Shingles Vaccine Approved
A potent new version of the chicken pox vaccine has won federal
approval to prevent shingles recurrence.
The vaccine, Zostavax reduces
the risk of shingles, but it is only for adults who previously have had
Zostavax does not prevent the initial infection by the
virus, and it cannot treat active cases of shingles. But it helps to
prevent re-emergence of the virus by boosting a patient's immunity to
Shingles results in significant and chronic pain which can last for
HPV Vaccine Approved
The Food and Drug Administration recently approved Gardasil,
manufactured by Merck. It protects against two strains of the human
papillomavirus (HPV), that lead to cervical cancer, the second most
common cancer in women. In clinical trials, nearly 100 percent of those
vaccinated were protected. Gardasil also immunizes against genital
warts. Some doctors say this is the biggest breakthrough since the
invention of the Pap test.
In the U.S., about 80 percent of sexually active women will be
exposed to HPV. Often it is harmless, but some strains are not and can
lead to cervical cancer.
Immunization requires three injections over a 6-month period at $120
each. The vaccine is most effective when given before sexual activity
Potassium and Alzheimer's
New research reported in Alzheimer's Disease and Associated Disorders
suggests that low serum potassium levels at mid-life may be a precursor
of Alzheimer's disease or dementia. (Food sources include fresh
vegetables, dairy foods, fish, legumes, and grains. Rich sources are
raisins, dates, prunes, yams, mushrooms, nuts, and winter squash.)
There was also an association with high blood pressure. A study in the
Archives of Neurology suggests that the use of antihypertensive
medications should focus on potassium-sparing diuretics to reduce the
risk of dementing illnesses.
The 'disease of kings' can strike anyone, especially the overweight
For centuries, gout was thought of as a disease of the wealthy or the
gluttonous. It's probably because many foods that cause flare-ups were
Today, one to five million Americans, most neither rich
nor self-indulgent, suffer the pain of gout. Most are overweight and
Gout is a type of arthritis in which glasslike shards of uric acid
jab into the joints, causing searing pain. The big toe is often
affected. Fever and chills may develop during an attack.
purines are broken down into uric acid. Uric acid dissolves in the
blood, is filtered out by the kidneys, and eliminated in the urine.
People with gout either produce too much uric acid or have trouble
getting rid of it.
What a patient eats can trigger an attack. Liver, beef, pork, lamb,
and all seafood have a high purine content. Overindulgence can cause a
One study linked lower alcohol consumption to fewer gout attacks.
Study authors noted, however, that those who drank alcohol also drank
less milk. Low fat dairy products can help prevent an attack because the
proteins in milk reduce uric acid levels.
There is no cure for gout, but high doses of NSAIDs such as aspirin
and ibuprofen may control the pain. Prednisone can reduce the
inflammation in people who can't tolerate NSAIDs.
Newer drugs such as
allopurinol lower uric acid levels, but can't be taken during an attack.
Allopurinol prevents the conversion of purine to uric acid.
Other new drugs are in the pipeline for FDA approval, say doctors at
Johns Hopkins. Until then, slimming down, eating right, and drinking
plenty of water will help lower uric acid levels and decrease the risk