An injection that relieves low back pain by helping damaged spinal discs regenerate appears to have sustained benefits, new clinical trial data show. Most patients who received an injection of VIA Disc received back pain relief that lasted at least three years, said lead researcher Dr. Douglas Beall, chief of radiology at Clinical Radiology of Oklahoma in Edmond. About 60% of patients had a 50% or better improvement in their pain three years after treatment, results showed, while more than 70% had a greater than 20-point improvement in movement and function. “This is durable relief out through 36 months,” said Beall, who is scheduled to present these findings Monday at a meeting of the Society for Interventional Radiology, in Phoenix. Findings presented at medical meetings are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal. VIA Disc — the trade name for viable disc allograft supplementation — is a blend of bone marrow cells and ground-up spinal disc tissue from donors, Beall said. The cells are “one of the precursors to forming disc,” Beall said. They are selected from exactly the area where they’re precursors to form the disc material, tested for their capability to renew and differentiate from other cells and then mixed with the allograft (disc material) and injected. Once injected, the VIA Disc blend of cells and donor tissue encourages the cells within…  read on >  read on >

An outbreak of serious bacterial infections in 13 U.S. states linked to use of artificial tears has prompted experts to offer tips for keeping dry eyes safe. Five of the 58 people infected with Pseudomonas aeruginosa had vision loss, and one person died, leading to the recall of EzriCare and Delsam Pharma artificial tears. Some of those sickened also reported lung and urinary tract infections. Tests of opened bottles used by those affected found a rare, highly drug-resistant strain of the bacterium — one never before reported in the United States, according to the U.S. National Eye Institute. While it’s unclear if the contamination occurred during or after manufacturing, and while testing continues, there are ways regular users of artificial tears for dry eye disease, contact lens use and refractive surgery can keep themselves safer. “Formulations with preservatives reduce the risk of bacterial growth and potential infection,” said Dr. Chantal Cousineau-Krieger, an ophthalmologist at the National Eye Institute. “However, commonly added preservatives such as benzalkonium chloride, polyquaternium, or sodium chlorite themselves can be irritating to the eye, especially if used five or more times a day,” she said in an institute news release. Repeatedly using an eyedrop bottle that contains no preservatives can lead to contamination, increasing infection risk. “People who require preservative-free artificial tears can purchase single-use, individual dose vials, which cut contamination risk…  read on >  read on >

You toss, you turn, you can’t fall asleep. Certainly, there are sleep medications that can be prescribed by a doctor. And with some investment of time, cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia is considered to be an effective option. Yet, there are also a lot of healthy sleep habits and natural sleep aids that some experts believe can make a difference, too. With more than 60 million Americans suffering from poor sleep quality, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, it seems like these easily accessible options could be worth a try when searching for the best natural sleep aid. Practice good sleep hygiene About 20% of Americans take sleep medication, according to recent research from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics. Those include a long list of drugs, such as Sonata, Lunesta and Ambien. But Dr. Sanjeev Kothare, a sleep expert and pediatric neurologist at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in Queens, N.Y., suggests starting with some basics to make sleep a little easier. ‘There are certain natural things that you can take and there are certain things that you can do,” Kothare said. Start with healthy sleep hours, Kothare recommends. For adults, that means going to bed at roughly 10 to 11 p.m. and waking up at 7 a.m., to get a good seven to eight hours of sleep. Teenagers need eight or nine hours a night.…  read on >  read on >

(HealthDay News) – A brain-eating amoeba has killed a Florida man, state health officials reported. The man may have acquired this very rare infection after rinsing his sinuses with tap water, the Florida Department of Health in Charlotte County said in a news release. While health officials continue to investigate the cause of the Naegleria fowleri infection, they emphasized that it can’t be contracted from drinking tap water. These infections only happen when contaminated water enters through the sinuses, officials said. That more typically happens from swimming in warm lakes or rivers in summer. N. fowleri grows in warm temperatures, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It can be found in soil and fresh water. Health officials have not publicly identified the man who died. Cases have been reported in United States for each of the past four years, including three cases last year that happened in Arizona, Iowa and Nebraska. The Iowa case happened last June and involved a Missouri resident who swam in the Lake of Three Fires in Taylor County. The Nebraska case was a child who died within 10 days of being hospitalized after swimming in the Elkhorn River in August, NBC News reported. The disease typically progresses quickly after patients have symptoms that include headaches, fever, nausea, disorientation, loss of balance, a stiff neck and seizures.…  read on >  read on >

Don’t put lip balm on your eyelid, even if you saw it on TikTok. It’s bad for your eyes, according to a Michigan Medicine expert. The trend first began back in the 2010s, but has seen a resurgence in 2023. Called “beezin’,” because the trend is to use Burt’s Bees lip balm in particular, some believe it gets them high, heightens the sensation of being drunk or high, or increases feelings of alertness. It doesn’t, said Dr. Olivia Killeen, a clinical lecturer in the department of ophthalmology and visual sciences at Michigan Medicine, in Ann Arbor. “The peppermint oil or menthol in the balm can cause a tingling sensation, but it is not actually getting people high or causing the same type of chemical reaction in the body that’s produced by drugs or alcohol,” Killeen said in a Michigan Medicine news release. Rather, it can irritate the eyelids, causing redness, swelling and inflammation. If it ends up getting into the eyes, it can cause tearing, redness and painful burns to the surface of the eyes. It may even scar the eyes in severe cases or cause vision loss. It may also increase the risk of infection, especially if the balm was also used on the lips, because it may introduce viruses or bacteria into the eye. Among the potential infections are conjunctivitis, or “pink eye.”…  read on >  read on >

When Dr. Yezaz Ghouri sees patients with the cramping, abdominal pain and diarrhea that are hallmark symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), he’ll typically ask how life’s going. More often than not, his patients say they are experiencing stress in their lives. Now, Ghouri’s team has established a link between IBS and anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation in patients who have been admitted to the hospital for their IBS. IBS is a chronic disorder of the gastrointestinal (GI) system that strikes up to 15 percent of the population. Ghouri, an assistant professor of clinical medicine and gastroenterology at the University of Missouri School of Medicine, thinks that stress may be expressed through both the mind and body. “I think it expresses in the form of mood disorders like depression, anxiety,” Ghouri said. “I think it expresses in a form of IBS, which is basically a manifestation of your autonomic nervous system [which controls involuntary actions like your heartbeat].” The study used data from more than 1.2 million IBS patients in 4,000 U.S. hospitals over three years. More than 38% of these patients had anxiety. More than 27% had depression. These numbers were double the levels of anxiety and depression found in patients who did not have IBS. Lead researcher Dr. Zahid Ijaz Tarar, an assistant professor of clinical medicine, pointed to what’s called the brain-gut…  read on >  read on >

TUESDAY, Feb. 28, 2023 (HealthDay Now) — A long-established Alzheimer’s drug can help people with a disorder that causes them to compulsively pull at their hair or pick at their skin, a new clinical trial has concluded. Memantine considerably improved symptoms in 3 out of 5 patients with either trichotillomania (hair-pulling disorder) or excoriation (skin-picking) disorder, researchers reported in the American Journal of Psychiatry. “I think it was encouraging that it helped reduce the behavior of picking and pulling, compared to a placebo,” said lead researcher Dr. Jon Grant, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at the University of Chicago. “It gives me the idea that perhaps we’re onto the right underlying mechanism that might be happening here.” Hair-pulling and skin-picking disorders affect an estimated 3% to 4% of Americans, Grant said. Patients obsessively pull out strands of hair or pick at their skin, often doing themselves real physical harm. Memantine inhibits the activity of glutamate, one of the most abundant neurotransmitters in the brain. Overly high levels of glutamate in the brain can cause nerve cells to become overexcited, and this has been associated with conditions like Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease and multiple sclerosis, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Glutamate also has been linked to mental health problems like mood disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder, the Cleveland Clinic says. The U.S.…  read on >  read on >

Many women experience blinding migraine headaches around their monthly period, and now researchers have a clue about why. Levels of the female hormone estrogen fluctuate during menstruation, which may lead to increases in calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP). This protein widens blood vessels in the brain, which is part of the cascade of events that cause migraines. “Women with migraine had higher CGRP levels in the blood and tear fluid during menstruation than women without migraine,” said study leader Dr. Bianca Raffaelli, a neurology resident at Charité–University Medicine Berlin in Germany. She is also a fellow with the Clinician Scientist Program jointly operated by Charité and the Berlin Institute of Health at Charité. More research is needed before drawing any firm conclusion about the role that CGRP plays in menstrual migraines, Raffaelli said. “Once the exact processes are understood, appropriate treatment strategies can be developed,” she said. “In recent years, new migraine drugs have been developed that target CGRP, [and] it would be exciting to investigate whether these drugs act differently depending on the hormonal state.” The good news for women with menstrual migraines is that symptoms improve during pregnancy, and their frequency tends to decline after menopause, Raffaelli said. For the study, the researchers measured CGRP levels in blood and tears of 180 women with a history of migraine, including those with a regular menstrual…  read on >  read on >

Exposure to elevated levels of air pollutants is associated with bone damage in postmenopausal women, according to a new study that said the effects were most evident on the lumbar spine. High levels of niitrogen oxides in air nearly doubled the effects of normal aging on bone density in the spine, said researchers from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in New York City. This study was the first to explore the effects of air pollution mixtures on bone outcomes, researchers said. It also was the first to explore the connection between air pollution and bone mineral density in postmenopausal women. The researchers analyzed data from an ethnically diverse population of 161,000 postmenopausal women in a long-running U.S. women’s health study. To estimate levels of exposure to pollutants, including PM10 (small air pollution particles), nitrogen monoxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide, researchers used participants’ home addresses. Traffic exhaust and emissions from power plants are major producers of nitrogen oxides. Bone density was measured at enrollment in the study and after one, three and six years using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry commonly known as a DEXA scan. The scans included whole-body, total hip, femoral neck and lumbar spine. Researchers said the magnitude of the effects of nitrogen oxides on lumbar spine density would amount to 1.22% annual losses. That’s nearly double the annual effect of age…  read on >  read on >

Causes of different kinds of dementia vary, but about 40% are affected by risk factors a person can influence through lifestyle choices. Two University of Michigan neurologists offer 10 tips for modifying those risks. Keep blood pressure in check. Dr. Judith Heidebrink, a neurologist who is co-leader of the Michigan Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center’s Clinical Core, recommends aiming for a systolic blood pressure (the upper number) of 130 mm Hg or lower from around age 40. This helps reduce risk of cognitive impairment, dementia, heart attack and stroke. Guard your hearing. Wear ear protection around excessive noise to reduce the risk of hearing loss, center director Dr. Henry Paulson urged. Use hearing aids, if needed. A recent study found that older adults who got a hearing aid for their newly diagnosed hearing loss had a lower risk of dementia in the following three years, he pointed out. Support efforts to reduce air pollution. “There is growing evidence linking air pollution — such as the gases and small particles emitted by cars and factories — to cognitive decline and dementia,” Heidebrink said. “Encouragingly, sustained improvements in air quality appear to reduce the risk of dementia.” Prevent head injuries. Wear proper gear when playing contact sports, including a helmet while biking. Don’t forget to use a seat belt in cars. Head injury can disrupt normal brain function.…  read on >  read on >