"Treat the disease, you win some, you lose some. Treat the patient, you always win."
~Patch Adams~

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Guest post today----Hidden Diseases

I am so pleased to share this guest post with you today by Eric Stevenson. Eric is a health and safety advocate who resides in the Southeastern US.

Note: When I posted this article yesterday, I didn't get the links right---so if you read this before Friday afternoon, please reread and take advantage of the links for more complete information! Many thanks to Eric for sharing this article with us---and for his patience with me in getting it right!

Hidden Diseases

Many of us tend to think of illness as a fairly simple process: germs (or other toxins) infect the body, making us immediately feel sick. Our bodies fight off the germs and we feel better. While this is a fairly common model for the illness process, it is not the only one. Some diseases incubate or remain latent for months or even years before the patient begins to feel their effects. These illnesses can be particularly dangerous, since the patient may not immediately connect the symptoms they are currently experiences to exposure to toxins many years before.


Mesotheioma is an aggressive cancer that affects the lining of the chest and abdominal cavity. Around 80% of mesothelioma cases can be traced with certainty back to asbestos exposure. This thread-like mineral was once used to add heat resistance to everything from construction materials to protective clothing to household appliances. When asbestos is bound up in other materials, it is not hazardous, but when those materials are damaged – either intentionally during construction or renovation projects, or through years of wear and tear – tiny fibers of the material break off and float into the air, where they can be breathed into the lungs.

Early mesothelioma symptoms can include shortness of breath, pain or tightness in the chest, or fluid around the lungs – highly generic symptoms that are often confused with other, less serious lung conditions until the cancer is in its advanced stages. Additionally, the disease usually takes between 20 and 50 years to surface after asbestos exposure, so many individuals who worked in factories or the construction or shipbuilding industry during asbestos’ heyday in the mid-20th century are only now becoming sick. Researchers expect the number of mesothelioma cases to continue rising for the next few years because of the long latency period. Unfortunately, life expectancy for the disease is short, often between 9-12 months.

New Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease

A recently recognized variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is caused not by a germ or even an environmental toxin, but something called a prion. A prion is a mutated protein molecule that, over time, can cause holes to develop in brain tissue, leading to dementia, memory loss, changes in personality, hallucinations, and eventually death. CJD is similar in nature to bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease.

While the link between these diseases is still being explored, there is some evidence to show that new variant CJD can result from eating tainted meat. It remains uncommon, though, since the prions exist in the highest concentration in the brain, spinal cord, and digestive tract of the cow, which are not commonly eaten unless the meat is improperly butchered. The disease can also be transmitted through blood transfusions. By studying a similar disease in Papua New Guinea, scientists have determined that new variant CJD may have a latency period of 30 to 50 years. Like mesothelioma, the survival period after the disease becomes active is short, around 13 to 14 months.

While mesothelioma and new variant CJD are hardly common diseases, they are deadly. While CJD can be the result of genetics, or even spontaneous mutation, you can partially protect yourself by being aware of where your meat comes from. The U.S. has yet to suffer an outbreak of mad cow disease, but care should be taken when traveling in the U.K., particularly when dining in the smaller towns and villages. Mesothelioma symptoms, however, can nearly always be prevented by avoiding asbestos, particularly in the form of construction materials manufactured before the 1980s. If you have reason to believe there is asbestos in your home, leave it alone unless it becomes damaged. If that should happen, have the material tested and contact a licensed abatement team to remove it.

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