Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Morning Drill: August 25, 2011

A collection of dentistry and health related links/comments for your day.

Coach Summitt Puts Spotlight on Early-Onset Alzheimer's
Alzheimer's disease is one of the most dreaded afflictions of old age, but the announcement by celebrated women's basketball coach Pat Summit of her Alzheimer's diagnosis at age 59 has put a spotlight on the less common, but perhaps even more devastating, form of the disease.

About 500,000 people in the United States, or about 5 percent of those with Alzheimer's, have early-onset Alzheimer's, also called "young-onset" because it's diagnosed before age 65, said Dr. Zoe Arvanitakis, a neurologist in the Alzheimer's Disease Center at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. Though rarer still, diagnoses among people in their 30s and 40s aren't unheard of, she noted.

"In contrast to what many people think, Alzheimer's disease does not only affect older persons. It can also affect persons in their middle adult ages," Arvanitakis said.

Symptoms for early-onset Alzheimer's are the same as for late-onset disease, experts said. Summit, coach of the University of Tennessee Lady Vols, told the Washington Post this week that she suspected her forgetfulness was a side effect of a rheumatoid arthritis drug, until Mayo Clinic doctors told her she was showing mild signs of the dementia.

Typically, early-onset Alzheimer's progresses more quickly than late-onset Alzheimer's, experts said.

Still, the time from which a person first has symptoms to the time they've lost so much of their mental abilities that they're truly disabled varies widely from person to person, said Dr. Gary Kennedy, director of the division of geriatric psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.

For older patients, that may be 10 to 15 years; for younger ones, time to disability is usually around five years, Kennedy said.
Vaccines largely safe, U.S. expert panel finds
After a close review of more than 1,000 research studies, a federal panel of experts has concluded that vaccines cause very few side effects, and found no evidence that vaccines cause autism or type 1 diabetes.

The report, issued on Thursday by the Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academies of Sciences, is the first comprehensive report on vaccine side effects since 1994.

Fears that vaccines might cause autism or other health problems have led some parents to skip vaccinating their children, despite repeated reassurances from health authorities. The concerns have also forced costly reformulations of many vaccines.

"We looked at more than 1,000 articles evaluating the epidemiological and biological evidence about whether vaccines cause side effects," said committee chair Ellen Wright Clayton, professor of pediatrics and law, and director of the Center for Biomedical Ethics and Society at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

"The big take-home message is that we found only a few cases in which vaccines can cause adverse side effects, and the vast majority of those are short-term and self-limiting," she said in a telephone interview.

The report was commissioned by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to help guide the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, which provides a pool of money to take care of children who experience side effects from vaccines.

The panel looked at eight common vaccines: the combination measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), the diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis (DTaP), varicella for chickenpox, influenza, hepatitis B, meningococcal, tetanus-containing vaccines, and the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.

These vaccines protect against a host of diseases, including measles, mumps, whooping cough, hepatitis, diphtheria, tetanus, chickenpox, meningitis and pneumococcal disease and cervical cancer.
Cardiac arrest strikes young and old athletes alike
New research from France suggests that young, competitive athletes account for only a fraction of sports-related cardiac arrests, in which the heart stops beating without warning.

Rather, most cardiac arrests may happen in adult men playing recreational sports, the study found.

The findings come in the wake of several sudden deaths on the playing field, such as Michigan high school basketball player Wes Leonard, who collapsed earlier this year when his heart stopped just moments after he'd sunk a game-winning basket.

In the new study, researchers documented 820 cases of sports-related cardiac arrest over five years. That works out to only four or five deaths for every million people each year, although the true rate may be higher than that, they say.

"We cannot transmit the message that sport practice is dangerous for health," study author Dr. Eloi Marijon, from the Paris Cardiovascular Research Center, told Reuters Health in an email.

Rather, the findings point to the importance of doing quick CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, when someone suffers a cardiac arrest, the French team says.
Survey finds hygienists feel unprepared to treat elderly
Many hygienists feel unprepared to treat elderly patients with special needs, according to a study in the International Journal of Dental Hygiene (August 21, 2011).

They mailed a questionnaire to 500 hygienists culled from a 5% systematic sample of dental hygiene graduates taken from four dental hygiene schools in Texas. Of these, 175 questionnaires were returned, for a 35% response rate.

The questionnaire asked respondents what degree(s) they held, how prepared they felt to treat the special needs of the elderly, if they were willing to work in alternative practice settings such as a nursing home, and if they felt additional education was needed.

More than 86% of the respondents said they felt somewhat prepared to treat the special needs of the elderly based on education, but 86.5% also felt more education was needed to better prepare them to treat the elderly. More than half said they would not be willing to work in alternative practice settings such as nursing homes.

"The average respondents do not feel fully prepared to treat the elderly with special needs, and they think more education is needed to better prepare them to treat this important target population," the researchers concluded.
Enjoy your morning!

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