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Am Fam Physician. 2001;63(1):28

Your joint pain may not be in your head but, rather, in your protein. Researchers at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine discovered that before x-rays reveal joint damage, a naturally occurring protein known as COMP greatly increases in the blood of people with hip or knee osteoarthritis. This discovery could lead to ways to screen for osteoarthritis and treat it earlier.

Gender could be the key to prescribing an effective antidepressant. Researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University compared 635 men and women with chronic depression to see how they responded to two major classes of antidepressants. Women were more likely to respond to a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. Men responded more often to a tricyclic. However, postmenopausal women responded almost identically to either class of antidepressants.

As if bladder problems aren't complicated enough, the current method of removing the organ is also complex. A new method described in the Journal of Urology simplifies the traditional procedure. The new method—“simple” cystectomy—uses specific incisions and take paths to the bladder that spare the adjacent organs. Many patients are too sick to have the whole bladder removed using the traditional, “radical” method. The new procedure involves lower surgical stress and fewer complications.

Choosing a treatment option for prostate cancer can be painful. A study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute showed that surgery and external beam radiation therapy have their downsides. Removal of the prostate gland leads to a 10 percent increase in urinary incontinence and almost twice as many cases of impotence as radiation therapy. However, radiation therapy often causes bowel problems. Both options can cause erection difficulty.

Which came first—the heart disease or the depression? Studies show that people with heart disease tend to have depression; people who are depressed are more likely to develop heart disease; and people who are depressed and have heart disease are likely to experience a second heart attack or to die of sudden cardiac arrest. According to a new study conducted at Yale-New Haven Hospital, there are two theories explaining the connection between the two conditions. One is that heart disease may be affected by biochemical changes that occur in depressed people; the other is that depressed people tend to neglect their health and don't take their medications or watch their diet, and are therefore more vulnerable to disease.

One shot may be all your family needs to ward off the flu bug. A study published in JAMA found that when children who attend day care are immunized for influenza, other household members share the benefits. One hundred twenty-seven children between 24 and 60 months of age were given an inactivated influenza vaccine or a control vaccine. Persons living in households with a vaccinated child experienced 40 percent fewer cases of febrile respiratory illness.

Cigarettes may be harmful to more than just your child's physical health. According to a study published in Pediatrics, teens who smoke were four times more likely to be depressed a year into the study. This may be a result of nicotine and other tobacco products interfering with the uptake of serotonin. This finding contradicts the belief that teens smoke to cope with mood disorders and is supported by evidence that antidepressants can help adults quit smoking.

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Copyright © 2001 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

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