Medical News Today: What causes pale gums?

Pale gums may indicate that a person has anemia, which is often the result of an iron deficiency. However, if the gums are white or painful, the cause may be more serious.

Healthy gums should be a relatively consistent shade of pink. They may appear slightly lighter around the teeth and darker around the sides of the mouth. One person’s gums may be naturally a little paler or darker than another’s.

When an individual notices that the color of their gums is changing, they should speak with a doctor, especially if additional symptoms are causing concern.

Read on to learn more about the causes of pale gums. We also describe accompanying symptoms, treatments, and when to see a doctor.

Causes and symptoms

Treatment and the number of symptoms will vary, depending on the cause of pale gums.

Below is a list of underlying conditions, their other symptoms, and their treatments:


Pale gums
Anemia is a common cause of pale gums.

Anemia occurs when the body is not getting enough oxygen-rich blood. A lack of blood can cause some tissues to grow pale.

In addition to pale gums, a person with anemia may notice the following symptoms:

  • inexplicable exhaustion or weakness
  • shortness of breath
  • pale or yellowish skin and eyes
  • headaches
  • heart palpitations

Anemia often results from a lack of iron, folate, or vitamin B12.

Otherwise, a person may have too few blood cells or not enough hemoglobin. In people with sickle cell anemia, the blood cells are abnormally shaped.

Medical conditions can also lead to anemia or increase a person’s risk. Some involve blood loss. They include:

  • very heavy menstruation
  • pregnancy
  • liver, spleen, or kidney conditions
  • hypothyroidism
  • bleeding in the stomach or intestines, which may result from gastrointestinal ulcers, cancers, abnormal growths, colitis, or swelling of the large intestine

Certain medications, particularly those for chemotherapy, can increase a person’s risk of developing anemia. Others develop the condition after taking too many nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which leads to internal bleeding.

Treatment may be as simple as taking prescribed iron pills for at least 6 months. These pills are best taken with food and citrus juices, especially orange juice. It can also help to eat foods rich in iron, such as dark leafy greens and fortified cereals and bread.

When very heavy periods are responsible for anemia, a person may benefit from hormone medications that lighten menstruation.

Certain foods can interfere with the body’s absorption of iron. A person with anemia may wish to avoid:

  • coffee and tea
  • alcohol
  • whole grain products
  • dairy products


Oral leukoplakia can cause uniform, thin, white patches to develop on the gums. These alternate with, or are bordered by, regular gum or mucous tissues.

The white patches may have raised, white nodules or be speckled with red.

Leukoplakia patches can develop anywhere in the mouth and cannot be rubbed or scrubbed off.

The cause of this condition is unclear, but it seems to occur more often in people who smoke, consume a lot of alcohol, or have poor oral hygiene.

In many cases, leukoplakia patches are harmless. However, they can transform and become cancerous.

Anyone who notices these patches should speak with a doctor or dentist. Depending on the patches’ size and location, as well as individual risk factors such as smoking, a doctor may choose to monitor leukoplakia patches or surgically remove them.


Menopause can lead to pale and bloody gums
Pale or bleeding gums can occur because of hormonal changes.

The hormonal changes associated with menopause are known to decrease blood flow, which can cause the gums to become pale and dry.

A form of infection called menopausal gingivostomatitis can lead to pale, dry gums that may bleed.

Hormone therapies can treat these symptoms. When a fungal species is responsible for gingivostomatitis, a person may need to use a topical antifungal cream, such as nystatin or clotrimazole.

Oral lichen planus

In a person with oral lichen planus, a film of web-like, slightly raised white threads develop throughout the gums’ mucus membranes.

To diagnose this condition, a doctor will usually take a biopsy, a small portion of tissue from the affected areas, to rule out other medical issues.

Cases of erosive oral lichen planus involving ulcers, or open sores, can be treated using topical corticosteroids or systemic steroids.

There is no cure for oral lichen planus, and treatment will focus on limiting the number of flare-ups and the severity of symptoms. Eating a healthful, balanced diet, staying hydrated, exercising, and quitting smoking can help to manage the condition.

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When to see a doctor

Pale gums are a common sign of anemia, and mild anemia can be managed at home by increasing the intake of iron. However, severe cases can be life-threatening.

Speak with a doctor or dentist about pale gums as soon as possible. Receiving treatment early can reduce the risk of complications.

Seek medical advice if symptoms of infection accompany pale gums. These symptoms include:

  • bleeding gums
  • swollen, painful, or tender gums
  • gums that recede around the teeth
  • very bad breath
  • fever
  • loose teeth
  • difficulty or pain swallowing
  • gum abscesses
  • a metallic taste in the mouth
  • pain in the jaw or the face

Anyone who suspects that they have abnormal oral growths, such as those that occur in lichen planus or leukoplakia, should see a doctor or dentist and discuss treatment options.

When pale gums are associated with menopause or heavy menstrual periods, a person may want to speak with a doctor about hormone therapies that can reduce symptoms.

Tips for healthy gums

Flossing daily will help retain good oral hygiene
Flossing daily will help a person retain good oral hygiene.

Practicing good oral hygiene is the easiest way to keep the gums healthy.

The following tips can help a person maintain good oral hygiene:

  • brush the teeth for at least 120 seconds twice daily or more often
  • floss every day
  • rinse the mouth with a product containing fluoride once or twice daily
  • rinse or brush after consuming sugary foods or drinks
  • replace toothbrushes or toothbrush heads every few months or when they look worn
  • exercise for at least 30 minutes a day
  • visit a dentist regularly
  • avoid smoking or using tobacco products

It is also important to eat a healthful, balanced diet. This should involve plenty of whole fruits, vegetables, and grains. The diet should include good sources of iron, such as lentils, chickpeas, beans, and lean meats.

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The natural color of gums varies from person to person. When the gums become paler than usual, speak with a doctor or dentist to rule out anemia and other underlying conditions.

Anyone who suspects that abnormal growths are making the gums appear lighter than usual should seek medical advice.

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Medical News Today: Can saw palmetto reduce enlarged prostate?

People often use saw palmetto as a natural remedy for benign prostate hyperplasia, which is a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate gland.

Benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH) is a common condition in older people. The prostate grows bigger and impedes the flow of urine. It causes urinary tract and bladder symptoms that gradually get worse over time.

Saw palmetto, or Serenoa repens, is a plant that people use as a natural remedy. Native Americans used to take the herb to enhance fertility and treat urinary tract issues. According to The New England Journal of Medicine, over 2 million men in the United States use the herb to treat BPH and other prostate issues. However, there is limited research to support its efficacy.

Read on to learn more about taking saw palmetto for BPH.

Does saw palmetto work for BPH?

Saw palmetto for bph
There is a lack of evidence for the benefits of saw palmetto for BPH.

Saw palmetto seems to slow down the production of a particular enzyme called 5-alpha reductase, this enzyme converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in the prostate gland.

Although DHT plays a vital role in the development of the prostate, it can also lead to prostate issues such as BPH.

Many people believe that taking saw palmetto will reduce their BPH symptoms by blocking DHT production.

However, there is a lack of evidence to confirm that saw palmetto benefits prostate health.

What the research says

Although some early research suggested that saw palmetto could benefit people with BPH symptoms, later studies contradicted these findings.

A study published in 2011 followed the progress of 306 men with moderate BPH symptoms over 72 weeks as they took either saw palmetto fruit extracts or a placebo. The results showed that there was no significant difference in the results between the two groups.

Even when the participants took a triple dose of saw palmetto instead of the standard dose of 320 milligrams (mg) common in earlier research, the participants experienced no significant benefits.

These findings support 2006 research, which found no improvement in BPH symptoms after 12 months of saw palmetto use.

A 2012 Cochrane review of 32 randomized controlled trials involving 5,666 men further disputes the efficacy of saw palmetto in treating symptoms of BPH. The review states that saw palmetto does not improve excessive night-time urination (nocturia), peak urine flow, or other urinary symptoms when compared with a placebo.

Saw palmetto for other conditions

People often use saw palmetto to treat other health conditions, such as:

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) state that there is no scientific evidence to suggest that saw palmetto is effective for any health condition, despite its popularity as an herbal remedy.

There are more effective treatments for these problems. It is always best to speak to a doctor before taking any herbal medication or supplement.

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Side effects of saw palmetto

woman with headache and fatigue
Saw palmetto may lead to headaches.

Saw palmetto causes relatively few side effects. It may occasionally lead to mild symptoms such as digestive upset, bad breath, or headaches.

Even when people take high doses of up to 960 mg, studies show that saw palmetto does not typically trigger severe reactions.

However, there are rare cases of people associating saw palmetto with their liver problems so anyone who has or had liver disease should avoid taking it.

The herb is also unlikely to interact with medications, but there are no studies to prove it is safe. Therefore, individuals who are taking any other medications and wish to try saw palmetto should check with their doctor first. There is some risk of saw palmetto interacting with aspirin or blood-clotting drugs.

Finally, studies to date have focused on males using saw palmetto. There is not much information available on the effects or safety of the herb in females or children.

Medical treatments for BPH

People with BPH may wish to try medical treatments, especially when their symptoms are severe or natural remedies do not work.

Factors that will affect the choice of medical treatment include the person’s age, the size of their prostate, and the severity of their symptoms.

Treatment options include:


Several medications are available to treat BPH when symptoms are mild or moderate, including:

  • 5-alpha reductase inhibitors, such as dutasteride (Avodart) and finasteride (Proscar). These medications slow down DHT production.
  • Alpha-blockers, such as alfuzosin (Uroxatral), doxazosin (Cardura), and tamsulosin (Flomax). These drugs relax muscles in the prostate and bladder to make urination easier.

Sometimes, a doctor may recommend taking a combination of 5-alpha reductase inhibitors and alpha-blockers.


Surgical treatments may be necessary if medications do not work or if symptoms are severe. There are many types of surgery that can treat BPH, and the choice of procedure will depend on the person’s health and symptoms.

It is possible to use minimally invasive surgeries and procedures for:

  • removing certain parts of the prostate that are blocking urine flow
  • making small incisions (cuts) in the prostate gland to improve the flow of urine
  • delivering microwave energy or radio waves to the prostate to destroy excess tissue

Another option is open surgery, which will involve making an incision in the lower abdomen to remove prostate tissue. As this procedure carries some risk, it is generally reserved for those with very large prostates or with bladder damage.

Laser therapy

Laser therapy involves using a strong beam of light radiation to remove excess prostate tissue. This procedure usually provides immediate relief from symptoms and is less risky than open surgery.

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Home remedies

man swimming in a pool
Regular exercise may help to avoid urine retention.

Lifestyle changes and home remedies can alleviate the symptoms of an enlarged prostate. People with BPH can try:

  • Training the bladder to urinate at regular intervals (typically every 4 hours).
  • Avoiding waiting too long to urinate as this can damage the bladder muscle.
  • Waiting a few moments after urinating and then trying to urinate again. This technique, called double voiding, helps to ensure the bladder is completely empty.
  • Eating a healthful diet and maintaining a normal body weight.
  • Exercising regularly to avoid urine retention.
  • Keeping warm to avoid urine retention and reduce urinary urgency.
  • Stopping the consumption of fluids 2 hours before bed to prevent nocturia.
  • Avoiding caffeine and alcohol as they both irritate the bladder.
  • Limiting the use of decongestants and antihistamines as these medications reduce urine flow.

When to see a doctor

Individuals who notice changes in their urinary habits should see a doctor, even if the symptoms do not cause discomfort. Any changes can suggest an underlying medical condition that may require prompt treatment. It is best to talk to a doctor before taking any herb or medication.

Untreated urinary issues can lead to complications such as an obstruction in the urinary tract, which prevents urination. People who cannot pass any urine need emergency medical treatment.


Most people will see an improvement in BPH symptoms following treatment. To prevent symptoms from returning or worsening, a doctor may recommend taking medication on a long-term basis. Sometimes, repeat treatments may be necessary to control symptoms.

Many men will also feel better when they make lifestyle changes, such as eating healthily, exercising, and training the bladder.

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Medical News Today: Can you have RA and PsA at the same time?

Psoriatic arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are two types of arthritis that can be easily confused. Both are autoimmune conditions in which the immune system attacks the joints, causing pain, swelling, and stiffness. They are, however, separate disorders.

Arthritis is a common cause of chronic joint pain and stiffness in many people. There are many different types of arthritis, each having their own causes, complications, and symptoms.

Knowing the differences between psoriatic arthritis (PsA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) might help a person understand the treatment options and what they might expect from them.

Differences between rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis or psoriatic arthritis in woman's hand.
Rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis may seem similar.

The two conditions can be easily confused, but there are differences between them.

Some people who have PsA will also have psoriasis, a skin condition that causes skin lesions or plaques on their body.

These plaques would indicate that RA is likely not the cause of the pain.

However, some people may have PsA without having the skin condition.

Another difference is that PsA often progresses beyond the bones and joints and affects the tendons, nails, and eyes.

The primary difference, however, is how the symptoms present. For example, RA is typically symmetrical, which means that it affects joints on both sides of the body. So if RA affects the wrists, it will usually affect both wrists.

PsA, on the other hand, is asymmetric, meaning that it may only cause pain in the left knee or the right wrist, for instance.

Psoriatic arthritis characteristics

According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, PsA affects up to 30 percent of people who have psoriasis. When a person has PsA, their immune system causes excess inflammation in the body. This inflammation often causes symptoms, such as stiffness, swelling, and pain in the joints.

Both sexes are affected by PsA, most commonly adults, and some people develop the condition without ever having psoriasis affecting the skin.

People with psoriasis will often develop shiny, red patches called plaques on their skin. These plaques, form due to a buildup of excess skin cells.

Rheumatoid arthritis characteristics

RA is the most common type of autoimmune arthritis, causing swelling, stiffness, and joint pain. When a person has RA, their immune system mistakenly attacks the tissues lining the joints, which causes the symptoms.

RA will typically occur in more than one area in the body, and the symptoms often mirror each other, meaning they will show up on both sides of the body, such as in both knees and both elbows. RA can be disabling if it is severe or left untreated.

Anyone can get RA, but it may be most common in women and older adults. There may be a genetic component to RA, but this is not always the case.

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Both diseases cause similar symptoms of joint stiffness, pain, and swelling. In both disorders, symptoms may flare up and get worse, linger for a while and then go away temporarily. This pattern then repeats.

Each condition will also cause other symptoms.

Psoriatic arthritis symptoms

Severe back pain may be a symptom of psoriatic arthritis.
Severe back pain may be a symptom of psoriatic arthritis.

Symptoms of PsA can include:

  • swelling and joint pain in at least one joint, often more
  • back pain and or sacroiliac pain, which may be severe
  • swollen fingers and toes often called “sausage digits”
  • inflammation of the eye (uveitis or iritis)
  • foot pain, typically in the heel or sole

Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms

Symptoms of RA can include:

  • joint pain that often begins in smaller joints like the fingers or hands
  • joint pain on both sides of the body
  • light or low fever
  • dry mouth
  • dry eyes
  • general fatigue
  • inflammation of the eyes (scleritis, uveitis, iritis)
  • loss of appetite
  • stiffer joints in the morning
  • inflammation of the lungs and heart

Causes and risk factors

Doctors still do not entirely understand what causes these diseases but think that genetics, hormonal imbalances, or infections might cause the immune system to attack itself.

Doctors think that PsA may be linked to a genetic condition as it sometimes runs in families. Having psoriasis may also be a risk factor for PsA. However, psoriasis may not be visible or cause any problems until PsA develops.

There may also be a genetic component to RA. It appears to run in families, and people with a close relative who has the condition may be more likely to experience it themselves.

More research is still needed to discover what is at the root of both RA and PsA.

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Are there any complications?

Both RA and PsA have similar complications in the long-term.

Both of these conditions cause long-term inflammation in the body, which may lead to scarring or inflammatory damage in the internal organs.

The inflammation may also lead to symptoms of osteoporosis or bone weakness. This could make fractures and sprains more likely to occur in the future.


Woman having skin on elbow inspected by doctor.
A rheumatologist can diagnose different types of arthritis accurately.

Because RA and PsA are often confused, it is essential to get an accurate diagnosis from a specialist called a rheumatologist.

A rheumatologist will likely have a deeper understanding of conditions such as RA and PsA and will know what to look for during the diagnostic work-up.

The rheumatologist will often ask about medical and family history. They will do a physical exam to look for specific signs of a condition.

For example, a person who presents with scales, crumbly nails, or rough patches of skin, is likely to have PsA, as these symptoms are not typical in RA.

It is possible to have both RA and PsA, but this is rare.

Rheumatoid factor test

A rheumatoid factor (RF) test may also help doctors decide which of the two conditions is present. RF proteins are found in people with RA, while people with PsA typically do not have the protein. The absence of RF, known as seronegative RA, is recognized in 20-30 percent of people with classical clinical RA.

Imaging scans

Doctors may use imaging tests like X-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to see if there is any damage to bones, joints, or internal organs.

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Treatment options

In most cases, the two conditions are treated similarly because the treatment aims to reduce or halt the inflammatory process that is common to both conditions.

Treatment for both PsA and RA includes:

  • nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • corticosteroids
  • physical therapy
  • immunosuppressants
  • disease-modifying anti-rheumatic agents (DMARDs)
  • biologics (genetically engineered proteins made from human genes)
  • surgery in some cases to repair, replace, or stabilize damaged joints

There is no cure for either condition, but many people find they can manage pain and discomfort using the available treatment options under the guidance of a doctor or rheumatologist.

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Medical News Today: What are the health benefits of balsamic vinegar?

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Medical News Today: Scientists find cell types behind schizophrenia

The biology of schizophrenia is difficult to study, since hundreds of genes are implicated in the disease. But now, scientists have identified the few cell types behind the disease.
redhaired woman with schizophrenia
Scientists come one step closer to finding the cause of schizophrenia.

The international team — led by researchers from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill — say that the work should make it easier to design experiments that lead to new, improved treatments.

An account of the collaborative effort can be found in a scientific paper that was published recently in the journal Nature Genetics.

“With the results from this study,” says co-senior study author Jens Hjerling-Leffler, an assistant professor and research group leader in the Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics at Karolinska Institutet, “we are giving the scientific community a chance to focus their efforts where it will give maximum effect.”

Schizophrenia is a severe and disabling long-term mental illness that affects more than 21 million individuals worldwide.

The disease impairs behavior and human attributes that many unaffected people might take for granted, such as perception, thinking, language, emotions, and having a “sense of self.”

Common symptoms include: hallucinations, in which voices are heard and “things are seen” that others say are not there; and delusions, or holding onto beliefs that are false.

Medical treatment and psychological support can be effective, but even with this help, managing one’s way in the world with such a disabling burden can make it very hard to gain qualifications, hold down a job, and lead a productive life.

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New tools ‘transforming’ biological research

Schizophrenia’s causes are proving hard to pin down. Scientists believe that several factors may be involved, including interactions between genes and environment, such as problems during birth and exposure to viruses.

Significant progress has been made in identifying the genetic factors, if we take into consideration the hundreds of genes that studies have now linked to schizophrenia.

However, since each gene exerts but a small effect, this makes it very difficult to decide which ones to focus on in research experiments and treatment development.

The focus of this recent study is on how cell types — which can be characterized by gene maps — relate to disease. Such lines of investigation are now possible thanks to a new tool called “single-cell transcriptomics.”

Single-cell transcriptomics is “transforming our understanding of biology” by allowing scientists to quantify levels of gene expression in single cells.

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Gene expression maps

For the new study, the researchers created gene expression maps for each cell type in the brain and compared them with the detailed list of the hundreds of schizophrenia-related genes.

This helped them to identify the specific cell types that likely contribute most to the disorder, as well as those that are likely to contribute least.

“We found,” note the authors, “that the common-variant genomic results consistently mapped to pyramidal cells, medium spiny neurons (MSNs), and certain interneurons, but far less consistently to embryonic, progenitor, or glial cells.”

They also found that the contributing cell types are linked to particular structures and parts of the brain and may exert “distinct” effects.

“The genetic risk associated with MSNs,” the authors go on to say, “did not overlap with that of glutamatergic pyramidal cells and interneurons, suggesting that different cell types have biologically distinct roles in schizophrenia.”

The team suggests that the findings could serve as a “roadmap” for researching new treatments.

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‘Separate drugs for each cell type?’

“One question now,” explains co-senior study author Patrick Sullivan — who holds professorships in both the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the Karolinska Institutet and the Department of Genetics and Psychiatry at University of North Carolina — “is whether these brain cell types are related to the clinical features of schizophrenia.”

Such questions help, for example, to find out whether treatment response is worse if a cell type is particularly dysfunctional. Also, dysfunction in another type of cell might lead to long-term side effects such as cognitive problems.

“This would have important implications for development of new treatments, as separate drugs may be required for each cell type involved,” Prof. Sullivan explains.

The team believes that thanks to the new tools such as single-cell transcriptomics, we can expect to see breakthroughs in our understanding of the biology of other complex conditions, such as major depression, autism, and eating disorders.

This marks a transition in how we can use large genetic studies to understand the biology of disease.”

Prof. Jens Hjerling-Leffler

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Medical News Today: What is formication?

Formication is the sensation of having insects crawling on or under the skin. The name comes from the Latin word “formica,” which means ant.

Formication is a tactile hallucination, which means a person feels a physical sensation, but there is no physical cause. The sensation can lead to itching, which may be worse at night and can be severe enough to impact on a person’s quality of life.

Feeling sensations on the skin with no physical stimulation is a type of paresthesia, which may also include burning, tingling, numbness, and cold.

Formication is linked to several other medical conditions, as well as withdrawal from some drugs and substances.

Causes of formication

young woman scratching arm
Formication is the feeling of itching when there is no physical cause.

Several conditions can cause formication. They include:

It is possible that lower estrogen levels during perimenopause and menopause may also cause formication.

Formication can sometimes occur when a person is going through withdrawal from drugs, especially from opiates. The list below includes some of the drugs that can cause formication during withdrawal.

  • Ritalin
  • Wellbutrin
  • Lunesta
  • opioid pain medications, such as codeine or morphine
  • some antidepressants, such as SSRIs
  • Tramadol
  • cocaine
  • heroin
  • methamphetamine
  • MDMA

Formication linked to drug withdrawal is usually temporary and should resolve when a person recovers from withdrawal.

If the sensation continues or is very intense, it could be due to drug psychosis. This may cause a person to believe that they have an actual infestation of bugs in their skin.

Alcohol withdrawal can also cause formication. People may experience visual hallucinations too, as well as other symptoms. It is, therefore, best to have a doctor or other professional oversee alcohol withdrawal, as symptoms may be severe.

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It is essential to give the doctor full and honest answers at the appointment so that they can provide an accurate diagnosis. They may want to know:

  • any other symptoms that are present in addition to formication
  • at what time of day the crawling sensations occur
  • what was happening when the sensations first started
  • any medication being taken
  • whether a person has used any recreational drugs
  • if a person drinks alcohol

A doctor might also want to rule out scabies. Scabies is an infection of tiny mites that burrow in the skin. They cause extreme itching and leave a rash.


doctor holding tablets and typing on laptop
If formication is caused by medication, a doctor should be able to prescribe an alternative.

Treatment for formication will depend on the underlying cause. A topical cream, such as hydrocortisone, might lessen the itching for some people. Moisturizers or barrier creams may also help by keeping the skin healthy and hydrated.

It could also be worth placing an ice pack on the affected areas, which can provide a soothing effect for immediate relief.

If the cause of the formication is Parkinson’s disease, shingles, or fibromyalgia, a doctor will prescribe appropriate medication and may create a long-term treatment plan.

If medication is the cause, a doctor can usually recommend alternatives. Sometimes, an antihistamine, such as Zyrtec or Benadryl, can help reduce the sensations of formication.

Some antihistamines can make people drowsy, so it is important to read the labels and ask a pharmacist questions about the side effects before using them.

If formication is linked to recreational drug use, quitting and finding professional support for withdrawal can resolve symptoms.

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Possible complications

young woman yawning
Formication can cause poor quality sleep and tiredness.

If a person is experiencing formication, they may be prone to constant scratching. This can break the skin, which can allow bacteria to enter and possibly cause infections to develop.

Potential complications of scratching include:

Other complications of formication include:

  • tiredness
  • frustration
  • poor sleep quality
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • problems concentrating
  • aching or feeling stiff

It is important to seek medical advice for any and all complications. Feeling tired or depressed can make formication worse.


Formication is a symptom of an underlying condition, so fully treating this condition should typically get rid of the symptoms. The condition may be physical, psychological, or related to substance misuse.

If the cause is not apparent, screening out possible conditions could detect something previously undiagnosed.

Speaking openly and honestly with a doctor will allow them to develop a personalized treatment plan to improve the condition as soon as possible.

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Medical News Today: Can BPH cause kidney failure?

Approximately half of all men with BPH experience symptoms. The condition can cause serious complications, including renal failure.

Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) affects more than 50 percent of males older than 60, and more than 80 percent of those older than 80.

This article answers many frequently asked questions relating to BPH renal failure.

What is BPH?

Male kidney, bladder and prostate
If urine cannot pass from the body due to BPH, renal failure may occur.

BPH refers to an enlarged prostate that is not caused by cancer.

The prostate is a walnut-sized gland located between the bladder and penis. The urethra, a tube that transports urine from the bladder to the penis, passes through the middle of the prostate.

The prostate is responsible for producing an alkaline fluid that protects sperm after ejaculation.

This gland doubles in size during puberty and continues to grow throughout adulthood, but at a much slower rate. If the prostate grows too large, it can press on the urethra and interfere with the flow of urine.

What is renal failure?

Renal failure, commonly known as kidney failure, occurs when the kidneys can no longer remove waste from the bloodstream.

BPH can obstruct the flow of urine, and this can contribute to renal failure.

Other causes of renal failure include:

There are five stages of kidney failure. A person with end-stage kidney failure requires continued dialysis or a transplant. Dialysis involves artificially filtering the blood to remove waste products.

How can BPH cause renal failure?

The urethra, which transports urine out of the body, runs through the prostate. When the prostate is enlarged due to BPH, it can compress the urethra and interfere with the flow of urine.

When urine cannot be passed from the body, renal failure can result.

An enlarged prostate may cause:

  • difficulty urinating
  • a low urine flow
  • an inability to completely empty the bladder
  • an inability to pass any urine

Other conditions that can affect urine flow include:

BPH rarely leads to renal failure. However, severe cases of BPH can cause other complications, such as bladder damage, infection, and kidney damage. It is essential to report urinary symptoms to a doctor quickly.

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Signs and symptoms of BPH

man holding groin due to bladder cysts
Symptoms of BPH may include increased urinary frequency, straining while urinating, and an inability to urinate.

People with BPH tend to notice changes in their urinary habits. They often complain of waking up more than once during the night to urinate. This symptom is called nocturia.

Other BPH symptoms include:

  • urinary urgency
  • increased urinary frequency
  • the sensation that the bladder is always full, even after urinating
  • a weak urine stream
  • straining while urinating
  • an inability to urinate
  • difficulty starting to urinate
  • dribbling urine

Some may have additional signs and symptoms such as:

  • blood in the urine
  • an infection of the urinary tract
  • a complete inability to urinate, which requires a catheter

Symptoms range from mild to severe, and the severity of symptoms may be unrelated to the size of the prostate.

BPH symptoms may get worse over time, but they can stabilize or even improve.

Signs and symptoms of BPH renal failure

When BPH is responsible for renal failure, people will experience some of the urinary symptoms described above.

They may also notice some of the following indications of renal failure:

  • chest pain
  • fatigue
  • nausea
  • swelling in the ankles, feet, and legs
  • shortness of breath
  • reduced urine output

In the later stages of renal failure, symptoms can be life-threatening. They include:

  • confusion
  • seizures
  • coma

Other causes

Some people with the signs and symptoms of BPH may instead have a different condition, such as:

  • a urinary tract infection
  • bladder or kidney stones
  • prostatitis, which is inflammation of the prostate
  • narrowing of the urethra, which is called urethral stricture
  • scarring in the bladder caused by surgery
  • nerve problems in the bladder
  • prostate cancer
  • bladder cancer

The only way to be sure is to see a doctor for a diagnosis.

When to see a doctor

When urinary habits change, a person should seek medical attention. A doctor can check the size of the prostate through the rectum.

A person who cannot urinate or who notices blood in the urine should seek urgent medical attention.

People diagnosed with BPH should receive regular checkups. Having the size of the prostate monitored and reporting any new symptoms can reduce the risk of complications.

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To prevent kidney damage, people with BPH should follow the treatment plan developed by their doctor.

This may include taking medications and making lifestyle changes. Severe cases of BPH can be treated with minimally invasive or open surgeries.

Addressing symptoms of BPH early will improve a person’s quality of life and prevent renal failure. It is important to have the size of the prostate checked regularly and to report any new symptoms to a doctor.

Treatment options

whiskey being poured into a glass
Lifestyle changes, such as limiting alcohol, may help to treat minor symptoms.

Medications for BPH can relax the muscles or prevent the production of hormones that cause the prostate to grow.

If medications do not work, a doctor may recommend removing a section of the prostate with surgery or laser therapy. Treatment is not always necessary, especially when there are no symptoms or when they are mild.

Minor symptoms can be treated with lifestyle changes, including bladder training, exercising, and limiting the intake of caffeine and alcohol.

The choice of treatment will depend on a person’s health, symptoms, and the size of their prostate.

When a person has kidney failure, other treatments are necessary to manage complications, such as high blood pressure and fluid retention. An individual with end-stage renal failure will require a kidney transplant or dialysis.


Most people with BPH will not develop renal failure, especially if they report symptoms promptly.

BPH symptoms usually improve with treatment. A person may need to take medication continually or receive repeated treatments to prevent symptoms from returning or getting worse.

For people with renal failure, treatment focuses on slowing down damage to the kidneys. In the final stages of the disease, a person will need regular dialysis or a kidney transplant.

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Medical News Today: How does the Conners rating scale work?

The Conners Comprehensive Behavior Rating Scale is used to better understand certain behavioral, social, and academic issues in children between 6 and 18 years old. It is often used to help diagnose attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD.

When a child is suspected of having ADHD, parents often turn to their family doctor who may refer them to a behavioral health expert, such as a psychologist.

The psychologist may then use an ADHD rating scale, such as the Conners Comprehensive Behavior Rating Scale, or Conners CBRS, to better understand the child’s symptoms and their severity.

The Conners CBRS aids diagnosis by helping to discover where the child’s issues lie, as well as in what settings these issues are most troublesome.

What does the scale measure?

Child psychologist with child and notepad.
The Conners rating scale assesses a range of behaviours.

Scoring for the Conners rating scale is designed to be comprehensive, and measures many behavioral markers, including signs of:

  • hyperactivity
  • aggressive behavior
  • potential for violence
  • compulsive behaviors
  • perfectionism
  • difficulty in class
  • extra trouble with math
  • difficulty with language
  • social issues
  • emotional distress
  • separation anxiety

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How is the rating done?

Parents may be asked to complete a Conners CBRS after an initial visit to a psychologist.

The scale will help determine if their child has ADHD symptoms and give a general idea of their severity.

If the psychologist agrees that the symptoms resemble typical ADHD behaviors, they will often ask the parents to fill out a parent version of the Conners CBRS form.

The Conners CBRS can help give the psychologist a better understanding of the child’s behaviors and habits on multiple levels.

The benefits of using the Conners CBRS include:

  • Giving a perspective on the child’s behavioral patterns as experienced by people close to them.
  • Comparing this information with standardized clinical information to help support a diagnosis.
  • Finding a baseline of typical behaviors to guide treatment and medication recommendations.
  • Helping mental health professionals create a treatment plan for the child.
  • Helping decide if a child qualifies for special education at school or inclusion in new studies.

The test also helps psychologists check for other signs of emotional distress, behavioral problems, or academic disorders. These may include:

After the test has been completed, the psychologist interprets the forms and their report is reviewed with the parents. Finally, the two parties will discuss the recommendations for treatment.

Long and short versions

Child being assessed by psychologist
The Conners CBRS assessment is intended for children and teenagers.

There are short and long versions of the Conners CBRS assessments. Both versions are designed to test children from ages 6 to 18 years old, but experts use each for a different purpose.

The long version of the Conners CBRS is used for the initial evaluation of a child. The short version is used to follow up on a child’s behavioral patterns.

The long version will ask questions to check for:

  • types of behavioral issues
  • emotional disorders
  • difficulties with academics

There are also three different forms within each version of the Conners CBRS assessment. One is designed for parents to fill out, another for teachers, and one for the child to give their assessment of their symptoms.

Each form is worded differently, depending on what it is being used for. By combining the answers from all three forms, doctors can begin to paint a picture of a child’s behaviors. They are then able to decide if the child has ADHD, and start to help them understand their symptoms.

The long version of the Conners CBRS assessment may take up to 90 minutes to complete correctly and is designed to give a comprehensive evaluation of a child’s behaviors.

The short version of the test is called the Conners Clinical Index, or Conners CI, and may take as little as 5 minutes to complete.

The Conners CI covers 25 questions. It is designed to assess symptoms or progress over time. It is often used to follow up on a child’s behaviors, or see how they are responding to a medication or treatment routine.

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What do the results mean?

The psychologist will add up the scores from all the areas of the assessment and compare them to the scores of others in the child’s age group to get their standardized scores.

These scores, called T-scores, can help people see how the child’s symptoms and their severity compare to other children’s. The scores will often be displayed in a visual format in the report for better understanding.

T-scores should be discussed directly with a doctor or mental health professional, and no one should try to self-diagnose or diagnose a child on their own.

It is usually considered normal when T-scores are less than 60, while scores above 60 are signs of academic, behavioral, or social issues. There are several different classes as well:

  • A T-score of more than 60 can indicate that the child may have an issue such as ADHD.
  • A T-score greater than 60 but under 70 may indicate moderately severe issues.
  • A T-score above 70 may be a sign that the behavioral, academic, or emotional problems are severe.

These results will help the psychologist diagnose a child’s ADHD or other issues, and they will recommend treatment based on how atypical the scores are, as well as the most severe issues.

Limitations of the Conners rating scale

Person ticking off checklist.
Using multiple evaluation approaches will aid an accurate diagnosis.

As with all ADHD rating scales, the Conners rating scale is subjective and has limitations.

According to the medical assessment publisher MHS Assessments, validity analyses are used to ensure the accuracy of Conners CBRS scores. Furthermore, the mean overall classification accuracy rate is said to be 78 percent across all Conners CBRS forms.

As much as these tests aim to be objective, assessing a child’s behavior will always have a subjective element to it.

Because of this subjectivity, individuals are often recommended to use the Conners CBRS alongside other evaluation approaches.

These include:

  • attention span tests
  • the Conners 3 for continuing assessment
  • an ADHD symptom checklist

Further analysis of an individual’s behaviour can help to give a more rounded view of symptoms. It may also help avoid a misdiagnosis.

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Self-diagnosis of ADHD is not an intended outcome of any ADHD test.

Anyone who suspects they or their child has symptoms of ADHD should make an appointment with their doctor and a mental health specialist for diagnosis. Even if the person has self-analyzed their behaviors prior to the visit, the psychologist will often recommend retesting under their guidance.

The Conners rating scale is not perfect, nor is any other ADHD rating scale. But when used correctly, and under the guidance of a medical health professional, it may offer people a way to understand better their child’s behaviors and possible ADHD symptoms.

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Medical News Today: Is krill oil better than fish oil for omega-3?

Krill oil and fish oil supplements are two sources of omega-3 fatty acids including DHA and EPA. While oil from both krill and fish provide health benefits, there are differences in their origin, price, and benefits.

Fish oil comes from oily fish, such as tuna, herring, or sardines. Krill oil comes from a small, shrimp-like animal called krill.

Krill oil has a distinctive red color while fish oil supplements are typically yellow or gold. Krill oil is usually more expensive than fish oil.

While each supplement type contains omega-3 fatty acids, there are various risks and benefits in taking each supplement type. Read on to find out more.

Benefits of krill oil and fish oil

Krill oil versus fish oil
Omega-3 fatty acids are present in krill oil and fish oil.

Both krill oil and fish oil contain omega-3 fatty acids. Some of the most popular and beneficial omega-3 fatty acids are eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

When consumed in fish, these fatty acids have been shown to boost a person’s overall heart health and reduce the risks of heart attack and coronary artery disease. However, while research has shown eating whole fish can have heart-protecting benefits, scientific studies have not yet proven that taking omega-3 supplements offers the same benefits as eating fish.

However, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) state that the specific benefits of taking omega-3 supplements include:

  • Reducing high triglyceride levels. High triglyceride levels are associated with an increased risk for heart disease.
  • Relieving rheumatoid arthritis. Evidence suggests that omega-3 supplements may help relieve the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Relieving dry eye symptoms. Some studies have indicated that omega-3 supplements help to improve eye moisture and reduce the symptoms of dry eye disease. However, other large-scale studies have found that taking omega-3 supplements are no better than a placebo for eye dryness, so more research is needed.

Drug stores and online supermarkets sell both fish oil and krill oil supplements.

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What does the research say?

A study from 2011 compared the effects of fish and krill oil, finding that they resulted in similar blood levels of EPA and DHA. However, people took 3 grams (g) of krill oil and only 1.8 g of fish oil, which may suggest that a person needs to take almost twice as much krill oil as fish oil to get the same benefits.

However, the amount and concentration of omega-3 in krill and fish oil vary depending on the product. Some krill oil manufacturers claim that the krill oil omega-3s are better absorbed than fish oil omega-3s, so a lower concentration works just as well. However, there is no current proof that this statement is true.

According to the study’s authors, 30–65 percent of krill oil’s fatty acids are stored as phospholipids, while the fatty acids in fish oils are instead stored primarily as triglycerides. The researchers suggest that the body may able to use fatty acids stored as phospholipids more easily. However, despite this possibility, a person may still have to take more krill oil capsules than fish oil to get an equivalent amount of omega-3s.

Another small-scale study published in 2013 found that after 4 weeks of taking only one of the supplements, krill oil led to higher levels of EPA and DHA in a person’s blood compared with fish oil. Although both supplements increased levels of healthful omega-3 fatty acids, they also increased levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which is the ‘bad’ cholesterol.

Studies are not consistent, though. A study from 2015 found no differences in krill oil and fish oil in the blood after 4 weeks of taking supplements.

So, while some research suggests that the body might better absorb krill oil, other studies find no difference between fish and krill oil. More research is therefore needed.

The above research only looks effects of the oil on blood levels, which is just one marker of their potential benefits. No study has compared these products to see if one works better than the other for the specific uses that people are interested in, such as bodybuilding or promoting heart health.

Risks of krill oil and fish oil

Krill oil versus fish oil - both can cause bad breath
There is no significant risk in taking omega-3 supplements, but a person may experience bad breath as a result.

Taking omega-3 supplements in the forms of krill oil and fish oil does not appear to carry any significant side effects, but minor side effects may include:

Also, omega-3 supplements, such as krill oil and fish oil, have the potential to interact negatively with blood-thinning medications, such as warfarin (Coumadin). This is because omega-3 fatty acids have mild anticoagulant or blood-thinning effects. However, a person must usually take between 3 and 6 g of fish oil a day for these adverse interactions to occur.

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Dosage recommendations

The Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) reports there is no established upper limit for taking omega-3 supplements. However, taking dosages of more than 900 milligrams (mg) of EPA and 600 mg of DHA a day can reduce a person’s immune system by suppressing natural inflammatory responses.

According to the ODS, daily intakes for omega-3 fatty acids are about 1.6 g per day for men and 1.1 g per day for women.

The ODS also recommend not exceeding 2 g of EPA and DHA a day from dietary supplements. A person should read supplement labels carefully to determine how much of each substance is in each capsule.


Krill oil versus fish oil - both can reduce arthritis symptoms
Omega-3 may help to reduce rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.

According to the ODS, an estimated 7.8 percent of adults and 1.1 percent of children in the United States take omega-3 fatty acid supplements in the forms of fish oil, krill oil, or animal-free alternatives, such as algal oil or flaxseed oil.

The evidence is still inconclusive about whether krill oil works as well as or better than fish oil. So far, most of the research on the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids has been carried out using fish oil. There is not a lot of research on krill oil.

Taking omega-3 supplements can offer benefits in terms of lowering triglyceride levels and reducing rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. However, the evidence is inconclusive regarding whether they can reduce heart disease or improve overall cardiovascular health to the same extent as eating whole fish.

According to the NIH, eating oily fish, including tuna and salmon, can offer a greater variety of nutrients than supplements, and has been shown to improve heart health.

On balance, taking either krill oil or fish oil supplements can help to boost a person’s overall levels of omega-3 fatty acids, though it is unclear whether one is better than the other.

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Medical News Today: Can bats ‘tell us’ when and where Ebola will strike next?

New research suggests that we might be able to foresee when and where the next Ebola outbreak will occur if we take a close look at the migratory patterns of bats.
a bat flying
Knowing when and where bats migrate might tell us where the next Ebola outbreak will occur.

Ebola is a highly fatal and highly infectious virus that was first discovered in West Africa in 1976. Fruit bats are thought to be the virus’s natural host.

While most deadly outbreaks have originated in African countries, the last Ebola crisis — which occurred between 2014 and 2016 — spread to the rest of the world including the United States.

In the U.S., four cases were registered, one of which resulted in death.

In this context, predicting the time and location of the next Ebola outbreak may prove particularly useful for preventing it. This is why researchers set out to create a modeling framework that may help us to foresee such an event in the future.

The new study was carried out by Javier Buceta, an associate professor of bioengineering, Paolo Bocchini, who is an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, and postdoctoral researcher Graziano Fiorillo — all of whom are affiliated with the Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA.

They hypothesized that, since bats are the carriers of the virus, tracking down their migratory patterns may help to create a predictive framework.

The results of their research were published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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Creating a mathematical model of Ebola

To create the framework, Buceta and team used satellite information and parameter sampling. The researchers fed this information into a computer algorithm, or model, which was created to predict the conditions in which the bats’ behavior correlates with Ebola outbreaks.

The data fed into the algorithm included the bats’ natality and mortality rates, the rate at which they got infected with the virus, and how long it took them to recover.

Also, to predict peaks of bat infections in a particular region, the model included information about when and where the bats migrated, seasonal changes, and food and shelter availability.

The researchers also had to factor in environmental information; to this end, they used the Google Earth Engine to retrieve information from one of NASA’s databases.

Bocchini details the procedures they used, saying, “We needed to study the random fluctuations of available resources over the entire African continent at high resolution; it was a massive computational and probabilistic challenge.”

“We recognized that from a mathematical point of view,” he continues, “the problem is similar to the random propagation of seismic waves in a region subject to earthquakes, and we could adapt our tools.”

After accounting for things such as humidity and temperature, the researchers were able to “then predict the concentration of infected bats one might expect to find given those particular conditions,” explains Buceta.

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Model accurately predicts Ebola outbreak

The 2014–2016 Ebola epidemic started with the case of a 2-year-old child in Meliandou, a village in Guinea, West Africa.

However, the strain of the virus that infected the child had its origins in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is thousands of miles away from Meliandou.

Using the framework designed by Buceta and team, the researchers were able to “retroactively” predict a “peak of infection at Meliandou […] during the months when the outbreak started.” They deemed their findings “remarkable.”

However, when the team applied similar data from a different location — which was 400 kilometers away from Meliandou and had a different climate — the results did not show an infection peak during that period.

“In our model,” Buceta goes on to say, “the appearance of outbreaks is tightly linked to fluctuations in environmental conditions which have an impact on both bat migration patterns and infection rates.”

“Such findings,” he adds, “strongly suggest that environmental factors play a key role in the spread of the Ebola virus among bats.”

The scientists hope that their model will help to predict and prevent not only Ebola outbreaks, but also those of other viruses that are transmitted from animals to humans.

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