Medical News Today: Birth control and yeast infections: What’s the link?

Yeast infections are caused by an overgrowth of yeast, also known as candidiasis, in the vagina. Candida is the organism that causes a yeast infection.

Candida normally exists in the vagina in small amounts, but sometimes it can overgrow, which causes the symptoms of a yeast infection.

One common risk factor for getting a yeast infection is the type of birth control a woman is using. In this article, we look at why certain types of birth control increase the risk of a yeast infection, as well as treatment and prevention.

Yeast infections and birth control

Various packets of birth control pills stacked on top of each other.
Hormonal birth control pills may affect the natural hormonal balance in the body, making it easier for yeast to grow.

It is important to realize that using birth control does not cause a woman to get a yeast infection. Instead, it may change the environment of the vagina so that she is more likely to get one.

Hormonal birth control

Hormonal birth control contains either a combination of estrogen and progestin (a synthetic version of progesterone) or progestin alone. Taking these hormones can disrupt the body’s natural hormonal balance and can help yeast to grow.

It is believed that the estrogen in birth control pills, patches, and rings can cause the vagina to produce more sugars. These sugars feed the yeast already living in the vagina, causing overgrowth.

Barrier birth control

Physical and barrier forms of contraception can also cause yeast overgrowth.

Spermicidal jellies and creams can alter the balance of bacteria living in the vagina, which make it easier for yeast to grow. Also, using jellies or creams can create a moist environment that allows candida to grow faster.

Vaginal sponges, diaphragms, intrauterine devices (IUDs), and other devices that sit in the vagina may also promote the risk for growth and infection.

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Other risk factors for yeast infections

Pregnant woman sitting cross legged on a bed, holding her belly.
Various factors may affect the growth of yeast, including pregnancy, diabetes, and some antibiotics.

In addition to a woman’s birth control choices, there are other reasons why candida would overgrow:

  • Certain antibiotics: Antibiotics kill harmful bacteria in the body, but they can also kill the healthy bacteria living in the vagina that help to maintain normal yeast levels.

  • Uncontrolled blood sugar levels: Yeast tends to thrive in high-sugar environments, so a person with undiagnosed or poorly controlled diabetes is at higher risk.

  • Poor immune system: Someone with a weak immune system may have difficulty controlling large amounts of bacteria or yeast.

  • Pregnancy: Pregnancy causes a high-estrogen environment, in a similar way to someone who is taking high-estrogen birth control or hormone replacement therapy. This can increase the risk of a yeast infection.

  • Sexual activity: Even though sexual activity does not cause a yeast infection, it can help to spread an infection between partners.

Symptoms of a yeast infection

Most women are familiar with the symptoms of yeast infections; according to The National Women’s Health Resource Center, nearly 75 percent of all women will experience at least one yeast infection in their lifetime.

Symptoms can include:

  • vaginal itching and discomfort

  • white vaginal discharge similar in consistency to cottage cheese

  • burning around the vaginal opening

  • pain or dryness during sex

  • redness or swelling of the external vagina and vulva

These symptoms can sometimes resemble other vaginal infections, so it is important for a woman to see her doctor, especially if she has never had a yeast infection before. The doctor can confirm that it is not a more serious infection.

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Most yeast infections are easily treated with over-the-counter medicines. Pills and anti-fungal creams are available in many different preparations, so it is important to follow the instructions on the packaging and speak with a pharmacist if necessary.

Clotrimazole and miconazole are usually very effective for a simple yeast infection.

Anyone with a yeast infection should abstain from sexual intercourse during treatment to prevent passing it to their partner.

Also, some medications for yeast infections can weaken forms of birth control, including latex condoms and diaphragms.

When to see a doctor

Women sitting on examination table, speaking with gynecologist.
A woman should see their doctor if the yeast infection does not go away after using over-the-counter medication.

If over-the-counter treatments are ineffective or if a person has multiple yeast infections in a year, they should visit their doctor for an evaluation.

The doctor may suggest diagnostic testing to be sure that candida overgrowth is causing the symptoms.

Doctors may prescribe an oral medication called fluconazole (Diflucan) to help get rid of the infection. A doctor may also suggest a stronger or longer course of the topical medications, if necessary.

If a yeast infection is not causing the symptoms, a doctor can prescribe the appropriate treatment.

For recurrent yeast infections, the doctor may suggest a maintenance program. This may include a weekly dose of either oral or vaginal antifungal medications.

If the doctor suspects that a woman’s birth control is contributing to her recurrent yeast infections, the doctor can prescribe an alternative type of birth control or help her find a better option. 

Options may include a non-hormonal form of birth control or one with a lower dose of hormones.

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Preventing yeast infections

In addition to changing the type of birth control, there are other things a woman can do to lower the risk of getting yeast infections. These include:

  • wearing cotton underwear

  • wearing loose-fitting pants, shorts, or skirts

  • avoiding tight underwear or pantyhose

  • keeping the vaginal area clean and dry

  • changing out of wet workout clothing or swimsuits immediately

  • avoiding hot tubs

  • avoiding unnecessary antibiotics

  • limiting sugar

  • using natural soaps and laundry detergents

  • avoiding regular use of panty liners unless necessary

  • always wiping from front to back after using the bathroom

A woman who gets frequent yeast infections should keep a record of possible triggers, such as antibiotics or chemical soaps. If she can identify what is causing the symptoms, it can be easier to avoid it.


Most women will get a vaginal yeast infection at some point in their life. Certain forms of birth control can increase a woman’s risk of getting a yeast infection or make it more likely that she will get recurrent infections.

If a woman or her doctor suspects her birth control is affecting her vaginal health, switching the brand or type of birth control can help to reduce the risk for further yeast infections.

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Medical News Today: Glioblastoma: A new treatment for this deadly brain tumor?

an illustration depicting a brain tumor
Researchers may have found a way to halt the growth of deadly glioblastoma brain tumors.
New research brings fresh hope of a new treatment for patients with glioblastoma, after identifying a way to halt the growth of this life-threatening brain tumor.

Scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston have identified the mechanism by which a specific protein called PRMT5 drives the growth of glioblastoma tumors.

What is more, by blocking this mechanism with a class of existing drugs, they were able to arrest glioblastoma tumor growth in mice.

Study leader Christian Braun, who was a postdoctoral student at MIT at the time of the research, and colleagues recently published their findings in the journal Cancer Cell.

Glioblastoma – also referred to as glioblastoma multiforme – is a type of malignant brain tumor that forms from star-shaped glial cells called astrocytes.

According to the American Brain Tumor Association, almost 80,000 new cases of primary brain tumors are expected to be diagnosed in the United States this year. Of these, glioblastoma will account for around 14.9 percent.

While glioblastomas are not the most common brain tumor, they are the deadliest; median survival is just 14.6 months after a glioblastoma diagnosis, if a patient is treated with chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

As such, there is a desperate need to identify new therapies to prevent and treat glioblastoma. Braun and colleagues believe that their study findings could help to reach this goal.

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PRMT5 and gene splicing

In previous research, Braun and his colleague Monica Stanciu, of the Department of Biology at MIT, identified PRMT5 as a possible driver of glioblastoma tumors, but the precise mechanisms by which the protein does so was unclear.

The findings indicated that PRMT5 might be involved in a unique form of “gene splicing” that fuels the growth of glioblastomas.

The researchers explain that gene splicing is a process in which sections of messenger RNA (mRNA) called introns are “cut” from mRNA strands, as they are no longer needed once genetic information has been conveyed to mRNA.

Later research revealed that around one to three “detained introns” persist in around 10 to 15 percent of human mRNA strands, and these remaining introns prevent mRNA molecules from leaving the cell nucleus.

“What we think is that these strands are basically an mRNA reservoir,” says Braun, who is now based at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich in Germany. “You have these unproductive isoforms sitting in the nucleus, and the only thing that keeps them from being translated is that one intron.”

In their latest study, as hypothesized, the researchers found that PRMT5 plays a crucial part in the unique gene splicing process; they suggest that brain stem cells have high levels of PRMT5, which they use to ensure effective splicing and greater expression of genes related to cell proliferation, or growth and division.

“As the cells move toward their mature state, PRMT5 levels drop, detained intron levels rise, and those messenger RNAs associated with proliferation get stuck in the nucleus,” explains study co-author Jacqueline Lees, of The David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT.

They explain that in cancerous brain cells, levels of PRMT5 are increased once again, which, in turn, activates the unique gene splicing process and encourages the cancer cells to grow out of control.

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Halting glioblastoma growth in mice

The researchers further confirmed their findings in human glioblastoma cells. When they inhibited PRMT5 – which prevents the production of the PRMT5 protein – in tumor cells, they found that cell growth and division was halted.

The researchers were also able to stop the growth of glioblastoma tumors in mouse models by treating them with PRMT5 inhibitors.

Commenting on the team’s findings, Omar Abdel-Wahab, of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York – who was not involved in the research – says, “PRMT5 has a lot of roles, and until now, it has not been clear what is the pathway that is really important for its contributions to cancer.”

“What they have found,” he adds, “is that one of the key contributions is in this RNA splicing mechanism, and furthermore, when RNA splicing is disrupted, that key pathway is disabled.”

Additionally, the study identified a biomarker that the researchers say could be used to identify patients who are likely to respond well to treatment with PRMT5 inhibitors.

This study not only sheds light on the underlying causes of glioblastoma, but it may also open the door to new prevention and treatment strategies for this deadly cancer.

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Medical News Today: The A positive (and A negative) blood type diet

Many people believe that their blood type, whether A, B, AB, or O, is only relevant in relation to blood transfusions. But discussions over recent decades have indicated that eating for a specific blood type may offer some health benefits.

Diets that are based on a person’s blood type have been supported by doctors, including the naturopath Peter J. D’Adamo.

However, there is a lack of supporting evidence to validate the proposed health benefits of following a blood type diet.

A review of data published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded: “No evidence currently exists to validate the purported health benefits of blood type diets.”

Despite this, supporters of blood type diets attempt to help people achieve overall good health and a lower disease risk through eating for their specific blood type.

More research needs to be done, but here, we will learn more about the importance of the body’s blood type, and the purported benefits of eating for an A, B, AB, or O blood type.

What is the A blood type?

Blood has an array of cells that are needed for proper body function. These include plasma, red and white blood cells, and platelets.

Antigens are also present in blood and are responsible for triggering a response by the immune system to attacks from foreign substances, such as bacteria and viruses.

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Eating for your blood type

Woman leaning on table with various ingredients and a diet planning book.
Different blood types are believed to have different reactions to certain foods. The blood type A diet is designed to provide the most benefits to those with blood type A.

D’Adamo argues that when the blood comes in contact with certain food components, a chemical reaction occurs, specifically with a protein called lectin.

Lectins, which are proteins found in food, have believed to have a direct effect on the blood and the digestive tract.

These proteins bind to cells within the body, causing them to clump together and potentially cause hormonal disruptions. This disruption has a similar effect on the body as a foreign substance might.

Foods recommended by the diet

Certain foods are recommended for people with type A blood to eat, as well as avoid, in order to maintain optimal health. According to the diet, these are the foods that those with blood type A may benefit from:

Animal proteins

Although people with type A blood may be best suited to a vegetarian diet, some animal products are allowed, including:

According to the diet, people with type A blood may consume most kinds of seafood with the most beneficial being:

  • carp

  • cod

  • grouper

  • mackerel

  • monkfish

  • pickerel

  • red snapper

  • rainbow trout

  • salmon

  • sardine

  • sea trout

  • silver or yellow perch

  • snail

  • whitefish

Exceptions are on the “avoid list” of animal proteins further down this article.


Digesting dairy is allegedly difficult for people with type A blood, but certain types of dairy may be acceptable, including:

  • yogurt

  • kefir

  • cheeses, including mozzarella, feta, goat cheese, ricotta, and string

  • cheese

  • goat milk

Nuts and fats

Nuts are a great source of protein and healthful fats. People following the type A blood diet can typically have most nuts, except for the ones listed in the “avoid” list. The most beneficial nuts for people following the diet include:

The most beneficial fats for people following the diet to eat include flaxseed oil and olive oil. Other allowable fats include canola and cod liver oil.


Various beans on a white background, including chickpeas, adzuki beans, and kidney beans.
Beans are an excellent source of protein, iron, and fiber, and most types are acceptable in a blood type A diet.

According to the diet, beans are well-tolerated by people with type A blood, and those considered to be most beneficial include:

  • adzuki beans

  • back and green beans

  • pinto beans

  • red soy

  • black-eyed peas

  • lentils


While most grains are well-tolerated by people with type A blood according to the diet, the most beneficial may include:

  • amaranth

  • buckwheat

Allowable breads and grains include:

  • essene, Ezekiel, soya flour, and sprouted wheat

  • rice cakes

  • oat, rice, and rye flour

  • soba noodles

  • artichoke pasta


Many vegetables may be well-suited to people following the diet. Some of the recommended ones include:

  • garlic

  • onions

  • broccoli

  • carrots

  • collard greens

  • kale

  • pumpkin

  • spinach

  • artichoke

  • chicory

  • greens, such as dandelion and Swiss chard

  • horseradish

  • leek

  • romaine

  • okra

  • parsley

  • alfalfa sprouts

  • tempeh

  • tofu

  • turnip

The exceptions to the vegetable rule are listed below.


Similarly to vegetables, type A blood group individuals may be well-suited to fruits. Some of the recommended fruits for people following the diet include more alkaline fruits, such as:

  • plums

  • prunes

  • figs

  • grapefruit

  • lemon

  • pineapples

  • cherries

  • apricots

  • most berries, including blackberries, blueberries, boysenberries, and cranberries

Exceptions to the fruit rule are listed further down this article.

Spices and condiments

Spices and condiments that people following the diet are alleged to benefit from include:

  • tamari

  • miso

  • soy sauce

  • garlic

  • ginger

  • blackstrap molasses


Beverages that the diet allows include:

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Foods that the diet avoids

Listed here are some of the foods that type A blood group individuals are advised to avoid for optimum health, according to the type A diet.

Animal proteins

Shellfish, including shrimp, mussel, scallop, oyster, and octopus.
Shellfish, including shrimp, mussel, scallop, and oyster, are avoided by the blood type A diet.

The diet for A blood types recommends people to avoid consuming most animal meat products and certain seafoods, such as:

  • beef

  • pork

  • lamb

  • veal

  • venison

  • duck and goose

  • anchovy

  • barracuda

  • beluga

  • bluefish

  • bluegill bass

  • catfish

  • caviar

  • clam

  • conch

  • crab

  • crayfish

  • eel

  • flounder

  • frog

  • gray sole

  • haddock

  • hake

  • halibut

  • herring

  • lobster

  • lox

  • mussels

  • octopus

  • oysters

  • scallop

  • shad

  • shrimp

  • squid

  • striped bass

  • tilefish

  • turtle


The diet suggests that people should avoid dairy products, including all cheeses and milk not listed in the allowed list.

Nuts and fats

Certain nuts and fats should be avoided by people following the diet, including:

  • Brazil nuts

  • cashews

  • pistachios

  • corn, cottonseed, peanut, safflower, and sesame oils


Although beans are typically well-tolerated according to the diet, there are some that should be avoided, including:

  • copper

  • garbanzo

  • kidney

  • lima

  • navy

  • red

  • tamarind


While most grains may be well-tolerated by people with type A blood, the diet suggests that some should be avoided, including:

  • cream of wheat

  • familia

  • farina

  • granola

  • grape nuts

  • wheat germ

  • seven grain

  • shredded wheat

  • wheat bran

  • durum wheat

Breads that the diet avoids include:

  • English muffins

  • breads, such as high-protein whole wheat and multi-grain breads

  • matzos

  • pumpernickel

  • wheat bran muffins

  • white and wholewheat flour

  • pastas, including semolina and spinach


Although many vegetables are well-tolerated by people with type A blood according to the diet, it recommends that these should be avoided:

  • peppers

  • olives

  • potatoes

  • sweet potatoes

  • yams

  • cabbages

  • tomatoes

  • lima beans

  • eggplant

  • mushrooms


According to the diet, people with type A blood typically tolerate most fruits very well, with potential exceptions being:

  • melons, such as cantaloupe and honeydew

  • oranges

  • tangerines

  • strawberries and blackberries

  • rhubarb

  • mango

  • papaya

  • bananas

  • coconut

Spices and condiments

Spices and condiments to be avoided include:

  • vinegar

  • peppers, including black, cayenne, and white

  • capers

  • plain gelatin

  • wintergreen

  • ketchup

  • mayonnaise

  • pickles

  • relish

  • Worcestershire sauce


Beverages the diet avoids include:

  • beer

  • black tea

  • distilled liquor

  • seltzer water

  • soda


Whilst the blood type diet has gained popularity in recent years, it is important to bear in mind that there is a lack of evidence supporting its claimed benefits.

There has not been rigorous scientific study on the blood-type diet, as stated by D’Adamo himself, aside from a 2014 PLoS ONE study that concluded, “the findings do not support the blood-type diet hypothesis.”

As with any diet or exercise program, it is important to speak with a doctor before starting a diet for blood type.

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Medical News Today: Itchy gums: Causes, relief, and prevention

There are many reasons why gums can itch, from an allergic reaction to issues with teeth. What are the possible causes, and are itchy gums an early warning sign that can help prevent other health problems?

Gums are the soft tissue surrounding the teeth that provide a seal around each tooth. Healthy gums are essential for protecting teeth, and itching is often a sign that bacteria have built up between teeth and gums.

Itchy gums are usually easy to treat, and good dental hygiene can prevent most problems.

In some cases, itching could be a sign of a more serious concern, such as gum disease, so a person should visit a dentist if symptoms persist.


Male dentist with female patient, looking at an x-ray of her teeth and gums.
If itchy gums are accompanied by consistent and unexplained bleeding, a dentist should be consulted.

Itchy gums can have a number of different causes, so other symptoms can help determine the exact problem:

  • Itching that also affects the roof of the mouth may be an allergy.

  • Red, irritated, or inflamed gums could point to the first stages of gum disease.

  • Pain, aching, or swelling could be the result of an injury or tooth abscess.

Gums that bleed lightly for a short time is common, such as when someone first begins flossing.

However, regular bleeding may be a sign of an underlying concern a dentist should check.

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Possible causes

A common cause of itchy gums is a plaque buildup on the teeth and gums. Plaque is a sticky film found on teeth, which contains bacteria that break down some of the simple sugars found in food and drink.

If plaque builds up and stays on teeth for long enough, it can begin to harden into tartar, which cannot be removed with floss or a toothbrush.

Tartar below the gum line can cause gums to become irritated and inflamed. This early stage of gum disease is called gingivitis.

A mild allergic reaction can cause an itchy mouth. If someone has hay fever, they may also suffer from oral allergy syndrome (OAS), which causes itchiness or swelling of the mouth, face, tongue, or throat after eating raw fruit or vegetables.

The teeth and gums are sensitive to hormonal changes. For women and girls experiencing puberty, pregnancy, or menopause, hormone changes may cause itchy gums or increase the risk for gum disease.

If someone has injured their teeth, gums, or mouth, they may experience itching as cuts or lesions begin to heal.

Bruxism is the medical term for teeth grinding. Grinding can cause damage to teeth and gums, including wearing away enamel or receding gums.

A dry mouth can be a common cause of itchy gums. The body should naturally produce enough saliva to keep the mouth moist, but certain medical conditions, medications, or foods may prevent this, resulting in a feeling of dryness. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day should quickly stop gums itching.

Less common causes of itchy gums include:

  • teething in younger children

  • teething in adults between the ages of 17 and 21 when the wisdom teeth usually come through

  • canker sores, oral herpes, or viral infections that can affect the gums

  • tooth abscesses

Poor dental hygiene is the underlying reason for many cases of itchy gums because the teeth and gums are not kept clean enough, and plaque builds up.

Read on to find out more about how to take care of teeth and gums, at-home remedies, and when to seek treatment.

Options for treatment and relief

A wooden toothbrush, mint plant, glass pot of salt, and glass bottle of clear liquid, on a wooden table. Ingredients for natural salt mouthwash.
Using a saltwater rinse as mouthwash may help to ease the symptoms of itchy gums.

There are a few simple things that people can do at home straight away to relieve gum itching and irritation:

  • brushing teeth, flossing, and using an antibacterial mouthwash

  • rinsing the mouth with a saltwater solution

  • taking an over-the-counter antihistamine if itching has been caused by an allergy

A person should see their dentist if itching persists or if other symptoms are present. Controlling inflammation and infection is key to stopping gums from itching.

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When to see a doctor or dentist

It is important to see a dentist if symptoms persist, as the first stage of gum disease or gingivitis can usually be controlled and treated easily. A dentist will be able to advise on changes to diet and lifestyle and provide initial care, such as professional cleaning.

A dentist or dental hygienist will need to remove any tartar, as this cannot be done at home. This process is referred to as scaling.

There is no clear test for OAS, but someone should be able to tell if they have it by taking a skin allergy test for pollen or by discussing the history of their symptoms with a doctor.

Avoiding any raw fruits or vegetables that seem to be causing the reaction, or peeling them before eating, should help.

If mouth injuries or bruxism cause itchy gums, wearing a customized mouth guard that prevents teeth grinding is likely to be the best option for preventing further damage to the teeth and gums.


Woman brushing her teeth in front of the bathroom mirror, hair wrapped in a towel.
Brushing teeth twice a day using fluoride toothpaste can help to keep gums healthy, preventing itchy gums.

The most important way to prevent itchy gums, and the problems that can be associated with them, is to keep teeth and gums clean.

Good dental hygiene can prevent a range of health issues, and keeping teeth free of plaque is an easy first step to take.

The American Dental Association recommend brushing teeth for 2 minutes with fluoride toothpaste twice a day and flossing in between teeth once a day. Mouthwash may be helpful for people who often have problems with sore gums or infections.

Smoking can negatively affect oral health, including staining teeth or slowing down the healing process. Research suggests smoking may also increase the risk of gum disease, which can be signaled by itchy gums.

As a result, quitting smoking may be a good preventive step.

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Itchy gums are often a good early warning of a potential problem, such as gum disease. Hormonal changes, new medication, or an allergic reaction can cause itchy gums. As a result, the condition may be temporary or easy to treat at home.

If someone is concerned or has symptoms that last more than a few days after treatment at home, they should consult a dentist.

Teeth often get more attention than gums, but looking after gums by brushing and flossing regularly and keeping an eye on any changes or irritation, is key to good overall oral health.

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Medical News Today: Sniffing out dementia with a simple smell test

smelling a rose
Researchers have shown that a simple smell test could identify people who may be more likely to develop dementia.
In a study that followed almost 3,000 older people with normal cognition, researchers found that a simple smell test was able to identify those at higher risk of dementia.

Senior author Jayant M. Pinto, a professor of surgery at the University of Chicago in Illinois, and colleagues report their findings in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

They found that participants who could not identify at least 4 out of 5 odors in the simple smell test were twice as likely to have dementia 5 years later.

“These results show that the sense of smell is closely connected with brain function and health,” says Prof. Pinto, who is also an ear, nose, and throat specialist.

He explains that losing one’s sense of smell is a strong indicator of “significant damage,” and that this “simple smell test could provide a quick and inexpensive way to identify those who are already at high risk.”

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Dementia is a collection of diseases

Dementia is a progressive brain disorder that erodes many aspects of cognitive function – for instance, it diminishes a person’s ability to remember, reason, solve problems, and hold a conversation.

As it progresses, dementia encroaches on daily life, eventually robbing people of their independence and personality.

Memory loss is not the only sign of dementia; many people can experience it without having dementia. Dementia is not a normal part of aging, although it is much more common in older people. To be diagnosed with dementia, a person must show impairment in two or more core mental functions, of which memory can be one.

Dementia is not one disease, but a collective term for several diseases that affect the brain. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, but other types include vascular dementia, Lewy body dementia, and frontotemporal disorders. It is quite common for people to have more than one type.

The number of people worldwide with dementia is growing. Currently, around 47 million people are thought to be living with the disease. This number is likely to approach 75 million by 2030 and 132 million by 2050.

At present, there are no treatments that can cure dementia or alter its course, but there are some in clinical trials that might have an impact. In the meantime, much can be done to improve the quality of life for people with dementia, as well as the people who love them and care for them. In this respect, early diagnosis is essential.

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Smell test

Humans sense smell through the olfactory nerve, which links the cells that detect odors in the nose directly to the olfactory bulb located at the base of the brain. This is the only cranial nerve exposed to the outside world, offering a potential route through which the central nervous system might be harmed by pollution, pathogens, and other hazards in the environment.

The olfactory system has self-generating stem cells and the researchers suggest that perhaps loss of sense of smell is an early sign that the brain is losing its ability to self-repair. Loss of sense of smell is often an early indicator of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

In the new study, a “nationally representative sample” of 2,906 men and women aged between 57 and 85 underwent home interviews and completed a simple smell test.

For the “validated five-item test,” they had to identify five odors, one at a time, by sniffing a device similar to a felt-tip pen. Each time, they were given four choices, from which they had to pick out the correct one.

The five different odors were: peppermint, fish, orange, rose, and leather, with peppermint being the easiest, and leather the hardest, to identify.

The researchers found that the vast majority of participants were able to correctly identify at least 4 out of 5 odors. Of the rest, 7 percent identified 2 or 3 out of 5 smells, 2.2 percent identified just one, and 1 percent could not identify any of them.

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‘Important early sign’ of dementia

After 5 years, the participants were interviewed again to find out if they had been diagnosed with dementia. A proxy stood in if the participant was too sick to be interviewed or had died during the follow-up.

The team analyzed the results of the smell test against the follow-up information, adjusting them to rule out any effects from age, sex, race, ethnicity, education, other illnesses, and level of cognition at study baseline.

They found that the participants who had not been able to identify at least 4 out of the 5 odors at baseline were more than twice as likely to be among those who had developed dementia during the 5-year follow-up.

They also found that the lower the number of odors correctly detected at baseline, the higher the chances of dementia being diagnosed during the follow-up period.

On the findings, Prof. Pinto says, “We think a decline in the ability to smell, specifically, but also sensory function more broadly, may be an important early sign, marking people at greater risk for dementia.”

In a linked editorial, Dr. Stephen Thielke – from the Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Faculty at the University of Washington in Seattle – acknowledges that problems with sense of smell may be “easier to quantify across time than global cognition,” and that this could make it easier to assess early decline in the brain.

However, Dr. Thielke also notes that this does not mean that “smell testing would be a useful tool for predicting the onset of dementia.”

Prof. Pinto accepts this point, noting, “Our test simply marks someone for closer attention.” He and his colleagues say that more work is now needed to turn the test into one that can be used in clinical practice.

Nevertheless, he believes that the test could help to find patients who might be at higher risk for dementia, who can then be put forward for trials of treatments to prevent dementia in the early stages.

Of all human senses, smell is the most undervalued and underappreciated – until it’s gone.”

Prof. Jayant M. Pinto

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Medical News Today: Cumin: Six health benefits

Cumin is a spice that comes from the Cuminum cyminum plant. It is native to Asia, Africa, and Europe, but it is widely used in cooking throughout the world. It is the second most popular spice after black pepper.

Cumin is usually purchased in the form of whole dried seeds or as ground powder. It is a typical ingredient in many spice blends, such as curry powder. Cumin is a staple spice in many cuisines, especially Mexican, Indian, African, and Asian.

Aside from cooking, cumin has also been used medicinally in many parts of the world for some years.

In some Southeast Asian countries, it is used to help with digestion, coughs, pain, and liver health. In Iran, people use cumin to treat seizures, while people in Tunisia use it to help fight infections and lower blood pressure.

Interest in cumin has been growing as newer research supports some of its acclaimed health benefits. Read on to learn more about the potential health benefits and risks associated with cumin, as well as how to add cumin to your diet.

Six possible health benefits

1. Weight loss

woman standing on scales
Recent studies indicate cumin may be effective in lowering cholesterol and in weight loss.

Cumin may be helpful for people trying to lose weight. A study involving overweight adults compared the effects of cumin with a weight-loss medication and a placebo on weight.

After 8 weeks, the researchers found that the cumin and weight-loss medication groups both lost significant amounts of weight. People in the cumin group also experienced a decrease in their insulin levels.

Another study found that overweight and obese women who consumed 3 grams (g) of cumin powder in yogurt daily for 3 months had significant decreases in body weight, waist size, and body fat.

2. Cholesterol

The previously mentioned study in overweight and obese women also found that consuming 3 g of cumin powder per day resulted in lower total cholesterol, LDL or “bad” cholesterol, and triglyceride levels.

The women who consumed the cumin powder also had higher HDL or “good” cholesterol levels.

3. Diabetes

A study in adults with type 2 diabetes looked at the effects of cumin essential oil on blood sugar. Study participants received either 100 milligrams (mg) of cumin oil per day, 50 mg of cumin oil per day, or a placebo.

After 8 weeks, both cumin-oil groups had significantly lower blood sugar, insulin, and hemoglobin A1c levels.

The cumin-oil groups also saw improvements in the signs of insulin resistance and inflammation. Other studies in humans have shown mixed results with cumin and blood sugar levels.

4. Irritable bowel syndrome

A small pilot study looked at the effect of consuming cumin essential-oil drops on symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

After 4 weeks, study participants noted improvements in many symptoms, such as stomach pain and bloating.

At the end of the study, those with IBS who had mainly experienced constipation as a symptom had more frequent bowel movements. Those who had mainly experienced diarrhea as a symptom had fewer bowel movements.

5. Stress

Cumin may play a role in helping the body handle stress. A study in rats looked at the effect of cumin extract on signs of stress.

When the animals received cumin extract before a stressful activity, their bodies had significantly less of a stress response than when they did not receive the treatment.

Cumin may help fight the effects of stress by working as an antioxidant. The same researchers found that cumin was a more effective antioxidant than vitamin C in the rats they studied.

6. Memory loss

The same study in rats also looked at the impact of cumin extract on memory. The study found that the animals that had received cumin extract had better and faster recall.

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Nutrition facts

According to the United States Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database, 1 teaspoon of whole cumin seeds contains:

  • 8 kilocalories

  • 0.37 g of protein

  • 0.47 g of fat

  • 0.93 g of carbohydrate

The same amount of cumin seeds also provides 20 mg of calcium, 1.39 mg of iron, and 8 mg of magnesium.

Additionally, cumin contains antioxidants, which may be responsible for some of its associated health benefits.

Possible risks and side effects

Cumin powder on spoon and cumin seeds spilling from a jar
Further research is required before cumin can be recommended as a supplement.

Consuming foods that are cooked with cumin is likely safe for most people. Some people may have an allergy to cumin, in which case they should avoid it.

More research is needed before supplemental doses of cumin are recommended. In one study, some people experienced nausea, dizziness, and stomach pain after consuming cumin extract.

As with all supplements, people should tell their healthcare provider what they are taking. Many supplements may impact how certain prescription medications work. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not monitor supplements for quality or purity. Do your research on different brands.

Research in rats found that products from cumin seeds interacted with a medication and increased blood levels of an antibiotic used to treat TB.

People with diabetes, especially those who take medication for diabetes, should use cumin with caution since it may change their blood sugar levels.

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Ways to incorporate cumin into your diet

Cumin is a common ingredient in many savory ethnic dishes. It adds a warm flavor and works especially well in soups, stews, and curries.

This spice can also be used to season vegetables or meats before roasting.

See below for links to tasty recipes that contain cumin:


Cumin may have the potential for use in addressing a variety of health conditions.

Research has shown that cumin may boost the immune system and help fight certain types of bacterial and fungal infections. Animal studies have also suggested cumin may help prevent some types of cancer.

More research is needed, especially in humans, but cumin seems to have promise in the medical world. The best supplement form and dose is currently unknown.

For now, cumin is likely best enjoyed in food instead of as a supplement.

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Medical News Today: Five home remedies for athlete’s foot

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Medical News Today: Infected eczema: Symptoms, treatment, and prevention

Eczema is a term used to describe a wide variety of conditions that cause red, itchy, and inflamed skin. The most common type of eczema is known as atopic dermatitis.

Eczema is primarily found in infants, and most children outgrow eczema by the time they are about 10 years old. In cases where eczema persists into adulthood, people are typically able to manage their condition with medicated creams.

Sometimes, eczema may become infected. Typically, this happens when a virus or bacteria gets into open blisters or wounds at the site of an eczema rash.

It is important for people with eczema or caregivers of children with eczema to know what causes eczema to become infected, the signs and symptoms, and what treatment options are available.

What causes infected eczema?

Eczema on the neck.
Infectioned eczema may be caused by fungal infections, viruses like herpes, or bacteria.

Eczema infections are caused by a variety of potential viruses, bacteria, or fungi. The following are some of the more common microbes responsible for causing infected eczema:

  • Staphylococcus aureus (Staph infection)

  • fungal infections, such as ringworm (tinea)

  • herpes simplex virus

Staphylococcus aureus is a type of bacteria found on the skin of nearly all people with eczema. It also lives on the skin of about 20 percent of healthy adults. 

Staphylococcus aureus thrives on weeping or broken skin. In cases of a staph infection, eczema spreads more quickly and makes healing more difficult.

Ringworm is a common source of fungal infection in eczema. Ringworm can be found all over the body and typically appears as isolated patches. It can also occur between the toes, where it is known as athlete’s foot.

Fungal infections are more likely to occur in people with eczema, but they are relatively common in all individuals.

Herpes simplex can also cause infections in people with eczema, so it is a good idea for people with eczema to avoid people with cold sores, where possible.

A secondary infection of the skin caused by the herpes simplex virus is called eczema herpeticum. If it is not correctly diagnosed and treated with antiviral therapy, it can cause serious consequences, even leading to blindness or death.

Most people that have infected eczema will have an open sore in the affected area. The open sores usually develop because a person has been scratching their skin.

Symptoms of an eczema infection

Infected eczema is easy to recognize because the area will usually appear more inflamed.

A person with infected eczema may also experience the following:

  • burning

  • extreme itching

  • fluid drainage

  • blistering

  • white or yellow pus

In more advanced cases, a person may experience more severe symptoms including:

If anyone experiences any of these symptoms at the site of eczema, they should seek medical intervention to treat the infection.

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Senior woman at dermatologist's office, having skin on the back of her hand inspected under a light.
It is recommended that infected eczema is examined by a doctor as soon as possible, so that any complications can be effectively prevented.

Infected eczema is a complication of eczema, but it can produce its own problems and issues.

Some common complications of infected eczema may include:

  • prolonged eczema flare – the infection needs to be treated before the eczema will heal

  • increased itchiness and blisters

  • growth problems in children using steroids

  • eventual resistance to topical steroids with prolonged use

  • scarring

Infected eczema can also lead to more dangerous complications. For example, if left untreated, a serious staph infection may cause a blood infection known as sepsis.

In general, the younger the person is, the more likely they are to develop complications from an infection. Infants and young children are at particular risk of developing blood or bacterial infections, so a doctor should examine them as soon as possible.

When to see a doctor

If a child or infant develops a rash, it is a good idea to contact a doctor to rule out more serious infections.

If a person has chronic eczema flares, they should see their doctor if they develop a fever, experience chills, have reduced energy, or develop signs of infection, such as oozing blisters and excessive itchiness.


Treatment for infected eczema varies based on the type of infection present. If the cause of the infection is a virus, a doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication.

In cases of bacterial infections, a doctor may choose to use either an oral or topical antibiotic. Doctors are likely to recommend creams for mild cases and prescribe oral antibiotics for more advanced cases. A doctor may also prescribe a steroid cream to reduce associated swelling and redness.

Fungal infections require antifungal creams or medication. Similarly, a steroid cream may also help with a fungal-infected eczema rash. Some antifungal creams that may help with the infection are available over the counter.

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Natural treatments

Dropper above essential oil bottle, with a drop falling back into the glass bottle.
Evening primrose or tea tree essential oil may help to treat infected eczema.

Some people and caregivers may want to supplement medication with natural alternatives to treat or prevent infections from coming back.

People seeking natural remedies for infected eczema may choose to try the following:

  • essential oils, such as evening primrose and tea tree

  • herbal supplements for eczema flares

  • natural soaps and creams with emollients

  • probiotics while taking antibiotics

  • oatmeal baths to help soothe and dry the eczema


A person can help prevent infected eczema by reducing eczema flares and avoiding scratching. Also, those with eczema should keep their skin as clean as possible. When flares occur, a person should follow the recommended treatment plan to help manage and reduce the flare.

For flares occurring in folds or naturally more moist areas of the skin, care should be taken to keep the area dry and clean.


Infected eczema is a relatively easy condition to avoid. One of the most common ways an infection occurs is through scratching and scraping the eczema rash open, leaving an open sore on the skin that bacteria or viruses can enter.

Children who have eczema should be monitored and reminded not to scratch. If infected, a person should seek medical treatment to prevent the infection from getting worse.

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Medical News Today: Dry skin: Seven home remedies

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    Agero, A. L., & Verallo-Rowell, V. M. (2004, September). A randomized double-blind controlled trial comparing extra virgin coconut oil with mineral oil as a moisturizer for mild to moderate xerosis [Abstract]. Dermatitis, 15(3), 109-116. Retrieved from

    Brooks, J., Cowdell, F., Ersser, S. J., & Gardiner, E. D. (2017, January 12). Skin cleansing and emolliating for older people: A quasi-experimental pilot study [Abstract]. International Journal of Older People Nursing, 12(3). Retrieved from

    Danby, S. G., AlEnezi, T., Sultan, A., Lavender, T., Chittock, J., Brown, K., … Cork, M. J. (2012, September 20). Effect of olive and sunflower seed oil on the adult skin barrier: Implications for neonatal skin care [Abstract]. Pediatric Dermatology, 30(1), 42-50. Retrieved from

    Ediriweera, E. R. H. S. S., & Premarathna, N. Y. S. (2012, April-June). Medicinal and cosmetic uses of bee’s honey – A review. An International Quarterly Journal of Research in Ayurveda, 33(2), 178-182. Retrieved from

    Morifuji, M., Oba, C., Ichikawa, S., Ito, K., Kawahata, K., Asami, Y., … Sugawara, T. (2015, June). A novel mechanism for improvement of dry skin by dietary milk phospholipids: Effect on epidermal covalently bound ceramides and skin inflammation in hairless mice [Abstract]. Journal of Dermatological Science, 78(3), 224-231. Retrieved from

    Reynertson, K. A., Garay, M., Nebus, J., Chon, S., Kaur, S., Mahmood, K., … Southall, M. D. (2015, January). Anti-inflammatory activities of colloidal oatmeal (Avena sativa) contribute to the effectiveness of oats in treatment of itch associated with dry, irritated skin [Abstract]. Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, 14(1), 43-48. Retrieved from

    Sethi, A., Kaur, T., Malhotra, S. K., & Gambhir, M. L. (2016, May-June). Moisturizers: The slippery road. Indian Journal of Dermatology, 61(3), 279-287. Retrieved from

    West, D. P., & Zhu, Y. F. (2003, February). Evaluation of aloe vera gel gloves in the treatment of dry skin associated with occupational exposure [Abstract]. American Journal of Infection Control, 31(1), 40-2. Retrieved from

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Medical News Today: What is the best time to take vitamins?

Many people choose to take vitamins and other dietary supplements. However, a vitamin’s effectiveness can be altered by when and how a person consumes vitamins.

Time of day, food, and liquid intake can have negative or positive effects on how well a vitamin works and how much of the vitamin is absorbed by the body.

This article explores the general effectiveness of vitamins and the ideal circumstances in which to take different types.

Should a person take vitamins at all?

Spoonful of different vitamins and supplements over vegetables.
Medical professionals often recommend eating a varied and nutrient-rich diet, rather than relying on vitamins and supplements.

There is more and more research indicating that, in most cases, taking vitamins has neither a beneficial nor adverse effect in people who take them regularly.

However, people should approach vitamin use with caution as they may have unintended consequences when combined with prescription or over the counter medications.

There are some, such as vitamin-E and beta carotene, that when taken in large doses may be harmful or fatal.

Pregnant women should take particular care when choosing supplements. For example, high levels of Vitamin A can cause congenital disabilities. On the other hand, folic acid can help with the fetus’s development and prevent spina bifida.

Some researchers suggest that the best method to get the vitamins is not through supplements at all.

They suggest a person eat nutrient-rich foods such as:

  • kale

  • spinach

  • nuts

  • fruits

  • low-fat meats.

They argue that a vitamin cannot replace a healthy, well-rounded diet.

However, some still believe that a person should take a multivitamin to help fill in the gaps of a less than ideal diet. Also, there is limited research that suggests taking vitamins may play a role in reducing the risk of diseases, such as heart disease.

Still, most vitamins offer no known ill effect for an average, healthy person. Individuals who take regular prescription or over the counter medication should consult their doctor before taking any vitamin supplements.

The best times to take different types of vitamins

When to take B vitamins

B vitamins are used for energy boosts and stress reduction. There are eight different types of B vitamins, each having a separate function for the body. The types of B vitamins include:

  • thiamin

  • riboflavin

  • vitamin-B6

  • niacin

  • biotin

  • vitamin-B12

  • folic acid

  • pantothenic acid

These B vitamins can be taken at the same time. In fact, companies offer vitamin complexes, which are combinations of the daily amount of each of the 8 B vitamin types.

The best time of day to take a B vitamin is after waking up. Taking B vitamins on an empty stomach is supposed to help with absorption of the vitamin.

Taking B vitamins also tend to increase energy, so taking them too late in the day may affect a person’s ability to fall asleep

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When to take water-soluble vitamins

Glass bottles and jars filled with different vitamins and supplements.
Water soluble vitamins are not produced or stored by the body, so these must be obtained through diet or supplements.

These vitamins are not naturally produced or stored by the human body. As a result, people need to get water-soluble vitamins from animal, plant, and possibly supplemental sources frequently.

Types of water-soluble vitamins include:

  • vitamin C

  • most vitamin B types

Vitamin C is considered safe to take in recommended amounts.

It is found in a variety of plant products, such as orange juice, grapefruit, and lemons. The body does not store vitamin C, so people should take it daily, ideally in small doses throughout the day.

When to take fat-soluble vitamins

Fat-soluble vitamins are needed in small doses. Taking large doses of fat-soluble vitamins can be harmful or toxic to a person’s body.

Fat-soluble vitamins are not lost during cooking food. Usually, a person will get all the fat-soluble vitamins they need through food and do not need to take them as supplements.

Some examples of fat-soluble vitamins include:

These vitamins are stored in the body’s liver and fatty tissues. Therefore, they are not needed as often. Because large amounts of these vitamins can lead to ill effects, researchers tend to agree that people should not take supplements containing these vitamins.

The average, healthy person with a balanced diet will get enough fat-soluble vitamins through their regular diet.

When to take prenatal vitamins

It is recommended that women who are considering becoming pregnant take a folic acid supplement for a full year before conception.

It is also recommended that women take prenatal vitamins on a daily basis during their pregnancy. Sometimes doctors will also recommend that women take their prenatal vitamins at a particular time of day.

Setting a timetable of this sort depends on whether or not the woman is experiencing morning sickness, a common pregnancy symptom that makes many women experience nausea and vomiting throughout the day. If the prenatal vitamin increases a woman’s feelings of nausea, she can consider taking the vitamin at bedtime with a small amount of food.

There are a variety of prenatal vitamins available, and a pregnant woman should exercise caution when choosing which one to take. Although similar, each one may contain differing amounts of nutrients and ingredients. Typical ingredients include:

Before starting to take prenatal vitamins, a woman should talk to her doctor for suggestions and recommendations. It is possible to overdose on vitamins, which can have ill effects for the woman or baby. Do not take double doses of prenatal vitamins.

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Other supplements

Woman in supermarket shopping for vitamins and supplements, and checking the labels of different brands.
As well as vitamin supplements, mineral supplements are also available.

The human body needs both vitamins and minerals to function properly. Like vitamins, minerals are available in over the counter supplements. And, similar to vitamins, there are many claims about what mineral supplements can do for a person’s health.

Some example minerals include:

Again, people should exercise caution before taking a mineral supplement. Though they may be beneficial, most research appears to indicate that mineral supplements have no positive effect on a person’s health.

It is possible to take too much of a mineral, which can have an adverse effect on a person’s health.

People should take minerals daily with food. Taking mineral supplements without food may result in unwanted side effects, such as an upset stomach.

Risks and considerations

People must take care when considering taking vitamin and mineral supplements

Caution is required because claims of effectiveness and actual effectiveness may vary greatly. Also, many vitamins and minerals can be harmful when taken in large doses; other vitamins may interact poorly with medications taken on a regular basis.

As mentioned above, little research actually suggests that supplements are effective in delivering nutrients to the body.


There is limited evidence from independent researchers that suggest that vitamin supplements have any real effect on a person’s health at all.

In fact, when taken in too large a dose, some vitamins may actually pose some health risks.

Before starting a vitamin supplement, a person should consult a doctor to make sure that what they are considering taking will be safe. Always try to get vitamins and nutrients from reputable outlets, particularly those specializing in whole foods.

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