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by Tara Haelle

Dyslexia Unrelated to Vision Problems: Study

Eye therapies will not cure reading disorder, experts say
MONDAY, May 25, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Eye training or other vision therapies will not treat dyslexia in children, say researchers who found normal vision among most children with the learning disability.
The findings confirm what eye doctors have known for a long time, said Dr. Mark Fromer, an ophthalmologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
"Dyslexia is a brain dysfunction, not an eye disorder," said Fromer, who was not involved in the study. "There are no studies that clearly identify that visual training can be helpful for the dyslexic patient."
Depending on the definition used, as many as one in five school-aged children in the United States may have dyslexia, the researchers said. If severe reading difficulties associated with dyslexia aren't addressed, they can affect adult employment and even health, they added.
The new findings, published online May 25, will appear in the June issue of the journal Pediatrics.
The researchers tested over 5,800 children, aged 7 to 9, for a variety of vision problems, including lazy eye, nearsightedness, farsightedness, seeing double and focusing difficulties.
The 3 percent of children with dyslexia who had severe difficulty reading showed little differences in their vision than children without dyslexia. And 80 percent of children with dyslexia had fully normal vision and eye function in all the tests, the findings showed.
A slightly higher proportion of those with dyslexia had problems with depth perception or seeing double, but there was no evidence that this was related to their reading disability. After making adjustments for other contributing factors, this finding seemed due to chance.
"It does make sense to think something is wrong with your eye if you're not reading well, but there really is no connection between any ophthalmological disorder and dyslexia," said Fromer, who is also director of eye surgery for the New York Rangers hockey team.
Though the study findings aren't new, this review is much larger than previous ones, he added.
"The biggest issue here is that parents of dyslexic children should not waste a lot of money on vision training for their children with dyslexia," Fromer said. "It won't work."
Study co-author Dr. Cathy Williams said the research adds to evidence about dyslexia and how to treat it.
"We hope professional bodies, charities and support groups will share this information with families and teachers, along with the findings of systematic reviews of treatments, so that families and teachers are aware of the best options to help affected children," said Williams. She is a senior lecturer in child visual development at the University of Bristol in England.
Other researchers have previously found differences in the brain among those with dyslexia compared to children without the disorder, said Dr. Walter Fierson, a pediatric ophthalmologist from Arcadia, Calif.
That research showed that the cause of the disability has to do with how someone processes letters and sounds, not with how they perceive letters and words in the first place, said Fierson. He is co-author of the American Academy of Pediatrics' policy statement on learning disabilities, including dyslexia.
An initial eye evaluation to find out if eye problems are present is important, he said. But this is only to rule out problems or treat specific conditions -- prescribing glasses or contacts for nearsightedness or farsightedness, for instance.
"To date, the best techniques for the remediation of dyslexia involve intensive one-on-one -- or at least small group -- teaching by phonetic methods by experienced teachers," Fierson said.
"At least as important, however, is an initial evaluation by a neuropsychologist or educational psychologist to determine the specific problem areas present in the poor reader," Fierson added.
"Parents should avoid unproven quick fixes and go for intensive phonics," Fierson said. "As is usually the case, things that seem too good to be true usually are. This includes vision treatments for dyslexia."
More information
The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more about dyslexia ( ).
SOURCES: Walter Fierson, M.D., pediatric ophthalmologist, Arcadia, Calif., former chairman, ophthalmology section, American Academy of Pediatrics, and co-author, AAP Policy Statement and Technical Report on Learning Disabilities; Mark Fromer, M.D., ophthalmologist, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City, and director of eye surgery, N.Y. Rangers; Cathy Williams, M.B.B.S., Ph.D., senior lecturer, child visual development, University of Bristol, England; June 2015, Pediatrics
by Tara Haelle

Health Tip: Keep Your Child at a Healthy Weight

Promote healthier eating and activity
(HealthDay News) -- Teaching your child about healthy eating and exercise can help reduce the youngster's risk of obesity and associated health problems.
The Cleveland Clinic suggests:
Promoting healthy eating at home by offering whole grains, fruit and vegetables, healthy proteins and low-fat dairy. Adjusting favorite recipes to make them healthier. Limiting snacks that are high in fat and salt. Instead, offer an apple or banana, a cup of blueberries, grapes, carrots or peppers. Teaching kids the benefits of exercise, from stronger bones to better self esteem. Encouraging kids to exercise by swimming, dancing, jumping rope or going for a walk. Limit screen time to no more than two hours per day.
by Tara Haelle

Living at Higher Elevations Linked to SIDS Risk

Study found odds were doubled, though still very rare even at greater altitudes
MONDAY, May 25, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Babies who live at very high elevations may have an increased risk of SIDS, a new study suggests.
The findings are based on nearly 400,000 Colorado infants born between 2007 and 2012. Babies of families living at an elevation of 8,000 feet or higher had a SIDS risk that was more than doubled compared to babies from families living below 6,000 feet.
Although the odds were doubled, SIDS was still rare, even at higher altitudes. There were about 0.8 SIDS deaths for every 1,000 infants who lived at the highest elevations.
Researchers said the findings don't prove that high altitudes actually contribute to infants' deaths. But they also said it's plausible that the thinner air at those elevations plays a role.
"This is a call for further research," said lead researcher Dr. David Katz, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Colorado, in Aurora.
"We wouldn't advocate that people abandon higher elevations based on this study," he added.
What's more, he said, even though infants living high in the mountains faced a relatively greater SIDS risk, it was still quite low.
Findings from the study were published online May 25 in the journal Pediatrics.
Each year in the United States, about 3,500 infants die suddenly, from no obvious cause, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most of those deaths are labeled as SIDS -- a phenomenon that researchers don't completely understand.
However, experts do know that an infant's sleeping environment is key, Katz said.
In the 1990s, experts launched public campaigns to encourage parents to put their infants on their backs to sleep, take soft bedding out of the crib, and take other "safe sleeping" steps. Since then, U.S. SIDS deaths have fallen by more than 50 percent, according to background information in the study.
Some other risk factors -- like smoking during pregnancy -- have also been linked to SIDS, but researchers suspect there are additional contributors. And the new findings suggest high altitude could be one, Katz noted.
But, he stressed, this is the first large study to suggest as much.
It's important for parents to keep in mind that the odds of SIDS are still low, according to Dr. Marcel Deray, a pediatric neurologist at Nicklaus Children's Hospital in Miami.
"The absolute risk is very small," said Deray, who was not involved in the study. "There is no reason for panic."
Plus, at least in the United States, few people live at elevations of 8,000 feet or higher, Katz pointed out. Even in mountainous Colorado, only 2 percent of families in this study lived at such heights.
Worldwide, however, about 63 million people dwell at those elevations, the researchers noted.
Deray added that the findings were "interesting," and that the connection makes sense biologically.
Normally, if you aren't getting enough oxygen, the brain will rouse you from sleep. It's thought that infants who die from SIDS have an abnormality in that system, Deray explained.
"At high elevations," he said, "there is already hypoxia [reduced oxygen supply]." And that could boost SIDS risk in certain infants who are already vulnerable, Deray said.
But that just underscores the importance of safe sleeping practices for all infants, according to Deray. In this study, Katz's team also found that Colorado's overall rate of SIDS fell from almost 2 per 1,000 infants before the "Back to Sleep" campaign, to 0.57 per 1,000 in the years following.
Similar reductions were seen at all elevations, the study said.
Katz said the best thing parents can do is to learn about the major, modifiable risk factors for SIDS.
Deray agreed. "Do the things that we know reduce SIDS risk," he said. "Put the baby to bed on the back, in a crib with a firm mattress, with no soft bedding, or toys, or blankets."
More information
The American Academy of Pediatrics has more on safe sleeping ( ).
SOURCES: David Katz, M.D., assistant professor, medicine, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Aurora; Marcel Deray, M.D., director, Sleep Disorders Center, Nicklaus Children's Hospital, Miami; May 25, 2015, Pediatrics, online
by Tara Haelle

Too Many Women Who Need Bone Screening Aren't Getting It

California study found that patients at highest risk for fractures often miss out on tests
MONDAY, May 25, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Too few women at high risk for osteoporosis are being tested for the bone-depleting condition, while too many women at low-risk are being screened, a new study suggests.
A team led by Dr. Anna Lee Amarnath of the University of California, Davis, examined the medical records of nearly 51,000 women, aged 40 to 85, living in the Sacramento area.
The researchers looked at whether or not women were getting a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) test, which measures bone mineral density.
The result: Osteoporosis screening rates jumped sharply at age 50, despite guidelines suggesting that screening only begin at age 65, unless a woman has certain risk factors.
However, the study also found that those risk factors -- a small body frame, a history of fractures, or taking medications that could thin bones -- had only a slight effect on a woman's decision to get her bones tested.
Over seven years, more than 42 percent of eligible women aged 65 to 74 were not screened, Amarath's team found, nor were nearly 57 percent of those older than 75.
However, nearly 46 percent of low-risk women aged 50 to 59 were screened, as were 59 percent of low-risk women aged 60 to 64.
The study was published online May 19 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
"DXA screening was underused in women at increased fracture risk, including women aged 65 years and older. Meanwhile, it was common among women at low fracture risk, such as younger women without osteoporosis risk factors," Amarnath said in a journal news release.
What to do? Reminder notes to doctors and patients might help, one expert said.
"Health systems should invest in developing electronic health records systems that prompt providers at the point-of-care when screening is needed and when it can be postponed," study senior author Joshua Fenton, an associate professor of family and community medicine at UC Davis, said in the news release.
More information
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about osteoporosis ( ).
SOURCE: Journal of General Internal Medicine, news release, May 19, 2015
by Tara Haelle

Depression Linked to Death of Many Heart Failure Patients

Researcher recommends counseling as first step
SATURDAY, May 23, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Depression significantly increases the risk of death in heart failure patients, a new study finds.
Heart failure patients with moderate to severe depression had a five times higher risk of death than those with no or mild depression, researchers found.
"We know that depression is common in heart failure and affects 20 to 40 percent of patients," said study author John Cleland, a professor of cardiology at Imperial College London and the University of Hull in England.
Of the 154 patients studied, 27 had mild depression and 24 had moderate to severe depression. Over an average follow-up of 302 days, 27 patients died.
The increased risk of death associated with moderate to severe depression was independent of other health problems and the severity of heart failure, the researchers said.
The study was to be presented Saturday at the annual meeting of the Heart Failure Association of the European Society of Cardiology in Seville, Spain. Research presented at meetings is typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
Heart failure means the heart can't pump blood as well as it should.
About one-quarter of patients hospitalized with heart failure are readmitted for a variety of reasons within one month, Cleland said. "Within one year, most patients will have had one or more readmissions and almost half will have died," he added in a society news release.
"Our results show that depression is strongly associated with death during the year following discharge from hospital after an admission for the exacerbation of heart failure; we expect that the link persists beyond one year," Cleland added.
However, the study did not prove definitively that depression causes an increase in death risk among heart failure patients.
Depression is often related to loss of motivation, loss of interest in everyday activities, sleep disturbances and change in appetite with corresponding weight change, Cleland noted. "This could explain the association we found between depression and mortality," he said.
Despite the findings, Cleland is not in favor of immediately prescribing antidepressants to heart failure patients with depression.
"Studies suggest that they are not effective in reducing depression in patients with heart failure. Clinicians should, however, screen patients with heart failure for depression and consider referring those affected for counseling," he recommended.
More information
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about heart failure ( ).
SOURCE: European Society of Cardiology, news release, May 23, 2015
by Tara Haelle

Do You Need a Doctor for Bug Bites and Bee Stings?

Most can be treated at home, but learn signs of emergency, expert advises
SUNDAY, May 24, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Summer is fast approaching, along with its usual bonanza of bugs. Fortunately, most of those inevitable bites and stings aren't serious.
But, experts from the American Academy of Dermatology advise going to the emergency room right away if you notice any of the following symptoms soon after a bug bite or sting:
Difficulty breathing, The feeling that your throat is closing, Swelling of lips, tongue or face, Chest pain, A racing heartbeat for more than a few minutes, Dizziness or headache, Vomiting.
Also beware of a red rash that looks like a donut or bullseye target after a tick bite, or a fever with a spreading red or black spotty rash. These can be signs of serious tick-related illness.
"Although most bug bites and stings do not turn into a severe or even fatal illness like Rocky Mountain spotted fever, it's important to pay attention to your symptoms," Dr. Margaret Parsons, an associate clinical professor of dermatology at the University of California, Davis, said in an academy news release.
Parsons added that if you feel tired all the time, have a headache, fever or body aches, or you develop a rash after a bug bite, see your doctor.
However, home care is fine for most bites and stings, according to Parsons.
In general, bites and stings "can be safely treated at home with topical medication, such as hydrocortisone cream or ointment, or an oral antihistamine to reduce the itch," said Parsons.
More information
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers more on preventing bites and stings ( ).
SOURCE: American Academy of Dermatology, press release, May 12, 2015
by Tara Haelle

Go Take a Hike -- Safely

Proper footwear, first-aid kit and extra food are must-haves, experts say
SATURDAY, May 23, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Before setting out on a hike, make sure you're prepared for the unexpected.
The American Hiking Society outlines 10 things needed on every hike, starting with appropriate footwear.
Trail shoes are fine for a short day hike that doesn't involve carrying a heavy pack or negotiating difficult terrain. But hiking boots, which offer more support, are a better choice for longer hikes, carrying heavier loads, or traveling on more challenging terrain, the society says.
Even if you have a GPS unit, you need a map and compass as a backup. It's also important to carry enough water and have a way to purify water from sources along the trail, experts advise.
Take extra food in case you're out longer than you planned because of getting lost, suffering an injury or traversing more difficult terrain than you expected.
Even if the weather forecast is good, bring rain gear and extra clothing in case the prediction is wrong. Dress in layers so you can adjust to changing weather and activity levels. Do not wear cotton clothes -- which trap moisture close to the skin -- and always carry a hat.
Sunscreen and sunglasses are other necessities, especially above the tree line where sun and snow combined can cause snow blindness and sunburn.
Even on a day hike, you need a whistle, flashlight/headlamp and matches or lighter in case of an emergency. Three short bursts on a whistle is a signal for help.
Always carry a first-aid kit -- and better yet, take a first-aid class. Prepackaged first-aid kits for hikers are available at outfitters. Another important item is a knife or multi-purpose tool, for cutting strips of cloth into bandages, removing splinters and fixing broken eyeglasses.
Your daypack or backpack should be comfortable and have a rain cover to keep your belongings dry.
More information
The U.S. National Park Service has more about hiking safety ( ).
SOURCE: American Hiking Society, news release, April 24, 2015
by Tara Haelle

Raw Tuna Suspected as Source of Salmonella Outbreak: CDC

At least 53 people in nine states have fallen ill, while 10 have been hospitalized, agency reports
FRIDAY, May 22, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Raw tuna is suspected as the source of a salmonella outbreak that has now sickened 53 people in nine states, according to U.S. health officials.
No deaths have been reported. But 10 people have been sick enough to be hospitalized, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday in a statement. The majority of those who fell ill said they had recently eaten sushi that included raw tuna.
However, "a common brand or supplier of raw tuna has not been identified," the CDC said in its statement.
While the bulk of cases, 31, are in California, eight other states are affected: Arizona (10), Illinois (1), Mississippi (1), New Mexico (6), South Dakota (1), Virginia (1), Washington (1) and Wisconsin (1), the agency said.
Most of the cases have involved people who live in the southwestern United States, or who traveled to that part of the country in the week before they became sick, the CDC said. The first case was reported on March 5, and state and federal health officials have found five clusters where ill people ate sushi at the same establishments.
"This outbreak reinforces the ever-present risks associated with eating fish, meat or poultry that have not been properly cooked and prepared," said Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
"This outbreak begs the question as to whether the sushi was prepackaged from a distributor, based on the size and number of states involved, along with the potential issue of improper food handling and storage," Glatter added.
Another expert agreed that eating raw or undercooked food will always carry some risk of food poisoning.
"The outbreak reaffirms the importance of the consumer being cautious and informed when dining on raw or undercooked (i.e. "seared" beef, pork, seafood, fish etc.)," said Dr. Howard Selinger, chair of family medicine at the Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn.
"There is always a small inherent risk of bacterial contamination," Selinger explained. "There is no way to mitigate this risk down to zero. Thoroughly rinsing the item is not sufficient."
Salmonella causes more than one million cases of food poisoning in the United States every year, according to the CDC. Symptoms include diarrhea, cramping and fever. In this latest outbreak, a variant known as salmonella paratyphi B has been identified as the source of illness.
"This is a good reminder to Californians that there are sometimes risks when eating raw or undercooked meats, fish or poultry," Dr. Karen Smith, director of the California Department of Public Health, said in a statement. "This is particularly true for young children, the elderly, or people with compromised immune systems who may be at an increased risk of severe illness."
More information
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on salmonella ( ).
SOURCES: Robert Glatter, M.D., emergency physician, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; Howard Selinger, M.D., chair, family medicine, Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine, Quinnipiac University, Hamden, Conn.; May 21, 2015, statement, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; May 21, 2015, statement, California Department of Public Health
by Tara Haelle

Animals May Ease Social Anxiety in Children With Autism

Playing with guinea pig in stressful situation was calming, study finds
FRIDAY, May 22, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Being around animals may help reduce social anxiety in children with autism, new research suggests.
The findings could lead to new treatment approaches that use pets such as dogs, cats and guinea pigs to help children with autism improve their social skills and interactions with other people, the researchers said.
The study included 38 children with autism and 76 children without the disorder. All of the children wore special wrist devices designed to detect anxiety and other responses to social situations.
The children first read a book by themselves. Then, they read a book to two other children and then had 10 minutes of group play. After that, the children were given 10 minutes of supervised play with guinea pigs. Researchers chose guinea pigs because of their small size and gentle nature.
Compared to other children, those with autism had higher levels of anxiety when reading silently, reading aloud and during group play. However, the youngsters with autism had a significant drop in anxiety levels during the session with the guinea pig.
This could be because pets offer unqualified acceptance and make children with autism feel more secure, according to Marguerite O'Haire, from the Center for the Human-Animal Bond in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., and colleagues.
The study was published online recently in the journal Developmental Psychobiology. The research was partly funded by the U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
"Previous studies suggest that in the presence of companion animals, children with autism spectrum disorders function better socially," James Griffin, of the NICHD's Child Development and Behavior Branch, said in an agency news release. "This study provides physiological evidence that the proximity of animals eases the stress that children with autism may experience in social situations."
However, the findings do not mean that parents of children with autism should get a pet for their children, O'Haire said. Further research is needed to learn how animals might be used in programs to help children with autism develop social skills, she said.
More information
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has more about autism ( ).
SOURCES: U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, news release, May 20, 2015
by Tara Haelle

Can Asthma Protect Men From Prostate Cancer?

New research finds an association, but doesn't prove cause and effect
FRIDAY, May 22, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- A new study suggests, but does not prove, that men with asthma may be less likely to develop aggressive prostate cancer or to die from the disease.
Researchers found that men with asthma were 29 percent less likely to develop aggressive prostate cancer. And they were 36 percent less likely to die from the disease, according to the study.
However, the findings do not show that asthma protects men from prostate cancer, according to Elizabeth Platz, professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and co-leader of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center in Baltimore.
"We don't know yet whether the association we see in this observational study is a case of cause and effect," Platz said in a Hopkins news release.
The researchers analyzed data from nearly 48,000 American men between the ages of 40 and 75. None had been diagnosed with cancer prior to 1986. Their health was followed from 1986 through 2012.
The link between asthma and reduced risk of deadly prostate cancer remained even after the researchers accounted for factors such as whether men took asthma medications or whether their asthma was diagnosed early or later in life.
The findings are surprising because some studies have suggested that prostate cancer is linked to the kind of inflammation associated with asthma, according to Platz.
She and her colleagues also found a reverse association involving hay fever and prostate cancer. Men with hay fever were 10 to 12 percent more likely to have aggressive or fatal prostate cancer.
The study was published online in the International Journal of Cancer.
The researchers looked at the connection between asthma and prostate cancer based on work in mice showing the immune cell response to prostate cancer, which they called Th2 inflammation.
"Asthma is often considered to be a disease of chronic inflammation, particularly Th2 inflammation. And cancer is often thought of as mediated by Th2 inflammation. So what we expected was that asthmatics would have a higher incidence of prostate cancer," said Dr. Charles Drake, co-director of the Prostate Cancer Multidisciplinary Clinic at Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center.
"It's possible that the Th2 inflammation that drives asthma is not the same as the Th2 inflammation that drives cancer," he said in the news release.
Or it may be that people with asthma have higher levels of other immune cells that attack tumor cells, Drake added.
More information
The American Cancer Society has more about prostate cancer ( ).
SOURCE: Johns Hopkins University, news release, May 13, 2015

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