Urinary Tract Infection: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

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Urinary Tract Infection: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

A urinary tract infection, or UTI, is a bacterial infection of any part of the urinary tract, which includes the bladder, kidneys, ureters (tubes that connect the kidneys to the bladder) and the urethra (the tube that allows the bladder to be emptied). Infections of the bladder or the urethra are the most common.

In the United States, about 8.1 million people visit the doctor due to a urinary tract infection each year,according to the American Urological Association.

Most often, a UTI occurs because bacteria enter the urethra and travel up to the bladder, where they multiply.

Bladder infections are typically caused by Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria, which are common bacteria in the human gut, according to the Mayo Clinic. Infections of the urethra can be caused by E. coli, or by sexually transmitted infections, such as herpes or chlamydia.

Bacteria in the bladder can also move up to the kidneys and cause a kidney infection (known as pyelonephritis), which can cause permanent kidney damage. An untreated UTI in the bladder can lead to such an infection.

According to the National Institutes of Health, symptoms of a UTI include:

  • A strong and frequent urge to urinate often, even after you’ve just emptied your bladder
  • Pain or burning while urinating
  • Cloudy or bloody urine
  • Pain in the lower abdomen or back (pelvic pain for women, rectal pain for men)

Signs of a kidney infection may include:

  • Chills or night sweats
  • Fever
  • Pain in the side, back or groin area
  • Flushed or reddened skin
  • Nausea and vomiting

In older adults, mental changes or confusion are often the only signs of a UTI, according to the NIH. For this reason, UTIs in the elderly are often missed, said Dr. Ketul Shah, a urologist from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. If an elderly patient comes to the hospital because they are confused and not feeling well, it’s important that doctors rule out common problems (such as UTI) first, before they start treatment for other, less common problems, Shah said.

Women are more likely than men to get a UTI. One reason for this is that women have a shorter urethra than men do, and it is closer to the anus. Both of these reasons explain why bacteria can reach the bladder more easily in women. Sexual activity also increases a woman’s risk of UTI.

The drop in estrogen levels that women experience after menopause also can make the urinary tract more vulnerable to infection, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Blockages of the urinary tract, such as those caused by a kidney stone or an enlarged prostate, can block the flow of urine and increase the risk of UTI.

People with an impaired immune system, such as those with diabetes and other conditions, have a decreased ability to fight off infections, which can increase the risk of UTI.

People who have a urinary catheter are also at increased risk for UTI.

People who hold their urine for long periods of time may also be at risk for a urinary tract infection, Shah said. Urine has a high amount of glucose and proteins, which can allow bacteria to grow, Shah said. “The bacteria has more time to multiply” when people hold their urine, Shah said.

To diagnose a UTI, doctors collect a urine sample to look for bacteria or byproducts from bacteria, such as red and white blood cells, Shah said. Doctors can also perform a urine culture — in which the urine sample is cultured in a lab to see if it grows bacteria — which takes about 24 to 48 hours, Shah said. The latter test can help doctors determine which antibiotics are most suitable to treat the infection, Shah said.

Usually, a urinary tract infection is treated with antibiotics to prevent the infection from spreading to the kidneys. Symptoms of a bladder infection usually go away within one to two days after starting antibiotics.

Patients who are prescribed antibiotics should take them exactly as it was recommended by your healthcare provider, and they should not stop taking the drug until your provider says it is safe to do so, according to theCenters for Disease Control and Prevention.

A recent opinion article published in The BMJ (British Medical Journal) hasquestioned the long-held advice of finishing a course of antibiotics even if a person is feeling better to prevent the relapse of an infection. The article suggests this advice might be contributing to an increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Women with recurrent UTIs — meaning having more than two or three UTIs in a year — may be told to take antibiotics after sexual activity to prevent infection. Longer courses of antibiotics, or stronger doses, also may be required for people with recurrent infections.

A more severe infection of the kidneys may require hospital treatment. Hospital treatment involves injecting fluids and antibiotics through a vein. Some people may need surgery if the infection is caused by a problem with the structure of the urinary tract, according to the NIH.

UTIs in children can be serious because the infection can sometimes affect the growth of the kidneys, Shah said. Children who have had a UTI may require further testing to make sure their urine is not traveling back up into the kidneys, Shah said.

Ways to help prevent UTIs include drinking plenty of water to dilute urine and flush out bacteria, and urinating after intercourse. Women who’ve gone through menopause may use estrogen cream around the vagina to reduce the risk of infections, the NIH says.

A 2012 review suggested that cranberries may help prevent UTIs, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Cranberries may interfere with the way bacteria attach to urinary tract cells.

The idea that cranberry juice can prevent UTIs is controversial, because although some studies show a benefit, other studies find little evidence of a benefit, or suggest that the benefit is a placebo effect, Shah said. Still, because cranberry juice is safe and not very expensive, Shah said he does recommend it as a way to help prevent UTI.

Additional reporting by Cari Nierenberg, Live Science Contributor.

Follow Rachael Rettner @RachaelRettner. Follow Live Science @livescience,Facebook & Google+.

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Kidney Stones: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

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Kidney Stones: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Kidney stones are hard masses that form in the kidneys when there is not enough liquid to dilute waste chemicals in the urine.

Credit: remik44992 | Shutterstock

A kidney stone is a hard mass that forms in one or both kidneys from minerals in the urine, and if large enough, can cause severe pain. In the United States, kidney stones send more than 500,000 people to the emergency room each year, according to the National Kidney Foundation.

Kidney stones form when there is not enough liquid in the urine to dilute out waste chemicals, such ascalcium, oxalate and phosphorous. These waste chemicals become concentrated, and crystals begin to form, according to the National Kidney Foundation.

The most common type of kidney stones are calcium oxalate stones.

Kidney stones can vary in size, with some as small as a grain of sand, and others as large as a pea or even a golf ball, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Small stones may pass down the urinary tract and be excreted without causing symptoms. Larger stones may get stuck in the urinary tract and block the flow of urine, which can cause severe pain or bleeding, the NIH says.

People with kidney stones often seek medical care because they have severe pain in their flank (the area between the mid-back and the ribs) on one side of the body, and this pain can extend to the lower abdomen, said Dr. Michael F. Michelis, director of the division of nephrology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. “Stone pain is very profound,” Michelis said.

Other symptoms of kidney stones can include pain while urinating, blood in the urine, and nausea and vomiting, according to the NIH. People who think they have a kidney stone, or who have serious symptoms such as extreme pain that won’t go away, fever, chills and vomiting, should see their doctor, the NIH says.

Men are more likely to develop kidney stones than women. People are also at increased risk for kidney stones if they’ve had a stone in the past, or a member of their family has had a stone.

Other risk factors include not drinking enough water, eating a diet high in protein, sodium and sugar, being obese, or undergoing gastric bypass surgery, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The most common time to develop kidney stones is between ages 20 and 60, according to information from The Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Kidney stones broken into smaller pieces after lithotripsy.
Kidney stones broken into smaller pieces after lithotripsy.

Credit: Atelier_A Shutterstock

Kidney stones can be diagnosed from a patient’s symptoms and a CT scan (that combines X-rays to create a 3D image), which is usually performed in the emergency room, Michelis said.

Small kidney stones don’t usually need treatment, but an individual may need to take pain medication, according to the NIH. Patients with kidney stones should also drink lots of fluids, which can help the stone to pass. Most kidney stones do not require invasive treatment, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Large kidney stones, or stones blocking the urinary tract, may need other treatments. One treatment is called shock wave lithotripsy, during which a doctor uses a machine that produces strong vibrations known as shock waves to break the stone into small pieces so it can pass through the urinary tract.

Another treatment, called ureteroscopy, uses a special tool called a ureteroscope to view the kidney stone in the ureter — the tube that connects the kidneys to the bladder. A doctor can then remove the stone or use laser energy to break it up.

Very large stones may need surgery to remove them, Michelis said.

Many issues of kidney stones “can be avoided by moderation of the diet and a high fluid intake,” Michelis said. The NIH recommends drinking about 2 to 3 liters, or 2 to 3 quarts, of fluid each day.

Determining the type of stone a person had — by catching the stone as it passes and having it analyzed by a lab — can help doctors understand what caused the stone, and make recommendations to prevent the condition. If a patient is not able to catch the kidney stone, doctors can still perform urine testing (by asking a patient to collect his or her urine for a 24-hour period), and take a diet history, to determine what might be causing the stone, Michelis said.

For people who’ve had stones made of calcium oxalate, doctors may recommend that they avoid foods high in oxalate, such as spinach, rhubarb, nuts and wheat bran, the NIH says.

To prevent stones made of uric acid, doctors may ask patients to reduce their protein intake, because protein is associated with the formation of uric acid in the body, Michelis said.

Reducing salt intake may also lower a person’s risk of several types of kidney stones, including calcium stones. Eating too much sodium can increase the amount of calcium in the urine, Michelis said. Patients should also eat the recommended daily amount of calcium, but not an excessive amount, Michelis said.

Some drugs can help prevent kidney stones, but these drugs are typically used only if a change in diet is not effective, Michelis said. These include diuretic drugs to prevent calcium stones and drugs to reduce the production of uric acid to prevent uric acid stones, Michelis said. Some drugs can also reduce the acidity of the urine, Michelis said, because too much acid in the urine is a risk factor for stones made of uric acid.

This article is for informational purposes only, and is not meant to offer medical advice. 

Follow Rachael Rettner @RachaelRettner. Follow Live Science @livescience,FacebookGoogle+.

Additional reporting by Cari Nierenberg, Live Science Contributor

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Anorexia: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

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Anorexia: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Credit: Christos Georghiou/Shutterstock

Anorexia nervosa involves an extreme obsession with limiting food intake and weight that can end up taking over a person’s life. It is defined as a perceived intense need to drastically limit food intake to produce weight loss.

Anorexia is often thought to affect mostly women. “There is evidence that this is the case, but also conflicting information that boys are equally anorexic but it goes unnoticed and underreported,” said Jeanette Raymond, a licensed psychologist. Anorexia affects 0.9 percent of American women, according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD). From 5 to 10 percent of people diagnosed with anorexia are male, according to the University of Pittsburgh.

Anorexia is not really about food, according to the Mayo Clinic. People with anorexia are looking for a way to cope with emotional problems, so they try to find something in their life they can control. Food is something that is a constant in a person’s life, so it can be controlled.

As with many mental-health conditions, the exact causes of anorexia are difficult to pinpoint. Scientific research has helped to narrow down the field of likely causes, such as metabolism, psychological issues and genetics.

“There are clear genetic risk factors for eating disorders,” said Dr. James Greenblatt, chief medical officer at Walden Behavioral Care in Waltham, Massachusetts. “As the increase of genetic vulnerability becomes more evident, genetic researchers around the world are looking to identify specific genetic markers.”

“Family studies have consistently demonstrated that anorexia nervosa runs in families,” Cynthia Bulik wrote in her study, “The Genetics of Anorexia Nervosa,” published in 2007 in the journal Annual Review of Nutrition.

If anorexia is caused (or at least heavily influenced) by genetics, people with the disease could be treated using information discovered in their genes, according to Price Foundation Candidate Gene Project.

Clinicians have found patterns in psychological issues with patients who have eating disorders, according to the ANAD. These signs include perfectionism, a need to be liked, a need for attention, a lack of self-esteem and high family expectations.

Factors involving the family that may trigger anorexia, according to Raymond, include the following:

  • overpowering mothers
  • mothers who need their daughters to take care of their emotional needs
  • separation anxiety
  • lack of parental attunement during a phase of development when appearance is important to the child
  • lack of connection with the father at that same crucial stage of development

Dr. Walter Kaye of the University of California, San Diego, an eating-disorder researcher, thinks too much blame has been placed on thin fashion models and other media images.

“People have long been blaming families and the media, but eating disorders are biological illnesses, and better treatments will come from more biologically based approaches,” Kaye told Scientific American Mind magazine in June 2008.

There are two types of anorexia: the restricting type and the binge-eating/purging type, according to the University of Pittsburgh. The most obvious sign of anorexia is not eating, or restricting the amount of food one eats. People with anorexia may avoid meals or may refuse to eat around other people. They may lie about how much they have eaten, withdraw from family or friends and stay home instead of going to social events. They often become moody, depressed, obsessive about their weight and disinterested in the things they once enjoyed.

There can be other, sneakier ways a person with anorexia can control calorie intake. For example, some will exercise excessively to burn calories, according to the National Institutes of Health. They may cut portions into tiny pieces and move them around on their plate, contemplating every bite. They may go to the bathroom immediately following meals.

Binge eating and purging are behaviors usually associated with bulimia — another eating disorder — but they can also be symptoms of anorexia. Some people with anorexia may eat massive amounts of food in a short amount of time. Afterward, to get rid of the food, the person may purge by using laxatives, diuretics or enemas, or by vomiting, according to the National Association for Anorexia and Associated Disorders (ANAD).

Because food is fuel for the body, restricting food intake can cause drastic changes. Major weight loss is the most noticeable change, but inside, the body deteriorates quite quickly. According to the Mayo Clinic, malnutrition leads to:

  • heart problems
  • constipation
  • low blood pressure
  • osteoporosis
  • swelling in the arms and legs
  • abnormal blood counts
  • loss of menstruation
  • dehydration
  • insomnia

While someone with anorexia may say they are trying to look better, the disease will often cause a person’s looks to deteriorate. Hair will turn brittle or may even fall out, fingers turn blue, skin becomes dry and a soft layer of hair will grow all over the skin. Fatigue from anorexia can also leave the person pale, with large circles under the eyes.

Not everyone who dies of anorexia dies from starvation. One in five anorexia deaths is by suicide, according to ANAD.

While anorexia and bulimia are both eating disorders, and some symptoms overlap, they are not interchangeable. Anorexia mostly involves not eating, or limiting food intake for long periods of time, resulting in weight loss beyond what is considered healthy (15 percent or more below the normal weight for the person’s age and height, according to NIH). On the other hand, people with bulimia tend to maintain a normal body weight but control their food intake in a cycle of binging and purging.

A person can suffer from both disorders at the same time or separately throughout their lives. About 40 percent of bulimia patients often have first had a diagnosis of anorexia, according to the University of Pittsburgh.

Only one in 10 men and women with eating disorders receive treatment, according to ANAD, and eating disorders kill more people than any other mental illness.

Because anorexia can cause so many problems in the body, the first step in recovery is to treat the symptoms. For example, first steps can include getting the person hydrated and on medication that can help with heart arrhythmias caused by the lack of nourishment.

Once the symptoms have been addressed, action will be taken to help the person gain weight while addressing the psychological issues underlying the disease. Therapy, antidepressants or other psychiatric medications and hospitalization are all possible treatments for anorexia.

“The duration and severity of anorexia determines the treatment options,” Raymond said. The least-severe cases respond to cognitive behavioral therapy, a type of “talk therapy” that enables patients to develop healthy boundaries and a sense of control outside of refusing food. Group therapy and family therapy are also helpful. Because mother-daughter issues are often a trigger for anorexia, therapy often entails treatment to make it safe for the girl to separate and make relationships outside the family, she said.

Raymond also noted that antidepressants might have only short-term success if underlying psychiatric issues are not addressed. Often, the anorexia will persist and become more severe, Raymond said.

Additional treatments for anorexia do not seem to be on the horizon, experts say. “Although there are more research studies on eating disorders, there are currently no new clinical treatments available. The new research demonstrates abnormalities in brain structure and neurochemical functions among individuals with eating disorders. However, the research has not been translated into any new clinical treatments yet,” Greenblatt said.

Even after a person is on the road to recovery from an eating disorder, they may relapse. A relapse and a simple slip are two different things, though. “To differentiate between a slip and a relapse, a slip is engaging in a behavior/behaviors, but then getting back on track,” said Bonnie Brennan, senior clinical director of adult services at Eating Recovery Center Denver and a certified eating disorder specialist. “A relapse, however, is a pattern of slips that indicates returning to eating behaviors.”

Also, it’s important to note that people can relapse because they are trying to solve some other kind of problem – such as a medical procedure. For example, if they need to fast before a procedure, Brennan explains. What for some can be an innocent behavior, can be a trigger that can turn into something dangerous.

Signs of a relapse, according to Brennan, can include:

  • spending a lot of time thinking about food – including how much the person is eating and how they can get rid of it
  • dropping weight
  • re-engaging in eating disorder behaviors (i.e. restricting, purging, over exercising)
  • saying “it’s just this one time”
  • increased irritability, becoming more anxious, depressed, not engaging in things that normally would feel good
  • turning down social invitations
  • difficulty engaging in work and school

This article is for informational purposes only, and is not meant to offer medical advice.

Diverticulitis: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

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Diverticulitis: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Diverticulitis can cause severe and sudden abdominal pain.

Credit: bilderpool/Shutterstock.com

Diverticulitis is a condition that affects the digestive system. It can cause problems with bowel movements and a can cause severe and sudden pain in the abdomen.

It’s important to make a distinction between diverticulosis and diverticulitis. Diverticulosis is the simple presence of diverticula, which are small bulges or pouches that can form anywhere within the digestive system, such as in the intestines, esophagus and stomach. They are most commonly formed in the lower colon. One pouch is called a diverticulum and multiple pouches are called diverticula.

Diverticula usually develop in response to pressure on weak spots in the colon or other parts of the digestive tract. These are very common, and the vast majority of people who have them will not have a problem with them. They become more common as people age. About half of all people over age 60 have diverticulosis, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

Diverticulitis is inflammation and infection of these pockets. “The severity of diverticulitis depends on how bad the inflammation or infection is,” said Dr. Amitpal Johal, director of endoscopy and associate director of the division of gastroenterology at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pa. “If a patient goes untreated, the infection and inflammation can progress to more serious complications like an abscess (large infection) and even bowel perforation (hole in the bowel).”

It was once thought that a low-fiber diet may contribute to inflammation, but a high-fiber diet and increased frequency of bowel movements are associated with greater prevalence of diverticulosis, according to a study published by the journal Gastroenterology.

Doctors aren’t sure, though, why these pouches get inflamed or infected. According to one theory, decreased levels of serotonin in the body may cause decreased relaxation and increased spasms of the colon muscle. Infection could also result when fecal matter gets trapped inside openings in the diverticula. Various types of obstruction can also block the pouches’ openings. This would reduce blood supply, causing inflammation. Other research suggests that obesity, smoking and certain medications may cause inflammation.

The most obvious symptom of diverticulitis is usually a sharp pain in the left side of the abdomen. This may also occur on the right, especially in people of Asian descent, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Diverticulitis comes with a number of other symptoms, including fever, abdominal tenderness constipation, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and a change in bowel movement frequency.

Diverticula are small pouches that form in the colon, esophagus or stomach — a condition called diverticulosis. Diverticulitis occurs when these pouches become inflamed.

Credit: Juan Gaertner Shutterstock

While many cases of diverticulitis are easy to treat and do not pose a major health risk, some can be more severe. An abdominal infection such as diverticulitis is a common cause of sepsis, said Dr. Niket Sonpal, an assistant professor of clinical medicine at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine, Harlem Campus. Severe diverticulitis may also cause bowel obstruction.

Severe cases of diverticulitis may require hospitalization. There, doctors may prescribe intravenous antibiotics or even perform surgery to remove the infected portion of the intestines.

For mild cases of diverticulitis, people usually only need to change what they eat and possibly take antibiotics for the diverticulum infection. Their medical professional may also suggest over-the-counter pain killers. For people with uncomplicated diverticulitis, this treatment is successful 70 to 100 percent of the time, according to the Mayo Clinic.

“If a patient has diverticulitis and is being treated as an outpatient (at home) most doctors recommend a clear liquid diet until improvement in symptoms is seen,” said Johal. “If patients are in the hospital, doctors may recommend nothing to eat initially and then start a clear liquid diet once the patient shows improvement.” When the patient is significantly better, more solid foods are added into the diet.

Once healing has begun, patients are often encouraged to eat foods high in fiber. “Historically we’d have told all such patients to avoid seeds, nuts, popcorn, that could conceivably get trapped and worsen or cause infection,” said Dr. Neil H. Stollman, a gastroenterologist based in Oakland, Calif. “Good science now suggests that that’s not true, and that there’s no strong evidence that patients should avoid such things.

“Further,” said Stollman, “there’s quite good data that patients who consume a high fiber diet have fewer complications of their diverticulitis, and it’s reasonable to advocate a high fiber diet for such patients (other than during their immediate infection period, for a week or two, where we might advocate a temporary low fiber bland diet until the acute event resolves.”

What if diverticulitis goes untreated? “An interesting question, and one that historically, we would have answered with: ‘catastrophe,’ including potential perforation, abscess in the abdomen, sepsis and even death. Thus the imperative to treat essentially all patients with antibiotics,” said Stollman.

However, two large studies, one by the Centre for Clinical Research at Uppsala University and the other by the University of Amsterdam, had control groups with no treatment. Despite concerns, no real catastrophe occurred in the control (no antibiotics) patients, or at least not at any higher a rate than those who did get antibiotics. “That’s forcing us to rethink our conception that antibiotics are OBLIGATE or ‘badness’ will ensue. It seems that for some patients, at least those with milder disease, they’ll get better with or without treatment,” said Stollman.

From 15 to 30 percent of patients will experience recurrence of diverticulitis after their initial cure, according to American Gastroenterological Association Institute.

Concussions: Signs, Symptoms & Treatment

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Concussions: Signs, Symptoms & Treatment

  • Being involved in a motor vehicle collision
  • Being involved in a pedestrian or bicycle accident
  • Being a soldier involved in combat
  • Being a victim of physical abuse
  • Falling, especially in young children and older adults
  • Participating in a high-risk sport, such as football, hockey, soccer, rugby, boxing or other contact sport; the risk is further increased if there’s a lack of proper safety equipment and supervision
  • Having had a previous concussion


Many of the symptoms of a concussion are hard to notice. Common symptoms are headache, loss of memory (the person may not remember recent events or what caused the injury) and confusion. According to the Mayo Clinic symptoms of a concussion may also include:

  • Dizziness or “seeing stars”
  • Headache or a feeling of pressure in the head
  • Delayed response to questions
  • Confusion or feeling as if in a fog
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Slurred speech
  • Appearing dazed
  • Fatigue
  • Temporary loss of consciousness
  • Amnesia surrounding the traumatic event
  • Ringing in the ears

Symptoms may be apparent immediately or they may be delayed by hours or days after injury. Some symptoms that may take time to appear, according to the Mayo Clinic, are irritability or other personality changes, problems with concentration and memory, sensitivity to light and noise, problems sleeping, depression and sensory problems such as the inability to taste or smell.

Symptoms in children can be different than in adults and even harder to diagnose since it is difficult for young children to express how they feel. Parents and caretakers should look for strange behavior like listlessness, appearing dazed, easily becoming tired, crankiness, unusual clumsiness or unsteady walking, excessive crying or changes in eating or sleeping.

Contrary to popular belief, most concussions do not cause a person to pass out. Many do not seek medical help because of this.


In the United States, 1.6 to 3.8 million sports and recreation-related TBIs occur each year, according to the CDC. A TBI kills brain cells and creates chemical changes in the brain.

Dr. Kory Gill, an assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine and team physician for Texas A&M University Athletics, told Live Science that the most important thing people should know about concussions is that they are not like other sports injuries where it is okay to “play hurt” or “play through the pain.”

“Playing when you have not completely recovered from a concussion is dangerous and could be deadly,” said Gill. “Become familiar with the signs/symptoms of concussions and if you think you or a teammate has a concussion speak up. It’s actually a law (Zackery Lystedt Law) now that players, coaches, staff and parents be educated on concussions pre-participation.”

Zackery Lystedt was a 13-year-old football player in the Seattle, Washington, area who was permanently disabled after sustaining a concussion in 2006. He was prematurely returned to the game, according to the CDC. After the game, Lystedt collapsed on the field. He underwent emergency surgery to remove the left and right sides of his skull to relieve the pressure from his swelling brain. He experienced numerous strokes, seven days on a ventilator and three months in a coma.

After he awoke, Lystedt spent four weeks in a nursing home and two months in a children’s hospital for rehabilitation. It was nine months before he spoke his first word, 13 months before he moved a leg or an arm, and 20 months on a feeding tube, according to the CDC. It would be nearly three years before he would stand, with assistance, on his own two feet. The Washington legislature passed the Lystedt Law in 2009, and other states have passed similar laws to help protect young athletes.

Older athletes need protection too. A recent study found thatprofessional football players who have lost consciousness due to a concussion may have an increased risk of changes in the brain and decline in their memory later in life.


CT scans and blood tests can be used to diagnose concussions. Rest is usually the most common treatment for concussions. The brain shouldn’t be idle for too long, though. “While a short period of rest is important to allow the brain some time to heal, extended rest and sensory reduction (no TV or electronics) actually prolongs symptoms rather than helping,” said Dr. Kenneth Podell, a neuropsychologist at Houston Methodist Hospital. When in doubt, consult with a medical professional.

A single concussion usually recovers well and the person affected usually isn’t bothered with long-term problems. Rarely, if a second concussion occurs before the brain has healed from the first concussion, it can lead to rapid and severe brain swelling and even death. This condition is also called the second impact syndrome and occurs in people under the age of 21.

“It’s critical to protect children from head injuries because their brains are still developing and the tissue isn’t fully formed,” Dr. Joseph Rempson, co-director of the Center for Concussion Care and Physical Rehabilitation at Overlook Medical Center’s Neuroscience Institute in Summit, New Jersey, told Live Science. “According to research, the brain continues to evolve until an individual is 20 to 25 years old. If a childinjures his or her brain, they may not reach their full developmental potential from a memory or cognitive standpoint.”

Dr. Vani Rao, a neuropsychiatrist and co-author of “The Traumatized Brain: A Family Guide to Understanding Mood, Memory, and Behavior After Brain Injury” (Johns Hopkins Press, 2015), noted that the majority of people who sustain a single concussion recover without any long-lasting consequences. However, multiple concussions can increase risk for developing chronic neuropsychiatric problems such as depression, aggression and cognitive problems.

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Sleep Paralysis: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

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Sleep Paralysis: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Sleep paralysis is the inability to move or speak immediately after waking up. This can be an exceptionally scary time for those afflicted with this weird phenomenon, but despite former beliefs, the feeling of paralysis is not caused by supernatural beings.


During rapid eye movement (REM) sleep the brain has vivid dreams, while the muscles of the body are essentially turned off. While sleeping, the muscles are unable to move so that the person won’t be able to act out dreams with their body. Sleep paralysis happens when a person wakes up before REM is finished. The person will be conscious, but the body’s ability to move hasn’t been turned back on yet.

Several things can bring on episodes of sleep paralysis. For example, sleep deprivation, some medications and some sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea are triggers. Also, sleep paralysis is commonly seen in patients with narcolepsy, said Dr. Shelby Harris, director of Behavioral Sleep Medicine at the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at the Montefiore Health System in the Bronx, New York.

According to a study in 2011 by Pennsylvania State University, 7.6 percent of the general population has problems with sleep paralysis. People with mental disorders such as anxiety and depression are more likely to experience sleep paralysis. According to the study, 31.9 percent of those with mental disorders experienced episodes.


Those afflicted with sleep paralysis are often unable to move their bodies or speak immediately after waking up. This can last one to two minutes, according to the Mayo Clinic. People experiencing sleep paralysis may also feel a weight on their chest or a choking feeling.

In the past, it was believed that demons caused sleep paralysis by holding people down or sitting on their chest. This was often due to hallucinations, which are a common symptom during sleep paralysis because the brain is still in a dream state. People have reported seeing ghosts, demons and other strange apparitions while experiencing paralysis.

Prevention and treatment

For most people, there is no treatment for sleep paralysis. The key is prevention and the treatment of any underlying causes.

After one episode of sleep paralysis, it may not be necessary to get a doctor’s appointment right away. “If you have rare episodes of sleep paralysis, but haven’t been seen by a sleep specialist, make sure your sleep hygiene is solid. For example, sleep paralysis can be a sign that you’re sleep deprived,” Harris told Live Science. Harris suggested that those experiencing sleep paralysis should make sure to get enough sleep on a regular basis, avoid alcohol, nicotine and drugs all night, starting three hours before bedtime. They should also limit caffeine after 2 p.m. and keep electronics out of the bedroom.

“If these things don’t help, and you’re having episodes that are becoming somewhat more frequent, see a sleep specialist to see if there’s any underlying medical disorder that might be causing the sleep paralysis,” Harris said.

According to the UK National Health System (NHS), sleep paralysis is not dangerous, though those experiencing extreme sleep paralysis may be prescribed a short course of antidepressant medication, such as clomipramine.

During the attack it is important to stay calm and realize that it will pass soon. “There’s not much you can do during an attack besides say to yourself, ‘This is only temporary. It will pass very shortly and I will be able to move soon,'” Harris said. “This really only works if you’ve had an episode or two before and know what to expect. These attacks can be quite scary to experience, especially if you’ve never had one before.”

Additional resources

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