Exercise

The muscles, ligaments, and tissues of the pelvic floor support the bladder, rectum, and sexual organs. When the supportive structures weaken or become especially tight, doctors describe it as pelvic floor dysfunction. It is a common health issue.

When a person has pelvic floor dysfunction, the organs in the pelvis may drop. They often press down on the bladder or rectum, causing a leakage of urine or stool. Or, a person with this condition may have trouble urinating or passing stool.

Keep reading to learn more about pelvic floor dysfunction — including the symptoms, treatments, and some exercises that may help.

What is pelvic floor dysfunction?

The pelvic floor is made up of muscles, ligaments, and tissues that surround the pelvic bone. The muscles attach to the front, back, and sides of the bone, as well as to the lowest part of the spine, called the sacrum.

The function of the pelvic floor is to support the organs in the pelvis, which can include the:

  • bladder
  • rectum
  • urethra
  • uterus
  • vagina
  • prostate

People with pelvic floor dysfunction may have weak or especially tight pelvic floor muscles.

When the muscles tighten, or spasm, people may have trouble urinating or passing stool. When they weaken, the organs within the pelvis may drop and press down on the rectum and bladder.

The table below outlines several common types of pelvic floor dysfunction.

Type of pelvic floor dysfunctionDescription
Obstructed defecationThis occurs when stool enters the rectum, but the body cannot fully evacuate the bowels.
RectoceleThis involves tissue from the rectum protruding into the vagina. Stool may get caught in this pocket, forming a bulge in the vagina.
Pelvic organ prolapseThis refers to the pelvic floor stretching and the pelvic organs dropping as a result of age, childbirth, or a collagen disorder.
Paradoxical puborectalis contractionThis involves a pelvic floor muscle called the puborectalis contracting. When it happens, trying to pass stool may feel like pushing against a closed door.
Levator syndromeThis involves the pelvic floor muscles spasming after bowel movements. It can cause lasting dull pain or achy pressure high in the rectum.
CoccygodyniaThis refers to pain in the tailbone that worsens during and after bowel movements.
Proctalgia fugaxThis involves painful spasms of the rectum and muscles in the pelvic floor.
Pudendal neuralgiaThis refers to irritation or damage to the pudendal nerves, which help the pelvis function.
UrethroceleThis refers to the urethra pressing into the vagina.
EnteroceleThis involves the small intestine descending and pushing into the vagina, forming a bulge.
CystoceleThis involves the bladder dropping and pushing into the vagina.
Uterine prolapseThis refers to the uterus descending and pushing into the vagina.

Symptoms

Pelvic floor dysfunction can cause a variety of symptoms, and some can interfere with daily life.

Depending on the type of pelvic floor dysfunction, a person may experience:

  • pelvic pain
  • pressure
  • a bulge somewhere in the lower pelvic region
  • stress urinary incontinence, which involves a small amount of urine leaking from the body due to an activity such as coughing
  • involuntary leakage of stool
  • incomplete urination
  • bowel movement dysfunction
  • pain during sexual intercourse

Also, some people who see their doctors about bladder overactivity find that pelvic floor dysfunction is responsible.

Causes

Many issues can cause the structures of the pelvic floor to weaken, including:

  • age
  • systemic diseases
  • lasting health issues that cause increased pressure in the abdomen and pelvis, such as a chronic cough
  • pregnancy
  • trauma during delivery
  • multiple deliveries
  • large babies
  • operative delivery

Research indicates that stress urinary incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, or both occur in about half of all women who have given birth. These issues are closely associated with birth-related injury to the pelvic floor muscles.

The pelvic floor muscles can also stretch naturally with age. Stress urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse become more common with increasing age in females, for example.

Collagen disorders can also affect the muscles’ ability to support the pelvic organs.

Meanwhile, coccygodynia usually stems from trauma to the tailbone, such as from a fall. That said, in about one-third of people with the condition, the cause of coccygodynia is unknown. The pain can make having a bowel movement difficult.

Exercises

Doctors recommend pelvic floor exercises in various situations.

They may particularly benefit pregnant women because the pelvic floor muscles can stretch and weaken during labor. Strengthening these muscles may help prevent incontinence after the baby is born. Some doctors recommend that women who wish to become pregnant start the exercises ahead of time.

Males can also benefit from pelvic floor exercises, though the dysfunction is more common in females. In males, these exercises can help prevent pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence and improve sexual intercourse.

To exercise these muscles, a person should be sitting comfortably. Then, they should attempt to squeeze their pelvic muscles without holding their breath.

It is important to isolate the correct muscles without tightening those of the stomach, buttocks, or and thighs.

Doctors recommend that females aim to do 10 long squeezes — holding each for 10 seconds — followed by 10 short squeezes. However, initially, it may be a good idea to practice holding a squeeze for a few seconds at a time.

By practicing frequently, a person should be able to add more contractions to their routine week by week. It is important to do this gradually and to avoid overworking the muscles.

Within a few months, a person may notice a reduction in their symptoms. Even if symptoms resolve completely, a person should continue strengthening these muscles.

There are physical therapists who specialize in pelvic floor dysfunction. A person may find that consulting one of these professionals leads to a better outcome.

Treatment

Doctors determine the cause of pelvic floor dysfunction before recommending treatment because different types of dysfunction require different approaches.

The purpose of treatment is to relieve or reduce symptoms and improve the person’s quality of life. For some people, a combination of treatment methods works best.

Doctors may recommend:

  • Dietary changes: For example, eating more fiber, drinking more fluids, and taking certain medications can make bowel movements easier.
  • Laxatives: Taking a daily laxative may help people with pelvic floor dysfunction pass stool, but it is important to consult a healthcare provider first because not all laxatives are equally effective.
  • Pain relief: Some people require injections of pain relief or anti-inflammatory medication to relieve their symptoms.
  • Biofeedback: This involves electrical stimulation, ultrasound therapy, or massage of the pelvic floor muscles to help improve rectal sensation and muscle contraction.
  • Pessary: A doctor or nurse inserts a pessary into the vagina to support prolapsed organs. This type of device can help treat various symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction, either as an alternative to surgery or while a person awaits surgery.
  • Surgery: When prolapse interferes with daily activities, a doctor may recommend surgery. Large rectoceles also require surgery if the person experiences symptoms.

Stem cell therapies

Researchers behind a 2016 study investigated whether a stem cell-based therapy could resolve pelvic floor dysfunction in rats.

The researchers engineered the stem cells to produce and release elastin and collagen into the pelvic floor and injected them into rats with pelvic floor dysfunction.

The elastin and collagen promoted the repair of pelvic floor structures and decreased signs of stress urinary incontinence.

In a final component of the study, the researchers developed stem cells that blocked a factor that stops the production of elastin. This promoted increased production and release of elastin into the pelvic floor.

With further studies, researchers may find that similar therapies are effective in humans.

When to see a doctor

Anyone who experiences painful bowel movements, difficulty urinating or passing stool, pelvic pain, or pain during sexual intercourse should speak with a doctor.

An unusual bulge in the lower pelvic region may also be a reason to see a doctor, though a bulge alone may not be a cause for concern.

People with pelvic floor dysfunction have plenty of treatment options. While the topic may be uncomfortable to bring up with a doctor, it is important to seek professional advice about these symptoms.

While some family doctors may not be familiar with pelvic floor dysfunction, specialists such as colorectal doctors, urologists, and gynecologists can help diagnose the issue and recommend the best course of action.

Summary

Pelvic floor dysfunction can affect anyone, but pregnant women have the highest risk.

The various types of pelvic floor dysfunction stem from different causes, and a doctor must identify the underlying issue before developing a treatment plan.

Exercises can help some people with pelvic floor dysfunction. Depending on the cause, a doctor may also recommend dietary changes, medication, a pessary, biofeedback, or surgery.

Brain atrophy refers to a loss of brain cells or a loss in the number of connections between brain cells. People who experience brain atrophy typically develop poorer cognitive functioning as a result of this type of brain damage.

There are two main types of brain atrophy: focal atrophy, which occurs in specific brain regions, and generalized atrophy, which occurs across the brain.

Brain atrophy can occur as a result of the natural aging process. Other causes include injury, infections, and certain underlying medical conditions.

This article describes the symptoms and causes of brain atrophy. It also outlines the treatment options available in each case, as well as the outlook.

Symptoms

Brain atrophy can affect one or multiple regions of the brain.

The symptoms will vary depending on the location of the atrophy and its severity.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Conditions and Stroke, brain atrophy can cause the following symptoms and conditions:

Seizures

A seizure is a sudden, abnormal spike of electrical activity in the brain. There are two main types of seizure. One is the partial seizure, which affects just one part of the brain. The other is the generalized seizure, which affects both sides of the brain.

The symptoms of a seizure depend on which part of the brain it affects. Some people may not experience any noticeable symptoms, whereas others may experience one or more of the following:

  • behavioral changes
  • jerking eye movements
  • a bitter or metallic taste in the mouth
  • drooling or frothing at the mouth
  • teeth clenching
  • grunting and snorting
  • muscle spasms
  • convulsions
  • loss of consciousness

Aphasia

The term aphasia refers to a group of symptoms that affect a person’s ability to communicate. Some types of aphasia can affect a person’s ability to produce or understand speech. Others can affect a person’s ability to read or write.

According to the National Aphasia Association, there are eight different types of aphasia. The type of aphasia a person experiences depends on the part or parts of the brain that sustain damage.

Some cases of aphasia are relatively mild, whereas others may severely impair a person’s ability to communicate.

Dementia

Dementia is the term for a group of symptoms associated with a continuing decline in brain function. These symptoms may include:

  • memory loss
  • slowed thinking
  • language problems
  • problems with movement and coordination
  • poor judgment
  • mood disturbances
  • loss of empathy
  • hallucinations
  • difficulty carrying out daily activities

There are several different types of dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common.

A person’s risk of dementia increases with age, with most cases affecting people aged 65 years and older. However, experts do not consider it to be a natural part of the aging process.

Causes

Brain atrophy can occur as a result of injury, either from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or a stroke. It may also occur as a result of one of the following:

  • encephalitis
  • neurosyphilis
  • HIV

In some cases, brain atrophy may occur as a result of a chronic disorder or condition, such as:

  • cerebral palsy
  • multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Huntington’s disease
  • frontotemporal dementia
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Pick’s disease
  • mitochondrial encephalomyopathies, which are a group of disorders that affect the nervous system
  • leukodystrophies, which are a group of rare genetic conditions affecting the nervous system

Diagnosis

When diagnosing brain atrophy, a doctor may begin by taking a full medical history and asking about a person’s symptoms. This may include asking questions about when the symptoms began and if there was an event that triggered them.

The doctor may also carry out language or memory tests, or other specific tests of brain function.

If they suspect that a person has brain atrophy, they will need to locate the brain damage and assess its severity. This will require an MRI or CT scan.

Treatment

The treatment options for brain atrophy will vary depending on its location, severity, and cause. The following sections list some treatment options by cause.

Injuries

Brain atrophy can occur as a long-term consequence of an injury. In these cases, treatment tends to focus on helping the surrounding brain issue heal over time.

Brain injuries typically require a rehabilitation period that may involve one or more of the following:

  • physical therapy
  • speech therapy
  • counseling

Infections

Medications will be necessary to treat infections that result in brain inflammation or atrophy.

Doctors prescribe antibiotics to treat bacterial infections and antiviral medications to treat viral infections. These medications will help fight the infection and alleviate the symptoms.

Disorders and conditions

Several disorders and conditions can lead to brain atrophy. Many of these conditions currently have no cure, so treatment generally focuses on managing the symptoms.

Treatment may involve a combination of medications and therapies such as occupational or speech therapy. These therapies may be necessary to help a person regain brain function or learn strategies to help them cope.

Some conditions, such as MS, cause symptoms to occur in cycles. A person’s doctor or healthcare team will adapt their treatment plan accordingly if this is the case.

Is it possible to reverse brain atrophy?

Until recently, many scientists considered the brain to be a relatively unchanging organ. However, research is increasingly showing how the brain adapts its structure and functioning throughout life.

It is currently unclear whether or not it is possible to reverse brain atrophy. However, the brain may alter how it works to compensate for damage. In some cases, this may be enough to restore functioning over time.

Exercise for brain atrophy

2011 review suggests that regular exercise could slow or even reverse brain atrophy related to aging or dementia.

However, one 2018 study found that high intensity exercise and strength training did not slow cognitive impairment in people with mild-to-moderate dementia. Additional research is therefore necessary to determine what effect, if any, exercise has on preventing or reversing brain atrophy due to dementia.

Drugs to reverse brain atrophy

Scientists are currently working to develop drugs that can reverse brain atrophy. For example, one 2019 study investigated whether or not the dementia drug donepezil could reverse alcohol-induced brain atrophy in rats.

The researchers found that the rats they treated with donepezil experienced a reduction in brain inflammation and showed an increased number of new brain cells. However, it was not clear if donepezil would have similar effects on brain atrophy resulting from causes other than alcohol-induced damage.

It is also not clear whether or not the same effects would occur in humans. Clinical trials involving human participants are necessary.

Outlook

The outlook for brain atrophy varies depending on the location and extent of the damage, as well as its underlying cause. For people with mild cases, there may be few long-term consequences.

When brain atrophy occurs due to a disease or condition, however, symptoms may worsen over time. Long-term treatments and therapies can help slow this process and help a person manage any resulting cognitive impairments.

For injuries such as TBI and stroke, receiving immediate and effective care can significantly improve the outlook.

Summary

Brain atrophy refers to a loss of neurons within the brain or a loss in the number of connections between the neurons. This loss may be the result of an injury, infection, or underlying health condition.

Mild cases of brain atrophy may have little effect on daily functioning. However, brain atrophy can sometimes lead to symptoms such as seizures, aphasia, and dementia. Severe damage can be life threatening.

A person should see a doctor if they experience any symptoms of brain atrophy. The doctor will work to diagnose the cause of the atrophy and recommend appropriate treatments.

It is common during festive seasons to over-indulge in food and drinks. But this is not good, especially for those that care about their fitness. So, now that the end-of-year festivities are winding down, it is important to create a healthy living plan. Esta Morenikeji, a fitness instructor and founder of Zonefitness Ng said January is usually the time of year, when many people make commitments and promises to lose weight and get fit. “That’s why detox and cleansing programmes sell like water in January. New fad diets will pop up everywhere, and one or two magic teas might catch your attention. Please, don’t allow yourself to get caught in the web of fad diets,” she said.

The following are steps to guide you in the quest for a healthy living:
Stick to the Fundamentals
THERE are no magic formulas for weight loss; there are only fundamentals. Fad diets will come and go, but the fundamentals will remain.
The Fundamentals:
• Practise time-restricted feeding (Don’t eat in-between meals)
• Eat real food (It’s even better, if you can grow or kill it) ​
• Eliminate or avoid highly processed foods
• Avoid added sugar
​• Eat more nutrient dense food and less calorie dense food
• Do not overeat
• ​Drink enough water

A dietary strategy that works for you today may not work tomorrow, but the fundamentals will always work. So, stick to the fundamentals. They always work!

Prioritise Sleep
ONE of the worst things you can do to your health and well-being is staying awake, when your body is supposed to be resting and rejuvenating. Studies have shown that sleep is the master regulator of our hormones. Therefore, you must prioritise sleep in 2020.

If you’re one of those people that are always on their phones or watching television until midnight, you need to stop! Being awake when you’re supposed to be sleeping is disruptive to your circadian rhythm, and can increase your risk factors for certain lifestyle-related diseases. For every hour you spend on your phone at night, the production of melatonin is suppressed by 30 minutes.

Melatonin is the sleep hormone. The human body begins to secrete melatonin as darkness begins to fall. The appearance of darkness signals the body to wind down and prepare for rest.

The blue light from electronic devices suppresses the production of melatonin, thereby, confusing our brain and messing up our circadian rhythm. For the human body, darkness means rest and light means to be alert.

So, you’re sending confusing signals to your brain, when you stay up late at night scrolling through social media or watching television. Several studies have shown that sleep deprivation disrupts the appetite-regulating hormones, thereby causing unnecessary weight gain. Nighttime is for sleep. So, don’t spend it staring at your phone or watching television. Get off your electronic devices at least two hours before bedtime.

Do Regular Breathing Exercises 
Incorporating regular breathing exercises into your day can be beneficial to your overall health. In a study that involved 21,563 participants, researchers found that systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure and pulse rate significantly reduced after six cycles of deep breathing exercise.

Yes, you read that right: deep breathing exercise causes a reduction in blood pressure and slows down the heart rate. Make it a habit to take six to 20 deep breathes throughout the day. Breathing exercises can be done anywhere, so no excuses not to do them.

For those with metabolic syndrome, the necessary lifestyle and weight changes can be challenging. Now, a study has shown that eating within a certain time window can help tackle that.

Metabolic syndrome is an umbrella term for a number of risk factors for serious conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. These risk factors include obesity and high blood pressure, among others.

This is no small issue in the United States, where one-third of adults have metabolic syndrome. In fact, the condition affects around 50% of people aged 60 and over.

Obesity is also prevalent, affecting around 39.8% of adults in the U.S. Obesity is closely linked to metabolic syndrome.

Receiving a diagnosis of metabolic syndrome offers a critical window of opportunity for making committed lifestyle changes before conditions such as diabetes set in.

However, making the necessary long-term lifestyle changes to improve one’s health outlook is not always easy. Such changes include losing weight, managing stress, being as active as possible, and quitting smoking.

For the first time, a new study has looked into time-restricted eating, or intermittent fasting, as a means of losing weight and managing blood sugar and blood pressure for people with metabolic syndrome.

This new study, which appears in the journal Cell Metabolism, is set apart from previous studies that looked at the health and weight loss benefits of time-restricted eating in mice and healthy people.

“[People] who have metabolic syndrome/prediabetes are often told to make lifestyle interventions to prevent progression of their risk factors to […] disease,” said co-corresponding study author Dr. Pam Taub, of the University of California San Diego School of Medicine.

“These [people] are at a crucial tipping point, where their disease process can be reversed.”

“However, many of these lifestyle changes are difficult to make. We saw there was an unmet need in [people] with metabolic syndrome to come up with lifestyle strategies that could be easily implemented.”

Clinical testing of time-restricted eating

Armed with the knowledge that time-restricted eating and intermittent fasting had been effective in treating and reversing metabolic syndrome in mice, the researchers set out to test these findings in a clinical setting.

“There are a lot of claims in the lay press about promising lifestyle strategies that have no data to back up the claims. We wanted to study [time-restricted eating] in a rigorous, well-designed clinical trial,” said Dr. Taub.

Participants could eat what they wanted, when they wanted, within 10-hour windows.

The good news for the 19 participants with metabolic syndrome was that they could decide how much to eat and when they ate, as long as they restricted their eating to a window of 10 hours or less.

A 10-hour window had been effective with mice, and it offered people enough leeway that would be easy to comply with long-term.

“The participants in the study had control of their eating window,” said Dr. Taub. “They could determine which 10-hour period they wanted to consume calories. They also had flexibility in adjusting their eating window by a couple [of] hours based on their schedule.”

“Overall, participants felt they could adhere to this eating window. We did not restrict how many calories they consumed during their eating window,” Dr. Taub told Medical News Today.

Most of the participants had obesity, and 84% were taking at least one medication, such as an antihypertensive drug or a statin.

Metabolic syndrome is associated with at least three of the following: high blood pressure, high fasting blood sugar, high triglyceride (body fat) levels, low high-density lipoprotein, or “good,” cholesterol, and abdominal obesity.

Weight loss and better sleep

“As they started to adhere to this eating window, they started feeling better with more energy and better sleep, and this was positive reinforcement for them to continue with this 10-hour eating window,” said Dr. Taub.

Almost all the participants ate breakfast later (around 2 hours after waking) and dinner earlier (around 3 hours before bed).

The study lasted for 3 months, during which time the participants showed a 3% weight and body mass index (BMI) reduction, on average, and a 3% loss of abdominal, or visceral, fat.

“All of these improvements reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease,” said Dr. Taub.

Also, many participants showed a reduction in blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as improvements in fasting glucose. They also reported having more energy, and 70% reported an increase in the amount of time they slept or experienced sleep satisfaction.

The participants said that the plan was easier to follow than counting calories or exercising, and more than two-thirds kept it up for around a year after the study ended.

Dr. Taub recommends that anyone interested in trying time-restricted eating speak to their healthcare provider first, especially if they have metabolic syndrome and are taking medication, as weight loss may mean that medications require adjustment.

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.

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.