Medical News Today: Smoking and diabetes ‘risk factors’ for calcium buildup in brain

New dementia research from the Netherlands has revealed that smoking and diabetes are associated with calcium buildup in a part of the brain that is important for memory.
woman holding a cigarette
Both smoking and diabetes are found to be linked to calcium buildup in the brain.

In a report published in the journal Radiology, the study investigators describe how they analyzed brain CT scans of patients with memory problems.

According to lead study author Dr. Esther J.M. de Brouwer, from the Department of Geriatrics at the University Medical Center in Utrecht, in the Netherlands, “We know that calcifications in the hippocampus are common, especially with increasing age.”

She and her colleagues found that, in addition to advancing age, diabetes and smoking were also linked to calcium deposits, or calcifications, in the hippocampus.

Dementia and the hippocampus

Because the hippocampus is a structure in the brain important for short- and long-term memory, it is the subject of much research on dementia, a disease that affects some 50 million people worldwide.

This research has shown, for example, that the hippocampus is “especially vulnerable to damage” during the early development of Alzheimer’s disease, which is the main cause of dementia.

Other causes of dementia include damage to the blood supply to the brain, buildup of abnormal proteins called Lewy bodies, and inflammation.

However, Dr. de Brouwer and team note that current dementia research on the hippocampus tends to focus on degeneration of brain cells and tissues as opposed to abnormalities in the blood supply, or vascular system, that feeds them.

The scientists’ findings could be significant because they support the idea that the “calcifications may be of vascular origin.”

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today

New type of CT scan

A distinguishing feature of the study is that it was able to take advantage of a new type of scan known as a “multiplanar brain CT scan.”

This type of CT scan lets radiologists differentiate between calcium buildup in the hippocampus and that in neighboring structures such as the choroid plexus.

Dr. de Brouwer explains that this scan type also “makes it possible to see the hippocampus in different anatomical planes; for example, from top to bottom, right to left, and front to back.”

The team examined the multiplanar brain CT scans of around 2,000 people who had attended a hospital memory clinic in the Netherlands during 2009–2015. The age of the patients ranged between 45 and 96 years. Their average age was 78.

The CT scans had all been performed as part of diagnostic tests that also included assessment of cognitive function.

The researchers had two goals in mind for their study. One was to investigate any links between risk factors known to cause vascular problems — such as smoking, diabetes, and high blood pressure — and hippocampal calcifications.

The other goal of the study was to discover whether calcium buildup in the hippocampus has an effect on cognitive function.

Smoking and diabetes ‘likely risk factors’

When they analyzed the CT scans, the scientists found that 19 percent of all the study participants had calcifications in their hippocampus.

They also discovered that “older age,” smoking, and diabetes “were associated with the presence of hippocampal calcifications.”

The study design did not permit the scientists to be sure that smoking and diabetes actually raise the risk of hippocampal calcifications.

However, Dr. de Brouwer says that they “do think that smoking and diabetes are risk factors.”

There is evidence to suggest that hippocampal calcifications are a hallmark of vascular disease and “[i]t is well-known that smoking and diabetes are risk factors for cardiovascular disease,” she adds.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today

No link to cognitive function

The team was puzzled that the study found no links between calcium buildup in the hippocampus and cognitive function.

Dr. de Brouwer suggests that this could have been due to some of the limitations of their methods and design.

One limitation, for example, was the fact that there was no “control group” of healthy subjects; all the participants were patients at a memory clinic and had disorders ranging from cognitive impairment to vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Another explanation might lie in the fact that there are several layers in the hippocampus, “and it is possible that the calcifications [found in the study] did not damage the hippocampal structure that is important for memory storage,” notes Dr. de Brouwer.

She and her colleagues are now expanding the research to include other groups in a bid to better understand how calcium buildup in the hippocampus might impact cognitive function.

It is […] likely that smoking and diabetes are risk factors for hippocampal calcifications.”

Dr. Esther J. M. de Brouwer

Source Article from

Medical News Today: Metabolic risk tied to both too much and too little sleep

Do you often struggle because you don’t get enough sleep on a nightly basis? Or perhaps you sleep in as much as you can each day, since your schedule permits it? Neither of these is good for you, a new study suggests, and you may be at risk of metabolic problems.
person snoozing alarm
How might sleep duration influence the risk of metabolic syndrome?

We already know that too little sleep can impact our health in myriad ways, but to what extent does too much sleep effect our well-being?

A study recently conducted by researchers from Seoul National University College of Medicine in South Korea has discovered that both of these extremes are liable to increase the risk of metabolic syndrome.

This refers to a cluster of metabolic conditions, including low glucose tolerance, hypertension, and obesity.

Lead study author Claire E. Kim and her team analyzed data sourced through the Health Examinees (HEXA) study, a large population study investigating the interaction of genetic and environmental factors in the context of chronic disease incidence in South Korea.

Their results — which have been reported in the journal BMC Public Health — not only indicate a correlation between extremes of sleep and metabolic syndrome, but also suggest that the risks may be different depending on a person’s sex.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today

Sleep duration and metabolic syndrome

Kim and team analyzed the medical data of 133,608 men and women aged 40–69. The participants also self-reported how much sleep they got every day, including both night-time sleep and any daytime naps.

The HEXA study included information on the participants’ medical histories, use of medication, modifying lifestyle factors, and family medical history.

All of the volunteers also provided samples of plasma, serum, blood cells, urine, and chromosomal DNA, among other things.

Analyses of the participants’ collected data — including the self-reported information on sleep hygiene — revealed that both fewer than 6 and more than 10 hours of sleep on a daily basis were linked to the presence of metabolic syndrome.

Individuals were deemed to have metabolic syndrome if they presented at least three of these tell-tale symptoms: excess fat around the waist; high triglyceride levels; low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good,” cholesterol; high fasting blood glucose; and hypertension.

Just over 29 percent of the male participants had metabolic syndrome, and 24.5 percent of the women showed signs of this condition. The team noted certain differences in risk patterns.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today

‘Potential gender difference’ observed

So, women who slept little — for fewer than 6 hours per day — were likelier to have a higher waist circumference, indicative of excessive belly fat, than women who slept for 6–7 hours per day.

Men who slept for under 6 hours were more likely to have not just a higher waist circumference, but also metabolic syndrome.

As for oversleeping — defined as more than 10 hours of sleep each day — it was tied to raised triglyceride levels, as well as metabolic syndrome, in men.

But in women, it was linked with even more negative health outcomes: not just metabolic syndrome and high triglyceride levels, but also high blood sugar, low HDL cholesterol, and higher waist circumference.

Of the participants, about 13 percent of the women and 11 percent of the men slept too little, and 1.7 percent of the women and 1.5 percent of the men slept for over 10 hours every day.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today

“This is the largest study examining a dose-response association between sleep duration and metabolic syndrome and its components separately for men and women,” Kim explains.

We observed a potential gender difference between sleep duration and metabolic syndrome, with an association between metabolic syndrome and long sleep in women and metabolic syndrome and short sleep in men.”

Claire E. Kim

It is not clear how sleep patterns might influence the development of metabolic syndrome, but the researchers note that sleep duration could impact the production of key hormones that regulate appetite and how much energy our bodies produce and consume.

Kim and colleagues also note that, although this study’s findings may be compelling, the research observed an association that may not necessarily speak of a cause and effect relationship.

The authors acknowledge some limitations to their study, including the fact that the information on sleep duration was self-reported, so there were no objective measurements in this regard, as well as the fact that the analysis amalgamated night-time sleep and daytime naps.

Source Article from

Medical News Today: Is it bronchitis or asthma?

Asthma and bronchitis are respiratory conditions that can cause airway irritation, inflammation, and coughing. Sometimes, people mistake bronchitis for asthma and vice versa.

Knowing how the two conditions can present themselves is essential, as the treatments people may need are different.

Symptoms of asthma vs. bronchitis

Woman with cough wondering if it's caused by asthma or bronchitis
A cough and shortness of breath are symptoms of both asthma and bronchitis.

Asthma and bronchitis both have a cough as one of the most common symptoms.

Therefore, a doctor will often look for other symptoms of each condition when trying to decide the one a person may have.

Bronchitis symptoms include:

  • a chill
  • general malaise
  • a headache
  • a productive cough with mucus that is white, green, or yellow
  • shortness of breath
  • soreness or tightness in the chest

Sometimes, people who have symptoms that include coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath think they are having a bout of bronchitis when they actually have asthma.

Asthma causes the airways to become inflamed and narrower than usual. People often find they cannot breathe because asthma narrows the airways.

The most common asthma symptoms include:

  • coughing
  • shortness of breath
  • wheezing

People will usually notice symptoms are worse at night or first thing in the morning. People may also notice their asthma symptoms are especially bad after they have experienced certain triggers, such as cigarette smoke, exercise, or pollen.

Can you have asthma and bronchitis at the same time?

People with asthma can also have acute bronchitis. They may notice their asthma symptoms become worse as a consequence. They may experience:

  • shortness of breath
  • wheezing
  • pain and discomfort when breathing

Sometimes, people with severe bronchitis and asthma may have to go to the hospital because mucus has clogged the airways into their lungs so much.

How is each condition diagnosed?

spirometry test
Doctors can use a spirometry test to diagnose asthma.

Doctors can diagnose asthma by taking a health history and asking about a person’s symptoms, such as when they become worse or better.

Doctors can then conduct breathing tests to see if someone is likely to have asthma.

Several different tests exist, but a common one is known as spirometry.

Spirometry involves a person blowing into a sensor that measures how fast and hard they are exhaling their breath.

How forcefully a person can exhale is usually reduced if they have asthma.

A doctor may consider asthma over bronchitis if someone has had a cough that goes away but keeps returning.

An exception is when a person has chronic bronchitis, often because they smoke. Asthma is also often unresponsive to cough medications.

A doctor will diagnose bronchitis by:

  • taking a medical history
  • listening to the lungs
  • considering symptoms

A doctor may also order a chest X-ray to ensure symptoms are not related to pneumonia. They may consider a further round of testing for asthma if the symptoms do not improve in 1 or 2 weeks.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today

What are the causes of each?

Viruses, such as those that cause the common cold, can cause bronchitis as well.

People coming in contact with viruses is how these germs are spread. This can happen when someone else coughs nearby or if they touch an infected person’s hands.

People who also have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can get acute bronchitis if stomach acid refluxes up and into their airways.

Doctors do not know exactly why people develop asthma. They do know that people with a family history of asthma or allergies are more likely to have the condition.

Being exposed at an early age to viruses that cause respiratory infections may also contribute.

What are the treatment options?

woman holding out a glass of water
People with bronchitis should drink plenty of fluids.

There is no cure for bronchitis because a virus is the cause of the condition.

A person should instead engage in actions and behaviors that will support their immune system and give it time to fight off the virus.

Methods to treat bronchitis include:

  • drinking plenty of fluids
  • getting plenty of rest
  • taking over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicines

A doctor may sometimes prescribe an inhaler with a medication designed to help the airways open more if a person is experiencing significant wheezing related to their bronchitis.

An example of this treatment is an albuterol inhaler. This is the same medication doctors also use to treat asthma.

Doctors have several medications they can prescribe to reduce asthma symptoms and incidence, although they do not have a cure. Examples include inhalers that are both quick and long acting to alleviate breathing problems.

Avoiding asthma triggers, such as smoke, allergens, or other irritants, can also help.


People can prevent bronchitis by being careful to avoid the ways that viruses spread. The main way to achieve this is through hand-washing.

A person should always wash their hands before and after eating and frequently throughout the day to prevent the spread of germs.

People cannot prevent asthma, unfortunately. They can, however, avoid asthma triggers that are known to worsen their condition. Examples of triggers include cigarette smoke, pet dander, and seasonal allergies.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today

What is the outlook?

Bronchitis is a temporary condition that should resolve itself with at-home care. There are, however, some who are more likely to have complications. These include the elderly, young children, and those who are immunocompromised, such as people with cancer or diabetes.

Taking medications and avoiding asthma triggers can help people avoid more acute asthma attacks if they have the condition.

People should not refrain from physical activity, even though exercise can trigger asthma attacks in some. A doctor may, instead, suggest they carry a rescue or short-acting inhaler to prevent more acute attacks.

A doctor may also recommend that the individual uses a short-acting inhaler 30 minutes before they begin to exercise.


Both acute bronchitis and asthma can cause symptoms, especially coughing and wheezing. If a cough lingers more than a few weeks, people should see their doctor in case asthma is causing the condition.

There are treatments that can help reduce the symptoms of both conditions, whenever possible, although there is no cure for either one.

Source Article from

Medical News Today: Common symptoms of a sinus infection

A sinus infection, also called sinusitis, is a common and painful condition that causes stuffy, painful pressure in the nasal cavity.

Sinusitis affects around 31 million people in America each year. Most cases of sinusitis are due to a virus and will go away on their own. Viral sinusitis is contagious, so take steps to avoid passing it on to other people.

Bacteria, and in rare cases a fungus, might also be responsible for causing sinusitis.

It can be challenging to tell sinusitis apart from a cold or allergy, so knowing the symptoms of a sinus infection can help with finding the best treatment.

In this article, we look at the symptoms and treatments of sinusitis and explain how to tell the difference between a sinus infection and a cold.

Eleven symptoms of a sinus infection

Woman under blanket unwell with sinusitis
Fatigue and bad breath characterize sinusitis.

The characteristic symptoms of a sinus infection include:

1. Sinus pain and pressure

Fluid trapped in the sinuses can fill the sinus cavities, causing intense pain and pressure. The sinuses may be sensitive to the touch. A person may have an urge to sneeze but be unable to do so.

The pain can be in the cheeks, around the eyes and nose, or in the forehead because these areas are where the sinuses are. Bending over may make the pain worse.

Sometimes, the pressure and pain are intense enough to interfere with sleep.

Sinusitis may also cause the tissue in the nose to swell.

2. A headache

The pressure and pain of sinusitis can cause headaches in the front of the head. Some people find that the pain radiates elsewhere, causing more widespread problems or even neck pain.

3. Postnasal drip

Postnasal drip is mucus that drips from the nose down to the back of the throat. It can cause feelings of hoarseness and congestion, or a sense of pressure in the throat or mouth.

4. Congestion

A person with a sinus infection might have a viral infection or, less commonly, a bacterial or fungal infection in their sinuses. This usually happens where there is fluid trapped in the sinuses in which viruses, bacteria, or fungus can grow. Because of the fluid buildup and inflammation, a person is likely to feel congested.

5. Coughing

A sinus infection can cause mucus and fluid to back up in the throat, which may make the throat itch or feel full. Some people repeatedly cough to try to clear the throat, but others experience uncontrollable coughing.

6. Fever

A fever is a sign that the body is fighting off an infection. Some people develop a fever with a sinus infection. Other symptoms associated with fever include chills, exhaustion, and muscle aches.

7. Brightly colored mucus

Viruses, bacteria, or fungus in the mucus can change its color. People with sinus infections often notice that they cough up green or yellow phlegm, or that the mucus they blow out of their nose is a bright color.

Sinusitis causes a lot of mucus production, and a person may find they are unable to clear the sinuses no matter how often they blow their nose.

8. Fatigue

Fighting a sinus infection demands energy from the body, so it is common to feel fatigued. Some people feel exhausted because they cannot breathe easily or are in pain.

9. Bad breath

The mucus associated with a sinus infection may have a bad odor, which can cause smelly breath or a bad taste in the mouth.

10. Tooth pain

Intense sinus pressure can cause pain in the gums, which can lead to toothaches, gum pain, or general pain in the mouth.

11. Chronic sinus pain

Some sinus infections can become chronic. Anyone who experiences sinus pain and pressure that lasts several weeks and that is unrelated to an allergy or infection might have chronic sinusitis.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today

Is it a sinus infection or cold?

Man in office blowing nose in tissue.
Swelling and tenderness of the face are common symptoms of sinusitis, but not a cold.

It can be difficult to tell the difference between a sinus infection and a cold as the symptoms can be very similar. Sinus infections often develop after a cold.

Sinusitis tends to last longer than a cold. Cold symptoms tend to get steadily worse, peaking at 3–5 days, then gradually get better. Sinus infections may last 10 days or more.

Some symptoms are more likely to be caused by sinusitis than a cold, including:

  • swelling of the tissue in the nose
  • bad breath
  • green discharge from the nose
  • swollen or tender face

Unlike a cold, sinusitis can become chronic, which means it lasts longer than 3 months. Chronic sinusitis causes swelling and irritation in the sinuses and usually develops after a person has had acute sinusitis. Sometimes the symptoms go away and then come back again. Ongoing sinus symptoms —even if they get better and then come back — may indicate chronic sinusitis.

Treating a sinus infection

Sinus infections often go away on their own without medical treatment. There are, however, some things a person can do at home to relieve the bothersome symptoms.

To treat sinusitis symptoms with home remedies, try:

  • Applying a warm compress to the sinuses, which eases pain and pressure by loosening up the fluid in the sinuses.
  • Using a nasal wash or sinus rinse, such as a saline spray or neti pot, which are available from drug stores and online.
  • Taking antihistamine tablets to reduce inflammation in the sinuses; there is a variety of antihistamines available in supermarkets and online.
  • Using a nasal decongestant spray to help clear the sinuses and relieve pressure. These sprays are also available to buy from drug stores or online.

Avoid using decongestants on a long-term basis without talking to a doctor first because they can make congestion worse if used for too long.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today

When to see a doctor

Man with sinusitis at doctors.
Discuss intense sinus pain with a doctor.

A person may wish to talk to their doctor if:

  • symptoms last longer than 7 to 10 days
  • a child has a fever for more than a day or two
  • the pain is very intense
  • a person with a suspected sinus infection has a weakened immune system due to a medical condition, drugs that suppress the immune system, or organ failure

Treatment depends on the cause. If bacteria caused the infection and symptoms are severe or last more than a week, a doctor might prescribe antibiotics. Antibiotics do not work for chronic sinusitis or a sinus infection caused by a virus.

A doctor may also prescribe steroids to relieve pain and pressure. These can help whether the infection is bacterial or viral, and may also help with chronic sinus infections.

If other treatments are not effective, a doctor may recommend surgery to treat severe, chronic sinusitis. Surgeons can move the bones to open the sinuses or fix problems with bones surrounding the sinuses.

Some people may also have nasal polyps that cause frequent sinus infections, and a surgeon can easily remove these. Most surgeries for chronic sinusitis are outpatient procedures, which means a person can go home the same day as surgery.


The outlook for most cases of sinusitis is good. Sinus infections often clear up on their own within a week or two. When they do not, the infection may be bacterial, and antibiotics can help.

Although rare, fungal sinus infections can be severe and hard to treat.

With proper medical care, most people with sinusitis recover well. However, if the infection does not get better after 3 months, a doctor might refer someone to an ear, nose, and throat specialist, who can identify and treat the underlying cause of chronic sinusitis.

Source Article from

Medical News Today: Eleven tips for white spots on teeth

There are several possible causes for white spots on teeth, including dental fluorosis, enamel hypoplasia, poor dental hygiene, and eating too many acidic or sugary foods.

Although people may see white spots on their teeth as undesirable, they rarely need to be a serious cause for concern from a medical point of view.

In this article, we look at the reasons why people might get white spots on their teeth, and provide 11 tips for treating and preventing them.


dental fluorosis<!--mce:protected %0A--><br>Image credit: Matthew Ferguson 57, 2015</br>
Dental fluorosis is a common cause of white spots on the teeth.

Image credit: Matthew Ferguson 57, 2015

There are several possible causes of white spots on the teeth.

A common cause is dental fluorosis.

People usually get this when they are young if they consumed too much fluoride as a child. It is usually a harmless condition that only tends to develop before the teeth break through the gums.

Another common cause is enamel hypoplasia.

This condition occurs when a person’s teeth enamel does not form properly. Like fluorosis, hypoplasia only occurs during childhood when a person’s teeth are still developing. However, it can increase the risk of tooth decay.

Other causes of white spots on the teeth include poor dental hygiene, especially when someone is wearing braces, or eating too many acidic or sugary foods.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today


There are several possible treatments for white spots on the teeth. The suitability of these treatments may depend on the underlying cause of the white spots and the condition of a person’s teeth.

1. Enamel microabrasion

Some people may be able to have microabrasion done to treat their white spots. During this procedure, a dentist removes a small amount of enamel from the teeth to reduce the appearance of the white spots.

This professional treatment is typically followed by teeth bleaching, which can make the teeth appear more uniform in color.

2. Teeth whitening or bleaching

Whitening or bleaching teeth can help to reduce the appearance of white spots and other stains. A variety of teeth whitening products, such as strips and paste, are available over-the-counter (OTC.) People can also buy these products online.

People with white spots can also see a dentist for professional whitening treatments. These treatments tend to use stronger bleaching solutions than those available OTC, which may make them work better.

3. Dental veneer

Dental veneers are thin, protective coverings that attach to the front surface of a person’s teeth. They can conceal white spots and other blemishes very effectively.

Dental veneers are only available from a dentist and must be professionally fitted. This can make them costly.

4. Topical fluoride

A dentist may apply topical fluoride to the teeth of people with enamel hypoplasia. This may encourage the development of enamel on the teeth and help prevent tooth decay.

5. Composite resin.

For people with enamel hypoplasia, a dentist may apply composite resin to fill in cavities and to bond the outer enamel of the teeth. This may not be suitable if people have large numbers of white spots on their teeth.

Preventive tips

enamel hypoplasia <br>Image credit: Maurizio Procaccini et al, Head & Face Medicine, 2007</br>
People with enamel hypoplasia may have a higher risk of dental damage.
Image credit: Maurizio Procaccini et al, Head & Face Medicine, 2007

Practicing excellent dental hygiene can help prevent white spots on teeth as well as other stains, tooth decay, gum disease, or other dental problems.

The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends that people brush twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste and floss between their teeth once daily.

For most people, white spots on teeth develop before they reach the age of 10 years old. This may vary in some people.

Therefore, it is essential that people encourage their children to have good dental hygiene and other prevention habits. This can help them ensure their teeth stay healthy and strong.

Following the tips below may help prevent white spots from developing on children’s teeth:

6. Using fluoride-free water

For babies who primarily feed on infant formula, making up their formula milk with fluoride-free water may help to prevent excess buildup of fluoride in their teeth.

7. Using the right amount of toothpaste

For children under the age of 3 years old, people should ensure that they are not using more than a smear of toothpaste, or an amount the size of a grain of rice, on their toothbrush.

For children over the age of 3 years old, carers should ensure they are not using more than a pea-sized amount of toothpaste.

Young children often fail to spit toothpaste out, so using a small amount can help reduce their overall fluoride exposure. Supervising a child’s brushing can help to ensure that they are using an appropriate amount of toothpaste and not swallowing too much.

8. Testing well water

People should consider having their water tested for fluoride levels on a yearly basis if they have had their homes connected to private wells. This policy is vital for anyone who has young children as natural fluoride levels can vary greatly in different places.

9. Following fluoride supplement recommendations

The ADA recommend dietary fluoride supplements for children aged between 6 months and 16 years old living in areas without fluoridated water who have a high risk of developing tooth decay. These supplements should only be used if a doctor or dentist prescribes them for someone.

10. Reducing sugary and acidic foods and drinks

Soda being poured into a glass of ice
Soda and sports drinks may damage tooth enamel and cause tooth decay.

Tooth enamel can be damaged and the risk of tooth decay increased by some foods and drinks, especially ones high in sugars or acids.

Foods and drinks to be aware of include the following:

  • citrus juices and fruits, such as grapefruit, lemons, and oranges
  • hard candies and other sugary sweets
  • sodas and other drinks high in sugars, including sports drinks

While occasionally eating these foods and drinks may be harmless, eating too much or too many can lead to damage and blemishes, including white spots.

Drinking water after consuming these foods can help wash them off the teeth and reduce the chances of damage. Drinking through a straw may also help.

11. Seeing a dentist

Anyone concerned about their dental health, or that of their child, should talk to a dentist.

Although white spots on the teeth may be less than desirable, they are usually not a cause for concern. However, people with enamel hypoplasia may be at increased risk of dental damage and decay.

If a person notices that the white spots on their teeth are changing in size or number, or they are starting to have tooth pain, they should see their dentist.

A dentist can evaluate the symptoms and condition of the teeth and will recommend a treatment plan, if necessary.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today


People rarely need to be overly concerned about while white spots on their teeth and they can treat them for cosmetic purposes if they wish.

A dentist can recommend interventions, such as professional whitening or the application of veneers, to make the teeth appear more uniform in color.

Anyone who is worried about white spots on their teeth should visit their dentist for an examination.

Source Article from

Medical News Today: Type 2 diabetes: New pill could ‘mimic the effects of surgery’

Researchers have engineered a material that temporarily coats the small intestine and reduces the amount of glucose that enters the bloodstream during digestion.
female scientist holding new pill
Scientists ‘envision a pill’ that ‘mimics surgery’ for people with diabetes.

When they tested the material — which is called Luminal Coating of the Intestine (LuCI) — on rats, they found that it reduced “glucose response” by almost half.

The scientists developed the material because they want to find a noninvasive treatment for reversing type 2 diabetes that is as effective as surgery.

The intention is that once swallowed and in the gut, LuCI forms a temporary coating and then dissolves harmlessly a few hours later.

A paper now published in the journal Nature Materials reports how the material temporarily coated the intestine in rats, acted as a partial barrier to nutrient absorption, and prevented blood sugar “spikes” following a meal.

“We envision a pill,” notes co-senior study author Prof. Jeff Karp, who is a bioengineer and principal investigator from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA, “that a patient can take before a meal that transiently coats the gut to replicate the effects of surgery.”

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today

Type 2 diabetes and obesity surgery

In type 2 diabetes, the body does not respond properly to insulin, which is the hormone that helps cells to convert blood sugar, or glucose, into energy.

The pancreas, or the organ that produces insulin, tries to compensate by raising insulin production. But eventually, this is not enough, and glucose levels start to increase, creating the conditions for prediabetes, and then type 2 diabetes.

If left untreated, high blood sugar can lead to severe health impairments that include damage to organs such as the eyes, the kidneys, and the heart.

Around 90–95 percent of the 30 million people in the United States who have diabetes have type 2. It most often develops in adults who are in their mid-40s and older, but more and more children and younger adults are also being diagnosed with it.

The researchers note that gastric bypass surgery is “one of the most commonly performed weight loss procedures” for treating obesity both in the U.S. and globally.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today

It creates a small “gastric pouch” and effectively causes food to bypass a “significant portion of the stomach” and part of the small intestine.

The researchers point to evidence that, in obese people who have type 2 diabetes, the procedure also results in early “improvement or complete resolution” of their diabetes that happens to be “independent” of weight loss.

But even though the surgery can dramatically improve quality of life and reverse type 2 diabetes, few patients pursue the option, according to co-senior study author Ali Tavakkoli.

He is a co-director of the Center for Weight Management and Metabolic Surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and an associate professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School, also in Boston, MA.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today

‘Physical coating on the bowel’

In their study paper, the researchers describe how they developed then tested an “orally delivered therapeutic platform” that creates a temporary “physical coating on the bowel.”

They began with a search for the right material. An important requirement was that it should stick to the small intestine and then dissolve a few hours later.

Using these criteria, with glucose as a “primary target” due to their interest in type 2 diabetes, their search led them to an approved drug called sucralfate, used to treat gastric ulcers.

Using sucralfate as the basis, the scientists engineered a new substance — LuCI — that can form a coating on intestinal lining without having to be activated with gastric acid. In dry powder form, it can also be encapsulated in a pill.

“We’ve used a bioengineering approach,” explains co-lead author Dr. Yuhan Lee, who works as a materials scientist in engineering and medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, “to formulate a pill that has good adhesion properties and can attach nicely to the gut in a preclinical model. And after a couple of hours, its effects dissipate.”

Reduced glucose response in rats

When they tested LuCI in rats, they found that it formed a thin coating on the gut that changed the “nutrient contact” with the small intestine and reduced glucose response following a meal.

Usually, following a meal, glucose levels in the blood go up and stay up for a while. But 1 hour after the rats received LuCI in oral form, the glucose response was reduced by 47 percent. Also, the effect on glucose response was not lasting; it dissipated some 3 hours later.

The researchers are continuing to investigate LuCI in rodent models of obesity and diabetes. They want to test the short- and long-term effects of the material, as well as find out whether it could be used to deliver drugs — and other substances such as proteins — directly to the gut.

Having a transient coating that could mimic the effects of surgery would be a tremendous asset for patients and their care providers.”

Prof. Ali Tavakkoli

Source Article from

Medical News Today: Skull-drilling: The ancient roots of modern neurosurgery

Over the years, archeologists across the world have unearthed many ancient and medieval skeletons with mysterious holes in their skulls. It turned out that these holes were evidence of trepanation, an “ancestor” of modern brain surgery.
skull with a hole
Ancient Peruvians may have been better at handling skull perforation procedures than their modern-day counterparts.

Evidence of holes being drilled into the skull for medical purposes, or “trepanation,” has been traced back to the Neolithic period — about 4000 B.C. — and it might have been practiced even earlier.

When it comes to the reasons why trepanation was practiced at all, opinions differ.

The operation may have been performed for various reasons across civilizations and eras.

Some of the trepanations may have been done for ritualistic purposes, but many others were probably performed to heal.

In a medical context, research has shown that trepanation was likely used to treat various types of head injuries and to relieve intracranial pressure.

Fascinatingly, the most cases of ancient trepanation have been found in Peru, where it was also also seen to have the highest survival rate.

A new study, in fact, shows that trepanation performed in the Incan period (early 15th–early 16th century) had higher survival rates than even modern trepanation procedures, such as those that were performed during the American Civil War (1861–1865) on soldiers who had suffered head trauma.

Dr. David S. Kushner, a clinical professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in Florida, alongside world expert on Peruvian trepanantion John W. Verano and his former graduate student Anne R. Titelbaum, explain — in an article that is now published in the World Neurosurgery journal — that trepanation was surprisingly well developed in the Inca Empire.

“There are still many unknowns about the procedure and the individuals on whom trepanation was performed, but the outcomes during the Civil War were dismal compared to Incan times,” says Dr. Kushner.

In Incan times, the mortality rate was between 17 and 25 percent, and during the Civil War, it was between 46 and 56 percent. That’s a big difference. The question is how did the ancient Peruvian surgeons have outcomes that far surpassed those of surgeons during the American Civil War?”

Dr. David S. Kushner

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today

Ancient Peruvians vs. modern Americans

The researchers suggest that one reason why skull-drilling practices during the Civil War may have had such dismal outcomes was the subpar hygiene involved in such operations, wherein surgeons used unsterlized tools and their bare — perhaps unclean — hands.

“If there was an opening in the skull [Civil War surgeons] would poke a finger into the wound and feel around, exploring for clots and bone fragments,” Dr. Kushner says of the gruesome practice.

At the same time, he admits, “We do not know how the ancient Peruvians prevented infection, but it seems that they did a good job of it.”

Dr. Kushner also believes that the Peruvians may have used something akin to anesthetic to make the procedure more bearable, and his first guess is coca leaves — which have been used for medicinal purposes by Andean populations for centuries.

“[We still do not] know what they used as [anesthetic], but since there were so many [cranial surgeries] they must have used something — possibly coca leaves,” Dr. Kushner surmises, though he concedes that other substances may also have been employed.

The fact that the ancient Peruvians were clearly doing something well when it came to trepanation is supported by the evidence of over 800 prehistoric skulls bearing between one and seven precision holes.

All of these skulls were discovered along the coasts or in the Andean regions of Peru, with the earliest skulls dated as early as 400 B.C.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today

Very high survival rates for ancient patients

Combined evidence — detailed by John Verano and colleagues in a book published 2 years ago, Holes in the Head: The Art and Archaeology of Trepanation in Ancient Peru — suggests that the ancient Peruvians had spent many a decade perfecting their trepanation knowledge and skills.

At first, in around 400–200 B.C., the survival rates following a trepanation weren’t all that high, and about half of the patients did not survive, the researchers argue. The team was able to assess the outcomes by looking at how much — if at all — the bone surrounding the trepanation holes had healed after the procedure.

Where no healing seemed to have occurred, the team thought it safe to conclude that the patient had either survived for a short period of time or had died during the procedure.

When, to the contrary, the bone showed extensive remodeling, the researchers took it as a sign that the person operated upon had lived to tell the tale.

Dr. Kushner and team found that, based on these signs, in 1000–1400 A.D., trepanation patients saw very high survival rates, of up to 91 percent in some cases. During the Incan period, this was 75–83 percent, on average.

This, the researchers explain in their paper, is due to ever-improving techniques and knowledge that the Peruvians acquired over time.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today

One such important advance was understanding that they should be careful not to penetrate the dura mater, or the protective layer found just under the skull, which protects the brain.

“Over time,” says Dr. Kushner, “from the earliest to the latest, they learned which techniques were better, and less likely to perforate the dura.” He continues, “They seemed to understand head anatomy and purposefully avoided the areas where there would be more bleeding.”

Based on the evidence offered by the human remains uncovered in Peru, the researchers saw that other advances in trepanation practice also occurred.

Dr. Kushner goes on to explain, “[The ancient Peruvians] also realized that larger-sized trepanations were less likely to be as successful as smaller ones. Physical evidence definitely shows that these ancient surgeons refined the procedure over time.”

He calls this ancient civilization’s progress when it came to this risky procedure “truly remarkable.”

It is these and similar practices that — directly or indirectly — have shaped modern neurosurgery, which has a high rate of positive outcomes.

“Today, neurosurgical mortality rates are very, very low; there is always a risk but the likelihood of a good outcome is very high. And just like in ancient Peru, we continue to advance our neurosurgical techniques, our skills, our tools, and our knowledge,” says Dr. Kushner.

Source Article from

Medical News Today: Can tea tree oil treat eczema?

Tea tree oil derives from the leaves of the Australian tea tree Melaleuca alternifolia. Many people use the oil for medicinal purposes, including healing cuts and wounds.

Today, people use tea tree oil to treat a variety of skin disorders, and it may help people with eczema. In this article, learn more about the effects of applying tea tree oil to the skin.

Benefits of tea tree oil for eczema

Essential oil bottle with dropper for eczema.
Eczema may respond well to treatment with tea tree oil.

While there are few studies specifically on tea tree oil as an eczema treatment, researchers do know quite a lot about its many skin-improving properties.

For example, a 2011 study found that tea tree oil was more effective in treating eczema than topical treatments of zinc oxide or ichthammol.

Other potential benefits of tea tree oil for eczema include:

1. Reducing inflammation

Tea tree oil contains the compound terpinen-4-ol. This compound has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help alleviate some of the redness, irritation, and swelling associated with eczema.

2. Wound healing

According to an article in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, tea tree oil reduced healing times for people with wounds infected with Staphylococcus aureus.

However, the experimental study was small, so more research needs to be done to test tea tree oil’s wound-healing abilities.

3. Reducing allergic reactions

One study found that applications of high-dose tea tree oil helped to reduce skin hypersensitivity reactions to nickel in people with a nickel allergy.

Eczema is sometimes triggered or made worse by skin allergens and irritants, such as nickel.

However, applications containing lower doses of tea tree oil did not produce the same results.

High-dose tea tree oil applications may produce unwanted side effects, especially in people with sensitive skin. A person should test the preparation on a small patch of the skin before applying to a larger area. People who are sensitive to tea tree oil can dilute it in a carrier oil.

4. Fighting off viruses

Not only can tea tree oil help to kill unwanted bacteria, but it also has antiviral properties.

An antiviral treatment, such as tea tree, can reduce the chances of an infection developing if the eczema causes broken skin or it is weeping.

5. Reducing dandruff

Tea tree oil has anti-fungal properties, which can help to reduce the activity of specific yeasts, such as those known to cause dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis. Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic form of eczema.

Tea tree oil is also used to treat athlete’s foot and nail fungus.

6. Relieving itching

Itchy skin is a hallmark of eczema. One review found that tea tree oil was effective in reducing itching when used for eczema on the scalp.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today

Where to use tea tree oil

Person putting facial oil lotion on cotton pad in bathroom.
It is essential to mix tea tree oil with a carrier oil before use on the skin.

While it is okay to use tea tree oil on virtually any external area of the body, it is essential to do so safely.

If applying to the face, use preparations specifically designed for the face, scalp, or eyelashes. The skin on the face and scalp is sensitive, so a person should take care when treating eczema, acne, and dandruff.

If using a pure essential tea tree oil, it is crucial to mix just a few drops into a carrier oil, such as coconut or almond oil.

It is best to do a test patch by applying a small amount of tea tree oil to a small area of skin and waiting 24 hours. If there is no reaction after 24 hours, it may be safe to use.

A person should always check with their doctor before using tea tree oil preparations to ensure they will not interfere with other eczema treatments.

Side effects

Tea tree oil can be very potent if not diluted. However, the oil is often sold in low concentrations, such as 5 percent tea tree oil, as adverse effects are usually related to higher concentrations.

Examples of these side effects include:

  • allergic skin rash or contact dermatitis
  • dryness
  • itching
  • skin irritation
  • swelling

If a person uses tea tree oil in a concentration of 5 percent or less, they are less likely to experience these side effects.

However, if a person experiences a skin rash after applying tea tree oil, they should stop using the product and speak to a doctor.

A person should never consume tea tree oil. Doing so is known to cause significant adverse effects, including confusion and problems with muscle coordination.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today


People use topical tea tree oil applications to treat a range of skin conditions, including eczema.

Products containing tea tree oil are available at some pharmacies, health food stores, or online.

The anti-inflammatory and anti-itching properties of tea tree can help reduce some of the most significant symptoms associated with eczema.

While there is no cure for eczema, tea tree oil combined with moisturizers and topical steroids may help improve bothersome symptoms.

Source Article from

Medical News Today: This ‘light-activated’ drug could treat Parkinson’s

For the very first time, scientists have developed a light-activated drug for treating Parkinson’s disease directly in a targeted part of the brain.
light abstract image
A new light-activated drug could help to treat Parkinson’s disease.

The drug — which is activated by shining light down an optical fiber implanted in the brain — reduced Parkinson’s symptoms and improved motor function in mice.

In a paper about the work now published in the Journal of Controlled Release, the international team suggests that the “light-operated” drug could potentially treat other movement disorders.

When activated by light, the drug — called MRS7145 — blocks a protein called the “adenosine A2A receptor.”

Previous studies have already suggested that the adenosine A2A receptor is a promising target for brain disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.

However, as the authors explain in their paper, adenosine receptors are located throughout the brain, making it difficult to use them for selecting and targeting only specific parts of the brain.

By allowing “the spatiotemporal control of receptor function,” the new light-activated drug overcomes “some of these limitations,” note the authors.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today

Parkinson’s and photopharmacology

In excess of 10 million of the world’s population has Parkinson’s disease, including 1 million people in the United States alone.

The disease is lifelong and gets worse with time. It mainly affects movement, producing tremors, stiffness, slowness, and problems with balance and coordination. Nonmovement symptoms can also arise, such as constipation, disturbed sleep, depression, anxiety, and fatigue.

Parkinson’s disease does not usually strike before the age of 50; only around 10 percent of cases are diagnosed at an earlier age.

It arises due to death of nerve cells, or neurons, in a part of the brain called the substantia nigra. These neurons make a chemical messenger called dopamine, which, among other things, is important for controlling movement.

The goal of many drugs intended to treat Parkinson’s disease is to restore dopamine levels in the brain. The blocking of adenosine receptors has been suggested as a target for such treatments, because it can raise dopamine levels.

Photopharmacology is a relatively new medical field that develops drugs whose power can only be switched on and off using light.

The approach offers the possibility of controlling the precise location of drug release in the body, thereby limiting any off-target side effects. An example is the precise targeting of chemotherapy drugs to specific cancer cells.

It also allows precise timing of the release of the drug. The release of type 2 diabetes drugs that individuals can switch on and off as and when required is an example of this.

Precisely timed dosing is a distinct advantage in the use of drugs that gradually lose their efficacy and thus require bigger doses to work. This is what happens with levodopa, the most common drug for treating Parkinson’s disease.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today

Light-activated drug tested in mice

MRS7145 is a light-sensitive derivate of “SCH442416, [which is] a selective antagonist of adenosine A2A receptor.”

The compound is chemically inactive until it is irradiated with light of wavelength 405 nanometers, which is in the violet, visible part of the spectrum and not harmful to tissue.

For their study, the researchers ran a series of tests. First, they showed that the drug responded to being triggered by light in cells expressing the adenosine A2A receptor and blocked the receptor.

Then they tested the drug’s effect on motor function in live mice. They implanted an optical fiber into the appropriate part of the mice’s brains: the striatum.

When they shone light of the correct wavelength down the fiber, the mice showed “significant hyperlocomotion.” This treatment also reduced the effect of drug-induced rigidity and tremor.

Finally, they showed that the approach also reversed “motor impairment” in a mouse model of Parkinson’s disease.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today

Remote-controlled ‘patch’

Co-corresponding author Dr. Francisco Ciruela, of the Institute of Neurosciences at the University of Barcelona in Spain, explains that there are already treatments for Parkinson’s disease that use wires implanted into the brain.

He and his colleagues caution that it is still very early days yet, and that there is a lot of work to do before the light-activated drug is ready for clinical use in a similar way.

Nevertheless, he envisages a future in which the patient has a light-generating “patch” connected to the implanted fiber.

Activation of the light, and thereby the timing of drug release, could be controlled remotely by the doctor through a smartphone app.

Such an approach may also help to minimize dose-timing problems that typically occur in treating long-term illnesses, when commitment to treatment schedules can begin to flag.

A fine time-space precision will enable manipulating the neural circuits in detail and set the functioning of those with therapeutic and neuroprotective purposes.”

Dr. Francisco Ciruela

Source Article from

Medical News Today: What is knee arthroscopy?

Knee arthroscopy is a procedure that involves a surgeon investigating and correcting problems with a small tool called an arthroscope. It is a less invasive method of surgery used to both diagnose and treat issues in the joints.

The arthroscope has a camera attached, and this allows doctors to inspect the joint for damage. The procedure requires very small cuts in the skin, which gives arthroscopy some advantages over more invasive surgeries.

Knee arthroscopy has risen to popularity because it usually requires shorter recovery times.The procedure typically takes less than 1 hour, and serious complications are uncommon.

In this article, learn more about what to expect from knee arthroscopy.

Uses and benefits

Knee arthroscopy
Knee arthroscopy may help to diagnose damaged cartilage and persistent joint pain.

Knee arthroscopy is less invasive than open forms of surgery. A surgeon can diagnose issues and operate using a very small tool, an arthroscope, which they pass through an incision in the skin.

Knee arthroscopy may be helpful in diagnosing a range of problems, including:

  • persistent joint pain and stiffness
  • damaged cartilage
  • floating fragments of bone or cartilage
  • a buildup of fluid, which must be drained

In most of these cases, arthroscopy is all that is needed. People may choose it instead of other surgical procedures because arthroscopy often involves:

  • less tissue damage
  • a faster healing time
  • fewer stitches
  • less pain after the procedure
  • a lower risk of infection, because smaller incisions are made

However, arthroscopy may not be for everyone. There is little evidence that people with degenerative diseases or osteoarthritis can benefit from knee arthroscopy.

How to prepare

Many doctors will recommend a tailored preparation plan, which may include gentle exercises.

It is important for a person taking any prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medications to discuss them with the doctor. An individual may need to stop taking some medications ahead of the surgery. This may even include common OTC medications, such as ibuprofen (Advil).

A person may need to stop eating up to 12 hours before the procedure, especially if they will be general anesthesia. A doctor should provide plenty of information about what a person is allowed to eat or drink.

Some doctors prescribe pain medication in advance. A person should fill this prescription before the surgery so that they will be prepared for recovery.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today


Knee arthroscopy surgery
In most cases, the procedure will take less than an hour.

The type of anesthetic used to numb pain will depend on the extent of the arthroscopy.

A doctor may inject a local anesthetic to numb the affected knee only. If both knees are affected, the doctor may use a regional anesthetic to numb the person from the waist down.

In some cases, doctors will use a general anesthetic. In this case, the person will be completely asleep during the procedure.

If the person is awake, they may be allowed to watch the procedure on a monitor. This is entirely optional, and some people may not be comfortable viewing this.

The procedure starts with a few small cuts in the knee. Surgeons use a pump to push saline solution into the area. This will expand the knee, making it easier for the doctors to see their work.

After the knee is expanded, the surgeons insert the arthroscope. The attached camera allows the surgeons to explore the area and identify any problems. They may confirm earlier diagnoses, and they may take pictures.

If the problem can be fixed with arthroscopy, the surgeons will insert small tools through the arthroscope and use them to correct the issue.

After the problem is fixed, the surgeons will remove the tools, use the pump to drain the saline from the knee, and stitch up the incisions.

In many cases, the procedure takes less than 1 hour.


Like any surgery, knee arthroscopy poses some risks, though serious complications are uncommon.

A person has an increased risk of infection and excessive bleeding during and after the surgery.

The use of anesthesia also comes with risks. In some people, it may cause allergic reactions or breathing difficulties.

Some risks are specific to knee arthroscopy. They include:

  • chronic stiffness in the knee
  • accidental damage to tissues and nerves
  • infection inside the knee
  • bleeding in the joints
  • blood clots

These risks are uncommon, and most people recover without incident.


ice pack being applied to the knee
Applying an ice pack to the knee might help reduce swelling.

Recovering from arthroscopy is usually quicker than recovering from open surgery.

Most people leave the hospital on the day of the operation with specific instructions about how to handle recovery.

General recovery tips can include:

  • applying ice packs to the dressing and surrounding area to reduce swelling and pain
  • keeping the leg elevated for several days after surgery
  • resting well and often
  • changing the dressing regularly
  • using crutches and following the doctor’s recommendations about applying weight to the knee

Doctors will typically give specific instructions before a person leaves the hospital. They may also prescribe painkillers or recommend OTC drugs for pain management.

In some cases, doctors may recommend taking aspirin to reduce the risk of blood clots.

Recovery times can vary. A person may be able to return to light activity in 1–3 weeks and resume most other physical activities in 6–8 weeks.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today


Before and after knee arthroscopy, exercises can help. Working with a physical therapist to strengthen the muscles around the knee may help the knee to fully recover.

Doctors may also teach a person some simple stretches and exercises to do at home.

Exercises are a crucial part of treatment. They are needed to restore the knee’s full strength and range of motion.

The choice of exercises will depend on the extent of the problem and a person’s overall condition. It is essential to speak with a doctor or physical therapist before trying exercises at home.


The outlook following knee arthroscopy varies from person to person. The severity and type of knee problem can influence the outcome of surgery.

A person’s commitment and ability to support their recovery can also play a role in the outcome.

Many regain full use of their knees after arthroscopy if they follow their doctors’ recovery plans, which include doing exercises and practicing self-care.

Source Article from