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Health Q&A

Posted August 15, 2012 in Advice Column, Grimes

Q: What is hypothyroidism?

A: Hypothyroidism results from the failure of the thyroid gland to produce sufficient hormone to meet the metabolic demands of the body. Risk factor for hypothyroidism include female gender, age greater than 35 and a positive family history of thyroid dysfunction. Common symptoms of hypothyroidism include fatigue, dry skin, constipation, weight gain, heavy menstrual bleeding, hair thinning, cold intolerance, depression, weakness, difficulty concentrating and menstrual cycle irregularities. It’s estimated that one in 300 Americans have hypothyroidism and 13 million Americans have undiagnosed hypothyroidism.

Diagnosis of hypothyroidism is made by checking blood levels for thyroid stimulating hormon (TSH), for those who have the symptoms mentioned above. Treatment of hypothyroidism is accomplished by taking a medication, levothyroxine, which a form of synthetic thyroid replacement. Occasionally patients will require a consult to an endocrinologist for further management. Untreated hypothyroidism can contribute to high blood pressure, infertility, abnormal cholesterol levels and depression. If you have a family history of hypothyroidism or any of the symptoms mentioned above you should contact you medical provider for an appointment and further evaluation.

Information provided by Grimes Family Physicians, 101 S.E. Destination Drive, 986-4524.

Q: What medications can be used to help me sleep at night?

A: Last month we discussed good sleep habits. This month, we will discuss the use of over-the-counter (OTC) medications used to help with sleep. You should first speak to your pharmacist about your current medications, because some medications can cause sleep problems. It is best to look for the cause of insomnia before starting a sleep aid. Many experts believe that a good sleep routine is just as effective, if not more effective than any sleep aid. However, there are some OTC medications that can be used as sleep aids. Some of these include  Benadryl (diphenhydramine), doxylamine and melatonin. Diphenhydramine and doxylamine are both antihistamines that are FDA approved for use as short term sleep aids. Melatonin is another option. The usual dose is one to five mg taken 30 minutes before bed. These medications are only intended for short-term use, and should be used while maintaining good sleep habits, to help you regain a regular sleep schedule. If these medications are taken, make sure to give yourself about eight hours of sleep at night to prevent morning grogginess. If you find these medications along with good sleep habits are ineffective, talk to your doctor. It is possible that a prescription sleep aid may be necessary.

Answer provided by Hy-Vee Drugstore, 1541 S.E. Third St., Suite 100, 986-4527.

Q: How serious are concussion injuries?

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.

Information provided by Jamie Elrod, ATC, Accelerated Rehabilitation Centers, 1451 Gateway Circle, Suite 500, 986-5190.

Q: How can I handle dental emergencies?

A: Just by knowing how to handle a dental emergency can mean the difference between saving and losing your child’s tooth. Below are some helpful hints on things to do in specific situations.
• Cracked or broken tooth. Rinse the mouth with warm water to clean the area. Apply a cold compress to the face to keep swelling down. Take your child to his or her dental care provider immediately. If possible, take the tooth fragment with you because it may be possible for your dentist to bond the fragment to the tooth.
• Possible jaw fracture. Place a cold compress to the area to control swelling. Take your child to your dentist or a hospital emergency room right away.
• Knocked out tooth. Try to keep the knocked out tooth moist at all times. Hold the tooth by the crown and rinse the root of the tooth if it is dirty. Avoid touching the root and do not scrub the root because you do not want to disrupt or remove any attached tissue fragments. If possible, gently insert the tooth back into the socket and hold in place by the crown until reaching your dentist or emergency room. If it’s not possible to replace the tooth into the socket, put it in an emergency tooth preservation kit, the mouth (next to cheek), milk, or water with a pinch of salt.

Information provided by Grove & Platt Dental Associates, PLC, 1541 S. Third St., Suite 300, 986-4001 and American Dental Association.

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