Monthly Archives: February 2017


More than heart attacks: February is Heart Month Worldwide

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February is Heart Month worldwide. While heart attacks and cardiovascular disease prevention in particular may be what topics spring to mind this time of year, there are other types of heart disease to consider that may not be as much in the forefront of the awareness spotlight as February comes to a close.
Of course, taking the many steps—exercise, good nutrition, and regular medical care including blood pressure and heart checkups—to prevent heart disease or catch it early are very important. These are things we need to be aware of year-round, not just in February! However, there are other types of heart disease that go beyond the heart attack or cardiovascular arrest that springs to mind when we talk about heart disease.
Congenital heart defects (CHDs) are a type of heart problem that are present at birth. CHDs are not curable and may or may not be treatable with surgery or medication—some people have lifelong symptoms, need multiple surgeries or require a heart transplant; others—like myself—receive medical intervention. (In my case, I simply received a dose of medicine that prompted the hole that allows blood to bypass the unborn baby’s lungs to close as it should have). A young person is not usually the first person we think of when we hear heart disease, but 8 in 1000 babies born in the UK have a CHD [1]. 250,000 adults in the UK live with a CHD [1]. Most people with congenital heart defects should wear a medical ID bracelet or necklace identifying their CHD.
Other types of heart disease include genetic diseases, cardiomyopathy [2] (weakening of the heart muscle that makes it have to work very hard to continue to pump oxygenated blood around the body), angina (pain in the chest that may or may not precipitate a heart attack), heart failure (from a variety of causes, including heart attack, CHD, heart valve or rhythm problems—arrhythmias), high blood pressure, and more [2]. Not all of these conditions can be prevented, however, the better health you are in, the better chances you have of making a strong recovery in the event you are affected by heart disease. This is why the steps to prevention are so important. A friend of mine’s dad had a major heart attack several years ago: he walked daily prior to his heart attack, and got to the hospital as quickly as possible (especially given he was on the highway!) once he realized something was not right. It was not long before he was again circling the block with his wife, going farther and farther as the weeks went on: to see him even just two years later, you would never guess what he had been through; the only sign is—if you know what to look for–the nitroglycerin that he is sure to carry in a leather pouch around his neck.
If you have heart disease, wearing a medical ID bracelet or necklace is usually recommended to ensure that your condition is treated correctly and promptly, either expediting or omitting unnecessary tests once your heart condition is communicated. If you are prescribed a blood thinner, blood thinner medical identification should be worn, such as a medical bracelet for warfarin, the most common anticoagulant (blood-clot stopper) in the UK [3]. You can check out our custom engraved medial ID bracelets at the My Identity Doctor shop—hand packed with lots of love by Burton the shop pup!

What is Encephalitis and Can You Spot It?

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The answer is, probably not! The tricky thing about the rare and serious condition encephalitis, in which the brain swells, is that it can look a lot like the flu [1]. It is more likely to affect the very young or very old, however, anyone can be affected. [1] Symptoms may look like the flu but do not always—if confusion or disorientation, personality or behaviour changes, difficulty speaking, muscle weakness or inability to move in some parts of the body, seizures or loss of consciousness occur, especially in the presence of flu-like symptoms, medical attention should be sought immediately. [1] Encephalitis might be caused by viruses, like herpes simplex or chicken pox, and more rarely, bacterial or fungal infections. An immune reaction in which the immune system attacks the brain causing it to become inflamed may also be the cause of encephalitis—or, the cause may not be able to be determined. [1] Encephalitis is NOT contagious, though in some areas, it may be preventable by keeping vaccines up to date including the MMR vaccine, and other travel-specific vaccines including the rabies vaccine when in areas with limited medical care access, the Japanese encephalitis vaccine for travellers visiting at-risk parts of Asia, the tick-borne encephalitis vaccine for travel in some parts of Europe (outside the UK). [1]
Encephalitis is treated similarly to many severe infections: antiviral medications, steroids to reduce swelling, immune system treatments if this is deemed to be the cause of the swelling, pain or fever reducers, seizure medications, antibiotics and anti-fungal medications, and respiratory support just as in severe flu cases, which may include need for a ventilator or oxygen [1]. Treatment depends on the severity and type of infection, and can range from days to weeks. [1] Even after the encephalitis has been treated, the symptoms may not completely go away. Some people may, with work, make a full recovery, but others may never completely recover. Some after-effects or complications of encephalitis include memory problems, personality and behavioural changes, executive function issues including issues with attention, concentration, problem solving and planning, seizures, and ongoing fatigue [1].
Most people do not know what encephalitis is, or do not know what it is until a family member or friend becomes affected. February 22 is World Encephalitis Day—and a reminder if “flu like symptoms” seem like they are too much to handle, it is time to visit A&E or call for an ambulance—it is best to be on the safe side, or receive treatment as early as possible. Those living with after-effects of encephalitis should consider wearing medical ID, especially if they experience memory loss, confusion, or seizures, for peace of mind.

When winter cold can be a literal pain, not just an inconvenience: Raynaud Awareness Month

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Raynaud Syndrome, also known as Raynaud Phenomenon when it is secondary to another diagnosis, makes a person’s limbs/extremities overly sensitive to cold temperatures, because of hypersensitivity of the tiny blood vessels in the fingers (and toes, as well as a person’s ears, nose and even nipples). Raynaud’s most often causes the affected body part to change colours—either decreasing the colour (turning white) to changing to blue or red (and not just a “pinkish”-red!) [1], Attacks of Raynaud syndrome can be uncomfortable and even painful, and can make using the hands very difficult for fine-motor tasks.
The cause of Raynaud Syndrome is not known, but sometimes it is caused by another medical condition (known as Secondary Raynaud’s)—this is often caused by an autoimmune disease, scleroderma and lupus being the most common, [1] but also including type 1 diabetes or autoimmune arthritis. Secondary Raynaud’s can cause more severe complications, like ulcers of the affected body part, and should be followed-up on regularly with your doctor. Primary Raynaud’s is usually mild and without other complications. [1] If you have another condition that has brought on Secondary Raynaud’s, it is likely important to wear medical ID jewelry for your autoimmune condition.
People with Raynaud’s Syndrome should protect their hands from injury and cold temperature, keep warm when outdoors (especially if working outdoors), and exercise/massage fingers on work breaks [2]. Many specific precautions can be used with vibrating tools as these can trigger Raynaud’s symptoms, although if undiagnosed, medical attention should be sought before continuing work with these devices. [2] While cold is the primary trigger of Raynaud symptoms, strong emotions like stress and anxiety are also known to cause symptoms as adrenaline produced in response to these emotions may limit blood flow. [2]
Remember, most of the time, Raynaud’s is not dangerous even if uncomfortable. However, if you have an autoimmune condition that has lead to secondary Raynaud’s, wearing a medical ID to identify this condition may be important in an emergency.

World Cancer Day: We’re aware–now what?

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Today is World Cancer Day. Chances are you know someone who has gone through treatment for cancer—in the UK 960 people are diagnosed with cancer each day on average [1]. The good news is that 41% of cancers diagnosed in the UK are preventable, and 50% of people diagnosed with cancer survive for ten years or more after diagnosis—this statistic is for 2010-2011 [1], so we can reasonably presume that these numbers will only continue to rise with medical advances available to us, and new clinical trials continually in development for treatment of various cancers.
Undergoing cancer treatment is not easy—chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery, or a combination of two or all three, are usually required to treat cancer. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy both have side effects that can vary in intensity, and surgery to remove cancer may have to remove healthy parts of the body as well, or alter how the body functions, which will remain with the individual throughout their life. Some cancers will have more specific treatments, such as bone marrow or stem cell transplant for blood and marrow cancers (leukaemia and lymphoma, for example).
We are all aware of cancer, so this World Cancer Day, learn someone’s story. Whether that is a friend or family member who has or had cancer and you are not familiar with their story, ask if they are comfortable telling you more about their experience. If you are fortunate enough to not know anyone personally who has experienced cancer, check out the My Identity Doctor US Blog for an interview from Janet, who has been living with lung cancer since 2011, as she shares about being a non-smoker with lung cancer, about clinical trials that have changed her life, and how she has chosen to advocate for all lung cancer patients since her diagnosis. Check over at our US Blog site, as her interview will be up in February!
If you or someone you know has experienced
cancer, the treatments you take or have taken may make it critical to wear a cancer medical ID bracelet or necklace, to ensure the best, most appropriate care in an emergency. If you are in a clinical trial, it is important to ensure that the trial coordinator or pharmaceutical company is contacted if you are experiencing negative side effects: alongside cancer, it may be important to engrave “clinical trial participant” on your medical ID bracelet as well—ask your team what is best for you.
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