Medical News Today: Toxic substance may yield male birth control pill

A new study brings us one step closer to a birth control pill for men, and it comes from an unlikely source: a plant-derived poison once used on the arrows of African warriors.
a packet of blue pills
Researchers reveal how a substance with deadly origins could lead to a male birth control pill.

Yes, you read it right. Researchers suggest that a plant extract known as ouabain — a potentially toxic substance that can stop the heart — could serve as an oral contraceptive for men.

This is after finding that a modified form of the compound safely reduced sperm motility in male rats.

Study co-author Gunda Georg — who works in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Minnesota’s College of Pharmacy in Minneapolis — and her colleagues recently published their findings in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

When it comes to oral contraception, women have a wealth of options. But for men, the choice is between condoms or a vasectomy. But researchers hope that this could soon change, with great strides being made toward the world’s first oral contraceptive for men.

In 2016, Medical News Today reported on a study from Georg and colleagues that identified a number of compounds that could be modified to make them viable candidates for male birth control.

The latest study focuses on one compound in particular: ouabain.

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Ouabain and male fertility

Ouabain, a substance that derives from the African plants Strophanthus gratus and Acokanthera schimperi, is a toxic compound that, in high doses, can cause cardiac arrest.

It was also traditionally used in African warfare; warriors used to coat the ends of their arrows with the substance in the hope that it would poison their enemies.

Today, ouabain is sometimes used in low doses for the treatment of certain heart conditions; it can help to control blood pressure and heart rate. That being said, because of the compound’s toxicity, its use is not widespread.

Ouabain works by inhibiting proteins in cell membranes called Na,K-ATPases. These proteins are comprised of subunits, many of which are found in heart tissue.

However, the researchers note that one Na,K-ATPase subunit — known as Na,K-ATPase α4 — is present in adult sperm cells, and research has shown that this subunit plays a significant role in male fertility.

Although previous studies have indicated that ouabain could reduce fertility in men, the compound as it stands would not be suitable as a male contraceptive; it would not only inhibit Na,K-ATPase α4 in sperm, but it would also block cardiac Na,K-ATPase subunits, which could cause severe heart damage.

With this in mind, Georg and team sought to modify ouabain so that it would target Na,K-ATPase α4, while steering clear of Na,K-ATPase subunits in the heart.

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Compound reduced sperm motility in rats

The scientists tested a number of different ouabain modifications for the new study, and they found that by removing a sugar group and the lactone group from the compound and replacing the latter with a triazole group, they created a compound that could selectively target the Na,K-ATPase α4 subunit in sperm cells.

On testing this newly created form of ouabain in male rats, they found that it was able to bind to the Na,K-ATPase α4 subunit in sperm and reduce their motility, or ability to swim. Poor motility can hinder sperm’s ability to travel through the female reproductive tract and fertilize an egg.

Importantly, the researchers found that their modified form ouabain produced no toxic effects in the rats.

Also, they point out that the effects of the compound on sperm motility should be reversible; since Na,K-ATPase α4 subunits are only present on mature sperm cells, any sperm cells produced after treatment with the ouabain-derived compound should not be affected.

Further studies are needed before any conclusions can be made about the use of ouabain as an oral contraceptive for men, but the researchers believe that their modified version could be a potential candidate.

The team concludes:

This novel scaffold represents an attractive chemical structure for further development of a highly specific male contraceptive.”

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Medical News Today: What you should know about hyperkeratosis

Hyperkeratosis is a skin condition that occurs when a person’s skin becomes thicker than usual in certain places.

Keratin is a tough, fibrous protein found in fingernails, hair, and skin. The body may produce extra keratin as a result of inflammation, as a protective response to pressure, or as a result of a genetic condition.

Most forms of hyperkeratosis are treatable with preventive measures and medication.

Causes and types

A callous on a foot is a type of hyperkeratosis
Forms of hyperkeratosis may include warts, corns, and calluses.

Pressure-related hyperkeratosis occurs as a result of excessive pressure, inflammation or irritation to the skin.

When this happens, the skin responds by producing extra layers of keratin to protect the damaged areas of skin.

Non-pressure related keratosis occurs on skin that has not been irritated. Experts think that this form of hyperkeratosis may be the result of genetics.

Forms of hyperkeratosis include:

  • actinic keratosis, which causes rough, sandpaper-like patches of skin to develop as a result of excess skin exposure
  • calluses
  • corns
  • eczema
  • epidermolytic hyperkeratosis, an inherited skin disorder present at birth
  • lichen planus, a condition that causes white patches to grow on the inside of the mouth
  • plantar warts
  • psoriasis
  • warts

If a person has a potential area of hyperkeratosis on their skin that they are uncertain of, they should see their doctor.

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Hyperkeratosis can have a range of symptoms. However, all symptoms will involve an area of rough or patchy skin that feels different from the surrounding skin.

Some symptoms of the more common causes of hyperkeratosis include:

  • Calluses: A callus is an area of thickened skin that usually occurs on the feet, but can also grow on the fingers. Unlike a corn (see below), a callus is usually of even thickness.
  • Corns: A lesion that typically develops on or between the toes. A corn usually has a center lesion of very hard keratin with an outer ring of hard tissue that is slightly softer.
  • Eczema: This condition causes red, itching skin that may appear in patches or as small bumps
  • Epidermolytic hyperkeratosis: This condition causes very red skin and severe blistering of the skin at birth. As the baby ages, they will develop areas of thickened skin (hyperkeratosis), particularly over their joints.
  • Leukoplakia: This condition causes thick, white patches to build up inside the mouth.
  • Plaque psoriasis: This condition can cause an excess buildup of skin cells that are often silvery and scaled.

With the exceptions of corns and calluses, most forms of hyperkeratosis are not painful.

What are the treatment options?

barefoot man in locker room may be prone to hyperkeratosis lesions
It is recommended to avoid being barefoot in gyms and locker rooms to help prevent hyperkeratosis lesions.

Treatments for hyperkeratosis depend upon what form a person has. Both at-home and medical treatments exist for hyperkeratosis.

Some of the ways to avoid hyperkeratosis lesions, such as corns or calluses include:

  • Wearing comfortable, well-fitting shoes. Wearing padding over corns or calluses can also offer further protection.
  • Avoiding going barefoot in areas that are prone to fungi, such as in locker rooms, gyms, or pools.
  • Avoiding environmental conditions known to contribute to eczema, such as dry air, highly fragranced or perfumed soaps, harsh chemicals, or extremely hot or cold temperatures.
  • Avoiding allergy triggers, such as pet dander and pollen that can cause skin inflammation.
  • Wearing sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 30 every time you go outside. Wearing protective clothing, such as a hat or long sleeves, can also protect against actinic keratosis.

If a person has a condition that causes lesions that are removable, such as warts, they should see their doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant who can “freeze” a wart or use a laser to vaporize it.

These healthcare professionals can also prescribe medication to treat areas of hyperkeratosis, such as corticosteroid creams for eczema or lichen planus.

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When to see a doctor

A person should see a doctor when their hyperkeratosis causes pain or discomfort. If an area of the skin appears infected, such as reddened, swollen, or pus-filled, they should also seek medical attention.

Sometimes hyperkeratosis plaques can closely resemble cancerous lesions. For this reason, many people choose to have thickened areas of skin evaluated.

A doctor will take a medical history to determine if there is an underlying cause for the hyperkeratosis. For example, if a person has leukoplakia, a history of smoking or using chewing tobacco, then they may be at higher risk of developing hyperkeratosis.

A doctor may also order imaging tests to determine if there are underlying problems with a person’s bone structure or the presence of tumors on or around the hyperkeratosis areas.

Another diagnostic tool is a biopsy, which involves taking a sample of skin and examining it under a microscope for the presence of cancerous cells or other cell abnormalities. In most instances, a doctor can diagnose the underlying cause via a physical examination.


There are many forms of hyperkeratosis, most of which are not painful. Some types of hyperkeratosis, such as warts and calluses are removable, while other forms can be treated or managed with a variety of medications.

Anyone who develops patches of thickened skin on their body should consult a doctor or dermatologist for a diagnosis.

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Medical News Today: Blood transfusions: Is there a limit?

Although blood transfusions can be lifesaving, can they be done too often? Is there a limit to how many blood transfusions a person can have? The answer to both questions is no.

A blood transfusion is a common medical procedure. A transfusion may be needed to treat a long-term disease or a medical emergency.

Although there are no set parameters for how many blood transfusions a person can have, there are some guidelines for avoiding complications and improving outcomes.

Blood transfusion basics

How many blood transfusions can a person have
There are guidelines for avoiding complications if a person has many blood transfusions.

A person’s blood contains white and red blood cells along with platelets and plasma.

A blood transfusion involves giving whole blood or, more commonly, only a specific part of the blood.

According to the American Red Cross, common blood transfusions involve one component of the blood only. This may be the red blood cells, platelets, or plasma. White blood cells are rarely transfused.

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Rules for blood transfusions

Hospitals typically have rules or protocols for how low a person’s blood count must be before they are given a blood transfusion. Protocols for administering blood transfusions often involve hemoglobin levels.

Hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to the tissues and organs in the body.

A blood test measures hemoglobin in the body. Low hemoglobin levels often indicate blood loss or a lack of red blood cell production.

A study funded by the American Association of Blood Banks recommends restricting red blood cell transfusions for hospitalized adult patients until the hemoglobin level has fallen to 7 grams per deciliter (g/dl).

Waiting until hemoglobin is at 7 g/dl is associated with administering fewer units of red blood cells.

The above parameter for hemoglobin also tends to result in shorter hospital stays and lower rates of complications, including death.

Additional rules for blood transfusions include making sure the person’s blood is compatible with the donor blood. To check if the donor blood is a match, the person getting the blood has a test to determine their blood type.

A test called a crossmatch is also done to screen for antigens and make sure the recipient’s blood is compatible with the donor blood.

Trained staff will monitor the person for any negative reactions during and after the blood transfusion.

Limits for blood transfusions

A blood transfusion may be limited if a person has a negative reaction or a complication.

In some cases, blood transfusions may be limited if donated blood is in short supply. For example, during a disaster or a mass casualty incident where many people may require blood, and there may not be enough.

Also, in some instances, a person can appear to need a blood transfusion, but a co-existing condition may be a contraindication or reason to avoid giving the blood. For example, certain cardiac conditions can be made worse by increasing volume through giving blood.

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emergency sign
A large blood transfusion may create some possible complications.

A blood transfusion is not without risks. There can be complications that range from minor to life-threatening.

One rare complication is a sudden immune reaction. This occurs when the person’s immune system attacks the transfused blood cells and damages the kidneys.

Additional complications of a blood transfusion can include fever and infection.

Having what is referred to as a massive blood transfusion can have additional complications.

Transfusing 10 units of blood in a 24-hour period, or 5 units of blood in 4 hours, is considered a massive blood transfusion. Such a big blood transfusion replaces a large amount of the person’s blood volume.

A massive blood transfusion may be needed in cases where someone is in shock due to rapid blood loss. Traumatic injuries and complications from surgery can lead to massive blood loss.

Possible complications of a massive blood transfusion include:

  • hyperkalemia or high potassium in the blood
  • abnormal blood clotting
  • hypothermia or low body temperature
  • increased acid in the blood

Alternatives to blood transfusions

In some cases, such as if a person experienced a bad reaction to a blood transfusion, alternatives might be an option.

Possible alternatives to blood transfusions include:

Growth factors

Hematopoietic growth factors are substances that stimulate the bone marrow to increase blood cell production. Growth factors are naturally made in the body, but synthetic versions are also available to treat people with low blood counts.

Administering growth factors can increase platelets and red and white blood cells counts. However, it usually takes weeks to increase blood count.

Because using growth factors requires time, it is not effective in a life-threatening situation when blood counts need to be raised quickly.

Volume expanders

Volume expanders are administered into the bloodstream through a vein. They work by expanding fluid volume in the body to help improve blood circulation to the organs. They may be given when a person is in certain types of shock.

Volume expanders do not increase the number of red blood cells in the body but may be an alternative if someone refuses a blood transfusion, or has an adverse reaction to blood products.

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Currently, there is no set number of blood transfusions a person can have. But the procedure is not without risks and possible complications.

Following blood transfusion guidelines and rules, such as specific hemoglobin levels, may decrease complications and improve outcomes.

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Medical News Today: Is senna tea safe to drink?

Senna is an herb that comes from several different flowering species of the Cassia plants. The leaves, flowers, and fruits of the senna plant have been used in tea as a laxative or stimulant for centuries.

The leaves of the Senna plant are also used in some teas to help relieve constipation or promote weight loss.

The most common Cassia senna plants used are the C. acutifolia, and C. angustifolia plants, which are grown in the Middle East and India.

Uses of senna tea

senna leaves
The leaves of the senna plant are used in teas and may help relieve constipation.

Senna is most often used as a laxative, either to relieve constipation or in some cases, to help with weight loss. It is also an ingredient in some conventional over-the-counter laxatives.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approved senna as a non-prescription drug to treat constipation. The most common doses are:

  • Children: 8.5 milligrams (mg) per day to cause a single bowel movement
  • Children over 12 and adults: 17.2 mg per day, with no more than 34.4 mg each day
  • Older adults: 17 mg per day
  • Postpartum pregnancy: 28 mg per day, divided into two doses

It is not recommended to use senna for longer than 2 weeks at a time.

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There have been some case reports of people suffering from liver damage, coma or nerve damage after using senna. In these cases, people were using senna at much higher than the recommended doses and for more extended periods of time.

People with certain medical conditions should not use senna, including:

Also, anyone with abdominal pain or children under the age of 2 years should not use senna.

Pregnant women and breast-feeding mothers

Senna may or may not be safe for use during pregnancy. Pregnant women with constipation should speak with their doctor before using senna or any other laxative.

Senna appears to be safe for women who are breast-feeding, when used in the recommended amount. Even though a small amount of the herb passes into the breast milk, it does not appear to have any effect on a nursing baby’s stool.

Side effects

woman holding her stomach in pain
Cramping or abdominal pain are possible side effects of drinking senna tea.

Senna can cause some uncomfortable and even some serious side effects.

They can include:

  • diarrhea
  • cramping
  • fluid loss
  • abdominal pain
  • electrolyte disturbances
  • feeling faint

Long-term use of senna can cause dependence in order to have a bowel movement, finger clubbing (usually reversible), rectal bleeding, and wasting.

Someone experiencing any of these side effects should speak with their doctor, especially if they do not go away.

It is essential to drink plenty of fluids or electrolyte replacement solutions, such as Gatorade, when taking senna. This is to prevent a person from losing too much fluid or electrolytes, especially if they have diarrhea.

To deal with cramping or abdominal pain, people can reduce the dose until the discomfort subsides.

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What are the drug interactions?

There are several drug interactions to be noted. By being aware of these, people can make sure that they are drinking senna tea safely.

People taking the following medications or herbal supplements should avoid taking senna:

horsetail herb
Those already taking the herb horsetail should not drink senna tea as both are believed to lower potassium levels.
  • Contraceptives: Senna can interact with the form of estrogen in some contraceptives, including the vaginal ring, patch or pills. It might make the birth control less effective, making it more likely for an accidental pregnancy to occur.
  • Digoxin: Senna can cause electrolyte imbalances in the body, especially in potassium levels. Low potassium can cause problems for someone taking digoxin.
  • Warfarin: Diarrhea in people taking warfarin can increase the risk of serious bleeding. Because senna can cause diarrhea, anyone taking warfarin should avoid using senna.
  • Diuretics: Like senna, some diuretics can also decrease potassium and other electrolyte levels. Taking these two medications together can cause potassium levels to drop to a dangerous level.
  • Estrogens: Estrogens in hormone replacement therapies react the same way as birth control pills. Using senna with hormone replacement therapy may mean that the estrogen is not absorbed or work as well.
  • Horsetail: Horsetail is an herb that some people take for several different reasons. There is some thought that horsetail could lower potassium levels in some people. Taking senna with horsetail may lower potassium levels too much.
  • Licorice: Licorice also lowers potassium levels; people should avoid taking both licorice and senna together.


Senna is generally well tolerated and thought to be safe for most people. However, it does have the potential to cause serious complications in some people with certain health conditions and who take certain medications.

It is best to consult a doctor with any questions about taking senna.

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Medical News Today: What sleep talkers say during slumber

“I can’t eat a dolphin” and “Can I have a bucket of water to do my homework, please?” are just some of the bizarre things that the Medical News Today team has said while sleeping. An exciting new study sheds light on this phenomenon and reveals some of the words that are most likely to come out of our mouths during slumber. They’re not pretty.
a man snoring or sleep talking
What do sleep talkers say? A new study may surprise you.

Sleep talking, also referred to as a “somniloquy,” is a common parasomnia. Many of you are likely to have woken yourself up, suddenly aware that you are mumbling or shouting, or a partner may have told you a humorous tale about the weird words you muttered as you slept last night.

Sleep talking is estimated to affect around 5 percent of all adults, but many more of us may experience this complex behavior, particularly if we’re stressed or sleep-deprived.

In fact, research has indicated that more than 66 percent of us have spoken during sleep at some point in our lives.

We know little about the brain mechanisms that provoke sleep talking but research has suggested that it arises as a part of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep behavior disorder, wherein the region of the brain that paralyzes speech and movements during sleep fails to function effectively.

The good news is that, by itself, sleep talking is largely harmless — though the person that has to listen to you jabbering while they’re trying to get some shut-eye might disagree.

If you’re anything like me, you’re likely more concerned with what you say in your sleep, wondering if you blurted out something highly embarrassing.

Well, the new study — published in the journal Sleep — confirms your fears.

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Swearing and negativity common

Conducted by Dr. Isabelle Arnulf, of the Sleep Disorders Unit at AP-HP, Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris, France, the research reveals that sleep talk is brimming with negative and vulgar words that are often directed toward another person.

The team came to the new findings by studying 232 adults. Of these, 129 had REM sleep behavior disorder, 87 experienced sleepwalking, sleep terrors, or both, one adult had sleep apnea, and 15 adults had no sleep-related disorders.

Over 2 nights, the researchers used video polysomnography to record any speech episodes as the participants’ slept. They monitored the frequency of speech episodes, the words that each adult said, and whether subjects spoke positively or negatively, as well as whether or not their words were aimed at others.

There were a total of 883 speech episodes among the participants, including 3,349 decipherable words.

The most common word spoken during speech episodes was “no,” and this word appeared around four times more when the subjects were asleep than when they were awake.

But that isn’t the worst part: the team found that nearly 10 percent of all the speech episodes contained swearing, with the “F word” appearing around 800 times more during slumber.

Swearing during sleep was more common in men than women, and men tend to sleep talk more in general.

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We might swear, but our grammar’s good

Talking to MNT, Dr. Arnulf said that the team wasn’t too surprised by its results, pointing out that when people dream — which usually occurs during REM sleep — negative emotions are not uncommon.

She told us that “[…] people may act out — and speak loudly — only when they are extremely worried; the rest of their speeches remaining inner and silent.”

“[S]leep talkers may face situations in dream[s] in which anybody would swear, had they happened awake — e.g., need to escape a danger, and shouting, or need to counter-fight, and insulting the aggressor,” Dr. Arnulf added.

In essence, if you’re dreaming about a stressful work situation or an argument with a partner, don’t be surprised if a few expletives slip out of your mouth.

But, despite the words that we say in our sleep being far from ideal, we can be safe in the knowledge that our grammar doesn’t suffer.

“What we now know,” Dr. Arnulf told MNT, “is that sleep talking is very similar to talking awake, in terms of correct grammar, with subordinate sentences, and silence for other[s] to answer, as in awake turn of speech.”

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“The differences,” she said, “are qualitative: nocturnal language is negative, tense, more vulgar, and addressed to somebody, not to oneself. It suggests that the brain uses the same networks as awake, and that sleep talking translates the concomitant dreaming activity, which is tense, too.”

Next, the researchers plan to shed some light on the gestures that correspond with what sleep talkers say — something that Dr. Arnulf refers to as “co-sleep gestures.”

“The persistence of co-speech gestures would suggest that the connection between frontal and temporal area is maintained during sleep,” she told us.

So, if you want to know whether you pack a good punch in your sleep, watch this space.

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Medical News Today: Adenopathy: Symptoms, causes, and treatment

Adenopathy is any disease or inflammation that involves glandular tissue or lymph nodes. The term is usually used to refer to lymphadenopathy or swollen lymph nodes.

Unlike the tear glands in the eye or sweat glands in the skin, the lymph nodes do not produce and release chemicals. Instead, the lymph nodes work as a group to carry lymph throughout the body.

Lymph carries white blood cells around the body to fight off germs and other foreign invaders. Lymph nodes filter fluids from the body with this lymph, which helps the body fight off infections and other diseases.


Doctor holding swollen lymph nodes adenopathy diagnosis
Lymph nodes in the neck may swell if an infection is present.

Though there are hundreds of lymph nodes in a person’s body, only a few can be felt. Many people notice that the lymph nodes in their neck or armpits swell when they have an infection, for example, the cold or flu viruses. This is because the lymph nodes are filling with immune cells and waste from the germs.

Other groups of lymph nodes that may be felt when they swell are near the back of the head, belly, or groin. These enlarged nodes may also show additional symptoms, such as:

  • tenderness or pain when touched
  • redness and warmth on the skin over and around them
  • visible lumps under the skin

Swollen lymph nodes may also be felt alongside other symptoms of an infection. Depending on the cause of the infection, these can include:

In most cases, swollen lymph nodes will return to their usual size once the infection has been treated or goes away.

Other symptoms of swollen lymph nodes may be a sign of a more serious issue. These symptoms require a trip to the doctor:

  • rapidly growing nodes
  • nodes that remain swollen for more than 2 weeks
  • unexplained weight loss
  • long-lasting fevers or night sweats
  • easy bleeding or bruising
  • stiff nodes that do not move when pushed

Anyone experiencing problems with swallowing or breathing because of adenopathy should call a doctor immediately.

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There is a range of different causes of swollen lymph nodes.


Flu virus may cause adenopathy
Swollen lymph nodes may be caused by infections such as influenza.

Infections are the most common cause of swollen lymph nodes.

The body responds to these infections quickly, filling the nodes with white blood cells to fight off the infection.

Any number of infectious germs could be behind the swelling, and some are much more common than others.

Infections that can cause adenopathy include:

Other causes

Swollen lymph nodes can also be caused by things other than infections, such as autoimmune diseases or injuries. There are numerous examples, but some possibilities include:

  • Medications: Some medications, such as those used to prevent malaria or the anti-seizure medication phenytoin (Dilantin), may cause swollen lymph nodes.
  • Injuries: Cuts, bruises, and fractures may inflame the lymph nodes around the injury, as the body works to keep germs at bay and help heal the wound.
  • Lupus: This is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation around the body, including in the joints, skin, and lymph nodes.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: This is an autoimmune disease that primarily causes inflammation in the joints, though this inflammation can spread to other areas in some cases.
  • IgG4-related disease: This is an inflammatory condition that can cause damage and scarring in one or more systems of the body.

Adenopathy in cancer

Cancer adenopathy occurs when the lymph nodes swell due to cancer in the body. This cancer can start in the lymph nodes themselves, where it is called lymphoma.

Cancers may also spread to the lymph nodes when a tumor metastasizes. This means cancer cells break away from the tumor and spread to other parts of the body via the blood or lymph.

When the cancer cells are carried in the lymph, they can easily become stuck in a lymph node and cause adenopathy. They may possibly create another tumor in the node.

Cancer cells in the lymph may not spread as fast as cancer cells distributed through the bloodstream. If cancer cells get into the lymph, nearby lymph nodes often get affected first, and secondary tumors and adenopathy may follow.

Because of this, doctors will keep close watch over the lymph nodes in the area around the original tumor to look for any signs of the disease spreading.

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CT scanner may be used for adenopathy
CT scans may be used to check for other swollen lymph nodes in the body.

Adenopathy itself is not a disease, but a sign of an underlying disease or other condition. Doctors will first identify the location of the swollen lymph nodes.

Adenopathy is classified depending on the location of the swollen lymph nodes.

  • Localized adenopathy affects only one area of the body.
  • Bilateral adenopathy occurs on both sides of the body.
  • Generalized adenopathy occurs in multiple places in the body.

Adenopathy can also be categorized as acute or chronic:

  • Acute adenopathy comes on suddenly and goes away quickly.
  • Chronic adenopathy persists for a longer period of time.

Superficial lymph nodes found just under the skin can often be checked using a physical examination. Doctors may use imaging tests, such as computed tomography or CT scans, to check for other swollen lymph nodes throughout the body, such as those near the organs.

Doctors may ask numerous questions about the swelling and any additional symptoms the person is experiencing in order to determine the underlying cause.

They may also call for blood tests or other tests to help diagnose the underlying issue. In some cases, doctors may order a biopsy of the lymph node. This is where they take a bit of tissue from the node for examination.


Usually, the lymph nodes will not be treated directly. Instead, the underlying condition causing adenopathy will be treated.

Home treatments, such as warm compresses or ice pads, may help soothe any discomfort in the area.

Over-the-counter pain medications, such ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol), can temporarily ease the pain from swelling, and extra rest may support the body’s healing process.

If the swollen lymph nodes are due to a bacterial infection, doctors may prescribe antibiotics. Antibiotics do not affect viral infections.

Serious conditions such as autoimmune diseases or cancer require special, individualized treatment plans.

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Adenopathy can vary from person to person. If adenopathy is caused by a minor infection, it will go away as soon as the infection has cleared up. More serious conditions may require a specialized treatment plan.

Anyone with persistently swollen lymph nodes or nodes that grow over time should see a doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

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Medical News Today: How to stop racing thoughts

Racing thoughts are a stream of thoughts that come quickly, one after the other. They may be about one subject or many different unrelated things. Racing thoughts have the power to completely take over a person’s mind, leaving them unable to focus on anything else.

Racing thoughts rapidly move in a sequence, often ending in a worst-case scenario. Some people may hear them as a voice that they cannot ignore, but they may merely be subtle, background noise in the brain.

There is no single cause of racing thoughts. They can be triggered by high stress, lack of sleep, medications, and some medical conditions. Fortunately, treating underlying health conditions or coping techniques can be effective in reducing or calming them.

What causes racing thoughts?

Racing thoughts
Racing thoughts may be caused by anxiety, depression, OCD, and amphetamine addiction.

Mental health conditions causing racing thoughts may include:

When not caused by an underlying health condition, racing thoughts are more likely to happen during times of high stress. Severe lack of sleep and certain medications may also increase the risk of racing thoughts.

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Seven ways to stop racing thoughts

There are ways to control racing thoughts and reduce their occurrence. It may take time and practice to master these strategies, but they can be useful for managing racing thoughts at any time.

1. Focus on now, not the future or the past

For some people, racing thoughts stem from something that has not happened and may never happen. Other people focus on things that happened in the past, which cannot be changed.

People who experience racing thoughts should take every effort to think about what is happening right now. Saying to themselves:,”I won’t worry about the past or the future, I’ll focus on what I can control,” is a good place to start.

2. Take deep breaths

The body’s natural panic response is to speed up the heart and breathing rate. This may happen when the mind begins racing. Slower, deep breaths can reduce the body’s stress response and promote a feeling of calm, helping to quiet or stop racing thoughts.

Deep breathing can be done anytime, without any particular training. Just breathing in for 3 seconds and out for 5 to 10 seconds is a simple way to accomplish this.

3. Think about other options

Because racing thoughts often end up in a worst-case scenario, it can be easy to get wrapped up in disaster. This can lead to a vicious cycle of more anxiety and continued racing thoughts. A person whose mind is racing may wish to tell themselves that this worst-case scenario is not going to happen.

They can think about other, more desirable options that are more likely to occur. Instead of, “I’ll get fired for that mistake,” change the thought to, “Everyone makes mistakes, and I’ll do what I can to make it right.”

4. Use mantras

Mantras are simple words or phrases that people can repeat to calm the mind. They can be particularly useful in times of panic and racing thoughts. Phrases such as, “I can get through this,” or “It will be okay,” can be helpful.

Mantras allow the mind to focus on one simple thought that is positive or encouraging. This turns the mind away from its racing thoughts.

5. Try distractions

A favorite hobby, especially one that is calming, can quiet the mind and help a person focus on something other than racing thoughts.

Coloring books are a popular option for reducing stress and offer a calming distraction. Painting, gardening, cooking, or playing an instrument are other possibilities.

6. Exercise

running may help control racing thoughts
Racing thoughts may be controlled with regular physical activity.

Regular physical activity improves mental well-being and may be helpful during an episode of racing thoughts.

Numerous studies have shown that exercise can have mood-boosting power.

A study in Behavior Therapy says exercise improves symptoms of depression, while a study in the Journal of Sport Behavior found that just 15 minutes of exercise improved mood in college students.

If a person feels racing thoughts developing, walking, jogging, or similar activities may help to settle the mind.

7. Inhale lavender essential oil

Lavender has a reputation for being calming, and some research backs up this claim.

A study published in the Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand found that inhaling lavender essential oil can calm the mind and quiet brain activity.

Medical care to control racing thoughts

Because many mental health conditions can cause racing thoughts, it is important to seek the advice of a doctor for diagnosis and treatment of any issues.

Anyone who experiences repeated episodes of racing thoughts, signs of ongoing depression, anxiety, ADHD, sleep problems, or other mental health issues should talk to a doctor.

There is no single treatment for racing thoughts, but some options include:

  • Prescription medication, therapy, or both for a diagnosed mental health condition.
  • Sleep study, medications, or lifestyle changes for sleep problems.
  • Medication or surgery for people with hyperthyroidism.
  • Counseling, therapy, or other treatment for amphetamine addiction.
  • Changing medication or dosage if a particular medicine is causing racing thoughts.

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Calming the mind with diet changes

Eating the right foods could improve overall mental well-being and help reduce racing thoughts and mood disorders. Many studies have been carried out on the link between food and mental health, and the following diet changes may be helpful:

Eat low-glycemic foods

mixed nuts on a table that may help with racing thoughts
Low-glycemic foods such as seeds and nuts, may be recommended to improve mental health.

Low-glycemic foods are usually low in sugar and high in protein, fiber, and healthy fats. They help stabilize blood sugar levels and may help improve mental health. Good examples include lean meats, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and whole grains.

High-glycemic foods, on the other hand, cause a rapid rise (and subsequent crash) in blood sugar. High-glycemic foods include high-sugar, refined carbohydrates, and processed foods. These types of foods may make mental health conditions worse and should be avoided.

An article in Case Reports in Psychiatry suggests that high-glycemic foods play a role in symptoms of anxiety and depression, which can trigger racing thoughts.

Focus on foods high in antioxidants

Most fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of antioxidants, which help fight oxidative stress (cell damage) in the body. An article in Current Neuropharmacology suggests that oxidative damage could play a role in depression and anxiety.

As such, healthcare professionals recommend antioxidants as one possible way to help control symptoms of these mental health conditions. High-antioxidant foods include berries, beans, nuts, citrus fruits, and apples.

Get a daily dose of magnesium

Foods high in magnesium may have a calming effect, and deficiency in this mineral could lead to anxiety, according to an article in Neuropharmacology. Good sources of magnesium include spinach, almonds, quinoa, tofu, and black beans.


Though racing thoughts may be a reaction to a traumatic event, such as the death of a loved one, they can also be a sign of an underlying health condition. Most of these health conditions require the guidance of a doctor or mental health professional for ongoing management.

Regular checkups with a doctor, including a discussion of a person’s mental wellness, are essential to help prevent and treat problems that can lead to racing thoughts. Finding the cause of the racing thoughts is the best way to preserve a person’s mental well-being and to avoid these unsettling or frightening episodes.

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Medical News Today: Bikram yoga does not have to be hot to benefit health

You do not have to practice Bikram yoga in a hot room for it to be beneficial for your arteries, according to new research now published in the journal Experimental Physiology.
woman doing yoga
The same vascular health benefits can be garnered from normal-temperature and hot Bikram yoga.

Researchers at Texas State University in San Marcos and the University of Texas at Austin found evidence of improvement in vascular health in middle-aged people who went to hot Bikram yoga classes three times per week for 12 weeks.

However, they found the same improvement in a middle-aged group that completed the same Bikram yoga program in a normal-temperature environment.

Bikram yoga is a system of yoga that takes its name from Bikram Choudhury, who started teaching it at his school in India more than 50 years ago. It is now taught by a worldwide network of affiliated teachers.

The system is based on 26 postures, or asanas, and two breathing exercises drawn from traditional hatha yoga. It is known as “hot yoga” because it requires that practice takes place at a room temperature of around 40°C and a relative humidity of 40–60 percent.

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Heat not necessary for vascular improvement

The findings follow previous research in which the team found evidence that Bikram yoga can benefit vascular health in middle-aged adults.

“The new finding from this investigation,” says first and corresponding study author Dr. Stacy D. Hunter, of the Department of Health and Human Performance at Texas State University, “was that the heated practice environment did not seem to play a role in eliciting improvements in vascular health with Bikram yoga.”

The researchers assessed changes in vascular health using a noninvasive method called brachial artery flow-mediated dilation (FMD).

Changes in brachial artery FMD reflect changes in the linings of arteries that are linked to the development of heart disease.

If the measure rises, it can indicate delayed development of atherosclerosis, which is a condition wherein arteries narrow and get stiff due to plaque build-up. This can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.

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Three weekly Bikram classes for 12 weeks

The study participants, whose ages ranged between 40 and 60 years, were 52 “sedentary but apparently healthy adults.”

They were all randomly assigned to one of three groups: a hot Bikram group; a normal-temperature Bikram group; or a non-practicing, or sedentary, group that did not participate in the classes to act as controls.

In the hot Bikram group, 19 participants completed 12 weeks of Bikram yoga classes held three times per week. The classes took place in rooms kept at 40.5°C.

In the normal-temperature Bikram group, 14 participants completed the same classes except that their rooms had a normal temperature of 23°C.

The instructions and sequence of the 26 yoga postures and breathing exercises were the same in both the hot and normal-temperature Bikram classes.

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Vascular benefit from practicing asanas

The results showed that brachial artery FMD increased over the 12 weeks in both the hot and normal-temperature Bikram groups, whereas there was no change in the control group.

The researchers conclude that the vascular benefits of Bikram yoga seem to stem more from practicing the asanas and less from the heated environment.

They suggest that the findings are “of clinical significance given the increased propensity toward heat intolerance in aging adults.”

The results also showed that body fat percentage reduced more in the hot yoga group than in the normal-temperature group.

However, the study authors note that this change was “relatively small and may not have had significant physiological impact.”

This is the first publication to date to show a beneficial effect of the [Bikram yoga] practice in the absence of the heat.”

Dr. Stacy D. Hunter

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Medical News Today: What you should know about anuria

Anuria is when the kidneys stop producing urine. The condition is usually the result of disease or damage to the kidneys.

Urination is a vital process and the result of the kidneys filtering and removing waste products, fluids, electrolytes, and other substances the body no longer wants or needs.

The substances that are waiting to be expelled back up in the body and are not removed if the kidneys cease working and urination stops. This blockage can cause other health problems and be life-threatening if not treated.

Anuria is diagnosed when the kidneys are producing less than 500 milliliters (mL) of urine each day. A usual daily urine output is between 1 to 2 liters for an adult.

What are the causes of anuria?

cross section of kidneys
Anuria occurs when the kidneys stop producing urine.

Anuria is mostly caused by problems in the kidneys, but it can also result from problems in the heart.

Some of the causes of anuria include:

  • Diabetes: When a person’s blood sugar is consistently high, such as with uncontrolled diabetes, it can result in diabetic ketoacidosis, and damage to the small blood vessels in the kidneys. This can cause acute renal failure and poor or absent urine production.
  • Kidney stones: These stones can cause blockages in the kidneys or ureters, the tubes that transport urine from the kidneys to the urethra where it is passed out of the body. These blockages mean the urine is unable to exit the body.
  • Kidney failure: Acute kidney failure occurs when the kidneys stop functioning and are unable to filter urine anymore.
  • High blood pressure: Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure can damage the blood vessels in the kidneys over time. Without treatment, high blood pressure can lead to permanent kidney damage and anuria.
  • Tumors: A growth on or near the kidney can cause a blockage and keep urine from passing out of the body.
  • Heart failure: When a person has heart failure the heart cannot pump enough blood around the body. Processes in the body kick in if there is not enough fluid in the blood vessels. One of these is the kidneys ceasing to make urine to hold on to extra fluid.

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Signs and symptoms

Anuria or not urinating is a symptom itself and not a medical condition. Sometimes, a person may also have signs of the condition that is causing the poor urine output.

The symptoms of kidney disease can include:

  • swelling in the legs, feet, ankles, face
  • rash or itching of the skin
  • flank pain in the back or side
  • nausea or vomiting
  • shortness of breath
  • dizziness
  • difficulty concentrating
  • fatigue

Symptoms of heart failure can include:

  • shortness of breath
  • swelling of the legs
  • fatigue or dizziness
  • nausea
  • poor appetite
  • high heart rate
  • coughing or wheezing

Symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis include:

  • excessive thirst
  • dry mouth
  • vomiting
  • abdominal pain
  • diarrhea
  • loss of appetite
  • fatigue
  • confusion
  • fruity odor on the breath

Anyone experiencing any of these signs or symptoms, or who has stopped urinating, should see their doctor immediately, or proceed to the nearest urgent care or emergency room.

How is anuria diagnosed?

urine sample being handed to doctor
To help diagnose anuria a doctor may request a urine sample to check for blood or sugar in the urine.

Diagnosing anuria and its underlying cause starts with a thorough medical history and interview when a doctor will ask about the person’s medical history and medication use.

The doctor will also ask about symptoms and changes in urination, including:

  • swelling
  • fatigue
  • changes in appetite
  • blood in the urine
  • frequency of urination
  • quantity of urine passed
  • abdominal or flank pain

The doctor may suggest additional testing, such as blood testing for kidney function, urine testing for blood or sugar, a biopsy of the kidney or imaging tests, including X-rays, CT scans or MRI scans.

Hospitalization may be needed until a person’s kidney function has been restored or the cause of the anuria is determined.

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If urine output cannot be restored, it can be life-threatening. The condition causing the anuria can also be very dangerous.

The primary complication of anuria is kidney damage or failure. This can be permanent and can cause someone to need dialysis or a kidney transplant.

Anuria can be fatal if not treated, so prompt treatment is vital if someone suspects anuria.

What are the treatment options?

If anuria is a sign of an underlying condition, treatment depends on what that underlying condition might be.

Diabetes management

mature woman checking her blood sugar levels
It is important for those with diabetes to monitor their blood sugar.

People with diabetes should be careful to control their blood sugar levels. It is important to monitor blood sugar as directed, follow the prescribed diet and exercise regimen, and to take all medication, as directed.

Regularly following up with the doctor can also help to identify quickly when changes need to be made, and it can minimize the risk of complications.

Lifestyle changes

Making positive lifestyle changes is also very important for someone with high blood pressure. The doctor should recommend diet and exercise changes and may suggest medication to help keep blood pressure low. Stress relief and getting enough sleep are also necessary.

Removing kidney stones or tumors

Someone with an obstruction in the kidneys, such as from a kidney stone or tumor, will need to have it removed. This may mean surgery, medication chemotherapy, or radiation therapy to shrink or remove the tumor or stone.

Kidney disease management

Kidney disease is treated with dialysis, which is a procedure that removes excess fluid, electrolytes, and waste products from the blood. Dialysis is performed in an outpatient clinic, or the hospital if needed, 3 to 4 times a week.

There are several ways to have dialysis. Normally, the blood is removed, passed through a special filter to take out the waste products, and then reinfused back into the body.

Someone with kidney damage and who is on dialysis may be a candidate for a kidney transplant. Not everyone is a candidate for this type of surgery because of the risks and long-term care necessary afterward.

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The outlook for someone with anuria depends on several factors, including its underlying cause, how quickly it is diagnosed and treated, and the person’s overall health and wellness.

Because of the potential severity of anuria and the conditions associated with it, it is best to see the doctor as quickly as possible if there are any changes in urine output.

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Medical News Today: What you should know about alopecia universalis

When people hear the term “hair loss,” they often think of the hair on the top of the head. But people who have a condition called alopecia universalis lose all their hair, not just hair on the head.

The word alopecia means hair loss. A person with alopecia universalis loses all their hair, including eyebrows and eyelashes, facial hair, body hair, and hair on the head.

But, new treatments may be effective in helping some people regrow hair. Those dealing with hair loss may find mental and emotional support to be particularly helpful in improving quality of life.


Man with alopecia universalis, completely bald.
Alocpecia universalis is characterized by complete loss of hair.

Alopecia universalis is thought to be an advanced form of another condition known as alopecia areata.

Researchers think that alopecia universalis is an immune system disorder, where the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the hair follicles.

This attack makes the hair fall out.


However, the immune system may not be the only cause of alopecia universalis. The National Alopecia Areata Foundation say alopecia areata can run in families. But, unlike many inherited conditions, both parents must contribute specific genes to pass alopecia areata on to their children.

This is known as a polygenic disease, which means “multiple genes.” Because it requires genes from both parents, many people with any form of alopecia areata, including alopecia universalis, will not pass the condition to their children.


The environment may also play a role. Identical twins only get alopecia areata together about half of the time, according to a report in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

This suggests that environment, combined with genetics and the immune system, could ultimately trigger the hair loss. This environmental trigger remains unknown and could be an illness, allergy, hormones, toxins — or any combination of these.

Does stress cause alopecia universalis?

Alopecia universalis has not been proven to be related to stress. It is possible that extreme stress, combined with genetics and immune system problems, could trigger alopecia areata and universalis. No medical studies have proven this link, however.

Hair loss caused by stress is known as telogen effluvium. This type of hair loss is temporary and not related to immune or genetic factors. Usually, telogen effluvium is caused by physical or mental stress, such as severe illness, surgery, childbirth, emotionally stressful events, extreme diets, and medications.

The hair loss occurs several months after the stressful event and often resolves itself within a few months. Telogen effluvium is not related to alopecia universalis.


Alopecia universalis may start as alopecia areata, affecting just one or two small patches of hair.

The hair loss can happen very suddenly, producing bald spots in a matter of days. As it progresses to alopecia universalis, hair loss will continue to spread until there is no hair left on the head or body.

The total hair loss that occurs with alopecia universalis usually has no other symptoms.

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How is it diagnosed?

Alopecia universalis may be diagnosed with a physical exam and other medical tests. A healthcare professional or dermatologist may be able to diagnose the condition with a medical history and by checking for loss of hair throughout the body.

Sometimes a doctor will recommend a biopsy to confirm the disease and to check for other skin conditions. They may also order blood tests to look for other health problems.

Treatment options

Doctor looking at medical records.
Treaments will be chosen based on the medical history of the patient.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) say no therapy has been found to cure this condition. The treatment chosen often depends upon a person’s age, medical history, and severity of their hair loss.

Though there is no reliable treatment, some medications that may work include:

  • Diphenylcyclopropenone: A topical drug that has been successful in treating alopecia areata in some people.
  • Squaric acid dibutylester: This is also used to treat alopecia areata.
  • Steroids: These help calm down the immune response and inflammation.
  • Cyclosporine: An immunosuppressive drug, in combination with a steroid called methylprednisolone.

Emerging treatment options

Some new treatments for alopecia universalis and its related disorders may be on the horizon.

The following studies offer hope for hair regrowth, though none have yet been shown to be effective in clinical trials:

  • One man experienced a total regrowth of his hair after he was treated with a psoriasis drug known as tofacitinib citrate, according to a report in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology. The discovery was made by accident, as the man was using the drug to treat psoriasis, not his alopecia. After 8 months of treatment, he once again had a full head of hair.
  • A report in the Journal of the American Medical Association states that a female teenager with alopecia universalis had success with a topical medication called Ruxolitinib. This medicine is most commonly used to treat a bone marrow disorder. After several months of applying the medication to her eyebrow area, the female experienced significant hair regrowth of her eyebrows.
  • A topical medicine that contains natural herbal ingredients showed promise for some hair regrowth, according to an analysis in Hair Therapy and Transplantation.

Can people regrow their hair?

When a person has alopecia universalis, their hair follicles are still alive and able to regrow hair. In fact, some people may find that the condition goes away on its own after a few months or years.

But in some cases, a person may experience permanent hair loss. Experts are not sure why some people experience success with treatment or a spontaneous recovery while others do not.

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Living with alopecia universalis

Woman with alopecia universalis stretching before exercising outdoors.
Support groups and staying active may help those living with alopecia universalis.

Some people experience emotional and mental health issues after losing their hair. Some people find that a wig or hairpiece helps them feel better about their appearance.

Others may choose not to use wigs. Whatever a person’s preference, sun protection is important.

Using sun-protective head coverings, scarves, and hats is recommended for everyone and is especially important for those without hair on their heads.

Support groups may be helpful to help people cope with hair loss. The National Alopecia Areata Foundation says nearly 150 million people worldwide have some form of alopecia areata. And, about 1 in 4,000 people in the world has alopecia universalis.

People with alopecia universalis may find that online or in-person support groups are a valuable resource with which they can share their alopecia experience.


A cure has yet to be found, but new possibilities for treatment may offer hope for those with alopecia universalis. Recent statistics show that only 10 percent of people with alopecia universalis will experience a full recovery, so connecting with others through support groups is a valuable part of living with the condition.

Alopecia universalis does not pose any threat to a person’s physical health, but emotional health may be affected. Exploring support groups, clinical trials for new treatments, and organizations for those with hair loss may be helpful.

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