroid gland is to control metabolism (energy use) in our cells. It does this by producing two hormones, T4 (thyroxine) and T3 (triiodothyronin). Both of these hormones contain iodine which is why iodine is so important in our diets.
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