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Date: 2019-09-14 14:36:18


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How Lose Your Belly Fat at Home || Fat Cutter Drinks || Belly fat || No Diet No Exercise || Best Natural Tips

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Medical News Today: Cervical effacement and how to measure it

Cervical effacement refers to the shortening and thinning of the cervix. It is part of the process that helps the cervix prepare for a vaginal delivery.

The cervix connects the lower portion of the uterus to the vagina. Normally, the cervix is around 2.5 centimeters (cm) and is firm and closed.

In preparation for childbirth, the cervix must thin and open up to allow the fetus to pass from the uterus through the vagina.

In this article, we look at cervical effacement, including how it relates to dilation and how to measure it.

What is cervical effacement?

a pregnant woman who may be undergoing Cervical effacement
The cervix must thin and open up to prepare for childbirth.

Cervical effacement is the shortening and thinning of the cervix. This helps the cervix prepare for a vaginal delivery.

During the later stages of pregnancy, the fetus’s head drops into the pelvis, pushing it against the cervix. This process stretches the cervix, causing it to thin and shorten.

Measurement of effacement is usually in percentages. For example, when the cervix is 100% effaced, it means that it is completely thinned and shortened.

An alternative is to measure the length in cm. As the cervix effaces, it becomes shorter.

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How effacement relates to dilation

As well as needing to thin and shorten, the cervix also needs to open up, or dilate, to prepare for vaginal delivery.

When the cervix opens up by 10 cm, doctors consider it considered “fully dilated.”

Full dilation and 100% effacement both need to occur for the fetus to be able to pass through the birth canal. The process of dilation and effacement is called cervical ripening.

a diagram showing the different stages of cervical effacement. Image credit: logika600's /
Image credit: logika600’s /


Certain signs and symptoms may indicate that cervical effacement has begun. These symptoms may include:

Passing of the mucus plug

During pregnancy, the mucus plug seals the opening of the cervix. This prevents bacteria from entering the uterus.

Cervical changes, including dilation and effacement, cause movement or loss of the mucus plug. However, not all pregnant women will notice this.

Bloody show

As effacement nears, tiny blood vessels near the cervix may rupture. This can cause a small amount of spotting known as bloody show.

This may occur with loss of the mucus plug or on its own.

Pelvic pain

Cervical effacement often occurs after the head of the fetus drops lower into the pelvis. This may cause pain, as the head puts pressure on the woman’s pelvic ligaments.

The pain may vary. For example, it may cause a dull ache or intermittent sharp pain. However, some women may not feel any discomfort at all.


Contractions involve the tightening and relaxing of the uterus to help cervical dilation and effacement.

Contractions can vary in severity and frequency. Usually, the more regular, frequent, and strong they are, the closer the woman is to delivery.

Braxton–Hicks contractions may occur during the second or third trimester of pregnancy. These are known as false labor, as they do not lead to delivery.

Braxton–Hicks contractions are less regular than true labor contractions and are often milder. According to March of Dimes, Braxton–Hicks contractions may play a role in cervical effacement.

How to measure

A healthcare professional often performs a pelvic exam to measure cervical effacement. Wearing a surgical glove, they will insert two fingers into the vagina and feel for dilation, effacement, and the position of the cervix.

Pregnant women can check their own cervix, but if they are not familiar with how it felt before pregnancy, it may be difficult to recognize the changes. A self-check of the cervix is not a substitute for a cervical exam by a healthcare professional, however.

In some cases, a doctor may recommend a transvaginal ultrasound to measure cervical thickness and length, as this method is likely more accurate.


The amount of time it takes for complete cervical effacement during labor varies greatly. Some women may reach 100% effacement within a few hours. For others, cervical effacement may occur slowly over several weeks.

The same applies to dilation. It is not uncommon for a woman to be 1–2 cm dilated a couple of weeks before going into labor.

Although they may occur at different speeds, cervical effacement and dilation can go hand in hand. A study in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology involved 7,407 pregnant women.

The researchers analyzed how fast effacement occurred in relation to dilation. The results indicated that by 8 cm dilated, 95% of the women had complete cervical effacement.

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Is it a sign that labor is near?

constipation in pregnancy doctor
Healthcare providers may monitor the length and thickness of the cervix to determine pregnancy duration.

Cervical effacement can start a few weeks before labor. Once a woman’s cervix is fully effaced, delivery is likely to be close.

The length and thickness of the cervix at different stages of pregnancy can also provide useful insight for healthcare providers.

For example, the length of the cervix at mid-pregnancy may give a clue as to pregnancy duration. A pregnancy longer than 41 weeks can raise the risk of complications for both the woman and the fetus.

Assessing which women have a high risk of a prolonged pregnancy allows healthcare providers to determine the necessity of labor induction.


Cervical effacement refers to the stretching, thinning, and shortening of the cervix in preparation for vaginal childbirth.

Along with effacement, cervical dilation must also occur to allow vaginal delivery. Typically, healthcare providers measure effacement in percentages or by the length of the cervix that remains.

Symptoms such as the loss of the mucus plug and pelvic pain may indicate that cervical effacement has begun. The rate of complete effacement varies from woman to woman.

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Medical News Today: What causes itching after sex?

Genital itching after sex can sometimes be due to dry skin or a lack of lubrication around the genital area. In cases where itching persists, this symptom could be a sign of an infection, allergic reaction, or sexually transmitted infection (STI).

In this article, we look at the possible causes of genital itching in females and males and discuss the treatment options.

Causes in males and females

Some causes of genital itching after sex are the same, regardless of biological sex. Some of the symptoms, however, can differ. Below, we discuss allergies and infections that can affect both males and females.

Latex allergy

a man and woman in a bedroom with a condom that may cause Itching after sex
A latex allergy may be the cause of itching after sex.

A latex allergy means that the immune system reacts strongly to any product containing latex. Latex condoms or lubricants that contain latex can cause uncomfortable symptoms in people with a latex allergy. These symptoms can include itching, redness, and swelling around the genital area after sexual activity.

People can try using latex free condoms and lubricants to see whether this relieves their symptoms.

Latex can cause three different allergic reactions:

Contact dermatitis

When latex triggers contact dermatitis, the reaction may not occur until 12–36 hours after contact with the skin. Symptoms can include:

  • itching
  • redness and irritation
  • skin appearing scaly

Immediate allergic reaction

This type of reaction happens in people who have become sensitive to latex through previous exposure to it. Coming into contact with latex again triggers a response from the immune system, and people may experience:


In some cases, latex can cause anaphylaxis, which is a very severe allergic reaction. If a person notices any signs of anaphylaxis, they should seek immediate medical attention or call 911 or the local emergency number.


STIs often do not produce any symptoms, but they can sometimes cause vaginal or penile itching. This itching and any other symptoms, which depend on the type of STI, may take several days to appear.

Common STIs that can cause itching include chlamydia, herpes, and gonorrhea.

Symptoms of STIs in females can include:

Symptoms of STIs in males can include:

  • unusual discharge from the penis, which may be yellow, green, or white
  • pain when urinating
  • in some cases, swollen or painful testicles
  • sores or warts around the genitals or mouth
  • flu-like symptoms
  • pain in the rectum

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Causes in females

As we discussed above, itching around the vulva or vagina after sex can be due to allergic reactions or STIs. Vaginal dryness, a vaginal infection, or sperm allergy can also cause genital itching specific to females. We look at these causes in more detail below.

Vaginal dryness

a woman on the toilet with slippers on
A person with vaginal dryness may also experience a more frequent need to urinate.

Vaginal dryness can cause itchiness and pain in or around the vagina during or after sex. People may also have:

Changes in hormone levels can create vaginal dryness. People may experience this if they:

Using scented products in the vagina or douching can also cause vaginal dryness. Sometimes, vaginal dryness may be a sign of an underlying health condition, such as diabetes or Sjogren’s syndrome.

Vaginal infections

Sexual intercourse can sometimes cause an imbalance in the pH balance and bacteria in the vagina. This imbalance can cause a yeast or bacterial infection.

A yeast infection occurs when there is an overgrowth of a fungus called Candida. People may also refer to it as vaginal thrush, vulvovaginal thrust, or candidiasis.

Along with itching, a vaginal yeast infection can cause:

  • painful urination
  • redness and swelling of the vagina and the area around the vulva
  • a burning sensation
  • painful sex, also called dyspareunia
  • thick, white, odorless discharge that looks like cottage cheese

Learn more about yeast infections after sex here.

Bacterial infections arise from an overgrowth of bacteria. Bacterial vaginosis is a common vaginal bacterial infection, which can cause:

  • vaginal itching
  • a fish-like odor from the vagina
  • grey or white discharge

Sperm allergy

Sperm allergy mostly affects women and is also called semen allergy or seminal plasma hypersensitivity.

An allergy to the proteins present in semen can affect any part of the body that has contact with semen, including the vagina, skin, and mouth. It typically causes symptoms to develop within 10–30 minutes of the bodily contact.

In addition to itching genitals, sperm allergy can cause:

  • redness
  • swelling
  • a burning sensation
  • pain

In more severe cases, people can also experience anaphylaxis from a sperm allergy.

Causes in males

As we mentioned earlier in the article, itching around the penis or testicles after sex can arise due to allergic reactions or STIs. Although it is uncommon, males may also develop thrush from sexual activity. A reaction to spermicide can also lead to genital itching. We look at these causes in more detail in the following sections.

Male candidiasis

Although yeast infections are less common in males than in females, males can also get thrush. Thrush can cause genital itching, and it has an association with sexual activity.

In males, thrush is sometimes called male candidiasis. It can affect the head of the penis and the foreskin, causing itching, soreness, and swelling. It sometimes also produces a thick, white, lumpy discharge.

Thrush can occur in males with a sexual partner who has vaginal candidiasis and in those with diabetes.

Read about thrush in men.

A reaction to spermicides

A reaction to spermicides is more common in males, but it can also affect females. Substances in spermicides can cause sensitivity or allergic reactions that can create an itching sensation around the genitals. Nonoxynol-9 is a chemical in spermicides that can irritate the genitals.

Irritation to the genitals can increase the risk of infections, including HIV and other STIs, entering the body.

Treatment and relief

Using a condom can prevent an allergic reaction to sperm. People can also receive treatment for a sperm allergy. A doctor or allergist will place some diluted semen into the vagina and then gradually increase the amount to allow the body to develop a tolerance.

For people with a sperm or latex allergy, a doctor may prescribe an epinephrine auto-injector, known as an EpiPen, in case of a severe allergic reaction.

If people have vaginal dryness, they can use a vaginal moisturizer. It is important to use a moisturizer that manufacturers designed specifically for this purpose and avoid putting any other lotions into the vagina.

Foreplay may increase arousal during sex, which may help reduce vaginal dryness.

If itching is due to a vaginal infection, a doctor may prescribe antifungal or antibiotic medication to treat the infection.

Learn about home remedies for yeast infections and home remedies for bacterial vaginosis.

Anyone who thinks that they might have an STI should see a doctor, who will be able to diagnose the infection and provide medication to treat it.


home remedies for diarrhea imodium
Changing spermicides or switching to another form of birth control may help prevent itching after sex.

People may be able to help prevent an itching sensation after sex by doing the following:

  • avoiding douching
  • using nonlatex condoms if latex causes irritation
  • using a water based lubricant before having sex
  • changing spermicides or switching to another form of birth control

Stopping using other irritants that can cause itching of the genitals may also help. Try avoiding:

  • vaginal deodorants or sprays
  • scented sanitary products
  • the use of perfumed soaps and chemical bathing products around the genitals

People can wash their genitals with mild soap and warm water to keep them clean. Females can wash the vulva and avoid washing inside the vagina.

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Itching genitals after sex can be normal, and this symptom is often no cause for concern if it goes away shortly. However, if itching continues, it may be a sign of an allergy or infection.

A person should see their doctor if the itching does not go away or if they notice any unusual symptoms alongside it, such as:

  • unexpected bleeding
  • unusual discharge
  • warts or sores around the genitals or mouth
  • redness or swelling
  • pain during sex or urination

If people have symptoms of a severe allergic reaction, they should seek medical help immediately.

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Medical News Today: How does sunburn affect dark skin?

Can dark skin get sunburn? Symptoms, treatment, and skin cancer

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Medical News Today: How to care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that destroys brain cells and affects a person’s memory, thoughts, and behaviors.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Alzheimer’s disease affected nearly 5.7 million adults living in the United States in 2016.

Many people who have Alzheimer’s receive daily assistance and care from their family members, partners, or close friends. According to the CDC, 32% of caregivers of people with dementia provide care for 5 or more years.

In this article, we discuss nine tips to help people care for someone with Alzheimer’s. We also cover self-care tips for caregivers and when to seek professional help.

1. Learn about Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s symptoms worsen as the disease progresses, which brings new challenges for caregivers. Understanding the stages of Alzheimer’s and their associated symptoms can help people plan ahead.

Alzheimer’s disease consists of three stages: mild, moderate, and severe.


a son with his mother showing how to care for someone with alzheimers
The progression of Alzheimer’s can affect how much care a person needs.

People who have mild or early stage Alzheimer’s disease can still function independently. They can continue participating in professional and social activities.

During this stage, people may have difficulty concentrating or remembering recent events. They may forget certain words or names.

Difficulties with writing and problem solving are some of the other early signs of Alzheimer’s. Learn more about mild signs and symptoms here.


Moderate Alzheimer’s disease involves significant memory loss, confusion, and physical symptoms.

People at this stage may exhibit the following symptoms:

  • difficulty recognizing family members and close friends
  • difficulty organizing or following instructions
  • trouble performing regular daily tasks, such as getting dressed
  • restlessness or trouble falling asleep
  • wandering or getting lost
  • urinary or fecal incontinence
  • personality changes


People in the final stage of Alzheimer’s disease require help with almost all their basic daily activities, such as sitting up, walking, and eating.

During this stage, people may lose the ability to engage in conversation. They may have difficulty chewing or swallowing.

Many people with severe Alzheimer’s lose awareness of their environment and can no longer recognize their family members.

2. Create a routine

Caregivers can help someone feel more comfortable by establishing a constant daily routine. Doing this can help reinforce a sense of familiarity in the person who has Alzheimer’s.

Caregivers should try to avoid making significant changes to a routine, as this can be confusing for someone.

Sometimes, there are changes that are unavoidable, such as introducing a new care provider or switching care settings. Individuals with Alzheimer’s often require time to adjust to new people and places, so caregivers should try to implement changes gradually.

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3. Plan activities

older adult listening to music
Planning activities, such as listening to music, can help keep a person with Alzheimer’s engaged.

Caregivers can keep their loved ones engaged and active with the following daily occupations:

  • cooking and baking
  • exercises, such as walking, stretching, and light weight training
  • dancing
  • listening to music
  • playing a simple board game
  • household chores, such as folding laundry and gardening
  • going to a favorite restaurant, museum, or park
  • seeing a movie
  • visiting friends and family

A caregiver can try planning outings around the time of day when the individual with Alzheimer’s is at their best, which can vary from person to person.

Some people may feel brightest in the morning, while others have more energy and are more alert at night. A caregiver can observe the individual’s energy levels during an outing and return home before they get too tired.

Some caregivers chose to carry small business cards to inform others, such as service workers, about their loved one’s conditions. The caregiver can hand these over discretely when appropriate.

The cards may say something like “My partner has Alzheimer’s disease and may say or do unexpected things. Thank you for your understanding.”

4. Promote ongoing communication

Alzheimer’s disease can significantly impact a person’s ability to communicate with others. They may have difficulty interpreting or remembering specific words. They may also frequently lose their train of thought in the middle of a sentence.

Caregivers can use the following strategies to make communication easier:

  • maintain eye contact and smile
  • ask only one question at a time
  • use the other person’s name
  • use open and relaxed body language
  • speak with a soft, calming voice, but avoid baby talk or oversimplifying
  • try to remain calm during angry outbursts

Promoting ongoing communication can give the person with Alzheimer’s the chance to participate in conversations and activities. Communication may also help relieve pressure for the caregiver.

5. Help them eat a nutritious diet

It is vital to help those with Alzheimer’s eat well and stay hydrated. People with Alzheimer’s may lose weight, especially if they:

  • cannot remember when they last ate
  • have forgotten how to cook
  • eat the same foods every day
  • are no longer aware of mealtimes
  • have lost the ability to smell and taste foods
  • have trouble chewing and swallowing

Caregivers can ensure a person gets enough nutritious food to eat by:

  • serving meals at the same time every day
  • serving food on colorful plates, which can help highlight the food
  • serve bigger portions at breakfast
  • encourage them to take a multivitamin
  • give them finger foods, such as cheese, fruits, or sandwiches cut into sections
  • make the dining area quiet by turning off the radio or television
  • select foods that are easy to chew and swallow

6. Boost their self-esteem

Looking and feeling good can help alleviate some of the anxiety Alzheimer’s causes by allowing a person to feel “more like themselves.”

Ways a caregiver can assist someone with hygiene and grooming include:

  • brushing their own teeth at the same time
  • helping them put on makeup if they usually wear it (but do not use eye makeup)
  • encouraging a person to shave if they usually do, helping if necessary
  • keeping their nails trimmed
  • allowing extra time for dressing
  • helping to choose and lay out outfits in order of how a person puts them on
  • buying them loose, comfortable clothing
  • buying clothing with Velcro or zippers instead of laces and buttons

7. Keep them safe

Lots of everyday situations can make a person with Alzheimer’s feel unsafe or put them in actual danger.

They may not be able to understand signs such as “wet floor.” Even stepping from one type of flooring to another — such as from hardwood to carpet — can be confusing.

Some safety tips include:

  • making sure they have sturdy, comfortable shoes
  • putting brightly colored tape on the edge of steps
  • padding any sharp corners on furniture
  • limiting mirrors in the house
  • placing “hot” and “cold” stickers near taps
  • turning the boiler temperature down to avoid burns
  • installing safety locks on the stove
  • making sure they take their medication correctly

If a person is still driving, look for signs that their driving may be a danger to others. The National Institute on Aging has more advice on driving and people with Alzheimer’s here.

8. Help them keep their animal companion

There are many benefits to having a pet for older people. Cats, dogs, and other animals can provide continuing love and companionship for someone with Alzheimer’s. For those in the early stages, taking care of a pet can help them keep active.

If it becomes more difficult for the person to care for their pet, people can consider ways to keep them together. This may mean asking a neighbor or community member to take a dog for walks or ensure a cat receives its food on time.

Some organizations, such as Meals on Wheels America, may also be able to deliver pet food. Look for local charities that provide dog walking, cat sitting, and temporary fostering services for older adults with health conditions.

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9. Take courses or read guides

People can attend courses in person or do ones online that cover topics ranging from the early signs of Alzheimer’s to behavioral changes and financial planning.

People can find more information about caregiving by visiting the Alzheimer’s Association webpage or by reading this easy-to-use guide for caregivers from the National Institute on Aging (NIA).

These more comprehensive guides include step-by-step tips on how to help someone bathe, eat, and more.

Self-care for caregivers

Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s can affect a person’s life in many ways, including their ability to work and socialize. Caregivers may face new challenges every day, which can significantly impact their physical and mental well-being.

While caregivers may prioritize their loved one’s well-being above their own, it is important to keep in mind that quality care starts with a sound body and mind.

People can try these self-care tips to help reduce stress, cultivate compassion, and ward off fatigue.

  • Talk about it. Caregivers may avoid discussing their loved one’s condition with close friends and family. However, talking about one’s experiences, frustrations, and fears can help relieve emotional tension. People can try talking to a friend or counselor or joining a support group.
  • Get enough sleep every night. Adults require 7–9 hours of sleep each night. People who do not get enough sleep can experience irritability and confusion during the day.
  • Exercise daily. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommend that adults participate in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week. Physical activity can relieve stress, increases energy levels, and improve sleep.
  • Practice self-compassion. Caregivers may hold themselves to reaching unrealistic standards. While it is important for caregivers to stay calm when interacting with the person under their care, it is reasonable to experience negative feelings, such as anger, frustration, and sadness. Instead of feeling guilty when negative emotions surface, people will do better to observe these feelings without judgment.

When to seek professional help

A Smiling retired man with female home carer
A person may require professional help if they need full assistance with daily and personal care activities.

People who have Alzheimer’s disease will require more care as their condition progresses. Caregivers may need assistance in performing physically demanding tasks, such as bathing, moving, or dressing a person.

Caregivers may want to consider seeking professional help if their loved one:

  • requires full assistance with daily and personal care activities
  • loses the ability to walk
  • experiences a seizure
  • unexpectedly loses a significant amount of body weight
  • experiences a fall or other type of injury
  • has periods of anxiety or agitation
  • tends to wander away or get lost

Caregivers who experience adverse health effects, such as chronic stress, fatigue, or depression, may require professional assistance.

Ultimately, it is up to the caregiver and their family to decide when to seek professional help.

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Caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s disease may experience a vast range of emotions, both positive and negative when helping their loved one.

There are many ways to help someone manage the effects of Alzheimer’s, including those in this article. Caregivers may require help from other family members or professional healthcare services as their loved one’s condition progresses.

Self-care is a vital but often overlooked aspect of caregiving. Caregivers can prevent adverse health effects from stress by building a strong support network, protecting their physical health, and practicing self-compassion.

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Medical News Today: How to use tea tree oil for skin

Tea tree oil is a popular remedy. It helps treat several conditions and provides numerous benefits for the skin. Most people can tolerate it well.

This essential oil comes from the leaves of a species of tree called Melaleuca alternifolia, which grows in Australia.

In this article, we cover the uses, benefits, and risks of tea tree oil for skin.


Using tea tree oil for the skin may help with a variety of conditions. We cover some of these in the sections below.


a vial of Tea tree oil which can be used for skin
Uses for tea tree oil include treating ance, oily skin, and itching.

Due to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, tea tree oil may help treat acne.

The results of one study, which involved 14 participants with acne, support the use of tea tree oil for treating acne. The participants applied the oil to their face twice per day for 12 weeks. The researchers measured the efficacy of the tea tree oil based on any decreases in acne lesions.

There were 23.7 acne lesions across the 14 participants at the start of the study. By the end of the 12 weeks, the total number of lesions for the group had dropped to 10.7.

The researchers also found that the participants tolerated the tea tree oil well. Although mild peeling and dryness occurred, no serious adverse effects developed.

Therefore, the results indicated that tea tree oil may help treat mild or moderate acne.

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Oily skin

Tea tree oil may also benefit oily skin. One study evaluated the use of sunscreen containing tea tree oil to determine whether or not it reduced oily skin in study participants.

For 30 days, the participants applied sunscreen containing tea tree oil to their skin. After 30 days, at least 1 out of 2 areas of the face showed a reduction in oiliness and a decrease in pore size.

Dry skin

Applying tea tree essential oil to the skin may help relieve dryness. Although studies on tea tree oil and skin dryness are lacking, decreasing inflammation may reduce dryness that typically occurs with irritation.


As a result of its anti-inflammatory effects, tea tree oil may also help reduce itchy skin.

One study in The Archives of Dermatological Research compared the use of zinc oxide and clobetasone butyrate with that of tea tree oil in people with dermatitis.

The results revealed that tea tree oil was better at decreasing allergic dermatitis than the other topical agents.

Wound healing

Due to its antibacterial properties, tea tree oil may help speed up wound healing. However, studies in this area are lacking.

One small study, with four participants, compared healing times when using tea tree oil for wounds infected with Staphylococcus aureus. The researchers compared healing time using conventional treatment alone and conventional treatment plus the fumes from tea tree oil.

The results indicated that 3 of the 4 participants had decreased healing time in the wounds they treated using tea tree oil.

Other benefits

Tea tree oil contains terpenoids, which may have some benefits for the skin. Although research is not extensive, tea tree oil for the skin may have the following benefits:

  • anti-inflammatory
  • anti-fungal
  • antiseptic

How to use and safety

Never take tea tree oil orally, as ingesting it can result in serious health issues. Only ever apply it to the skin.

Tea tree oil is an ingredient in many products, including ointments, mouthwashes, lotions, and skin care creams. It is also available as pure essential oil. Most commonly, it is available in a 5% concentration, but higher concentrations are also available.

Apply tea tree oil to the skin after diluting it with a carrier oil or moisturizer. Diluting tea tree oil decreases the risk of skin irritation. It is also important to avoid applying the oil too close to the eyes, as exposure to the eyes may cause irritation and redness.

To use tea tree oil on the skin, mix a few drops with a carrier oil, and put it on the skin with a cotton ball. Another option is to place a few drops of tea tree essential oil in a warm bath. Apply products that contain tea tree oil, such as lotions, as the manufacturer directs.

Tea tree oil is available to purchase online, along with carrier oils.

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Side effects and risks

psoriasis causes itching due to inflammation
Possible side effects from tea tree oil include skin irritation, dryness, and itching.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, most people can tolerate products containing tea tree oil. However, side effects are possible.

Side effects are more likely to occur when using the oil in higher concentrations. They include:

  • skin irritation
  • dryness
  • flaking
  • rash
  • itching

As with any product, an allergic reaction is also possible. Before using tea tree oil on the skin, it is best to do a patch test to make sure that it will not cause irritation.

Always consider the risks when using essential oils, as some are harmful to children, pregnant women, and pets.

For example, one study in the New England Journal of Medicine concerns the link between tea tree oil use and gynecomastia in prepubescent boys.

The study includes a case review involving three boys — ages 4, 7, and 10 — who had normal hormone levels but unexplained breast development.

The boys were using products containing tea tree or lavender oil. After discontinuing use of the products, gynecomastia resolved in all three boys. However, this finding alone cannot confirm an association between tea tree oil and gynecomastia.

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Using tea tree oil for the skin can offer several benefits. For example, it may help treat certain skin conditions, including acne, itching, and oily skin. It may also promote wound healing.

Although most people tolerate tea tree oil well at low concentrations, it can also lead to side effects, including skin irritation.

If signs of an allergic reaction develop, such as a rash or itching, discontinue use immediately.

People with preexisting skin conditions and woman who are pregnant or breastfeeding should talk with their healthcare provider before using tea tree oil.

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Medical News Today: New flu vaccine skin patch could do away with needles

Scientists are hopeful that a new type of skin patch could replace needles as a method of flu vaccination. When they tested the skin patch on mice, it elicited an appropriate immune response without side effects.
doctor administering flu shot
New flu vaccine research introduces an innovation that may do away with needles altogether.

A recent Journal of Investigative Dermatology paper gives a full account of the research.

“Scientists have been studying needle free vaccine approaches for nearly 2 decades,” says study author Benjamin L. Miller, Ph.D., “but none of the technologies have lived up to the hype.”

Miller is a professor of dermatology at the University of Rochester Medical Center, NY. He is also one of the two corresponding authors of the study.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that the flu caused 48.8 million illnesses, 959,000 hospitalizations, and 79,400 deaths in the United States during the 2017–2018 season.

That season had an unusually high flu burden that was severe across all age groups.

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Eczema inspires a new method of delivery

Prof. Miller and his colleagues believe that the new flu vaccine skin patch solves many of the problems that other developers have faced.

In their study paper, the authors explain how previous attempts to deliver a flu vaccine with skin patches have used techniques such as microneedles and electroporation.

However, while enjoying early success, these methods have proved difficult to “implement on a large scale for mass vaccination strategies.”

In contrast to these techniques, the new patch uses a novel approach that came to researchers when they investigated the biology of atopic dermatitis, or eczema.

In people with eczema, the skin barrier that normally prevents toxins and allergens from entering the body stops working properly and becomes permeable, or leaky.

The protein claudin-1 is essential for preventing leakiness of the skin barrier. People with eczema have low levels of claudin-1 compared with those without the skin condition.

In previous work, the researchers had shown that reducing claudin-1 in skin cells of healthy people increased leakiness.

This result made them wonder whether they could use a similar method to get a flu vaccine virus into the body through the skin.

The challenge would be to induce leakiness for a length of time that lets in the vaccine virus but does not allow other materials to enter.

Skin patch boosted immunity

Through a series of experiments with human skin cells, the team identified a peptide, or small protein, that can disrupt the skin barrier without causing toxic side effects. The peptide works by binding to and blocking claudin-1.

The researchers then created a skin patch containing the peptide and a recombinant flu vaccine and tested it in two ways on mice.

In the first test, they applied the skin patch and then gave the mice a flu vaccine by injection. Their aim was to prime the immune system with the patch and then boost immunity with the flu shot.

In the second test, the team gave the mice the flu shot first and then applied the skin patch. Here, the aim was the other way around: prime the immune system with the flu shot and boost it with the skin patch.

In both tests, in which the mice wore the patch on their shaved back for 18–36 hours, the patch opened the skin barrier. The researchers confirmed this by monitoring the water that the mice lost through their skin.

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When they applied the patch, the researchers saw the mouse skin become permeable. However, as soon as they removed the patch, they noted that the skin began to close again, meaning that it was back to normal within 24 hours.

The immune response to the patch in the first test was not significant. However, there was a robust immune response to the skin patch in the second test.

Given that “[h]umans are exposed to influenza as young as 6 months of age” and that as a consequence, most people’s immune systems are already primed to the virus, the second test best mimics a real world scenario.

Therefore, these findings would suggest that the skin patch could serve as a delivery mechanism for the regular seasonal flu vaccine.

Another notable result was that the researchers saw no side effects. They monitored the mice for 3 months and observed no physical changes in their skin, such as those that might arise from infections.

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Cheap and safe way to deliver vaccines

It will be some time before the skin patch is ready for human trials. The researchers need to run more animal studies to find out, for instance, how long the patch should remain on the skin for optimum results.

The researchers believe that should the skin patch pass flu trials in humans, the technique could work for other vaccines that currently require needles.

While they are effective, needle based vaccines can cause people distress, and they require medical staff to deliver them. In addition, needles are biohazardous waste and require careful handling.

These barriers are particularly acute in less developed countries, which also happen to have the greatest need for vaccines.

Delivery by means of a skin patch could be a quick and cheap way to vaccinate large numbers of people.

“If you want to vaccinate a village in Africa, you don’t want to do it with needles,” Prof. Miller explains.

A patch doesn’t have to be refrigerated, it can be applied by anyone, and there are no concerns about disposal or needles getting reused.”

Prof. Benjamin L. Miller

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Medical News Today: Cancer: Why drug testing needs to improve

Researchers keep on developing new drugs to fight cancer, and while some are indeed effective, others never fulfill their promise. A new study now explains why many cancer drugs may not work in the way their developers think they do. But within the problem also lies the solution.
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A new study finds that many new cancer drugs may not work as intended.

Cancer affects millions of people around the world, and in some cases, it does not respond to the forms of therapy that doctors usually prescribe.

For this reason, researchers keep on looking for ever more effective drugs that can stop cancer in its tracks. Sometimes, these new therapeutics live up to their developers’ expectations, while at other times they fall short.

As the search for improved anticancer drugs continues, a new study has discovered that many of the new medications that do work often target different mechanisms than those the scientists intended them for.

This may also explain why many new drugs fail to work.

The finding comes from a team of scientists at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, who originally set out to study a different issue. Jason Sheltzer, Ph.D., and team initially wanted to identify the genes that had links to low survival rates among people receiving cancer treatment.

But this work led them to find something they did not expect: that MELK, a protein formerly linked with cancer growth, does not affect tumor progression.

Because cancer tumors contain high levels of MELK, researchers had thought that cancer cells used this protein to proliferate. They thought that by stopping MELK production, this would also slow down tumor growth.

However, Sheltzer and colleagues found that this was not true. When they used specialized gene-editing technology (CRISPR) to “switch off” the genes that encoded MELK production, it turned out that this did not affect cancer cells, which kept increasing as before.

If a therapeutic target that researchers believed held so much promise did not work in the way that scientists had expected, could this also be true of other therapeutic targets? “My intention was to investigate whether MELK was an aberration,” notes Sheltzer.

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False premises for new drugs?

In the current study — whose results appear in the journal Science Translational Medicine — Sheltzer and colleagues investigated whether the described “mechanism of action” of 10 new drugs accurately represents how the drugs work.

Researchers tested all 10 drugs in clinical trials, with the help of approximately 1,000 volunteers, all of whom had received a cancer diagnosis.

“The idea for many of these drugs is that they block the function of a certain protein in cancer cells,” explains Sheltzer.

“And what we showed is that most of these drugs don’t work by blocking the function of the protein that they were reported to block. So that’s what I mean when I talk about mechanism of action,” Sheltzer continues.

The researcher also suggests that “[i]n some sense, this is a story of this generation’s technology.” The investigators explain that before gene-editing technology became a more widespread means of stopping protein production, scientists used a technique that allowed them to act on RNA interference.

This is a biological process through which RNA molecules help to regulate the production of specific proteins. However, the researchers explain that this method can be less reliable than using CRISPR technology. Moreover, it could stop the production of proteins other than the ones initially intended.

So the team proceeded to test the accuracy of the drugs’ mechanism of action by using CRISPR. In an experiment, they focused on a drug under trial that is meant to inhibit the production of a protein called “PBK.”

The result? “It turns out that this interaction with PBK has nothing to do with how it actually kills cancer cells,” says Sheltzer.

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Finding the real mechanism of action

The next step was to find out what the drug’s actual mechanism of action was. To do this, the researchers took some cancer cells and exposed them to the supposedly PBK-targeting drug in high concentrations. Then, they allowed the cells to adapt and develop resistance to that drug.

“Cancers are highly genomically unstable. Because of this inherent instability, every cancer cell in a dish is different from the one next to it. A cancer cell which randomly acquires a genetic change that blocks the effectiveness of a drug will succeed where the others are killed,” Sheltzer explains.

“We can take advantage of this. By identifying that genetic change, we can [also] identify how the drug was killing cancer,” he goes on.

The researchers found that the cancer cells they used developed their resistance to the drug by evolving a mutation in a gene that produces another protein: CDK11.

The mutations meant that the drug could not interfere with the protein’s production. This suggested that rather than PBK, CDK11 may be the real target of the drug under trial.

“A lot of drugs that get tested in human cancer patients tragically don’t end up helping cancer patients,” notes Sheltzer. He adds that if scientists changed the way in which they conduct preclinical testing, they could gain a more accurate understanding of how drugs work, and whom they are most likely to help.

If this kind of evidence was routinely collected before drugs entered clinical trials, we might be able to do a better job assigning patients to therapies that are most likely to provide some benefit. With this knowledge, I believe we can better fulfill the promise of precision medicine.”

Jason Sheltzer, Ph.D.

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Medical News Today: WHO: Global suicide crisis calls for widespread preventive action

Ahead of the World Mental Health Day on October 10, the World Health Organization are drawing attention to the high rates of death by suicide worldwide, calling for more preventive action across all countries.
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The WHO warn that suicide rates are very high around the world, and urge all nations to implement prevention strategies.

September 10 was World Suicide Prevention Day, and to mark the occasion and spread awareness of the global suicide crisis, the World Health Organization (WHO) have launched a campaign — called “40 seconds of action.” The campaign will culminate on October 10 — World Mental Health Day.

In 2019, the WHO decided that their focus would be on suicide prevention. The organization point out that suicide has become the second most common cause of premature death among teens and young adults — from ages 15 to 29 years old — in particular.

“Despite progress, one person still dies every 40 seconds from suicide,” notes WHO’s director-general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Of all the countries in the world, only 38 have a national suicide prevention strategy, according to a WHO report from 2018, which is not enough.

“Every death is a tragedy for family, friends, and colleagues. Yet suicides are preventable. We call on all countries to incorporate proven suicide prevention strategies into national health and education programs in a sustainable way,” Dr. Ghebreyesus continues.

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‘Suicide risk is often short term’

Another WHO report, which also appeared in 2018, shows that while 79% of death by suicide cases took place in low and middle income countries between 2000–2016, high-income countries experienced the highest rate of suicide: 11.5 deaths per 100,000 people.

Furthermore, in high income countries, about three times as many men as women die by suicide.

The WHO also record some of the most common methods that facilitate death by suicide, the top three being: hanging, self-poisoning with pesticides, and firearms.

Now, the WHO are urging countries across the world to up their suicide prevention strategies, noting that there are a few demonstrably effective approaches.

These include:

  • responsible reporting of suicide cases in the media
  • nationwide programs helping young people to develop relevant life skills
  • identifying those most at risk of suicide and offering them the coping strategies they need
  • restricting people’s access to the means for suicide

Since so many cases of death by suicide involve easy access to pesticides in many countries, the WHO have recently published a document offering recommendations for pesticide registrars and regulators in the context of suicide prevention.

“Overall, pesticide poisoning accounts for as many as one in every five of the world’s suicides,” the WHO document states. Yet, it continues, “[a]ppropriate action by pesticide registrars and regulators has the potential to save thousands of lives every year.”

The WHO offer the example of Sri Lanka, where tighter regulation of pesticides has led to 70% fewer suicide cases — an estimated 93,000 lives this action has saved — between 1995–2015.

Similarly, the Republic of Korea has seen 50% fewer suicides due to pesticide self-poisoning between 2011–2013 after banning paraquat — a potent herbicide —in 2011–2012.

The WHO document also counters persistent myths regarding suicide and its prevention, such as that a person with suicidal thoughts will persist in having those thoughts, suggesting that there is no way to prevent suicide effectively. This is far from true, the WHO explain:

Heightened suicide risk is often short term and situation specific. While suicidal thoughts may return, they are not permanent, and a person with previously suicidal thoughts and attempts can go on to live a long life.”

However, in order to plan for better suicide prevention strategies, the WHO stress the need for better data on suicide rates.

Only 80 of the 183 WHO member states were able to provide quality information in 2016, the last year for which WHO have published a report on global suicide.

Countries around the world, WHO officials now urge, must improve the collection of data regarding suicide if they are to address the global suicide crisis.

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Medical News Today: Iron-rich foods may cancel out tomatoes’ anticancer benefits

Iron-rich foods may cancel out tomatoes’ anticancer benefits

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