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

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 »

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 »