Archive for September, 2017

A young woman experiences throat pain while at the doctor's office, perhaps from various swallowing disorders.

Swallowing Disorders and How to Treat Them

If you’re currently having trouble swallowing, this is known as ‘dysphagia’ and it’s actually more common than most think. Normally, the issue will come from your throat or the esophagus (this takes food and liquid from the mouth to the stomach). Furthermore, swallowing disorders can happen to people of all ages but they’re more commonly found in older generations, people with nervous system issues, and babies.

Causes of Swallowing Disorders

When it comes to the problems themselves, there are a number of different issues ranging from minor problems to serious health concerns. If it only happens once or twice, this normally suggests something small while medical attention should be sought if it happens frequently.
As a natural process, our throat muscles will actually contract as we swallow and this helps the food to be pushed down into the stomach. If there’s a problem, food and liquid will struggle to pass through the esophagus and there are two main reasons as to why you could be experiencing this failure.


Trouble swallowing might be because of something blocking the esophagus and this is preventing anything from passing through. Swallowing disorders might stem from any of the following types of blockages:

  • Esophagitis – This is where the esophagus becomes inflamed after an infection or perhaps even a pill getting stuck. For some, they also experience some form of reaction to a substance in the air or food they consume.
  • Gastroesophegeal Reflux Disease (GERD) – If stomach acid manages to back right up into the esophagus, ulcers can form and this can actually lead to scars; in turn, this narrows the esophagus.
  • Other Issues – Although these are the two main issues, you could also have cancerous or benign tumors within the esophagus or small sacs that form on the walls of your throat (diverticula). Finally, lymph nodes can appear on the vertebrae and push into the esophagus from the outside.

Damaged Muscles/Nerves

Secondly, the muscles and/or nerves might not be working correctly and this may come from brain injuries, stroke, orsome other health concerns.

  • Nervous System – With muscular dystrophy, post-polio syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis, these can affect the muscles and nerves.
    Esophageal Spasm – At random intervals, the muscles will squeeze together and this prevents food from reaching the stomach.
  • Scleroderma – With the esophagus tissue, this can become hard as well as narrow. In some cases, it can also weaken the lower esophageal muscles which, in turn, causes a backup of stomach acid in the throat.
  • Immune System – Finally, an issue in the immune system can cause weakness and swelling in the area.
A man is at the doctor's office, receiving treatment for swallowing disorders.

Since swallowing disorders greatly impact your everyday life, it’s important to seek treatment for them.


Now we know the issues that exist, how do professionals treat these swallowing disorders so you can return to your normal self? Firstly, they’ll try to locate the problem using an x-ray and various other procedures they have. If necessary, they’ll use a small camera to see the extent of the damage or even a small pressure gauge to measure your ability to swallow. Once they’ve found the cause, they can get to work on treatment and there are many different solutions depending on the cause.

  • Dilation – If your esophagus has narrowed, this treatment will see a small device expand the area; this may require several sessions.
  • Diet – If your diet is causing the problem, your doctor will recommend changing the foods you eat to identify the problematic ingredient.
  • Exercise – As strange as It sounds, you can actually complete swallowing exercises to strengthen the muscles and allow for better swallowing.
  • Endoscopy – In some situations, a blockage might cause the problem and an endoscopy can be used to remove any objects.
  • Medicines – If the issue is related to heartburn, GERD, or esophagitis, some prescription medicines might be able to prevent stomach acid from getting into the esophagus. With infections, antibiotic medicines will also help the problem.
  • Surgery – Finally, and this will only be done if completely necessary, surgery can remove blockages or anything else affecting the lower esophageal muscle.


There we have it, the causes and treatments for swallowing disorders. If you’ve experienced anything we’ve discussed today, we highly recommend talking to an expert as soon as possible because, left untreated, your condition will only get worse. In some rare cases, patients are left needing a feeding tube so contact an expert today and get yourself back to full fitness!
Leukoplakia (cutaneous disease) diagnosis medical concept on tablet screen with stethoscope.

Leukoplakia: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Leukoplakia (cutaneous disease) diagnosis medical concept on tablet screen with stethoscope.

Look out for signs of Leukoplakia and talk to a doctor about your condition.

With smoking as the most common cause in today’s society, leukoplakia will see the recipient experience white patches all over the tongue. In addition to the tongue, some also experience these thick patches in the lining of their mouth. If the issue isn’t too serious, it should go away within just a few days but it should also be noted that it can be a sign of something more worrisome such as oral cancer. With this in mind, it’s important to get in contact with a doctor if the problem doesn’t clear after a few days.

Today, we’re going to look into the main causes of leukoplakia as well as the symptoms (so you know what to look for) and how it gets treated!

Causes of Leukoplakia

Despite all the advancements we’ve seen in technology in recent years, we still don’t know exactly why these white spots appear. However, we do know that tobacco exacerbates the problem; this can be both chewing and smoking.

After this, it could be caused by chewing on the insides of our mouth, an inflammatory condition within the body, uneven teeth catching on our cheeks, and perhaps even dentures when they aren’t fitted as they should be. Furthermore, recent research suggests there could be a link between this and the human papilloma virus which is important to note.

The Diseases’ Symptoms

For those who have suffered from the issue, they note ‘strange-looking’ patches inside the mouth. Since most of us look into the mirror when brushing teeth and our tongue is constantly surveying the area, it doesn’t take long to notice something abnormal. Although the most common appearance will be white, we should also say that you might experience spots that are gray, hairy (we’ll discuss this in more detail in just a moment), red, and rough.

To pick up on a few points in the way the appearance can vary, redness is the most common sign of cancer. We recommend contacting a doctor if you see red spots inside your mouth. Furthermore, there is such a thing called ‘hairy leukoplakia’ and the main cause of this will be the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). Once you have this virus, it will be with you for life even though it doesn’t often cause any problems for the body. With hairy leukoplakia, this is one of the few times it does make itself known.

Receiving a Diagnosis

Typically, leukoplakia can be diagnosed almost instantly with a simple oral exam. As well as your doctor, your dentist should also know the signs and professional help can be important because the majority of us will misdiagnose the issue as oral thrush. With the latter, the patches tend to be softer which causes them to bleed more frequently and this is how you tell the difference.

If the professional can’t advise on the issue immediately, they may request a couple of small tests just to be sure. By knowing exactly what the problem is, they can move forward to the treatment phase with confidence.

If cancer is suspected, a biopsy will be recommended and this is where the professional will remove some tissue from the affected area before sending it to a laboratory for further testing.

Treatment for the Disease

Once they’ve found the issue, how do they treat it? As mentioned previously, a standard case of leukoplakia won’t worry the doctor too much and they’ll suggest keeping an eye on the spots to make sure they disappear. If you smoke or chew tobacco, it’s important to avoid this trigger. If they fade away, you then know this was the cause and your doctor can provide suggestions for future prevention of the issue.

If your doctor suspected something a little more serious, they’ll wait for the biopsy results. If there are any signs of oral cancer, the patch will have to be removed to prevent the cancer from spreading. Ultimately, this procedure will be similar to a biopsy in that they’ll take the small patch with a scalpel or perhaps even laser treatment. If the patches are extensive and these two methods won’t help, full oral surgery will be required.

With hairy leukoplakia, they might be removed but it depends on the circumstances. For example, some retinoic acid antiviral medications can prevent the patches from growing.

Although the majority of cases are harmless, we recommend contacting a doctor if the spots are red in appearance or if they don’t fade away as they should after a few days!

Girl holds hand on her ear because of her tinnitus, which is becoming worse due to an increase in her serotonin.

Tinnitus Symptoms Affected by Serotonin

Girl holds hand on her ear because of her tinnitus, which is becoming worse due to an increase in her serotonin.

Serotonin in anti-depressants is affecting tinnitus patients.

Imagine hearing a buzzing, clicking, or ringing sound that isn’t actually there. This nonexistent sound comes and goes as it pleases. This is tinnitus, a condition where a sound is only perceived by the affected individual. For millions of Americans, tinnitus is a pressing issue and an irritation. Tinnitus symptoms can be hard to live with and now it seems that the serotonin in a common antidepressant medication is making it worse.

How Tinnitus Symptoms Occurs

There are actually two different types of tinnitus – subjective and objective. If a person is hearing sounds that nobody else can, that is classified as subjective tinnitus. This is both an auditory and neurological issue caused by hearing loss and it accounts for 99 percent of all reported tinnitus cases.

Objective tinnitus is a bit different and much rarer than subjective tinnitus. This form of the condition is when a patient hears sound generated by the body’s internal structures and circulatory system. This type of sound can be heard by another who is close enough to the affected individual.

How Serotonin Affects Tinnitus

The constant irritation caused by tinnitus can take its toll. In fact, the hearing condition has a close association to psychiatric disorders. Scientists have found that depression and anxiety are connected to the severity of tinnitus. With this link being so apparent, researchers at the Oregon Health and Science University decided to see how a common anti-depressant affect the condition.

The anti-depressant is called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. It is used to treat depression, anxiety, and social phobia. This drug prevents a neurotransmitter called serotonin from breaking down in the body. Serotonin is a known to boost mood and happiness.

Through the examination of brain tissue in mice, the researchers were able to find out that high serotonin levels make tinnitus worse. The dorsal cochlear nucleus (the part of the brain that the scientist examined) is responsible for sensory integration. It is also the area of the brain where tinnitus develops. As serotonin levels increased, the brain’s neurons become hyperactive and hypersensitive.

What Researchers Had to Say About the Study

“We saw that the activity of those neurons went through the roof,” said senior author Laurence Trussell, Ph.D., a professor of otolaryngology at the OHSU School of Medicine and scientist at the OHSU Vollum Institute.

While tinnitus may be the cause of depression, the medication for the mental disorder only seems to make it worse. This can lead to the mental illness becoming even more of a recurring condition.

“If you’re a physician treating a patient for depression who also has hearing loss or tinnitus, you may want to be careful about prescribing a drug that compounds their feelings of anxiety,” said Trussell. “The SSRI may be enhancing the thing you’re trying to fix.”

Unfortunately, there is no cure for tinnitus symptoms. New technologies are being developed every day and researchers are looking into other options. Dr. Trussell’s team hopes to find a way to develop an antidepressant that does not affect the severity of the condition.

Preventing Tinnitus

Tinnitus stems from hearing loss, obstructions in the middle ear, head and neck trauma, and other conditions. If you want to prevent tinnitus, the simplest way is to avoid situations that may harm your hearing. Loud noises can cause severe trauma that leads to hearing loss. You’ll also want to keep your ears clean and clear of foreign objects. See a qualified otolaryngologist if you want to evaluate your hearing.

Patient lying in bed with postoperative pain in hospital room talking to doctor.

The Cure to Postoperative Pain: Sleep and Caffeine

Patient lying in bed with postoperative pain in hospital room talking to doctor.

A good amount of sleep before surgery can reduce postoperative pain.

While surgery is necessary to prevent a condition, illness, or injury from getting worse, it still doesn’t make it any easier dealing with the pain that comes afterward. Postoperative pain can sometimes feel unbearable. Medications are able to reduce the pain but you’ll need all the help you can get to make the recovery process less stressful.

You’re probably wondering what other options are available. Well, if the University of Michigan’s Department of Anesthesiology is to be believed, a good night’s sleep and caffeine can make the pain go away. Sleep is always a major factor when it comes to how your body recovers. Let’s find out what how postoperative pain is affected by your sleep quality.

Looking Into Postoperative Pain

“Postoperative pain control is challenging,” says Giancarlo Vanini, M.D., a research assistant professor in the Department of Anesthesiology at Michigan Medicine. “There is a general long-standing interest in the relationship between sleep and pain, and we know that both are reciprocally related.”

“Several studies demonstrate that pre- and postoperative sleep disturbances worsen pain and, more importantly, predict the onset of long-term postoperative pain. However, while the relationship between sleep and pain is well-known, its underlying mechanisms remain unclear.”

“Based on previous studies published by our group and others, we predicted that a brief sleep disturbance prior to surgery would worsen postoperative pain,” Vanini says. “But, we wanted to examine if there were any treatments or interventions that could aid to minimize the effect of sleep loss by reducing the severity of pain experienced after surgery.”

The Impact of Sleep Loss

To understand the dangers of sleep loss, let’s look at the impact it can have on your body. A lack of sleep, over a long period of time, can lead to a series of health problems. Sleep deprivation has long been associated with heart conditions like heart disease, heart attack, stroke, heart failure and more. Many sleep disorders are also known to put you at risk for stroke and diabetes.

Another part of the body that sleep loss can target is the mind. Sleep conditions like insomnia can put a tremendous amount of stress on the brain. Depression, anxiety, and stress are not uncommon among patients dealing with this condition. Sleep is also critical to your brain’s ability to process information. When people sleep normally, the mind is able to process our experiences into memories. The less sleep one receives, the harder it is for them to think, learn, and recall crucial information.

Using Caffeine as a Substitute for Sleep

While drinking caffeinated beverages is not the same as going to sleep, it can mimic its effects on our body. When we receive proper sleep, the body feels energize and no longer crave more sleep. The same effect happens with caffeine. A sleep inducer known as adenosine has no effect when the body has caffeine in its system. The body feels awake and focused, which is why many people choose to drink coffee in the morning.

Dr. Vanini and his team wanted to know how effective caffeine is at mimicking the effects of sleep. More specifically, they wanted to know if drinking caffeine could reduce postoperative pain like sleep does. “Insufficient sleep enhances pain perception, so we reasoned that caffeine might also be useful for reversing the increase in pain caused by sleep loss,” says Dr. Vanini. “We liked the potential of this intervention because it is simple and virtually everyone is familiar with caffeine.”

Results of the Study

Using test rats, the team sought to see the effects of sleep deprivation before surgery on postoperative pain, and how caffeine affects postoperative pain. Their hypothesis was right. The rats who didn’t receive enough sleep experienced more pain after surgery. Even worse, their recovery times took longer than it should have. However, the results were completely different for the rats that had caffeine in their system after surgery.

“The effect of sleep deprivation on pain sensitivity in operated and intact rats was virtually eliminated by pharmacologically blocking the action of adenosine in a brain region in the anterior hypothalamus known to regulate sleep, which is connected to major pain-related areas,” Dr. Vanini says.

“Caffeine blocked the increase in surgical pain caused by previous sleep loss,” Vanini says. “Surprisingly, the data showed that this is not due to caffeine’s analgesic properties.

“Furthermore, it looks like caffeine was effective only in those rats that underwent sleep deprivation before surgery. We think that caffeine might prevent the increase in pain sensitivity by blocking part of the neurochemical changes induced by sleep deprivation in specific brain areas that control sleep and wakefulness, and project to pain-related sites.”

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