Medical News Today: What is cervical stimulation and is it safe?

The roles that the vagina and clitoris play in sexual pleasure are well-known. However, there is a third “spot” that some people say can produce intense, full-body orgasms. This form of stimulation is known as cervical penetration, although this term is misleading, as the cervix is not actually penetrated.

The cervix is a small canal that sits at the top of the vagina. There is a tiny opening that runs through the center and connects the vagina to the uterus. This is called the external os.

Except during childbirth, the cervical os is not open and is too small to be penetrated. However, the stimulation that occurs when a penis or other object rubs or pushes against the cervix is what causes a pleasurable sensation for some people.

During sexual arousal, the vagina will elongate, which pulls the cervix up and out of the way. As a result, cervical stimulation cannot usually be achieved with just the fingers and requires penetration by the penis or a sex toy.

Read on for the answers to some of the commonly asked questions about cervical stimulation.

Frequently asked questions

Is cervical stimulation safe?

Woman gripping pillow in bed during cervix penetration
Some people may find cervical stimulation uncomfortable.

Cervical stimulation is a completely safe activity. However, just because it is safe does not mean that everyone has to be okay with trying such deep penetration.

It is essential for a woman to communicate with her partner about what feels good and whether she finds this type of penetration comfortable.

Does it hurt?

Someone may find cervical stimulation painful or uncomfortable, causing cramping or pressure, if they are not aroused. Having a partner back off or avoid deep penetration can help to relieve discomfort.

It is necessary to make sure that a woman is very aroused and to open the channels of communication between partners to make cervical stimulation a more comfortable and pleasurable experience.

Pain during sexual intercourse is also known as dyspareunia. According to Columbia University, NY, around 60 percent of women will experience this at one time or another.

Even though pain during sex is fairly common, it should still be mentioned to a doctor, especially if it occurs frequently.

Several medical conditions can cause pain during sex, including:

Is bleeding normal?

Bleeding during sex is not normal, as such, but it is common. Friction can cause delicate tissues to become irritated and tear, which may cause bleeding.

The cervix is also made up of very sensitive tissue and can easily be bruised during vigorous sexual activity or deep penetration.

Can it damage the cervix?

It is unlikely, but it is important to stop any time that something causes a lot of pain or bleeding.

Mild discomfort that is not severe is usually nothing to be overly concerned about.

What is a cervical orgasm?

While not as well-known as the G-spot or clitoral orgasms, the cervix or C-spot can also be highly sensitive.

Some women report having very intense, full-body orgasms that begin in the cervix and spread through the entire abdomen or even the whole body.

Just as everyone has different sexual interests or preferences, it is important to recognize that not every woman will enjoy the sensation of having their cervix stimulated. Some women just do not like it, and that is okay too.

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Before trying cervical stimulation

Couple communicating in bed about cervix penetration
It is important to communicate what feels good and what does not.

There are a few important things for people to consider before experimenting with cervical stimulation:

  • Start slowly: It is important for people to start slowly and wait for complete arousal before attempting cervical stimulation. Go slowly and give the body a chance to adjust to the deeper sensations. Build intensity or pressure gradually, and stop or slow down as needed.
  • Communicate openly and frequently: If attempting cervical stimulation with a partner, make sure to communicate about what feels good and, most importantly, what does not.
  • Aim for the front of the body: During sexual stimulation, the cervix moves up and towards the front of the body. As the vaginal canal gets longer when aroused, only a penis or sex toy is usually long enough to reach the cervix.
  • Have fun: Play around with different positions or try using a lubricant if needed. As always, it is crucial to communicate about what is working and what is not.

Staying safe

Although people are not likely to sustain an injury when experimenting with cervical stimulation, it is still crucial to stop if it hurts and avoid painful movements. Pushing past the point where it is comfortable or enjoyable can cause bruising or tears to the cervix.

In addition to staying safe and comfortable during cervix stimulation, it is important to remember that pregnancy can occur. It is also still possible to contract a sexually transmitted infection with this type of sexual activity.

Condoms or other barrier contraceptive methods should be used to prevent spreading infections. Protection against pregnancy is also needed if the couple does not want to conceive.

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Cervical penetration is not actually possible. The term refers to the stimulation and manipulation of the sensitive cervix.

Although many women report having very intense and pleasurable orgasms as a result of this type of stimulation, not every woman enjoys it.

As with any new sexual behavior, it is best for a couple to communicate openly and go slowly.

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Medical News Today: Why is my eyelash growing in the wrong direction?

An ingrown eyelash grows in the wrong direction, towards the eye. The medical term for this growth is trichiasis.

An ingrown eyelash can touch the eyeball, irritating the eyeball or surrounding skin. This may lead to pain, redness, watery eyes, and damage to the cornea. Trichiasis can be caused by injury, inflammation, and some eye conditions.

Like other ingrown hairs, eyelashes can also become trapped under the skin and grow inward. This can cause symptoms similar to those of eye disorders, such as styes, which usually result from bacterial infection. It is important to identify and treat the problem correctly.

In this article, we look at the causes, symptoms, and treatments of an ingrown eyelash.

What is an ingrown eyelash?

Woman inspecting ingrown eyelash in bathroom mirror
An ingrown eyelash may curl towards the eye itself, causing irritation.

Most ingrown hairs become trapped under the skin, creating a painful bump. The sheath of cells surrounding the hair, called the hair follicle, may become infected. This can all be especially painful when an eyelash is involved.

Trichiasis is slightly different. The eyelash grows outside the skin, but in the wrong direction. Eyelashes on the upper eyelid usually grow upward toward the forehead, allowing them to catch debris and protect the eye. Trichiasis causes these eyelashes to curl down and inward, toward the eye.

On the lower eyelid, where eyelashes typically grow downward, trichiasis causes them to grow upward toward the eye.

Trichiasis can even cause the lashes to touch the eye, causing irritation. A person may feel like there is something in the eye.

Trichiasis is more common in adults than children, but it can occur in anyone.


An eyelash trapped under the skin can easily be mistaken for an infected gland in the eyelid, called a stye. A stye looks like a pimple or red lump. It usually drains on its own after several days. If the pain is intense or the stye does not go away, antibiotics can treat the infection.

However, a person can easily distinguish a stye from trichiasis, which is characterized by a reversal of eyelash direction.

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Trichiasis can occur in a few eyelashes, but it can gradually affect many or all of the eyelashes.

Most people with trichiasis notice a specific area in which many or all of the lashes are growing in the wrong direction.

Changes in eyelash growth can irritate the eye and lead to other symptoms, such as:

  • a sensation that something is in the eye
  • redness around the eye
  • heightened sensitivity to light
  • watery eyes
  • itchy or painful eyes

If left untreated, trichiasis can injure the eye, for example by scratching the cornea and exposing the area to infection.

When another eye condition is causing trichiasis, there may be additional symptoms. A condition that often occurs with trichiasis is called blepharitis. This involves inflammation of the eyelid margin, and a person with blepharitis may notice that the skin on their eyelid peels, turns red, collects mucus or is unusually sensitive.

Causes and types

While trichiasis may have no obvious cause, common causes include:

  • Injury. Scar tissue that develops after an injury can cause eyelashes to grow in a different direction. Eye surgery can also have this effect.
  • Developmental changes. The eyelashes and hair follicles may temporarily change shape as a child grows. Any resulting trichiasis is usually temporary.
  • Blepharitis. Chronic blepharitis involves inflammation and irritation of the eyelid, which may cause the skin to peel, turn red, and collect mucus and bacteria.
  • Entropion. This condition causes the eyelid to fold inward, which can lead to trichiasis. Age-related muscle and tissue weakness can cause entropion, as can infection or injury.
  • Herpes of the eye. Herpes can infect the eye and damage the eyelid, causing trichiasis.
  • Trachoma. Trachoma is a severe eyelid infection that can impact the eyelashes and even cause blindness. Trachoma is more common in developing countries.

In rare cases, chronic illnesses that affect the eyelids or mucous membranes, such as Stevens-Johnson syndrome, cause trichiasis.


Person having their eye inspected by a doctor.
A doctor may be able to remove ingrown eyelashes.

When just a few eyelashes are misshapen or ingrown, a doctor will usually remove them. They may regrow in the right direction. It is also important to treat the underlying cause.

When many eyelashes are ingrown, or when eyelashes regrow in the wrong direction, the following treatments can help:

Permanent hair removal

An ingrown eyelash can be removed using electrolysis. A doctor will damage the follicle with an electric current to prevent the hair from re-growing. Several sessions may be necessary.

Laser hair removal is an alternative, and a 2015 study compared its effectiveness to that of electrolysis. Laser hair removal had a first-time success rate of 81 percent, with just 19 percent of targeted lashes regrowing. The first-time success rate of electrolysis was 49 percent, with 63 percent of the lashes regrowing.


This procedure is designed to freeze off the affected lashes and their follicles.

Repositioning surgery

A doctor can surgically reposition an eyelid or eyelashes. A 2015 review of the various treatment techniques for trichiasis suggested that surgery was most effective for people with trachoma.

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Trichiasis can cause:

  • chronic eye irritation
  • corneal injuries
  • infections in the eye

When the eye infection trachoma causes trichiasis, it can lead to blindness.

Anyone who suspects that they have an ingrown eyelash should see an eye doctor. If there is an underlying cause, identifying it can prevent further damage.


Trichiasis can be annoying and painful. Though it sometimes clears on its own, many people try several treatments before finding one that works.

A doctor specializing in eye and eyelid conditions can help to diagnose the cause, discuss the most effective treatment options, and suggest prevention strategies. A person who suspects that they have an ingrown eyelash should see an ophthalmologist or optometrist.

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Medical News Today: What does it mean if your RDW is high?

A test to determine red cell distribution width shows variation in the size and volume of a person’s red blood cells.

Results of the test, along with those of other blood tests, can help doctors to confirm the presence of anemia, a condition characterized by a lack of red blood cells.

The red cell distribution width (RDW) test can also help to determine the underlying cause of anemia.

Also, a study in 2010 suggested that the test can be a strong predictor of mortality in people over the age of 45.

In this article, we describe what the RDW test is and how to prepare for it. We also explore the outlooks for people with results in various ranges.

What is the RDW blood test?

a young woman having a blood test
A doctor will generally use a RDW blood test to help confirm anemia.

The RDW test shows the difference in size between the smallest and largest red blood cells in a sample.

While variation is common, average red blood cells are 6–8 micrometers (μm) in diameter.

Red blood cells transport oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.

A protein inside the cells, called hemoglobin, binds to the oxygen and carries it.

Problems with hemoglobin can affect the flow of oxygen throughout the body, as can the size, shape, and health of red blood cells. This can result in a range of health problems.

RDW test results may be higher if more cells are larger or smaller than normal. This can suggest the presence of an underlying condition. However, not all conditions affect RDW.

What does it test for?

A RDW test is typically used to evaluate anemia or conditions such as:

Often, the RDW test is part of a complete blood count (CBC), a test that measures all the blood’s components, including white blood cells, platelets, and hemoglobin.

A doctor may order a CBC if a person has:

  • a diet low in iron, vitamin B-12, or other nutrients
  • a family history of blood disorders, including thalassemia or sickle cell anemia
  • chronic illness, such as diabetes, HIV, or Crohn’s disease
  • dizziness, weakness, pale skin, or other symptoms of anemia
  • major blood loss following injury or surgery

If the results of a CBC show low levels of red blood cells or hemoglobin, this usually suggests anemia. Doctors will then try to determine the cause of the condition using the RDW and other tests.

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Preparing for the RDW test

Having a RDW test requires no special preparation. If the blood is being tested for other factors at the same time, a person may need to fast for several hours before the test. The doctor or nurse will let the person know about these and other requirements ahead of time.

Taking blood for the test is quick and simple. The nurse will use a small needle to draw the blood from the arm. A person is likely to feel a slight scratching or stinging sensation when the needle breaks the skin.

The blood sample will flow from the needle into a tube. Once the tube is full, the nurse will remove the needle. They will often instruct the person to hold a piece of gauze against the site to stop any bleeding, before applying a bandage.

The blood sample is then sent to a lab, where a technician will check for red cell size and distribution.

RDW test results

RDW results describe the variation in size and volume of red blood cells in a sample. Results may be normal or high, and the ranges are nuanced.

Normal RDW range

blood tests and analysis sheet
A RDW blood test is often included in a complete blood count, which measures all blood components.

A result in the normal range for an adult female will be 11.9–15.5 percent.

For an adult male, it will be 11.8–15.6 percent.

A person with a normal result may still have an underlying condition. So, to gain a complete picture of a person’s health, doctors also consider the results of other blood tests.

Doctors often compare RDW results with those of a mean cell volume (MCV) test. An MCV test measures the average volume of a red blood cell. Results may show:

  • Normal RDW and normal MCV. People with normal results may still have anemia caused by a chronic medical condition or blood loss.
  • Normal RDW and low MCV. This combination may indicate anemia caused by a chronic condition or thalassemia.
  • Normal RDW and high MCV. This can indicate a liver condition or alcohol abuse. Or, a person may have this result because they are on antiviral drugs or chemotherapy. If other blood characteristics are also affected, this can suggest aplastic anemia, a rare disorder caused by inadequate blood cell production.

High RDW count

If results are above the normal range, this is known as a high RDW count. It can indicate:

  • Macrocytic anemia. This is characterized by red blood cells that are larger than average. Macrocytic anemia is linked to a deficiency of folate or vitamin B-12.
  • Microcytic anemia. This involves red blood cells that are smaller than average. It is usually caused by a deficiency of iron, but it may also suggest thalassemia.

To confirm a diagnosis, a doctor will compare the results of the RDW test with those of the MCV measurement.

A person may have:

  • High RDW and normal MCV. This suggests a deficiency of iron, B-12, or folate. It may also indicate chronic liver disease.
  • High RDW and low MCV. This suggests iron deficiency or microcytic anemia.
  • High RDW and high MCV. This indicates a lack of B-12 or folate. It can also suggest macrocytic anemia or chronic liver disease.

In 2010, researchers concluded that a high RDW result might be linked to poor outcomes in people with heart failure, or further cardiovascular events in people who have experienced a heart attack.

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Anemia can be treated with medications, dietary changes, and supplements. However, untreated anemia can lead to severe complications. In some cases, it can be fatal.

A RDW test is usually carried out as part of a CBC, which provides a more comprehensive picture of a person’s health. Results can indicate the presence of anemia and help to pinpoint the underlying cause.

After determining the cause of anemia, a doctor can develop a plan to treat the condition.

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Medical News Today: How are Dexedrine and Adderall different?

Dexedrine and Adderall are brand names for two of the most widely prescribed stimulant medications used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, commonly known as ADHD.

The medications share a similar set of possible side effects, risks, and warnings. But there are some small differences between Adderall and Dexedrine that may make one more suitable for some people than others.

Similarities and differences

Dexedrine tablets <br>Image credit: Adam from UK, 2008</br>
Dexedrine is one drug that can be used to treat ADHD.
Image credit: Adam from UK, 2008

Dexedrine and Adderall both contain forms of the synthetic compound amphetamine, which is a central nervous stimulant.

Researchers still do not know exactly how amphetamine works. However, it seems to increase the release or effectiveness of certain neurotransmitters, the body’s chemical messengers, including:

There are two active forms of the synthetic compound amphetamine: dextro(d)-amphetamine and levo(l)-amphetamine. Of the two forms, d-amphetamine is considered the stronger of the pair.

While the two forms of amphetamine differ in their makeup, both have proven effective for the treatment of ADHD since the 1970s.

Dexedrine contains the active ingredient d-amphetamine, while Adderall contains a 3:1 mixture of immediate-release d-amphetamine and l-amphetamine. Extended-release formulas of Adderall, such as Adderall XR, generally contain equal measures of immediate-release and delayed-release d-amphetamine and l-amphetamine.

Dexedrine is also available in a sustained-release formula (Dexedrine Spansule), containing time-release d-amphetamine.

Currently, immediate-release types of Dexedrine and Adderall are both approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of ADHD in children aged 3 and older.

The extended-release types Dexedrine Spansule and Adderall XR are not approved for use in children under the age of 6. Dexedrine Spansule is also not approved for use in individuals over the age of 16.

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The administration methods may differ between Dexedrine and Adderall:

  • Dexedrine immediate-release medication comes in the form of tablets and solution.
  • Adderall immediate-release formulas are available in tablet form.
  • Both Dexedrine Spansule and Adderall XR come in capsule form.

People should take Adderall and Dexedrine first thing in the morning and again in the early afternoon. Adderall XR and Dexedrine Spansule usually only need to be taken once a day, ideally as soon as someone wakes up.

People should not take stimulant medication late in the afternoon or evening, as they can make it very difficult to sleep.

Adderall and Dexedrine both take around 30 minutes to 1 hour to show an effect and 3 hours to reach their highest levels in the blood. Both Adderall and Dexedrine have also been shown to be effective for around 4 to 6 hours depending on the dose.

Adderall XR and Dexedrine Spansule also both take around 30 minutes to 1 hour to show an effect, but take between 7 and 8 hours to reach peak blood levels. Adderall XR and Dexedrine Spansule can be effective for up to 11 to 12 hours depending on the dose.

A doctor will typically prescribe people with ADHD the lowest dose possible to begin with, then increase the dosage as needed.

Dosage of Dexedrine

According to the FDA guidelines, most doctors will initially prescribe 2.5 milligrams (mg) of Dexedrine to treat ADHD in children aged 3 to 5, which can be increased by 2.5 mg each week if required.

Those aged 6 and above should begin with 5 mg one or two times a day. This amount can be increased by 5 mg each week if required. It is rare that the dose should exceed a total of 40 mg in a single day.

Dosage of Adderall

The FDA suggest that children aged 3 to 5 with ADHD should take 2.5 mg of Adderall daily, increasing the dosage by 2.5 mg each week if necessary.

Those aged 6 years and above can usually begin by taking 5 mg of Adderall once or twice daily, increasing the dosage by 5 mg each week as needed.

Side effects

woman holding her head in slight pain possibly has dizziness and fatigue
Headache and dizziness may be side effects of both Dexedrine and Adderall.

Dexedrine and Adderall typically share the same side effects, warnings, and risks because they contain forms of the same drug.

Common side effects include:

Less common side effects include:

  • agitation and irritability
  • anxiety and unease
  • blurred vision
  • tics
  • nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting
  • fever
  • allergic reactions, including hives, swelling, and tingling
  • chest tightness and difficulty breathing
  • extreme energy or restless
  • confusion and disorientation
  • hallucinations and paranoia
  • abnormal heartbeat and blood pressure
  • numb, cold, or pale toes and fingers
  • unexplained wounds on the toes or fingers
  • weakness, tenderness, or sore muscles for no reason
  • hair loss
  • dark red urine

Adderall and Dexedrine can also cause more serious side effects, especially when misused. Without proper medical care, side effects associated with prescription stimulant use can become life-threatening.

People experiencing some of the more common, less severe side effects of Adderall and Dexedrine should talk with a doctor.

If someone is experiencing serious side effects associated with prescription stimulants, seek immediate medical attention or call the emergency services.


Health risks associated with prescription stimulant use include:

  • weight loss
  • insomnia
  • slowed growth and development
  • changes in behavior and thought patterns
  • nerve problems that can cause seizures
  • circulation problems
  • blood vessel and heart problems
  • breakdown and release of muscle tissue into the bloodstream, which can cause kidney damage

Another possible health risk linked to prescription stimulant use is serotonin syndrome. This condition occurs when there is too much serotonin in the bloodstream. Symptoms include diarrhea, fever, and seizures.

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Both Adderall and Dexedrine are classified as Schedule II drugs by the FDA, which means they carry a high risk of abuse and addiction.

Medications that treat ADHD are habit-forming. Even people who take their ADHD medications as prescribed usually become desensitized to these drugs over time. Some people might need to slowly increase their dosage for the drugs to remain effective.

People using Adderall and Dexedrine can experience serious side effects. Certain things can also interfere with the absorption, efficacy, or strength of the medications.

A doctor will explain how to avoid as many of the potential side effects as possible. Common warnings include:

  • avoiding alcohol
  • taking medications exactly as prescribed
  • never sharing the medications with someone
  • within 1 to 2 hours of taking the medication, avoiding things that can change how it is absorbed, such as citrus juices or fruits, antacids, and multivitamins
  • avoiding breast-feeding while taking stimulants

Some medications can interfere with how Dexedrine and Adderall work. For example, anti-histamines can counteract the effect of stimulants, and anti-depressants and antacid medications can increase the effect of stimulants.

People with certain medical conditions cannot safely use stimulants such as Adderall and Dexedrine. These conditions include:

  • heart conditions and abnormalities
  • very high blood pressure
  • advanced arteriosclerosis
  • glaucoma
  • conditions that cause agitation and anxiety
  • mental illnesses that involve psychosis
  • seizure conditions
  • past or current substance abuse
  • pregnancy

How to know which is best for you?

adderall pills br image credit neb 4o1 2017 br
A person’s age may affect which ADHD medication is most appropriate.
Image credit: neb4o1, 2017

Adderall and Dexedrine tend to cause similar effects in most people.

Everyone responds to medications differently. It usually takes time to work out which type and dose of medication work best.

Factors that may help determine which ADHD medication is best for each person include:


  • Children under the age of 3 cannot safely take ADHD medications.
  • Adderall XR and Dexedrine Spansule are not recommended for children under the age of 6.
  • Dexedrine Spansule is not recommended for use in people over the age of 16.

Length of efficacy

Many people prefer the long-acting forms of the medications, such as Adderall XR and Dexedrine Spansule, to the short-acting formulas because they do not need to take additional doses during the day.

However, short-acting versions can allow doctors to adjust the dosage more finely to manage any side effects.

Side effects

Most people know whether or not they are going to experience any side effects within a week. If one medication causes significant side effects, they can try another form.


Both Adderall and Dexedrine are usually available in both brand and generic versions that tend to cost similar amounts.

Some insurance companies may cover one type or form of drug and not the other, or charge more for one drug than the other. People should talk with a doctor, pharmacist, or insurance agent about the best pricing options.

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Adderall and Dexedrine are two of the most widely prescribed medications used to treat ADHD.

Both of the medications contain the active ingredient amphetamine. While Dexedrine contains only the most potent form of amphetamine, Adderall contains a mixture of amphetamine’s two active forms.

Most people with ADHD respond to Adderall and Dexedrine similarly, though some people may react in slightly different ways to the drugs.

If one medication is not effective or causes too many side effects, a doctor will usually recommend trying other forms of amphetamine-based medications.

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Medical News Today: Can essential oils reduce varicose veins?

Varicose veins or spider veins can arise from aging, pregnancy, or sitting down for too long. They also tend to run in families. Along with medical treatments, a person may want to try home remedies for varicose veins, including essential oils.

Varicose veins are larger-than-normal veins that commonly appear in the legs. They are raised and often twisted veins that can be blue, red, or flesh-colored. Sometimes, these veins can ache, swell, or itch.

There are several studies to suggest that essential oils, such as grape vine, lavender, or yarrow, may be able to reduce or shrink the appearance of varicose or spider veins. However, more research is needed in this area.

In this article, we look at the best oils to use and the evidence behind them. We also look at the causes and prevention of varicose veins, and other methods for reducing varicose veins.

Causes of varicose veins

Varicose veins on the leg.
Varicose veins are common in the legs because veins in the legs are under the greatest pressure when returning blood to the heart.

Veins are responsible for returning blood that does not have oxygen back toward the heart. There are tiny valves periodically throughout the veins to stop the blood from flowing backward.

However, if these valves weaken or are damaged, blood can flow backward and pool. The result can be varicose veins.

Varicose veins most commonly appear in the legs because the leg veins are under the greatest pressure to return blood to the heart.

Several risk factors increase the likelihood a person will have varicose veins. These include:

  • getting older, as the valves in veins start to weaken over time
  • genetic history of family members with varicose veins
  • pregnancy, as the growing uterus places extra pressure on a person’s veins
  • being overweight
  • sitting down for long time periods
  • sun exposure, which mainly causes varicose veins on the face

Although varicose veins are not usually a major cause for concern, they can be irritating and sometimes painful. Sometimes, a person may experience sores or skin ulcers related to poor blood flow in the legs.

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Five best essential oils for varicose veins

Essential oils are derived from plants, including flowers, herbs, or trees. These oils are often used for alternative therapies. The dosages and instructions that come with them are not regulated, so a person should talk to a doctor before they use essential oils.

Some of the essential oils that have been studied in relation to varicose veins and their symptoms, such as leg swelling, include:

1. Lavender essential oil

Lavender is a popular essential oil that my help to manage the symptoms of varicose veins.

Smelling lavender has been shown to help reduce pain, according to the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Lavender is thought to affect brain chemicals, such as serotonin and GABA, which are associated with pain relief.

Applying lavender to the skin may reduce pain and the size of skin ulcers when massaged on the feet or other affected areas.

2. Horse chestnut essential oil

Horse chestnut seed extract (HCSE) can be prepared as a topical gel, oral tincture, or tablet. It may be useful in reducing swelling, pain, and itchiness.

According to an article published in the journal Advances in Therapy, topical applications of HCSE helped to reduce varicose vein symptoms, including leg swelling, leg pain, itching, and heaviness.

While the method of action is not known exactly, HCSE is thought to keep the small sections of veins known as capillaries from breaking down.

3. Sea pine essential oil

Research has suggested that sea pine essential oil could reduce swelling, or edema, in a person’s legs.

Research from 2018 shows that sea pine bark essential oil, also known as maritime pine oil has anti-inflammatory action.

This study also found that sea pine bark oil was superior to horse chestnut extract for reducing edema related to chronic venous insufficiency that can cause varicose veins. However, this study only tested 40 people, so more research is needed.

4. Grape vine essential oil

Grape vine essential oil may reduce swelling in a person’s legs, including swelling related to varicose veins.

According to a study published in the Journal of the German Society of Dermatology, taking red grape vine extract at dosages of 360 to 720 milligrams a day helped to reduce lower leg swelling related to weak blood flow through the veins, also called venous insufficiency, which is a common cause of varicose veins.

5. Yarrow essential oil

Essential oils extracted from the yarrow plant have been used traditionally for treating varicose veins. When a person applies yarrow to the skin above varicose veins, it may help to reduce their symptoms.

Other treatments

There are other treatments for varicose veins besides essential oils that people may wish to try.

Other treatments for varicose veins include:

  • Compression stockings. These are a common treatment for varicose veins as they improve blood circulation in the affected areas. People can buy them over the counter or online, and a doctor can prescribe stronger compression stockings when necessary.
  • Sclerotherapy. This treatment involves injecting chemicals into varicose veins that cause the veins to swell and seal shut. The veins may require several treatments to make sure they go away permanently.
  • Laser treatments. Laser treatments can help to treat varicose veins that are smaller than 3 millimeters in size.
  • Endovenous treatments. These methods are usually performed at a doctor’s office and involve inserting a small catheter into a vein and using heat to close off the affected vein. Because the varicose vein does not work well, to begin with, sealing it off does not usually cause significant side effects.
  • Surgical treatments. If varicose veins are very large and bothersome, a person may require surgery. This involves removing the veins in a procedure known as ligation and stripping.

Doctors are frequently inventing new treatments to treat varicose veins. However, varicose veins are normal, and if they are not causing a person significant symptoms and have no side effects, they usually do not require medical or invasive treatment.

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Preventing varicose veins

Man walking dog outside on street.
Exercising regularly and stretching the legs may help to prevent varicose veins.

Because genetics and hormones play a role in the development of varicose veins, it is not always possible to prevent them from forming. However, there are some steps a person can take to reduce their risk for varicose veins.

Possible steps for preventing varicose veins include:

  • Exercising regularly to improve circulation and promote the return of blood to the heart.
  • Dieting and exercising to maintain a healthy weight.
  • Avoiding crossing the legs if sitting for long periods, as this can reduce blood flow to the legs.
  • Taking frequent “walk breaks” to stimulate blood flow in the legs and throughout the body.
  • Wearing support stockings, which provide mild pressure to compress the legs and encourage blood flow to return.
  • Avoiding excessively tight clothing around the waist, groin, and upper legs, as this can restrict blood flowing back toward the heart.
  • Cutting back on salt, as excessive sodium can lead to swelling.

Risks of essential oils

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate essential oils. However, these oils do fall under the “generally recognized as safe” or GRAS classification.

To be safe, essential oils must be diluted in a carrier oil before use. Put 3 to 5 drops of the essential oil in 3 tablespoons of sweet almond oil, coconut oil that has been warmed up, or olive oil and apply gently to the skin.

Essential oils do not often cause significant side effects, though they can be toxic when swallowed, leading to nausea and vomiting.

Applying essential oils to the skin may also cause allergic reactions or skin irritation in some people. A person should always do a patch test before they use the oil. This involves applying a small amount of essential oil to a small patch of skin and waiting overnight to test for swelling or allergic reactions.

Lastly, a person applying citrus oils may find that their skin becomes more sensitive to the sun.

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Unless varicose veins cause medical problems for a person, they do not usually require invasive treatments.

If adding essential oils and leg massages do help a person experience reduced symptoms, then this can be of benefit.

A person should always talk to their doctor about using essential oils to treat varicose veins, and about other treatments if essential oils are not effective.

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Medical News Today: 15 ways to prevent pregnancy

People who are sexually active and want to avoid pregnancy should be aware of their options when it comes to birth control. There are many types of contraception available to help avoid pregnancy. However, the only completely reliable method for avoiding pregnancy is abstaining from sex.

The Family Planning Association (FPA) in the UK, claim that up to 90 percent of sexually active women will become pregnant in 12 months if they do not use contraception. A person risks becoming pregnant every time they have sex without contraception, including the first time they ever have sex.

Some methods are available without a prescription, but most require one. Each form of birth control has advantages and disadvantages. Read on to learn more about the different types of contraception designed to help people avoid pregnancy.

Barrier methods

Barrier methods prevent sperm from reaching the egg. They include:

1. Male condoms

Condom wrapper being opened by couple in bed trying to avoid getting pregnant.
Condoms can protect against STIs as well as pregnancy.

Male and female condoms are the only types of contraception that protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

When used correctly, male condoms are more than 80 percent effective against pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

To use a male condom correctly:

  1. Choose the correct size.
  2. Place the condom on the head of the erect penis. If uncircumcised, pull the foreskin back first.
  3. Pinch the tip of the condom to remove any air.
  4. Unroll the condom down the penis, being careful not to tear it.
  5. After intercourse, hold the base of the condom in place before pulling out of the vagina.
  6. Remove the condom and dispose of it. Never reuse a condom.

Most male condoms are made of latex, but other types are available for those with a latex allergy. If using a lubricant, check that it is compatible with the kind of condom being used. For example, latex condoms can only be used with water-based lube.

Condoms are available over-the-counter (OTC), without a prescription, from supermarkets, drugstores, or online. Latex-free condoms are also available to buy online.

2. Female condoms

Female condoms are also available without a prescription. They can be used instead of a male condom, but should never be used with one.

According to the CDC, female condoms are about 79 percent effective for contraception.

Many drugstores now sell female condoms, but if local stores do not stock them, they are available online.

3. Diaphragm

A diaphragm is a barrier method of contraception that a person places inside the vagina. It is important to apply spermicide to the diaphragm before each use.

When used with spermicide, the CDC estimate that the diaphragm is close to 90 percent effective.

A person must insert the diaphragm a few hours before intercourse, leave it in place for 6 hours after sex, and remove it after 24 hours. Diaphragms do not protect against STIs.

4. Cervical cap

A cervical cap (sold as FemCap in the United States) is a soft silicone cup that is placed deep inside the vagina. It covers the cervix to stop sperm from reaching an egg.

This effectiveness of the cervical cap varies according to sources, but Planned Parenthood estimate that its effectiveness ranges from about 70 to 85 percent. It does not protect against STIs.

5. Sponge

The contraceptive sponge is a method of birth control that a person can buy without a prescription. Made of polyurethane foam and containing spermicide, the sponge is placed deep inside the vagina to block entry to the uterus.

Used alone, the sponge is 76 to 88 percent effective, but using it with a condom further reduces the risk of pregnancy and STIs.

Contraceptive sponges are available to buy online.

6. Spermicide

Spermicide is a chemical that inactivates sperm. It is available to buy without a prescription and is used with forms of barrier contraception, such as condoms, but not with the sponge.

If used alone, spermicide should be inserted close to the cervix at least 10 minutes before sex. It remains effective for 60 minutes and is approximately 71 percent effective.

Spermicide gels can be found at drugstores or purchased online. Talk to a doctor about the most effective ways to use spermicide as a contraceptive.

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Hormonal methods

Hormonal forms of birth control prevent conception by stopping ovulation, which is the release of an egg from the ovaries. This type of contraception does not protect against STIs.

Most hormonal contraceptives are only available with a prescription from a doctor and, except for emergency contraception, it is not usually available online.

7. Contraceptive pills

Birth control pills in packets in a pile, hormonal contraceptives.
There are two types of birth control pills. One stops menstruation, the other does not.

Birth control pills are one of the most commonly used methods of contraception in the U.S.

There are various brands of pill available, and according to the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK, they are over 99 percent effective if taken as prescribed.

However, with typical use, they are approximately 95 percent effective.

There are two forms of the pill:

  • The combined pill, which contains estrogen and progestin: These should be taken daily, as per the instructions. The pill pack often contains some pills that are free of hormones. When taking these pills, a person will have a monthly period.
  • The mini-pill, which contains only progestin: A person must take this pill at the same time every day without a break. Someone taking the mini-pill will not necessarily have a scheduled period.

8. Patches

According to the NHS, the contraceptive patch is 99 percent effective when used correctly. With typical use, it is closer to 90 percent effective.

A person can place a contraceptive patch on the:

  • back
  • buttocks
  • stomach
  • upper arm

A person must wear each patch for 3 weeks, before removing it for 1 week to allow for a menstrual period. There is a small risk of skin irritation.

9. Injection

The contraceptive shot (Depo-Provera) is usually given by a doctor every 12 weeks. According to the CDC, when used correctly, and assuming that a person gets their shot on time, it is over 90 percent effective at preventing pregnancy.

According to Planned Pregnancy, it may take up to 10 months, or sometimes longer, for fertility to return to normal after a person stops getting the contraceptive shot.

10. Vaginal ring

According to the NHS, the birth control ring known as the NuvaRing is over 99 percent effective when used correctly, but is typically less than 95 percent effective due to human error.

This small, plastic ring is placed in the vagina for 3 weeks. It releases hormones into the body to prevent pregnancy.

The ring must be removed for 7 days to allow for a menstrual period before a inserting a new ring.

Intrauterine devices and implants

Intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implants are long-term contraceptive devices. The NHS state that they are over 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy because there is little room for human error. However, they do not protect against STIs.

11. IUDs

An IUD is a small device that a doctor inserts into the uterus. There are two types of IUDs:

  • Hormonal: Once fitted, an IUD lasts for at least 5 years before it needs replacing. IUD’s do not completely stop ovulation but act as contraception by thickening the cervical mucus to prevent sperm entering the uterus, as well other hormonal changes. Brand names include Mirena, Kyleena, Liletta, and Skyla.
  • Copper-based: Sold as ParaGard, this hormone-free IUD is covered in copper wire, which destroys sperm trying to enter the uterus. One IUD can prevent pregnancy for approximately 10 years.

Adverse reactions include spotting between periods, irregular periods, and menstrual cramps.

12. Implants

Implants are another form of hormonal birth control. A nurse or doctor inserts a matchstick-sized rod into a person’s arm to protect against pregnancy.

Implants work by releasing the hormone progestin into the body, which prevents ovulation. The CDC estimate that implants are also greater than 99 percent effective for contraception.

Implants must be replaced about every 3 years.

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Other methods

13. Natural family planning

Gynecologist with clipboard explaining natural family planning.
Natural family planning relies on tracking the menstrual cycle.

The natural method of contraception involves tracking the menstrual cycle and avoiding sex when a person is in the fertile phase of the menstrual cycle.

An individual’s “fertile window” lasts for around 6 to 9 days per month and coincides with ovulation, which is the release of the egg.

Several methods are possible for natural family planning. Many people use the following signals to work out whether they are ovulating or are in their fertile window:

  • measuring basal body temperature
  • taking note of the quality and quantity of the cervical mucus
  • logging the start and end times of their cycle details over several months

Each person’s fertile window is different, so a person should pay attention to their body’s signals. According to the CDC, natural family planning methods are about 76 percent effective when followed accurately.

14. Emergency contraception

In the case of unprotected sex or failed birth control, such as a broken condom or a failure to take the contraceptive pill, it is possible to use emergency contraception to reduce the risk of pregnancy.

Emergency contraception should not be used in place of regular birth control methods.

There are two forms of emergency contraception:

  • Emergency contraceptive pill: People must take a hormonal pill within 3 days of intercourse. The sooner a person takes it, the more effective it is, so a person should take it as soon as possible after having sex. The pill usually contains the chemical levonorgestrel. These pills are available from a doctor or a drugstore.
  • Copper IUD: The ParaGard IUD can be inserted up to 5 days after sex to prevent pregnancy. According to Planned Pregnancy, it is more than 99.9 percent effective when used in this timeframe.

15. Sterilization

Both women and men can undergo procedures to reduce their fertility permanently. The NHS state that these procedures are typically over 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy, but they do not protect against STIs.

Men can get a vasectomy, which involves snipping the tubes that carry sperm. It is a minor procedure that does not require hospitalization. A vasectomy reversal is possible in some cases. However, fertility after reversal is not always fully restored.

Women can have a sterilization procedure known as tubal ligation. It involves clamping or sealing the fallopian tubes. The effects are usually permanent. In rare cases, tubes can reconnect and result in pregnancy.

When to take a pregnancy test

A woman can take a pregnancy test if she suspects she is pregnant, especially if her usual method of contraception has failed recently.

Signs of pregnancy include:

  • a missed or late period
  • enlarged or tender breasts
  • fatigue
  • increased urination
  • nausea
  • vomiting

Home pregnancy tests are inexpensive and available in pharmacies, drugstores, and from reputable websites online. It is a good idea to have the results confirmed by a doctor.

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There are many contraceptive options to help avoid pregnancy, ranging from barrier methods to hormonal pills, patches, and IUDs.

Different methods may work better for different people, and a person may try several options before working out the contraceptive strategies that work for them.

Methods of contraception vary in terms of their effectiveness. People who are sexually active should speak with their doctor about the available options, so they can choose the method that is best for them.

Finally, remember that male and female condoms are the only types of contraception that prevent STIs.

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Medical News Today: Is fibromyalgia worse in women?

Fibromyalgia is more common in women than men, who may experience symptoms differently. For example, women tend to report higher levels of pain, and they often have additional symptoms, such as heavy or painful menstruation.

Fibromyalgia symptoms vary from person to person. Some describe the pain as sharp and shooting, while others report a dull ache.

The American College of Rheumatology estimates that 2 to 4 percent of people have fibromyalgia and state that it is more common in women.

Until recently, many doctors dismissed people with fibromyalgia. Because the disease was so poorly understood, these doctors mistakenly believed that symptoms were faked. Some analysts speculate that this may be because doctors historically tended to disregard women’s pain.

In this article, we explore the different ways that men and women may experience fibromyalgia. We also describe common causes and treatments.

Fibromyalgia in men vs. women

Fibromyalgia symptoms in women
Women with fibromyalgia are more likely to experience pain all over their body.

The hallmark of fibromyalgia is chronic, widespread pain that cannot be explained by other issues, such as a muscle injury, a herniated disc, arthritis, or an autoimmune disorder.

Everyone with fibromyalgia may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • persistent pain in several areas of the body, such as the hips, thighs, neck, and back
  • dizziness
  • chronic fatigue, even after a good night’s sleep
  • cognitive problems, such as concentration, or memory
  • dry eyes
  • heightened sensitivity to pain
  • hair loss
  • urinary problems, such as frequency
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea and gastrointestinal issues

Symptoms can vary in intensity, but many find that stress, exhaustion, and illness can make symptoms worse. The type of pain is less important for diagnosis than the pain’s chronic and widespread nature.

Symptoms in women

Women with fibromyalgia may experience heightened or different symptoms compared with men.

Specific symptoms

Women are more likely to experience:

Additional symptoms common to women may involve:


Fibromyalgia can affect the menstrual cycle. Periods may be heavier, and women may experience painful menstruation, which is called dysmenorrhea.


Many women with fibromyalgia have no problems during pregnancy, but in some cases, pregnancy can worsen symptoms of the condition.

Also, fibromyalgia can lead to heightened fatigue and mood swings, which are common in pregnancy.

Consult a doctor about fibromyalgia and pregnancy, as some medication for fibromyalgia can impact the fetus.

Tender points

Tender points refer to 18 tender or painful spots in nine locations on the body. These spots are paired and located on either side of the spine, for example. Not everyone with fibromyalgia has tender points, but they can help to distinguish it from other pain conditions.

Women with fibromyalgia are more likely than men to have tender points, which are located:

  • at the base of the head, where it meets the neck
  • between the base of the neck and the tip of the shoulder
  • where the muscles of the back connect to the shoulder blade
  • on each forearm near the crease of the elbow
  • just above the collarbone
  • beneath the collarbone on the side of the breastbone
  • just above the bony part of the outer hip
  • very low on the back, above the buttocks
  • inside the knee

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Fibromyalgia fatigue in women
Women with fibromyalgia may experience difficulty concentrating.

No test can determine whether someone has fibromyalgia. Instead, diagnosing fibromyalgia is a process of exclusion. Doctors ask about symptoms, then test for other disorders that might cause them. If no other cause can be found, a doctor will diagnose fibromyalgia.

To rule out other conditions, a doctor may perform X-rays and order bloodwork. They may also test for tender spots, ask about past injuries, and take a detailed medical history.

A diagnosis is more likely if patients have the following:

  • pain in certain tender areas lasting consistently for more than 3 months
  • a certain ranking on the widespread pain index
  • pain on both sides of the body, and above and below the waist
  • a certain level of symptom sensitivity, as determined by the examiner

While specialists and researchers still use tender points to characterize fibromyalgia, it is not always a reliable diagnostic tool, because the presence of tender points can change from day to day. Also, some doctors may apply more pressure during examinations than others.

With tender points excluded, doctors usually look for the following symptoms when diagnosing fibromyalgia:

  • fatigue
  • difficulty achieving restorative sleep because of pain
  • fatigue upon awakening
  • difficulty thinking

Causes in women

Doctors do not have a good understanding of what causes fibromyalgia, and there may be more than one factor.

Some research indicates that women with a history of trauma are more likely to develop fibromyalgia. A study from 2017 found that 49 percent of women diagnosed with fibromyalgia had experienced at least one type of adversity, such as emotional or physical abuse, during childhood.

Women with fibromyalgia were also six times more likely to have a history of post-traumatic stress disorder, commonly known as PTSD, than women with esophageal or gastrointestinal disorders.

However, fibromyalgia is not a psychological condition. It instead shows a link between the mind and the body, indicating that a history of trauma can cause or worsen physical pain.

Other theories include:

  • Autoimmune disorders. These occur when the body attacks healthy tissue. Many cause inflammation and pain, and some researchers suggest that fibromyalgia may be an autoimmune disorder.
  • Central sensitization. This refers to nerves becoming hyperactive and more sensitive to pain. People with fibromyalgia appear to have increased sensitivity to pain, which may relate to central sensitization.
  • Inflammation. Fibromyalgia is usually thought of an non-inflammatory, though a 2017 study found widespread inflammation in people with fibromyalgia. This is a process involving the immune system. Inflammation can become chronic and lead to muscle pain, and it also plays a role in conditions such as arthritis.

An event tends to trigger initial fibromyalgia symptoms. The event can be an injury, a traumatic experience, or the development of another disorder, such as arthritis.

People often experience attacks of fibromyalgia that involve heightened baseline symptoms. Many people find that stress, lifestyle changes, and similar events can trigger a fibromyalgia attack.


A wide range of treatments can help people to cope with the pain of fibromyalgia. They include:

  • therapy focusing on lifestyle changes
  • stress management
  • exercise
  • physical therapy
  • medication
  • alternative approaches, such as acupuncture, massage, and chiropractic therapy

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When to see a doctor

Women fibromyalgia symptoms doctor visit
A person with unexplained pain lasting longer than a few weeks should visit a doctor.

Many conditions can cause chronic pain, but treatments are available to help.

See a doctor if unexplained pain does not get better after a few weeks.

Anyone experiencing pain accompanied by other severe symptoms, such as heart palpitations or difficulty breathing, should seek medical attention right away.


Fibromyalgia is a treatable condition, and after working with a doctor who specializes in chronic pain or fibromyalgia, the pain can be reduced.

While the condition is chronic, and there is no definitive cure, most people can develop a treatment and management plan that allows them to live normally. Still, it may take time to receive an accurate diagnosis and find the right combination of therapies.

Fibromyalgia does not lead to other disorders, is not fatal, and it does not damage the muscles. However, some find that the severity of symptoms changes over time.

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Medical News Today: Could gut bacteria cause joint pain?

Finding a link between osteoarthritis and the bacteria in our guts seems unlikely. However, new research concludes that they could, in fact, be bedfellows.
Painful knee joint
A new study probes gut bacteria and their role in osteoarthritis.

Obesity comes with a raft of related health risks, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It is also intimately tied to osteoarthritis.

Often referred to as the “wear and tear” arthritis, osteoarthritis involves the slow degradation of cartilage, or the padding between bones in a joint.

In the United States, osteoarthritis affects an estimated 31 million people and is a leading cause of disability, globally. As it stands, osteoarthritis cannot be cured.

People who carry excess weight put extra strain on their joints. This, it was thought, explained the increased risk of osteoarthritis that comes with obesity.

A new study, published this week in the journal JCI Insight, looked at a more intriguing mechanism that might link these two conditions: gut bacteria.

We have billions of bacteria living in our intestines. They are vital for good health and, over recent years, just how vital they are has become increasingly clear.

Researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York set out to explore what links there might be between diet, obesity, gut bacteria, and osteoarthritis.

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Fattening up mice

To begin with, the researchers fed mice a high-fat diet over a 12-week period. They quickly became diabetic and obese, doubling their percentage of body fat. Next, the bacterial residents of the animals’ colons were assessed.

As expected, their microbiomes were off-kilter; their bowels were overrun with pro-inflammatory bacteria and had a distinct lack of healthy, probiotic bacteria, such as Bifidobacteria.

At the same time, the scientists observed body-wide inflammation in the obese mice, including the knee joints. To induce osteoarthritis, the researchers tore the animals’ menisci, or the cushion of cartilage between the shin and thigh bones. This type of injury commonly causes osteoarthritis.

In the obese mice, osteoarthritis developed much more quickly than in the control mice. In fact, within 12 weeks, virtually all of the obese mice’s cartilage had gone.

“Cartilage,” says Michael Zuscik, Ph.D., an associate professor of orthopaedics in the Center for Musculoskeletal Research, “is both a cushion and lubricant, supporting friction-free joint movements.

“When you lose that,” he says, “it’s bone on bone, rock on rock. It’s the end of the line, and you have to replace the whole joint. Preventing that from happening is what we, as osteoarthritis researchers, strive to do — to keep that cartilage.”

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Can cartilage degradation be slowed?

For the next phase of the study, the scientists started the protocol again: they fattened up mice with a 12-week, high-fat diet. But this time, they included a prebiotic called oligofructose.

Prebiotics — not to be confused with probiotics — cannot be broken down by mouse (or human) guts. However, many beneficial bacteria, such as Bifidobacteria, thrive in their presence.

This subtle but important change in diet promoted the growth of healthy bacteria and produced a marked reduction in pro-inflammatory bacteria.

Importantly, it also reduced inflammation in the joints, and the knee cartilage of the obese mice was indistinguishable from that of the non-obese control mice.

The addition of a prebiotic to the diet also reduced diabetic symptoms. But it made no difference to the amount of weight that the mice gained.

So, even though the joints were subjected to the same amount of strain, they were healthier. This supports the theory that inflammation, rather than mechanical strain, is the key driver of osteoarthritis.

That reinforces the idea that osteoarthritis is another secondary complication of obesity — just like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, which all have inflammation as part of their cause.”

Robert Mooney, Ph.D., a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine

“Perhaps,” adds Prof. Mooney, “they all share a similar root, and the microbiome might be that common root.”

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A note of caution

It is vital to remind ourselves that, though the findings are exciting, there are significant differences between the mouse microbiome and our own. The next step, therefore, will be to move this line of investigation into humans.

The leaders of this study plan to team up with the Military and Veteran Microbiome: Consortium for Research and Education at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Denver, CO.

They hope to compare the microbiomes of veterans with and without obesity-related osteoarthritis. They will supplement some of these participants with prebiotics to gauge how much benefit this intervention might have in humans.

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Medical News Today: How to make yourself fart

Farting is a natural process and often occurs without help, but sometimes a buildup of gas in the body can cause pain and bloating. In these cases, it may help to use one or more poses or other techniques to help the body fart.

Certain foods or eating too quickly can be the cause of gas, but tightness in the abdominal muscles may also be partially to blame.

Some yoga poses and other relaxing positions may help release gas that has built up or relieve cramps and bloating caused by the buildup.

Poses to pass gas

Most of these yoga poses, also called asanas, are best done alone and in a comfortable setting.

They can be practiced anywhere if needed, but relaxation is key to being able to pass gas, so it is essential for a person to feel comfortable in their surroundings.

The following poses may help a person pass gas:

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Other tips to relieve gas

Carbonated drinks can help release farts
Carbonated beverages such as sparkling water may help to release gas that has built up.

In addition to these positions, rubbing the abdomen in a clockwise motion may help get rid of trapped gas and reduce cramps and bloating.

Some foods and drinks may also help a person pass gas. While these may not be a good idea if a person already has excessive bloating and pain, they may help someone release gas more easily.

Foods and drinks that may help a person fart include:

  • carbonated beverages and sparkling mineral water
  • chewing gum
  • dairy products
  • fatty or fried foods
  • fiber-rich fruits
  • some artificial sweeteners, such as sorbitol and xylitol

Reducing the need to fart

Farting is the way the body releases swallowed air and other trapped gasses. The positions listed above may help relieve gas temporarily, but many people also look for ways to reduce the need to pass gas.

While it may be impossible to make farts disappear completely, there are some ways to reduce the number of times a person has to pass gas each day.

Many foods increase the amount of gas that results from the digestion of food. Beans are well-known culprits, but these pulses contain many nutrients so should still be included in a healthful diet.

Soaking beans before cooking them may help reduce flatulence in some people, while others may want to limit the quantity of beans they eat.

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Cutting down on other foods that cause gas may help as well. This includes foods high in sulfur or certain fermentable carbs and fibers, such as:

  • cauliflower
  • cabbage
  • broccoli
  • kale
  • Brussels sprouts
  • artichokes
  • asparagus
  • apples
  • pears
  • peaches
  • beer
  • carbonated drinks

Dairy foods, including cheese and ice cream, may also cause gas, especially for people who are sensitive to lactose.

Another important tip is to chew all food slowly and with a closed mouth. A lot of trapped gas is swallowed air, which is more likely to happen if a person eats quickly or with their mouth open.

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Holding in a fart

While it is not always best to hold in a fart, sometimes it is necessary. Whether in a crowded room or on a first date, there are plenty of reasons to hold in potentially embarrassing gas until it can be let out discreetly.

Clenching the anus may help in the short term, and changing positions until the gas shifts in the body may also help.

The best solution is for a person to take a moment to relieve the gas in a bathroom or away from other people. This way it will not build up and lead to uncomfortable bloating or pain.


Farting may be socially unacceptable in some places, but it is a natural bodily function. It may help to hold a fart in until someone is alone, but it is healthy to pass the gas when the right time comes.

For people having difficulty farting or dealing with gas pains, using certain positions, chewing gum, or drinking carbonated water may help release built-up gas and reduce bloating.

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Medical News Today: A waking nightmare: The enigma of sleep paralysis

You wake up in the middle of the night, convinced that an evil figure is lying in wait. You attempt to move, but your body just will not budge. You try to scream, but nothing comes out. The monster draws closer. It may sound like a horror movie scene, but this is the real deal — you’re experiencing sleep paralysis.
terrified woman in bed
Sleep paralysis is like a waking nightmare, and the underlying causes for this condition remain unclear.

This terrifying and mysterious sleep disorder, or parasomnia, has been experienced by people possibly since the dawn of humankind.

And, it may have given rise to numerous ghost stories and mysterious accounts involving “things that go bump in the night.”

This most unsettling experience was first clearly documented in a medical treatise in the 17th century, by Dutch physician Isbrand Van Diembroeck, who wrote about the case of a woman “50 years of age, in good plight [health], strong,” yet who complained of mysterious experiences at night.

“[W]hen she was composing her self to sleep,” explains Van Diembroeck, “sometimes she believed the devil lay upon her and held her down, sometimes that she was [choked] by a great dog or thief lying upon her breast, so that she could hardly speak or [breathe], and when she endeavored to throw off the [burden], she was not able to stir her members.”

What the woman in Van Dimbroeck’s account likely experienced was a condition that has come to be known as “sleep paralysis.”

Researchers define it as “a common, generally benign, parasomnia characterized by brief episodes of inability to move or speak combined with waking consciousness.”

Sleep paralysis and hallucinations

The reason why sleep paralysis is so scary is not just because you will suddenly become alert but realize that you are, in fact, unable to move a muscle or utter a sound, but also because this experience is often — as in the case above — accompanied by terrifying hallucinations.

These, as specialized literature has now ascertained, typically fall into three distinct categories:

  1. a sensed presence, or intruder hallucinations, in which the person feels the presence of an evil, threatening individual
  2. incubus hallucinations, in which the person might feel someone or something pressing down uncomfortably, even painfully, on their chest or abdomen, or trying to choke them
  3. vestibular-motor hallucinations, during which the individual thinks that they are floating, flying, or moving — these may also sometimes include out-of-body experiences, in which a person thinks that their spirit or mind has left their body and is moving and observing events from above

Among the types of dreamlike hallucinations listed above, the first type — a sensed presence — is one of the most commonly experienced by people with sleep paralysis.

As for the time of sleep at which sleep paralysis — with or without hallucinations — normally takes place, again, there is no single answer.

According to a study that was published in the Journal of Sleep Research, sleep paralysis typically happens soon after falling asleep (or hypnagogic episodes), at some point during the course of sleep (or hypnomesic episodes), or a little before the person’s usual time of awakening (or hypnopompic episodes).

The authors of that study note that the most common instances of sleep paralysis are hypnomesic, and that they usually take place after 1–3 hours from falling asleep.

‘A strange, shadowy man’

In fact, these visions and sensations can seem so realistic to many people that they may think that they are having a paranormal experience, or even being subjected to strange tests and rituals.

shadowy figure
The most common hallucination linked to sleep paralysis is the ‘sensed presence’ of a sinister figure.

“Witness accounts” of such hallucinations can be truly unsettling, and a number of long-time experients — such as Louid Proud in his book Dark Intrusions — have offered detailed accounts of years of uncanny nightly encounters.

One person who told me about his nightmarish hallucinations said he felt as if “someone knelt on [his] chest so that it [felt] as if [he was] being choked out.”

Another person spoke of a night-time assailant that takes pleasure in tormenting her in myriad ways.

“When [sleep paralysis] strikes, I get both visual and auditory hallucinations, which most often involve a strange, shadowy man coming up my stairs and into my bedroom. Occasionally, he’ll prod or tickle me.”

Often, she told me, this sinister figure even “co-opts” her partner in his mischief.

“Sometimes,” she says, “I’ll even hallucinate my partner lying next to me and laughing maliciously at me, or siding with the shadowy figure in annoying me. This is very frustrating, since all I want him to do is help me!”

Given the intensity of these hallucinatory experiences, it may come as no surprise that researchers have repeatedly argued that hallucinations linked with sleep paralysis can be held responsible for many reports of magical events, sightings of ghouls and demons, and alien abductions.

Some happy exceptions

Although usually people with sleep paralysis report experiencing terrifying hallucinations, a happy few actually point to a state of bliss that makes them look forward to these episodes.

A study that was conducted by James Allan Cheyne, from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, suggests that the people who most often describe experiencing positive feelings and sensations during an episode of sleep paralysis are those who are prone to vestibular-motor hallucinations.

These hallucinations were found to involve feelings of floating and [out-of-body experiences], which are associated with feelings of bliss rather than fear.”

James Allan Cheyne

“In contrast to the other-oriented nature of the Intruder and Incubus hallucinations,” he adds, “these experiences are very much focused on the experient’s own person.”

Sometimes, Cheyne continues, feelings of bliss during sleep paralysis are derived from pleasant erotic sensations that arise from vestibular-motor hallucinations.

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What is the underlying mechanism?

So, what happens in the body during an episode of sleep paralysis? Essentially, during the dream phase of sleep — known as the rapid eye movement (REM) phase — our skeletal muscles are paralyzed.

The reasons behind this are not fully understood, though researchers have been making progress in uncovering the mechanisms attached to this process.

One popular theory posits that this temporary state of paralysis is meant to prevent us from hurting ourselves, perhaps in automatic response to some violent dream.

During sleep paralysis, paradoxically, our brains — or parts of our brains — become awake and conscious, but the rest of the body is still immobilized.

At the same time, during sleep paralysis, many people experience dream visions and sensations as though they were real — hence the hallucinations — and the fact that they are, in fact, partly awake and conscious blurs the line between reality and dreams.

Who is at risk of sleep paralysis?

Sleep paralysis is more common than we may think. A 2016 study declares that it is “surprisingly common,” but that “determining accurate prevalence rates is complicated” because researchers and study participants alike have different understandings of what counts as sleep paralysis.

man dealing with insomnia
Although a fair amount of research has been conducted in this respect, it remais unclear as to who is most at risk of sleep paralysis.

A recent review of the available data, however, suggests that 7.6 percent of the population have experienced at least one episode throughout their lives.

That said, the numbers may be even higher.

What causes sleep paralysis, and what the main risks are for experiencing such an episode, remain largely mysterious.

Sleep paralysis is a common symptom of the neurological disorder “narcolepsy,” which is characterized by uncontrollable sleepiness throughout the waking day.

But many people who experience sleep paralysis do so independently of neurological conditions. And, to distinguish between narcolepsy-related episodes and independently occurring sleep paralysis, specialists usually refer to the latter as “isolated sleep paralysis.”

Recurrent isolated sleep paralysis often starts in adolescence, and around 28.3 percent of students apparently experience it.

Moreover, people with poor “sleep hygiene” — for instance, those who sleep too much or too little — may also be more likely to experience sleep paralysis. The authors of a systematic review published in Sleep Medicine Reviews note:

Specifically, excessively short (fewer than 6 hours) or long (over 9 hours) sleep duration and napping, especially long naps (over 2 hours), were associated with increased odds of sleep paralysis.”

“Long self-reported sleep latency [how long it takes to fall asleep] (over 30 minutes) and difficulty initiating sleep were related to an increased likelihood of reporting sleep paralysis,” they add.

Are mental health issues to blame?

Given the frightening nature of the most of the hallucinations associated with sleep paralysis, many have wondered whether individuals experiencing mental health issues — such as depression or anxiety — are more susceptible to these experiences.

The results of existing research, however, are mixed. Some have argued that individuals who have experienced abuse in early life — whether or not they remember it — may be more exposed to sleep paralysis.

According to the study that was published in Sleep Medicine Reviews, “Levels of waking state dissociative experiences, involving depersonalisation, derealisation, and amnesia, were found to be related to both sleep paralysis frequency and the frequency/intensity of all three hallucination types.”

But links to other neurological and psychiatric disorders are more uncertain.

The authors of a study that was published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition note that previous research has tried to make a case that bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, panic disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder — to name but a few — may play a role in sleep paralysis.

However, they report that their analysis of the available data has revealed “no general relationship between [isolated sleep paralysis] and major psychopathology.”

Instead, they decided to focus on the most common “symptom” of sleep paralysis — that is, sensed presence hallucinations that induce a feeling of fear — and explained that there may be a link between it and what they call “passive social imagery.”

Passive social imagery refers to the experience of individuals who are prone to being more socially anxious, and to imagining themselves in embarrassing or distressing social situations as the passive victim on the receiving end of abuse.

These individuals, the researchers suggest, appear to be more at risk of experiencing distress due to sensed presence hallucinations.

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What can you do to prevent it?

Prevention and coping strategies for sleep paralysis are, unfortunately, mostly anecdotal, but there are some methods that seem to have been repeatedly validated by many individuals who say that they — usually or often — work for them.

These include:

  • trying not to fall asleep on on your back, since studies have associated episodes of sleep paralysis with lying on one’s back when going to sleep
  • trying to ensure, on a regular basis, that your sleep will not be disrupted, since repeatedly waking up during the night has been flagged up as a potential risk factor
  • avoiding overuse of stimulants, such as tobacco and alcohol — coffee, surprisingly, has not been deemed risky in this context — though the evidence that these affect the chances of experiencing sleep paralysis is mixed
  • learning meditation and muscle relaxation techniques may help you to better cope with the experience
  • persisting in the attempt “to move extremities,” such as fingers or toes, during sleep paralysis also seems to help disrupt the experience

Finally, if you regularly experience sleep paralysis with “sensed presence” and you think that this may be related to other experiences of anxiety in your day-to-day life, then it may be worth considering cognitive behavioral therapy.

According to the authors of the Consciousness and Cognition study, there is a distinct “possibility that frightening [isolated sleep paralysis] sensed presence experiences […] may contribute to maintenance of an individual’s negative social imagery biases.”

If that is the case, they argue, “cognitive behavioral treatment of [these] experiences could help to alleviate the more general social imagery dysfunction,” which may improve the overall situation.

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