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Am Fam Physician. 1999;60(7):1905-1906

Deaths caused by the acquired immunodeficiency virus syndrome (AIDS) have decreased by 50 percent since 1996, reports USA Today. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that 49,351 persons died of AIDS in 1995 alone. This number drastically decreased to only 17,047 AIDS fatalities by 1998.

Patients with diabetes may be dangerous drivers. In a survey reported in JAMA, diabetic patients admitted to driving a vehicle while their blood glucose level was low. Respondents indicated that they would not hesitate to drive in almost 50 percent of cases where low blood glucose levels could cause them to lose coordination or black out, notes Time magazine. Diabetic patients should be reminded not to drive if their blood glucose drops below 65 mg per dL.

Do drugs drive patients to the dentist? They can, according to General Hospital Psychiatry. A recent report indicates that certain types of antidepressants can cause gum infections and cavities by inhibiting the production of saliva. Recommended precautions to combat this dental disaster include chewing sugarless gum, using a floride rinse or switching to a different antidepressant that is less likely to cause dry mouth, notes VIM & VIGOR, the Family Health Magazine of the Jewish Home and Hospital.

Fever? Nausea? Too much television, maybe? These are questions that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has concluded physicians should routinely be asking parents. According to the AAP, entertainment from television and video games can contribute to children being overweight, more violent and even more sexually active. The AAP recommends that children's bedrooms remain free of electronic equipment and that children under the age of two not be allowed to watch television at all, reports Time magazine.

According to Internal Medicine News, researchers are going to greater depths to find asthma treatments. A recent study from Israel found that daily doses of algae powder containing beta carotene improved expiratory volume during exercise in 38 patients with asthma. The algae powder also improved pulmonary function among many of the patients taking the supplements.

The risk of obesity-related death is greatest in young adults, reports Internal Medicine News. A recent study of 6,193 obese patients revealed that obesity-related risk declines steadily with age. The risk of mortality in obese men 18 to 29 years of age is 2.46 times higher than that in adults of normal weight, but is only 1.31 times higher in obese men 50 to 74 years of age. Obese women 18 to 29 years of age have a 1.81 times greater risk than that in average-weight women, while obese women 50 to 74 years of age have only a 1.26 times greater risk.

Family Practice News reports that a new tick-borne illness has emerged in the southern United States. The illness closely resembles early Lyme disease but does not appear to have any long-term sequelae. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the new disease is likely transmitted by the Lone Star tick (Amblyomma americanum), and the presenting symptom of the illness appears to be an erythema migrans–like rash. Hopefully scientists will come up with an easier name for the disease—it's currently known as “Southern tick–associated erythema migrans–like illness.” Whew.

Who is paying the price for violence? U.S. taxpayers pick up almost half of the yearly check for treatment of gunshot wounds, at a cost of over $1 billion. The New York Times reports that the total medical cost of such wounds is $2.3 billion per year, and 48 percent of the tab is covered by Medicaid, Medicare, workers' compensation and other government programs. According to JAMA, only about 18 percent of the cost for medical treatment is paid by private medical insurance. The average cost for emergency care of a gunshot wound that sends a victim to the hospital is $14,600, and the lifetime medical costs associated with such a wound top $35,000.

Having trouble helping patients stick with nicotine gum? According to a report in Internal Medicine, three things can help boost patients' success with nicotine gum. By advising patients to chew slowly, to avoid beverages while chewing and to chew a minimum of eight pieces a day, doctors can help patients use the gum more effectively and increase their chances of quitting. The report stated that while nicotine replacement therapy was successful in 30 percent of smoking clinic patients, the success rate for primary care clinic patients was only 10 percent. Lack of counseling was cited as the main cause of failure in primary care patients.

Are patients being protected against the flu? Less than 50 percent of office-based medical clinics offer flu vaccine programs, reports Office Nurse. A recent survey revealed that while 94 percent of health care professionals offer the vaccination to elderly patients in the high-risk category, only 22 percent even know that healthy pregnant women in the second or third trimester should be vaccinated. The reason for the shortage of offered vaccines is attributed to lack of knowledge about both who is at risk and about how to develop a flu vaccination program.

Have a few fries with that ketchup? Stomach, lung and prostate cancer risks can be reduced through the consumption of tomatoes and tomato-based products, according to 57 studies 35 of which were reported as statistically significant in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. The antioxidant lycopene is credited with the reduction, and it is also present in other foods such as watermelons and apricots. The study findings suggest that cancer risk can be reduced by up to 40 percent by a tomato-rich diet, reports Internal Medicine News.

Comfort for patients undergoing chemotherapy could arrive soon. According to the Wall Street Journal, scientists at the University of Illinois at Chicago have found that an experimental drug, called pifithrin-alpha, protects laboratory animals against the toxic side effects of both radiation and chemotherapy. The drug blocks the activity of the p53 gene, which regulates cell life cycles. By blocking this gene, doctors might soon be able to alleviate side effects such as diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, loss of appetite, intestinal and bladder damage, hair loss and anemia in patients receiving cancer treatment.

Hand your patients a new weapon against nicotine cravings. Preventive Medicine notes that self hand and ear massage can reduce and possibly eliminate nicotine cravings. A study of nicotine addiction that included 20 persons, showed that the technique reduced the mean daily cigarette consumption from 16 cigarettes to one cigarette. The technique, coupled with other treatments, could possibly increase the success rates of those attempting to stop smoking. The technique is fairly simple, involving circular motions and pressure applied to each finger and the pulse point between the index finger and the pinky, says Prevention magazine.

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