Author Archives: The Shorty

Tinnitus (Ringing Ears)

Have you ever heard a ringing noise in your ears, more than often it’s high pitched? The kind that irritates you but you simply cannot do anything to make it stop? This article will helpfully give you a better understanding of what exactly that is…

Tinnitus is the name given to this ringing noise.  It affects around 1 in 5 people and is a symptom of an underlying condition, for example an ear injury or age-related hearing loss. There are 2 classifications of tinnitus: objective and subjective:

Subjective tinnitus – the most common type of tinnitus; only you yourself can hear the tinnitus. It can be caused by problems in the ear or by problems with the auditory nerves in the part of your brain that interpret nerve signlas as sound.

Objective tinnitus – the more rare type in which an external person (ie your doctor) can hear the tinnitus when carrying out an examination. This could be caused by a blood vessel problem, muscle contractions or an inner bone condition.

Inside the ear are thousnds of tiny hairs, stereocilia. These vibrate in response to sound waves. There are then cells, which convert neural signals into tension on the vibrating basement membrane. A neural feedback loop (regulated by the brain) exists to connect the sensing cells with the vibratory cells. Your ears are very delicate; therefore things such as going to concerts and listening to loud music can destroy/damage the hair cells. Studies have shown that when hair cells are lost, different neurons are activated resulting in the activation of auditory parts of the brain and causing sound to be heard (such as the high pitched ringing).

When you are played a tone at an extremely high frequency, you may not be able to hear it whereas someone else is capable. When you are younger, you are one of the more capable people. As we age, more of our cells become damaged due to things such as loud noises and our capability to hear these loud noises decreases.

So, if you have ever wondered why you can hear that loud irritating noise after going to some mental concert, you now know why… Just be careful – destroying a few of your cells will not cause devastating damage. However, no one wants to become deaf due to self-infliction.

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The MMR Vaccine’s Rumoured Link To Autism

Upon carrying out work experience this summer at a local General Practice, something in particular which really interested me was how many people passed on the opportunity of giving their children the MMR vaccine, available on the NHS. The parents would say that it has a risk of causing autism and they would rather pay for the separate vaccinations to avoid this chance. Bearing in minds he separate vaccines are no longer available in the UK they tend to have to be specially imported from abroad in such cases. A nurse who I was shadowing was outraged by this and went on to explain to me how it all began…

 In 1998, British doctor Andrew Wakefield caused a huge uproar upon suggesting a link between the MMR vaccine and autism.  The MMR vaccine was developed in the late 1960s, it is a shot used for immunisation of measles, mumps and rubella. The injection is first given to children of around 1yr old and then at 4/5yrs old.  This vaccination works by containing the three live viruses and then injecting them into the body. This then allows for special cells called memory cells to recognise these viruses so that if the body is to ever come across them, a rapid response is carried out fighting off the virus preventing it from doing any harm.  Originally the 3 vaccinations were all given separately. However giving them all together as one vaccination had many benefits such as fewer injections for the child.

Wakefield was reportedly paid just under half a million pounds by the Legal Services Commission to build a case against the MMR vaccine.

Researchers have since been unable to confirm any link between the MMR vaccine and autism. This one man has caused such a controversy in the UK from his false allegation.  The coverage of the alleged links with autism and the MMR vaccine has never fully been recovered even up until this day there are people who believe that their children should not be vaccinated. Although there are overwhelming amounts of scientific evidence that there are no links – people fail to dismiss the rumour.  We all know that for science to be proven, it must go through the long process of the experiment being carried out and repeated and then the same results being able to be found by other scientists too. This was not the case for Wakefield whatsoever. Unfortunately, as a result this has led to an increase in measles and the sad thing is that a disease, which could be avoided, is still a risk for many.

Just to show how this suggestion still affects people, I came across something whilst reading the book ‘In Stitches’ by Dr. Nick Edwards. He has a chapter on ‘A weird rash’ in which he talks of patients who have not had the MMR injection and therefore going into A&E when it is preventable. He says ‘The MMR vaccination is not this evil autism-inducing injection that the media sometimes make us think. There is no evidence that it causes autism. However, there is evidence that if your child doesn’t have the injection, they are at higher risk of getting these illnesses. Today I saw a child I shouldn’t have. Have a proper think before you refuse your health visitor’s advice.’

PS. I would recommend reading this book, highly entertaining and informative for those future medics. 

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Children’s Craniofacial Surgery

A programme called ‘Children’s Craniofacial Surgery’ aired on BBC2 a couple of weeks ago. Upon watching it, I became extraordinarily interested in the concept of “what is normal?” – a quote taken from one of the Doctors in the show himself.

This is a programme which follows the surgeons of the Children’s Hospital Oxford and the young patients there who have disfiguring conditions. Surgeons, transforming both their quality of life and their appearance, can amend the children’s disfigurements. There were a huge variety of disfigurements in the programme and I was extremely intrigued as to how the surgeons went about the surgery in the ways in which for some cases, they would have to take huge risks in order to increase the benefits of the procedures.

A key factor, which made this programme quite upsetting and somewhat uncomfortable to watch, was how the parents had to deal with their children’s condition. Ultimately, a large majority of the surgeries the children must have are necessary for their survival but they also result in a potential radical change of their children’s features. Of course they know the procedure must be done in order for the survival of their child, but seeing the dramatic changes done to their beautiful child can be difficult to deal with.

Something else which greatly interested me from this programme, is that having a deformity can be life threatening, however other deformities simply have strong impacts on the visual appearance of the person. One of the patients, Harry, has Moebius syndrome, resulting in paralysis of the facial muscles preventing him from being able to smile. He decided to undergo ‘smile surgery’ to allow him to be able to smile. However, in cases such as Harry’s, he could survive without the surgery. This is a very fascinating topic as people often critisise those who have surgery for cosmetic reasons. However, people who have cosmetic surgery may feel the same way as Harry – uncomfortable with their appearance and therefore lacking confidence. Of course one could say that Harry was in more need of the surgery if you were to look at him and then at someone who for example wanted breast enlargements. On this note I think people need to consider the more psychological reasoning behind the surgery and not be so quick to judge. Surely if people are unhappy with how they look they should not be critisised for the number of times they go under the knife “irrelevantly”… Or should they?

Harry before the surgery:

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Cannabis – Is it actually as harmful as we’re all told? Afterall, it is used as a medicine…

Hash/kief/pot/solid/marijuana/grass/ganja/skunk – some of the different forms of cannabis. Smoked/eaten/drank… still has the same effect but what are these effects and why are we told cannabis is bad when in some countries it is used as a prescribed medicine to help people with chronic illness’?

Cannabis will make you “chill out”; make you all giggly and smiley. All your senses will be enhanced and your high will make everything seem different to how things are normally perceived. Cannabis has psychoactive and physiological effects when consumed.

The use of cannabis in medicine is very controversial, some say it has wide-ranging benefits whereas others say it is a potentially dangerous substance that can actually damage health. So what are the benefits/risks?

Claims have been made for its use in treating:Medicinal Cannabis
– Headaches
– Asthma
– Strokes
– Parkinson’s disease
– Multiple sclerosis
– Side effects of chemotherapy treatment
– Alzheimer’s disease
– Alcoholism
– Insomnia

Risks of taking Cannabis include:
– Damaged ability to concentrate
– Decreases motivation
– In teenagers, can affect psychological development
– Users can become anxious, suspicious or paranoid
– Increases risk of psychiatric illness such as schizophrenia
– Same risks as tobacco (if smoked)
– Dangerous addiction

There is some scientific evidence it may be useful, but the complexity of the substance makes it hard for medical research to be able to establish clearly its safety or efficacy. So, its effects are not proven or well understood. There are countries in which medical Cannabis has been legalised: 5 European countries, Canada and 15 US states.

This controversial debate over cannabis leaves one very confused as to whether or not they can have the cheeky joint to chill out or if the risk is too high for their health.  Scientists are always carrying out further research into the pros and cons of cannabinoids (chemical compounds in Cannabis) in order to try and conclude if it should be used as medicine.


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Comas – How can people be alive yet have no control over what they’re doing?

First, it helps to understand the basic functions of the brain:
 
 
Scientists believe consciousness depends on the constant transmission of chemical signals from the brainstem and thalamus to the cerebrum – neural pathways connect these areas and any interruptions to these messages can put a person into an altered state of consciousness.
 
 The difference between a vegetative state and a coma? A vegetative state is a type of coma – a person is awake but in an unresponsive state of consciousness. A person can go into a vegetative state after being in a coma. The difference is, patients in vegetative state may still have low levels of consciousness.  A comatose person is alive but is unable to respond to any stimuli or make any voluntary movement -> the brain is still functioning, just at it’s most basic level.  We’ve all seen people in comas on the television, and more than often they come out and completely recover. However, coma survival rates are unfortunately not as frequent as the television may make them seem… coma survival rates are 50% or less, and less than 10% completely recover.
 
How do people go into comas? A person can become comatose when something causes the brain to swell. Consequently there is added pressure on the blood vessels. Blood flow to certain parts of the brain is blocked, causing a deprivation of oxygen. As we know, the brain cannot function without a consistent oxygen supply and this results in certain areas of brain dying.
 
The Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) determines the degree of consciousness and impairment by adding up the scores from 3 sections: Eye Response, Best Verbal Response, Best Motor Response. The scores range from 3(very low – deepest coma) to 15(being normally awake and alert).
 
How do people come out of comas? There is no “cure” for a coma. Treatments can, however, prevent further physical and neurological damage. The speed at which a person comes out of a coma depends on the cause and how severely the brain is damages, just how the speed at which a person can become comatose can vary. One of the most important questions is, when a person is a coma in which they require a ventilator and feeding tube when do you decide to let the person die if they seem to have no hope?

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ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder – the most common behavioural disorder in the UK. So, how do we spot the difference between an energetic child, and one with ADHD?

You may wonder why I chose to research ADHD; in school there is always that person who finds the energy to run around and be bubbly whilst everyone else is dead from pulling an all-nighter in trying to complete homework on time. The child, who you may think is a “loser” for always seeming so enthusiastic in lessons, may just have ADHD…

ADHD causes people to have a reduced attention span, meaning they are very easily distracted. A sufferer of ADHD finds it hard to control their behaviour due to impulsivity.

There are many theories as to what causes ADHD, so here are just a few. Some experts say it is due to an imbalance of chemicals that transmit messages to the brain and partly due to the areas of the brain that affect behaviour in the ADHD sufferer are not properly working. Recent studies have shown that 80-90% of the risk for ADHD is genetic. Who knows what exactly causes ADHD in a person though? – Honestly, no one. Brain research shows a variety of different problems in ADHD, with individuals showing their own pattern of behaviour – perhaps explaining why there is no set cause or any known cure for the disorder.

Being diagnosed with ADHD means the child must have symptoms such as the ones previously mentioned and medication can be taken to help the child concentrate and be less troublesome. Of course, age restrictions and severity of the disorder are considered (doctors won’t just let some child go wild on drugs when the child could just be having a sugar high).  An example of a prescribed drug is Ritalin, which improves a child’s capability to focus (perhaps something all of us need once in a while). It helps some children more than others and, like most drugs, has potential side effects.

ADHD can be a life long condition. However, a child having ADHD is not the end of the world. A child with ADHD can be charismatic, dynamic, enthusiastic and creative – they are capable of anything just like any other child. Michelangelo once said “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”

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People with Disfigurements – Freak Shows?

Upon watching Beauty and the Beast, a new reality television programme produced by channel 4, I came to the realisation that people with physical disfigurements are seen as being “freaks” in the media.

In the UK there are more than half a million people living with severe facial disfigurements who aren’t accepted into society; they’re judged on their looks.  Alison Walsh, the disability Tsar for Channel 4, defended the show in The Guardian by telling the readers that ‘prejudice is the beast’ and that the series ‘declares war on that and on beauty fascism’. She states that Beauty and the Beast is being developed in association with Changing Faces, a charity that supports and represents people with disfigurements.

The true question is, do shows like Beauty and the Beast result in the viewer empathising with the people with facial disfigurements or open the door for entertainment by laughing at them? Beauty and the Beast could possibly be perceived as a freak show whereas Walsh declares the lives of disabled people being like “poetry”. Is it really poetry or good afternoon entertainment? Disabled people are not often shown on television, unless they are taking part in documentaries or shows such as this one. Surely this shows how people with disfigurements are still not accepted. Not to say that wanting to feel good is wrong, but the true “Beasts” are the ones who are so self-conscious they change themselves; people with disfigurements are more comfortable in their bodies than those who are “normal” and don’t need cosmetic surgery to boost their confidence.

Personally, I think shows such as Beauty and the Beast are ways for disfigured people to connect with people on an emotional level, to try and make their audience understand how they feel. They clearly understand the risk they take in viewers perceiving them as amusement instead. Perhaps it is worth the risk so they can be heard and maybe slightly more accepted into the vicious society of the modern era.

For more information, check out Changing Faces

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