Medical News Today: Could this experimental ‘recipe’ fight colon cancer?

Researchers are experimenting with engineered probiotics and cruciferous vegetables in an effort to pave the way to a more effective weapon against colorectal cancer.
cruciferous vegetables
A ‘cocktail’ of engineered probiotics and broccoli could be the next step in the fight against colon cancer.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) deem colorectal cancer the third most common type of cancer to be diagnosed, as well as the second most common cause of cancer-related mortality in the United States.

And, according to data from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), there were an estimated 135,430 new cases of colorectal cancer in 2017.

Survival rates following treatment for this type of cancer are generally encouraging; 64.9 percent of patients have a long-term survival rate.

However, in the more advanced stages of the disease, the outcomes following treatment are less optimistic, and the likelihood of tumor recurrence also increases.

Now, Dr. Chun-Loong Ho, Prof. Matthew Chang, and colleagues, from the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine at the National University of Singapore in Clementi, are investigating new ways to treat colorectal cancer and to prevent its recurrence.

The researchers have started experimenting with a mix of engineered probiotics and substances derived from cruciferous vegetables — such as broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts — to, ultimately, devise an effective anti-cancer “cocktail” from readily available ingredients.

Their results were reported earlier this week in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering.

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At the core, a genetically engineered microbe

Dr. Ho and his colleagues focused on Escherichia coli Nissle, which is a non-pathogenic (meaning non-disease-causing) microbe. They genetically engineered this E. coli strain into a probiotic that would be able to bind to a protein found in colorectal cancer cells. Thus, an enzyme called myrosinase would be produced.

Myrosinase can then be used to convert glucosinolate, which is a component found in cruciferous vegetables, into a by-product called sulphoraphane, which, researchers have shown, can have a protective effect against cancer cells.

Dr. Ho and colleagues were hoping that the sulphoraphane thus produced would interact with the cancer cells surrounding it and annihilate them.

Since regular, non-cancerous cells cannot convert glucosinolates — and since they are not affected by sulphoraphane — the researchers believed that only colorectal cancer cells would be targeted by the substance.

In vitro, as well as in vivo, experiments confirmed Dr. Ho and colleagues’ hypothesis. Adding the engineered E. coli together with either broccoli extract or a solution of glucosinolates to a petri dish containing colorectal cancer cells resulted in the suppression of more than 95 percent of these cells.

This was true for colorectal cancer cells sourced from both human and mice tumors, as well as for colorectal cancer cell lines produced in the laboratory.

But experiments on other types of cancer cell — including breast and stomach cancer — showed that the experimental cocktail had no perceivable impact on cancers other than colorectal.

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‘Mothers are right after all’

When tested on mice with colon cancer tumors, the experimental mix was seen to decrease the number of tumors by 75 percent.

The researchers also note that the remaining tumors had diminished in size — they were three times smaller than those detected in the animals’ control counterparts, which had not been administered the probiotic and cruciferous veg combination.

Dr. Ho and colleagues hope that the newly engineered probiotics, used alongside the substance extracted from broccoli, could play a double role in the fight against colon cancer.

For one, the new mix might help to prevent colorectal cancer tumors from forming. Then, it could be useful in killing any remaining cancer cells in the aftermath of treatment or surgery, thus also reducing the chance of tumor recurrence.

One exciting aspect of our strategy is that it just capitalizes on our lifestyle, potentially transforming our normal diet into a sustainable, low-cost therapeutic regimen. We hope that our strategy can be a useful complement to current cancer therapies.”

Prof. Matthew Chang

In a more lighthearted vein, as Dr. Ho puts it, the current study’s findings emphasize that “[m]others are right after all, eating vegetables is important.”

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Medical News Today: What are the health benefits of aronia berries?

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Medical News Today: We know all about taste — or do we? Study finds new mechanism

Although we may think we already know all about how our taste buds work, science has proven us wrong yet again. Researchers from the University at Buffalo, NY, have identified a new piece of the taste puzzle that allows us to tell the difference between flavors.
assortment of spices
Our sense of taste is a complex puzzle, and researchers have recently uncovered a new piece.

Sweet, salty, savory, sour, and bitter — these are the five tastes that allow us to enjoy daily meals, motivate us to seek the best restaurants and markets, and cook imaginative dishes.

They also have a more practical role tied to our evolution as a species — that is, to keep us safe from harm by giving us clues as to which plants may be toxic, as well as which ingredients are harmful or unlikely to provide the necessary nutrients.

Although we know much about how our sense of taste works, every new study seems to uncover fresh and previously unsuspected insights about this crucial mechanism.

One such discovery is linked to our ability to distinguish sweet, bitter, and savory, or umami, flavors. So far, it has been thought that one protein — called transient receptor potential 5 (TRPM5) — was primarily responsible for “encod[ing] sweet, umami (amino acid), and bitter taste sensations.”

Now, Kathryn Medler — at the University at Buffalo College of Arts and Sciences in New York — in collaboration with colleagues from international institutions, has conducted research on mice that uncovered the role played by another protein in perceiving the sweet, savory, and bitter taste trio.

Our research shows that there is redundancy in the taste system. This is important because taste is actually central to our survival. If you can’t taste something bitter, you might gobble up something that’s poisonous without ever knowing that it could be harmful.”

Kathryn Medler

She also notes that “[t]aste, in general, is one of our underappreciated senses,” which makes it all the more important that we should pay more attention to the underpinnings of this mechanism.

Medler and colleagues’ findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition.

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‘Study challenges a central dogma’

Working with mice in which the production of TRPM5 was suppressed, the researchers noted that the animals could still detect savory, sweet, and bitter flavors in the presence of another protein that has so far been largely ignored: TRPM4.

The mice were able to enjoy sugar water and umami treats and avoided the bitter-tasting quinine. At the same time, however, animals that missed both TRPM4 and TRPM5 proteins found it much more difficult to distinguish these three tastes.

“Our study changes a central dogma in the field — that detecting bitter, sweet, and umami stimuli is dependent on the presence of TRPM5 alone,” says first author Debarghya Dutta Banik, a doctoral researcher from the University at Buffalo.

“This research helps us understand how the taste system works,” he adds.

Both TRPM4 and TRPM5 make up chemical channels that help to pass on the information about specific flavors to the brain, where it can be decoded and processed.

The experiments undertaken in the current study led the researchers to conclude that mice are most receptive to bitter, sweet, and savory flavors when both TRPM4 and TRPM5 are present, stressing the proteins’ equal importance to taste perception.

This finding, Medler explains, is probably also applicable to humans; TRPM5 has been found to play a crucial role in taste in both humans and mice. Additionally, both humans and mice normally have TRPM5 and TRPM4 in their taste cells.

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Why we should understand how taste works

One reason why Medler and colleagues are interested in studying the mechanisms related to taste is due to their relevance to the regulation of appetite and its influence on our overall health.

In a study from 2013, Medler and her team at the time noticed that overweight mice had a reduced sensitivity to a range of appetite-inducing taste stimuli, including sweetness.

The researcher conjectures that this lack of sensitivity to normally emphatic stimuli may induce overweight animals to continue overeating in order to reach that pleasurable sense of reward that regular-weight mice achieve more readily.

In addition to the potential link between taste, appetite, and obesity, the researchers also note the problem of appetite loss among seniors. In older adults, taste cells also tend to lose sensitivity to various flavors.

If older adults don’t get the same pleasurable sensations from foods that younger individuals do, this can cause them to eat less, affecting health and possibly causing malnutrition.

Thus, Medler says, “It’s important for us to understand how the taste system works,” because “[t]he more we know, the easier it will be to find solutions to problems when the system isn’t working correctly.”

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Medical News Today: Why older men should do more housework

In my household, gone are the days of gender stereotypes; the housework is shared equally, and my partner — a fairly modern man — tends to do the lion’s share of the cooking. According to a new study, however, it seems that elderly adults are stuck in a time when housework was the woman’s job.
an older man hoovering
Researchers say that household chores should be evenly distributed between men and women in order for them to benefit health.

Researchers have found that every day, older women spend an average of 2 hours more doing household chores than men.

But it’s not all bad. Older men and women who engage in more housework might have better health. Though if women get too much or too little sleep, the health benefits of housework diminish.

The new study — which was recently published in the journal BMC Public Health — was led by Nicholas Adjei and Tilman Brand, of the University of Bremen in Germany.

The research was designed to get a better idea of how adults spend their time in later life, and how certain day-to-day activities impact their health.

“The percentage of those aged 65 years and above,” explains study co-leader Adjei, “is increasing globally due to higher life expectancy. It is important to understand how older adults spend their time in these later years and the possible positive and negative implications for their health.”

In the study, the team points out that household activities have become the main “productive work” for older adults following retirement, but little is known about how such activities affect health.

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Housework, health, and sleep

To find out, Adjei and Brand analyzed data from the Multinational Time Use Study (MTUS), which was first put together by researchers from the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.

The MTUS data provided information on the use of time of 15,333 men and 20,907 women aged 65 and older across seven countries, including Italy, Germany, the U.K., and the United States.

More specifically, the team looked at how much time the adults spent on 41 different activities each day, including cooking, cleaning, and other household chores, and how these affected overall health, which was self-reported.

The team also looked at whether the amount of time that the adults spent sleeping influenced the way that household activities impact health, noting that “sleep is one of the most important determinants of health.”

As the study authors explain, “Among the elderly, sleep constitutes the lengthiest daily activity.”

“This is expected because the increasing prevalence of health conditions at older age restricts time allocation for other daily activities. Time devoted to sleep is therefore crucial because it has been shown to be correlated with health among older adults.”

Additionally, the scientists looked at how time spent on household activities varies between older men and women — something they say has never before been investigated.

So, what were the results?

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Housework benefits men’s health

The study revealed that older men engaged in 3.1 hours of household activities per day, while older women spent almost 4.7 hours daily on housework — almost 2 hours more every day.

Women spent more time cleaning, cooking, and shopping, the researchers report, while men spent more time on gardening and household maintenance.

When it came to looking at the effects of housework on health, Adjei and Brand found that elderly adults who spent between 3 and 6 hours on housework every day were 25 percent more likely to report good health, compared with those who spent just 1–2 hours doing housework each day.

When adding sleep to the mix, the study revealed that getting too much or too little — defined as under 7 hours or more than 8 hours per night — negated the health benefits of housework for women.

Among men, however, sleep duration appeared to have no impact on the health benefits of at least 3 hours of housework daily. “The result suggests that regardless of sleep duration, less housework was associated with poor health status among both genders,” say the researchers.

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Housework should be evenly distributed

Do these findings suggest that men should pull their sleeves up and wash those dishes? Brand thinks so.

He told Medical News Today that the fact that older women spend more time on housework than older men may be one reason for the sex differences in health effects of household chores.

“Our study,” he told us, “found significant gender differences in the distribution of housework among the elderly.”

“This inequitable division of housework,” Brand continued, “may explain why women have poorer health beyond the threshold of 3 hours per day. In order to achieve equity in health, there should be a balance in the distribution of household task[s] among older men and women.”

Brand added that women who spend long hours doing housework might also be under more stress.

He also told MNT, “We speculate that the higher level of stress or time pressure associated with routine housework activities may to some extent explain why older [women] who engage in long periods of housework combined with too little or too much sleep have poorer health compared to men.”

So, it seems that as long as my partner continues to cook dinner and do the vacuuming into old age, I can look forward to some good health.

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Medical News Today: What to know about central serous retinopathy

Central serous retinopathy is a medical condition where fluid builds up behind the retina in the eye. It can cause sudden or gradual vision loss as the central retina detaches. This central area is called the macula.

While medical intervention is not always needed to regain vision loss, a person experiencing any gradual or sudden vision loss needs to consult a doctor to ensure vision loss does not become permanent.

Early treatment is often key to making a full recovery.

What is central serous retinopathy?

Anatomical model of eye to demonstrate central serous retinopathy
Central serous retinopathy is when fluid builds up inside the eye.

Central serous retinopathy is a build-up of fluid underneath the retina inside the eye.

The retina is responsible for translating light taken into the eye as images the brain can understand. The build-up of liquid can cause the retina to detach, and this can cause vision problems.

In some cases, no medical intervention is required, and the person will recover their vision after a short period.

However, people should see their doctor immediately if they start to notice changes in vision.


Blurry vision is a common symptom.

A person may also notice that the area around their central vision starts to darken or becomes blurry. In most cases, the vision issue is limited to one eye.

It is possible that a person may develop the condition in each eye at separate points throughout their life.

Additional symptoms of central serous retinopathy may include:

  • objects appear farther away
  • whites may appear duller
  • lines appear crooked
  • a dark spot in the center of vision

Central serous retinopathy does not always produce symptoms. It is possible that fluid may build up in areas that are not around the macula, which is responsible for clear central vision.

If this happens, a person may have the condition without knowing it because they do not have any symptoms.

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Risk factors and causes

Stressed and tired man rubbing eyes in front of laptop.
Stress, age, and medication may increase a persons risk.

Doctors do not know the exact causes of central serous retinopathy, but the following factors may contribute to its development:


Stress is a likely cause of central serous retinopathy. Stress causes the body to produce a hormone called cortisol.


Cortisol can cause inflammation and leaks.

This leakage may lead to fluid building up in the back of the eye. People taking corticosteroids are also at a greater risk of developing central serous retinopathy.


Central serous retinopathy is more common in middle-aged men than in older adults and women. The majority of cases are reported for men between the ages of 30 and 50. Women are less likely to develop the condition than men.

What are the treatment options?

Sometimes no treatment is required. In these cases, a doctor will monitor a person to ensure the fluid is draining. But no other intervention will be required as the fluid drains away over the course of several weeks.

In other cases, the fluid will not drain away without intervention. Fortunately, there are some potential treatment options available including:

  • photodynamic therapy
  • medications
  • thermal laser treatment
  • stopping steroids as recommended by a doctor
  • lifestyle changes

Lifestyle changes

Woman sleeping in bed.
Sleeping for at least 7 hours every night may help to reduce the risk of developing central serous retinopathy.

There are some general lifestyle changes a person can make.

Some changes include:

  • reducing overall stress levels, such as through exercise
  • sleeping for at least 7 hours each night
  • avoiding alcoholic drinks
  • reducing caffeine intake

Photodynamic therapy

In photodynamic therapy, a doctor injects a drug called verteporfin into a person’s arm. This drug then travels to the eye. Once the drug has reached the eye, the doctor focuses a cool laser on the part of the eye responsible for leaking fluid. The laser awakens the verteporfin, which helps to stop the leak and prevent future leaks from occurring.


Some medications may help the condition. Anti-vascular endothelial growth factor medication is one type of drug used to prevent new blood vessels from growing in the eyes. This helps limit future vision problems.

Thermal laser treatment

Thermal laser treatment is another treatment. This procedure is a bit riskier than photodynamic therapy because as it seals the leaks, there is a much higher likelihood of developing scar tissue.

Steroid medication replacement

People who are having treatment for central serous retinopathy should avoid any drugs containing steroids. As with other medications, a person should consult their doctor before stopping the steroids, as stopping steroids suddenly can be dangerous.


Anyone who notices a change in their vision must seek medical attention. A change in vision can be indicative of an underlying health problem.

Eye conditions can degenerate very quickly and, if left untreated, can lead to permanent vision loss.

To make a diagnosis, an eye doctor will need to examine the person’s eye. The doctor will likely ask the person several questions to understand what the symptoms are and to work out what underlying condition may be the cause.

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Are there any complications?

Central serous retinopathy does not typically lead to diseases or complications beyond vision problems.

For some people, central serous retinopathy can lead to permanent central vision loss if the fluid underneath the macula does not resolve. Some treatments may also cause scarring, which can lead to impaired vision.

However, for most people, central serous retinopathy disappears on its own with no medical intervention. In these cases, a doctor will keep a watchful eye on the progression of the drainage to help avoid permanent vision impairment. If the fluid drains away as it should, complications are unlikely.


Anyone who notices changes in their vision should seek medical attention as soon as possible. It is important that a person does not wait until their next regular check up to be seen. In some cases, no further treatment may be required.

The fluid typically resolves on its own. In cases where it does not, a variety of treatment options are available that may restore all or most of the person’s vision.

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Medical News Today: What is Parkinsonism?

Parkinsonism is a disease that occurs when a person has symptoms and brain dysfunction commonly associated with Parkinson’s disease but also has other symptoms related to an additional condition or cause.

A person who has Parkinsonism will also have another disorder that causes additional neurological symptoms, ranging from dementia to the inability to look up and down.

Parkinson’s disease itself refers to dysfunction and cell death of the portion of the brain that produces dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter — a chemical that transmits signals between brain and nerve cells. It is partially responsible for making controlled movements in the body.

In this article, we take a look at the symptoms of Parkinsonism, how the disease is diagnosed, and what can be done to treat it.


older lady with parkinsonsism looking out of a window
Symptoms associated with Pakinsonism may include muscle stiffness, speech changes, and dementia.

A person with Parkinsonism usually starts developing symptoms at anywhere from age 50 to 80, according to the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

Parkinson’s disease can cause varying and progressive symptoms throughout its course. Some of the most common symptoms associated with the disease include:

  • difficulty showing facial expressions
  • muscle stiffness
  • slowed, affected movements
  • speech changes
  • tremor, especially of one hand

A person with Parkinsonism may have some, but not all, of the symptoms listed above. This is because they also have an additional disorder that affects the brain’s functioning.

For example, people with Parkinsonism often do not have the hand tremor that affects many people with Parkinson’s disease.

Other symptoms associated with Parkinsonism include:

  • dementia
  • issues with the autonomic nervous system, such as problems with controlled movements or spasms
  • early problems with balance
  • rapid onset and progression of symptoms

Each underlying cause of Parkinsonism, such as dementia with Lewy bodies, also has its own unique set of symptoms.

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Parkinsonism can be caused by Parkinson’s disease itself as well as another underlying condition.

Other causes associated with Parkinsonism include:

  • Corticobasal degeneration: This condition causes dementia as well as affected movements, usually on one side. A person may also be unable to make controlled muscle movements.
  • Dementia with Lewy bodies: This condition causes changes in overall alertness as well as visual hallucinations. This condition is the second most common cause of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
  • Multiple system atrophy: This condition affects coordination and autonomic dysfunction, including bowel and bladder incontinence.
  • Progressive supranuclear palsy: This condition causes dementia, frequent backward falls, and problems moving the eyes up and down in addition to Parkinson’s disease symptoms.

The conditions above are the four most common causes of Parkinsonism, according to University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. The number of people with these conditions is about one-fourth of the amount of people who have Parkinson’s disease itself.

Another, less common condition called vascular Parkinsonism also exists. This condition causes multiple, small strokes that can affect a person’s balance, walking, and memory.

Parkinsonism is also sometimes the result of taking certain medications. Doctors call this condition drug-induced Parkinsonism. Examples of drugs that could cause it include aripiprazole (Abilify), haloperidol (Haldol), and metoclopramide (Reglan).

Ideally, if a person has drug-induced Parkinsonism, they can slowly reduce the dosages of these medicines. However, that may not always be possible, and a person should not stop taking a medication without their doctor’s approval.

How do doctors diagnose Parkinsonism?

patient having a ct scan for conversion disorder
Imaging scans may be ordered by a doctor to examine the brain.

No single test exists for doctors to diagnose Parkinsonism.

A doctor will start by taking a person’s health history and review their current symptoms. They will ask for a medication list to determine if any medicines could be causing the symptoms.

A doctor will likely also order blood testing to check for underlying potential causes, such as thyroid or liver problems. A doctor will also order imaging scans to examine the brain and body for other causes, such as a brain tumor.

Doctors can perform a test that tracks the movement of dopamine in the brain. This is known as the DaT-SPECT test.

The test uses radioactive markers designed to track dopamine in the brain. This allows a doctor to watch the release of dopamine in a person’s brain and identify the areas of the brain that do or do not receive it.

Because Parkinsonism does not respond to typical treatments and can have a variety of symptoms, doctors can have difficulty coming to a quick diagnosis. It may take time for doctors to rule out other conditions and begin to make treatment recommendations.

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One of the most commonly prescribed medications to treat Parkinson’s disease is levodopa. This medication is related to dopamine and can increase the amount of dopamine available in the brain.

However, people with Parkinsonism not only have problems producing dopamine, but they also have damaged or destroyed cells that cannot respond to dopamine. As a result, levodopa may not work as well to reduce their symptoms.

Doctors can find Parkinsonism challenging to treat because the symptoms of the condition do not always respond as well or at all to medications that boost dopamine.

As a result, treatments for Parkinsonism depend upon the “plus” disease that a person has. For example, if a person has corticobasal degeneration and related muscle spasms, a doctor may prescribe antidepressants and botulinum toxin A (BOTOX) injections.

Treatments for Parkinsonism usually aim to help reduce a person’s symptoms whenever possible to help them maintain independence. Doctors often recommend physical and occupational therapy because they can help a person keep their muscles strong and improve balance.


The outlook for Parkinsonism depends upon the type of Parkinsonism a person has and how quickly it affects them.

According to the Parkinson’s Disease Clinic and Research Center at the University of California, San Francisco, the survival rate for a person who has multiple system atrophy is about 6 years from clinical diagnosis. People with other types of Parkinsonism may have longer or shorter life expectancies.

The onset and symptom progression of Parkinsonism tend to be much faster than that of Parkinson’s disease alone. However, researchers are working every day to find treatments for Parkinson’s disease and Parkinsonism in hopes of improving quality of life and symptoms reduction.

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Medical News Today: What to know about petechiae

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Medical News Today: What to know about cardiomegaly

Cardiomegaly is an enlarged heart. It is not a disease, but a sign of another condition. Less severe forms of cardiomegaly are referred to as mild cardiomegaly.

As mild cardiomegaly does not always cause symptoms, many people with a slightly enlarged heart are unaware of the problem. For some people, cardiomegaly is just temporary and will resolve on its own.

However, other people may have permanent cardiomegaly. It is vital that this symptom and the underlying cause of it are treated to prevent more serious damage to the heart. Treatments include medication, surgery, and lifestyle changes.


Diagram of the human heart cardiomegaly
If the heart is enlarged then this is known as cardiomegaly, which may present as mild or severe.

Cardiomegaly can be caused by many conditions, including hypertension, coronary artery disease, infections, inherited disorders, and cardiomyopathies.

Cardiomyopathy is a disease of the myocardium or heart muscle that causes cardiomegaly. There are 2 types of cardiomyopathy

  • Dilative cardiomyopathy: This type is characterized by a wide, poorly functioning left ventricle, which is the heart’s primary pumping chamber. Dilative cardiomyopathy is the main reason for an enlarged heart.
  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy: In this form of cardiomyopathy, the cells of the heart muscle get larger, and the walls of the ventricles become thicker. This thickening of the ventricle wall can hinder blood flow.

What are the symptoms?

In most cases, symptoms typically appear when the cardiomegaly becomes moderate or severe.

Symptoms, when noticeable, include:

  • abnormal heart rhythms
  • chest pain
  • coughing
  • dizziness
  • extreme tiredness
  • shortness of breath
  • stomach bloating
  • swelling of the ankles, feet, and legs

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Excessive alcohol intake may lead to temporary mild cardiomegaly
Excessive alcohol intake may lead to temporary mild cardiomegaly.

Mild cardiomegaly can result from conditions that overwork or damage the heart, such as:

Often, however, the cause of mild cardiomegaly is unknown.

Causes of temporary mild cardiomegaly

Medical treatment may be necessary in some cases, and the causes of temporary cardiomegaly can include:

  • Excessive alcohol intake or drug use: Substance abuse can cause a form of mild cardiomegaly. Treatment will help reverse this condition.
  • Extreme stress: Stress can lead to acute stress-induced cardiomyopathy. Approximately 75 percent of people with the condition have undergone emotional or physical stress.
  • Pregnancy: The heart can sometimes become larger around the time of delivery. This type of cardiomegaly may be called peripartum cardiomyopathy.
  • Viral infection of the heart: Antiviral medications may be required to treat viral infections of the heart that cause cardiomegaly.

What are the risk factors?

Some people are more at risk than others of developing mild cardiomegaly. Factors that can increase risk include:

  • alcohol or drug abuse
  • congenital heart disease
  • diabetes
  • family history of heart disease
  • history of heart attack or heart disease
  • hypertension
  • inactive lifestyle
  • obesity
  • thyroid disorders


Possible complications include:

  • Blood clots: People with cardiomegaly are at risk of blood clots forming in the heart’s lining. If the clots enter the bloodstream, they can hinder the flow of blood to the rest of the body. In some cases, this can lead to stroke or heart attack.
  • Cardiac arrest and sudden death: An enlarged heart may contribute to a malfunction in the heart’s electrical system, which causes a cardiac arrest. This can sometimes result in sudden death.
  • Heart failure: Dilative cardiomyopathy can lead to a weakening of the heart muscle, which reduces the heart’s ability to pump blood around the body. This is known as heart failure.
  • Heart murmur: Some of the heart’s valves may not shut correctly due to cardiomegaly. This causes a backflow of blood, which leads to sounds called heart murmurs. Heart murmurs may be harmless but should be monitored.

Complications of cardiomegaly depend on the reason for it and the level of the enlargement.

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How is it diagnosed?

female doctor with blood sample for cardiomegaly
Cardiomegaly may be diagnosed with different diagnostic tests.

Diagnostic tests may include one or more of the following:

  • Blood tests: These tests can show up markers in the blood that indicate an issue.
  • Stress test: A stress test involves working out on a treadmill or exercise bike while hooked up to heart and blood pressure monitors. Results demonstrate heart function during physical activity.
  • X-ray: A chest X-ray can show the condition of the heart and lungs. Further tests will usually be needed to determine the cause.
  • Echocardiogram: This test uses sound waves to produce a video image of the heart to allow doctors to assess the state of its chambers. It demonstrates any enlargement, congenital heart disease, damage from heart attacks, and the efficiency at which the heart is pumping.
  • Other imaging tests: A CT scan or MRI scan may be used to collect images of the heart and chest.
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG): An ECG is used to record the heart’s electrical activity and to diagnose abnormalities in its rhythm.
  • Cardiac biopsy: A tube is inserted into the groin and through the blood vessels to the heart. From here, a small sample of heart tissue is taken and analyzed.

Mild cardiomegaly is typically diagnosed through both a physical examination and additional tests.


Though mild cardiomegaly will often resolve itself, treatment options include:


Recommended medications depend on the condition that is causing the enlarged heart. Medication may be prescribed to treat abnormal heart rhythms and high blood pressure. Diuretics may be prescribed to lower pressure in the arteries, while anticoagulants can reduce the risk of blood clots.

Other underlying conditions, such as anemia or thyroid disorders, can also be treated with medication.

Medical devices

If medications do not effectively treat mild cardiomegaly, or if symptoms become moderate or severe, it may be necessary for someone to be fitted with a medical device.

A pacemaker may be fitted to regulate heartbeat in those with dilative cardiomyopathy. People with severe arrhythmias may require an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) to deliver shocks to control the heart rhythm.


Surgery is usually reserved for more severe cases of cardiomegaly, or for those that do not respond to other treatments. Depending on several factors, the following surgeries may be recommended for people with cardiomegaly:

  • heart valve surgery
  • coronary bypass surgery
  • heart transplant

Lifestyle changes and home remedies

People with cardiomegaly may be able to alleviate their symptoms with the following lifestyle and dietary changes:

  • stopping smoking
  • maintaining a healthy weight
  • monitoring blood pressure regularly
  • doing physical activity most days of the week
  • limiting alcohol and caffeine
  • sleeping 7 to 9 hours a night
  • increasing fruit and vegetable intake
  • replacing refined grains, such as white bread and pasta, with whole grain versions
  • cutting out processed, high-sugar, and high-fat foods
  • consuming no more than 1,500 milligrams of salt daily
  • getting help for addiction to alcohol and drugs

How is it prevented?

It is possible to reduce the risk of experiencing an enlarged heart by:

  • Discussing cardiomegaly with a doctor, particularly if symptoms are experienced, or there is a family history of heart conditions.
  • Managing conditions associated with cardiomegaly, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Leading a heathy lifestyle by quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a balanced diet, and staying physically active.

It is not always possible to prevent cardiomegaly, for example, in the case of inherited heart diseases.

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Many forms of cardiomegaly are permanent and will require ongoing care to prevent their progression. Other, temporary forms can be resolved by eliminating the cause, such as by addressing stress or seeking treatment for drug or alcohol abuse.

Therefore, it is important to see a doctor if any of the signs or symptoms of cardiomegaly are noticed. Seek emergency medical treatment if any of the symptoms of a heart attack are experienced, such as:

  • severe chest pain
  • shortness of breath
  • fainting
  • discomfort or sensations in the arms, back, neck, or stomach

The outlook for people with mild cardiomegaly depends on the underlying cause. Even though mild cardiomegaly is not as serious as moderate or severe cardiomegaly and does not always cause symptoms, it is still important to attend to the underlying condition.

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Medical News Today: Why your body size perception could be wrong

On January 1, I vowed to give up alcohol and coffee for 1 month and embark on a new diet and exercise regime in an attempt to lose those excess pounds. Twelve days in, I’m making progress. I feel healthier, and I feel like I look better. Then, I spot this study.
two women with distorted body image perceptions
We might perceive ourselves to be bigger or smaller than we really are.

It basically says, “You’re not as thin as you think you are.” Great.

In a nutshell, researchers from the University of Western Australia in Perth have uncovered new evidence that our brains trick us into thinking that our bodies are smaller than they actually are.

This is not what I wanted to read when I got up this morning.

That said, I was also intrigued by the research. Why might my perceptions of body size be out of sync? I decided to look into it further.

Dr. Jason Bell, of the School of Psychological Science at the University of Western Australia, and his colleagues enrolled 103 young women to participate in a laboratory experiment.

Participants were asked to look at 71 photos of other women, all of whom were different body sizes.

On viewing each photo, the participants were asked to judge the size of the women by putting a marker along a “bodyline,” which the researchers describe as a visual analog scale that ranges from underweight to obese.

Interestingly, the women tended to judge the body size of each woman by the previous image they had viewed. Therefore, on seeing an image of a woman who was overweight, they would perceive her to be a healthy weight if the previous image they had viewed was of woman of a healthy weight.

But what do these findings — recently published in the journal Scientific Reports — mean outside of a laboratory setting?

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Past experience affects body size judgment

According to Dr. Bell, “The data show body size judgments are biased towards prior experience.”

Quite simply, it means that we may misinterpret our current body size by drawing on memories of a time when we were thinner or larger.

“Crucially,” adds Dr. Bell, “body size judgments are not always accurate and can be biased by various factors. Sometimes it’s influenced just by the people we stand next to.”

These results could have important implications for weight loss interventions, as Dr. Bell notes; if we think we’re thinner than we are, then we might refrain from going to the gym, opting for that extra donut instead.

Of course, these misperceptions can work both ways: we might perceive ourselves to be bigger than we really are. Misperceptions of body image are a key characteristic of obesity and eating disorders such as anorexia, so these findings are quite worrying.

“Ideally we’d like to correct these illusions,” says Dr. Bell, “so people are able to make an accurate assessment of their weight and whether it has changed for better or worse.”

Precisely how we can “correct these illusions” remains unclear, but we know one thing: a healthful diet and regular exercise are key to a healthy weight.

I, for one, am going to take less notice of how I think I look and keep going with my New Year’s health kick.

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Medical News Today: What is palmar erythema?

Palmar erythema is a rare condition that makes the palms of the hands turn red. There are a few different causes for the condition, such as pregnancy and liver cirrhosis.

Anyone experiencing the symptoms of palmar erythema should contact their doctor for diagnosis and treatment of any underlying conditions.

What is palmar erythema?

Palmar erythema causing red palms.
Palmar erythema causes red palms, which may feel slightly warm.

Palmar erythema, often called liver palms, is reddening in both of the palms. Reddening typically occurs on the lower part of the palm (the heel), but sometimes it may extend all the way up through the fingers. Redness may also show up on the soles of the feet, but this is called plantar erythema.

The redness may resemble a rash, and the skin will turn pale when pressed.

The degree of redness may vary depending on several factors, such as a person’s body temperature, physical activity, and even their emotional state.

Palmar erythema is not a harmful condition. It can be a primary condition with no underlying cause, but it is usually caused by another medical condition. These underlying conditions may be harmful if they are left untreated.

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Causes and risk factors

The redness in the palms is caused by dilated capillaries in the hand, which draw more blood to the surface. Many doctors think palmar erythema is linked to hormone changes.

There are a variety of causes and underlying risk factors that may contribute to palmar erythema, and they vary based on the type of erythema.

Primary palmar erythema

Primary palmar erythema is a physical symptom that is not caused by another condition. There are a few risk factors for developing the condition.

Pregnancy is a very common cause of primary palmar erythema. A pregnant woman’s body goes through hormonal changes during pregnancy, causing estrogen levels to rise.

Higher estrogen levels may increase the likelihood of developing palmar erythema. This rise in estrogen is temporary, so redness in the palms will likely disappear after the pregnancy.

In rare cases, genetics may contribute to primary palmar erythema. People who have family members with palmar erythema may be more likely to get the condition themselves.

Palmar erythema may also be idiopathic. This means that there is no known cause and that doctors cannot find any underlying trigger for the symptom.

Secondary palmar erythema

doctor inspecting patients hand, palm, and wrist.
Palmer erythema may be the first obvious symptom of a medical condition.

As a secondary symptom, palmar erythema is linked to many different conditions and is often the first sign of a medical problem.

Palmar erythema is commonly associated with liver diseases, such as liver cirrhosis, hemochromatosis, and Wilson disease.

Some liver conditions are hereditary, while others may be influenced by diet and lifestyle choices, such as drinking alcohol.

Depending on a person’s liver function, some medications may also cause palmar erythema. During diagnosis, a doctor will often ask about any medicines a person is taking to see if the condition is a side effect of any particular drug.

Other conditions may cause the redness in the palms. These include:

  • thyrotoxicosis
  • autoimmune conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis and HIV
  • endocrine conditions, including diabetes
  • hepatitis C
  • skin conditions, such as atopic dermatitis or eczema
  • viral or bacterial infections
  • smoking
  • metastatic brain cancer
  • chronic obstructive lung disease

When palmar erythema shows up in children, it may be linked to different conditions. The most common of these conditions include:

Children may also develop palmar erythema due to a genetic predisposition.


Palmar erythema is characterized by redness of the palms of the hands. This redness appears on both hands and is not painful or itchy.

Some people may notice that their hands feel slightly warmer but are not irritated or swollen. The condition may spread to the fingers but will not spread to anywhere else on the body.

Other symptoms may show up in the body depending on the underlying condition, but palmar erythema typically causes no additional symptoms.

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Doctor looking at CT scans on tablet.
In some cases, MRI or CT scans may be required to diagnose an underlying condition.

Doctors can easily diagnose palmar erythema by inspecting the palms. However, doctors will also perform a thorough examination to determine if there is anything else causing the condition.

To help them with their diagnosis, a doctor will review the person’s medical history and may ask if the symptom has shown up in any blood relatives.

Doctors will typically order one or more tests to help confirm their diagnosis. This can include tests that measure:

  • liver function
  • fasting glucose levels
  • total blood cell count
  • the presence of hepatitis B or C
  • thyroid function
  • iron or copper levels
  • blood urea nitrogen
  • blood creatine levels
  • levels of various antibodies

Depending on the suspected cause of palmar erythema, a doctor may also order imaging tests, such as a computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). In some cases, they may order a bone marrow biopsy.

If initial testing does not verify a doctor’s diagnosis, a person may have to return for additional testing. This is important to help identify any underlying issues that could pose significant health risks.

Doctors will typically only conclude that palmar erythema is idiopathic if they have tested all other possibilities.


There is no specific treatment to cure red palms caused by palmar erythema. Treatment involves finding and addressing the underlying cause of the condition. Once the underlying cause is treated, the redness in the palms may go away partially or entirely.

If the redness is a side effect of a medication, doctors may recommend alternative medications. Changing or stopping medications should always be done under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

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Palmar erythema is redness in the palms that may also be a sign of an underlying condition. Anyone with unexplained redness in the palms should contact their doctor for diagnosis and treatment to avoid any complications.

Accurately diagnosing the underlying cause of palmar erythema is crucial but may take some time. Treating the underlying cause of palmar erythema will often reduce symptoms.

In cases where palmar erythema has no underlying cause, symptoms may be persistent but are harmless. It is always good to check in with a doctor periodically if palmar erythema is long-term.

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