DEAR DR. ROACH: Would you be able to write something about sepsis? I recently spent almost a week in the hospital being treated aggressively with IV antibiotics for this. Did it used to be called blood poisoning? How does one get it? Is it contagious? What are the chances of it recurring? I am told I was very lucky to be diagnosed early, as it has a fairly high mortality rate. Oddly enough, it was extreme pain in my neck and upper back that made me go to the emergency room. Could the sepsis have stirred up my arthritis? — S.S. ANSWER: Sepsis is a severe reaction to a generalized infection. In a serious infection from any cause — such as skin infection, urine infection or pneumonia — certainly there is danger from the bacteria (or other germ, such as virus, fungus or parasite), but also from the body's excessive response. Treatment of sepsis must include treating the infection while simultaneously treating the effects of excessive inflammation. For example, many of the substances released by both the bacteria and the body during sepsis cause the veins to relax, which, if severe, can lower the blood pressure dangerously. Thus, IV fluids are an important treatment of sepsis. Severe sepsis has a very high mortality rate, so treating early is critical. "Blood poisoning" is an imprecise term, but might include sepsis, especially from a skin source. Whether sepsis recurs depends on the site and type of the initial infection. That's why it's so important to find and treat any underlying causes. Neck and back pain are a bit unusual. Muscle spasms certainly can occur, and perhaps that is what stirred up your arthritis. DEAR DR. ROACH: I have degenerative disk disease, spina bifida, spinal stenosis, curvature of the spine and disk herniation. A friend told me that a friend died after having back surgery -- from rusting of the rods that were put in. Is it possible for rods to rust after implantation? Any help would be appreciated on back surgery. — G.C. ANSWER: There are many reasons to be hesitant about back surgery, but rusting of the rods is not one of them. The materials used don't rust inside the body. You have so many back issues (spina bifida is when the bones of the spine don't completely grow around the spinal cord, although there are many different types) that you need an expert to discuss your possible treatments. Infection is the most feared complication whenever artificial materials are placed in the body. In general, have a healthy skepticism when hearing about medical issues from a friend of a friend. DEAR DR. ROACH: I recently had an initial appointment with a physician who has an on-site lab. I'm a healthy 61-year-old female coming for a wellness exam. At the end of the visit, he told me the phlebotomist would be coming in to draw my blood. This was a 1 p.m. appointment, and I had eaten both breakfast and lunch. I informed him that I had eaten and told him I would prefer to be fasting. He said that was fine and I could come back at a later date. The blood work included cholesterol testing as well as blood glucose. ANSWER: Fasting cholesterol and glucose levels have different interpretations from those after eating, but both provide useful information. Fasting results are better standardized, but normal results after eating are reassuring. Since some people never come back for their blood tests, we often prefer to get what readings we can, and repeat only if the levels are abnormal.
- Food & Health
- USDA orders farms to report pig virus infections MILWAUKEE -- Farms stricken with a deadly pig virus must report outbreaks as part of a new program to help monitor and possibly control the spread of the disease, the federal government announced Friday. Porcine epidemic diarrhea has killed millions
The case for separate beds
The other night I slept on a twin bed in the guest room of the house I share with my husband and our two kids.
It was the best night's sleep I've had in years.
Raw oysters spike U.S. rise in bacterial infections, CDC reports
Raw oysters, so good with hot sauce, increasingly can carry something even more unsettling to the stomach: A bacteria linked to vomiting, diarrhea and pain.
Study: Diabetic heart attacks and strokes falling
In the midst of the diabetes epidemic, a glimmer of good news: Heart attacks, strokes and other complications from the disease are plummeting.
Over the last two decades, the rates of heart attacks and strokes among diabetics fell by more than 60 percent, a new federal study shows. The research also confirms earlier reports of drastic declines in diabetes-related kidney failure and amputations.
To sleep well, you may need to adjust what you eat and when
Sleep. Oh, to sleep. A good night's sleep is often a struggle for more than half of American adults. And for occasional insomnia, there are good reasons to avoid using medications, whether over-the-counter or prescription.
Doctors to rate cost effectiveness of expensive cancer drugs
The world's largest organization of cancer doctors plans to rate the cost effectiveness of expensive oncology drugs, and will urge physicians to use the ratings to discuss the costs with their patients.
Low blood-sugar levels make for grousing spouses
Husbands and wives reported being most unhappy with their spouses when their blood-sugar levels were lowest, usually at night, according to research released this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Missing a meal, dieting or just being hungry may be the reason, researchers said.
Allergies are the real midlife crisis
One of the biggest mysteries is why the disease comes and goes, and then comes and goes again. People tend to experience intense allergies between the ages of 5 and 16, then get a couple of decades off before the symptoms return in the 30s, only to diminish around retirement age.
- Make asparagus the center of your plate Asparagus has been a delicious symbol of spring since at least as far back as the Greeks, who called it asparagos -- literally, "to spring up." But however it is spelled, it makes me happy. Most grocers sell asparagus in a range of sizes, from thin a
- Floating stools not alarming DEAR DR. ROACH: I have read that whether stools float or sink could be an indication of one's health, even to the point of being an early sign of pancreatic cancer. Isn't it just about density and gas -- that is, doesn't most food we eat float in wat
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