Below are recent headlines in Children’s and Women’s Health news.
#1. Are Ear Tubes Safe for Kids . . . ?
Infants and young children who undergo surgery to insert ventilation tubes in their ears, as a treatment for chronic ear infections, have hearing levels comparable to normal children 14 years later. But children with more serious ear disease may require repeat procedures or other ear surgery, according to two studies reported in the journal Archives of Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery.
Ear infections, both with and without accumulated fluid, bring young children into doctors’ offices more than any other childhood disease, according to the researchers. Recurrent ear infections and ear infections with accumulated fluid are the main reason for the insertion of ventilation tubes in the ear. In fact, this minor surgery to drain the ear and insert tubes is the most common surgical procedure among young children in the U.S.
Instant improvement of hearing is one of the benefits of the surgery and, the authors suggest, that it may be associated with long-term reduction in the risk of hearing-related language, educational and developmental problems.
Researchers studied the results of follow-up checkups 14 years after surgery for 237 children who had tubes inserted to treat ear infections at the age of 5 to 16 months. The children also had participated in an earlier follow-up visit five years after the surgery. In addition to having their hearing checked, the children were assessed for whether the ear had healed, whether there was a history of repeat procedures and whether they had required more extensive ear surgery.
At the 14-year follow-up, 74.7 percent of the children’s ears had healed, up from 65.8 percent at the five-year checkup. The number of abnormal outcomes decreased from 34.2 percent at five years to 25.3 percent at 14 years. Abnormal outcomes were more common when the child had an ear infection with accumulated fluid or had required three or more tube insertions.
The authors conclude that ear-tube insertion early in life, and repeated if necessary, is a safe and useful treatment method. Parents just need to keep in mind the need for long-term follow-up to make sure the tube-insertion site has properly healed.
#2. Treating “Lazy Eye” . . .
Many children ages 7 to 17 with amblyopia (reduced vision in an eye that has not received adequate use) may benefit from treatments more commonly used on younger children, according to new research from a nationwide clinical trial. Such treatments, for what is commonly referred to as “lazy eye,” improved the vision of many of the 507 older kids studied at 49 centers, including the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry.
Previously, eye-care professionals generally thought that treating amblyopia in older children would be of little benefit. “This study shows how important it is to screen children of all ages for amblyopia,” says Katherine Weise, O.D., associate professor of optometry at UAB. “The study also shows that age alone should not be used as a factor to decide whether to treat a child who has this condition.”
According to the organization Prevent Blindness America (www.preventblindness. org), glasses are commonly prescribed to improve focusing or misalignment problems associated with amblyopia. Surgery may be performed on the eye muscles to straighten the eyes if non-surgical treatments are unsuccessful. Surgery can help by allowing the eyes to work together better. Eye exercises may be recommended either before or after surgery.
After treating the underlying cause, patching or covering one eye may be required for a period ranging from a few weeks to as long as a year. The better-seeing eye is patched, forcing the “lazy” one to work, thereby strengthening its vision.
#3. Stress Isn’t All Bad . . .
Stress often gets a bad rap. It’s true that sustained stress is harmful to your health. It can contribute to insomnia, depression, anxiety, obesity, heart disease, depression and other problems.
But that’s only half the story, according to a recent report in the Mayo Clinic Women’s HealthSource newsletter. Momentary (acute) stress may actually boost your immune system, promote longevity and help you meet life’s challenges.
After all, life without any stress would be, well, boring. Manageable levels of stress make a challenging task exciting and increase your potential productivity. Since stress itself isn’t necessarily good or bad, the positive or negative effects of stress depend on the amount of stress you are able to tolerate.
One way to prevent stress overload is to choose positive and meaningful activities over those that saddle you with an unnecessary emotional load. For unavoidable stressors, such as trauma or loss, you can learn constructive ways to deal with them by focusing on those factors you can control. This may include taking care of yourself through diet and exercise, maintaining a positive approach and seeking help when you need it.
#4. Excessive Weight Gain In Baby’s First Week Can Affect Adult Weight . . .
Infants who gain weight rapidly during their very first week of life may be more likely to be overweight as young adults, according to a new study. Th e research suggests that the first week may be a critical period for setting lifelong patterns of body weight.
Researchers from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Iowa studied 653 Caucasian adults, ages 20 to 32. The subjects had been measured as newborns while participating in infant-formula studies in Iowa. Those who had gained weight more rapidly during their first week of life were significantly more likely to be overweight decades later.
“It suggests that there may be a critical period in that first week during which the body’s physiology may be programmed to develop chronic disease throughout life,” says lead author Nicolas Stettler, M.D., a pediatric nutrition specialist at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
“If these results are confirmed by other studies, they may lead to interventions in newborns to help prevent long-term development of obesity,” Stettler adds. Normal weight gain is desirable for infants, he notes. “Babies double their birth weight during the first four to six months. During the first week of life, however, a too-rapid gain in weight may increase the risk of future weight problems.”
Given that participants in the current study all received infant formula, Stettler says, it may be relevant that exclusive breastfeeding during early infancy is known to be associated with a slower rate of weight gain, and possibly with a lower risk of overweight in childhood and adolescence. “For a variety of health reasons, the American Association of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding during a baby’s first six months of life,” says Stettler.
#5. A Minty-Fresh Morning Commute?
The scent of peppermint or cinnamon in your car might make you more alert— and might even put you in a better mood—when you’re driving a carpool or heading off to work, according to a recent study led by Bryan Raudenbush, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling, West Virginia.
In the study, drivers showed a reduction in frustration, anxiety and fatigue when exposed to peppermint and cinnamon scents. They also were more alert. “Given these results, it is reasonable to expect that the presentation of peppermint or cinnamon odor while driving may produce a more alert and conscientious driver, and minimize the fatigue associated with prolonged driving,” Raudenbush says.
I’ve never been crazy about those scented cardboard air fresheners that dangle from the rear-view mirror. Guess I’ll just have to carry a box of Th in Mints when I hit the road. Anything to promote better driving, right?
#6. Babies Use Their Own Names to Help Learn Language . . .
Your baby’s understanding of language may begin with her own name, according to new research by Texas A & M University psychologist Heather Bortfeld and colleagues.
Just as someone might have difficulty understanding a foreign language because it’s tough to tell where one word ends and another begins, babies face a similar challenge in learning language. The research shows babies can begin to identify the beginnings and endings of words that follow their names. They use their names as a sort of “anchor,” according to the study, which recently appeared in the journal Psychological Science. A baby as young as six months old can learn to recognize a word that follows his name, even after hearing both words as part of whole sentences, Bortfeld explains.
The researchers tested babies by having them listen to sentences containing the pairing of one target word with the baby’s name, such as “Emma’s cup is here.” The babies also listened to a different name paired with another word, such as “Autumn’s bike is here.” After the babies were exposed to the sentences, they were only allowed to hear the target word “cup” or “bike.” The babies preferred listening to the word that had followed their own names as opposed to the ones that had not.
“Babies appear to use highly familiar words—their names for example—to anchor their early learning of other word forms, and if their name is the first word they recognize, then we’re tapping into the process at the earliest stage possible,” Bortfeld says.
#7. New Treatments for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome . . .
For one in ten women of childbearing age, the diagnosis of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) can mean a lifetime of health problems ranging from menstrual irregularity, infertility and acne to unwanted hair growth, obesity, cardiovascular disease and an increased risk of certain cancers. But research on several new treatments is beginning to confirm that women with PCOS can live healthier lives—and even achieve healthy pregnancies.
Researchers believe they have identified an insulin imbalance in the bloodstream of many women with PCOS that causes the overproduction of male hormones such as testosterone. This imbalance may be the actual trigger for the many symptoms associated with PCOS. This finding has led to new drug therapies, high-tech infertility treatments and even some common-sense health strategies.
“We know that normal ovulation requires the perfect synchronization of hormones in the body,” explains Mark P. Leondires, M.D., medical director for Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut in Norwalk. Leondires specializes in reproductive endocrinology and infertility. “PCOS causes shifts in hormone levels, rendering normal ovulation unlikely,” he adds. The lack of ovulation is largely to blame for the infertility aspect of PCOS, while the hormone imbalance is responsible for symptoms such as unwanted hair growth and acne.
A recent study published in the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics notes that Metformin, a medication originally designed to help control diabetes, has been found to be a promising treatment for PCOS. In a small study conducted by the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, India, researchers reported that 28 percent of the 41 women treated with Metformin achieved pregnancy within 6 months. These women also showed an 80.5 percent improvement in menstrual regularity and a 66 percent improvement in ovulation rate. In addition, their HDL (good) cholesterol increased, along with a decrease in total cholesterol.
Another successful approach focuses on using diet and exercise to achieve a healthy weight, which doctors believe helps to regulate insulin levels and prevent the cardiovascular problems sometimes associated with PCOS. “Th ere is clinical evidence, too, that excess body fat can be correlated with hormonal imbalances and ovarian malfunction, two key symptoms of PCOS,” Leondires notes. “What’s more, good health is the best way to increase the chances of a healthy pregnancy, no matter how that pregnancy is achieved.”
“Th e difficulty with PCOS is that it is a syndrome encompassing a wide range of symptoms and problems, many of which mimic other diseases and disorders,” Leondires says. He advises women who suspect they may have PCOS, and who wish to become pregnant, to consult a reproductive endocrine specialist.
#8. Periodontal Disease Linked to Preeclampsia . . .
Periodontal disease plays a possible role in the development of preeclampsia, a potentially deadly condition that affects about 5 percent of pregnancies in the U.S., according to a new study reported in the Journal of Periodontology.
Periodontal disease is a chronic inflammatory condition caused by the body’s response to bacterial gum infections. It can destroy the gum tissue and supporting bone that hold the teeth in the mouth. The main cause of this disease is bacterial plaque, a sticky, colorless film that constantly forms on the teeth.
Researchers performed periodontal examinations on pregnant women with and without preeclampsia. The examination was performed up to 48 hours before delivery by collecting samples of a fluid in the mouth that contains enzymes and pieces of tissue that have been linked to periodontal disease.
Researchers found that the levels of a type of protein, known as cytokines, in the women with preeclampsia were nearly three times greater than those in the healthy group. “Circulating proteins known as cytokines have previously been associated with the cause of preeclampsia,” says Vincent J. Iacono, DMD, president of The American Academy of Periodontology. “Nevertheless, this is the first time that cytokines related to periodontal disease have been implicated. This finding may pave the way for screening and treating periodontal disease as a preventive method to reduce the occurrence of preeclampsia.”
Prevention includes daily brushing and flossing, along with professional cleanings at least twice a year to remove calculus from places the toothbrush and floss may have missed. Since there are often no symptoms of the disease in its early stages, a periodontal evaluation by your dentist or periodontist is the best way to know if you have periodontal disease.#