Phil Mickelson Campaigns for Psoriatic Arthritis

Photo Courtesy - Andy Lyons/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A few weeks before the 2010 U.S. Open, golf pro Phil Mickelson began to experience severe joint pain. Even his regular practice routine suddenly became difficult to endure.

"I didn't think much of it," said Mickelson. "But I didn't know what it was or what it could be."

But 40-year-old Mickelson still couldn't shake it. He and his family left for a vacation in Hawaii, where Mickelson's aches and pains became so excruciating that he could barely get out of bed, never mind swing a golf club.

"I got really scared," said Mickelson. "I started wondering what it was, and if it was even treatable."

Mickelson immediately went to see a rheumatologist, who diagnosed him with psoriatic arthritis, a chronic, inflammatory arthritis caused by an overactive immune system. Symptoms and signs include stiffness, pain and swelling of joints, reduced physical function and reduced quality of life.

While athletic injuries can predispose people to early osteoarthritis, a degenerative disease of cartilage, there is no study that suggests sports predispose people to psoriatic arthritis, which usually hits those in their 30s and 40s.

Up to 30 percent of people who have psoriatic arthritis have had psoriasis, a common skin disease that causes itchy, dry red patches topped with silvery scales on the skin.

Mickelson said that he had psoriasis about eight years ago, and a dermatologist had treated him for it. After diagnosis, doctors put Mickelson on an individualized treatment program right away. Today, the golfer, who has won four major championships and 38 PGA titles, is back to his practice regimens and workouts.

And on Wednesday, Mickelson launched "On Course With Phil," created in collaboration with Amgen and Pfizer, and the Joint Smart Coalition, which includes the Arthritis Foundation and the National Psoriasis Foundation.

The program is meant to about chronic inflammatory conditions and encourage people to get checked if they have any symptoms.

"This is meant to give people who have similar symptoms the tools and resources that will help them get questions of their own answered," said Mickelson. "I was so lucky, because I got on it right away, so I was able to slow or stop any further damage."

"It's important to get diagnosed early to slow or prevent long-term damage," said Dr. Christopher Ritchlin, a professor of medicine at the University of Rochester School of Medicine, who serves as a consultant to "On the Course With Phil."

Mickelson and Ritchlin stressed that there are thousands of people who go untreated for the debilitating disease they lack information information.

"Psoriatic arthritis is a very variable disease. It tends to involve just a few joints and can wax and wane over time," said Dr. Nortin Hadler, a professor of medicine and microbiology and immunology at Chapel Hill. "Hence, the fashion in which it interferes with function is very individualized."

Ritchlin said that treatments for psoriatic arthritis have greatly improved in the last decade. There are now several ways to manage the illness.

The variety of psoriatic arthritis treatments include non-steroidal inflammatory drugs, oral system therapies and biologic agents, which act closer to the cause of the disease.

Dr. Joan Von Feldt, a professor of medicine at University of Pennsylvania, said that Mickelson's early diagnosis was key to his ability to get back to golf.

"The medicines are so powerful nowadays that Mr. Mickelson should expect to go back to his normal superstar career, with the help of his rheumatologist," said Von Feldt. "I've always been a fan of Phil Mickelson, and so I was thrilled that he would use his misfortune and turn it into an opportunity to help others."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Researchers Say Change in Voice Indicates Level of Fatigue

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(STATE COLLEGE, Pa.) -- You might think a cup of coffee or a quick walk before heading to your job will cover up your exhaustion from long working hours and little sleep.  That is, until your co-worker outs you by saying, "You sound tired."

Although it's a common phrase used to describe someone who might sound lethargic, many researchers say a closer look into how someone sounds can reveal how dangerous a sleep-deprived person might be.

Researchers at a Pennsylvania State University psychology lab are going beyond what the human ear can detect to measure how changes in speech could detect sleepiness.  They found everything from voice inflection to letter pronunciation can indicate how tired you are and whether you may be better off sitting out of work than trying to stay productive.

In one study at the lab, researchers compared the speech of a small group of normal students with groups that were sleep deprived for 36 hours and 48 hours.  They found the longer the students stayed awake, the more likely the analysis showed dramatic changes in energy, speech patterns and pronunciation.

"Police" sounded more like "Bolice."  Higher energy letters such as T, P and K sounded more like D, B and G, respectively.

Some of the changes researchers found may be unclear to the normal human ear, said Cynthia LaJambe, a visiting scientist and sleep researcher at Pennsylvania State University.

"We don't know if [sounding tired] means there's a handful of precise speech indicators of sleepiness, or whether [a person is finding] some general change in speech," said LaJambe.

The lab's analysis found that a sleep-deprived voice can suggest anything from fatigue to exhaustion that can result in dangerous behavior.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study Finds Discrimination Has Different Effects on Obese People

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.) -- Discrimination faced by obese people, whether it is poor service at a restaurant or being treated differently at a workplace, may have a direct effect on their physical health, according to a new study published in Social Psychology Quarterly.

Researchers at Purdue University compared body mass index to people's perception of discrimination in 1,500 individuals, aged between 25 and 74, who were followed up after 10 years.  As expected, obese people fared worse in overall health as measured by tasks such as climbing stairs or carrying everyday items.

But among obese individuals, those who reported experiencing weight discrimination had less functional mobility when it came to performing everyday tasks, than those who did not report discrimination.

The authors concluded that weight discrimination can exacerbate the negative health effects of obesity.   But the findings in this study may be because obese people with low self esteem, who are more aware of discrimination than others, could neglect their health and hence have poor mobility.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Surrogate Mom Damages Heart After Four Babies

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(Waterbury, Conn.) -- Karma Daigle of Waterbury, Conn., loved being pregnant with her son Gabriel, who is now 9, but after her divorce in 2004, she longed to have another child and knew that without a husband, it might not ever happen.

So she turned to gestational surrogacy, giving birth to four more children -- first Zoe in 2006, then her twin siblings Sebastian and Lukas in 2008 for a American couple living in Romania, and then Lucas Tomas in 2010 for a Chicago family.

Both couples were gay men who used their own sperm and donor eggs for in vitro fertilization (IVF).

They paid her $19,000 to $25,000 a pregnancy, and she signed legal papers giving away all rights to the children and holding the couples harmless for any potential medical problems, including her possible death.

But being a surrogate mother can be risky. Daigle developed preeclampsia in the final pregnancy that has left her with heart damage.

Though she might never be able to safely have another pregnancy and give her biological son Gabriel the siblings he longs for, Daigle said she would do it all again.

Daigle, now 32 and married for a second time, appreciated the money, buying a house and paying for her wedding -- but most of all she wanted to help others who couldn't carry their own child.

Emotionally, parting with her babies was not a problem, according to Daigle.

"Everybody goes through the baby blues and for every pregnancy that lasted three days. It was hard on my body but it didn't traumatize me. I knew what I was getting in to."

Surrogate mothers have been used since the 1970s, but the first highly publicized case -- "Baby M" -- was in 1976.

Mary Beth Whitehead gave birth to a girl she had agreed to carry for an infertile couple. But as the biological mother, she changed her mind. She sued for custody, but was denied.

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine estimates that there were 400 to 600 surrogate births annually from 2003 to 2007, the last year for which data is available.

Support groups and agencies say the total number since 1976 may exceed 30,000.

The Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART) is the only organization that makes an effort to track surrogate births, but at least 15 percent of the clinics across the United States don't report their numbers, according to a 2008 investigation by Newsweek magazine. And private arrangements, most notably in the gay community, are on the rise.

Surrogacy is banned in much of Europe and in 12 states, including New York, New Jersey, and Michigan, which refuse to recognize surrogacy contracts. Texas, Illinois, Utah, and Florida have recently passed laws to legalize the practice, but in many states laws are still vague.

Surrogacy experts say women need to be educated about entering into surrogacy before completing their families. Multiple pregnancies -- especially twins, which are more common in IVF -- can be risky. 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Children Sickened After Eating Medical Marijuana Cookies

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(VALLEJO, Calif.) -- Children in California and Illinois have become ill in the last several weeks after eating cookies and brownies made with marijuana.

In the most recent case, several elementary school students from Vallejo, California, got sick after eating marijuana-laced cookies given to one of them by a convenience store clerk.  The cookies were made by a Colorado company that says they are legal because they are sold for medical purposes.  The kids likely didn't know the cookies contained the drug; the students shared the cookies during lunch and reported feeling nauseated about half an hour later.

According to the school district, the children have been released from the hospital and are doing well.

"It's unclear if any of the children knew the cookies contained cannabis," police Sgt. Jeff Bassett said in a press release.  "The packages are not clearly marked."

Police are still trying to find the person who gave the cookies to the store clerk.

At least one state is now considering action against these marijuana edibles.  According to local media reports, Rep. Cindy Acree, a Republican state legislator from Colorado, has proposed a ban on the sale of any food or drink containing marijuana, even if it has clearance for medical use.  The bill is currently under debate.  Acree said she is considering amendments to the bill that would permit the sale of edibles, but impose strict labeling, packaging and marketing regulations.

Experts say that situations like these show that medical marijuana is an issue that's still evolving, and many facets of it pose challenges to lawmakers, the public and the marijuana business, including how to regulate it appropriately where it is legal.

People on both sides of the issue agree it's essential to make sure marijuana stays out of the hands of children, although many advocates of medical marijuana think if a child needs it for medical reasons, it should be available.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study: Continuous Infusion of Diuretics Unnecessary for Heart Failure Patients

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- One million heart failure patients are hospitalized every year.  For this reason, researchers have sought to find answers to ongoing questions about treatment for patients with acute heart failure.  Now they say there are no real differences between diuretic therapy given one dose at a time or continuously through an IV, according to HealthDay News.

"Today doctors all over the U.S. are having to make a decision on how to give diuretics," said Dr. Michael Felker, lead author of a study appearing in the March 3 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.  "This gives insight as to the trade-off between efficacy and safety in each decision."

Continuous diuretics have been the standard for treatment of acute heart failure for the last four to five decades, leaving patients to depend on therapy that hasn't seen the rigorous pre-market evaluation that pharmaceuticals must go through presently.

Now Dr. Felker says scientists are finally looking into newer and better treatments for acute heart failure.

In the study, 308 patients with acute heart failure were divided into two groups. One group was given the intravenous diuretic every 12 hours; the other received acontinuous infusion.  Both groups were given high and low doses.  After analyzing the data, Dr. Felker reported a "strong suggestion that the high doses are actually better." 

Dr. Felker noted that this outcome is contrary to what many people think -- that high doses are dangerous.  He also concluded that continuous infused therapy was not necessarily better, saying that "the results were completely neutral" showing "no difference."

Dr. Stuart Katz, director of the Heart Failure Program at New York University Langone Medical Center, commented that the study proves that IV dosing is a reasonable alternative to continuous diuretic infusion, particularly because it is less expensive.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Hearing Loss Greater After Age 70, Hearing Aid Use Low

Photo Courteys - Getty Images(BALTIMORE) -- Sixty-three percent of Americans age 70 and older experience significant hearing loss, according to a new study published online in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University studied 717 people over 70 years old and found that of the participants with hearing loss, 64 percent were white, while African-Americans with loss of hearing made up only 43 percent of the sample.  Researchers further concluded that African-Americans only had about a third of the chance of having hearing loss compared with whites after looking at age, noise exposure and other considerations associated with hearing loss.

The study authors were not able to determine a reason why older white people have a greater chance of hearing loss.

The study also found that only about 20 percent of older adults actually use a hearing aid, despite the high rate of hearing loss among this age group.

"Any way you cut it, the rates of hearing aid use are phenomenally low," said study researcher Frank Lin, MD, PhD.

Lin and his colleagues reported in the study that hearing aid use appeared to be dependent upon the severity of hearing loss.  Only three percent of people with mild hearing loss said they used a hearing aid, compared to 41 percent with moderate or severe hearing loss.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


FDA Warns of Unapproved Rx Cold Meds

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Wednesday there are nearly 500 prescription cough, cold and allergy drugs that are not approved and should not be on the market.

The FDA highlighted brands such as Cardec, Lodrane, Organidin and Pedia-Hist, many of which, the agency says, have issues with excessive amounts of active ingredients.  Deborah Autor, director of compliance at the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, also noted that some extended-release formulas do not function properly and others consist of two or more active ingredients, raising the risk of over-sedation.

"We don't know what's in them, whether they work properly, or how they are made," Autor told reporters.

Autor added that many of these drugs had failed FDA testing, but many physicians are unaware of their FDA status, particularly because they are still listed in the Physicians Desk Reference and can be advertised in medical journals.

Manufacturers of the drugs previously listed with the FDA, but are unapproved, must stop producing them within 90 days and stop shipping within 180 days, Auto said.  Those that have not filed with the FDA must cease manufacturing and shipping of their products immediately.

A complete list of the unapproved prescription products can be found at the agency's website.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Ibuprofen May Lower Risk of Parkinson's Disease

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A drug commonly used for aches and pains could be useful against a far more serious ailment.  

Ibuprofen is a non-steroid anti-inflammatory drug sold over-the-counter under such familiar brand names as Advil and Motrin. Previous studies have suggested that these drugs may decrease the risk of getting Parkinson's disease.  

A new study published in the journal Neurology surveyed ibuprofen use in 136 thousand participants.  After six years, those who took ibuprofen two or more times a week were 38 percent less likely to develop Parkinson's compared to those who hadn't taken the drug.    This was true only with ibuprofen and not with similar drugs such as aspirin, naproxen, or acetaminophen.   

The findings do not mean that those with Parkinson's disease should start taking ibuprofen. The authors conclude that ibuprofen has potential protective effects against Parkinson's, and they advocate further investigation.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


New Trend: Going Barefoot on Campus

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Kyle Vaughn describes his sense of style as "ludicrous." His wardrobe includes a green sequined vest, vibrant purple slacks, a beanie with elephant ears stitched on the sides and an elf costume for the holiday season.

But when people comment on Vaughn's appearance, they rarely mention the neon colors and novelty accessories.

Strangers tend to notice the fact that he's not wearing shoes.

When Vaughn, 21, walks by, some ask where he left his shoes, others scoff in disgust and children ask their parents why he's barefoot.

Vaughn, from Katy, Texas, is one of a growing number of individuals who prefer to live their lives without shoes.

He's lived barefoot for as long as he can remember. As an elementary school student, his teachers scolded him for kicking his shoes off under his desk. Today, while there are times when Vaughn is forced to wear shoes –- like when he's working as a food prep –- he estimates that 90 percent of his life is spent barefoot.

"It just feels better," he said. "It sounds corny, but there's something nice about feeling the earth you're walking on. You're just more connected to the world."

Those living barefoot cite health reasons, practicality and general comfort as reasons for losing their shoes.

The trend can be attributed to an increased awareness of natural living, said Michael Buttgen, founder and president of the Primal Foot Alliance, an online network of barefooters.

"As a society, we have this desire to go back to what's pure and natural," he said. "People don't want to eat processed food anymore. They don't want to release harmful toxins into the air. Going barefoot is a logical next step."

Al Gauthier, host of Living Barefoot, a bi-monthly podcast with an audience of 25,000, says the movement picks up steam as more people learn about it.

But Dennis Frisch, a podiatrist in Boca Raton, Fla. and a member of the American Podiatric Medical Association, doesn't believe going barefoot is a safe practice.

"The risks of what could happen when you're barefoot significantly outweigh the risks of what could happen when you're wearing shoes," Frisch said.

For example, he said that a blister or corn caused by wearing an uncomfortable shoe will take a couple of days to heal on its own. But a cut caused by stepping on undesirable material while barefoot could potentially become infected and be a severe medical problem.

Frisch said he isn't "anti-barefoot," and he even advises some of his patients to kick off their shoes while they're at home. Being barefoot for some period of each day is especially important for women who wear constrictive high-heeled shoes, he said.

"There's nothing wrong with being barefoot," Frisch said. "It's just that there is a place for it, and outside isn't that place."

Still, Frisch suggests people who want to escape the confines of shoes while at home wear socks or slippers to protect the soles of their feet.

Few barefooters have experienced such medical problems.

Howell says fears of broken glass and sharp objects are "greatly exaggerated."

"People like to think that every city street is littered with broken glass," he said. "But if you actually look around, you'll see that simply isn't true."

He said most injuries can be avoided if walkers look at the ground.

"If you pay a little attention, it's easy to avoid problems," he said. "A piece of glass that's big enough to see can be avoided."

As the movement grows in popularity, barefooters hope their choice will become more socially acceptable.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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