Cancer

Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths that grow in the wall of the uterus. When fibroids cause heavy bleeding or painful symptoms, and other treatments are ineffective, a doctor may recommend surgery.

Fibroids are common, but it is challenging for doctors to determine what percentage of people have them, as not everyone experiences symptoms. According to various estimates, fibroids may affect between 20% and 80% of the female population under the age of 50 years.

Although fibroids can sometimes grow to the size of a grapefruit or even larger, they are often very small. Many people with fibroids are unaware that they have them. People with asymptomatic fibroids do not require surgery or other treatments.

However, other people experience abdominal pain, pressure, bloating, pain during sex, frequent urination, and heavy or painful periods. These individuals may require surgery.

In this article, learn more about surgery for fibroids, including the types, risks, and what to expect.

Types

There are several different surgical approaches to treating fibroids. The types of surgery that a person can have will depend on the location of the fibroid.

A doctor will usually recommend more conservative options, such as medication, before considering surgery.

In cases where medication and other treatments do not work, surgical options include the following:

Myomectomy

Myomectomy is a surgical procedure that removes fibroids. Depending on the location of these growths, a surgeon may also have to remove other tissue in the process. Surgeons offer different myomectomy techniques.

The traditional technique is quite invasive as it uses a relatively large cut. This incision may go from the bellybutton to the bikini line or run horizontally along the bikini line. Some surgeons also perform laparoscopic surgeries, which use smaller incisions but require more skill.

Although a myomectomy preserves the uterus, women who wish to become pregnant should speak to a doctor about the possible complications. Those with very large or deeply embedded fibroids may only be able to have cesarean deliveries after this procedure.

New fibroids may develop after a myomectomy, which means that it is not a permanent solution for everyone.

Radiofrequency ablation procedure

Radiofrequency ablation destroys fibroids using either an electric current, a laser, cold therapy, or ultrasound. It requires only a small incision.

However, it can cause dangerous pregnancy complications, such as scarring and infection, so doctors do not recommend it for those who are planning future pregnancies.

Radiofrequency ablation may be a good option for people considering a hysterectomy who want a less invasive procedure.

Endometrial ablation

Endometrial ablation does not remove fibroids, but it can help relieve heavy bleeding.

During endometrial ablation, a surgeon uses a range of techniques — which may include heat, electric current, freezing, lasers, or wire — to destroy the lining of the uterus. These techniques reduce or stop heavy bleeding.

This procedure is less invasive than some other surgical options. Sometimes, doctors can even perform it on an outpatient basis in their office.

This procedure may prevent women from being able to get pregnant in the future, so it is not a good option for those who would still like to have children.

Fibroid or artery embolization

A doctor can locate the blood vessels that feed into the fibroid and disrupt their blood supply. During this procedure, they will insert a tube into blood vessels that supply the fibroid and then inject tiny particles that block the fibroid’s blood supply. The lack of blood shrinks the fibroids.

Doctors can do this procedure on an inpatient or outpatient basis, and recovery is usually fairly straightforward. Fibroids do not typically grow back after embolization.

While pregnancy is sometimes possible after fibroid embolization, doctors do not know enough about the risks. Therefore, they do not recommend this procedure for women who wish to get pregnant.

Magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound surgery

In magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS), a doctor uses an ultrasound to heat and destroy fibroids.

This procedure can target the individual fibroids and avoid affecting the surrounding healthy tissue. A doctor will do an MRI scan to determine whether a person is a suitable candidate for MRgFUS. They may not recommend MRgFUS if the fibroids are too large or too close to any bones or the bowel.

MRgFUS may be a good option for women who plan to get pregnant, as it leaves the uterus intact. However, more data is necessary to confirm its safety for these individuals.

Hysterectomy

A hysterectomy is a surgery to remove the uterus and, sometimes, the ovaries. A hysterectomy permanently eliminates uterine fibroids.

This procedure is not an option for anyone planning a future pregnancy, as it removes the womb. Some people opt to leave the ovaries in place so that they continue producing estrogen.

A surgeon may be able to perform a laparoscopic hysterectomy, which uses several small incisions and a tiny camera to help the surgeon see inside the abdomen. An open hysterectomy requires a large incision between the bellybutton and the bikini line.

Another option is a vaginal hysterectomy, which is the approach that most people prefer. In this procedure, a surgeon will remove the uterus through the vagina.

A vaginal hysterectomy may not be possible if the uterus or fibroid is too large to fit through the vagina.

Individuals who undergo an open hysterectomy may have a longer recovery time. Doctors usually recommend a hysterectomy only for those whose fibroids are very large or significantly interfere with their quality of life.

People who have other reproductive health issues, such as endometriosis, may find that a hysterectomy provides significant relief from fibroids and other symptoms.

Morcellation

Morcellation is a procedure that reduces the size of fibroids so that a surgeon can remove them through a tiny incision in the abdomen. A doctor may use morcellation during a myomectomy, hysterectomy, or other surgery.

However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) caution that morcellation carries significant risks.

While fibroids are not cancerous, uterine cancer is more common in people having fibroid surgery than experts previously thought.

It can also be difficult to tell the difference between a fibroid and a type of cancer that looks the same. According to the FDA, morcellation may inadvertently spread cancer that resembles a fibroid.

Is surgery necessary?

Not everyone with fibroids needs treatment. In most cases, there is no reason to treat fibroids that cause no symptoms.

Some people with fibroids can treat symptoms successfully with medication, including hormonal birth control pills. Others alleviate fibroid symptoms by using pain relievers and other management strategies.

Before considering surgery, people can ask a doctor about other treatment options. The doctor should also provide clear details about the risks and benefits of each surgical procedure.

Fibroids can shrink or disappear after menopause, so people nearing menopause whose symptoms are not severe may wish to postpone treatment.

Benefits

The benefits of surgery depend on the type of surgery and can vary from person to person. For example, there is no chance that the fibroids will grow back after a hysterectomy. However, they may regrow following other procedures.

Some potential benefits include:

  • reduced bleeding
  • relief from pain or pressure
  • removal of fibroids
  • the potential that fibroids will either not grow as large or not regrow at all

Risks

Most people who have fibroid removal surgery have no serious complications, but they may experience pain or bleeding following surgery and will need time to recover.

However, a small number of people do face serious complications. The specific complications and their likelihood depend on the type of surgery that a person chooses, but they can include:

  • anesthesia-related risks
  • infections
  • heavy bleeding
  • failed surgery
  • regrowth of fibroids
  • damage to the uterus or other surrounding organs
  • in the case of morcellation, spreading cancer

How does fibroid surgery affect fertility?

The effects of fibroid surgery on fertility depend on the type of surgery. A hysterectomy or endometrial ablation usually makes pregnancy impossible.

Some procedures that may affect fertility but will not necessarily prevent pregnancy include:

  • morcellation
  • embolization
  • radiofrequency ablation

A myomectomy does not typically affect fertility. However, any surgery on the uterus can potentially damage the reproductive organs and affect future pregnancies.

Recovery

Most fibroid removal surgeries require general anesthesia. A person may need to stay overnight in the hospital, so the hospital staff may advise them to bring an overnight bag.

Invasive surgeries, such as a hysterectomy or a nonlaparoscopic myomectomy, typically have the longest recovery time.

A person can try the following to help ease recovery:

  • asking a doctor about the specific recovery timeline for the chosen surgery
  • asking a doctor about laparoscopic procedures and talking to a specialist with experience in minimally invasive surgery
  • following the doctor’s self-care and recovery instructions
  • getting help from a loved one in the days following surgery

Other treatment options

In most cases, a doctor will recommend trying other treatments before pursuing surgery.

Treatments for fibroids include:

  • Birth control pills. Hormonal contraceptives may slow fibroid growth and prevent heavy, painful periods.
  • Pain medication. Prescription and over-the-counter pain relievers may help with fibroid pain, especially period-related fibroid pain.
  • Iron supplements. For people with heavy bleeding that causes anemia, iron supplements may help.
  • Gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists (GnRH). These drugs may help shrink fibroids. Some doctors recommend them prior to surgery to make fibroid removal easier.

Summary

Surgery can be lifechanging for people whose fibroids interfere with their quality of life, as it can improve many aspects of their health.

All surgeries present some risks, however, so it is vital to explore all treatment options. A doctor can provide advice on which surgeries might be appropriate. A person may also wish to consider seeking a second opinion before agreeing to surgery.

Lung cancer is the second most common type of cancer in adults in the United States. It is also the leading cause of death from cancer.

Lung cancer treatment is much more effective when the disease is in its earlier stages. However, most people with lung cancer do not experience symptoms until the disease has spread.

Some people experience subtle symptoms of early stage lung cancer, but these symptoms more often stem from other health issues or factors such as smoking.

Below, we describe early symptoms of lung cancer, as well as risk factors and when to see a doctor.

Possible signs and symptoms of early stage lung cancer

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), most types of lung cancer do not cause symptoms until they have spread to other areas.

However, some people experience subtle symptoms during the earlier stages of the disease.

The early lung cancer symptoms that we describe below usually result from some other cause. However, people who experience these symptoms should consider visiting their doctors as a precautionary measure.

Sudden weight loss

The American Society of Clinical Oncology report that weight loss is often the first noticeable sign of cancer.

They estimate that 40% of people who receive a cancer diagnosis experience unexplained weight loss during that time.

Cancer can cause weight loss for many reasons, including:

  • changes to immune function
  • changes to metabolism
  • changes to hormones
  • a sudden loss of appetite
  • difficulty swallowing

Shortness of breath

Shortness of breath and wheezing can also be early symptoms of lung cancer.

Some people may experience a slight cough in addition to shortness of breath. Others may have difficulty catching their breath but have no cough.

Cough

A slight cough that does not go away can indicate early stage lung cancer. Some people assume that this cough is only a result of smoking.

A person who regularly coughs because of another lung condition may notice changes in their cough, and these can likewise indicate lung cancer.

Also, a cough that produces blood may result from lung cancer or another issue with the lungs. Anyone who experiences this symptom should see a doctor.

General fatigue

Lung cancer can cause the number of red blood cells in the body to drop. The medical term for this issue is anemia.

Because red blood cells carry oxygen, a person with anemia may not take in enough oxygen to support their body’s needs. This can result in tiredness and fatigue. Severe fatigue can make it difficult to function on a day-to-day level.

Shoulder, chest, or back pain

Most people with lung cancer do not feel pain or other symptoms during the early stages. This is because there are very few nerve endings in the lungs.

However, pain can occur when lung cancer invades the chest wall, ribs, vertebrae, or certain nerves. For example, Pancoast tumors, which form at the very top of the lungs, often invade nearby tissues, causing shoulder pain.

As a tumor develops, a person may begin to feel pain in their:

  • arms
  • chest
  • back

Hoarse voice

A person with lung cancer or another respiratory disease may develop a hoarse, raspy voice.

This can happen if a tumor presses on the laryngeal nerve, which is located within the chest. When the nerve is compressed, it can paralyze a vocal cord, causing the voice to change.

Risks

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)cigarette smoking is still the biggest risk factor for lung cancer, accounting for 80–90% of lung cancer-related deaths.

Other risk factors for lung cancer include:

  • using other tobacco products, such as cigars or pipe tobacco
  • inhaling secondhand smoke
  • being exposed to radon gas, possibly from materials within the home
  • working with dangerous chemicals, such as asbestos, arsenic, or diesel
  • living in a highly polluted area
  • having other lung conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • having a family history of lung cancer

When describing risk, organizations and experts sometimes use the term “pack-year.” A pack-year refers to the number of cigarettes smoked per day each year. So a person with a 30 pack-year smoking history may have:

  • smoked one pack per day for 30 years
  • smoked two packs per day for 15 years

The ACS recommend yearly lung cancer screenings for people aged 55–74 who:

  • currently smoke or have quit smoking in the past 15 years
  • have at least a 30 pack-year smoking history
  • currently smoke and are receiving counseling to help them quit
  • are aware of the potential benefits and harms of screening
  • have access to a facility that has experience with lung cancer screening and treatment

Screening cannot detect every instance of lung cancer, but it does lower a person’s chance of dying from the disease.

Smokers vs. nonsmokers

According to the CDC, people who smoke are 15–30 times more likely to die from lung cancer than people who do not.

Meanwhile, according to statistics from 2013–2014, about 1 in 4 people who do not smoke, including children, are exposed to secondhand smoke. This increases their risk of developing the disease.

Quitting smoking at any age can lower the risk of lung cancer.

When to see a doctor

The symptoms above usually result from issues other than lung cancer. However, anyone who experiences any of the following issues should visit a doctor:

  • a cough that lasts longer than 2–3 weeks
  • a persistent cough that worsens
  • a cough that produces blood
  • aches or pains when breathing or coughing
  • persistent shortness of breath
  • persistent tiredness or fatigue
  • recurrent chest infections
  • unexplained weight loss

Summary

Lung cancer is the second most common form of cancer. It can affect anyone but is particularly prevalent among people who smoke.

Usually, lung cancer does not cause symptoms until it has spread. As a result, it is not always possible to detect lung cancer in its earliest stages.

Nonetheless, some people experience subtle symptoms during the initial stages. It is important to recognize these because treatment is typically more effective when a person receives it early.

Anyone who experiences early symptoms of lung cancer should see a doctor. In many cases, something other than cancer is the cause. Still, it is best to seek medical advice as a precaution.

Itchy breasts are a common occurrence, but if there is no rash, the cause may be difficult to pinpoint.

Various conditions, including yeast infections, eczema, and psoriasis, often cause itching, but they also produce a rash.

There are several reasons why the breasts may feel itchy without an accompanying rash, however. Although most causes are benign, people should pay attention to their symptoms, as breast itchiness can also be an early sign of a rare form of inflammatory breast cancer.

In this article, we provide more information on the possible causes of itchy breasts with no rash.

1. Dry skin

Dry skin on the breasts can cause itchiness and irritation. The skin typically appears flaky or scaly when it is dry.

Some people have naturally dry skin, but other possible causes include:

  • the use of harsh skin care products
  • sun exposure
  • sweating

Using moisturizers and sunscreen may help prevent dry skin. Keeping creams in the fridge and applying them to the breasts can help cool the skin and ease itching.

2. Breast growth

Whenever the breasts grow, the skin around them stretches, and this may cause itchiness and discomfort. The breasts may grow due to:

  • puberty
  • pregnancy
  • weight gain
  • hormonal changes, such as those that occur during the menstrual cycle

3. Heat rash

Heat rash is a common occurrence in hot climates or when a person exercises in high temperatures.

Contrary to its name, heat rash can sometimes occur without any visual symptoms. However, many people also develop small, pin-like bumps or blisters in addition to the itching.

Heat rash can affect any part of the body with sweat glands, and it can often appear on, between, or under the breasts. Other names for it include “prickly heat” and “miliaria.”

4. Allergens

Allergic reactions are another common cause of itchiness. Allergic reactions can sometimes cause a rash, but this is not always the case.

Products that may cause an allergic reaction include:

  • soaps
  • laundry detergents
  • cosmetic products
  • perfume

5. Breast cancer

In rare cases, itchiness of the breasts can be a symptom of breast cancer.

The National Breast Cancer Foundation list itchy breasts as a symptom of a rare form of breast cancer called inflammatory breast cancer.

In addition to experiencing itchiness, people with inflammatory breast cancer may see a rash and feel that the breast is warm and swollen.

If either the nipple or areolar region is itchy, this could be a symptom of a rare form of breast cancer called Paget’s disease of the breast.

When to see a doctor

Dry skin and growing breasts are two of the more common reasons for itchy breasts, and they do not usually require a doctor’s examination.

However, a person should talk to a doctor if they experience the following symptoms:

  • itchiness lasting for more than a week
  • intense itchiness
  • an itchy nipple or areolar area, especially if the area is also flaky
  • tenderness, pain, or swelling alongside the itching
  • the appearance of a rash on, between, or under the breasts
  • itchiness that does not go away with home remedies

Treatments and prevention

People can often treat and prevent breast itchiness at home.

For example, if dry skin is the cause of the itchiness, a person can try:

  • using sunscreen
  • using moisturizers that are not oil based
  • staying hydrated
  • keeping the breasts clean and dry
  • using only nonscented products, including creams and detergents

If an allergic reaction causes the itchiness, a person can try to identify the source of the irritation and avoid exposure to it.

Other treatments for itchy breasts may include ointments such as pramoxine, which numbs the skin, or hydrocortisone, which reduces itchiness and swelling.

Antihistamines are another possible treatment option. Some examples include:

  • diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
  • cetirizine (Zyrtec)
  • loratadine (Claritin)
  • fexofenadine (Allegra)

Antihistamines can help suppress the immune system’s response to the allergen. People can take these orally or use them in the form of a cream or ointment.

Summary

Breast itchiness without a rash has many possible causes, including dry skin or growing breasts due to puberty, weight gain, or pregnancy.

In some cases, allergic reactions or other underlying conditions may be responsible for the itchiness.

In very rare cases, itchiness of the breast, nipple, or areolar region can be a sign of some types of breast cancer.

People should speak to a doctor if the itchiness is intense, does not respond to treatment, lasts for a long time, or occurs alongside other symptoms.

A cup of coffee in the morning could have greater benefits than just helping tired workers wake up.

Coffee drinkers have half the risk of the most common type of liver cancer, a study has found.

The coffee bean contains polyphenols that may stop cancer cells dividing.

Researchers from Queen’s University Belfast looked at almost half a million people, of whom more than three- quarters drank coffee. They were 50 per cent less likely to be diagnosed with hepatocellular carcinoma, which makes up nine out of ten cases of liver cancer.

Dr. Una McMenamin, of Queen’s, said: “Our findings are reassuring in suggesting coffee may have health benefits.”

Lead author Kim Tu Tran said: “People with a coffee-drinking habit could find keeping that habit going is good for their health.

“That is because coffee contains antioxidants and caffeine, which may protect against cancer.

“However drinking coffee is not as protective against liver cancer as stopping smoking, cutting down on alcohol or losing weight.”

The study, presented at the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) conference in Glasgow, found older, university-educated people, those who drank alcohol and men in particular were most likely to drink coffee.

Researchers tracked 365,157 coffee-drinkers, and more than 100,000 people who did not drink coffee, over seven and a half years using national cancer records.

In that time 88 people were diagnosed with the most common form of liver cancer, which is rising in England.

The risk was 50 per cent lower for coffee-drinkers compared with those who drank no coffee.

That was the case when alcohol, smoking and obesity were factored in. The risk fell 13 per cent for every cup someone drank daily.

Most coffee drinkers in Britain use instant, which some experts suspected may carry a higher risk of cancer. Evidence suggests it has higher levels of acrylamide – a cancer-causing chemical made when beans are roasted.

But the study, which looked at instant, ground and decaf coffee, found the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma was just as low in people who mostly drank instant coffee.

Jars of coffee are thought to contain more cancer-fighting compounds, such as chlorogenic acid, which may prevent harmful inflammation in the body.

The World Cancer Research Fund has also concluded that it is ‘probable’ coffee reduces the risk of liver cancer.

But the latest study, published in the British Journal of Cancer, did not find an overall link between coffee and other digestive cancers, despite looking at types including bowel and stomach cancer.

A separate study, involving the same team, found people who took statins had a 36 per cent reduced chance of being diagnosed with liver cancer.

Experts believe statins, taken by millions of people in Britain to lower their cholesterol, may reduce the number of abnormal cells which can develop into tumours.

Exercising more after being diagnosed with breast cancer could lower your risk of dying, a study suggests.

Women who bumped up their activity to 150 minutes per week, the recommended amount, halved their risk of death.

Those who continued to meet the guidelines for moderate exercise, which includes cycling or brisk walks, had a 30 per cent lower risk.

Doctors are now urging patients keep active post-diagnosis, in order to give them the best chance of surviving the killer disease.

Scientists at the German Cancer Research Centre in Heidelberg tracked more than 2,000 older women for a decade.

The study is understood to be one of the first to investigate if exercise is beneficial for breast cancer patients.

It is well known that the fitter women are, the less likely they are to die if they get cancer. But less research has been done on the effects of getting physically fitter after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

The new findings, published in the journal Breast Cancer Research, bolster the evidence.

Participants were aged 50 to 74. By the end of the study, there were 206 deaths, of which 114 were caused by breast cancer.

Results suggested women who increased their activity level after a diagnosis – rather than keeping it the same – cut their risk of death the most.

And women who didn’t exercise before or after their diagnosis did not see their risk of death reduced, the team revealed.
Compared to them, women who started exercising after their diagnosis reduced their risk of dying from breast cancer by 46 per cent.

Women who were active pre- and post-diagnosis cut their odds of dying from breast cancer by 39 per cent.

The study did not look at the effects of exercise on men – but the researchers said it is unlikely the benefits only apply to women.

Dr. Audrey Jung, the corresponding author said: “The results of our study suggest that there are merits to leisure-time physical activity in breast cancer patients.”

The results are only reflective of the patients in the study who ha already survived around six years after their diagnosis, the authors said.

They conclude women should be encouraged to exercise following a breast cancer diagnosis, especially if they are not sufficiently active already.

Their findings add momentum to a movement towards ‘prescribing’ cancer patients with exercise as part of the care.

Should cancer patients do exercise? Early evidence suggests an exercise programme before treatment helps patients tolerate difficult treatments and experience fewer complications.

There is stronger evidence demonstrating that exercising while undergoing cancer treatment limits the dreaded side effects such as fatigue.

Studies indicates that after completion of treatment, undertaking an exercise programme leads to increased cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, reduced fatigue, and improved body composition and wellbeing outcomes.

For patients under palliative care, preliminary evidence suggests that exercise is feasible, and may help maintain physical function, control fatigue, and improve bone health.

Regular physical activity after a cancer diagnosis has been linked with longer survival and lower risk of recurrence or disease progression.

Despite the majority of evidence being classed as preliminary due to factors such as small-sized studies, there is consensus among scientists that exercising before, during, and after cancer treatment is generally feasible, safe, and beneficial for most patients.

In October, an international panel of cancer experts set out a number of recommendations for the use of exercise after reviewing the scientific evidence.

Leaders of organisations such as the American Cancer Society and Macmillan Cancer Support said exercise plans for cancer patients could boost survival odds after a breast, colon or prostate cancer diagnosis.

Julia Frater, Cancer Research UK’s senior specialist cancer information nurse, said: “Exercise is safe for most cancer patients to take part in. It can improve general health, mood and feelings of well being and there is emerging evidence that in some cases it might help improve overall survival.

“But more research needs to be done on the types of exercises that are most helpful and the circumstances when it might make a difference to survival. Any patients considering taking up vigorous exercise should speak to their doctor first just in case there is a reason why they should avoid some forms of exercise.”

Professor Anna Campbell, of Edinburgh Napier University, has been working in the area of exercise and cancer survivorship for 20 years.

She said there are a number of potential mechanisms that make exercise beneficial, including boosting the immune system.

She told MailOnline: “Exercise may be directly impacting on the tumour. We think it may allow immune cells to infect the tumour’s environment, altering the development of bad cells.

“Or, exercise switches off some of the tumour’s genes. We haven’t go definitive evidence yet. It is time to ensure that staying active post-cancer diagnosis is a standard part of a cancer care package.”

Meanwhile, exercising regularly could decrease inflammation and help protect against heart disease, a new study suggests.

In research conducted on mice, scientists from Massachusetts General Hospital, United States (U.S.), looked at one group of rodents that ran on treadmills daily and one group that did not.

The mice that got exercise every night had lower levels of a type of immune system cell that can turn into white blood cells.

This lowered their risk of chronic inflammation, which contributes to the formation of plaques that block the arteries and can cause cardiovascular disease.

According to the National Institutes of Health, the risk for coronary heart disease begins increasing for men at age 45 and for women at age 55.

To improve overall heart health, the American Heart Association recommends exercising each week at a moderate intensity for at least 150 minutes a week or at a high intensity for at least 75 minutes a week.

For the study, published in the journal Nature Medicine, the team studied mice that were split into two groups.

One group was put into cages with treadmills, where some of the rodents ran as many as six miles per night.

The second group was put into cages without treadmills. After six weeks, the two groups were compared.

Researchers found that the mice that ran on treadmills had reduced levels of cells found in the bone marrow known as hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs).

HSPCs have the ability to turn into any type of blood cell, including white blood cells called leukocytes, which increase inflammation.

Inflammation helps plaques grow, which can clog arteries and trigger blood clots, and lead to heart disease, heart attacks and strokes.

“We were surprised by how much mice loved to run,” lead author Dr. Matthias Nahrendorf of the Center for Systems Biology at Massachusetts General Hospital told DailyMail.com.

“But we were also surprised that the effects of running stayed with the mice for a while, for as long as two to three weeks after [the end of the study period].”

Additionally, researchers found the mice that exercised produced less leptin, which is a hormone responsible for controlling appetite.

Previous studies conducted by the team showed high levels of leptin and leukocytes in humans that had cardiovascular disease linked to inflammation.

Dr. Nahrendorf said the results shows the importance of exercise, but also how this could lead to new therapies for preventing heart attacks and strokes

“In the future, we want to look for pathways that, like exercise, reduce the overproduction of white blood cells, because that reduces inflammation,” he said.

“I’m not saying we would have a pill but if we could look for a way to reduce inflammation – hit the pathways with a drug – that would be the Holy Grail in anti-inflammatory therapy.”

Meanwhile, it is never too late to start exercising, according to a major study, which found active over-60s cut their risk of heart attack and stroke.

People who went from being sedentary to working out three or four times a week reduced their risk of heart problems by up to 11 per cent compared to those who did not exercise.

And the level of activity needed to cause a change was equal to just one hour of running per week – less than the 75 to 150 minutes recommended by the British National Health Service (NHS).

The study of more than a million people found those who used to work out five times a week but stopped saw their risk rise by 27 per cent.

The researchers in South Korea said their findings were evident even in people with disabilities and chronic conditions such as high blood pressure or type 2 diabetes.

They have urged doctors to prescribe physical activity for older patients in a bid to prevent major health problems.

Kyuwoong Kim, a PhD student at Seoul National University said: “The most important message from this research is that older adults should increase or maintain their exercise frequency to prevent cardiovascular disease.

“While older adults find it difficult to engage in regular physical activity as they age, our research suggests that it is necessary.

“We believe that community-based programmes to encourage physical activity among older adults should be promoted by governments.

“Also, from a clinical perspective, physicians should “prescribe” physical activity along with other recommended medical treatments for people with a high risk of cardiovascular disease.”

The study is published in the European Heart Journal.

Physical activity is well established as a means of preventing heart disease, but it’s not clear if the benefits remain when exercise level changes.

The study looked at 1,119,925 men and women aged 60 years or older.

They underwent two health checks by the Korean National Health Insurance Service in 2009-2010 and again in 2011-2012.

At each check, the participants’ levels of moderate and vigorous exercise per week were calculated.

One workout was considered to be half an hour or more of moderate exercise, such as brisk walking or cycling, or more than 20 minutes of vigorous exercise such as running or swimming.

Researchers assessed how activity levels changed between the two checks.

They then collected data on heart disease and strokes from January 2013 to December 2016, identifying 114,856 cases.

The researchers found that 22 per cent of those inactive at the first check had increased their physical activity by the time of the second.

Exercising three to four times a week had reduced their risk of heart problems by 11 per cent, and once or twice a week reduced the risk by five per cent.

Just over half (54 per cent) of people who had been exercising five or more times a week at the time of the first screening had become completely inactive by the time of the second.

These people were found to have a 27 per cent increased risk of heart problems, but less so if they still exercised occasionally.

When looking at people with disabilities and chronic conditions, a switch from being inactive to being active three to four times a week also reduced their risk of cardiovascular problems.

People with a disability could reduce their risk by 16 per cent, and those with diabetes, raised blood pressure or cholesterol levels had their risk reduced by up to seven per cent.

About two thirds of those who took part in the study said they were physically inactive at both checks.

Professor Naveed Sattar, of the Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, University of Glasgow, said those who stopped exercising might have been ill.

How does exercise protect the heart? Exercise burns calories, which can maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is one of the biggest causes of heart problems.

It lowers blood pressure, cholesterol, and helps regulate blood sugar levels, all of which have been linked to cardiovascular disease.

A single bout of exercise may protect your heart immediately through a process known as ischemic preconditioning. A little bit of ischemia — defined, as an inadequate blood supply to part of the body, especially the heart — may be a good thing.

It allows the heart to adapt and protect itself from longer episodes of ischemia, which normally occurs from a blockage in arteries.

He told MailOnline: “It is likely some people who were active all their lives but then cut activity do so because of illness, and it is the illness that increases risks for other diseases.

“The bottom line, however, is that encouraging and so facilitating activity at any age is beneficial. Asides from the health benefits, more active people tend to be happier, and less isolated so multiple benefits.

“This paper adds more evidence to suggests activity started at any age helps lower risks of important heart and stroke outcomes.”

The NHS says over-65s should do a mix of moderate and vigorous areobic activity totaling 150 minutes per week, plus two strength-training workouts.

The authors said they couldn’t be certain if the findings will apply outside of the Korean population due to differences in ethnicity and lifestyle.

They also said a limitation was that the physical activity levels were self-reported, and that they did not have information on other types of physical activity, such as housework.

Meanwhile, wearable activity trackers may pave the way for a better method to predict short term death risk, suggests a new study, which found that exercise data was more accurate than other risk factors, such as smoking and medical history.

New research suggests that physical activity levels might be a better predictor of lifespan than medical history or other lifestyle choices among older adults.

Being able to make an accurate prediction about a person’s risk of death can help them prolong their lives. Usually, doctors base these estimates on lifestyle choices, such as smoking and alcohol consumption, and health factors, such as cancer or heart disease history.

But new findings published in The Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences suggest that wearable activity trackers may provide more reliable predictions.

Researchers at John Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, MD, studied the association between physical activity and risk of death.

“We’ve been interested in studying physical activity and how accumulating it in spurts throughout the day could predict mortality because activity is a factor that can be changed, unlike age or genetics,” says professor Ciprian Crainiceanu, Ph.D., from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Their work is not the first to find such a link, but, according to the team, the results might be some of the first to offer concrete proof that wearable technology works better for predicting a person’s risk of mortality than other means.

The study’s data set came from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) carried out in 2003–2004 and 2005–2006.

Involving almost 3,000 U.S. adults between the ages of 50 and 84, it examined more than 30 predictors of 5-year all-cause mortality, using survey responses, medical records, and laboratory test results.

Physical activity made up 20 of these predictors, including total activity, time spent doing moderate to vigorous activity, and time spent not moving at all.

To measure such activity, participants — 51 per cent of who were men — were asked to wear a wearable activity tracker on their hip for seven days in a row. They were told only to remove the device when showering, swimming, or sleeping.

The research team was able to use the data to categorize which factors best-predicted death risk within the next five years. However, they were unable to tell when people were sleeping or whether they had removed the tracker for other reasons.

Wearable trackers predicted the risk of death more accurately than surveys and other methods that doctors commonly use.

“The most surprising finding,” says lead author Ekaterina Smirnova, M.S., Ph.D., “was that a simple summary of measures of activity derived from a hip-worn accelerometer over a week outperformed well-established mortality risk factors, such as age, cancer, diabetes, and smoking.”

Smirnova is an assistant professor of biostatistics at Virginia Commonwealth University, VA.

The wearable trackers designated death risk 30 per cent better than smoking-related information did, and was 40 per cent more accurate than using data involving stroke or cancer history.

The researchers found that total daily physical activity was the strongest mortality predictor. Age came second, followed by time spent performing moderate to vigorous physical exercise.

Specifically, examining the amount of physical activity that a person performed between noon and 2 p.m. proved to be a better indicator of death risk than more established risk factors, such as alcohol consumption and diabetes.

Andrew Leroux, co-author and Ph.D. candidate at John Hopkins, says the study confirms “a link between physical activity and short term mortality risk in an older population.”

But, he adds, “The data [do not] guarantee that one’s risk of mortality is going to be lower with more physical activity.”

This does not take away from the fact that wearable tracker measurements, rather than self-reported data, may help doctors “intervene” more appropriately and therefore improve patient health.

Assistant professor of medicine at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine, Jacek Urbanek, Ph.D., notes that “the technology is readily available and relatively inexpensive, so it seems feasible to be able to incorporate recommendations for its use into a physician’s practice.”

But it does mean that further study is necessary. Researchers are hoping to use their findings in clinical trials designed to strengthen the link between physical activity and lifespan.

A new study spanning nearly 2 decades has found a link between an unhealthful diet and vision loss in older age. Should we be keeping more of an eye on what we eat?

A robust body of research has shown that a diet rich in red meat, fried foods, high fat dairy, processed meats, and refined grains is bad for the heart and linked to the development of cancer.

However, not many people consider the impact of diet on their eyesight.

A new study, now appearing in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, has found a link between a diet rich in unhealthful foods and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

AMD is a condition that impacts the retina with age, blurring central vision. Central vision helps people see objects clearly and perform everyday activities such as reading and driving.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the United States, around 1.8 million people aged 40 and above are living with AMD, and another 7.3 million have a condition called drusen, which usually precedes AMD.

The CDC also explain that “AMD is the leading cause of permanent impairment of reading and fine or close-up vision among people aged 65 years and older.”

Now, the new study — which was the first to look at dietary patterns and the development of AMD over time — has found an association between an unhealthful diet and AMD.

Senior study author Dr. Amy Millen, of the University at Buffalo in New York, told Medical News Today, “Most people understand that diet influences cardiovascular disease risk and risk [of] obesity; however I’m not sure the public thinks about whether or not diet influences one’s risk [of] vision loss later in life.”

Although research has shown links between certain foods and nutrients and AMD — for example, some studies have suggested that high dose antioxidants may slow progression — there has been less research into dietary patterns as a whole.

Furthermore, studies that have looked at dietary patterns have focused on late stage risk — that is, the point at which the condition becomes vision threatening — rather than early and late stage disease.

“We wanted to examine how the overall pattern of one’s diet may predict later development of AMD, both early onset and late stage disease,” said Dr. Millen.

Unhealthful diet raises AMD risk by threefold

The study looked at the development of early and late AMD in participants of the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study, which looked at arterial health over 18 years (1987–1995).

Using data on 66 different food types, the researchers identified two diet patterns: one they dubbed “Prudent,” or healthful, and one they dubbed “Western,” which included a high intake of “processed and red meat, fried food, dessert, eggs, refined grains, high fat dairy, and sugar sweetened beverages.”

Although the researchers found no link between early AMD and dietary patterns, they found that the incidence of late AMD was three times higher among those with a Western eating pattern.

“What we observed in this study was that people who had no AMD or early AMD at the start of our study, and reported frequently consuming [unhealthful] foods, were more likely to develop vision threatening, late stage disease approximately 18 years later,” says Dr. Millen.

Prevention is better than cure

Early stage AMD has no symptoms, so a person may not know that have it. Also, although not everyone develops late stage AMD, for those who do, it can be costly and invasive to treat.

There are two forms of late stage AMD. One is called wet AMD, or neovascular AMD, which healthcare professionals tend to treat by injecting antivascular growth factors.

The other is called dry AMD, or geographic atrophy, which occurs when the photoreceptor cells die without neovascularization. There is no effective treatment for this form of AMD.

“We would like the public to realize that diet is important to their vision,” said Millen.

“The clinical take-home message is that dietary intake likely makes a difference in determining central vision loss later in life. If a person has early onset AMD, it is in their best interest to eat foods we identified as part of the Western diet pattern in moderation.”

Dr. Amy Millen

Some people believe that masturbation can cause erectile dysfunction, but this is a myth. Masturbation is a common and beneficial activity.

While most men have trouble getting or keeping an erection at some point in their lives, frequent difficulties getting an erection is called erectile dysfunction (ED).

Learn more about ED and masturbation, if watching porn affects sexual function, and when to see a doctor.

Can masturbation cause ED?

No, masturbation cannot cause ED — it is a myth.

Masturbation is natural and does not affect the quality or frequency of erections.

Research shows that masturbation is very common across all ages. Approximately 74 percent of males reported masturbating, compared to 48.1 percent of females.

Masturbation even has health benefits. According to Planned Parenthood, masturbation can help release tension, reduce stress, and aid sleep.

A person may not be able to get an erection soon after masturbating. This is called the male refractory period and is not the same as ED. A male refractory period is the recovery time before a man will be able to get an erection again after ejaculating.

What does the research say?

Universally, researchers are confident that masturbation does not cause ED. However, difficulty getting and keeping an erection either while masturbating or while having sex may be a sign of other conditions.

Age is the most significant predictor of ED. Erectile dysfunction is common in men over 40 years old, with approximately 40 percent being affected to some degree.

Rates of complete ED, or the inability to get an erection, increase from 5 percent in men aged 40 to about 15 percent at age 70.

Other risk factors for ED include:

  • diabetes
  • being overweight
  • heart disease
  • lower urinary tract symptoms (bladder, prostate, or urethra issues)
  • alcohol and cigarette use

ED in younger men

Although ED generally affects older men, a 2013 study found that as many as a quarter of men under 40 years old received a new ED diagnosis.

In younger men, ED is more likely to be caused by psychological or emotional factors. Younger men also have higher levels of testosterone in their bodies and are less likely to have other risk factors for ED.

Anxiety about sexual performance or erection quality can lead to further stress, sometimes creating a “vicious circle.”

Factors that can contribute to ED in younger men include:

  • stress
  • anxiety
  • depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, or medications for these illnesses
  • being overweight
  • insomnia or lack of sleep
  • urinary tract problems
  • a spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, or spina bifida
  • having a high-stress job
  • relationship stress
  • performance anxiety

Porn and ED

There is no evidence to suggest that watching porn causes ED.

Internet porn usage rose at the same time that the rate of ED diagnoses increased in men under 40 years old.

This led some researchers to believe that porn might affect male viewers’ ability to get and maintain erections.

While it is true that internet porn access and diagnoses of ED in younger men increased at about the same time and rate, this does not prove a link between the two.

Until recently, there was little research into ED in young men, making numbers difficult to interpret. Also, due to stigmas and reluctance to speak to a doctor about sexual health, ED may be underreported in both younger and older men.

It is also difficult to separate the psychological effect of watching porn from other psychological factors, such as performance anxiety.

When to speak to a doctor

ED is sometimes a sign of underlying conditions, such as heart disease or anxiety.

Telling a doctor about ED can prevent potential problems that these conditions might cause, and also provide solutions to ED.

For example, doctors may recommend that men with ED who are overweight lose some weight. This is because maintaining a healthy weight can increase testosterone levels, making it easier to get an erection.

A doctor may also recommend stress-relief techniques or cognitive behavioral therapy for those dealing with ED due to emotional or psychological issues.

Summary

Masturbation does not cause ED, but many underlying health problems, including heart disease, urinary tract symptoms, alcohol use, depression, and anxiety, can.

Research does not suggest that masturbation using internet porn could cause ED. Some people who watch porn may also experience performance anxiety, resulting in difficulties with erections, but performance anxiety is common without porn use.

Anyone experiencing problems getting or maintaining an erection should speak to a doctor, as ED is often treatable.

Many people with uterine fibroids have no symptoms, but others may experience pain and abnormal vaginal bleeding. For some people living with fibroids, the pain is intense enough to interfere with daily life.

Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths that form inside the uterus. They can grow quite large and cause pain and pressure.

Fibroid pain usually occurs in the lower back or pelvis. Some people also experience stomach discomfort, intense cramps when menstruating, or pain during intercourse.

Easing the pain at home

There is little evidence that home remedies can ease fibroid pain. However, there are a few methods that people can try.

These include:

  • taking over-the-counter (OTC) medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • using heating pads
  • practicing yoga or stretching
  • doing gentle exercise
  • eating a healthful diet

Some people may be interested in trying herbal remedies to shrink the fibroids and ease the pain. A 2013 Cochrane review analyzed previous research on the use of common herbal remedies — including Tripterygium wilfordii and Guizhi Fuling — to treat fibroids and their symptoms.

The researchers concluded that the quality of the data in the reviewed studies was insufficient to support the use of these herbal remedies.

Making lifestyle changes may be a more effective way for people to ease their fibroid pain.

Medication

A person can take medication to help ease fibroid pain. However, medication will not cure fibroids, and a person may require surgery later on.

These types of drugs may help ease fibroid symptoms:

  • Birth control pills: These can help reduce period pain. They may also make periods lighter, but they will not shrink fibroids.
  • A hormonal intrauterine device (IUD): This device releases progestin, which can help with painful, heavy periods but will not shrink fibroids.
  • Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists: These drugs counteract the effect of the hormones that regulate a person’s period. They can stop monthly bleeding and may help shrink fibroids.

The GnRH agonists may cause side effects, so doctors recommend that people take these for no longer than 6 months. After a person stops taking these drugs, the fibroids typically grow back.

Surgery

When fibroids cause pain, and medication does not work, a person may consider surgery. Doctors may recommend one of the following surgical procedures:

  • Myomectomy: A myomectomy is the removal of the fibroids from the uterus. This procedure does not remove the uterus, so it is still possible for the person to get pregnant afterward.
  • Ablation: This procedure involves using heat to destroy the fibroids. It will not remove the fibroids altogether, but they may shrink.
  • Laparoscopic power morcellation: For this procedure, a surgeon will make a tiny incision and insert a surgical instrument through it to break up fibroids. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) caution that this treatment carries significant risks.
  • Hysterectomy: A hysterectomy removes the uterus. Sometimes, the surgeon will also remove the ovaries.

Other symptoms of fibroids

In addition to pain, some people experience the following symptoms:

  • very heavy bleeding
  • anemia from heavy periods
  • frequent bowel movements or urination
  • swelling or pressure in the stomach

Diagnosis

Many people find out that they have fibroids during a routine pelvic exam. A doctor can often feel the fibroids in the uterus during the exam.

A doctor can also detect fibroids by performing imaging tests, such as:

  • ultrasounds
  • MRIs
  • X-rays
  • CT scans

A doctor may sometimes recommend a hysterosalpingogram, which uses dye to see the uterus during an X-ray, or a sonohysterogram, which uses a saline solution to enhance the view of the uterus during an ultrasound.

Causes

Doctors do not fully understand what causes fibroids, but some possible causes and risk factors include:

  • Genetics: Fibroids may run in families, and certain genetic mutations increase the risk of these growths.
  • Hormones: Estrogen, progesterone, and growth hormones may increase the risk. Therefore, people who take hormonal birth control or have growth hormone injections may be more likely to develop fibroids.
  • Nutritional imbalances: Some research suggests that there is an association between vitamin D deficiency and the development of fibroids.
  • Race and ethnicity: African American women appear to be more likely than white women to develop fibroids.
  • Obesity: People who have overweight or obesity are two to three times more likely to develop fibroids than those with a moderate body weight.

When to see a doctor

It is not possible for a doctor to diagnose fibroids based on a person’s symptoms alone.

Many other conditions, including infections, pregnancy loss, and cancer, may share some of the symptoms of fibroids, so it is important to see a doctor for unusual bleeding or pelvic pain.

A person who already knows that they have fibroids should see a doctor if they experience:

  • sudden worsening of symptoms
  • heavy bleeding
  • pressure or swelling in the abdomen
  • returning fibroid symptoms after fibroid surgery

Summary

Many people develop uterine fibroids without being aware of them. However, some individuals may experience severe pain and need surgery or other treatments.

A person experiencing fibroid pain can stretch, use heat, or take OTC medications, but if the pain does not improve, they should see a doctor.

A doctor can guide treatment decisions by helping a person weigh up the risks and benefits of various symptom management options.

A recent study has investigated links between hair products and breast cancer. The findings have caused a stir, so in this article, we put the results into perspective.

Overall, breast cancer affects around 1 in 8 women during their lifetime.

Although breast cancer incidenceTrusted Source rates among non-Hispanic white women have historically been higher than among non-Hispanic black women, in recent decades, the rate of breast cancer among black women has increased.

Today, the breast cancer rates among black and white women are similar. However, according to the authors of a new study:

“[B]lack women [are] more likely to be diagnosed with aggressive tumor subtypes and to die after a breast cancer diagnosis.”

Scientists are working to pin down all the risk factors associated with breast cancer, and they are eager to understand why race-related disparities occur.

The study, which now appears in the International Journal of Cancer, focuses on hair products. Specifically, the researchers investigated hair dye and chemical hair straighteners, which permanently or semipermanently “relax” the hair.

Hair dye and breast cancer

Over the years, a number of studies have hinted at hair products’ potential role in cancer. As the study authors explain, “Hair products contain more than 5,000 chemicals, including some with mutagenic and endocrine‐disrupting properties.”

Older studiesTrusted Source have shown that certain chemicals in hair dye can induce tumors in the mammary glands of rats.

However, studies that have searched for an association between hair products and breast cancer in human populations have produced inconsistent results.

The authors of the recent research, based at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, set out to take a fresh look. They decided to include hair straighteners in their analysis because earlier studies have largely ignored them. Importantly, according to the authors, these straightening chemicals “are used predominately by women of African descent.”

Because hair product ingredients tend to vary depending on whether the manufacturers market them to white or black women, the authors wondered if this might play a part in the disparity in breast cancer.

To investigate, the researchers took data from the Sister Study. This dataset includes information from 50,884 women aged 35–74. The scientists followed the women for an average of 8.3 years. The participants had no personal history of breast cancer but at least one sister who had received a breast cancer diagnosis.

Headline statistics

As part of their analysis, the researchers accounted for a wide range of variables, including age, menopausal status, socioeconomic status, and reproductive history. Importantly, they also had access to information about participants’ use of hair care products.

They found that women who used hair dye regularly in the 12 months before enrolling in the study were 9% more likely to develop breast cancer.

Specifically, when the scientists assessed the use of permanent dyes, they found that women who used these products every 5–8 weeks or more had an increased risk of breast cancer. Among white women, the risk increased by 8%. Among black women, the risk increased by 60%.

The study authors found no significant links between breast cancer and the use of semipermanent or temporary dyes.

When they looked at chemical hair straighteners, they concluded that women who used them every 5–8 weeks or more had a 30% increased risk of breast cancer. In this case, there were no significant differences between white and black women, though it is worth noting that black women seemed to use these products more often.

Not all percentages are equal

It is important to put these figures into perspective. The percentages above describe relative risk, which publishers tend to focus on because the numbers appear more dramatic.

For instance, studies have shown that women who drink two or more alcoholic beverages per day have a 50% higher risk of developing breast cancer. In other words, over the course of a lifetime and compared with women who do not drink, these women are 50% more likely to develop breast cancer.

However, this does not mean that they have a 50% chance of developing breast cancer.

In the general population, women have a 12% risk of developing breast cancer in their lifetime. So, if we increase this risk by 50%, that brings the risk up to 18%. In this example, the absolute risk increase is 6%, which is the difference between 12% and 18%. Although this is a significant increase, it does not have the same psychological impact as 50%.

Returning to the hair product study, although the reported relative risk of a 60% increase in breast cancer risk among black women is a significant result, the absolute risk of a new cancer diagnosis in this study population was less than 1% per year.

This does not mean that the topic is not worth pursuing. Any increase in cancer risk is important, but understanding the statistics helps put the matter into perspective.

Study limitations

As with any observational study, it is impossible to determine whether or not a factor is causal. The observed relationship might be dependent on other factors that the analysis could not account for.

Another potential issue is that every participant in the study had at least one first-degree relative who has experienced breast cancer. As the authors explain, this “may limit the generalizability of these findings.”

However, taking everything into account, this is a large study, and the findings are worth following up.

“We are exposed to many things that could potentially contribute to breast cancer, and it is unlikely that any single factor explains a woman’s risk,” explains study co-author Dale Sandler, Ph.D. “While it is too early to make a firm recommendation, avoiding these chemicals might be one more thing women can do to reduce their risk of breast cancer.”

People can contract and transmit sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) through several types of sexual contact. Doctors more commonly use the term sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Although vaginal-penile sex is one of the most common means of STI transmission, people can contract them through anal sex, oral sex, and, in rare cases, heavy petting.

STIs are very common. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that in 2018, there were more than 2 million casesTrusted Source of STIs.

Some people may not experience more than mild symptomsTrusted Source. They may not even know that they have an STI.

Sexually active adults should undergo regular testing for STIs to prevent spreading them. The more a person knows about STIs, the better prepared they are for prevention.

In this article, learn more about some common STIs, including transmission, testing procedures, and treatment options.

Common STDs

Unlike some other conditions, a person’s sex, ethnicity, or age do not affect the likelihood that they will contract an STI. Since STIs occur due to sexual contact with others, anyone who is sexually active is at risk of contracting an STI.

Some common STIs include:

  • gonorrhoea
  • human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • chlamydia
  • syphilis
  • herpes
  • hepatitis B
  • pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • HIV
  • crabs (pubic lice)
  • molluscum contagiosum
  • scabies
  • trichomoniasis

Different STIs have different symptoms, causes, risk factors, and treatments.

Transmission

STIs can spread as a result of:

  • coming into direct contact with a lesion or sore
  • coming into close personal contact (in the case of crabs)
  • being exposed to infected blood
  • coming into contact with vaginal fluid or semen
  • sharing needles

STIs come in three categories:

  • bacterial
  • viral
  • parasitic

Bacterial and viral STIs hide in various bodily fluids, such as vaginal secretions, semen, saliva, and blood. In some cases, coming into direct contact with a partner’s fluid is enough to spread an STI.

A person should avoid coming into contact with another person’s bodily fluid when having oral, anal, or vaginal sex. To do this, a person should practice safe sex using condoms or dental dams. These can help block contact with potentially contaminated fluids.

Other STIs, such as herpes, can spread through direct skin-to-skin contact. A person can pass herpes to their partner through oral, anal, and vaginal sex. It can also spread from a partner’s mouth to the genitals of their partner through oral sex.

STIs such as HIV and hepatitis can spread through coming into contact with infected blood. Both of these infections can spread through sex when both partners have open sores or through sharing needles.

Parasitic STIs such as pubic lice can spread through close personal contact. Lice can pass from one person’s pubic hair to that of another. A person may also contract pubic lice after coming into contact with sheets or clothing that has been in close proximity to a person’s pubic hairs.

Risk factors and prevention

There are several potential risk factors for contracting an STI. People should take steps to avoid risks when engaging in sexual activity.

Some steps a person can take to prevent transmitting or contracting an STI include:

  • Avoiding unprotected sex: Using a latex condom or dental dam can greatly reduce the risk of coming into direct contact with a lesion or infected fluid.
  • Using water-based lubricants: Oil-based lubricants can cause condoms to break.
  • Finding an exclusive sexual partner: The more people a person has sex with, the greater their risk of contracting an STI. Likewise, finding a partner who is not having sex with other people can lower the risk of spreading STIs.
  • Undergoing STI tests: A person should undergo an STI test before engaging in sexual activity with a new partner.
  • Getting vaccinations: Getting vaccinations for conditions such as hepatitis and HPV is a good idea.
  • Avoiding drug and alcohol use: These substances may increase the likelihood of engaging in risky behavior during sex.
  • Avoiding sex with people who use injected drugs: People who use injected drugs may be more likely to have STIs such as HIV or hepatitis.

Taking these precautions should reduce the risk of spreading STIs, but they cannot guarantee prevention.

People should have a conversation with their partner about their sexual history before engaging in any kind of sex. If in doubt, ask them to undergo an STI test before engaging in sexual activity with them.

Testing

Undergoing testing for STIs is a good idea for anyone who:

  • has a new sexual partner
  • has had sex with multiple partners
  • shows symptoms of an STI

Testing can help determine if a person has an STI. However, it is important to remember that no STI test is completely accurate.

In part, this is because there are no tests available for certain STIs, while other signs of infection may not show up for some time after a person contracts the STI.

If a person suspects that they have an STI, they should have a test. However, even if the results are negative, it is a good idea to retest soon after.

Some potential STI tests a doctor may use include:

  • blood tests
  • urine tests
  • fluid tests

Treatment

Treatment options for STIs depend largely on the type of STI a person has.

Treatments focus on providing relief for the symptoms, preventing flares, or curing the infection. It is important to remember that even during treatment, it is possible to spread an STI to a partner.

Some common treatments include:

  • Antibiotics: These treat STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and trichomoniasis. People with these infections should complete all courses of antibiotics and avoid having sex until treatment is complete.
  • Antiviral medication: These treat infections such as herpes and HIV. Antiviral medications help prevent future outbreaks of herpes and can keep HIV suppressed for years. However, it is still possible to transmit them to a partner, so people should be careful when engaging in sexual activities.
  • Lotions and creams: These can treat pubic lice and help provide relief to sores on the genitals.

A person should talk to their doctor if they suspect that they have contracted an STI. Most STIs require prescription medications. It is important to follow all recommended treatments to prevent further complications and spreading the infection.

Complications

There are several potential complications from not treating an STI. These complications might include:

  • complications with pregnancy
  • PID
  • pelvic pain
  • heart disease
  • inflammation of the eye
  • arthritis
  • infertility
  • certain cancers
  • death

The best way to prevent complications is to seek screening and treatment as early as possible. People who are sexually active with multiple partners and those who are not sure of their partner’s sexual history should undergo regular testing.

Summary

STIs spread through bodily fluids, skin-to-skin contact, and, in cases of pubic lice, coming into close personal contact with a person who has the infection.

People who are sexually active should undergo regular screening. Early detection can prevent the spread STIs and prevent complications through treatment.

People should follow all treatment recommendations their doctor gives. In many cases, proper treatment can either suppress or cure the infection.