Do you know the warning signs of melanoma?

Even if you have always followed the rules when it comes to sun safety during the warm summer months spent outside, it’s important to be attentive to your skin in all other parts of the year as well.  Examining your skin and watching for potential spots on your skin that could be dangerous is a wise thing to.  Many times melanoma can be successfully treated and cured if caught early enough.

How do I check for melanoma?

When you’re examining your skin, it’s important to know exactly what to look for.  In general, check if there are any new spots, growths, or moles.  In addition, if there are any existing moles or growths that begin changing in any significant way, such as getting darker, getting bigger, or any that start itching, bleeding, or do not heal are signals to get yourself into a doctor to get looked at. Basically, if a mole looks or feels different than the rest of the moles on your body, it should be looked at.

Doctors have identified an easy way to recognize if melanoma.  It’s called an ABCDE test.  We’ve listed it here below. 

Asymmetry:  If you draw a line through this mole, the two sides won’t match.

Border:  The borders of a growth with early melanoma are generally uneven.

Color:  Having a mole with a number of shades of brown, tan, or black is a warning sign.  Other moles that are red or bluish in color are also an indicator.

Diameter:  Melanomas are generally larger than ¼ inch in diameter.

Evolving:  Any spot that starts changing, either in size, shape, color, or feeling can point to risk.[1]

Remember this test and complete it. If you answer yes to any of these questions regarding a specific spot on your skin, make an appointment with a dermatologist immediately.



[1] “Do you know your ABCDEs?”  SkinCancer.Org  Accessed June 25, 2012.

Does my child have head lice?

Everyone’s heard of head lice.  They’re nasty little things and it seems like they can invade without any warning.  They’re very common for children to have – especially kid’s ages 3 to 12, with girls having them more often than boys.  So what are they? They’re wingless parasitic insects that live among human hair and feed on small amounts of blood from the scalp.  They’re not dangerous and aren’t spreaders of disease, but they are contagious and bothersome.  They cause inflammation and itching on the scalp and because of the scratching and potential damage to the scalp due to this, many times infection can start.

What are the symptoms?

Even though lice are very small, they can be seen when you look closely.  You’ll likely only see nits (lice eggs) at first, which look like yellow, tan, or brown spots close to the scalp.  Symptoms include scratching and itching of the scalp, as well as small, red bumps or sores from scratching.

How are they treated?

Your doctor may recommend a medicated shampoo, lotion, or rinse to kill the lice.  Many of these are over the counter, but depending on the severity and the treatments already tried, prescribed treatments may be needed.  In addition, if these treatments do not work, oral medicines may be prescribed. After treatment, your doctor will probably require combing out the nits to prevent any new hatching.

How do I stop them from coming back?

Lice aren’t your friends and you definitely don’t want them coming back for a visit.  So, in order to prevent a reinfestation, there are some tools to help:

  • Wash bed and clothing items that have been infected in hot water, at least 104 degrees or have them dry cleaned
  • Vacuum all carpets and rugs in the home
  • Throw away old hair ties, barrettes, combs, or brushes, or soak them in rubbing alcohol for medicated shampoo for at least an hour

It’s very important to have head lice diagnosed, as they can spread quickly, especially in large group setting such as schools, camps, day cares, etc.  So, if you think your child may have them, see your doctor immediately to see if an infestation has occurred.

What is Addison’s Disease?

By Brooke Strickland

Addison’s disease is a serious disease that affects the adrenal glands.  The adrenal glands are a very important part of your body, as they make the hormones that help your body respond to stress.  They also help control blood pressure and the balance of water and salt in your body.  When the adrenals don’t make enough of these hormones, Addison’s disease occurs. 

Why do people get Addison’s disease?

There are several reasons as to why someone may develop this disease. 

  • Infections such as HIV, tuberculosis, and fungal infections
  • Tumors
  • Use of blood-thinning drugs
  • Immune system mistakenly attacks your own tissues, causing damage to the adrenals

What are the symptoms?

  • Changes in blood pressure and/or heart rate
  • Paleness
  • Extreme weakness, fatigue, and slow, sluggish movements
  • Fatigue that gets worse over time
  • Patchy or dark skin
  • Weight loss
  • Chronic diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting
  • Salt craving
  • Mouth lesions inside of the cheek

Addison’s disease, if not diagnosed and treated, can be fatal.  If you have symptoms or a family history of adrenal disease, consult your doctor immediately to make sure you’re not at risk.  Lab tests can be performed to confirm presence of the disease, which will likely show increased potassium levels, low cortisol levels, low serum sodium, and low blood pressure.  In other instances, your doctor may order an abdominal x-ray or CT scan.

How is it treated?

If you’re diagnosed with Addison’s disease, you will need to take hormone drugs for the rest of your life.  These drugs will control the symptoms of the disease.  Drug doses can never be skipped, as it is life threatening to do so, and many times when patients experience stress, surgery, injury, or infection, medication doses my be increased to control symptoms.  Many people that live with this disease are required to carry medical identification cards or tags with them specifying what dosage of medicine they should receive in a life-threatening situation.

Weight Gain and Vitamin D Deficiency May Be Linked

By Brooke Strickland

A new study completed by Kaiser Permanente and published in the Journal of Women’s Health shows that older women who are lacking in vitamin D may be slightly heavier than women who have ample levels of vitamin D in their bodies.  The study looked at 4,600 women over age 65 in a 1.5 year period. Results showed that women with low levels of vitamin D gained on average two pounds more than those with enough of the vitamin.  In addition, the study found that almost 80% of the women had low levels of vitamin D. [1]

Vitamin D’s main purpose is to help maintain normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus. It helps aid in the absorption of calcium and studies have shown that it can also help protect against osteoporosis and high blood pressure. Vitamin D is often known as the “sunshine” vitamin, so odds are, if you don’t spend much time outside with proper sun exposure (or if you live in a part of the world known for rain or gloomy skies) or supplement with appropriate levels of the vitamin, you’re likely undersupplied.  The only way to really know if you are is to have a blood test completed to show what exactly your levels are of vitamin D.  Your doctor may order supplements to help boost your level of vitamin D.  However, there are also a variety of natural sources of vitamin D you can try incorporating into your daily life to help prevent deficiency. 

There are several foods that contain vitamin D, which include some fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, and other foods such as mushrooms, beef liver, egg yolks, and cheese.  In addition, cod liver oil also has a good amount of vitamin D in it, so taking this on a regular basis can help.  Many other foods on grocery shelves have been vitamin D-fortified, such as some breakfast cereals, bread, pastries, oils, and dairy products.  Eating a well-balanced diet that is rich in fresh fruits and vegetables – especially those rich in vitamin D and other important life-sustaining vitamins – can help keep you healthy and give you more energy.

[1] Wadas-Willinham, Val.  “Vitamin D deficiency may cause weight gain.”  June 25, 2012. Accessed June 25, 2012.

Study: Facebook sharing brings same amount of enjoyment as sex & food

by Brooke Strickland

We’ve all been there.  You post a status update and people start liking it, retweeting it, or commenting on it.  But even better? When someone clicks the “share” or “retweet” button and shares it with all of their friends or followers! It’s a strange sense of accomplishment in a way – kind of like a virtual pat on the back for posting something that was worth sharing. 

A recent study shows that you’re not alone in that feeling.  In fact, the Harvard study that was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that food, sex, and Facebook posting views is what your brain likes the most.  In fact, it showed that social media outlets –especially when something you’ve posted is viewed and liked/shared –allow for an increased rate of self-disclosure, which leads to a spike in the amount of dopamine, which the brain produces upon pleasure or anticipation of a reward.  In fact, when people in the study were offered a cash reward for answering questions on a factual basis vs. answering the questions with their own opinions for a lesser reward, most people chose to the option talk about themselves. [1]

So what does this really say about the state of our brains today?  It says we’re technologically-wired.  It says that even without knowing it, we’ve become addicted to the opportunity to stand up, share our opinions, and then get accolades for them.  This ability to do this at a moment’s notice, just by opening your computer, iPad, or Smartphone has made it simple to get on our soapbox and almost instantly receive a virtual reward.  Our brains have come expect this – and our brains are seeing it as the same chemical reward of eating or having sex.  This rewiring of our brains is powerful stuff.

Internet addiction is real.  If you or someone you know is addicted to the Internet, visit for more information.

[1] “Study: Facebook sharing comparable to enjoyment from sex, food.”  CBSDC.  June 23, 2012. Accessed June 26, 2012.