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Health Q&A

Posted August 22, 2012 in Altoona, Advice Column

Q: What is swimmer’s ear?

A: Swimmer’s ear (aka otitis externa) is a type of ear infection that affects the outer ear and ear canal, as opposed to the ear drum. It is named “swimmer’s ear” because it is common among people who swim often. Water gets into the ear canal and washes away the protective layer of ear wax, allowing bacteria and fungus to grow. Despites its name, it is possible to get swimmers ear even if you do not swim. The infection can also be caused from damaging the skin in the ear canal from scratching it with your finger or other objects such as cotton swabs. Skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis can also lead to swimmer’s ear as well.

Swimmer’s ear can be quite painful. The pain is in the outer ear and is worse with touching or moving the ear. Other symptoms include decreased/muffled hearing and drainage from the affected ear.
Treatment of swimmer’s ear included antibiotic ear drops prescribed by your health care provider. You can also use over-the-counter pain medications to relieve the pain.

For some people, swimmer’s ear can occur frequently, and there are ways to prevent the infection from developing. First, never put anything into the ear canals (including cotton swabs). Leave ear wax alone. If you have concerns about your ear wax affecting your hearing, see your health care provider to have it removed safely. Secondly, keep your ears as dry as possible. Wear ear plugs while swimming and bathing.

Information from www.familydoctor.org, provided by Amy Lamberti, PA-C, Mercy East Family Practice, 5900 E. University Ave., Suite 200, 643-2400.

Q: What is the effect of UV light on the eye?

A: Before heading out to the beach on a hot summer day, we know to slather sunscreen on our bodies to protect our skin from the sun. What about protection for our eyes? Research has consistently shown that UV light contributes to the risk of developing certain types of cataracts, as well as macular degeneration. It also can result in pterygia (abnormal tissue growth on the eyeball) and skin cancers of the eyelid and surrounding tissues. Even more alarming is the fact that this damage is cumulative; the sunlight damage that occurs in youth follows into adulthood.

Children are more susceptible to sun damage than adults. They have larger pupils, allowing more damaging light into the eye. Also, their crystalline lens behind the iris has not yet matured. An adult lens filters some of the harmful UV light, whereas a child’s does not.

Polarized sunglasses with UV protection in a sturdy frame can help prevent irreversible UV damage to the eyes and surrounding tissues. For those with prescription glasses, transition or photochromatic lenses are also a great option. This is especially beneficial for children, as transitions protect them into the school year out on the playground during recess.

Information provided by Dr. Matthew Ward from Eye Care of Iowa , 5075 E. University Ave, Pleasant Hill 265-5322

Q: What are some healthy choices for brown bag lunches?

A: The usual school hot lunches can leave kids wanting more by the end of the day. With ketchup being considered a serving of vegetables and french fries accounting for about 25 percent of kids’ daily vegetable intake, it’s no wonder kids come home hungry or fall asleep in the middle of class. Sending a packed lunch with your children will ensure they are getting proper nutrition and the energy they need to make it through the school day. You can make simple, nutritious meals that will keep kids satisfied throughout the day.

• Make a turkey wrap using romaine lettuce leaves or whole grain tortilla shells. Spread on hummus instead of mayo for some extra flavor.  Pile on veggies like avocados, red and green peppers or tomato.

• Instead of sending potato chips, pack carrots and veggie dip, celery and peanut butter or veggies and hummus.

• For a sweet treat, make a fruit salad with grapes, cantaloupe and blueberries, or whatever other fruit you have on hand.

• Almonds make a great snack that will helps kids stay full, and they are a good source of omega-3s and calcium.

• Always pack plenty of water to drink, preferably in a BPA free reusable bottle so your kids can stay hydrated throughout the day. Add some sliced lemon or lime for some extra flavor.

Information provided by Dr. Kari Swain, Swain Chiropractic, 410 Center Place S.W., Altoona, 967-9300.

Q: What is an oral pathologist?

A: An oral pathologist is a dentist who has gone on for further education and specializes in studying tissue from the mouth and teeth to diagnose disease and prescribe treatment. Oral pathology is one of numerous areas of specialty that some dentists choose to enter after completing their basic dental education. An oral pathologist is also called an oral maxillofacial pathologist.

When a general dentist comes across a condition in your mouth, he or she may choose to remove a piece of tissue — called taking a biopsy — and send it to an oral pathologist for examination. It is the job of the oral pathologist to determine if the tissue sample is cancerous or infectious.

All dentists go through four years of dental school, earning a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) or Doctor of Dental Medicine (DDM). There is no difference in the degrees. Most dentists then go on for post-graduate training, either in a residency program at a hospital or in further education to become a dental specialist. Talk with your dentist about the various areas of specialty that are available to you if you need them.

Information provided by Dr. Cram, Des Moines Dental Group, 708 First Ave S., 967-6611.

Q: How serious are concussions?

A: As fall season athletics begin, a commonly diagnosed injury among athletes is a concussion. However, concussions are found not only in athletes, but the general population alike, and knowing the signs, symptoms and causes of a concussion are extremely important to safely participating in all activities.

A concussion is a traumatic brain injury caused by a bump or hit to the head or from a blow to the body that causes the head to move rapidly, back and forth, resulting in damage to brain tissue, similar to a bruise. Due to the sensitive nature of the brain, all concussions should be considered serious and under the care of a medical professional, proficient in concussion management.

Most concussions occur without a loss of consciousness and typically result in a variety of short-lived symptoms that resolve spontaneously. Signs and symptoms may be noticeable immediately, or may take days to weeks before appearing. Common signs and symptoms of a concussion include headache, nausea, sensitivity to light or sound, decreased coordination, memory disturbances, inability to concentrate, poor sleeping and eating habits and mood changes (this list is not all-inclusive). Those diagnosed with a concussion may have all, many, or none of the above listed signs and symptoms. Treatment of a concussion requires rest of both the body and brain and need uninterrupted sleep to ensure proper brain healing. Any activity that stresses the brain should be extremely limited: cell phone use (texting included), music, TV, video games, physical activity, reading and loud noises or bright lights. The physical therapists at Accelerated Rehabilitation Centers are experienced in treatments and proven return to activity protocols for concussed patients.

Information provided by Jenna Carpenter, Altoona Physical Therapy, 3160 Eighth St. S.W., Suite 1, Altoona, 515-967-4580.

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