Medical News Today: The 10 best apps for stroke survivors

Following a stroke, the body needs time to heal, and recovery time depends on the symptoms and severity of the stroke. We have identified the best apps to help stroke survivors with their recovery and rehabilitation.
older man looking at phone
Smartphone apps can assist with stroke recovery and rehabilitation.

More than 795,000 individuals in the United States have a stroke each year, and around 140,000 of these people die from stroke.

Ischemic strokes — wherein “blood flow to the brain is blocked” — account for roughly 87 percent of all strokes.

Stroke can cause significant injury to the brain that may result in many long-term problems.

For example, communication, concentration, memory, and executive function, as well as spatial awareness, are all cognitive functions that may be impacted by stroke.

Stroke can also trigger mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, as well as movement and coordination problems, paralysis, difficulties swallowing, visual impairment, and urinary incontinence and loss of bowel control.

The faster a person is treated after stroke, the more likely they are to recover from it. Surveys have shown that people who “arrived at the emergency room within 3 hours” of their first symptoms of stroke had “less disability” 3 months later than those who were treated later.

While some people recover quickly from stroke, others may need long-term support. Apps are available to help aid the stroke recovery process. They can help you or your loved one to track appointments and medications, provide language therapy, train the brain, and even lower some risk factors for future strokes.

Medical News Today have selected the top 10 apps to assist with stroke recovery.


Android: Free

iPhone: Free

Cozi logo

Cozi is a family organizer designed to keep track of multiple schedules. The app can help caregivers to manage their schedules and is ideal if the person recovering from a stroke has several caregivers.

Keep track of schedules with a shared color-coded calendar and set reminders for yourself or other family members so that medical appointments and medications are not missed.

Shopping and to-do lists can also be shared with everyone in the family to ensure that you have everything you need from the grocery store. All items added to lists are viewable instantly in real-time.


Android: Free

iPhone: Free

Medisafe logo

Medisafe is the must-have pill reminder that makes sure that you never miss a dose of your medication or mistakenly double up due to not tracking your medications ever again.

According to the app, mistakes with medicine use and dosage tracking result in 50 percent of individuals not taking medication as prescribed, 700,000 hospital visits, 125,000 deaths each year, and 44 in every 100 prescriptions not being collected from the pharmacy.

Whether you are taking one drug dose or multiple doses each day, it can be challenging to remember to take the right pill at the right time. Medisafe takes the stress out of having to remember if you or your loved one took their medications correctly.

Stop, Breathe & Think

Android: Free

iPhone: Free

Stop, Breathe & Think logo

Research has shown that increased activity in a brain region called the amygdala, which is involved in stress, is tied to a greater risk of stroke. Therefore, reducing stress while in recovery from stroke could reduce the risk of future strokes.

Stop, Breathe & Think is a meditation and mindfulness app that helps to decrease stress and anxiety. The app provides guided meditations, breathing exercises, and yoga and acupressure videos to help you check in with your emotions.

Stop, Breathe & Think says that taking a few minutes every day to feel calm is just as important as getting frequent exercise and will reduce stress and promote peace of mind.

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7 Minute Workout Challenge

Android: $2.99

iPhone: $2.99

7 Minute Workout Challenge logo

Working out three to five times per week reduces the likelihood of recurrent stroke by fivefold, according to a study published in the journal Neurology.

If you are unsure of how to start an exercise routine after stroke, the 7 Minute Workout Challenge app could be the perfect app for you. The 7-minute workout is a research-backed exercise program that has become a hit internationally.

Scientists have put together 12 exercises to perform for 30 seconds each with a rest period of 10 seconds in-between. The exercise sequences are easy to do, require no equipment, and can be done anywhere.

Language Therapy 4-in-1

Android: $59.99

iPhone: $59.99

Language Therapy logo

After stroke, it is common to experience a condition called aphasia, which affects your ability to understand what people are saying, find the right words, and read and write. Aphasia is often a symptom of the brain damage caused by stroke.

Language Therapy 4-in-1 is a scientifically proven speech therapy app that aims to improve speaking, listening, reading, and writing in those with aphasia. Get started by giving their free version, Language Therapy Lite, a try today.

Research led by the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom found that using the app for 20 minutes each day for 4 weeks showed improvements in all study participants with chronic aphasia.

Constant Therapy

Android: Free trial

iPhone: Free trial

Constant Therapy logo

Constant Therapy is a cognitive and speech therapy app designed for individuals who are recovering from stroke, brain injury, and aphasia. The app is free for 15 days and then offers users the chance to continue with a monthly or annual subscription.

With more than 65 task categories, 100,000 exercises, and 10 levels of difficulty, Constant Therapy can help to improve cognition, memory, speech, language, reading, and comprehension skills.

Constant Therapy was developed by scientists at Boston University in Massachusetts and is recommended by neurologists, speech language pathologists, and occupational therapists. Research published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience showed a significant improvement in standardized tests for stroke survivors after using Constant Therapy.

VocalEyes AI

iPhone: Free

VocalEyes logo

Stroke can sometimes cause damage to brain areas that receive, process, and interpret information sent from the eyes. This damage may result in losing part of your field of vision or causing double vision.

VocalEyes is computer vision for the visually impaired. The app uses machine learning to help people with vision problems identify objects in their everyday lives. Take a photo, and the app will tell you what the camera sees.

VocalEyes’s audio response describes scenes and environments, identifies objects, label logos, and brands, reads text, detects faces, classifies emotions, recognizes ages, and distinguishes currency denominations.

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iPhone: Free

Glasses logo

Glasses is a digital magnifier and mirror that can help you to view fine print and objects with up to 12x magnification.

If your vision is impaired after stroke or you have simply forgotten your glasses, the app can zoom in on labels and nutritional information in a grocery store and menus in dark restaurants as well as help you see how much to pay on the bill after eating out.

Glasses is simple to use. Double tapping quickly zooms in or out by 6x, while swiping uses a slow and continuous zoom method. If you have shaky hands, you can tap and hold to freeze the image on screen.


Android: Free

iPhone: Free

Elevate logo

If you are experiencing cognitive function problems after stroke, brain-training apps provide a platform to exercise and improve the areas of the brain involved in concentration, memory, planning, reason, and problem-solving.

Elevate is a brain-training app that is designed to enhance speaking abilities, processing speed, focus, and memory. Elevate provides a personalized training program that adapts in difficulty over time to ensure you are always challenged.

Elevate features more than 40 games aimed at improving your skills, plus a workout calendar that tracks your streaks to keep you motivated. Users who train with Elevate at least three times each week have reported considerable gains in abilities and increased confidence.


Android: Free

iPhone: Free

Peak logo

The Peak app includes 40 unique brain-training games developed by neuroscientists to challenge and build your cognitive skills.

Peak features a personal brain trainer, known as Coach, who selects the perfect workouts for you at the correct time. Choose your training exercises from Coach’s recommendations to challenge yourself and stay motivated by tracking your progress with in-depth insights.

Free games challenge your attention, memory, problem-solving skills, mental agility, coordination, emotional control, language, and creativity. Upgrade to Pro for additional features.

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Medical News Today: Brain-repairing protein may lead to new MS drugs

Multiple sclerosis is an often debilitating autoimmune disease characterized by muscle weakness, vision problems, impaired coordination, and physical numbness. Currently, treatments for this disease focus on managing the symptoms, but what if we could tackle their main cause in the brain?
neurons with axons sheathed in myelin
Are we getting closer to learning how to prompt cells to fix the neural ‘sheath’ damage at the center of MS?

Although the root causes of multiple sclerosis (MS) remain unknown, we do know that one factor for its symptoms is demyelination.

During this process, the immune system attacks and damages myelin, or the “coating” around axons, which are the projections that connect nerve cells in the brain and spinal chord.

As a result of this damage, signals transmitted between nerve cells are disrupted, hence the problems with vision, coordination, or muscle control. Therefore, the main challenge for researchers specializing in MS has been how to promote remyelination, which is the creation of a new myelin “sheath,” in an efficient and effective way.

According to a 2016 study, more than 403,600 people in the United States live with MS, while an earlier study pointed to an estimated number of 2.3 million people diagnosed with the condition around the world.

Dr. Veronique Miron — at the MS Society Edinburgh Centre for MS Research in the United Kingdom — and other scientists made a breakthrough in remyelination research when they found that a protein called activin-A plays an important role in the promotion of myelin repair.

At the time, they could not identify the mechanism whereby the protein boosts myelination. But now, Dr. Miron and team have discovered how this protein “switches on” the process of repair.

The researchers’ findings have now been published in the journal Acta Neuropathologica.

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‘Encouraging cells to make new myelin’

Dr. Miron and colleagues studied the myelin production mechanism in which activin-A is implicated both in vivo (using the mouse model of MS) and in vitro (on human tissue provided by the MS Society Tissue Bank).

The scientists found that the processes that led to the production of myelin were dependent on the expression of an activin-A receptor called activin receptor 2a (Acvr2a) on oligodendrocytes, a type of cell able to create myelin.

Looking at tissue samples donated by people who had lived with progressive MS, Dr. Miron and her team saw that Acvr2a levels were significantly higher in nervous tissue that benefitted from remyelination. By contrast, Acvr2a levels were reduced in tissue with no signs of myelin repair.

Activin-A, the researchers also discovered, binds to Acvr2a, signaling the oligodendrocytes to start their work of repair at sites where the axons’ myelin sheath has been damaged.

“When we first discovered this protein activin-A,” Dr. Miron notes, “we didn’t know exactly what role it played in remyelination. We now know it binds to a specific receptor, which then causes cells to carry out myelin repair.”

As remyeliantion is crucial to slowing down the progression of the disease and potentially halting it altogether, Dr. Miron says that the findings of the current study could eventually lead to a new drug target.

This is a really exciting discovery because [we] can now focus our efforts on developing drugs that target the receptor. If we can do that, we can encourage cells to make new myelin after damage has been done in MS.”

Dr. Veronique Miron

Below, you can watch a video in which Dr. Miron explains the relevance of the study’s findings in the treatment of MS, and how they might point the way to better, more effective therapies.

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Medical News Today: Diagnosing hepatitis C with the hepatitis C antibody test

The hepatitis C antibody test is the only way to check if a person has had the hepatitis C virus. The results can be complicated, as a positive test does not always mean someone has hepatitis C. Read on to understand more about the test and what the results indicate.

Hepatitis C is a virus that damages the liver. If left untreated, it can lead to liver disease and other serious long-term health problems.

Many people do not realize that they have hepatitis C. There are specific risk factors for contracting the virus, such as age and exposure to blood or bodily fluids.

What is the hepatitis C antibody test?

Blood sample and syringe on testing documents.
A blood sample will be required for a hepatitis C antibody test.

The antibody test is a blood test to check for infection with the hepatitis C virus.

An antibody is a protein made by the body to protect against bacteria and disease. Antibodies can detect substances that could cause harm to health.

The medical term for these harmful substances is an antigen. When an antibody recognizes an antigen, it will destroy it or stop it traveling further into the body.

Antibodies are specific to a particular bacteria or disease, and they stay in the body after someone has been infected. This means that the antibodies should be able to fight off the same disease in future.

The hepatitis C antibody test checks for antibodies to the hepatitis C virus. If there are antibodies in the body, it means that a person has been infected with the virus at some point. However, it does not always mean that they still have the virus.

A doctor will take a small sample of blood to be sent away for testing. The results may take a few days or weeks to come back.

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What do the results mean?

There are two results from a hepatitis C antibody test.

  • A non-reactive or negative test result means that the person does not have the virus. The exception is if someone has come into contact with the virus recently, such as through contaminated blood. If this is the case, they will need to have another test.
  • A reactive or positive test result means that the person has had the virus at some point but does not mean that they still have it. Further tests will be needed to check whether the virus is still active in the body and if treatment will be required.

What happens next?

Senior male patient with young male doctor sitting on hospital bed explaining problem.
After a diagnosis, further tests will be carried out to determine the impact of the hepatitis C virus on the body.

Once diagnosed with hepatitis C, a person will need to undergo a series of different tests to see how the virus has affected their body.

These tests will check for any liver damage, identify how well the liver is working, and help a doctor to decide on treatment.

Hepatitis C is treated with medication known as an antiviral. It gets this name because it aims to clear the virus out of the body.

Another aim of the medication is to slow down damage to the liver. It may also reduce the chance of a person getting liver cancer or developing serious liver scarring, known as cirrhosis.

A person with hepatitis C will require regular testing during treatment to see how well the medication is working. Keeping healthy, getting enough sleep, and avoiding drugs and alcohol can help treatment to work.

Finding out about a diagnosis of hepatitis C may be complicated or confusing. The American Liver Foundation offer information, support, and advice for people who have the virus.

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Other hepatitis C tests

After an individual has received a reactive or positive result from a hepatitis C antibody test, they will need to have two follow-up tests.

The first test checks to see whether a person still has the virus; the other measures the amount of the virus in the blood.

The first test is the hep C RNA qualitative test, also known as the PCR test. A positive result means that a person has the hepatitis C virus. A negative result means that the body has cleared the virus without treatment.

The second test is the hep C RNA quantitative test. The result of this test is given as a number rather than a positive or negative. This is because the test compares the amount of the virus in the body before, during, and after treatment.

The number given as a result of this test is known as the viral load. The lower amount of the hepatitis C virus in the blood, the better the chances that a person can eliminate the virus from their body.

After hepatitis C virus is diagnosed, other tests may be needed:

  • Hepatitis A and B testing. If a person has not previously been exposed to these forms of the virus, they can have a vaccination to protect them against it.
  • Testing to find out which strain of hepatitis C someone has. There are three common strains in the United States, and treatment is slightly different for each one. This is known as a hepatitis C genotype test.
  • Liver function tests. These will check how inflamed or damaged the liver might be.
  • Imaging tests. Taking pictures of the liver can show if a person has liver cancer.

Who should get tested?

Baby boomer couple at home getting ready in the morning.
Baby boomers are advised to get tested for hepatitis C, as they are at particular risk of having the virus.

Certain behaviors, experiences, and medical procedures increase the risk of getting the hepatitis C virus, which is transmitted by contact with blood.

The following are risk factors for contracting the virus:

  • having HIV
  • using needles to inject drugs
  • having multiple sexual partners, or a sexual partner who has chronic hepatitis C
  • having had an organ transplant or received a blood donation before 1992
  • working in healthcare and being exposed to blood or bodily fluids
  • having had hemodialysis, a process that filters the blood
  • being treated for a bleeding disorder with blood proteins before 1987

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advise all baby boomers get tested for hepatitis C. Baby boomers are people born between 1945 and 1965. They are five times more likely to have the virus than other adults.

It is not clear why baby boomers have higher rates of hepatitis C infection than the rest of the population. At present, researchers think that it could be due to the standard of medical practice in the past, before the introduction of screening and infection control measures.

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Hepatitis C is a serious virus that can cause significant damage to the body. The earlier the virus is found, the better the chances of treating it.

People who have been exposed to risk factors, or are in a high-risk group, should ask a doctor about being tested.

Understanding what a positive or negative result means is important. A person should ask their doctor for a clear explanation and advice if they are unsure.

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Medical News Today: How fruit juice affects the gut

It was previously believed that fructose, which is the sugar found in fruit and fruit juice, is processed by the liver. However, a new study suggests that fructose is mainly processed in the small intestine.
bottles of fruit juice
Researchers reveal that fructose is primarily processed in the small intestine, not the liver.

The study, which is published in the journal Cell Metabolism, reveals that processed high-sugar food and drink only spills over into the liver for processing when the small intestine becomes overwhelmed.

The recent findings add to the body of scientific knowledge on the effects of too much fructose on the body.

We know from previous research that excessive consumption of sugar is harmful to the liver, and that chronic overconsumption causes obesity, increases resistance to insulin, and creates conditions for the onset of diabetes.

Last year, Medical News Today reported on a study that found that fructose-containing products such as sweetened drinks can increase the risk of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, a form of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, “which can lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer.”

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Study observed fructose digestion in mice

The researchers, from Princeton University in New Jersey, used mice to study how fructose travels through the digestive system. Their findings suggest that there is a physiological difference in how the body processes different amounts of sugar.

Rather than the liver processing all the sugar in the body, the team observed that more than 90 percent of fructose was processed in the small intestines of the mice in the study.

The team found that fructose not absorbed into the small intestine is passed through to the colon, where it comes into contact with the microbiome, which is the microbiotic flora that inhabits the large intestine and colon.

The researchers explain that the microbiome is not designed to process sugar. So, while a person could eat a large amount of carbohydrates without exposing their microbiome to any sugar, this changes significantly when high-sugar products — such as soda and juice — are consumed.

While the findings do not prove that fructose influences the microbiome, the team believes that “an effect is likely.” They suggest that this link should be further investigated in future studies, as it may provide new insights into the adverse effects of high sugar intake.

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‘Eat sugar only after meals’

In the study, the small intestine was found to clear fructose more efficiently after a meal.

The team theorizes that during periods of fasting, such as in the morning or mid-afternoon, individuals may be more vulnerable to fructose as the small intestine has reduced ability to process it during these times.

As study author Joshua D. Rabinowitz, of the Lewis-Sigler Institute for Integrative Genomics at Princeton University, explains, “We can offer some reassurance — at least from these animal studies — that fructose from moderate amounts of fruits will not reach the liver.”

“We saw that feeding of the mice prior to the sugar exposure enhanced the small intestine’s ability to process fructose,” Rabinowitz continues. “And that protected the liver and the microbiome from sugar exposure.”

Rabinowitz says that the results support “the most old-fashioned advice in the world,” which is to “limit sweets to moderate quantities after meals” and avoid sugary drinks outside of meal times.

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Medical News Today: Beer compounds may help to treat metabolic syndrome

When it comes to healthful beverages, beer is unlikely to be top of the list. A new study, however, suggests that some compounds in the popular drink could offer significant health benefits for people with metabolic syndrome.

a glass of beer and hops
Researchers suggest that certain compounds found in beer could help people with metabolic syndrome.

Researchers reveal how a form of xanthohumol (XN) — a flavonoid found in hops, an essential ingredient in beer — and two hydrogenated derivatives of the compound may help to improve insulin resistance in people with metabolic syndrome, as well as reverse learning and memory impairments induced by the condition.

Study co-author Fred Stevens, of the College of Pharmacy at Oregon State University (OSU) in Corvallis, and colleagues recently reported their findings in the journal Scientific Reports.

Metabolic syndrome is a condition whereby a person has at least two of five metabolic disorders. These include high blood pressure, abdominal obesity, high triglyceride levels, low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, or “good” cholesterol, and high fasting blood sugar.

It is estimated that around 23 percent of adults in the United States have metabolic syndrome.

Not only does the condition put these individuals at risk of other health conditions — such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke — but previous research has found that people with metabolic syndrome may be at greater risk of cognitive impairment.

The new study, however, suggests that beer compounds could help to combat the latter, by reducing the effects of one the biggest causes of metabolic syndrome: a high-fat diet.

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Compounds reduced insulin resistance

In a previous study, Stevens and team pointed to XN as a possible treatment for metabolic syndrome, but there is one major barrier to its clinical use: in the human body, XN is converted into an estrogenic metabolite called 8-prenylnaringenin (8-PN), which can promote the growth of breast cancer.

“We were always criticized about the potential side effects because 8-PN is one of the most potent phytoestrogens known in nature, and that’s not good news,” Stevens explains. “If someone took XN over longer periods of time, it could lead to estrogenic side effects, potentially.”

The researcher notes that in order for 8-PN to be metabolized, a specific “double bond” is required in the XN molecule. “[…] I thought if I could get rid of that double bond by hydrogenating the molecule, then that metabolite cannot be formed anymore,” says Stevens. “I thought maybe this is the solution to the problem.”

<!–[:LINK|317937|Just an hour of resistance training every week may help to stave off metabolic syndrome, say researchers.:]–>

He and his colleagues tested this theory in their new study. They assessed the effects of XN and two hydrogenated derivatives of XN — α,β-dihydro-XN (DXN) and tetrahydro-XN (TXN) — on mice with obesity caused by a high-fat diet.

The team found that all three compounds — especially TXN — were effective in reducing insulin resistance among the rodents, which is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

Interestingly, DXN and TXN were found to be more effective than XN, and, importantly, they produced no adverse effects.

“Probably the bioavailability of the hydrogenated derivatives is better than for XN itself – that would explain why they work better,” Stevens speculates.

“Now we have compounds that still have the original beneficial effects but not the side effects,” he adds. “There are no adverse estrogenic effects, and the liver toxicity induced by the high-fat diet is mitigated. Our mouse study showed that XN, DXN, and TXN are not hepatotoxic.”

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Learning and memory improved

But the benefits of XN and its derivatives do not end there.

On assessing the obese mice in a water maze, the researchers found that all three compounds led to improvements in spatial learning and memory.

Study co-author Jacob Raber, of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at OSU, says this finding “could be important” for people who experience cognitive impairments as a result of metabolic syndrome.

“Our findings with rodents suggest that it may be possible to reduce or even prevent learning and memory impairments through a derivative of the same chemical compound found in beer.”

Jacob Raber

As interesting as these findings are, it should be noted that — sadly — you are unlikely to reap the same rewards by guzzling a pint of your favorite ale.

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Medical News Today: What is pectus carinatum and can it be treated?

Pectus carinatum is a rare chest wall deformity that causes the breastbone to push outward instead of being flush against the chest. It is also known as pigeon chest or keel chest.

When the chest wall develops, the cartilage that connects the ribs usually grows flat along the chest. In cases of pectus carinatum, this cartilage grows abnormally, causing unequal growth in the areas where the ribs connect to the sternum. This causes the outward appearance of the chest wall.

Most often, pectus carinatum develops during childhood and gets more pronounced as children go through puberty. In some cases, it may not be noticed until a child goes through their adolescent growth spurt.

In this article, we take a look at the symptoms associated with pectus carinatum, along with the possible causes and risk factors. We also examine the treatment options and the outlook for this condition.


Pigeon chest is when the breastbone pushes outward. Image credit: Tolson411, (2010, February 13)
Pigeon chest or pectus carinatum.
Image credit: Tolson411, (2010, February 13)

Often, the pushing outward of the breastbone is the only symptom that a person experiences.

Some people may report other symptoms, such as:

  • shortness of breath, which is more common during exercise
  • tenderness or pain in the areas of abnormal cartilage growth
  • frequent respiratory infections
  • asthma
  • tiredness
  • chest pain
  • rapid heart rate

In some children, the appearance of pectus carinatum may be worse on one side, with the opposite side appearing to have a dip in it. This dip is called pectus excavatum.

The condition may also be associated with certain medical conditions including:

  • heart disease
  • scoliosis, abnormal curvature of the spine
  • kyphosis, where the back is hunched
  • other musculoskeletal abnormalities
  • connective tissue disorders, such as Marfan syndrome
  • abnormal growth patterns


There are two different types of pectus carinatum:

  • Chondrogladiolar prominence: This type of pectus carinatum is also called “chicken breast” and is the most common form of the condition. Here, the middle and lower sections of the breastbone push forward.
  • Chondromanubrial prominence: This type of pectus carinatum is also called “Pouter pigeon breast” and is a more rare and complex form of the condition. Here, the breastbone develops in a Z-shape, with the top section pushing forward.

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Causes and risk factors

Doctor looking at chest x-ray on tablet.
Pectus carinatum is usually diagnosed by taking an X-ray of the chest.

Pectus carinatum is caused by the abnormal development of the cartilage that connects the ribs.

The exact cause is not known. The condition can run in families, however, so genetics may be a risk factor.

Pectus carinatum occurs more frequently in people who have specific genetic conditions. These conditions include:

  • Marfan syndrome
  • Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
  • metabolic disorders, such as homocystinuria
  • Noonan syndrome
  • Morquio syndrome
  • brittle bone disease
  • Coffin-Lowery syndrome
  • cardiofaciocutaneous syndrome
  • chromosomal abnormalities


To diagnose pectus carinatum, a doctor will need to examine how the breastbone is growing. To do this, they will likely request a chest X-ray.

A doctor may also request pulmonary function tests if the condition is causing respiratory symptoms. People who experience symptoms related to the heart may also need an electrocardiogram or echocardiogram.

Computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans can help doctors in more serious cases. If a doctor is considering surgery as a form of treatment, these imaging tests can help with planning the operation.

Depending on the appearance of the pectus carinatum, doctors may also decide to test for related conditions, such as scoliosis, congenital heart disease, and Marfan syndrome.

If the child has not gone through puberty yet, the doctor may decide to wait before deciding on a course of treatment. Doing so allows them time to work out what the best approach will be.


While some children and adolescents can experience symptoms and side effects from pectus carinatum, the condition is mainly cosmetic. Treatment is based on appearance as well as symptoms.


Doctor listening to heartbeat an breathing of girl child patient.
Treatment is usually most effective when the patient is a child or adolescent.

The standard treatment approach for pectus carinatum in children with a mild to moderate form of the condition is orthotic bracing. This involves a custom-fitted brace that fits on the outside of the chest.

The purpose of the brace is to place pressure on the area most affected by the condition, to flatten it to the chest.

To see any effects, a child will need to wear a brace for at least 8 hours a day for several months, according to doctor’s instructions. A child may need to wear the brace until they have gone through puberty.


Surgery is usually only an option for people when a chest brace has been ineffective or when they have passed puberty. A doctor may also consider surgery for people whose symptoms are severe.

The Ravitch procedure is a surgical operation that involves removing the abnormal cartilage and placing the breastbone in a normal position within the chest.

In some cases, the surgeon will need to break the breastbone so that they can reposition it accurately. Some people may need a metal chest bar temporarily placed across the inside of the chest and wired to the ribs.

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In most cases, a child’s health is not affected by pectus carinatum.

Treatment with a chest brace tends to have good results.


Pectus carinatum is a rare chest wall deformity in some children and adolescents that may be caused by genetic factors. It is marked by abnormal development in the chest wall, causing the breastbone to push out instead of lying flat on the chest wall.

Pectus carinatum does not typically cause any serious health problems. It may cause troublesome symptoms in some children, however, including shortness of breath, asthma, pain, fatigue, and a rapid heart rate.

The outlook for children with pectus carinatum is excellent with the use of a chest brace. Braces are often effective in reversing the outward appearance of the sternum.

In some situations, surgery may be needed to correct the deformity.

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Medical News Today: Cell phone radiation: Could high exposure cause tumors?

High exposure to radiofrequency radiation resulted in tumors in tissue around the nerves in the hearts of male rats, but not of female rats or male or female mice, according to preliminary conclusions of two studies.
a woman using a cell phone
Two new studies have investoigated the effects of cell phone radition on the health of rodents.

Draft reports on the two studies by the National Toxicology Program (NTP), which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the United States, were released recently, pending a review by external experts that is scheduled to take place March 26–28. Members of the public may also submit comments.

The reports contain the remaining results of two large “toxicology and carcinogenesis” studies — one conducted in rats and the other in mice — of the effects of radiofrequency radiation (RFR) emitted by cell phones.

“The levels and duration of exposure,” explains Dr. John Bucher, a senior scientist with the NTP, “to RFR were much greater than what people experience with even the highest level of cell phone use, and exposed the rodents’ whole bodies.”

High frequency radiation — like X-rays and gamma rays — and some higher energy ultraviolet radiation are known as ionizing radiation because they can knock out electrons and other charged particles from within atoms. They carry enough energy to damage DNA inside cells, which can give rise to cancer.

However, RFR is at the lower energy end of the spectrum and is not able to knock out charged particles and alter atomic structure, but it can cause atoms and molecules to vibrate. It generates heat if absorbed in large amounts by food, tissues, and other materials that hold water.

Thus, although RFR is not the type of radiation that can cause cancer by damaging DNA, there have been concerns that it might alter tissue in other ways that could lead to cancer.

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Rats, mice exposed to different RFR levels

The NTP researchers note that the “predominant source of human exposure to RFR occurs through the use of cellular phone handsets.”

For their studies, they constructed special chambers, in which they exposed the rats and mice to different levels of RFR.

Exposure occurred in a pattern of 10 minutes on, 10 minutes off, for a total of just over 9 hours per day and went on for 2 years.

Dr. Bucher says that 2 years of age in a rat or mouse is about 70 years of age in a human.

The RFR exposure levels ranged from around the maximum that is legally allowed for cell phones in the U.S. to around four times that level.

The animals were exposed to the same “frequencies and modulations” as those of 2G and 3G signals that are used to make voice calls and send texts in the U.S. Later generations of RFR — such as 4G, 4G-LTE, and 5G — use different frequencies and modulations.

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Schwannomas found in hearts of male mice

The tumors that the NTP researchers found in the hearts of male rats are of a type called schwannoma, which develops from the Schwann cells that form the protective and supportive tissue that surrounds peripheral nerves. This type of tumor is rarely cancerous.

The results showed that the incidence of schwannomas in the hearts of male rats went up as the animals were exposed to RFR levels that were “beyond the allowable cell phone emissions.”

The researchers also found that these levels of RFR led to unusual patterns of damage in heart tissue in both male and female rats.

However, they found little evidence of health problems resulting from RFR exposure in mice.

Dr. Bucher says that the results “should not be directly extrapolated to human cell phone usage,” but also notes that the tumors that they saw “are similar to tumors previously reported in some studies of frequent cell phone users.”

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‘Conclusions still require careful discussion’

Dr. Otis W. Brawley, of the American Cancer Society (ACS), notes that while the preliminary results are “bound to create a lot of concern, […] the evidence for an association between cell phones and cancer is weak, and so far, we have not seen a higher cancer risk in people.”

“But,” he continues, “if you’re concerned about this animal data, wear an earpiece.”

He also points out that in response to questions at a recent press conference, Dr. Bucher said that the new data has not altered his own use of cell phones, and he has not advised his family to change their use of them either.

In a statement about the new data, Dr. Jeffrey Shuren, director of the Center for Devices and Radiological Health at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), urges that the “conclusions still require careful discussion,” and notes that their understanding is that the evidence is “mostly equivocal, or ambiguous,” as to whether the RFR exposures “actually caused cancer in these animals.”

He also highlights some “unusual findings” of the studies, including the fact that the rats that were exposed to RFR lived longer than the control rats that were not.

For those who are nevertheless concerned about exposure to RFR from cell phone use, the ACS advise that they keep the antenna away from the head — for example, by using speakerphone mode or a hands-free device — and send text messages in preference to making voice calls, except while driving.

Other ways to limit cell phone use include spending less time talking on them and using a landline instead, if available.

Cell phone technologies are constantly changing, and these findings provide valuable information to help guide future studies of cell phone safety.”

Dr. John Bucher

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Medical News Today: What is dyshidrotic eczema?

Dyshidrotic eczema is a common form of eczema. The condition causes a person to develop small, itchy blisters on the fingers, toes, palms, and soles of the feet.

This type of eczema is also called vesicular eczema, dyshidrosis, foot-and-hand eczema, and palmoplantar eczema.

In this article, we will look at the symptoms of dyshidrotic eczema, along with its causes and treatment.


image of persons hand with dyshidrotic eczema <br>Image credit: Eugene Alvin Villar, 2008</br>
Blisters on the palms of the hands are a key symptom of dyshidrotic eczema.
Image credit: Eugene Alvin Villar, 2008

Dyshidrotic eczema causes small blisters to appear on a person’s hands or feet. These blisters are often itchy and can be painful.

Symptoms of dyshidrotic eczema include:

  • small blisters on the palms or side of the fingers
  • small blisters on the soles of the feet
  • an itching or burning feeling around the blisters
  • sweating around the blisters

The blisters caused by dyshidrotic eczema tend to go away within 2 to 3 weeks. After this, the skin may become red, cracked, tight, or dry.

Because the blisters can result in open areas of skin, a person with dyshidrotic eczema is at greater risk for skin infections, such as staph infections. Symptoms of a staph infection include:

  • blisters that leak pus
  • pain
  • areas of crusting skin
  • areas of swollen skin

A person should always see their doctor if they think they have an infection in their skin.


Dyshidrotic eczema may be caused by:

The blisters can also be caused by an allergic reaction to certain metals, including nickel and cobalt. These metals are found in everyday objects, such as jewelry and mobile phones, and also in certain foods.

Risk factors

Woman at work holding eyes through stress. Possible risk factor for dyshidrotic eczema
Possible risk factors for dyshidrotic eczema include an increase in outdoor temperatures, a history of medical conditions, or severe stress.

Women are twice as likely as men to experience dyshidrotic eczema, according to the National Eczema Association. Those aged 20 to 40 are also more likely to have this condition.

Known risk factors for dyshidrotic eczema include:

  • a family history of dyshidrotic eczema
  • a history of certain medical conditions, including atopic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, and hay fever
  • an increase in outdoor temperatures during the spring or summer
  • periods of severe stress
  • jobs or hobbies that involve having wet hands or feet for long periods of time

A person receiving intravenous immunoglobulin therapy is also at a greater risk of developing dyshidrotic eczema. This therapy involves injecting specific antibodies into the veins to help a person fight a particular virus or bacteria.

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To diagnose dyshidrotic eczema, a doctor will perform a physical examination of the skin. They may also ask questions about a person’s family history of eczema, their occupation, diet, and medications the person is taking.

Allergy testing may be recommended to determine if specific allergens are causing the eczema. This involves pricking the skin using needles that contain common allergens, including certain foods, pet dander, molds, and pollen.

By identifying potential triggers, a doctor may be able to make recommendations to help a person reduce the incidence of their eczema flare-ups.


There is currently no single cure for dyshidrotic eczema, but there are many treatments that can help a person manage this condition.

Medical treatments for dyshidrotic eczema include:

  • Applying over-the-counter corticosteroid creams to reduce skin inflammation and irritation.
  • Taking antihistamines to reduce itching.
  • Applying anti-itch creams containing pramoxine, which are available over the counter.
  • Draining blisters. This should be performed by a doctor as it can increase the risk of harmful infections.
  • Taking oral steroids, such as prednisone, to reduce inflammation.
  • Using light treatments. Exposure to ultraviolet light may reduce incidences of dyshidrotic eczema.

Injections of Botox (botulinum toxin) can also be used to reduce excessive sweating, which can worsen dyshidrotic eczema. It is important to note that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have not specifically approved Botox for this use.

Home remedies

Examples of home remedies for dyshidrotic eczema include:

  • Applying cool compresses to dried-out blisters for 15 minutes may reduce itchiness. Following this, apply a lotion or medicated cream.
  • Applying moisturizing creams, especially after washing the hands or taking a bath.

Washing the skin frequently keeps the skin clean, reducing the likelihood of skin infections. Limiting showers to 10 minutes, avoiding very hot water, and applying moisturizer or cream after bathing will help to prevent the skin from drying out.


If this condition does not respond well to usual treatments, a doctor may recommend reducing or eliminating foods that contain cobalt or nickel. These are trace metals that can cause or worsen dyshidrotic eczema.

Examples of these foods include:

  • bean sprouts
  • canned meats, including tuna
  • cashews
  • chocolate and cocoa powder
  • kidney beans
  • nuts
  • seeds
  • soybeans and soy products

    If a person has other specific food allergies, this can also worsen dyshidrotic eczema symptoms.

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      Dyshidrotic eczema can, in some cases, cause skin infections. These may require treatment using antibiotics.

      When this type of eczema is recurring, a person may notice thickened, tough skin on the areas where the blisters had occurred.


      woman moisturizing after shower, may help with dyshidrotic eczema
      Dyshidrotic eczema may be prevented by refraining from scratching, and applying moisturizer after showering.

      While there is no sure way of preventing an eczema outbreak, a good skincare routine can help to protect the skin from future flare-ups.

      Ways to prevent dyshidrotic eczema include:

      • Consistently applying moisturizer soon after getting out of the shower or bath. This can prevent moisture loss and excessive dryness.
      • Wearing soft, loose clothing made of natural fibers, such as cotton. Avoid overly scratchy or non-breathable materials, including wool.
      • Refraining from scratching or itching, as this can break the skin and worsen the condition.
      • Reducing exposure to allergens, such as pet dander and pollen. Washing pets with dander-reducing pet shampoos may reduce allergy-related flare-ups. These shampoos are available online.
      • Using a humidifier, especially when the air is cold and dry. This adds moisture to the air, which protects the skin from drying out.


      Dyshidrotic eczema symptoms can range from mild to severe. Some people have flare-ups every few years, while others experience severe, recurring bouts that can make it hard to use the hands or to walk.

      A person with dyshidrotic eczema should talk to their doctor about the many treatment options available. Using treatment and prevention methods should help to keep this condition under control, and to reduce the risk of skin infection.

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Medical News Today: Alzheimer’s-related brain changes could start at 40

Scientists may have advanced our understanding of the brain mechanisms behind Alzheimer’s disease, after uncovering a process that precedes the buildup of toxic proteins that is a hallmark of the condition.
illustration of the human brain and brain connections
Researchers reveal how the destruction of pericytes — the cells that surround small blood vessels — lead to white matter damage in the brain.

In a mouse study, scientists at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles reveal how damage to cells called pericytes can trigger white matter disease, which is associated with dementia.

Also, the study findings suggest that these brain changes may occur as early as the age of 40.

White matter disease is characterized by the degeneration of white matter. This is the brain tissue that contains nerve fibers, the thread-like structures that carry signals from the nerve cells, or neurons, to other areas of the body.

In white matter disease, these nerve fibers become damaged, and this causes problems with memory, thinking, and balance.

According to senior study author Berislav Zlokovic, of the Keck School of Medicine at USC, white matter disease is common in older adults, and research has linked the condition to cerebral small vessel disease, which they say “contributes to almost 50 percent of dementia cases worldwide, including Alzheimer’s disease.”

However, the precise mechanisms by which white matter disease may lead to dementia has been unclear. But the new study from Zlokovic and colleagues sheds some light.

The researchers recently reported their findings in the journal Nature Medicine.

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Pericytes and white matter health

The study focused on the role of pericytes, which are the cells that line the walls of the capillaries, or the body’s smallest blood vessels.

First, the team conducted a postmortem analysis of the brains of people who had Alzheimer’s disease, and they compared them with the brains of healthy adults.

The researchers found that the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease had 50 percent fewer pericytes than healthy brains, and levels of a protein called fibrinogen — a blood-circulating protein that aids wound healing — were increased by threefold in white matter regions.

By using MRI to study mouse models that were deficient in pericytes, it was found that these cells play a key role in white matter health.

When the pericyte-deficient mice were 12–16 weeks old — which is the equivalent to approximately 40 human years — their levels of fibrinogen were around 10 times higher in the corpus callosum, a brain region that plays a role in transmitting cognitive and sensory data from one side of the brain to the other.

At 36–48 weeks old — the equivalent to 70 human years — pericyte-deficient mice demonstrated a 50 percent increase in blood vessel leakage, the team reports.

“Our observations suggest that once pericytes are damaged, blood flow in the brain reduces like a drain that is slowly getting clogged,” says co-first study author Angeliki Maria Nikolakopoulou, of the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute at the Keck School of Medicine.

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Uncovering ‘the beginnings of dementia’

For the next part of the study, the team assessed the rodents’ running speed using a wheel test. When they reached 12–16 weeks old, the pericyte-deficient mice were found to run 50 percent slower than the control mice.

“The mice deficient in pericytes function slower because there are structural changes in their white matter and a loss of connectivity among neurons,” notes Zlokovic.

Confirming their theory with MRI, the researchers found that by the age of 12–16 weeks, the mice deficient in pericytes showed structural changes to white matter.

“Pericytes are compromised early on,” explains co-first study author Axel Montagne, also of the Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute. “Think of it as hair clogging a drain over time. Once the drain is clogged, cracks begin forming in the ‘pipes’ or brain’s blood vessels. White matter frays and brain connections are disrupted. That’s the beginnings of dementia.”

Montagne adds that this finding indicates that in humans, white matter disease could begin as early as the age of 40.

“Many scientists,” notes Zlokovic, “have focused their Alzheimer’s disease research on the buildup of toxic amyloid and tau proteins in the brain, but this study and others from my lab show that the problem starts earlier — with leaky blood vessels in the brain.”

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A new approach to preventing dementia?

When the researchers used a compound to reduce fibrinogen levels in the blood and brains of the rodents, they found that white matter volume was restored to 90 percent, while the connectivity of white matter was restored to 80 percent.

Our study provides proof that targeting fibrinogen and limiting these protein deposits in the brain can reverse or slow white matter disease.”

Berislav Zlokovic

The researchers believe that their findings may point toward fibrinogen as a target for preventing this dementia precursor, but further studies are needed to determine the best strategy.

“We must figure out the right approach,” says Zlokovic, adding, “Perhaps focusing on strengthening the blood-brain barrier integrity may be an answer because you can’t eliminate fibrinogen from blood in humans. This protein is necessary in the blood. It just happens to be toxic to the brain.”

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