Thursday, 24 December 2009

A critical view on "toxins"

If you read some alternative medicine web sites, you'll here talk of "toxins" and special natural products that can remove them and "cleanse" you through and through. Strangely, I always thought that the job of the liver and kidneys had something to do with that sort of thing. And like me, a real scientist, some people take objection to those magical "cleansers". So it was refreshing to read the article Toxins: the new evil humours, with a nice explanation of how this sort of idea first originated - in a time when the causes of illnesses were simply not understood - a time of "bad airs".

To quote the article, "The preoccupation with “toxins” is a direct lineal descendant of the obsession with evil humours and miasmas as causes of disease." Invisible scary things that threatened people, a bit like ghosts or evil spirits or demons. Something that was disproved when science advanced a bit out of the dark ages. The invention of the microscope helped reveal microbes, and support the germ theory of disease.

To quote again from the article, "The height of inanity is the belief in “detoxifying” diets and colon cleansing. The human body does not produce “toxins.” That’s just a superstition of the “alternative” health community. The waste products produced by the human body are easily metabolized by organs such as the liver, and excreted by organs particularly designed for that purpose such as the kidneys."

Do have a read of this article.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Home Diaylsis Unit on U.S. TV

Well, we thought we'd experiment with video links for a change.

This broadcast covers the possible approval and introduction of a small portable home dialysis machine. It lasts for 2 mins 45 secs. It might also be interesting for those who have never seen a full size dialysis machine.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

West Nile Virus Infection Creates Kidney Problems

Research to be published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases in January 2010 shows that patients who have had the West Nile virus may find it lingering in their kidneys several years after their initial infection. This has the potential to cause kidney problems at a later date.

The researchers from the University of Texas found that 20% of patients they examined tested positive several years after being infected. Previously it was thought that individuals only remained infected for the first few days of their illness. They feel that the health impact of this result could be considerable, and are currently investigating what long term problems are caused by this. Five participants in the study died due to kidney failure, during the seven years over which the project was carried out.

The virus is not, as the name might suggest, an infection that you will only get in Africa or Egypt, it was detected in the United States as far back as 1999. So if you have had this disease, a visit to your doctor for a kidney check-up might be a good idea.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Portable Dialysis Machine

We've probably all read somewhere news items about portable dialysis machines, but they seem to come to fruition. This one looks a bit more promising.

Dr Victor Gura, a physician at UCLA's David Goffen School of Medicine has produced a wearable dialysis belt, weighing in at around 10 pounds, powered by 9 volt batteries which, he claims, will enable patients to walk around while undergoing dialysis.

You can read about this at DOTmedNews. This was reported on several sites, back in August, but as we are new to this blogging thing, we decided to cover a few bits of news we felt were important enough to mention again. Especially as clinical trials of the device should be under way soon.

An abstract of the original publication at the American Journal of Nephrology is also available.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Woman on dialysis gives birth

We nearly missed this bit of news from last month, but decided to report it away, as it is a nice story.

Julianne Lewtas, from Hartcliffe, Bristol, UK, has kidney failure and is on dialysis. She was told that if she became pregnant she risked having a miscarriage or even death. So the 20-year-old, quite naturally, took the contraceptive pill. And then, in what must have been a bit of a surprise to say the least, she discovered she was expecting a baby.

Initially she just thought she was putting on weight, perhaps due to water retention (a common problem for those on dialysis). She felt some pains in her stomach area and her partner gently massaged the area to relieve the discomfort. Then, to his surprise, he felt something move under his hand. But Julianne hadn't suffered from morning sickness, one of the commonest clues to being pregnant.

A home pregnancy test proved positive, so she visited the doctor a few days later and a scan showed she was indeed pregnant. As the scan showed the baby was small, it was delivered four weeks later by Caesarean on October 29, and young Gene weighed in at 4lbs 7ozs. The hospital staff considered this such an unusual event for a woman on dialysis that they actually videoed it.

This is the press release announcing the good news.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Vitamin E help fight muscle cramps during dialysis

Muscle cramps are an unfortunate side effect of hemodialysis - as many as 20% of patients complain of cramps, and often the session is stopped early due to this problem. But help may be at hand now.

Recently published research from Coney Island Hospital, Brooklyn, shows that Vitamin E is a effective in relieving cramps. They examined a group of patients of various ages who had all proved to be susceptible to cramps during their dialysis sessions. The result? they report a 68.3% reduction in cramp attacks. This is a significant result, and if cramp attacks are a problem for you, it may be worth bringing this to your doctor's attention.

This was a small study, in terms of the number of patients participating, but it is still an encouraging result. Hopefully it will be repeated with a much larger sample size, which is necessary for all treatments. But with no side effects reported, it looks a promising form of relieve for those who suffer from this problem.

Anemia Drug May Raise Stroke Risk in Kidney Patients

We came across this report just recently. Obviously kidney patients need to be aware of this sort of potential problem.

The online news site US News - HealthDay covered, on 31st October 2009, a scientific study that suggests that use of the anemia drug Aranesp should be reserved for the most seriously ill of kidney patients. It claims that the drug appears to double the risk of a stoke in patients with diabetes and kidney disease, and yet it doesn't seem to improve the quality of their life. This is based on research published in the Oct. 30 online edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, by Dr. Marc A. Pfeffer, a professor of medicine in the cardiovascular division of Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston