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

Abdominal CT Scan (Computed Tomography Scan)

CT scans are pictures taken by a specialized x-ray machine. The machine circles your body and scans an area from every angle within that circle. The machine measures how much the x-ray beams change as they pass through your body. It then relays that information to a computer, which generates a collection of black-and-white pictures, each showing a slightly different "slice" or cross-section of your internal organs. Because these "slices" are spaced only about a quarter-inch apart, they give a very good representation of your internal organs and other structures. Doctors use CT scans to evaluate all major parts of the body, including the abdomen, back, chest, and head. A CT scan is an excellent way to view the organs inside your abdomen. It is especially useful for looking at solid organs, such as the liver, pancreas, spleen, kidneys, and adrenal glands. It is also excellent for viewing the large blood vessels that pass through the abdomen (the aorta and vena cava) and for finding lymph nodes in the abdomen. (Locked) More »

Abdominal Ultrasound

Ultrasound uses sound waves instead of radiation to generate snapshots or moving pictures of structures inside the body. A radiologist or ultrasound technician places an ultrasound transducer, which looks like a microphone. 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 small screen. Doppler ultrasound is a variation of this technique that not only shows internal structures but also examines the flow of blood through blood vessels. Doppler ultrasound is useful in detecting blockages to blood flow, such as a blood clot blocking a vein, or narrowing of the blood vessels due to cardiovascular disease. (Locked) More »

Rapid Strep Test

A throat infection with streptococcus bacteria (called strep throat) needs to be treated with an antibiotic. A test is commonly used to find out whether streptococcus bacteria are present on your throat surface. The traditional test for a strep throat has been a throat culture, which takes two to three days to produce results. Several different types of rapid strep tests, however, can produce results within minutes to hours. A rapid strep test can only detect the presence of Group A strep, the one most likely to cause serious throat infections; it does not detect other kinds of strep or other bacteria. No preparation is necessary. A cotton swab is rubbed against the back of your throat to gather a sample of mucus. This takes only a second or two and makes some people feel a brief gagging or choking sensation. The mucus sample is then tested for a protein that comes from the strep bacteria. (Locked) More »

Skin Biopsy

Doctors take biopsies of areas that look abnormal and use them to detect cancer, precancerous cells, infections, and other conditions. For some biopsies, the doctor inserts a needle into the skin and draws out a sample; in other cases, tissue is removed during a surgical procedure. For this test, abnormal areas of skin are removed to test for cancer or other skin diseases. Tell your doctor if you have ever had an allergic reaction to the medicine lidocaine or similar types of local anesthesia. (Locked) More »

Sputum Evaluation (and Sputum Induction)

If your doctor thinks you have pneumonia, he or she might examine a sample of your sputum, the phlegm that you cough out of your lungs, to try to determine what type of bacteria or other infectious agent might be the cause. Drink plenty of fluids the night before the test; this may help to produce a sample. You need to cough up a sample of sputum. To be useful for testing, the stuff you cough up has to be from deep within the lungs. If your cough is too shallow or dry, the doctor might ask you to breathe in a saltwater mist through a tube or mask. This mist makes you cough deeply that helps produce an excellent phlegm sample. (Locked) More »

Testing for Vaginitis (Yeast Infections, Trichomonas, and Gardnerella)

Vaginitis is inflammation or an infection of the vagina; symptoms usually include itchiness or irritation, abnormal discharge, and an unpleasant odor. Diagnosing the cause of vaginitis involves a simple examination of the vaginal fluid under a microscope or sending the sample to a laboratory for a culture. Because douches or vaginal creams can make it hard for the doctor to interpret test results, don't use these products before the test. No other preparation is necessary. You'll have a pelvic examination. The doctor uses a cotton swab to collect a sample of the fluid that moistens the lining of the vagina. This swab is rubbed against two glass slides, and a small drop of fluid is placed on each slide to mix with the vaginal fluid. If your doctor is testing for infection with gonorrhea or chlamydia, he or she might use a second cotton swab to take a sample of mucus from the middle of the cervix. (Locked) More »

Throat Culture

A throat infection with streptococcus bacteria (called strep throat) needs to be treated with an antibiotic. A throat culture is the traditional test used for identifying streptococcus bacteria on your throat surface. Throat cultures also can identify some other bacteria that can cause sore throat. No preparation is necessary. A cotton swab is rubbed against the back of your throat to gather a sample of mucus. This takes only a second or two and makes some people feel a brief gagging or choking sensation. The mucus sample is then placed on a culture plate that helps any bacteria present in the mucus grow, so they can be examined and identified. (Locked) More »

Upper Endoscopy (Esophagogastroduodenoscopy or EGD)

This test inspects your esophagus, stomach and the first section of intestine (the duodenum) using an endoscope. An upper endoscopy allows the doctor to explore the cause of such symptoms as difficulty swallowing, abdominal pain, vomiting up blood, or passing blood in the stool. It can also diagnose irritation, ulcers, and cancers of the lining of the esophagus and stomach. During this type of endoscopy, the doctor can also take biopsy samples of tissue. Don't eat or drink anything for eight hours before this test. It's also best to stop taking aspirin and other NSAIDs for several days beforehand, to reduce the chances of bleeding should your doctor need to take a biopsy. Ask your doctor if you should avoid taking any other medicines on the day of the test. If you have diabetes, talk with your doctor about ways to avoid low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) since you will be fasting. If you wear dentures, remove them before the test. Arrange for a ride home because the medicine given for this test will make you drowsy. The nurse will place an intravenous catheter into your arm. During the procedure, the nurse will be monitoring your heart rate, blood pressure and oxygen content of your blood. You'll probably be given a sedative through an IV. This medicine may prevent you from remembering the test; it might even make you sleep through it. (Locked) More »

Ventilation-Perfusion Scan or V-Q Scan

The ventilation-perfusion scan is a nuclear scan so named because it studies both airflow (ventilation) and blood flow (perfusion) in the lungs. The initials V-Q are used in mathematical equations that calculate airflow and blood flow. The test is used primarily to help diagnose a blood clot in the lungs, called a pulmonary embolus. Today, ventilation-perfusion scans are rarely performed because a chest CT scan is a much more accurate diagnostic test for detecting a pulmonary embolus. About one hour before the test, a technician places an IV in your arm. A slightly radioactive version of the mineral technetium mixed with liquid protein is injected through the IV to identify areas of the lung that have reduced blood flow. (Locked) More »

Video-Assisted Thoracic Surgery

Video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) is a type of surgery that enables doctors to view the inside of the chest cavity after making only very small incisions. The doctor can examine the outside surface of the lung and the inner surface of the chest wall through a camera attached to the scope. Abnormal appearing areas on the lung surface can be biopsied. VATS also provides relatively easy access to taking a biopsy of the lung.  This may be needed to diagnose the cause of abnormalities on a chest x-ray or to determine the specific infectious agent responsible for pneumonia that is not getting better on antibiotics. Discuss the specific procedures planned during your chest surgery ahead of time with your doctor. VATS is done by either a surgeon or a trained pulmonary specialist. You will need to sign a consent form giving the surgeon permission to perform this test. Talk to your doctor about whether you will stay in the hospital for any time after the procedure, so that you can plan for this. (Locked) More »