Smartphone addiction can cause blindness

Being addicted to your smartphones can increase the risk of blindness.

Continuous exposure to blue light emitted from digital devices such as smartphones and laptops can damage your retinal cells and possibly lead to age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness. The findings were published in the journal Scientific Reports.

"We are being exposed to blue light continuously, and the eye's cornea and lens cannot block or reflect it. It is no secret that blue light harms our vision by damaging the eye's retina," said Dr Ajith Karunarathne, co-author of the study.

“You need a continuous supply of retinal molecules if you want to see. Photoreceptors are useless without retinal molecules , which are produced in the eye. If you shine blue light on retina, the retinal molecules kills photoreceptor cells as the signalling molecule on the membrane dissolves. Photoreceptor cells do not regenerate in the eye. When they’re dead, they’re dead for good,” he said.

Karunarathne recommends wearing sunglasses that can filter both UV and blue light and avoiding looking at digital devices in the dark to protect eyes.

Female doctors for female heart patients

Women have a significantly better chance of surviving a heart attack if they are treated by female physicians.

For the study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers analysed two decades of data on some 5,82,000 heart attack patients admitted to hospitals in Florida between 1991 and 2010.

Overall, female doctors seemed to have a better patient outcome than male doctors. When treated by male doctors, 12.6 per cent of men died compared with 13.3 per cent of women. But, when the physician was a woman, only 11.8 per cent of men and 12 per cent of women did not survive.

The difference in survival outcome was more prominent for female patients treated by female doctors. The gender gap for patients treated by female physicians was only about 0.2 per cent, but when male doctors were in charge, the gender gap tripled to 0.7 per cent. More women died when treated by male doctors.

“Our work corroborates prior research showing that female doctors tend to produce better patient outcomes than male doctors. The novel part of what we are doing is showing that the benefit of having a female doctor is particularly stark for a female patient," said the study author.

Boxers or briefs?

Can men’s choice of underwear impact sperm quality and production?

According to a Harvard study published in the journal Human Reproduction, men who wear boxers have significantly higher sperm concentrations and total sperm counts than men who wear tighter underwear.

Tight underwear can raise the scrotal temperatures and interfere with the testicles' ability to produce sperm. The study was based on 656 men, between 32 and 39 years, who were part of couples seeking fertility treatment. Among them 53 per cent usually wore boxers. These men had a 25 per cent higher sperm concentration, 17 per cent higher total sperm count and 33 per cent higher motile sperm (sperm that are capable of moving through the female reproductive system and fertilising an egg) compared with men who usually wore other types of underwear.

The most significant difference was seen between men who wore boxers and men who wore jockeys and briefs.

Analysis of blood samples showed that men who wore boxers also had 14 per cent lower levels of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), which plays an important role in male fertility and is associated with sperm production. Higher levels of FSH indicate that the body is driving the testes to produce more sperm to compensate for the low sperm count.

Did You Know

The mere expectation of having to answer work emails during non-work hours can cause anxiety, lead to strain and conflict in family relationships and adversely affect health and wellbeing.

Academy of Management Best Paper Proceedings

App to prevent pregnancy

The US Food and Drug Administration has approved the first mobile app that can be used to prevent pregnancy. The app, Natural Cycles, uses an algorithm to calculate which days of the month a woman is most fertile based on information she enters about her body temperature and menstrual cycle.

Women have to take their temperatures daily, immediately after waking up, using a basal body thermometer.

They will see "use protection" displayed on the app on the days they are more likely to be fertile.

Clinical studies that included 15,570 women who used the app for an average of eight months showed that it was 93 per cent effective.

The app had a 1.8 per cent “perfect use” failure rate and 6.5 per cent “typical use” failure rate. Typical use failure rate included women who sometimes did not use the app as directed or had unprotected sex on fertile days.

For comparison, the failure rate for birth control pills is about 9 per cent; for hormonal IUDs it is less than 1 per cent, and for condoms about 18 per cent.

"Consumers are increasingly using digital health technologies to inform their everyday health decisions, and this new app can provide an effective method of contraception if it is used carefully and correctly," said the assistant director for the health of women in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health.

Dizziness, a sign of dementia

Middle-aged people who feel dizzy or light-headed when standing up could be at a greater risk of dementia or stroke in later life.

The dizziness is caused by a sudden drop in blood pressure, a condition known as orthostatic hypotension, which has already been linked to heart disease.

The study, published in the journal Neurology included 11,709 people, average age of 54, who did not have a history of heart disease or stroke at the start of the study.

Among them, 552 participants (4.7 per cent) had orthostatic hypotension at the start of the study. During the 25 year study period, 1,068 people developed dementia and 842 people had an ischaemic stroke.

Participants who had orthostatic hypotension at the start of the study had a 54 per cent increased risk of developing dementia than those who did not have orthostatic hypotension. Among those with orthostatic hypotension, 12.5 per cent developed dementia, compared to 9 per cent of those without the condition.

Additionally, those with orthostatic hypotension also had double the risk of ischaemic stroke—15.2 per cent of those with orthostatic hypotension suffered an ischemic stroke, compared to 6.8 per cent of those without orthostatic hypotension.

New combination pill to control blood pressure

A new low dose three-in-one combination pill has been found to be more effective in controlling high blood pressure than current medications, according to findings of a clinical trial published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The Triple Pill combines low doses of three existing drugs for hypertension—telmisartan (20mg), amlodipine (2.5mg) and chlorthalidone (12.5 mg).

Seven hundred people with high blood pressure, average age of 56, were randomly assigned to either take the combination pill, or receive standard blood pressure-lowering therapy.

The standard therapy is to start the patient on one medication at a very low dose and then the dosage is either increased or other drugs are added until an optimal reading is achieved. This can be time consuming and costly, and many doctors and patients often do not stick to the process.

About 70 per cent of the patients on the Triple Pill reached their target blood pressure goal of 140/90 or less within six months, compared with 55 per cent of those on one or two separate blood pressure medications.

"The World Heart Federation has set an ambitious goal that by 2025 there will be a 25 per cent reduction in blood pressure levels globally. The Triple Pill could be a low-cost way of helping countries around the world to meet this target," said study co-author Anushka Patel.

Did You Know

Having back and forth conversations with young children may help them have stronger connections between two developing brain regions critical for language, comprehension and production of speech, suggesting that talking with children from an early age could promote their language skills.

The Journal of Neuroscience

Kids of religious parents have lower suicide tendency

Children whose parents are religious have a lower risk for suicidal behaviour, regardless of the child's own religious belief and other known risk factors such as parental depression, suicidal behaviour and divorce.

The study published in JAMA Psychiatry, used data from a three-generation family study spanning 30 years. It included 214 children from 112 families. The majority were Christians.

The aim was to analyse the association of children and parent’s religious beliefs with the risk of suicidal behaviour in the children.

The risk of suicidal thoughts and attempts were 39 per cent lower in both girls and boys whose parents were religious. And, compared to children whose parents said religion was not at all important, children whose parents said religion was highly important had an 80 per cent lower risk of suicidal behaviour.

“Our findings suggest that there may be alternative and additional ways to help children and adolescents at highest risk for suicidal behaviours. These include conducting a brief spiritual history with parents of children being brought in for psychiatric consultation, as well as assessing the child’s own religious beliefs and practices,” said the study author.

Parental life span predicts daughter’s longevity

Women whose mothers lived a long and healthy life are more likely to live to a similar age without any serious diseases or disabilities.

The US study published in the journal Age and Ageing was based on 22,735 postmenopausal women. Women whose mothers had lived to age 90 were 25 per cent more likely to live to 90 without suffering from serious illnesses including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, stroke, cancer, hip fractures or other debilitating disabilities. If both parents lived to age 90, women were 38 per cent more likely to live a long and healthy life.

However, fathers’ long life had no impact on daughters' longevity or health.

The study did not look at the effects of parental life on sons.

The researchers believe ageing outcomes could be influenced by a combination of genetics, environment and behaviours that are passed from one generation to the next.

The women in the study whose mothers lived to age 90 were more likely to be college graduates, married with high incomes and were physically active and had good eating habits.

"Although we cannot determine our genes, our study shows the importance of passing on healthy behaviours to our children. Certain lifestyle choices can determine healthy ageing from generation to generation," said the study author.

Did You Know

Children who have faced severe traumatic events such as divorce or separation of parents, death of or estrangement from a parent, or emotional, physical or sexual abuse are twice more likely to have attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and four times more likely to have mental health problems.


Selfies changing beauty perception

Photo-editing tools available through applications like Snapchat and Facetune are changing people’s perception of beauty and a new level of physical perfection is catching on.

Filtered selfies can make people lose touch with reality, creating the expectation that we are supposed to look perfectly primped all the time. This can be especially harmful for teens and those with body dysmorphic disorder.

Body dysmorphic disorder, which affects about 2 per cent of the population and is classified on the obsessive-compulsive spectrum, is an excessive preoccupation with a perceived flaw in appearance.

“Previously, patients would bring images of celebrities to their consultations to emulate their attractive features,” said Dr Neelam Vashi, co-author of a study in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery. “A new phenomenon, dubbed ‘Snapchat dysmorphia,’ has patients seeking out cosmetic surgery to look like filtered versions of themselves instead, with fuller lips, bigger eyes, or a thinner nose. This is an alarming trend because those filtered selfies often present an unattainable look and are blurring the line of reality and fantasy for these patients. “It is important for clinicians to understand the implications of social media on body image and self-esteem to treat patients better," said Vashi.

New radiotherapy to treat prostate cancer

Results from a new clinical trial have shown that a new radiotherapy technique can treat prostate cancer patients in just five sessions, instead of the typical 37.

The radical treatment called stereotactic ablative body radiotherapy (SABR) is a highly targeted form of radiotherapy that delivers large doses of radiation per treatment, cutting the treatment sessions from 37 to five.

Patients in the study also benefited from SpaceOAR, a minimally invasive hydrogel technology inserted before radiation, which has shown to significantly reduce side effects such as impotence, bowel and urinary problems associated with radiotherapy.

“In the trial, we evaluated the performance of the SpaceOAR hydrogel which was inserted between the prostate gland and the rectum of the patient. This creates a greater distance between the prostate tumour and other tissues, which allows us to concentrate the radiotherapy dosage provided to the tumour and thus reduce the chance of radiation harming other tissues close to the tumour such as the bowel,” said one of the researchers.

The early results from the clinical trial was published in the British Journal of Radiology.