Friday, September 28, 2012

Health Risks of Frequent Flying

One moment you are staring out of the window, noticing other flights in their hangars and the next you find everything falling behind with a tremendous rush, and you zoom from the ground to 20,000 feet in the air within minutes! The first flight is always a wonderful experience for many, which of course, is coupled with a sudden jolt of fear and excitement. But what most people are unaware of is that frequent flying has its own share of ill effects on health. Humans are terrestrial organisms who are biologically designed to function and exist comfortably close to sea level. So every time we enter a climate that is beyond what we normally inhabit, we become susceptible to certain risks or dangers that can impact our health.

How Can Flying Impact Our Health?

When we speak of flying, several factors come into the picture, most common being atmospheric pressure, gas concentrations, temperature, and most important of all, altitude. Flying exposes our body to deal with each of these elements which behave differently when we are close to sea level.

# For long-haul passengers and frequent fliers, the most obvious side effect is what is known as jet-lag. This problem occurs when the body's internal clock (the clock tells you when it is time to sleep and to be awake) is disrupted due to crossing multiple time zones within a short period (for instance, flying east to west or west to east). Jet lag can trigger:

Sleep disorders
Digestive distress
Loss of appetite
General feeling of malaise
Abnormal fatigue during daytime
Muscle soreness
Concentration problems
Memory problems
Irregular menstruation

# A health risk that divers should be wary of before flying is decompression sickness. This condition can trigger unpleasant and sometimes severe symptoms in people who fly shortly after diving. Common symptoms may include:

Deep, sharp pain; normally localized
Itching, and swelling of the skin
'Pins and needles' sensation, numbness or seizures
Vision problems
Paralysis in the legs
Headache, abnormal fatigue
Loss of balance
Hearing loss
Labored breathing
Dry cough

# Altitude sickness is another health hazard for people who fly frequently. Also known as acute mountain sickness (AMS), this problem occurs when one does not receive enough oxygen while going quickly from lower altitudes to 8,000 feet or higher. Symptoms caused by this condition may include:

Throbbing headache
Weakness and abnormal lethargy
Loss of appetite
General feeling of malaise

Although most modern passenger aircraft are designed to maintain a cabin altitude of about 8,000 feet, most long-haul fliers still experience some of these symptoms. Some people compared the effects of altitude sickness as similar to that of a hangover. Symptoms such as disorientation, unsteady gait, fainting, and lips or nails turning blue or gray indicate a severe case of altitude sickness.

# One common physiological effect that is felt during a flight, especially in a long-haul one, is dehydration. Most aircraft cabins have a relative humidity which is less than 20%. This is to keep the structure and avionics of the aircraft from any harm that can arise from condensation. This humidity is, however, lower than what is required by the body to avoid dehydration (more than 30%). That is why it is common for fliers to experience symptoms such as:

Dry and scratchy eyes
Dry skin
Breathing problems for people with conditions like asthma
Sticky mouth
Sunken eyes
Unconsciousness (in case of severe dehydration)

Low humidity can also make people more susceptible to contract respiratory infections. These symptoms could be more severe for people who undertake frequent flying trips unless they constantly hydrate themselves.

# The ascent and descent of a flight causes the gases trapped in the body to expand and contract respectively. This causes a difference between the air pressure in the middle ear and air pressure in the environment. This condition is known as airplane ear or ear barotrauma. Its common symptoms include:

Mild to severe ear pain
Feeling of something blocking the ear canal
Ringing in the ear

In severe cases, passengers may also bleed from their ear, encounter hearing loss, experience tooth pain or pain in the gastrointestinal tract.

# Most experts consider deep vein thrombosis (DVT) to be a possible health risk of frequent flying, especially for people who undertake long distance travel. This condition occurs when a blood clot forms in one or more of the deep veins in the body, commonly in the legs. The main cause of the problem is being stationary or sitting still for a long time while flying or traveling by car. In healthy individuals, the blood clot is normally dissolved by the body without causing any long-term effects. But if the blood clot is large and it does not dissolve on its own, then it may break loose, travel through the bloodstream and lodge in the lungs blocking the blood supply. This is known as pulmonary embolism, which can prove fatal if not treated immediately. The odds of developing DVT while traveling, however, is usually less unless accompanied by one or more risk factors such as pregnancy, medical history of DVT or pulmonary embolism, cancer, blood-clotting disorders, or use of hormone replacement therapy.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

How To Tell Patients They Have Breast Cancer

October is the celebration of life and cancer of the breast awareness month globally. This celebration is not only given significance by patients, survivors and their families and friends, but as well as medical practitioners and staff of Cancer alternative treatment centers. There are a lot of screening tests available to detect early breast cancer like self and clinical breast exams, mammogram and X-Rays.

We must take some considerations before; during and after delivering the sad news to them and breast cancer alternative treatment specialists helped us in explaining the following:

They have an idea what you're going to say. The primary reason why they asked for help and consulted is they wanted to be aware of status of their health. So they pretty much have an idea of what to expect. A different approach is needed for certain situations like patients who just wanted to have a general checkup and for patients rushed due to an emergency.

It's either bad or good news. If the individual is negative for breast cancer, it's much simpler delivering very good news. On the other hand be extra mindful and gentle in delivering the news that he/she is positive with this particular dreaded disease.

Avoid Medical Jargon. We ought to explain the cause, condition and cure by simplifying words and detailing it meticulously and precisely. Keep in mind that we're dealing with the second killer cancer globally (next to lung cancer) and not just any complication. We should not mix up words in order to avoid confusion.

Consult their family members first. For checkup and consultation situations, the patient ought to be informed as quickly as possible and it is their choice whether to disclose that information to their families and friends. But for emergency situations wherein the patient was rushed and was just diagnosed, it should be advised by the attending medical staff (the doctor to be very exact) to the immediate family about the situation of the patient.

Use reassuring statements. Medical practitioners should advise the patient and/or their loved ones the 3C's (cause, condition and cure) of the said condition. Upon conveying the disease's cause and condition, we should soon after make clear to them the cure. Assure them there exists alternative treatment for breast cancer as well as other options. Additionally, explain how much it might cost to prepare them not just emotionally but financially as well.

Second opinion doesn't mean you don't know what you do as a practitioner. It doesn't imply that you aren't sure that which you have figured out should you refer your patients to other specialists. Tell them that it is also their right as a patient to search for another opinion. It would not give them false hope, but instead it would allow them to have the reassurance that your findings truly are trustworthy.

Always give curative options. We should say to patients, their family and friends the latest innovation in breast cancer research and treatment procedures from cancer experts and oncologists, up to alternate breast cancer treatment nowadays.