Category Archives: News

The Underappreciated Neck: What’s inside

January 7th, 2019

neck8The neck tends to be one part of your body that works hard, but doesn’t get enough credit. It serves as a flexible connection between your head and the rest of your body and contains many nerves and blood vessels vital to your health and continued viability. Your neck contains numerous important structures, including:

Spinal cord. The cervical portion of your spinal cord is located in your neck. Your spinal cord sends messages through nerves from your brain to your body, and from your body back to your brain. The spinal cord stretches all the way down the length of your back.

Vertebrae, disks and ligaments. The vertebrae are bones that encase and protect your spinal cord. Intervertebral disks are located between each vertebra and help to absorb shock and allow your spine greater flexibility. Ligaments in your neck stabilize your vertebrae and help hold them in place.

Nerves. A network of nerves in your neck sends signals to your brain and body. When a vertebral disk places pressure on the nerves in your neck, you may experience neck pain. Many of the nerves in your neck stretch into your arms, which is why problems with the neck often lead to arm and shoulder symptoms, in addition to neck pain.

The Tubes. The pharynx is a hollow tube that connects your nose and throat to your esophagus and trachea. Your larynx, or voice box, sits just below your pharynx. It contains your vocal cords, which give you your voice. Your trachea is the tube that allows air to flow between your mouth, nose, and lungs. The esophagus provides a passageway for food and liquid to move from the mouth into the stomach.

Glands. The thyroid is an essential gland that is located in the front of the neck. It produces hormones that help regulate metabolism. The parathyroid glands are small glands adjacent to the thyroid gland. They release a critical hormone that helps control the amount of calcium in the blood. Lymph nodes are located in many parts of your body, including the neck. They help to drain impurities out of the body and contain infection-fighting blood cells.

While the neck is connected to the spine, it is not as sheltered as the rest of the backbone. This means this slim structure is prone to problems. Neck pain generally arises from muscle strain. But since your neck is so complex, there can be other, more serious causes of neck pain. If you are having neck pain, it is important to see your doctor, especially if your neck pain is intense or persistent, or is accompanied by other worrisome symptoms such as fever, severe headache, or numbness or weakness in the arms or legs.

Most neck pain improves gradually with home treatment. Seek immediate care if severe neck pain results from an injury, such as a motor vehicle accident, diving accident or fall. Contact one of our doctors if your neck pain:

- Is severe
- Persists for several days without relief
- Spreads down arms or legs
- Is accompanied by headache, numbness, weakness or tingling

Learning Physical Balance Benefits Kids

December 15th, 2018

toddler-balanceFor some kids it comes naturally. Hopping on one foot, jumping rope and walking along a wall is second nature. For others it takes a little practice. But having good balance can be learned! It’s a function that can be improved with practice and is a skill worth having. Teaching your child good balance at an early age will set her up for better body awareness, coordination, and even concentration.

Physical balance is the foundation on which many other physical skills are built. Because kids are spending more time bent over computers and shouldering heavy backpacks, experts believe that their balance is becoming more challenged. Continuously hunching over a screen or carrying extra weight can affect posture and balance, which could lead to less coordination or even problems with gait.

The solution is … well … fun. Common games like hopscotch and tag promote balance. And kid-appropriate activities in yoga and Pilates can also help. There are also simple exercises families can do at home to boost stability.

Researchers are connecting balance to mental, not just physical, functioning. When kids stabilize themselves from an unstable pose, they learn how to focus faster and more efficiently. Kids with learning problems, who often have less than optimal balance, can particularly benefit from balance training. If you free up the mental capacity they are using to concentrate on balance, they have the mental resources to focus on other things.

Balance-Building Exercises for Children

Under One Year: Once your baby begins to sit up, let her grab your fingers and pull herself into a sitting position. Slowly move your hands toward her, just enough so that she begins to rely on her own sense of balance. If she begins to teeter, gently support her back into an upright position. Repeat as long as it is fun for her.

One to Three Years:
Boot Balancers:
Sit in a chair and have your child stand in front of you with his arms extended from his sides. Reach your hands underneath his arms (but don’t support his weight) so you can catch him if he loses his balance, and have him step up onto the tops of your shoes. Make a game of how long he can balance himself on your feet.

Stork Stands: Together with your child, stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart, hands on hips. Stand on your left leg, bending the right leg slightly behind you. Hold this pose for two seconds, then slowly extend your right leg straight out and slightly in front of you without touching the ground. Hold for two seconds and repeat the exercise standing on the right leg, resting your opposite foot on your supporting leg if you need to rest. Once this feels easy, try extending your arms out in front of you or overhead. Playing Simon Says with your child, alternating as leader, can make this drill even more fun.

Three Years and Up:
Balance Beam Lunges: Have your child stand on a long board (a 2-by-4 is fine). She should place her left foot several feet forward on the beam and lunge down until her left thigh is parallel to the ground (her right knee will bend as she deepens the pose). After she holds this position as long as she can, have her repeat the move with the other leg. With practice, your child can lunge with her arms extended out from her sides. For a challenge, raise the board six inches by placing wood or cinder blocks under both ends.

Wheelbarrows: Have your child stand behind a basketball or large ball that will support her body weight and then place her hands, fingers pointing forward, on it. Keeping her feet planted, she should roll the ball forward, alternating hands. Once she rolls it as far from her feet as she can without losing balance, she should roll it back to its original position. Repeat as many times as she’s able.

From Parenting Magazine

Say What? How to Treat Short-Term Laryngitis

November 15th, 2018

Screen Shot 2018-11-15 at 11.01.09 AMYou never really appreciate just how valuable your voice is … until you lose it. You can hear it coming – you may start to hear a bit of cracking or huskiness in your voice … and then croaking … until no sound comes out at all. Was it the enthusiastic cheering at your daughter’s soccer game that’s to blame? Or too much singing in the shower?

Laryngitis indicates a problem with your larynx (also called the voice box). Your larynx contains your vocal cords and is important for talking, breathing and swallowing. Inflammation or irritation from overuse or infection causes your vocal cords to swell and distorts the sounds that air carries over them – making your voice sound hoarse. If there is too much swelling you may not be able to make your voice heard at all.

Although it is annoying and can be painful, laryngitis usually isn’t serious. Laryngitis that lasts less than a few weeks is often caused by upper respiratory infection from a virus. Laryngitis caused by bacterial infection is actually quite rare.

Laryngitis usually gets better on its own. If you have hoarseness that doesn’t go away after a few weeks, make an appointment so that we can determine what is going on. Long-term (or chronic) laryngitis lasts longer than 3 weeks and can have various causes, such as allergies, smoking, acid reflux, exposure to toxins, post-nasal drip, alcohol, or more serious diseases.

One of the best ways to treat laryngitis, and certainly the simplest, is not talking – at all. Whispering does not actually rest your voice. In fact, it can actually agitate your vocal cords and make your hoarseness worse. If you have laryngitis, try communicating by writing or texting. You may also get some relief by using a cool mist humidifier and avoiding irritants like cigarette smoke. Antibiotics are only effective against infections caused by bacteria. Since almost all infections with laryngitis are caused by viruses, antibiotics likely won’t help.

Relief for Short-Term Laryngitis:

  • Breathe moist air. Use a cool-mist humidifier to keep the air in your home or office moist. Inhale steam from a bowl of hot water or a hot shower.
  • Rest your voice as much as possible. Avoid talking or singing too loudly or for too long. If you need to speak before large groups, use a microphone or megaphone.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration (avoid alcohol and caffeine).
  • Moisten your throat. Try sucking on lozenges, gargling with salt water or chewing a piece of gum.
  • Avoid decongestants. These medications can dry out your throat.
  • Avoid whispering. This puts even more strain on your voice than normal speech does.

Eczema can Occur Anywhere – Even in Your Ears

October 20th, 2018

Screen Shot 2018-10-26 at 11.40.47 AMEczema is no walk in park. It’s an annoying and sometimes painful condition tied to the immune system. It causes inflamed, itchy, cracked, and rough patches of skin all over the body. Eczema affects almost one third of people on the United States – some will outgrow it, but others struggle with outbreaks their entire life.

To add insult to injury, eczema happens in places you might not expect … in the ears, for instance. Ear eczema can be an extremely irritating and at times painful condition. It can range from slight dryness of the outer ear to extensive skin loss and soreness, as well as infection of the external and internal parts of the ear. It can affect the entire ear, including the lobes, the ear opening, canal and the eardrum itself. It is important to focus on prevention and control as if left untreated, eczema or infection can spread outwards to the surrounding skin.

Eczema may appear as a result of exposure to something that causes an allergic reaction. Everyday items can cause outbreaks inside the ears – soaps, gels, earrings, hearing aids, earbuds or even wearing glasses. Objects you might try to use to clean or scratch the ear can also be problematic. Ear piercing does not cause eczema, but can lead to problems when you wear certain types of earrings or studs. If you have a nickel allergy, wear only hypoallergenic jewelry.

It’s always best to consult the doctor if you think you may have eczema in the ears. A professional can give you effective treatment and help to prevent flare‐ups. Treatment of ear eczema will depend on the cause and type, but there are things that you can do at home to prevent outbreak and spread. You can gently wash the inside of your outer ear with water or an emollient wash. You can also use a damp cotton tip very gently in the bowl area of your ear, but do not insert it into the ear canal.  Never try to wash further into the ears – you may damage the skin of the ear canal. After washing, dry your ears thoroughly – using a warm (not hot) hair dryer. Avoid scratching the inside of your ears, especially with a foreign object – not only can these damage your ear canal skin or drum, but they can also set up an allergic reaction. The use of ear candles is not advised.

If you go swimming, use ear plugs. You can get custom‐made ear molds to fit your ears. Apply an emollient cream/ointment to treat dry skin around the  ears and in the entrance to the ear canals, and refined petroleum oil or sunflower oil for loosening ear wax (but consult first with a healthcare professional first). Using water is not recommended, nor are wax loosening products as they may encourage the buildup of debris and cause more inflammation and irritation.

Ear eczema can be an extremely irritating condition. Since it is difficult to see in the ears without special equipment, it is often hard to know what is going on in there, particularly in the case of young children. If ears become uncomfortable, don’t ignore it – it is always best to see your health care professional and get to the bottom of the itch.

Care for Your Ears During Summer Swimming

July 4th, 2018

swimmers-earThere is nothing like dunking yourself in cool water to avoid blistering summer heat. If you avoid swimming for fear of swimmer’s ear, a popsicle can only do so much to keep you cool. There are steps you can take while enjoying a summer swim to help your ears stay healthy while you stay cool and comfortable in the water.

First, pick your pool carefully. Avoid swimming in bodies of water that may be contaminated with bacteria. Check for regular cleaning and disinfecting schedules if using a public pool. Research pollution level warnings before planning a swim in local rivers, lakes or ponds.

They may not look cool, but wearing a swimming cap helps protect your ears from getting wet while you are swimming. It is important to put the swimming cap on properly with the ears completely covered. To put it on, stretch the swimming cap open. Lean forward and slide the cap on, slowly moving your hands downward as the cap slides onto your head. Once the swimming cap reaches your ears, remove your hands completely and tug the cap down until snug.

Or, wear ear plugs as an alternative to a swimming cap to prevent water from entering the outer ear canal. Ear plugs come in both disposable and reusable versions; people who do not have latex allergies should consider using reusable latex plugs. Just be sure not to push the plugs too deep into your ear.

When you are done swimming, dry your ears thoroughly. Tilt your head and pull your earlobes in different directions to help drain the water. Use a clean, soft towel to pat your outer ear, and tilt your head to the side to allow any water that has gotten into the inner ear to drain out. Or, use a blow dryer on its lowest setting. Hold it a foot out away from each ear for about 30 seconds. It is possible to buy over-the-counter eardrops to help dry up any leftover water. But don’t put eardrops in your ear if you have had any ear pain, ear surgery, or have a tear in your eardrum.

If you have pain or discomfort inside your ear or a pussy oozing from your ear after swimming, make an appointment so that we can help you get back on the pool floatie faster!

Avoiding the Eight Most Common Food Allergy Triggers

May 6th, 2018

food_allergies1Food allergies are caused by your immune system. Your body misidentifies a harmless food as something that could make you sick and tries to protect you. When you eat something you’re allergic to, your immune system responds. You might get a mild skin rash or itchy eyes, or you could have a bigger reaction that leaves you gasping for breath. Food allergies can be serious, but you can take steps to manage them. One of the best things you can do is avoid your trigger foods.

Eight foods cause about 90% of food allergy reactions:

  • Milk (mostly in children)
  • Eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nuts, like walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, brazil nuts, and pecans
  • Soy
  • Wheat and other grains with gluten, including barley, rye, and oats
  • Fish (mostly in adults)
  • Shellfish (mostly in adults)

Less common foods that may trigger allergies include:

  • Corn
  • Gelatin
  • Meat — beef, chicken, mutton, and pork
  • Seeds, often sesame, sunflower, and poppy
  • Spices, such as caraway, coriander, garlic, and mustard

An allergic reaction can happen within minutes of eating, or it may happen hours later.

Mild symptoms can be hard to tie to specific foods. You could get red, swollen, dry, or itchy skin rash, including hives or eczema. Or, you may experience a runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, or a slight, dry cough. Other symptoms can include itchy, watery, red eyes, itchy mouth or inside your ears, a funny taste in your mouth, or upset stomach, cramps, throwing up, or diarrhea.

Peanuts, nuts, fish, and shellfish more often cause severe reactions, although any food can. Symptoms include trouble breathing or swallowing, swollen lips, tongue, or throat, feeling weak, confused, or light-headed, or passing out, or experiencing chest pain or a weak, uneven heartbeat.

Because young children may not know how to describe what’s happening, they might say something like, “My mouth is tingling,” “My tongue feels heavy,” or “I’ve got a frog in my throat.” A hoarse or squeaky voice or slurring words are also signs of an allergic reaction in kids.

Sometimes symptoms affect your whole body and are so serious that they’re life-threatening. This kind of reaction is called anaphylaxis, and it’s a medical emergency. It usually happens a few minutes after you’ve eaten. If you have asthma as well as a food allergy, you’re more likely to have anaphylaxis. When you have a severe food allergy, you should carry injectable epinephrine (adrenaline). It can ease symptoms until you can get medical attention. Do not hesitate to use the epinephrine auto-injector ever if you are unsure your symptoms are caused by an allergy. The epinephrine could save your life.

For highly allergic people, even tiny amounts of a food (for example, 1/44,000 of a peanut kernel) can set off a reaction. Less sensitive people may be able to eat small amounts of their trigger food.

Teaching Your Child to Swallow Medicines

April 6th, 2018

ask-dr-mom-taking-medicine-childrens-healthSometimes, even a spoonful of sugar won’t quite do the trick. Medicines in pill form can be hard for some kids to get down. When your child needs to take medication, they may struggle to swallow pills until they learn to master the skill.

And it is a skill … some people learn to swallow pills quickly and easily, and for others, it takes practice. For kids, swallowing the pill can be as scary as the sickness itself, and it is important to support them both physically and emotionally. Give them plenty of time so they don’t feel pressured. Ignore negative behavior, and heap praise on the positive. Have your child take a deep breath and let it out slowly as you begin practice.

Experts suggest starting with candy. Begin with a tiny piece. After helping your child swallow it two times, move on to a bigger one. If after two tries they can’t succeed swallowing the bigger piece, go back to a smaller size for more practice. Here are some candies to practice with, from smallest to largest:

  • Sprinkles (the kind that are put on cupcakes)
  • Nerds
  • Mini M&M’s (smaller than the regular size)
  • Tic Tacs
  • Regular size M&M’s or Skittles
  • Jelly Belly brand jelly beans (smaller than other brands)
  • Good & Plenty

Try using water that is room-temperature or slightly warm. Encourage your child to take a sip of water before and after swallowing to help the pill go down. Don’t try the same method repeatedly – try different ways of swallowing to see what works best. Most people put the pill on the back of their tongue and drink water until the pill goes down their throat. Some people like to put water in their mouth and then put the pills in with the water, then swallow the water and pill together. Other people have success putting the pill in their mouth, and then drinking water through a straw.

Some kids are afraid they might choke on a pill. Have them open their mouth in front of a mirror and say “ahhhh,” like you do at the doctor’s. Have them notice how big their throat is, and point out how easily pills will fit.

Have your child tilt their head back slightly when they swallow so it’s easier to get to get the pill down – but don’t do this for capsules – they float. Instead, have them tilt their head down a little so that the capsule floats to the back of their mouth. Or try having them look straight ahead while swallowing. Everyone has a method that works for them.

If the problem is more about smell and taste of the pill, slip it into a spoonful of ice-cream, applesauce, or other soft food – but do not crush or break pills because they won’t work as effectively.

Practice for 10 to 20 minutes per day. End with a “success” – make sure they swallow the last pill of the practice session, even if you need to go back to a smaller size. If your child is still having trouble, work with a psychologist or therapist to help them manage their anxiety. Hypnotherapy or using a pill swallowing cup are other options that may help. If they have trouble swallowing other things (not just pills), talk to your doctor. They may have a condition that makes it difficult to swallow.

Avoiding Food Triggers for Tinnitus

March 6th, 2018

tinnitusAround 50 million Americans get that annoying ringing, roaring, whistling, hissing, clanging or shrieking sound in their ears. Tinnitus often occurs because the tiny hair cells in the inner ear are damaged, producing constant stimulation of aural nerves. There are many factors that contribute to this condition, including exposure to loud noise, aging, medications, hearing loss, allergies and stress. Several food or food additives can also trigger or exacerbate ringing in the ear.

Aspartame
If you have tinnitus, you may want to think about kicking that diet soda habit for good. Some researchers suspect aspartame might have a connection to tinnitus. Though a definitive link between the two has yet to be proven, the reason aspartame is considered suspect is that some components of it may be toxic to the brain and the inner ear – two organs that are particularly sensitive to neurotoxins. Specifically, phenylalanine, aspartic acid and methanol become toxic after periods of long storage or exposure to heat.

Salt
Many people with tinnitus report worse symptoms after eating salty food, according to the American Tinnitus Association. Salt restricts blood vessels, increasing blood pressure within the major arteries while reducing blood flow into the eyes, ears and brain. Snack foods, fast foods and processed foods tend to contain large amounts of salt.

Salicylates
Salicylates are naturally occurring chemicals that protect plants against bacteria, pests and disease. People with salicylate sensitivity can have adverse reactions to the accumulation of salicylates in their body. People with tinnitus can experience a worsening of their symptoms when exposed to salicylates, according to the Journal of Neurosciences. Foods that contain salicylates include fruits such as dried fruit, blackberries, blueberries, boysenberry, oranges, pineapples, raisins, raspberries, strawberries and tangerines. Vegetables with salicylates include peppers, tomatoes, and canned green olives. Other foods with salicylates include almonds, peanuts with skins on, coconut oil, olive oil, processed lunch meats, corn syrup, honey, jams and peppermint.

Beverages
For various reasons, several beverages can trigger or worsen tinnitus symptoms. Red wine, grain-based spirits such as rum and beer, cider, sherry and brandy all contain high to very high levels of salicylates. Beverages that contain caffeine such as coffee, tea, hot chocolate and energy drinks also exacerbate tinnitus, according to American Tinnitus Association. Caffeine may exacerbate tinnitus in some people by increasing blood pressure and stimulating nerve cell activity.

Sugar
A significant portion of people with tinnitus have a sugar metabolism problem called hyperinsulinemia, according to the National Institutes of Health. Hyperinsulinemia occurs when the body develops an insensitivity to insulin and therefore fails to break sugar down and deliver it to cells. This resulting excess of glucose in the blood stream causes the pancreas to release more insulin. People with tinnitus who maintain a diabetic diet may experience an improvement in their tinnitus symptoms.

Fats
Although fats do not necessarily cause an immediate exacerbation of tinnitus symptoms, foods with saturated and trans fats contribute to poor circulation and reduce blood flow. A diet high in these unhealthy fats increases bad cholesterol and decreases good cholesterol, affecting long-term heart health and potentially heightening the severity of ringing in the ears. Foods high in trans and saturated fats include fried foods, whole milk, butter, shortening, ice cream, fatty meats like pork and beef, chicken skin and fat, snack foods and candy.

Possible Signs Your Thyroid isn’t Working Correctly

February 4th, 2018

GTY_thyroid_tk_130829_16x9_992It may be a small part of your anatomy … but your thyroid (the butterfly-shaped gland located at the base of your throat) is one of the most powerful parts of your body. It produces hormones that regulate everything from your appetite and energy levels to your body’s internal thermostat. It influences, in fact, almost all of the metabolic processes in your body. So when things go wrong, you notice. Although the effects of a misbehaving thyroid can be unpleasant or uncomfortable, most thyroid problems can be managed well if properly diagnosed and treated.

At least 30 million Americans have a thyroid disorder. Women are as much as 10 times as likely as men to have a problem. If you’re a woman over 35, your odds of a thyroid disorder are high – more than 30%, by some estimates. What causes your thyroid to go haywire? It could be genetics, an autoimmune attack, pregnancy, stress, nutritional deficiencies, or toxins in the environment – experts aren’t entirely sure. Because thyroid hormones reach everywhere in the body, diagnosing a disorder can be a challenge. Here’s some possible signs that your thyroid might have issues:

You’re Beat
Feeling tired and lacking energy could be symptoms of many issues, but they’re also linked with hypothyroidism, a disorder that’s the result of too little thyroid hormone. If you’re tired after a full night’s sleep, that may be a clue that your thyroid is underactive. A lack of hormone in your bloodstream and cells means your muscles aren’t getting the signal to perform.
You’re in the Dumps
Feeling unusually depressed or sad can also be a symptom of hypothyroidism. It’s thought that the production of too little thyroid hormone can have an impact on levels of serotonin in the brain. With an underactive thyroid turning other body systems down, your mood might sink too.

You Feel Anxious
Anxiety and feeling “wired” are associated with hyperthyroidism, when the thyroid gland is making too much hormone. When your body is flooded with messages to be on high alert, your metabolism and whole body may be working overtime.

Your Appetite Changes
An increased appetite can be a sign of hyperthyroidism leaving you feeling hungry all of the time. The only upside is that the “hyper” part of the disorder typically offsets the caloric impact of an increased appetite so the end result sometimes isn’t weight gain. An underactive thyroid, on the other hand, can mess with your sense of taste and smell.

It’s Hard to Focus
This is another one that could be caused by lack of sleep or aging, but cognitive function can suffer when your thyroid is out of sync. Too much thyroid hormone can make it difficult to concentrate, and too little can trigger forgetfulness and brain fog.

Your Libido Changes
Too little thyroid hormone could be a contributor to a low libido, but the impact of other hypothyroidism symptoms – weight gain, low energy, and body aches and pains – could also play a part.

You’re Heart is all a Flutter
That feeling could be heart palpitations. It can feel like your heartbeat is irregular or beating too hard and quickly. You may notice these feelings in your chest or at pulse points in your throat or neck. Heart flutters or palpitations can be a sign of too many thyroid hormones flooding your system.

You Use Lotion in Bulk
Skin that’s dry and itchy can be a symptom of a thyroid disorder. The change in skin texture and appearance may be due to slowed metabolism (linked to too little thyroid hormone production), which can reduce sweating. Skin without enough moisture can quickly become dry and flaky and nails can become brittle and may develop ridges.

Your Bathroom Schedule is Off
People with hypothyroidism sometimes complain of constipation. The disruption in hormone production can cause a slowdown of digestive processes. On the reverse side of the spectrum, an overactive thyroid gland can cause diarrhea or more frequent bowel movements.

Your Periods have Changed
Longer menstrual periods with a heavier flow and more cramps can be a sign of hypothyroidism. Periods may also be closer together. With hyperthyroidism, high levels of hormone cause menstrual irregularities in a different way. Periods are shorter, farther apart and may be very light.

You have Painful Extremities or Muscles
If you have mysterious and sudden tingling or numbness – or actual pain – in your arms, legs, feet, or hands, that could be a sign of hypothyroidism. Over time, producing too little thyroid hormone can damage the nerves that send signals from your brain and spinal cord throughout your body.

You have High Blood Pressure
Elevated blood pressure can be a symptom of a thyroid disorder. By some estimates, people with hypothyroidism have two to three times the risk of developing hypertension. One theory is that low amounts of thyroid hormone can slow heart beat, which can affect pumping strength and blood vessel wall flexibility.

You Sweat or Wear a Sweater
Feeling cold or having chills is associated with hypothyroidism. The system slow-down caused by an underactive thyroid means less energy is being burned by cells. Less energy equals less heat. On the other hand, an overactive thyroid puts energy-producing cells into overdrive. That’s why people with hyperthyroidism sometimes feel too warm or sweat profusely.

Your Neck Feels Strange
A change in your voice or a lump in your throat could be a sign of a thyroid disorder. One way to check is to take a good look at your neck to see if you can detect any signs of thyroid swelling. You can do a physical check of your own thyroid at home. Using a hand mirror, watch your throat as you swallow a drink of water. Look for any bulges or protrusions in the thyroid area, which is below your Adam’s apple but above your collarbones. If you see anything that’s lumpy or suspicious, see your doctor.

Your Sleep Schedule is a Mess
Want to sleep all of the time? It could be hypothyroidism. A sluggish thyroid can slow bodily functions down to the point where sleeping (even in the daytime) seems like a brilliant idea. Can’t sleep? It could be hyperthyroidism. An overactive thyroid can cause anxiety and rapid pulse, which can make it hard to fall asleep or even wake you in the middle of the night.

You’ve Gained Weight
Going up a few dress sizes can be caused by so many things that it’s unlikely your doctor will look at weight gain alone as a potential thyroid disorder symptom. However, weight gain is one of the top reasons women see their doctor for a thyroid check. On the other end of the scale, a sudden weight loss can signal hyperthyroidism.

Your Hair is Thinning
Dry, brittle hair that breaks or falls out can be a sign of hypothyroidism. Too little thyroid hormone disrupts your hair growth cycle and puts too many follicles into “resting” mode, resulting in hair loss—sometimes all over your body including at the outside of your eyebrows. An overactive thyroid can also do a number on your hair. Hair issues due to hyperthyroidism typically show up as thinning hair just on your head.

Now What?
If you’ve read through this list and have concerns, get your thyroid tested. Make an appointment with one of our knowledgeable physicians to address your concerns. Based on your symptoms, test results, and a physical exam, you may be prescribed synthetic hormones. Testing and treating a thyroid disorder takes a bit of trial-and-error so expect to visit the doctor a few times before the dosage is right.

Singing Leads to Better Hearing

January 5th, 2018

Singing-3-singing-35633120-500-334Go ahead and belt that show tune in the shower — it’s for your health! It’s long been known that singing can reduce stress and increase mental alertness, but your melodies may also improve the way you hear and understand conversations in noisy places, according to recent research.

Deciphering speech in noisy situations can be hard for older adults. Hearing aids can only help so much, because separating speech from noise doesn’t happen in our ears as much as it does in our brains. As people age, something declines along the pathway between the inner ear and the brain’s auditory cortex. Although hearing aids are becoming increasingly better at suppressing extra noise, they can’t completely correct the problem of aging auditory systems.

But some people have less of a problem as they age. Older musicians do better than non-musicians at distinguishing speech from noise, even when their overall hearing is the same — and researchers wanted to know why. So some scientists invited older adults to join a choir (no musical experience or talent required), and tested whether the musical training changed how their brains processed speech in noisy environments. Each session lasts ten weeks, with one two-hour rehearsal each week.

“Singing is sort of like brain boot camp. You’re sort of whipping your neurons into shape,” said Ella Dubinsky, a graduate student in the lab where the choir experiment was conducted. “We wanted to see how short-term could we make the musical training. How quickly can we see these improvements?” she said.

In addition to the choir participants, the researchers followed two other control groups for comparison. One simply listened to music, and the other had no musical intervention. The result? The choir group’s hearing improved after singing training. The other two groups showed no improvement.

But don’t move to Broadway and addition for Hamilton yet. Besides singing, there are other ways that you can improve your hearing at any age.

Practice Focusing on and Locating Sounds.

Hearing exercises can help you hone in on where sounds are coming from and who or what is making the sounds. Create a noisy (but comfortable) environment. Have someone move around the room while reading sentences from a book or newspaper. Close your eyes, repeat the sentence back to them, and try to locate from where he or she is reading the sentence.

Practice recognizing various types of sound.

Close your eyes and listen to all the different sounds in your environment. One by one, try to decipher individual sounds that you hear, both near and far away. The more you practice, the more sounds you will learn to recognize.

Consider downloading software apps designed to improve hearing.

Examples include AB CLIX (based on identifying differences between words), Forbrain (based on recognizing pertinent sounds in voices), and Category Carousel (based on associating sounds with images).

Exercise

Besides giving you strength, balance, and flexibility, did you know exercises like yoga, walking, and stretching can help with your hearing? Exercise increases circulation in your ear and brain, and good circulation is important for healthy nerve function. If your doctor agrees you’re healthy enough, chances are good that exercise will help you feel better as well as hear better, too.