What is IBS? Symptoms and Causes

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), sometimes called spastic colon, is a condition that is difficult to talk about, but even more challenging to live with. This common chronic condition affects the large intestine and can cause abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and gas. If you have been experiencing abdominal discomfort and bowel inconsistencies, it might be time to talk to your doctor.

What is IBS?

IBS affects approximately six to 18 percent of people. There are two forms of irritable bowel syndrome:

  • IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D)
  • IBS with constipation (IBS-C)

Some individuals with IBS experience alternating bouts of diarrhea and constipation.

Signs and Symptoms of IBS

Not everyone with IBS suffers from severe symptoms. IBS symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal pain that often abates after a bowel movement
  • Cramping
  • Changes in bowel habits, including constipation and diarrhea
  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Intolerance for certain foods
  • Mucus in the stool

What Causes IBS?

Your doctor can help you determine the cause of your IBS. Some common causes include stress, diet, not enough sleep, and changes in gut bacteria. More specifically, some reasons include:

  • Intestinal muscle contractions. When contractions last longer than usual, it can cause gas, bloating, and diarrhea, while weak contractions can cause constipation.
  • Abnormalities in the digestive system’s nerves. Poorly coordinated signals between the brain and intestines can cause overreactions in the body that can cause symptoms.
  • An increased number of immune-system cells in the intestines.
  • Severe infection, such as gastroenteritis.
  • Intestinal bacterial overgrowth.
  • Changes to the microflora (good gut bacteria).

Living with IBS

IBS is a chronic condition, which means those diagnosed may manage their symptoms long-term. Those for whom symptoms are not severe can manage their IBS by limiting stress and regulating their sleep and diet. For some, a diet low in FODMAPs may alleviate symptoms. FODMAPs are certain carbohydrates found in foods like wheat and beans that can cause bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, and stomach pain.

For those with severe symptoms, a doctor can provide a treatment plan that may include medication such as a bowel relaxant, and counseling such as cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) or hypnotherapy.

When to See Your Doctor

If your symptoms become severe, or you experience any of the following complications, which might portend a more severe condition such as colon cancer, make an appointment to speak with your doctor:

  • Persistent changes in bowel habits
  • Recurring abdominal pain that isn’t relieved by passing gas or a bowel movement
  • Weight loss
  • Diarrhea at night
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Unexplained vomiting
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Iron deficiency anemia

Before diagnosing you with IBS, your doctor will consider if you have been experiencing symptoms at least three times per month for at least six months. A blood test may also indicate some forms of IBS.

Even though IBS is a chronic condition, it does not mean that you have to suffer uncomfortable symptoms that can disrupt your lifestyle. Talk to your doctor about a treatment plan that will address your causes and severity of symptoms.

National ADHD Awareness Month and Identifying Signs In Your Child

“I feel like my thoughts are scrambling around in my head, and I can’t focus on any of them.”

“It’s like my thoughts don’t translate.”

“I feel anxious and just can’t physically relax.”

“On bad days, my ADHD leaves me alone in a dark, isolated place.”

These are just some ways that adults who live with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) describe this chronic condition. Imagine what it’s like to be a child who cannot insightfully articulate their feelings or explain why they struggle to follow directions, sit when told, or act out with erratic, destructive behavior. For parents of the 6.1 million children with ADHD, understanding their child’s behavior before receiving an ADHD diagnosis and a treatment plan from their doctor can be a confusing and worrisome time.

To show support to parents, friends, family members, and teachers who care for students with ADHD, and the millions living, learning, and working with ADHD every day, October is National ADHD Awareness Month. If you think your child may be exhibiting early signs of this condition, here’s what you need to know.

What is ADHD?

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders impacting childhood. Typically diagnosed in childhood, it often lasts through adulthood. Children with ADHD may struggle to focus, control impulsive behavior, or seem to be highly busy or active.

There are three primary types of ADHD:

  • Predominantly Hyperactive-Impulsive Presentation. The individual is excessively talkative, restless, and fidgety. They struggle to sit still long enough to complete classwork or even a meal. This type of ADHD often presents itself with excessive climbing, running, or jumping in young children. They lack impulse control, which can lead to accidents and injuries. As a result, they might interrupt others, speak when it’s not appropriate, or grab something when it’s not their turn.
  • Predominantly Inattentive Presentation. The individual struggles to stay organized, finish a task, pay attention to details, take instructions, and follow a conversation. They are easily distracted and forgetful, which makes it challenging to complete responsibilities or follow a routine.
  • Combined Presentation: Symptoms of both predominantly hyperactive-impulsive and inattentive are equally present.

Since ADHD is a chronic, often lifelong condition, an individual’s symptoms may evolve.

Symptoms of ADHD

Since ADHD is typically diagnosed in children, parents and teachers are most likely first to question a child’s behavior, making them a young person’s best ally in an early and impactful diagnosis. You might identify the following symptoms in a child with ADHD:

  • Frequent daydreaming
  • Fidgeting, squirming, or having trouble sitting still
  • Forgetfulness
  • Often losing objects or forgetting where they placed items
  • Being excessively talkative
  • Struggling with taking turns
  • Making careless mistakes
  • Taking unnecessary risks
  • Lack of impulse control
  • Difficulty getting along with others

When to Talk to Your Doctor

If at any time during your child’s early adolescence, you believe that they might be exhibiting signs of ADHD, talk to your pediatrician. If you are an adult who struggles with the symptoms listed above but was not diagnosed as a child, talk to your primary care provider. It is never too late to understand your health better and get help managing behaviors that may cause you to struggle with daily activities.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Breast Reconstruction Options for Survivors

This month—and every day of our lives—we remember the over 42,000 women who lose their battle with breast cancer every year, and celebrate the brave survivors who have battled this deadly disease and won their fight. For many women who beat breast cancer, survival comes after a very personal, identity changing event. In 2014, 35.1 women per 100,000 elected to have reconstructive breast surgery after a mastectomy. While the individual reasons women choose reconstructive surgery vary, what is crucial is that women have options to help them recover after the physically and emotionally challenging experience of breast cancer.

If you or someone you love has to make the difficult decision of whether or not to elect reconstruction, continue reading for more information about the choices available.

Breast Reconstruction Options

There are two primary reconstruction categories:

  • Autologous or flap reconstruction that takes tissue from another area of the body (such as the stomach, thigh, or back) to create a breast
  • Implant reconstruction in which a silicone or saline implant is inserted

In some cases, an implant and flap may be used together.

Nipple and Areola Options

As part of the reconstruction process, you will also need to decide if you want to reconstruct your nipples and areola. If you are a nipple-sparing mastectomy candidate, your nipple and the surrounding breast skin are preserved and reattached. As an alternative, you may be able to consider nipple and areola tattooing or nipple reconstruction.

With nipple and areola tattooing, the three-dimensional simulation of a nipple is tattooed onto the skin using colored ink. While the skin remains flat, your breast will appear to have a nipple and areola in the center.

In nipple reconstruction surgery, your surgeon will either:

  • Raise flaps of tissue on the reconstructed breast and sew them together to make a nipple shape
  • Transfer a portion of the opposite nipple the reconstructed breast and eventually tattoo a full areola shape on the area

Reconstruction After Partial Mastectomy or Lumpectomy

Some women do not need to have their entire breast (or breasts) removed to remove their cancer. In the event or a partial mastectomy, in which part of the breast is removed, or a lumpectomy in which only the malignancy is removed, the breast may become misshapen. In these cases, the woman may be a candidate for a process that combines cancer and plastic surgery techniques. This process is known as oncoplastic surgery. During this process, the surgeon will reshape the breast using such methods and tools as:

  • Smaller implants
  • Fat grafting
  • A breast reduction
  • A breast lift
  • Revision of scar
  • Smaller tissue flaps

Deciding Which Breast Reconstruction Option is Right for You

If you are a candidate for breast reconstructive surgery, talk to your doctor. They will present the options available and help you decide what is best, depending on the details of your mastectomy and potential ongoing risk factors.

Most importantly, remember that your friends and family love you, and just as they supported you throughout your diagnosis and treatment, they will support you whether you decide on reconstruction or not. The right decision will always be the choice that helps you feel like the most genuine and complete version of yourself.

Hypertension (High Blood Pressure): An Overview

Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure or HBP, is a health condition that affects more than 100 million Americans. This staggering number reveals how common this condition is, but high blood pressure should by no means be considered non-threatening. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to such dangerous health risks as heart disease, heart attack, stroke, metabolic syndrome, dementia or other memory problems, or heart failure. To help you understand the risk factors and dangers of this condition, we’re providing an overview of the causes and impact of living with hypertension.

What is Blood Pressure?

Arteries are the vessels that carry blood from the heart to other parts of the body. Blood pressure is the force of blood pressing against artery walls, a measurement that typically rises and falls throughout the day based on such factors as stress and activity. When a heart beats, it generates pressure when blood pushes through arteries, veins, and capillaries. When blood pumps out of the heart and into the arteries, it’s known as systolic pressure. The period of rest that the heart experiences between beats is known as diastolic pressure. The result of these two forces is blood pressure.

What is High Blood Pressure?

For individuals with high blood pressure, the blood’s long-term force against the artery walls eventually leads to health problems. The more a heart pumps and the narrower the arteries, the higher the blood pressure, as your heart needs to work harder to send blood through the narrow artery vessels to other parts of the body. A normal blood pressure level is less than 120/80 mmHg.

What are the Symptoms of High Blood Pressure?

Most individuals living with hypertension do not experience any symptoms, sometimes even for years, making this condition particularly dangerous if left undetected.

Causes of High Blood Pressure

Nearly anyone of any age can develop high blood pressure, particularly if they fail to exercise regularly. Some health complications, such as diabetes and obesity, can also increase the risk of hypertension.

High Blood Pressure Risks

Individuals with high blood pressure are at an increased risk of stroke and heart disease, the two leading causes of death for Americans. If left untreated, hypertension can damage the heart, brain, kidneys, and eyes.

Preventing High Blood Pressure

No matter your age or health history, you can make lifestyle and diet changes to lower your blood pressure and mitigate your risk of a catastrophic health incident. A doctor might also recommend certain blood pressure medications to help patients manage their high blood pressure. To minimize your risk of hypertension:

  • Get at least 30 minutes of exercise five days a week
  • Eat a diet full of lean proteins, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, that is high in potassium and fiber and that is low in salt and fried foods
    Maintain a healthy weight
  • Do not smoke, or if you are currently a smoker, talk to your doctor about quitting
  • If you are a man, limit your alcohol intake to no more than two drinks per day, or one drink per day if you are a woman
  • Get enough restful sleep each evening

Diagnosing High Blood Pressure

Since most people living with hypertension do not experience symptoms, the only way to diagnose the condition is to have your doctor measure your blood pressure. If you believe that you might be at risk of hypertension, talk to your doctor. They will be able to assess your risk, measure and monitor your blood pressure, and help you create a lifestyle-focused treatment plan to help you begin to reverse the dangers of this dangerous condition.