Medical News Today: Why does diabetes cause headaches?

Diabetes is a condition where the body cannot make enough of the hormone insulin, or cannot use it properly, causing glucose to build up in the blood. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 29 million people in the United States have diabetes.

Diabetes does not usually cause headaches. But, while headaches are not dangerous, they may be an indication of poor blood sugar control in a person with diabetes.

Over time, periods of continuous high or low blood sugar can lead to serious and even life-threatening health complications, such as heart disease and kidney failure.

This article looks at the connection between diabetes and headaches and suggests ways to relieve diabetes-induced headaches.

Types of headache

Mature woman with a headache.
Secondary headaches are caused by existing or underlying conditions, such as diabetes.

According to the International Classification of Headache Disorders, published by the International Headache Society, there are over 150 types of headaches.

Broadly speaking, headaches can be classified as either primary or secondary:

Primary headaches are ones that are not linked to another medical condition. Examples of primary headaches include migraines and tension headaches.

Secondary headaches are caused by underlying medical conditions or health issues and include the type of headache often experienced by people with diabetes.

Other causes of secondary headaches include:

The pain associated with either primary or secondary headaches can vary in severity and duration. Some people may not experience headaches often, while others can get a headache several days each week.

Depending on the type of headache, other symptoms may be present. For example, migraines can be linked with nausea and increased sensitivity to sound or light.

Diabetes headaches tend to occur frequently and cause moderate to severe levels of pain. A severe headache is considered one that significantly affects someone’s ability to function as normal.

Why does diabetes cause a headache?

Diabetic man's hands checking blood sugar level with a glucose meter.
A person who manages their diabetes effectively may be less likely to experience headaches than someone who does not.

Not everyone with diabetes will experience headaches. People newly diagnosed with diabetes may be more likely to experience headaches because they are still working to manage their blood sugar levels.

Headaches associated with diabetes typically occur because of changes in blood sugar levels.

A headache can indicate that blood sugar levels are too high, which is referred to as hyperglycemia, or too low, which is called hypoglycemia.

The more that blood glucose levels fluctuate, the more likely it is that someone with diabetes will experience headaches. Headaches linked to these fluctuations are thought to result from changing levels of hormones, such as epinephrine and norepinephrine, which may constrict the blood vessels in the brain. This constriction is called vasoconstriction.

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Hypoglycemia and headaches

Hypoglycemia is usually characterized by blood sugar levels of less than 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). Hypoglycemia is a serious condition, as glucose is the primary source of fuel for the brain.

Symptoms of hypoglycemia usually appear suddenly and can be much more obvious than the symptoms of hyperglycemia.

In addition to headaches, some of the symptoms of hypoglycemia include:

  • anxiety

  • blurred vision

  • chills

  • confusion

  • dizziness

  • hunger

  • irritability

  • lightheadedness

  • nausea

  • racing heart

  • seizures

  • shakiness

  • sweating

  • tiredness

  • unconsciousness

  • weakness

Hypoglycemia can occur in people with diabetes if they take too much insulin or if they do not eat enough carbohydrates. It is important to manage diabetes carefully and treat symptoms of hypoglycemia quickly to avoid diabetes headaches and more serious compilations.

Hyperglycemia and headaches

Hyperglycemia results from too much glucose circulating in the blood. In type 1 diabetes, it is caused by a lack of insulin production. In type 2 diabetes, it is caused by the body’s inability to use insulin correctly. Additional risk factors include:

  • eating too much

  • not exercising enough

  • being stressed

Symptoms of hyperglycemia are often slow to appear. However, a headache is considered an early symptom of hyperglycemia. Other symptoms include:

  • blurred vision

  • confusion

  • dehydration

  • excessive thirst

  • fatigue

  • hunger

  • increased urination

  • slow-healing wounds

Hyperglycemia is a serious condition that should be treated quickly, as high levels of glucose can damage the blood vessels and nerves. If left untreated, it can lead to a buildup of ketones, a type of acid in the blood. A buildup of ketones can lead to coma and even death.

A person can manage hyperglycemia with dietary changes and medications. Keeping blood sugar levels under control will reduce the risk of headaches caused by diabetes.


senior person taking painkiller pills from blister pack with a glass of water.
Although over-the-counter painkillers may provide immediate relief in the short-term, they should not be relied upon in the long-term.

Over-the-counter painkillers, including acetaminophen and ibuprofen, may help with short-term symptom relief.

A person should speak to a doctor first to see if their diabetes has affected their kidneys, as people with kidney damage should avoid taking certain painkillers, including ibuprofen.

However, to completely relieve or stop headaches caused by diabetes, it is important to get blood glucose levels under control and practice good diabetes management. This can involve making lifestyle changes and taking or adjusting medication dosages.

A person should always consult a doctor before making changes to their diet, physical activity levels, or medication.

Treating headaches from hypoglycemia

The first step in treating a hypoglycemia-induced headache is to confirm that the pain has been caused by low blood glucose. This can be done by taking a blood glucose test.

Taking a blood glucose test is especially important for people who wake up with a headache, as it can be a sign of nocturnal hypoglycemia.

The American Diabetes Association recommend that people with low blood sugar consume 15 to 20 grams of simple carbohydrates or glucose before re-checking levels after 15 minutes. Once the blood sugar is back in the desired range, the headache pain should reduce.

Treating headaches from hyperglycemia

High blood glucose levels may be brought down with exercise.

If a person with type 1 diabetes is concerned about their ketone level, it is important to check their urine for ketones first, especially if blood sugar levels are above 240 mg/dL.

People with ketones in their urine should not exercise and should contact their doctor immediately, as exercise could increase their blood sugar levels further.

A person can also help prevent headaches by maintaining a healthy weight, eating nutritious food, and taking the correct medications.

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When to see a doctor

Headaches can signal periods of either high or low blood glucose, which, if left untreated, can lead to life-threatening complications. Therefore, people with diabetes who are experiencing frequent headaches should consult their doctor.

It is important to contact a doctor immediately if:

  • a headache is severe and impacts daily life

  • blood sugar levels cannot be returned to a desired range

  • other severe or persistent symptoms are present


Not everyone with diabetes will experience headaches, and diabetes is not the only cause of headaches.

People with diabetes who practice good diabetes management and keep their blood sugar levels under control are less likely to experience headaches. Avoiding hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia is the best way to reduce headaches and other diabetes symptoms, as well as more serious complications.

If headaches are severe or persist despite keeping blood sugar levels controlled, a person should seek further advice from their doctor.

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Medical News Today: What are the best essential oils for itchy bug bites?

Essential oils for bug bites can be highly effective when correctly used. These naturally derived oils target inflammation and itchiness, taking the misery out of bug bites.

Oils can reduce the temptation to scratch, which can prevent infections. This is because persistently scratching a bug bite may open a wound that allows bacteria to get into the body.

Essential oils can help with bug bites in several ways. The following oils may help speed healing time and reduce itching after a bug bite.

The best essential oils for bug bites

Peppermint oil
Peppermint oil may help with the burning and itching from bug bites.

Any bug bite can become infected, especially if it is scratched or it leaves an open wound, as some stings do. In people who have a mild skin reaction — as many people do to mosquito and ant bites — these oils may be beneficial.

Always mix the essential oil with a carrier oil and do not apply directly to the skin.

The United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA) do not monitor essential oils, so, choose a brand that is known for quality and purity.

Peppermint and menthol oils

According to one source, peppermint oils create a cooling sensation on the skin. This can help burning, stinging, and itching sensations caused by bites or stings. Research suggests peppermint oil may act as an antimicrobial, reducing the risk of infection associated with some bites. Do not apply peppermint oil to broken skin as it may burn or aggravate it. Use only on mosquito bites and other mild sources of irritation.

Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil may help prevent bacteria and other microbes from growing in a bug bite. This can reduce the risk of infection, making it an excellent choice for children who cannot resist scratching.

Research also shows that tea tree oil might act as a natural antihistamine. Antihistamines reduce the activity of the body’s histamine receptors, which can play a role in allergic reactions and itching. This may reduce swelling and itchiness.

Lavender oil

Known best for its mood-improving and calming effects, lavender oil may also help reduce the pain and itchiness of bug bites. Lavender may also improve the pain from bites and stings from insects, such as fire ants and bees.

Lemongrass oil

Lemongrass oil’s antimicrobial effects can help prevent the spread of some insect-borne diseases, according to some sources. Research published in 2014 also found that a compound found in lemongrass oil might have anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is a major source of pain and itching following insect bites and stings. By reducing inflammation, lemongrass oil may make bites less painful.

Camphor oil

Camphor oil can create pleasant warming sensations on the skin, which may help conceal the itching of some bug bites. If the bite burns, rather than itches, however, avoid camphor, since it can make the sensations worse.

Chamomile oil

Long valued in traditional medicine for its soothing properties, these benefits of chamomile may also help with itching associated with insect bites and stings. A handful of studies have shown that chamomile has anti-inflammatory properties. This means it may help with mild allergic reactions, as well as itching and burning associated with most insect bites and stings.

Witch hazel

Witch hazel is not, in the strictest sense of the term, an essential oil. It is a water distilled from the leaves and stems of the Hamamelis virginiana plant. Witch hazel may prevent bites from becoming infected by fighting bacteria and keeping the injury clean. Witch hazel is also used to reduce inflammation and bruising. Since it is water, there is no need to dilute it in a carrier oil.

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Using essential oils

Essential oils with dried herbs on a table
Essential oils may serve a variety of roles and studies suggest they should be used as a supplement to mainstream treatments.

Essential oils are extracted from plants, such as herbs, flowers, or trees.

Essential oils are distinct from perfume and fragrance oils, which are often mixed with other ingredients. Within the plant, essential oils serve a variety of roles.

In plants, essential oils attract beneficial bugs, such as bees, to defend against dangerous insects, protect the plant from bacteria and disease, and send important chemical signals about the plant.

Advocates of essential oils argue that human users can benefit from essential oils just as much as plants do. Research into this developing field of alternative medicine is still in its infancy.

Many studies, however, suggest that essential oils can supplement mainstream medical treatments, or even offer benefits that standard treatments do not. That includes the treatment of insect bites.

Applying essential oils to the skin

Apply the oils directly to the affected area using the instructions that came with the essential oil, as advised by a doctor or specialist, or according to a guide specific to essential oils. Never consume essential oils unless a specialist recommends otherwise.

Essential oils to avoid

Avoid using the following oils after a bug bite or if the skin is broken or irritated:

  • allspice

  • bay laurel

  • benzoin

  • cassia

  • cinnamon

  • clove

  • fennel

  • fir needle

  • oregano

  • parsley

  • sage

  • spruce

  • tagetes

  • thyme

Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding should consult their doctor before applying essential oils to their skin.

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When essential oils are not enough

mosquito on a hand
A bug bite may be infected if it becomes swollen and begins oozing.

Sometimes essential oils are not enough to treat the pain and itching of bug bites. Some other strategies that may help include:

  • putting calamine lotion on the bite

  • taking an oatmeal bath

  • applying a topical anti-itch remedy such as hydrocortisone cream

  • taking an over-the-counter antihistamine such as Benadryl

If the bite becomes very swollen, has streaks coming out of it, or begins oozing, it may be infected. In this case, people should see a doctor immediately.

People experiencing severe allergic reactions that cause shortness of breath, flushing, a rash, or vomiting should seek emergency care. Never use essential oils to treat an allergic reaction.


Bug bites can be an annoyance, particularly for people who have sensitive or dry skin. Essential oils offer a simple antidote. Some essential oils may help prevent bug bites altogether. According to some research, neem, lemon eucalyptus, and citronella oils can help repel mosquitoes and some other insects.

People should use essential oils diluted on the skin, or try an insect repellent containing them.

Essential oils are powerful. The fact that something is natural does not mean it is safe. So as with any remedy, people should talk to a doctor before using essential oils, especially if they have sensitive skin or a history of allergic reactions.

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Medical News Today: Arthritis in toes: How is it treated?

Arthritis is a condition that affects the joints and causes pain, swelling, and stiffness. It can occur in the toes with several different forms of arthritis causing problems.

In this article, we look at the symptoms of arthritis in the toes, the different types of arthritis, and how a person can find relief from arthritic pain and discomfort.


Arthritis in feet and toes.
Arthtritis in the toes may make walking and balancing difficult.

Common symptoms of arthritis that affect the toes include:

  • Pain: The toe may be particularly painful when it is lifted or when walking, but pain can also occur when at rest in severe cases.

  • Stiffness and loss of function: Arthritis can cause an inability to bend the big toe upwards, which can be painful and make it difficult to walk. The toe can become permanently bent downwards and unable to be positioned flat on the floor.

  • Swelling and inflammation: This can occur in and around the toe and the joint.

  • Formation of a bump: Similar to a bunion or callus, a bump may form from the joints rubbing together.

Other symptoms that can occur in people with arthritis in the toes include:

  • muscle aches

  • anemia

  • fever

  • curling of the toes, such as claw toe or hammer toe

  • thick, pitted, or separated toenails

  • pain elsewhere in the foot

To compensate for arthritis in the big toe, a person might walk on the outside of their foot, causing pain in the ball of the foot.

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There are different types of arthritis that can cause pain in the toes. These include:


Model of bones in the feet being held up.
Osteoarthritis affects the cartilage, which is the lining in-between bones that aids smooth and comfortable movement.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis and causes the cartilage between joints to break down. This allows the joints to rub against each other, causing discomfort and pain.

When OA occurs in the toe, it is often referred to as hallux rigidus, which comes from the Latin for big toe (hallux) and stiffness (rigidus).

OA most commonly occurs in the joint at the bottom of the big toe, which is called the metatarsophalangeal or MTP joint.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the most common form of inflammatory arthritis. Around 90 percent of people with RA will have foot problems. It can affect several small joints in the foot at the same time, including those in the toes.


Gout is a form of arthritis that occurs when uric acid crystals form deposits in and around the joints. Uric acid is a bodily waste product in the bloodstream.

Psoriatic arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis (PA) is arthritis associated with the autoimmune disease known as psoriasis. In most cases, joint problems develop after the skin condition, although occasionally it happens in the reverse order. PA is known to affect the toes.

Infectious arthritis

Arthritis can be caused by an infection within the joint. This type is often the result of bacteria traveling through the bloodstream, although it can also be caused by a virus or fungus. The small joints in the feet can be affected.

Home remedies

If a person is concerned that they may have arthritis in their toes, they should see a doctor, as soon as possible. Arthritis is easier to treat when steps are taken early in the disease to slow its progression.

However, there are several things a person can do at home to relieve the symptoms of arthritis in the toes. These include:

  • using ice packs to reduce inflammation

  • wearing stiff-soled shoes with room for the toes

  • not wearing high heeled shoes

  • bathing the feet in a contrast bath

To use a contrast bath, a person places the affected foot in a bucket of cold water for 30 seconds, and then in a bucket of warm water for 20 seconds, alternating between buckets for 5 minutes. This can be done up to three times a day, but a person should take care to avoid freezing or scalding water.

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Medical treatment

Steroid injection being given in-between the toes of a persons foot.
Steroid injections may help to ease the symptoms of arthritis in the long-term, and even permenantly.

In some cases, medical intervention is needed to treat arthritic pain in the toes. Treatment may include:

  • Painkillers or anti-inflammatory medication, which can reduce short-term pain and discomfort.

  • Steroid injections, which may be given to reduce inflammation. The injection site may be painful for a few days following the procedure, but improvement can be permanent.

  • Surgery to trim, reshape, or replace the bone in the joint.

There are three main types of surgery that could be used to help a person with arthritis in the toes. These are:


A cheilectomy is most commonly used when damage to the toe is mild or moderate. An incision is made, and parts of the bone are removed so that the toe can move more freely.

The toe may remain swollen for several months, but most people experience long-term relief.

Improvement is permanent in around 75 percent of people. In some cases, a person’s arthritis may continue to worsen, and another operation may be required.


Also known as fusion, arthrodesis is when the bones are fused together in a permanent position, using pins, screws, or a plate.

The toe will not move again, but arthrodesis is the most reliable way of treating severe pain, with a success rate of around 95 percent.


In arthroplasty, the joint surfaces are removed and replaced with an artificial joint. This procedure is more common for older people who may not need to be as physically active as someone younger.


While arthritis in the toes is not always preventable, there are some simple lifestyle changes a person can make to reduce their risk of the condition. These include:

  • engaging in regular exercise

  • wearing comfortable well-fitting shoes

  • losing weight if overweight


The outlook for arthritis in toes varies depending on the type of arthritis.

In most cases of OA in the toes, the toe will stiffen but may not get any worse, even after 20 years with the condition. In around 20 to 25 percent of cases, it will get worse and require treatment.

In cases of RA, 1 in 20 people will have severe damage to the joints. In contrast, only 1 in 5 people with RA affecting the toes will have problems worse than pain and stiffness.

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Medical News Today: How to become a lucid dreamer

dreamscape illustration
What can you do to gain control of your dreams?
Research on sleep has long been exploring the phenomenon of lucid dreaming, and whether this can ever be achieved at will. A new study has now identified three core techniques that could help us to be at the helm of our dreams.

Have you ever had a nightmare and woken up terrified, thinking that you had been chased by a hooded figure down a dark alley, rather than been safely asleep in your bed?

The chances are that we’ve all been in a situation similar to that at one time or another; in most cases, as we are dreaming, we are not aware that we are actually in a dream. This is despite the fact that dreams often feature blatantly surrealist, bizarre elements.

Sometimes, however, we may experience a lucid dream, or one in which we are fully aware that we are dreaming. We are able to control the dreamscape — such as in the famous movie Inception — as well as what happens in that dream.

Yet most of us are not able to experience lucid dreaming at will, and while the Internet is full of webpages promising recipes that will turn you into a lucid dreamer, researchers are still unsure about how such a feat may be achieved.

Still, some techniques have been experimented with, and now a team of researchers led by Dr. Denholm Aspy, from the University of Adelaide in Australia, have conducted a study to find out which approaches are the most effective to achieve a lucid dreaming state.

The results of this study were published recently in the journal Dreaming.

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Combined techniques are most effective

The researchers worked with 169 participants (94 females, 73 males, and two who identified as “other”) who were split into three groups. Each group was then assigned to practice a different combination of lucid dream induction techniques.

Three main techniques were used. These were:

  1. Reality testing. This “involves examining one’s surroundings multiple times throughout the day, questioning whether one is awake or dreaming.” Two reliable techniques are rereading written text — as text continuously shifts in dreams — and the “inhalation test,” which involves inhaling air with one’s lips closed.

  2. Wake back to bed (WBTB). This technique involves going to bed, waking up after 5 to 6 hours, staying awake for between 10 minutes and an hour, and then going back to sleep. It is meant to “launch” the dreamer directly into the rapid eye movement (REM) phase of sleep, which lends itself more often to lucid dreaming.

  3. Mnemonic induction of lucid dreams (MILD). This is often combined with the WBTB technique, but before going to bed, the dreamer must repeat a phrase such as “next time I’m dreaming, I will remember that I’m dreaming.” This is meant to establish intention, which will make it more likely that that person is able to attain lucidity within their dream.

Each group was required to practice one of three approaches: reality testing on its own, reality testing and WBTB, or reality testing paired with both WBTB and MILD.

The researchers found that the third group — comprising 47 participants who practiced reality testing, WBTB, and MILD — had a mean success rate of 17.4 percent in achieving lucid dreaming over a period of a week.

Moreover, the researchers report, those “who were able to go to sleep within the first 5 minutes of completing the MILD technique” had a significantly higher success rate in achieving lucid dreaming: they attained their goal during almost 46 percent of their attempts.

“Importantly,” explains Dr. Aspy, “those who reported success using the MILD technique were significantly less sleep deprived the next day, indicating that lucid dreaming did not have any negative effect on sleep quality.”

The researchers hope that the findings of their new study might, in the future, lead to better approaches to handling nightmares and improving quality of life.

These results take us one step closer to developing highly effective lucid dream induction techniques that will allow us to study the many potential benefits of lucid dreaming, such as treatment for nightmares and improvement of physical skills and abilities through rehearsal in the lucid dream environment.”

Dr. Denholm Aspy

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Medical News Today: What home remedies can treat my burn?

Nearly everyone has experienced a burn at some point in their lifetime from cooking burns, sunburns, or even small chemical burns.

Often, minor burns and scalds can be treated with home remedies. Other times, they require immediate medical attention.

When a burn happens, it is important for a person to know whether they can treat it at home or whether they should see a doctor for immediate medical attention.

In this article, we take a look at when people can treat their burns at home, and some remedies that may help.

When can a burn be treated at home?

A second degree burn on an arm.
A first- or second-degree burn may usually be treated well at home. Third- and fourth-degree burns require medical attention.

Burns are classified according to the severity. Scalds are burns caused by a hot liquid and are rated in the same way. Doctors often describe burns in terms of degree.

There are four typical degrees used to describe burns. These degrees are:

  • First degree: the least severe burn, which affects only the outer layer of skin.

  • Second degree: the second-least severe burn, which affects deeper layers of skin.

  • Third degree: second-most severe burn, which affects all layers of the skin.

  • Fourth degree: the most severe burn, which causes damage to bones and joints.

First- and second-degree burns can often be treated at home. Usually, there are no complications and healing will occur with minimal intervention.

A first-degree burn will typically heal within 7 to 10 days. A second-degree burn usually heals within 2 to 3 weeks. A person should watch for signs of additional infection that may require further medical attention.

Typical signs and symptoms of first-degree burns are:

  • redness

  • tenderness or pain

  • minor swelling

  • peeling as the burn heals

Signs of second-degree burns include:

  • extreme redness

  • very sore or painful skin

  • blisters that may break and ooze

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Eight home remedies to treat burns

Person holding fingers and hand under running water.
Running cool water over the burn or scald immediately after it occurs is a well-known and effective treatment.

There are many potential home remedies for burns to try. Unfortunately, some suggested remedies are not effective and can potentially cause the burn to get worse.

Home remedies to use to effectively and safely treat first-degree and second-degree burns at home include the following:

1. Running the burn under cool water

Running cool water over a first-degree or second-degree burn can immediately both soothe and prevent further injury from the burn.

Running cool water over the burn for about 20 minutes will cool the skin down. This remedy does two things. It reduces or removes the pain from the burn. It also stops the burn from getting worse and affecting deeper levels of the skin.

2. Clean the burn

After running the burn under cool water, it is essential to clean the burn thoroughly. People should use a mild antibacterial soap and not scrub.

Cleaning the burn will help prevent infection, which can complicate the healing of the burn and require medical attention.

3. Bandages

Minor first-degree burns are not likely to require a bandage. Even second-degree burns with unopened blisters may not need a bandage.

If the position of the burn is likely to cause chafing or means that dirt can easily get in, however, a bandage may be needed. In the case of oozing blisters, covering the burn with a bandage can help prevent dirt or infections from getting into the burn.

It is important to wrap the burn loosely and not apply sticky bandages directly on the wound itself.

4. Antibiotics

When a burn has open blisters, a person may want to use antibiotic creams and ointments. Antibiotic creams may help prevent the wound from getting infected and help the burn heal faster.

5. Over-the-counter pain medications

Even first-degree and second-degree burns are painful until they heal. A person may wish to take medication to help reduce the pain and swelling.

Ibuprofen is a good choice as both a pain-reliever and anti-inflammatory drug.

6. Stay out of the sun

Keeping a burn shaded when outside can help reduce both pain and the risk of worsening the burn.

If a person cannot avoid the sun, wearing loose-fitting clothing that covers the wound may help.

7. Aloe vera

Aloe vera is commonly available in many creams and moisturizers.

Aloe vera has shown some potential promise in treating burns. The plant is a natural anti-inflammatory, promoting circulation and antibacterial properties that stop bacteria from growing.

8. Honey

Studies have shown that honey has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.

Honey bandages may help sterilize a burn and prevent infection. It can also soothe burned skin, easing some of the pain.

Remedies to avoid and why

Liquid coconut oil in a glass jar next to coconut shell and flowers.
While coconut oil is a popular remedy for a range of skin conditions, it should not be used to treat burns.

Unfortunately, many burn treatments that are ineffective and could even make a burn worse have been passed down from generation to generation.

Some of these remedies are commonly known while others are not. Either way, the following suggested treatments should not be used:


Many people have claimed that essential oils and some common cooking oils such as coconut and olive oil are helpful for burns. However, oils trap heat, preventing the heat from the burn escaping. Trapping the heat can cause the burn to get worse instead of better.

Essential oils are often boasted to heal all kinds of skin and other conditions. Some research supports their use, but this comes from small-scale studies. No large-scale human studies have been carried out to examine the association between essential oil use and sunburn healing.


Many people think that rubbing butter over a burn will help a burn heal. Despite its popularity, butter acts in a similar way to other oils in that it keeps heat in and may cause the burn to get worse.

No evidence supports the use of butter as a burn treatment.

Egg whites

Some people believe spreading an uncooked egg white on a burn will help relieve the pain. However, there is no evidence that uncooked egg helps. In fact, it is more likely that the egg will aide in spreading bacteria to the burn.


Many people turn to ice before cool water to help with a burn, thinking that the cold temperature of the ice will do a more effective job in cooling the burned skin.

However, ice can cause more harm than good and can irritate the burned skin further. In some extreme cases, a person may experience a cold burn from exposure to the ice.


Some people believe applying toothpaste to a burn site can help. In fact, the unsterile toothpaste may actually help spread bacteria into the burn.

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When to see a doctor

Although first-degree and second-degree burns do not typically require medical attention, there are a few signs to look out for. It is important to monitor first-degree burns as they may be second-degree with more damage showing up after a few hours.

If a person experiences a second-degree burn or higher in any of the following, they should seek medical attention for the burn:

  • a burn covers an area of skin larger than 3 inches

  • burns around joints such as knees and elbows

  • a burn that affects the face, groin, feet, hands, or buttocks

Third-degree and fourth-degree burns require immediate medical attention. These burns are typically considered life-threatening. A person should not try home remedies when the burn is that severe.


Most people with first-degree and second-degree burns will make a full recovery in a short time.

During this time, a person should take care to keep the burn clean. If a person suspects infection, the wound covers a large area, or it does not heal within a reasonable amount of time, they should seek medical attention for further treatment.

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Medical News Today: Daily aspirin could ward off liver cancer

aspirin tablets
Researchers say that daily aspirin therapy could reduce liver cancer risk for hepatitis B patients.
A new study offers further evidence of the anticancer effects of aspirin, after finding that regular use of the drug could help to lower the risk of liver cancer.

Researchers from Taiwan found that individuals with hepatitis B — a known risk factor for liver cancer — were less likely to develop liver cancer if they received daily aspirin therapy.

Lead investigator Dr. Teng‐Yu Lee — of the Department of Gastroenterology at Taichung Veterans General Hospital in Taiwan — and colleagues recently reported their findings at The Liver Meeting 2017, held by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases in Washington, D.C.

Hepatitis B is a liver infection caused by hepatitis B virus (HBV). It is estimated to affect around 257 million people across the globe, and in 2015, the infection was responsible for around 887,000 deaths worldwide.

In the United States, it is estimated that between 850,000 and 2.2 million people have chronic hepatitis B.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 15–25 percent of those with chronic hepatitis B go on to develop severe liver conditions, such as liver cirrhosis or liver cancer. Each year, around 1,800 people in the U.S. die from HBV-related liver diseases.

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There are antiviral therapies that can help to reduce liver cancer risk in people with hepatitis B, but Dr. Lee and team note that these medications do not fully eradicate the risk.

What is more, they note that some people infected with HBV are not deemed suitable candidates for antiviral medications, so there is a need for alternative therapies that can reduce the risk of liver cancer for these patients.

Previous studies have indicated that aspirin can help to lower cancer risk, but few studies have investigated the effects of this drug against liver cancer.

“Therefore,” says Dr. Lee, “we conducted a large-scale cohort study to evaluate the association of aspirin therapy with HBV‐related liver cancer.”

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Liver cancer risk reduced by over a third

To reach their findings, the researchers used the 1998–2012 National Health Insurance Research Database to analyze the medical records of 204,507 patients with chronic hepatitis B.

The team identified 1,553 patients who had received daily aspirin therapy for at least 90 days and who were free of liver cancer prior to treatment initiation. These patients were matched 1:4 with 6,212 others, none of whom had ever received any form of anti-platelet therapy.

The researchers then looked at the cumulative incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) — the most common form of liver cancer — among participants over a period of 5 years, as well as their overall risk of developing liver cancer.


Among patients who received daily aspirin therapy, the study revealed that cumulative HCC incidence was much lower compared with the untreated patients, with incident rates of 2.86 percent and 5.59 percent, respectively.

The risk of HCC development over 5 years was found to be 37 percent lower for patients who received daily aspirin therapy, the team reports, compared with the untreated patients.

Further research is required to confirm the benefits of aspirin therapy for patients with hepatitis B, but Dr. Lee and team believe that their findings show promise.

For effectively preventing HBV-related liver cancer, the findings of this study may help hepatologists treat patients with chronic HBV infection in the future, particularly for those who are not indicated for antiviral therapy.”

Dr. Teng‐Yu Lee

“We are pursuing prospective investigations for further confirming the findings,” he concludes.

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Medical News Today: Is gene editing ethical?

Gene editing illustration
Will gene editing become a part of everyday medicine?
If you bring up the subject of gene editing, the debate is sure to become heated. But are we slowly warming to the idea of using gene editing to cure genetic diseases, or even create “designer babies?”

Gene editing holds the key to preventing or treating debilitating genetic diseases, giving hope to millions of people around the world. Yet the same technology could unlock the path to designing our future children, enhancing their genome by selecting desirable traits such as height, eye color, and intelligence.

While gene editing has been used in laboratory experiments on individual cells and in animal studies for decades, 2015 saw the first report of modified human embryos.

The number of published studies now stands at eight, with the latest research having investigated how a certain gene affects development in the early embryo and how to fix a genetic defect that causes a blood disorder.

The fact that gene editing is possible in human embryos has opened a Pandora’s box of ethical issues.

So, who is in favor of gene editing? Do geneticists feel differently about this issue? And are we likely to see the technology in mainstream medicine any time soon?

What is gene editing?

Gene editing is the modification of DNA sequences in living cells. What that means in reality is that researchers can either add mutations or substitute genes in cells or organisms.

While this concept is not new, a real breakthrough came 5 years ago when several scientists saw the potential of a system called CRISPR/Cas9 to edit the human genome.

CRISPR/Cas9 allows us to target specific locations in the genome with much more precision than previous techniques. This process allows a faulty gene to be replaced with a non-faulty copy, making this technology attractive to those looking to cure genetic diseases.

The technology is not foolproof, however. Scientists have been modifying genes for decades, but there are always trade-offs. We have yet to develop a technique that works 100 percent and doesn’t lead to unwanted and uncontrollable mutations in other locations in the genome.

In a laboratory experiment, these so-called off-target effects are not the end of the world. But when it comes to gene editing in humans, this is a major stumbling block.

Here, the ethical debate around gene editing really gets off the ground.

When gene editing is used in embryos — or earlier, on the sperm or egg of carriers of genetic mutations — it is called germline gene editing. The big issue here is that it affects both the individual receiving the treatment and their future children.

This is a potential game-changer as it implies that we may be able to change the genetic makeup of entire generations on a permanent basis.

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Who is in favor of gene editing?

Dietram Scheufele — a professor of science communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison — and colleagues surveyed 1,600 members of the general public about their attitudes toward gene editing. The results revealed that 65 percent of respondents thought that germline editing was acceptable for therapeutic purposes.

When it came to enhancement, only 26 percent said that it was acceptable and 51 percent said that it was unacceptable. Interestingly, attitudes were linked to religious beliefs and the person’s level of knowledge of gene editing.

“Among those reporting low religious guidance,” explains Prof. Scheufele, “a large majority (75 percent) express at least some support for treatment applications, and a substantial proportion (45 percent) do so for enhancement applications.”

He adds, “By contrast, for those reporting a relatively high level of religious guidance in their daily lives, corresponding levels of support are markedly lower (50 percent express support for treatment; 28 percent express support for enhancement).”

Among individuals with high levels of technical understanding of the process of gene editing, 76 percent showed at least some support of therapeutic gene editing, while 41 percent showed support for enhancement.

But how do the views of the general public align with those of genetics professionals? Well, Alyssa Armsby and professor of genetics Kelly E. Ormond — both of whom are from Stanford University in California — surveyed 500 members of 10 genetics societies across the globe to find out.

What do professionals think?

Armsby says that “there is a need for an ongoing international conversation about genome editing, but very little data on how people trained in genetics view the technology. As the ones who do the research and work with patients and families, they’re an important group of stakeholders.”

The results were presented yesterday at the American Society for Human Genetics (ASHG) annual conference, held in Orlando, FL.

In total, 31.9 percent of respondents were in favor of research into germline editing using viable embryos. This sentiment was more particularly pronounced in respondents under the age of 40, those with fewer than 10 years experience, and those who classed themselves as less religious.

The survey results also revealed that 77.8 percent of respondents supported the hypothetical use of germline gene editing for therapeutic purposes. For conditions arising during childhood or adolescence, 73.5 percent were in favor of using the technology, while 78.2 percent said that they supported germline editing in cases where a disease would be fatal in childhood.

On the subject of using gene editing for the purpose of enhancement, just 8.6 percent of genetics professionals spoke out in favor.

“I was most surprised, personally,” Prof. Ormond told Medical News Today, “by the fact that nearly [a third] of our study respondents were supportive of starting clinical research on germline genome editing already (doing the research and attempting a pregnancy without intent to move forward to a liveborn baby).”

This finding is in stark contrast to a policy statement that the ASHG published earlier this year, she added.

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Professional organizations urge caution

According to the statement — of which Prof. Ormand is one of the lead authors — germline gene editing throws up a list of ethical issues that need to be considered.

The possibility of introducing unwanted mutations or DNA damage is a definite risk, and unwanted side effects cannot be predicted or controlled at the moment.

The authors further explain:

Eugenics refers to both the selection of positive traits (positive eugenics) and the removal of diseases or traits viewed negatively (negative eugenics). Eugenics in either form is concerning because it could be used to reinforce prejudice and narrow definitions of normalcy in our societies.”

“This is particularly true when there is the potential for ‘enhancement’ that goes beyond the treatment of medical disorders,” they add. 

While prenatal testing already allows parents to choose to abort fetuses carrying certain disease traits in many places across the globe, gene editing could create an expectation that parents should actively select the best traits for their children.

The authors take it even further by speculating how this may affect society as a whole. “Unequal access and cultural differences affecting uptake,” they say, “could create large differences in the relative incidence of a given condition by region, ethnic group, or socioeconomic status.”

“Genetic disease, once a universal common denominator, could instead become an artefact of class, geographic location, and culture,” they caution.

Therefore, the ASHG conclude that at present, it is unethical to perform germline gene editing that would lead to the birth of an individual. But research into the safety and efficacy of gene editing techniques, as well as into the effects of gene editing, should continue, providing such research adheres to local laws and policies.

In Europe, this is echoed by a panel of experts who urge the formation of a European Steering Committee to “assess the potential benefits and drawbacks of genome editing.”

They stress the need “to be proactive to prevent this technology from being hijacked by those with extremist views and to avoid misleading public expectation with overinflated promises.”

But is the public’s perception really so different from that of researchers on the frontline of scientific discovery?

Working together to safeguard the future

Prof. Ormond told MNT that “a lot of things are similar — both groups feel that some forms of gene editing are acceptable, and they seem to differentiate based on treating medical conditions as compared to treatments that would be ‘enhancements,’ as well as based on medical severity.” 

“I do think there are some gaps […],” she continued, “but clearly knowledge and levels of religiosity impact the public’s views. We need to educate both professionals and the public so that they have a realistic sense of what gene editing can and cannot do. Measuring attitudes is difficult to do when people don’t understand a technology.”

While advances such as CRISPR/Cas9 may have brought the possibility of gene editing one step closer, many diseases and traits are underpinned by complex genetic interactions. Even a seemingly simple trait such as eye color is governed by a collection of different genes.

To decide what role gene editing will play in our future, scientific and medical professionals must work hand-in-hand with members of the general public. As the authors of the ASHG position statement conclude:

Ultimately, these debates and engagements will inform the frameworks to enable ethical uses of the technology while prohibiting unethical ones.”

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Medical News Today: Five ways to cope with PTSD

woman crouching on the floor
How can you cope with PTSD symptoms? We look at five possible strategies.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is caused by witnessing or being part of a frightening or shocking event, and it can affect day-to-day life and productivity. In this article, we discuss a few ways that you can keep its symptoms under control.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is best known as the condition that affects people who have served in the military, and who are therefore most likely to have witnessed a disturbing event on the battlefield.

Yet developing PTSD can be a natural response to any number of distressing experiences, such as sexual abuse, physical assault, accidents, or any type of violence.

Symptoms of PTSD include a heightened state of anxiety — especially accompanied by persistent flashbacks of the traumatic event — sleeplessness, moodiness, and avoidance of places or social situations that might trigger flashbacks.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), 7.7 million adults in the United States live with PTSD, though women are twice as likely as men to develop this condition.

PTSD can last for years, and its symptoms can severely impact overall quality of life. That being the case, it can sometimes be tempting to apply negative coping strategies to deal with symptoms of PTSD.

Negative coping strategies may seem helpful on the spur of the moment, yet they can easily turn self-destructive in the long-term. These can include resorting to alcohol or recreational drugs to numb your feelings, decrease stress, or quieten your thoughts.

Alcohol and other substances may take the edge off to begin with but can cause addiction if used as a substitute for a proper treatment, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which has been recognized as a “safe and effective intervention” for this disorder.

So what are some things you can do, in addition to CBT and any other treatments recommended by your doctor, in order to keep your PTSD symptoms under control? Here are a few approaches you may want to consider.

1. Mindfulness meditation

Increasingly, meditation and mindfulness-based relaxation techniques have been shown to help manage a range of disorders.

woman meditating
Mindfulness meditation-based treatments have been shown to reduce depressive moods and boost self-perception.

A review of mindfulness-based treatments for PTSD points to a few therapies that have been found effective in reducing avoidance and self-blame in people diagnosed with the disorder. These are:

  • mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), which is an intensive 8-week program focused on the practice of mindfulness meditation that aims to train people to focus their attention on their breath and learn to avoid getting carried away by intrusive thoughts

  • mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), defined as “an adaptation of MBSR,” has a very similar structure but is designed to target depressive moods and negative thoughts, more specifically

  • mindfulness-based exposure therapy, which includes a 16-week non-trauma-focused program that incorporates MBCT techniques and favors safe and controlled exposure to avoided stimuli, focusing on self-compassion training

  • meditation-relaxation, such as loving-kindness meditation, was also deemed effective in increasing self-compassion and reducing depressive symptoms related to PTSD

  • mantrum repetition practice, which refers to “the silent repeating of a sacred word or phrase,” appears to be effective in targeting anger, hyperarousal, or the state of being constantly on guard, and symptoms of anxiety and depression

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2. Regain focus through physical activity

Many people who have been diagnosed with PTSD say that finding an enjoyable physical activity that they can perform regularly has helped them to reduce their levels of stress and cope with their symptoms.

Rebecca Thorne, who was diagnosed with PTSD following childhood trauma, explains how running has helped her to cope with the symptoms that were impacting her life.

“I am a runner – and I suffer from [PTSD],” she says. “One of the many things I think about while I’m running, and also when I’m not, is the relationship between the two.”

I embrace running in all weathers […], always with a considerable amount of ascent. As I fight my way up the climbs, I often imagine that the hill is my illness and I am going to slowly and steadily conquer it. Yet it never feels like suffering and, once at the top of the hill, I can reach out and touch the sky.”

Rebecca Thorne

Researchers from Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge in the United Kingdom found that surfing can be an effective coping strategy for war veterans diagnosed with PTSD.

According to the team, this sport helps veterans to attain a focused mind state known as “flow,” in which they are so absorbed in the activity they are performing that all other thoughts and emotions are pushed aside.

Dr. Nick Caddick, who was involved with the study, compares this with the effects of mindfulness meditation, just that it is more active. He calls it “a moving form of mindfulness.”

Medical News Today also reported on a study that suggested that Tai chi — a form of martial arts — can help war veterans to manage their PTSD symptoms.

3. Aromatherapy

Another study covered by MNT earlier this year found that orange essential oil may be effective in reducing symptoms of chronic stress and anxiety associated with PTSD. However, this study was only conducted in mice, and these effects are yet to be replicated in a human cohort.

essential oils with dried herbs on a table
Some suggest that aromatherapy can be helpful in managing chronic stress.

Still, some individuals diagnosed with PTSD have said that aromatherapy can be a helpful relaxation strategy and is effective at lowering stress levels.

Sezin Koehler — who has been managing her own PTSD symptoms for many years — writes, “Lavender, sage, peppermint, or any other relaxing oil massaged on the spot between your eyebrows and your pulse points is marvelously calming.”

Author and former Thames Valley Police officer David Kinchin, who was diagnosed with PTSD in the 1990s, also advocates for the soothing effect of aromatherapy in one of his books.

Aromatherapy can form part of a healing regime as well as being a preventive therapy in its own right. It gives pleasure through the sense of touch (massage), the sense of smell (aromatic oils), the sense of sight (pleasant surroundings) […] By so doing, it helps to create favorable conditions in body and mind for healing to take place quite naturally.”

David Kinchin, ‘Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: The Invisible Injury’

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4. Art therapy

A type of PTSD therapy that has been picking up steam over the past few years is art therapy.

Led by specialists trained to work with people who have experienced traumatic situations, this type of therapy aims to help individuals externalize their emotions and learn to cope with distressing memories through art, such as painting or sculpture.

One case study shows how art therapy can help individuals diagnosed with PTSD and traumatic brain injury to overcome their symptoms and begin to leave their distressing experiences behind by using art projects strategically.

Study author Melissa Walker, who works as an art therapist, explained why and how art therapy can be effective in treating PTSD in a dedicated TED talk.

Walker encourages the people who she works with to create masks exploring the impact of the traumatic experiences on their lives and personalities.

“Someone who has experienced trauma has a block that keeps them from verbalizing what they’ve been through,” she says in an interview. “There is a shutdown in the [convolution of] Broca — the part of the brain responsible for speech and language.”

The mask gives them a way to explain themselves. The concrete image of the mask unleashes words. It reintegrates the left and right hemispheres. Now they can discuss their feelings with their social worker or psychiatrist.”

Melissa Walker

5. Pets for PTSD

Another approach reportedly effective in helping people to cope with the disruptive symptoms of PTSD is adopting a pet that is especially trained to recognize and prevent — or interrupt — the onset of such symptoms.

A number of studies have shown that adopting a trained animal has a positive impact, at least in the short-term, by helping people to manage PTSD-related depression and anxiety, as well as other symptoms such as nightmares.

Research published last year indicated that spending as little as 1 week with a specially trained dog improved PTSD symptoms by 82 percent.

Richard Steinberg, a veteran diagnosed with PTSD, says that his dog “can sense when [he’s] having a nightmare, night sweats,” and she becomes restless, doing her best to catch his attention, “trying to remove [him] from the situation.”

“Putting my hands on her calms me down, and it calms her down,” he adds. “She senses the chemical changes in my body.”

For more specialized information about PTSD, coping strategies, and available resources, have a look at the dedicated pages on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and ADAA websites.

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Medical News Today: Everything you need to know about nuchal chord

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    Bernad, E. S., Craina, M., Tudor, A., & Bernad, S. I. (2012). Perinatal outcome associated with nuchal umbilical cord. Clinical and Experimental Obstetrics & Gynecology, 39(4), 494–497. Retrieved from

    Ergin, R. N., Yayla, M., & Ergin, A. S. (2014, April). Fetal demise due to cord entanglement in the early second trimester. Baylor University Medical Center Proceedings, 27(2), 143–144. Retrieved from

    Hashimoto, K., & Clapp, J. F. (2003, October). The effect of nuchal cord on amniotic fluid and cord blood erythropoietin at delivery. Journal of the Society for Gynecologic Investigation, 10(7), 406–411. Retrieved from

    Henry, E., Andres, R. L., & Christensen, R. D. (2013, March). Neonatal outcomes following a tight nuchal cord. Journal of Perinatology, 33(3), 231–234. Retrieved from

    Hutchon, D. J. R. (2013, October). Management of the nuchal cord at birth. Journal of Midwifery and Reproductive Health, 1(1), 4–6. Retrieved from

    Joshi, K., Saxena, R., Bhat, M., Lomrod, Y., & Verma, K. (2017, February 7). Incidence of cord around the neck and its effects on labour and neonatal outcome. Advances in Human Biology, 7(1), 15–18. Retrieved from

    Karunanidhi, S., Ghose, S., Pallavee, P., Begum, J., & Rathod, S. (2015, August). Maternal and neonatal outcome in newborns with nuchal cord loop: A comparative study. International Journal of Reproduction, Contraception, Obstetrics and Gynecology, 4(4), 1122–1127. Retrieved from

    Kobayashi, N., Aoki, S., Oba, M. S., Takahashi, T., & Hirahara, F. (2015, July 9). Effect of umbilical cord entanglement and position on pregnancy outcomes. Obstetrics and Gynecology International, 2015, 342065. Retrieved from

    Kong, C. W., Lee, D. H., Chan, L. W., & To, W. W. (2015, April). Impact of nuchal cord on fetal outcomes, mode of delivery, and management: A questionnaire survey of pregnant women. Hong Kong Medical Journal, 21(2), 143–148. Retrieved from

    Ohno, Y., Terauchi, M., & Tamakoshi, K. (2016, November). Perinatal outcomes of abnormal umbilical coiling according to a modified umbilical coiling index. Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Research, 42(11), 1457–1463. Retrieved from

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Medical News Today: All you need to know about thyroglossal duct cysts

A thyroglossal duct cyst is a fluid-filled pocket in the front of the neck, just above the voice box.

The cyst forms in tissue that is sometimes left over from the development of the thyroid gland.

Thyroglossal cysts are present at birth and often occur in children.

How do they form within the neck?

Thyroglossal duct cyst. <br>Image credit:Klaus D. Peter, Gummersbach, Germany, (2008, December 10.)</br>
Thyroglossal duct cysts are usually diagnosed in childhood.
Image credit:Klaus D. Peter, Gummersbach, Germany, (2008, December 10.)

During fetal development, the thyroid gland is located at the back of the tongue. It naturally migrates down the neck, passing through the hyoid bone. The hyoid bone anchors the tongue and is situated at the root of the tongue in front of the neck. As the thyroid gland descends, it forms a small channel called the thyroglossal duct.

This duct usually disappears once the thyroid gland reaches its final position in the neck. Sometimes part of the duct remains and leaves a pocket. A thyroglossal cyst will form when fluid collects in this pocket.

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Aside from the presence of a lump, sometimes mucus may seep out of a small opening in the skin near the lump. If the cyst becomes infected, it can become tender, red and swollen.

Some people with a thyroglossal cyst may find it difficult to swallow or to breathe. Sometimes people who have thyroglossal cysts can experience recurring infection, excessive swelling, or pressure symptoms.

Surgery may be an option when any of these symptoms occur.

Thyroglossal duct cysts may have no symptoms at all and can go unnoticed until they become infected.

How are they diagnosed?

Technician performing ultrasound scan of patient's neck and throat.
An ultrasound scan may be required to diagnose the thyroglossal cyst.

A cyst often appears after an upper respiratory infection because this causes them to enlarge and to become painful.

Symptoms of thyroglossal cysts can be attributed to other medical conditions, and a conclusive diagnosis is necessary. Diagnostic tests for thyroglossal duct cysts may include any of the following:

  • blood test

  • ultrasound examination

  • thyroid scans

  • fine needle aspiration

  • X-rays with a contrast dye

Once diagnosed, the doctor may refer the affected person to an ear, nose, and throat specialist for treatment.

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Surgeons usually remove thyroglossal duct cysts for the comfort of the person. Removal also allows for further investigation and diagnosis. In rare cases, this can include cancer.

Treatment will depend on the person’s age and general health. It will also depend on the severity of the symptoms.


Surgery is a standard treatment option. The Sistrunk procedure is the most effective in removing thyroglossal cysts so that they do not reoccur. A thyroglossal duct cyst has only a small chance of recurring, and that is if any of the tissue remains after removal.


Doctors may treat infected thyroglossal duct cysts with antibiotics, even if surgery is being planned. Infection before surgery can make the removal more difficult and increases the chance of recurrence.

What to expect during surgery

During the Sistrunk procedure, a surgeon makes an incision in the front of the neck, over the swelling. They then remove the thyroglossal tract up to its root, including a segment of the hyoid bone.

The Sistrunk procedure takes about 90 minutes and usually takes place under general anesthesia. The tissue that is removed is sent to a pathology laboratory to confirm the diagnosis.

A Sistrunk procedure may include an overnight stay in a hospital. A doctor will prescribe painkillers according to individual requirements. The level of pain or discomfort felt after the operation varies from person to person.

What are the risks and complications?

Surgeons working in operating theatre.
The surgeons should explain the potential risks involved before performing the surgery. Follow-up appointments are common, to ensure the site of the surgery is healing properly.

Complications after surgery range from mild to severe and may include the following:

  • Bleeding: The risk of bleeding is usually slight. Blood thinners taken for other medical conditions can increase this risk, and a person must tell the doctor before surgery.

  • Clotting: If bleeding results in a blood clot forming under the wound, a small procedure may be necessary to stop the bleeding.

  • Fistula: Sometimes fluid can leak from the site after surgery. This is called a fistula and may need further treatment.

  • Infection: If the wound is kept clean, the risk of infection is minimal. Infection, if it does occur, can cause acute pain, airway obstruction, and problems with swallowing.

  • Scarring: There will be a surgical scar on the front of the neck. Some people develop hypertrophic scarring and keloids. This is where excessive scar forms and is sometimes itchy.

  • Nerve damage: During surgery, there is a very small risk of damage to the nerve that is linked to the movement of the tongue.

  • Hyperthyroidism: If the cyst contained functional thyroid tissue, then there is a small risk that less thyroid hormone will be produced after it has been removed.

Symptoms can arise from the swelling itself or post-operative complications.

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It is best to rest for up to 3 weeks following surgery. Avoid driving for 2 weeks and long-haul flights for 2 months. If non-dissolvable sutures are used, then they will have to be removed after a week.

At some point after the surgery, a person will need to attend a follow-up appointment to monitor post-operative recovery. In the meantime, call the doctor if there is any fever, swelling, redness, drainage, or pain.

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