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The Pharmacist Answers Podcast

Have a question for the pharmacist? Get your answers here! Clear explanations about complicated medical topics that anyone can understand. Disclaimer: The information contained in this blog and related podcast are not to be taken as medical advice, they are for informational and educational purposes only. If you resemble anything that is mentioned in this blog or related podcast, contact your doctor. The information contained in this blog and related podcasts is the opinion of the author and does not relfect the views of her employer, Walgreens. If you want to know what Walgreens thinks, ask Walgreens!
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Now displaying: 2017
Jun 19, 2017

Sneezing is very forceful in your body.

Review:  the inside of your nose is covered with mucous membranes, and that mucus traps up things so they don't get into your lungs.

Some little particles float through the air and into your nose.  They will land on those mucous membranes and irritate it.  That irritation sends a signal to your sneeze center of your brainstem.

*Callback:  Brainstem*

The sneeze center sends out several signals.  One goes to your diaphragm to tell it to compress the lungs to force the air out.  Another signal goes to your tongue to have it direct the air through your nose.  The last signal goes to your eyes - it is really true, you can't sneeze with your eyes open.

So your abs contract and your diaphragm forces your lungs to exhale, your tongue directs the air to go out your nose, so the mucus plus the things that irritated your nose flies out of your face.

*Mythbusters sneezing*

The proven statistics on sneezes is that they travel about 40 mph but only go about 20 feet.

Holding in a sneeze can be painful and damaging.  By holding in all that air, you can rupture your eardrums, damage your tear ducts in your eyes, fracture your nasal cartilage or bones, or cause nose bleeds because of the blast against your sinus passages.

There's so many tricks about trying to stop a sneeze - most of them involve counter-pressure on other spots on your face or body.

The best advice for stopping a sneeze is to blow your nose to get out the irritants before the body blasts it out with a sneeze.

You will never ever sneeze when you're sleeping.  So morning sneezing fits are normal for a lot of people.  This is because all the dust and stuff you breathe in while you're sleeping finally irritates your body.  So morning congestion and sneezing is normal to help clear all of that out.

We're unsure why people will sneeze in other situations like sudden exposure to bright light or changes in air pressure or temperature.  Another unsual trigger is an over-full stomach.  Multiple people have reported they feel nauseous and once they sneeze, the sick feeling goes away.  I dunno....

If you do have to sneeze, make sure you cover your face.  Use the elbow technique!

*Mythbusters hanky*

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Jun 5, 2017

Issues that cause your breathing to fail:
- Alleriges - congestion
- Viruses - congestion
- Deviated septum - the septum (the bone that separates the nasal cavity and divides your nostrils) can get crooked and change the size and access of the nostrils or nasal cavity.  Can be from trauma, or may gradually get crooked from chronic pressure
- Turbinate Hypertrophy - over-growth of tissue covering the turbinates (tissue-covered bones that add warmth and moisture to the air you breathe); can lead to snoring.  May be treated by steroid nasal sprays or surgery to remove extra tissue.
- Nasal Polyps - uneven overgrowth of mucus membranes (symptoms may be runny nose, post-nasal drip, stuffiness); not cancerous.  Treated by snipping them out.
- Sinus cancer - a single growing tumor that causes bulging - either around the eye, face, or mouth

Issues that cause your smelling to fail:
- Age
- Deviated septum
- Polyps
- Chronic sinus infections - the smelling sensors are inflamed or covered with mucus so much that they become damaged or less sensitive
- Smoking - smoke and toxins can damage smelling receptors in your nose; also the receptors become so clogged up with smoke and tobacco molecules that there's no room for other molecules to be detected.  This can be temporary or permanent.

Nosebleeds
- In kids, usually from trauma (either bumps and bonks or picking) or dry air (in the wintertime, use vaseline in the nostrils)
- In adults, can be from hypertension (high blood pressure) or chronic use of blood thinners

PSA: Treatment for a nosebleed:  DO NOT tip your head backwards!!!!!  It makes you swallow that blood!  THAT'S GROSS!!  Proper treatment:  pinch the nose and tip the head forward.  This allows a clot to form and clots stop the bleeding.  

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May 29, 2017

Air goes in your nose and flows over the smell sensors.

Your nose and sinus cavities act as a resonating chamber for your voice.  That's why you sound funny when you hold your nose or when your nose is stopped up from a cold or allergies.  This is important in talking and singing.

What makes something smell?
Volatile molecules evaporate at normal temperatures and pressures, so actually molecules of the thing are in the air and available to go in your nose.  Don't think about this too hard....

The smelling sensors are on the roof of the nasal cavity --> olfactory receptors (olfactory is the fancy word for smelling).  The molecules fit into the receptors like a key in a key hole.  Our brain likes to categorize things, and so certain compounds have similar structures and get lumped together ("smells like eggs" but you know it's not real eggs).

The olfactory receptors send the signals to the olfactory bulb (which is the area in the brain that translates all the smells and allows you to identify a smell).  It's not a very long trip....

The olfactory bulb is a part of the limbic system (the emotion center).  this is why smell is more strongly connected to emotions and memory - even stronger than sight and sound.

If you go to the perfume counter at a department stores, you'll find that they all start smelling the same.  The perfume department will have coffee beans because it helps clean out the receptors.

Coffee-scented, caffeinated perfume <-- free idea!!

Inflammation and mucus congestion blocked off the receptors.

No concrete evidence of why pregnant women get a "super smeller" during pregnancy.

One rogue molecule won't make you smell something.

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May 22, 2017

Episode 94 - Nose Anatomy

Your nose is responsible for breathing and smelling.  These things work better when you're nose isn't stopped up.

The part of your nose that you can see and touch is cartilage covered in skin.  There is bone above your nose, beside your nose, below your nose, and right in the middle of your nose (inside your head).  Part of the cartilage is stiff and hold shape, other parts of cartilage are soft for flexibility.

The nasal root (the bone that extends between your eyes) connected to the bridge of your nose (which is made of cartilage).  The tip of your nose is also called the lobe.  The wings are on each side of your nose that you can flare.  The nostrils is actually the hole that leads into your nose.

There are 4 main sinus cavities.
- Frontal sinuses = in your forehead, between your eyebrows
- Maxillary sinuses = run under your eyes, behind your cheeks
- Ethmoid sinus = right between your eyes, in the middle of your head, connected to your tear ducts
-Sphenoid sinus = under your sphenoid bone (in the middle of your head)

The sinus cavities are lined with mucous membranes that keep them moist and have lots of blood flow to them.  Their job is to warm and moisten the air you breathe in your nose before it goes into the lungs.  Your lungs don't like cold air.

Mouth breathing is not very efficient. This is true in athletics as well as sleep.   But breathing out through your mouth can be useful because you can get a large amount of air out rather quickly and the lungs empty better.

You have a fast-flow and a slow-flow nostril - this has to help you perceive smell.  Sometimes almost as good as dogs.

The cartilage of your ears and nose never stop growing through your life.

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May 8, 2017

PSA:  Please don't stick things in your ear any larger than your elbow...and that includes your finger.

Outer ear = the part that you can touch
Middle ear = the area being the ear drum
Inner ear = the cochlea and area responsible for your balance

3 common ear issues
- Ear infections (otitis media)
- Vertigo (and motion sickness)
- Tinnitus (ringing in your ear)
*Ear wax?  <-- Go here

The area behind your ear drum has air in it and that pressure is equalized through the eustachian tube.  If that area gets fluid in it, that fluid can grow bacteria and that leads to infection.  The natural motion of opening and closing your jaw helps massage the eustachian tubes and moves air in and out (like when you fly or drive in the mountains and you chew gum or yawn).

Cold and allergies can be the source of the fluid build up that leads to ear infection.  You may have decreased hearing, pain, decreased balance - infection can require antibiotics.

Vertigo = the sensation of spinning, dizziness, being off balance
The semi-circular canals are responsible for your balance.  If it get sloshed too much, or doesn't level out exactly right, then the signals sent to the brain may translate to being off balance even though your body is upright.  The signal confusion is what can lead to nausea (it's not actually happening in your stomach - at least not until you vomit!)
The fluid moving around in these canals are why kids can induce dizziness when they spin around in circles (think about the clothes in your washer during the spin cycle - they get pushed to the outside).
Medications  for vertigo are the same as some medications for nausea - plus they have drowsy side effects, so maybe you just sleep it off.
There are many suspected causes, but nothing definite or proven.

Tinnitus = ringing, buzzing, roaring, whooshing sound when nothing is actually making that noise.
Causes: hearing loss (either due to aging or exposure to loud noises); high blood pressure (pulsating); medications
One theory: the hairs in the cochlea are damaged so those frequencies of sound (usually high pitched sounds) can't be picked up anymore; the brain fills in the gaps with "made up sound".  This is NOT PROVEN!
High blood pressure can cause you to hear the blood pulsing through the blood vessels in your ears.
Medications that causing ringing in the ears
- Aspirin (acute over-use)
- Aminoglycosides (i.e. Gentamicin = antibiotic) - it has a small therapeutic window, too much can lead to ear damage, it stopped in time, permanent ear damage can be avoided
- Quinine = usually asked for to help leg cramps, also medically prescribed to prevent malaria.  Can only be readily consumed by drinking tonic water.

Flavonoids are put in vitamins and advertised to help tinnitus.  Flavonoids are phytonutrients (nutrients you get from plants).  These nutrients can't grow the hairs back in the cochlea.  Most of the vitamins and nutrients in the flavonoid vitamins have anti-oxidative properties, but I doubt that tinnitus is a major oxidation problem.

Can being slapped over time cause ringing in the ears?
- being bopped in the face and head can probably cause permanent damage to the structures on the inside and outside of your head.  Being hit in the side of the head can cause pressure build-up in the ear where the air causes the ear drum to rupture.
- Slaps to the face (like "you jerk!" kind of slaps) don't affect the ears, but punches or slaps to the side of the head near or on the ears can possibly cause damage.

Be nice to your ears!

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May 1, 2017

The Auricle = the part of the ear you can see; made of cartilage (flexible tissue that doesn't have a large blood supply)
Everything else requires a tool for the doctor to see inside.  And the doctor can only see to about the ear drum.  The stuff behind the ear isn't visible because of the membrane that blocks it.  The middle and inner ear are surrounded by your head bones.

Science of sound
Sound is created when the air around us is compressed and then expands.  They move away from the source in circles (think radar or sonar or throwing a pebble in a pond.

The ear canal directs the sound waves towards the ear drum.

The ear drum (tympanic membrane) vibrates according to the intensity of the sound and trigger the Hammer-Anvil-Stirrup cascade.
- The ear drum vibrates the handle of the Hammer (Malus bone - yes, it's a real bone).
- The Hammer bangs on the Anvil (Incus bone).  The Anvil has a tail that is connected to the Stirrup (Stapes bone).
- The Stirrup looks like the spurs on the back of boots.  It it connected to a membrane on the Cochlea and works like a plunger.
- All of these bones are surrounded by air and the pressure is controlled by the Eustachian tube.  This is the access point for ear infections or congestion due to allergies or a cold.

The Cochlea is a bone full of fluid and lined with hairs and shaped like a spiraled sea shell.  The hairs pick up different frequencies of sound (sound wave frequency determines pitch).  If certain levels of hairs get damaged, then you will not be able to hear pitches in that range anymore.  If you unrolled the cochlea, it would be laid out low pitch to high pitch like a piano.  And these hairs are connected to the auditory nerves and turn sound signals into electrical signal to send it to your brain.

Sound gets translated in 2 main ways
1. Identify the sound
2. Identify if the sound has meaning

Semicircular canals of the cochlea are little bone chambers full of fluid and they control balance.  This works like a leveling bubble to help you stay upright.  If it becomes dysfunctional, then it may trigger vertigo.

The middle ear (the area behind the ear drum) is where most of the trouble happens - whether allergies causing stopped up ears, or colds leading to ear infections.

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Apr 24, 2017

Anaphylaxis = an out of control allergic reaction that can be life-threatening if medical treatment is not sought immediately
EpiPens are a first-step self-treatment in the case of a major allergic reaction or anaphylaxis.

I got 33 injections!!

It started with a serum test as a baseline - just to see how strongly my histamine reaction was.

The injections are sub-dermal (under the dermis layer of the skin).  It's the same level if injection that a TB skin test is done (to see if you've been exposed to tuberculosis).

The next step was a prick-test or scratch test - these plastic claw things that poke down in my forearms.  This test required me to sit completely still for 20 minutes.  COMPLETE TORTURE!

Numbers 1-20 are plants (trees, grasses, flowers).  C = cat. D = dog (Good news - I'm not allergic to dogs!) M = skin mites (don't think about this one too hard). CL = cockroaches.  The other letters are household and common molds.

The skin pricks on my forearm was a preliminary test to determine how much serum she was going to inject of each in my upper arms. The mites injection hurt the worse of all of them, but i had minimal reaction.

Slowest tattoo EVAR!

One of my higher reactions was to Fescue (this is the type of grass that Ken grows on the farm as hay to feed the cows!)
The one the nurse was most concerned about was Cocklebur

They didn't want me to wash the mold markings off until I go in for a delayed reading a few days later.

The next step that they prefer you do is allergy shots - 2 years of weekly injections of what you're allergic to in hopes to desensitize you to those triggers.  NOPE!  Not doing it!

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Apr 10, 2017

Dry eye: 48% of Americans over age 18 complain of dry eyes.  Caused by environment, genetics, health conditions, eye procedures, medications.
There are 2 reasons for dry eye:
1. Inflammation blocks the free flow of fluid through the eye.
2. Tear duct insufficiency - the ducts and glands don't produce adequate moisture for the eye (can be solved by a tear duct stent)
If a medication dries up another part of your body, then it has the potential to dry out your eyes (antihistamines, medications for overactive bladder) - these medications can also lead to constipation.
Many of the common diseases that many Americans deal with can cause dry eye - hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, obesity.
They light from electronic devices tricks your eyes into not blinking as often, therefore your eyes can dry out more easily (blinking is your eyes' remoisturizing process).  The solution is to give your eyes long breaks from electronic light , especially late at night before sleeping.
Callback: Sleep 
Air conditions in hotels can make your eyes feel dry because they work to remove excess humidity from the air.
Hormones - whether in pregnancy, menopause, or during the use of prescription birth control products, can cause changes in the moisture content of your eyes.
The Solution: eye drops (either OTC or Rx)

Presbyopia = old or elderly vision
Presby = elders
Presbyterian church = the church's decision-maker was a group of people called Elders
This seems to happen somewhere around age 40.  The lens of your eye loses some of its flexibility.  The lens has to be really curved to see up close, and then flattens out a bit to see far away.  So, if the flexibility decreases, it means it can't curve up enough to clearly see things up close.
The solution: wear reading glasses.

Stye = infected oil duct or hair follicle.  Looks like a zit
**DO NOT TRY TO POP A STYE LIKE A ZIT!!**
They will usually clear out on their own in 6-7 days.  Not too troublesome other than being sore, swollen, and not pleasant to look at.
The Solution: warm compress for 15-20 min, then take a shower or wash your face, then leave it alone!  Can use drops or an ointment to help lubricate the eye.  Worst cases will require antibiotic drops or ointment from the doctor.

Corneal dystrophy = a genetic condition that causes the accumulation of protein material build up in the layers of the cornea (recap: cornea = the very front layer of your eye that starts to focus the light into the eye).  If this fluid gets cloudy with junk, then your vision gets blurry. No other symptoms really except worsening vision.  A surgical procedure can be used to clear out the cloudy liquid, but no cure.
This can lead to corneal erosion (where the layers of the cornea begin to separate = painful). Corneal erosion has to be corrected by surgery.  Erosion can also be a result of eye injury - either instant trauma or more gradual like an unhealed corneal abrasion (which can lead to ulceration and eventually erosion).

Take care of your eyes and treat them nicely!

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Apr 3, 2017

If something happens to your eyes that makes you want to ask the pharmacist if you should go to the doctor, the answer will most likely be "yes, go see a doctor."  Even at emergency rooms, they will treat you and make you comfortable but always tell you to follow up with your eye doctor.

Photopsias = seeing things that aren't really there, the visual cortex translates other sensations as "sight"
Floaters - "shadows" that float around in your field of vision.  They *can* be a sign of a detaching retina, but that is usually not the case.  They are normal for most people.
Inside your eyeball is a gel, called vitreous gel.  Throughout your life, that gel begins to liquify.  As it turns to liquid, it may have other bits of gel still floating in that liquid.  And you see "shadows" because they block light from reaching your retina.  Floaters may worsen with dehydration or exhaustion.  If you try to focus on them, they "float" away.
Flashes - "seeing stars" - when the vitreous gel/liquid combo gets shook up and sloshed around (i.e. head trauma).  You can also get "flashes" with Digitalis toxicity (Digoxin is a medication derived from the Foxglove plant and developed for arrhythmias.)  This is a medication that the doctor will test your levels for to make sure toxicity doesn't happen.
Waves = looks like radiating heat; caused by spasms of the blood vessels in your eyes.  This may be one explanation of the "aura" that comes before a migraine.  If it happens and no headache follows, it's caused an "ocular migraine".

Glaucoma = 2nd leading cause of blindness in the US and around the world; increased pressure in your eyes.  The fluid around the eyes typically have adequate drainage so nutrients can flow in and waste can flow out.  If that drainage becomes inadequate, the pressure builds up and it can put pressure on the optic nerve (the nerve that connects from the retina to the brain).  It starts with decreasing peripheral vision, and can become "tunnel vision" where a person can only see right in the middle of their field of vision.  Medications are eye drops that control pressure and help open up drainage pathways as much as possible.
(Macular Degeneration is the #1 cause of blindness in the US, Cataract is the #1 cause of blindness worldwide).  It doesn't hurt, and it takes a while for the decreased peripheral vision to be noticeable.  It's not reversible, but it can be slowed with medication.
Eye doctors have a way to check the pressure in your eyes each time you get your eyes checked.

Nystagmus (Nigh-stag-mus) = involuntary rapid eye movement side to side.  Caused by a neurological issue - either related to the eye muscles and nerves or the inner ear (one cause a vertigo).  The shaking seems to be worse when a person looks straight at something or someone.  For someone dealing with nystagmus, they usually discover they can tilt or turn their head to make their eyes slightly off center where the shaking wills stop - this is called a "null point".  Strengthening eye muscles can help the shaking, but it still worsens with exhaustion or stress.
This can be a result of a stroke, multiple sclerosis (autoimmune).  Dilantin is a medication for seizures, and is another medication that has to be regularly measured because too much can cause temporary nystagmus.

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Mar 27, 2017

Color blindness = blind to color
But it doesn't mean that someone sees the world in black and white.
It's technically labeled as Red-Green color blindness, which means the world is seen in shades of yellow.
The cones in your eyes (a certain shaped cells in your retina) are built to pick up different wavelengths of  light (think ROYGBV).  So the cones that would pick up reds and greens are absent or broken.
Found to be a Y-chromosome trait, so it is more prevalent in males.
Rarely Blue-yellow color blindness is a thing.

Conjunctivitis = pink eye = inflammation of the conjunctiva
Conjunctiva = the layer that covers your whole eye
3 types:
- Viral - , itching, watering, burning, light sensitivity, very contagious, lasts ~ 7 days
- Bacterial - green/brown discharge (aka "goo"), foreign-body sensation, contagious, can cause damage if untreated, requires antibiotic drop
-Allergic - triggered by allergens, histamine reaction, can accompany a larger, more general allergy reaction, anti-histamine eye drops can help

Corneal abrasion = scratched or injured cornea
Symptoms: redness, watering, light sensitivity, foreign-body sensation
Can be dramatic or traumatic like being hit in the face or eye by something, or something as simple as rubbing an itchy eye or getting something out of their eye.
* If you end up with something in your eye, the best option is to flush it out with water or saline
Bacteria on your hands or the thing that scratched your eye can lead to a deeper infection, but most of the time, if you use caution, it will heal itself rather quickly.

**Solution for light sensitivity:  wear sunglasses at night

Detached retina = when the retina detaches from the back of the eye
*Sounds awful but it doesn't hurt
Retina - a web of nerves in the back of your eye that sends signals to the brain
Closing curtain sensation = part of the view of vision will become shadowed as the retina detaches gradually from one side to the other.  Floaters also show up if this is happening. (All floaters ARE NOT related to the retina.)
Sudden detachment can be caused by head injuries or sudden intra-ocular pressure drops (the fluid pressure inside your eyeball).  This sudden detachment is experienced as a flash of light and then sudden darkness.
Sudden or gradual detachment requires immediate medical attention and can be repaired with surgery and medical intervention.
Diabetic retinopathy do to chronic damage can lead to retina detachment.
*The risk of retina detachment occurring after an eye procedure (lasik surgery or cataracts surgery) is skewed for people with severe nearsightedness, possibly due to a genetic disposition of having a shorter retina.

Question:  Safe to use allergy eye drops long-term?
Answer:  Sure!  The only problem is that chronic use can lead to your body not responding to the same med over and over as well.  So, to avoid this, swap between drops and allergy tabs - based on if you're experiencing "eye only" allergies or a wider allergy response that involves the sinuses too.

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Mar 20, 2017

Your eyes work together so that the line of focus for each eye cross, and that is your most in focus image.  So as your eyes make tiny adjustments, you can focus on things close up or far away.

If you have a lazy eye, the muscles don't allow the eye to focus and coordinate with the strong eye.  This can lead to double vision or blurry vision.
Abmlyopia - I remember it because it sounds like "ambling" which can mean to meander or wander around.  Versions of this can be caused by torticollis, where a baby's head is tilted or twisted due to positioning in the womb.  The eye can either compensate for the difference or it'll just give up and let the dominant eye do all the work.  Correction of this issue usually involves patching the strong eye and making the weak eye do all the work.  The blurry or double vision can lead to headaches.  Overuse and fatigue (like long days at work) can make it worse.

Astigmatism = irregularly-shaped cornea  (not a stigmatism).  I think baseball vs football. A circular lens (baseball) focuses light to a single point. A football-shaped lens focuses light to a line, so that makes the vision blurry.  This is why people with astigmatism will squint.  Squinting is a way for your eyes to manipulate the amount of light coming in and alter the shape of the eye to clear up the image of what they're looking at.

Lasix procedures can correct astigmatism - the laser does micro-damage to the eye and it heals more circular in the eye.

Blepharitis - inflammation of eye lids.  Can result in dry eye.
It can affect the outside (eye lashes side) or the inside (lubrication gland size).  This is NOT a stye.  Caused by a chronic build-up of bacteria, skin flakes, dried eye lubrication.
Some skin conditions can make a person more susceptible to blepharitis - Rosacea (overgrowth of skin bacteria), severe dermatitis, including psoriasis.  It's recommended to use really good eye hygiene before having a doctor intervene.  Using warm compresses to keep dried skin and "eye crusties" soft and glands open so they don't get clogged.  Using clean cotton swabs or clothes instead of your hands to touch or wipe things out of your eyes, so you don't transfer bacteria.  Doctor's can insert a catheter into the tear ducts to keep it open and less likely to keep it clogged.  There's not a cure to make it go away for good.

Cataracts - the lens of the eye gets cloudy due to proteins clumping up.  People have described trying to see with cataracts like trying to look through wax paper.  Risk of cataracts normally increases with age.  The risk for cataracts can be increased even more by chronic diseases (diabetes, high blood pressure), poor health habits (obesity, smoking, alcohol use), long-term use of certain medications (steroids, hormone replacement therapy).  The current treatment for cataracts is lens replacement.  The old treatment would be just removing the proteins, but depending on a person's longevity, they may get cataracts again in their lifetime.

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Mar 13, 2017
Remember: if a vitamin is good for one place in your body, it’s probably good for a lot of places in your body.
 
Thiamine (B-1) - thiamine is used heavily in your liver, to help metabolize alcohol.  Most well-known deficiency in alcoholics.  Thiamine also helps nerves produce several neurotransmitters, as well as protects your nerves from inflammatory chemicals (the chemicals in your body that trigger swelling and pain).  You don’t want inflammation in your optical nerves.  You also don’t want the signals from your eyes to your brain and back to be slow.
 
Folic acid:  important for pregnancy women and fetal development, deficiency can cause a type of anemia.  It’s main job is to help make accurate copies of the DNA and RNA when cells are dividing and multiplying.  You don’t want typos in your DNA!  This is important for your eyes because the cells of your eyes is because they are some of the fastest reproducing and dividing cells in your body.
 
Omega-3 Fatty acids:  Beneficial for heart health, found in oils.  Oils in your body are lubricating.  Omega-3 fatty acids are building blocks for the cholesterol that is build into cell membranes that keep the fluid and slippery. The body also uses O3FA to produce the natural lubrication in your eye.
 
N-Acetylcystine (NAC): an amino acid (building block of protein).  Glutathione - your body’s naturally produced antioxidant.  NAC is used when the cells build and store glutathione.  Glutathione focuses mainly on oxygen-based free radicals.
 
Alpha Lipoid Acid (ALA): another antioxidant.  Found in sources of natural oils - seeds and nuts.
 
Lutein and Zeaxanthin: 2 nutrients that are found in red, orange, and yellow fruits and vegetables (and that actually cause them to be those colors in the first place).  Their main goal in your eyes are to prevent blue light damage.  Blue light is a short wavelength with a higher speed and energy than the lower colors of light.  This energetic light can damage cells in your eyes, so the orange nutrients blocks this energetic waves so you can still see the blue colors, but it’s more chill and doesn’t cause damage to the retina.  These nutrients concentrate in the macula.
 

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Mar 6, 2017
*Disclaimer: most vitamins and minerals are used in and good for ALL of your body
 
Vitamin C - helps make collagen, allows iron to be absorbed, and acts as a neurotransmitter co-factor (helps in the process of creating and sending messages)
 
Vitamin E - antioxidant (call-back —> traps up free radicals so they don’t damage cells in important organs)
 
Beta-Carotene - a pre-cursor to Vitamin A (this happens in your liver), Vitamin A works with proteins in your eyes to create light-sensitive molecules to aid in color vision and seeing in dim light
 
Zinc - helps Vitamin A know where it’s needed in the body and helps it get there
 
Selenium - helps the body absorb Vitamin E
 
Calcium - vital for muscle and nerve conduction (think electricity) 
 
No lone rangers here!
 
Many foods are fortified in modern countries and have vitamins added to them that may not be naturally occurring in the raw ingredients.
 
If you’re eating a well balanced diet and still deficient in something, take a supplement of the thing you’re deficient in, not a whole multi-vitamin.
 
If you’re getting regular check-ups with your doctor, they should be testing for many things, including many vitamin levels, to check for deficiencies. 
 
Being “tired” isn’t always fixed by taking vitamins.
 
Bonus: depending on what nutrient is missing to cause anemia, the red blood cells will have a certain appearance.
 
Some vitamins are fat soluble so they hang out in your adipose tissue, and can cause problems if you get them in too large amounts.
 

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Feb 27, 2017

Your eyes are more complex than any camera on the planet!

Cornea - a concave lens on the front of your eye that focuses light
Iris - the colored part, a diaphragm that controls how much light comes in (the pupil is the hole the light enters = equivalent to the aperture of a camera)
Lens - the "focuser", uses a process called accommodation to focus near to far and make the image as sharp and clear as possible
Retina - the sensor, and sends signals to the brain to translate light into an images

The retina has 2 types of sensors:
- Rods - detect light intensity
- Cones - color differentiation

Two special areas of the retina:
- Macula - right in the middle of the retina, they place that detects the most detail (that's why the center of your vision field is a clearer picture than the periphery)
- Fovea - the center of the macula, it contains cones (color sensors) only to aid in the translation of very fine details

Support structures
- Extra-ocular muscles - allows your eyes to move around in their holes
- there are chambers of fluid that are between each structure of the eye, and that fluid helps hold nutrients that feed those parts, and remove waste
- Choroid - the layer that holds all the blood vessels that feed the eyes
- Sclera - the whites of your eyes, an outer coating that hold everything inside
- Conjuntiva - the mucus membrane that attaches the sclera to the eyelids; produces liquid for lubrication and trapping invaders

PSA: Please don't vigorously rub or scratch your eyes, you could hurt them!   

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Feb 20, 2017

Your brainstem is the most basic area of the brain.  The area of the brain that we have in common with almost all other levels of the animal kingdom.  It extends right into the spinal cord.  A lot of other whole body involuntary reflexes come from the spinal cord - that's another story for another day).

3 main parts:
- Medulla oblongata - rhythm center (heart rate, breathing, swallowing, vomiting and coughing reflex) - they're all involuntary
- Pons (not ponds) - the bridge between the cerebellum hemispheres and other brain regions, helps coordinate the right side and left side of your body for complex activities
- Midbrain - sensory reflexes (also involuntary) - blinking, eye focusing, pupil dilation in response to light, visual and auditory startling reflex that kick-starts the "fight or flight cascade".

Other eye focusing problems are not rooted in the midbrain, they are more likely rooted in the areas of the brain that control orbital muscles or in the areas that translate what your eyes are seeing.  Things like a "lazy eye" or drifting eye, or being cross-eyed.  There are therapies that doctors prescribe to try and strengthen the weak eye.

Blinking is usually a response to eye moisture.

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Feb 13, 2017

The blood brain barrier is the last layer of cells between what's in your blood and the extracellular fluid around your brain cells.

You're born with it!  It's main job is filtration...

2 ways things get through the blood brain barrier:
- Passive diffusion: small, neutral molecules (water, gases, lipid-soluble)
- Active transport: glucose, amino acids, drugs (like a revolving door)

Permeability: how easily something can pass through a layer without work

Things that change permeability:
- Inflammation - stretches layer and makes holes bigger (meningitis, injury)
- Multiple sclerosis - an auto-immune disease that can degrade the BBB
- Alzheimer's - BBB becomes overwhelmed with antibodies and burns out

*Scary Section*
Rabies - the virus is small and can get through the blood brain barrier but the immune system cells, antibodies from the vaccine, and medicines can't
HIV encephalopathy - a mutation of HIV can get into the brain and use brain cells to replicate (rather than the well-known T-cells of the immune system).  There is also a rare symptom of HIV called HIV-associated dementia

Pregnancy causes the permeability of many areas of the body to change, and this includes the BBB (callback: microchimerisms)

Drugs that have central nervous system effects (good) or side effects (bad) cross the BBB.

So test yourself - use what you know of different medications and what job they're supposed to do and what negative side effects they cause and see if you can guess if they cross the BBB.

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"Radio Martini" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)  Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Feb 6, 2017

*Sorry again for crying baby*

The news reported that scientists had discovered a link between male DNA found in the brain of the women who gave birth to sons.

Microchimerism = DNA fragment of another organism that incorporates into you

This particular microchimerism involves the Y chromosome (because otherwise, you wouldn't know it was specifically male).

Other documented microchimerism studies have reason to believe they may be beneficial - especially in a process called immuno-surveillance (when the immune system is patrolling around looking for things that don't belong there).

The blood brain barrier is the last layer of cells between what's in your blood and your brain cells.  DNA fragments are small and can easily pass through the BBB, especially during pregnancy when membrane permeability (the penetrable-ness) has increased all throughout the body already.

The primary resource written by the scientists that did the study of the female brains states that their findings were pretty much inconclusive - partly due to the small sample size of brains they had available.  And they couldn't study living people.  They were mostly trying to decide if this male microchimerism had a positive or negative effect on alzheimer's risk.  The final conclusion - we dunno.  Another obstacle was that the complete health history of the samples they used was not known.

Other sources have stated hypotheses regarding the number of children a woman has and the risk of early onset alzheimer's.

This issue with reporting on studies like these is that Alzheimer's has so many factors that may increase or decrease risk and science is pretty sure there's NOT just one thing that will cause or prevent someone from developing this disease.

The only thing they could conclude is that microchimerisms are evolutionarily significant.

Here's the primary journal article.

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"Radio Martini" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)  Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Jan 30, 2017

Episode 78 - An Accordion in Your Brain

Your cerebellum is a separate part of your brain that sits under the occipital lobe.  It is responsible for unconscious motor functions, and is organized differently than the cerebrum.  It is packed tightly together in neat folds like an accordion.  And it has 3 lobes:
- Anterior (in the front) - it keeps the body visually "centered" and on balance, as well as moving the head or body to keep the eyes level with the horizon.  Alcoholism can cause damage this this area that results in a person being sober but still walking "drunk".
- Follcular-nodular (in the middle with nodules on it) - responsible for eye movement in response to motion.  It is responsible for correcting balance based on signals from the body rather than the eyes (it's how you know you're falling over when you have your eyes closed).  Also responsible for muscle tone (aka the passive contraction or "readiness" of a relaxed muscle).
- Posterior (in the back) - responsible for fine motor coordination and it turns off signals for involuntary movements.

Purkinje cells are the main type of neuron in the cerebellum - SO BEAUTIFUL!!

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201411/autism-purkinje-cells-and-the-cerebellum-are-intertwined
Source: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201411/autism-purkinje-cells-and-the-cerebellum-are-intertwined

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Jan 23, 2017

Episode 77 - Now You See It

Review: Brain lesion = a place in the brain that doesn't fire when it should or fires sporadically when it shouldn't

Occipital lobe lesions can lead to hallucinations that range from amorphous to extremely detailed.

Field blindness - a lesion causes the occipital lobe to not translate the information from one or more spots of the visual map (your whole view).  Blind spots (round) or visual cuts (lines).

Lesions in the occipital-temporal-parietal junction:
- Color agnosia - can see the colors but can't recall the names; simplified colors (all greens appear to be the same green)
- Movement agnosia - think weeping angels (things only move to a new position when you're not looking at it) or moving items appear blurry
- Agraphia - unable to communicate in writing

Photosensitivity seizures - seizures triggered by visual overstimulation.  Even though stereotypical in different forms of entertainment, only accounts for about 10% of seizure triggers.  Seizures triggered by visual stimulation can range from mild to severe.

Certain types of blindness can be rooted in translation problems in the brain, rather than reception problems in the eyeball.

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"Radio Martini" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)  Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Jan 16, 2017

Episode 75 - Eyes In The Back of Your Head

The occipital lobe sits in the back of your head.  It is the lobe directly connected to your eyes.

2 Streams of messages that your eyes send to your occipital lobe.
1. Ventral stream - translates "what"
2. Dorsal stream - translates "where" and "how"
It then sends this translated information to the necessary part of the brain to respond or react to what you saw.

This is how hand-eye coordination works (not just for athletes).

Since so much of the information we receive is visual means that the occipital lobe doesn't do much else.

**The following is complete speculation based on my experiences as a Mom.**
Mom's get accused of having eyes in the back of their head - but my guess is that mom's gain a keener sense of spacial awareness regarding the things that are happening around you.  Also, mom's hearing become much more attuned to specific sounds (aka knowing their baby's voice from other baby voices) to the point of knowing the difference between the sound of crayons coloring on paper versus crayons coloring on a wall!

If it hasn't been obvious, let me just say that no part of the brain acts and reacts all by itself.  Many of the complex activities we complete as humans involve many areas of the brain simultaneously or sequentially. 

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"Radio Martini" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)  Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Jan 9, 2017

Episode 75 - Art & Vitamins

Temporal lobe lesions can lead to dyslexia.

Receptive aphasia: can't receive or translate speech meaning

Word deafness: words are only noise

Temporal lobe lesions can also lead to deafness.  The ears are fine, but the wires that translate input as sound are damaged. (Possibly what happened to Helen Keller).

Callbacks:  Meningitis    Brain Bleeds

Prospoagnosia = facial blindness
- Chuck Close

Clinical apathy: you forget how to feel

Anterograde amnesia: can't make new memories
Retrograde amnesia: can't recall past memories
Situational amnesia: self-preservation from trauma

Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome
- Vitamin B-1 (Thiamine) deficiency - alcoholics; careless vegetarian/vegan diets
- Lose ability to walk, talk, and remember

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