sad woman beside wall

Debunking Myths About Depression

What is depression? There are no outward physical symptoms, there; isn’t even a biological test to properly diagnose it. Is it just an excuse to get a license to use medical marijuana or a support pet? Is it an excuse to collect disability? Depression may be hard to prove, but its effects certainly seem quite evident. Suicides and attempted suicides are the most commonly discussed, but depression can also play a big part in quality of life and forming relationships. For those who are still unsure about the reality of depression, here are a few common myths about the condition, and the reality behind them.

Depression is a Sign of Mental Weakness
In order to fully understand depression, we need to accept that no one wants to be depressed. It is a result of a mental disorder and, if anything, it takes great mental strength to work through daily.

Depression is Brought On My Traumatic Events
While certain circumstances can trigger episodes of depression, the events do not cause depression. While it is true that upsetting experiences can make a person sad, a negative emotional reaction is normal, and does not necessarily point to any abnormality. However, when symptoms persist for longer than two weeks, and reoccur frequently, it may be cause for a depression diagnosis.

Depression is Not a Real Illness
While there are no outward physical signs of depression, it is very real and does have a scientific explanation. According to the Mayo clinic, depressed people have differences in their brains and hormone and neurotransmitter imbalance that determine both their condition and its severity.

sad woman on outdoor steps

Depression is a Figment of Your Imagination.
Even though depression is a condition widely associated with a person’s mental state, it may go deeper than that. The National Institute of Health points to severe cases in which sufferers may experience insomnia, fatigue, muscle aches, and chest pain. Promoting the idea that depressions only a mental illness is simply downgrading its severity.

Men Don’t Suffer Depression
According to statistics, women are two times as likely to develop depressive symptoms than their male counterparts. However, this does not in any way exclude men from the illness. Middle aged white men have shown the greatest increase in numbers of suicides committed annually. The reason for the misconception is the tendency for men to express their depression differently from females, which make it easier to overlook. Male stereotypes about strength and stability cause men to feel less comfortable about calling attention to their depressive states.Depression can actually be more dangerous for men, because they tend to engage in substance abuse as a form of self-medication and avoid seeking treatment.

Antidepressants Will Cure Depression
Depression is not a “one size fits all” condition, and does not have a “one size fits all” cure. Antidepressants may be a common treatment option prescribed by doctors, but not every depressed person responds the same way to the same pills. Some people opt for psychotherapy, in combination with or independent of medication to alleviate depression. Many people have to try different methods of treatment before arriving at the one which works best for them.

Do you or a loved one struggle with depression? If so, tell us what challenges you face and how you overcome them.

woman with vitiligo

Vitiligo May Soon See New Treatment Options

Even in these days of positive body imaging, conditions such as vitiglio remain a challenge. While many women have come out in the shared desire to be appreciated despite weight issues, there is not such a platform for those with skin pigmentation conditions, which tend to be less common and less publicized. Sufferers of vitiglio often struggle with low self esteem, and are often the objects of unwanted attention in public places. Building awareness and acceptance about such condition is important, as is trying to find new treatment approaches. Here are some new thoughts and insights into the genetic disorder.

Genetic Predisposition
With new research comes new hope. Pearl E Grimes, MD and director of Vitiglio Pigmentation Institute of Southern California says that with the advancement of genetic research in the past ten years, “We now know that probably 90% of the genes the have been identified in vitiglio are immune-susceptibility genes, 10% are pigment related genes.” Because the condition is so often genetic, it can lead to “sick melanocytes.” This means, “Melanocytes from people with vitiglio do not grow as well in culture. There are probably some inherent defects in these melanocytes that may tie back to the genetics of the disease.”

Oxidative Stress
Another finding of the latest research points to oxidative stress as the event that starts off the immune dysfunction that culminates in vitiglio. Grimes says, “In vitiglio, we know that hydrogen peroxide is up, while catlase – a major oxidative stress fighting molecule is down.” The lack of the body’s ability to protect against oxidation may be what leads to the release of the antigens that play a role in destroying the melanocytes that lead to vitiglio.”

Raising Awareness
Dr Grimes relates a story of a beautiful 40 -year- old patient whose face caused a toddler to cry. “In response to that incident,” the patient said, “I don’t go out. I don’t date anymore, I have isolated myself, and I feel ugly.”

Grimes explains that vitiglio patients require a very long initial consolation. She says, “We take a very detailed history-looking at family history, a time of disease onset, disease progression, associated symptoms, associated autoimmune illnesses, and medications to tease out any other causative factors that may be contributing to pigment loss.”

Besides uncovering the physical causes, Dr. Grimes also stresses addressing the psychological impact of the condition. She steers aways from direct, overly probing questions, saying, “I go about it in a subdued, roundabout way -trying to let them talk about it first. I want them to be comfortable.” Instead of asking about the impact of the disease on the patient’s quality, she prefers to inquire about changes in daily routines. “Some will say, ‘I wear makeup all the time, even on my hands.'”

After performing a complete physical exam with photos and a laboratory assessment, Grimes reports that she is, “able to put together a treatment regimen based on the patient’s symptoms.” She is also able to assemble a health care team is needed, including a rheumatologist, immunologist, and mental health professional.

What can you do to raise awareness about vitiglio? Are these findings promising? Let us know what you think.

What Your Gait Says About You

Life can run at a very fast pace. With everyone always rushing to get ahead of everyone else, sometimes, slowing down a little can be a welcome change. As we age, we start to mature and let the little things go. We start to smell the flowers, relax, take some time out for the small things, resulting in what many feel to be the prime of our lives. However, sometimes going too slow can be a warning sign. Recent research reveals that there may be a link between slowing gait and early onset dementia. Read on to find out what researchers are saying that may help you prepare for early detection.

Study Revelations
A study published in Neurology suggests that walking speed may be connected to an onset of cognitive decline in older adults. Findings showed that participants who slowed down by 0.1 seconds or more annually were at a 47 percent greater risk for cognitive impairment as compared to their peers who did not show any signs of slowing. In addition, brain analysis of those with slower gaits revealed a shrinkage in the right hippocampus, the region associated with memory and complex learning.

The recent study was conducted using a stopwatch. One hundred and seventy-five adults between the ages of 70 and 79 were instructed to walk down and 18-foot long hallway while their walking speeds were measured. Participants demonstrated good mental health and had normal brain scan results at the beginning of the study. Walking speed was assessed over the course of 14 years, after which the participants underwent brain scans and tests for mental acuity.

Professor Andrea Russo at the University of Pittsburgh warns that although the reduction in speed is small, it may become a problem over time. “A fraction of a second is subtle, ” she says,”but over 14 years, or even less, you would notice.”

Other Findings
Even when researchers took such things into account as knee pain, muscle weakness, and certain diseases, the revelations held true. While admitting a slower pace is not a sufficient means of diagnosing a cognitive decline, researchers say it may be valuable in detecting early detection of mental issues, which can result in early preventative treatment.

This is not the first instance of evidence suggesting walking speed is connected with the development of dementia. A 2013 study published in Neurology revealed similar findings. This study involved 93 adults, aged 70 and over, 54 of whom had no signs of cognitive impairment, 31 of whom had nonmemory related brain decline, and 8 with memory loss related decline. Results indicated that the slower walker was nine times more likely to be affected by nonmemory related cognitive issues that fast or moderate walkers.

The Breakdown
These studies can provide insight into how walking speed can help predict cognitive impairment in older adults so they can focus on early treatment and prevention to prevent the disease from progressing.

Have you observed changes in the walking speed of yourself or a loved one? Have you sought a doctor’s advice? Let us know how detection leads to your early prevention of cognitive decline.

Pills and medicine

What It Takes To Get A New Drug Approved

How many of us trust our federal government? According to Pew Research, only 19% of Americans today say they can trust our government to do what is right “just about always.” So, if we don’t know it we can trust our government, how do we know we can trust our government agencies? Take, for example, the FDA. While we’d like to think that the agency responsible for approving the drugs that we bring into our home and give to ourselves and our family holds itself to higher standards than the government for which it works, how can we be sure? Let’s take a look at the prescription drug approval process in the US to see just how trustworthy it is.

The Lowdown
According to a report published in the medical journal JAMA, 32% or FDA approved drugs already in use between 2001 and 2010 “were affected by a postmarket safety event,” meaning the safety of these drugs was questionable even though they had already been placed on the market. Events varied between announcements about recently discovered side effects to outright withdrawal of drugs due to reports of fatalities. In tandem with the release of this report comes the consideration by the Trump administration to streamline and shorten the approval process. According to internist Joseph Ross, one of the study’s authors, ” Our data show that there are some cautionary predictors of increased likelihood of the FDA taking a safety action in the postmarket setting. This information should be taken into account as the FDA considers conditions of approval and when further clinical trials should be required to better understand drug safety.”

Researcher working in lab

Revelations of the JAMA Investigation

  • Of the 222 FDA approved drugs 71 led to a safety event with three resulting in outright withdrawals. Sixty-one of these drugs qualified for “black-box warnings,” or warning labels posted on the packaging of the drug framed in black rule “designed to call attention to serious of life-threatening risks.”
  • Psychiatric treatment drugs and biologics that were given accelerated approval and drugs that got approval around the time of a regulatory deadline were most likely to require warnings after hitting the market.
  • These events highlight “the need for continuous monitoring of the safety of novel therapeutics throughout their life cycle.”

Especially affected by these findings are older Americans, as many of the drugs spotlighted in the study have potential risks that won’t come to light for years. For example, revolutionary treatments of ailments such as rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, and Crohn’s disease are among those currently being researched for the long-term impact on the population because accelerated approval drugs are considered more urgently needed, research about these drugs often takes a backseat and may not qualify for approval in time to meet the needs of more mature patients.

Implications
President Barack Obama signed the 21st Century Cures Act last December to speed up the approval process for certain drugs, a process President Donald Trump referred to as “slow and burdensome,” claiming it was hindering medical advances from reaching needy patients. According to Ross, “Speeding up approval even further will not be without consequence. There will be more uncertainty at the time of approval, endless that is known about a new therapy’s safety as well as its anticipated benefits.

Are you shocked by these findings? Not surprised? Let us know what you think and what you think should be done. We want to hear from you.