– the hormone which provokes the adrenal cortex into action.
Symptoms The clinical symptoms appear slowly and depend upon the severity of the underlying disease process. The patient usually complains of appetite and weight loss, nausea, weakness and fatigue. The skin becomes pigmented due to the increased production of ACTH. Faintness, especially on standing, is due to postural HYPOTENSION secondary to aldosterone de?ciency. Women lose their axillary hair and both sexes are liable to develop mental symptoms such as DEPRESSION. Acute episodes – Addisonian crises – may occur, brought on by infection, injury or other stressful events; they are caused by a fall in aldosterone levels, leading to abnormal loss of sodium and water via the kidneys, dehydration, low blood pressure and confusion. Patients may develop increased tanning of the skin from extra pigmentation, with black or blue discoloration of the skin, lips, mouth, rectum and vagina occurring. ANOREXIA, nausea and vomiting are common and the su?erer may feel cold.
Diagnosis This depends on demonstrating impaired serum levels of cortisol and inability of these levels to rise after an injection of ACTH.
Treatment consists in replacement of the de?cient hormones. HYDROCORTISONE tablets are commonly used; some patients also require the salt-retaining hormone, ?udrocortisone. Treatment enables them to lead a completely normal life and to enjoy a normal life expectancy. Before surgery, or if the patient is pregnant and unable to take tablets, injectable hydrocortisone may be needed. Rarely, treated patients may have a crisis, perhaps because they have not been taking their medication or have been vomiting it. Emergency resuscitation is needed with ?uids, salt and sugar. Because of this, all patients should carry a card detailing their condition and necessary management. Treatment of any complicating infections such as tuberculosis is essential. Sometimes DIABETES MELLITUS coexists with Addison’s disease and must be treated.
Secondary adrenal insu?ciency may occur in panhypopituitarism (see PITUITARY GLAND), in patients treated with CORTICOSTEROIDS or after such patients have stopped treatment.... Medical Dictionary
Both HIV-1 and HIV-2 are predominantly sexually transmitted and both are associated with secondary opportunistic infections. However, HIV-2 seems to result in slower damage to the immune system. HIV-1 is known to mutate rapidly and has given rise to other subtypes.
HIV is thought to have occurred in humans in the 1950s, but whether or not it infected humans from another primate species is uncertain. It became widespread in the 1970s but its latency in causing symptoms meant that the epidemic was not noticed until the following decade. Although it is a sexually transmitted disease, it can also be transmitted by intravenous drug use (through sharing an infected needle), blood transfusions with infected blood (hence the importance of e?ective national blood-screening programmes), organ donation, and occupationally (see health-care workers, below). Babies born of HIV-positive mothers can be infected before or during birth, or through breast feeding.
Although HIV is most likely to occur in blood, semen or vaginal ?uid, it has been found in saliva and tears (but not sweat); however, there is no evidence that the virus can be transmitted from these two body ?uids. There is also no evidence that HIV can be transmitted by biting insects (such as mosquitoes). HIV does not survive well in the environment and is rapidly destroyed through drying.
Prevalence At the end of 2003 an estimated 42 million people globally were infected with HIV – up from 40 million two years earlier. About one-third of those with HIV/AIDS are aged 15–24 and most are unaware that they are carrying the virus. During 2003 it is estimated that 5 million adults and children worldwide were newly infected with HIV, and that 3 million adults and children died. In Africa in 2003,
3.4 million people were newly infected and 2.3 million died, with more than 28 million carrying the virus. HIV/AIDS was the leading cause of death in sub-Saharan Africa where over half of the infections were in women and 90 per cent of cases resulted from heterosexual sex. In some southern African countries, one in three pregnant women had HIV.
In Asia and the Paci?c there were 1.2 million new infections and 435,000 deaths. The area with the fastest-growing epidemic is Eastern Europe, especially the Russian Federation where in 2002 around a million people had HIV and there were an estimated 250,000 new infections, with intravenous drug use a key contributor to this ?gure. Seventy-?ve per cent of cases occurred in men, with male-to-male sexual transmission an important cause of infection, though heterosexual activity is a rising cause of infection.
At the end of 2002 the UK had an estimated 55,900 HIV-infected adults aged between 15 and 59. More than 3,600 individuals were newly diagnosed with the infection in 2000, the highest annual ?gure since the epidemic started
– in 1998 the ?gure was 2,817 and in 1999 just over 3,000 (Department of Health and Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre). The incidence of AIDS in the UK has declined sharply since the introduction of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) and HIV-related deaths have also fallen: in 2002 there were 777 reported new AIDS cases and 395 deaths, compared with 1,769 and 1,719 respectively in 1995. (Sources: UNAIDS and WHO, AIDS Epidemic Update, December 2001; Public Health Laboratory Services AIDS and STD Centre Communicable Disease Surveillance and Scottish Centre for Infection and Environmental Health, Quarterly Surveillance Tables.)
Poverty is strongly linked to the spread of AIDS, for various reasons including lack of health education; lack of e?ective public-health awareness; women having little control over sexual behaviour and contraception; and, by comparison with the developed world, little or no access to antiretroviral drugs.
Pathogenesis The cellular target of HIV infection is a subset of white blood cells called T-lymphocytes (see LYMPHOCYTE) which carry the CD4 surface receptor. These so-called ‘helper T-cells’ are vital to the function of cell-mediated immunity. Infection of these cells leads to their destruction (HIV replicates at an enormous rate – 109) and over the course of several years the body is unable to generate suf?cient new cells to keep pace. This leads to progressive destruction of the body’s immune capabilities, evidenced clinically by the development of opportunistic infection and unusual tumours.
Monitoring of clinical progression It is possible to measure the number of viral particles present in the plasma. This gives an accurate guide to the likely progression rate, which will be slow in those individuals with fewer than 10,000 particles per ml of plasma but progressively more rapid above this ?gure. The main clinical monitoring of the immune system is through the numbers of CD4 lymphocytes in the blood. The normal count is around 850 cells per ml and, without treatment, eventual progression to AIDS is likely in those individuals whose CD4 count falls below 500 per ml. Opportunistic infections occur most frequently when the count falls below 200 per ml: most such infections are treatable, and death is only likely when the CD4 count falls below 50 cells per ml when infection is developed with organisms that are di?cult to treat because of their low intrinsic virulence.
Simple, cheap and highly accurate tests are available to detect HIV antibodies in the serum. These normally occur within three months of infection and remain the cornerstone of the diagnosis.
Clinical features Most infected individuals have a viral illness some three weeks after contact with HIV. The clinical features are often non-speci?c and remain undiagnosed but include a ?ne red rash, large lymph nodes, an in?uenza-like illness, cerebral involvement and sometimes the development of opportunistic infections. The antibody test may be negative at this stage but there are usually high levels of virus particles in the blood. The antibody test is virtually always positive within three months of infection. HIV infection is often subsequently asymptomatic for a period of ten years or more, although in most patients progressive immune destruction is occurring during this time and a variety of minor opportunistic infections such as HERPES ZOSTER or oral thrush (see CANDIDA) do occur. In addition, generalised LYMPHADENOPATHY is present in a third of patients and some su?er from severe malaise, weight loss, night sweats, mild fever, ANAEMIA or easy bruising due to THROMBOCYTOPENIA.
The presentation of opportunistic infection is highly variable but usually involves either the CENTRAL NERVOUS SYSTEM, the gastrointestinal tract or the LUNGS. Patients may present with a sudden onset of a neurological de?cit or EPILEPSY due to a sudden onset of a STROKE-like syndrome, or epilepsy due to a space-occupying lesion in the brain – most commonly TOXOPLASMOSIS. In late disease, HIV infection of the central nervous system itself may produce progressive memory loss, impaired concentration and mental slowness called AIDS DEMENTIA. A wide variety of opportunistic PROTOZOA or viruses produces DYSPHAGIA, DIARRHOEA and wasting. In the respiratory system the commonest opportunistic infection associated with AIDS, pneumonia, produces severe shortness of breath and sometimes CYANOSIS, usually with a striking lack of clinical signs in the chest.
In very late HIV infection, when the CD4 count has fallen below 50 cells per ml, infection with CYTOMEGALOVIRUS may produce progressive retinal necrosis (see EYE, DISORDERS OF) which will lead to blindness if untreated, as well as a variety of gastrointestinal symptoms. At this stage, infection with atypical mycobacteria is also common, producing severe anaemia, wasting and fevers. The commonest tumour associated with HIV is Kaposi’s sarcoma which produces purplish skin lesions. This and nonHodgkin’s lymphoma (see LYMPHOMA), which is a hundred times more frequent among HIV-positive individuals than in the general population, are likely to be associated with or caused by opportunistic viral infections.
Prevention There is, as yet, no vaccine to prevent HIV infection. Vaccine development has been hampered
by the large number of new HIV strains generated through frequent mutation and recombination.
because HIV can be transmitted as free virus and in infected cells.
because HIV infects helper T-cells – the very cells involved in the immune response. There are, however, numerous research pro
grammes underway to develop vaccines that are either prophylactic or therapeutic. Vaccine-development strategies have included: recombinant-vector vaccines, in which a live bacterium or virus is genetically modi?ed to carry one or more of the HIV genes; subunit vaccines, consisting of small regions of the HIV genome designed to induce an immune response without infection; modi?ed live HIV, which has had its disease-promoting genes removed; and DNA vaccines – small loops of DNA (plasmids) containing viral genes – that make the host cells produce non-infectious viral proteins which, in turn, trigger an immune response and prime the immune system against future infection with real virus.
In the absence of an e?ective vaccine, preventing exposure remains the chief strategy in reducing the spread of HIV. Used properly, condoms are an extremely e?ective method of preventing exposure to HIV during sexual intercourse and remain the most important public-health approach to countering the further acceleration of the AIDS epidemic. The spermicide nonoxynol-9, which is often included with condoms, is known to kill HIV in vitro; however, its e?ectiveness in preventing HIV infection during intercourse is not known.
Public-health strategies must be focused on avoiding high-risk behaviour and, particularly in developing countries, empowering women to have more control over their lives, both economically and socially. In many of the poorer regions of the world, women are economically dependent on men and refusing sex, or insisting on condom use, even when they know their partners are HIV positive, is not a straightforward option. Poverty also forces many women into the sex industry where they are at greater risk of infection.
Cultural problems in gaining acceptance for universal condom-use by men in some developing countries suggests that other preventive strategies should also be considered. Microbicides used as vaginal sprays or ‘chemical condoms’ have the potential to give women more direct control over their exposure risk, and research is underway to develop suitable products.
Epidemiological studies suggest that male circumcision may o?er some protection against HIV infection, although more research is needed before this can be an established public-health strategy. Globally, about 70 per cent of infected men have acquired the virus through unprotected vaginal sex; in these men, infection is likely to have occurred through the penis with the mucosal epithelia of the inner surface of the foreskin and the frenulum considered the most likely sites for infection. It is suggested that in circumcised men, the glans may become keratinised and thus less likely to facilitate infection. Circumcision may also reduce the risk of lesions caused by other sexually transmitted disease.
Treatment AIDS/HIV treatment can be categorised as speci?c therapies for the individual opportunistic infections – which ultimately cause death – and highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) designed to reduce viral load and replication. HAART is also the most e?ective way of preventing opportunistic infections, and has had a signi?cant impact in delaying the onset of AIDS in HIV-positive individuals in developed countries.
Four classes of drugs are currently in use. Nucleoside analogues, including ZIDOVUDINE and DIDANOSINE, interfere with the activity of the unique enzyme of the retrovirus reverse transcriptase which is essential for replication. Nucleotide analogues, such as tenofovir, act in the same way but require no intracellular activation. Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors, such as nevirapine and EFAVIRENZ, act by a di?erent mechanism on the same enzyme. The most potent single agents against HIV are the protease inhibitors, such as lopinavir, which render a unique viral enzyme ineffective. These drugs are used in a variety of combinations in an attempt to reduce the plasma HIV viral load to below detectable limits, which is achieved in approximately 90 per cent of patients who have not previously received therapy. This usually also produces a profound rise in CD4 count. It is likely, however, that such treatments need to be lifelong – and since they are associated with toxicities, long-term adherence is di?cult. Thus the optimum time for treatment intervention remains controversial, with some clinicians believing that this should be governed by the viral load rising above 10,000 copies, and others that it should primarily be designed to prevent the development of opportunistic infections – thus, that initiation of therapy should be guided more by the CD4 count.
It should be noted that the drug regimens have been devised for infection with HIV-1; it is not known how e?ective they are at treating infection with HIV-2.
HIV and pregnancy An HIV-positive woman can transmit the virus to her fetus, with the risk of infection being particularly high during parturition; however, the risk of perinatal HIV transmission can be reduced by antiviral drug therapy. In the UK, HIV testing is available to all women as part of antenatal care. The bene?ts of antenatal HIV testing in countries where antiviral drugs are not available are questionable. An HIV-positive woman might be advised not to breast feed because of the risks of transmitting HIV via breastmilk, but there may be a greater risk associated with not breast feeding at all. Babies in many poor communities are thought to be at high risk of infectious diseases and malnutrition if they are not breast fed and may thus be at greater overall risk of death during infancy.
Counselling Con?dential counselling is an essential part of AIDS management, both in terms of supporting the psychological wellbeing of the individual and in dealing with issues such as family relations, sexual partners and implications for employment (e.g. for health-care workers). Counsellors must be particularly sensitive to culture and lifestyle issues. Counselling is essential both before an HIV test is taken and when the results are revealed.
Health-care workers Health-care workers may be at risk of occupational exposure to HIV, either through undertaking invasive procedures or through accidental exposure to infected blood from a contaminated needle (needlestick injury). Needlestick injuries are frequent in health care – as many as 600,000 to 800,000 are thought to occur annually in the United States. Transmission is much more likely where the worker has been exposed to HIV through a needlestick injury or deep cut with a contaminated instrument than through exposure of mucous membranes to contaminated blood or body ?uids. However, even where exposure occurs through a needlestick injury, the risk of seroconversion is much lower than with a similar exposure to hepatitis C or hepatitis B. A percutaneous exposure to HIV-infected blood in a health-care setting is thought to carry a risk of about one infection per 300 injuries (one in 1,000 for mucous-membrane exposure), compared with one in 30 for hepatitis C, and one in three for hepatitis B (when the source patient is e-antigen positive).
In the event of an injury, health-care workers are advised to report the incident immediately where, depending on a risk assessment, they may be o?ered post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). They should also wash the contaminated area with soap and water (but without scrubbing) and, if appropriate, encourage bleeding at the site of injury. PEP, using a combination of antiretroviral drugs (in a similar regimen to HAART – see above), is thought to greatly reduce the chances of seroconversion; it should be commenced as soon as possible, preferably within one or two hours of the injury. Although PEP is available, safe systems of work are considered to o?er the greatest protection. Double-gloving (latex gloves remove much of the blood from the surface of the needle during a needlestick), correct use of sharps containers (for used needles and instruments), avoiding the resheathing of used needles, reduction in the number of blood samples taken from a patient, safer-needle devices (such as needles that self-blunt after use) and needleless drug administration are all thought to reduce the risk of exposure to HIV and other blood-borne viruses. Although there have been numerous cases of health-care workers developing HIV through occupational exposure, there is little evidence of health-care workers passing HIV to their patients through normal medical procedures.... Medical Dictionary
Alcohol depresses the central nervous system and disturbs both mental and physical functioning. Even small doses of alcohol will slow a person’s re?exes and concentration; potentially dangerous e?ects when, for example, driving or operating machinery. Drunkenness causes slurred speech, muddled thinking, amnesia (memory loss), drowsiness, erectile IMPOTENCE, poor coordination and dulled reactions – thereby making driving or operating machinery especially dangerous. Disinhibition may lead to extreme euphoria, irritability, misery or aggression, depending on the underlying mood at the start of drinking. Severe intoxication may lead to COMA and respiratory failure.
Persistent alcohol misuse leads to physical, mental, social and occupational problems, as well as to a risk of DEPENDENCE (see also ALCOHOL DEPENDENCE). Misuse may follow several patterns: regular but controlled heavy intake, ‘binge’ drinking, and dependence (alcoholism). The ?rst pattern usually leads to mainly physical problems such as gastritis, peptic ulcer, liver disease, heart disease and impotence. The second is most common among young men and usually leads to mainly social and occupational problems – getting into ?ghts, jeopardising personal relationships, overspending on alcohol at weekends, and missing days o? work because of hangovers. The third pattern – alcohol dependence – is the most serious, and can severely disrupt health and social stability.
Many researchers consider alcohol dependence to be an illness that runs in families, with a genetic component which is probably passed on as a vulnerable personality. But it is hard to disentangle genetic, environmental and social factors in such families. In the UK there are estimated to be around a million people su?ering from alcohol dependence and a similar number who have di?culty controlling their consumption (together about 1:30 of the population).
Alcohol causes tolerance and both physical and psychological dependence (see DEPENDENCE for de?nitions). Dependent drinkers classically drink early in the morning to relieve overnight withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms include anxiety, restlessness, nausea and vomiting, and tremor. Sudden withdrawal from regular heavy drinking can lead to life-threatening delirium tremens (DTs), with severe tremor, hallucinations (often visual – seeing spiders and monsters, rather than the pink elephants of romantic myth), and CONVULSIONS. This must be treated urgently with sedative drugs, preferably by intravenous drip. Similar symptoms, plus severe INCOORDINATION and double-vision, can occur in WERNICKE’S ENCEPHALOPATHY, a serious neurological condition due to lack of the B vitamin thiamine (whose absorption from the stomach is markedly reduced by alcohol). If not treated urgently with injections of thiamine and other vitamins, this can lead to an irreversible form of brain damage called Korsako?’s psychosis, with severe amnesia. Finally, prolonged alcohol misuse can cause a form of dementia.
In addition to these severe neurological disorders, the wide range of life-threatening problems caused by heavy drinking includes HEPATITIS, liver CIRRHOSIS, pancreatitis (see PANCREAS, DISEASES OF), gastrointestinal haemorrhage, suicide and FETAL ALCOHOL SYNDROME; pregnant women should not drink alcohol as this syndrome may occur with more than a glass of wine or half-pint of beer a day. The social e?ects of alcohol misuse – such as marital breakdown, family violence and severe debt – can be equally devastating.
Treatment of alcohol-related problems is only moderately successful. First, many of the physical problems are treated in the short term by doctors who fail to spot, or never ask about, heavy drinking. Second, attempts at treating alcohol dependence by detoxi?cation or ‘drying out’ (substituting a tranquillising drug for alcohol and withdrawing it gradually over about a week) are not always followed-up by adequate support at home, so that drinking starts again. Home support by community alcohol teams comprising doctors, nurses, social workers and, when appropriate, probation o?cers is a recent development that may have better results. Many drinkers ?nd the voluntary organisation Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and its related groups for relatives (Al-Anon) and teenagers (Alateen) helpful because total abstinence from alcohol is encouraged by intensive psychological and social support from fellow ex-drinkers.
Useful contacts are: Alcoholics Anonymous; Al-Anon Family Groups UK and Eire (including Alateen); Alcohol Concern; Alcohol Focus Scotland; and Alcohol and Substance Misuse.
1 standard drink =1 unit
=••• pint of beer
=1 measure of spirits
=1 glass of sherry or vermouth
=1 glass of wine
Limits within which alcohol is believed not to cause long-term health risks:... Medical Dictionary
In Britain, anaemia is much more common among women than men. Thus, around 10 per cent of girls have anaemia at the age of 15, whilst in adult life the incidence is over 30 per cent between the ages of 30 and 40, around 20 per cent at 50, and around 30 per cent at 70. Among men the incidence is under 5 per cent until the age of 50; it then rises to 20 per cent at the age of 70. Ninety per cent of all cases of anaemia in Britain are microcytic, 7 per cent are macrocytic, and 3 per cent are haemolytic or aplastic. Inherited anaemias include sickle-cell anaemia and THALASSAEMIA.... Dictionary of Tropical Medicine
This technique is used when normal methods of attempted CONCEPTION or ARTIFICIAL INSEMINATION with healthy SEMEN have failed. In the UK, assisted-conception procedures are governed by the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Act 1990, which set up the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA).
Human Fertilisation & Embryology Act 1990 UK legislation was prompted by the report on in vitro fertilisation produced by a government-appointed committee chaired by Baroness Warnock. This followed the birth, in 1978, of the ?rst ‘test-tube’ baby.
This Act allows regulation monitoring of all treatment centres to ensure that they carry out treatment and research responsibly. It covers any fertilisation that uses donated eggs or sperm (called gametes) – for example, donor insemination or embryos (see EMBRYO) grown outside the human body (known as licensed treatment). The Act also covers research on human embryos with especial emphasis on foolproof labelling and immaculate data collection.
Human Fertilisation & EmbryologyAuthority (HFEA) Set up by the UK government following the Warnock report, the Authority’s 221 members inspect and license centres carrying out fertilisation treatments using donated eggs and sperm. It publishes a code of practice advising centres on how to conduct their activities and maintains a register of information on donors, patients and all treatments. It also reviews routinely progress and research in fertility treatment and the attempted development of human CLONING. Cloning to produce viable embryos (reproductive cloning) is forbidden, but limited licensing of the technique is allowed in specialist centres to enable them to produce cells for medical treatment (therapeutic cloning).
In vitro fertilisation (IVF) In this technique, the female partner receives drugs to enhance OVULATION. Just before the eggs are released from the ovary (see OVARIES), several ripe eggs are collected under ULTRASOUND guidance or through a LAPAROSCOPE. The eggs are incubated with the prepared sperm. About 40 hours later, once the eggs are fertilised, two eggs (three in special circumstances) are transferred into the mother’s UTERUS via the cervix (neck of the womb). Pregnancy should then proceed normally. About one in ?ve IVF pregnancies results in the birth of a child. The success rate is lower in women over 40.
Indications In women with severely damaged FALLOPIAN TUBES, IVF o?ers the only chance of pregnancy. The method is also used in couples with unexplained infertility or with male-factor infertility (where sperms are abnormal or their count low). Women who have had an early or surgically induced MENOPAUSE can become pregnant using donor eggs. A quarter of these pregnancies are multiple – that is, produce twins or more. Twins and triplets are more likely to be premature. The main danger of ovarian stimulation for IVF is hyperstimulation which can cause ovarian cysts. (See OVARIES, DISEASES OF.)... Medical Dictionary
|Kidney beans canned||65|
|Zinc||0.06 mg||0.5– 0.8*|
|Thiamin||0.02 mg||1.6 –1.8*|
|R iboflavin||0.09 mg||7– 8*|
|Vitamin B6||0.17 mg||13|
In blood transfusion, the person giving and the person receiving the blood must belong to the same blood group, or a dangerous reaction will take place from the agglutination that occurs when blood of a di?erent group is present. One exception is that group O Rhesus-negative blood can be used in an emergency for anybody.
Rhesus factor In addition to the A and B agglutinogens (or antigens), there is another one known as the Rhesus (or Rh) factor – so named because there is a similar antigen in the red blood corpuscles of the Rhesus monkey. About 84 per cent of the population have this Rh factor in their blood and are therefore known as ‘Rh-positive’. The remaining 16 per cent who do not possess the factor are known as ‘Rh-negative’.
The practical importance of the Rh factor is that, unlike the A and B agglutinogens, there are no naturally occurring Rh antibodies. However, such antibodies may develop in a Rh-negative person if the Rh antigen is introduced into his or her circulation. This can occur (a) if a Rh-negative person is given a transfusion of Rh-positive blood, and (b) if a Rh-negative mother married to a Rh-positive husband becomes pregnant and the fetus is Rh-positive. If the latter happens, the mother develops Rh antibodies which can pass into the fetal circulation, where they react with the baby’s Rh antigen and cause HAEMOLYTIC DISEASE of the fetus and newborn. This means that, untreated, the child may be stillborn or become jaundiced shortly after birth.
As about one in six expectant mothers is Rh-negative, a blood-group examination is now considered an essential part of the antenatal examination of a pregnant woman. All such Rh-negative expectant mothers are now given a ‘Rhesus card’ showing that they belong to the rhesus-negative blood group. This card should always be carried with them. Rh-positive blood should never be transfused to a Rh-negative girl or woman.... Medical Dictionary
The operation is usually performed through a low, horizontal ‘bikini line’ incision. A general anaesthetic in a heavily pregnant woman carries increased risks, so the operation is often performed under regional – epidural or spinal – ANAESTHESIA. This also allows the mother to see her baby as soon as it is born, and the baby is not exposed to agents used for general anaesthesia. If a general anaesthetic is needed (usually in an emergency), exposure to these agents may make the baby drowsy for some time afterwards.
Another problem with delivery by Caesarean section is, of course, that the mother must recover from the operation whilst coping with the demands of a small baby. (See PREGNANCY AND LABOUR.)... Medical Dictionary
Calcium is a most important element in diet; the chief sources of it are milk and cheese. Calcium is especially needed by the growing child and the pregnant and nursing mother. The uptake of calcium by the baby is helped by vitamin D (see APPENDIX 5: VITAMINS). A de?ciency of calcium may cause TETANY, and an excess may result in the development of CALCULI (stones) in the KIDNEYS or gallbladder (see LIVER).
The recommended daily intakes of calcium are: 500 mg for children, 700 mg for adolescents, 500–900 mg for adults and 1,200 mg for pregnant or nursing mothers.... Medical Dictionary
Each year around 50 people in the United Kingdom are reported as dying from carbon monoxide poisoning, and experts have suggested that as many as 25,000 people a year are exposed to its e?ects within the home, but most cases are unrecognised, unreported and untreated, even though victims may su?er from long-term e?ects. This is regrettable, given that Napoleon’s surgeon, Larrey, recognised in the 18th century that soldiers were being poisoned by carbon monoxide when billeted in huts heated by woodburning stoves. In the USA it is estimated that 40,000 people a year attend emergency departments su?ering from carbon monoxide poisoning. So prevention is clearly an important element in dealing with what is sometimes termed the ‘silent killer’. Safer designs of houses and heating systems, as well as wider public education on the dangers of carbon monoxide and its sources, are important.
Clinical e?ects of acute exposure resemble those of atmospheric HYPOXIA. Tissues and organs with high oxygen consumption are a?ected to a great extent. Common e?ects include headaches, weakness, fatigue, ?ushing, nausea, vomiting, irritability, dizziness, drowsiness, disorientation, incoordination, visual disturbances, TACHYCARDIA and HYPERVENTILATION. In severe cases drowsiness may progress rapidly to COMA. There may also be metabolic ACIDOSIS, HYPOKALAEMIA, CONVULSIONS, HYPOTENSION, respiratory depression, ECG changes and cardiovascular collapse. Cerebral OEDEMA is common and will lead to severe brain damage and focal neurological signs. Signi?cant abnormalities on physical examination include impaired short-term memory, abnormal Rhomberg’s test (standing unsupported with eyes closed) and unsteadiness of gait including heel-toe walking. Any one of these signs would classify the episode as severe. Victims’ skin may be coloured pink, though this is very rarely seen even in severe incidents. The venous blood may look ‘arterial’. Patients recovering from acute CO poisoning may su?er neurological sequelae including TREMOR, personality changes, memory impairment, visual loss, inability to concentrate and PARKINSONISM. Chronic low-level exposures may result in nausea, fatigue, headache, confusion, VOMITING, DIARRHOEA, abdominal pain and general malaise. They are often misdiagnosed as in?uenza or food poisoning.
First-aid treatment is to remove the victim from the source of exposure, ensure an e?ective airway and give 100-per-cent oxygen by tight-?tting mask. In hospital, management is largely suppportive, with oxygen administration. A blood sample for COHb level determination should be taken as soon as practicable and, if possible, before oxygen is given. Ideally, oxygen therapy should continue until the COHb level falls below 5 per cent. Patients with any history of unconsciousness, a COHb level greater than 20 per cent on arrival, any neurological signs, any cardiac arrhythmias or anyone who is pregnant should be referred for an expert opinion about possible treatment with hyperbaric oxygen, though this remains a controversial therapy. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy shortens the half-life of COHb, increases plasma oxygen transport and reverses the clinical e?ects resulting from acute exposures. Carbon monoxide is also an environmental poison and a component of cigarette smoke. Normal body COHb levels due to ENDOGENOUS CO production are 0.4 to
0.7 per cent. Non-smokers in urban areas may have level of 1–2 per cent as a result of environmental exposure. Smokers may have a COHb level of 5 to 6 per cent.... Medical Dictionary
|Calcium Content of Cheese|
|Pasteurized processed American||oz.||174|
Incubation period varies from a few hours to ?ve days. Watery diarrhoea may be torrential and the resultant dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, complicated by cardiac failure, commonly causes death. The victim’s skin elasticity is lost, the eyes are sunken, and the radial pulse may be barely perceptible. Urine production may be completely suppressed. Diagnosis is by detection of V. cholerae in a faecal sample. Treatment consists of rapid rehydration. Whereas the intravenous route may be required in a severe case, in the vast majority of patients oral rehydration (using an appropriate solution containing sodium chloride, glucose, sodium bicarbonate, and potassium) gives satisfactory results. Proprietary rehydration ?uids do not always contain adequate sodium for rehydration in a severe case. ANTIBIOTICS, for example, tetracycline and doxycycline, reduce the period during which V. cholerae is excreted (in children and pregnant women, furazolidone is safer); in an epidemic, rapid resistance to these, and other antibiotics, has been clearly demonstrated. Prevention consists of improving public health infrastructure – in particular, the quality of drinking water. When supplies of the latter are satisfactory, the infection fails to thrive. Though there have recently been large epidemics of cholera in much of South America and parts of central Africa and the Indian subcontinent, the risk of tourists and travellers contracting the disease is low if they take simple precautions. These include eating safe food (avoid raw or undercooked seafood, and wash vegetables in clean water) and drinking clean water. There is no cholera vaccine at present available in the UK as it provides little protection and cannot control spread of the disease. Those travelling to countries where it exists should pay scrupulous attention to food and water cleanliness and to personal hygiene.... Medicinal Plants Glossary
Barrier methods These involve a physical barrier which prevents sperm (see SPERMATOZOON) from reaching the cervix (see CERVIX UTERI). Barrier methods reduce the risk of spreading sexually transmitted diseases, and the sheath is the best protection against HIV infection (see AIDS/HIV) for sexually active people. The e?ciency of barrier methods is improved if they are used in conjunction with a spermicidal foam or jelly, but care is needed to ensure that the preparation chosen does not damage the rubber barrier or cause an allergic reaction in the users. CONDOM OR SHEATH This is the most commonly used barrier contraceptive. It consists of a rubber sheath which is placed over the erect penis before intromission and removed after ejaculation. The failure rate, if properly used, is about 4 per cent. DIAPHRAGM OR CAP A rubber dome that is inserted into the vagina before intercourse and ?ts snugly over the cervix. It should be used with an appropriate spermicide and is removed six hours after intercourse. A woman must be measured to ensure that she is supplied with the correct size of diaphragm, and the ?t should be checked annually or after more than about 7 lbs. change in weight. The failure rate, if properly used, is about 2 per cent.
Non-barrier methods These do not provide a physical barrier between sperm and cervix and so do not protect against sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. COITUS INTERRUPTUS This involves the man’s withdrawing his penis from the vagina before ejaculation. Because some sperm may leak before full ejaculation, the method is not very reliable. SAFE PERIOD This involves avoiding intercourse around the time when the woman ovulates and is at risk of pregnancy. The safe times can be predicted using temperature charts to identify the rise in temperature before ovulation, or by careful assessment of the quality of the cervical mucus. This method works best if the woman has regular menstrual cycles. If used carefully it can be very e?ective but requires a highly disciplined couple to succeed. It is approved by the Catholic church.
SPERMICIDAL GELS, CREAMS, PESSARIES, ETC.
These are supposed to prevent pregnancy by killing sperm before they reach the cervix, but they are unreliable and should be used only in conjunction with a barrier method.
INTRAUTERINE CONTRACEPTIVE DEVICE (COIL) This is a small metal or plastic shape, placed inside the uterus, which prevents pregnancy by disrupting implantation. Some people regard it as a form of abortion, so it is not acceptable to all religious groups. There is a risk of pelvic infection and eventual infertility in women who have used coils, and in many countries their use has declined substantially. Coils must be inserted by a specially trained health worker, but once in place they permit intercourse at any time with no prior planning. Increased pain and bleeding may be caused during menstruation. If severe, such symptoms may indicate that the coil is incorrectly sited, and that its position should be checked. HORMONAL METHODS Steroid hormones have dominated contraceptive developments during the past 40 years, with more than 200 million women worldwide taking or having taken ‘the pill’. In the past 20 years, new developments have included modifying existing methods and devising more e?ective ways of delivering the drugs, such as implants and hormone-releasing devices in the uterus. Established hormonal contraception includes the combined oestrogen and progesterone and progesterone-only contraceptive pills, as well as longer-acting depot preparations. They modify the woman’s hormonal environment and prevent pregnancy by disrupting various stages of the menstrual cycle, especially ovulation. The combined oestrogen and progesterone pills are very e?ective and are the most popular form of contraception. Biphasic and triphasic pills contain di?erent quantities of oestrogen and progesterone taken in two or three phases of the menstrual cycle. A wide range of preparations is available and the British National Formulary contains details of the commonly used varieties.
The main side-e?ect is an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. The lowest possible dose of oestrogen should be used, and many preparations are phasic, with the dose of oestrogen varying with the time of the cycle. The progesterone-only, or ‘mini’, pill does not contain any oestrogen and must be taken at the same time every day. It is not as e?ective as the combined pill, but failure rates of less than 1-per-100 woman years can be achieved. It has few serious side-e?ects, but may cause menstrual irregularities. It is suitable for use by mothers who are breast feeding.
Depot preparations include intramuscular injections, subcutaneous implants, and intravaginal rings. They are useful in cases where the woman cannot be relied on to take a pill regularly but needs e?ective contraception. Their main side-e?ect is their prolonged action, which means that users cannot suddenly decide that they would like to become pregnant. Skin patches containing a contraceptive that is absorbed through the skin have recently been launched.
HORMONAL CONTRACEPTION FOR MEN There is a growing demand by men worldwide for hormonal contraception. Development of a ‘male pill’, however, has been slow because of the potentially dangerous side-e?ects of using high doses of TESTOSTERONE (the male hormone) to suppress spermatogenesis. Progress in research to develop a suitable ANDROGEN-based combination product is promising, including the possibility of long-term STEROID implants. STERILISATION See also STERILISATION – Reproductive sterilisation. The operation is easier and safer to perform on men than on women. Although sterilisation can sometimes be reversed, this cannot be guaranteed and couples should be counselled in advance that the method is irreversible. There is a small but definite failure rate with sterilisation, and this should also be made clear before the operation is performed. POSTCOITAL CONTRACEPTION Also known as emergency contraception or the ‘morning after pill’, postcoital contraception can be e?ected by two di?erent hormonal methods. Levonorgesterol (a synthetic hormone similar to the natural female sex hormone PROGESTERONE) can be used alone, with one pill being taken within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse, but preferably as soon as possible, and a second one 12 hours after the ?rst. Alternatively, a combined preparation comprising ETHINYLESTRADIOL and levonorgesterol can be taken, also within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse. The single constituent pill has fewer side-e?ects than the combined version. Neither version should be taken by women with severe liver disease or acute PORPHYRIAS, but the ethinylestradiol/levonorgesterol combination is unsuitable for women with a history of THROMBOSIS.
In the UK the law allows women over the age of 16 to buy the morning-after pill ‘over the counter’ from a registered pharmacist.... Medical Dictionary
Symptoms Warning symptoms include dizziness, headache, oedema, vomiting, and the secretion of albumin (protein) in the urine. These are normally accompanied by a rise in blood pressure, which can be severe. Preeclamptic symptoms may be present for some days or weeks before the seizure takes place, and, if a woman is found to have these during antenatal care, preventive measures must be taken. Untreated, CONVULSIONS and unconsciousness are very likely, with serious migraine-like frontal headache and epigastric pain the symptoms.
Treatment Prevention of eclampsia by dealing with pre-eclamptic symptoms is the best management, but even this may not prevent convulsions. Hospital treatment is essential if eclampsia develops, preferably in a specialist unit. The treatment of the seizures is that generally applicable to convulsions of any kind, with appropriate sedatives given such as intravenous DIAZEPAM. HYDRALLAZINE intravenously should also be administered to reduce the blood pressure. Magnesium sulphate given intramuscularly sometimes helps to control the ?ts. The baby’s condition should be monitored throughout.
Urgent delivery of the baby, if necessary by CAESAREAN SECTION, is the most e?ective ‘treatment’ for a mother with acute eclampsia. (See PREGNANCY AND LABOUR.)
Women who have su?ered from eclampsia are liable to su?er a recurrence in a further preganancy. Careful monitoring is required. There is a self-help organisation, Action on Pre-eclampsia (APEC), to advise on the condition.... Medicinal Plants Glossary
In order to prevent NEURAL TUBE defects and cleft lip or palate (see CLEFT PALATE), all women planning to become pregnant should be advised to have a diet rich in folic acid in the months before conception until 13 weeks’ gestation, or to take folic acid tablets.
Recent research has suggested that adequate levels of folic acid can prevent the build-up of homocysteine, a compound in the blood closely associated with heart attacks and strokes. It has been suggested that the o?cial recommendation of 200 micrograms a day in the diet should be doubled. (See APPENDIX 5: VITAMINS.)... Medical Dictionary
Treatment Crusts should be gently removed with SALINE. Mild cases respond to frequent application of mupiricin or NEOMYCIN/BACITRACIN ointment; more severe cases should be treated orally or, sometimes, intravenously with FLUCLOXACILLIN or one of the CEPHALOSPORINS. If the patient is allergic to penicillin, ERYTHROMYCIN can be used.
For severe, intractable cases, an oral retinoid drug called isotretinoin (commercially produced as Roaccutane®) can be used. It is given systemically but treatment must be supervised by a consultant dermatologist as serious side-e?ects, including possible psychiatric disturbance, can occur. The drug is also teratogenic (see TERATOGENESIS), so women who are, or who may become, pregnant must not take isotretinoin. It acts mainly by suppressing SEBUM production in the sebaceous glands and can be very e?ective. Recurrent bouts of impetigo should raise suspicion of underlying SCABIES or head lice. Bactericidal soaps and instilling an antibiotic into the nostrils may also help.... Medicinal Plants Glossary
The improvement in the infant mortality rate has occurred mainly in the period from the second month of life. There has been much less improvement in the neonatal mortality rate – that is, the number of infants dying during the ?rst four weeks of life, expressed as a proportion of every 1,000 live births. During the ?rst week of life the main causes of death are asphyxia, prematurity, birth injuries and congenital abnormalities. After the ?rst week the main cause of death is infection.
Social conditions also play an important role in infant mortality. In England and Wales the infant mortality rate in 1930–32 was: Social Class I (professional), 32·7; Social Class III (skilled workers), 57·6; Social Class V (unskilled workers), 77·1. Many factors come into play in producing these social variations, but overcrowding is undoubtedly one of the most important.
1838–9 146 1950–52 30 1851–60 154 1960–62 22 1900–02 142 1970–72 18 1910–12 110 1980–82 12 1920–22 82 1990–92 7 1930–32 67 1996 6·2 1940–42 59 1999 5.8 2000 5.6
It is thus evident that for a reduction of the infant mortality rate to the minimum ?gure, the following conditions must be met. Mothers and potential mothers must be housed adequately in healthy surroundings, particularly with regard to safe water supplies and sewage disposal. The pregnant and nursing mother must be ensured an adequate diet. E?ective antenatal supervision must be available to every mother, as well as skilled supervision during labour (see PREGNANCY AND LABOUR). The newborn infant must be adequately nursed and fed and mothers encouraged to breast feed. Environmental and public-health measures must be taken to ensure adequate housing, a clean milk supply and full availability of medical care including such protective measures as IMMUNISATION against diphtheria, measles, poliomyelitis and whooping-cough. (See also PERINATAL MORTALITY.)... Medical Dictionary
A localised (focal) form of liver disease in all tropical/subtropical countries results from invasive Entamoeba histolytica infection (amoebic liver ‘abscess’); serology and imaging techniques assist in diagnosis. Hydatidosis also causes localised liver disease; one or more cysts usually involve the right lobe of the liver. Serological tests and imaging techniques are of value in diagnosis. Whilst surgery formerly constituted the sole method of management, prolonged courses of albendazole and/or praziquantel have now been shown to be e?ective; however, surgical intervention is still required in some cases.
Hepato-biliary disease is also a problem in many tropical/subtropical countries. In southeast Asia, Clonorchis sinensis and Opisthorchis viverini infections cause chronic biliary-tract infection, complicated by adenocarcinoma of the biliary system. Praziquantel is e?ective chemotherapy before advanced disease ensues. Fasciola hepatica (the liver ?uke) is a further hepato-biliary helminthic infection; treatment is with bithionol or triclabendazole, praziquantel being relatively ine?ective.... Medical Dictionary
It may cause a DISULFIRAM-like reaction with alcohol; caution is similarly indicated in patients with impaired liver function or hepatic encephalopathy, and who are pregnant or breast feeding. Rare side-e?ects include nausea, vomiting, unpleasant taste, furred tongue and gastrointestinal disturbances; rashes, URTICARIA, and angio-oedema (see under URTICARIA); drowsiness, headache, dizziness, ATAXIA and ANAPHYLAXIS.... Medical Dictionary
Occupational health includes both mental and physical health. It is about compliance with health-and-safety-at-work legislation (and common law duties) and about best practice in providing work environments that reduce risks to health and safety to lowest practicable levels. It includes workers’ ?tness to work, as well as the management of the work environment to accommodate people with disabilities, and procedures to facilitate the return to work of those absent with long-term illness. Occupational health incorporates several professional groups, including occupational physicians, occupational health nurses, occupational hygienists, ergonomists, disability managers, workplace counsellors, health-and-safety practitioners, and workplace physiotherapists.
In the UK, two key statutes provide a framework for occupational health: the Health and Safety at Work, etc. Act 1974 (HSW Act); and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA). The HSW Act states that employers have a duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees and to conduct their business in a way that does not expose others to risks to their health and safety. Employees and self-employed people also have duties under the Act. Modern health-and-safety legislation focuses on assessing and controlling risk rather than prescribing speci?c actions in di?erent industrial settings. Various regulations made under the HSW Act, such as the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations, the Manual Handling Operations Regulations and the Noise at Work Regulations, set out duties with regard to di?erent risks, but apply to all employers and follow the general principles of risk assessment and control. Risks should be controlled principally by removing or reducing the hazard at source (for example, by substituting chemicals with safer alternatives, replacing noisy machinery, or automating tasks to avoid heavy lifting). Personal protective equipment, such as gloves and ear defenders, should be seen as a last line of defence after other control measures have been put in place.
The employment provisions of the DDA require employers to avoid discriminatory practice towards disabled people and to make reasonable adjustments to working arrangements where a disabled person is placed at a substantial disadvantage to a non-disabled person. Although the DDA does not require employers to provide access to rehabilitation services – even for those injured or made ill at work – occupational-health practitioners may become involved in programmes to help people get back to work after injury or long-term illness, and many businesses see the retention of valuable sta? as an attractive alternative to medical retirement or dismissal on health grounds.
Although a major part of occupational-health practice is concerned with statutory compliance, the workplace is also an important venue for health promotion. Many working people rarely see their general practitioner and, even when they do, there is little time to discuss wider health issues. Occupational-health advisers can ?ll in this gap by providing, for example, workplace initiatives on stopping smoking, cardiovascular health, diet and self-examination for breast and testicular cancers. Such initiatives are encouraged because of the perceived bene?ts to sta?, to the employing organisation and to the wider public-health agenda. Occupational psychologists recognise the need for the working population to achieve a ‘work-life balance’ and the promotion of this is an increasing part of occupational health strategies.
The law requires employers to consult with their sta? on health-and-safety matters. However, there is also a growing understanding that successful occupational-health management involves workers directly in the identi?cation of risks and in developing solutions in the workplace. Trade unions play an active role in promoting occupational health through local and national campaigns and by training and advising elected workplace safety representatives.
Occupational medicine The branch of medicine that deals with the control, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and management of ill-health and injuries caused or made worse by work, and with ensuring that workers are ?t for the work they do.
Occupational medicine includes: statutory surveillance of workers’ exposure to hazardous agents; advice to employers and employees on eliminating or reducing risks to health and safety at work; diagnosis and treatment/management of occupational illness; advice on adapting the working environment to suit the worker, particularly those with disabilities or long-term health problems; and advice on the return to work and, if necessary, rehabilitation of workers absent through illness. Occupational physicians may play a wider role in monitoring the health of workplace populations and in advising employers on controlling health hazards where ill-health trends are observed. They may also conduct epidemiological research (see EPIDEMIOLOGY) on workplace diseases.
Because of the occupational physician’s dual role as adviser to both employer and employee, he or she is required to be particularly diligent with regards to the individual worker’s medical CONFIDENTIALITY. Occupational physicians need to recognise in any given situation the context they are working in, and to make sure that all parties are aware of this.
Occupational medicine is a medical discipline and thus is only part of the broader ?eld of occupational health. Although there are some speci?c clinical duties associated with occupational medicine, such as diagnosis of occupational disease and medical screening, occupational physicians are frequently part of a multidisciplinary team that might include, for example, occupational-health nurses, healthand-safety advisers, ergonomists, counsellors and hygienists. Occupational physicians are medical practitioners with a post-registration quali?cation in occupational medicine. They will have completed a period of supervised in-post training. In the UK, the Faculty of Occupational Medicine of the Royal College of Physicians has three categories of membership, depending on quali?cations and experience: associateship (AFOM); membership (MFOM); and fellowship (FFOM).
Occupational diseases Occupational diseases are illnesses that are caused or made worse by work. In their widest sense, they include physical and mental ill-health conditions.
In diagnosing an occupational disease, the clinician will need to examine not just the signs and symptoms of ill-health, but also the occupational history of the patient. This is important not only in discovering the cause, or causes, of the disease (work may be one of a number of factors), but also in making recommendations on how the work should be modi?ed to prevent a recurrence – or, if necessary, in deciding whether or not the worker is able to return to that type of work. The occupational history will help in deciding whether or not other workers are also at risk of developing the condition. It will include information on:
the nature of the work.
how the tasks are performed in practice.
the likelihood of exposure to hazardous agents (physical, chemical, biological and psychosocial).
what control measures are in place and the extent to which these are adhered to.
previous occupational and non-occupational exposures.
whether or not others have reported similar symptoms in relation to the work. Some conditions – certain skin conditions,
for example – may show a close relationship to work, with symptoms appearing directly only after exposure to particular agents or possibly disappearing at weekends or with time away from work. Others, however, may be chronic and can have serious long-term implications for a person’s future health and employment.
Statistical information on the prevalence of occupational disease in the UK comes from a variety of sources, including o?cial ?gures from the Industrial Injuries Scheme (see below) and statutory reporting of occupational disease (also below). Neither of these o?cial schemes provides a representative picture, because the former is restricted to certain prescribed conditions and occupations, and the latter su?ers from gross under-reporting. More useful are data from the various schemes that make up the Occupational Diseases Intelligence Network (ODIN) and from the Labour Force Survey (LFS). ODIN data is generated by the systematic reporting of work-related conditions by clinicians and includes several schemes. Under one scheme, more than 80 per cent of all reported diseases by occupational-health physicians fall into just six of the 42 clinical disease categories: upper-limb disorders; anxiety, depression and stress disorders; contact DERMATITIS; lower-back problems; hearing loss (see DEAFNESS); and ASTHMA. Information from the LFS yields a similar pattern in terms of disease frequency. Its most recent survey found that over 2 million people believed that, in the previous 12 months, they had su?ered from an illness caused or made worse by work and that
19.5 million working days were lost as a result. The ten most frequently reported disease categories were:
stress and mental ill-health (see MENTAL ILLNESS): 515,000 cases.
back injuries: 508,000.
upper-limb and neck disorders: 375,000.
lower respiratory disease: 202,000.
deafness, TINNITUS or other ear conditions: 170,000.
lower-limb musculoskeletal conditions: 100,000.
skin disease: 66,000.
headache or ‘eyestrain’: 50,000.
traumatic injury (includes wounds and fractures from violent attacks at work): 34,000.
vibration white ?nger (hand-arm vibration syndrome): 36,000. A person who develops a chronic occu
pational disease may be able to sue his or her employer for damages if it can be shown that the employer was negligent in failing to take reasonable care of its employees, or had failed to provide a system of work that would have prevented harmful exposure to a known health hazard. There have been numerous successful claims (either awarded in court, or settled out of court) for damages for back and other musculoskeletal injuries, hand-arm vibration syndrome, noise-induced deafness, asthma, dermatitis, MESOTHELIOMA and ASBESTOSIS. Employers’ liability (workers’ compensation) insurers are predicting that the biggest future rise in damages claims will be for stress-related illness. In a recent study, funded by the Health and Safety Executive, about 20 per cent of all workers – more than 5 million people in the UK – claimed to be ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ stressed at work – a statistic that is likely to have a major impact on the long-term health of the working population.
While victims of occupational disease have the right to sue their employers for damages, many countries also operate a system of no-fault compensation for the victims of prescribed occupational diseases. In the UK, more than 60 diseases are prescribed under the Industrial Injuries Scheme and a person will automatically be entitled to state compensation for disability connected to one of these conditions, provided that he or she works in one of the occupations for which they are prescribed. The following short list gives an indication of the types of diseases and occupations prescribed under the scheme:
CARPAL TUNNEL SYNDROME connected to the use of hand-held vibrating tools.
hearing loss from (amongst others) use of pneumatic percussive tools and chainsaws, working in the vicinity of textile manufacturing or woodworking machines, and work in ships’ engine rooms.
LEPTOSPIROSIS – infection with Leptospira (various listed occupations).
viral HEPATITIS from contact with human blood, blood products or other sources of viral hepatitis.
LEAD POISONING, from any occupation causing exposure to fumes, dust and vapour from lead or lead products.
asthma caused by exposure to, among other listed substances, isocyanates, curing agents, solder ?ux fumes and insects reared for research.
mesothelioma from exposure to asbestos.
In the UK, employers and the self-employed have a duty to report all occupational injuries (if the employee is o? work for three days or more as a result), diseases or dangerous incidents to the relevant enforcing authority (the Health and Safety Executive or local-authority environmental-health department) under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR). Despite this statutory duty, comparatively few diseases are reported so that ?gures generated from RIDDOR reports do not give a useful indication of the scale of occupational diseases in the UK. The statutory reporting of injuries is much better, presumably because of the clear and acute relationship between a workplace accident and the resultant injury. More than 160,000 injuries are reported under RIDDOR every year compared with just 2,500 or so occupational diseases, a gross underestimate of the true ?gure.
There are no precise ?gures for the number of people who die prematurely because of work-related ill-health, and it would be impossible to gauge the exact contribution that work has on, for example, cardiovascular disease and cancers where the causes are multifactorial. The toll would, however, dwarf the number of deaths caused by accidents at work. Around 250 people are killed by accidents at work in the UK each year – mesothelioma, from exposure to asbestos at work, alone kills more than 1,300 people annually.
The following is a sample list of occupational diseases, with brief descriptions of their aetiologies.
PNEUMOCONIOSIS covers a group of diseases which cause ?brotic lung disease following the inhalation of dust. Around 250–300 new cases receive bene?t each year – mostly due to coal dust with or without silica contamination. SILICOSIS is the more severe disease. The contraction in the size of the coal-mining industry as well as improved dust suppression in the mines have diminished the importance of this disease, whereas asbestos-related diseases now exceed 1,000 per year. Asbestos ?bres cause a restrictive lung disease but also are responsible for certain malignant conditions such as pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma and lung cancer. The lung-cancer risk is exacerbated by cigarette-smoking.
Even though the use of asbestos is virtually banned in the UK, many workers remain at risk of exposure because of the vast quantities present in buildings (much of which is not listed in building plans). Carpenters, electricians, plumbers, builders and demolition workers are all liable to exposure from work that disturbs existing asbestos. OCCUPATIONAL ASTHMA is of increasing importance – not only because of the recognition of new allergic agents (see ALLERGY), but also in the number of reported cases. The following eight substances are most frequently linked to occupational asthma (key occupations in brackets): isocyanates (spray painters, electrical processors); ?our and grain (bakers and farmers); wood dust (wood workers); glutaraldehyde (nurses, darkroom technicians); solder/colophony (welders, electronic assembly workers); laboratory animals (technicians, scientists); resins and glues (metal and electrical workers, construction, chemical processors); and latex (nurses, auxiliaries, laboratory technicians).
The disease develops after a short, symptomless period of exposure; symptoms are temporally related to work exposures and relieved by absences from work. Removal of the worker from exposure does not necessarily lead to complete cessation of symptoms. For many agents, there is no relationship with a previous history of ATOPY. Occupational asthma accounts for about 10 per cent of all asthma cases. DERMATITIS The risk of dermatitis caused by an allergic or irritant reaction to substances used or handled at work is present in a wide variety of jobs. About three-quarters of cases are irritant contact dermatitis due to such agents as acids, alkalis and solvents. Allergic contact dermatitis is a more speci?c response by susceptible individuals to a range of allergens (see ALLERGEN). The main occupational contact allergens include chromates, nickel, epoxy resins, rubber additives, germicidal agents, dyes, topical anaesthetics and antibiotics as well as certain plants and woods. Latex gloves are a particular cause of occupational dermatitis among health-care and laboratory sta? and have resulted in many workers being forced to leave their profession through ill-health. (See also SKIN, DISEASES OF.)
Musculoskeletal disorders Musculoskeletal injuries are by far the most common conditions related to work (see LFS ?gures, above) and the biggest cause of disability. Although not all work-related, musculoskeletal disorders account for 36.5 per cent of all disabilities among working-age people (compared with less than 4 per cent for sight and hearing impairment). Back pain (all causes – see BACKACHE) has been estimated to cause more than 50 million days lost every year in sickness absence and costs the UK economy up to £5 billion annually as a result of incapacity or disability. Back pain is a particular problem in the health-care sector because of the risk of injury from lifting and moving patients. While the emphasis should be on preventing injuries from occurring, it is now well established that the best way to manage most lower-back injuries is to encourage the patient to continue as normally as possible and to remain at work, or to return as soon as possible even if the patient has some residual back pain. Those who remain o? work on long-term sick leave are far less likely ever to return to work.
Aside from back injuries, there are a whole range of conditions a?ecting the upper limbs, neck and lower limbs. Some have clear aetiologies and clinical signs, while others are less well de?ned and have multiple causation. Some conditions, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, are prescribed diseases in certain occupations; however, they are not always caused by work (pregnant and older women are more likely to report carpal tunnel syndrome irrespective of work) and clinicians need to be careful when assigning work as the cause without ?rst considering the evidence. Other conditions may be revealed or made worse by work – such as OSTEOARTHRITIS in the hand. Much attention has focused on injuries caused by repeated movement, excessive force, and awkward postures and these include tenosynovitis (in?ammation of a tendon) and epicondylitis. The greatest controversy surrounds upper-limb disorders that do not present obvious tissue or nerve damage but nevertheless give signi?cant pain and discomfort to the individual. These are sometimes referred to as ‘repetitive strain injury’ or ‘di?use RSI’. The diagnosis of such conditions is controversial, making it di?cult for su?erers to pursue claims for compensation through the courts. Psychosocial factors, such as high demands of the job, lack of control and poor social support at work, have been implicated in the development of many upper-limb disorders, and in prevention and management it is important to deal with the psychological as well as the physical risk factors. Occupations known to be at particular risk of work-related upper-limb disorders include poultry processors, packers, electronic assembly workers, data processors, supermarket check-out operators and telephonists. These jobs often contain a number of the relevant exposures of dynamic load, static load, a full or excessive range of movements and awkward postures. (See UPPER LIMB DISORDERS.)
Physical agents A number of physical agents cause occupational ill-health of which the most important is occupational deafness. Workplace noise exposures in excess of 85 decibels for a working day are likely to cause damage to hearing which is initially restricted to the vital frequencies associated with speech – around 3–4 kHz. Protection from such noise is imperative as hearing aids do nothing to ameliorate the neural damage once it has occurred.
Hand-arm vibration syndrome is a disorder of the vascular and/or neural endings in the hands leading to episodic blanching (‘white ?nger’) and numbness which is exacerbated by low temperature. The condition, which is caused by vibrating tools such as chain saws and pneumatic hammers, is akin to RAYNAUD’S DISEASE and can be disabling.
Decompression sickness is caused by a rapid change in ambient pressure and is a disease associated with deep-sea divers, tunnel workers and high-?ying aviators. Apart from the direct e?ects of pressure change such as ruptured tympanic membrane or sinus pain, the more serious damage is indirectly due to nitrogen bubbles appearing in the blood and blocking small vessels. Central and peripheral nervous-system damage and bone necrosis are the most dangerous sequelae.
Radiation Non-ionising radiation from lasers or microwaves can cause severe localised heating leading to tissue damage of which cataracts (see under EYE, DISORDERS OF) are a particular variety. Ionising radiation from radioactive sources can cause similar acute tissue damage to the eyes as well as cell damage to rapidly dividing cells in the gut and bone marrow. Longer-term e?ects include genetic damage and various malignant disorders of which LEUKAEMIA and aplastic ANAEMIA are notable. Particular radioactive isotopes may destroy or induce malignant change in target organs, for example, 131I (thyroid), 90Sr (bone). Outdoor workers may also be at risk of sunburn and skin cancers. OTHER OCCUPATIONAL CANCERS Occupation is directly responsible for about 5 per cent of all cancers and contributes to a further 5 per cent. Apart from the cancers caused by asbestos and ionising radiation, a number of other occupational exposures can cause human cancer. The International Agency for Research on Cancer regularly reviews the evidence for carcinogenicity of compounds and industrial processes, and its published list of carcinogens is widely accepted as the current state of knowledge. More than 50 agents and processes are listed as class 1 carcinogens. Important occupational carcinogens include asbestos (mesothelioma, lung cancer); polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons such as mineral oils, soots, tars (skin and lung cancer); the aromatic amines in dyestu?s (bladder cancer); certain hexavalent chromates, arsenic and nickel re?ning (lung cancer); wood and leather dust (nasal sinus cancer); benzene (leukaemia); and vinyl chloride monomer (angiosarcoma of the liver). It has been estimated that elimination of all known occupational carcinogens, if possible, would lead to an annual saving of 5,000 premature deaths in Britain.
Infections Two broad categories of job carry an occupational risk. These are workers in contact with animals (farmers, veterinary surgeons and slaughtermen) and those in contact with human sources of infection (health-care sta? and sewage workers).
Occupational infections include various zoonoses (pathogens transmissible from animals to humans), such as ANTHRAX, Borrelia burgdorferi (LYME DISEASE), bovine TUBERCULOSIS, BRUCELLOSIS, Chlamydia psittaci, leptospirosis, ORF virus, Q fever, RINGWORM and Streptococcus suis. Human pathogens that may be transmissible at work include tuberculosis, and blood-borne pathogens such as viral hepatitis (B and C) and HIV (see AIDS/HIV). Health-care workers at risk of exposure to infected blood and body ?uids should be immunised against hapatitis B.
Poisoning The incidence of occupational poisonings has diminished with the substitution of noxious chemicals with safer alternatives, and with the advent of improved containment. However, poisonings owing to accidents at work are still reported, sometimes with fatal consequences. Workers involved in the application of pesticides are particularly at risk if safe procedures are not followed or if equipment is faulty. Exposure to organophosphate pesticides, for example, can lead to breathing di?culties, vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal cramps, and to other neurological e?ects including confusion and dizziness. Severe poisonings can lead to death. Exposure can be through ingestion, inhalation and dermal (skin) contact.
Stress and mental health Stress is an adverse reaction to excessive pressures or demands and, in occupational-health terms, is di?erent from the motivational impact often associated with challenging work (some refer to this as ‘positive stress’). Stress at work is often linked to increasing demands on workers, although coping can often prevent the development of stress. The causes of occupational stress are multivariate and encompass job characteristics (e.g. long or unsocial working hours, high work demands, imbalance between e?ort and reward, poorly managed organisational change, lack of control over work, poor social support at work, fear of redundancy and bullying), as well as individual factors (such as personality type, personal circumstances, coping strategies, and availability of psychosocial support outside work). Stress may in?uence behaviours such as smoking, alcohol consumption, sleep and diet, which may in turn a?ect people’s health. Stress may also have direct e?ects on the immune system (see IMMUNITY) and lead to a decline in health. Stress may also alter the course and response to treatment of conditions such as cardiovascular disease. As well as these general e?ects of stress, speci?c types of disorder may be observed.
Exposure to extremely traumatic incidents at work – such as dealing with a major accident involving multiple loss of life and serious injury
(e.g. paramedics at the scene of an explosion or rail crash) – may result in a chronic condition known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is an abnormal psychological reaction to a traumatic event and is characterised by extreme psychological discomfort, such as anxiety or panic when reminded of the causative event; su?erers may be plagued with uncontrollable memories and can feel as if they are going through the trauma again. PTSD is a clinically de?ned condition in terms of its symptoms and causes and should not be used to include normal short-term reactions to trauma.... Medical Dictionary
Pregnancy lasts about 280 days and is calculated from the ?rst day of the last menstrual period – see MENSTRUATION. Pregnancy-testing kits rely on the presence of the hormone beta HUMAN CHORIONIC GONADOTROPHIN (b HCG) which is excreted in the woman’s urine as early as 30 days from the last menstrual period. The estimated date of delivery can be accurately estimated from the size of the developing fetus measured by ULTRASOUND (see also below) between seven and 24 weeks. ‘Term’ refers to the time that the baby is due; this can range from 38 weeks to 41 completed weeks.
Physical changes occur in early pregnancy – periods stop and the abdomen enlarges. The breasts swell, with the veins becoming prominent and the nipples darkening. About two in three women will have nausea with a few experiencing such severe vomiting as to require hospital admission for rehydration.
Antenatal care The aim of antenatal care is to ensure a safe outcome for both mother and child; it is provided by midwives (see MIDWIFE) and doctors. Formal antenatal care began in Edinburgh in the 1930s with the recognition that all aspects of pregnancy – normal and abnormal – warranted surveillance. Cooperation between general practitioners, midwives and obstetricians is now established, with pregnancies that are likely to progress normally being cared for in the community and only those needing special intervention being cared for in a hospital setting.
The initial visit (or booking) in the ?rst half of pregnancy will record the history of past events and the results of tests, with the aim of categorising the patients into normal or not. Screening tests including blood checks and ultrasound scans are a routine part of antenatal care. The ?rst ultrasound scan is done at about 11 weeks to date the pregnancy, with a further one done at 20 weeks – the anomaly scan – to assess the baby’s structure. Some obstetric units will check the growth of the baby with one further scan later in the pregnancy or, in the case of twin pregnancies (see below), many scans throughout. The routine blood tests include checks for ANAEMIA, DIABETES MELLITUS, sickle-cell disease and THALASSAEMIA, as well as for the blood group. Evidence of past infections is also looked for; tests for RUBELLA (German measles) and SYPHILIS are routine, whereas tests for human immunode?ciency virus (see AIDS/ HIV below) and HEPATITIS are being o?ered as optional, although there is compelling evidence that knowledge of the mother’s infection status is bene?cial to the baby.
Traditional antenatal care consists of regular appointments, initially every four weeks until 34 weeks, then fortnightly or weekly. At each visit the mother’s weight, urine and blood pressure are checked, and assessment of fetal growth and position is done by palpating the uterus. Around two-thirds of pregnancies and labours are normal: in the remainder, doctors and midwives need to increase the frequency of surveillance so as to prevent or deal with maternal and fetal problems.
Common complications of pregnancy
Some of the more common complications of pregnancy are listed below.
As well as early detection of medical complications, antenatal visits aim to be supportive and include emotional and educational care. Women with uncomplicated pregnancies are increasingly being managed by midwives and general practitioners in the community and only coming to the hospital doctors should they develop a problem. A small number will opt for a home delivery, but facilities for providing such a service are not always available in the UK.
Women requiring more intensive surveillance have their management targeted to the speci?c problems encountered. Cardiologists will see mothers-to-be with heart conditions, and those at risk of diabetes are cared for in designated clinics with specialist sta?. Those women needing more frequent surveillance than standard antenatal care can be looked after in maternity day centres. These typically include women with mildly raised blood pressure or those with small babies. Fetal medicine units have specialists who are highly skilled in ultrasound scanning and specialise in the diagnosis and management of abnormal babies still in the uterus. ECTOPIC PREGNANCY Chronic abdominal discomfort early in pregnancy may be caused by unruptured ectopic pregnancy, when, rarely, the fertilised OVUM starts developing in the Fallopian tube (see FALLOPIAN TUBES) instead of the uterus. The patient needs hospital treatment and LAPAROSCOPY. A ruptured ectopic pregnancy causes acute abdominal symptoms and collapse, and the woman will require urgent abdominal surgery. URINARY TRACT INFECTIONS These a?ect around 2 per cent of pregnant women and are detected by a laboratory test of a mid-stream specimen of urine. In pregnancy, symptoms of these infections do not necessarily resemble those experienced by non-pregnant women. As they can cause uterine irritability and possible premature labour (see below), it is important to ?nd and treat them appropriately. ANAEMIA is more prevalent in patients who are vegetarian or on a poor diet. Iron supplements are usually given to women who have low concentrations of HAEMOGLOBIN in their blood (less than 10.5 g/dl) or who are at risk of becoming low in iron, from bleeding, twin pregnancies and those with placenta previa (see below). ANTEPARTUM HAEMORRHAGE Early in pregnancy, vaginal bleedings may be due to a spontaneous or an incomplete therapeutic ABORTION. Bleeding from the genital tract between 24 completed weeks of pregnancy and the start of labour is called antepartum haemorrhage. The most common site is where the PLACENTA is attached to the wall of the uterus. If the placenta separates before delivery, bleeding occurs in the exposed ‘bed’. When the placenta is positioned in the upper part of the uterus it is called an abruption. PLACENTA PRAEVIA is sited in the lower part and blocks or partly blocks the cervix (neck of the womb); it can be identi?ed at about the 34th week. Ten per cent of episodes of antepartum bleeding are caused by placenta previa, and it may be associated with bleeding at delivery. This potentially serious complication is diagnosed by ultrasound scanning and may require a caesarean section (see below) at delivery. INCREASED BLOOD PRESSURE, associated with protein in the urine and swelling of the limbs, is part of a condition known as PRE-ECLAMPSIA. This occurs in the second half of pregnancy in about 1 in 10 women expecting their ?rst baby, and is mostly very mild and of no consequence to the pregnancy. However, some women can develop extremely high blood pressures which can adversely a?ect the fetus and cause epileptic-type seizures and bleeding disorders in the mother. This serious condition is called ECLAMPSIA. For this reason a pregnant woman with raised blood pressure or PROTEIN in her urine is carefully evaluated with blood tests, often in the maternity day assessment unit. The condition can be stopped by delivery of the baby, and this will be done if the mother’s or the fetus’s life is in danger. If the condition is milder, and the baby not mature enough for a safe delivery, then drugs can be used to control the blood pressure. MISCARRIAGE Also called spontaneous abortion, miscarriage is the loss of the fetus. There are several types:
threatened miscarriage is one in which some vaginal bleeding occurs, the uterus is enlarged, but the cervix remains closed and pregnancy usually proceeds.
inevitable miscarriage usually occurs before the 16th week and is typi?ed by extensive blood loss through an opened cervix and cramp-like abdominal pain; some products of conception are lost but the developing placental area (decidua) is retained and an operation may be necessary to clear the womb.
missed miscarriages, in which the embryo dies and is absorbed, but the decidua (placental area of uterine wall) remains and may cause abdominal discomfort and discharge of old blood.
THERAPEUTIC ABORTION is performed on more than 170,000 women annually in England and Wales. Sometimes the woman may not have arranged the procedure through the usual health-care channels, so that a doctor may see a patient with vaginal bleeding, abdominal discomfort or pain, and open cervix – symptoms which suggest that the decidua and a blood clot have been retained; these retained products will need to be removed by curettage.
Septic abortions are now much less common in Britain than before the Abortion Act (1967) permitted abortion in speci?ed circumstances. The cause is the passage of infective organisms from the vagina into the uterus, with Escherichia coli and Streptococcus faecalis the most common pathogenic agents. The woman has abdominal pain, heavy bleeding, usually fever and sometimes she is in shock. The cause is usually an incomplete abortion or one induced in unsterile circumstances. Antibiotics and curettage are the treatment. INTRAUTERINE GROWTH RETARDATION describes a slowing of the baby’s growth. This can be diagnosed by ultrasound scanning, although there is a considerable margin of error in estimates of fetal weight. Trends in growth are favoured over one-o? scan results alone. GESTATIONAL DIABETES is a condition that is more common in women who are overweight or have a family member with diabetes. If high concentrations of blood sugar are found, e?orts are made to correct it as the babies can become very fat (macrosomia), making delivery more di?cult. A low-sugar diet is usually enough to control the blood concentration of sugars; however some women need small doses of INSULIN to achieve control. FETAL ABNORMALITIES can be detected before birth using ultrasound. Some of these defects are obvious, such as the absence of kidneys, a condition incompatible with life outside the womb. These women can be o?ered a termination of their pregnancy. However, more commonly, the pattern of problems can only hint at an abnormality and closer examination is needed, particularly in the diagnosis of chromosomal deformities such as DOWN’S (DOWN) SYNDROME (trisomy 21 or presence of three 21 chromosomes instead of two).
Chromosomal abnormalities can be de?nitively diagnosed only by cell sampling such as amniocentesis (obtaining amniotic ?uid – see AMNION – from around the baby) done at 15 weeks onwards, and chorionic villus sampling (sampling a small part of the placenta) – another technique which can be done from 12 weeks onwards. Both have a small risk of miscarriage associated with them; consequently, they are con?ned to women at higher risk of having an abnormal fetus.
Biochemical markers present in the pregnant woman’s blood at di?erent stages of pregnancy may have undergone changes in those carrying an abnormal fetus. The ?rst such marker to be routinely used was a high concentration of alpha-fetol protein in babies with SPINA BIFIDA (defects in the covering of the spinal cord). Fuller research has identi?ed a range of diagnostic markers which are useful, and, in conjunction with other factors such as age, ethnic group and ultrasound ?ndings, can provide a predictive guide to the obstetrician – in consultation with the woman – as to whether or not to proceed to an invasive test. These tests include pregnancy-associated plasma protein assessed from a blood sample taken at 12 weeks and four blood tests at 15–22 weeks – alphafetol protein, beta human chorionic gonadotrophin, unconjugated oestriol and inhibin A. Ultrasound itself can reveal physical ?ndings in the fetus, which can be more common in certain abnormalities. Swelling in the neck region of an embryo in early pregnancy (increased nuchal thickness) has good predictive value on its own, although its accuracy is improved in combination with the biochemical markers. The e?ectiveness of prenatal diagnosis is rapidly evolving, the aim being to make the diagnosis as early in the pregnancy as possible to help the parents make more informed choices. MULTIPLE PREGNANCIES In the UK, one in 95 deliveries is of twins, while the prevalence of triplets is one in 10,000 and quadruplets around one in 500,000. Racial variations occur, with African women having a prevalence rate of one in 30 deliveries for twins and Japanese women a much lower rate than the UK ?gure. Multiple pregnancies occur more often in older women, and in the UK the prevalence of fertility treatments, many of these being given to older women, has raised the incidence. There is now an o?cial limit of three eggs being transferred to a woman undergoing ASSISTED CONCEPTION (gamete intrafallopian transfer, or GIFT).
Multiple pregnancies are now usually diagnosed as a result of routine ultrasound scans between 16 and 20 weeks of pregnancy. The increased size of the uterus results in the mother having more or worse pregnancy-related conditions such as nausea, abdominal discomfort, backache and varicose veins. Some congenital abnormalities in the fetus occur more frequently in twins: NEURAL TUBE defects, abnormalities of the heart and the incidence of TURNER’S SYNDROME and KLINEFELTER’S SYNDROME are examples. Such abnormalities may be detected by ultrasound scans or amniocentesis. High maternal blood pressure and anaemia are commoner in women with multiple pregnancies (see above).
The growth rates of multiple fetuses vary, but the di?erence between them and single fetuses are not that great until the later stages of pregnancy. Preterm labour is commoner in multiple pregnancies: the median length of pregnancy is 40 weeks for singletons, 37 for twins and 33 for triplets. Low birth-weights are usually the result of early delivery rather than abnormalities in growth rates. Women with multiple pregnancies require more frequent and vigilant antenatal assessments, with their carers being alert to the signs of preterm labour occurring. CEPHALOPELVIC DISPROPORTION Disparity between the size of the fetus and the mother’s pelvis is not common in the UK but is a signi?cant problem in the developing world. Disparity is classi?ed as absolute, when there is no possibility of delivery, and relative, when the baby is large but delivery (usually after a dif?cult labour) is possible. Causes of absolute disparity include: a large baby – heavier than 5 kg at birth; fetal HYDROCEPHALUS; and an abnormal maternal pelvis. The latter may be congenital, the result of trauma or a contraction in pelvic size because of OSTEOMALACIA early in life. Disproportion should be suspected if in late pregnancy the fetal head has not ‘engaged’ in the pelvis. Sometimes a closely supervised ‘trial of labour’ may result in a successful, if prolonged, delivery. Otherwise a caesarean section (see below) is necessary. UNUSUAL POSITIONS AND PRESENTATIONS OF THE BABY In most pregnant women the baby ?ts into the maternal pelvis head-?rst in what is called the occipito-anterior position, with the baby’s face pointing towards the back of the pelvis. Sometimes, however, the head may face the other way, or enter the pelvis transversely – or, rarely, the baby’s neck is ?exed backwards with the brow or face presenting to the neck of the womb. Some malpositions will correct naturally; others can be manipulated abdominally during pregnancy to a better position. If, however, the mother starts labour with the baby’s head badly positioned or with the buttocks instead of the head presenting (breech position), the labour will usually be longer and more di?cult and may require intervention using special obstetric forceps to assist in extracting the baby. If progress is poor and the fetus distressed, caesarean section may be necessary. HIV INFECTION Pregnant women who are HIV positive (see HIV; AIDS/HIV) should be taking antiviral drugs in the ?nal four to ?ve months of pregnancy, so as to reduce the risk of infecting the baby in utero and during birth by around 50 per cent. Additional antiviral treatment is given before delivery; the infection risk to the baby can be further reduced – by about 40 per cent – if delivery is by caesarean section. The mother may prefer to have the baby normally, in which case great care should be taken not to damage the baby’s skin during delivery. The infection risk to the baby is even further reduced if it is not breast fed. If all preventive precautions are taken, the overall risk of the infant becoming infected is cut to under 5 per cent.
Premature birth This is a birth that takes place before the end of the normal period of gestation, usually before 37 weeks. In practice, however, it is de?ned as a birth that takes place when the baby weighs less than 2·5 kilograms (5••• pounds). Between 5 and 10 per cent of babies are born prematurely, and in around 40 per cent of premature births the cause is unknown. Pre-eclampsia is the most common known cause; others include hypertension, chronic kidney disease, heart disease and diabetes mellitus. Multiple pregnancy is another cause. In the vast majority of cases the aim of management is to prolong the pregnancy and so improve the outlook for the unborn child. This consists essentially of rest in bed and sedation, but there are now several drugs, such as RITODRINE, that may be used to suppress the activity of the uterus and so help to delay premature labour. Prematurity was once a prime cause of infant mortality but modern medical care has greatly improved survival rates in developing countries.
Labour Also known by the traditional terms parturition, childbirth or delivery, this is the process by which the baby and subsequently the placenta are expelled from the mother’s body. The onset of labour is often preceded by a ‘show’ – the loss of the mucus and blood plug from the cervix, or neck of the womb; this passes down the vagina to the exterior. The time before the beginning of labour is called the ‘latent phase’ and characteristically lasts 24 hours or more in a ?rst pregnancy. Labour itself is de?ned by regular, painful contractions which cause dilation of the neck of the womb and descent of the fetal head. ‘Breaking of the waters’ is the loss of amniotic ?uid vaginally and can occur any time in the delivery process.
Labour itself is divided into three stages: the ?rst is from the onset of labour to full (10 cm) dilation of the neck of the womb. This stage varies in length, ideally taking no more than one hour per centimetre of dilation. Progress is monitored by regular vaginal examinations, usually every four hours. Fetal well-being is observed by intermittent or continuous monitoring of the fetal heart rate in relation to the timing and frequency of the contractions. The print-out is called a cardiotocograph. Abnormalities of the fetal heart rate may suggest fetal distress and may warrant intervention. In women having their ?rst baby (primigravidae), the common cause of a slow labour is uncoordinated contractions which can be overcome by giving either of the drugs PROSTAGLANDIN or OXYTOCIN, which provoke contractions of the uterine muscle, by an intravenous drip. Labours which progress slowly or not at all may be due to abnormal positioning of the fetus or too large a fetus, when prostaglandin or oxytocin is used much more cautiously.
The second stage of labour is from full cervical dilation to the delivery of the baby. At this stage the mother often experiences an irresistible urge to push the baby out, and a combination of strong coordinated uterine contractions and maternal e?ort gradually moves the baby down the birth canal. This stage usually lasts under an hour but can take longer. Delay, exhaustion of the mother or distress of the fetus may necessitate intervention by the midwife or doctor. This may mean enlarging the vaginal opening with an EPISIOTOMY (cutting of the perineal outlet – see below) or assisting the delivery with specially designed obstetric forceps or a vacuum extractor (ventouse). If the cervix is not completely dilated or open and the head not descended, then an emergency caesarean section may need to be done to deliver the baby. This procedure involves delivering the baby and placenta through an incision in the mother’s abdomen. It is sometimes necessary to deliver by planned or elective caesarean section: for example, if the placenta is low in the uterus – called placenta praevia – making a vaginal delivery dangerous.
The third stage occurs when the placenta (or afterbirth) is delivered, which is usually about 10–20 minutes after the baby. An injection of ergometrine and oxytocin is often given to women to prevent bleeding.
Pain relief in labour varies according to the mother’s needs. For uncomplicated labours, massage, reassurance by a birth attendant, and a warm bath and mobilisation may be enough for some women. However, some labours are painful, particularly if the woman is tired or anxious or is having her ?rst baby. In these cases other forms of analgesia are available, ranging from inhalation of NITROUS OXIDE GAS, injection of PETHIDINE HYDROCHLORIDE or similar narcotic, and regional local anaesthetic (see ANAESTHESIA).
Once a woman has delivered, care continues to ensure her and the baby’s safety. The midwives are involved in checking that the uterus returns to its normal size and that there is no infection or heavy bleeding, as well as caring for stitches if needed. The normal blood loss after birth is called lochia and generally is light, lasting up to six weeks. Midwives o?er support with breast feeding and care of the infant and will visit the parents at home routinely for up to two weeks.
Some complications of labour All operative deliveries in the UK are now done in hospitals, and are performed if a spontaneous birth is expected to pose a bigger risk to the mother or her child than a specialist-assisted one. Operative deliveries include caesarean section, forceps-assisted deliveries and those in which vacuum extraction (ventouse) is used. CAESAREAN SECTION Absolute indications for this procedure, which is used to deliver over 15 per cent of babies in Britain, are cephalopelvic disproportion and extensive placenta praevia, both discussed above. Otherwise the decision to undertake caesarean section depends on the clinical judgement of the specialist and the views of the mother. The rise in the proportion of this type of intervention (from 5 per cent in the 1930s to its present level of over 23 per cent
of the 600,000 or so annual deliveries in England) has been put down to defensive medicine
– namely, the doctor’s fear of litigation (initiated often because the parents believe that the baby’s health has su?ered because the mother had an avoidably di?cult ‘natural’ labour). In Britain, over 60 per cent of women who have had a caesarean section try a vaginal delivery in a succeeding pregnancy, with about two-thirds of these being successful. Indications for the operation include:
absolute and relative cephalopelvic disproportion.
prolapsed umbilical cord – this endangers the viability of the fetus because the vital supply of oxygen and nutrients is interrupted.
malpresentation of the fetus such as breech or transverse lie in the womb.
unsatisfactory previous pregnancies or deliveries.
a request from the mother.
Caesarean sections are usually performed using regional block anaesthesia induced by a spinal or epidural injection. This results in loss of feeling in the lower part of the body; the mother is conscious and the baby not exposed to potential risks from volatile anaesthetic gases inhaled by the mother during general anaesthesia. Post-operative complications are higher with general anaesthesia, but maternal anxiety and the likelihood that the operation might be complicated and di?cult are indications for using it. A general anaesthetic may also be required for an acute obstetric emergency. At operation the mother’s lower abdomen is opened and then her uterus opened slowly with a transverse incision and the baby carefully extracted. A transverse incision is used in preference to the traditional vertical one as it enables the woman to have a vaginal delivery in any future pregnancy with a much smaller risk of uterine rupture. Women are usually allowed to get up within 24 hours and are discharged after four or ?ve days. FORCEPS AND VENTOUSE DELIVERIES Obstetric forceps are made in several forms, but all are basically a pair of curved blades shaped so that they can obtain a purchase on the baby’s head, thus enabling the operator to apply traction and (usually) speed up delivery. (Sometimes they are used to slow down progress of the head.) A ventouse or vacuum extractor comprises an egg-cup-shaped metal or plastic head, ranging from 40 to 60 mm in diameter with a hollow tube attached through which air is extracted by a foot-operated vacuum pump. The instrument is placed on the descending head, creating a negative pressure on the skin of the scalp and enabling the operator to pull the head down. In mainland Europe, vacuum extraction is generally preferred to forceps for assisting natural deliveries, being used in around 5 per cent of all deliveries. Forceps have a greater risk of causing damage to the baby’s scalp and brain than vacuum extraction, although properly used, both types should not cause any serious damage to the baby.
Episiotomy Normal and assisted deliveries put the tissues of the genital tract under strain. The PERINEUM is less elastic than the vagina and, if it seems to be splitting as the baby’s head
moves down the birth canal, it may be necessary to cut the perineal tissue – a procedure called an episiotomy – to limit damage. This is a simple operation done under local anaesthetic. It should be done only if there is a speci?c indication; these include:
to hasten the second stage of labour if the fetus is distressed.
to facilitate the use of forceps or vacuum extractor.
to enlarge a perineum that is restricted because of unyielding tissue, perhaps because of a scar from a previous labour. Midwives as well as obstetricians are trained
to undertake and repair (with sutures) episiotomies.
(For organisations which o?er advice and information on various aspects of childbirth, including eclampsia, breast feeding and multiple births, see APPENDIX 2: ADDRESSES: SOURCES OF INFORMATION, ADVICE, SUPPORT AND SELF-HELP.)... Medical Dictionary
The haemagglutination inhibition test This, and the subsequent tests to be mentioned, are known as immunological tests. They are based upon the e?ect of the urine from a pregnant woman upon the interaction of red blood cells, which have been sensitised to human gonadotrophin, and anti-gonadotrophin serum. They have the great practical advantage of being performed in a test-tube or even on a slide. Because of their ease and speed of performance, a result can be obtained in two hours.
Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) This is the basis of many of the pregnancy-testing kits obtainable from pharmacies. It is a highly sensitive antibody test and can detect very low concentrations of human chorionic gonadotrophin. Positive results show up as early as ten days after fertilisation – namely, four days before the ?rst missed period.
Ultrasound The fetal sac can be detected by ULTRASOUND from ?ve weeks, and a fetal echo at around six or seven weeks (see also PRENATAL SCREENING OR DIAGNOSIS).... Medical Dictionary
ULTRASOUND scanning is probably the most widely used diagnostic tool in obstetric practice. It can detect structural abnormalities such as SPINA BIFIDA and CLEFT PALATE and even cardiac and renal problems. A series of scans can assess whether the baby is growing at a normal rate; ultrasound may also be used to assist with other diagnostic tests (e.g. AMNIOCENTESIS – see below).
Tests on the mother’s blood can also diagnose fetal abnormalities. Alphafetoprotein (AFP) is produced by babies and ‘leaks’ into the AMNIOTIC FLUID and is absorbed by the mother. In spina bi?da and other neural-tube defects there is increased leakage of AFP, and a blood test at 16 weeks’ gestation can detect a raised level which suggests the presence of these abnormalities.
The triple test, also performed at 16 weeks, measures AFP and two hormones – HUMAN CHORIONIC GONADOTROPHIN and unconjugated OESTRADIOL – and is used in diagnosing DOWN’S (DOWN) SYNDROME.
Amniocentesis involves inserting a needle through the mother’s abdominal wall into the uterus to remove a sample of amniotic ?uid at 16–18 weeks. Examination of the ?uid and the cells it contains is used in the diagnosis of Down’s syndrome and other inherited disorders. The test carries a small risk of miscarriage.
Chorionic villus sampling may be used to diagnose various inherited conditions. A small amount of tissue from the developing PLACENTA is removed for analysis: this test has the advantages of having a lower incidence of miscarriage than amniocentesis and is carried out at an earlier stage (9–13 weeks).
Analysis of a blood sample removed from the umbilical cord (cordocentesis) may diagnose infections in the uterus, blood disorders or inherited conditions.
Direct observation of the fetus via a viewing instrument called a fetoscope is also used diagnostically and will detect structural abnormalities.
Most tests have a recognised incidence of false positive and negative results and are therefore usually cross-checked with another test. Counselling of the parents about prenatal tests is important. This allows them to make an informed choice which may not necessarily involve terminating the pregnancy if an abnormality is found. (See PREGNANCY AND LABOUR.)... Medical Dictionary
Chronic pyelonephritis may start in childhood, and the usual cause is back ?ow of urine from the bladder into one of the ureters – perhaps because of a congenital deformity of the valve where the ureter drains into the bladder. Constant urine re?ux results in recurrent infection of the kidney and damage to its tissue. Full investigation of the urinary tract is essential and, if an abnormality is detected, surgery may well be required to remedy it. HYPERTENSION and renal failure may be serious complications of pyelonephritis (see also KIDNEYS, DISEASES OF).... Medical Dictionary
Cause A virus spread by close contact with infected individuals. Rubella is infectious for a week before the rash appears and at least four days afterwards. It occurs in epidemics (see EPIDEMIC) every three years or so, predominantly in the winter and spring. Children are more likely to be a?ected than infants. One attack gives permanent IMMUNITY. The incubation period is usually 14–21 days.
Symptoms are very mild, and the disease is not at all serious. On the day of onset there may be shivering, headache, slight CATARRH with sneezing, coughing and sore throat, with very slight fever – not above 37·8 °C (100 °F). At the same time the glands of the neck become enlarged. Within 24 hours of the onset a pink, slightly raised eruption appears, ?rst on the face or neck, then on the chest, and the second day spreads all over the body. The clinical signs and symptoms of many other viral infections are indistinguishable from rubella so a precise diagnosis cannot be made without taking samples (such as saliva) for antibody testing, but this is rarely done in practice.
An attack of German measles during the early months of pregnancy may be responsible for CONGENITAL defects in the FETUS (for information on fetal abnormalities, see under PREGNANCY AND LABOUR). The incidence of such defects is not precisely known, but probably around 20 per cent of children whose mothers have had German measles in the ?rst three months of the pregnancy are born with congenital defects. These defects take a variety of forms, but the most important ones are: low birth weight with retarded physical development; malformations of the HEART; cataract (see under EYE, DISORDERS OF); and DEAFNESS.
Treatment There is no speci?c treatment. Children who develop the disease should not return to school until they have recovered, and in any case not before four days have passed from the onset of the rash.
In view of the possible dangerous e?ect of the disease upon the fetus, particular care should be taken to isolate pregnant mothers from contact with infected subjects. As the risk is particularly high during the ?rst 16 weeks of pregnancy, any pregnant mother exposed to infection during this period should be given an intramuscular injection of GAMMA-GLOBULIN. A vaccine is available to protect an individual against rubella (see IMMUNISATION).
In the United Kingdom it is NHS policy for all children to have the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (see MMR VACCINE), subject to parental consent. All women of childbearing age, who have been shown by a simple laboratory test not to have had the disease, should be vaccinated, provided that the woman is not pregnant at the time and has not been exposed to the risk of pregnancy during the previous eight weeks.... Medical Dictionary
In a highly signi?cant advance in research, a scienti?c team in the United States obtained stem cells from newly formed human embryos
– donated by women who had become pregnant after successful in vitro fertilisation – and successfully cultivated these cells in the laboratory. This achievement opened the way to replicating in the laboratory, the various specialised cells that develop naturally in the body. UK government legislation constrains the use of human embryos in research (see ETHICS) and the ethical aspects of taking this stem-cell culture technique forwards will have to be resolved. Nevertheless, this discovery points the biological way to the use of genetic engineering in selecting di?erentiated specialised cells from which replacement tissues could be grown for use as transplants to rectify absent or damaged tissues in the human body.
Research into potential use of stem cells has raised expectations that in the long term they may prove to be an e?ective regenerative treatment for a wide range of disorders including PARKINSONISM, ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE, type-2 diabetes (see under DIABETES MELLITUS), myocardial infarction (see HEART, DISEASES OF), severe burns, osteoporosis (see under BONE, DISORDERS OF) and the regeneration of blood to replace the need for BONE MARROW TRANSPLANT. Recent research has shown that adult stem cells may also be stimulated to produce new cell lines. If successful, this would eliminate the need to use embryos and thus resolve existing ethical dilemmas over the use of stem cells.... Medical Dictionary