Answers to Common Preventive Care Questions

Premier Physician Network doctors answer frequently asked questions about preventive care.

For a sore that will not heal, what could it be? And what should be done about it?

Dr. Block discusses sores that will not heal and what can be done about them. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

It can be common to have a sore that will not heal, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). These kinds of open sores are also known as wounds or skin ulcers.

Not treating a sore properly can cause it to get worse. The sore could get infected, which could harm nearby bones and other body parts or the entire body, according to the NIH.

There are four common types of sores that don’t heal well on their own, according to the NIH:

  • Venous ulcers – Venous ulcers usually happen in the inner part of the leg, between the knee and the ankle. These sores are caused by veins in the legs not working well, leaving blood to pool in the lower leg. The bottom of a venous ulcer is red in color, and the ulcer might have a yellow or white film over it. Most people with these ulcers have swelling in one or both legs.
  • Arterial ulcers – An arterial ulcer usually happens in the feet – between the toes, the tips of the toes, the heels or other spots where the feet rub against things. These sores happen when blood is not moving well through the feet, usually because of a condition in which arteries narrow because of fatty substances sticking to artery wells. These ulcers can be painful. They usually looks like they are sunken beneath the skin. The area around the sore can look yellow, brown, black or gray.
  • Diabetic ulcers – Diabetes can slow the healing time of wounds anywhere in the body, which can lead to a diabetic ulcer. This type of sore is usually on the feet. Diabetes can cause nerve damage, making it hard for a person to feel pressure and sometimes injuries. Diabetes also can cause damage to blood vessels, making it hard for oxygen and nutrients to get to tissue. Small cracks and cuts in the foot can go unnoticed because of the nerve damage, and those cracks and cuts can lead to a diabetic sore.
  • Pressure ulcers – Pressure ulcers are common and can develop quickly. These sores happen when an area of skin dies because of prolonged pressure. They are often called bed sores. Pressure sores can happen anywhere, including on elbows, the back, ankles, hips and heels.

Sores that won’t heal also have the possibility of being a sign of skin cancer. There are five major things to watch for to tell if a sore could be skin cancer:

  • Asymmetry (A) – Watch to see if the has a normal-looking border all the way around it.
  • Border (B) – If there is a border that is an odd color or different texture, that could be cause for concern.
  • Color (C) – Watch for color change. Whether red to black, brown to black or something else, color change can indicate a problem.
  • Diameter (D) – If the sore is getting bigger around, that can be a problem. Anything greater than about ¼ of an inch should be concerning.
  • Elevation (E) – Watch to see if the sore is flat or more lifted up above the skin.

If you think you have any of these types of sores or another type of sore that won’t heal, talk to your doctor. Treatment for a slow healing wound will be different depending on the kind of sore it is.

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What are the basic signs and symptoms to look for in a stroke patient, and what actions should I take to help them (or myself)?

Dr. Block discusses the basic signs and symptoms to look for in a stroke patient. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

It is important to know the signs and symptoms of a stroke so you can assess the situation and get help if you think you or someone you are with is having a stroke.

According to the National Stroke Association (NSA), if you think someone is having a stroke, you should act “FAST” and call 911 immediately.

“FAST” can help you remember the stroke warning signs:

  • Face (F) – Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
  • Arms (A) – Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one drift downward?
  • Speech (S) – Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?
  • Time (T) – If you notice any of these signs, call 911 immediately

In addition to the warning signs, stoke symptoms, according to the NSA, include sudden:

  • Numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Severe headache with no known cause

If someone you know or you have any of these signs or sudden symptoms of stroke – even if they go away – you should call 911 right away. The sooner you call for help, the sooner the person having the stroke can get to a hospital and the better their chances of making a great recovery, according to the American Stroke Association.

Two of three Premier Health hospitals are certified Advanced Primary Stroke Centers offering advanced care to foster better outcomes for stroke patients. Premier recently introduced the Telemedicine Stroke Network at all Premier emergency departments where patients can be examined via a computer linked to one of six on-call stroke specialists practicing at one of the system’s three hospitals any time of the day or night. This technology dramatically reduces the three-hour window for stroke assessment and action. Neurologists must assess, diagnose and treat a stroke patient within three hours of the beginning signs of a stroke for clot dissolving medication to be effective. The three-hour window is also important to minimize damage to the brain.

For more information about the signs and symptoms of a stroke, talk with your physician.

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What is a good way to get and maintain healthier looking skin?

Dr. Block discusses ways to get healthier looking skin. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Aside from taking vitamins, there are a variety of ways to take care of your skin to get and maintain a healthier look, according to the National Institutes of Health.

  • Keep it clean – Washing your skin is important to keeping it healthy. Wash with water that is warm but not too hot to keep it from getting too dry. Also, use some lotions to keep skin smooth.
  • Enjoy the sun, but be protected – Sun exposure makes your skin produce vitamin D, which helps keep your bones and other parts of your body healthy. But, too much sun can damage you skin, cause it to look old too soon and can even cause cancer. Anytime you will be outside, make sure to apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or 45. Make sure to reapply if you are in the sun for many hours.
  • Be active – Physical activity is good for your skin because it increases the flow of blood to the skin’s surface. Sweating helps flush impurities from your skin.
  • Eat a balanced diet – There is not a specific diet for healthy skin, but eating a balanced dieted helps provide a variety of nutrients for your skin.

For more information about steps you can take to get and maintain healthier looking skin, talk with your doctor.

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What is an electronic medical record?

An electronic medical record (EMR) is a digital version of the paper charts used at medical offices. An EMR contains all the same information your paper chart would, including information from your doctor visits, lab work, medical history and hospital stays.

Electronic medical records are an asset to providing good continuity of care.

Having your records saved this way will:

  • Allow the records to be available and organized
  • Allow easy, quick access to your medical history
  • Ensure your care as a patient is not overlooked or duplicated
  • Help your physician develop a long-term care plan

Through Premier Physician Network, patients can access their health information 24/7 through a secure, online connection called MyChart. By using MyChart, patients can manage and keep track of your medical appointments, prescription refills, lab test results, and more.

Talk to your physician to get an access code to sign up for MyChart.

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What preventive tests are recommended for adults?

Breanna Veal, PA-C discusses preventative tests recommended for adults. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

A variety of preventive tests are recommended for adults because they are a cost-effective way to find and treat potential health problems before they begin or get worse, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The preventive tests are right for you are determined by age, gender and health history.

Some common preventive tests and screenings include:

  • Breast cancer
  • Cervical cancer
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Hepatitis B Virus (pregnant women)
  • High blood pressure
  • Lipid Disorders
  • Obesity
  • Osteoporosis
  • Prostate cancer

Talk to your physician about which preventive tests are right for you and which ones to expect in the future.

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What does blood pressure measure?

Dr. Khatib discusses blood pressure. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Blood pressure is measured by finding two numbers – your systolic blood pressure and your diastolic blood pressure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC).

The systolic blood pressure is the measure of the pressure in the blood when your heart beats. The diastolic blood pressure is the measure of the pressure in the blood vessels when your heart rests between beats.

A normal blood pressure is considered anything less than “120 over 80,” which means a reading of less than 120 systolic and less than 80 diastolic, according to the CDC.

For more information about blood pressure, talk with your doctor.

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What are some simple changes parents and grandparents can make to protect young children from accidents around the house?

Parents and grandparents can take a few simple steps around their houses to make their living environment healthy and safe for young children.

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), some changes that can be made include:

  • Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home with every time change to make sure they are working properly.
  • Make sure cords from blinds or curtains are not long enough to be a choking hazard.
  • Use child safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs.
  • Make sure small objects that could be swallowed are kept off floors, tables and any other places young children can reach. Some small objects to make sure to keep out of reach include coins, buttons, batteries (especially button-sized ones), rings, nails, tacks, deflated balloons, marbles and small toy pieces.
  • Keep matches, lighters and other fire-starters in places high above a child’s reach.
  • Keep electrical cords and wires out of a child’s reach.
  • Cover wall outlets with safety caps.
  • Put child-safety locks on bathroom cabinets, kitchen cabinets and any closets or drawers where cleaning supplies and/or medications are kept to prevent poison hazards.
  • Cover sharp or pointy edges of furniture or fire places with child-safe bumpers to avoid injuries.

For more recommendations of how to make you home a little safer for young children, talk with your child’s physician.

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What kinds of information can a patient get by logging into MyChart?

Breanna Veal, PA-C discusses how patients can use MyChart. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

MyChart is a free service offered to patients of Premier Health that provides secure online access to portions of their medical records.

From the comfort of your own home, MyChart allows patients to:

  • Review your medications, immunizations, allergies and medical history
  • View test results
  • Request refills of your medications
  • Request to schedule, change or cancel an appointment

For more information how MyChart can help you, talk to your physician.

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What is MyChart?

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What can patients do to make their use of a patient portal more effective?

The best way for patients to make use of a patient portal – such as Premier Health’s MyChart, is to take the time to sign up, sign on, and check it out, according to the Premier HealthNet (PPN) physicians.

Sometimes, patient portal information can get easily lost in the shuffle of other important medical information from a visit with your care provider, but PPN physicians say it’s important to take the time to learn about and use the portal.

A patient portal has valuable tools that patients can access about their own health and health care anytime, anyplace. Logging in and checking in on your own information from time-to-time can help make sure you and your care provider are on the same page, PPN physicians say.

Talk to your doctor for more information about when how MyChart can benefit you.

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How soon are test results posted to MyChart?

The type of test results you are waiting for can determine how long they might take to be posted on MyChart, Premier Health’s online patient portal, according to the Premier HealthNet (PPN) physicians.

Depending on the type of results, they should be available in the following timeframes:

  • For outpatient visits – results of blood work and other lab tests are released to your account within 72 hours of being finalized
  • For outpatient/office visits – results of X-rays and imaging tests are released to your account within five days of being finalized. Allow one hour after discharge for these types of results from a hospital visit
  • For imaging studies – results will be only the interpreting physician’s impression of the study, which is a summary of the results. Your primary care provider will receive a detailed interpretation and will be able to review that with you
  • Pathology – with the exception of pap smears, pathology results are not automatically released to MyChart

If one week after having a test you have not seen the results on your MyChart account, contact the office that ordered the test to discuss the results.

For more information about MyChart and when you can expect test results to be available, talk with your physician.

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What questions should I ask my physician about preventive tests?

Your physician will recommend a variety of preventive tests for you throughout your life, depending on your health-status, age and gender. These tests are a cost-effective way to find and treat potential health problems before they begin or worsen, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Asking your physician questions about preventive tests can be the best way to understand them. Some questions you might want to ask could include:

  • What happens if the test has a false-positive or a false-negative?
  • What would the recommended treatment be depending on the results?
  • What are the benefits and risks of having the test?
  • How often do I need this test?
  • What will this test tell me?
  • When will I get the results?
  • Do I need a separate appointment for this test?
  • How do I find out what tests are covered by my insurance?
  • Do I need to do anything to prepare for this test (lab work, fasting, etc.)?

To understand your preventive testing, talk with physician about these and any other questions you have.

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What is chickenpox, and what is shingles?  

Dr. Nicholas Davis discusses chickenpox and shingles. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Chickenpox is an infection that is caused by the varicella-zoster virus. It’s most common for children younger than 15 to catch the virus, but anyone can catch chickenpox, which spreads easily from person to person, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

The most common symptom of chickenpox is an itchy rash all over the body. The rash turns into small blisters, then into scabs. Other symptoms can include fever, headache, tiredness and loss of appetite, according to the NIH.

Chickenpox usually lasts between five and 10 days, according to the NIH. You can help calm the itching with calamine lotion and oatmeal baths.

Shingles is a painful rash that usually develops on one side of the body or face. It is caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox, according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC).

Though shingles can develop at any age, it is most common in adults older than 60. One in every three people older than 60 gets shingles, according to the CDC.

The severe pain caused by shingles can continue for months or even years in the area where the rash started. The pain can be so bad it can become debilitating, according to the CDC. There is no treatment or cure for the pain.

Talk to your doctor for more information about chickenpox and shingles.

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What is the link between chickenpox and shingles?

Chickenpox and shingles are both caused by the same virus - varicella-zoster, according to the National Foundation for Infectious DiseasesOff Site Icon (NFID).

While the virus commonly causes chickenpox – an itchy, skin rash – in children, it can resurface years later, causing shingles, according to the NFID.

About half of the 1 million Americans to have shingles – a painful, blistering rash – each year are 60 or older, according to the NFID.

To learn more about the link between shingles and chickenpox, talk with your doctor.

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What are common complications of shingles?

The most common complication of shingles, according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC), is severe pain where the singles rash was on the body.

The pain, for which there is no cure, can be so severe it can become debilitating, according to the CDC.

The older someone is, the more likely it is for the pain to be severe and that they will have long-term pain – called post-herpetic neuralgia – as a complication even after the rash is gone, according to the National Foundation for Infectious DiseasesOff Site Icon (NFID).

Other rare but serious complications shingles can cause, according to the CDC and NFID, include:

  • brain inflammation
  • death
  • eye issues, including blindness
  • hearing problems
  • pneumonia

Talk to your physician for more information of the health complications shingles can cause.

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What is the shingles vaccination, and when would a person receive it?  

Dr. Nicholas Davis discusses the shingles vaccination and when to get it. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

The shingles vaccine is a one-time vaccine given to people 60 and older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC).

The vaccine is designed to lower your risk of getting shingles, and it also will reduce the risk of long-term pain if you do end up with shingles, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

The vaccine boosts the immune system and, in clinical trials, has reduced the risk of shingles in older adults by about half, according to the NIH.

There is no maximum age for getting the vaccine, and even people who have already had shingles are encouraged to get it to help prevent getting the painful disease again, according to the NIH.

Talk to your doctor for more information about the shingles vaccine and if it’s right for you.

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What should a parent do if a child swallows something poisonous?

Breanna Veal, PA-C discusses what to do if a child swallows something poisonous. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Keeping poisonous materials – including cleaning supplies, dish liquid, laundry detergent and medications – out of the reach of children is an important part of child safety.

But, if your child does ingest something poisonous, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends you follow these steps:

  • For a child who is collapsed or not breathing: Call 911 immediately to get medical help for your child.
  • For an awake, alert child you think has been poisoned: Call the nationwide poison control center at 800-222-1222, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Every poisoning is different, depending on the amount and type of poison, so treatment will be different based on the situation, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Talk to your child’s physician for more information about what to do if he or she comes in contact with a poisonous substance.

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What is the difference between UVA and UVB rays?

Breanna Veal, PA-C discusses the difference between UVA and UVB rays and how they can affect you. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Ultraviolet (UV) rays are a kind of radiation that comes from the sun. There are different types of UV rays, which also can come from tanning beds and sunlamps, and they can penetrate and change skin cells.

UVA and UVB are two types of UV rays. The differences of these rays are:

  • UVA – This is the most common kind of sunlight at the earth’s surface and reaches past the top layer of human skin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These rays can increase the risk of skin cancer.
  • UVB – Most of these rays are absorbed by the ozone layer, so they are less common on the earth’s surface than UVA rays. These rays do not reach as far into skin as UVA rays, but they can still damage skin, according to the CDC.

Too much exposure to UV rays can change skins texture, cause skin to age faster and cause skin cancer, according to the CDC.

Talk to your physician for more information about UVA and UVB rays and how to protect yourself from them.

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What advice do you have for preventing sunburn while on spring break?

Preventing sunburn is important to help prevent early aging of the skin and also skin cancer.

To prevent sunburn, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends:

  • Wearing clothing to cover and protect skin
  • Wearing a hat with a wide brim to protect your head and face
  • Wearing sunglasses to protect eyes
  • Using sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher and both UVA and UVB protection (even on cloudy days)
  • Avoiding the sun when the rays are brightest – between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Talk to your doctor for more ideas of ways to protect yourself from the dangers of getting sunburn on your spring break trip.

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What is a recreational water illness?

Dr. Khatib discusses recreational water illnesses. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Recreational water illnesses (RWIs) are sicknesses caused by germs spread by swallowing, breathing mists of or having contact with contaminated water, according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC). Chemicals in the water also can cause RWIs.

Contaminated water that can cause RWIs, according to the CDC, usually are found in:

  • Fountains
  • Hot tubs
  • Lakes
  • Oceans
  • Rivers
  • Swimming pools
  • Water parks
  • Water play areas

RWIs include a variety of infections including ear, eye, gastrointestinal, respiratory, skin and wound infections, according to the CDC.

Diarrhea is the most commonly reported RWI, according to the CDC, which can be caused by germs including Crypto, E. coli, Giardia, norovirus and Shigella.

Talk to your doctor for more information about RWIs.

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What are common symptoms for recreational water illnesses?

Recreational water illnesses (RWIs) are caused by germs spread in water, according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC).

Depending on the type of RWI, it can cause different types of symptoms. RWIs include a variety of infections including ear, eye, gastrointestinal, respiratory, skin and wound infections, according to the CDC.

The most common symptom of RWI is diarrhea, but other frequent symptoms include a rash, itchiness and pain, according to the CDC.

For more information about RWI symptoms, talk with your doctor.

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What are the most common sources for recreational water illnesses?

Recreational water illnesses (RWIs) are caused by germs spread by swallowing, breathing mists of or having contact with contaminated water, according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC).

The most common sources for coming in contact with water that can cause RWIs, according to the CDC, include:

  • Fountains
  • Hot tubs
  • Lakes
  • Oceans
  • Rivers
  • Swimming pools
  • Water parks
  • Water play areas

Contamination in these water sources can cause a variety of infections including ear, eye, gastrointestinal, respiratory, skin and wound infections, according to the CDC.

Some illnesses and infections RWIs commonly cause, according to the CDC, include:

  • Chemical irritation
  • Crypto
  • Giardia
  • Hot tub rash
  • Legionella
  • Swimmer’s ear

Just one person who is sick with an illness that causes diarrhea getting in a pool can contaminate the water with millions of germs, and it can lead to a number of these and other issues, according to the CDC.

For more information about sources of RWIs, talk with your doctor.

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What are the most common bug bites and their symptoms?

Dr. Khatib discusses common bug bites and symptoms. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Bug bites can become a frequent part of warm weather months, especially if you spend a lot of time outdoors, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

Some of the most common bites are from spiders, ticks, ants, bees, mosquitos and fleas, according to the NIH.

Though every bug bite or sting can cause a different reaction, according to the NIH, symptoms usually include:

  • Burning
  • Itching
  • Numbness
  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Tingling

It’s important to do your best to avoid scratching bites, according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC). Using hydrocortisone cream can help ease the itchiness.

Talk with your doctor for more about common bug bites and symptoms.

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Who is at risk for a severe reaction to bug bites?

Though most people have to deal with at least an annoying itchy spot after a bug bite, some people have severe reactions to bites.

Generally, people of Northern European descent tend to have more severe responses to bug bites, according to Premier HealthNet (PPN) physicians.

Having a lighter complexion and blue eyes seem to increase someone’s risk of having an anaphylactic reaction, according to PPN physicians.

Research is still being done, but according to the New York UniversityOff Site Icon (NYU), some studies suggest that these things might make someone more attractive to mosquitos:

  • Alcohol
  • Body temperature
  • Certain blood types
  • High levels of carbon dioxide in the breath
  • Pregnancy

The American College of Allergy, Asthma and ImmunologyOff Site Icon (AAAAI) also recommends avoiding perfumes and bright colored clothing because both are known to attract mosquitos.

For more information about who is most likely to get severe bug bites, talk with your doctor.

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When should someone seek medical help for a bug bite?

Dr. Khatib discusses when a bug bite should be concerning. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Most bug bites and stings can be taken care of with a little hydrocortisone to help ease itching.

But, sometimes, some people have much more severe reactions to bug bites, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

The NIH recommends calling 911 if you have any of the following symptoms from a bite or sting:

  • Feeling weak
  • Turning blue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling anywhere on the face or in the mouth
  • Throat tightness
  • Trouble breathing
  • Wheezing

Some people who have severe allergies to bites and stings are prescribed epinephrine auto-injectors to treat anaphylaxis, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and ImmunologyOff Site Icon (AAAAI). Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening allergic reaction that can include trouble breathing, chest tightness, swollen throat and vomiting.

For more information about when someone should seek medical attention for a bug bite, talk with your doctor.

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What are some of the most common causes of headaches?

Dr. Nicholas Davis discusses the most common causes of headaches. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

There are a variety of headache types, each with different triggers that cause the headache, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

Some of the most common headache types and their causes include, according to the NIH, including:

  • inflammatory headaches – caused by health issues that can range from sinus infections to strokes
  • migraines – usually triggered by a combination of things that could include bright lights, lack of sleep, lack of food, alcohol, weather changes, caffeine withdrawal, aspartame, and eating foods that contain MSG, nitrates or tyramine
  • tension headaches – stressful events in your life can cause these headaches
  • toxic headaches – these are the second most common type of headache and happen when someone has a fever from a disease

Talk to your doctor for more information about common causes of headaches.

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What are signs that a headache can be a symptom of a serious problem?

While having an occasional headache is no need to worry, sometimes headaches can be a sign of a serious health issue, according to the National Headache FoundationOff Site Icon (NHF).

Signs you should see your doctor because of a headaches, according to the NHF, include:

  • a persistent headache that gets worse
  • frequent headaches
  • having a headache with any of the following symptoms that you have not yet talked about with your doctor
    • confusion
    • diarrhea that continues
    • dizziness
    • fever
    • numbness
    • shortness of breath
    • slurred speech
    • stiff neck
    • vision loss
    • vomiting that continues
    • weakness
  • headaches from head injuries or head trauma that continue long afterward
  • headaches that come on quickly
  • headaches that make it hard to go to day-to-day activities
  • if coughing, sneezing, bending over, exercise, or sexual activity causes headaches
  • if the symptoms of your migraines change
  • severe headaches
  • taking more than the recommended dose of over-the-counter headache medicine
  • taking over-the-counter medicine for headaches more than two days in a week

For more information about headache symptoms that are concerning, talk with your doctor.

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What is seasonal affective disorder? What are the symptoms, and should I see my doctor for this

Dr. Mark Williams discusses seasonal affective disorder, its symptoms, and when to see your doctor. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Seasonal affective disorder – often called SAD – is a type of depression that usually only happens in winter, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

People who are at risk of having SAD typically experience the symptoms during the fall and winter, when there is less sunlight, according to the American Psychological Association (APA).

Symptoms of SAD, according to the NIH, include:

  • Hopelessness
  • Increased appetite and weight gain
  • Increased sleep
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Irritability
  • Loss of energy
  • Loss of interest in work and other activities
  • Sluggish movements
  • Social withdrawal
  • Unhappiness

Many people have some symptoms of SAD during fall and winter months, but not in an extreme enough form to be diagnosed with the disorder, according to the APA. People with a mild or moderate form of the symptoms of SAD could have something known as the “winter blues,” which is much more common.

If you think you are exhibiting symptoms of SAD and feel like the change of season is affecting you negatively, talk with your doctor. Your doctor will be able to help you determine if your symptoms are related to SAD or if there are other issues causing them.

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What is the difference between vitamins and minerals?

Dr. Mark Williams discusses the difference between vitamins and minerals. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Vitamins and minerals are both nutrients that the body needs to grow and develop, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Vitamins are organic substances, meaning they are made by plants or animals, according to the CDC.

Minerals, however, are inorganic elements, which mean they come from the earth, soil and water and are absorbed by plants. We absorb minerals from the plants we eat, according to the CDC.

For more information about how vitamins and minerals are different, talk with your physician.

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What are some steps I should take if I am considering taking a supplement?

A dietary supplement is a pill or liquid that, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), contains one or more of these ingredients: vitamins, minerals, herbs, other botanicals, amino acids, or a variety of other substances.

Before taking any supplements, it is important to talk with your doctor to figure out what types of supplements might best benefit you. Your doctor can also review dosage information to make sure you are getting the right amount of a supplement, according to the NIH.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has an approval process to test the safety of all medications before they are sold. But there is no law that gives the FDA the power to have the same approval process with supplements, according to the NIH. Once a new dietary supplement is being sold, the FDA has to prove it is unsafe before any restrictions can be put on it.

Reading the labels on dietary supplements is very important. The label is required to be truthful and is not allowed to be misleading, according to the NIH. So if there is a supplement you are considering, read the label closely, determine what ingredients are in the supplement and what the dosage instructions are.

And remember; be sure to talk to your doctor first if you are thinking about taking a supplement.

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What are biomarkers, and which ones help measure a person’s risk for heart disease?

Dr. Mark Williams discusses biomarkers and which ones help measure your risk for heart disease. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

A biomarker is a measurable substance in the body, for example an enzyme concentration or a specific hormone concentration, which can indicate certain diseases, infections or other goings on within the body, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The American Heart Association states that biomarkers can be measured by:

  • Blood urine or tissue samples
  • Recordings from a person, including blood pressure, ECG or Holter
  • Imaging tests, including echocardiogram or CT scan

Though there are 60 biomarkers currently being studied to find ways to predict the risk of heart disease, two stand out as clinically important right now, according to the NIH.

C-reactive protein (CRP) is the measure of inflammation within the body. The higher the level of CRP, the higher your risk for developing heart disease in the future, according to the NIH.

The other biomarker that stands out now is BNatriuretic peptide (BNP). This biomarker indicates there is swelling or edema going on inside the body for some reason, and the number can be used to determine whether the symptoms were caused by heart disease, according to the NIH.

For more information about biomarkers and how they can indicate heart disease, talk with your physician.

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What roles do biomarkers and lifestyle behaviors play in heart disease?

Both biomarkers and lifestyle behaviors can play important roles in your risk of getting heart disease.

Though not every behavior or biomarker causes an equal risk of heart disease, they do each have an effect, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

For example, your family history can be one of the foremost issues when it comes to risk of heart disease, according to the NIH.

Tobacco use is a lifestyle behavior that poses a major risk of heart disease, according to the NIH. Not managing diabetes well also can be a behavior that leads to a high risk of heart disease.

Other behaviors, such as obesity and stress, are still risk factors, but don’t create quite as high a risk.

As for biomarkers, two in particular have been found to place you at a higher risk of heart disease – C-reactive protein (CRP) and BNatriuretic peptide (BNP), according to the NIH.

Though there are another almost 60 biomarkers being studies for their relation to heart disease risk, no others have been found yet to have the same specific risk, the NIH states.

Talk with your physician for more information about how biomarkers and lifestyle behaviors affect risk factors for heart disease.

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Why is it important to change lifestyle behaviors to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease?

Choosing to live a heart-healthy lifestyle is the best way to defend against cardiovascular disease, which is the number one cause of death in the U.S., according to the American Heart Association (AHA).

It is important to change lifestyle behaviors because by taking simple steps to make more heart-healthy choices, you can reduce all the controllable risk factors for heart disease, heart attack and stroke, according to the AHA.

The AHA recommends following the cardiovascular disease prevention ABCs:

  • Avoid tobacco – Though it might seem difficult, it is important that you quit smoking and encourage others in your household to do that same.
  • Become more active – Commit to being physically active every day. Getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity at least five days a week can help lower blood pressure, cholesterol and weight.
  • Choose good nutrition – The type and amount of food you eat can affect risk factors within your control, including cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes and weight

Other changes you can make to help prevent cardiovascular disease include:

  • Limit alcohol
  • Lower high blood pressure
  • Manage diabetes
  • Reduce high cholesterol
  • Reduce stress
  • Strive for a healthy weight

For more information about why it is important to make lifestyle changes to reduce cardiovascular disease risks, talk with your doctor.

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What goes into helping a person change their lifestyle behaviors?

What goes into helping a person change their lifestyle behaviors? Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Changing a lifestyle behavior can be challenging, but taking the steps to having a healthier and happier lifestyle is always worth the effort.

By taking small steps to change lifestyle behaviors, you can prevent diseases and the need to take medications for a long time.

To help you stick with your lifestyle changes, the American Psychological Association (APA) recommends you:

  • Change one behavior at a time – Sometimes people have trouble sticking with health goals when they try to do too much, too fast. Picking one behavior at a time can help improve your chances of success. Once you are used to the first change, then you can start adding new healthy changes into your day-to-day lifestyle.
  • Choose a buddy – Having a partner who will listen to you and remind you why these changes are so important can be your biggest asset. For some people, this can be a friend or a family member. For others, joining a support group can help them stick with their commitment to change.
  • Find professional help – If you feel overwhelmed by your goals or are struggling to be able to meet them, it can be helpful to reach out to a psychologist, counselor or nutritionist to help you focus on next steps. The professionals are trained to help, and even a few visits can help you get past any emotional issues and find a path back toward success.
  • Make a plan – Determine what you want your end goal to be, then break that down into smaller, less overwhelming steps. Having realistic goals posted as a visible reminder can help you stick with your plan.
  • Start small – Don’t let your goal become overwhelming. If you have a long-term goal of, for example, losing 25 pounds in the next year, it can be helpful to break that down into more manageable weekly goals. Having small achievements along the way can help motivate you to keep going.

Talk to your doctor for more ideas about what steps can be helpful in keeping your goals of changing lifestyle behaviors.

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Are there support systems – other than medical intervention or treatment of biomarkers – which people often need to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease or help recover from it?

There are a few steps you can take to help reduce your risk of or improve your recovery from cardiovascular disease.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), lifestyle changes are the best way to lower your risk and help in recovery from cardiovascular disease.

Steps toward a healthy lifestyle, according to the NIH, include:

  • Being physically active
  • Following a healthy diet
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Managing stress
  • Quitting smoking

For assistance in some of these areas, it might be helpful to speak with a personal trainer, a nutritionist or a counselor. Getting professional advice can help you stay on track and accomplish your goals with your healthy lifestyle changes, according to the NIH.

And of course, talk with your physician for more steps that are healthy and safe for you to take to reduce your risks of and improve your recovery from cardiovascular disease.

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What is hepatitis? What are the different kinds, and how are they contracted?

Dr. Ravikumar discusses what hepatitis is, the different kinds, and how they are contracted. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver. While it can be caused by heavy alcohol use or some infections, in the U.S. it is most often caused by a virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC).

There are five different types of hepatitis – A, B, C, D, and E. The World Health OrganizationOff Site Icon (WHO) describes each type as follows:

  • Hepatitis A – Found in the feces of someone who is infected, this is most often transmitted by eating or drinking contaminated water or food. It is also possible to spread this virus through some types of sexual activities. This most-often affects people in areas of the world with poor sanitation.
  • Hepatitis B – This type is transmitted through infected blood, semen, or other bodily fluids. It can be spread from mother to infant, through transfusions of contaminated blood, and through drug use.
  • Hepatitis C – Most often, this is spread through infected blood used in transfusions and through drug use. It can also be passed through sexual activity, but that is less common.
  • Hepatitis D – This is an infection that can happen only to people who already have Hepatitis B.
  • Hepatitis E – This is passed through eating and drinking contaminated food and water. It is most common in developing parts of the world.

You can get vaccines to safely prevent hepatitis A, B, and E. The vaccine for hepatitis B also prevents the hepatitis D infection.

Hepatitis A, B, and C are the most common types in the U.S.

For more information about hepatitis, talk with your doctor.

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What are the symptoms of hepatitis?

Dr. Ravikumar discusses symptoms of hepatitis. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Though there are different types of hepatitis, symptoms for all the types are similar, according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC).

You might not have symptoms of hepatitis and might not know you’re infected. Symptoms for an acute infection appear from two weeks to six months after you are infected. Symptoms for chronic hepatitis can take decades to show.

Symptoms can include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark urine
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Grey stools
  • Jaundice
  • Joint pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

For more information about Hepatitis symptoms, talk with your doctor.

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How can you reduce your risk for hepatitis?

Dr. Ravikumar discusses how you can reduce your risk for hepatitis. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript.

 

Getting vaccinated is the best way to reduce your risk of getting hepatitis A and B. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C.

For hepatitis A, washing your hands and avoiding unclean food and water also can help, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

Because hepatitis B and C spread through contact with bodily fluids, avoid sharing items such as razors or toothbrushes, clean blood spills with a cleaner that contains bleach, and be cautious when getting tattoos and piercings.

You also need to practice safe sex and avoid drug use and shared drug needles or other equipment.

Talk to your doctor for more information about ways to reduce your risk for hepatitis.

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Why is self-care important with chronic illnesses?

Self-care is important for chronic illnesses because being healthy and living well doesn’t just come from your time in a doctor’s office or the medication you take, according to Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians.

Self-care means knowing what activities and lifestyle choices you need to do to help be the healthiest you can be.

It also means knowing your limitations and when to take a step back. You have to be sure you’re not putting yourself in a risky situation.

If you focus on good self-care, you can avoid costly hospitalizations and emergency department visits that would otherwise be more frequent, according to the American Academy of Family PhysiciansOff Site Icon (AAFP).

Talk to your doctor for more information about why self-care is important for chronic illnesses.

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What is a chronic illness, and what are the most common types?

Chronic illnesses are long-term health conditions that might not have a cure, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

Many chronic conditions, however, can be preventable, according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC).

Some of the most common types of chronic illnesses include:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Lower back pain
  • Migraine headaches
  • Stroke

Talk with your doctor for more information about chronic illnesses.

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How can you work with your provider to use good self-care for your chronic illness?

Working with your doctor to avoid self-sabotage can sometimes be the best way to use self-care for your chronic illness, according to Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians.

Learning what foods to eat and the types of exercise that can help you is a good first step.

Making small lifestyle changes – like taking small breaks from technology to find a few minutes of mental rest – can make a huge difference.

Become a partner with your physician to help identify areas of your life that you could do better using self-care, and find way to deal with barriers you’re facing.

Talk to your doctor for more information about how they can work with you to help you use better self-care.

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What is a viral outbreak?

A virus is one type of infectious disease. It feeds off the person or thing it has infected and replicates itself using the host’s own cells, according to Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians.

With a viral outbreak, there is a greater number of people who contract the virus all at one time in one location.

This kind of outbreak could happen, for example, within a school, or as a city-wide issue, or even a region-wide issue.

For more information about a viral outbreak, talk with your doctor.

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Who or what determines if an outbreak is occurring?

When there is an outbreak, it’s discovered on a local level first, Premier Physician Network (PPN) physician say. 

For example, when patients go into doctors’ offices and test positive for the flu, those results are reported to the local health department. 

If the health department starts to see a pattern in a certain area of a community and the numbers of flu patients continue to grow, that might be the time the sickness starts to be considered an outbreak.

On a larger level, the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC) and the World Health OrganizationOff Site Icon (WHO) might address national- or global-level outbreaks.

For more information about who determine if an outbreak is occurring, talk with your doctor.

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How can someone find accurate information about an outbreak?

If you are concerned about an outbreak or have heard there is one affecting your area, it’s best to get make sure you get information from reliable sources, Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians say. 

Locally, you could check your health department’s website or call the health department. For national-level information, the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC) is a reliable website you could use to find information.

Talk to your doctor about where you could find accurate information about an outbreak.

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What is Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection you can get when an infected tick bites you, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

The first symptoms most people get is a rash that often looks like a bullseye. But, you might not have a rash at all.

As the infection spreads through your body, you can end up with more symptoms, including:

  • Body aches
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Stiff neck

Lyme disease can damage your nervous system, muscles and joints if not treated quickly.

Talk to your doctor for more information about Lyme disease.

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How is Lyme disease diagnosed?

Lyme disease can be hard to diagnose because its symptoms can be similar to other sicknesses, like the flu, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH).

Doctors usually look for symptoms and will talk to you about possible places you might have been exposed to ticks, according to the Center for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC).

If your symptoms and location history point to Lyme disease, your doctor might order blood work to confirm the disease to make sure you get the right treatment.

Talk to your doctor for more information about how Lyme disease is diagnosed.

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How is Lyme disease treated?

Most of the time, Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics. If you take antibiotics within two to four weeks of getting bitten by a tick, your medicine should kill the bacteria and get rid of the infection, according to the American Academy of Family PhysiciansOff Site Icon (AAFP).

Your doctor will tell you how long to take the antibiotics to prevent the spread of Lyme disease to your joints, nervous system and heart.

If your Lyme disease doesn’t get treated until you’ve had it longer and it is at a later stage, it’s likely you’ll have to receive IV antibiotics. You’ll probably have to be given medicine to reduce swelling and ease pain in your joints.

Talk to your doctor for more information about treating Lyme disease.

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What is fifth disease?

Fifth disease is a sickness that comes along with a mild rash and is caused by parvovirus B19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC). 

Its symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Rash
  • Runny nose

Fifth disease is also known as “slapped cheek” rash because most often a red rash shows up on your face. The illness is more common in children than adults.

A second rash can also appear on your chest, back, butt, arms and legs. The rash can be itchy, and it usually goes away in seven to 10 days.

Some people with fifth disease – most commonly adult women – also have painful, swollen joints that can last weeks or months after you’ve been infected.  

For more information about fifth disease, talk to your doctor. 

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How do I catch fifth disease?

You can catch fifth disease when someone coughs or sneezes near or on you, according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon.

You’re most contagious when it still seems like you have a cold with a fever – before the rash shows up and before any joint pain or swelling

For more information about catching fifth disease, talk with your doctor.

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Where am I at higher risk of catching fifth disease?

Fifth disease is a fairly common childhood illness, Premier Physician Network (PPN) physicians say.

You’re at higher risk of catching fifth disease if you spend a lot of time around young children or in, for example, preschool or kindergarten classrooms.

Talk to your doctor for more information about where you are at higher risk of catching fifth disease. 

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Thanks to Premier Physician Network doctors for answering these common questions about preventive care:

Additional Resources

This website provides general medical information that should be used for informative and educational purposes only. Information found here should not be used as a substitute for the personal, professional medical advice of your physician. Do not begin any course of treatment without consulting a physician.

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