Medical News Today: Can aloe vera treat psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a long-term condition that causes excess skin cells to form inflamed, red, and scaly patches on the skin. Can aloe vera help manage the symptoms of this condition?

Psoriasis is caused by a problem with the immune system and does not currently have a cure. Also, up to 30 percent of people with psoriasis go on to develop psoriatic arthritis.

This article explores the potential benefits of aloe vera as a treatment for psoriasis and considers the scientific evidence available to support its use.

Does aloe vera help psoriasis?

Cut aloe vera for psoriasis
Aloe vera gel applied to psoriatic skin may reduce inflammation.

Psoriasis causes painful and uncomfortable patches of inflamed skin. Sometimes these patches can crack and bleed.

If psoriasis starts to affect people’s joints, it is called psoriatic arthritis. Psoriatic arthritis can cause a person’s joints to become swollen, stiff, and painful.

Aloe vera is a type of succulent with gel-filled leaves. Applying pure aloe vera gel to psoriatic skin patches may have a soothing effect, reduce inflammation, and improve hydration. It may also be beneficial for the treatment of psoriatic arthritis.

Some studies suggest aloe vera gel can help manage specific symptoms associated with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. However, there is not much evidence to support aloe vera gel as a stand-alone treatment, so a person with psoriasis should talk to their doctor about medicated creams and other remedies.

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Benefits of aloe vera for psoriasis

A 2012 study found aloe vera gel to be over 81 percent effective in the treatment of psoriasis. However, this study used an animal model, so more research is needed to see if aloe vera gel has an equally beneficial effect on psoriasis in humans.

While the effects of aloe vera are unproven for psoriasis specifically, the following studies show it may be beneficial for certain symptoms:

Helps heal wounds

A 2015 review noted that aloe vera’s healing property is related to a compound called glucomannan, which affects skin cell growth and accelerates wound healing.

As a result, the wound healing properties of aloe vera gel may be beneficial if a person with psoriasis has skin patches that crack or bleed.

Helps the skin to make collagen

Aloe vera gel may lead to the skin making more collagen. As well as contributing to the healing process, collagen helps to keep the skin elastic and firm.

The glucomannan contained in aloe vera encourages collagen production and collagen improves skin elasticity, so increased collagen production may help to reduce the scaly patches caused by psoriasis.

Reduces inflammation

Aloe vera gel may be able to reduce inflammation, which is a symptom of both psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.

A 2008 study found aloe vera gel to be more effective than a placebo to treat skin conditions, such as UV-induced erythema. The study did not, however, look specifically at aloe vera’s role in treating psoriasis.

More research is needed to say with certainty that the anti-inflammatory properties of aloe vera are beneficial for treating psoriasis.

Improves hydration

Aloe vera gel may help to improve skin hydration, although not when used on a regular basis.

A 2014 study found that aloe vera gel improved skin hydration after one application. However, after multiple uses, it decreased skin hydration.

Improved skin hydration may help a person with psoriasis prevent the patches on their skin from cracking. One-off applications of aloe vera gel could be useful in this way, but it may not be beneficial if used repeatedly.

More research is needed to see if aloe vera is a good moisturizer for people with psoriasis.

How to use aloe vera

Aloe vera gel is available over the counter at most pharmacies and health food stores.

People can also use aloe vera gel directly from the plant by snapping off a leaf and gently squeezing out the gel.

Aloe vera gel can be applied liberally to the affected areas of the skin up to three times a day.

Aloe vera is also available in tablet form. However, the National Psoriasis Foundation say aloe vera tablets are not beneficial for the condition.

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Risks and considerations

Aloe vera liquid being added to the skin
Some people may experience an allergic reaction to aloe vera, so a skin test is recommended.

Applying aloe vera gel to the skin is safe for most people, but some individuals may be allergic.

It is best to apply the gel to a small patch of skin to test for an allergy before using it more liberally. If there is no adverse reaction after 24 hours, it should be safe to apply aloe vera gel freely to the skin.

Also, some medications may interact with aloe vera gel. A person who is taking medications may wish to discuss aloe vera gel with their doctor before they start using it.

Other treatments for psoriasis

Aloe vera gel is a complementary treatment that may help manage psoriasis symptoms when used alongside other treatments.

Treatments that the doctor may recommend for psoriasis include:

  • salicylic acid
  • steroid-based creams
  • calcipotriene-containing ointments
  • coal tar ointments

Other home remedies for psoriasis that some people find beneficial include:

  • apple cider vinegar
  • dead sea salts
  • capsicum
  • tea tree oil

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Some studies suggest that aloe vera gel may improve specific symptoms associated with psoriasis, due to its healing properties.

More research is needed to prove whether aloe vera gel is an effective treatment for the skin condition, as a whole. In the meantime, aloe vera is generally safe to use as a moisturizer and on skin affected by psoriasis.

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Medical News Today: Eight low-sugar fruits

All fruit contains sugar, although some varieties have a higher content than others. People looking to control their sugar intake will often give up or reduce their consumption of fizzy drinks, chocolate, or candy but may not think about fruit.

Of course, fruit is a healthful way to cater to a sweet tooth and add nutrients to the diet, but some fruit, such as bananas and mangoes, have a higher amount of sugar than many others.

In this article, we look at the best low-sugar fruits for anyone looking to reduce their daily sugar intake without compromising on taste and nutrition.

Eight low-sugar fruits

Low-sugar fruits can still provide the fiber, vitamins, and minerals a person requires.

Low-sugar fruits include:

1. Strawberries

Strawberries, like many other berries, are often high in fiber and contain very little sugar.

There are only about 8 grams (g) of sugar in eight medium-sized strawberries. They are also a good source of vitamin C.

2. Peaches

Although they taste sweet, a medium sized peach only contains around 13 g of sugar.

3. Blackberries

blackberries and strawberries
Some fruits have a higher sugar content than others and many berries contain very little sugar.

Like strawberries, these berries also contain between 4 and 5 g of sugar, 5.3 g of fiber, and 1.39 g of protein per 100 g.

They are also a good source of antioxidants.

It is interesting to note that blueberries contain around double the amount of sugar as blackberries.

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4. Lemons and limes

Not many people would pick up a lemon or lime to eat as a snack. However, with no more than 2 g of sugar per fruit and high levels of vitamin C, these are a great addition to a person’s diet.

People can squeeze a lemon or lime into sparkling water to replace other sugary carbonated beverages, or even squeeze lemon juice over a salad instead of using a salad dressing.

5. Honeydew melon

A popular summer snack, a slice of honeydew melon contains around 11 grams of digestible sugar.

Honeydew melon also contains potassium, vitamin C, and iron.

6. Oranges

A medium-sized orange has around 14 g of digestible sugar and is also an excellent source of vitamin C.

Orange juice and all other fruit juices bought from the supermarket may contain added sugars. If a person wants to limit their sugar intake, it is usually better to eat the fruit itself rather than drink its juice.

7. Grapefruit

This low-sugar fruit is a favorite breakfast food.

Half a medium-sized grapefruit contains around 11 g of sugar. If a person finds grapefruit too sharp, they may wish to drizzle a small amount of honey or sprinkle Stevia on top.

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8. Avocados

Avocados are almost sugar-free. They are also a good source of healthful fats and fiber.

Incorporating low-sugar fruits into your diet

salad with avocados and tomatoes
Fruit can be incorporated into every meal.

Regardless of its sugar content, fruit should be part of a balanced and healthful diet plan.

Benefits of increasing a person’s daily intake of fruit include:

  • losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight
  • getting essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber
  • reducing the risk of cancer and other diseases

In fact, the American Cancer Society recommends that a person consumes around 2 ½ cups of fruit and vegetables every day.

A person can incorporate low-sugar fruit into their diet in every meal:


People who usually eat cereal should be sure to choose cereal without added sugars. Try adding sliced berries or a peach on top. Alternatively, eating a handful of berries with plain low-fat yogurt is also a healthful option.

Instead of drinking fruit juice, which has a high sugar content, squeezing the juice of half a lemon or lime into sparkling water can be a refreshing alternative.

Lunch and dinner

Even a savory salad can include low-sugar fruit elements. Try using lemon or lime juice as a dressing, or slicing an avocado on top. Orange slices and berries also make great salad toppings.

Whole fruits make an excellent alternative to processed desserts. Low-sugar fruit can be eaten with plain yogurt or made into a fruit salad by adding a small amount of honey if required.

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Low-sugar fruit can be a great snack alternative. A person can make snacking on fruit easier by pre-cutting larger fruit, such as melons, into bite-size pieces and keeping them in the fridge.


Most people can add more fruit to their diet, even if they are looking to reduce their sugar intake. A person can make choosing healthful fruits easier by:

  • aiming to eat at least 2 ½ cups of fruit or vegetables every day
  • preparing low-sugar fruit as a snack in advance, to avoid grabbing processed alternatives
  • eating whole fruits rather than drinking fruit juice

People with diabetes may wish to speak with a doctor or registered dietitian about the amount of fruit they should eat.

All fruits contain sugar, but they also contain healthful nutrients, fiber, and minerals, which make them a much better alternative to snacks that contain processed sugars.

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Medical News Today: What you should know about pancytopenia?

Pancytopenia is a condition that occurs when a person has low counts for all three types of blood cells: red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.

Pancytopenia is usually due to a problem with the bone marrow that produces the blood cells. However, there can be several different underlying causes.

The condition is not a disease, but a description of the laboratory findings of low blood cells.

In the most extreme cases of pancytopenia, a person can have infections, the signs of severe anemia, including fatigue and difficulty breathing, and bleeding.

What are the main symptoms of pancytopenia?

red and white blood cells and platelets in vein or artery.
Pancytopenia is characterized by a low count of all three types of blood cells.

It is necessary to understand what each of the three different types of blood cells do to recognize pancytopenia’s symptoms.

For example, red blood cells carry oxygen. Therefore, if a person does not have enough red blood cells due to pancytopenia, they may have difficulty breathing and feel fatigued.

Platelets are responsible for helping blood to clot, during wound healing. If a person’s platelets are low, they may bleed more easily.

White blood cells help to fight infection. Therefore, if a person has a low white blood cell count, they may be more prone to infection.

Additional symptoms associated with pancytopenia include:

  • easy bleeding, such as from gums or nose
  • easy bruising
  • fast heart rate
  • pale skin color
  • rashes
  • unexplained fatigue
  • weakness

A person should go or be taken to the emergency room immediately if they have the following symptoms, all of which can occur suddenly:

  • confusion
  • loss of consciousness
  • seizures
  • shortness of breath
  • significant blood loss


Cancer patient in hospital bed looking out of window.
Conditions that affect the bone marrow, including cancer, may cause pancytopenia.

Pancytopenia is usually due to some disruption of the bone marrow’s ability to produce new blood cells. Examples could include:

  • cancer that destroys the bone marrow cells
  • failure to make stem cells that turn into blood cells
  • fibrosis or scarring of bone marrow cells
  • immune system destroying healthy bone marrow cells
  • suppression of bone marrow function due to illness or medications

Some of the conditions that can cause pancytopenia include:

  • aplastic anemia
  • autoimmune conditions
  • cancer
  • chemotherapy treatments
  • exposure to toxins or pollutants, such as radiation or arsenic
  • Fanconi’s anemia
  • infection
  • leukemia, which impacts bone marrow function
  • megaloblastic anemia
  • lupus
  • deficiency of folate or vitamin B12 for making bone marrow
  • taking medications that affect bone marrow function
  • viruses, such as Epstein-Barr, HIV or hepatitis C

Medications that can affect bone marrow function include chloramphenicol, chemotherapy drugs, thiazide diuretics, anti-epileptic drugs, colchicine, azathioprine, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).

The list here covers just some of the potential disease-related pancytopenia causes.

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Who is at risk

Those with cancers or who are taking medications associated with pancytopenia are at risk for the condition. Having a family history of blood disorders or pancytopenia also increases someone’s risk.

If a person has a known blood-related disorder, they should talk to their doctor about risks for and symptoms associated with pancytopenia.


Ultimately, a person needs their blood cells to live. If a person does not produce enough blood cells and experiences severe symptoms or infection, it is possible that they could die.

Therefore, it is important that someone seeks immediate medical attention if they are having severe pancytopenia symptoms, such as shortness of breath, high fevers, or severe bleeding.


Blood transfusion bag being held up with gloved hands.
Blood transfusions may be recommended as a treatment option.

A doctor may order a transfusion of red blood cells or platelets if a person’s blood counts are extremely low or they are displaying severe symptoms associated with pancytopenia. Other treatments can include:

  • bone marrow transplant
  • stem cell transplant
  • medications

In the case of medications, these may be to stimulate bone marrow production or suppress the immune system if it is impairing bone marrow production.

Because there are so many different pancytopenia causes, the treatments vary widely from person to person.

In some instances, a doctor will expect pancytopenia to develop. This is true when a person has cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy treatments to kill cancer cells.

These treatments can also kill healthy cell types. When a doctor expects this to happen, they may not treat pancytopenia unless the person has significant symptoms.

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A doctor will typically diagnose pancytopenia by ordering what is known as a complete blood count or CBC. This blood test gives values of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.

A doctor may also order other laboratory tests, such as liver function tests, vitamin B-12 levels, HIV and hepatitis testing.

As well as laboratory testing, a doctor will also consider a person’s symptoms related to pancytopenia.

They may perform a procedure to sample a person’s bone marrow. A sample of bone marrow is commonly taken from the hip after the area has been numbed.

The sample is sent to a laboratory where a doctor will examine the cells under a microscope. The cells’ appearances can help identify the potential underlying cause of pancytopenia.


Most pancytopenia causes are underlying blood disorders that a person cannot prevent.

In some cases, avoiding taking medications that are known to cause pancytopenia may help to reduce a person’s risk.

However, no one should stop taking a prescribed medication without the express direction of their doctor.

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Medical News Today: What is bigeminy?

Bigeminy is the technical term for the sensation of the heart skipping a beat, which is also sometimes described as heart palpitations or fluttering.

While the heart does not literally skip a beat, it may feel that way. The reason is that the heart’s rhythm has become irregular and the movement of blood through it is different to what a person expects.

Most people will experience bigeminy at some point in their lives, and, mostly, it is not a cause for concern.

Learning more about bigeminy can help people understand their symptoms and understand when they may need to seek medical care.


Doctor pointing to arteries and aorta on model of human heart.
The cause of bigeminy may not always be clear, since there are many possible causes.

Palpitations that occur with bigeminy can have many causes, and it may not be possible to identify the cause.

One study of people treated for palpitations at a university medical center found:

  • 40 percent were caused by arrhythmia
  • 31 percent were due to anxiety or panic disorders
  • 16 percent had no identifiable causes
  • 6 percent were due to prescription, over-the-counter, or illegal drugs
  • 4 percent had non-cardiac causes
  • 3 percent had a cardiac cause other than arrhythmia

Experts might not always be able to say what causes each case of bigeminy, but the condition is linked to changes in the heart’s rhythm sparked by variations in the its electrical system.

Even though it is only the size of a fist, the human heart is an incredible rhythm machine. It beats 100,000 times a day and moves roughly 5 liters of blood throughout the body, a distance of almost 60,000 miles.

It does all this thanks to a rhythmic cycle of contraction and relaxation, which pumps blood through the four chambers of the heart.

This process is triggered by electrical impulses occurring 60–100 times a minute in a resting, healthy adult.

The characteristic sound of the heartbeat – lub-DUB, lub-DUB, lub-DUB – comes from the valves between the chambers opening and closing, as the blood circulates through the heart.

When the timing gets skewed, the rhythm gets skewed. The technical term for this is an arrhythmia, and there are many forms of it, including bigeminy.

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When bigeminy happens, it may feel as if the heart is skipping a beat or having palpitations. These unusual, early beats are also called ectopic contractions.

An individual may feel as if there is a pause between the beats of their heart.

It may feel like the heart is skipping a beat, but bigeminy is a kind of arrhythmia in which the heart beats too early, or prematurely.

If heart palpitations are accompanied by feeling faint, actually fainting, or dizziness, individuals should seek prompt medical care.

Diagnosis and when to see a doctor

Stressed man with headache in front of laptop.
To diagnose bigeminy, a doctor may enquire about a person’s stress levels and health conditions.

If bigeminy lasts for a long time, recurs, or someone has a personal or family history of heart disease, it is advisable to see a doctor to be diagnosed.

Doctors will ask someone about:

  • symptoms in their chest, such as palpitations
  • incidents of dizziness
  • heart issues, such as high blood pressure or previous arrhythmia
  • diabetes
  • thyroid problems
  • personal stress levels
  • exercise habits
  • use of tobacco
  • prescription drug use
  • use of supplements and over-the-counter drugs
  • consumption of caffeine and alcohol
  • use of cocaine and other illicit drugs

Doctors ask about these issues because they can all affect heart health. As heart problems may have a genetic link, doctors will also most likely take a detailed family health history.

A physical exam is important to diagnosing bigeminy, with doctors taking a close look at the condition of the heart. The first steps for this process involve:

  • taking pulse and blood pressure readings
  • listening to the heart rate and rhythm
  • checking for a heart murmur
  • looking for signs of heart failure, such as edema or swelling
  • checking thyroid health, and other possible causes of arrhythmia

The best way to examine the health of the heart’s rhythm section is with an electrocardiogram, also known as an ECG or EKG.

An ECG measures the timing and the level of the electrical waves passing through the heart and stimulating the different chambers to contract and relax.

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Treatment and lifestyle changes

Takeaway coffee cup surrounded by coffee beans.
Avoiding coffee, tea, and other drinks containing caffeine may help to treat bigeminy.

Bigeminy will not usually require complicated treatment and will frequently resolve on its own.

Medical experts have identified several substances as potential triggers for episodes of bigeminy. Limiting or avoiding intake of these can make it easier for the heart to keep a steady beat.

Potential substances and triggers to avoid include:

  • caffeine in coffee, tea, energy drinks, and some soft drinks
  • nicotine
  • alcohol
  • medications for seasonal allergies, asthma, and colds

High blood pressure may increase the likelihood of palpitations, which gives individuals with hypertension more reason to carefully manage their blood pressure.

Exercise may sometimes trigger episodes of bigeminy, so individuals who have had palpitations should use caution when starting or returning to fitness activities.

Doctors may prescribe drugs known as beta-blockers when bigeminy episodes are frequent and potentially serious.

In the rare cases of bigeminy that require more aggressive treatment, a surgical process known as catheter ablation may be used to treat heart tissue.


In most cases, when otherwise healthy people experience bigeminy, the symptoms go away on their own, and there is no need for treatment.

However, if episodes of bigeminy are frequent and severe, particularly if they are accompanied by dizziness and feeling faint, people should see a doctor for a thorough evaluation and treatment plan.

For those who already know they have heart disease, frequent episodes of bigeminy could be a sign that they are at increased risk for serious heart problems. These people should see their doctor to discuss adapting their treatment plans.

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Medical News Today: What causes pain in the lower left abdomen?

Pain in the lower left abdomen is often no cause for concern, but it is still not something a person should ignore. Causes of pain in the lower left abdomen may be benign, such as gas pain, or can be more serious, as in the case of an infection.

People experiencing persistent or chronic pain in the lower abdomen should seek medical attention. Similarly, a sudden onset of severe pain in the lower left abdomen may require immediate medical care.

Causes of lower left abdomen pain

There are several possible causes of lower left abdomen pain. Some causes are more common and benign, while others can be serious and require medical attention.

1. Diverticulitis

Pain in lower left abdomen
Lower left abdomen pain can have many causes.

Diverticulitis is one of the most common causes of lower left abdominal pain. Diverticulitis occurs when diverticula (small pouches) in the intestinal wall become infected and inflamed.

Diverticula form in weak areas of the large intestine, which is often referred to as the colon.

Diverticula are present in many adults. As a person ages, the number of diverticula increases, making it more likely that one will tear or swell. As a result, diverticulitis tends to be more common in older adults, although younger people can still develop the condition.

Diverticulitis pain tends to increase while a person is eating or shortly after a meal.

Additional symptoms of diverticulitis may include:

  • tenderness in the abdomen
  • fever
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • feeling bloated

2. Celiac disease

Celiac disease is a chronic condition that occurs in the digestive tract when a person cannot digest gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat and is present in several foods and healthcare products.

When a person has celiac disease, their immune system attacks portions of the intestine, causing a range of digestive problems and vitamin deficiencies.

Symptoms of celiac disease may include:

  • pressure and gas
  • bloating
  • pain in the abdomen
  • fatigue
  • weight loss
  • diarrhea

Children with undiagnosed celiac disease may also suffer from malnourishment and growth impediments as a result of the condition.

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3. Gas

Gas is often trapped in the digestive tract when a person swallows air while eating, as well as through natural digestion processes.

Typically, gas is not anything to worry about and will pass through either the rectum or esophagus. Gas that is temporarily trapped in the digestive tract can cause pain and discomfort until it moves out of the system.

Gas can be caused by:

  • digesting foods that are prone to releasing gas
  • swallowing air
  • smoking
  • chewing gum
  • overeating
  • undigested foods
  • bacteria

If the gas pain is frequent or accompanied by additional symptoms, a person may wish to speak to a doctor. Other symptoms include:

4. Lactose intolerance

A person who is lactose intolerant has trouble digesting milk and milk-based products, such as cheese and yogurt. This is because the person lacks sufficient amounts of an enzyme called lactase.

Lactase breaks down the lactose in milk, which consists of the simple sugars glucose and galactose.

various dairy products
Lactose intolerence may be a cause of lower left abdomen pain.

When a person has high levels of lactose in their bloodstream, they may develop symptoms associated with lactose intolerance. These symptoms include:

  • loose stool or diarrhea
  • pain in the abdomen
  • bloating
  • gas pain
  • nausea
  • a growling or rumbling stomach

5. Inflammatory bowel diseases

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are chronic conditions that can cause painful inflammation anywhere in the digestive tract.

Crohn’s disease is most common in the small intestine, and ulcerative colitis is most common in the colon.

It is still not known what causes Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. The most common symptoms include pain in the abdomen and bloody diarrhea. It can also cause fever and unexplainable weight loss.

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6. Indigestion

Indigestion is caused by a buildup of acid after eating. For most people, indigestion pain occurs in the upper part of the abdomen. While rare, indigestion can occur in the lower part of the abdomen.

Typically, most cases of indigestion are mild. Symptoms of indigestion include a burning sensation, slight pain or discomfort, heartburn, bloating, or gas.

7. Shingles

Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. Once a person has had chickenpox, the virus stays dormant in the body for their entire life. Sometimes, the virus reappears, causing pain and a rash that wraps around one side of the abdomen.

Vaccines are available to help reduce the risk of a person developing the disease later in life.

Symptoms of shingles include:

  • pain when touched
  • itching
  • tenderness on the skin
  • rash
  • blisters that may break open and scar

A person may feel tenderness and itchiness on one area of the skin before the rash appears. They may also experience a fever or general malaise. Once the rash appears, the pain can be severe.

8. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a chronic gastrointestinal disorder that a doctor may only diagnose once they have ruled out other probable causes of a person’s symptoms.

Symptoms of IBS may include:

  • abdominal pain
  • pressure
  • constipation or diarrhea
  • gas
  • bloating

9. Hernia

A hernia occurs when an organ or other body part pushes through the abdominal wall. Sometimes, a lump may appear in the midsection or near the groin.

There are different types of hernias that vary according to the underlying cause. Because hernias can cause additional problems, it is essential to see a doctor as soon as possible.

Some additional symptoms of hernia complications include:

  • pain when lifting an object
  • pressure
  • increasing pain
  • increasing size of a bulge
  • a general feeling of fullness

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10. Constipation

man sitting on the toilet using his phone
Constipation may be caused by a lack of exercise and a poor diet.

Constipation is when a person cannot pass a stool. Constipation is often caused by poor diet and lack of exercise. Improving diet and increasing exercise are two of the most effective treatments.

Some symptoms of constipation include:

  • straining when passing stool
  • needing to apply pressure to the abdomen to help push out a stool
  • a lumpy or very hard stool
  • feeling like the rectum is blocked
  • feeling like not all the stool has passed
  • having fewer than three bowel movements in a week

11. Kidney stones

Most stones are formed from calcium buildup and can form in either the right or left kidney. A person may develop a kidney stone and not realize they have it until it causes problems, such as blocking part of the kidney, or causing great pain as it is passed.

Typical symptoms of kidney stones include:

  • abdominal pain
  • pain when urinating
  • nausea or vomiting
  • blood in the urine
  • fever
  • frequent urination

12. Intestinal obstruction

When something blocks the intestine, food cannot pass through the digestive tract. This results in a painful back-up that needs immediate medical attention.

Intestinal obstructions are more common in older adults and are typically caused by other conditions, such as diverticulitis or colon cancer.

Common symptoms of an intestinal obstruction include:

  • abdominal pain
  • inability to pass stool
  • distention
  • vomiting
  • constipation

When to see a doctor

It is important to see a doctor for abdominal pain whenever it is unexplainable or is accompanied by additional symptoms. Persistent or chronic pain should be examined to rule out any serious underlying causes.

A doctor can diagnose the cause of the pain and develop a treatment plan that will address the underlying cause of lower left abdominal pain.


In many cases, a person is not likely to experience any lasting effects from abdominal pain.

If the abdominal pain is caused by a chronic condition, such as Crohn’s disease or celiac disease, a doctor can help a person develop a treatment plan to improve their symptoms in the long-term.

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Medical News Today: What are the health benefits of chlorella?

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Medical News Today: What you need to know about pancolitis

Pancolitis is a form of ulcerative colitis that affects the entire large intestine or bowel. It is a type of inflammatory bowel disease.

Its full name is pan-ulcerative colitis and is also sometimes known as total colitis or universal colitis.

Pancolitis is a chronic condition, meaning it develops over a long period and there is currently no known cure.

Overview of ulcerative colitis

Image of the colon - pancolitis
Pancolitis affects the large intestine or bowel.

Ulcerative colitis is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the colon. At the end of the colon is the rectum, which stores feces before it leaves the body.

In ulcerative colitis, small ulcers can develop on the colon, producing pus and mucus. In turn, this can lead to abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, and rectal bleeding.

Experts estimate that around 20 percent of people who have ulcerative colitis will have pancolitis.

Other types of ulcerative colitis include:

  • proctitis
  • proctosigmoiditis
  • left-sided colitis


The main symptoms of pancolitis are:

  • recurring diarrhea, which can contain blood, mucus, or pus
  • abdominal pain and cramps
  • an urgent need to empty the bowels

Other typical symptoms of pancolitis can include:

  • tenesmus — the need to pass stools even when there is nothing in the bowel
  • fatigue, or extreme tiredness
  • weight loss
  • loss of appetite
  • fever
  • night sweats


If a person has not experienced symptoms of pancolitis for a significant period and then they suddenly return, it is known as a flare-up or relapse.

During a flare-up, a person can also experience symptoms elsewhere in the body:

  • painful and swollen joints
  • ulcers in the mouth
  • red, painful, and swollen skin
  • irritated and red eyes
  • shortness of breath
  • fast or irregular heartbeat
  • high temperature
  • bloody stools

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Stress may lead to pancolitis
Unknown triggers such as diet, bacteria, and stress may lead to the development of ulcerative colitis.

Ulcerative colitis is a type of inflammatory bowel disease. It is an autoimmune condition, which means that instead of defending the body against infection, the immune system goes wrong and instead attacks healthy tissue.

The exact cause of ulcerative colitis is not known, but scientists think that a combination of factors leads to the development of the disease.

The different factors include:

  • a genetic predisposition, which the person is born with
  • an abnormal reaction from the digestive system to bacteria in the intestine
  • unknown triggers, such as viruses, bacteria, stress, or diet
  • abnormal immune response

While people of any age can develop pancolitis, it is more commonly diagnosed in those aged between 15 and 25 years old.

Both men and women are equally affected.

Diagnosis and when to see a doctor

When diagnosing pancolitis, the doctor will ask the individual about their symptoms, general health, and medical history.

The doctor might also conduct a physical examination and take stool and blood samples to check for signs of infection and inflammation, among other things.

If the doctor is concerned that a person may have any form of inflammatory bowel disease, then they may refer the individual for further tests, including:

  • Blood tests to look at cell counts and inflammatory markers.
  • X-ray or computerized tomography (CT) scan to rule out serious complications within the abdomen if there are other concerning signs or symptoms.
  • Colonoscopy — a flexible tube containing a camera, called a colonoscope — to examine the colon. During a colonoscopy, the surgeon may take a biopsy. The colon needs to be emptied before a colonoscopy. The procedure takes around 30 minutes and can be uncomfortable.

What are the treatment options?

Treatment for pancolitis will depend on how severe the condition is and how badly the symptoms are affecting the person’s life.

While there is no known cure, the two main aims of treatment are to reduce symptoms until they are gone, known as remission, and then to maintain remission.

The two types of treatment currently available for pancolitis are medication and surgery.


The four main forms of medication given to treat pancolitis are:

  • Aminosalicylates (ASAs) to reduce inflammation. The medicine is available as a tablet or capsule, as a suppository in the rectum, or through an enema. It is prescribed for mild or moderate cases and rarely has side effects.
  • Corticosteroids also used to reduce inflammation. This powerful medicine can be administered orally, as a suppository, or through an enema. Not used as long-term treatment, as corticosteroids can cause serious side effects, such as osteoporosis and cataracts.
  • Immunomodulators to reduce the activity of the immune system. They can be taken as a tablet to treat mild or moderate flare-ups. Immunomodulators can make some people vulnerable to infection and prone to anemia.
  • Biologics target specific components of the immune system involved in inflammation. People take biologics via an intravenous (IV) infusion or injection.


surgeons working on a patient
A treatment option for pancolitis may be surgery, which should be carefully considered.

If flare-ups are having a serious impact on a person’s quality of life, or the person is not responding to medications, then surgery is an option.

Surgery usually involves removal of the colon entirely, which means there is no chance of any form of ulcerative colitis returning.

However, anyone thinking about having this surgery must consider the consequences very seriously.

Once the colon has been removed, waste will instead leave the body from the small intestine via a hole in the abdomen. The waste passes into a special bag, known as an ileostomy.

A second surgery may then be performed at a later time to create an internal pouch called an ileoanal pouch. This pouch connects the small intestine to the anus, allowing stools to pass normally,

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There can be some very serious complications associated with pancolitis:

  • Cancer: The longer a person has had pancolitis, the greater the risk of developing bowel cancer.
  • Toxic megacolon: When inflammation is very severe, and the colon dilates in size. Symptoms include; fever, abdominal pain, dehydration, malnutrition, and colonic rupture. This is a surgical emergency.
  • Anemia: Lack of iron in the blood, caused by blood loss from the condition.
  • Fulminant colitis: A rare and severe form of pancolitis. Symptoms include; dehydration, severe abdominal pain, diarrhea with blood, and shock.


Pancolitis is a chronic condition with no cure and people living with it can experience significant practical and emotional issues.

When someone is having a flare-up, they may have to limit or change their activities. However, during periods of remission most people can lead a normal and healthy life.

Pancolitis can affect relationships and work, but talking to and seeking emotional support from family, friends, and healthcare professionals can help.

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Medical News Today: What can you do to make your nails grow faster?

Fingernails provide more than just a surface to paint. They protect the fingers, make it easier to grab things, and are a convenient way to scratch an itch.

Having longer, healthier fingernails can make the hands look better, and make it easier to type, play a musical instrument, or perform daily tasks.

Nail growth remedies will not typically make the nails grow faster. Instead, they prevent the nails from breaking, helping them look healthier and grow longer.

How fingernails grow

Woman's hands with manicured nails folded over white towel.
A healthy nail bed will ensure the nail plate itself grows properly.

Understanding how the nails grow can make it easier to make lifestyle changes that support nail health.

Nail plate

The hard part of the nail is called the nail plate. The nail plate, much like hair, is made primarily from a protein called keratin.

The nail plate is not made of living tissue, so it is not possible to improve the health of the nail plate. While it is possible to prevent breakage of the nail plate, nail health begins in the nail bed.

Nail bed

The nail bed is the tissue underneath the nail. If the nail breaks off below the fingertip, the nail bed can be exposed. This painful experience makes it clear that the nail bed is living tissue.

At the base of the nail is a structure called the nail matrix, which is where growth begins.

Long-term approaches to nail health support the body to keep the nail and surrounding skin healthy, enabling the nails to grow longer and stronger.

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Myths about nail growth

The nail tissue is already dead by the time it is long enough to be painted, so painting will not affect growth.

It is also a myth that applying vitamins directly to the nails can help them grow. These remedies are unlikely to help. At best, they strengthen the nail and prevent it from breaking.

No specific nail polish, such as a gel or powder, can improve nail health. In fact, some products, particularly those that require harsh methods for removal, can even destroy nail health. The acetone used to remove gel nails can weaken nails despite the gel polish making them look strong and healthy.

Diet and nail health

Dried fruits and nuts in a wooden bowl, including raisins, sultanas, almonds, and hazelnuts.
Dried fruits and nuts contain iron and protein, which may support the health growth of nails.

Like the rest of the body, the nails need a balanced diet to grow, including protein, water, fruits, vegetables, and a wide array of vitamins and minerals.

People who do not get enough iron, for instance, may have brittle nails, or nails with dents. Protein deficiency may cause ridges in the nails.

Some specific diet changes can strengthen the nails and promote growth. Those include:


Some over-the-counter nail supplements contain calcium. Some people think that because calcium strengthens the bones, it might also strengthen the nails.

Some research has found that postmenopausal women with a condition called osteoporosis—which is often due to inadequate calcium intake—experience nail changes.

However, few studies have definitively proven whether or not calcium improves nail health. People at risk of calcium deficiency should consider supplementing their diet with this essential mineral.


As the nails are made of protein, some people think that not including enough protein in the diet may affect nail health.

To increase the amount of protein in the diet, choose lean meats, such as chicken, and fish. Vegetarian sources of protein include lentils, peanuts, nuts, and dairy products, such as cheese and milk.


Biotin is a B-complex vitamin that proponents say can promote healthy hair and nail growth. Biotin may strengthen brittle nails, preventing them from breaking, but there is little evidence that biotin supplements will help the nails grow faster.

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Home remedies

The following home remedies might improve nail health and protect against breakage. These remedies will not make the nails grow faster but may help improve the overall health of nails for optimum growth rates:

Preventing and treating dry skin

Woman applying moisturizing cream or lotion to her hands.
Applying moisturizer to the hands and the skin around the nails may help to encourage healthy nail growth.

Dry skin often means dry nails. Very dry skin can even crack open and bleed, exposing the nails to fungal and bacterial infections.

When the skin surrounding the nail bed or nail matrix is dry, it may even damage the nails as they grow.

Keep hands and nails moisturized during the winter months. Apply lotion after washing hands. People who have eczema should choose eczema-friendly creams that are highly moisturizing.

Keeping the nails dry

Water can weaken the nails, making them soft and brittle. Keep the nails dry by toweling off after swimming or showering.

When washing dishes, clothes, the bathroom, the kitchen floor, the car, or anything else wear gloves to prevent water or cleaning products from sitting on top of the nails.

Filing and grooming the nails

Keeping the nails filed in a natural shape—slightly rounded or squared—can prevent nails from snagging and breaking.

Good nail grooming may also discourage biting and picking.


Medical conditions such as diabetes can reduce circulation to the nails, making them weaker.

While this is more likely to affect the toenails than the fingernails, gentle massage can promote circulation to the nails, offsetting the effects of diabetes and other circulatory issues.

Protecting the cuticles

The cuticles are thin pieces of skin that protect the nail matrix. Cutting them very short can expose the nail matrix or nail bed, damaging the nails and causing infections.

Instead, keep the cuticles moisturized. Do not cut them.

Be cautious about manicures

Some nail salons are sources of nail infections. Aggressive manicure techniques, such as cutting the cuticles very short, can allow bacteria to enter the nail bed and weaken the nails.

Take personal tools to the nail salon, and check a salon’s reputation by reading reviews. If something hurts, ask the technician to stop. Manicures should not be painful.

Avoid harsh polish removers

Acetone polish remover can dry and weaken the nails. Avoid using it, and steer clear of nail polishes that require its use.

If acetone is the only option, avoid soaking the nails in acetone. Instead, rub them with the polish remover, then thoroughly wash and moisturize the hands.

Manage medical conditions

Medical conditions such as diabetes and psoriasis can affect the skin and nails. Instead of treating the nails, address the problem at its source by following a doctor’s treatment recommendations.

If symptoms change or get worse, or if someone has a chronic disease accompanied by nail problems, see a doctor.


The nails can provide an early warning sign to some health problems, such as nutritional deficiencies and diabetes.

If home remedies do not improve the look of the nails, talk to a dermatologist. Treatment for an underlying condition might be the path to better nails.

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Medical News Today: Do you gain weight with a birth control implant?

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Medical News Today: Fertility treatment: Vitamin D may influence success rate

Pregnant woman in the sun
Vitamin D is produced in response to sunlight, but what is its role in fertility?
A new meta-analysis has concluded that there is a relationship between a woman’s vitamin D status and the success rate of assisted reproduction therapy.

Infertility is a common and distressing issue, and it affects an estimated 6.1 million couples in the United States. That’s around 10 percent of all couples of childbearing age.

Over the years, assisted reproduction therapy (ART) — including in vitro fertilization (IVF) and fertility medication — has become much more widespread and its success rates have increased.

As an example, depending on the woman’s age and the clinic involved, success rates of IVF in the U.S. range from 13–43 percent.

An initial uptick in ART success rates was thanks to improved methods of picking out embryos with the highest chances of survival. But more recently, success rates have started to stagnate.

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Vitamin D and reproduction

Researchers believe that there is room for improvement in ART success rates. A range of potential factors are being explored, and some scientists have turned their attention to the potential role of vitamin D.

The vast majority of our vitamin D supply is generated in our skin after exposure to sunlight. This means that individuals who live in colder or darker environments are more susceptible to lower vitamin D levels, as are people with darker skin, those who regularly wear clothes covering the majority of their skin, and those who rarely go outside.

A link between vitamin D and fertility has been theorized based on a number of observations. For instance, vitamin D receptors and enzymes have been found in the endometrium. Also, in animal studies, vitamin D deficiency causes poorer fertility and reduced function of the reproductive organs.

In humans, vitamin D deficiency has been shown to increase the risk of preeclampsia, pregnancy-induced hypertension, gestational diabetes, and lower birth weight.

Researchers from the University of Birmingham and Birmingham Women’s and Children’s National Health Service (NHS) Foundation Trust, both in the United Kingdom, decided to take a look at existing data to probe the links further.

They carried out a meta-analysis, reopening 11 studies including 2,700 women undergoing ART. Their findings are published this week in the journal Human Reproduction.

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Vitamin D deficiency and lower success rates

The featured studies involved women undergoing IVF or intracytoplasmic sperm injection, frozen embryo transfer, or both.

All the participants’ vitamin D levels were checked by blood test. Vitamin D concentrations of more than 75 nanomoles per liter of blood were considered as sufficient, under 75 nanomoles per liter of blood as insufficient, and under 50 nanomoles per liter of blood as deficient.

The analysis showed that procedures in women with adequate vitamin D levels were one third more likely to lead to live births than in women who were deficient.

When the researchers looked at positive pregnancy tests and clinical pregnancies — that is, where a heartbeat can be detected — rather than live births, the results were similar.

When compared with women who had insufficient vitamin D concentrations, those with sufficient amounts were 46 percent more likely to have a clinical pregnancy, and 34 percent more likely to have a positive pregnancy test result.

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The analysis showed no associations between miscarriage and vitamin D concentrations.

One startling finding was the high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency among these women. We found that only 26 percent of women in the studies had sufficient concentrations of vitamin D; 35 percent had deficient concentrations, and 45 percent had insufficient concentrations.”

Study co-author Dr. Ioannis Gallos

The researchers are quick to explain the study’s limitations. Team leader Dr. Justin Chu says, “Although an association has been identified, the beneficial effect of correction of vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency needs to be tested by performing a clinical trial.”

He also adds an important note of caution. “In the meantime,” he says, “women who want to achieve a successful pregnancy should not rush off to their local pharmacy to buy vitamin D supplements until we know more about its effects.”

“It is possible to overdose on vitamin D and this can lead to too much calcium building up in the body, which can weaken bones and damage the heart and kidneys,” he explains.

This current analysis backs up the theory that vitamin D plays an important role in fertilization and pregnancy. Its exact role is still not understood, and the optimum blood concentrations are not yet known. However, testing for vitamin D is relatively simple and cost-effective, so further studies are sure to follow.

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