Medical News Today: Hammer toe surgery: What to expect

A hammer toe is a potentially painful deformity of the second, third, or fourth toes, where the toe bends upward at the joint, resembling a hammer.

When a hammer toe causes pain, and other treatments fail, surgery may be the only option for correcting the joint.

What is hammer toe?

Hammer toe on both feet
Hammer toe is when the toe bends upwards at the joint.

A hammer toe causes the toe to bend at the first joint, which is called the proximal interphalangeal joint. The problem usually begins with a muscle imbalance.

When a muscle gets too weak, it can put pressure on the tendons of the toe. This can eventually cause the joint to become deformed. People with hammer toe may also develop corns or calluses at the top of the joint from the toe rubbing on poorly fitted shoes.

Wearing ill-fitting or pointy-toed shoes is one of the most common causes of a hammer toe. High heels can also cause the condition, because the heel pushes the front of the foot down, forward, and against the shoe. Over time, the toe muscles grow weaker and are no longer able to straighten the toe.

Certain risk factors increase the likelihood of developing hammer toe. People with unusually long toe bones, a history of toe injuries, and rheumatoid arthritis are more at risk of developing hammer toe.

The type of hammer toe determines treatment options. There are two distinct types:

Flexible hammer toe

In the early stages, the joint is still movable. It is possible to treat flexible hammer toe without surgery, often by simply switching to better shoes.

A person can reduce the symptoms of a flexible hammer toe by avoiding high heels and wearing loose shoes that are at least a half-inch longer than the longest toe.

Toe-strengthening exercises, such as picking items up off the floor with the toes, may also help. Ice packs to reduce pain and swelling can help with pain and inflammation. A doctor may also recommend putting a pad over the joint to prevent it from rubbing against shoes.

Rigid hammer toe

A rigid hammer toe means the joint is no longer movable. Home treatment and better shoes may offer temporary relief from the pain, and a doctor may recommend trying a custom orthotic device before surgery. If that fails, surgery might be the only option.

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Types of hammer toe surgery

surgeons gloves
Surgery for hammer toe may be recommended when there is no other underlying condition.

Hammer toe surgery can be highly effective in people for whom the primary or only issue is hammer toe.

But when an underlying condition such as rheumatoid arthritis causes a hammer toe, doctors may recommend treating that condition first.

Surgical options for hammer toe include:

Tendon transfer

A tendon transfer pulls the toe into the correct position and often works well for a flexible hammer toe.

Tendons attach muscle to bone. During a tendon transfer, the surgeon pulls a tendon near the hammer toe across the top of the joint. This pulls the toe into a straighter position, compensating for muscle weaknesses and improving the toe’s appearance. It should also reduce pain.

Joint resection

Joint resection can help with a fixed hammer toe. For this surgery, a doctor cuts ligaments and tendons to help straighten the toe and may also remove a portion of the bone.

To keep the toe in place, the surgeon may insert temporary pins. These pins can be removed a few weeks after the surgery.


A fusion procedure can reduce the severity of a fixed hammer toe. In this procedure, the surgeon removes portions of the joint to allow bones to grow together. This straightens the toe and can help reduce pain.

A surgeon will cut tendons and ligaments, as well as the ends of the bones. Then, the surgeon will use pins to help keep the joint in place. The pins remain in place to allow the bones to grow together and are removed after the joint has fused.


In rare cases where a person experiences severe pain from a hammer toe and no other treatment works, a podiatrist or orthopedic surgeon might recommend removing the toe. This is called amputation.

A 2005 study of 12 older adults who had toes amputated found that the procedure could alleviate pain, and people were typically very satisfied with surgical outcomes.

Removing a toe can change the way a person balances on their foot. It also permanently changes the foot’s appearance and can be riskier and harder to recover from than some other surgeries.

What to expect

signs outside of an outpatient building
Depending on the type of surgery, hammer toe surgery is often performed on an outpatient basis.

Hammer toe surgery is primarily done on an outpatient basis. This means a person may go home the same day the surgery is performed.

Surgery can often be done with a local anesthetic that only numbs the toe, so the person remains awake during the operation. This can shorten recovery time and avoid the rare complications that sometimes accompany general anesthesia.

Hammer toe surgery can also be done under general anesthesia. People should discuss the risks and benefits of each option.

If a person is squeamish, does not want to see the procedure, or has a phobia of knives or needles, they might prefer general anesthesia. People with a history of bad reactions to general anesthesia or who want the shortest possible recovery time might prefer a local anesthetic.

Before surgery, a doctor will likely perform blood work and ask the person about their medical history. Some people will receive intravenous (IV) medication before or during surgery. An IV can be used to administer anesthesia or to provide a drug that helps a person feel relaxed while awake.

Under local anesthetic, a person will not be able to feel the procedure itself, but they may feel pressure or pulling. The surgery should not hurt.

After surgery, a person will typically feel some pain in the toe and must have someone drive them home. Those who choose general anesthesia may not be allowed to eat before surgery.

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Following surgery, most people experience swelling, which can last up to a year. It may be necessary to wear a special shoe or a shoe insert to support the toe following the procedure.

A person will need to avoid putting weight on the foot for several weeks. Elevating the foot can speed up healing and reduce pain.

As the toe heals, walking can be difficult and painful, so a person may need a cane or crutches for a few weeks. They may also be unable to drive for several weeks.

A few weeks after surgery, the doctor will remove any stitches or pins. The incision will probably leave a scar.

Exercises to improve strength in the toe and foot muscles may help the toe heal. These exercises can also prevent hammer toe from coming back.

A person with a history of hammer toe is at risk of developing it again, even after surgery, so it is important to wear comfortable shoes that fit and to follow a doctor’s recommendations for protecting the joint.


Hammer toe can be unsightly and painful, but it does not always require surgery. Home treatment, including changing shoes and toe exercises, often work.

An orthopedic surgeon or podiatrist can help a person correct the problem before surgery becomes necessary, so anyone experiencing symptoms of hammer toe should speak to their doctor before allowing it to get worse.

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Medical News Today: How does oxytocin control the brain’s social reward circuit?

oxytocin definition
Oxytocin, the “love hormone,” is a key factor of our social abilities, but not much is known about the mechanisms in which this hormone is involved. 
Although several studies have pointed to oxytocin, or the “love hormone,” as an important factor in promoting sociability, the mechanisms behind this remain unknown. Researchers from Stanford University have now looked into how oxytocin regulates the social reward mechanism in the brain.

Oxytocin, which is sometimes referred to as the “love hormone,” is a hormone and neuropeptide – or neurotransmitter, carrying information through the central nervous system – involved in sociability and sexual interaction. It also plays a role in facilitating biological processes related to childbirth, and bonding with the newborn baby.

Oxytocin is mainly produced in a brain region called the paraventricular nucleus, which is located in the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is involved in various metabolic processes, including regulating body temperature, determining states of hunger and thirst, and some social behaviors, such as attachment.

Recently, much has been made of oxytocin’s role in promoting social behaviors, especially with a view to harnessing its potential in managing conditions such as autism, which impairs social interaction.

Medical News Today, for instance, have recently covered a study suggesting that the hormone could improve sociability in some children with autism.

Now, a new study conducted by Dr. Robert Malenka and a team of researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine in California now looks at the mechanism behind the social reward system of the brain, pinpointing oxytocin’s role in this process.

“[D]eficits in social behavior [due to brain disorders such as autism] profoundly affect […] quality of life,” Dr. Malenka told MNT, “and thus it is critical to understand the underlying abnormalities in brain function that cause [them].”

He continued, saying, “The findings in this paper suggest that one factor contributing to social behavior deficits may be abnormal modulation of the brain’s reward circuitry by oxytocin.”

A paper detailing the researchers’ findings has been published in the journal Science.

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The brain’s reward mechanism

In the brain, a region called the ventral tegmental area (VTA) communicates with the nucleus accumbens to regulate the system’s reward response, which is a circuit telling us that certain activities – such as eating, drinking, and sex – are pleasurable.

Thus, they “encourage” us to keep performing them. This reward mechanism is, in part, what ensures that we thrive and keep on reproducing.

The nerve cells that make up the VTA secrete dopamine, another neurotransmitter, which regulates the sensation of pleasure. Dopamine released in the brain makes us feel good when we perform activities correlated with survival, but abnormal levels of this neurotransmitter have also been linked to addiction and substance abuse.

Dr. Malenka and team were interested in understanding why dopamine is sometimes released abnormally, causing undesirable effects, and what other factors are implicated in the complex reward response mechanism of the brain.

Oxytocin impacted dopamine neurons

Since the reward circuit of mice is similar to that of humans, the researchers used the rodent model to study the mechanism’s intricacies in more detail.

In a previous study on mice conducted by Dr. Malenka and colleagues, it became apparent that oxytocin plays an important role in determining social reward responses alongside dopamine. However, it remained unclear exactly how oxytocin impacted the functioning of this circuit.

Now, the researchers reveal that the paraventricular nucleus releases oxytocin in the VTA, which is crucial for promoting prosocial behaviors. Conversely, when the release of oxytocin into the VTA is inhibited, social interaction is impaired.

Dr. Malenka and team noted that oxytocin released in the VTA stimulates a group of neurons called “dopamine neurons,” which function via dopamine signaling. Moreover, while inhibiting the release of oxytocin in that region of the brain did impact sociability negatively, it did not stop the animals’ taste for pleasure-inducing drugs such as cocaine.

This is possibly the first study to confirm the existence of this mechanism, showing that oxytocin directly affects dopamine neurons in the VTA.

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Crucial ‘to understand how oxytocin works’

Dr. Malenka told MNT that the study “use[d] a sophisticated collection of methods to provide a brain mechanism that explains why social interactions are often pleasant and rewarding.”

But he also pointed out that the main limitation it faced was the reliance on the mouse model, which may lead to some inaccuracies.

“The limitations,” he explained, “are that the work was done in mice and therefore, of course, we do not know whether the same mechanisms happen in the human brain (although we think it is likely). We also use very simple behavioral assays in the mice and have to make the assumption that the social interactions we studied were ‘rewarding’.”

In the future, added Dr. Malenka, “We need to figure out experiments to do in people that will allow us to test whether the same mechanisms occur in the human brain and contribute to the good feeling we have when we have pleasant social interactions with our friends.”

Research on the mechanisms behind the reward circuit, and the role that oxytocin plays in them, is important – especially given this hormone’s potential to substantially affect social behavior.

[O]xytocin is being tested as a potential therapeutic agent in the treatment of individuals with autism and other brain disorders which exhibit social behavior deficits. It is therefore important to understand how oxytocin works in the brain to mediate its potential therapeutic effects.”

Dr. Robert Malenka

Going forward, he hopes that his team may be able to delve even deeper into the mysteries of the social reward response in the brain.

“We need to learn more about the detailed molecular mechanisms by which oxytocin modulates reward circuitry and dopamine neuron activity,” he concluded.

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Medical News Today: Retrolisthesis: Types, causes, and symptoms

Retrolisthesis is an uncommon joint dysfunction that occurs when a single vertebra in the back slips backward along or underneath a disc.

Retrolisthesis is the opposite of spondylolisthesis, which occurs when a vertebra slips forward. Retrolisthesis occurs in the neck and shoulder area, known as the cervical spine, or the lower back, known as the lumbar spine.

Retrolisthesis occurs less often in the center area of the spine or the thoracic spine, although it is possible.

Types of retrolisthesis

Model of the vertebrae in the spine.
Retrolisthesis affects the vertebra in the spine.

There are three types of retrolisthesis:

  • Complete retrolisthesis occurs when one vertebra moves backward in relation to the one above and below it.

  • Partial retrolisthesis involves one vertebra moving backward toward either the one above or below it.

  • Staircase retrolisthesis happens when one vertebra moves backward from the ones above it and ahead of the ones below it.


Retrolisthesis happens when the space between the vertebrae decreases. Sometimes this happens if the discs between the vertebrae shrink. Scientists are not entirely sure what makes the discs and space between the vertebrae decrease.

However, they suspect the following factors may cause this shrinkage and lead to retrolisthesis:

  • degenerative spinal problems

  • arthritis

  • congenital disabilities

  • injuries to or near the spine

  • weak abdominal muscles and muscles around the spine

  • blood or bone infections

  • osteoporosis

  • nutritional deficiencies

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Symptoms of retrolisthesis vary from person to person and range from mild to severe. Symptoms may include any combination of the following:

  • back pain

  • discomfort in one specific area of the back

  • limited range of motion

  • pain in the area of dislocation

  • sharp pinching pain

  • a bulge in the spine

Symptoms may extend beyond the back. Some people experience numbness or tingling in some of their extremities, including:

  • buttocks

  • thighs

  • arms

  • hips

  • legs

  • shoulders

  • neck


X-ray of vertebrae in the neck affected by Retrolisthesis. <br>Image credit: James Heilman, MD, (2012, March 26.)</br>
An X-ray may be required to diagnose retrolisthesis.
Image credit: James Heilman, MD, (2012, March 26.)

A doctor will start by reviewing a person’s general health and the symptoms the person is experiencing. After the examination, if a doctor suspects retrolisthesis, they may recommend a lateral X-ray. A lateral X-ray is taken when the person is standing up because it is impossible to identify retrolisthesis if the person is lying down.

A doctor will examine the X-ray, likely drawing several lines on it to compare the positions of the vertebrae and measure how far the vertebrae has slipped out of position. Any slippage over 2 millimeters is considered an indication of retrolisthesis.

The X-ray can also outline any other symptoms that may indicate whether a person has retrolisthesis. Some additional signs may include:

  • hardened arteries around the vertebrae

  • shorter disc heights

  • bone spurs

  • gas trapped between vertebrae

Treatment options

Many different techniques and methods are available to treat retrolisthesis, but these depend on the severity of the retrolisthesis and other areas of concern around the site of the slippage.

Nonsurgical methods may include:

  • physical therapy to help increase strength in the back and abdominal muscles

  • targeted spin strengthening exercises

  • massages designed to improve circulation and help with muscle tone

  • applying heat to the area

  • low-level electric currents (microcurrent therapy) that reduce swelling, pain, and inflammation

  • pain medication, such as ibuprofen or aspirin

Doctors do not usually consider surgery as a treatment option. Surgery is usually only performed to treat retrolisthesis as a last resort if the other non-surgical methods are not working.

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Lifestyle remedies for retrolisthesis

Leafy green vegetables, including cabbage, lettuce, spinach, kale, and greens.
Eating a diet rich in vitamins and minerals may help to treat retrolisthesis. Including green leafy vegetables such as spinach is recommended.

A person with retrolisthesis should talk to their doctor about ways to improve their nutritional intake. Eating nutrient-rich foods can help the body heal naturally over time and promote bone and joint health. Some nutrients and foods to include in a diet include:

  • vitamin A, found in spinach and carrots

  • vitamin C, found in lemons and oranges

  • vitamin D, found in milk, fortified cereals, and bread

  • calcium, found in dairy products and green, leafy vegetables

  • copper, found in peanut butter, nuts, and leafy vegetables

  • zinc, found in nuts and pork

  • proteins, found in nuts, meats, fish, and poultry

In conjunction with dietary changes, a person could consider an exercise routine that may help with recovery. Exercising will improve a person’s flexibility, mobility, and strength and help reduce pain from the slipped disc. Some common exercises that may help include:

  • walking

  • pilates

  • yoga

  • crunches performed on an exercise ball

  • hip exercises

  • back exercises

Diet and exercise have an additional benefit. For people who are overweight or heavier, both exercise and diet can help reduce excess weight. The reduced weight will help alleviate some of the pain as there is less strain put on the back and neck.

Can it be prevented?

Retrolisthesis is not always preventable. For example, a person may experience an injury that causes the back to slip out of alignment. For others, retrolisthesis may be caused by genetic factors.

For most people, following some of these basic tips can help prevent retrolisthesis:

  • maintaining good posture while sitting and standing

  • participating in yoga, pilates, or other core strengthening classes and routines

  • avoiding straining the back with excessive weight

  • stopping smoking, as it can lead to joint damage

  • strengthening the lower core muscles through regular exercise

  • eating a balanced diet


People can prevent retrolisthesis from occurring by taking proper care of their back with regular exercise, a balanced diet, and avoiding activities that may cause injuries.

People diagnosed with retrolisthesis often make a full recovery after following the treatment plan put in place by their doctor. Sometimes, surgery may be required to help the person heal.

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Medical News Today: Head cold: Symptoms and home remedies

A head cold or common cold is a viral infection of the nose and throat. It is usually a mild illness, but its symptoms can have a significant impact on everyday activities.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average adult experiences two to three colds every year, and children may experience more.

This article looks at the symptoms of a head cold as well as a range of home remedies available to help manage its symptoms.

What is a head cold?

sick lady in bed blowing her nose
A head cold may resemble other similar conditions but differs due to the location of the symptoms.

Head colds can closely resemble other conditions, including chest colds and sinus infections. However, there are some significant differences.

A head cold occurs when a viral infection causes symptoms primarily in the head, such as a stuffy nose or a headache. It differs from a chest cold because of the location of the symptoms. Chest colds cause symptoms including chest congestion and coughing.

Sinus infections share many of the same symptoms as head colds, but their causes are usually different. Sinus infections are mostly caused by bacterial infections, although sometimes a sinus infection can be caused by a virus.


Several types of viruses can cause a head cold, including:

Head colds are transmitted when an infected person sneezes or coughs, projecting droplets infected with the virus into the air or onto people around them.

It is possible to catch a head cold by coming into contact with surfaces or things that someone with the virus previously touched. The virus can enter the body through a person’s eyes, mouth, or nose.

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Risk factors

Although anyone can get a head cold, and most people will experience many colds in their lifetime, some factors increase the risk of getting sick. These include:

  • having a weakened immune system

  • being under the age of 6

  • smoking

  • the season, as colds are more common in fall and winter

  • exposure to other people with head colds, particularly schoolchildren


Symptoms of a head cold begin to appear within 3 days of exposure to rhinovirus or another cold-causing virus. These signs and symptoms vary between individuals and include:

sick in bed with a sore thoat
Symptoms of a head cold may include a runny nose, sneezing, and a sore throat.

  • malaise, or a general feeling of being unwell

  • sore throat

  • cough

  • runny nose

  • stuffy nose

  • sneezing

  • congestion

  • body aches

  • headache

  • low-grade fever

  • fatigue

Most people recover from a head cold in 7-10 days, but symptoms may last longer in some cases.


Most people will recover from a head cold without experiencing any complications. When complications do arise, they include:

  • Asthma attack: In those with asthma, a cold may trigger an asthma attack.

  • Acute sinusitis: A head cold that does not resolve can eventually contribute to inflammation and infection of the sinuses, a condition known as sinusitis.

  • Ear infection (otitis media): If the virus gets into the area behind the eardrum, it can lead to earaches and a green or yellow discharge from the nose.

  • Other infections: Some people, especially children and individuals with weakened immune systems, can develop secondary infections following a head cold. Typical secondary infections associated with a head cold include strep throat, pneumonia, and croup, which a doctor must treat.

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Home remedies for a head cold

As a head cold is caused by a viral infection, antibiotics are not an effective treatment. Instead, treatment aims to manage the symptoms and reduce discomfort.

Some common home remedies for a head cold include:

  • Rest: Resting helps the body heal. Staying home from work or school also reduces the risk of transmitting the virus to others.

  • Hydration: Staying hydrated helps loosen congestion in the nose and sinuses while soothing the throat. Water and diluted juice are good options to stay hydrated. Warm liquids, such as teas, broths, and soups, may be especially beneficial. A person should avoid caffeine and alcohol until fully recovered.

  • Saltwater gargle: To soothe a sore throat, a person can mix a 1/2 teaspoon of salt with 8 ounces of warm water and use as a gargle.

  • Pain relievers: A headache, sore throat, and fever may be relieved with over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Always follow the instructions on the packet, especially if giving medications to children.

  • Vaporizers or humidifiers: These devices help add moisture to the air, which may ease coughing and congestion. Using a vaporizer or humidifier at night might encourage a good night’s sleep. Vaporizers and humidifiers should be cleaned daily to discourage the growth of microbes and mold.

  • Nasal sprays: Saline nasal sprays can loosen mucus in the nose and are suitable for use by both children and adults. Adults may use decongestant nasal sprays for 3 to 5 days. However, people should avoid prolonged use of decongestant sprays.

  • Supplements: Many people take supplements to prevent or treat a head cold. The most popular supplements used include vitamin C, Echinacea, and zinc. However, there is limited evidence on whether taking supplements reduces symptoms.


Man sneezing into a tissue
Sneezing and coughing into tissues may help to prevent the spread of germs.

It is not possible to vaccinate against a head cold, but the following steps may help reduce the risk of getting a cold virus:

  • Avoid contact with infected people. Maintain a distance with anyone who has a head cold to reduce the risk of catching the virus.

  • Wash hands regularly. Thoroughly cleaning the hands with soap and hot water reduces transmission of the virus. An alcohol-based hand sanitizer is also effective.

  • Avoid sharing items. To prevent exposure to cold germs, try not to share cups or utensils with others.

  • Use disinfectant when family members are sick. Kitchen countertops and bathroom fittings should be cleaned with disinfectant when a family member is sick. Also, it is important to clean children’s toys regularly.

  • Sneeze or cough into tissues. Using tissues prevents germs spreading through the air. Throw away used tissues immediately and always wash hands after sneezing and coughing.

  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Eating a balanced diet, engaging in regular physical activity, reducing stress, and getting an adequate amount of sleep can help the immune system fight off an illness.

  • Teach children good hygiene practices. Ask children to sneeze or cough into a tissue, or the bend of their elbow, so they cover their mouths without using their hands. Encourage children to wash their hands thoroughly on a regular basis.

When to see a doctor

Adults should consult their doctor if they experience any of the following symptoms:

  • shortness of breath

  • wheezing

  • a severe headache, sore throat, cough, or sinus pain

  • fever that persists beyond 5 days

Children should receive urgent medical treatment if they have:

  • wheezing

  • a severe headache, sore throat, cough, or sinus pain

  • symptoms that do not improve or get worse

  • earache

  • drowsiness

  • loss of appetite

  • fever of 100.4°F in infants under 12 weeks

  • fever for more than 2 days in children of any age

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Although there is no cure for a head cold, there are several home remedies that can help manage symptoms and reduce discomfort. To avoid getting a cold, a person can take steps to limit exposure to cold-causing viruses.

People with a head cold can expect to recover within 7-10 days. Individuals who experience severe or persistent head cold symptoms should see their doctor.

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

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

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

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

Yeast infections and birth control

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

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

Hormonal birth control

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

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

Barrier birth control

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

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

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

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Other risk factors for yeast infections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Symptoms of a yeast infection

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

Symptoms can include:

  • vaginal itching and discomfort

  • white vaginal discharge similar in consistency to cottage cheese

  • burning around the vaginal opening

  • pain or dryness during sex

  • redness or swelling of the external vagina and vulva

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

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

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

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

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

When to see a doctor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Preventing yeast infections

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

  • wearing cotton underwear

  • wearing loose-fitting pants, shorts, or skirts

  • avoiding tight underwear or pantyhose

  • keeping the vaginal area clean and dry

  • changing out of wet workout clothing or swimsuits immediately

  • avoiding hot tubs

  • avoiding unnecessary antibiotics

  • limiting sugar

  • using natural soaps and laundry detergents

  • avoiding regular use of panty liners unless necessary

  • always wiping from front to back after using the bathroom

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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PRMT5 and gene splicing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Halting glioblastoma growth in mice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is the A blood type?

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

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

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Eating for your blood type

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

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

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

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

Foods recommended by the diet

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

Animal proteins

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

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

  • carp

  • cod

  • grouper

  • mackerel

  • monkfish

  • pickerel

  • red snapper

  • rainbow trout

  • salmon

  • sardine

  • sea trout

  • silver or yellow perch

  • snail

  • whitefish

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


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

  • yogurt

  • kefir

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

  • cheese

  • goat milk

Nuts and fats

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

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


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

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

  • adzuki beans

  • back and green beans

  • pinto beans

  • red soy

  • black-eyed peas

  • lentils


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

  • amaranth

  • buckwheat

Allowable breads and grains include:

  • essene, Ezekiel, soya flour, and sprouted wheat

  • rice cakes

  • oat, rice, and rye flour

  • soba noodles

  • artichoke pasta


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

  • garlic

  • onions

  • broccoli

  • carrots

  • collard greens

  • kale

  • pumpkin

  • spinach

  • artichoke

  • chicory

  • greens, such as dandelion and Swiss chard

  • horseradish

  • leek

  • romaine

  • okra

  • parsley

  • alfalfa sprouts

  • tempeh

  • tofu

  • turnip

The exceptions to the vegetable rule are listed below.


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

  • plums

  • prunes

  • figs

  • grapefruit

  • lemon

  • pineapples

  • cherries

  • apricots

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

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

Spices and condiments

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

  • tamari

  • miso

  • soy sauce

  • garlic

  • ginger

  • blackstrap molasses


Beverages that the diet allows include:

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Foods that the diet avoids

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

Animal proteins

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

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

  • beef

  • pork

  • lamb

  • veal

  • venison

  • duck and goose

  • anchovy

  • barracuda

  • beluga

  • bluefish

  • bluegill bass

  • catfish

  • caviar

  • clam

  • conch

  • crab

  • crayfish

  • eel

  • flounder

  • frog

  • gray sole

  • haddock

  • hake

  • halibut

  • herring

  • lobster

  • lox

  • mussels

  • octopus

  • oysters

  • scallop

  • shad

  • shrimp

  • squid

  • striped bass

  • tilefish

  • turtle


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

Nuts and fats

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

  • Brazil nuts

  • cashews

  • pistachios

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


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

  • copper

  • garbanzo

  • kidney

  • lima

  • navy

  • red

  • tamarind


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

  • cream of wheat

  • familia

  • farina

  • granola

  • grape nuts

  • wheat germ

  • seven grain

  • shredded wheat

  • wheat bran

  • durum wheat

Breads that the diet avoids include:

  • English muffins

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

  • matzos

  • pumpernickel

  • wheat bran muffins

  • white and wholewheat flour

  • pastas, including semolina and spinach


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

  • peppers

  • olives

  • potatoes

  • sweet potatoes

  • yams

  • cabbages

  • tomatoes

  • lima beans

  • eggplant

  • mushrooms


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

  • melons, such as cantaloupe and honeydew

  • oranges

  • tangerines

  • strawberries and blackberries

  • rhubarb

  • mango

  • papaya

  • bananas

  • coconut

Spices and condiments

Spices and condiments to be avoided include:

  • vinegar

  • peppers, including black, cayenne, and white

  • capers

  • plain gelatin

  • wintergreen

  • ketchup

  • mayonnaise

  • pickles

  • relish

  • Worcestershire sauce


Beverages the diet avoids include:

  • beer

  • black tea

  • distilled liquor

  • seltzer water

  • soda


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Possible causes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Less common causes of itchy gums include:

  • teething in younger children

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

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

  • tooth abscesses

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

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

Options for treatment and relief

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

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

  • brushing teeth, flossing, and using an antibacterial mouthwash

  • rinsing the mouth with a saltwater solution

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

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

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When to see a doctor or dentist

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dementia is a collection of diseases

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Smell test

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

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

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

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

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

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

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‘Important early sign’ of dementia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prof. Jayant M. Pinto

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Medical News Today: Cumin: Six health benefits

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

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

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

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

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

Six possible health benefits

1. Weight loss

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

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

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

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

2. Cholesterol

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

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

3. Diabetes

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

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

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

4. Irritable bowel syndrome

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

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

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

5. Stress

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

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

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

6. Memory loss

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

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Nutrition facts

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

  • 8 kilocalories

  • 0.37 g of protein

  • 0.47 g of fat

  • 0.93 g of carbohydrate

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

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

Possible risks and side effects

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ways to incorporate cumin into your diet

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

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

See below for links to tasty recipes that contain cumin:


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

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

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

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

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