Medical News Today: The sleep diet: Could this work?

It’s January. Many of us have noticed that our pants are slightly tighter than they were last year. How might we shift that extra weight without suffering the gym? Try an extra hour in bed, a new study suggests.
Man sleeping
Could we lose weight just by getting more sleep?

Scientists based at King’s College London in the United Kingdom have recently conducted a pilot study investigating sleep and diet. Their findings might be good news for those of us who feel tired and chubby at the moment.

Sleep is a strange beast. Most of us know that we feel awful if we don’t get enough, yet hardly any of us manage the recommended 7-ish hours that we need.

In actual fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 3 Americans don’t get the right amount of shut-eye.

This is quite a worrying statistic, as sleep — or a lack thereof — is now considered to be a risk factor for obesity and cardiometabolic conditions, such as impaired glucose tolerance and high blood pressure.

If lack of sleep can have such a major impact, it seems sensible to search for ways of extending sleep in individuals who might be at risk.

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Extending sleep

Dr. Wendy Hall, from the Department of Nutritional Sciences at King’s College London, and team recently completed a pilot study in which they tested whether or not a simple intervention could increase sleep duration in a group of adults.

Their results are published today in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

In all, 21 healthy short-sleepers undertook a 45-minute sleep consultation. During this session, the sleep extension group were given at least four helpful hints to lengthen their sleep time, including information about reducing caffeine intake — having a coffee just before bedtime makes it harder to drop off (who knew?) — and setting up relaxing routines, such as a warm bath and some Kenny G.

For the next 7 days, the participants kept sleep diaries. They also wore a motion sensor that could detect exactly how long participants slept, and how long they spent in bed before falling asleep.

Alongside the researchers’ efforts to extend sleep duration, they also monitored nutritional intake throughout the study period.

Overall, 86 percent of the sleep extension group increased their time spent in bed, and around half increased their sleep duration (by 52–90 minutes). Three members of the group hit the weekly recommended average of 7–9 hours of sleep per night.

However, the researchers believe that the extra sleep that the participants got might not have been of particularly great quality. They conclude that it might take a little more time to get into a new sleep routine; Kenny G can only do so much.

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Intriguing dietary changes

OK, so I know you’re desperate to read about the dietary aspect of the study, and the diet diaries threw out some interesting findings. For example, the individuals who did manage to attain an extended sleep pattern reported eating 10 fewer grams of free sugars, as well as fewer carbohydrates, per day.

The fact that extending sleep led to a reduction in intake of free sugars, by which we mean the sugars that are added to foods by manufacturers or in cooking at home as well as sugars in honey, syrups, and fruit juice, suggests that a simple change in lifestyle may really help people to consume healthier diets.”

Dr. Wendy Hall

But before we all get too excited and rush out to buy new mattresses, it’s important to note that the study is just a pilot. It involved 21 people, only 18 of whom extended their time in bed, and it took just over 1 week to complete.

Having said that, because sleep is a known risk factor for many diseases, it’s important to build on these limited foundations. Further research needs to identify whether or not it is possible to make meaningful changes to sleep habits in this way.

As lead researcher Haya Al Khatib says, “We have shown that sleep habits can be changed with relative ease in healthy adults using a personalized approach.”

“Our results,” she continues, “also suggest that increasing time in bed for an hour or so longer may lead to healthier food choices. This further strengthens the link between short sleep and poorer-quality diets that has already been observed by previous studies.”

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They plan to extend their foray into sleep modification and diet. Al Khatib continues, “We hope to investigate this finding further with longer-term studies examining nutrient intake and continued adherence to sleep extension behaviors in more detail […].”

So, for now, we should take the findings with a pinch of salt; a lot more work will be needed to firm up the conclusions. That being said, it’s now well-established that as a nation, we need more sleep — so you may as well give it a try.

Just to throw one final cat among the sleep-deprived pigeons, there is also some evidence that sleeping for too long increases mortality risk. As ever, moderation is key. Not too much, not too little.

On a personal note, I have 1-year-old twins, so the chances of me ever getting enough sleep are incredibly slim — unlike my waistline.

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Medical News Today: What is tendinosis?

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Medical News Today: What causes pericoronitis?

Pericoronitis occurs when the wisdom teeth do not have enough room to erupt through the gums. As a result, they may only partially come through the gum, which may lead to inflammation and infection of the soft tissue around the wisdom tooth.

If wisdom teeth only partially erupt, gum flaps may develop. These flaps are areas where food can become trapped, and bacteria can build up, causing infection.


Woman with pericoronitis rubbing cheek ache from wisdom tooth.
Pericoronitis is when the wisdom teeth do not emerge from the gums fully. It may cause pain and discomfort.

The symptoms can vary between individuals depending on the severity of the infection.

Chronic symptoms include:

  • dull pain
  • mild discomfort
  • bad taste in the mouth
  • swollen gum in the affected area

Chronic symptoms often only last for 1 to 2 days but keep recurring over a period of months.

Acute symptoms usually last 3 to 4 days and can include:

  • severe pain that can cause loss of sleep
  • swelling on the affected side of the face
  • discharge of pus
  • pain when swallowing
  • swollen lymph nodes under the chin
  • fever

What are the causes?

Pericoronitis commonly occurs in people in their 20s, with around 81 percent of those affected being aged between 20 and 29 years old.

Men and women develop pericoronitis in equal numbers.

There are also some common causes and conditions associated with pericoronitis:

  • poor oral hygiene — this more commonly causes acute pericoronitis
  • stress
  • pregnancy
  • upper respiratory tract infection — this is caused by a virus — often a cold — or bacteria, and affects the nose, sinuses, and throat

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Woman at the dentists looking at an x-ray of her teeth.
A dentist can diagnose pericoronitis, and may take an X-ray in some cases.

Dentists often diagnose pericoronitis during a clinical evaluation. The dentist will diagnose the condition by examining the wisdom teeth and checking for signs and the appearance of pericoronitis.

The dentist will look to see if the gums are inflamed, red, swollen, or draining pus. They will also look to see if there is a gum flap in the affected area.

The dentist might also take an X-ray to look at the alignment of the wisdom teeth and to rule out other possible causes for the pain, such as dental decay.

If a doctor diagnoses pericoronitis, they will refer the individual to a dentist for further treatment.

What are the treatment options?

Once the dentist has diagnosed pericoronitis, they will design a treatment plan according to the specific needs of the individual.

The condition can be difficult to treat because if there is a gum flap, then the problem will not go away completely until the tooth fully erupts, or the tooth or tissue is removed.

If the person has symptoms that are localized to the area around the tooth then the dentist may try the following treatment options:

  • thoroughly cleaning the area
  • removing any food debris
  • draining any pus

If there is an infection, then the dentist will prescribe antibiotics, and an individual can take other medication to manage the pain and reduce swelling. A person should consult their dentist before using any over-the-counter medications or mouth rinses.

In many cases, the dentist may recommend removing the tooth, especially if it is a recurring problem.

It is vitally important that symptoms of pericoronitis are treated swiftly to keep the infection from spreading and to lessen the risks of complications.

Anyone experiencing symptoms of pericoronitis should contact their dentist as soon as possible. Those who realize their wisdom teeth are coming through but have no symptoms of pericoronitis should still tell their dentist so that they can monitor the progress.

Home remedies

For minor cases of pericoronitis, some home remedies can help alleviate and treat symptoms.

A warm saltwater rinse can help, as can cleaning the affected area carefully with a toothbrush to remove plaque and food debris.

However, if a person sees no improvement after 5 days, then they should consult a dentist.

It is not recommended to use home remedies if a person is experiencing severe symptoms.

Possible complications

Complications associated with pericoronitis can occur. Problems are more likely to happen if the symptoms are not treated promptly.

Sometimes, the infection can spread from the affected area, which can lead to swelling and pain in other parts of the head and neck.

Trismus, where a person finds it difficult to open their mouth or bite down, can also be a complication.

In rare cases, complications of pericoronitis can even be life-threatening. Untreated pericoronitis can lead to Ludwig’s angina, which is an infection that spreads under the jaw and tongue. This condition can also cause other deep infections within the head, neck, or throat.

There is also the possibility that the infection can spread into the bloodstream, in a condition known as sepsis, which can also be life-threatening.

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Mouthwash, toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, and other oral hygiene products.
Practicing good oral hygiene may help to prevent pericoronitis from occurring.

Steps that people can take to try and reduce the chance of pericoronitis developing include:

  • Good oral hygiene: Extra cleaning around the affected tooth to remove food debris and bacteria will help.
  • Regular visits to the dentist: Regular check ups will help the dentist identify any signs or problems associated with pericoronitis, increasing the chance of treating them early.
  • Taking pre-emptive action: Contacting the dentist whenever a person has any concerns about pericoronitis developing is recommended.


Typically, pericoronitis causes no long-term effects. If the wisdom tooth fully erupts or is removed then pericoronitis will not reoccur in that area.

If a tooth is removed, then a person can usually expect to make a full recovery after about 2 weeks. During recovery, a person can expect to experience:

  • jaw stiffness
  • a mildly bad taste in the mouth
  • swelling
  • pain
  • tingling or numbness of the mouth and face (less common)

Following all aftercare instructions is essential. A person should contact their dentist or oral surgeon if they experience intense or throbbing pain, fever, or bleeding.

The most important thing about treating pericoronitis is ensuring that individuals receive the right treatment so that this painful condition can be corrected as soon as possible.

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Medical News Today: ADHD: Could maternal depression be the cause?

In this article, we discuss new evidence in support of a significant link between depression during pregnancy and an increased risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in the child.
Depression during pregnancy
A new study uncovers links between maternal depression and ADHD.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is primarily characterized by two categories of behavioral problems: inattentiveness and hyperactivity or impulsiveness.

ADHD is now one of the most common pediatric neurodevelopmental disorders, affecting up to 7.2 percent of all children.

The condition raises the likelihood that the child will face difficulty at school and later in life. Also, some evidence suggests that ADHD increases mortality rates.

And worryingly, according to some reports, the incidence rate of ADHD is steadily rising. Although better detection rates certainly play a part in the increase, this cannot explain the size of growth.

Therefore, the race is on to understand what causes ADHD and, importantly, whether or not it can be prevented.

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Maternal depression and ADHD

A group of researchers recently investigated the role of depression during pregnancy in ADHD risk. Although scientists have explored a range of potential causes of ADHD, maternal depression has received relatively little attention.

The sparse literature on this interaction has been inconclusive. However, the authors of the current study believe that this lack of clarity might be due to methodological flaws.

Such flaws include the fact that earlier studies only quantified depression at one or two points in time during pregnancy, rather than throughout. Also, the effects of depression after pregnancy were not taken into account.

Another potential issue in previous work is explained by the authors. “The studies failed to account for maternal pre-pregnancy obesity and common pregnancy disorders,” they explain, “which in addition to increasing the child’s ADHD risk, may often also accompany maternal depression.”

The team designed a study to reopen the question and address the issues outlined above. So, in this experiment, depressive symptoms were measured biweekly from 12 weeks pregnant until delivery.

Children were followed until the age of 3–6. At this point, the scientists registered details about the mother’s depressive symptoms following pregnancy. Data regarding pre-pregnancy obesity, hypertension disorders during pregnancy, and gestational diabetes were also collated.

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Study sheds light on depression-ADHD link

In all, 1,779 Finnish mothers and their one child, born 2006–2010, were included in the study. Their assessment began at the 12th week of gestation, and the final assessment took place when the child was an average of 3.8 years old. The researchers’ findings were recently published in the journal PLOS One.

Following analysis, the authors found that the proportion of “children with clinically significant ADHD symptoms were higher in the group of women who had consistently high depressive symptoms throughout pregnancy.”

In short, ADHD was more commonly found in the offspring of depressed mothers, and their symptoms were significantly worse.

If the mother experienced depressive symptoms after birth, this added to the effects of depressive symptoms during pregnancy: there was a further increased risk of ADHD and more pronounced symptoms.

Contrary to expectations, maternal obesity and pregnancy disorders — such as maternal diabetes — did not influence ADHD outcomes in the offspring. Similarly, when depressive symptoms were split into trimesters, there were no time-specific effects. This was because, in general, those mothers who were depressed during pregnancy were depressed throughout.

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What might cause this interaction?

The study’s findings are clear cut, but as the authors write, “An obvious study limitation is that we are not able to specify the brain structural or functional nor biological or behavioral underlying mechanisms.”

This will be the next step, and a number of potential mechanisms have already been proposed. For example, earlier studies showed that maternal depressive symptoms, salivary cortisol levels, or both might alter a baby’s brain structure and the way that it is connected.

Depression during pregnancy has also been linked with an increase in placental glucocorticoid sensitivity, which could have a wide array of effects on fetal development.

Inflammation could also play a role; studies have found that inflammatory cytokines correlate with maternal depressive symptoms.

It will take time to unravel how and why maternal depression is linked to ADHD, and it is likely to be a complex picture involving all of the processes above and more. However, for now, the current findings can still be clinically useful.

As the authors write in their conclusion, “[P]reventive interventions focusing on maternal depressive symptoms may benefit not only maternal but offspring well-being.”

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Medical News Today: What emotion does this image evoke? Fear or disgust?

According to the latest study on trypophobia — a fear of irregular patterns or clusters of small holes — it may not be a phobia after all. The negative response seems to be driven by disgust rather than fear.
Lotus seed heads
How do you feel about this image?

Trypophobia is not currently recognized by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a mental disorder.

However, within forum discussions and social media threads, thousands of people admit to feeling distinct discomfort when they see clusters of holes.

These people might be disturbed by the sight of honeycomb or lotus seed heads (such as those in the image). Some of us even feel queasy in the presence of aerated chocolate.

Researchers led by Stella Lourenco, a psychologist at Emory University in Atlanta, GA, decided to dig deeper into trypophobia and asked why it might occur.

Specifically, the team wanted to get to grips with the physiological and psychological drivers of this rather odd — and currently unofficial — phobia. Their results are published this week in the journal PeerJ.

Though the word “trypophobia” may not be particularly familiar, Lourenco says, “The phenomenon, which likely has an evolutionary basis, may be more common than we realize.”

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Fear and disgust

Both fear and disgust impart an evolutionary advantage — fear helps us to avoid peckish predators, while disgust steers us away from eating perished plums. These negative emotions are certainly psychological bedfellows, but they’re also distinct entities.

Over the years, since Darwin’s time, the similarities and differences between fear and disgust have been debated. It is now established that the physiological responses are different: fear activates the sympathetic nervous system, and disgust triggers the parasympathetic nervous system.

The sympathetic nervous system prepares the body for threat or injury by increasing heart rate and contracting muscles. The parasympathetic nervous system controls general body functions at rest, making muscles relax and heart rate decrease.

Repeating patterns and primal fears

The first question to ask is why groups of holes and irregular repeating patterns are frightening to our primal, caveman brains.

Some psychologists believe that the high contrast seen in trypophobia-inducing images is similar to patterns found on some dangerous animals, such as snakes. It has been argued that this similarity could be the driving force behind the negative response.

We’re an incredibly visual species. Low-level visual properties can convey a lot of meaningful information. These visual cues allow us to make immediate inferences — whether we see part of a snake in the grass or a whole snake — and react quickly to potential danger.”

Lead study author Vladislav Ayzenberg, graduate student in Lourenco’s laboratory

If we spot a snake (or snake-like object) in the grass, it triggers our so-called “fight or flight” response, which is mediated by the sympathetic nervous system and readies our body for imminent danger.

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Measuring pupils

The study was designed to identify whether a trypophobic reaction is triggered by the sympathetic or parasympathetic nervous system. The team wanted to know whether this odd reaction is based on disgust or fear.

Pupillometry — which is an eye-tracking technique that measures pupil size and reactivity — let the scientists glimpse the physiology behind the emotion. Earlier work had shown that a fear response induces an increase in pupil size while, conversely, disgust causes pupil size to decrease.

Aerated chocolate
Delicious or disgusting?

Using this knowledge, the researchers showed participants three sets of images:

  • 20 showing threatening animals (spiders and snakes)
  • 20 known to trigger a trypophobic reaction
  • 20 controls that included pictures of cups, butterflies, and other inoffensive subject matter

The theory goes that if trypophobia is a fear response, a person’s pupils should respond in a similar way to both the images of dangerous beasts and lotus seed pods.

If, however, trypophobia is a disgust-based response, the pupils would behave differently between the two experimental image types.

After analysis, it was clear that both the images of dangerous animals and trypophobic patterns triggered a response. However, they were not the same: pictures of snakes and spiders caused an increase in pupil size, whereas images of holes caused the pupils to constrict.

“On the surface,” states Ayzenberg, “images of threatening animals and clusters of holes both elicit an aversive reaction. Our findings, however, suggest that the physiological underpinnings for these reactions are different, even though the general aversion may be rooted in shared visual-spectral properties.”

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The researchers conclude that rather than the trypophobia-inducing images mimicking dangerous animals, they might remind our primal brains of rotten or moldy food. This, rather sensibly, triggers a disgusted reaction and an aversion to the images.

Interestingly, the study was carried out on students, none of whom reported having trypophobia. As Lourenco explains, “The fact that we found effects in this population suggests a quite primitive and pervasive visual mechanism underlying an aversion to holes.”

More studies will be needed to firm up these findings, but they do add extra weight to the theory that fear and disgust are separate but related emotions. So, if you have trypophobia, remember: you are not afraid of holes, you are disgusted by them.

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Medical News Today: Oophorectomy: Everything you need to know

An oophorectomy is a surgical procedure to remove one or both of a woman’s ovaries. The surgery is usually performed to prevent or treat certain conditions, such as ovarian cancer or endometriosis.

An oophorectomy comes with its own risks and complications, so a person should always discuss their options with a doctor prior to surgery.

The surgery only lasts a few hours, but recovery times can vary. Self-care is an important part of recovery, and it is crucial to discuss recovery with a doctor beforehand to avoid unwanted complications.

What is an oophorectomy?

womans reproductive system oophorectomy
The removal of a woman’s ovaries is known as an oophorectomy.

The term oophorectomy is used to describe the surgical removal of one or both of the ovaries. It is also called ovariectomy.

The surgery may just remove the ovaries, or it may be a part of a hysterectomy, which is the removal of the uterus and possibly some surrounding structures.

There are different reasons for an oophorectomy, including:

Women who carry the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes may be more likely to experience certain types of cancer and may choose to have an oophorectomy, as a preventive measure.

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Types of oophorectomy

Oophorectomy is a broad term for a medical procedure that removes one or both ovaries, but there are different types of oophorectomies that can be done.

  • Unilateral oophorectomy: Removal of one ovary, usually done when a woman still wants to become pregnant.
  • Bilateral oophorectomy: Removal of both ovaries, done to prevent disorders or spread of cancer cells.
  • Salpingo-oophorectomy: Removal of the fallopian tube along with the ovary, often to treat cancers or other disorders.
  • Prophylactic oophorectomy: Also called a preventative oophorectomy, this procedure is done to reduce the risk of future diseases.

What to expect

woman having blood drawn for test
Before an operation is scheduled, a doctor may perform tests such as urine tests, physical tests, and blood tests.

A person should always discuss what to expect during and after the surgery with their doctor.

Several tests may be used before scheduling the operation, including:

  • physical exams
  • blood tests
  • urine tests
  • computed tomography (CT) scan
  • ultrasound

An oophorectomy is performed using either open abdominal surgery or laparoscopic surgery. Both operations should take no more than a few hours to complete but may require staying one or several nights in the hospital.

Open abdominal surgery

In an open abdominal surgery, a surgeon will make an incision in the abdomen and then carefully separate the abdominal muscles.

Blood vessels will be temporarily tied off to prevent bleeding. The surgeon will remove the ovary or ovaries and then seal up the incision.

Laparoscopic surgery

During laparoscopic surgery, a thin, cord-like instrument is inserted into a small cut near the navel. A tiny camera allows the surgeon to see and remove the ovary or ovaries.

The process may leave less noticeable scars and have a shorter recovery time than open abdominal surgery.

After the surgery

It is helpful for someone else to drive the woman home and care for her in the first few days after her surgery.

Most surgeries will require at least 2–3 weeks away from work. Regular check-ups allow doctors to monitor and alter the recovery process, as needed.

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How long does recovery take?

Recovering from an oophorectomy will vary based on a few different factors, including the type of surgery. Laparoscopic surgery may require only 1 day in the hospital, but open abdominal surgery will typically need 2 or more days in the hospital.

Recovery recommendations will vary, depending on the individual, but some general recovery tips include:

  • resting before surgery and during recovery
  • taking relaxed, deep breaths
  • avoiding heavy lifting or exercise
  • refraining from sexual intercourse
  • avoiding using tampons during recovery
  • making dietary changes and taking medications for constipation as needed
  • avoiding infection risks, such as taking baths and wearing tight or synthetic clothing

Doctors will also instruct their patients on how to take care of their incision site, including regular cleaning, keeping the area dry, and monitoring it for signs of infection.

Risks and complications

woman on sofa with blanket suffering from fever sweating and chills
Signs and symptoms of complications may include depression, nausea and vomiting for more than a few days, and fever.

Although an oophorectomy is often performed to help treat or prevent diseases, it may put women at risk of other issues.

Serious complications are rare, but people who smoke, are obese, or have diabetes may be more at risk for surgical complications.

Women who have had pelvic surgery or serious infections in the past may also be more vulnerable to complications.

Women who have both ovaries removed will no longer be able to become pregnant. A woman who wishes to become pregnant or is considering pregnancy in the future should discuss alternative options to oophorectomy with a doctor.

Signs of complications

It is vital to report any signs of a complication to a doctor, as soon as possible. These signs and symptoms include:

  • fever
  • abnormal amount of blood or discharge
  • redness and swelling near the incision
  • skin near the incision feeling very warm
  • nausea and vomiting for more than a few days
  • difficulty urinating
  • chronic abdominal pain
  • shortness of breath or chest pain
  • mood swings
  • depression

Surgical risks

The surgery itself also involves some risks, including:

  • excessive bleeding or blood clots
  • infection
  • scar tissue
  • nerve damage
  • tumor rupture
  • injury to the urinary tract or other organs
  • hernia due to weakened abdominal muscles

In rare cases, people may experience respiratory or cardiac problems after anesthesia.

Hormonal changes

Women who have both of their ovaries removed before they have reached menopause usually take hormones to reduce the risk of menopause symptoms or other disorders. Hormone therapy, comes with side effects, however, including mood swings, nausea, and headaches.

A woman may choose to let the body go through menopause without taking replacement hormones. It is best to discuss any potential hormonal changes with a doctor before an oophorectomy. Some women will be treated with hormones, but not all are good candidates.


A bilateral oophorectomy may also increase the risk of a woman developing osteoporosis, which causes weak and brittle bones. This is because the body will no longer produce much estrogen.

Osteoporosis can increase the risk of breaking bones, particularly from falls or other injuries.

Life expectancy

Women who keep their ovaries until at least the age of 50 may live longer than women who have a bilateral oophorectomy before then.

One study noted that while a bilateral oophorectomy does reduce the risk of death from ovarian cancer and breast cancer in some cases, it may increase the risks of death from all other causes.

However, surgery may still be the best option for women who are BRCA1 or BRCA2 carriers.

A review in the Journal of Clinical Oncology noted that women with these genes who have their ovaries removed have an 80 percent reduction in the risk of death from specific cancers and a 77 percent reduction in risk of death from all causes.

It is essential for a person to discuss their personal history and all their options with a doctor before choosing an oophorectomy.

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An oophorectomy can be a lifesaving procedure in many cases. However, women with an otherwise healthy uterus and ovaries should thoroughly discuss their options with a doctor, as the surgery comes with some risks.

Women should give themselves plenty of time to recover from surgery, as the recovery time can vary. A woman may want to consider having help at home for the first few days to assist her getting up and preparing meals.

Women who have had one ovary removed but still have their uterus may notice very little change, as their hormones and menstruation will stay relatively the same. Women who have had both ovaries removed will notice the biggest change.

Doctors can help people to explore recovery options and give them more information about what symptoms to expect after an oophorectomy.

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Medical News Today: What causes muscle soreness and stiffness?

Muscle stiffness is when the muscles feel tight and difficult to move, particularly after resting.

Muscles stiffness can also be accompanied by pain, cramping, and discomfort.

It is usually not a cause for concern and can be treated with home remedies and stretching.

In this article, we look at some causes of muscle stiffness, as well as home remedies and when to see a doctor.


There are a variety of things that can cause muscle stiffness, including:


Woman in exercise and sports wear with muscle stiffness in back.
Alongside sprains and strains, exercise or physical stress may cause muscle stiffness.

A common cause of muscle stiffness is exercise or hard physical labor of some kind.

Often, stiffness can occur when someone starts a new exercise routine or program or has increased the intensity and duration of their routine.

When this happens, the muscles are required to work harder, and this causes microscopic damage to the muscle fibers, resulting in stiffness or soreness. This type of injury is sometimes referred to as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

Any movement can cause DOMS, but it is commonly caused by:

  • jogging or running downhill
  • using weights
  • doing squats
  • doing push-ups

Sprains and strains

The most common cause of muscle stiffness is a sprain or strain, which can affect both the muscles and ligaments.

A strain is when the muscle fibers are stretched or torn. Strains are particularly common in the legs and lower back.

A sprain is when the ligaments have been stretched, twisted, or torn. The ligaments are the bands of tissue around the joints that connect the bones together.

Common areas prone to sprains include:

  • knees
  • ankles
  • wrists
  • thumbs

Other symptoms associated with sprains and strains include:

  • pain
  • swelling
  • bruising
  • tenderness
  • redness

Polymyalgia rheumatica

Polymyalgia rheumatica causes muscle pain and stiffness. It usually affects the upper body, including the shoulders, neck, and arms. It also commonly affects the hips.

The average age of a person with polymyalgia rheumatica is 70, and some people do not develop it until they reach their 80s. What causes the condition is unknown.

Additional symptoms of polymyalgia rheumatica include:

  • trouble sleeping
  • difficulty putting on clothing
  • problems changing position, such as getting out of a chair or a car

Bites or stings

Infected mosquito bite on forearm.
Insect bites or stings may cause muscle stiffness, especially if they become infected.

Insect bites and stings can sometimes cause muscle stiffness. Bites or stings may also cause a red, swollen lump on the skin, which can be itchy and painful.

Bugs that commonly bite or sting and may cause muscle stiffness include:

  • wasps
  • hornets
  • bees
  • horseflies
  • ticks
  • mosquitoes
  • fleas
  • spiders
  • midges

Symptoms of a bite or sting will usually improve within a few days, but some people have allergic reactions that may require medical attention.

Stiffness after an insect bite can also be associated with more serious conditions, such as Lyme disease, malaria, or Rocky Mountain spotted fever. These conditions will also cause other symptoms, such as fever and malaise.


Some infections cause muscle stiffness in addition to other symptoms. These infections include:

  • tetanus, a bacterial infection usually associated with dirt or soil
  • meningitis, an infection of the brain and spinal cord
  • HIV
  • Legionnaires’ disease
  • polio
  • mononucleosis or mono
  • lupus
  • influenza or the flu


Some medications can cause muscle stiffness. Muscle stiffness is a common side effect of statins, or drugs prescribed to lower cholesterol.

Anesthetics used before surgery can also cause a person to experience muscle stiffness during the hours and days that follow.

Additional causes

Other things that may lead to occasional muscle stiffness include:

  • a lack of daily physical activity
  • being overweight
  • having a poor diet
  • not sleeping properly
  • being in a cold or damp environment

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When to see a doctor

Most cases of muscle stiffness will go away on their own or with the aid of home remedies, but prolonged or frequent stiffness can sometimes be a sign of an underlying condition.

If someone is experiencing muscle stiffness along with additional symptoms, such as fever, pain, dark urine, or swelling, they should speak to a doctor.

If a person is experiencing stiffness after an insect bite or sting, they should speak to a medical professional, especially if they have allergy symptoms.

People should always speak to a doctor about any bothersome side effects of medications they are taking, including muscle stiffness.

It is important for a person to tell the doctor about all the symptoms they have, not just muscle stiffness, in order to get an accurate diagnosis.

Treatment and home remedies

If muscle stiffness is a symptom of an underlying condition, a person will work with their doctor to make a treatment plan. A doctor may also prescribe anti-inflammatory medication to reduce pain and discomfort.

Over-the-counter painkillers usually work for pain relief, although stronger medications may be prescribed if necessary.

If a medication is causing stiffness, a doctor may be able to adjust the dose or prescribe an alternative.

For most cases of muscle stiffness, there are some simple home remedies for relief. These include:

  • resting until the body repairs
  • using heat or ice packs, or alternating between each
  • stretching to improve flexibility and circulation
  • taking a warm bath or shower to promote blood circulation
  • massaging the affected areas

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Man sitting down stretching his legs and hamstrings before exercising.
Regular exercise, alongside stretching and warming up before exercise, may help to prevent muscle stiffness.

There are also some simple changes people can make to their lifestyle to prevent getting muscle stiffness. These include:

  • exercising regularly
  • warming up and down before and after exercise
  • stretching the muscles
  • wearing the correct footwear during exercise
  • wearing warm clothing in cold weather
  • practicing good posture
  • ensuring furniture at home and work gives comfort and support
  • avoiding long periods of inactivity


Staying hydrated and eating a varied, nutritious diet is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and can also help reduce the chance of muscle stiffness.

To stay hydrated, a person should drink plain water every day, try herbal teas, or add fruit slices to sparkling water.

Research has shown a link between muscle stiffness and dehydration, so a person should take breaks and stay hydrated while exercising.


Muscle stiffness will usually go away on its own in a few days. In chronic or recurrent cases, making simple lifestyle changes may help treat and prevent muscle stiffness.

If muscle stiffness is a symptom of a more serious underlying condition, the outlook will vary depending on the cause. A person should speak to their doctor if they are concerned about unexplainable or long-term muscle stiffness.

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Medical News Today: Does green tea help weight loss?

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Medical News Today: All you need to know about receding hairline

A receding hairline can occur in both men and women, though it is more common in men. It is one of the first signs of male pattern baldness and can be caused by a variety of factors.

Today, there is a range of promising ways to manage a receding hairline, and there are some long-term treatment options that help many people.

A receding hairline will show some distinct symptoms. Symptoms may develop just after the end of puberty or anytime throughout adulthood.

How do you know if your hairline is receding?

There is no single pattern that a receding hairline follows, but there are some telling symptoms to keep an eye out for. For example, losing a lot of hair is one such symptom. It is common for people to lose dozens of hairs each day.

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Causes of receding hairline

There are many causes of a receding hairline.


Man with receding hairline
Although hair loss is usually associated with aging, it may affect young people as well.

According to research posted to the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, up to 80 percent of European men may have a receding hairline by the time they are 80 years old.

Hair loss is usually a natural part of aging. There are thousands of hair follicles on the surface of the scalp, each growing their own hair. As these hairs fall out, new ones replace them. But if hair follicles become damaged for any number of reasons, the result can be hair loss and a receding hairline.

Hormonal changes

Hormonal changes may be the trigger for hair loss in both men and women. A hormone called DHT may have a link to male pattern baldness, as it causes the follicles to shrink to the point that no hair can grow in them anymore.

Family history

Family history seems to play a role in receding hairlines. Men with a family history of baldness may be more likely to lose their hair. The loss may even follow a similar pattern as previous generations.

Medications or treatments

Some medical procedures or treatments may also cause hair loss. A typical example is chemotherapy, which often causes a person’s hair to fall out.

Illness or stress

Illness or stress may lead to sudden hair loss called telogen effluvium. People usually experience this as an unexpected shedding — where they lose much more hair than usual in a short period. Luckily, this hair loss often reverses itself without treatment.

Lifestyle choices

There may also be a link between particular lifestyle choices and hair loss. People who smoke may experience hair loss faster than people who do not smoke.

There may also be a link between receding hairlines and diet. For example, people who do not get enough protein in their diets may lose more hair than people who eat enough protein.

Treatment options

There is no outright cure for a receding hairline, but there are some medications that can slow it down and help hair regrow.

Finasteride or Dutasteride

Man treating hair loss and receding hairline.
Treatments for a receding hairline include topical medication, essential oils, and surgery.

In men, testosterone can be converted into DHT, which can cause hair loss from a man’s head.

The prescription drug finasteride (Propecia) is produced exclusively for male hair loss and slows down the rate that testosterone turns into DHT, therefore reducing DHT in the body.

This may make it easier for some men to grow hair or minimize hair loss. The drug Dutasteride (Avodart) is a medication designed to treat an enlarged prostate, though it is often prescribed to help encourage hair growth and restoration.

These effects will typically wear off as soon as the person stops taking the drugs.


Minoxidil (Rogaine) is an over-the-counter scalp treatment that has been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help slow the rate of hair loss. The effects typically last as long as a person uses the treatment, but baldness will return once a person stops using it.


A prescription for anthralin (Dritho-Scalp) may also encourage new hair growth in some people. It is a topical psoriasis medication, though is often used to help spark new hair growth.


Some corticosteroid treatments may also help with hair loss. This medication would work by reducing the inflammation around the hair follicles, allowing them to open back up and grow new hairs. Corticosteroids may produce adverse side effects, so anybody considering using these medications should discuss their use with a doctor.

Hair transplants and laser therapy

A hair transplant involves taking hairs and parts of scalp from thicker spots on the head and moving them to the front to fill in the receding hairline. The process may be costly, but many people feel it is a more long-term solution to a receding hairline.

Laser therapy using a red light or laser at a wavelength of 660 nanometers may also increase hair growth in some people and reduce male pattern baldness.

Essential oils

Some essential oils may also be promising hair-growth agents. In a recent study on mice posted to Toxicological Research, a group of researchers tested peppermint essential oil against the standard hair treatment minoxidil.

The mice that had peppermint essential oil rubbed on them for 4 weeks showed the most prominent signs of hair growth when compared to any other group.

Another study on mice posted to Toxicological Research, found similar results using lavender essential oil. More research on humans is needed to verify these claims, but these treatments may be promising for people looking for a natural way to thicken their hair.

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What is the process of receding?

Male pattern baldness usually progresses in distinct steps. The first sign is a receding hairline, which can appear uneven at first, but then typically develops into a distinct M shape. After this, the hair on the top or back of the head usually begins to fall out, leaving a bald spot.

These two signs will then spread and meet, creating a larger bald spot. Eventually what is left is usually a horseshoe-like ring around the sides and back of the head.

Managing a receding hairline

In addition to direct treatments, there are a few other things that a person can do to help manage a receding hairline.


Woman with hair loss and receding hairline looking in mirror as she styles her hair.
Certain hairstyles may help to hide signs of a receding hairline.

Changing the way a person with a receding hairline styles their hair may help draw attention away from it.

A stylish example is the slicked back undercut, where a person grows the hair on top of their head out a bit and cuts the sides shorter.

Once long enough, the person slicks back the hair on top of the head, using a brush or a product. This style can make the hair look thicker and cover up any bald spots.

Other classic examples that work well on men with receding hairlines include a close buzz cut, medium crew cut, or a clean shave.

Lifestyle choices

As stress and anxiety may play a role in hair loss, finding ways to reduce stress may also help manage a receding hairline. Regular exercise, eating a whole and varied diet, and taking time to reduce stress factors may help people manage their symptoms.

Hair care

Taking care of delicate hair can be an integral step towards keeping it on the head. Using more natural hair products or at least avoiding harsh chemicals can be a step towards rejuvenating the hair. It may also help to avoid vigorous brushing or pulling the hair too much.

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While a receding hairline can be upsetting for an individual to look at, it poses no risk to health. Most people can manage their hairline, and there are some treatments available that can help the hair look fuller or help it to regrow. Anybody considering trying these treatments should discuss them thoroughly with a healthcare provider to find the most suitable option.

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Medical News Today: Diabetes: Can gene therapy normalize blood glucose levels?

Researchers may have just found a way to restore normal blood glucose levels in a mouse model of type 1 diabetes, which could prove to be a promising solution for people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes in the future.
pancreas producing insulin
Researchers have developed a gene therapy that restores normal blood glucose levels in diabetes by reprogramming alpha cells in the pancreas into insulin-producing beta cells.

Dr. George Gittes, a professor of surgery and of pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in Pennsylvania, and team led the study. Their findings were published in the journal Cell Stem Cell.

Type 1 diabetes, a chronic autoimmune disease, affects around 1.25 million children and adults in the United States.

The immune system that usually destroys germs and foreign substances mistakenly launches an attack on the insulin-producing beta cells that are found in the pancreas, which then results in high blood glucose levels.

Over time, type 1 diabetes can have a significant effect on major organs and cause heart and blood vessel disease, damage to the nerves, kidneys, eyes, and feet, skin and mouth conditions, and complications during pregnancy.

Researchers in the type 1 diabetes field have aimed to develop a treatment that preserves and restores function to beta cells, which would, in turn, replenish insulin, responsible for moving blood glucose into cells for energy.

One barrier to this solution is that the new cells that arise from beta cell replacement therapy would likely also be destroyed by the immune system.

To overcome this hurdle, the team hypothesized that other, similar, cells could be reprogrammed to behave in a similar way to beta cells and produce insulin, but which are different enough not to be recognized and destroyed by the immune system.

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Alpha cells reprogrammed into beta cells

The team engineered an adeno-associated viral (AAV) vector that delivered two proteins — Pdx1 and MafA — to the mouse pancreas. Pdx1 and MafA support beta cell proliferation, function, and maturation, and they can ultimately transform alpha cells into insulin-producing beta cells.

Alpha cells were the ideal candidates for reprogramming. They are abundant, similar to beta cells, and located in the pancreas, which would all help with the reprogramming process.

Analysis of the transformed alpha cells showed a nearly complete cellular reprogramming to beta cells.

Dr. Gittes and team demonstrated that in a mouse model of diabetes, blood glucose levels were restored for about 4 months with gene therapy. The researchers also found that Pdx1 and MafA transform human alpha cells into beta cells in vitro.

“The viral gene therapy appears to create these new insulin-producing cells that are relatively resistant to an autoimmune attack,” explains Dr. Gittes. “This resistance appears to be due to the fact that these new cells are slightly different from normal insulin cells, but not so different that they do not function well.”

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The future of diabetes gene therapy

AAV vectors are currently being researched in human gene therapy trials and could be delivered to the pancreas through a non-surgical endoscopic procedure, eventually. However, the researchers caution that the protection observed in the mice was not permanent, and 4 months of restored glucose levels in a mouse model “might translate to several years in humans.”

“This study is essentially the first description of a clinically translatable, simple single intervention in autoimmune diabetes that leads to normal blood sugars,” says Dr. Gittes, “and importantly with no immunosuppression.”

A clinical trial in both type 1 and type 2 diabetics in the immediate foreseeable future is quite realistic, given the impressive nature of the reversal of the diabetes, along with the feasibility in patients to do AAV gene therapy.”

Dr. George Gittes

The scientists are testing the gene therapy in non-human primates. If successful, they will begin working with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve use in humans with diabetes.

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