Conditions

Living with a health condition? On the PatientsLikeMe blog, find helpful health information and patient stories about being diagnosed, trying different treatments, and living day-to-day with a chronic condition.

What is Seasonal Depression?

As the weather gets colder and days become shorter, you may notice you have less energy, feel a little less optimistic and spend more time alone. While this may not be a cause for concern, about 5% of the U.S population experience seasonal depression during the fall and winter months.   Seasonal depression, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a subtype of depression that begins and ends around the same time every year. This recurrent pattern generally begins in the fall or early winter months and ends around springtime, lasting about four to five months per year. This is known as winter-pattern SAD or winter depression. For people in the United States, the most difficult months tend to be January and February.  Many people get a mild version of SAD known as the “winter blues.” As much as 20% of the population may get the winter blues, which is usually linked to something specific, such as holiday stress or grief over missing loved ones. The winter blues isn’t a medical diagnosis and usually goes away on its own after a few weeks or months.  Some people might have depressive episodes during the spring and summer. This is known as summer-pattern SAD or summer depression, which affects about 10% of the population.   What causes seasonal depression?  Although the exact cause of SAD is unknown, it has been linked to a chemical imbalance in the brain prompted by shorter daylight hours and …

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6 Possible Causes of Multiple Sclerosis

If you’re living with multiple sclerosis, you probably have a lot of questions about your diagnosis. You might be wondering how you developed the disease and what your outlook is. While the course of the disease will vary from person to person, an exact cause has yet to be identified. Scientists have found that a combination of factors often causes multiple sclerosis.  What happens when you have MS?  Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune condition, which means the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells rather than protecting them. It is unclear why the immune system does this or what prevents it from being able to identify healthy cells versus invaders. Because the autoimmune response is unknown, there aren’t any absolute cures for autoimmune disorders.   When it comes to MS, the immune system attacks healthy cells in the myelin, the protective sheath that surrounds nerves in the brain and spinal cord. When the myelin sheath is damaged, nerve signals from the brain to other parts of the body are interrupted. This damage can cause symptoms such as muscle spasms, stiffness, and weakness, or lack of coordination.  What are some of the causes of MS?  There are several factors that researchers believe can cause multiple sclerosis. Genetics  Genetics is one possible cause of multiple sclerosis. Although MS is not an …

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Medication-Free Ways To Feel Better With Parkinson’s Disease

Getting a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis can be overwhelming. This neurodegenerative disorder affects movement and doesn’t have a cure, but with the right medications and complementary or alternative therapies, symptoms can be managed.  Incorporating medication-free ways into Parkinson’s treatment can help people living with the condition improve their health and well-being, along with preserving physical function and enhancing quality of life.  Music therapy   A 2015 study published in Frontiers in Neurology found that playing and listening music can be beneficial for managing the movement and emotional aspects of Parkinson’s disease. Rhythm enhances connections between the motor and auditory systems, and areas that involve rhythm perception are closely related to those that regulate movement. A regular rhythmic pulse stimulates activity in the putamen, a part of the brain that is involved in learning and motor control. Rhythm also influences the kinetic system and facilitates movement synchronization, coordination, and regularization.  Another study that is being conducted by the University of Colorado School of Medicine is examining the effects of therapeutic instrumental music performance (TIMP) on Parkinson’s patients. TIMP uses specific movement and rhythm combinations to “reprogram” certain brain frequencies.   According to one of the study conductors, Parkinson’s most likely affects beta frequencies, which are generated when the brain is actively engaged in mental activities. The concept behind the study is to use external rhythms to target beta frequencies and restore them …

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MS and Stress: Managing the Holidays

Stress is a normal part of life for many people. For some, holidays can be especially stressful because of gift buying, traveling, and making holiday dinners. If you have multiple sclerosis, the stress of the holidays can be compounded by managing your illness on top of everything else.  Living with MS is not only a physical hurdle, but the effort it takes to manage the illness can increase your stress levels. During the holidays, you might feel like you need to explain your condition and request certain accommodations for traveling, dinner parties, or other holiday events. This can get emotionally exhausting, and you might feel yourself getting anxious whenever you have to socialize. There is also the stress of adapting to new symptoms as the disease progresses and the unpredictable nature of MS.   Studies have shown that stressful life events are associated with a significant increase in the risk of MS exacerbations. The impact can last weeks or months after the onset of the stressor. For example, if you have MS and you lose your job or have concerns about paying hospital bills, you may notice that your flare-ups are more frequent or worse months after the event has passed.   Long-term or continuous …

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Unexpected Warning Signs of MS

Multiple sclerosis can be one of the most difficult conditions to diagnose because of the variety of symptoms it causes and the ways they present. Most people with MS experience their first symptoms between the ages of 20 and 40. Sometimes, symptoms can come on suddenly and go away just as quickly. Other times, symptoms will start minimally and progressively get worse. Because MS effects everyone differently, the early warning signs for one person may not be the same as they are for someone else.  Many people with MS experience common symptoms like numbness or tingling, muscle weakness, or changes in gait. Other common symptoms of MS include fatigue, bladder problems, and “MS hug.” Although there are other warning signs to look out for, it’s important to recognize that having one or all of them doesn’t mean you have MS. If your body attacks your nervous system just once, and the symptoms last for at least 24 hours, but other conditions have been ruled, your doctor will likely diagnose you with clinically isolated syndrome (CIS). While CIS can develop into multiple sclerosis, that isn’t always the case.  Here are some early warning signs of multiple sclerosis to look out for.   Tremor   Tremor is commonly associated with Parkinson’s disease, but some people with multiple sclerosis may experience tremors too. Both diseases affect the central nervous system, but they have different causes. MS is caused by damage to the myelin sheath that forms around nerve fibers, while Parkinson’s is caused by nerve damage to nerve cells in …

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10 Early Warning Signs of Chronic Kidney Disease

How often do you think about your kidneys? Probably not very often. When your kidneys are functioning properly, it’s easy to forget what a key role they play in your health. But when your kidneys aren’t working as well as they should, your body will send you warning signals to let you know something is wrong. These warnings can be early indicators of chronic kidney disease.   What is chronic kidney disease?  Chronic kidney disease is the gradual loss of kidney function over time. The kidneys’ main job is to filter waste and extra water out of the blood to make urine. When the kidneys are functioning properly, they help maintain a balance of salt and minerals in the blood. They also release a hormone that helps regulate blood pressure.  More than 37 million Americans have chronic kidney disease. However, many people with CKD aren’t aware they have it. That’s because the symptoms can often be attributed to other conditions. Sometimes, people may not experience any symptoms at all until later stages. Because symptoms usually go undetected, chronic kidney disease is often known as a silent disease.  Since there is currently no cure for chronic kidney disease, it’s important to recognize and act upon any warning signs as soon as possible. Here are some early warning signs of chronic kidney disease to look out for.  Changes in urination Although urine …

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Risk Factors for ALS

Once considered a rare disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) has become a common condition. About 6,000 new cases of ALS are diagnosed each year, and approximately four to six people per every 100,000 are living with the disease. Also called Lou Gehrig’s disease, it’s a progressive illness that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, resulting in a loss of muscle control. Although there is no known cause for ALS, there are several factors that can increase your risk of getting the disease.   Established risk factors for ALS   ALS usually begins with muscle twitching and weakness on one side of the body and with one limb. You may also notice slurred speech. While the exact cause of these symptoms are unknown, there are a few risk factors that can increase your chances of developing ALS:  Age The risk of developing ALS increases with age. Although people in their twenties and thirties, as well as people in their seventies and older, can get ALS, it is most common between the ages of 40 and 70. The average age at diagnosis is 55. Part of the reason ALS is becoming more common may be because the population is aging, although there may …

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3 Suicide Warning Signs to Look Out For

Suicide claims the lives of over 47,500 people every year in the United States. When a person dies by suicide, it affects family, friends, and communities, leaving them lost, confused, and in some cases, feeling responsible for their death.   “Death by suicide” means intentionally ending your own life. It’s often a way for people who are suffering to escape their pain when they feel like there are no solutions to their problems and have lost hope of getting better. Many people think about suicide. In 2019, there was an estimated 1.38 million suicide attempts in the United States. A suicide attempt is when someone harms themselves with the intent to take their life, but they do not die.  Because suicide affects all genders, ages, and ethnicities, knowing the risk factors and being aware of the warning signs can help you identify if someone is having thoughts about suicide and what steps you can take to prevent it.    What Are the Risk Factors for Suicide?  Suicide typically occurs when external stressors, like financial or relationship instability, and health obstacles, like a chronic illness or major surgery, create a sense of hopelessness and despair. Mental health conditions such as depression, eating disorders, …

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5 Stages of Parkinson’s Disease and How to Treat Them 

Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive disease, meaning the symptoms develop slowly over the course of several years. Although there are four main motor symptoms that occur with Parkinson’s, not every patient will experience symptoms in the same order and in the same way. However, there are patterns of symptom progression that most patients will experience.  The most commonly used scale to assess the stage of Parkinson’s disease is the Hoehn and Yahr scale. Named for its authors, Margaret Hoehn and Melvin Yahr, the scale was originally published in 1967 in the journal Neurology and described the progression of Parkinsonism, collection of signs and symptoms found in Parkinson’s disease, in five stages. The scale has since been modified to include stage 1.5 and stage 2.5 to account for the intermediate course of Parkinson’s.  The Hoehn and Yahr scale originally classified the five stages in the following manner:  Stage I. Unilateral involvement only, usually with minimal or no functional impairment.   Stage II. Bilateral or midline involvement, without impairment of balance.   Stage III. Mild to moderate bilateral impairment with some postural instability. Stage IV. Fully developed, severely disabling disease; the patient is still able to walk and stand unassisted but is markedly incapacitated.   Stage V. …

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