Am Fam Physician. 1999 Mar 15;59(6):1379-1380.
▪ Most contact lens wearers have occasionally lost a lens, but it usually either turns up right away or is gone forever. However, one lost lens had a different twist of fate. Six years after one woman lost her contact lens, an ophthalmologist found it intact and uninfected, hidden underneath her eyelid. After losing the rigid gaspermeable lens, she had worn soft contacts and had regular check-ups. The periodic inflammation she experienced was blamed on a cyst. When the “cyst” wouldn't go away, she visited an ophthalmologist who extracted the long-lost lens. The patient fully recovered, reports British Medical Journal.
▪ What is getting more and more dangerous to do in the city? Bike riding, according to The Wall Street Journal. The number of fatalities related to bike riding has risen almost 30 percent in the past five years, from 291 deaths per year to 373 deaths per year, reports the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The number of accidents, from very minor to near-fatal, also increased more than 10 percent. Bicyclists are harassed more than ever by drivers who tailgate them, threaten them, attempt to sideswipe them or even throw things at them.
▪ Physical education in schools is getting a ‘90s-style facelift. Instead of playing kickball and dodge ball, students are power walking and stair climbing their way to better health. Teachers are attempting to instill in their students a lifelong appreciation for exercise through non-aggressive games that build dexterity and agility—just the sort of activities commonly seen in upscale fitness clubs. The emphasis isn't on competition, reports U.S. News & World Report, but rather on meeting individual objectives and building habits for a healthy lifestyle.
▪ You've got to hand it to a Massachusetts company for developing a new way of testing for carpal tunnel syndrome. Currently available tests are expensive, and often painful. The new test uses a Mylar wristband with sensors to track the speed of an electrical impulse as it travels along nerves. The test is painless, according to Newsweek.
▪ Do online support groups really help? A total of 250 members of the Sapient Health Network Breast Cancer Community were surveyed about the value of this online site. Sixty-six percent of those surveyed reported that they share the information they find on the Web site with their doctors. Of those doctors, 77 percent responded positively and 7 percent even changed their patient's treatment based on information from the Web site. Seventy percent state that they use the Web site for medical information and 20 percent go to the Web site for support from other survivors.
▪ Hispanic, foreign-born persons between the ages of 18 and 24 years are the group most likely to be without health insurance, according to Census Bureau figures. In 1997, 12 percent of non-Hispanic whites lacked health insurance coverage, while 34.2 percent of Hispanics were uninsured. Among young adults, 30.1 percent of those 18 to 24 years of age were uninsured and 15 percent of those under 18 years were without health insurance, says Medicine & Health. The Census Bureau estimates that 43.4 million Americans had no health insurance in 1997, representing an increase of about 1.7 million over 1996.
▪ Tooting your horn may be a cause of transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), according to a case report in Neurology. In the report, a teenage musician noticed tingling in his face during periods of intense trumpet playing. After an episode paralyzed one side of his body for several hours, he sought medical attention. Although he had no family history of cerebrovascular disease and no risk factors, neurologists diagnosed TIAs which they attributed to an opening found between the two atria of his heart. Increased pressure in the thorax occurring during horn playing allows air bubbles to pass into the bloodstream and cross the opening of the patent foramen. From there, air bubbles can move with the flow of blood to the brain, blocking blood vessels and causing TIAs. An operation to close the congenital defect was the answer to the problem in this case.
▪ Can patients write their way to easier breathing? A study conducted at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, described in Internal Medicine News, examined the therapeutic value of writing in a group of 45 adults with chronic asthma and 37 adults with rheumatoid arthritis. The participants were asked to spend 20 minutes on three successive days writing about either a traumatic experience or something neutral. The patients were rated by physicians at two, eight and 16 weeks after the exercise. Among the patients with asthma, pulmonary function tests showed a significant clinical improvement of 25 percent at all measurement times. For the patients with arthritis, a clinically significant improvement in symptoms was seen at eight and 16 weeks.
▪ Does the Internet make people unhappy? In the first study of the social and psychologic effects of Internet use at home, conducted by Carnegie Mellon University, researchers found that people who spend even a few hours per week online have higher levels of depression and loneliness than people who use the Internet less frequently. People who were already unhappy and lonely at the beginning of the two-year study were not drawn to the Internet; instead, Internet usage actually seemed to cause a decline in psychologic well-being, reports The Brain in the News. The study raises unsettling questions about “virtual” communication and the intangible relationships formed in cyberspace.
▪ Having a problem with “no-see-ums” or sand flies? Some Florida school children had a break from the biting insects last summer. The sand flies track their prey through the carbon dioxide released by breathing. A University of Florida entomologist has come up with a solution. A fence fitted with traps that release carbon dioxide and octenol can be placed around a school yard. The sand flies will mistake the chemicals for the breath of water buffaloes and become stuck in mineral oil that lines mesh panels covering the vents. In a one-day test, 200,000 sand flies were caught in one trap, reports Business Week.
▪ Women who bottle up their anger may be more likely than other women to have a heart attack by age 60, according to a report in Psychosomatic Medicine. In a 10-year follow-up study, 200 women who were enrolled in their 40s were followed until five years after menopause. The study showed that women who conceal their anger or who are concerned about their public appearance may have rising heart rates, levels of stress hormones and blood pressure, which have all been linked to thickening of the carotid arteries. Researchers recommend anger management for women who suppress their emotions.
▪ Telecommuting has become the work environment of the future. For many employers, this raises new legal concerns regarding liability. You and the Law offers the following tips for employers who wish to avoid future legal hassles: Establish a recordkeeping system to track when telecommuters work; establish procedures to report accidents immediately, so that accidents can be investigated within 48 hours; set reasonable goals and quotas; state clearly that all work belongs to the employer in any statements, agreements or contracts; and don't let employees take home original documents that are needed by government agencies.
Copyright © 1999 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
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