In scarysymptoms.com, Dr. Brynna Connor, a board-certified family medicine physician and healthcare ambassador at NorthWestPharmacy.com, is quoted in and medically reviews an article discussing the crusty stuff that can appear in your ears. What is it? Read the article to find out! Or to be on the safe side, make an appointment with Dr. Connor to have her check it out.
Taking steps to strengthen your bones can help you stay healthy and active in the future.
Osteoporosis is a disease that leads to weak bones. About 4.2% of men and 18.8% of women over the age of 50 have this condition.
When you are younger, your body goes through an ongoing process of breaking down old bone tissue and creating new bone to replace it. However, your body will start creating new bone at a slower rate. After this time, your bone tissue will continue to be eliminated, but your body may not make enough new tissue to replace the bone loss. Therefore, it’s important to strengthen the bone you have and to take measures to prevent your bones from being broken down.
If your bones become too weak and fragile, you may be diagnosed with osteoporosis. This condition may occur if:
- You have a very low bone mineral density (a measure of how much calcium and other minerals are present within your bone tissue)
- You lose too much bone mass and your bones become thin
- Your bone structure or quality begins to change
People with osteoporosis are more likely to experience bone breaks or fractures. The most commonly broken bones in people with osteoporosis are the hip, wrist, and spinal vertebrae. In fact, half of all women age 50 and above will experience a fracture in one of these bones at some point during their life. However, it is possible to break any bone.
Osteoporosis is related to another similar disorder called osteopenia. Osteopenia or low bone mass also leads to weakened bones but isn’t as severe as osteoporosis. However, people with osteopenia can develop osteoporosis in the future.
Symptoms of Osteoporosis
Many people with osteoporosis don’t realize they have the condition. They often don’t have symptoms when the disease is still in its early stages, and they may only discover that they have weakened bones when they experience a fracture.
In some cases, people may develop noticeable symptoms, such as:
- A decrease in height
- A stooped posture
- Back pain due to a compression fracture of the spinal vertebrae
- Kyphosis (a curving of the top area of the spine, leading to a round hump in the upper part of the back or base of the neck)
What Causes Osteoporosis?
- Are older and have gone through menopause or have decreasing hormone levels
- Went through early menopause, either naturally or as a result of surgery to remove the ovaries
- Have experienced a period of time (at least three months in a row) in which you don’t have menstrual periods
- Are underweight (weigh less than 127 pounds)
- Have family members who have had osteoporosis
- Have experienced a bone fracture after the age of 50
- Don’t consume enough foods or drinks that contain calcium or vitamin D
- Have a condition that prevents your body from absorbing calcium from the things you eat (for example, you’ve had gastric bypass surgery)
- Drink a lot of alcohol
- Smoke cigarettes
- Are not very physically active
- Have a disorder that causes chronic inflammation
- Take certain medications that can weaken the bones
- Have anorexia, bulimia, or another eating disorder
Certain people are also more likely to develop osteoporosis. Women get this condition more often than men — four out of five people with osteoporosis are women. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, women tend to naturally have smaller, less dense bones compared to men. Additionally, estrogen helps lengthen the lifespan of osteoblasts — the cells that build new bone tissue. When women go through menopause, they produce far less estrogen, making them lose bone more quickly. Finally, women are more likely to live longer than men, and bone strength decreases over time.
White women and Asian women get osteoporosis more often than Black women and Hispanic women. However, all women have some risk of developing the condition. White men are also more likely to develop osteoporosis than men of other races and ethnicities.
Public health experts recommend undergoing a DXA to screen for osteoporosis about once every two years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends DXA screening for women over the age of 65. Additionally, screening may be a good idea for women between the ages of 50 and 64 who have certain risk factors (such as having a family history of osteoporosis).
A DXA may also be paired with other diagnostic tests. Your doctor may recommend a vertebral fracture assessment (VFA) — a spine X-ray that can determine if you have any breaks in your spinal vertebrae. You may also undergo blood and urine tests to look for any other health issues that could be causing bone loss.
Preventing and Treating Osteoporosis
By focusing on your bone health, you can take measures to strengthen your bones or prevent additional bone loss. These strategies may help you avoid having problems with low bone density in the future. Alternatively, if you have already been diagnosed with osteoporosis, these measures may help you prevent your condition from worsening.
Getting More Calcium and Vitamin D
Boost your bone strength with important nutrients like calcium and vitamin D. Calcium is important for many parts of the body, including the bones, muscles, nerves, and blood vessels. The body’s main way of storing calcium is in the bones. When you don’t get enough calcium from your diet, your body will remove it from your bones, making them weaker.
Foods and drinks that contain calcium include:
- Dairy products like milk and yogurt
- Spinach, kale, bok choy, and other dark green leafy vegetables
- Cans of sardines or salmon that contain bones
- Foods with added calcium, such as tofu, soy milk, breakfast cereal, and orange juice
You also need vitamin D in order for your digestive system to absorb calcium from your food. To get more vitamin D, reach for:
- Milk alternative products like soy milk and oat milk
- Oily fish such as salmon, tuna, and trout
- Beef liver
- Egg yolks
- Foods with added vitamin D, including some kinds of yogurt, margarine, and breakfast cereals
To check whether certain foods contain calcium or vitamin D, check the Nutrition Facts label. The best food sources of calcium will provide at least 20% of your daily value of this nutrient.
You can also take supplements that contain calcium, vitamin D, or both. Your skin also makes vitamin D when you are in the sun. However, too much sun exposure can increase your risk of skin cancer, so it’s a good idea to get vitamin D from your diet and protect yourself from the sun when you’re outside.
- Climbing stairs
- Doing aerobics
- Weight training (lifting weights or performing bodyweight exercises)
- Playing tennis
- Tai chi
Before trying a new exercise or increasing your levels of physical activity, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor. If you already have osteoporosis, you should avoid activities that twist your spine or put pressure on your back, including swinging a golf club, doing sit-ups, or performing toe touches. You may also need to stay away from activities like step aerobics that place a lot of pressure on your joints and may lead to fractures.
Other lifestyle changes can also help you protect your bones. Alcohol disrupts the body’s ability to use calcium, make vitamin D, regulate stress levels, and maintain a proper balance of hormones. These factors can all decrease bone density. Therefore, limiting how much alcohol you drink may lessen your chances of developing bone problems.
Studies show that people who smoke cigarettes have a higher risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures. Their bones also take longer to heal after breaking. To support bone health, join a program to help you quit smoking or ask your doctor for advice.
Managing Other Health Conditions
Several disorders can increase the risk of osteoporosis. These include anorexia, rheumatoid arthritis, conditions that lead to hormone imbalances, gastrointestinal conditions, HIV infections, and certain types of cancer.
Working with your doctor to find an effective treatment plan and keep these conditions under control may help you avoid bone problems down the line.
Avoiding Medications That Cause Bone Loss
Some medications can weaken the bones, such as:
- Glucocorticoids (a type of steroid medication)
- Certain medications that treat rheumatoid arthritis or asthma
- Thiazolidinediones (a diabetes treatment)
- Proton pump inhibitors (drugs used to treat stomach ulcers and acid reflux)
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or SSRIs (medications prescribed for depression and anxiety)
- Medications that treat seizures
- Breast cancer or prostate cancer treatments that involve taking hormones
Taking Medication to Strengthen Bones
Certain medications can help prevent or treat osteoporosis. The most commonly used drugs are bisphosphonates, which help slow down the rate at which your body loses bone tissue. Other medications like Xgeva (denosumab) and Evenity (romosozumab) are antibody medications that block body processes that break down the bones.
Some osteoporosis medications contain hormones or related molecules that can help build up more bone. These treatments include Forteo (teriparatide), Tymlos (abaloparatide), Calcimar (calcitonin), parathyroid hormone analogs, estrogen therapy, and estrogen receptor modulators.
Weakened bones lead to a greater risk of fractures, which may mean hospital visits, surgery, or a lot of bed rest. Preventing falls can help you stay safe and avoid breaking your bones.
Unfortunately, your risk of falling increases as you age. Eye problems, hearing difficulties, dulled reflexes, muscle weakness, and foot problems can all lead to falls. Additionally, you may have other health conditions or need to take medication that makes you feel tired, dizzy, confused, or off-balance.
- Take care of your eyes and ears — Get your sight and hearing tested regularly. Make sure to wear any glasses, contacts, or hearing aids you are prescribed.
- Get enough sleep — You are more likely to fall when you feel tired.
- Take your time getting up — Your blood pressure may drop and you may feel off-balance when you quickly stand up after sitting or lying down.
- Cut back on alcohol — The more that older adults drink, the more likely they are to break their hip.
- Be aware of medication side effects — Talk to your doctor if you think your drug regimen is making you feel tired or confused.
- Add more lighting in your home — Make sure all of your living spaces are well-lit, including stairways and long halls.
- Keep your floor clear — Attach carpets and rugs to the floor to avoid slipping, and don’t leave items or electric cords laying on the floor where you could trip over them.
- Wear proper shoes — Find shoes with a non-slip grip that offer comfortable support for your feet. Wear shoes in your home rather than socks or slippers with a slipperier sole.
- Use an aid when walking on slippery surfaces — Install a bar or seat in your shower and use a non-skid bathmat to help prevent falling on the wet shower floor. Spread salt on the steps or sidewalks near your home to keep them from icing over in the colder months.
- Ask your doctor about a cane or walker — Using assistive devices can help you avoid falling.
Getting Help With Osteoporosis
When your weakened bones go untreated, you may end up with fractures that cause a lot of pain, surgery, or disfigurement. However, there are a lot of treatment options that can strengthen the bones and help you avoid bad outcomes. Make an appointment with Dr. Connor to discuss whether it’s a good idea to be screened for osteoporosis, and work with your healthcare team to come up with a treatment plan if you are at risk of having bone problems.
Read the article to learn lots of useful tips for avoiding hangovers.
There are many effective treatment options for ED. This condition can be successfully reversed in more than 19 out of 20 men. Which treatment options work best may depend on ED’s underlying causes, as well as your own needs and preferences.
Addressing Common Causes of ED
Erectile dysfunction is often caused by changes to your hormones, vascular system (heart and blood vessels), nervous system, or mental health. If you are experiencing ED, your doctor may want to perform a general health check-up to see whether it might be caused by another factor, such as an underlying health condition or medication.
Disorders That Could Cause ED
When ED occurs, it could be a sign that something else is going on with your health. For example, one common cause of ED is diabetes. Men with diabetes are three times more likely to develop erectile dysfunction, compared to men without diabetes. If you experience ED along with other diabetes symptoms, such as frequent urination, extreme thirst or hunger, or unexpected weight loss, tell your doctor. Diabetes can be managed with proper diet, exercise, or medication.
Erectile dysfunction may also be caused by:
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Heart disease
- Atherosclerosis (a condition in which plaque builds up in the arteries, hardening them and blocking blood flow)
- Kidney disease
- Peyronie’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Parkinson’s disease
- Damage to the penis, prostate, bladder, or spinal cord
ED can also develop after certain cancer treatments. Surgery for prostate cancer or bladder cancer can cause the condition. Additionally, other prostate cancer treatments such as radiation therapy to the pelvis and androgen suppression therapy may lead to ED.
Treating an underlying disorder may help improve ED symptoms. It’s important to talk to your doctor if you start experiencing this condition.
Mental Health and ED
Some mental disorders or emotional factors can cause erectile dysfunction or make it worse. ED can be a symptom of both anxiety and depression. Feelings of guilt, fear, or low self-esteem surrounding your sexual performance can also cause ED. Finally, men are more likely to experience ED when they are stressed or tired.
Talking to a counselor, therapist, or another mental health professional can help with all of these issues. These health providers can teach you techniques to better manage stress, reduce anxiety or depression symptoms, or reframe your attitudes surrounding sex. For some men, counseling is the most effective ED treatment.
ED as a Medication Side Effect
Medications that can lead to ED include:
- Medications to treat high blood pressure
- Antianxiety medications that slow down processes in the brain and body, such as tranquilizers or sedatives
- Ulcer medications
- Medications that suppress appetite
If you develop ED after trying a new drug or switching medication doses, talk to your doctor. You may be able to try an alternative treatment plan that won’t cause this side effect. However, it’s important to not stop taking a drug without first talking to your doctor, as some medications shouldn’t be stopped abruptly.
Your daily habits and choices can sometimes create or exacerbate problems with ED. Making some or all of the following changes may help:
- Quit smoking with the aid of nicotine products, prescription medications, or support programs
- Reduce the amount of alcohol you consume, or quit drinking altogether
- Stop using illicit drugs with the help of your doctor, a therapist, or an addiction treatment program
- Get more physical activity throughout the day by going on a walk, doing some work around the house, or trying aerobic exercise or a strength training workout
- Achieve and maintain a healthy weight
Oral Medications for ED
There are several drug options that can help treat ED. They include:
- Viagra (sildenafil)
- Cialis (tadalafil)
- Levitra (vardenafil)
- Stendra (avanafil)
These medications enhance natural processes in the body that cause erections. A chemical called nitric oxide is partially responsible for erections. It relaxes muscles within the penis and widens blood vessels, boosting blood flow.
Oral (taken by mouth) ED medications strengthen nitric oxide’s natural effects. They can make it easier for you to experience erection when you are sexually aroused.
Safety of Oral ED Medications
Sildenafil, tadalafil, vardenafil, and avanafil are generally safe to take for most men. However, men with certain conditions should avoid these medications. These drugs may not be safe if you:
- Have heart disease
- Have experienced a stroke
- Have been diagnosed with very low or high blood pressure
- Have diabetes that is not controlled with diet or medication
- Have severe liver or kidney disease
- Take nitrates (medications to treat heart conditions) such as Nitrostat (nitroglycerin) or Imdur (isosorbide mononitrate)
- Use anticoagulants (medications that help thin the blood), including Coumadin (warfarin), Pradaxa (dabigatran), or Xarelto (rivaroxaban)
- Take medications for high blood pressure or prostate enlargement, including alpha blockers like Cardura (doxazosin) or Minipress (prazosin)
Oral ED medications often don’t cause any major side effects. However, some men may experience certain health changes while using these drugs, including:
- Stuffy nose
- Flushed skin on the face, neck, or chest
- Upset stomach
- Blurry or blue-tinged vision
- Back pain
If you are interested in using oral ED medications, ask your doctor about possible positive and negative effects. Your doctor can also help you understand whether you can take these medications safely based on your personal health history.
Which Medication Is Best?
Each of these ED medications may lead to slightly different side effects and last for different lengths of time. For example, sildenafil and vardenafil typically last four to five hours, avanafil’s effects continue for up to six hours, and tadalafil can last for 36 hours.
Doctors often first recommend sildenafil for erectile dysfunction because this drug was developed first and it has been studied the longest. However, you may find that you prefer a different medication based on its effects or financial costs. You may need to try more than one medication or adjust your medication dose before you find something that works well for you.
Testosterone Replacement Therapy
Testosterone is a sex hormone that plays a role in sexual development and fertility, and sexual function, including erections. The amount of testosterone in the body decreases with age, and can also drop due to changes in the brain, problems with the thyroid (a gland that makes hormones), testicular damage, or obesity. Low levels of testosterone are sometimes responsible for ED.
Low testosterone levels could also cause symptoms like:
- Low sex drive
- Sleeping problems
- Low sperm count
- Weight gain
- Decreased muscle strength
- Weaker bones
- Psychological problems like depression or difficulties focusing
If your ED is caused by low testosterone levels, you may be able to try testosterone replacement therapy (TRT). This involves taking medications that contain laboratory-made testosterone in order to elevate hormone levels in the body. This medication may come in the form of a pill, patch, implant, patch, or injection.
TRT may come with some side effects, such as:
- Problems with urination
- High cholesterol levels
- Heart problems
- Blood clots
TRT may interact with certain medications, and only works if ED is caused by certain factors, so talk to your doctor before trying this therapy.
Other Erectile Dysfunction Medications
A couple of other medication options besides pills may also help with ED. One option is Caverject (alprostadil), a drug that is injected into the penis. This medication encourages blood to flow into the penis, making it become erect. The injection usually leads to an erection within five to 20 minutes, and the erection typically lasts between 30 and 60 minutes.
Alprostadil can also be used as a urethral suppository — a small pellet placed into the opening of the penis with an applicator. This form of alprostadil generally causes an erection within 10 minutes and its effects also last 30 to 60 minutes.
Alprostadil can lead to side effects like bleeding or bruising at the injection site, pain or burning in the penis or surrounding tissues, headache, back pain, or vision changes. Before using alprostadil injections or suppositories, tell your doctor if you are taking blood-thinning medications or using drugs to treat high blood pressure, allergies, or a cold.
Medical Devices for Erectile Dysfunction
Another possible ED treatment is a vacuum device or penis pump. To use this device, you place a plastic tube around your penis and use a pump to draw air out, which causes more blood to flow into the area. After achieving an erection, you place a ring around the base of your penis to keep your blood, and your erection, in place.
Vacuum devices may cause bruising, or make your penis feel cold or numb. However, most men experience orgasm normally after using this device.
Surgical Procedures for ED
The above treatment options will work for most men. However, in some cases a man may choose to try surgical ED treatments.
In one type of surgery, a doctor can implant a device into the penis. This may be an inflatable device connected to a pump in the scrotum, or a flexible rod that allows a man to move his penis into the desired position.
Some cases of ED are caused by a blocked blood vessel that prevents blood from reaching the penis. In this case, the blood vessel may be able to be fixed with surgery.
Alternative Medications and Supplements
Companies make many “natural” medicines or supplements that they say can treat ED. Some of these products may help improve sexual function, while many come with some risks.
Some studies have identified natural herbs or supplements that could possibly help ED and appear to be safe when taken at recommended doses. These include:
- Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)
Although these supplements are often labeled as “natural” and are available without a prescription, you should still tell your doctor if you choose to use them. Some of these herbs, like ginseng, are only known to be safe when men use them for the short term. Other supplements, like L-arginine, shouldn’t be combined with other ED medications like sildenafil.
Not all supplements are safe. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has identified hundreds of supplements that contain drug ingredients not listed on the label. These supplements can sometimes cause serious health problems.
Some online retailers also claim to sell “herbal” versions of common prescription ED medications. These supplements are often not legitimate and can contain harmful substances.
In order to minimize risks, only take medications that are recommended by your doctor. It’s also a good idea to avoid products that claim to work very fast, are sold as single doses or were advertised to you through unsolicited emails.
Buying Medications Online
There are many places online where you can buy ED treatments — both supplements and prescription medications. Unfortunately, many retailers run scams or sell counterfeit treatments.
Keep yourself safe by only buying treatments from reputable pharmacies, whether online or brick-and-mortar. Some good rules to follow include:
- Avoid buying prescription medications from places that claim a prescription is not necessary.
- Only purchase medications from online pharmacies that list a valid phone number for contact purposes and ask to speak with licensed pharmacist to ensure there is proper medication counseling available.
- If the online pharmacy is outside the United States, ensure it is certified by Canadian International Pharmacy Association (CIPA) by clicking on its CIPA seal.
- When you receive your medication in the mail, make sure that it contains the right drug and dose.
Which ED Treatment Is Best?
The therapy that is most effective for someone else may not be the one that is best for you. The ideal ED treatment plan depends on factors like what is causing your condition, how severe your ED is, and whether you have other health conditions that contribute to your ED.
Your doctor can help you understand which treatment might be best for you and the benefits and drawbacks of each option. They can also prescribe any medications that you may need. It can be pretty tough to bring up this topic with your doctor but initiating that conversation can be the key to curing your ED and improving your well-being. If you or your loved one is experiencing ED and you would like to discuss it with a doctor, please make an appointment with Dr. Connor.
In an article in Giddy, Dr. Connor explains that although menopause is a natural part of life, the symptoms often cause women to seek treatment. Read this entire article to find out how CBD oil works in the body and if it can be beneficial toward eleviating menopausal symptoms. If you are being impacted by menopausal symptoms and would like to discuss this further with Dr. Connor, please make an appointment.