Am I Sleep Deprived?

Sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain, headaches, and irritability as well as increased risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. If you have symptoms of sleep deprivation, then see your doctor.

Sleeping Beauty

I never understood sleep deprivation until I experienced medical residency and worked 24 or 36 hours straight. I’d come home, sit down at my kitchen table to eat and fall asleep with the fork in my hand. I’m not kidding.

When you’re sleep-deprived, your body works overtime to get you to stop what you’re doing and sleep. That’s because sleep is critical to our physical and emotional health. Lack of sleep can lead to weight gain, headaches, irritability, and confusion and put you at increased risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.

You won’t become sleep deprived from missing a couple of hours of sleep for one or two nights. You can become sleep deprived if you’re repeatedly cheating yourself out of sleep, pulling all-nighters, or going to bed too late.

If you think you “catch up” by sleeping for 14 hours on your next day off, you can’t. The only way to recover from sleep deprivation is to add 1 to 2 hours of sleep every night. Sleep deprivation happens over time and so does recovering it.

Below are somes classic symptoms of sleep deprivation. If you are experiencing several of these symptoms or have questions or concerns, then you should schedule an appointment with your doctor.

1. Falling asleep instantly, including standing up. (Leave that to horses.)

2. Extreme irritation and mood swings.

3. Problems with mental focus and memory.

4. Frequent infections/illnesses.

5. Difficulty socializing.

6. Experiencing hallucinations.

Photo credit: FCC, cyron

Why Do We Bruise Easily?

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A bruise is blood that has leaked into your skin. The blood is red, but it appears blue when seen though the skin layers. Bruises can be frustrating, especially for women who always get them on their legs the day they wear their new INC empire-waist jersey dresses.

Bruises are a normal response to injury. Who among us has not walked into the corner of the bed or miscalculated the exact location of the coffee table when crossing the room? Most of the time bruising does not indicate any underlying diseases, except for clumsiness.

Women bruise more easily than men, especially on their thighs, calves and buttocks. This easy bruising is because women have exposed blood vessels and thinner skin as compared to men, so even unnoticed injuries to their legs leave noticeable bruises.

Usually bruising is a minor, lifelong problem. However, if bruising develops rapidly or is getting progressively worse, then investigation is needed. Also, bruising that is associated with taking medications like aspirin, plavix or coumadin should be discussed with a physician. Bruises that appear on the face, back, or abdomen are not typical and should also be evaluated by a physician. Also, if bruising is accompanied by bleeding such as heavy periods, recurrent nose bleeds, bleeding from the gums, or blood in your urine or stool, then you should see a doctor.

There is little you can do to prevent bruises. When bruising is the result of taking certain medications such as ibuprofen, fish oil or ginkgo, then stopping these can lessen bruising. Also, wearing long sleeves and long pants can be the difference in whether a bruise develops or not after a minor injury.

After an injury, try to minimize the amount of blood that leaks out to minimize the bruise. Sit down and apply pressure to the injured spot for 10-15 minutes. You can also use ice, but only for 15-20 minutes (longer than 20 minutes can cause worsening of the bruise). Apply ice with a wash cloth or other layer between it and your skin. Avoid hot showers or hot baths for 24 hours after the injury as the heat can restart bleeding into the skin.

Vitamin K and bromelain (found in pineapples) might be helpful in resolving bruises more quickly. Look for them in topical products or in oral supplements that can be taken for a few days after a bruise develops. And look out for the coffee table.

Post written by Dr. Jeffrey Benabio, Copyright The Derm Blog 2009.

Photo: Christy Gordon (flickr)

Is Your Physician Board Certified?

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Is the milk you drink rBST-free? Is your physician board certified?

Many people take the time to buy hormone free milk, but they don’t make an effort to choose a physician who is board certified. That’s a shame.

Asking a friend or family member might be a good way to choose a hairdresser, but it is not a good way to choose a physician. Medicine is difficult. The same way that you want the pilot of your next flight to be maintaining his or her skills and knowledge of flying, you also want your physician to maintain his or her skills in medicine. The truth is, you are much more likely to die from your doctor’s mistake than from a pilot’s mistake.

Being board certified is no guarantee that your physician is good (or nice!), but it does assure you that your physician is committed to continuing education and is learning advances in medicine. It also assures you that your physician has completed the necessary training and passed a certification exam for the field of medicine he or she is practicing. Having a license means only that they completed the minimal requirement to practice medicine. Maintaining active board certification means that your physician has undergone yearly continuing education and has passed a re-certification exam every few years.

Certainly there is more to being a good physician than completing residency and passing written and oral examinations. But studies show that high exam scores do correlate with practicing better medicine.

There are 24 board specialties. You can check to see if your physician is board certified by going to the American Board of Medical Specialties site at ABMS.org, registering, and putting in your physician’s name. It is a free and confidential service. You can have a nice glass of rBST-free milk in the meantime.

Post written by Dr. Jeffrey Benabio, Copyright The Derm Blog 2009.

Photo: Ingrid Taylar (flickr)