Category Archives: Illness

New Biology – Are Science And Spirituality More Interlinked Than We Think? PART II

Additionally, many would presume that diseases spur either from toxins, or as a result of inherited genes. This is not the case. Only 5% of diseases are hereditary, the majority instigating as a result of the mind. Consider the following:

A man found a black mark on his neck; he thought nothing of it. 22 years later, that black mark remained and a companion of his told him that it was a sign of lung cancer. He went to get it checked out. His friend had been right. He died two weeks later.

Is there not something to say here? The misfortune of lung cancer is put upon a man, who is only diagnosed 22 years later. He manages to lead a happy life in oblivion to his illness, but upon hearing the bad news, negative thoughts and fields of energy begin to take over, perhaps even become programmed into his subconscious mind in the limited time of 14 days. It is most likely that he so strongly believed that he would die very soon of the cancer that it became a truth, so much so that his body gave up the fight two weeks later.

When an individual says that they will get breast cancer because they have inherited the gene, this is strictly untrue. A predisposition to cancer means that the gene, which will most likely lead to the illness is present, however it does not guarantee the presence of said illness in the individual. If what the individual had said were true, why then, did they not begin to develop breast cancer from the moment they were born? The gene was not activated. And if it has been proven that the largest cause of disease is the mind, is it not dangerous to presume that one will get cancer if one has “the gene for it”? Perhaps the man with lung cancer would have died much later had he never found out.

Now, I do not mean to throw you off track by giving a very small introduction to physics, as I am no physicist myself. The two theories of physics that I want to discuss are Newtonian physics (Newton) and Quantum mechanics (Einstein). Newtonian physics is something that most biologists are very fond of, and essentially what they abide by. It focuses on all material things – matter. This is a very straightforward and clear way of thinking, whereby one step follows the next, and where anything that isn’t physical is ignored. Quantum physics, on the other hand, concentrates on the concept that all things are made up of three miniscule particles: protons, electrons and neutrons. These particles are waves of energy, and are therefore invisible. Quantum physics interlinks many different concepts and theories so that, contrarily to Newtonian attitude, there is no clear and strict direction of thought to be followed – it is holistic. So whereas Newtonian physics focuses on all solid, material and visible things, quantum mechanics focuses on energy; what is invisible. Is it fair to decipher our universe and everything on it by ignoring what it is principally made up of (energy)? The New Biology shows us that there will continue to be gaps in our knowledge and limits to our research unless we begin to consider quantum mechanics.

If we were to follow the line of quantum mechanics, for this purpose, we can conclude that every separate entity is in fact merged to create one complex system (reference to Gaia’s hypothesis, Lovelock 1965). Hence one entity affects the next and so on and so forth. The energy, thoughts and signals, emanated by one enter the next.

To conclude, if our brain and our environment control our cells so much more than we thought, but perhaps much less consciously than we thought, should we not be putting much more effort into the state of our mind and the state of our environment in order to maintain a healthy life with a flourishing community of cells? Perhaps the Western society of today places too much emphasis on pharmaceutical companies and not enough in what we consider to be Eastern remedies – those that are more spiritual and concentrate fundamentally on the self-renewal of cells.

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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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Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome

Parents are usually thought of as the people who will protect you from harm, right?

The usual assumption is that the person taking care of you will do just that, take care of you. A good parent tries their best to protect their child from harm, and to many parents the mere thought of their child suffering from an illness worries them, and if they could they would stop such a thing from ever happening. When a baby is born, parents pray for the doctors to say the words “healthy” following the delivery.

People are quick to judge a good parent from a bad parent.  Adverts from the NSPCC and stories of child abuse constantly remind us that there are children out there who are not being taking care of as they should be.

However, one ought not classify a parent as good or bad from face value. This article is about Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome (MBPS), a fairly rare condition that is also a form of child abuse. 

MBPS involves the primary caregiver (most cases involving the mother) deliberately making another person (usually their child) sick by inducing real or apparent symptoms of disease in a child, and convincing others of the illness.

You wouldn’t expect a mother to enjoy their child’s suffering, as “to mother a child” is defined as raising a child with care and affection.

The reason MBPS is a form of child abuse is because the main care taker of a child wishes bad health on their child, and will often go as far as inducing symptoms in order to make the case more believable. The symptoms the child harbours may be disjointed and random, rarely associating with any one disease when all together.

The reason the mother will do such a thing is for the attention that comes with having a sick child. The attention, sympathy and compassion from nurses and doctors are what the mother is seeking. Many also believe that it isn’t just the attention that’s gained from the “illness” of the child that drives this behaviour, but also the satisfaction in being able to deceive individuals that they consider to be more important and powerful than themselves.

A sufferer of MBPS appears to be very attentive to their child, always by their bedside and caring for them. When seeing a woman spending every waking moment with her sick child we automatically see her as a selfless, amazing mother. We would never assume that the reason she is doing so is because she is waiting for opportunities where she can be alone with the child in order to tamper with their health further (by switching medications or injecting the child with urine to cause infections) in an attempt to stop them recovering/make them worse. We never assume the worst, which is probably the most dangerous aspect of MBPS.

Diagnosis can be very difficult, but can be expected to involve:

  • a child who has multiple medical problems that don’t respond to treatment or that follow a persistent and puzzling course
  • physical or laboratory findings that are highly unusual, don’t correspond with the child’s medical history, or are physically or clinically impossible
  • short-term symptoms that tend to stop when the perpetrator isn’t around
  • a parent or caregiver who isn’t reassured by “good news” when test results find no medical problems, but continues to believe that the child is ill
  • a parent or caregiver who appears to be medically knowledgeable or fascinated with medical details or appears to enjoy the hospital environment
  • a parent or caregiver who’s unusually calm in the face of serious difficulties with the child’s health
  • a parent or caregiver who’s highly supportive and encouraging of the doctor, or one who is angry and demands further intervention, more procedures, second opinions, or transfers to more sophisticated facilities

One of the most common causes of MBPS is the primary care taker having been a victim of child abuse when they were younger. They may have come from families in which being sick was a way to get love. The parent’s or caregiver’s own personal needs overcome his or her ability to see the child as a person with feelings and rights, possibly because the parent or caregiver may have grown up being treated like he or she wasn’t a person with rights or feelings.

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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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Troubled Minds – Four Stories

DISCLAIMER: contains vivid descriptions of self-harm

Troubled Minds is a series of powerful, BAFTA award-winning short animations from TeachersTV that illustrate 4 severe mental illnesses: Eating Disorder, OCD, Asperger’s Syndrome and Self Harming. They’re stories narrated by young teens who have endured the psychological disorders themselves.

Mental disorders are frequently overlooked because of their subtlety so these films were created with the intention of educating the youth about the vital concerns. Though most of us are very familiar with the basic facts about these syndromes, these videos are effective and thought provoking in the way they approach the message they want to portray; the videos allow an outsider to visualise the life of a person with the mental illness, allowing them to experience the isolation firsthand.

We were shown this once in school and the silence that followed really said it all.

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Bipolar Disorder Being Excessively Diagnosed?

This chronic mental illness, also known as manic-depressive disorder, has been getting recent media attention due to Catherine Zeta Jones being diagnosed with it (along with many other celebrities, including Stephen Fry and Russel Brand, already having it) and Charlie Sheen denying allegations that he’s bipolar, claiming he’s “bi-winning”:

Manic Depression entails a period of elevated mood swinging unexpectedly to a period of depression. The cause can be due to physical damage to the brain but is usually genetic; Lita and her 5 children have the illness – she explains how it is to deal with the everyday-struggle.

A recent article in the New Scientist told the story of Rebecca Riley, a 4-year-old who had bipolar disorder, overdosing on her medications and dying. It’s not known whether this was due to the parents giving too much to her deliberately or accidentally. This just added fuel to the already raised issues about the disorder being diagnosed too frequently, especially in children.

Mostly, the reason for overdiagnosis is because the symptoms, such as angst, low mood, deflated confidence, can be mistaken for the disorder. Though these are some of the symptoms, they need to go along with symptoms from the other end of the spectrum: elation, feeling important, being overactive. Another cause is the medicine for treating bipolar disorder is in high abundance which makes doctors more comfortable – they feel at ease with a problem they can solve.

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Congenital Insensitivity to Pain (CIPA)

A life without pain.

My first thought upon hearing this was ‘that would be incredible…’

I have two older brothers and a tendency to stub my toe and walk into things meaning physical pain is a regular occurrence in my day.

When watching an episode of House, a character was introduced who had Congenital Insensitivity to Pain with Anhidrosis (CIPA). They kept saying how she couldn’t feel pain, and I just didn’t understand. This concept was completely alien to me and I think a lot of people have no idea this disease even exists, so here is a basic run through of the facts.

‘Congenital’ means that it is a disease that has acquired during foetal development. It is an inherited disorder of the nervous system, which prevents the sensation of pain, heat and cold.

What one has to come to realise is that pain is our warning signal. It is the alarm bells in our head telling us something is wrong or screaming at us to stop a certain activity. For example, when I was younger, out of curiosity I placed my hand on the iron to see what would happen. The burning sensation I felt made me quickly withdraw my hand from the iron, as I wanted the pain to stop. This response is what one would expect. However, a child with CIPA would not register the heat of the iron or the pain from the burn. This means they would not withdraw their hand, resulting in severe third degree burns.

From this example you can see how dangerous this condition can be, especially for a child.  Such a child may play with an iron or fire, pull out their hair, electrocute themselves or break a bone because there is no negative stimuli telling them to stop. Devastating injuries can occur due to such a condition.

So far all I have said is true for any sufferer of Congenital Insensitivity to Pain, however, there is a slight difference between this and Congenital Insensitivity to Pain with Anhidrosis. Congenital Insensitivity to Pain is due to a mutation in the genetic make up during the formation of nerve cells, whose job is to send signals of pain, heat or cold to the brain. The Anhidrosis portion of CIPA is caused by the under activity of the sympathetic nervous system. The Sympathetic Nervous System is a branch of the nervous system that becomes active during times of stress.  CIPA is characterised by a person not being able to feel pain or extreme temperatures, as they are unable to sweat. A sufferer of CIPA therefore cannot register if they are too hot or too cold, and due to their inability to sweat, they cannot properly regulate their body temperature. Injuries crop up that could easily be avoided if only they were able to feel pain. Due to the body not producing sweat, during hot weather a sufferer is likely to get a fever, as they are unable to cool themselves down, leading to hyperthermia.

This condition is rare, with very few documented cases, however it is important to acknowledge how serious a condition it is. Babies born with it usually die before the age of three years old due to overheating and these infants are particularly susceptible to hyperthermia. Those who beat the odds and survive infancy are lucky to reach the age of 25.

The daily routine of a sufferer involves checks of every inch of their bodies, to make sure they have no blisters, broken bones or anything abnormal or out of place. This constant fear of injury is important as if one were to trip; they might fall and feel nothing.  However, this trip may have resulted in a broken ankle, which if left untreated can lead to an infection which can in turn lead to higher body temperatures allowing more harmful bacteria and virus attacks to occur causing mental retardation. In some cases, when infections or viruses attack, blood vessels can swell and cause aneurysms, all of which a CIPA patient will not even feel.

There is no real treatment for CIPA as most treatments are hard to narrow down for this condition because each CIPA patient may have other conditions including the absence of sweat glands, nerve fibers, ulcers etc.

And so I guess to conclude, although we all see pain as a slight inconvenience in some instances, the thought of a life without pain is an experience I could live without and more than I think a lot of us could handle.

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