What is Medical Racism?

Racial discrimination has saturated healthcare systems around the world. Disparities in care have led to negative consequences for people of color and other marginalized groups.  Some of these consequences include gaps or lack of access to health insurance, limited access to services and high-quality physicians, and poorer health outcomes among certain populations.   Over the last year, disparities in the United States healthcare system have come to the fold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Center of Disease Control reports that racial and ethnic minority groups are and have been unequally affected by economic, social, and secondary health consequences of the pandemic.  Of the case data collected, African Americans have the highest percentage (13.8%) of a positive test result. Data also shows that non-Hispanic American Indians or Alaska Natives have the highest rate of hospitalization due to the disease, while 34% of deaths were among African Americans.   While these numbers are just a glimpse into public health data, it shines a light on racial health disparities, policies, and practices that have been an integral part of medical history.  What is Medical Racism?  Medical racism is defined as the systemic, widespread prejudice or discrimination against people of color, ethnicity, or culture within …

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5 Signs of Cognitive Impairment in MS

If you’ve been living with multiple sclerosis, you might have noticed that you don’t feel as sharp as usual. Maybe you’re having trouble remembering information or concentrating on certain tasks. You may even feel like your brain is constantly in a fog. If any of this sounds familiar, you’re not alone.   Although many of the symptoms of multiple sclerosis are related to movement and balance, cognitive changes are also very common with MS. Not everyone with MS will experience cognitive impairment. Research has found that nearly half of people with MS show some signs of cognitive dysfunction. About 40% of MS patients have mild cognitive dysfunction, and 5% to 10% have moderate to severe cognitive impairment.   Cognitive changes are often one of the first signs of multiple sclerosis. They can occur before an official diagnosis. But these changes can occur during any course of the disease, including clinically isolated syndrome. They can also appear in radiologically isolated syndrome and may appear before structural abnormalities are found on an MRI. However, studies have shown the prevalence and severity of cognitive impairment appear to be greatest in patients with secondary progressive MS and primary progressive MS.   Here are some things to …

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What is the Impact of Obesity on Autoimmune Conditions?

There are over 100 autoimmune conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis, but experts still aren’t sure what causes them. Autoimmune conditions occur when your immune system mistakenly attacks the body instead of protecting it. Certain factors increase your risk of getting an autoimmune condition, such as smoking or having a family member with an autoimmune condition. Recent studies have shown that obesity also plays a major role in triggering autoimmune conditions.   What is Obesity?  Obesity is defined as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that poses a risk to health. Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of body fat based on height and weight that has historically been used to diagnose obesity. A BMI of 25.0 to 29.9 is considered overweight. A BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese.  However, body mass index isn’t an accurate measure of obesity for everyone. Muscular athletes, for example, might have a BMI that is considered obese even though they have little excess body fat. Body fat percentage may be a better indicator of risk of weight-related diseases. It distinguishes fat from muscle and calculates the percentage of body fat in the body. The American Council on Exercise provides the following …

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How Is Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosed?

If you’ve been having unexplained symptoms like numbness, fatigue, or cognitive changes, you might suspect a neurological disease like multiple sclerosis. However, getting a definitive multiple sclerosis diagnosis can be difficult and can often take years. Because MS is often confused with other conditions like lupus and Lyme disease, your doctor will have to rule out any other possibilities first.   How Is Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosed?  To make a diagnosis of MS, your doctor must first find evidence of damage in at least two separate areas of the central nervous system (CNS). The two main areas of damage are found on the brain and spinal cord. Your doctor must also find evidence that the damage occurred at different points in time. This will help determine if you have MS or clinically isolated syndrome (CIS). Although CIS has characteristics of MS, it represents only one episode of symptoms and doesn’t mean you will develop MS.  In addition to finding evidence of damage to the CNS, your doctor will use several other methods to determine if you have MS. Some of these methods include taking a full medical history, a neurological exam, and other tests.   Medical History   Your doctor will take a comprehensive look …

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What is Clinical Depression?

It’s normal to feel down sometimes. It’s even normal to feel hopeless or in despair about a particular situation or circumstance. These feelings are temporary. They may last anywhere from a few hours to a few days and cause minimal disturbance in your day-to-day activities. But, when these feelings become constant, more intense, and lasts for more than two weeks, you may have major depressive disorder. What is Clinical or Major Depression? Major depressive disorder, or clinical depression, is a serious mental illness that can interfere with daily activities like work, school, sleep, and leisure. You may feel less motivated to spend time with friends or family, and instead choose to spend more time alone. This type of depression is much more severe than other kinds of depression, like acute depression or persistent depressive disorder. It’s a severe mood disorder that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think, and how you act. Because clinical depression impacts feelings, thoughts, and behaviors, also known as the cognitive behavior triangle, it often interferes with everyday functioning. People with clinical depression may start to have poorer hygiene, worse performance at school or work, and less interaction with friends and family. For some, …

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6 Treatment Options for Rheumatoid Arthritis

If you’ve been living with rheumatoid arthritis, you know that the symptoms can be unpredictable. You may feel good one day and have a flare-up the next. It’s not possible to eliminate RA symptoms, but several treatment options are available that can help you manage them.   The first line of treatment for rheumatoid arthritis is usually medication. However, physical and occupational therapy can also be effective for symptom management and improving quality of life. Surgery can help reduce pain and improve functioning.  Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)  Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are one of the most common treatment options for RA. They can help relieve RA pain, swelling, and inflammation. NSAIDs do not change the course of the disease or prevent joint destruction and are often used in conjunction with disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDS).  NSAIDs work on a chemical level in the body. They block cyclooxygenase (COX), an enzyme the body uses to make naturally occurring fatty acids called prostaglandins that play a role in pain and inflammation. Most NSAIDs block COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes, while some only block COX-2. These are known as COX-2 inhibitors.   Common NSAIDs include aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), and naproxen (Aleve). Many NSAIDs are available over the counter and stronger ones are available as prescriptions.   Although NSAIDs are generally safe, they do have some side effects. These include:   Stomach …

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What is Spoon Theory?

Living with a chronic illness can be debilitating. Some days, you may wake up with enough energy to climb Mount Everest. But on other days, you can barely roll out of bed and every action takes every ounce of energy you have. Because chronic illness can be so unpredictable, it can be difficult to explain exactly how you are feeling and how difficult some days really are. Spoon Theory “Spoon Theory” is a simplistic way for people who have a chronic illness to express how much energy they have. The theory was created by Christine Miserandino, a lupus patient advocate. From the young age of fifteen, Miserandino had been diagnosed with a variety of illnesses from chronic fatigue syndrome to Epstein-Barr virus. It wasn’t until many years later that she was finally diagnosed with lupus. Lupus is one of many autoimmune disorders where the body’s immune system can’t distinguish healthy cells from foreign cells and mistakenly attacks the healthy ones. While symptoms will vary between conditions, some common symptoms among conditions include: Fatigue Joint pain and/or swelling Abdominal pain and/or cramping Digestive issues Skin problems Cognitive difficulties One night, Miserandino was out to dinner with her best friend when she …

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Member Story: Living with Major Depressive Disorder

Meet TrixieSwizzle, PatientsLikeMe member since 2017. TrixieSwizzle has been managing her Major Depressive Disorder for as long as she can remember. She has also been living with HIV since 2002. She believes strongly in the power of sharing your story as a form of therapy and is an open book about her condition. “I have been trying to implement a ‘zen’ philosophy in my life. No drama, no toxic people or things, etc. – some days it works and some days… well… I tell myself I will try again!” Watch TrixieSwizzle share her story:     Major depressive disorder is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States, with an estimated 17.3 million adults age 18 or older having at least one major depressive episode in 2017. About 1 in 6 adults will have depression at some point in their life, but anyone at any age can get depressed. If you are looking for more information about living with MDD check out some of our additional blogs: Am I Depressed? Surprising Signs of Depression 10 Ways to Get Through Tough Times Warning Signs for Suicide How to Treat Major Depressive Disorder 8 Celebrities Who Struggle with Depression …

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4 Types of Multiple Sclerosis (Plus Two You Didn’t Know About)

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic autoimmune condition that impacts the central nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord. It affects nearly one million people in the United States and more than 2.3 million people worldwide. MS is a progressive disease, meaning it can get worse over time without treatment. However, treatment can’t always slow the progression of the disease. There are four types of multiple sclerosis: clinically isolated syndrome, relapsing-remitting MS, primary progressive MS, and secondary progressive MS.   Common symptoms of MS that can occur at any stage include numbness and tingling, muscle spasms, loss of balance, and spasticity. Other symptoms that can occur with the condition include fatigue, cognitive changes, and weakness.   Multiple sclerosis is a complex and unpredictable disease. Because there is no way to know for certain how someone’s MS will progress, there is no set timeline for how long it will take to move from one stage to the next.   Clinically Isolated Syndrome   Clinically isolated syndrome (CIS) is one type of multiple sclerosis. With CIS, the first episode of neurologic symptoms lasts at least 24 hours. These include:  Numbness or tingling   Dizziness and shakiness  Muscle stiffness  Paralysis  Vision changes, such as double vision  Bladder or bowel dysfunction   CIS is caused by inflammation or demyelination, which is the loss of myelin. Myelin is a protective sheath of fatty tissue that protects the nerve cells, including those in the brain and spinal cord. Damage to the myelin sheath interrupts nerve signals from …

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5 Causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the most common forms of arthritis, affecting 1.3 million adults in the United States. It’s an autoimmune disease, meaning the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells in the body instead of protecting them. A healthy immune system protects against germs and sends fighter cells to attack them. But with autoimmune diseases, the immune system treats normal cells like foreign cells and releases autoantibodies that attack healthy cells. Autoantibodies are antibodies that mistakenly target a person’s own tissue or organs. Experts are unsure about what causes autoimmune diseases, but one theory is that microorganisms like bacteria and viruses trigger changes that confuse the immune system.   When you have RA, the immune system sends antibodies to the lining of your joints. The antibodies then attack the tissue surrounding the joints. This causes soreness and inflammation in the layer of cells, called the synovium, that covers your joints. The synovium releases chemicals that can damage bones, cartilage, ligaments, and tendons. If left untreated, these chemicals can cause the joint to lose its shape and alignment. Over time, these chemicals can destroy the joint completely.   RA is 2.5 times more common in women than men. While it can develop at any age, it most commonly occurs in people between the ages of 20 and 50. Late-onset RA or elderly-onset RA occurs when it develops in people between the ages of 60 and 65.  Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include:  Joint stiffness that is often worse in the morning or after periods of inactivity  Joint pain …

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