Is it Typical Teenage Moodiness or Something More?

May 24th, 2017

TTeen rolling eyes at Mom and Dadhe new hit show, 13 Reasons Why explores the topic of teenage depression and suicide. It has led schools across the country to send letters home to parents suggesting that students and parents watch and discuss the show together. Parents are asking themselves more than ever, are their teens just suffering from normal teenage angst or is it something more serious? 

Teen Angst vs. Depression

While moodiness, irritability and isolation are often hallmarks of teenage growing pains, it can be hard to realize where the line begins for mood disorders.

A teen with depression may have:

  • Low energy and motivation: People with depression may feel tired, drained or exhausted. They might move more slowly or take longer to do things. It can feel as if everything requires more effort. People who feel this way might have trouble motivating themselves to do or care about anything.
  • Negative feelings and mood: People with depression might feel unusually sad, discouraged or defeated. They may feel hopeless or helpless. Some people may feel guilty, unworthy, rejected, or unloved. Some people with depression feel angry, easily annoyed, bitter, or alienated. Any or all of these negative emotions can be part of a depressed mood if they go on for weeks or more.
  • Negative thinking: People with depression get stuck in negative thinking. This can make people focus on problems and faults.
  • Physical problems: Some people with depression have an upset stomach or loss of appetite. Some might gain or lose weight. People might notice headaches and sleeping problems when they’re depressed.
  • Poor concentration: Depression can make it hard to concentrate and focus.
  • Social withdrawing: People with depression may pull away from friends and family or from activities they once enjoyed.

In order to determine if a teen is experiencing depression, parents and doctors can look at:

  1. Intensity: This involves the kinds of thoughts and feelings a teenager is experiencing. Do they come and go—meaning they’re here one day and gone the next? Are they mild, but chronic in their presentation? Are they moderate, interfering with school, home and social experiences? Measuring the intensity will help determine if the issue is a passing mood or symptoms of a mood disorder.
  2. Duration: This looks at the timeline of experiences. Does the moodiness present suddenly and is gone moments later? Is it followed by many good days in a row? Or is it more chronic, presenting for longer periods of time without any breaks? If the duration of symptoms is two weeks or longer, there is likely a depressive disorder operating.
  3. Domains: Teen angst tends to get the best of parents and teachers, but adolescents can reel it in with their friends or others. Psychological disorders however, are often pervasive, so a depressed teenager will likely have difficulties functioning in school, at home, with peers, and at social events.

Research shows 11 percent of teens have a diagnosable depressive disorder, but that only one in five teens get the help they need.

What can be Done?

Teens should try these simple actions to help themselves:

  • Eat healthy foods
  • Get the right amount of sleep
  • Take the time to notice the good things in life, no matter how small
  • Take the time to relax
  • Walk, play or do something else to get exercise every day

According to a research report in American Family Physician, at any given time up to 15 percent of children and adolescents have some symptoms of depression.

What IAA has to Say

Sometimes there can be more to a teenager’s moodiness than meets the eye. Insurance Administrator of America wants to help you recognize the warning signs of teenage depression. Remember, with IAA one call does it all.

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New ALS Drug Approved; First in Over 20 Years

May 17th, 2017

On Friday, May 5th, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first new drug in 22 years to treat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

New Drug Treatment for ALS

The new ALS drug is not a cure, but can slow down the worsening of the disease. The drug called Radicava was developed in Japan. It is the first new drug since 1995 when riluzole, sold under the brand name Rilutek, was approved.

Radicava is given in the form of an intravenous infusion, with two weeks of daily treatments followed by a two week break.  Radicava is what is known as a free radical scavenger. It appears to react with nerve damaging compounds generated as part of the disease process.

Tests conducted in Japan found that ALS sufferers, who received Radicava, experienced a smaller decline in their level of daily functioning compared to those who received the placebo. The creator of the drug said the medication slowed the decline of physical function by 33 percent.

Rilutek has a different method of action. It helps to stop nerve cell death, but only for a short time and it only extends the lives of patients by a few months on average.   

It is estimated that Radicava will be available in the United States this August.

What is ALS?

ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease affects the nerves in your brain and spinal cord that control your muscles. As your muscles get weaker, it gets harder for you to walk, talk, eat, and breathe.

ALS affects motor neurons. These nerve cells send messages from your brain to your spinal cord and then to your muscles. You have two main types:

  1. Upper motor neurons: Nerve cells in the brain.
  2. Lower motor neurons: Nerve cells in the spinal cord.

These motor neurons control all your voluntary movements—the muscles in your arms, legs and face. They tell your muscles to contract so you can walk, run, pick up items, chew and swallow food, and even breathe.

With ALS motor neurons in your brain and spinal cord break down and die. When this happens your brain can’t send messages to your muscles anymore. Because the muscles don’t get any signals, they become very weak. In time, the muscles no longer work and you lose control over their movement.

There are two types of ALS:

  • Familial ALS: This type runs in families. About five to 10 percent of people with ALS have this type. This form of ALS is caused by changes to the gene. Parents pass this gene along to their children. If one parent has the gene for ALS, each of their children will have a 50 percent chance of getting the gene and having the disease.
  • Sporadic ALS: The most common form. It affects up to 95 percent of people with the disease. Sporadic means it happens sometimes, without a clear cause.

ALS can cause the following problems:

  • Muscle twitching
  • Problems with memory, thinking and changes in personality. But these are not common.
  • Problems with speaking, swallowing, eating, walking, and breathing
  • Trouble using your hands and fingers to do tasks

As the muscles in the throat and chest start to weaken, swallowing, coughing and breathing problems tend to get worse.

What IAA has to Say

New discoveries are being made every day and Insurance Administrator of America thinks you should stay up to date! Stay tuned to this blog for the latest on health and science. Remember, with IAA one call does it all.

Interested in reading more on this topic? Click here.

New “Bio Bag” Could Help Premature Infants

May 10th, 2017

New device photo by The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia During the last week of April, researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) revealed a new device that could help save the lives of the smallest patients.

Scientists Create an Artificial Womb

In a study published in Nature Communications, the new device acts as an artificial womb using a “bio bag” to mimic a natural uterus that allows a fetus to develop.

The team at CHOP created multiple prototype devices, eventually creating a device that features a bio bag filled with amniotic fluid and a machine to oxygenate the blood via the umbilical cord. An important part of this incubator, or extra-uterine support device, is the ability to sustain infants without using a ventilator, which can strain their underdeveloped lungs or cause scarring that leads to chronic lung disease. By connecting the umbilical cord to a gas exchange that oxygenates the blood, the device function is similar to how a fetus “breathes” in the womb via the umbilical cord.

The bio bag is kept in a temperature controlled, near sterile environment with the infant submerged in amniotic fluid. The device also allows researchers to monitor key vital signs and blood flow, so that doctors can respond quickly if the patient starts to deteriorate.

To see if the device might work on humans, researchers used lambs born at a gestation between 105 and 120 days, which is somewhat equivalent to a human infant born between 22 and 25 weeks. Using the most current device they developed, researchers measured how long eight prematurely born lambs survived in the device and grew. The animals were also tested to see if they were developing normally.

While the study is small and the findings preliminary, researchers are hopeful that this device could be the future for caring for pre-term infants that would be less taxing than current methods.

The Risks for Pre-term Infants

When infants are born severely prematurely, between 23 and 25 weeks, their chances of survival, without ongoing complications including lung or brain problems, is low. That is due in part to their underdeveloped lungs, liver, kidneys, and brain, which are forced to start working months earlier than normal. Pre-term babies may have:

  • Breathing problems
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Developmental delay
  • Feeding difficulties
  • Hearing impairment
  • Vision problems

One in 10 U.S. births is premature (younger than 37 weeks gestational age). About 30,000 per year are critically pre-term, meaning that they are born younger than 26 weeks.

Risk factors for pre-term birth include:

1. Social characteristics:

  • Low socio-economic position
  • Teens
  • Women over the age of 35

   2. Health behaviors

  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Low or high body mass index
  • Tobacco use

 3. Medical and pregnancy characteristics

  • Asthma
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Mental health (stress/depression)
  • Pregnancy history (short time between pregnancies, delivering  a baby pre-term in the past, carrying more than one baby)
  • Thyroid disease

In babies born pre-term, the chance of survival at less than 23 weeks is almost zero, while at 23 weeks it is 15 percent, at 24 weeks 55 percent, and at 25 weeks about 80 percent.

What IAA has to Say

Everyday scientists are discovering new methods to help patients all over the world. While it may not be ready for humans now, one day doctors could be using this device to help keep pre-term infants alive. Insurance Administrator of America wants you to be kept up to date with the new discoveries in the world of health and science. Remember, with IAA one call does it all.

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May is Arthritis Awareness Month

May 3rd, 2017

Arthritis BannerIn the United States, 23 percent of all adults, or over 34 million people, have arthritis. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the annual direct medical costs are at least 81 billion.

What is Arthritis?

Arthritis is a general term for conditions that cause inflammation of the joints and surrounding tissues. The two most common types of arthritis are:

  • Osteoarthritis (OA): A painful degenerative joint disease that often involves the hips, knees, neck, lower back, or small joints of the hands. OA usually develops in the joints that are injured by repeated overuse from performing a particular task, playing a favorite sport or from carrying around excess body weight. Eventually this injury or repeated impact thins or wears away the cartilage that cushions the end of the bones in the joint. As a result, the bones rub together, causing a grating sensation. Joint flexibility is reduced, bony spurs develop and the joint swells.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA): An autoimmune inflammatory disease that usually involves various joints in the fingers, thumbs, wrists, elbows, shoulders, knees, feet, and ankles. An autoimmune disease is one in which the body releases enzymes that attack its own healthy tissues. In RA, these enzymes destroy the lining of the joints. This causes pain, swelling, stiffness, malformation, and reduced movement and function.

There are more than 100 different types of arthritis and related conditions, including:

  • Infectious arthritis: A bacterium, virus or fungus can enter the joint and trigger inflammation.
  • Metabolic arthritis: Uric acid is formed as the body breaks down purines, a substance found in human cells and in many foods. Some people have high levels of uric acid because they naturally produce more than is needed or the body can’t get rid of the uric acid quickly enough. In some people the uric acid builds up and forms needle-like crystals in the joint, resulting in sudden spikes of extreme joint pain.

Arthritis is a leading cause of disability.  

Signs and Symptoms

More than 50 million adults and 300,000 children have some type of arthritis. Symptoms of arthritis can include:

  • Decreased range of motion
  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling

Risk factors for developing arthritis can include:

  • Age: The risk of many types of arthritis increases with age.
  • Family history: Some types of arthritis run in families, so you may be more likely to develop arthritis if your parents or siblings have the disorder.
  • Gender: Women are more likely than men are, to develop rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Obesity: Carrying excess pounds puts stress on the joints, particularly your knees, hips and spine. Obese people have a higher risk of developing arthritis.
  • Previous joint injury: People who have injured a joint are more likely to eventually develop arthritis in that joint. 

Arthritis can cause permanent joint changes. These changes may be visible, such as knobby finger joints.

What IAA has to Say

Arthritis can be a painful and debilitating disorder. That is why Insurance Administrator of America wants you to show your support for National Arthritis Awareness Month by forwarding this blog post on to friends and colleagues. Remember, with IAA one call does it all. 

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Prince Harry Opens up About Counseling

April 26th, 2017

Brain with wording In an interview on April 17, Britain’s Prince Harry got personal when speaking about mental health.

Prince Harry Speaks Out

During an interview with the British newspaper, The Telegraph, Prince Harry revealed that he sought counseling four years ago to deal with the grief  of losing his mother, Princess Diana. The prince spoke on this topic to encourage others to be more open about their personal feelings and struggles.

Prince Harry is certainly not alone. A new study suggests that more Americans than ever before are stressed, depressed and anxiety ridden, and many are unable to get the help they need.

An estimated 8.3 million American adults, about 3.4 percent of the population of the United States, suffer from serious psychological distress, an evaluation of federal health data concluded. Previous estimates put the number of Americans suffering from serious psychological distress at three percent or less, the researchers said. The increase is likely a lasting after-effect of the Great Recession that began in 2007, a stress-filled time that caused long-term emotional damage to many Americans.   

The study included national health data from a survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

The study was published April 17 in the journal, Psychiatric Services.

Warning Signs of Depression

There are many signs of depression, but a person may not have them all. How intense the symptoms are and how long they last, differ from person to person.  A person might feel:

  • Aches and pains: A person may have headaches, cramps, an upset stomach, or digestive problems.
  • Changes in appetite: A person may overeat or not feel hungry. Depression often leads to weight gain or weight loss.
  • Changes in sleep patterns: A person may wake up too early or have trouble falling asleep. The opposite can also happen. A person may sleep longer than usual.
  • Helpless, worthless or guilty: A person may feel bad about themselves or their life, or think a lot about losses or failures.
  • Hopeless: A person may feel pessimistic or believe that nothing good will ever happen.
  • Irritable: A person may feel restless or more cranky than usual.
  • Less energetic: A person may feel extremely tired or think more slowly. Daily routines and tasks may seem too hard to manage.
  • Less interest in activities: Hobbies or games a person once enjoyed, may no longer appeal to them.
  • Sad, empty or anxious: These feelings will continue over time without getting better or going away.
  • Trouble concentrating: It could be tough to focus.  A person could have trouble remembering details. It might seem overwhelming to make a decision, whether it’s big or small.

Experts believe depression is due to a combination of things:

  • Brain structure: The way certain nerve pathways or circuits in your brain send information may not work properly. Scans show that the parts of your brain involved in mood, thinking, sleep, appetite, and behavior look different when you’re depressed.
  • Childhood problems: People who have disturbing experiences in childhood are more likely to have depression. It may be from brain changes caused by trauma at a young age.
  • Genes: Scientists are studying certain genes that may make you more likely to get depression. But even if you have them, you may not get depressed. And depression can happen in some people even when they don’t have that genetic makeup.
  • Life events: Something disturbing that happens to you may trigger depression.

Sooner or later everyone gets the blues. Feeling sadness, loneliness or grief when you go through a difficult life experience is part of being human.

What IAA has to Say

Insurance Administrator of America wants to keep you up-to-date in the world of health. Stay tuned to this blog to learn more! Remember, with IAA one call does it all.

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