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Endometriosis: Pandemic Backlog Risks Making It Even Harder For Women To Get Help

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Endometriosis: Pandemic Backlog Risks Making It Even Harder For Women To Get Help


The COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate and devastating impact on women’s health, according to a report from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

The report found that more than half a million women in the UK have been forced to wait for “non-urgent” gynaecological care. Waiting lists across the country are now 60% longer than pre-pandemic levels. This means that one in 20 women will now be waiting more than a year to receive gynaecological surgery, specialist treatments and even diagnoses.

Some of those hardest hit by these delays are women suffering with endometriosis, the chronic inflammatory condition characterised by tissue similar to the womb lining growing elsewhere in the body – in places such as the ovaries or fallopian tubes. An estimated one in ten women have the condition, many of which live with excruciating pain.

If left untreated or poorly managed, the condition can worsen. This can make it far more challenging to treat, and may have a long-lasting impact on the woman’s health – such as causing fertility problems or worsened pain.

According to the report, the pandemic made it difficult for women with endometriosis to manage their condition and access the kind of specialist treatment they needed. For example, many women experiencing pain caused by endometriosis had to attend A&E for care because specialist care wasn’t available. And after this, many were referred to gynaecology services, which meant waiting up to five months for an appointment.

For others, delays to care – such as surgeries to manage the condition – meant that not only did their pain worsen, the disease also progressed. This can have a serious effect on many aspects of a woman’s life, including their mental health and fertility. Some will also require more complex and invasive surgeries to manage their condition as a result.

 

Being unable to get the care they needed to manage their pain effectively left many women feeling isolated and unable to go about their normal life. Poor mental health was already a problem for women with endometriosis even before the pandemic. But more than 80% of women surveyed as part of the report said their mental health worsened during the pandemic, largely because of their pain but, not uncommonly, also because they felt they were being dismissed.

Looking forward

Gynaecology services are one of the surgical specialities worst hit by COVID-19 backlogs. Part of this is because, early in the pandemic, around half of gynaecology consultants were redeployed to obstetric care services.

Even with things slowly returning to how they were pre-pandemic, it’s likely that the backlog for gynaecology services won’t decrease until 2025. Given women with endometriosis already wait eight years on average for the right diagnosis, this could make it even more difficult for these women to access care moving forward.

This is why it will be important to begin prioritising gynaecological services and treat them with the same level of urgency as other services, such as cancer or rheumatology services. To start, it is important to raise general awareness of the condition and its symptoms, and provide education to women on the disease and how to describe it. In combination with community services, such as your GP, this will ensure that women can still get support even while they wait for specialist care.

It will be some time before waiting times for gynaecological services return to normal. But if you’re one of the many women with endometriosis waiting for treatment or a diagnosis, there are some things you can do to prepare for your next appointment.

For example, tracking and recording your symptoms may be useful when visiting a GP so that you can illustrate what type of pain you’re experiencing and how often. This may aid the communication of your pain, so your GP can better understand your symptoms and how best to treat them while you wait for specialist care.

If you or someone you know is having a difficult time managing the condition, Endometriosis UK also offers support through a volunteer-run helpline, led by people who know what you’re going through.

Danielle Perro, DPhil Researcher, Nuffield Department of Women’s and Reproductive Health, University of Oxford and Christian Becker, Associate Professor, Nuffield Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology,, University of Oxford

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.





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Not Just Pests: Bed Bugs Produce This Chemical In Large Amounts, Study Finds

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Not Just Pests: Bed Bugs Produce This Chemical In Large Amounts, Study Finds


Bed bugs may not only be unwanted visitors in our homes and beds but also creatures harboring a hidden risk. A team of researchers has found that they may actually be producing amounts of histamine that may potentially be problematic for humans.

Bed bugs are tiny, parasitic insects that can be found all over the world. At just 1 to 7 millimeters, they feed on people’s and animals’ blood and have been “spreading rapidly” in places like the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and some parts of Europe. They can be found even in hotels and resorts.

For their study, published in the Journal of Medical Entomology, a team of researchers analyzed the fecal materials that bed bugs deposit at different stages of their lives.

“Following a blood meal, bed bugs deposit fecal material indoors. The feces contain a variety of compounds, including histamine, which serves as a component of their aggregation pheromone,” they wrote. “Histamine is a pivotal mammalian immune modulator, and recently it was shown to be present in high concentrations in household dust from homes infested with bed bugs.”

Histamine is a chemical in the human body that can alert the immune system to threats and trigger inflammation, the University of Kentucky (UK) noted in a news release. While production of it normally leads to allergic reactions resulting in rashes or respiratory issues, an excess of histamine has been linked to reactions such as headaches, asthma and irregular heart rate, particularly among those with histamine intolerance.

The researchers found variations in bed bugs’ histamine production in different life stages, but that “overall,” they produce histamine “across all feeding life stages, populations and at various times after feeding, and that histamine excretion is directly related to blood feeding.”

And the amount of histamine they can produce is no joke, with one bed bug capable of producing over 50 micrograms in a week. If there are 1,000 bed bugs in an infestation, they may produce 40 milligrams of histamine in a week, and 2 grams in a year, according to the university.

“That’s an amount you can actually see, and we don’t see that with any other containment,” one of the study leads, Zach DeVries of UK, said in the news release. “When we talk about pesticides, allergens, any other thing in our home that some invading organism is producing, it’s always on microscopic levels, not something where you could actually hold it in your hand.”

More research needs to be done to find out the exact implications of the findings on human health, according to the researchers. It does, however, show that even if bed bugs aren’t known to carry pathogens and spread disease as other bugs do, they may still be carrying potential risks beyond being annoying pests and the occasional allergic reaction to their bites.

“It’s not only the fact that they’re producing histamine, but they’re producing it right next to where you spend the most time, generally speaking, within our homes, which is in our beds or sleeping areas,” De Vries said.

“These results will be used to better understand the health risks associated with histamine excretion and potential mitigation strategies of environmental histamine,” the researchers wrote.





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Stressed? Your Dog May Actually Be Able To Smell It In Your Breath, Sweat

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Dog Ownership Protects Against Disability In Older People: Study


t is easy for your dog to know if you’re stressed, and that’s because it may smell it in your breath and sweat, according to a new study.

Previous studies have suggested that dogs can tell if people are stressed, a team of researchers wrote in their study, published Wednesday in PLOS (Public Library of Science) ONE. Since dogs are known to have an incredible sense of smell, the researchers sought to find whether may actually be sensing the stress through chemical signals, PLOS noted in a news release.

So for their work, the researchers conducted an experiment to see whether dogs can differentiate between human odors at baseline (neutral) and when they’re under stress. To do this, they collected breath and sweat samples from participants at baseline and after they had gone through a stress-inducing arithmetic task. Their stress was also validated through self-report, as well as measures such as their blood pressure and heart rate.

Samples from 36 participants were presented to trained dogs within three hours of being collected.

“In Phase One, the dog was presented with a participant’s stress sample (taken immediately post-task) alongside two blanks (the sample materials without breath or sweat), and was required to identify the stress sample with an alert behavior,” the researchers explained. “In Phase Two, the dog was presented with the stress sample, the same participant’s baseline sample (taken pre-task), and a blank.”

This photo shows the dogs during the experiments.

The idea is that if the dogs could correctly identify the stress samples in Phase Two, when the baseline samples of the participant were also around, then the baseline and stress odors were actually distinguishable to them, the researchers explained.

Incredibly, the dogs were individually able to detect the stress samples and perform the alert behavior with an impressive accuracy ranging from 90% to 96.88%. Their combined accuracy was 93.75%. This, according to the researchers, is “greater than expected by chance.”

“While the dogs in this study underwent training in order to communicate that they were able to distinguish between odors, the found performances on this task suggests that there are VOC (volatile organic compound) changes induced by acute negative stress that are detectable by dogs,” they wrote.

In other words, the results suggest that dogs can actually detect the changes in people’s breath and sweat when they’re psychologically stressed, and they can do so “with a high degree of accuracy.”

Not only does this shed further light on the relationship between dogs and humans, but they say it may also have implications for service dogs that, according to PLOS, are so far trained to respond mainly to visual cues.





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Study Confirms Link Between COVID-19 Vaccination And Increased Menstrual Cycle Length

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Does COVID-19 Vaccination Affect Women’s Menstrual Cycle?


COVID-19 vaccination does lead to an average increase in menstrual cycle length, according to a new large international study. 

The study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that women experienced a longer menstrual cycle length after getting vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2. 

The slight increase was less than one day, so there was no notable change to the number of days of menses (days of bleeding), the NIH said in a press release published Tuesday. 

Based on the study findings, the increase was consistent across data from around 20,000 female participants in Canada, the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe and the world. 

Alison Edelman, M.D., M.P.H., the study’s principal investigator spoke about the team’s findings with The Washington Post. According to her, the vaccination effects were temporary, so they did not impact the fertility of the participants. 

“Now we can give people information about possibly what to expect with menstrual cycles. So I hope that’s overall really reassuring to individuals,” the professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Oregon Health & Science University added. 

Edelman admitted that her team was still unsure why the vaccination affected the menstrual cycles of the participants, but she noted that the immune and reproductive systems have a connection. 

Per the team’s collected data, the participants’ menstrual cycles increased by less than 24 hours after the first COVID-19 vaccine dose and by around half a day after the second dose. 

Once they completed the vaccination series, their menstrual cycle mostly returned to its normal length for those who received one dose per menstrual cycle. 

The researchers collected data using the fertility tracking app called Natural Cycles. Participants provided information on their temperature and menstrual cycle length via the app, according to CNBC.

The new study confirmed the findings of a previous U.S. study published in January that first linked COVID-19 vaccination with an increased menstrual cycle length. 

“These findings provide additional information for counseling women on what to expect after vaccination. Changes following vaccination appear to be small, within the normal range of variation, and temporary,” said Diana Bianchi, M.D., director of NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.





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