Health & Fitness
New Imaging Technology Boosts Breast Cancer Detection PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 25 September 2014 21:23

092514h1By Keyvan Nouri, M.D. • Special to the Times

The best defense against breast cancer is early detection.

One of the most common tools we use to detect breast cancer is imaging, such as mammography or ultrasound. Advances in technology now allow us to produce highly detailed, multi-dimensional images, which improve cancer screening and detection.

Eden Medical Center is home to two of the most advanced breast imaging modalities available: magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and breast tomosynthesis (3D mammograms). Physicians can now use these imaging methods to detect cancer in its earliest stages through in-depth images that were not attainable before.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a noninvasive technique and does not involve exposure to radiation. Instead, this imaging test uses strong magnetic fields, radio frequency pulses and a computer monitor to produce detailed pictures of organs, soft tissues and bones.

A breast MRI is not meant to replace mammography, but is used as a supplemental tool for women at high risk for breast cancer or to help determine the extent of cancer after a new diagnosis.

Breast MRI can also be used to further evaluate abnormalities found in a routine mammogram.

Breast Tomosynthesis is another high-tech tool in the fight against breast cancer, a revolutionary technique approved by the FDA in 2011.
Also known as 3D mammography, it has enabled radiologists to view the inside of the breast layer-by-layer, helping to see fine details more closely, especially in women with dense breasts. These 3D mammograms have greatly improved cancer detection and helped to reduce false positives, which have decreased patient anxiety, expense and inconvenience.

During the procedure, multiple low-dose images called “slices” of the breast are taken at different angles. Like a regular mammogram, the patient is exposed to very low doses of radiation, well below government safety standards.

And, like breast MRIs, tomosynthesis is not a replacement for a regular mammogram. Tomosynthesis is a valuable tool for women with dense breasts because the images can minimize overlapping tissue. The technique is also used as a follow up to a mammogram because it can offer a better view of the size, shape and location of an abnormality.

Talk to your doctor if you have a family history of breast cancer, dense breasts or any concern about the health of your breasts. And, if further studies are needed, physicians at Eden now have two powerful tools available to diagnose and treat breast cancer.

Keyvan Nouri, M.D., is a board-certified radiologist affiliated with Eden Medical Center.

Dr. Nouri will speak at a symposium, “The 4-1-1 on Early Cancer Detection,” at Eden on Thursday, Oct. 9, from 7 to 9 p.m. For more information, call (888) 445-8433 or visit

CAPTION: Breast Tomosynthesis, also known as 3D mammography, helps radiologists see fine details more closely, especially in women with dense breasts.


A Reminder of Mental Health Services in Alameda County PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 25 September 2014 21:22

The high profile suicide of beloved Bay Area actor Robin Williams has refocused attention on mental illness and depression. Suicide is the 11th leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for the deaths of approximately 30,000 Americans each year.

From 2006-2008, Alameda County had 362 suicides, nearly 8 for each 100,000 residents. Under the Affordable Care Act, health plans through Covered California must now cover preventive services like depression screening for adults and behavioral assessments for children.

According to the National Institute of Health, many people with clinical depression never seek the help of a professional, yet the majority can get better with treatment.

Alameda County’s Behavioral Health Care Services has an extensive local suicide prevention program that includes access to a 24-hour suicide-prevention hotline, grief counseling, senior and teen counseling, and community education at

The “Know The Signs” statewide suicide prevention campaign is another resource at

Teens can text “safe” to 839863 from 4 to 11 p.m. seven days a week, and correspond about mental health issues ranging from stress, anxiety, depression, relationships or suicide. Teens will be connected to a local counselor to talk about what’s on their minds via text message.  

Other resources include Mental Health Association of Alameda County ( and PEERS at
For more information on the mental health benefits in the Affordable Care Act, visit

Do You Know Your Medicare Rights? PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 25 September 2014 21:20

By David Sayen • Special to the Times

As a person with Medicare, do you have any rights and protections? You certainly do!

You have rights whether you’re enrolled in Original Medicare — in which you can choose any doctor or hospital that accepts Medicare — or Medicare Advantage, in which you get care within a network of health care providers.

Your rights guarantee that you get the health services the law says you can get, protect you against unethical practices, and ensure the privacy of your personal and medical information. You have the right to be treated with dignity and respect at all times, and to be protected from discrimination.

You also have the right to get information in a way you understand from Medicare, your health care providers and, under certain circumstances, Medicare contractors.

This includes information about what Medicare covers, what it pays, how much you have to pay, and how to file a complaint or appeal. Moreover, you’re entitled to learn about your treatment choices in clear language that you can understand, and to participate in treatment decisions.

One very important right is to get emergency care when and where you need it — anywhere in the United States.

If you have Medicare Advantage, your plan materials describe how to get emergency care. You don’t need permission from your primary-care doctor (the doctor you see first for health problems) before you get emergency care.

If you’re admitted to the hospital, you, a family member or your primary-care doctor should contact your plan as soon as possible. If you get emergency care, you’ll have to pay your regular share of the cost, or copayment. Then your plan will pay its share.

If your plan doesn’t pay its share, you have the right to appeal.

In fact, whenever a claim is filed for your care, you’ll get a notice from Medicare or your Medicare Advantage plan letting you know what will and won’t be covered. If you disagree with the decision, you have the right to appeal.

You don’t need a lawyer to appeal in most cases, and filing an appeal is free. You won’t be penalized in any way for challenging a decision by Medicare or your health or drug plan. And many people who file appeals wind up with a favorable outcome.

For more information on appeals, you can read our booklet “Medicare Appeals,” available at Or call us, toll free, at 1-800-MEDICARE.

You can also file a complaint about services you got from a hospital or other provider. If you’re concerned about the quality of the care you’re getting, call the Quality Improvement Organization (QIO) in your state to file a complaint. A QIO is a group of doctors and other health care experts who check on and improve the care given to people with Medicare.

You can get your QIO’s phone number at or by calling 1-800-MEDICARE.

Many people with Original Medicare also enroll in Medicare Part D prescription drug plans. Here, too, you have certain rights.

For example, if your pharmacist tells you that your plan won’t cover a drug you think should be covered, or it will cover the drug at a higher cost than you think you’re required to pay, you can request a coverage determination.

If that decision isn’t in your favor, you can ask for an exception.

Ask for an exception if you, your doctor, or your pharmacist believes you need a drug that isn’t on your drug plan’s list of covered medications, also known as a formulary.

For more details, read our booklet, “Medicare Rights and Protections,” at
David Sayen is Medicare’s regional administrator for California.


Living with Irritable Bowel Syndrome PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 11 September 2014 11:15

Faulty communication between brain and intestinal tract is one cause of symptoms

091114h1By Vishal Ghevariya, M.D. • Special to the Times

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder that causes episodes of abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhea or constipation.

IBS is a chronic condition that needs to be managed on a long-term basis. The good news is that IBS rarely leads to more serious diseases and symptoms can be controlled by lifestyle changes, medication and managing stress.

Signs and Symptoms of IBS

Abdominal pain and discomfort is the key symptom of IBS, accompanied by diarrhea, constipation or a combination of both. The pain is often relieved by having a bowel movement and can sometimes get worse after eating.

Symptoms can also change over time, alternating between frequent flare-ups and periods when symptoms disappear. Other common symptoms of IBS include bloating, urgent need to use a restroom, white or yellow mucus in the stool, and excess gas. People diagnosed with IBS have these symptoms for at least six months.

Causes of IBS

It’s not known exactly what causes irritable bowel syndrome, but a variety of factors play a role.

Health experts believe that faulty communication between the brain and the intestinal tract is one cause of symptoms. The poorly coordinated signals can make your body overreact to the digestive process.

The opposite may also occur, where weak intestinal contractions slow food passage and lead to constipation.

Abnormalities in your gastrointestinal nervous system also may play a role. Unusually sensitive intestines can cause you to feel greater discomfort when your abdomen stretches from gas or stool.

Certain stimuli have also been known to trigger IBS symptoms, including:

• Eating certain foods

• Stress, anxiety or depression

• Hormonal changes, such as those occurring during a menstrual cycle

• Some medicines, such as antibiotics

• Gastroenteritis (bacterial infection in the digestive tract)

• Genetics

Managing Your Symptoms

There is no cure for IBS, but there are things you can do to help relieve symptoms.

Lifestyle changes, such as diet or reducing stress can alleviate symptoms. If certain foods set off or worsen symptoms, reduce or avoid them. It may also be helpful to eat smaller and more frequent meals. Getting enough rest and exercise can help reduce stress levels and positively influence IBS.

If lifestyle changes do not completely relieve IBS symptoms, a number of medications may be helpful, including antispasmodics, anti-diarrheal medications, laxatives or anti-anxiety medications.

There is some evidence that certain probiotics may help improve IBS symptoms. Recent clinical trials have also shown that antibiotics, which reduce or alter the bacteria in the gut, may relieve the symptoms of IBS.

When to see a doctor

It’s important to see your doctor if you have a persistent change in bowel habits or if you have any other signs or symptoms of IBS for an extended period of time.

Also, see your doctor if you have any of these additional symptoms which may indicate a more serious condition:

• Rectal bleeding or blood in the stool

• Abdominal pain that progresses or occurs at night

• Unexplained weight loss

• Anemia

• Fever

Dr. Vishal Ghevariya is a board-certified gastroenterologist and is affiliated with Eden Medical Center.

CAPTION: Abdominal pain and discomfort is the key symptom of irritable bowel syndrome.

Learn Infant CPR, First Aid PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 11 September 2014 11:13

091114h2The American Heart Association has created a new online course designed to meet the training needs of child care providers while also being a comprehensive resource for parents, grandparents, teachers, babysitters or anyone responsible for the safety of children.

What You Can Learn

Combining online and hands-on components, this one-stop-shop course teaches critical first aid skills, ranging from how to create a safe environment, to preventing injuries in the first place, to lifesaving CPR.

The course covers illnesses and injuries, bleeding and bandaging, allergic reactions and how to use an epinephrine pen, asthma, drowning, bites and stings, burns, choking, CPR, using an Automated External Defibrillator and how to help.

What One Father Found

“It is so easy to take a CPR course. And it is so important to do, so that in a moment of panic, you can still function,” said Eli Thomas, who was able to save his 2-year-old from nearly drowning, thanks to American Heart Association CPR training he took at a company-organized retreat.

The course is called Heartsaver Pediatric First Aid CPR AED, and it helps caregivers know how to respond to and manage illnesses and injuries in a child or infant in those first few vital minutes until professional help arrives.

More Help

For further advice about how to keep your little ones safe, go to

— North American Precis Synd., Inc.

Make a Checkup Part of Your Back-to-School Plan PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 28 August 2014 13:42

082814h1By Mika Hiramatsu, MC, FAAP • Special to the Times

Binder paper, pencils, backpack, maybe some new clothes, a pair of larger-sized shoes and… shots? This year, add a visit to your pediatrician’s office to your back-to-school checklist.

California law requires all children entering 7th through 12th grade to show proof of a Tdap vaccine this year.

“Tdap” stands for “Tetanus” (a paralyzing disease also known as “lockjaw”), “diphtheria” (a neurologic disease) and “acellular pertussis” (whooping cough). Acellular means that the cells of the whooping cough germ have been taken out of the immunization, which reduces side effects.

While most people know that tetanus shots are recommended every 10 years (the “rusty nail shot”), not everyone is aware of the current high risk of pertussis (whooping cough). There is currently a whooping cough outbreak in California, with over 3,500 cases and 3 infant deaths so far this year.

In 2010, 9,500 Californians were diagnosed with pertussis, and 10 infants died. It was the largest outbreak in 55 years. The surge has been tied to 1) the decreasing immunization of infants because of parental worries about vaccine side effects and 2) waning immunity in adolescents.

It’s a very good idea to make sure your child’s shots are up-to-date because whooping cough is a very serious, even fatal, disease. In Asia, it is known as the “100-day cough” because that’s roughly how long symptoms last.

When you bring your child to see your pediatrician, he or she will also check for other immunizations that might be due. For instance, the meningococcal vaccine is recommended for all children ages 11 to 12 years old. Meningitis is an infection of the tissues surrounding the brain. It can cause seizures and death.

Other immunizations your child might need include those to prevent measles, hepatitis A and B, polio, chicken pox, pneumococcus and human papilloma virus.

Right now, we also have a local outbreak of measles, mostly from cases imported from Asia and Europe. Roald Dahl, the author of James and The Giant Peach, lost his young daughter to measles.

It’s a good idea to ask your pediatrician for a complete checkup, including a full physical exam, with measuring your child’s height, weight, blood pressure and body mass index as well as performing eyesight, hearing and other necessary tests.

Concerns regarding vaccine safety, including mercury-containing preservatives, have been carefully studied and refuted.

Suggested links to developmental disorders, such as autism, are false, and some rumor-mongers have been charged with dishonesty and abuse. Unfortunately, delaying or avoiding immunizations puts children at unnecessary risk for serious disease or death.

A recent report showed that the childhood mortality rate for chicken pox in the U.S. has decreased by 97 percent since a vaccine was introduced. At the same time, the number of U.S. measles cases is higher than it has been in 15 years because of people avoiding immunization. For additional information, check out

Get your student ready for school by visiting your doctor’s office and ensure that your child is healthy and stays that way all year.

Mika Hiramatsu, MD, FAAP, is a board-certified pediatrician and affiliated with Eden Medical Center.

CAPTION: Immunizations your child might need include those to prevent measles, hepatitis A and B, polio, chicken pox, pneumococcus and human papilloma virus. Also, California law now requires that all children entering 7th through 12th grade show proof of a Tdap vaccine this year.

What Is and Isn’t Included in Medicare? PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 28 August 2014 13:40

By David Sayen • Special to the Times

Medicare helps pay for a wide variety of medical services and goods in hospitals, doctor’s offices, and other healthcare settings.

But it doesn’t cover everything, and it’s useful to know what is and isn’t included.

Services are covered either under Medicare Part A or B. If you have both, you can get many Medicare-covered services whether you have Original Medicare or a Medicare health plan.

Part A is Hospital Insurance and it helps pay for inpatient care in hospitals, skilled nursing facilities (not long-term care) and religious nonmedical health care institutions, as well as hospice care and home health care services.

You can find out if you have Parts A and B by looking at your Medicare card. If you have Original Medicare, you’ll use this card to get your Medicare-covered services. If you join a Medicare health plan, in most cases you must use the card from the plan to get your Medicare-covered services.

Part B (Medical Insurance) helps cover medically necessary doctors’ services, outpatient care, home health services, durable medical equipment such as wheelchairs and walkers, and other medical services.

Part B also covers many preventive-care services.

Under Original Medicare, if the yearly Part B deductible ($147 in 2014) applies, you must pay all costs (up to the Medicare-approved amount) until you meet the Part B deductible before Medicare begins to pay its share.

After your deductible is met, you typically pay 20 percent of the Medicare-approved amount of the service, if the doctor or other healthcare provider accepts assignment. (“Accepting assignment” means that a doctor or other provider agrees to be paid directly by Medicare, to accept the payment amount Medicare approves for the service, and not to bill you for any more than the Medicare deductible and coinsurance.)

You’ll pay more if you see doctors or providers who don’t accept assignment. And, there’s no yearly limit on what you pay out-of-pocket.

If you’re in a Medicare Advantage plan (like an HMO or PPO) or have other insurance, your costs may be different. Contact your plan or benefits administrator directly to find out about the costs.

Under Part B, Medicare pays for many preventive services (such as screenings for cancer and heart disease) that can detect health problems early when they’re easier to treat. You pay nothing for most covered preventive services if you get the services from a doctor or other qualified provider who accepts assignment.

However, for some preventive services, you may have to pay a deductible, coinsurance, or both.

If you need certain services that aren’t covered under Part A or Part B, you’ll have to pay for them yourself, unless:

•You have other insurance (or Medicaid) to cover the costs;

•You’re in a Medicare health plan that covers these services.

Services and goods that Medicare doesn’t cover include long-term care, routine dental or eye care, cosmetic surgery, acupuncture and hearing aids.

David Sayen is Medicare’s regional administrator for California. You can always get answers to your Medicare questions by calling 1-800-633-4227.

Studies Show ‘Screen Time’ Disrupts Melatonin Surge PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 14 August 2014 11:59

081414h1By Joanna Cooper, M.D. • Special to the Times

There’s a lot of talk about our “addiction” to technology. Aside from the impact of technology on our social lives, what if our cherished devices are bad for our health? When it comes to getting enough restful sleep, it turns out they may be.

The timing of sleep and wakefulness is controlled by two areas in the brain. One is highly sensitive to light and drives wakefulness, while the other (the pineal gland) secretes melatonin when the light dims in the evening. Thus we humans are programmed to fall asleep after dark.

We gradually tamed the dark, first by the use of fire, and later by electric lights. Now we have added another source of light stimulation, in the form of the various screens we stare into — often just before bedtime.

The National Sleep Foundation reports that 90 percent of Americans regularly use a computer, TV, cell phone or other electronic device in the hour before they go to bed.

The particular type of light produced by our technology screens is in the blue part of the light spectrum, the most active in controlling the timing of sleep and therefore suppressing the production of melatonin.

The light from our screens can delay our transition to sleep, even if we are engaged in some soothing activity online. But it’s more likely that our evening texting, TV shows or video games are stimulating in themselves, keeping the brain busy and wound up, and even causing adrenalin rushes instead of lullabies.

So, what to do about evening technology?

• Studies have indicated that an hour of “screen time” at night may be okay, but two or more hours can seriously disrupt the melatonin surge needed for sleep. If you do work into the evening, or use your computer for entertainment, consider switching to another activity in the last hour before sleep, at a minimum.

• If you must use a gadget with a screen at night, reduce your exposure to the bright light of the computer or cell phone by turning down the brightness in the late evening. There are downloadable programs that can help you adjust screen brightness based on the time of day.

• Keep technology out of children’s bedrooms (as well as your own.)

The American Academy of Pediatrics has taken a stance regarding technology for kids, advising that all electronic devices be removed from children’s and teen’s bedrooms, to ensure no late-night viewing or middle-of-the-night gaming or texting.

Their recommendations are concerned not only with sleep, but with rising obesity rates and childhood behavioral issues that may be tracked to too much screen time.

Dr. Joanna Cooper is a neurologist with Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation. On Tuesday, Aug. 26, Dr. Cooper will discuss the most current findings regarding the effect of electronic devices on our sleep. The free presentation will take place from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Claremont Hotel, Monterey Room, located at 41 Tunnel Road in Berkeley.

Pack a Safe School Lunch PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 14 August 2014 11:57

September is National Food Safety Education Month

081414h2With a little care and planning, it’s possible for parents to pack school lunches that are both tasty and safe.

For starters, parents are reminded to follow the basic practices of clean, separate, cook and chill to help reduce their family’s risk of foodborne illness.

When packing lunches to take to school or the office, keep the following food safety tips in mind:

• Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before you prepare food or after playing outside, touching pets and using the bathroom.

• Work on a clean surface. To prevent cross-contamination, always use a clean cutting board. Use one cutting board for fresh produce or bread and a separate one for meat, poultry and seafood.

• Rinse fruits and vegetables under running tap water, including those with skins and rinds that are not eaten. Dry with a paper towel.

• If lunches are made at home the night before, keep them in the refrigerator until it’s time to go. Make sure the refrigerator is set to 40°F or below at all times and use an appliance thermometer to check the temperature.

• Use an insulated lunch box, with an insulated bottle for hot foods or a frozen gel pack or a frozen juice box to keep perishable foods cold.

• Wash insulated lunch totes or boxes with hot soapy water after each use.

• Students and parents should never leave perishable foods out at room temperature for more than two hours. Toss any perishable food not eaten at lunchtime.

Since September is National Food Safety Education Month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the nonprofit Partnership for Food Safety Education are providing tips to help parents keep their children and themselves healthy.

For free stuff for kids, teachers and parents — such as worksheets and curriculum materials — visit

For more information on packing safe lunches, visit or call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at (888) 674-6854 or ask a food safety question at

— North American Precis Synd., Inc.

Make the Most of Your New Health Coverage PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 14 August 2014 11:54

By David Sayen • Special to the Times

If you’re one of the millions of Americans who recently obtained health coverage through the new Health Insurance Marketplace, Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance (CHIP), here are some steps you can take to make the most of your new coverage.

Put Your Health First

• Get your recommended health screenings and manage chronic conditions.

• Keep all of your health information in one place.

Understand Your Coverage

• Check with your insurance plan or state Medicaid or CHIP program to see what services are covered. Be familiar with your costs.

• Know the difference between in-network and out-of-network services, and the out-of-pocket costs to you of each.

Know Where to go for Care

• Use emergency department for a life-threatening situation.

• Primary care is preferred when it’s not an emergency.

• Know the difference between primary care and emergency care.

Find a Doctor or Other Healthcare Provider

• Ask people you trust and/or do research on the internet.

• Check plan’s list of providers.

• If you’re assigned a provider, contact your plan if you want to change.

• If you’re enrolled in Medicaid or CHIP, contact your state program for help.

Make an Appointment

• Contact your provider’s office and mention if you’re a new patient or have been there before.

• Give the name of your insurance plan and ask if they accept your insurance.

• Tell them the name of the provider you want to see and why you want an appointment.

Be Prepared for Your Visit

• Have your insurance card with you.

• Know your family health history and make a list of any medicines you take.

• Bring a list of questions and things to discuss, and take notes during your visit.

• Bring someone with you to help if you need it.

Decide If the Provider Is Right for You

• Did you feel comfortable with the provider you saw?

• Were you able to communicate with your provider?

• Did you feel like you and your provider could make good decisions together?

• Remember: It’s okay to change to a different provider!

Next Steps after Your Appointment

• Follow your provider’s instructions.

• Fill any prescriptions you were given; take them as directed.

• Schedule a follow-up visit if you need one.

• Review your explanation of benefits and pay your medical bills.

• Contact your provider, health plan or the state Medicaid or CHIP agency with any questions.

We have a number of tools available to help answer questions you might have about your new health care coverage.

You can find these tools at our Coverage to Care website, They include educational brochures and videos. Many are available in both English and Spanish, and more resources will be developed over the next few months.

Still have questions? Contact your insurance company directly or contact us at 1-800-318-2596 (TTY: 1-855-889-4325). Our trained representatives are available at the Marketplace Call Center 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

David Sayen is Medicare’s regional administrator for California. You can always get answers to your Medicare questions by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).

Lyme Disease Remains Difficult to Diagnose PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 23 July 2014 14:10

Spread through the bite of an infected tick, Lyme disease is very prevalent on the West Coast

072414hWhile the Centers for Disease Control recently announced that Lyme disease is about 10 times more common than previously reported, there are ways you can protect yourself.

The new figures showed that as many as 300,000 Americans are diagnosed each year. Because Lyme disease is prevalent and serious, health officials are reminding people about prevention and detection.

Spread through the bite of an infected tick, Lyme disease can cause rashes and flu-like symptoms, and it’s more common than you may think.

Lyme disease is most prevalent here on the West Coast as well as in New England and the upper Midwest, but it’s a nationwide problem since infected ticks are in all 50 states.

Despite its prevalence, Lyme remains difficult to diagnose because its symptoms mimic other diseases, namely the flu and chronic fatigue syndrome.

To reduce your chances of exposure:

072414h1• During the warmer months, avoid wooded areas. After coming inside, bathe and check your entire body for ticks.

• If bitten, tweeze. If you find a tick on your skin, use tweezers to remove it as quickly as possible. Grab as close to the skin as possible, then gently pull upward without twisting. Removing ticks within 36 hours of attachment reduces the risk of infection.

• Know the symptoms. Early symptoms may include fever, chills, sweats, muscle aches, fatigue, nausea, headache and joint pain. Sometimes, a bull’s-eye rash appears.

• When in doubt, get tested. Receiving a tick bite is rarely noticed. If you have symptoms, it’s risky to take a “wait and see” approach. The earlier you test, the earlier you can be treated.

For more information, visit

CAPTION 1: Doctors now have faster and more accurate ways to test for Lyme disease, so people can get treated sooner and more effectively.

CAPTION 2: Lyme disease is spread by deer ticks like this one.

Typing No Longer Linked to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 23 July 2014 14:09

072414h2By Eric Stuffmann, M.D. • Special to the Times

Despite heavy media coverage of the alleged link between repetitive motions like typing and carpal tunnel syndrome, several well-conducted studies investigating the causes of the condition have not shown any significant link between the two.

The actual cause of carpal tunnel syndrome can only be identified in the minority of cases. Diabetes, alcoholism, renal failure, rheumatoid arthritis, a tumor in the carpal tunnel and even pregnancy have been linked to the condition. In the majority of cases, though, no clear cause can be identified.

Although typing is an unlikely cause, there are other movements and behaviors that have been linked to the condition.

Frequent use of tools that cause strong vibrations in the hands such as a jackhammer and frequently performed activities with the hand, either flexed down or up as when turning a wrench at an awkward angle are both potential causes. There is also evidence that heredity may play a role.

No matter the cause, the condition can be treated and resolved by a simple 15- to 30-minute surgical procedure at a surgery center.

The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway in the wrist bordered by three bones and a ligament. The passageway is shared by nine tendons and the median nerve, which gives strength to the thumb and is responsible for sensation in part of the hand.

Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when excessive pressure builds up in the carpal tunnel, squeezing the median nerve. Numbness and tingling in the hand are the primary symptoms, but pain can also occur, and the symptoms can radiate up the arm.

By carefully cutting the transverse carpal ligament, a surgeon can relieve the pressure and resolve the condition. The ligament will heal, but the carpal tunnel will remain slightly larger.

For patients with mild to moderate cases, the symptoms will generally subside within two weeks of the surgery. Patients with more severe cases can take two months or more to find relief. If the condition is ignored long enough to cause muscle atrophy, though, some symptoms may persist.

Both traditional and minimally invasive procedures are available. Each has its own pros and cons, so discuss them with your surgeon and make sure you understand the differences between the two before making your decision.

Orthopedic Surgeon Eric Stuffmann, M.D., is a hand and upper extremity specialist affiliated with Eden Medical Center.



Weekly specialty items listings, garage sales, and much more!


Current Ads


If you would like to place a Classified Ad, call Patrick at 510-614-1558.

Biz Spotlight

Tell us about your local business, events, and special offerings. Where you make the news!


Submission form

Real Estate

Get the latest in housing news and services delivered to you in full color PDF.


Browse this weeks gallery