Archive for Medical, Rx & Insurance

Pneumonia: The Silent Killer

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Pneumonia: The Silent Killer

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This is the season that brings so many weather changes to many states and areas, and often towards the snowy and cold side of things. Cold weather and being cooped up inside heated houses causes all the bacteria and germs to circulate more frequently. This means, those who are in close quarters in a job, or in the same facility like a hospital or nursing home have a higher probability of catching each others germs, thusly creating mixed illnesses. The best prevention is often knowledge on how to avoid the spread of germs in the first place. In the elderly, pneumonia can be especially tricky, as it can mimic many other issues. Know the causes. Know the Symptoms.

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Symptoms.

  • Fever, sweating and shaking chills
  • Lower than normal body temperature in people older than age 65, and in people with poor overall health or weakened immune systems
  • Cough, which may produce thick, sticky fluid
  • Chest pain when you breathe deeply or cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue and muscle aches
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
  • Headache

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Causes of Pneumonia.

  • Bacteria; such as Streptococcus pneumoniae. Bacterial community-acquired pneumonia can occur on its own or after you have a cold or respiratory flu. This type of pneumonia often affects one area (lobe) of the lung, a condition called lobar pneumonia.
  • Bacteria-like organisms; such as Mycoplasma pneumoniae, which typically produce milder signs and symptoms than do other types of pneumonia. “Walking pneumonia,” a term used to describe pneumonia that isn’t severe enough to require bed rest, may result from Mycoplasma pneumoniae.
  • Viruses; including some that are the same type of viruses that cause colds and flu. Viruses are the most common cause of pneumonia in children younger than 2 years. Viral pneumonia is usually mild. But viral pneumonia caused by certain influenza viruses, such as sudden acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), can become very serious.
  • Fungi; which can be found in soil and in bird droppings. This type of pneumonia is most common in people with an underlying health problem or weakened immune system and in people who have inhaled a large dose of the organisms.

Complications from Pneumonia.

  • Bacteria in the bloodstream (bacteremia). Bacteria that enter the bloodstream from your lungs can spread the infection to other organs, potentially causing organ failure.
  • Lung abscess. An abscess occurs if pus forms in a cavity in the lung. An abscess is usually treated with antibiotics. Sometimes, surgery or drainage with a long needle or tube placed into the abscess is needed to remove the pus.
  • Fluid accumulation around your lungs (pleural effusion). Pneumonia may cause fluid to build up in the thin space between layers of tissue that line the lungs and chest cavity (pleura). If the fluid becomes infected, you may need to have it drained through a chest tube or removed with surgery.
  • Difficulty breathing. If your pneumonia is severe or you have chronic underlying lung diseases, you may have trouble breathing in enough oxygen. You may need to be hospitalized and use a mechanical ventilator while your lung heals.

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Medical Marijuana and the Quiet use in Our Elderly Community

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Medical Marijuana and the Quiet Use in Our Elderly Community

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By now, you’ve heard that many states are beginning to legalize the use of medical marijuana, and even some areas where recreationally using pot is now not considered a major crime. Finally! Medical marijuana has been used for years by so many people secretively, and cured so many ailments that even the best prescription drugs just cannot touch. There are certain areas, however, even in the states where legalization has occurred, that certain groups of people do not have access, or even knowledge, that a drug like a CBD exists.

People are choosing to ingest and try the more natural cannabidiol (CBDs) that are in medical marijuana, instead of taking some of their 35 daily prescription medications. Many studies have been done proving that CBD tablets, when taken in a regimen, have been known to destroy cancer cells, and temporarily curve major issues in humans, such as pain, nausea, muscle spasms, and so much more. Many times, with the elderly, a new ailment means a new medication. Sometimes that new medication then reacts and interacts badly with an old medication, causing horrendous side effects or damage done internally. There are more risk in mixing prescription medication, than in taking medical marijuana. Period.

In California, this topic is growing quickly. The Kaiser clinics have begun quietly pushing their elderly patients into dispensaries, and legal prescriptions, to try medical marijuana for their pain, and other ailments. Why are they doing this, you wonder? Think about the elderly 80 year old man you know, or you knew. There came a point in his life where he couldn’t get around like he did, due to massive amounts of bone pain. Not to mention his lungs. He’s got cancer, and it’s progressing slowly. For just those two ailments alone, this man could be on close to twenty different medications. If he takes ANY for pain, he’s probably in a medicine fog, feeling like he is half-way to drunk on the meds. Granted, he may be in less pain on these meds, but should he really be forced to give up his life quality to forgo the pain? What if he could have NO pain, and still be in his mind enough to move a bit? Or make his own coffee? What if the medicine he COULD take would also help bring back his appetite, and relax the rest of his issues as well?

Thinking of it like that, I’m sure you can see why CBDs need to be more talked about and discussed when visiting the primary care doctors of your elderly loved ones and friends. Without doctors becoming more knowledgeable about CBDs and the real possibilities of medical marijuana, some people may be being denied some of the best, more natural options available today. Keep in mind that this is not a smoke-able marijuana. This is not your pot on the corner, although, that does help in some of the same ways as medical marijuana. Difference is it was not grown in control, and may have “full strength” THC and other things in it to make you actually “high.” Whereas medical marijuana does not bring the “high,” only the helpful side effects of calming your body, mind, and belly.

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California is working hard on opening the availability of cannabidiol medications to be allowed in nursing facilities, and hospitals. The nice thing is that caretakers can handle the paperwork, and even getting these meds for their loved ones, in certain cases. There are certain groups that can be found by searching the internet on the topic that will bring these types of medications into nursing home facilities for seniors, when they cannot get them. But again, the major thing to remember with this is that unless more doctors speak up on how this truly works, there will be no great strides for the elderly to have this as an option for their ailments.

Resources Used:

SanDiegoFreePress

SeniorLiving

 

New Indiana Law Requires POST Documentation

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New Indiana Law Requires POST Documentation
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There is always confusion about DNRs, and who should, or shouldn’t be resuscitated. Each doctor’s office, or hospital, now require a separate copy of your wishes, signed by a multitude of people, with extra hoops to jump through. In fact, this process is getting closer and closer to being as difficult as taxes are, and dealing with the IRS. For someone who simply wants to make sure that their own wishes are followed at their end of life, State’s sure do not make the process an easy one. Depending on your State will depend on which forms you need, and where to submit them to. In our experience, every place that your loved one MAY be seen needs to have their DNR on file, POA, and if in Indiana, the POST form. Below you’ll find information about the newly adopted POST form laws.
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As of July 2013, Indiana’s Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment (POST) legislation was signed in, and took effect. While POST is not a living will, this form does allow each individual to make specific decisions and interventions about their medical care. Being signed by both the patient and the doctor, this document helps make one’s wishes actionable.
POST is not for everyone, or otherwise healthy people. This form is for patients who are chronically ill, with progressive frailty, those with terminal conditions caused by injury, disease or illness from which there can be no real recovery, or death will occur at some near future point. Those patients with conditions where resuscitation may be unsuccessful, where cardiac or pulmonary failure is present; or those patients with a life expectancy of six months or less.
These forms do have different parts, and don’t be afraid to ask your doctor’s office to help you fill them out. If any patient is unable to make their own decisions, or sign for themselves, a legal representative must sign. This form IS NOT complete until it HAS BEEN SIGNED by the PHYSICIAN.

Downloadable/Printable POST form for INDIANA residents

For more information, or list of the complete laws surrounding the POST forms and law, please visit the in.gov website, and follow their links!

Resources Used: Indiana State web site (linked above)

Interstitial Lung Disease Information

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Interstitial Lung Disease Information
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For many patients who suffer from autoimmune diseases, COPD, breathing issues, and lung cancer, simply breathing can be this biggest challenge of their every day. Interstitial lung disease describes a group of lung scarring disorders, that affect one’s ability to breath, thusly making it impossible for the patient to get enough oxygen into their blood. For the most part, ILD’s causes are unknown. There have been documented cases of ILD flaring after long term exposure to hazardous chemicals, and in many rheumatoid diseases. Once lung scarring occurs, there is no way to erase the damages. Certain medicines may help slow the damage, but these patients never regain the full use of their lungs.
Below you’ll find some facts and important information about ILD.

Symptoms & Causes
There are two main symptoms of serious lung issues, and those are a persistent dry cough, and shortness of breath, especially during times of exertion. If at any time you’re experiencing these symptoms, it may be best to consult with your doctor.
ILD seems to occur more when the lungs are injured, or damaged in some way. Instead of the body healing them normally, the body overreacts, and goes off the grid. The tissue around the alveoli becomes thickened and scarred, making it difficult or impossible for oxygen to transport through your body.

Medical Conditions known to have high rates of ILD:
Scleroderma
Sarcoidosis
SLE Lupus
Rheumatoid Arthritis

Most Common Pollutant Causes:
Grain dust
Silica dust
Asbestos fibers
Bird and Animal Droppings

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Most Common Medications Listed as Triggering Further Lung Damage:
Cytoxan and Trexall, and other Chemotherapy drugs
Heart Medications like Cordarone or Innopran
Some Antibiotics like Macrobid and Azulfidine

Complications from ILD
-High Blood Pressure in the Lungs (Pulmonary Hypertension)
-Right Sided Heart Failure (cor pulmonale)
-Respiratory Failure

Tests & Answers.
Getting a straight diagnosis on this can be very complicated, as they have multi-levels of issues, and underlying issues. However, there are certain tests that can rule out other issues, and prove somethings are happening.
Chest Xray. Xrays can show damage done to the lungs, but not always. Many times the scar tissue is not picked up, or shown to be in less areas in the lungs than it truly is.
CT Scan. These cross sectional images done by a large machine, can put together your body in layered pictures. This allows doctors to see how deep infections are, and how much tissue in your lungs and heart are being affected by the ILD.
-Echocardiogram. A sonogram on the heart, to check on it’s function and status. This test can check pressure, as well as arterial function.

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Pulmonary Function Tests
Spirometry. A breathing test, requiring one to exhale quickly and forcefully through a tube to measure how much air your lungs can hold, and how quickly the air leaves your lung.
Oximetry. The finger probe gently squeezed on the tip of your finger that monitors the oxygen levels in your blood. This test has been proven more effective than the standard chest xray.
Stress Test. By exercising a proscribed amount of time, and with proscribed tasks, one’s heart rate and body function is measured during said exercise.

Lung Tissue Analysis
Bronchoscopy. During a scoping event, the doctor uses the tubs to pull a small tissue sample from your body. This sample is no larger than the head of an eraser. Sometimes these samples end up not proviing enough tissue to sample to get the correct, definitive answers.
Bronchoalveolar Lavage. Here, your doctor flows salt water through a bronchoscope into a section of your lung, and then turns immediately to remove it. The solution that’s withdrawn contains cells from the pateints’ internal air sacs. In some cases, this works, but often is not enough information to diagnose pulmonary fibrosis.
Surgical Biopsy. The most invasive, with the most risk. This way does ensure enough tissue is collected for study, and results. Entering with cameras and instruments between the ribs, the camera allows the doctor to visually see your lungs, as well as safely take a sample.

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Treatments, Drugs, Home Changes, and More.
There are no specific drugs to combat the effects of ILD, but there are some given to help curb the further damage. Prednisone is often given first, and if that does not help, Immunosupressors are given to allow the body to relax, and stop attacking itself.
Oxygen therapy, and a gradual increase of exercise can help the body as a whole be able to handle the effects from the lack of oxygen. Exercising my help the body be able to absorb more oxygen, as well.
Lung transplants are the last resort move for young people suffering from this terrible disease.

Three ways to Improve your Health Today.
-Stop Smoking.
-Stay healthy.
-Eat well.

Sometimes, the hardest parts about having ILD and other autoimmune issues is the feeling of being alone. Many times family and friends just do not understand, unless they too have some incurable disease. They may tire of hearing the truth as to how you’re feeling, leaving you even more angry than before you tried to talk about it. Don’t be afraid to seek out counseling, or a support group in your area. The internet and Facebook have made such groups easy to find, and now they come with a certain amount of anonymity, too.
Please remember, I am no doctor, and if you’re having any of these issues, PLEASE GO TO YOUR DOCTOR THIS MINUTE!

Resources Used:
Mayo Clinic

Prescription Drug and Medical Device Dangers that Seniors Should Know About

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Prescription Drug and Medical Device Dangers that Seniors Should Know About

Americans spend billions of dollars on medication and medical devices every year.
There’s no denying that these drugs and devices have saved lives. However, some of them have side effects that are more dangerous than the condition they are designed to treat.

Because seniors suffer a disproportionate number of chronic illnesses, they often fall victim to these side effects. It’s important for seniors to be aware of the risks.
Cancers and Other Dangers Linked to Diabetes Drugs
Diabetes is a chronic illness that affects tens of millions of seniors. There are several type 2 diabetes drugs on the market that are used to regulate the condition.

Unfortunately, Januvia, Byetta and Actos have been linked to fatal cases of pancreatic cancer, thyroid cancer, bladder cancer and pancreatitis.
It’s important that seniors talk to their doctors about their medication choices when it comes to controlling diabetes.

Drugs Meant to Prevent Stroke Create Other Fears

Blood thinners (also called anticoagulants) are prescribed for heart patients at risk for a stroke. For many decades, patients relied on warfarin.
A new blood thinner called Pradaxa was approved by the FDA in October 2010 and welcomed as an alternative to warfarin that didn’t require regular monitoring.

Pradaxa, however, has been linked to deadly bleeding events. Unlike warfarin, there is no antidote for uncontrolled Pradaxa-related bleeding.  Xarelto is another blood thinning medication with no bleeding antidote.

Mesh Dangers for Women

Transvaginal mesh is at the center of more than 20,000 lawsuits in the U.S. Mesh is a plastic device used to support organs in women who suffer from Stress Urinary Incontinence or Pelvic Organ Prolapse Mesh. It’s implanted through the vagina.
The implantation method was intended to be less invasive, but instead has been linked to serious complications.
Woman report the following injuries:
• Mesh Erosion: This occurs when the mesh moves through the vaginal wall and into surrounding organs. Women may develop abscesses, as well, and experience intense pain.
• Organ Perforation. This occurs when rough edges of the mesh puncture the vagina or nearby organs. In many cases, additional surgery is required.

The FDA, which once downplayed the number of complications related to transvaginal mesh, changed its stance in 2011 and warned patients of the high risks involved.
Companies Accused of Putting Profit over Safety
Many of these drugs and devices have been extremely profitable for manufacturers, bringing in billions of dollars within in a short period of time on the market.
Watchdog groups cite the lure of profits and a lack of testing as reasons why dangerous drugs and devices are sold.
It’s important for seniors and their caregivers to research the medications and devices they are using. It could mean the difference between life and death.

Julian Hills is a content writer and blogger for Drugwatch. His journalism career has taken him from newspapers to local television news stations and even a 24-hour cable network in the Southeast. Julian is a graduate of Florida State University.

Thanks to Drugwatch for sending another guest blog!! 🙂

How Seniors Can Ease Their Recovery After Hip Replacement Surgery

How Seniors Can Ease Their Recovery After Hip Replacement Surgery

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Hip replacement surgery is a major event. Choosing to replace a joint is often a last resort, and you may be worried about the road to recovery after surgery. How long will it take? How much pain will there be? How much work will it take to get back to normal? It’s important to do as much research as possible beforehand so that you have a solid plan when you start your recovery.

First Steps
The good news about hip replacement surgery is that you’re almost certainly better off once you’ve had it. The debilitating pain, inflammation and lack of mobility that went along with your worn-out joint will be taken care of, so you should start feeling better very soon.
Before your surgery, be sure to talk to your doctor about which implant will be used. This is important because some artificial hips are more dangerous than others. For example, the Stryker Rejuvenate and ABG II Modular-Neck Hip Stem systems have been linked to very serious complications and were actually recalled in 2012. Other metal-on-metal hips are still on the market, however, so it’s important to talk to your doctor about the safety record of your implant.

Therapy and Recovery
After your surgery, you’re hopefully on your way to a better quality of life. After a few days of rest and limited mobility, you should be ready to start physical therapy. Small exercises are the first step. You should work with a professional physical therapist three to four times per week. He or she will give you additional advice and exercises.

To make your recovery easier, you’re going to need help around the house. Hip surgery means no driving for at least 3-6 weeks, so someone will have to help you with errands. You will also be limited in mobility overall; shopping, cleaning, cooking and other everyday activities can get a lot harder when you can’t move around very well. If you have family members who are willing to pitch in, that’s fantastic. Otherwise, you may need a few weeks of helpful home care.

It’s important to increase your level of physical activity and exercise as you gain more mobility and heal from your surgery. Within six weeks, you should be able to return to a full level of activity, which is vital to the recovery process. Push yourself, but not too hard, as falling or straining could damage your hip all over again.

Recovering from surgery is never easy. But if you arm yourself with a plan and prepare in advance, you can make it a little easier on yourself.

Jennifer Mesko is the managing editor of Drugwatch.com, a website that keeps consumers informed about dangerous prescription drugs and defective medical devices. Join the Drugwatch community on our facebook page to find out more.

 

Thanks to our newest guest bloggers from Drugwatch.com!! 🙂

Scleroderma & How It’s Changed My Life

Scleroderma & How It’s Changed My Life

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Scleroderma. It recently became my life. Although, it turns out I had been living it, or with it, for quite a few years. Now I can at least say the word, and give an explanation without getting overly emotional. Oh, happy day! You know, fifteen years ago I felt normal. I mean, I did always feel exhausted, but chalked it up to teenage depression. I swam. I wrote. I was mean… to my mom. (side note: I still say I hated *everyone*, but I think it hurt her the most. Sorry, Mom. Glad it was only a phase though…you’re the BEST around. Love you.) I did normal teenage/young adult things. Including, but not limited to, becoming pregnant. It was during this pregnancy that the first signs of “the strange and unusual” started to show up. Pregnancy #1 didn’t go well, and ended at the beginning of the second trimester.

From the beginning of pregnancy #2/darling #1, my body started to shut down. Hyperemesis Gravidarum, Weight Loss until month 7, blood count issues, sudden bouts of blindness….all ending with an emergency c-section ay 37 weeks. Of course, my boy was born perfect, and spent only days in the NICU. Even with a big, bulbous, super cute, super smart brain filled head. But my body never really bounced back. My next pregnancy was just as eventful as the first had been. Full of sickness, and disgust. This time even with 6 weeks of early labor, and stopping contractions constantly. Finally, at 36 weeks, docs gave way for the next c-section. Darling #2 was perfect & hairy like a beast. I knew we wanted to have a third baby, but I could feel my body screaming at me….pleading with me. (Family that’s reading this now, you know me. You KNOW I push everything… so, although I’ve never said these words out loud <thanks, blog> you shouldn’t be too surprised..) We didn’t wait as long as we first planned for #3. And man did I pay for it. Did we all pay for it.
Body was done half-way through. This time was the scariest. Baby was having and causing more issues than I knew possible. I had ALL of the above, including preterm labor. I had internal physical therapy to attempt to keep my “non-stretching” uterus flexible, and able to grow for the baby. (Yes. Internal. The physical therapist massaged my womb, via the ole vaginal canal. I thank this girl daily, still. Yes, girl. She and I had a sudden friendship that was nothing like I’ve ever had before. It was raunchy, and beyond uncomfortable.) That therapy got us an extra 6 weeks of in-utero, though. So, although traumatizing for all…doc knew what she was doing. The day that insurance stopped paying for that therapy (because they said it was an “unnecessary treatment”), I could feel my body change within hours. And I know that sounds freaky, but it’s a fact. By 5am the next morning, I had paged my OB. She called back immediately, and asked for the 411. I immediately went to the office, in tears. At 34 weeks, this was not a good choice to be making. I could feel my body….breaking. My doc and I had a relationship of great trust, built on many years. She did some tests, and although they were not normal, they did not speak immediate emergency. I felt otherwise. Knowing the risks to us both, I tearfully begged her to proceed to c-section NOW. Hours later, in surgery, my life and my Darling #3 hung in the balance. My uterus had ruptured, and I was bleeding out.

In the moments of seeing my doc’s face go pale, her demanding that my husband sit back down sternly, his terrified face, and feeling my body hit a weakness level unheard of….. I panicked. I knew something terrible was wrong. I couldn’t feel my chest, or lungs anymore(Later finding out that was due to the huge push of pain meds I had to endure the longer duration of pain & surgical stuff). Breathing I had to focus on. Did I mention I had a spinal for this c-section? So all of this wasn’t “forecasted“, so to speak. My uterus had split immediately apart after my doc made the first incision through skin. In that instant, my baby was without oxygen and blood supply. I was hemorrhaging internally. I’ll now name our lifesaver… Dr. Helfgott. She’s amazing. Always in my eyes.
After some NICU time, Darling #3 came home to join the brood. Doc H patched me up enough to need a hysterectomy when my Darling #3 was 3 months old. It was then that the condition of my tissue was first determined, although not pieced together fully.

Now I’m going to skip over the next few years in one paragraph, because it was the same thing over, and over, and over… They determined after my hysterectomy that internally, I had a scar tissue problem. They brought in a special doctor from England for my hysterectomy, and he tried some new procedure and solution on my insides to try to prevent further issue. I had severe GI issues by this time, too. That was labled Crohn’s for 5+ years (but really isn‘t…). I had pneumonia 4-6 times a year, with bouts of the flu, colds, rashes, bleeding issues, and more. I grew intolerant to gluten, some grains, dairy, eggs, and soy. My hormones went psycho, as did my thyroid. And then I got super sick, beyond anything it had been. Chronic pleurisy was here, and now brought on some more lung tests. Thankfully. Turns out my left lung was working at about 50%, and my right about 75-80%. The x-rays showed heavy amounts of scar tissue, and that my GI tract was also all fused together.
Yes, now the bells are beginning to go off. For the doctors, too. Years ago, my uterus had torn from this same thing that was now effecting my lungs, and GI system. My joints were now inflamed from the side effects of it, and my skin and body were going through some telltale signs. Of Scleroderma. Although, first it was an SLE Lupus primary misdiagnosis. I also have SLE, Raynaud’s Phenomenon, thyroid issues and serious GI issues all secondary from the Scleroderma.

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My days start hours before I get out of bed, stretching and trying to mobilize my muscles as much as I can. I fight with my stomach hideously in the mornings…it’s like every day is morning sickness for hours. Swallowing pills is how I spend my earliest times, normally always watching the Today Show while I do it. I would like to spend the morning typing my blog posts, but unfortunately my hands don’t work that well that early. Doing the daily household chores wipes me out if I’m not cautious and careful. Keeping up with all of my jobs is always do-able…. Just takes a lot of thought, and planning. I hide away sometimes to regain control of my body tremors, or to just lay down while the worst meds take effect. The meds I’m on now are considered chemo meds (immuno-suppressants), and their side effects listed are soo real. Although the dosage is low, the side effects are terrible. Worst on my GI system. The point of these meds is to shut down my immune system from attacking itself, while the other meds stop the build up of scar tissue inside me. My evenings are difficult sometimes, too. Overdoing it is very easy, as often puts me down for hours. Sometimes vomiting. Sometimes crippled in pain. This is often when I type. It’s an easy distraction, and I can keep my mind off of the body pain caused from “living” from the day. There’s so much I left out… the gross, TMI details….but it truly never ends. I swallow more pills at night, and hope for sleep. It’s my life sentence. See, the trouble with scleroderma is that you know your fate, but you never know when it’ll come. Or how painful it will be. Or just how long it will take.

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Gone are the days of hopping out of bed, throwing on clothes, and running to the grocery. Gone are the days I can run around in crazy circles with the kids. Man, just the thought of running just now made me out of breath… I have to plan my days, and my weeks. If I have parties or adult classes, I can’t do anything in the afternoon to prepare myself with enough energy. After days of home school, I have to recharge by sitting and relaxing (or blogging!) before I try anything else. Life’s all still very doable…it’s just a little more challenging now. I always seem to run myself out of FORKS (my alternative to “Spoons”), but I have gotten better finding what things trigger my flares. And subsequently avoiding those things. My kids have adjusted, and know that sometimes I just can’t do it. They also know that at those times of my weakest, their support and maturity is the most wonderful and appreciated thing ever. Of course, they also know that once I’m back on my feet, I treat them to fun and games for all their help!

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It truly does give you a different outlook on life. Less time for those people (even family) and things that cause drama and stress. More time for the things that do matter. Like my loves, and their education. And making all our lives as fun and FULLY LIVED as possible. Regardless of what you’ve been struck and stuck with…life’s still worth living. You just need to find what keeps your spark and drive lit. I’ve found mine. My husband and kids and family. My work: education, SEX (and educating about it, of course), cooking clean & recipe creating, and WORDS. Thanks for reading this part of my story. J
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Below you’ll find some general information about Scleroderma. Remember, if you’re reading this as a person who is experiencing symptoms of any autoimmune issue, PLEASE get off your computer, and call your Family Doctor! Also keep in mind that what works for me, or anyone else online, could actually HARM you. I do NOT want any harm to come to any of my readers, so please be sure to talk to YOUR DOCTOR, or at the least leave a comment if you have a question or need specifics!

GENERAL INFO ON SCLERODERMA & OTHER AI ISSUES

The “Spoon Theory”: Have you heard of it? This is something that people with autoimmune diseases of any kind use to help our un-sick friends understand just what it’s like to like with this energy sucking illness crap all of the time. To read this awesome article yourself, check it out here! Spoon Theory

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Definition of Scleroderma: Scleroderma (skleer-oh-DUR-muh) is a group of rare diseases that involve the hardening and tightening of the skin and connective tissues — the fibers that provide the framework and support for your body.
In some people, scleroderma affects only the skin. But in many people, scleroderma also harms structures beyond the skin — such as blood vessels, internal organs and the digestive tract. Signs and symptoms vary, depending on which structures are affected.
Scleroderma affects women more often than men and most commonly occurs between the ages of 30 and 50. While there is no cure for scleroderma, a variety of treatments can ease symptoms and improve quality of life.

What are some of the main symptoms of Scleroderma? Scleroderma’s signs and symptoms vary, depending on which parts of your body are involved:
-Skin. Nearly everyone who has scleroderma experiences a hardening and tightening of patches of skin. These patches may be shaped like ovals or straight lines. The number, location and size of the patches vary by type of scleroderma. Skin can appear shiny because it’s so tight, and movement of the affected area may be restricted.
-Fingers or toes. One of the earliest signs of scleroderma is an exaggerated response to cold temperatures or emotional distress, which can cause numbness, pain or color changes in the fingers or toes. Called Raynaud’s phenomenon, this condition also occurs in people who don’t have scleroderma.
-Digestive system. In addition to acid reflux, which can damage the section of esophagus nearest the stomach, some people with scleroderma may also have problems absorbing nutrients if their intestinal muscles aren’t moving food properly through the intestines.
-Heart, lungs or kidneys. Rarely, scleroderma can affect the function of the heart, lungs or kidneys. These problems can become life-threatening.

What are the causes of Scleroderma? Ironically, no one truly knows what sets off the over production of collagen inside our bodies. There have been, and still are, studies about environmental hazards triggering these illnesses, as well as hereditary and being predisposition for it.

What are the common complications with Scleroderma? Scleroderma complications range from mild to severe and can affect your:
-Fingertips. The variety of Raynaud’s phenomenon that occurs with scleroderma can be so severe that the restricted blood flow permanently damages the tissue at the fingertips, causing pits or skin sores (ulcers). In some cases, gangrene and amputation may follow.

-Lungs. Scarring of lung tissue (pulmonary fibrosis) can result in reduced lung function, reduced ability to breathe and reduced tolerance for exercise. You may also develop high blood pressure in the arteries to your lungs (pulmonary hypertension).

-Kidneys. When scleroderma affects your kidneys, you can develop an elevated blood pressure and an increased level of protein in your urine. More-serious effects of kidney complications may include renal crisis, which involves a sudden increase in blood pressure and rapid kidney failure.

-Heart. Scarring of heart tissue increases your risk of abnormal heartbeats (arrhythmias) and congestive heart failure, and can cause inflammation of the membranous sac surrounding your heart (pericarditis). Scleroderma also can raise the pressure on the right side of your heart and cause it to wear out.

-Teeth. Severe tightening of facial skin can cause your mouth to become smaller and narrower, which may make it hard to brush your teeth or to even have them professionally cleaned. People who have scleroderma often don’t produce normal amounts of saliva, so the risk of dental decay increases even more.

-Digestive system. Digestive problems associated with scleroderma can lead to acid reflux and difficulty swallowing — some describe feeling as if food gets stuck midway down the esophagus — as well as bouts of constipation alternating with episodes of diarrhea.

-Sexual function. Men who have scleroderma often experience erectile dysfunction. Scleroderma may also affect the sexual function of women, by decreasing sexual lubrication and constricting the vaginal opening.

How do I approach my doctor with my symptoms? And what tests will he suggest? I suggest keeping a journal of your symptoms, flares, of everything and take it with you to your appointment. Appointments are often short, so don’t hesitate with getting to the point. My doctor’s have always thanked me for spilling my guts immediately upon arrival. Sometimes writing things down is an easier way to remember things, too. There really is no right or wrong way to do this. Whatever works best for you to feel, and be heard by your doctor.

As for tests, it depends on how your illness is presenting. Blood tests are usually the first steps, and a lot can be ruled out with those. Not necessarily proven, though. Keep in mind it can take *years* for diagnosis, and even longer to find the right course of treatment. (It took over 10 years for me..)

What types of treatment can I expect? In some cases, the skin problems associated with scleroderma fade away on their own in three to five years. The type of scleroderma that affects internal organs usually worsens with time.
Medications
No drug has been developed that can stop the underlying process of scleroderma — the overproduction of collagen. But a variety of medications can help control scleroderma symptoms or help prevent complications. To accomplish this, these drugs may:
-Dilate blood vessels. Blood pressure medications that dilate blood vessels may help prevent lung and kidney problems and may help treat Raynaud’s disease.
-Suppress the immune system. Drugs that suppress the immune system, such as those taken after organ transplants, may help reduce scleroderma symptoms.
-Reduce stomach acid. Medications such as omeprazole (Prilosec) can relieve symptoms of acid reflux.
-Prevent infections. Antibiotic ointment may help prevent infection of fingertip ulcers caused by Raynaud’s phenomenon. Regular influenza and pneumonia vaccinations can help protect lungs that have been damaged by scleroderma.
-Relieve pain. If over-the-counter pain relievers don’t help enough, you can ask your doctor to prescribe stronger medications.
Therapy

Physical or occupational therapists can help you to:
-Manage pain
-Improve your strength and mobility
-Maintain independence with daily tasks
**Surgery: Used as a last resort, surgical options for scleroderma complications may include:
-Amputation. If finger ulcers caused by severe Raynaud’s phenomenon have developed gangrene, amputation may be necessary.
-Lung transplants. People who have developed high blood pressure in the arteries to their lungs (pulmonary hypertension) may be candidates for lung transplants.

How should my home life change? You can take a number of steps to help manage your symptoms of scleroderma:
Stay active. Exercise keeps your body flexible, improves circulation and relieves stiffness. Range-of-motion exercises can help keep your skin and joints flexible.
*Don’t smoke. Nicotine causes blood vessels to contract, making Raynaud’s phenomenon worse. Smoking can also cause permanent narrowing of your blood vessels. Quitting smoking is difficult — ask your doctor for help.

*Manage heartburn. Avoid foods that give you heartburn or gas. Also avoid late-night meals. Elevate the head of your bed to keep stomach acid from backing up into your esophagus (reflux) as you sleep. Antacids may help relieve symptoms.

*Protect yourself from the cold. Wear warm mittens for protection anytime your hands are exposed to cold — even when you reach into a freezer. When you’re outside in the cold, cover your face and head and wear layers of warm clothing.

(Doesn’t really seem like a lot to ease the trouble, does it?)

What if my friends just aren’t enough? As is true with other chronic diseases, living with scleroderma can place you on a roller coaster of emotions. Here are some suggestions to help you even out the ups and downs:
*Maintain normal daily activities as best you can.
*Pace yourself and be sure to get the rest that you need.
*Stay connected with friends and family.
*Continue to pursue hobbies that you enjoy and are able to do.
The prognosis for scleroderma has improved dramatically over the past 30 years as the ability to detect and treat many of the problems of scleroderma has improved. But if scleroderma makes it difficult for you to do things you enjoy, ask your doctor about ways to get around the obstacles.
Keep in mind that your physical health can have a direct impact on your mental health. Denial, anger and frustration are common with chronic illnesses.
At times, you may need additional tools to deal with your emotions. Professionals, such as therapists or behavior psychologists, may be able to help you put things in perspective. They can also help you develop coping skills, including relaxation techniques.
Joining a support group, where you can share experiences and feelings with other people, is often a good approach. Ask your doctor what support groups are available in your community.

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Resources Used:

Mayo Clinic

Body Signs You Should Never Ignore

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Body Signs You Should NEVER Ignore
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Maybe you didn’t know, or maybe you’re just short on time. Maybe you’ve got a family reunion, or maybe you could just care less!! I can assure you that ignoring your body can end you up in very bad places, for long periods of time. That bad place I’m referring to is called “the hospital.” And normally, if you’re in the hospital….it’s never just for an ear infection or sprained ankle.
Below you’ll find many body signs, symptoms, and issues that often lead to even more, larger issues. If you find yourself saying, “Hey, this sounds like me,” repeatedly through this blog….maybe you should get off of the computer, and call your family doctor. Like now. They’re always the best place to start!!!

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Severe Head Pain
So you’ve had a headache for a few days, and nothing seems to touch it. Or maybe you fell a few days back, and hit your head. But no “bump” appeared, and it only really hurt for a few days. Maybe you’ve recently had surgery, or maybe you’re even pregnant. Did you know that any of these things above can actually be a serious brain condition, or worse, a hemorrhage?

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There are two main types of headaches: primary and secondary. Tension headaches and cluster headaches are examples of primary. In primary headaches, your nerves and blood vessels send pain messages to your brain. In secondary headaches, such as from a medicine, a fever, high blood pressure, stroke, stress, a tumor, or a nerve disorder. Primary headaches are most common, but it’s important to differentiate the two.

Here are some secondary headache features that may stand out to you.
-A headache that’s the first ever or worst ever
-A severe headache that comes on abruptly
-Increased frequency or a change in the character of recurrent headaches
-Headaches at a very young age or later in life (under 5 or over 50)
-Abnormalities, such as weakness or vision loss, accompanying a headache
-Headaches that are associated with seizures, fainting or a medical condition like pregnancy, cancer, HIV or high blood pressure
-A headache accompanied by fever
-A headache that comes with exertion or straining, activities known as Valsalva maneuvers

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Head issues are often the most misdiagnosed around. And this does not apply to the elderly only. Even young people’s headaches, and symptoms can be misdiagnosed. Here’s some information from a Woman’s Health Magazine.
“Scarier still is how often strokes in young adults are missed—some 14 percent of the time, according to researchers at Wayne State University. Patients from that study were misdiagnosed as, among other things, being drunk, having an inner ear infection, or suffering from benign vertigo.
“If a young person has symptoms of sudden unsteadiness, dizziness, or weakness, it’s almost always considered a less dramatic event than stroke,” says study coauthor Kumar Rajamani, M.D., an associate professor of neurology at Wayne State University School of Medicine.
The consequences of misdiagnosis are dire, because when having a stroke, every minute counts. “Timeliness of treatment is crucial,” says Rajamani. After a stroke is diagnosed, patients generally have up to three hours (in some situations up to four and a half hours) to be injected with a clot-busting drug called tissue plasminogen activator, or TPA.
“But if the stroke is diagnosed too late, then the affected part of the brain is already dead, which is irreversible. Treatment with TPA at this late stage is futile and perhaps dangerous.” And though young stroke patients can bounce back more quickly than older ones—their brains are able to compensate better for losses—they’re not immune to the often-traumatic consequences” (WomensHealthMag.com).
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Throbbing Tooth

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Whether brushing your teeth beings you pain, or your gums bleed after the slightest touch… mouth issues should be handled immediately! Did you know that if left untreated, mouth infections can enter the blood stream very quickly, due to the make up of your mouth. Courtesy of this awesome thing we call the human body.

So, what’s the big deal? You may have gum disease, a bacterial infection that affects millions. “Infected gums are a portal for bacteria to enter the bloodstream and inflame and possibly damage your heart and other organs,” says Steven Offenbacher, D.D.S., at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Dentistry.
Act now! Root cleaning (which rids your teeth of rough spots where germs gather) can help treat infection, and severe cases may be managed with antibiotics, Dr. Offenbacher says. For healthy gums for life, floss and brush at least twice a day and schedule a dental exam every six months.

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Sharp Pain in Your Side
We’re not talking the pains from running. We’re talking the side splitting, takes your breathe away pain that doesn’t quit. If this pain happens to be on your right side, and is accompanied by a fever and nausea, it could very well be appendicitis.

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It occurs when something (like a stray piece of feces) migrates into the space where the appendix empties into the colon, blocking it. Soon the organ becomes dangerously inflamed. Another possibility is an ovarian cyst. Typically these fluid-filled sacs are harmless and disappear on their own. But if one twists or ruptures, it can cause terrible pain.
In both cases, you’re looking at emergency surgery. “If you don’t remove an inflamed ap­pendix, it can burst,” says Lin Chang, M.D., a gastroenterologist and codirector of UCLA’s Center for Neurovisceral Scien­ces and Women’s Health. This can cause dangerous swelling of the tissue surrounding your organs. A twisted cyst also needs to be removed right away, as it can block blood flow to your ovary within hours. If that happens, the doctor will need to cut out the entire ovary (and the eggs inside) along with the cyst.

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Passing Chest Pain
Have you experienced the occasional chest pain? Maybe heartburn at odd times, after you’ve eaten nothing questionable. It’s always possible that you just had too many jalapenos with dinner. However, if you’ve ever had chest pain or heart problems before, this is not something to blow off. Ever. It could simply be indigestion. But it could also be a heart attack.

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Every year, about 10,000 women under 45 have one. Symptoms tend to be less severe in women than in men, so “you may just feel pressure, along with fatigue, throat pain, or shortness of breath,” Giardina says.

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Abdominal Discomfort
We’re not just talking gas pain, here folks. And this one can be more detrimental for women then men. Any sort of abdominal bloating that lasts longer than your cycle can be a huge sign of ovarian cysts, or cancer.
“In 2007 the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation released the first national consensus on early symptoms: They include bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, and difficulty eating. If you start experiencing them almost daily for more than two or three weeks, raise a red flag.

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Ovarian cancer isn’t as common as breast or lung cancer (about 1 in 70 women will get it during their lives), but your risk is higher if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer or if you’ve never been pregnant” (womenshealthmag.com).
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Back Pain with Tingling Toes

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Did you just put all the holiday decorations in the attic, and now you’re attached to the heating pad, and cannot move? Or maybe you went fishing, and while walking down the hill, your back did the Dougie, and now you can’t walk. If after a few days your back pain hasn’t gotten better, it may be time to seek some extra treatment.
If no amounts of over the counter pain medicine, or doctor prescribed anti-inflammatory medicines don’t work… it’s very possible you could have a slipped, or burst disc. And without the proper treatment, you can do further permanent damage. Possibly creating even more pain then you’re already in.
The fix An X-ray or MRI can show whether a disc in your back has slipped or ruptured. As long as the numbness isn’t getting worse, your doctor will probably prescribe physical therapy along with oral steroids or NSAIDs to reduce nerve inflammation. But if you’re still laid up after a few months, you may need surgery to remove the disc.
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Leg Pain with Swelling
If at any time your leg becomes red, sore and hot to the touch or a firey feeling deep within.. It’s possible you’re having some deep vein thrombosis, otherwise known as a blood clot.

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As with every blog post on the medical front….please make sure you’re not doctoring yourself only with information online. If you’ve got issues with your health, don’t keep it to yourself. Talk to friends, family, or even better–YOUR DOCTOR. 🙂 

Resources Used:

www.womenshealthmag.com
Pinterest.com

Scleroderma: Support, Inform, Advocate, Educate

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Scleroderma: Support, Inform, Advocate, Educate

I’ve been off the blog for a few weeks trying to get my own body issues under control, so I can keep on living, and frantically typing and writing. That’s the goal, anyway. I’ve been riddled with auto immune disease for years now, and finally have begun a course of action to take back control of my scar tissue covered lungs, and keep some function in my body. One thing that I’ve learned is that no one knows ANYthing about Scleroderma!! And even after I’ve explained, they’re still looking at me with confusion, curiosity, and wonder. So, this blog post will have lots of information about scleroderma in it. An important thing to remember–auto immune diseases are different for everyone, and no one’s symptoms are exactly the same. And they can affect ANYone, of ANY age, from infancy to elders.

My issues: Scleroderma, with underlying SLE Lupus, Raynaud’s Phenomenon, Thyroid issues (fluctuating)…and a few other, special extras. My scleroderma affects my Cardio-Pulmonary System, Gastrointestinal System, and Respiratory System. So far, my respiratory system has had the most damage…and that’s what I’m on the *strong* meds for. My biological mother, and the females in her family all also seem to have different types of auto immune issues. Thusly making me think that there is a certain amount of heredity, and a predisposition to certain autoimmune diseases. Anyway, time for the facts!~

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*Definition: Scleroderma
Scleroderma (skleer-oh-DUR-muh) is a group of rare, progressive diseases that involve the hardening and tightening of the skin and connective tissues — the fibers that provide the framework and support for your body.
Localized scleroderma affects only the skin. Systemic scleroderma also harms internal organs, such as the heart, lungs, kidneys and digestive tract.
Scleroderma can happen to anyone at any time in any geographical area. However, the disease affects women more often than men and most commonly occurs between the ages of 30 and 50. Scleroderma can run in families, but in most cases it occurs without any known family tendency for the disease. Scleroderma isn’t considered contagious, but it can greatly affect self-esteem and the ability to accomplish everyday tasks.

What scleroderma is not:
Scleroderma is not contagious, infectious, cancerous or malignant.
How serious is scleroderma?
Any chronic disease can be serious. The symptoms of scleroderma vary greatly for each person, and the effects of scleroderma can range from very mild to life threatening. The seriousness will depend on the parts of the body, which are affected, and the extent to which they are affected. A mild case can become more serious if not properly treated. Prompt and proper diagnosis and treatment by qualified physicians may minimize the symptoms of scleroderma and lessen the chance for irreversible damage.

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*Symptoms
Scleroderma symptoms vary, depending on which organ systems are involved. Diagnosis can be difficult because some of the early symptoms are common in the general population and aren’t always associated with scleroderma. The most prevalent signs and symptoms of scleroderma include:
Raynaud’s phenomenon. An exaggerated response to cold temperatures or emotional distress, this condition constricts the small blood vessels in the hands and feet and causes numbness, pain or color changes in the fingers or toes.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). In addition to acid reflux, which can damage the section of esophagus nearest your stomach, you may also have problems absorbing nutrients if your intestinal muscles aren’t moving food properly through your intestines.
Skin changes. These changes may include swollen fingers and hands; thickened patches of skin, particularly on the fingers; and tight skin around the hands, face or mouth. Skin can appear shiny because it’s so tight, and movement of the affected area may be restricted.
Localized scleroderma
The two main varieties of localized scleroderma, which affects only the skin, are distinguished by very distinctive signs and symptoms:
Morphea. This variety features oval-shaped thickened patches of skin that are white in the middle, with a purple border. Skin patches could appear in only a few spots on your body or be more widespread, appearing all over your body. Morphea generally fades out after three to five years, but you may retain areas of darkened skin where the areas of thickened skin appeared.
Linear scleroderma. This variety, which is more common in children, features bands or streaks of hardened skin on one or both arms or legs, or on the forehead. Linear scleroderma often appears mostly on one side of the body.
With localized scleroderma, the first signs of disease may be the presence of Raynaud’s phenomenon and may develop several years before you notice any other symptoms.
Systemic scleroderma
This type of scleroderma, also called systemic sclerosis, affects not only your skin but also your blood vessels and internal organs. Subcategories are defined by what portions of your body are affected. One variation is known as limited scleroderma, or CREST syndrome.
With systemic scleroderma, skin changes may occur suddenly and progressively worsen during the first one to two years of the disease. After that, changes level off or subside, and sometimes even resolve on their own without treatment.

*Causes
Scleroderma results from an overproduction and accumulation of collagen in body tissues. Collagen is a fibrous type of protein that makes up your body’s connective tissues, including your skin.
Although doctors aren’t sure what prompts this abnormal collagen production, the body’s immune system appears to play a role. For unknown reasons, the immune system turns against the body, producing inflammation and the overproduction of collagen.

*Risk Factors…..(although these can mean a lot, or a little with auto immune diseases)
Several factors appear to increase the risk of certain types of scleroderma:
Race and ethnicity
Certain groups of people are more likely to develop scleroderma than are others:
Native Americans. Choctaw Native Americans in Oklahoma are at least 20 times as likely as is the general population to develop systemic scleroderma. Oddly enough, this increased risk doesn’t apply to Choctaws living in Mississippi.
African-Americans. Systemic scleroderma is more common in African-Americans than it is in Americans of European descent. And the African-Americans who have systemic scleroderma are more likely to develop severe lung complications.

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Gender
Scleroderma occurs at least four times as often in women as it does in men.
Environmental factors
Exposure to a variety of substances may be linked to the development of scleroderma.

Examples include:
-Silica dust, which is common in coal mines and rock quarries
-Some industrial solvents, such as paint thinners
-Certain chemotherapy drugs

Who develops scleroderma, and when?
It’s estimated that about 300,000 Americans have scleroderma. About one third of those people have the systemic form of scleroderma. Since scleroderma presents with symptoms similar to other autoimmune diseases, diagnosis is difficult. There may be many misdiagnosed or undiagnosed cases.
Localized scleroderma is more common in children, whereas systemic scleroderma is more common in adults. Overall, female patients outnumber male patients about 4-to-1. Factors other than a person’s gender, such as race and ethnic background, may influence the risk of getting scleroderma, the age of onset, and the pattern or severity of internal organ involvement. The reasons for this are not clear. Although scleroderma is not directly inherited, some scientists feel there is a slight predisposition to it in families with a history of rheumatic diseases.
However, scleroderma can develop in every age group from infants to the elderly, but its onset is most frequent between the ages of 25 to 55. When doctors say “usually” or “for the most part,” the reader should understand that variations frequently occur. Many patients get alarmed when they read medical information that seems to contradict their own experiences, and conclude that what has happened to them is not supposed to happen. There are many exceptions to the rules in scleroderma, perhaps more so than in other diseases. Each case is different, and information should be discussed with your own doctor.

*Complications…. (and this is a small list)
Scleroderma complications range from mild to severe. Some may even become life-threatening.
Circulatory complications
The variety of Raynaud’s phenomenon that occurs with scleroderma can be so severe that the restricted blood flow permanently damages the tissue at the fingertips, causing pits or skin sores (ulcers). In some cases, gangrene and amputation may follow.
Lung complications
Scarring of lung tissue (pulmonary fibrosis) can result in reduced lung function, reduced ability to breathe and reduced tolerance for exercise. You may also develop high blood pressure in the arteries to your lungs (pulmonary hypertension).
Kidney complications
When scleroderma affects your kidneys, you can develop an elevated blood pressure and an increased level of protein in your urine. More serious effects of kidney complications may include renal crisis, which involves a sudden increase in blood pressure and rapid kidney failure.
Heart complications
Scarring of heart tissue increases your risk of abnormal heartbeats (arrhythmias) and congestive heart failure, and can cause inflammation of the membranous sac surrounding your heart (pericarditis).
Dental complications
Severe tightening of facial skin can cause your mouth to become smaller and narrower, which may make it hard to brush your teeth or to even have them professionally cleaned. People who have scleroderma often don’t produce normal amounts of saliva, so the risk of decay increases even more. In addition, acid reflux can destroy tooth enamel, and changes in gum tissue may cause your teeth to become loose or even fall out.
Digestive complications
Scleroderma can affect your upper and lower digestive tracts. Digestive problems associated with scleroderma can lead to acid reflux and difficulty swallowing — some describe feeling as if food gets stuck midway down the esophagus — as well as bouts of constipation alternating with episodes of diarrhea.
Sexual complications
Men who have scleroderma often experience erectile dysfunction. Scleroderma may also affect the sexual function of women, by decreasing sexual lubrication and constricting the vaginal opening.

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*Tests & Diagnostic
Your doctor may conduct the following tests:
Blood tests. People with scleroderma usually have elevated blood levels of certain antibodies produced by the immune system.
Tissue sample. Your doctor may remove a small tissue sample (biopsy) of your affected skin to be examined in the laboratory for abnormalities.
Skin assessment. Your doctor ideally evaluates the condition of your skin in 17 specific areas to determine the level of skin involvement, which provides a clue to the likelihood that you also have life-threatening changes happening to internal organs.
Based on the outcome of your initial evaluation, your doctor may also recommend other diagnostic tests to identify any lung, heart, kidney or gastrointestinal complications accompanying scleroderma.

*Types of Scleroderma
Localized Scleroderma

The changes, which occur in localized scleroderma, are usually found in only a few places on the skin or muscles, and rarely spread elsewhere. Generally, localized scleroderma is relatively mild. The internal organs are usually not affected, and persons with localized scleroderma rarely develop systemic scleroderma. Some laboratory abnormalities commonly seen in systemic scleroderma are frequently absent in the localized form.
Morphea is a form of localized scleroderma characterized by waxy patches on the skin of varying sizes, shapes and color. The skin under the patches may thicken. The patches may enlarge or shrink, and often may disappear spontaneously. Morphea usually appears between the ages of 20 and 50, but is often seen in young children.
Linear scleroderma is a form of localized scleroderma which frequently starts as a streak or line of hardened, waxy skin on an arm or leg or on the forehead. Sometimes it forms a long crease on the head or neck, referred to as en coup de sabre because it resembles a saber or sword wound. Linear scleroderma tends to involve deeper layers of the skin as well as the surface layers, and sometimes affects the motion of the joints, which lie underneath. Linear scleroderma usually develops in childhood. In children, the growth of involved limbs may be affected.
Systemic scleroderma (systemic sclerosis)

The changes occurring in systemic scleroderma may affect the connective tissue in many parts of the body. Systemic scleroderma can involve the skin, esophagus, gastrointestinal tract (stomach and bowels), lungs, kidneys, heart and other internal organs. It can also affect blood vessels, muscles and joints. The tissues of involved organs become hard and fibrous, causing them to function less efficiently. The term systemic sclerosis indicates that “sclerosis” (hardening) may occur in the internal systems of the body. There are two major recognized patterns that the illness can take – diffuse or limited disease. In diffuse scleroderma, skin thickening occurs more rapidly and involves more skin areas than in limited disease. In addition, people with diffuse scleroderma have a higher risk of developing “sclerosis” or fibrous hardening of the internal organs.
About 50 percent of patients have a slower and more benign illness called limited scleroderma. In limited scleroderma, skin thickening is less widespread, typically confined to the fingers, hands and face, and develops slowly over years. Although internal problems occur, they are less frequent and tend to be less severe than in diffuse scleroderma, and are usually delayed in onset for several years. However, persons with limited scleroderma, and occasionally those with diffuse scleroderma,
can develop pulmonary hypertension, a condition in which the lung’s blood vessels become narrow, leading to impaired blood flow through the lungs resulting in shortness of breath.
Limited scleroderma is sometimes called CREST syndrome. CREST stands for the initial letters of five common features:
-Calcinosis
-Raynaud Phenomenon
-Esophageal dysfunction
-Sclerodactyly
-Telangiectasia

To further complicate the terminology, some people with diffuse disease will go on to develop calcinosis and telangiectasias so that they also have the features of CREST.
Although most patients can be classified as having diffuse or limited disease, different people may have different symptoms and different combination of symptoms of the illness.

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*Treatments & Meds
Scleroderma has no known cure — no drug will stop the overproduction of collagen. But the localized variety of scleroderma sometimes resolves on its own. And a variety of medications can help control the symptoms of scleroderma or help prevent complications.
Medications
Dilating the blood vessels. Blood pressure medications that dilate blood vessels may help prevent lung and kidney problems and may help treat Raynaud’s disease.
Suppressing the immune system. Drugs that suppress the immune system, such as those taken after organ transplants, may help reduce scleroderma symptoms.
Therapy
Physical or occupational therapy. Therapists can help you to manage pain, improve your strength and mobility, and work on performing essential daily tasks to maintain your independence.
Cosmetic procedures. The appearance of skin lesions associated with scleroderma may be helped by exposure to ultraviolet light. Laser surgery also may help camouflage or eliminate these lesions.
Surgery
Amputation. If finger ulcers caused by severe Raynaud’s disease have developed gangrene, amputation may be necessary.
Lung transplants. People who have developed high blood pressure in the arteries to their lungs (pulmonary hypertension) may be candidates for lung transplants.

*Alternative Medications or Therapies
None known. Meditation has been noted to help with symptoms.

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*Coping & Support
As is true with other chronic diseases, living with scleroderma can place you on a roller coaster of emotions. Here are some suggestions to help you even out the ups and downs:
Maintain normal daily activities as best you can.
Pace yourself and be sure to get the rest that you need.
Stay connected with friends and family.
Continue to pursue hobbies that you enjoy and are able to do.
If scleroderma makes it difficult for you to do things you enjoy, ask your doctor about ways to get around the obstacles.
Keep in mind that your physical health can have a direct impact on your mental health. Denial, anger and frustration are common with chronic illnesses.
At times, you may need additional tools to deal with your emotions. Professionals, such as therapists or behavior psychologists, may be able to help you put things in perspective. They can also help you develop coping skills, including relaxation techniques.
Joining a support group, where you can share experiences and feelings with other people, is often a good approach. Ask your doctor what support groups are available in your community.

Resources Used:
www.mayoclinic.com

www.scleroderma.org check it out, and donate to the cause, today!!!

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Prescription Drugs: Know Your Medications!

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Prescription Drugs: Know Your Medications!

In today’s day and age, many people take multiple medicines for a myriad of different health issues. I am included in the group, as of this week. I’ve now got 8 different prescriptions to take on schedule, and keep track of daily. As with my own medicines, many times elderly folks will have one prescription for each issue. That can include diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, cholesterol meds, thyroid meds, pain medicine, anxiety meds…. Well, you see that the list goes on and on. Each of these medicines has it’s own list of cautions, warnings, and list of drug interactions to watch for. As a care giver for someone with multiple prescriptions, you should be aware of each medicine, what it does, the proper dosage, and the side effects.

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When I took the role of being the drug deliverer (prescription only, of course), I made to sure to memorize my Grandma’s medications, and study ALL of the information that came with each. I familiarized myself with the pharmacist, and discussed the new meds that came through. I also became the dosage monitor of certain pills, mainly the pain pills.
Grandma had an addictive personality, and her main doctor had seemingly forgotten that when he allowed her to take 5 different pain pills at once. Needless to say, pills were being taken too frequently, and refilled too often. At 8 months pregnant with my third child, I was questioned by the police and pharmacist when I went to pick up her pills one day……because she had gone through so many, in such a short time. At that point, action was obviously taken, and we began reducing her pain pill prescriptions back down to one. It only takes one misstep to cause a somewhat unavoidable pill popping problem in elderly people. Sometimes they do this without even knowing of the risk, or risk of becoming dependant on these drugs. All the more reason to keep track! Below you’ll find some helpful hints and tips on how to keep track of your own, or a loved ones prescriptions!~

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*Tips on Staying Up-to-Date with Medications
-Keep a list of all your medicines in a safe place.
-Bring your list when you talk to your doctor or pharmacist.
-Use a pillbox.
-Put notes around the house to remind you to take your medicines each day.
-Talk to your doctor about all the medicines, remedies, and vitamins you use. Include any medicines you buy without a prescription. These are called OTC (over-the-counter) medicines. OTC drugs include things like cough syrups for colds and antacids for upset stomachs.

*It may be helpful to write down these things:
-the drug name, the doctor who prescribed it, and how much you take the name and amount of each remedy, vitamin, and OTC drug you take the time of day you take each medicine.

Check out this link, http://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/safe-use-medicines/hints-get-best-results-your-medicines, to get the best results from each of your medications. It has a comprehensive list to follow to help!

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*Here’s a list of common questions to take with you to your appointment to discuss with your doctor.
-What is the name of the medicine and why am I taking it?
-What medical condition does this medicine treat?
-How many times a day should I take this medicine?
-How much medicine should I take?
-How long will it take this medicine to work? When should I stop taking it? What should I do if I miss a dose?
-Are there any side effects I should know about?
-When should I call you if I am having side effects?
-Can I safely mix this medicine with the remedies, vitamins, and OTC drugs I am taking?

*Know your Pharmacist!
Use this link to take you to a list of questions for your Pharmacist, and a helpful medicine chart to help keep order of all your prescriptions! http://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/safe-use-medicines/you-and-your-pharmacist

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*Prescription Safety Resources
The Food and Drug Administration has information for older people about medicines, safety, and ways to lower medicine costs on its website at www.fda.gov.
Some booklets can be ordered by calling the FDA toll-free at 1-888-463-6332, or writing to:

Food and Drug Administration
5600 Fishers Lane
Rockville, MD 20857

For the free booklet, Talking With Your Doctor: A Guide for Older People, call the National Institute on Aging Information Center toll-free at 1-800-222-2225 or go to www.nia.nih.gov/health and click on Publications.
The toll-free TTY line for people who are deaf is 1-800-222-4225.

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Resources Used:
Nia.nih.gov

Copy of the booklet: http://www.nia.nih.gov/sites/default/files/safe_use_of_medicines.pdf