Medical News Today: Houseflies may carry more diseases than previously thought

Researchers have always suspected that houseflies carry diseases and bacteria; a new study meticulously investigates the bacterial composition of the individual body parts of over a hundred flies living across three continents. The findings shed light on the extent of the flies’ disease-carrying potential.
house fly
Houseflies may carry more pathogens than previously believed, suggests new research.

The first author of the new research is Ana Carolina Junqueira, professor of genetics and genomics at the Federal University of Rio De Janeiro in Brazil. Prof. Junquiera is also one of the two corresponding authors of the new paper.

Prof. Junqueira and her international team of researchers examined the microbiomes of 116 houseflies and blowflies living in urban, rural, and natural environments in Brazil, the United States, and Singapore.

Some of the urban habitats they collected the flies from were a food market, a public hospital, a public park, and a landfill for household waste. They also collected flies from a protected area in the Amazonian rainforest, and from various animal farms.

The researchers extracted and sequenced DNA from the head, thorax, abdomen, legs, and wings of blowflies — scientifically known as Chrysomya megacephala — and houseflies, known as Musca domestica.

The scientists analyzed the bacteria, and their findings were published in the journal Scientific Reports.

“This is the first study that depicts the entire microbial DNA content of insect vectors using unbiased methods,” Prof. Junqueira says. “Blowflies and houseflies are considered major mechanical vectors worldwide, but their full potential for microbial transmission was never analyzed comprehensively using modern molecular techniques and deep DNA sequencing.”

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Helicobacter pylori highly prevalent

Prof. Junqueira and colleagues found 33 different species of bacteria, many of which can also act as human pathogens.

In particular, they found a high incidence of Helicobacter pylori, a pathogen that can cause peptic ulcers in humans and is a risk factor for stomach cancer and MALT, a type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

H. pylori was found in 15 of the 116 flies. It is not yet fully understood how H. pylori is transmitted, the researchers explain. They also say that until now, flies have not been considered as a potential vector for the transmission of this pathogen.

We believe that [the study] may show a mechanism for pathogen transmission that has been overlooked by public health officials, and flies may contribute to the rapid transmission of pathogens in outbreak situations.”

Study co-author Donald Bryant, Pennsylvania State University

Blowflies and houseflies may carry numerous diseases because they breed and feed off of decaying matter and feces, where they can easily pick up bacteria and transport them further.

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Legs and wings carry most microbes

The study’s other corresponding author, Stephan Schuster, research director at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, reports on the additional insights the study has brought into how flies can help bacteria to spread.

“The legs and wings show the highest microbial diversity in the fly body, suggesting that bacteria use the flies as airborne shuttles,” he says. “It may be that bacteria survive their journey, growing and spreading on a new surface.”

“In fact,” Schuster adds, “the study shows that each step of hundreds that a fly has taken leaves behind a microbial colony track, if the new surface supports bacterial growth.”

“It will really make you think twice about eating that potato salad that’s been sitting out at your next picnic,” says Prof. Bryant.

“It might be better to have that picnic in the woods, far away from urban environments, not a central park,” Prof. Bryant continues, as the flies collected from rural habitats carried fewer pathogens than those in urban environments.

Given how easily they can pick up bacteria, flies could be used to sample microbes from areas that would otherwise be difficult to access, suggest the researchers.

“[F]lies could be intentionally released as autonomous bionic drones into even the smallest spaces and crevices and, upon being recaptured, inform about any biotic material they have encountered,” Schuster says.

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Medical News Today: What is a bronchospasm and what causes it?

A bronchospasm occurs when the muscles that line the airways of the lungs constrict or tighten, reducing airflow by 15 percent or more.

People with asthma, allergies, and lung conditions are more likely to develop bronchospasms than those without these conditions, as are young children and people over 65 years of age.

Bronchospasms, in themselves, are not considered contagious, but some of the viruses and bacteria that cause bronchospasms can be transmitted to other people.

What causes bronchospasms?

3D model of lungs and airways.
Bronchospasms may be caused by respiratory conditions, such as asthma or bronchitis, as well as medication or irritants.

Some medical conditions, allergens, and medications can cause bronchospasms.

Common causes of bronchospasms include:

  • asthma
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD)
  • emphysema
  • chronic bronchitis
  • viral, bacteria, and fungal lung infections
  • smoking
  • air pollution or smoke
  • environmental allergens, such as pet dander, pollen, mold, and dust
  • some food additives and chemicals
  • fumes from chemicals used in cleaning products and manufacturing
  • cold weather
  • general anesthesia, mostly causing airway irritation
  • exercise
  • blood-thinning medications, such as blood pressure medications and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs)
  • antibiotics

Scientists are still not sure why but, in some people, exercise appears to induce bronchospasms. Traditionally, bronchospasms brought on by exercise were considered a symptom of asthma, but new studies have revealed this may not be true.

A 2014 study surveying almost 8,000 French schoolchildren concluded that exercise-induced bronchospasms seem to be a separate, independent condition from asthma.

The same study found that bronchospasms were associated with several types of atopic rhinitis, a chronic condition causing dry crusts to form in the nasal cavities and the gradual loss of the mucosal lining.

Researchers are also still trying to determine whether newer smoking alternatives, such as electronic cigarettes, cause bronchospasms. Nicotine has been shown to stimulate the primary nerve of the lungs, triggering muscle constriction and bronchospasms.

A 2017 study found that a single puff from an e-cigarette containing 12 mg/ml of nicotine was enough to cause bronchospasms in anesthetized guinea pigs.

Some chemicals found in medications used to open the airways (bronchodilators) have also been shown to cause bronchospasms, though this is rare.

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Woman coughing into hand.
Potential symptoms of bronchospasm include coughing, breathing difficulty, and pain in the chest.

The signs of bronchospasm are fairly apparent while the severity of symptoms is directly related to how much the airways have narrowed, or how much airflow has been restricted.

Common symptoms of bronchospasm include:

  • pain, tightness, and a feeling of constriction in the chest and back
  • difficulty getting enough air or breathing
  • a wheezing or whistling sound when inhaling
  • coughing
  • feeling tired or exhausted for no apparent reason
  • feeling light-headed or dizzy


A doctor will need to diagnose and prescribe treatment for bronchospasms. For complicated or severe cases, a pulmonologist or doctor who specializes in the lungs may help confirm the diagnosis.

Typically, a doctor will ask questions about a person’s history of lung conditions and allergies, before listening to the lungs with a stethoscope.

Depending on the severity of the symptoms, and if bronchospasms are suspected, the doctor may perform a series of tests to assess how constricted or reduced the person’s airflow and breathing are.

Common tests used to help diagnosis bronchospasms include:

  • Spirometry, lung diffusion, and lung volume tests: The individual breathes in and out several times with moderate and maximum force through a tube connected to a computer.
  • Pulse oximetry tests: A device that measures the amount of oxygen in the blood is attached to the finger or ear.
  • Arterial blood gas tests: A blood test is done to determine the levels of oxygen and carbon present.
  • Chest X-ray and computed tomography (CT) scans: Images of the chest and lungs can be taken to rule out infection or lung conditions.

To determine whether bronchospasm is caused by exercise, a doctor may recommend a eucapnic voluntary hyperventilation test. During this test, an individual inhales a mix of oxygen and carbon dioxide to see how it changes their lung function.

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When should people see a doctor?

A person should seek immediate medical attention whenever they experience severe, ongoing, or distressing bronchospasms. If airflow is extremely compromised, they should call 911 or go to the emergency department.

Additional reasons to speak with a doctor include:

  • very painful bronchospasms
  • spasms that interfere with everyday activities
  • spasms that cause dizziness or light-headedness
  • spasms that occur after inhaling an allergen
  • spasms that occur for no apparent reason
  • spasms that get worse or only occur during exercise
  • coughing up mucus, especially if dark or discolored
  • fever and a temperature of more than 100 °F
  • significant difficulty getting enough air or breathing

What are the most effective treatments?

Bronchodilators in the form on inhalers.
Bronchodilators are available in different forms, though they may provide the most relief when inhaled.

In most cases of bronchospasm, a doctor will prescribe bronchodilators. These drugs cause the airways to widen, increasing airflow.

The three most common types of bronchodilators are beta-agonists, anticholinergics, and theophylline.

Though the medications used to treat bronchospasms come in tablet, injectable, and liquid forms, many are considered to be most effective when inhaled.

The best treatment plan depends on individual factors, such as the severity of the spasms, how often they occur, and their cause.

For severe or chronic cases, doctors may recommend steroids to reduce inflammation in the airways and increase airflow. When bronchospasms are caused by bacterial infections, doctors may also prescribe antibiotic medications.

Common medications used to treat bronchospasms include:

Short-acting bronchodilators

This type of bronchodilator starts working within minutes, and its effects last for several hours.

Doctors prescribe short-acting bronchodilators for quick relief from sudden, severe spasms and for treating exercise-induced spasms. Typically, an individual should only take these drugs once or twice a week.

Most short-acting bronchodilators are available in a liquid form that becomes an inhalable mist after being passed through a device called a nebulizer.

Common short-acting bronchodilators include:

  • AccuNeb, Proair, Ventolin
  • Metaproterenol
  • Xopenex
  • Maxair

Long-acting bronchodilators in combination with steroids

For chronic cases of bronchospasm, long-acting medications may be prescribed in combination with inhaled steroids to help prevent spasms.

In most cases, people take long-acting bronchodilators two or three times per day and at scheduled times. These drugs are not helpful for quick relief of spasm symptoms.

Common long-acting bronchodilators and inhaled corticosteroid medications include:

  • Advair
  • Symbicort
  • Serevent
  • Foradil
  • Flovent
  • Prednisolone
  • Pulmicort

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If a person’s bronchospasms are exercise-induced, taking long-acting bronchodilators and inhaled corticosteroid medications 15 to 20 minutes before exercise can help reduce the chances of having spasms.

If exposure to an allergen, irritant, or medicine, causes a bronchospasm, avoiding or stopping exposure to it will also help reduce or prevent spams.

For bronchospasms caused by general anesthesia, doctors usually prescribe additional anesthesia medicine. If this does not resolve the spasms, short-acting bronchodilators and intravenous corticosteroids may be used.

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Medical News Today: Why are my lips tingling?

A tingling sensation on the lips can be unpleasant and uncomfortable, but does it point to a serious medical condition?

We explore 10 causes of numbness affecting the lips, including which symptoms indicate a medical emergency and when to seek advice from a doctor.


close up of womens lips
Cold weather or sensitive skin is often the reason for temporary tingling lips.

Sensations in the body are communicated through the body’s nervous system, which is made up of nerves and cells.

The brain and spinal cord make up the central nervous system, and the rest of the body makes up the peripheral nervous system.

Peripheral neuropathy refers to nerve damage in the peripheral nervous system. A common symptom is a numbness or a tingling sensation. All parts of the body, including the lips, can be affected.

Peripheral neuropathy is not usually the cause of tingling lips. More often, temporary conditions affecting the lips are to blame, such as sensitive skin or cold weather.

How suddenly lip tingling develops, and whether there are other symptoms present, can give a person clues as to the cause and severity.

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Ten causes of tingling lips

There is a range of conditions that can cause tingling lips or numbness, including:

1. Allergies

woman with chapped lips applying petroleum jelly
Applying a plain formula lip balm to chapped lips will limit any futher irritation.

An allergic reaction that affects the lips usually appears as a swelling under the skin, known as angioedema.

It is most often caused by an allergy to food or medication. A person can help a medical professional diagnose the allergy by keeping track of any potential triggers.

In the case of a severe reaction, a person should also be aware of the signs of anaphylaxis. Urgent medical care is needed if someone has difficulty breathing, feels faint, or collapses.

2. Chapped lips

Chapped or cracked lips are often sore or tingle. This can happen when lips become very dry during the winter, in a hot climate, or if someone has a skin condition, such as eczema.

Using a moisturizing lip balm can make skin softer and prevent cracking or splitting.

A person who already has chapped, sore lips should use a plain formula, such as petroleum jelly, that does not contain any ingredients that will cause further irritation.

3. Cold sores

The first sign of a cold sore is a tingling or burning sensation around the mouth and lips, which then develops into small sores filled with fluid.

Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus, which is very infectious and passed from person to person by close contact, such as kissing. The virus is usually inactive but may break out in the form of cold sores from time to time.

Cold sores will usually heal without treatment in 7 to 10 days, but using an antiviral cream as soon as a person feels tingling lips may help to speed up the healing process.

4. Shingles

Most children will experience chickenpox at some point. However, after they recover, the virus remains inactive in the body. Later in life, it can re-emerge as shingles, an infection that causes an itching, burning, or tingling feeling in the skin, as well as painful blisters or a rash.

Shingles can affect any part of the body, including the lips, and the first symptom is often tingling or burning. This will be followed by the development of fluid-filled blisters on the skin that may appear on their own or in a cluster.

Antiviral drugs can reduce pain and help blisters to heal, particularly if taken as soon as symptoms appear. Relaxing, reducing stress, and placing a cool, damp washcloth on blisters can help ease the symptoms.

5. Nerve damage

Neuropathy can be caused by physical damage to the skin, such as a burn.

If the lips are exposed to extreme heat or cold, are sunburnt, or come into contact with a toxic substance such as bleach, it may damage the nerves and lead to tingling, numbness, and pain.

6. Stroke

Strokes are a medical emergency caused by an interruption of blood flow to the brain. The signs of stroke appear very quickly, so a person should seek emergency help if someone has any of these symptoms:

  • sudden numbness or weakness on one side of the body
  • loss of balance or dizziness
  • confusion or difficulty speaking
  • a severe headache with no apparent reason
  • drooping face, mouth, or eye on one side

7. Cranial nerve trauma

The cranial nerves run from the brain to the head and face and control movement and sensation.

An injury to the brain, such as a concussion, can damage these nerves and affect how well they work.

The facial nerve is one of the cranial nerves. If it is damaged, it could cause a loss of sensation in the face, include tingling or numbness in the lips.

A head injury of any kind can be serious and should always be checked by a medical professional.

8. Panic attack

One symptom of a panic attack can be a feeling of pins and needles. If tingling lips are accompanied by symptoms such as shortness of breath, a racing heartbeat, or shaking limbs, it may be a sign that someone is experiencing a panic attack, or about to have one.

A panic attack can be very distressing, but will usually only last for 5 to 20 minutes. Consult a healthcare professional if panic attacks happen regularly, as they will be able to advise on treatment and support.

9. Lupus

Lupus is a disease of the immune system that can affect many parts of the body, including the nerves. If the tissue surrounding nerves is swollen, the pressure may affect the nerves’ ability to transmit information.

Lupus can be very difficult to diagnose due to the number of symptoms. Other symptoms that could indicate damage to the nervous system include problems with vision, dizziness, pain affecting the face, or a drooping eyelid.

10. Raynaud’s phenomenon

This condition affects blood flow to the farthest parts of the body, such as the hands and feet, but can also affect the lips and tongue.

Blood vessels will respond to the cold or to stress by shrinking, which causes a feeling of extreme cold, tingling, or numbness. It may also turn the affected part of the body white or blue.

Someone who has Raynaud’s phenomenon should take care to keep warm and dry, reduce stress, and quit smoking if necessary to reduce their symptoms.

When to seek medical attention

allergy testing
An allergy test will help identify the cause of an allergic reaction.

If someone displays any symptoms of stroke, call 911 or the local emergency number. It is important to seek urgent treatment to limit the damage that a stroke can cause to the brain and body.

An allergist or immunologist can diagnose an allergy and help someone understand the triggers for an allergic reaction, such as food or drink to avoid.

In the case of a severe allergy, someone may show signs of anaphylactic shock. Emergency medical care is needed if a person has trouble breathing, their throat swells, and they have difficulty swallowing, they develop hives, or have stomach cramps.

Symptoms of the less common conditions associated with tingling lips, such as Lupus, shingles, or Raynaud’s phenomenon should be checked by a healthcare professional. Getting a proper diagnosis is the best way to begin treating and preventing tingling lips.

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The most common reasons for tingling lips are physical damage to the lips, viruses that affect the skin, and allergic reactions. These causes should all be easy to spot and to treat at home, although prescription medication may be needed.

More serious medical conditions are associated with tingling lips and a knowledge of the additional symptoms can help a person receive early diagnosis and treatment.

Knowing the warning signs of a stroke or a severe allergic reaction can save a life and limit the effects of a medical emergency.

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Medical News Today: Seniors, leaving the house daily may help you live longer

We’ve all been there: confined to our homes for days, or even weeks, thanks to the dreaded flu or some other ailment. When you’re finally able to go outside, there’s no feeling quite like it. And for older adults, this seemingly simple pleasure could be life-saving.
an older lady outside
Researchers say that leaving the house daily may help older adults to live longer.

New research finds that older people who leave their homes every day are likelier to live longer than those who remain indoors, regardless of their health status or functional capacity.

Lead study author Dr. Jeremy Jacobs, from the Hadassah Hebrew-University Medical Center in Israel, and colleagues recently reported their findings in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

According to a 2015 study, approximately 2 million older adults in the United States never or rarely leave their homes, primarily due to functional difficulties.

Not only does this have implications for their physical health — due to lack of exercise, for example — but it can harm their psychological health, too. Research has shown that those who are confined to their homes are more likely to develop depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses.

For their study, Dr. Jacobs and colleagues set out to investigate whether or not the frequency with which an older adult leaves their home might be associated with mortality.

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Staying indoors linked to greater death risk

The research included 3,375 adults aged between 70 and 90 years. All adults were enrolled in the 1990–2015 Jerusalem Longitudinal Study.

As a part of the study, participants completed questionnaires about how often they left their homes each week. They were divided into three groups, based on their answers: daily (six to seven times weekly), often (two to five times weekly), and rarely (less than once per week).

Mortality among the participants was assessed from 2010 to 2015.

The researchers found that older adults who left their homes on a daily basis were at the lowest risk of death, while those who rarely left their homes had the highest mortality risk.

“What is interesting is that the improved survival associated with getting out of the house frequently was also observed among people with low levels of physical activity, and even those with impaired mobility,” says Dr. Jacobs. “Resilient individuals remain engaged, irrespective of their physical limitations.”

These findings also remained after accounting for the participants’ social status and other medical conditions, including visual impairment, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and chronic kidney disease.

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While the precise reasons behind these findings were not explored in the study, the scientists note that getting out of the house frequently gives older adults the chance to engage with the outside world.

Previous research has shown that people who spend more time outdoors — particularly in natural environments — may experience lower levels of stress and improved physical and mental health.

What is more, going outdoors provides greater opportunity for social interaction, which studies have linked to better overall health and well-being in seniors.

So, it seems that simply going outside to chat with the neighbor or taking a quick trip to the local grocery store could do the world of good for older adults’ health.

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Medical News Today: Can mindfulness help you shed those extra pounds?

If you want to keep weight gain under control, you may want to consider taking up mindfulness meditation, new research suggests. Mindfulness techniques may be effective in maintaining weight loss and preventing a rebound.
woman meditating and plate of fruit
Can mindfulness really help with that extra weight?

Recent research has concerned itself with the potential benefits of meditation and mindfulness practices, as more and more people become interested in exploring this avenue that claims to help free your mind of intrusive thoughts, make you calmer, and improve your willpower.

Over the past few months, Medical News Today have covered a number of studies showing that meditation has various benefits for both mental and physical health. Mindfulness practices can enhance resilience and focus, help to reduce stress, increase energy, and protect against heart disease, to name but a few reported benefits.

Now, researchers at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, have published a systematic review of studies that have looked into how mindfulness can help people to lose excess weight and avoid a rebound.

Kimberly Carrière, Prof. Bärbel Knäuper, and Bassam Khoury’s analysis revealed that mindfulness training is a useful approach when it comes to improving long-term dietary practices.

Carrière, a doctoral student in Prof. Knäuper’s Health Psychology Lab at McGill University, says that the team’s findings “highlight the potential of using mindfulness training to support weight loss.”

The researchers have published the results of their analysis in the journal Obesity Reviews, of the World Obesity Federation.

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Mindfulness ‘largely effective’ for diet

The team analyzed 19 studies (totaling 1,160 participants between them) focused on mindfulness and its relevance to weight loss. These studies were all conducted in the past 10 years.

In the research that they looked at, “mindfulness” referred to one of three approaches: formal meditation practice, casual mindfulness training targeting eating habits, and a combination of meditation and mindfulness strategies.

It was found that, across the board, mindfulness was “moderately to largely effective in reducing weight loss and improving obesity-related eating behaviours.”

Although mindfulness interventions were not as effective in the short-term as regimes based only on dietary changes and exercise — which yielded better immediate outcomes — the researchers noted that participants who practiced some form of mindfulness beneftted from more stable long-term results.

In the first instance, mindfulness practitioners lost 3.3 percent of body weight, compared to the 4.7 percent weight loss experienced by the participants who only dieted and exercised.

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However, at follow-up evaluations after several weeks from the interventions, participants who used mindfulness techniques continued to shed excess pounds steadily, bringing their mean weight loss to 3.5 percent.

Conversely, participants who did not engage in mindfulness did not lose further weight, and many even regained some of the pounds that they had successfully shed.

Still, the research team acknowledge that they faced a number of limitations, including the heterogeneity of methods employed across the studies they analyzed, the lack of “a validated measure of mindfulness” in some of these projects, and the problematic amalgamation of “clinical (e.g. binge eaters) and non-clinical populations.”

Despite the shortcomings, the scientists declare the findings “encouraging” and are now interested in seeing how mindfulness-based interventions could be effectively added to dedicated weight loss programs to enhance the benefits afforded by these initiatives.

“We recommend that further research investigate how integrating mindfulness training into lifestyle-change programs improves weight loss maintenance,” says Carrière.

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Medical News Today: What are the options for natural hair regrowth?

When it comes to preventing hair loss or improving the hair that someone already has, there are plenty of natural methods that help.

There are a variety of home remedies that people use to try and regrow their hair. However, it is important to remember that research to support such methods is not always extensive.

There are many common myths about lifestyle approaches or remedies that can help hair regrow, and it is often difficult to determine the fact from the fiction.

Here we will explore what works and what doesn’t work.

Lifestyle techniques and methods

There are a range of remedies and techniques that people can try. Including:

Hair care

Man touching his hair.
Hair dye and vigorous brushing may cause hair loss, while washing hair frequently and using styling products will not.

There are some misconceptions about whether hair care does contribute to hair loss and regrowth.

For example, washing hair too often does not cause hair loss. Blow-drying hair can cause hair loss because it can damage, burn, or dry out the hair — however, this hair will grow back.

Hair dye is another cause of temporary hair loss — most hair-coloring treatments contain chemicals that can damage the hair and make it fall out.

Overly vigorous brushing can cause injury, which can lead to hair loss and some hairstyles, such as tight plaits, ponytails, or cornrows, can cause hair loss because there is too much tension on the hair.

Hair care products, such as gel, mousse, or hairspray, do not cause hair loss, though.


A study conducted in Japan showed that scalp massage could increase hair thickness. The men involved in the study had regular massages over a 24-week period, and while hair growth rate did not improve, thickness improved significantly.

Researchers believe that this could be to do with increased blood flow and direct stimulation of the cells.

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While hair loss can be affected by nutrient deficiency, the exact links between diet and hair loss are complicated:

  • Iron: Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in the world and is a known cause of hair loss. Women experiencing perimenopause and menopause are at risk of iron deficiency, as are vegans, vegetarians, and people with certain conditions, such as celiac disease. In a study on mice, the reversal of iron deficiency also leads to the restoration of hair growth.
  • Zinc: Zinc deficiency has a direct link with brittle hair, and increasing zinc levels also leads to the regrowth of hair. However, researchers do not know whether zinc supplementation would help those without diagnosed zinc deficiency.
  • Fatty acids: A deficiency in essential fatty acids can lead to hair loss on the scalp and eyebrows.

It is important to remember that there is a lack of research on the role of supplementation. Researchers do not know whether supplements will prevent hair loss in people that do not have nutrient deficiencies.

In fact, the over supplementation of certain nutrients, such as vitamin A, vitamin E, and selenium, can lead to hair loss.


There appears to be a direct link between stress and hair loss. Likewise, a shock to the system, be that through physical or emotional trauma, can also act as a shock to the hair follicles and they can stop growing.

Home remedies

Red ginseng

Red ginseng with ginseng supplements.
Red ginseng is a popular supplement for promoting hair regrowth.

In some cases, the use of red ginseng, which can be taken as a supplement, has been shown to promote hair growth.

Exactly why this happens is unclear, although researchers think it could be because of indirect stimulation of the hair follicles.

Before taking any supplements, it is important to ensure that they won’t interact with any medication or existing conditions.

Fatty acid

The omega-6 fatty acid arachidonic acid has been shown to promote hair growth by helping to speed up the production of the follicles.

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This natural hair growth supplement was shown to promote hair growth in women experiencing temporary thinning. However, a further study also showed its ability to decrease hair loss.

Geranium oil

The use of geranium oil as a treatment significantly promotes hair growth and can prevent hair loss. People can apply it by mixing a few drops into a shampoo or conditioner.

Coconut oil

Coconut oil is widely used to treat damaged hair of various types. It significantly reduces the protein loss in both damaged and undamaged hair as it can penetrate the hair shaft.

Coconut oil can be used as a pre-wash and a post-wash wash hair product.

Aloe vera

The use of aloe vera as a treatment for a variety of different things has been traced back as far as 6,000 years ago in Ancient Egypt.

One such treatment is for hair loss, and evidence has shown it has a soothing effect on the skin that can help alleviate certain conditions.

Rosemary oil

Using rosemary oil for at least 6 months has been shown in a study to increase hair count. However, many of the group experienced scalp itching as a side effect.

Facts and myths

Woman experiencing hair thinning and hair loss.
Women can experience hair loss and hair thinning as well as men, although the causes may be different.

Here are some commonly told mistruths and also some genuine reasons behind hair loss.

Only men experience hair loss

FALSE: Women also lose their hair, but this tends to be hormone related.

Some women experience hair loss after pregnancy, as a symptom of polycystic ovary syndrome, or if they have problems with their thyroid gland.

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Hair loss is hereditary

TRUE: Although it is not limited to either side of the family. The hair loss gene can be passed from either the father or the mother.

Masturbation will cause hair loss

FALSE: There is no known link between masturbation or having sex that can cause hair loss.

Aging leads to hair loss

TRUE: As both men and women age, the number of follicles on the scalp reduces, which means the hair will gradually become thinner and sparser.

Wearing a hat causes hair loss

FALSE: Unless the hat is too tight and causes tension on the hair, wearing a hat has no link to hair loss whatsoever.

The sun causes hair loss

FALSE: Hair loss occurs at the follicle, meaning at the base of the hair. The sun cannot reach the follicle because the hair acts as a shield against it.

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Medical News Today: What to know about double pneumonia

Double pneumonia is an infection of both lungs. A virus, bacteria or fungus causes the tiny sacs of the lungs, called alveoli, to become inflamed and fill with fluid or pus, causing a range of symptoms, including breathing difficulties.

Doctors sometimes refer to double pneumonia as bilateral pneumonia. Pneumonia is the leading cause of infectious death worldwide among children under the age of 5.

What is double pneumonia?

Man in bed coughing, experiencing pneumonia.
Double pneumonia infects both of the lungs, and may cause symptoms such as difficulty breathing, a worsening cough, and a high temperature.

When both lungs are affected, the condition is called double pneumonia. Like pneumonia, double pneumonia is usually caused by a bacterial or viral infection.

People who have the flu (influenza virus infection), some types of streptococcal bacterial infections, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and some other infections can develop double pneumonia.

Because double pneumonia affects both lungs, a person may find it extremely difficult to breathe.


It is impossible to tell if a person has pneumonia or double pneumonia based on symptoms alone. Anybody who thinks they may have pneumonia must see a doctor as soon as possible.

Pneumonia often develops after or alongside another respiratory illness. Some people also get pneumonia after exposure to breathing in dust or certain gases, or after getting fluid in their lungs. These situations make it easier for a germ to sneak into a person’s body and cause infection.

People who have these risk factors should look out for symptoms of pneumonia. These symptoms include:

  • A high fever, chills, or shaking. Rarely, some people develop an unusually low temperature.
  • A cough that gets worse.
  • Coughing up thick mucus or phlegm.
  • Shortness of breath during activities that do not typically induce shortness of breath.
  • Chest pain when coughing or breathing.
  • Feeling very sick after an acute viral illness, such as the flu or another type of respiratory infection.
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, along with respiratory symptoms.


As pneumonia progresses, it can cause serious complications — particularly in people with weakened immune systems due to age, illness, or debilitating diseases, such as HIV or AIDS.

Complications of pneumonia include:

  • Sepsis, an infection that causes systemic inflammation in the body. It is a serious illness that can be fatal.
  • Lung abscesses.
  • Pleural effusions. The pleurae are two membranes that line the outside of the lungs within the chest cavity. Usually, a small amount of pleural fluid fills the gap between the membranes, but pneumonia may cause an accumulation of this fluid. If there is a buildup of fluid, or it becomes infected, a pleural effusion can cause death.
  • Pleurisy. This can occur with pneumonia and happens when the pleural layers become inflamed and rub together. Pleurisy causes pain in the chest when a person takes a deep breathe or coughs.
  • Kidney failure or respiratory failure.

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What causes double pneumonia?

Senior woman using bronchodilator inhaler during asthma attack
Factors that increase the risk of developing double pneumonia include being over the age of 65, having asthma, and experiencing a viral infection.

Infections from viruses or bacteria that get inside of the lungs are the most common cause of pneumonia. Less frequently, people may develop pneumonia from inhaling certain fungi.

Double pneumonia occurs when an infecting microbe causes pneumonia in both lungs. Potential causes of pneumonia and double pneumonia include:

  • Bacteria: Bacterial pneumonia is the most common cause of pneumonia in adults. The most common cause of bacterial pneumonia in adults in the United States is Streptococcus pneumonia.
  • Virus: The influenza virus is the most common cause of viral pneumonia in adults. RSV is the most common cause of viral pneumonia in very young children. Viral pneumonia increases a person’s risk of having a secondary bacterial pneumonia.
  • Fungus: This is a less common cause of pneumonia. Someone with a compromised immune system is typically at a higher risk for fungal pneumonia compared to someone with healthy immune system function.

Some people are more vulnerable to pneumonia. Risk factors for double pneumonia include:

  • Being over the age of 65.
  • Being very young.
  • Malnourishment.
  • Smoking tobacco.
  • Having a lung disease, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), or cystic fibrosis.
  • Having a chronic illness, such as congestive heart failure.
  • Having a weak immune system due to illnesses such as HIV, AIDS, and autoimmune disease.
  • Taking drugs that suppress the immune system.
  • Having difficulties swallowing.
  • Recently having a viral infection that affected the upper respiratory tract.

When to seek treatment

Double pneumonia is a serious infection that can become life-threatening. However, it is also treatable. So it is essential to seek treatment early before the infection establishes itself.

Anyone that has difficulty breathing and a high fever should treat it as a medical emergency.

People with risk factors for pneumonia, such as those who have another serious chronic illness, should seek prompt medical care if they experience symptoms of pneumonia.

A doctor can diagnose pneumonia with the assistance of a chest X-ray, blood tests, and a physical exam.

Treatment options

Treatment for double pneumonia depends on what caused it and how it has affected the body:

  • People who have bacterial pneumonia will need antibiotic therapy.
  • People with severe infections related to pneumonia, such as infectious pleural effusion or sepsis, will need intravenous antimicrobial therapy. Other types of treatment may also be required.
  • People with viral pneumonia will not respond to antibiotics, which do not work to treat viral infection.

Other treatments for pneumonia focus on preventing further damage to the lungs and ensuring a person can breathe. Some people may require supplemental oxygen or monitoring in a hospital setting. Rest and remaining hydrated may also help.

While coughing can be unpleasant, coughing helps the body rid itself of the infection.

People who have double pneumonia should not take a cough suppressant medicine unless a doctor recommends doing so.

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Recovery and outlook

Woman resting while suffering from flu or cold, with lemon tea and medicines.
Resting, and following a prescribed course of treatment, will promote a steady recovery.

With prompt treatment, most healthy people recover from pneumonia. However, pneumonia may not fully resolve if a person rushes the treatment and recovery process.

Take all medication as prescribed and avoid work or any physically taxing tasks for as long as the doctor advises.

People with weak immune systems or other health problems are more likely to have a form of pneumonia that is harder to clear up, recurs, or causes serious complications and death.

Some people develop double pneumonia as a complication of being severely immunocompromised.

It is crucial to tell a doctor about all health conditions and to be honest about lifestyle choices, such as tobacco smoking.

People who are very ill may need to be hospitalized.

If pneumonia symptoms deteriorate, fever gets higher, or a person finds it difficult to breathe, they must contact a doctor or go to the emergency room.


The microbes that get into the respiratory tract may cause pneumonia in some people but not in others. This depends on the individual risk factors of each person as well as the type of germ present.

Some other strategies for preventing pneumonia include:

  • Avoiding people who have respiratory infections: This is particularly true for people who are at higher risk of developing pneumonia.
  • Avoiding places where sick, infected people may be, particularly during cold and flu season: People should not go to the hospital unless absolutely necessary. Those with weak immune systems may also want to avoid enclosed, poorly ventilated places, such as airplanes.
  • Managing chronic medical conditions, such as emphysema or congestive heart failure: Follow the doctor’s instructions on keeping chronic diseases under control.
  • Practicing regular handwashing: Regularly washing and rubbing hands together using warm soap and water will help lower the risk of contracting germs.
  • Getting vaccinated for pneumococcal pneumonia: Older people and other specific populations are at a higher risk than average of developing this form of bacterial pneumonia.
  • Getting a flu shot: This may help prevent viral pneumonia due to the influenza virus.


Double pneumonia is more than just a bad cold. It is a serious and potentially fatal condition that needs urgent medical treatment. With proper medical care, recovery is possible.

People who have a weak immune system or other risk factors for pneumonia should talk to their doctor about options for minimizing their risk of developing it in future.

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Medical News Today: What you need to know about occipital neuralgia

Occipital neuralgia is the term for a headache that starts in the upper neck or back of the head and spreads or radiates behind the eyes, forehead, and up to the scalp.

Headaches are one the world’s most common health problems, with 80-90 percent of Americans experiencing a “tension headache” at some point in their lives.

More painful migraine, cluster, and other headaches are a leading cause of doctor or emergency room visits.

Although headaches are a common health problem, occipital neuralgia is a specific type of headache. According to the American Migraine Foundation, it is also rare, affecting only 3.2 people out of every 100,000 a year.

How is it different from other headaches?

man holding the back of his neck
Occipital neuralgia is a headache that begins in the upper neck or back of head.

Headaches due to occipital neuralgia are frequently quite painful, starting with a sharp, stabbing pain, but most people with this condition respond well to treatment and most recover.

Occipital neuralgia is different from other types of headaches in two ways:

  1. The cause of the condition.
  2. The specific places where individuals feel pain.

Other headaches have more general causes, which can range from sinus infections to high blood pressure to medications and many other potential triggers.

But occipital neuralgia only develops when the occipital nerves are irritated or injured. These nerves are found at the second and third vertebrae of the neck.

Occipital neuralgia pain will only develop in areas touched by the greater, lesser, and third occipital nerves.

With one on each side of the head, the occipital nerves run from the spine to the scalp, and sensitivity can develop anywhere along this route.

What are the main symptoms?

lady touching side of face whilst lying in bed
The pain from occipital neuralgia may spread to the sides of the head or behind the eyes.

For most people, the pain strikes on only one side of the head. It also tends to spread, usually from where the skull meets the neck, and then traveling up the back of the head and to the sides or behind the eyes.

In many individuals, the scalp can be affected, especially where the occipital nerves connect.

It can feel sore or extremely sensitive.

Light may also irritate the eyes.

Occipital neuralgia is described as coming in bursts of pain that come and go, lasting for a few seconds or minutes. At times, individuals may experience a lingering ache between more extreme bouts of pain.

Small movements can trigger an outburst of pain from occipital neuralgia. These movements include:

  • turning the head to the side
  • putting the head down on a pillow
  • brushing or washing the hair

The pain can be quite intense, which can prompt some individuals with the condition to say it is like a migraine or a cluster headache, even though these are different types and require different treatments.

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What causes it?

Different conditions and circumstances can irritate the occipital nerves, which then give rise to occipital neuralgia.


Injuries to the neck area, such as whiplash from a car accident or some other sort of trauma, can damage the occipital nerves and lead to this condition.

Muscular problems

Tight muscles in the neck and the back of the head can put the squeeze on occipital nerves and pinch or entrap them, which can also lead to occipital neuralgia.

Back issues

Problems with the spine, such as arthritis, degenerating discs, or spondylosis, are possible sources of pressure on the occipital nerves, as are tumors.

Other causes

Other conditions that can play a role in developing occipital neuralgia include:

In many cases, it is not possible for someone to identify a single factor that damaged or irritated the occipital nerves.

How is it diagnosed?

doctor examining women's head and neck
During an examination the doctor may see if pressing on the occipital nerve area causes pain.

A doctor taking a medical history and conducting a physical exam diagnoses occipital neuralgia.

This condition causes extreme tenderness along the occipital nerves. So, during a physical exam, the doctor may press on these areas to see if the pressure generates pain.

It is not always easy to diagnose occipital neuralgia because it has similar characteristics to many other kinds of headaches.

After initial exams, a doctor may order more involved tests.

One way to diagnose occipital neuralgia can also provide relief.

If a nerve block injected between the C2 and C3 vertebrae makes the symptoms go away, it is a strong indication of occipital neuralgia.

Deadening the nerves with anesthetics and corticosteroids helps individuals feel better, although the effects are temporary, only lasting about 12 weeks. However, injections into the vertebrae and numbing nerves are involved procedures, so a doctor will often pursue less invasive treatments first.

Can it be prevented?

For some people, antiepileptic medications and tricyclic antidepressants can prevent bouts of pain due to occipital neuralgia.

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Doctors will usually recommend straightforward treatments when individuals are first diagnosed with occipital neuralgia. These include:

The aim is to provide many people with relief by relaxing and releasing the muscles that are putting pressure on the occipital nerves.

Other medications, such as muscle relaxants and anticonvulsants, can help offset symptoms.

Nerve blockers

Nerve-blocking injections, which are used to diagnose the condition, can also be used to prevent pain.

Pulsed radiofrequency

Pulsed radiofrequency may be employed to stimulate the occipital nerves to keep them from sending pain signals. Although this procedure is more invasive than massage and medication, it does not damage any nerves or nearby tissue.


Surgery is reserved for the most painful and difficult cases. Through a process called microvascular decompression, doctors eliminate pressure on the nerves by moving encroaching blood vessels out of the way.

Home remedies

Home remedies can do a lot to relieve the pain when tight muscles, injury, and stress cause occipital neuralgia.

Rest, massage, and warm compresses can help individuals work out the kinks that are creating pressure in their necks.

Physical therapy can help individuals work through the crisis phase of their occipital neuralgia and provide them with exercises they can do to prevent a recurrence of this painful condition.

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Medical News Today: How do the brains of intelligent people work?

People with a higher-than-average intelligence level have brains that are “wired” in a different way, researchers say. A new study suggests that intelligence is linked with increased connectivity between some regions, and reduced interaction between others.
illustration of intelligent young woman
New research shows that intelligent people have different brain connectivity patterns.

Researchers at Goethe University Frankfurt in Germany have been giving a lot of thought to how the brains of intelligent people function.

In previous studies, Kirsten Hilger, Christian Fiebach, and Ulrike Basten — all from Goethe University Frankfurt’s Department of Psychology — have revealed that there are key differences in brain activation patterns that set intelligent people apart.

In 2015, this team published an article showing that the frontal and parietal regions of the brain are more strongly activated in people with a high IQ.

A more recent study, whose findings were reported earlier this year, added that the brain’s anterior insula and anterior cingulate cortex are more actively connected with other regions in the case of intelligent individuals.

At the same time, the researchers noted that high IQ is also associated with a reduced connectivity in the temporoparietal junction, where — as the name suggests — the temporal and parietal lobes connect.

“The different topological embedding of these regions into the brain network could make it easier for smarter persons to differentiate between important and irrelevant information — which would be advantageous for many cognitive challenges,” suggests Basten.

Intrigued by these findings, Hilger and colleagues went further, setting out to explore how patterns of activation and integration in the brain correlate with a higher level of intelligence.

In their new study — the results of which were recently published in the journal Scientific Reports — the researchers noted that smarter people have increased connectivity between some areas of the brain, while interaction is dampened between other regions.

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Distinct brain module connectivity patterns

The team analyzed the brain scans of 309 participants (110 men and 199 women), all of whom were aged between 18 and 60 years. Their scores on the Full Scale Intelligence Quotient were assessed with the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence.

Hilger and colleagues based their study on the notion that the human brain is “split” into modules, where regions communicate with each other “preferentially,” so that some areas interact more intensely than others. Basten explains this through an analogy with social networks.

“This is similar to a social network which consists of multiple subnetworks (e.g., families or circles of friends),” she says. “Within these subnetworks or modules, the members of one family are more strongly interconnected than they are with people from other families or circles of friends.”

“Our brain is functionally organized in a very similar way,” Basten explains. “There are subnetworks of brain regions — modules — that are more strongly interconnected among themselves while they have weaker connections to brain regions from other modules.”

In the new study, the researchers found that people with higher IQs have stronger connectivity between certain brain regions. More specifically, the authors noted that clusters of network nodes in the frontal and parietal cortex, and in cortical and subcortical areas, were more strongly interconnected and more intensely active.

At the same time, the team observed that certain brain regions — such as the superior frontal gyrus temporoparietal junction — are “segregated,” meaning that they communicate much less with other brain areas.

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Where does causality lie?

This may suggest that brain module intra- and interconnectivity in more intelligent people are primed to discard irrelevant or distracting information.

“We assume that network properties we have found in more intelligent persons help us to focus mentally and to ignore or suppress irrelevant, potentially distracting inputs,” Basten says.

However, the researchers note that it is hard to say where causation lies in these findings.

It may be, she says, that people with higher IQs are naturally wired differently, yet it may also be that these patterns of connectivity are caused by engaging in habitually demanding intellectual work. This is a conundrum that is due to be solved by future research.

It is possible that due to their biological predispositions, some individuals develop brain networks that favor intelligent behaviors or more challenging cognitive tasks. However, it is equally as likely that the frequent use of the brain for cognitively challenging tasks may positively influence the development of brain networks.”

Ulrike Basten

“Given what we currently know about intelligence,” she concludes, “an interplay of both processes seems most likely.”

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Medical News Today: Is being unsociable the secret to creativity?

New research published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences examines three different kinds of social withdrawal and finds that one of them correlates with higher creativity.
girl working on her laptop sitting by the window
Being socially withdrawn can hold surprising creative benefits.

When people choose to be alone, they most often do so for one of three reasons: they are shy, they dislike interacting with other people, or they enjoy spending time alone.

Traditionally, psychologists have named these three categories as shyness, avoidance, and unsociability. And new research aims to see whether all of these three categories are associated with negative psychological outcomes.

Many of us tend to think of solitude as something undesirable, and some studies confirm that too much loneliness is detrimental to your health. But the new research — led by Julie Bowker, an associate professor at the University of Buffalo’s Department of Psychology in New York — finds positive associations with one specific form of social withdrawal.

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Not all loneliness is bad, ‘motivation matters’

Speaking about these negative associations with loneliness, Bowker says, “When people think about the costs associated with social withdrawal, oftentimes they adopt a developmental perspective.”

“During childhood and adolescence, the idea is that if you’re removing yourself too much from your peers, then you’re missing out on positive interactions like receiving social support, developing social skills, and other benefits of interacting with your peers.”

“This may be why there has been such an emphasis on the negative effects of avoiding and withdrawing from peers,” Bowker continues.

Referring to her study, Bowker says, “Motivation matters […] We have to understand why someone is withdrawing to understand the associated risks and benefits.”

To do so, the team asked 295 participants to fill in a series of questionnaires that asked about their motivation for wanting to be alone, and their creativity, sensitivity to anxiety, predisposition to depression, aggression, and social anhedonia — that is, lacking pleasure in social activities.

The participants were “emerging adults,” aged 19.31 years, on average. Bowker and colleagues also assessed these participants’ so-called behavioral activation systems (BAS) and behavioral inhibition systems (BIS).

BIS and BAS both help to regulate avoidant behaviors. A high score on the BAS scale, for instance, would mean that the participant rated as “very true” an item such as, “When I go after something I use a ‘no hold barred’ approach.”

A high score on the BIS scale would mean that the person considers statements such as, “I feel pretty worried or upset when I think or know somebody is angry at me” as “very true.” The team used the BIS/BAS scales to distinguish between different kinds of social withdrawal.

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Unsociable individuals are more creative

The study found that unsociable individuals were more likely to be highly creative. To the authors’ knowledge, these results offer “the first evidence of a potential benefit” of unsociability.

By contrast, shyness and avoidance were shown to correlate negatively with creativity, meaning that the more shy or avoidant one is, the less likely they are to be creative.

While speculating about the reasons for this negative relation, Bowker says that “shy and avoidant individuals may be unable to use their solitude time happily and productively, maybe because they are distracted by their negative cognitions and fears.”

By contrast, “[U]nsociable youth[s] spend more time alone than with others, [but] we [also] know that they spend some time with peers. They are not antisocial. They don’t initiate interaction, but also don’t appear to turn down social invitations from peers.”

“Therefore,” Bowker continues, unsociable individuals “may get just enough peer interaction so that when they are alone, they are able to enjoy that solitude. They’re able to think creatively and develop new ideas — like an artist in a studio or the academic in his or her office.”

Over the years, unsociability has been characterized as a relatively benign form of social withdrawal. But, with the new findings linking it to creativity, we think unsociability may be better characterized as a potentially beneficial form of social withdrawal.”

Julie Bowker

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