Exercise

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.

Hormone levels fluctuate throughout the 28-day menstrual cycle. These changes can affect a person’s appetite and may also lead to fluid retention. Both factors can lead to perceived or actual weight gain around the time of a period.

This article describes why a person may gain weight during a period, and how to prevent it. We also outline ways to help avoid weight gain during a period.

Weight gain during period

Medical research has identified around 150 symptoms that people may experience in the days leading up to a period. Food cravings, increased hunger, water retention, and swelling are premenstrual symptoms that may make a person feel like they are gaining weight.

Appetite changes

People may notice changes in their appetite throughout their menstrual cycle. For some, these changes may lead to concerns over weight gain.

Changes in appetite tend to occur at distinct stages of the menstrual cycle called the follicular phase and the luteal phase.

  • The follicular phase. This phase begins when a person bleeds and ends before they ovulate. Estrogen is the dominant hormone during this phase. Since estrogen suppresses appetite, a person may find that they eat less during this phase.
  • The luteal phase. This phase begins after ovulation and lasts up to the first day of the next period. During the luteal phase, progesterone is the dominant hormone. Since progesterone stimulates appetite, a person may find that they eat more during this phase.

Previous studiesTrusted Source have shown that females eat more calories during the luteal phase compared with the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle.

2016 studyTrusted Source found that females tend to eat more protein during the luteal phase of menstruation. Females also report increased food cravings, particularly for sweets, chocolate, and salty foods.

Not all studies show that food cravings result in an increased number of calories consumed and an increase in weight. However, people who do consume more calories as a result of their cravings may experience some weight gain.

Water retention and swelling

People may experience increased water and salt retention around the time of their period. This is due to an increase in the hormone progesterone. Progesterone activates the hormone aldosterone, which causes the kidneys to retain water and salt.

Water retention can lead to bloating and swelling, particularly in the abdomen, arms, and legs. This can give the appearance of weight gain. It may also make a person’s clothes feel tighter.

However, water retention does not always signify weight gain. A 2014 study investigated water retention in females who complained of swelling during their period.

Circumference measurements taken throughout the study indicated that the participants did have significant swelling in the following areas:

  • face
  • breasts
  • abdomen
  • upper and lower limbs
  • pubic areas

However, there were no significant changes in weight throughout the participant’s cycles.

What symptoms are normal?

Many people experience both physical and psychological symptoms during a period. Symptoms may include:

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • irritability
  • angry outbursts
  • crying spells
  • confusion
  • social withdrawal
  • poor concentration
  • insomnia
  • taking more naps
  • changes in sexual desire
  • headache
  • aches and pains
  • fatigue
  • skin problems
  • gastrointestinal symptoms
  • abdominal pain

People may feel additional symptoms in the days leading up to a period. Symptoms may include:

  • thirst and appetite changes
  • breast tenderness
  • bloating
  • headache
  • swelling of the hands or feet

The type, severity, and duration of symptoms will vary from person to person. Additionally, some people may experience a combination of symptoms, while others may not experience any at all.

How long does it last?

Premenstrual symptoms tend to start a few days before bleeding, or menstruation, and stop once menstruation occurs.

Medical providers can diagnose people with premenstrual syndrome (PMS) if:

  • the person has a pattern of symptoms 5 days before their period for at least three cycles in a row
  • the symptoms end within 4 days after their period starts
  • the symptoms interfere with their normal activities

How to avoid weight gain

The following are some examples of how to prevent weight gain during a period.

Diet

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend the following eating habits to help lessen the effects of PMS:

  • eating complex carbohydrates to reduce mood symptoms and food cravings
  • eating calcium rich foods, including yogurt and leafy green vegetables
  • reducing fat, salt, and sugar intake
  • avoiding or limiting caffeine and alcoholic beverages
  • keeping blood sugar levels stable by eating smaller meals more often

Supplements

A doctor may also recommend taking a magnesium supplement. This can help to alleviate the following symptoms of PMS:

  • bloating
  • breast tenderness
  • mood disturbances

Medication

Sometimes, doctors may prescribe diuretics to people who complain of water retention during their period. Diuretics help to reduce the amount of water that the body stores.

Researchers have found that certain oral contraceptivesTrusted Source can also help reduce water retention. In a 2007 study, females who took 3 milligrams (mg) of drospirenone and 30 micrograms (mcg) of ethinyl estradiol had reduced water retention. Nonetheless, their body weight remained unchanged.

Doctors often use combined oral contraceptives to treat the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.

Summary

Hormonal fluctuations that occur throughout the menstrual cycle can affect a person’s appetite. In particular, people may experience food cravings in the days leading up to a period.

Females may also experience water retention and bloating, which can give the appearance of weight gain.

There are several steps people can take to prevent weight gain during a period. A person can practice healthful eating habits throughout their cycle. This includes eating less salt, sugar, and fat, and stocking up on low calorie snacks to satisfy food cravings. In addition, magnesium supplements may help to alleviate bloating and other symptoms of PMS.

People who are concerned about fluid retention should talk to their doctor. The doctor may prescribe diuretics or oral contraceptives to help alleviate this symptom.

Q:

What is the average amount of weight gain during a period?

A:

The symptoms that people experience during their menstrual cycle vary widely from one individual to the next. Symptoms can even differ between cycles, depending on a person’s nutrition, stress level, amount of exercise, intake of caffeine, sugar, and alcohol, and other lifestyle factors. Because everyone is so different, there’s not really an “average” weight gain during the menstrual cycle. While many people don’t notice any bloating or weight gain at all, others might gain as much as 5 pounds. Usually, this gain happens during the premenstrual, or luteal phase, and the person loses the weight again once the next period begins.Meredith Wallis, M.S., CNM, ANPAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.

Pain under the left armpit can be concerning, and many people associate any pain on the left side of their body with a heart attack. However, most of the time, pain under the left armpit has a less serious cause.

The armpit is a complex meeting point for muscles and connective tissues, lymph nodes, and blood vessels. As such, many issues in this area can lead to pain.

Causes range from pulled muscles and mild allergic reactions to more severe issues, such as an underlying infection.

While many of the causes of left armpit pain are not harmful in the long term, anyone experiencing breathing difficulties and pain in their chest, jaw, or neck should see a doctor immediately.

Causes of left armpit pain include:

A pulled muscle

Many muscles around the shoulder and armpit can cause pain if a person injures them.

People can pull a muscle when reaching for an object, twisting incorrectly, or overstretching.

People who exercise regularly, especially those who do weight training, may be more likely to experience muscle pulls and strains.

In these cases, the pain should go away over time, as long as the individual rests the injured muscle and does gentle stretches.

If the pain does not go away after about a week, it is best to see a doctor.

Allergic reactions

Armpits are a frequent location for allergic reactions, which could cause pain under the left armpit or both armpits.

Most allergic reactions in this area will occur due to chemicals people apply to their bodies or clothes that touch the armpits.

Possible allergens include:

  • detergent
  • fabric softener
  • soap
  • deodorant
  • perfume
  • shaving cream
  • moisturizing creams or lotions

These products may contain chemicals or perfumes that irritate the skin. A rash may also form.

Anyone who suspects that their skin is sensitive to a particular allergen should note the products they used that day and report them to a dermatologist.

Allergy testing may help find the irritating product. Avoiding products with any harsh chemicals or other ingredients can also improve symptoms in these cases.

Cosmetic procedures

Simple cosmetic procedures, such as shaving or waxing, can also be to blame for pain under the armpit. These hair removal techniques may lead to other issues, such as ingrown hairs, cysts, or general irritation and chafing in the armpit.

Skin infections

A skin infection under the armpit may cause itching and pain. Bacteria thrive in warm, damp environments such as the armpits.

An overgrowth of bacteria in this area may lead to an infection, which could cause redness, swelling, and pain, among other symptoms.

Other forms of infection, such as fungal infections due to ringworm or yeast, may also cause similar pain and irritation in the area.

Mild skin infections should clear up without treatment if a person keeps the area clean and dry. However, a doctor may recommend antibiotic creams or medications to treat more severe cases.

Hidradenitis

Hidradenitis is a chronic condition that causes similar symptoms to severe acne. Hidradenitis occurs due to clogged hair follicles and glands. It is common in areas such as the armpits, where the skin rubs together.

Hidradenitis can lead to multiple cysts or boils developing in the area. In addition to these breakouts, the person will likely experience pain and tenderness.

Doctors can treat hidradenitis with anti-inflammatory medications. Some cases may require surgery.

Varicella zoster virus

The varicella zoster virus causes chickenpox and shingles. Breakouts of both illnesses are possible under the armpits, although chickenpox usually beginsTrusted Source on the face, back, and chest.

A shingles rash usually developsTrusted Source as a single strip on one side of the face or body, left or right. A person with shingles may also experience:

  • a fever
  • headaches
  • chills
  • an upset stomach

A person may feel pain and tingling in the area before the visible rash develops.

A doctor may prescribe antiviral medications to speed up the healing process, as well as pain medications to help ease symptoms.

Swollen lymph nodes

Lymph nodes are small, bean shaped bundles of tissue that play a vital role in the immune system. Lymph nodes help filter toxins from the lymph and deliver white blood cells to help fight disease.

The armpit houses a large number of lymph nodes. Lymph nodes swell as part of an overall reaction by the immune system, such as to an infection or illness.

Swollen lymph nodes in the armpit may cause:

  • a single or multiple lumps
  • tenderness
  • pain

If the swelling does not go down after an infection, such as the common cold, goes away, or the person is not feeling any other symptoms, they should speak to a doctor.

Psoriasis

Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that leads to an overgrowth of skin cells. The buildup of skin cells forms patches called plaques. These plaques can cause symptoms such as itching and pain.

Psoriasis plaques can form anywhere, including the armpit. Some forms of psoriasis are more common in this area, including inverse psoriasis.

Psoriasis treatment typically includes both topical and oral medications to control symptoms.

Nerve damage

Nerve damage may also cause pain under the armpit. Nerve damage can be the result of a physical injury, such as one from overuse during sports or from an accident or fall.

Nerve damage can feel like:

  • pain
  • tingling
  • numbness
  • burning

Certain conditions, such as diabetes, may also lead to nerve damage or neuropathy. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases note that up to half of people with diabetes have peripheral neuropathy, which is nerve damage.

While peripheral neuropathy typically affects the feet and legs, it may also affect the arms in some individuals. Diabetes treatment may help slow nerve damage progression.

Angina

Angina occurs due to a lack of oxygen-rich blood flow to the heart. This can be because one of the arteries leading to the heart is narrow or blocked.

Angina causes chest pain and discomfort, which is sometimes severe. It may also cause pressure and pain in other areas, including the:

  • armpits
  • shoulders
  • back
  • neck
  • jaw

Some people may also experience a feeling similar to indigestion.

Angina is a symptom of an underlying heart condition, for example, coronary heart disease, which can lead to a heart attack.

There are also many other types of angina. Anyone who suspects they have angina should talk to their doctor.

Cancer

In rare cases, pain under the left armpit that does not go away may be a sign of a cancerous growth, including breast cancer.

Cancer can cause the lymph nodes under the armpit to swell painfully. An individual may notice a lump under their arm or in their armpit that causes persistent pain or discomfort.

Underarm pain may also be the result of a specific cancer treatment, such as lymph node removal or mastectomy.

Anyone noticing texture changes or lumps in their chest or breast tissue should seek medical attention.

Treatment options for cancer will depend on its stage, which refers to how much it has spread. In general, earlier stages are easier to treat.

When to see a doctor

Anyone noticing the following symptoms along with left armpit pain should seek immediate medical attention:

  • shortness of breath
  • dizziness
  • pain in the chest, jaw, or shoulder

A doctor can also diagnose and treat pain from other issues, such as infections or swollen lymph nodes.

Pain under the left armpit from sources such as a pulled muscle should go away within about a week in most cases. Anyone who experiences symptoms beyond this time frame should see a doctor for a full diagnosis.

Summary

There are many possible causes of pain under the left armpit. The person may have pulled a muscle or may have swollen lymph nodes from an infection.

Other causes can be more serious, such as angina. Anyone concerned about their symptoms should see a doctor for a full diagnosis and treatment.

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.

Urinary tract infections, or UTIs, are common, and women can often experience them during pregnancy. Left untreated, a UTI can pose a serious health risk to a pregnant woman and a developing fetus.

This article outlines the possible causes of a UTI in pregnancy, as well as the potential risks. We also provide information on how to prevent and treat UTIs.

Is it common?

A UTI is an infection in any part of the urinary system, including the bladder and kidneys. Research suggests it is commonTrusted Source for pregnant women to get UTIs.

According to one study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 8%Trusted Source of pregnant women experience a UTI.

Causes

During pregnancy, the uterus expands for the growing fetus. This expansion puts pressure on the bladder and the ureters. The ureters are the tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder.

The urine is also less acidic and contains more proteins, sugars, and hormones during pregnancy. This combination of factors increases the risk of a UTI occurring.

Women are also susceptible to UTIs during and after giving birth. During labor, there is an increased risk of bacteria entering the urinary tract. After giving birth, a woman may experience bladder sensitivity and swelling, which can make a UTI more likelyTrusted Source.

Symptoms

A person who has a UTI may experience the following symptoms:

  • urgent or frequent need to urinate
  • burning sensation when urinating
  • cloudy or strong smelling urine
  • blood in the urine
  • pain in the lower back, abdomen, and sides

People should tell their doctor straight away if they have blood in their urine, as this can be a sign of another condition.

In some cases, the bacterial infection causing a UTI can spread to the kidneys. A person who has a kidney infection may experience the following symptoms:

  • back pain
  • fever
  • chills
  • nausea and vomiting

If people have these symptoms, they should see their doctor immediately. Kidney infections can be serious and require immediate medical treatment.

Treatments

Pregnant women should see their doctor if they have any symptoms of a UTI. Without treatment, a UTI can cause serious complications.

3-dayTrusted Source course of antibiotics may be necessary to treat a UTI during pregnancy. A doctor may prescribe one of the followingTrusted Source antibiotics:

  • amoxicillin
  • ampicillin
  • cephalosporins
  • nitrofurantoin
  • trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) advise that pregnant women avoid nitrofurantoin and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazoleTrusted Source during the first trimester. These antibiotics can cause birth abnormalities if a person takes them at this stage of their pregnancy.

According to a 2015 reviewTrusted Source, studies show that both nitrofurantoin and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole are generally safe during the second and third trimesters. However, taking either antibiotic in the final weekTrusted Source before delivery may increase the risk of jaundice in newborns.

If pregnant women develop a kidney infection during pregnancy, they will need treatment in the hospital. This treatment will involve antibiotics and intravenous fluids.

A short course of antibiotics is unlikelyTrusted Source to cause any harm to a developing fetus. Research suggests that the benefits of taking antibiotics to treat a UTI far outweighTrusted Source the risks of leaving a UTI without treatment.

Home remedies

Women who are pregnant and have symptoms of a UTI should see a doctor. As well as medical treatment, they may also wish to try the following at home to help speed up recovery:

  • Drinking plenty of water: Water dilutes urine and helps flush bacteria out of the urinary tract.
  • Drinking cranberry juice: According to a 2012 reviewTrusted Source, cranberries contain compounds that may help to stop bacteria from attaching to the lining of the urinary tract. This action helps to prevent and eliminate infection.
  • Urinating when the urge arises: This helps bacteria pass out of the urinary tract more quickly.
  • Taking certain supplements: A 2016 studyTrusted Source found that a combination of vitamin C, cranberries, and probiotics may help to treat recurrent UTIs in women.

Some women may choose the above treatments as an alternative to antibiotics. However, they should always consult their doctor before doing so. A doctor will monitor a pregnancy regularly to check the effectiveness of natural treatments and ensure a UTI does not worsen.

Complications

Without treatment, UTIs can cause serious complications during pregnancy. Complications may include:

  • kidney infection
  • premature birth
  • sepsis

A baby born to a woman with an untreated UTI may also have a low birth weight at delivery.

If a UTI spreads to the kidneys, this can cause further complications, such as:

  • anaemia
  • high blood pressure, or hypertension
  • preeclampsia
  • breakdown of red blood cells, or hemolysis
  • low blood platelet count, or thrombocytopenia
  • bacteria in the bloodstream, or bacteremia
  • acute respiratory distress syndrome

In some cases, an infection may pass on to the newborn baby, causing a rare but severe complication. Attending screenings for UTIs during pregnancy and getting prompt treatment when one occurs can help prevent these complications.

Prevention

The following tips may help to reduce a person’s likelihood of getting a UTI:

  • drink plenty of water
  • drink unsweetened cranberry juice or take cranberry pills
  • wash carefully around the genitals and anus
  • pass urine whenever the urge arises, and at least every 2–3 hours
  • urinate before and after having sex

Pregnant women will usually attend a screening to check for UTIs in their early pregnancy. These checks are an important step in helping to prevent UTI infections or detecting them early.

Summary

UTIs are common, and some women may experience them during pregnancy.

Women who have symptoms of a UTI during pregnancy should see their doctor immediately. Without treatment, UTIs can cause serious complications for a pregnant woman and the developing fetus. Prompt intervention can help to prevent these complications.

Routine pregnancy checks help detect the early signs of a UTI.

Muscle cramps are painful, visible contractions of a muscle or part of a muscle. Many people experience muscle cramps in the calf.

In most cases, the cramp can last for a few seconds to a few minutesTrusted Source before spontaneously resolving.

Keep reading to learn about the causes, treatments, and prevention of leg muscle cramps.

Treatment

Leg muscle cramps can be very painful and uncomfortable.

To provide some relief, a person can:

  • stretch the muscle
  • get a deep tissue massage
  • apply a hot or cold compress to the affected area

A doctor will not usually recommend medication for the routine treatment of leg cramps due to there being very little evidence of the medicines working. However, in some cases, a doctor may consider medications such as:

  • carisoprodol
  • diltiazem
  • gabapentin
  • orphenadrine
  • verapamil
  • vitamin B-12 complex

In pregnant women, magnesium and multivitamins may help.

In the past, people have also used quinine to treat leg cramps. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have strongly advised against this due to safety concernsTrusted Source.

Prevention

If a person suspects that their cramps are due to serious medical concerns such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or the ingestion of toxins, they should seek emergency medical attention.

However, for benign cramps, staying hydrated and maintaining a healthful diet may help in preventing leg muscle cramps.

Before exercising, a person should be sure to stretch the muscles and drink plenty of water.

Helpful foods

Many people believe that taking magnesium supplements can help prevent muscle cramps. In fact, some vitamin and mineral supplement companies actually market magnesium supplements for muscle cramp prevention.

Some foods also provide magnesium. Foods that are high in magnesium include:

  • almonds
  • spinach
  • cashew nuts
  • peanuts
  • soymilk
  • black beans
  • edamame
  • baked potatoes with skin
  • cooked brown rice
  • plain, low fat yogurt

However, it is important to note that studies have not yet confirmed that magnesium is effective for the prevention of leg muscle cramps.

Causes

Muscle cramp occurs when the surrounding neurons repetitively stimulate it. Leg muscle cramps are a commonTrusted Source occurrence.

According to some researchersTrusted Source, the exact causes of leg muscle cramps are largely unknown, but some triggers can include:

  • exercise
  • pregnancy
  • the presence of nocturnal leg cramps
  • dehydration
  • certain medications, including intravenous iron sucrose, raloxifene, naproxen, and teriparatide

Sometimes, leg muscle cramps can be a symptom of an underlying medical condition. These might include:

  • a neurological condition, such as motor neuron disease
  • an infection, such as tetanus
  • liver disease
  • DVT

Ingesting toxins such as lead or mercury can also cause muscle cramps.

If a person believes that they have ingested one or both of these toxins, they should call Poison Control on 1-800-222-1222 and seek emergency medical attention.

Who is at risk?

Leg muscle cramps can affect anyone, but those who are more at risk include:

  • people with overweight or obesity
  • athletes
  • people taking certain medications
  • older adults, particularly those aged 65 and over
  • pregnant women

Is it serious?

When leg muscle cramps occur as a result of exercise or standing for too long, the body needs rest. In these cases, the symptoms should resolve on their own.

When leg muscle cramps become persistent, however, a person may also notice that they are not sleeping well, or that they feel limited in their daily activities. Although not serious, these persistent symptoms can impact a person’s quality of life.

If a person experiences muscle cramps along with other symptoms, such as swelling or skin discoloration, they should seek emergency medical help, as it may be a symptom of DVT.

Cramps that occur in young, healthy people and resolve spontaneously do not usually require medical attention.

If leg muscle cramps become recurrent or start to affect a person’s quality of life and daily activities, they should make an appointment with their doctor.

Summary

Leg muscle cramps are common complaints that can occur in anyone. People who are more at risk of experiencing leg muscle cramps include young people who exercise, pregnant women, and older adults.

If leg muscle cramps do not resolve or become persistent, a person should visit their doctor.

Severe leg muscle cramps may be a symptom of a serious underlying condition that requires immediate medical attention.

However, in most situations, leg muscle cramps are not serious and will go away on their own.

As the use of marijuana is increasing in the United States, researchers are asking whether the use of this substance — particularly smoking joints — is associated with an increased risk of any form of cancer, and, if so, which.

Marijuana is one of the most widely used drugs in the United States, with more than one in seven adults reporting that they used marijuana in 2017.

Statistical reports project that sales of cannabis for recreational purposes in the U.S. will amount to $11,670 million between 2014 and 2020.

According to recent researchTrusted Source, smoking a joint remains one of the main ways in which individuals use marijuana recreationally.

While specialists already know that smoking tobacco cigarettes is a top risk factor for many forms of cancer, it remains unclear whether smoking marijuana can increase cancer risk in a similar way.

To try to find out whether there is a link between recreational marijuana use and cancer, researchers from the Northern California Institute of Research and Education in San Francisco and other collaborating institutions recently conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies assessing this potential association.

In their paper — which appears in JAMA Network OpenTrusted Source — the team notes that marijuana joints and tobacco cigarettes share many of the same potentially carcinogenic substances.

“Marijuana smoke and tobacco smoke share carcinogens, including toxic gases, reactive oxygen species, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, such as benzo[alpha]pyrene and phenols, which are 20 times higher in unfiltered marijuana than in cigarette smoke,” write first author Dr. Mehrnaz Ghasemiesfe and colleagues.

“Given that cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States and smoking remains the largest preventable cause of cancer death (responsible for 28.6% of all cancer deaths in 2014), similar toxic effects of marijuana smoke and tobacco smoke may have important health implications,” they go on to emphasize.

‘Misinformation — a threat to public health’

Dr. Ghasemiesfe and team identified 25 studies assessing the link between marijuana use and the risk of developing different forms of cancer. More specifically, eight of these studies focused on lung cancer, nine looked at head and neck cancers, seven examined urogenital cancers, and four covered various other forms of cancer.

The studies found associations of different strengths between long-term marijuana use and various forms of cancer.

The researchers note that the study results regarding the link between marijuana lung cancer risk were mixed — so much so that they were unable to pool the data.

For head and neck cancer, the researchers concluded that “ever use,” which they define as exposure equivalent to smoking one joint a day for 1 year, did not appear to increase the risk, although the strength of the evidence was low. However, the studies produced mixed findings for heavier users.

There was insufficient evidence to link this drug to a heightened risk of nasopharyngeal carcinoma, oral cancer, or laryngeal, pharyngeal, and esophageal cancers.

Among urogenital cancers, the investigators found that individuals who had used marijuana for more than 10 years appeared to have a higher risk of testicular cancer — more specifically, testicular germ cell tumors. Once again, however, the strength of the existing evidence was low.

There was insufficient evidence that marijuana use was associated with an increased risk of other forms of cancer, including prostate, cervical, penile, and colorectal cancers.

Dr. Ghasemiesfe and colleagues note that the studies that they had access to had many limitations, including numerous methodological problems and an insufficient number of participants who reported high levels of marijuana use.

Going forward, the team suggests that there is an urgent need for better quality studies assessing the potential relationship between marijuana and cancer. The researchers conclude:

“Misinformation [on this topic] may constitute an additional threat to public health; cannabis is being increasingly marketed as a potential cure for cancer in the absence of evidence, with enormous engagement in this misinformation on social media, particularly in states that have legalized recreational use.”

“As marijuana smoking and other forms of marijuana use increase and evolve, it will be critical to develop a better understanding of the association of these different use behaviors with the development of cancers and other chronic conditions and to ensure accurate messaging to the public,” they add.

Female hair loss can happen for a variety of reasons, such as genetics, changing hormone levels, or as part of the natural aging process.

There are various treatment options for female hair loss, including topical medications, such as Rogaine. Other options include light therapy, hormone therapy, or in some cases, hair transplants.

Eating a nutritious diet and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can also help keep hair healthy.

1. Minoxidil

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves Minoxidil to treat hair loss. Sold under the name Rogaine, as well as other generic brands, people can purchase topical Minoxidil over-the-counter (OTC). Minoxidil is safe for both males and females, and people report a high satisfaction rate after using it.

Minoxidil stimulates growth in the hairs and may increase their growth cycle. It can cause hairs to thicken and reduce the appearance of patchiness or a widening hair parting.

Minoxidil treatments are available in two concentrations: the 2% solution requires twice daily application for the best results, while the 5%Trusted Source solution or foam requires daily use.

While the instinct may be to choose the stronger solution, this is not necessary. Studies posted to the International Journal of Women’s DermatologyTrusted Source and the Journal of the American Academy of DermatologyTrusted Source found that 2% minoxidil was effective for females with androgenetic alopecia, or pattern baldness.

If a person finds success with minoxidil, they should continue using it indefinitely. When a person stops using minoxidil, the hairs that depended on the drug to grow will likely fall out within 6 monthsTrusted Source.

Side effects from minoxidil are uncommonTrusted Source and generally mild. Some females may experience irritation or an allergic reaction to ingredients in the product, such as alcohol or propylene glycol. Switching formulas or trying different brands may alleviate symptoms.

Some females may also experience increased hair loss at first when using minoxidil. This typically stops after the first few months of treatment as the hair gets stronger.

Additionally, misapplying minoxidil or applying it to the forehead or too much of the neck may cause hair growth in these areas. Only apply minoxidil to the scalp to avoid these side effects.

2. Light therapy

Low-level light therapy may not be sufficient treatment for hair loss on its own, but it may act to amplify the effects of other hair loss treatments, such as minoxidil.

A trial posted to the Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology, and Leprology found that compared to control groups, adding low light therapy to regular 5% minoxidil treatment for androgenetic alopecia helped improve the recovery of the hairs and the participants’ overall satisfaction with their treatment.

Researchers will need to carry out further research to help strengthen these results.

3. Ketoconazole

The drug ketoconazole may help treat hair loss in some cases, such as androgenetic alopecia, where inflammationTrusted Source of the hair follicles often contributes to hair loss.

One review posted to the International Journal of Women’s DermatologyTrusted Source noted that topical ketoconazole might help reduce inflammation and improve the strength and look of the hair.

Ketoconazole is available as a shampoo. Nizoral is the best known brand and is available for purchase over the counter and online. Nizoral contains a low concentration of ketoconazole, but stronger concentrations will require a prescription from a doctor.

4. Corticosteroids

Some females may also respond to corticosteroid injections. Doctors use this treatment only when necessary, for conditions such as alopecia areata. Alopecia areata results in a person’s hair falling out in random patches.

According to the National Alopecia Areata Foundation, injecting corticosteroids directly into the hairless patch may encourage new hair growth. However, this not may prevent other hair from falling out. Topical corticosteroids, which are available as creams, lotions, and other preparations, may also reduce hair loss.

5. Platelet-rich plasma

Early evidence suggests that injections of platelet-rich plasma may also help reduce hair loss. A plasma-rich injection involves a doctor drawing the person’s blood, separating the platelet-rich plasma from the blood, and injecting it back into the scalp at the affected areas. This helps speed up tissue repair.

A recent review posted to Aesthetic Plastic SurgeryTrusted Source noted that most studies suggest that this therapy reduces hair loss, increases hair density, and increases the diameter of each hair.

However, because most studies up until now have been very small, the review calls for more research using platelet-rich plasma for androgenic alopecia.

6. Hormone therapy

If hormone imbalances due to menopause, for example, cause hair loss, doctors may recommend some form of hormone therapy to correct them.

Some possible treatments include birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy for either estrogen or progesterone.

Other possibilities include antiandrogen medications, such as spironolactoneTrusted Source. Androgens are hormones that can speed up hair loss in some women, particularly those with polycystic ovary syndrome, who typically produce more androgens.

Antiandrogens can stop the production of androgens and prevent hair loss. These medications may cause side effects, so always talk to the doctor about what to expect and whether antiandrogens are suitable.

7. Hair transplant

In some cases where the person does not respond well to treatments, doctors may recommend hair transplantationTrusted Source. This involves taking small pieces of the scalp and adding them to the areas of baldness to increase the hair in the area naturally. Hair transplant therapy can be more costly than other treatments and is not suitable for everybody.

8. Use hair loss shampoos

Some minor hair loss may happen due to clogged pores on the scalp. Using medicated shampoos designed to clear the pores from dead skin cells may help promote healthy hair. This may help clear minor signs of hair loss.

9. Eat a nutritious diet

Eating a healthful diet may support normal hair growth, as well. Typically, a healthful diet will contain a wide variety of foods, including many different vegetables and fruits. These provide many essential nutrients and compounds that help keep skin and hair healthy.

Iron levelsTrusted Source may also play a role in hair health. Females with hair loss can see their doctor for a blood test to check if they have an iron deficiency. A doctor may advise consuming an iron-rich diet or taking an iron supplement.

10. Scalp massage

Massaging the scalp may increase circulation in the area and help clean away dandruff. This helps keep the scalp and hair follicles healthy.

Causes

The most common cause of hair loss in females is androgenetic alopecia, which has strong links to genetics and can run in families.

According to the International Journal of Women’s DermatologyTrusted Source, hair loss from androgenetic alopecia may start at a young age. Some females may begin losing their hair in their late teens or early twenties, though most females may not begin to lose their hair until their 40s or older.

Both males and females can develop androgenetic alopecia, but they experience it in different ways. Males tend to experience a receding hairline or bald spot on top of their head, while females tend to present different symptoms.

In females, the parting at the center of the hair often becomes more defined or wider. Females may also experience thinning hairs, and hair may appear more thin or patchy overall.

These symptoms are due to a thinning of each hair strand. The hairs also have a shorter life cycle, and hairs only stay on the head for a shorter period.

Female pattern hair loss is a progressive condition. Females may only notice a slightly wider parting in their hair at first, but as symptoms progress, this can become more noticeable.

Other forms of alopecia, such as alopecia areata, may cause one or more patches of complete baldness.

Other factors may play a role in hair loss, such as inflammatory conditions that affect the scalp and hormone imbalances. Doctors may want to investigate these possible causes if the person does not respond to typical treatments.

Coping with hair loss

While losing hair at a young age may be concerning, hair loss is a reality for many people as they age. One study posted to the Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology, and Leprology noted that up to 75% of females would experience hair loss from androgenetic alopecia by the time they are 65 years old.

While many females look for ways to treat hair loss while they are young, at some point, most people accept hair loss as a natural part of the aging process.

Some people may choose to wear head garments or wigs as a workaround to hair loss. Others work with their aging hair by wearing a shorter haircut that may make thin hair less apparent.

Summary

Hair loss can affect both males and females. Hair loss in females may have a range of causes, though the most common is androgenetic alopecia.

There are a variety of treatments for hair loss for females, including OTC hair loss treatments, which are generally effective. Anyone experiencing hair loss should visit their doctor who can diagnose any underlying factors.

If a doctor suspects there is another underlying cause or the person does not respond well to OTC treatments, they will look into other treatment options.

Pain under the left armpit can be concerning, and many people associate any pain on the left side of their body with a heart attack. However, most of the time, pain under the left armpit has a less serious cause.

The armpit is a complex meeting point for muscles and connective tissues, lymph nodes, and blood vessels. As such, many issues in this area can lead to pain.

Causes range from pulled muscles and mild allergic reactions to more severe issues, such as an underlying infection.

While many of the causes of left armpit pain are not harmful in the long term, anyone experiencing breathing difficulties and pain in their chest, jaw, or neck should see a doctor immediately.

Causes of left armpit pain include:

A pulled muscle

Many muscles around the shoulder and armpit can cause pain if a person injures them.

People can pull a muscle when reaching for an object, twisting incorrectly, or overstretching.

People who exercise regularly, especially those who do weight training, may be more likely to experience muscle pulls and strains.

In these cases, the pain should go away over time, as long as the individual rests the injured muscle and does gentle stretches.

If the pain does not go away after about a week, it is best to see a doctor.

Allergic reactions

Armpits are a frequent location for allergic reactions, which could cause pain under the left armpit or both armpits.

Most allergic reactions in this area will occur due to chemicals people apply to their bodies or clothes that touch the armpits.

Possible allergens include:

  • detergent
  • fabric softener
  • soap
  • deodorant
  • perfume
  • shaving cream
  • moisturizing creams or lotions

These products may contain chemicals or perfumes that irritate the skin. A rash may also form.

Anyone who suspects that their skin is sensitive to a particular allergen should note the products they used that day and report them to a dermatologist.

Allergy testing may help find the irritating product. Avoiding products with any harsh chemicals or other ingredients can also improve symptoms in these cases.

Cosmetic procedures

Simple cosmetic procedures, such as shaving or waxing, can also be to blame for pain under the armpit. These hair removal techniques may lead to other issues, such as ingrown hairs, cysts, or general irritation and chafing in the armpit.

Skin infections

A skin infection under the armpit may cause itching and pain. Bacteria thrive in warm, damp environments such as the armpits.

An overgrowth of bacteria in this area may lead to an infection, which could cause redness, swelling, and pain, among other symptoms.

Other forms of infection, such as fungal infections due to ringworm or yeast, may also cause similar pain and irritation in the area.

Mild skin infections should clear up without treatment if a person keeps the area clean and dry. However, a doctor may recommend antibiotic creams or medications to treat more severe cases.

Hidradenitis

Hidradenitis is a chronic condition that causes similar symptoms to severe acne. Hidradenitis occurs due to clogged hair follicles and glands. It is common in areas such as the armpits, where the skin rubs together.

Hidradenitis can lead to multiple cysts or boils developing in the area. In addition to these breakouts, the person will likely experience pain and tenderness.

Doctors can treat hidradenitis with anti-inflammatory medications. Some cases may require surgery.

Varicella zoster virus

The varicella zoster virus causes chickenpox and shingles. Breakouts of both illnesses are possible under the armpits, although chickenpox usually beginsTrusted Source on the face, back, and chest.

A shingles rash usually developsTrusted Source as a single strip on one side of the face or body, left or right. A person with shingles may also experience:

  • a fever
  • headaches
  • chills
  • an upset stomach

A person may feel pain and tingling in the area before the visible rash develops.

A doctor may prescribe antiviral medications to speed up the healing process, as well as pain medications to help ease symptoms.

Swollen lymph nodes

Lymph nodes are small, bean shaped bundles of tissue that play a vital role in the immune system. Lymph nodes help filter toxins from the lymph and deliver white blood cells to help fight disease.

The armpit houses a large number of lymph nodes. Lymph nodes swell as part of an overall reaction by the immune system, such as to an infection or illness.

Swollen lymph nodes in the armpit may cause:

  • a single or multiple lumps
  • tenderness
  • pain

If the swelling does not go down after an infection, such as the common cold, goes away, or the person is not feeling any other symptoms, they should speak to a doctor.

Psoriasis

Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that leads to an overgrowth of skin cells. The buildup of skin cells forms patches called plaques. These plaques can cause symptoms such as itching and pain.

Psoriasis plaques can form anywhere, including the armpit. Some forms of psoriasis are more common in this area, including inverse psoriasis.

Psoriasis treatment typically includes both topical and oral medications to control symptoms.

Nerve damage

Nerve damage may also cause pain under the armpit. Nerve damage can be the result of a physical injury, such as one from overuse during sports or from an accident or fall.

Nerve damage can feel like:

  • pain
  • tingling
  • numbness
  • burning

Certain conditions, such as diabetes, may also lead to nerve damage or neuropathy. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases note that up to half of people with diabetes have peripheral neuropathy, which is nerve damage.

While peripheral neuropathy typically affects the feet and legs, it may also affect the arms in some individuals. Diabetes treatment may help slow nerve damage progression.

Angina

Angina occurs due to a lack of oxygen-rich blood flow to the heart. This can be because one of the arteries leading to the heart is narrow or blocked.

Angina causes chest pain and discomfort, which is sometimes severe. It may also cause pressure and pain in other areas, including the:

  • armpits
  • shoulders
  • back
  • neck
  • jaw

Some people may also experience a feeling similar to indigestion.

Angina is a symptom of an underlying heart condition, for example, coronary heart disease, which can lead to a heart attack.

There are also many other types of angina. Anyone who suspects they have angina should talk to their doctor.

Cancer

In rare cases, pain under the left armpit that does not go away may be a sign of a cancerous growth, including breast cancer.

Cancer can cause the lymph nodes under the armpit to swell painfully. An individual may notice a lump under their arm or in their armpit that causes persistent pain or discomfort.

Underarm pain may also be the result of a specific cancer treatment, such as lymph node removal or mastectomy.

Anyone noticing texture changes or lumps in their chest or breast tissue should seek medical attention.

Treatment options for cancer will depend on its stage, which refers to how much it has spread. In general, earlier stages are easier to treat.

When to see a doctor

Anyone noticing the following symptoms along with left armpit pain should seek immediate medical attention:

  • shortness of breath
  • dizziness
  • pain in the chest, jaw, or shoulder

A doctor can also diagnose and treat pain from other issues, such as infections or swollen lymph nodes.

Pain under the left armpit from sources such as a pulled muscle should go away within about a week in most cases. Anyone who experiences symptoms beyond this time frame should see a doctor for a full diagnosis.

Summary

There are many possible causes of pain under the left armpit. The person may have pulled a muscle or may have swollen lymph nodes from an infection.

Other causes can be more serious, such as angina. Anyone concerned about their symptoms should see a doctor for a full diagnosis and treatment.

A new study adds to the evidence that sleep deprivation has a significant effect on our day-to-day functioning. The authors warn that if we have slept poorly overnight, we are twice as likely to commit errors, some of which may well be very costly.

Having a good night’s sleep is key to maintaining both physical and cognitive health. Our bodies know this instinctively, and researchers have proved many a time that this is true.

For example, at Medical News Today, we have covered studies showing that sleep protects vascular health, helps maintain brain health, and may even give the immune response a boost.

Conversely, poor sleep may lead to cardiovascular disease, contribute to depression, and increase a person’s risk of diabetes.

Some researchers have also warned that sleep loss can affect aspects of our memory and visual perception so severely that driving after a sleepless night can be as dangerous as drunk driving.

Following on from such evidence, researchers from Michigan State University’s Sleep and Learning Lab in East Lansing have conducted further research on sleep, attention, and higher order cognitive functioning.

Their findings, which feature in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, show that sleep loss has an important effect not just on how well we can maintain our focus, but also on how well we can follow complex procedures — an aspect that they refer to as “placekeeping.”

For their study, the investigators recruited 138 participants, whom they split into two groups: 77 people stayed in the laboratory overnight and had no sleep, while the remaining 61 participants slept at home.

The evening before, all of the volunteers took part in two tasks. The first one measured their reaction time to a particular stimulus, and the second one assessed their place keeping abilities — that is, how well they were able to follow the particular steps of a complex process even with repeated interruptions.

On the morning after, each participant had to repeat these tasks to see how their performance compared with that of the previous evening. The researchers found that the participants who had experienced sleep deprivation struggled significantly.

“Our research showed that sleep deprivation doubles the odds of making place keeping errors and triples the number of lapses in attention, which is startling,” says study co-author Kimberly Fenn.

“Sleep-deprived individuals need to exercise caution in absolutely everything that they do and simply can’t trust that they won’t make costly errors. Oftentimes — like when behind the wheel of a car — these errors can have tragic consequences,” she warns.

Although it may not come as a surprise that lack of sleep reduces a person’s ability to focus, the researchers note that their recent study shows that sleep deprivation actually affects higher cognitive functioning, interfering with memory recall to a large extent.

“Our findings debunk a common theory that suggests that attention is the only cognitive function affected by sleep deprivation,” says first author Michelle Stepan.

“Some sleep deprived people might be able to hold it together under routine tasks, like a doctor taking a patient’s vitals. But our results suggest that completing an activity that requires following multiple steps, such as a doctor completing a medical procedure, is much riskier under conditions of sleep deprivation.”

Michelle Stepan

“After being interrupted [as they were performing complex tasks], there was a 15% error rate in the evening, and we saw that the error rate spiked to about 30% for the sleep deprived group the following morning,” notes the first author.

“The rested participants’ morning scores were similar to the night before,” she adds. This finding, the investigators argue, should serve as a warning to people who experience sleep loss not to underestimate the effect that it can have on their daily lives.

“There are some tasks people can do on autopilot that may not be affected by a lack of sleep. However, sleep deprivation causes widespread deficits across all facets of life,” Fenn emphasizes.