Entries in Fatigue (5)


Acupuncture Can Help Alleviate Fatigue Accompanied by Breast Cancer, Study Says

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A new study reveals that acupuncture can help alleviate some of the fatigue accompanied by breast cancer, Health Day reports.

The lead author of the study said that the results of the study provided good evidence of the effect acupuncture can have in helping to manage the debilitating symptom. The study involved over 300 women with breast cancer who were under outpatient care at one of nine health care facilities in the United Kingdom. Most of the participants were white, had an average age of 53 and had been diagnosed with either stage 1, 2 or 3 breast cancer and had all experienced at least moderate fatigue for an average of 18 months, Health Day says.

Over a six-week period, all patients continued receiving the same care they had been given before the study, and over 200 of the patients underwent weekly 20-minute acupuncture sessions. At the end of six weeks, patients who had received the acupuncture reported feeling better in terms of overall fatigue, physical and mental fatigue, anxiety and depression levels, functional well-being, emotional well-being, social functioning and overall quality of life, according to Health  Day.

The study appeared online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Statins May Be Linked to Fatigue

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(PHILADELPHIA) -- Sometimes doctors are also patients. Such was the case with psychiatrist Dr. Bernard Sobel, who has been seeing Dr. Daniel Rader ever since he had a blockage in one of his heart arteries -- requiring surgery -- more than two decades ago.

Since that time, Rader -- director of the Preventive Cardiovascular Program at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia -- had put Sobel on a class of cholesterol busters known as statins in the hopes of reducing future heart problems. However, Sobel has had difficulties tolerating the side effects of statins.

Sobel described the fatigue he experienced when taking the drugs as "kind of feeling lethargic, no energy, feeling 'blah,' lacking interest in things."

"One morning ... I could not get out of bed," he said. "I felt I was drugged."

Anecdotes such as Sobel's suggest that statin use may be related to increased fatigue. Now a new study, published Monday in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, suggests a formal association between statins, worsening energy levels and exertional fatigue.

These findings may be relevant to the millions of Americans who currently take statins, as well as millions more who may one day start taking the medicines.

In a randomized clinical trial, researchers at the University of California at San Diego evaluated 1,016 patients who received either a low-dose statin or placebo. The patients initially reported their energy level and fatigue on exertion at baseline. Six months after the patients started taking statins, the researchers asked them if there had been any changes from baseline, rating their changes on a 5-point scale ranging from "much less" to "much more."

The researchers found that statins were associated with both decreased energy level and increased fatigue with exertion. Strikingly, women seemed to be disproportionately affected.

"For a lot of people that we treat, there really haven't been a lot of mortality benefits with statins," said Dr. Beatrice Golomb, the study's lead author. Yet now, "a not inconsequential number of patients [on statins] may experience fatigue and exercise intolerance."

I think this is an important study," added Rader. "It will be important for the public."

However, other physicians are more cautious about the findings.

"I am very concerned that this will be over-reacted to," said Dr. Howard Weintraub, clinical director of the NYU Center for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease. "Everyone is tired and patients want to blame anything else other than their bad lifestyle, lack of exercise, or sleeping habits."

Dr. Scott Grundy, director for the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, also noted his skepticism. "I am suspicious that the method of statistical analysis distorts the real tolerance of statins," he said.

But Golomb defended her study. "These are randomized, double blinded, placebo-controlled data," she said. "Here it is clear that ... statin users were significantly more fatigued, and more intolerant to exercise."

In the United States, coronary heart disease is the most common cause of death in both men and women. Risk factors for coronary heart disease include smoking, lack of exercise, high blood pressure -- and elevated cholesterol levels, which statins effectively reduce. Previous studies demonstrate that statins are one of the most efficacious drugs in reducing the risk of having a future heart attack. In addition, statins have been shown to reduce the risk of strokes.

In 2011, simvastatin -- one of the drugs in the current study -- was the second-most prescribed medication in the U.S., accounting for 94.1 million prescriptions. Unfortunately, statins are also associated with a number of side effects, including muscle aches, flu-like symptoms, and liver toxicity. Moreover, the adverse reactions become more severe as the dose of the statin is increased.

And now fatigue and exercise intolerance may be added to the list of side effects.

"Statins have obviously the best track record for reducing heart attack and strokes," said Dr. Carl Lavie, medical director of cardiac rehabilitation and prevention at the University of Queensland School of Medicine in New Orleans. "These benefits have to be weighed against these symptoms [of fatigue and exercise intolerance]... and in most cases prevention of heart attacks, strokes, and deaths should win out."

In the meantime, Sobel is no longer taking any statins. Instead, under Rader's guidance, he has his blood filtered once a month with a procedure that directly removes bad lipids from the bloodstream.

"I couldn't do anything on statins," said Sobel. "I believe Dr. Rader's program has saved my life."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Ginseng May Banish Cancer Fatigue, Study Finds

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Cancer can leave patients feeling run down, worn out and overall fatigued by their disease and the treatments that fight it.  The malaise often lingers even after cancer treatment is over.  But a new study from the Mayo Clinic found that ginseng may be a tool for fighting cancer-related fatigue.

Researchers gave 2,000 milligrams of pure ground American ginseng or a placebo pill to 340 patients being treated for cancer and cancer survivors who had finished their treatment.  After four weeks, patients reported little change in their cancer-related fatigue.  But after eight weeks, the patients taking ginseng reported feeling generally more energized than their sugar pill-popping peers.  The response was particularly strong among patients who were currently undergoing cancer treatment.

The study was presented Monday at a meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

Dr. Debra Barton, an associate professor of oncology at the Mayo Clinic and the study’s lead author, said knowing how to combat fatigue, one of the most common side effects reported during and after cancer treatment, is becoming increasingly important.

“We are making progress in cancer treatment, and we do have more survivors than ever before, so we can’t just ignore these quality-of-life factors once the cancer is gone,” she said.

Doctors often caution patients against taking supplements that might interfere with their cancer treatment drugs.  According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, potential adverse interactions with prescription medications are one of the primary safety concerns with taking herbs and other supplements.  In recent years, patients undergoing cancer treatment have reported adverse reactions after taking ginseng.

Barton said it’s important for patients to tell their doctors about all the supplements they’re taking.  But she said recent research on ginseng is encouraging.

“Ginseng is one of the more studied herbs,” she said.

Some studies have shown that ginseng decreases inflammation and the stress hormone cortisol, both of which may be contributing factors to cancer-related fatigue.  Barton and her team plan to study how ginseng affects these biological factors in the patients in the current trial.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Brain-Control Interfaces Could Help Detect Fatigue, Distraction

Keith Brofsky/Photodisc/Thinkstock(SAN DIEGO) -- A new class of brain-computer interface technology could not only let you control devices and play games with your thoughts, but also help detect fatigue in air traffic controllers and other workers in high-stakes positions.

Researchers at the Swartz Center for Computational Neuroscience at the University of California, San Diego, have made it possible to place a cellphone call by just thinking about the number.  They say the technology could also tell whether a person is actively thinking, or nodding off.

Tzzy-Ping Jung, a neuroscience researcher and associate director of the center, said the system uses brainwave sensors (or Electroencephalogram (EEG) electrodes) attached to a headband to measure a person's brain activity.  The brain signals are then transferred to a cellphone through a Bluetooth device connected to the headband.

In the lab, he said, test subjects sit in front of a screen displaying 10 digits, each flashing at a different rate.  The number one, for example, may flash nine times per second, while the number two flashes at a slightly higher frequency.

As participants view each number, the corresponding frequency is reflected in the visual cortex in their brains, he said.  That activity is picked up by the sensors, relayed through the wireless Bluetooth device and then used to dial numbers on the cell phone.

Assuming all goes according to plan, if you place the headband on your head, sit at the screen, and then view the digits 1-2-0-2-4-5-6-1-4-1-4, your thoughts alone should lead you to the White House switchboard.

Jung said that results vary from person to person, but many people can reach 90 or even 100 percent accuracy.

For now, the technology is just in the developmental phase. But Jung, who has been studying neurological engineering since 1993, said, "We're trying to move from the lab to the real world, step by step."

In time, applications could potentially give consumers a hands-free way to use their cell phones or people with disabilities a new way to interact with the world.  But, Jung said, more passive uses of the technology could already be used to detect fatigue or lapses in attention in people who work in fields where concentration is essential.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Can Too Little Sleep Leave You Laughing?

Erik Snyder/Photodisc(NEW YORK) -- It's easy to spot someone who has missed an entire night of sleep. Grumpy. Irritable. Focusing on the negative. Now scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Harvard Medical School suggest adding a new word to that list -- euphoric.

Researchers have found evidence that the human brain, deprived of sleep, swings both ways, focusing on positive, as well as negative, experiences. And, they add, that's not necessarily a good thing.

According to their study, published in the current issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, sleep deprivation sensitizes the networks in the brain that have long been associated with rewards. And that, they suggest, could contribute to rash decisions and risky behavior.

"Our previous research showed that when you are sleep deprived your brain is excessively reactive to negative or unpleasant emotional experiences," psychologist Matthew Walker of UC Berkeley said. "But what we didn't know at the end of that study is what happens on the other side of the coin. What happens when you are sleep deprived and you see rewarding stimuli or experiences?”

Some who suffer from severe depression appear to get better if they are deprived of sleep, but the benefit is often short lived. Walker wondered if healthy adults would also look on the bright side of life if they missed an entire night of sleep. He noted that people who have partied or worked through the night are sometimes giddy and prone to giggling. Is it real, or are they just punch drunk?

To find out, he and his colleagues recruited 27 adults, age 18-30, and divided them into two groups. Some of the participants lived a normal couple of days, separated by a full night of sleep. The rest were confined to the sleep lab at Berkeley, where they ate a normal diet, but were kept awake for an entire night. They got no caffeine, no alcohol and not even a brief nap.

The experimenters monitored the participants throughout the period, ensuring that none of them fell asleep even for a few minutes. During the experiment each of the participants, both the sleepers and the none sleepers, were shown a series of 100 images and instructed to push a button indicating if each image was neutral or pleasant. And they did this while inside a brain scanner.The images were roughly half and half, with around 50 percent positive and the rest neutral. And that's exactly what the sleepers found. But the non-sleepers found far more of the images pleasurable than the sleepers, suggesting they wanted to look for positive experiences. And the brain scans revealed something that the experimenters found very interesting. Participants who had missed a night of sleep were dramatically affected by the images.

"The regions of the brain showed extensive reactivity to the emotionally positive pictures, and it was appearing in the classical reward centers of the brain largely regulated by the chemical dopamine, which is obviously associated with pleasure," Walker said. "It's as though the sleep-deprived brain swings equally in both emotional directions, the negative, and now the positive."

There was significantly less response in the brains of the sleepers.

"When functioning correctly, the brain finds the sweet spot on the mood spectrum," Walker said. "But the sleep-deprived brain will swing to both extremes, neither of which is optimal for making wise decisions."

Too little of it can make us cranky, difficult, and, it now seems, giddy.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio