November 29, 2011

Things You Should Know About Skin Cancer

Skin cancer describes three malignant condition of the skin – Squamous cell carcinoma, Basal cell carcinoma and Malignant melanoma. The skin consists of two layers – the inner dermis and the outer epidermis. Skin cancer occurs in the epidermal layer. Therefore, all the three variants are clearly visible by naked eye and make it possible for early diagnosis. It is the most common form of all the cancers occur in human body. According to a recent survey, more than one million people get affected by skin cancer in a year. The major cause of skin cancer is exposure to Ultraviolet rays.

People with fair skin develop skin carcinoma earlier than blacks. Continuous exposure to sunlight causes exposure to UV rays. This ray can change the character of the cells present in the epidermis. Having sunburn in early childhood doubles the risk of developing skin cancer. However, sunburn in adulthood does not reduce the risk.  A person residing in high altitudes or deserts possesses greater risk towards development of skin cancer. It is seen that constant handling of some chemicals increases the possibility. Patient having family history of skin cancer has threefold chance of the same.

Exact cause of any cancer is not known. Cancer occurs due to uncontrolled and unregulated multiplication of cells.

Before the development of overt malignancy, changes of the morphology of the epidermal cells occur in quick succession. After continuous exposure to UV ray, dysplastic change occurs in the cells with deposition of keratin materials. This precancerous condition if the skin is called ‘Actinic keratosis. They are usually less than 1 cm in diameter. They may be red, skin or tan brown colored. They have a rough and sandpaper like consistency. In excess production of keratin, a ‘Cutaneous horn’ develops. There is no consolidated opinion regarding development of clear cut cancerous lesion from all ‘Actinic keratosis. But if it occurs, a lesion usually produces ‘squamous cell cancer’ of the skin.

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer. Most common site for this tumor is facial skin. They are slow growing tumors and occasionally metastasize. Persons having Xeroderma pigmentosum (a disease where there is inherited disorder of DNA repair) has absolute chance of developing basal cell carcinoma. There tumors appear as pearly papules, the blood capillaries are usually visible from outside (telangiectasia). Some of the tumors may contain melanin and can mimic melanomas. Advanced condition of basal cell carcinoma generally ulcerates and there is extensive local foray of bones. That is why; basal cell carcinoma was previously called as ‘Rodent ulcer’.

Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common skin cancer. It usually occurs over the sun-exposed parts of the skin. It can also occur after exposure to industrial carcinogens (tar and various oils), discharging osteomyelitis cases and old burn scars. Patients having lowered immunity also posses high risk for squamous cell carcinoma. DNA sequence of certain viruses (Human Papilloma Virus – I) are accepted as potential precursors of this type of skin cancer.

Treatment of most of the variants of skin cancer is complete, even for the aggressive cancers. The modes of treatment include – 

Surgery – complete excision of the lesion leaving a healthy margin can cure most of the cancers. Surgery followed by skin grafting may be necessary for a large lesion.

Curettages – the area is curetted and electrodessication is done afterwards.

Cryosurgery – extreme low temperature can destroy the cancer cells. It is useful in ‘Actinic keratosis.

Laser ablation – controlled beam of laser is used to kill the cancer cells.

Radiation therapy – surgically inoperable lesions are being treated with radiation therapy.

Things You Should Know About Flu Symptoms

flu symptomsInfluenza or more commonly known as ‘Flu’ is an infectious disease caused by Influenza virus. Often we confuse flu with common cold which is not the case. But often it becomes difficult to differentiate between these two. Influenza includes cold and many other symptoms like fever, headache, dry cough and pain in the muscles.

Influenza virus is taxonomically placed in the Orthomyxoviridae family. It is a RNA virus that can affect any mammal and birds. Transmission of influenza virus occurs through aerosol. Typically when an infected person coughs, sneezes, droplets are formed. When a healthy person inhales these droplets, the virus gets passed through to the upper respiratory tract and multiplies. It can also be transmitted through feces, saliva and blood. Influenza virus can withstand low temperature. It can sustain more than a month at 0˚C and even more in sub-zero temperature. But they are vulnerable to high temperature and common detergents and disinfectants.

Flu has shown seasonal trends. It is common during the change of seasons like from winter to summer and summer to rainy season. It caused pandemic in the 20th Century and killed millions of people throughout the world. Every time there was an influenza epidemic, a new virus strain was identified.

The symptoms of flu can differ person to person depending upon their level of immunity. In persons having high immunity level, it can be only mild degree cold and sore throat. But for persons with low body constitution, it can become fully fledged fever, dry cough, body ache and others. The common symptoms of flu are –

Fever: – high rise of temperature. It can be 101˚F (38.3˚C) in adults and in children it may be as high as 103˚F to 105˚F (39.4˚C to 40.5˚C). Often the fever is associated with chill mimicking symptoms of malaria, although rigor is usually absent.

Sweating: – fever is associated with sweating. And if antipyretic (medicines to lower down fever) is used, there is profuse sweating. This is also another mimicking symptom to malaria.

Sore throat and dry cough – it may vary from different persons. Those who have high immunity or suffered from flu earlier, only have mild to moderate sore throat. This is due to development of antibodies in blood. But for the first time victims and especially in the children, a constant bout of dry cough prevails.

Headache – it occurs mainly in frontal and posterior aspect of the skull. Frontal headache is typically around the eyes.

Body ache – severe pain in the body especially in the back, hands and legs. The pain is characteristically of muscular in nature.

Running nose – constant serous discharge from the nose is seen. Otherwise, the patient may complain of stuffy nose.

Generalized weakness – extreme fatigue is another common symptom. Patient may feel lethargic all the times.

Anorexia – as with other viral infection, loss of appetite is present in a patient with flu.

Red eyes and face – high grade of fever can cause flushed face and red eyes mimicking conjunctivitis. There may be watery eyes also.

Diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain – these mainly occurs in case of children.

Influenza is a self-limiting disease. Symptoms of flu disappear within a week or two. But when you know the flu symptoms, you can take proper precaution and act accordingly.

Dry Eyes: The Things You Should Know

dry eyesOur tears express many of our moods. The things make you sad will bring tears to your eyes. Again on the extreme opposite hand, tremendous enjoyment also makes you cry. But have you ever thought of the situation when your eyes become dry? Well, it can happen and the condition is called Dry Eyes Syndrome.

Dry Eyes Syndrome is medically termed as Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca or Sicca syndrome. More than 10 million American citizens are suffering from dry eyes. If the tear is evaporated from the eyes at a rate which is more than normal or more commonly if the production of tear by the tear gland becomes compromised, the Dry Eye Syndrome (DES) can occur. Tears are the main source of nutrition and lubrication of the most outer part of our eyes. In case there is less tear production, this outer surface becomes dry. And every moment we blink or come in contact with the outer world, this layer gets irritated. Now let us know that the outer layer of the eyes is very much delicate. Here lies the cornea through which light rays fall over the lens and after that to the retina. If there is less amount of tear, there will be friction between the inner surface of the eyelids and the outer layer of the eyes. After a certain time, there is fair chance of production of opacity over the cornea, which means blindness.

The common symptoms of DES include a constant irritation on the eyes. You will feel that some small particles have entered and there is continuous gritty sensation. In DES, both the eyes are usually involved. There will be pain in the eyes, redness and feeling of heaviness behind the eyeball. There is secretion of exudative white fluid from the eyes which does not relieve the symptoms. The symptoms worsen in conditions of constant gazing like sitting in front of a computer, watching television, reading or driving. They also aggravate in windy and smoky atmosphere and become a bit lessened in humid conditions.

As it was already mentioned, DES occurs when there is less production of tear from the eyes. The cause is mainly idiopathic (where the actual cause cannot be differentiated). The common medical conditions where it can occur are – congenital absence of tear (lacrimal) glands, Xerophthalmia (Vitamin A deficiency), Sjögren’s syndrome, Rhuematoid Arthritis, SLE and Wegner’s granulomatosis. Long standing use of some drugs like diuretics, antidepressants, oral contraceptives and some hypertensive drugs can bring out DES.

Your ophthalmologist can diagnose the case only from the symptoms itself. Schirmer’s test is performed to quantify the amount of tears produced from the lacrimal glands. Recent development in diagnosing DES is to measure a special molecule called Ap4A in the tears. It can increase in some cases of DES.

Your doctor will tell you to avoid the conditions where you may have to gaze for a long time. The treatment includes instillation of artificial tear preparations over the eyes and to block the tear outflow system that drain out tears. Presently, there are over-the-counter artificial tear preparations available which means you don’t have to carry a doctor’s prescription to buy a product. Food additives containing Omega-3 fatty acid have shown to reduce the symptoms of DES to a certain extent. Instillation of Cyclosporin drop has also beneficial activity on DES. A small surgical procedure can block the mouth of the tear drainage system.

DES can be very irritable. You must consult the ophthalmologist once you feel that your eyes have become dry. Early diagnosis can make the condition more favorable.