Medical News Today: Eustachian tube dysfunction: Causes, symptoms, and treatment

The eustachian tube runs from the middle ear to the back of the nose and throat. If this tube becomes plugged or infected, it can cause eustachian tube dysfunction.

There are a few different causes of eustachian tube dysfunction (ETD), and certain factors may make a person more at risk. Eustachian tube dysfunction is often easily treated at home, although persistent symptoms may require a trip to the doctor for treatment.

What are the eustachian tubes?

eustachian tubes
The eustachian tubes (red tube at the back of the ear in diagram) drain excess fluid and regulate ear pressure.

The eustachian tubes are canals on each side of the face that run from the back of the nose and upper throat to the middle ear. They remain closed most of the time but will open as a person swallows, chews, or yawns.

The eustachian tubes help regulate ear pressure and drain excess fluid from the middle ear, moving it to the throat to be eliminated.

The canals in these tubes are tiny so blockages can happen for many reasons. Blocked eustachian tubes can cause discomfort and hearing problems, and any of these symptoms can be referred to as ETD.

What causes ETD?

ETD covers a broad range of symptoms and has a range of potential causes. Season allergies and illnesses that create inflammation in the area, such as the flu or cold, are common causes of ETD.

Sinus infections can also trigger ETD, as a sinus infection causes the eustachian tubes to become inflamed or filled with mucus. More serious infections can cause ETD as well.

Simple changes in altitude or air pressure may also trigger ETD. Driving up a mountain or sitting in a plane can cause ETD, and even just riding the elevator in a tall building may be enough for some people to develop unpleasant symptoms.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today

Risk factors

scuba diving
ETD symptoms may be triggered by scuba diving and high altitude hiking.

It is common to experience ETD occasionally, but some people get symptoms more regularly than others. People who smoke may be more at risk for experiencing ETD, as smoking damages the delicate hairs in the throat and middle ear.

People who are obese may also be more likely to experience ETD symptoms. This is because fatty tissue deposits can form around the eustachian tubes, making it more likely that they will become closed off.

People with allergies may also experience ETD more often, as allergies can cause increased mucus and congestion.

Engaging in certain activities may also put a person more at risk for pressure changes, which could trigger ETD symptoms. These activities include things like:

  • hiking at a high altitude

  • rock climbing

  • skiing or snowboarding

  • scuba diving

Children are also more at risk for ETD, as their eustachian tubes are much smaller and so more likely to become clogged by mucus or germs. A child’s immune system is also less able to fight off infections, as it is not fully developed. Children have more frequent colds and sinus infections, which are direct causes of ETD.


Symptoms of ETD can vary from mild to severe and may be different for each person. Common symptoms include:

  • a plugged feeling in the ears

  • ears feeling like they are filled with water

  • tinnitus, or ringing in the ear

  • muffled hearing or partial hearing loss

  • ticking or popping sounds

  • pain and tenderness around the ear

  • a tickling or tingling sensation

  • trouble with balance

The length and severity of ETD symptoms depend on their cause. For instance, if ETD is caused by a change in altitude, these symptoms will often go away as the body adjusts to the pressure or reaches a lower altitude.

On the other hand, ETD caused by an illness or infection can last much longer. Anyone with symptoms of ETD that last more than 2 weeks should see a doctor. Children with symptoms of ETD should see a doctor sooner, as the symptoms of ETD are similar to an ear infection.


ETD is often easily diagnosed during a visit to a doctor. The doctor may ask questions about hearing changes, pain in the ears, or feelings of pressure. They will also look inside the ear using an otoscope, checking for any signs of infection or blockages.

If ETD is being caused by another illness or disorder, the doctor may ask questions about that as well in order to determine the correct treatment.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today


The symptoms of ETD will usually clear up on their own. If another illness is causing the symptoms, they will resolve once the underlying illness is treated.

Home remedies

lady putting a piece of chewing gum in her mouth
Minor ETD symptoms may be treated by forcing a yawn or chewing gum.

If the symptoms of ETD are bothersome, some simple home remedies may help. Minor ETD symptoms, such as those caused by a change in altitude or air pressure, can be treated by chewing gum or forcing a yawn.

Many people also find that the symptoms of minor ETD can go away as they swallow, so drinking or having a snack may help. These remedies help open and close the eustachian tube and relieve the pressure.

Children experiencing minor or temporary ETD symptoms can eat a snack or chew a piece of gum. Giving an infant a bottle or pacifier may help relieve the symptoms.

Minor to moderate symptoms may be relieved using a saline nasal spray or irrigation system. Sometimes dried mucus or other particles can get stuck in or near the eustachian tube and cause symptoms. Clearing the passageways can help eliminate anything clogged in the passage.

Ear candles

Despite what many ear candle manufacturers say, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found no valid evidence that ear candles will help clear symptoms of ETD. Ear candles are not a recommended treatment for any ear-related symptoms.

Over-the-counter medication

Depending on the cause, some over-the-counter drugs may help with ETD symptoms. Someone who experiences ETD caused by allergies may find relief using antihistamines such as cetirizine (Zyrtec), diphenhydramine (Benadryl), or loratadine (Alavert, Claritin).

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, may help with pain and swelling.

Medical intervention

If the symptoms of ETD are caused by a bacterial infection, a doctor will likely prescribe antibiotics. This may be a topical treatment or an oral antibiotic. In severe cases of ETD, a doctor may prescribe oral steroids as well.

Long lasting, severe cases of ETD are not common but can require extensive and sometimes invasive treatments. In some cases, fluids build up behind the eardrum and cannot escape through the dysfunctional eustachian tubes. In these cases, doctors may make a small cut in the eardrum to help with fluid drainage.

People who experience frequent severe ETD may be treated using pressure equalization tubes. These are implants that balance the pressure in the ears and help reduce the chances of middle ear infections. New treatment methods, such as eustachian tube balloon dilation, are also being studied.


ETD is common, but most cases resolve with little or no help. Treating the underlying cause is the best way to treat and prevent recurring symptoms of ETD.

Children or adults who get frequent ear infections should talk to a doctor to consider more thorough treatments.

Source Article from

Medical News Today: Kojic acid: Side effects and benefits

Kojic acid is a chemical produced from different types of fungi. It is also a by-product of fermented soy sauce and rice wine.

Kojic acid is sometimes used in the food industry as a natural preservative. One of the main uses of kojic acid, however, is in some health and cosmetic products.

In this article, we look at how kojic acid is used, what possible health benefits it might have, and what the potential risks and side effects are.

How is kojic acid used?

brand less beauty products
Kojic acid is mainly used in health and beauty products.

Kojic acid is sometimes used in health and beauty products to lighten the skin. It may be used to treat skin conditions, such as sun damage, scars, and age spots.

The science behind how kojic acid works as a lightening agent involves its effect on melanin production.

Melanin is a naturally occurring pigment in the body that gives the eyes, hair, and skin their color. An amino acid called tyrosine is needed to support the production of melanin.

Kojic acid works by blocking tyrosine from forming, which then prevents melanin production. Decreased melanin production may have a lightening effect on the skin.

Kojic acid is most commonly used in cosmetic products, such as creams, lotions, and serums. It is also used in some soaps. Many products with kojic acid are intended for use on the hands or face.

Products containing kojic acid can also be used on other parts of the body, such as the legs and arms. The concentration of kojic acid in cosmetics is often between 1 and 4 percent

Certain products containing kojic acid, such as serums, are meant to be applied to the skin and left on and absorbed. Some products, such as soaps, are applied and washed off.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today

Potential benefits of kojic acid

The benefits of using products containing kojic acid may include the following:

  • Anti-aging effect: Products containing kojic acid may lighten the skin, which can improve the appearance of age spots and sun damage. The reduction of dark spots can have an anti-aging effect.

  • Treat melasma: Kojic acid may also be helpful in decreasing melasma, which is darkening of the skin due to pregnancy.

  • Decrease the appearance of scars: Kojic acid may also reduce the discoloration of scars. Although the acid does not improve the thickness of scar tissue, it may reduce dark pigmentation associated with certain types of scars. Lightening the scar may make it less noticeable.

  • Antifungal benefits: Kojic acid is also thought to have some antifungal benefits. It may be helpful in preventing and treating certain fungal infections, such as athlete’s foot and yeast infections.

  • Antibacterial effects: Kojic acid may also provide antibacterial benefits. It may help decrease the chances of developing common types of bacterial skin infections.

Is kojic acid safe?

fda approved stamp
Cosmetic products are not regulated by the FDA.

Before using products containing kojic acid, it is important to make sure they are safe.

Cosmetic products are not regulated the same way medicines and foods are. Cosmetic products are not required by law to be approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before being sold.

The FDA do have a voluntary registration program for cosmetic manufacturers in which companies can report how their products are made. Also, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel reviews safety.

A review of kojic acid found that some studies in mice suggested there was a link to tumor growth when the acid was used in high concentrations.

However, this link was weak since kojic acid is slowly absorbed into the circulation. It is unlikely that levels would become high enough to cause cancer in humans.

According to the reviewers, the available data suggest that the use of products containing kojic acid with a concentration of 2 percent for products left on the skin is considered safe.

The CIR Expert Panel agreed that kojic acid could be safely used in cosmetic products.

Raw kojic acid is available, but it is not recommended for skin use. Kojic acid should be diluted to concentrations of no more than 4 percent. A concentration of 1 to 2 percent is recommended to reduce the chance of skin irritation.

Trying to add raw kojic acid to creams or lotions may be difficult and result in levels that are irritating to the skin. Using pre-made skin lotions and creams that already contain kojic acid in specific concentrations may be a better option.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today

Risks and side effects

Although the use of products containing kojic acid may be considered safe for most people, there are some risks and possible side effects.

Side effects may include:

Skin may sunburn easily

Using kojic acid may make someone more likely to develop a sunburn. Melanin helps protect the skin from sun damage due to UV rays.

Since kojic acid prevents melanin production, it leaves the skin more vulnerable to sunburn.

Contact dermatitis

Kojic acid can lead to contact dermatitis in some people, especially those with sensitive skin.

Contact dermatitis can cause a rash, itching, and dry patches of skin. In severe cases, pain and blisters can develop.

The concentration of kojic acid in creams, serums, and soaps may vary by manufacturer. Products with a higher concentration of kojic acid may be more likely to lead to irritation.


doctor looking at the skin on a patient s arm
Before using any products containing kojic acid, people may be recommended to talk with a dermatologist.

Kojic acid may be helpful for people who have dark spots on their skin due to sun damage, aging, or scars. Some people with certain skin conditions or allergies may be advised not to use kojic acid, however.

It is always best to talk to a dermatologist to make sure using products containing kojic acid is safe.

A dermatologist can also provide recommendations on specific products, including the frequency of use and the concentration strength.

Some people may see results after a few weeks, although it may take longer in certain situations. Products containing kojic acid may only be recommended to be used for a brief time.

When choosing products, people should be sure to follow their directions for use. It is also important to make sure the product contains the concentration of kojic acid recommended by a dermatologist.

People who develop a rash or irritation when using products containing kojic acid should stop using them immediately. If symptoms do not clear up in a few days, it is best to see a doctor.

People should not use kojic acid on skin that is already red or irritated. It should also not be used on broken skin.

Source Article from

Medical News Today: Brain response to unfairness ‘predicts depression’

newtons cradle on a blackboard
The results of a new study have shown that the brain’s response to economic inequity can predict depression.
New research finds that brain responses to unfair treatment in a computer game involving money rewards can predict whether healthy people will develop symptoms of depression.

The researchers, from the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology in Osaka and Tamagawa University in Tokyo, both in Japan, have published their findings in the journal Nature Human Behaviour.

Experts suggest that the imaging study offers new insights into how mechanisms in the brain might explain the link between economic inequity and depression.

Depression is a global public health problem that affects more than 300 million people, and it is the “leading cause of disability worldwide.” In the United States alone, depression affects around 7.6 percent of people aged 12 and older and cost the nation $210.5 billion in 2010.

People living below the poverty line in the U.S. are more than twice as likely to have depression than people living at or above it.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today

Economic inequity and depression

In their study report, the researchers write that economic inequity has become “an increasing concern for society,” and they cite previous studies that have linked it to depression and other psychiatric diseases.

They refer to large studies, such as Whitehall II, that have found links between “economic gaps and major depression, where economic and material disadvantage are crucial in explaining depressive symptoms.”

However, because the brain mechanism underlying the link is less well understood, they decided to investigate it further.

The team used functional MRI to scan brain activity of healthy individuals as they played a computer game wherein they were asked to accept or reject offers to split a pot of money between themselves and a “virtual partner.”

There were three types of offer: one in which the two players received equal shares of the money (“equity”); another in which the participant got more (“advantageous inequity”); and another in which the virtual partner got more (“disadvantageous inequity”).

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today

Individualists and prosocials

At the time of playing the game, the participants were also asked to complete two other tests: the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) and a test that measures their “social value orientation.” They also completed the BDI a year later.

The team found that the participants with “individualist” social orientation tended to be more selfish and keep the money in unfair advantageous offers.

In contrast, the “prosocial” participants tended to be more self-sacrificing and rejected offers wherein the money was not split equally.

The researchers then analyzed measures of brain activity in the amygdala and hippocampus in response to types of offer and depression scores.

It was found that for the disadvantageous offers, the response in the amygdala and hippocampus predicted current depression scores and changes in symptoms 1 year later. This was true of both prosocials and individualists.

But when the team analyzed the results for advantageous offers, they found that the amygdala and hippocampus responses only predicted depression in prosocials.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today

‘Critical effect on mood’

The researchers note that these various predictions “were not possible using participants’ behavioral and socioeconomic status measures.”

They suggest that the findings show that even healthy people’s response to inequity may have “far-reaching implications for their mood.”

They call for further studies to build on the results to find ways to better identify and protect people from mental illness.

In an accompanying commentary, Megan Speer and Mauricio Delgado – both of Rutgers University in Newark, NJ – describe the research as “thought-provoking” and suggest that it “highlights potential risk factors that can precipitate or exacerbate the debilitating nature of depression.”

These findings suggest that sensitivity to economic inequity has a critical effect on human mood states, and the amygdala and hippocampus play a key role in individual differences in the effect.”

Source Article from

Medical News Today: Coping with panic disorder

woman looking worried
Panic disorder can be frightening, but it is highly responsive to treatment strategies.
Do you experience sudden attacks of anxiety, fear, and panic? Perhaps your heart races, you feel unable to breathe or think properly, and you sweat. Do these attacks have no obvious trigger? Here are some of the best ways to cope with panic disorder to improve your quality of life.

Panic disorder affects 2 to 3 percent of people in the United States per year, and it is twice as likely to occur in women than in men. Individuals with panic disorder tend to have spontaneous panic attacks, and they therefore become preoccupied with the fear that they may happen again, at any time.

The condition can interfere with many aspects of the person’s life, causing them to avoid work or school and avoid situations wherein they fear a panic attack may occur.

Many people with panic disorder are embarrassed or afraid to tell anyone about what they experience, instead distancing themselves from family and friends who could be supportive.

Panic disorder is highly responsive to treatment. Building a toolbox of self-help strategies can be effective in helping you to manage your symptoms without living in fear. Here are Medical News Today‘s tips for coping with panic disorder.

1. Gain knowledge of panic disorder

The first step in overcoming your panic disorder symptoms is to understand what is happening in your body when you experience an attack. Gathering knowledge about the disorder and working out your underlying triggers can be a starting point for dealing with the condition.

sad man looking out of a window
Learning about anxiety and panic disorder can help you to take control of your condition.

Anxiety is likely to cause the worries and physical feelings you feel as a part of panic disorder. Anxiety is a normal part of the body’s “fight-or-flight” response to uncertainty, feeling unprepared, or trouble, which prepares us to act quickly in the face of danger.

Panic disorder results from misinterpreting sensations linked with the fight-or-flight response as dangerous, which triggers an uncomfortable and often frightening barrage of symptoms – also known as a panic attack.

Living in fear of having a panic attack and therefore avoiding situations that may cause them can often create more situations and more avoidance in a never-ending cycle of fear and anxiety.

Although scary, panic attacks are harmless; they are the body’s alarm system kicking in and are not designed to harm you in any way.

While the response may make you feel as though you are going crazy or dying, you are not. Your body would have the same reaction if you were facing a physical threat, such as coming face to face with a bear.

Once you understand what panic disorder is and why you are experiencing the symptoms, you can begin to learn to cope with them. The goal is not to eliminate the attacks, but to find a way to manage them without fear.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today

2. Learn relaxation techniques

Relaxation techniques can help to calm your body down, relax your muscles, and help you to think more rationally. Relaxation strategies can also halt the production of stress hormones such as adrenalin, which proves that we are not in any danger.

Calm breathing

When we are anxious, we tend to breathe faster, or even hyperventilate. This is commonly called overbreathing, and it can cause us to feel lightheaded and dizzy, and even more anxious as a result.

woman calm breathing on her bed
Calm breathing can reduce some of the associated sensations of a panic attack.

Calm breathing can help to reduce some of these physical symptoms. Try practicing calm breathing twice per day for at least 5 minutes.

  • Inhale slowly through the nose for 4 seconds.

  • Pause for 1 or 2 seconds.

  • Exhale slowly through your mouth for 4 seconds.

  • Pause for a couple of seconds before taking the next breath.

Calm breathing regulates your intake of oxygen and prevents the dizziness, lightheadedness, and tingling sensations that are connected with overbreathing.

Deep muscle relaxation

The goal of deep muscle relaxation is to learn to eliminate muscular tension and stress. Deep muscle relaxation should be practiced every day as a prevention mechanism, not just when you feel panic and stress.

First, you need to tense particular muscle groups in your body, such as your neck and shoulders. Next, you need to release that tension. Set aside around 15 minutes to complete deep muscle relaxation.

  • Tense the target muscle group.

  • Deep breathe and tense the muscles as much as possible for 5 seconds.

  • Release the tension and exhale.

  • Remain relaxed for 15 seconds before moving on to the next muscle group.

It is important to focus on the difference between how your muscles feel when they are tense and how they feel when relaxed.

3. Challenge your thoughts

The thoughts associated with panic attacks are grouped into two categories: overestimating and catastrophizing. To break the cycle of panic attacks, we first need to change the way that we think and then change our actions.

Challenging overestimating

To challenge your overestimating thoughts, you first need to understand that overestimating thoughts are guesses about what will happen – they are not facts. Next, you need to assess the evidence for and against your thoughts.

woman thinking while holding a notebook
Challenging overestimating and catasphophic thinking can help to break the panic attack cycle.

Some questions that you can ask yourself include:

  • How often have I had this thought during a panic attack?

  • Has it ever actually happened?

  • Next time I have this thought during a panic attack, is it likely to happen?

It can be helpful to remember that your fears are highly unlikely to happen and while you have had these thoughts many times, your fears have not come true.

Challenging catastrophizing

To challenge catastrophic thoughts, imagine the worst possible thing that could happen and then figure out how you would cope.

Some questions that you can ask yourself include:

  • What is the worst that could happen?

  • How bad is it, really?

  • Would it affect my life in a week or a month from now?

  • What actions could I take to cope if it did happen?

  • Has this occurred in the past? Did it make a difference to my life?

It can be useful to realize that some of the things you fear are more of a minor annoyance than something to be distressed about, and there are ways that you can cope with every situation.

When you feel anxious or feel the need to escape a situation, you can challenge your unhelpful thoughts. Writing them down can sometimes help.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today

4. Make coping cards

However, it can be tough to challenge unhelpful or scary thoughts in times of severe anxiety, so it might be useful to make coping cards.

Coping cards can feature realistic thoughts about panic attacks to challenge your thinking. You can use an index card or piece of paper, write down some realistic thoughts, and carry them around with you throughout the day.

Everyone’s fears are different and personal, but here are some examples of general coping statements that might help you.

  • This is a hassle, not a horror.

  • I’m falling into a thinking trap.

  • I’ve confused a thought with a fact.

  • People cannot tell that I’m anxious.

  • It won’t last forever.

  • I can handle this.

In addition to reading these cards when you feel anxious, it can be beneficial to read these cards daily to remind yourself to alter your thinking.

5. Face your fears

The final step in coping with panic disorder in the long-term is to face what you fear, including the unpleasant body sensations and situations, places, and activities that you have been avoiding.

Through a process called desensitization, your exaggerated responses to certain triggers can be reduced, so that they no longer activate the same involuntary anxiety reaction.

Facing feared body sensations

People with panic disorder are often sensitive to sensations such as dizziness, blurred vision, and increased heart rate. These sensations need to be brought on repeatedly so that eventually, they no longer make you anxious.

To expose yourself to the panic disorder sensations that you fear, you can do the following exercises.

person running up some steps
Exposing yourself to sensations experienced during a panic attack through exercises can desensitize you to certain triggers.

  • Racing heart: run on the spot for 1 minute.

  • Chest discomfort: run up and down stairs for 1 minute.

  • Breathlessness: breathe deeply and rapidly for 1 minute.

  • Choking sensations: pinch your nostrils and breathe in and out through a small straw for 1 minute.

  • Dizziness: shake your head from side to side for 30 seconds.

  • Blurred vision: stare at a ceiling light for 1 minute and then try to read something.

Start with the sensation that you fear the least and work your way up to the sensation that you fear the most.

Facing feared situations and places

You need to overcome situations, places, and activities that you have been avoiding due to the fear of having panic attacks.

Make a list of situations, places, activities, and objects that you fear in order from the least feared to the most feared. Begin with exposing yourself to the thing that you fear the least and repeatedly engage in that activity until you feel less anxious.

Exposure can be brief at first and then extended. Perhaps you could go to the place with a friend or family member to begin with and then tackle going there on your own.

It is important to plan your exposure exercises to feel in control of the situation. Work out what you are going to do and when you plan to do it.

Facing the things you fear most can sometimes be frightening. Take your time and go at your own pace, and you will eventually overcome anxiety.

Source Article from

Medical News Today: Regular sauna use could slash men’s hypertension risk

a middle aged man in a sauna
Researchers suggest that regular sauna use could lower men’s risk of high blood pressure.
Sauna bathing may be more than just a relaxing pastime; a new study finds that regular sauna use could almost halve men’s risk of developing high blood pressure.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, occurs when the force of blood that flows through the arteries becomes too high.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 75 million adults in the United States have high blood pressure.

It is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke, and in 2014, high blood pressure was a main or contributing cause of death for more than 410,000 people in the U.S.

Following a healthful diet, getting regular exercise, and managing weight are just some of the strategies that can help to prevent or manage high blood pressure.

The new study suggests that for men, adding sauna bathing to their weekly routine may also help to lower the risk of this potentially harmful condition.

Study co-author Dr. Francesco Zaccardi, of the Department of Medicine at the University of Eastern Finland, and colleagues recently reported their findings in the American Journal of Hypertension.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today

Sauna bathing and blood pressure

In a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine in 2015, Dr. Zaccardi and colleagues linked regular sauna use with a reduced risk of cardiovascular death.

For their new study, the researchers sought to determine whether a reduction in high blood pressure as a result of sauna use could be an underlying mechanism for their previous results.

To reach their findings, the team analyzed the data of 1,621 men aged 42 to 60 years who were involved in the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study.

Over a median 24.7 years of follow-up, the team monitored the development of high blood pressure among participants, defined as having a blood pressure over 140/90 millimeters of mercury.

The sauna bathing habits of subjects were also assessed, and they were divided into three groups based on their frequency of sauna use: one sauna session per week, two to three sessions each week, and four to seven sessions per week.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today

Hypertension risk up to 46 percent lower

During follow-up, a total of 251 men developed high blood pressure. Compared with men who had just one sauna bathing session per week, men who had two to three sessions every week were found to have a 24 percent lower risk of developing high blood pressure.

Also, the hypertension risk was 46 percent lower for men who had four to seven sauna sessions weekly.

The team suggests a number of mechanisms behind their findings. They note that the increase in body temperature during sauna bathing can cause blood vessels to dilate, which can increase blood flow.

Additionally, they explain that regular sauna use can improve the function of the endothelium – the tissue that lines the inside of blood vessels – which can improve blood pressure.

While further studies are now needed to determine how sauna use impacts cardiovascular function, Dr. Zaccardi and team believe that their findings provide some insight.

Regular sauna bathing is associated with reduced risk of hypertension, which may be a mechanism underlying the decreased cardiovascular risk associated with sauna use.”

Source Article from

Medical News Today: Hemifacial spasm: Symptoms, causes, and treatment

Hemifacial spasm is a condition in which the muscles contract in tics or twitches on one side of the face, usually the left. People do not have control over these spasms, and very often they continue even during sleep.

Hemifacial spasm is usually not painful and not considered a health hazard. In advanced cases, however, the eyes may remain squeezed shut for long enough to become dangerous when driving, for example.

Both men and women can develop these facial twitches, but women, especially middle-aged and older women, develop hemifacial spasm at about twice the rate of men. The condition is also somewhat more common in Asian people.

It is a rare condition, seen in approximately 11 out of 100,000 people.

In this article, we look at different types of hemifacial spasms, the symptoms that can occur, and what can be done about them.


human head silhouette showing facial nerve
Hemifacial spasm causes the muscles on one side of the face to contract.

Hemifacial spasm is different from other nerve and muscle conditions affecting the face because it tends to affect only one side of the face.

However, there are differences between what is considered typical for hemifacial spasm and other forms of the condition.

A study of 215 people being examined for hemifacial spasm found that:

  • 62 percent were most likely caused by a vein putting pressure on the facial nerve

  • 18 percent had tics that mimicked hemifacial spasm but were not actually examples of the disease

  • 11 percent were due to Bell’s Palsy

  • 6 percent were the result of injuries to the facial nerve

  • 2 percent were linked to hereditary causes

Fewer than 1 percent of cases were caused by direct damage to nerves or the brain’s circulatory system


The first sign of hemifacial spasm is usually a twitching in the muscles of the left eyelid. These spasms can be strong enough to pull the eye closed and cause tears to form.

If left untreated, the symptoms of hemifacial spasm can become more severe and affect more and more facial muscles. Twitches can affect the muscles of the mouth and pull it to one side.

Over time, all the muscles on one side of the face can be pulled into a permanent frown. Some individuals may develop spasms on both sides of the face.

Ear pain, a “clicking” in the ear, and changes in hearing can also be symptoms of this condition. Hearing loss also sometimes occurs.

Around 13 percent of people taking part in one study reported a loss of hearing. However, this hearing loss did not appear to relate to how serious their hemifacial spasm symptoms were.

Symptoms of hemifacial spasm usually develop when people are between 40 and 50 years of age.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today

Causes and associated conditions

Hemifacial spasm is caused by irritation to the seventh cranial nerve. This nerve is known as the facial nerve and controls the muscles of the face. It also transmits information about the sense of taste from the tongue and sensations in the ear.

The most frequent source of irritation is a small artery pressing on the facial nerve near the brain stem. Other potential causes include:

  • a benign tumor or lesion pressing on the nerve

  • abnormal clusters of blood vessels at birth

  • nerve injury

Hereditary cases of hemifacial spasm have been identified, although they are not common.

In some cases, hemifacial spasm is the first symptom of multiple sclerosis or MS. When people have MS, their immune system attacks the central nervous system, which results in a wide variety of symptoms.

However, this is extremely rare, with scientific studies showing only 1-6 occasions out of several hundred cases in which MS was identified as the cause of a hemifacial spasm.

Although it is rare, doctors still need to check for MS as a possible cause when people under age 40 have a hemifacial spasm.


doctor looking at brain MRI scans
MRI and CT scans can be used to diagnose the cause of facial spasms.

Facial tics are the key sign of hemifacial spasm. Doctors will observe the person and take a medical history, noting how severe the twitches are and how long the person has had them.

The doctor will then use medical imaging tests to find out what is irritating the facial nerve and rule out the possibility of tumors or brain lesions being the cause. These tests may include:

  • magnetic resource imaging (MRI)

  • computed tomography (CT scan)

  • angiography (arteriography)

If imaging tests do not find tumors or lesions, doctors will likely assume that pressure from a blood vessel is causing the hemifacial spasm. These tests cannot always locate the blood vessel that is irritating the facial nerve, however, because the blood vessels are so small.

A hemifacial spasm can be confused with other movement disorders that affect the face. These include facial nerve tics and eyelid spasms. These two conditions affect different areas of the face, and not just one side, which helps doctors accurately diagnose this condition.


To date, researchers have not discovered any ways of preventing hemifacial spasms.

As the spasms are involuntary, the only way to prevent the onset of muscle twitches once the condition develops is through treatment.

Stress, fatigue, and anxiety have been shown to make the condition worse, so people trying to minimize their symptoms may want to try to avoid these triggers, where possible.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today


The two main ways to treat hemifacial spasm are through injections or surgery.


Botulinum toxin (Botox) shots are used to paralyze the facial muscles and stop the twitching.

These treatments are helpful for 85 to 95 percent of people. The effects wear off after 3 to 6 months so users will need follow-up treatment on a regular basis.


man having botox injection to face
Botox shots may improve facial twitches for up to 6 months.

Although surgery is more involved and invasive, it also provides more permanent and immediate relief.

In a procedure known as microvascular decompression, a surgeon moves the irritating artery away from the facial nerve and places a pad on the nerve to protect it from future compression.

This surgery is reported to be effective 85 percent of the time. It is considered especially helpful for young people and those in the early stages of this condition.

This procedure does have some risk, with one study finding a 1.5 to 8 percent risk of hearing impairment due to this surgery.

Treatment with medication alone has not been found to be effective for this condition.


Stress caused by this condition’s uncontrollable twitches is one of the most important side effects of hemifacial spasm. However, as people can relieve their symptoms with injections or surgery, the outlook can be good.

It is important for people to seek treatment and take an active role in their care. Their condition is likely to get worse if it is left untreated, so they should be aware of all the treatment options available.

One study found that close to 50 percent of people treated by one team had to learn about the surgical option for hemifacial spasm through their own efforts.

Source Article from

Medical News Today: Scalp psoriasis: Shampoos, home remedies, and causes

Scalp psoriasis is an immune system disorder that causes scaly, itchy, and often, painful scales on the scalp.

The symptoms can range from mild to severe, with the most serious ones causing baldness if left untreated.

A variety of scalp psoriasis home remedies and shampoos can reduce pain and itching, speed the healing process, and prevent hair loss.

Scalp psoriasis shampoos

tar soap
Tar soap may help to treat psoriasis of the scalp.

People with psoriasis do not necessarily need to use special shop-bought psoriasis shampoos.

It is possible to make psoriasis shampoo at home. Try mixing psoriasis-friendly ingredients, such as apple cider vinegar or tea tree oil, with your usual shampoo for a gentle homemade psoriasis remedy.

The best ingredients for treating scalp psoriasis include:

Salicylic acid

Salicylic acid is a medication that helps the skin peel. It may also remove psoriasis scales and help the body heal psoriasis patches faster. The higher the percentage of salicylic acid a product contains, the stronger it will be. People should try starting with a relatively weak form of salicylic acid and gradually increasing the strength based on their skin’s reaction.

Other acids

Some other acids, including glycolic acid and lactic acid, can help the skin peel. Much like salicylic acid, they can irritate the skin at higher concentrations. Start slowly, and work your way up to stronger formulas.


Ketoconazole is an antifungal ingredient that can also treat dry, scaly skin. Shampoos containing ketoconazole can help remove both dandruff and psoriasis scales. Because some people with scalp psoriasis also have fungal infections, ketoconazole is an especially useful ingredient that can protect the scalp from painful yeast infections.

Tar soaps and shampoos

Tar soap can help treat psoriasis of all kinds, including scalp psoriasis. Though researchers have spent more time studying coal tar, pine tar soaps and shampoos may also work. It is also possible to wash the scalp with tar soap. The soap has a strong, distinct smell, and can be irritating to skin, however. People should start with a low concentration and work up to more potent formulas but always check with a doctor on the maximum strength to use. 

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today

Scalp psoriasis home remedies

turmeric root and powder on a board
Studies suggest turmeric may help to reduce the inflammation associated with psoriasis.

The right home remedy can, however, complement medical treatment, improving the appearance of psoriasis lesions.

Home remedies that may help include:

  • Turmeric: Some research on rats suggests that turmeric can reduce the inflammation associated with psoriasis.

  • Apple cider vinegar: This has long been used as a natural disinfectant to prevent infections. It may also ease the pain of psoriasis lesions.

  • Rich oils, such as avocado or coconut oil: These oils may help psoriasis plaques appear less dry and scaly.

  • Tea tree oil: This can be helpful in the treatment of minor psoriasis lesions. Tea tree oil may help the scales disappear, and can ease pain and itching.

  • Omega-3 fatty acids: Foods containing these acids, such as fish oil and olive oil, may fight inflammation and treat psoriasis. Apply oil directly to the plaques, or eat a diet rich in Omega-3 fatty acids.

  • Oats or colloidal oatmeal: Oats can soothe irritated skin, and may help with very dry psoriasis skin plaques.

What is scalp psoriasis?

Scalp psoriasis
Psoriasis causes patchy, scaly skin and shampoos may help to reduce the itching.

Psoriasis is a group of autoimmune diseases that affect the skin. Autoimmune diseases cause the immune system to overreact. In the case of psoriasis, the over-activity causes skin cells to grow more quickly than normal, creating scales and lesions on the skin. The appearance of the lesions depends on the type of psoriasis.

The only type of psoriasis that affects the scalp, however, is plaque psoriasis.

The most common symptoms of scalp psoriasis include:

  • Scales on the scalp: These can be light and fine, or thick and crusty. The scales may be small or can cover the entire scalp.

  • Psoriasis plaques on other areas of the body: Scales can spread from the scalp, extending to the face or neck. They may also appear on distant parts of the body.

  • Hair changes: In more severe cases, hair loss, changes in hair texture, or patchy hair can develop.

How scalp psoriasis is different from other forms of psoriasis?

Scalp psoriasis is not distinct from other forms of psoriasis. In fact, at least half of people who have psoriasis develop psoriasis plaques on their scalp.

What causes scalp psoriasis?

For most people, something triggers the immune system to flare-up, causing psoriasis patches. Triggers vary from person to person, but some common triggers include:

Some people also notice that their psoriasis gets worse after eating certain foods, or as a result of allergies. Research has not yet conclusively proven that these factors can trigger psoriasis.

However, triggers alone do not cause psoriasis. People without a genetic risk for psoriasis will not develop psoriasis even when they are stressed, injure their skin, or get an infection.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today

Scalp psoriasis outlook

While home remedies applied directly to the scalp can improve the appearance of psoriasis, they will not cure the underlying disease. The patches will keep coming back and may get worse with each flare-up.

Without treatment, psoriasis can cause serious medical problems such as heart disease. So people who experience symptoms of psoriasis on the scalp should see a doctor. Numerous treatments can slow the progress of the disease, and help people with psoriasis lead normal, healthy lives.

Source Article from

Medical News Today: Is pneumonia contagious? Causes and transmission

Pneumonia is an infection of the lung tissue that can make it difficult to breathe due to inflammation, fluid, and pus. Viruses or bacteria, which are contagious, cause most forms of pneumonia.

Not all cases of pneumonia are contagious, however, and the period during which it can spread from one person to another depends on the cause of the infection.

Is pneumonia contagious?

Pneumonia refers to an infection in the lungs caused by certain germs, such as bacteria or viruses. When one person spreads germs that can cause pneumonia to someone else, the recipient can develop a range of respiratory infections, from mild cold symptoms to pneumonia.

A range of factors determine whether pneumonia is contagious:

Type of pneumonia

senior man in bed with the flu
Contagious viruses or bacteria cause most forms of pneumonia.

Most cases of pneumonia are due to the spread of bacteria and viruses. Bacteria are living organisms that respond to antibiotics. Viruses are tiny strands of protein and genetic material that cannot be treated with antibiotics. Both viruses and bacteria are contagious.

Pneumonia often develops after a person has had a different infection, such as a head cold. This makes a person more vulnerable to other types of infections. An infection that develops in the lungs is called pneumonia.

Some organisms are more likely to cause pneumonia than others. One common example is pneumococcal disease, a bacterial infection that can cause ear infections, sinus infections, infections of the brain and blood, and pneumonia.

Another type of bacteria called Mycoplasma pneumoniae can cause other forms of pneumonia. Mycoplasma bacteria are also contagious.

The influenza virus or the flu is a common cause of viral pneumonia. The virus spreads easily from person to person, causing a range of symptoms and conditions.

Less common causes of pneumonia include:

  • inhaling food particles or contents from the intestinal tract

  • some fungi

These forms of pneumonia are not contagious.

Length of infection

In most cases, infections are contagious for a few days before symptoms appear and for a few days after. The exact length of time a person is contagious depends on the type of microorganism causing the infection.

Some forms of pneumonia, such as pneumonia caused by mycoplasma, remain contagious for several weeks. If a person has pneumonia, they should speak to a doctor about how long the infection will be contagious.

Pneumonia treatment

People with bacterial pneumonia will usually be prescribed antibiotics that stop the infection from progressing. Pneumonia will usually stop being contagious a day or two after treatment begins.

A person is also considered contagious during a fever, so it is best to stay home from work or school until the fever is gone.

People who have been vaccinated against infections that can cause pneumonia, such as pneumococcal bacteria, are usually immune to those specific germs. Getting the vaccination can help prevent this type of infection from developing.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today

Risk factors

senior hand holding a babies hand
Older people and very young children may have weaker immune systems, which means they may be more likely to get pneumonia.

Although anyone can get pneumonia, some people are at greater risk. Pneumonia occurs when an infection develops within the lungs. It can cause complications with breathing and spread to other parts of the body such as the bloodstream.

People who are more likely to get pneumonia include:

  • very young children and babies whose immune systems are not fully developed

  • older people with weakened immune systems

  • pregnant women

  • people taking medications that suppress the immune system

  • people with diseases that weaken the immune system, such as cancer, HIV, and AIDS

  • people with autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis

  • people with lung and respiratory conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis (CF), and asthma

People at risk of pneumonia need to be especially cautious around people who have recently had pneumonia or another respiratory infection.


Pneumonia is transmitted when germs from the body of someone with pneumonia spread to another person. This can happen in a variety of ways, including:

  • Inhaling the infection. This can occur when a person with pneumonia coughs or sneezes and another person inhales the infected particles. This is more likely between people in close contact with each other, such as parents and children, or in poorly ventilated spaces, such as airplanes.

  • Through the mouth or eyes. This can happen when a person touches a surface that an infected person has coughed or sneezed on. When a person with an infection coughs into their hand and then shakes another person’s hand, the second person can become infected if they touch their mouth or eyes without washing their hands.

Food particles and irritants from the intestinal tract can also cause pneumonia. This is called aspiration pneumonia and can occur when a person accidentally inhales these substances.

Aspiration pneumonia usually happens in people who have trouble swallowing, such as someone having a diagnosis of a stroke or other central nervous system conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease

Fungal pneumonia typically develops when people inhale microscopic particles of fungus from the environment. People with weakened immune systems are more likely to develop this type of pneumonia.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today


breaking a cigarette in half
Quitting smoking may help to prevent pneumonia.

A number of strategies can prevent the spread of pneumonia. The single most effective way to prevent the spread of viruses and bacteria is with frequent hand-washing, especially during the colder months.

People should wash their hands before eating, after using the bathroom, after touching someone else, before visiting people vulnerable to pneumonia, and upon returning home after going out in public.

Other strategies to prevent pneumonia include:

  • staying up-to-date on all vaccinations, as well as getting a flu shot and pneumococcal pneumonia vaccination annually

  • quitting smoking, since smoking makes the lungs more vulnerable to infection and affects the body’s immune system

  • managing any chronic medical conditions, especially those that affect the immune system or lungs

  • staying home from school or work when ill or with a fever

Protecting vulnerable people from pneumonia

Most people recover from pneumonia without any lasting effects. In vulnerable people, pneumonia can be fatal. Worldwide, pneumonia accounts for 16 percent of deaths in children under 5. Older people and those with a weakened immune system are also more likely to experience serious complications.

Older people, people with serious illnesses, parents of newborns, and caregivers to sick people should make sure all visitors wash their hands. It is best that people with symptoms of a respiratory illness or fever do not visit a vulnerable person until their symptoms are gone.

Other strategies that can reduce the risk include:

  • washing hands before eating, after touching people, and after going out in public

  • disinfecting all surfaces in the home, particularly if someone has recently been sick

  • keeping up-to-date on all vaccinations, especially any household members around infants who are too young to be vaccinated

  • avoiding locations with inadequate air filtration during cold and flu season

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today


Pneumonia killed more than 50,000 people in the United States in 2014. Despite this, around two-thirds of older adults do not get the recommended pneumococcal pneumonia vaccination to prevent pneumonia.

Pneumonia can be prevented, particularly in people who do not have chronic lung diseases. By avoiding sick people, staying home when ill, washing hands, and adopting basic health measures, such as getting vaccinated, it is possible to prevent this potentially fatal illness.

Source Article from

Medical News Today: Period bloating: Seven tips for relief

Source Article from

Medical News Today: Natural protein may help to prevent blindness

an older man with a poor eye
Researchers have found that a naturally occurring protein helps to protect the retina against glaucoma.
Scientists may be on the brink of a new strategy to prevent blindness, after discovering a naturally occurring protein that protects the eye from one of the leading causes: glaucoma.

Glaucoma is an umbrella term for a number of diseases that damage the optic nerve, which is the cluster of nerve fibers that links the retina – the light-sensitive tissue that lines the back of the eye – to the brain.

Optic nerve damage disrupts the transmission of visual signals to the brain, which can result in vision loss and blindness.

Glaucoma is most commonly caused by a buildup of eye pressure, which can damage the optic nerve. However, the precise mechanisms by which optic nerve damage occurs have been unclear, but researchers from Macquarie University in Australia may have shed some light.

The team found that a protein called neuroserpin plays a key role in retinal health, but that this protein is inactivated in glaucoma. They suggest that their findings may lead to much-needed strategies to prevent and treat the disease.

Lead study author Dr. Vivek Gupta, of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at Macquarie University, and colleagues recently published their results in the journal Scientific Reports.

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today

Neuroserpin and glaucoma

Neuroserpin is already established as a protein that blocks the activity of an enzyme called plasmin, protecting neurons, or nerve cells, against plasmin-induced damage.

For their study, Dr. Gupta and colleagues set out to determine how neuroserpin and plasmin are affected by glaucoma.

The researchers came to their findings by analyzing retinal cells derived from humans with and without glaucoma, as well as retinas from rat models of the disease.

The analysis revealed that neuroserpin is deactivated in response to oxidative stress, which can be triggered by environmental factors such as air pollution.

Oxidative stress is an imbalance between the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) – which are molecules that can damage cell structures – and the body’s ability to offset their harmful effects.

Interestingly, the researchers found that neuroserpin was inactive in retinal cells from glaucoma patients and in the retinas of glaucoma rat models, which prevented the protein from inhibiting plasmin activity.

“Over a long period of time,” explains Dr. Gupta, “increased enzyme activity gradually digests the eye tissue and promotes cell death causing the adverse effects associated with glaucoma.”

Thank you for supporting Medical News Today

‘Breakthrough findings’

It is estimated that glaucoma affects around 2.2 million adults aged 40 and older in the United States, and it is one of the country’s leading causes of vision loss and blindness.

There is currently no cure for glaucoma, but there are treatments that can help to slow progression of the disease if it is detected early enough.

Dr. Gupta and team hope that their findings will open the door to new strategies that could help to prevent or treat glaucoma.

“Ophthalmologists and vision scientists have always wondered what damages the optic nerve in the back of the eyes, which is widely observed in glaucoma,” notes study co-author Dr. Mehdi Mirzaei, of the Department of Chemistry and Biomolecular Sciences at Macquarie University.

“The breakthrough findings of this study,” he adds, “help us understand the disease mechanism and answer a key question that has eluded scientists for several years.”

This long-term collaborative study has opened up a completely new line of investigation in glaucoma research that will lead to new treatment avenues for the disease.”

Dr. Vivek Gupta

In future studies, the team plans to investigate whether or not antioxidants – which are molecules that help to prevent cell damage caused by ROS – could be an effective treatment for glaucoma.

Source Article from