Low Back Pain

You bend over to pick something up off the floor and suddenly feel a sharp pain in the low back.

You have a piece of furniture that REALLY belongs in the other corner of the room but you’re home alone.  It’s not that big, right?  I can move it myself.

You get home from work after 8 hours on your feet and think “I have to do something about my back.  I can’t handle another shift like that, the pain is too much.”

Do you have low back pain?  If so, you’re not alone.  Low back pain is one of the most common problems family doctors see.  From weekend warriors overdoing it at the gym, to sports injuries, to shoveling snow and pulling weeds and moving furniture, there are many ways to injure your back.

In fact, I’m having some trouble with MY low back this weekend!  Since yesterday afternoon I’ve had a sharp, aching pain in my right low back.  Standing up from sitting, rolling over in bed, picking things up off the floor and putting on my shoes have been an adventure today :-/

The most common cause of low back pain is a musculoskeletal injury.  For instance, you might slip on the ice and land on your back.  You also might lift something heavy or twist while carrying a baby. (That’s how I herniated a disc in my back over 10 years ago, bent over and twisted while putting my son in his crib.)

If you have low back pain, what do you do?  Well, of course the first thing to do is to see the doctor, especially if your pain is more than a simple “I overdid it” that goes away in a few days.  The doctor will ask questions about your pain, examine you, and may order tests and prescribe medicine to help you feel better.

When I see a patient with musculoskeletal back pain the first thing I do is to send them to physical therapy.  Most cases of low back pain are caused by two things: mechanical imbalance in the spine, and weak core support.  The therapists will help figure out what the patient is doing that might be making back pain worse (like bending and lifting improperly), teach strengthening exercises to address core weakness, and add treatments to relieve pain like traction, electrostim or ultrasound.

As I discussed in a previous post, chiropractic therapy is very helpful for low back pain as well.  Often manual therapy like massage and osteopathic or chiropractic adjustment can improve or relieve back pain very quickly.

If physical therapy and manual therapy don’t relieve symptoms in a few weeks we may discuss imaging like an Xray or MRI.  More serious problems may be present that need specialist care like injections or even surgery.

What are some of the danger signs that suggest low back pain is an urgent problem?  If you are having trouble emptying your bladder or controlling the bowels you need to see the doctor right away.  So-called “saddle anesthesia” which is numbness in the area between the legs (the part of you that would touch the saddle when riding horseback) may indicate damage to the spinal cord and should be checked out immediately.  Also, if you have a personal history of cancer then back pain could be a sign of a recurrence and should be reported to your doctor right away.

There are a few supplements that are helpful with musculoskeletal back pain.  Magnesium helps to relax muscles and can decrease pain from spasm.  Fish oil is helpful for painful conditions of all sorts, but you have to take a lot of it, as I wrote in a previous post.  Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties.  (This is not an all-inclusive list, of course.)

Millions of people suffer with back pain every year.  Luckily most of the time it goes away without too much muss or fuss, with some simple strengthening exercises and pain-relieving medicines.  Most patients also benefit from some education on how to take good care of their back so the pain doesn’t come back.

Low back pain doesn’t have to take over your life!  It takes some time, work and patience, but straightening out the problems with your back is so worth the effort!

QUESTION: Do you have low back pain?  What have you found that helps?

Share

Cardiovascular AND Dementia Risk Factors

As a family doctor I tell people regularly that changing their lifestyle will decrease their risk of a heart attack or stroke. Turns out the same risk factors for cardiovascular disease are also dementia risk factors.

There are few things more heartbreaking than watching a parent or spouse slowly lose their memory and ability to care for themselves. Many people are rightly afraid of developing dementia, especially if their parent was affected.

A new study was published recently that looked at structural changes in the brain that are associated with dementia. The authors found that vascular risk factors like smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, body mass index, and waist–hip ratio were associated with more brain changes.

This study wasn’t designed to prove causation – that these risk factors CAUSE the brain abnormalities. However, they did see that the more risk factors the patient had the more likely they were to have these changes.

Smoking, high blood pressure and diabetes had the strongest association. What’s most interesting is that middle-aged people with these risk factors had measurable changes in their brains. This was long BEFORE the memory loss started. The seeds of dementia are being planted, the damage is being done, long before the patient starts showing signs.

If you are a smoker, do whatever you need to do to quit. Now. Not tomorrow, next week, next month or next year. Smoking is not only hurting your heart and vascular system, it is hurting your brain too.

If you have high blood pressure or diabetes, work with your doctor to control them. Work on your diet and add some daily exercise. Add more fresh whole colorful plant foods and cut back on animal foods, fast food, junk food and added sugars. Take your medication as prescribed.

Smoking, obesity (especially around your middle), high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes aren’t just bad for your cardiovascular system. They are bad for you brain and significantly increase your risk of dementia as you age. Get serious, and stay healthy and sharp!

Share

Screening Children For Cardiovascular Risk

I’m a family doctor. I take care of children. When I think of patients with high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes, I think of my ADULT patients, not my kids.

But there’s a good reason for screening children for cardiovascular risk. A new study published in Pediatrics showed up to 40% of children may have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and even diabetes.

We’ve known for a long time that kids are having more and more problems with overweight and obesity. Poor food choices (and limited availability of fresh whole plant foods, in many cases), decreasing levels of physical activity and increasing time spent in front of computers both in school and at home have contributed to this trend.

Researchers went to Norwood, Ohio (very close to where I grew up, actually) and studied kids in middle school. With parental permission they checked height, weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar. 42% of the children were overweight or obese, and 34% had blood sugar or cholesterol out of the normal range.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends screening children for blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol at age 9-11, and again at age 17-21. It is more urgent if children are overweight or obese, or if they have a family history of high cholesterol.

If you have children, make sure to model good habits for them. Don’t tell them to eat their veggies while you are eating pizza and wings. Don’t tell them to exercise while you sit on the couch. Make fitness a family affair by choosing activities all family members can enjoy. Some examples are hiking, cycling, swimming, martial arts, dance, sports, etc.

As your children are growing, ask their doctor whether they need to be screened for heart risk factors. Especially ask about screening if their doctor expresses concern about their weight. Also ask if there is a family history of high cholesterol or early heart attacks. “Early” means before age 55 in men and age 65 in women).

There is an epidemic of overweight and obesity happening in the US and around the world. We must be alert and start screening children for cardiovascular risk factors earlier than we might think.

QUESTION: Do you have kids? Have they had their cholesterol and blood sugar checked?

Share

Fish Oil Is Good For Body And Mind

What if I told you there was a supplement that has proven to be good for your heart, your mind, your brain, your immune system, your joints, your digestive system AND improves women’s health?  There is!

It’s fish oil.  Yep, the lowly fish oil capsule can help ALL these parts of your body.

As you know, I’m very interested in nutrition and supplementation and their role in health.  It’s been fascinating to read research supporting the role of fish oil in general health.

I’m beginning to think EVERYONE from birth to death should take fish oil.

First let’s talk about all the physical and mental benefits of fish oil supplementation.  I’ll try to be brief!

HEART HEALTH

  • Reduces the risk of atrial fibrillation after heart attack
  • Reduces blood pressure
  • Eliminates aspirin resistance
  • Helps keep grafts open after bypass surgery
  • Decreases triglyceride levels
  • Improves heart function and decreases hospitalizations in heart failure patients
  • Inconclusive evidence about preventing both first and subsequent heart attacks

MENTAL HEALTH

  • Reduces anxiety symptoms by 20%
  • Prolongs remission and decreases depression symptoms in patients with bipolar disorder
  • Decreases depression symptoms and aggression in patients with borderline personality disorder
  • Decreases symptoms and promotes remission in major depression
  • Decreases psychotic symptoms in schizophrenia

BRAIN HEALTH

  • Improves cognition and behavior in children with developmental disorders
  • Inconsistent benefit in Alzheimer’s patients (some studies show benefit, some don’t)

IMMUNE RESPONSE / PAIN

  • Decreases pain and stiffness in rheumatoid arthritis
  • Decreases symptoms in systemic lupus
  • Decreases pain and the need for pain medication in patients with nonsurgical neck and back pain
  • Decreases need for rescue inhaler in exercise-induced asthma

DIABETES

  • Decreases risk of type I diabetes in children
  • Decreases insulin resistance in type II diabetes

WOMEN’S HEALTH

  • Significantly reduces menstrual symptoms in women
  • Reduces the frequency of menopausal hot flushes (but not their severity, unfortunately)
  • Decreases testosterone levels in women with PCOS
  • Decreases the rate of preterm birth when used in pregnancy

Wow, fish oil is good for such a long list of conditions and problems!  So how much fish oil is the right amount?  It depends on why you’re taking it, and what your diet is like.

In the USA we eat a LOT of omega-6 fatty acids.  They are found in nearly every oil used in cooking.  Omega-3 fatty acids are harder to get.  They are in flaxseeds, hemp seeds, purslane and walnuts as well as in fatty fish.

The best and safest sources of fish oil are small oily fish (like anchovies, sardines and herring) found low down on the food chain.  Fish high on the food chain (like tuna, mackerel and shark) tend to store up toxins from fish they’ve eaten, a phenomenon called bioaccumulation.

Recommended dosages vary based on why you’re taking it.  For general health purposes it’s reasonable to take 500-1000 mg daily.  Those with heart or vascular disease (including high cholesterol) should consider 1-3 gm daily.  Much higher doses are needed for those with autoimmune disease, neurological or psychiatric problems, or chronic pain.  A therapeutic trial of 5-10 gm daily is reasonable for these conditions.

Be careful which fish oil products you buy, some are not labeled accurately according to a review I found at ConsumerLab.com.  (I subscribe to this website because it gives me third-party testing results for all sorts of supplements.)

Want to know what fish oil my family and I take?  (Bet you can guess, if you’ve been reading this blog for awhile.)

OmegaGuard from the Shaklee Corporation is ultrapurified fish oil made from sardines.  Two capsules gives 1200 mg fish oil, free of mercury and other contaminants.

And no fish burps!  Yay!

Here’s a link to more information about OmegaGuard.  You can order it through this link.

QUESTION:  I was surprised to learn that fish oil was so effective in controlling chronic pain.  Was there one use for fish oil that surprised you?

Share

Asthma Education Programs In School

You know, air is one of those things you just have to have. Asthma interferes with airflow, causing air trapping in the lungs, wheezing, cough and shortness of breath. It is estimated that one in 12 children has asthma, and it is the single most common reason for missed days of school.

Asthma attacks are common. Almost 50% of children with asthma report having at least one attack in any given year. Attacks are very frightening, with sudden onset of symptoms, and are a common reason for ER visits. It is the third leading cause of hospitalization for children under 15. Thousands of Americans die every year from asthma. Black people are three times more likely to die from asthma than Caucasians.

Credit: Healthdirect.gov.au

There was a study published that explored using school-based education programs about asthma. They found that teaching children about asthma in school decreased trips to the ER and hospitalizations.

There is a big problem with asthma management in this country. Many children and parents don’t know how to use inhalers properly. Children aren’t comfortable reporting symptoms at school because they’re embarrassed to ask to go to the nurse to use their medication. And access to primary care is inconsistent, leading parents to overuse the ER.

Asthma education programs in school raise awareness among students and teachers so children with asthma are less likely to be stigmatized. The more people who are able to recognize early signs of an asthma attack, the more likely a child will get treatment quickly when it is most effective.

Asthma claims the lives of thousands of people yearly. There is unfortunately limited primary care access in many parts of the country. With higher illness burden in African American children, more ways to educate patients and parents about asthma management are needed. Asthma education programs in schools are a natural and (now) proven option to decrease ER visits and hospital stays.

QUESTION: Do you think teaching children about asthma in school will help raise awareness and improve health outcomes?

Share

Is Measles Making A Comeback?

Lately measles has been in the news a lot  Five years we had a big outbreak of measles here in Ohio.  Currently Europe is seeing the highest numbers of measles cases they have had in 20 years.  The Pacific Northwest,  Texas and New York (among others) are seeing cases and it’s estimated that the US may see more measles cases in 2019 than we have seen in 30 years.

It is ironic that the success of childhood vaccination is the reason we’re seeing the resurgence of this disease.

Most people have never seen measles and don’t know how to recognize it.  I have never seen measles either.  Before you go questioning my training, you should know the reason WHY I’ve never seen measles.  For a very long time, measles has been extraordinarily rare in the United States.  The reason for this is universal childhood vaccination.

The live measles vaccine was introduced in 1963.  Before that time, according to the CDC it is estimated that 3-4 million people in the US got measles every year.  About 48,000 people were hospitalized, over 400 people died and 1000 people were left permanently disabled from measles encephalitis (brain infection).  That’s EVERY YEAR.

In the 1990s over 500,000 children still died worldwide ever year from measles.  That’s like 3 Boeing 747 jumbo jets crashing EVERY DAY, all year long.  From 2000-2013 there were 37-220 cases of measles in the US per year.  All of these cases were related to international travel, or exposure to an infected international traveler.  Measles was common in other parts of the world, you see.  It is much less common now, but by no means gone.

Ten states in the USA are reporting measles outbreaks right now.  What is interesting is that researchers predicted this last year, by looking at the rates of non-medical exemptions for vaccination.  The areas that have the highest rates of non-medical exemptions are the hot spots for the current outbreaks.

Why?

If vaccination resulted in the near-eradication of measles in this country, it doesn’t take a genius to see that falling vaccination rates will result in a resurgence of the disease.

Well-intentioned parents who love their children are frightened by all the reports of vaccine injury in the news media and on bloggers’ websites.  So they refuse to vaccinate and therefore put their families at risk from a dangerous, highly contagious disease that has no specific treatment.

If you or a family member get measles it is critically important to recognize it as soon as possible.  So let’s review the symptoms of measles.

  1. Fever:  sudden onset of high fever, sometimes up to 105F
  2. Cough, runny nose (coryza) and conjunctivitis:  These are sometimes called the “3 C’s” of measles.  Measles is a respiratory illness so the cough and sneezing is how the virus is spread.  Anyone with a fever, cough and runny nose should stay at home until the fever is gone.  If they get red, watery eyes they should ESPECIALLY be isolated until the fever is gone.
  3. Koplik’s spots:  These are little gray-white spots (like grains of sand or salt) surrounded by a red ring on the insides of the cheeks.  Those who have these spots are VERY contagious.  You can see a picture of them here.
  4. Rash:  The rash is what most people associate with measles.  It starts at the hairline and spreads down to the feet, and disappears slowly the same way.  This picture is from the CDC website.

measles-22-lg

If you are planning to travel to a country where measles is common, make sure your immunizations are up-to-date.  Large outbreaks have been reported in England, France, Germany, India, and the Philippines, to name a few.  The outbreak here in Ohio five years ago was related to unvaccinated travelers to the Philippines who then came back and exposed people in Ohio’s unvaccinated Amish population.

These measles cases are a good illustration of why universal vaccination doesn’t work as well if it’s NOT universal.  As vaccination rates fall because parents refuse to allow their children to be immunized, outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases will become more and more common.

Measles is highly contagious.  Approximately 90% of non-immune people exposed to a sick patient will get sick with the disease.  This is compared to an estimated 33-45% for influenza.

There are people who CANNOT be immunized.  The immunocompromised, those who are allergic to vaccine components, and the very young are unable to be fully vaccinated.  They depend on us to limit our ability to spread these vaccine preventable illnesses to them.

QUESTION: Have you ever seen measles?

Share

Reduce Colds And Flu With Vitamin D

How many colds and bouts of bronchitis do you have in any given winter?  Two?  Three?  Or are you one of those people who gets over one cold just to come down with the next?

Are you envious of those who don’t ever seem to get sick?  What if I told you the difference could be in your blood?  AND that it’s something EASY to change?

Turns out taking a vitamin D supplement reduces the risk of acute respiratory infections!  I’ve written about vitamin D before.  This nutrient has a lot of health benefits that we’re just starting to understand.  It helps keep bones strong.  It has mental health benefits.  Vitamin D levels are linked to the risk for multiple sclerosis.  We really don’t understand everything about how vitamin D works.

Credit: https://www.humnutrition.com/

Researchers in the UK wanted to know if there was a link between vitamin D levels and risk of colds and flu.  Specifically, they wanted to know if vitamin D supplements helped prevent respiratory infections.

Last year their study was published in the British Medical Journal.  They analyzed 25 other papers involving over 11,000 people to see if there was evidence that vitamin D supplements protect against respiratory infection.

They found that people who took vitamin D supplements did have a lower risk of acute respiratory infection, but the effect was pretty modest.  Overall, those who took vitamin D supplements had a 40.3% risk of acute respiratory infection, while those who didn’t had a 42.2% risk.  That means you have to treat 53 people to keep one person URI-free.  (The rest either would have been URI free without the supplement, or would have still gotten respiratory infections in spite of the supplement.)

Not a big effect, right?  Well let’s look deeper, OK?  The authors looked at those who were deficient to begin with, having a blood level less than 25 nmol/L, and found that with supplementation the risk dropped from 55% to 40.5%.  Your number needed to treat dropped from 53 to 7!

The authors also wanted to know if it mattered how you took your vitamin D.  In Europe apparently it’s common to give a huge dose (>30,000 IU) every once in awhile, called bolus dosing.  In the US we usually dose daily or weekly instead.

The study found that bolus dosing was NOT effective, and if you just looked at the studies that gave the vitamin D supplements on a daily or weekly schedule the effect was quite dramatic.

Those who started with low vitamin D levels saw their risk of upper respiratory infections drop from 59.8% to 31.5%.  (NNT=3.5)  That is a huge impact!  The fact that correcting deficiency had such a big effect is good evidence that this is real and not just statistical fancy footwork or a coincidence.

They also found a big drop, 46.2% to 33.6%, in children aged 1-16 years who were supplemented with vitamin D.  (NNT=8)  Since kids in school are exposed to germs all the time, this reduction is very important.

How can we use this information?  If you live in northern Ohio (or anywhere north of 40 degrees north latitude) you ARE vitamin D deficient unless you are taking a supplement.  So everyone in Cleveland needs to take a supplement all year ’round.  You also should have your levels checked periodically by your doctor or health practitioner to make sure you’re taking enough of a supplement, because some people need more than others.

I prefer to have my patients take their vitamin D every day rather than once per week.  It is easier to remember to take something every day, just make it part of your morning routine.  The best dose I’ve found is 2000-3000 units daily.  What is in your multivitamin is NOT enough.

While taking a vitamin D supplement is helpful, there’s more to staying healthy and warding off colds and flu than taking vitamins.  Make sure you’re washing your hands regularly.  Drink plenty of fresh clean water, get enough sleep, and watch your stress levels.  Stress depresses the immune system so if you’re feeling overwhelmed make sure to beef up your self-care routine!

If you’re wondering how to get enough vitamin D, please check out Shaklee’s Vita D3.  It’s an inexpensive way to add insurance for heart, bone AND immune health!  If you’re not already a Shaklee family member, why not click this link to get your personalized health assessment?  There’s no cost and no commitment, just individual recommendations for diet and lifestyle changes (and smart supplementation of course) to meet your health goals.

I have so many friends and patients suffering cold after cold this winter.  Now you have one more tool in the toolbox to keep you well!

QUESTION: Do you take vitamin D every day?

Share

Preventing Falls And Fractures

With the Snowpocalypse on its way this weekend I’ve been thinking about the rash of injuries that result from snow and ice every winter. Wrist fractures, back injuries, and the dreaded hip fracture happen when older adults slip and fall on snow and ice. What are some ways we have of preventing falls?

It’s obvious that preventing falls is much better than treating injuries when they happen. About 20% of hip fracture patients won’t leave the nursing home afterwards. Prevention strategies can be broadly divided into two categories: environmental measures and personal factors.

Environmental Measures

What can we do to make the environment safer and prevent falls? Snow removal and preventing the formation of ice (where possible) are obvious steps to take. Less obvious are installing railings on stairs, improving lighting, and placing awnings to prevent accumulation of snow and ice on landings and access points.

Personal Factors

Let’s face it, we live in northern Ohio. Snow and ice happen for about half the year. We can’t avoid it altogether and we can’t remove it all. So improving each person’s ability to avoid falls and avoid injury if they DO fall is critically important.

If you’re faced with ice and more snow than you’re comfortable with, stay home if possible. If you must go out, keeping one hand on something stable like a railing is smart when navigating stairs or other risky places. Using a cane if you have one can help.

Exercise, particularly Tai Chi, has been shown to reduce the risk of falls in senior adults. Better body awareness, better muscle strength and tone, and better balance are some of the benefits offered by regular exercise and Tai Chi in particular.

For the more adventurous, martial arts like jiu jitsu teach the student how to fall safely and reduce the risk of injuries in a fall. I myself have avoided serious injury in a fall not long ago, due to my training.

If you’re a woman over 60, make sure you’ve had a bone density (DEXA) test. This is a simple Xray that measures the strength of your bones. Using your bone density and other risk factors like age, gender and medical history, your doctor can estimate your fracture risk. If your fracture risk is high, you should discuss with your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.

One important thing to do to keep your bones strong is to take vitamin D and a bone health supplement daily. Here in northern Ohio adults need 2000-3000 units of vitamin D every day, all year around. A lot of doctors tell patients to take calcium but bones need calcium, magnesium and vitamin D to be healthy. I recommend Shaklee’s OsteoMatrix which provides SMALL coated caplets proven to be well absorbed to support bone health.

Avoiding falls and avoiding injury from falls is very important. First, you have to stay on your feet. If a fall does happen, being able to fall safely and having strong bones to prevent fractures is critical.

QUESTION: Are you afraid of falls? What do you do to avoid them and stay safe?

Share

Menopause Symptoms And Quality of Life

Women who have reached menopause often feel as though they’ve traded one problem for another.  Sure, you don’t have to deal with the hassle of menstrual periods and worry about pregnancy anymore.  The hot flushes, night sweats, sleep problems, mood swings and vaginal dryness are not much improvement though.

Ask women who have menopause symptoms what their least favorite part is.  They will say the hot flushes and sweats at random times of the day and night.  They will tell you about the poor sleep and emotional roller-coaster.  They often WON’T tell you they have vaginal dryness and intolerable itching and loss of urinary control.  They usually won’t tell you they can’t tolerate intercourse with their partner anymore.

A lot of times they don’t tell ME that either.  I ask every woman at her physical about these symptoms if she is heading into menopause.  Women are embarrassed to discuss those parts of their bodies, even with their doctor.

There was a research study published recently in Menopause that asked women with menopause symptoms specifically about vaginal, vulvar and urinary symptoms.  Women who had had no menstrual period for at least a year were asked to fill out a questionnaire, and then had a gynecological exam.

Over 90% of the women were found to have vulvovaginal atrophy.  After the ovaries stop making estrogen at menopause, the skin and other tissues around the vagina and urethra become thinner, dryer and more fragile.  This is called atrophy and is often responsible for the itching, irritation and pain with sex that many women experience.

Many women know about hormone replacement therapy for menopausal symptoms and often refuse to take it.  Not as many women know that there are safer alternatives for vulvovaginal atrophy.  I usually recommend women try over-the-counter DHEA cream which they can get at the health food store or online.  One of my patients told me she tried Julva cream which she bought online and it helped a lot.  (Not an affiliate and I have no personal experience with it, just passing along a report from a happy patient.)

Topical estrogen cream is also very effective and is safe to use even in women who have had estrogen-sensitive breast cancer.  This is a prescription and usually requires an exam to make sure the diagnosis is right.  Many things other than vulvovaginal atrophy cause itching in pain (including infections and some skin conditions).

If you or a woman you love is suffering with itching, pain and/or urinary symptoms after menopause please don’t suffer in silence.  See the doctor and discuss your symptoms so you can get treatment.  Treatment works!

QUESTION:  Have you had problems with menopausal vaginal symptoms?  How has it affected your life?

Share

What Is Acute Flaccid Myelitis?

It’s a parent’s nightmare.  Your perfectly healthy child comes down with a bad cold.  While they’re miserable for a few days they get better as expected.  Then shortly after the cough and snot are gone, your child gets sick again.  Suddenly your child loses the ability to walk because their legs become very weak.

Since 2014 there has been a new, rare and severe neurological condition reported mostly in children called acute flaccid myelitis (AFM).  This illness can result in permanent paralysis and the cause is not known.

Acute flaccid myelitis behaves almost exactly like polio but it is NOT caused by the poliovirus.  Doctors have checked and none of the patients have had poliovirus in their bodies.  However, almost all of the patients have had a fever or mild respiratory illness before the weakness started.  Most of the cases occur in the late summer and early fall, when the class of viruses that includes polio, enteroviruses, are most common.

AFM causes the sudden onset of weakness in one or more limbs.  Usually one side of the body is more seriously affected than the other.  There is usually no numbness or loss of sensation in the limb(s) although there may be associated pain.

Patients may also have trouble swallowing, weakness or drooping on one side of the face, double vision, problems speaking, and in severe cases trouble breathing.  If you or your child develops these sort of symptoms it is important to get care right away because treatment can be lifesaving.  Even though the cause isn’t known, prompt diagnosis and treatment are critical.

Other illnesses can behave like acute flaccid myelitis.  A stroke, West Nile Virus, Guillain-Barre syndrome and some other infections are on the list.

It’s estimated that one to two in a million children in the US will get AFM per year.  That’s REALLY rare, but very serious.  Parents need to know that if their child seems lethargic or has any weakness at all, they should seek care immediately.

QUESTION: Have you heard of acute flaccid myelitis?

Share