DiversityNursing Blog

Up to 14 Years of Hot Flashes Found in Menopause Study

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Feb 18, 2015 @ 12:05 PM

By PAM BELLUCK

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Conventional wisdom has it that hot flashes, which afflict up to 80 percent of middle-aged women, usually persist for just a few years. But hot flashes can continue for as long as 14 years, and the earlier they begin the longer a woman is likely to suffer, a study published on Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine found.

In a racially, ethnically and geographically diverse group of 1,449 women with frequent hot flashes or night sweats — the largest study to date — the median length of time women endured symptoms was 7.4 years. So while half of the women were affected for less than that time, half had symptoms longer — some for 14 years, researchers reported.

“It’s miserable, I’ll tell you what,” said Sharon Brown, 57, of Winston-Salem, N.C., who has endured hot flashes for six years. At her job at a tax and accounting office, she has had to stop wearing silk.

Mary Hairston found that acupuncture helped with her hot flashes. CreditKaren Tam for The New York Times 

Over all, black and Hispanic women experienced hot flashes for significantly longer periods than white or Asian women. And in a particularly unfair hormonal twist, the researchers found that the earlier hot flashes started, the longer they were likely to continue.

Among women who got hot flashes before they stopped menstruating, the hot flashes were likely to continue for years after menopause, longer than for women whose symptoms began only when their periods had stopped.

“That having symptoms earlier in the transition bodes ill for your symptoms during menopause — that part is certainly new to me,” said Dr. C. Neill Epperson, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Women’s Behavioral Wellness, who was not involved in the study. Perhaps, she and others suggested, early birds are more biologically sensitive to hormonal changes.

And many women fall into the early bird category. In this study, only a fifth of cases started after menopause. One in eight women began getting hot flashes while still having regular periods. For two-thirds of women, they began in perimenopause, when periods play hide and seek but have not completely disappeared.

In numerical terms, women who started getting hot flashes when they were still having regular periods or were in early perimenopause experienced symptoms for a median of 11.8 years. About nine of those years occurred after menopause, nearly three times the median of 3.4 years for women whose hot flashes did not start until their periods stopped.

“If you don’t have hot flashes until you’ve stopped menses, then you won’t have them as long,” said Nancy Avis, a professor of social sciences and health policy at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and the study’s first author. “If you start later, it’s a shorter total duration and it’s shorter from the last period on.”

Hot flashes, which can seize women many times a day and night — slathering them in sweat, flushing their faces — are linked to drops in estrogen and appear to be regulated by the hypothalamus in the brain. Studies have found that women with hot flash symptoms also face increased risk of cardiovascular problems and bone loss.

Researchers followed the women in the study, who came from seven American cities, from 1996 to 2013. All of them met the researchers’ definition for having frequent symptoms: hot flashes or night sweats at least six days in the previous two weeks.

None had had a hysterectomy or both ovaries removed, and none were on hormone therapy. (If they started taking hormone therapy during the study period, their data stopped being included, Dr. Avis said.)

Although some smaller studies have also found that symptoms can last many years, the new research drew praise from experts because, among other things, it included a larger and much more diverse group of women. One-third of them were African-Americans in Pittsburgh, Boston, Chicago and Ypsilanti, Mich. It also included women of Japanese descent in Los Angeles; women of Chinese descent in Oakland, Calif.; and Hispanic women in Newark — about 100 in each group.

“It’s such a real-world study of women we are seeing day in and day out,” said Dr. Risa Kagan, an obstetrician-gynecologist at the University of California, San Francisco, and the Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation in Berkeley. “There is no other study like this.”

Researchers found significant differences between ethnic groups. African-Americans reported the longest-lasting symptoms, continuing for a median of 10.1 years — twice the median duration of Asian women’s symptoms. The median for Hispanic women was 8.9 years; for non-Hispanic whites, 6.5 years.

Reasons for ethnic differences are unclear. “It could be genetic, diet, reproductive factors, how many children women have,” Dr. Avis said.

The study also found that women with longer-lasting symptoms tended to have less education, greater perceived stress, and more depression and anxiety.

“I’m not at all suggesting that hot flashes are manifestations of depression, but they’re both brain-related phenomena, and depression is also more common in the same groups,” said Dr. Andrew Kaunitz, an obstetrician-gynecologist at the University of Florida who was not involved in the study. It is unclear if stress and emotional issues help cause hot flashes or result from them.

“Women with more stress in their lives may be more aware of their symptoms and perceive them to be more bothersome,” said Dr. JoAnn E. Manson, chief of preventive medicine at the Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an author of a commentary accompanying the study. “But also having significant night sweats that interrupt sleep can lead to stress.”

Dr. Manson said the new study should help women and doctors anticipate that symptoms may continue longer, and might suggest that some women try different approaches at different times.

Women who are still menstruating, she said, “can become pregnant,” so low-dose contraceptives, which also tame hot flashes, might be recommended until menopause. Hormone therapy might then be prescribed for several years, she said.

But hormone therapy has been linked to increased risk of breast cancer and heart disease for some women. Effective non-hormonal therapies also exist, experts said, including low-dose antidepressants.

Dr. Manson, a past president of the North American Menopause Society, has helped the society develop a free app, MenoPro, to assist women deal with hot flashes, starting with nonmedical approaches like lowering the thermostat and cutting back on spicy foods, caffeine and alcohol.

Ms. Brown and Mary Hairston, 53, tried acupuncture in another study by Dr. Avis and colleagues, and found it helped. Before that, Ms. Hairston said, “every night I would just wake up, dripping wet.”

Now, when she starts sweating at the Italian restaurant where she waitresses, “I go stand in the cooler,” she said. “I used to get cold all the time and I would say I couldn’t wait to have hot flashes. Well, I got over that real quick.”

Source: www.nytimes.com

Topics: women, study, symptoms, menopause, hot flashes, health, patients, treatment

Only 23 Percent Protection From This Year's Flu Vaccine

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Jan 19, 2015 @ 12:42 PM

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U.S. health officials have hard numbers to back up their warnings that this season's flu shots are less than perfect: A new study finds the vaccine reduces your risk of needing medical care because of flu by only 23 percent.

Most years, flu vaccine effectiveness ranges from 10 percent to 60 percent, reported the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Despite the reduced effectiveness of this season's flu shot, "vaccination is still important," said lead report author Brendan Flannery, an epidemiologist with the CDC.

"But there are ways of treating and preventing flu that are especially important this season," he added. 

These include early treatment with antiviral drugs and preventing the spread of flu by washing hands and covering coughs, he said. 

Twenty-three percent effectiveness means that there is some benefit -- a little less flu in the vaccinated group. Flu is usually more common among unvaccinated Americans, Flannery said, "but this year there is a lot of influenza both in people who are vaccinated and in people who are unvaccinated."

The findings are published in the Jan. 16 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

As of early January, the middle of flu season, flu was widespread in 46 states, and 26 children had died from complications of the infection, CDC figures show. 

The vaccine's reduced effectiveness highlights the need to treat serious flu quickly with antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu or Relenza, the CDC said. Ideally, treatment should start within 48 hours of symptoms appearing.

Spot shortages of these drugs have been reported, and the CDC said that people may have to contact several pharmacies to fill these prescriptions. However, it anticipates enough supply overall to meet the high demand. 

In flu seasons when the vaccine is well matched to the circulating H3N2 strains, effectiveness has been between 50 and 60 percent, the CDC said. This year, however, about 70 percent of the H3N2 virus seen has been different from the H3N2 strains in the vaccine, which explains its reduced effectiveness, Flannery said.

Flu viruses change constantly, and this new H3N2 virus did not appear until after the flu strains were chosen for inclusion in the current vaccine, he explained.

Vaccine effectiveness is also related to the health of those getting vaccinated. The vaccine works best in young, healthy people, and is less effective in those 65 and older, the report noted.

This year's shot is most effective -- 26 percent -- for children 6 months old through 17 years. Older people get less benefit -- just 12 percent for those 18 to 49 years and 14 percent for those 50 and older, the CDC said.

Although the vaccine is less reliable than in some years, the CDC still recommends that everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated. Vaccination can prevent some infections and reduce severe disease that can lead to hospitalization and death, the agency said. 

Also, the vaccine protects against three or four flu viruses, some of which may circulate later this season, Flannery said. 

Dr. Marc Siegel, a professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, agreed. As other flu strains included in the vaccine emerge later in the season, he predicted the vaccine's effectiveness will rise to about 40 percent. 

Flu activity so far this season has been similar to the 2012-2013 flu season, which was classified as a "moderately severe" flu, officials say. Siegel said that season "the vaccine's effectiveness was about 40 percent, so this is even worse." 

However, he agreed it's a good idea to get a flu shot. "Twenty-three percent is better than nothing, and there is no downside to getting the vaccine," Siegel said.

Source: www.nlm.nih.gov

Topics: flu, flu shot, symptoms, clinic, antiviral, nurse, CDC, medical, hospital, vaccine, treatment, shots

The debilitating outbreak sweeping the Americas

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Dec 17, 2014 @ 11:04 AM

By Meera Senthilingam

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Its name means "bending over in pain." It has no treatment or vaccine. Its symptoms resemble Dengue fever. And it has infected more than 1 million people -- 155 of them fatally -- since spreading to the Americas one year ago.

The mosquito-borne Chikungunya virus has long been diagnosed in travelers returning from countries in Asia and Africa, where the disease is widespread. But in December 2013, the first people infected by mosquitoes local to the region were reported on the Caribbean island of Saint Martin.

This was the first outbreak of the debilitating disease in the Western hemisphere, health officials said.

All countries in Central America have now reported local transmission of Chikungunya [pronounced chik-un-GOON-ya], and the United States had 11 confirmed cases of local infection this year as of December 12, all in the state of Florida. There also have been 1,900 imported cases across the U.S. in returning travelers.

"It wasn't until 2013 that unfortunately a traveler resulted in local transmission of Chikungunya," said Erin Staples of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), referring to the people infected in Saint Martin.

Those infected carry the virus in their bloodstream; it can then be picked up by mosquitoes as they bite, making them carriers. The virus has since spread rapidly and shows no signs of leaving, as ecological conditions are perfect for the disease to flourish.

"We knew it would spread," said Staples, a medical epidemiologist.

The big question perplexing officials: Why now?

Two mosquito species primed to the temperatures of Central and South America carry Chikungunya. The species -- Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus -- also carry the virus behind Dengue fever.

"Given the level of Dengue in the region, we knew there could be the same levels of Chikungunya," Staples said. Both diseases can cause joint pain and inflammation, headaches, rashes and fever, and can lead to death in rare cases.

But this tropical disease with an exotic name (which originates from the African Makonde dialect) causes more intense joint pain and inflammation. For some people the pain can last for months or years, resulting in additional psychological strain.

The lack of immunity among people living in the Americas provided a blank canvas for Chikungunya to spread throughout the population this year. As of December 12, more than 1.03 million people have been infected, in addition to the 155 who died, according to the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO). Almost all of the fatalities occurred in the Caribbean island countries of Guadaloupe and Martinique.

"Where we saw the biggest jump was after it reached the Spanish-speaking countries in the region," said Staples, referring to the weakened infrastructures and health systems of countries such as the Dominican Republic, which has reported more than 520,000 cases -- more than half of the overall outbreak and 5% of the island country's population.

As South American countries approach their summer, numbers are expected to rise there as the mosquitoes flourish in the heat.

"Brazil, Peru, Paraguay are coming into their summer months and reporting their first local transmission," Staples said. Already, more than 2,000 people have been infected in Brazil.

Is there cause for concern?

Because infection with Chikungunya is rarely fatal, the issue of most concern to officials is the burden on health services and the impact of the debilitating symptoms on the economy.

"The high number of cases can overload health services," says Dr. Pilar Ramon-Pardo, regional adviser for PAHO, the regional office of the World Health Organization. Until recently, monitoring for Chikungunya was not part of routine surveillance in the region.

"Clinicians have to be ready to diagnose," she said

About 20% to 30% of cases are expected to become chronic, with symptoms such as arthritis and other rheumatic manifestations leading to physical disabilities, Ramon-Pardo said. Further long-term effects are psychological as people become more depressed and tired.

All of this can result in missed work and lower school attendance, she said, hurting local economies.

Is it here to stay?

The warm climate of the region offers potential for Chikungunya levels to be maintained for years to come, just like Dengue fever. But areas of most concern are the tropics.

"The areas which have year-round favorable climate for the mosquito are at the greatest risk," says Dr. Laith Yakob of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, which is monitoring the spread of the outbreak.

While the climate and mosquitos have long been present, Ramon-Pardo said, "we don't know why this is happening now." She said globalization is likely to blame, with increased population movement from one country to another. This offers more opportunities for local mosquitos to bite infected humans.

The CDC's Staples said she is temporarily at ease regarding numbers in the U.S. "We're moving into fall and winter periods, which should see activity decrease," she said. Cold temperatures reduce mosquito survival rates.

The rapid spread of Chikungunya this year also could help minimize future infections. "Chikungunya will go through a region quite rapidly and create a level of population immunity which helps mitigate large outbreaks of the disease," Staples said. Unlike Dengue, infection with Chikungunya results in lifelong immunity.

Like many other infections, Chikungunya could, however, remain in the background through animals capable of carrying the virus in their bloodstream and acting as so-called reservoirs of the disease.

"In Asia and Africa there is a transmission cycle in small mammals and monkeys," Ramon-Pardo said, meaning these animals keep the virus present within the population. "In the Americas ... we don't know yet."

Those words -- "we don't know" -- resonate throughout the community of scientists and government officials trying to control the outbreak.

The future risk of spread, levels of future immunity, risk from animal reservoirs, why this is only happening now, and the total economic impact are all unknown.

"Mathematical models are under construction by numerous research groups around the world to improve confidence over projections of future spread," said Yakob, whose team is modeling the disease. As they work, control efforts continue.

Getting it under control

When it comes to controlling Chikungunya, there are two main strategies -- reduce the likelihood of bites and remove the ever-biting mosquito. Prevention is the priority.

Unlike the mosquitoes behind malaria, which bite at night, the species behind Chikungunya bite any time, day or night. Those living in affected areas are asked to use repellent, sleep under bed nets and wear long clothing to avoid getting bitten. The air conditioned and indoor environments of people living in the U.S. mean numbers are likely to stay low there.

But mosquito control is at the heart of it all. Mass spraying of insecticides and removal of any sources of shallow water in which mosquitoes can breed are taking place across the continents. According to the CDC's Staples, Florida has been highly aggressive with its approach to control. "We're only at 11 (cases) due to such proactive measures," Staples said. For now, prevention is all they have as officials wait and see how the outbreak pans out.

"There is no vaccine currently and no good antivirals, so we are trying to control the spread of the disease," Staples said. "There are a lot of questions and only time will tell what we'll see for Chikungunya in the future."

Source: www.cnn.com

Topics: symptoms, Chikungunya, DCD, mosquitos, WHO, health, healthcare, nurses, disease, medical, vaccine, medicine, treatment, physicians, hospitals, infection

Majority Of People Ignore Cancer Warning Signs, Study Finds

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Wed, Dec 03, 2014 @ 11:54 AM

By Honor Whiteman

cancer definition

Cancer is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide. In 2012, there were around 14 million new cases of cancer and around 8.2 million deaths from the disease. But despite such alarming numbers, a new study by researchers from the UK finds that most people ignore cancer warning signs, attributing them instead to symptoms of less serious illnesses.

Lead study author Dr. Katriina Whitaker, senior research fellow at University College London in the UK, analyzed the responses of 1,724 people aged 50 and over to a health questionnaire that was sent to them in April 2012.

The questionnaire asked participants whether they had experienced any of 17 symptoms, 10 of which are defined as cancer "alarm" symptoms by Cancer Research UK. These symptoms include unexplained cough, changes in mole appearance, unexplained bleeding, persistent change in bowel habits, unexplained weight loss, difficulty swallowing and unexplained lumps. 

Participants were not told which symptoms are cancer warning signs.

The respondents were also asked what they thought was the cause of any symptoms they experienced, whether they deemed the symptoms to be serious and whether they visited their doctor as a result of their symptoms.

Only 2% of respondents considered warning symptoms to be cancer-related

Results of study - published in the journal PLOS ONE - revealed that 53% of participants reported that they had experienced at least one cancer warning sign over the past 3 months.

The most common cancer warning symptoms reported were persistent cough and persistent change in bowel habits, while unexplained weight loss and problems swallowing were the least common.

However, the researchers were surprised to find that of the respondents who reported cancer warning symptoms, only 2% considered cancer to be a potential cause.

What is more, Dr. Whitaker says that of participants who reported the most obvious signs of cancer - such as unexplained lumps or changes in mole appearance - most did not consider them to be cancer-related.

"Even when people thought warning symptoms might be serious, cancer didn't tend to spring to mind," adds Dr. Whitaker. "This might be because people were frightened and reluctant to mention cancer, thought cancer wouldn't happen to them or believed other causes were more likely."

On a positive note, respondents did deem the cancer warning signs to be more serious than symptoms not linked to cancer - such as shortness of breath, fatigue and sore throat- and 59% of those who experienced cancer warning signs visited their doctor.

But the researchers say their findings show that the majority of people are dismissing potential warning signs of cancer, which could be putting their health at serious risk. Dr. Whitaker says:

"Most people with potential warning symptoms don't have cancer, but some will and others may have other diseases that would benefit from early attention. That's why it's important that these symptoms are checked out, especially if they don't go away. But people could delay seeing a doctor if they don't acknowledge cancer as a possible cause."

"Most cancers are picked up through people going to their general practitioner (GP) about symptoms, and this study indicates that opportunities for early diagnosis are being missed," adds Sara Hiom, director of early diagnosis at Cancer Research UK. "Its results could help us find new ways of encouraging people with worrying symptoms to consider cancer as a possible cause and to get them checked out straight away with a GP."

Source: www.medicalnewstoday.com

Topics: risk, signs, symptoms, nursing, health, healthcare, research, doctors, medical, cancer

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