Medical News Today: Osteoporosis: Could probiotics protect bone health?

Osteoporosis predominantly affects older adults, but bone loss can start at as early as age 40. Recently, scientists have found that probiotics might be a safe and effective tool to help fight bone loss.
Bone structure illustration
As we age, the interlinked bone structure (shown here) slowly becomes less robust.

Bones do not just grow once and then stay the same for life.

Instead, bone is made up of living tissue that is constantly being broken and remodeled into new bone.

This process is more efficient when we are young. By around age 30, the body stops increasing bone mass, and once we reach our 40s and 50s, more bone might be being broken down than we are replacing.

Over time, this can result in osteoporosis. Bones gradually become thinner, which can lead to fractures — even from a simple fall.

Older women tend to have a higher risk of developing the disease, but it is not exclusive to women; it can affect men as well.

Other risk factors may include breaking a bone after the age of 50, experiencing early menopause, having a smaller body frame, smoking tobacco, and having a family history of osteoporosis.

Fractures can have severe consequences; for instance, during the first year after a hip fracture, mortality rates are 24–30 percent due to the risk of complications.

Osteoporosis becomes more of an issue the older we get, and women tend to lose bone mass quickly during menopause. Regardless, by the time that people are in their 70s, both men and women lose bone mass at around the same rate.

Medications are available that can help treat osteoporosis, but preventing or slowing the initial bone loss would be a vast improvement.

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Preventing osteoporosis?

A recent study, published in the journal Immunity, tested the ability of a probiotic to enhance bone growth.

The researchers, led by senior study author Roberto Pacifici — of Emory University in Atlanta, GA — tackled this topic with female laboratory mice. The scientists gave them oral Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG supplementation for a period over 4 weeks.

The team revealed that the probiotic stimulated the growth of gut bacteria that produce a particular metabolite called butyrate. Butyrate, in turn, prompted T cells in bone marrow to produce a protein called Wnt10b, which is vital for bone growth.

We were surprised by the potency of the gut microbiome in regulating bone and by the complexity of the mechanism of action of probiotics.”

Roberto Pacifici

He explains that probiotics are somewhat controversial, claiming, “Because their mechanism of action in bone is unknown, they are regarded as some kind of alternative, esoteric, unproven treatment.”

However, the research shows that they can affect bone structure in a positive way. Pacifici also believes that the number of bacteria contained in the probiotics may be as important as the probiotic that is used, but more research is needed to confirm this.

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Limits of this study

The main thing to keep in mind from this study is that it was in mice, and not humans. The authors say that there is a big need to continue with the research. They would like to understand whether probiotics could help in other bone conditions and hope this research is continued with humans.

“Our findings will need to be validated in human studies,” explains Pacifici. He notes that if those studies are successful, it may pave the way for an inexpensive and well-tolerated treatment that can help optimize skeletal development in young people and may help prevent osteoporosis in older people.

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Medical News Today: Does using testosterone to treat depression work?

Medical professionals have been discussing whether testosterone treatment can actually reduce depressive symptoms in men for many years. A recent meta-analysis attempts to draw a clearer picture.
Depressed man seeking help
Could testosterone therapy be the antidepressant of the future?

Depression is a major global concern. Per year, major depressive disorder affects an estimated 16.1 million adults in the United States alone.

The World Health Organization (WHO) describe depression as “the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide.”

There are drugs available to manage depressive symptoms, but they do not work for everyone.

In fact, a significant percentage of people do not experience long-term relief, even after trying multiple drugs.

Depression is roughly twice as common in women as it is in men, which means that depression currently affects around 100 million men.

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The testosterone debate

Scientists have been discussing whether or not testosterone therapy could help treat depression in men for several decades. As a neuroactive steroid, testosterone can influence mood, making it a reasonable hormone to study in regard to low mood.

In rodent models of depression, testosterone therapy boosts production of serotonin, or the happy chemical. Also, testosterone levels tend to drop as men age, and some studies have shown that men with lower levels are more likely to have depressive symptoms.

However, other studies have found no relationship between lower levels of testosterone and low mood. Others still did find links between testosterone levels and depression, but only in certain groups of men.

Due to discrepancies between studies, healthcare professionals do not recommend testosterone treatment to men with depression; however, there is a strong possibility that at least some men might benefit.

Existing depression therapies only work for a subset of the population. For this reason, it is vital to understand whether testosterone might help in treatment-resistant cases.

To this end, some researchers recently carried out a meta-analysis on existing studies that looked at testosterone and depression.

According to the authors, their analysis was the “largest examination to date of the association of testosterone treatment with depressive symptoms in men.”

Specifically, the researchers aimed to “examine the association of testosterone treatment with alleviation of depressive symptoms in men and to clarify moderating effects of testosterone status, depression status, age, treatment duration, and dosage.”

They recently published their findings in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

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Testing testosterone

In their literature search, they found 27 relevant randomized placebo-controlled clinical trials, which included a total of 1,890 participants.

They found that testosterone has a “moderate antidepressant” effect when compared with placebo. They also found that the beneficial effect was most pronounced at higher doses; this is the first time that a study has ever suggested that higher doses might be necessary to generate an antidepressant effect.

They also saw that men who were the least depressed experienced the most benefits from the intervention.

An earlier analysis concluded that testosterone therapy only benefited men with particularly low testosterone levels; interestingly, in the new analysis, there was no relationship between antidepressant benefits and initial testosterone levels.

The benefits were comparable, regardless of baseline testosterone measures.

The analysis also showed no difference between younger and older men; all age groups had a similar level of response to testosterone therapy.

The authors report:

Testosterone treatment appears to be effective and efficacious in reducing depressive symptoms in men, particularly when higher-dosage regimens were applied in carefully selected samples.”

This will not be the end of the debate, however. The authors are quick to mention that, because of the diverse character of the studies that they analyzed, “more preregistered trials are needed that explicitly examine depression as the primary endpoint and consider relevant moderators.”

Further studies and larger pools of data are needed before we can arrive at a definitive answer to the testosterone-depression conundrum.

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Medical News Today: What causes sweating around the vagina?

Sweating in the area around the vagina is a normal part of the body’s heat regulation. However, excessive sweat may cause discomfort and irritation. Several factors can contribute to increased sweating in the groin region.

The vagina itself cannot sweat as it does not have any sweat glands. However, the external genitalia around the vagina and the groin area can.

The sweat that occurs around the genitals is not the same as sweat from other parts of the body. Apocrine glands are responsible for sweat production in the groin and under the armpits, whereas eccrine glands produce sweat elsewhere on the body.

Females have a high concentration of apocrine sweat glands around the outside of the vagina on the labia majora.

The sweat from apocrine glands contains protein. Bacteria break down this protein, which can produce a distinct odor.

Excess sweat around the groin area may also cause itching and can sometimes lead to infections, such as bacterial vaginosis and vaginal yeast infections.

In this article, we discuss possible causes of a sweaty genital area and ways to prevent it.


Woman cycling on seafront in cycling shorts and top.
Wearing breathable athletic clothing can prevent sweating when exercising.

Sweating is usually a sign of a good workout. Any form of vigorous physical activity will increase the body’s internal temperature and activate sweat glands to secrete sweat. Exercises that specifically focus on the legs, such as running, can cause more sweat in the lower half of the body.

It is impossible for a person to avoid sweating at all while exercising. However, wearing cotton or other breathable materials can help minimize sweat production.

People can also try wearing underwear that the manufacturers have designed specifically for exercising in. Athletic underwear should help remove moisture and keep the groin dry during workouts.

After exercising, it is important to shower as soon as possible and then put clean clothes on.

Pubic hair

The apocrine sweat glands in the groin area secrete fluid into hair follicles. Pubic hair can trap bacteria and moisture.

A mass of pubic hair can trap heat in the skin and cause apocrine glands to secrete excess sweat. Bacteria may also build up in pubic hair, which can lead to infections if a person does not clean the area properly.

To avoid excess pubic sweating, consider trimming or completely removing pubic hair.

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Nonbreathable underwear

Cotton underwear folded up.
Underwear made from nonbreathable fabric can cause pubic sweating.

Wearing breathable cotton underwear can help reduce pubic sweating. Manufacturers often use nonbreathable fabrics and synthetic fibers to make female underwear. Not only do these types of underwear hold in heat, but they do not absorb moisture, which means that sweat remains on the skin.

A person can reduce sweat around the vagina by wearing cotton underwear. Cotton is a light, breathable fabric that absorbs moisture. It is also a natural material that is durable and nonallergenic.

Excess body weight

Fat is the body’s natural insulator. Females tend to carry most fat around their stomachs, hips, and thighs. Excess fat in these areas can lock in heat and may cause excess sweat production.

People who carry excess body weight around their hips may sweat more in their pubic region. These individuals can reduce the amount of sweat production in this area by practicing good hygiene and wearing cotton underwear and other breathable items of clothing.

Pads and panty liners

Most types of pad and panty liner come in nonbreathable material. These products may create excess heat in the pubic region, causing more sweat production.

The best solution is to avoid wearing pads and panty liners. However, this may not be practical for everyone. Instead, people who wish to use pads and liners can try using unscented ones and changing them every few hours to reduce sweating and odor.

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General prevention

Woman holding purple menstrual cup over wooden table
Alternatives to sanitary pads, such as menstrual cups, can help prevent irritation of the vulva.

Proper vaginal hygiene is essential for preventing vaginal infections. The vagina is self-cleaning, so people should focus on keeping the vulva clean and dry.

Vulva care tips include:

  • washing the vulva with warm water
  • drying the vulva thoroughly with a clean towel
  • avoiding scented soaps, which can irritate the skin of the vulva and labia
  • using alternatives to sanitary pads, where possible
  • washing new items of underwear before wearing them for the first time

Some other hygiene tips include:

  • keeping the vulva dry by wearing clothes in breathable fabrics, such as cotton
  • changing tampons every 4–8 hours
  • avoiding tight clothing, such as pantyhose and leggings
  • wiping from front to back
  • avoiding douches

Another critical part of good vaginal hygiene is not disturbing the bacterial ecosystem, or microbiome.

The vaginal microbiome plays a vital role in defending the body from invading germs. However, this system is very delicate, and any disruption can affect the natural balance of the bacteria, which may lead to unpleasant odors, itching, and even infection.

The same type of sweat gland is present in both the armpits and the groin. However, a person should not treat these two areas in the same way.

Antiperspirants can eliminate odor and reduce sweat production in the underarms, but a person should not use these products to prevent sweating around the vagina.

While antiperspirant products can kill unwanted odor-producing bacteria, they can also disrupt the delicate balance of bacteria in and around the vagina. This disruption may increase the risk of bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections.

When to see a doctor

Excessive genital sweating can lead to yeast or bacterial infections. An individual should see a doctor if they experience any of the following symptoms:

  • itching of the vagina or vulva that lasts for several days
  • thick white discharge, which can be a sign of a yeast infection
  • gray, foul-smelling discharge, which can indicate bacterial vaginosis
  • painful and frequent urination
  • a burning sensation in the vagina
  • pain during intercourse

Excessive sweating that is limited to one or two areas of the body may be a sign of hyperhidrosis. People with hyperhidrosis sweat even when the body’s internal temperature is normal. Without treatment, hyperhidrosis can cause skin problems, warts, and fungal and bacterial infections.


Genital sweating is completely normal. However, excessive sweating may cause discomfort and irritation. A person can reduce vaginal sweating by wearing breathable underwear and avoiding tight-fitting clothing.

Practicing good vaginal hygiene can help prevent bacterial and yeast infections. Avoiding douches, antiperspirants, and scented pads and panty liners can help maintain a healthy vagina.

A person should speak to a doctor or gynecologist if they experience symptoms of bacterial or yeast infections.

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Medical News Today: What is melasma?

Melasma is a common pigmentation disorder that causes brown or gray patches to appear on the skin, primarily on the face.

The most common areas for melasma to appear on the face include:

  • the bridge of the nose
  • the forehead
  • the cheeks
  • the upper lip

Melasma may also appear on other areas of the body, especially those exposed to a lot of sunlight. These areas may include:

  • the forearms
  • the neck
  • the shoulders

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, only 10 percent of all cases of melasma occur in men. Women with darker complexions and who are pregnant are at greater risk of developing melasma.



Doctors do not fully understand why melasma occurs. It may be due to the malfunction of the melanocytes (the color-making cells) in the skin, causing them to produce too much color.

As a result, people with darker skin tones are more likely to develop melasma, as they have more melanocytes than people with lighter skin.

Potential triggers for melasma include:

  • changes in hormones during pregnancy (chloasma), hormone treatment, or while taking birth control pills
  • sun exposure
  • certain skin care products, if they irritate a person’s skin

Also, there may be a genetic component to melasma, as people whose close relatives have experienced melasma are more likely to develop it themselves.

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Woman inspecting her nose in mirror
Apart from changes in appearance, melasma does not cause any physical symptoms.

The primary symptom of melasma is the development of discolored patches of skin. While it does not cause any other physical symptoms, some people find the appearance of these patches bothersome.

The most common area for patches of melasma to appear is the face. Common locations include the upper lips, bridge of the nose, cheeks, and forehead.

Less commonly, a person may also have patches on their arms and neck.


Dermatologists find most cases of melasma easy to diagnose during a visual examination. However, since melasma can resemble other skin conditions, a dermatologist may take a small biopsy during the initial visit.

A biopsy involves removing a very small portion of the skin for further examination in a laboratory.

A doctor may also use a device called a Wood’s light to look more closely at the skin.


Treatment is not always necessary for melasma.

If hormonal changes, such as those that occur during pregnancy or while taking birth control pills, have caused melasma, it will fade after delivery or once a person stops taking the pills.

For other people, melasma can last for years or even for the rest of their lives. If melasma does not fade over time, a person can seek treatment to help remove or fade the patches.

However, not all treatments work for everyone, and melasma may come back even after successful treatment.

Treatment options for melasma include:

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Woman applying ointment or cream to hyper-pigmented face close up
A person can apply hydroquinone lotion directly to melasma to lighten the skin.

Doctors often use hydroquinone as the first line of treatment for melasma. Hydroquinone is available as a lotion, cream, or gel.

A person can apply the hydroquinone product directly to the patches of skin that are discolored.

Hydroquinone is available over the counter, but a doctor can also prescribe stronger creams. Hydroquinone works by lightening the color of the skin patches.

Corticosteroids and tretinoin

Corticosteroids and tretinoin come in creams, lotions, or gels. Both corticosteroids and tretinoin can help lighten the color of the melasma patches.

Combined creams

In some cases, a dermatologist may choose to prescribe combination creams that may contain hydroquinone, corticosteroids, and tretinoin in one. These are called triple creams.

Additional topical medications

In addition to or instead of other medicated creams, a dermatologist may also prescribe azelaic acid or kojic acid. These acids work to lighten the dark areas of skin.

Medical procedures

If topical medications do not work, a dermatologist may recommend procedures such as:

  • microdermabrasion
  • chemical peel
  • laser treatment
  • light therapy
  • dermabrasion

Some of these treatment options have side effects or may cause additional skin problems. It is best to speak with a doctor or dermatologist about all the possible risks.

If a person has had melasma before, they can try to avoid triggers by:

  • limiting sun exposure
  • wearing a hat when outside
  • using sunscreen


Melasma causes dark patches to form on the skin, most often on the face. While these skin changes are harmless, some people may find them bothersome.

Treatment is effective for some people. Melasma that is due to hormonal changes may also fade over time, once hormone levels return to normal.

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Medical News Today: What causes lightheadedness?

Lightheadedness is a feeling of faintness, dizziness, or being close to passing out. It can occur alongside vertigo, which affects balance and makes a person feel as though they or their surroundings are spinning. Although lightheadedness and vertigo can feel similar, they have different causes.

Experiencing some episodes of lightheadedness is normal. In most cases, these episodes will pass quickly, especially if a person sits or lies down to rest.

In this article, learn about the common causes of lightheadedness. We also cover possible underlying medical conditions and treatment options.


woman sitting down holding her temples due to lightheadedness
Causes of lightheadedness can include illnesses, anxiety, and dehydration.

The most common cause of lightheadedness is orthostatic hypotension, which is a sudden drop in blood pressure when a person stands up.

Positional changes, especially quick ones, divert blood flow temporarily from the brain to the body. It is more likely that this will result in lightheadedness when a person is dehydrated or ill.

The feeling usually passes quickly, especially if a person sits down again.

Other common causes of lightheadedness include:

  • allergies
  • illnesses, such as the cold or flu
  • altitude sickness
  • hyperventilating
  • anxiety
  • stress
  • dehydration
  • prolonged exposure to hot weather
  • low blood sugar
  • alcohol, tobacco, or drug use
  • certain medications

Sometimes, lightheadedness may have a more severe underlying cause, such as:

If lightheadedness is due to a more serious underlying condition, a person will usually experience additional symptoms.

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Home remedies

Woman drinking water on a hot day due to lightheadedness
A person should drink lots of water in hot weather to reduce their risk of falling or fainting.

Most of the time, a person experiencing an episode of lightheadedness can manage their symptoms with home remedies and lifestyle changes.

A person who is prone to experiencing dizziness or lightheadedness should use the following tips to reduce their risk of falling or fainting:

  • Getting up slowly after sitting or lying down.
  • Drinking lots of water, especially in hot weather or during exercise.
  • Eating or drinking something sugary or with simple carbohydrates when feeling faint.
  • Lying or sitting down until the episode passes.
  • Getting enough sleep.
  • Avoiding caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol.
  • Limiting salt intake.

Anyone who thinks that their medication may be causing lightheadedness should speak to a doctor.


While lightheadedness does not usually require medical care, a doctor may sometimes recommend one of the following treatments, depending on the underlying cause:

  • medications
  • physical therapy
  • psychotherapy
  • compression stockings to keep blood from pooling in the legs

Medications could include:

  • diuretics
  • anti-anxiety medications
  • antinausea medications
  • medications for migraines

If a doctor recommends physical therapy for lightheadedness, a physical therapist is likely to teach a person exercises to improve their balance.

In people who have lightheadedness due to anxiety, a doctor may recommend psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help them manage this condition. A therapist may provide other coping mechanisms to reduce a person’s stress levels.

In very rare cases, a doctor may advise surgery for repeated episodes of lightheadedness and vertigo. A surgeon will perform a labyrinthectomy, which is the removal of part or all of the inner ear.

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When to see a doctor

person holding both hands over heart because of chest pains
A person should seek emergency medical attention if chest pain accompanies lightheadedness or dizziness.

Most people do not need to seek medical attention for an occasional episode of lightheadedness.

However, it is essential to seek emergency medical attention for lightheadedness or dizziness when one or more of the following symptoms accompany it:

  • weakness on one side of the body
  • facial drooping or numbness
  • slurred speech
  • chest pain
  • pain in the arm, neck, or jaw
  • sudden severe headache
  • fainting
  • numbness or inability to move the arms or legs
  • vision changes, such as double vision
  • a rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • seizures
  • vomiting

A person should also see a doctor immediately if lightheadedness occurs following a head injury.


Lightheadedness is a common experience, and it usually resolves very quickly with no lasting effects. People who frequently experience lightheadedness can usually manage the symptoms at home.

In some cases, lightheadedness may occur as a result of an underlying medical cause, in which case a person is likely to experience additional symptoms.

Anyone who has concerns about lightheadedness should speak to a doctor.

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Medical News Today: How to find the right condom size

Condoms come in many shapes and sizes. Finding the right fit can be tricky, but doing so will help people to have a better and safer sex life.

Condom size is essential for ensuring the condom is effective in preventing sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and pregnancy.

Condoms that are too small may break, and condoms that are too big can slip off the penis. Poor-fitting condoms can also feel uncomfortable during sex.

In this article, we look at how to choose the right condom based on penis length and girth, how to measure the penis, and other factors to consider when using condoms.

Common condom brand sizing in the United States

colourful condoms
Poor-fitting condoms will not be effective in preventing pregnancy or STIs.

There are many condoms to choose from, and most people should not have trouble finding a condom that fits. Manufacturers base condom sizes on both length and width measurements.

Most condoms are longer than they need to be. If a person finds that there is too much roll at the base, they may need a snugger fit. If there is no roll left, they will require a larger condom.

Girth is more important than length for condom fit, with girth being the thickest part of the erect penis.

There is no absolute rule for who should use the different condom sizes, but the following guidelines, which are in inches, may help:

  • a girth of less than 4.7″ needs a snug fit
  • a girth of 4.7–5.1″ needs a regular fit
  • a girth of 5.1–6″ needs a large fit

Condom companies do not always make their sizes readily available, and brand measurements vary between sources.

The following charts will give some information about the size and features of common U.S. condom brands in inches (“) and millimeters (mm), along with links to where you can buy them:

Snug fit

Standard fit

Large fit

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How to measure and choose the right size

The first step to finding the best condom size is to measure the penis. To do this, a person can use a ruler, measuring tape, or piece of string. For the most accurate results, they should take the measurements while the penis is erect.

Use the following steps to take an accurate measurement of the penis and find the best condom fit:

  1. Measure the length from the base of the penis, where the penis meets the pelvis, to the end of the tip.
  2. Use a piece of string or a flexible measuring tape. Wrap it around the thickest part of the penis, which is usually near the middle of the shaft. If using string, mark where the string crosses and measure the distance with a ruler.

Does the material matter?

Not only do condoms come in various shapes and sizes, they also contain different materials, including latex, polyurethane, and lambskin.

While manufacturers use latex to make the vast majority of condoms, some brands offer nonlatex alternatives for people who do not like latex or have allergies.


couple on bed with man removing condom from package
Latex is the most common material for condoms.

Latex condoms are very flexible, thin sheaths. Latex is an effective barrier against sperm, bacteria, and viruses. However, latex does not transfer heat, which can reduce pleasurable sensations.

A person should avoid using oil or oil-based lubricants with a latex condom.

Oils will break down latex, which may cause the condom to tear. Water- or silicone-based lubricants are the best options when using a latex condom.


Polyurethane is a plastic material used in many contexts, from insulation to furniture and condoms. Polyurethane condoms are usually thinner than latex condoms, and they are better at transferring heat.

Polyurethane condoms provide effective barriers against HIV and bacterial STIs. However, polyurethane is less flexible than latex, which makes them slightly more fragile than latex condoms.


Polyisoprene is very similar to latex, but it lacks the proteins that can sometimes cause allergic reactions. These condoms are slightly thicker than polyurethane, but they are softer and feel more natural than latex.


Lambskin condoms do not contain lamb’s skin. Instead, lamb cecum, a part of the intestine, is the main constituent. The cecum is thin, durable, and good at transferring heat. Unfortunately, lambskin condoms may not protect against STIs or HIV.

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How to use a condom properly

man on bed holding condom in packet
A person should be careful not to damage the condom when opening the packet.

Condoms are most effective when used correctly. Use the following advice on how to use a condom properly:

  1. Check the expiration date on the package. A condom past its expiry date is less effective and more likely to break.
  2. Make sure the condom is still intact. Condoms that people may store in wallets or purses can be damaged. Make sure the wrapper is intact. If the condom itself is torn or shows signs of damage, do not use it, and discard it immediately.
  3. Carefully open the wrapper. Avoid using teeth or ripping the package forcefully, as this can tear the condom.
  4. Make sure the rim is facing the outside so that it is possible to roll the condom over the penis.
  5. Pinch the tip of the condom and place it on the head of the erect penis. Pinching the tip removes excess air and allows extra space at the top to collect semen.
  6. Roll the condom down the shaft to the base of the penis.
  7. If the condom does not have lubrication, apply a small amount of water- or silicon-based lubricant to the outside of the condom.
  8. After ejaculation, hold the base of the condom while pulling out. Doing this will prevent it from falling off.
  9. Carefully remove the condom, tie a knot at the open end, and throw it in the trash.


Choosing the right condom can be a difficult and even daunting task. Once people know the correct size for them, they can do a little research and find their preferred material and style.

Condoms are an essential part of good sexual health. They protect against the spread of both STIs and viral infections, such as Ebola and Zika. They can also prevent unplanned pregnancies.

Finding a condom that fits properly will help prevent pregnancy and protect against STIs. In addition, properly fitting condoms can also enhance the experience of sexual intercourse, making sex more comfortable and enjoyable.

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Medical News Today: Why a low-carb diet can help you lose weight and keep it off

“The largest and longest feeding study to test the ‘carbohydrate-insulin model'” concludes that a lower carb intake burns more calories, which may help people maintain weight loss over a longer period of time.
person eating a stake
Eating a high-quality, low-carb diet may help us stave off weight gain for longer.

Cara Ebbeling, Ph.D., together with Dr. David Ludwig — both at Boston Children’s Hospital in Massachusetts — led the new study, which now appears in the BMJ.

As they explain, when we lose weight, the body adapts by lowering its energy expenditure. In other words, it burns fewer calories.

This way, the metabolism protects itself against long-term weight changes.

However, when the weight loss is intentional, this adaptive response can be frustrating for dieters, as it leads to weight regain.

Although weight gain after dieting is a well-known phenomenon, researchers do not know much about how different diets affect the way the metabolism responds to them.

The so-called carbohydrate-insulin model, however, suggests one such mechanism. It posits that highly processed foods high in sugar drive hormonal changes that increase the appetite and lead to weight gain.

“According to this model,” explains Dr. Ludwig, “the processed carbohydrates that flooded our diets during the low-fat era have raised insulin levels, driving fat cells to store excessive calories. With fewer calories available to the rest of the body, hunger increases and metabolism slows — a recipe for weight gain.”

In this context, Ebbeling, Dr. Ludwig, and their colleagues decided to investigate the effects that different diets had on the metabolism. Specifically, they looked at the carb-to-fat ratio in varying diets over a 20-week period.

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Studying carb intake, weight, and calories

The researchers examined the effect of different diets on 234 adults aged 18–65 whose body mass index (BMI) was at least 25. As part of the study, the participants had also adhered to a weight loss plan for 10 weeks.

By the end of the trial, 164 participants had achieved their weight loss goal of around 12 percent of their total weight. Then, they adhered to either a high-, moderate-, or low-carb diet for 20 weeks, allowing the researchers to examine if they managed to maintain the weight loss.

The high-carb diet was composed of 60 percent high-quality carbs, the moderate-carb one had 40 percent carbs, and the low-carb diet had 20 percent carbs. The diets also minimized sugar intake and used whole grains.

During this time, the scientists measured the participants’ weight and tracked the number of calories they burned. They also examined the participants’ insulin secretion and metabolic hormones.

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‘A 20-pound weight loss after 3 years’

At the end of the study period, people in the low-carb group burned significantly more calories than those who had been on a high-carb diet.

Specifically, participants who were on a low-carb diet burned around 250 kilocalories more per day than those who were on a high-carb diet.

Ebbeling explains, “If this difference persists — and we saw no drop-off during the 20 weeks of our study — the effect would translate into about a 20-pound weight loss after 3 years, with no change in calorie intake.”

The results also indicated that for participants who had the highest insulin secretion, the impact of a low-carb diet was even more significant: low-carb dieters burned 400 calories more per day than high-carb dieters.

“A low glycemic load, high-fat diet,” explain the authors, “might facilitate weight loss maintenance beyond the conventional focus on restricting energy intake and encouraging physical activity.”

Ebbeling says, “Our observations challenge the belief that all calories are the same to the body.”

This is the largest and longest feeding study to test the ‘carbohydrate-insulin model,’ which provides a new way to think about and treat obesity.”

Dr. David Ludwig

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Medical News Today: What to know about ferritin blood tests for anemia

Ferritin is a protein in blood cells that stores iron. A doctor may order a ferritin blood test, sometimes alongside other tests, to check a person’s iron levels.

In this article, we discuss the ferritin blood test procedure and how to interpret the results.

We also explain how people can raise or lower their blood ferritin levels.

What is a ferritin blood test?

Doctor taking blood sample for ferritin test.
A ferritin blood test can help a doctor diagnose conditions related to high or low iron levels.

Doctors use ferritin blood tests to check the levels of iron in a person’s blood and help diagnose many health conditions. These conditions include:

  • iron-deficiency anemia, or a low red blood cell count
  • hemochromatosis, a condition wherein there is too much iron in the body
  • restless legs syndrome

People who have one of these conditions may require regular ferritin blood tests to monitor their health.

A doctor may also order other blood tests to discover more about a person’s iron stores. They may test for:

  • blood iron levels
  • hemoglobin levels, to check red blood cell numbers
  • the HFE gene, which indicates hemochromatosis
  • total iron binding capacity, which measures levels of transferrin, a protein that carries ferritin around the body

What do the results mean?

After a doctor takes the blood sample, they will send it to a laboratory for testing. Once the laboratory technicians analyze the blood, they will typically send the results back within a few days of the test.

Ferritin blood test results may come back as normal, low, or high. The following sections discuss what these results mean.

Normal ferritin levels

Results will be given in nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL) of blood and can vary slightly from one laboratory to another.

According to some sources, the normal ranges for ferritin in the blood are as follows:

Other sources provide slightly different levels, with some research from 2008 suggesting that some laboratories consider ferritin levels over 200 ng/mL in women and 300 ng/mL in men to be abnormal.

It is important that people confirm normal levels with their doctor or the laboratory that tested them.

Low ferritin levels

Low ferritin levels can cause headaches and pale skin.
Low ferritin levels can cause headaches and pale skin.

A result of low ferritin is strong evidence of an iron deficiency. The body requires iron to make hemoglobin, which is a protein in red blood cells that transfers oxygen from the lungs around the body.

Without enough iron, a person may develop anemia.

Iron is also necessary for:

  • growth and development
  • normal metabolism
  • the production of hormones

Iron-deficiency anemia can cause the following:

  • dizziness
  • fatigue
  • headache
  • irregular heartbeat
  • pale skin
  • shortness of breath
  • weakness

Mild anemia may not produce any symptoms.

High ferritin levels

Higher-than-normal ferritin levels may result from:

  • hemochromatosis
  • chronic inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis
  • heavy alcohol use
  • Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer that affects the lymphatic system
  • hyperthyroidism, wherein the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone
  • leukemia, a cancer of the bone marrow
  • liver disease
  • porphyria, a group of disorders that affects the skin and nervous system

People who have had several blood transfusions may also display high ferritin levels.

A result of above-normal ferritin levels will require further testing to discover the underlying cause and help doctors determine the best course of treatment.

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How to increase low ferritin levels

Doctors treat low ferritin levels with oral iron supplements. For severe cases of anemia, a person may require treatment with intravenous iron.

For the best results, people should take oral iron supplements with a source of vitamin C to increase iron absorption. They should avoid antacids, calcium supplements, and tea or coffee within 2 hours of an iron supplement.

Typically, people will require follow-up blood tests to check that their ferritin levels and iron levels have returned to normal.

If ferritin and blood iron levels do not return to normal following iron supplementation, a doctor may carry out additional testing to determine the cause of the deficiency and treat it accordingly.

Potential causes of an iron deficiency include:

How to lower high ferritin levels

A doctor may recommend phlebotomy to treat high ferritin levels.
A doctor may recommend phlebotomy to treat high ferritin levels.

The treatment for high ferritin levels depends on the underlying cause.

For hereditary hemochromatosis, doctors typically recommend a person have their blood removed from their body, in a process called phlebotomy, on a regular basis.

The amount of blood that the doctor removes, and how frequently they remove it, will vary depending on a person’s age, health, and ferritin levels. At first, the person may require the removal of around 500 ml of blood weekly until their ferritin levels return to normal.

These people will need treatment on an ongoing basis to maintain normal blood ferritin levels.

Those with other conditions causing high ferritin levels may require additional treatments, such as medications or procedures, depending on the cause.


A ferritin blood test follows a similar procedure to other types of blood test.

Typically, a medical professional will begin by cleaning the skin around the puncture site using an alcohol-based solution. Usually, they will take the blood from a vein on the inside of the elbow.

They may first wrap an elastic band around the upper arm to make the vein more prominent. They will then insert the needle, which is connected to a vacuum collection device, into the vein. People may feel a slight pinch as the needle enters the skin.

Once they have collected the blood, the doctor will withdraw the needle and remove the elastic band if one is present.

They will sometimes use some cotton wool or a bandage to stop any bleeding, before labeling the blood sample and sending it to a laboratory to be analyzed.

The blood collection process only takes a few minutes. It is unlikely for a person to experience side effects, and when they do occur, they are typically mild. For example, some people may experience:

  • dizziness or nausea at the sight of the blood
  • mild bruising in the hours or days after the test

People may wish to let the doctor know before the test if they are feeling anxious or uncomfortable.

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How to prepare for the test

People do not usually need to make any special preparations for a ferritin blood test. However, if a person is also having other blood tests, they may need to fast for a certain period of time beforehand.

Individuals should confirm these details with their doctor in the days leading up to the blood test.


A ferritin blood test is a simple blood test to measure the levels of ferritin in a person’s body. It is a very safe procedure that does not usually require any special preparations.

Abnormal results may indicate an underlying issue, such as iron deficiency, hemochromatosis, or some types of cancer. Further testing is typically necessary to confirm a diagnosis and help formulate a treatment plan.

If people are confused about the results of their ferritin blood test, they should follow up with their doctor, who can explain the results and their implications.

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Medical News Today: Can people with COPD get better?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease makes it increasingly difficult for a person to breathe. It is not currently possible to cure or reverse the condition completely, but a person can reduce its impact by making some treatment and lifestyle changes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) affects around 16 million people in the United States. It is possible that many people who experience COPD symptoms mistake them for a normal sign of aging.

The disease can progress for years without shortness of breath or the person being aware of the condition.

Symptoms of COPD may include:

  • a nagging cough
  • frequent respiratory infections
  • shortness of breath
  • less ability to exercise
  • wheezing
  • chest tightness

Doctors tend to use a spirometric test for diagnosis. It is a simple, noninvasive breathing test to examine lung function.

Though they cannot cure the COPD, lifestyle choices can slow progress and reduce symptoms. This article takes a look at some choices that can help with COPD, along with how best to slow the progress of the disease.

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Lifestyle changes

Although there is currently no cure for COPD, there are many ways that a person can reduce their symptoms and slow disease progression. They include:

Quitting smoking

Person ripping a cigarette in half
Quitting smoking cannot reverse COPD, but it can slow the progression.

The main causes and risk factors for COPD include:

  • smoking
  • environmental factors
  • genetics

Smoking causes 85–90 percent of COPD cases. The best thing that a person who smokes and has COPD can do is stop smoking cigarettes altogether.

Quitting smoking cannot completely reverse COPD, but it can help slow the progression of the disease and may improve the body’s response to treatment.

As well as preventing any further damage to the lungs, quitting smoking can improve the immune system.

Avoiding irritants

Also, those with COPD will benefit from avoiding any environmental factors that may irritate their lungs, including secondhand smoke, air pollution, and dust.

A person with COPD should also try to manage any allergies that may contribute to their breathing difficulties.

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Improving exercise

Exercise cannot cure or reverse COPD, but it may improve some of the symptoms.

One of the symptoms of COPD is shortness of breath. This symptom can make exercise and everyday physical tasks difficult. A lack of exercise may also weaken the muscles and make a person’s heart and lungs even less tolerant to physical activity. As a result, exercise is important to keep the muscles strong.

Pulmonary rehabilitation programs can be useful in improving a person’s ability to tolerate exercise. People who have COPD should start slow and gradually increase their exercise with the guidance of a doctor.

It is important that a person’s exercise routine includes:

Man walking his dog in the countryside
Exercise can improve the symptoms of COPD.
  • a warmup and stretching
  • cardiovascular exercises, such as walking or using a stationary bike
  • strength training, such as using hand weights

According to the CDC, the benefits of exercise include:

  • a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease
  • a reduced risk of diabetes and metabolic syndrome
  • a reduced risk of cancer
  • better weight control
  • stronger muscles and bones
  • improved mental health and mood

Eating well

Getting regular exercise and following a healthful diet can also boost the immune system and improve COPD symptoms, as well as general health.

In particular, a person should limit their intake of simple carbohydrates, instead opting for complex carbohydrates, and consume 20–30 grams of fiber per day.

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Is it possible to prevent or slow progression?

COPD is a chronic and progressive disease. While it is possible to slow progress and reduce symptoms, it is impossible to cure the disease, and it will gradually worsen over time. Early diagnosis is key to finding the right treatment and slowing the disease before it starts to progress.

Making lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking and avoiding environmental pollutants can help slow progress and reduce symptoms.


COPD is a chronic and progressive disease that can make it difficult for people to breathe. The condition currently has no cure, but people can take steps to reduce its impact.

If symptoms get worse, it is important to talk to a doctor to evaluate the current treatment plan and make adjustments accordingly.

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Medical News Today: Dandelion tea benefits

People can brew whole dandelion plants or use just the leaves, roots, or stems to make tea. Dandelion tea is very high in vitamin A and may offer many health benefits, but there is a lack of scientific evidence to confirm them.

People can brew dandelion tea at home or find it in health-food stores. It is also available to purchase online.

Dandelion teas vary in their nutritional content because people use different quantities of plant material to brew them, and some manufacturers add other ingredients to the drink.

In this article, we look at the possible health benefits of dandelion tea and discuss some of the research on this plant.

Possible benefits of dandelion tea

Dandelion tea contains nutrients, such as vitamin A, that can be beneficial to a person’s health. We explore the potential health benefits of this beverage in more detail below.

Alternative hot beverage

Dandelion tea offers an alternative for people who want to stop drinking caffeinated beverages, such as coffee and black tea, or limit their daily consumption.

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Anti-inflammatory effects

Dandelion tea.
Dandelion tea may help reduce inflammation in the body.

Research suggests that all parts of the dandelion plant contain many natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds.

Doctors believe that inflammation plays a role in many types of disease. Although there is no proven link between drinking dandelion tea and a reduction in inflammatory-related diseases, it is possible that the compounds in this plant could promote better health overall by reducing inflammation.

Cholesterol-lowering effects

According to a 2012 study in Nutrition Reviews, dandelion may reduce hyperlipidemia in rats. Hyperlipidemia is an abnormally high level of lipids, which include cholesterol, in the blood.

The researchers noted decreases in the levels of both triglycerides and total cholesterol in rats who ate dandelion flower extracts.

The theory is that dandelion extract has an inhibitory effect on pancreatic lipase, an enzyme that is key to digesting fat. Restricting this enzyme’s activity could alter the way in which the body absorbs fat. However, there is no proof of this occurring in humans.

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Reducing liver damage

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), people have used dandelion in traditional medicine for years, believing that it can treat health problems relating to the liver, gallbladder, and bile duct.

According to the Nutrition Reviews study, dandelion root lessens the extent of liver damage in rats. Again, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that this could work in humans.

Diuretic effects

Person reading and drinking herbal tea top down view
Dandelion tea is a natural diuretic.

Dandelion also has a history of use as a natural diuretic, according to the NIH. Its diuretic effect means that the tea encourages both urination and reduced water retention in the body.

Drinking more of any beverage will typically encourage fluid release because the kidneys maintain water balance in the body.

It is possible that dandelion may help the kidneys release more water to reduce sensations of bloating and discomfort, but this is not clear.

Drinking dandelion tea, or another nonalcoholic beverage, to occasionally encourage urination is unlikely to be harmful.

An article in Virology Journal that discusses the role of dandelion extracts and teas in traditional Chinese medicine notes its use as a treatment for urinary infections.

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Fighting flu

The same study uses in vitro testing to look at the effect of dandelion extracts on human influenza virus A.

The extracts led to a reduction in virus levels, and there were no harmful effects on healthy cells. However, more research is necessary to determine whether the extracts would be effective in humans.

Dandelion tea cannot substitute the flu vaccine, but it may ease symptoms or help recovery.


It is important to note that some people have allergic reactions to dandelion root and teas. The NIH warn that people are more likely to be allergic to dandelion if they are also allergic to similar plants, including:

  • ragweed
  • chrysanthemum
  • marigold
  • daisy

Anyone who reacts to these flowers should drink dandelion tea with caution or avoid it altogether.


Dandelion tea can be a tasty and nutritious alternative to coffees and teas containing caffeine.

Although animal and laboratory studies have shown that this beverage has many potential benefits, there are no large-scale human studies to confirm its effectiveness in improving health.

People who are not allergic can use dandelion tea to supplement a healthful lifestyle.

Dandelion tea is available for purchase in health food stores and online.

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