Monthly Archives: April 2017

How Many Viruses Can Get into Men’s Semen?

During recent outbreaks of the Zika virus, researchers discovered that the virus could find its way into men’s semen and stay there for months. But how many other viruses can get into semen?

To find out, researchers at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom searched the scientific literature for reports of “viremic” viruses — ones that get into the blood —  that have also been found in semen.

The results showed that at least 27 viruses can make their way into human semen.

“The presence of viruses in semen is probably more widespread than currently appreciated,” the researchers wrote in the October issue of the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases. [10 Deadly Diseases That Hopped Across Species]

The list includes a number of well-known viruses, such as Ebola, HIV, hepatitis C, chickenpox, herpes, mumps and chikungunya (a mosquito-borne virus), as well as some lesser-known viruses, such as JC virus, simian foamy virus and Rift Valley fever.

In addition, some of these viruses, such as HIV and herpes, are known to spread sexually. But for many of the viruses on the list, it’s unclear whether they can be spread through sex, the researchers said.

The results raise a number of questions, including how long the viruses remain in semen, at what concentrations they are present, and whether the viruses remain “viable” or capable of causing disease, the researchers said. The answers to these questions will help researchers better understand the risk for sexual spread of these viruses, the study said.

More research is also needed on whether these viruses can infect sperm, the researchers said. (Sperm are men’s reproductive cells, whereas semen is usually a mixture of sperm and fluids.) This is an important question, because infections in sperm could cause mutations in the sperm DNA that might be passed on to the next generation, and possibly increase the risk of conditions such as cancer, the researchers said.

It’s thought that some viruses persist in semen — even when they’ve been cleared from the rest of the body — because the testes are an “immunologically privileged” site in the body, meaning they are protected from attack by the body’s immune system.

The findings also highlight the need for researchers to consider whether treatments being developed for virial diseases can be effective against viruses in all parts of the body, including the male reproductive tract, the researchers said.

Sleep Paralysis: Following Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Sleep paralysis is the inability to move or speak immediately after waking up. This can be an exceptionally scary time for those afflicted with this weird phenomenon, but despite former beliefs, the feeling of paralysis is not caused by supernatural beings.

During rapid eye movement (REM) sleep the brain has vivid dreams, while the muscles of the body are essentially turned off. While sleeping, the muscles are unable to move so that the person won’t be able to act out dreams with their body. Sleep paralysis happens when a person wakes up before REM is finished. The person will be conscious, but the body’s ability to move hasn’t been turned back on yet.

Several things can bring on episodes of sleep paralysis. For example, sleep deprivation, some medications and some sleep disorders, such assleep apnea, are triggers. Also, sleep paralysis is commonly seen in patients with narcolepsy, said Dr. Shelby Harris, director of Behavioral Sleep Medicine at the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at the Montefiore Health System in the Bronx, New York.

Youth seems to be a factor in the occurrence of sleep paralysis. According to the Mayo Clinic, this disorder is more likely to happen to people between the ages of 10 and 25. Sleep paralysis is also more prevalent in those with post-traumatic stress disorder and panic disorder, according to a 2017 report published by the National Institutes of Health.

Sleep paralysis may also be genetic, according to a study done on 862 twins and siblings. “It’s still a preliminary finding,” said Daniel Denis, a psychologist at the University of Sheffield in England, and co-author of the study published online February 2015 in the Journal of Sleep Research, but added that it provides “a general inkling that something to do with the control of circadian rhythms is probably involved in sleep paralysis.” [Sleep Paralysis Linked to Genetics]

According to a study in 2011 by Pennsylvania State University, 7.6 percent of the general population has problems with sleep paralysis. People with mental disorders such as anxiety and depression are more likely to experience sleep paralysis. According to the study, 31.9 percent of those with mental disorders experienced episodes.

Those afflicted with sleep paralysis are often unable to move their bodies or speak immediately after waking up. This can last one to two minutes, according to the Mayo Clinic. People experiencing sleep paralysis may also feel a weight on their chest or a choking feeling.

In the past, it was believed that demons caused sleep paralysis by holding people down or sitting on their chest. This was often due to hallucinations, which are a common symptom during sleep paralysis because the brain is still in a dream state. People have reported seeing ghosts, demons and other strange apparitions while experiencing paralysis.

For most people, there is no treatment for sleep paralysis. The key is prevention and the treatment of any underlying causes.

After one episode of sleep paralysis, it may not be necessary to get a doctor’s appointment right away. “If you have rare episodes of sleep paralysis, but haven’t been seen by a sleep specialist, make sure your sleep hygiene is solid. For example, sleep paralysis can be a sign that you’re sleep deprived,” Harris told Live Science. Harris suggested that those experiencing sleep paralysis should make sure to get enough sleep on a regular basis, avoid alcohol, nicotine and drugs all night, starting three hours before bedtime. They should also limit caffeine after 2 p.m. and keep electronics out of the bedroom.

“If these things don’t help, and you’re having episodes that are becoming somewhat more frequent, see a sleep specialist to see if there’s any underlying medical disorder that might be causing the sleep paralysis,” Harris said.

According to the U.K. National Health System (NHS), sleep paralysis is not dangerous, though those experiencing extreme sleep paralysis may be prescribed a short course of antidepressant medication, such as clomipramine (Anafranil).

During the attack, it is important to stay calm and realize that it will pass soon. “There’s not much you can do during an attack besides say to yourself, ‘This is only temporary. It will pass very shortly and I will be able to move soon,'” Harris said. “This really only works if you’ve had an episode or two before and know what to expect. These attacks can be quite scary to experience, especially if you’ve never had one before.”

Is True Marijuana Really Helping You Sleep?

If you speak to someone who has suffered from insomnia at all as an adult, chances are good that person has either tried using marijuana, or cannabis, for sleep or has thought about it.

This is reflected in the many variations of cannabinoid or cannabis-based medicines available to improve sleep – like Nabilone, Dronabinol and Marinol. It’s also a common reason why many cannabis users seek medical marijuana cards.

I am a sleep psychologist who has treated hundreds of patients with insomnia, and it seems to me the success of cannabis as a sleep aid is highly individual. What makes cannabis effective for one person’s sleep and not another’s?

While there are still many questions to be answered, existing research suggests that the effects of cannabis on sleep may depend on many factors, including individual differences, cannabis concentrations and frequency of use.

Access to cannabis is increasing. As of last November, 28 U.S. states and the District of Columbia had legalized cannabis for medicinal purposes.

Research on the effects of cannabis on sleep in humans has largely been compiled of somewhat inconsistent studies conducted in the 1970s. Researchers seeking to learn how cannabis affects the sleeping brain have studied volunteers in the sleep laboratory and measured sleep stages and sleep continuity. Some studies showed that users’ ability to fall and stay asleep improved. A small number of subjects also had a slight increase in slow wave sleep, the deepest stage of sleep.

However, once nightly cannabis use stops, sleep clearly worsens acrossthe withdrawal period.

Over the past decade, research has focused more on the use of cannabis for medical purposes. Individuals with insomnia tend to use medical cannabis for sleep at a high rate. Up to 65 percent of former cannabis users identified poor sleep as a reason for relapsing. Use for sleep is particularly common in individuals with PTSD and pain.

This research suggests that, while motivation to use cannabis for sleep is high, and might initially be beneficial to sleep, these improvements might wane with chronic use over time.

We were interested in how sleep quality differs between daily cannabis users, occasional users who smoked at least once in the last month and people who don’t smoke at all.

We asked 98 mostly young and healthy male volunteers to answer surveys, keep daily sleep diaries and wear accelerometers for one week. Accelerometers, or actigraphs, measure activity patterns across multiple days. Throughout the study, subjects used cannabis as they typically would.

Our results show that the frequency of use seems to be an important factor as it relates to the effects on sleep. Thirty-nine percent of daily users complained of clinically significant insomnia. Meanwhile, only 10 percent of occasional users had insomnia complaints. There were no differences in sleep complaints between nonusers and nondaily users.

Interestingly, when controlling for the presence of anxiety and depression, the differences disappeared. This suggests that cannabis’s effect on sleep may differ depending on whether you have depression or anxiety. In order words, if you have depression, cannabis may help you sleep – but if you don’t, cannabis may hurt.

Cannabis is still a schedule I substance, meaning that the government does not consider cannabis to be medically therapeutic due to lack of research to support its benefits. This creates a barrier to research, as only one university in the country, University of Mississippi, is permitted by the National Institute of Drug Abuse to grow marijuana for research.

New areas for exploration in the field of cannabis research might examine how various cannabis subspecies influence sleep and how this may differ between individuals.

One research group has been exploring cannabis types or cannabinoid concentrations that are preferable depending on one’s sleep disturbance. For example, one strain might relieve insomnia, while another can affect nightmares.

Other studies suggest that medical cannabis users with insomnia tend to prefer higher concentrations of cannabidiol, a nonintoxicating ingredient in cannabis.

This raises an important question. Should the medical community communicate these findings to patients with insomnia who inquire about medical cannabis? Some health professionals may not feel comfortable due to the fluctuating legal status, a lack of confidence in the state of the science or their personal opinions.

At this point, cannabis’s effect on sleep seems highly variable, depending on the person, the timing of use, the cannabis type and concentration, mode of ingestion and other factors. Perhaps the future will yield more fruitful discoveries.

Here’s The Major Causes of Death Around the World

Worldwide, people are living longer. But while overall deaths from infectious diseases and preterm birth are decreasing, deaths from heart disease, conflict and terrorism are on the rise, according to a new report.

The report, called the Global Burden of Disease study, examines the state of the world’s health by estimating average life expectancy as well as the number of deaths, illnesses and injuries from more than 300 causes.

The report found that today, the average global life expectancy is 72.5 years (75.3 years for women and 69.8 years for men.) That’s up from an average life expectancy of 65.1 years in 1990 and 58.4 years in 1970, the report said. Japan had the highest life expectancy in 2016, at 83.9 years, while the Central African Republic had the lowest, at 50.2 years. [Extending Life: 7 Ways to Live Past 100]

Overall, there were 54.7 million deaths worldwide in 2016. Nearly three-quarters (72.3 percent) of those deaths were from so-called “noncommunicable diseases,” or those that cannot pass from person to person, including heart disease, stroke and cancer.

About 19 percent of deaths in 2016 were from communicable diseases, maternal diseases (which occur during pregnancy and childbirth), neonatal diseases (which occur around the newborn period) and nutritional diseases (which include nutritional deficiencies); about 8 percent of deaths were from injuries.

From 2006 to 2016, the total number of deaths from communicable, maternal, neonatal and nutritional diseases (which the researchers call “CMNN”) decreased by nearly 24 percent. In particular, there’s been substantial progress in reducing deaths among children under age 5 years old, who often die from respiratory infections or complications from early birth, the report said. In 2016, the number of deaths among children under age 5 dropped below 5 million for the first time in modern history — down from 11 million deaths in 1990 and 16.4 million deaths in 1970, the researchers said. Deaths from HIV/AIDS among both children and adults have also declined, by 46 percent since 2006, and deaths from malaria have declined by 26 percent since 2006.

However, the total number of deaths from noncommunicable diseases increased by 16 percent from 2006 to 2016, meaning there were an extra 5.5 million deaths from these conditions in 2016 compared to 10 years earlier. Ischemic heart disease was the leading cause of death, resulting in nearly 9.5 million deaths in 2016, an increase of 19 percent since 2006.Diabetes also caused 1.4 million deaths in 2016, up 31 percent since 2006.

Although the rate of death (which takes into account the total number of people worldwide) from noncommunicable diseases declined from 2006 to 2016, it did not decline as much as the rate of death from CMNN. (During the 10-year period, the rate of death from CMNN declined 32 percent, while the rate of death from noncommunicable diseases declined only 12 percent, the study said.)

“Patterns of global health are clearly changing, with more rapid declines in CMNN conditions than for other diseases and injuries,” the researchers wrote in the Sept. 14 issue of the journal The Lancet. Although the reduction in CMNN deaths is “laudable,” the findings suggest that noncommunicable diseases, “which cause very substantial mortality in young and middle-aged adults, need to receive much greater policy priority,” the researchers said.

In addition, since 2006, the number of deaths from conflict and terrorism has risen significantly, reaching 150,500 deaths in 2016 (which is a 143 percent increase since 2006), the researchers said. This rise is largely a result of conflicts in North Africa and the Middle East, the scientists said.

Rates of death also increased for opioid use, amphetamine use and other drug use disorders in some locations — particularly in high-income countries, the researchers said. Overall, 1.1 billion people worldwide have some type of mental health or substance use disorder, the report found.

“Our findings indicate people are living longer and, over the past decade, we identified substantial progress in driving down death rates from some of the world’s most pernicious diseases and conditions, such as under-age-5 mortality and malaria,” Dr. Christopher Murray, co-author of the report and director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington in Seattle, said in a statement. “Yet, despite this progress, we are facing a ‘triad of trouble’ holding back many nations and communities — obesity, conflict, and mental illness, including substance use disorders.”