Diseases & Conditions

The human body is a remarkable structure. It's designed to efficiently manage the wear and tear of everyday life and fend off all sorts of threats. Most of us are healthy for most of our lives. But we're also susceptible to hundreds of injuries, diseases, and conditions. Some are quite common, others are extremely rare. Here are some of the most common conditions that affect humans.


Diseases & Conditions Articles

Blood Testing

Blood tests enable doctors to assess your health by analyzing cells, chemicals, proteins and other substances in your blood. Some tests are recommended regularly to see if blood levels of certain cells or chemicals fall within a normal range. Others are done to help diagnose health conditions, such as allergies, anemia, and diabetes. There are two typical methods for taking a blood sample. One, called venipuncture, involves drawing a vial of blood from a vein, usually on the inner surface of your arm near your elbow. The other, called a finger stick, is done by pricking your finger with a sharp blade to obtain a small amount of blood from a capillary. The method used depends on how much blood is needed for the test you are having. Blood tests can be used to screen for a wide variety of diseases and disorders. They are also used to determine how well treatment is working for many different conditions. The kinds of problems for which doctors order blood tests include: (Locked) More »

Carotid Ultrasound (Carotid Doppler)

Ultrasound uses sound waves instead of radiation to generate snapshots or moving pictures of structures inside the body. This imaging technique works in a manner similar to radar and sonar, developed in World War II to detect airplanes, missiles, and submarines that were otherwise invisible. After coating a small area of your skin with a lubricant to reduce friction, a radiologist or ultrasound technician places an ultrasound transducer, which looks like a microphone, on your skin and may rub it back and forth to get the right view. The transducer sends sound waves into your body and picks up the echoes of the sound waves as they bounce off internal organs and tissue. A computer transforms these echoes into an image that is displayed on a monitor. Doppler ultrasound is a variation of this technique that not only shows internal structures but also examines the flow of blood through blood vessels. Using the Doppler effect—the change in the frequency of sound or light waves as they bounce off a moving object—this kind of ultrasound produces an image of blood in motion. A Carotid ultrasound shows the amount of blood flow in the carotid arteries, the major blood vessels to the brain located on either side of your neck. With this imaging technique, your doctor can see if there is any narrowing of your carotid arteries because of cholesterol deposits or some other problem. This test is often used to evaluate people who have had a stroke or who might be at high risk for one because of reduced blood flow in the carotid arteries. (Locked) More »

Lumbar Puncture (or Spinal Tap)

A lumbar puncture, also known as a spinal tap, uses a needle to remove a sample of fluid from the space surrounding the spinal cord. This fluid is known as cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). The test is used to diagnose infections, such as meningitis, and some neurological conditions. You will need to sign a consent form, which is generally required when the procedure is done outside of an emergency situation. Tell your doctor ahead of time if you have ever had an allergic reaction to lidocaine or the numbing medicine used at the dentist's office. Doctors routinely do a physical examination and in some cases order a CT scan of the brain before recommending a lumbar puncture. The CT scan is performed when doctors suspect a medical problem that could put you at risk for movement of the brain during the procedure, a very rare but serious complication. (Locked) More »

Mediastinoscopy

Mediastinoscopy is a surgery that allows doctors to view the middle of the chest cavity and to do minor surgery through very small incisions. It allows surgeons or pulmonary doctors to remove lymph nodes from between the lungs and to test them for cancer or infection. It is also useful for examining the outside surface of the large tubes of the airways or for evaluating tumors or masses in the middle chest. Discuss the specific procedures planned during your mediastinoscopy ahead of time with your doctor. This procedure is done by either a surgeon or a trained pulmonary specialist. You will need to sign a consent form giving your surgeon permission to perform this test. If you are taking insulin, discuss this with your doctor before the test. If you take aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, vitamin E, or other medicines that affect blood clotting, talk with your doctor. It may be necessary to stop or adjust the dose of these medicines before your test. It is likely that you will be able to go home the same day as the surgery, but you will need to arrange for someone else to drive you home. This is because you will have received medicines that can leave you drowsy for some hours after the procedure. (Locked) More »

Pleural Fluid Sampling (or Thoracentesis)

Some infections and diseases cause fluid to accumulate in the space between the lung and the rib cage or between the lung and the diaphragm. This collection of fluid is called a pleural effusion. A pleural effusion might be detected on a chest x-ray. Sampling this fluid is important because it enables doctors to understand what caused the fluid to collect and how to treat the problem. The fluid can be sampled with a needle. You will need to sign a consent form giving your doctor permission to perform this test. Some patients have this test done in a doctor's office, while others are admitted to the hospital for it. Generally your doctor will decide whether you need to be in the hospital based on your medical condition. A chest x-ray or an ultrasound is done before the procedure. Tell your doctor if you have ever had an allergic reaction to lidocaine or the numbing medicine used at the dentist's office. If you take aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or other medicines that affect blood clotting, talk with your doctor. It may be necessary to stop or adjust the dose of these medicines before your test. (Locked) More »

Radionuclide Scanning

A radionuclide scan is an imaging technique that uses a small dose of a radioactive chemical (isotope) called a tracer that can detect cancer, trauma, infection or other disorders. In a radionuclide scan, the tracer either is injected into a vein or swallowed. Once the tracer enters the body, it travels through the bloodstream to the organ being targeted, such as the thyroid, heart or bones. Different tracers tend to collect in different organs. The tracer emits gamma rays, which are similar to X-rays. These gamma rays are detected by a gamma camera and analyzed by a computer to form an image of the target organ. Sites of potential problems send out more intense gamma rays and appear as bright spots on the scan. Types of radionuclide scans include PET scans, gallium scans and bone scans. A radionuclide scan is painless, except for a mild skin prick if the tracer is injected. Once the tracer is given, it takes several hours for the isotope to travel to the target organ. During this time, the patient usually can leave the test facility and return for the scan itself, which can last one to five hours. Radionuclide scans are done most commonly to detect cancerous tumors, to judge the effectiveness of cancer treatment and to look for signs that cancer has spread (metastasized) to organs such as the brain, liver or bones. Another common reason these scans are done is to assess the function of a gland, such as the heart or thyroid. (Locked) More »

Now hear this: Don’t ignore sudden hearing loss

Everyone’s hearing naturally declines with age, and people often have one ear that hears better than the other. But if hearing loss appears suddenly in one ear for no apparent reason, that can be a sign of sudden sensorineural hearing loss, or SHL, a kind of nerve deafness, that can lead to permanent hearing loss if not treated promptly. More »