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Woman Touching Her Head

Headaches and What to Do about Them

It’s likely you’ve had a headache at some point in your life. You’re tired, hungry, your allergies, or constant loud noises have caused your head to start hurting. A headache may also be a symptom of something else, like a sinus infection, a cold, or the flu.

In most cases an over-the-counter pain reliever remedies the pain. It may be time to see a doctor however if the headaches are frequent and the pain persists.

Causes and Types

Doctors don’t completely understand what causes most headaches. There are no nerves to register pain in the brain tissue or the skull. Tissue around the brain, in the neck, blood vessels in the head, your teeth, sinuses, and the muscles and joints of your neck can cause head pain.

There are more than 300 types of headaches. The most common are sinus, tension, and migraines. Tension headaches and migraines are most often triggered by caffeine withdrawal, fatigue, hunger, lack of sleep, and stress. You can avoid these headaches if you avoid these triggers. Relaxation techniques like yoga may also be helpful.

Man With Headache

Chronic Daily Headaches

These are their own subtype of headache. They can occur 15 days or more a month. Other subtypes in this category include:
 

  • Chronic paroxysmal hemicrania — sharp headaches on one side of the head that cause a congested nose or watery eyes
  • Cluster headaches — these occur off and on for weeks for a few months and cause severe pain on one side of the head
  • Hemicrania continua — one-sided headache that hurts like a migraine
  • Medication overuse headaches — these occur from overusing headache medications for at least three months
  • Primary exertional headaches — from exercise
  • Primary stabbing headaches — lasting a few seconds but occurring several times a day
Woman With Headache

Migraines

Migraines are a much different kind of headache. They don’t just go away. They can be quite debilitating. More than half of the patients with migraines in one study reported “severe impairment in activity, the need for bed rest, and/or reduced work or school productivity due to migraines,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Migraines affect three times as many women as men. The typically:
 

  • Affect only one side of the head but can affect both
  • Cause moderate to severe pain
  • Cause nausea, vomiting, or increased sensitivity to light and sound
  • Get worse with certain activities, like climbing stairs
  • Last from four to 72 hours if not treated
  • Pulsate

Migraines account for about 3% of all visits to the emergency department each year in the U.S. The use of opioids as treatment has led to an increased risk of revisits, increased duration of stay, and even admission to the hospital. Opioids were prescribed nearly 36% of the time, but that is changing following the abuse that has occurred with those drugs.

Doctor Giving Medicine to His Patient

Seeking Medical Care

Everyone gets headaches, and migraines are not uncommon. Sometimes the headaches are symptoms of other health issues. Colds, the flu, or sinus infections can cause headaches. They’re annoying, but typically not life-threatening.

Headaches could also be a symptom of something more serious like bleeding, a tumor, an infection, or high blood pressure. Get to a doctor if you experience:
 

  • Confusion
  • Convulsions
  • Headache interfering with your routine
  • Headache with ear or eye pain
  • Headache with fever
  • Sudden headache that feels like a blow to the head
  • Headache AFTER a blow to the head
  • Loss of consciousness

Start with AltaMed

AltaMed has locations and providers all over Southern California delivering compassionate, culturally sensitive care that meets your family’s needs. We offer a range of services and care settings to help you grow healthy at every age and every stage of your life. We can provide you with regular screenings and monitor any conditions — like headaches — that are causing you concern. Contact us today at (877) 462-2582.

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Skin Cancer

Everyone Needs Protection from the Sun

A problem with any of your organs is troubling. Heart, liver, kidney, or lung issues would be a cause for alarm. 

That doesn’t seem to be the case with skin. It’s the body’s largest organ but we’re often dismissive of taking better care of it. That is probably why skin cancer is the most common form of cancer. It is, however, entirely, and easily, avoided. 

Skin Cancer Basics

Skin cancer is caused by the uncontrolled growth of cells on the epidermis — the outer layer of skin. It is triggered by overexposure to ultraviolet rays from either the sun or tanning beds. 

Protecting skin with sunscreen, a hat, or covering up with clothing are among the best methods for protecting against skin cancer. Sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 is recommended for everyone, no matter your complexion or how much time you expect to spend in the sun. 

Woman Putting on Sunscreen

One in five adults will develop one of the following types of skin cancer before they turn 70: 

  • Basal cell carcinoma 

  • Melanoma 

  • Nonmelanoma skin cancer 

  • Squamous cell carcinoma of the skin 

Basal Cell Carcinoma

This is one of the most common forms of skin cancer. It starts in a specific type of cell that produces new skin layers as the old skin layers die. 

It’s most common on the face, head, and neck since they get the most exposure to the sun. Basal cell carcinomas most often appear as: 

  • A shiny skin-colored bump 

  • A lesion that’s black, brown, or blue 

  • A flat, scaly patch 

  • A white, waxy, scar-like lesion 

See your doctor if these ever appear on your skin. 

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

This is also a very common form of skin cancer. This develops from cells in the middle and outer layers of skin. It’s caused by prolonged exposure to sunlight or artificial ultraviolet (UV) radiation. 

While not usually life threatening, it can be aggressive and spread to other squamous cells which are found in multiple places on the body. This includes places NOT exposed to sunlight. 

Symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic, include: 

  • A rim, red nodule 

  • A flat sore with a scaly crust 

  • A raised area or sore on an old scar 

  • A rough, scaly patch on the lip that becomes an open sore 

  • A rough patch or red sore inside the mouth 

  • A wartlike sore on the anus or genitals 

See a doctor if you develop a sore that won’t heal after a couple of months. 

Melanomas

This is the most serious type of skin cancer and forms in the cells that create melanin or skin pigmentation. Melanoma risk is increasing for people under 40, especially women. The exact cause is unclear, but exposure to UV light from the sun or tanning lamps increases the risk. 

Melanomas can develop anywhere, including places not exposed to the sun, like the soles of the feet, palms, or fingernail beds. These “hidden” melanomas are much more common in people with darker skin. 

Symptoms include: 

  • Changes in a mole 

  • A new pigmented growth on the skin 

Dermatologists recommend using the letters “ABCDE,” to help identify moles that may be melanomas or other skin cancers. 

  • A is for asymmetrical shape 

  • B is for irregular border 

  • C is for changes in color 

  • D is for diameter 

  • E is for evolving 

Nonmelonoma Skin Cancer

This includes basal cell carcinoma and squamous along with about six others that form on other parts of the skin. 

Skin cancer can be successfully treated with surgery for removal. But patients who believe they have cancerous cells on their skin need to contact their doctors immediately. Left untreated, skin cancer can spread and be fatal. 

Protecting the skin from exposure to ultraviolet radiation is the BEST way to prevent skin cancer. 

Doctor Checks Patient Skin

Check Your Skin

Early detection of skin abnormalities is the best way to identify, then develop a treatment plan to prevent skin cancer from spreading. This improves the chances of treating or even curing it. 

The best way to stay healthy and make sure you are getting the screenings you need is to get regular health checkups. Depending on your personal and family health histories, your doctor may recommend additional screenings for you. 

Contact AltaMed at (888) 499-9303 for more information about the health screenings you need.  

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Asthma

Having Asthma Means Every Breath Counts

We don’t think about breathing. We just do. It’s one of our body’s involuntary functions which include our heartbeat, blood flow, and digestion.

We take it for granted on some level because it’s automatic. When you can’t breathe, for any reason, nothing matters more than your next breath.

That’s how it feels for people with asthma. It is a chronic disease and one of the most common long-term diseases for children. Adults have it too.

It can cause breathlessness, chest tightness, wheezing, and coughing early in the morning or at night. Asthma stays with you, but asthma attacks occur when something — like an allergen — affects your lungs. That’s when you feel it the most.

Girl With Her Inhaler


Asthma Facts

Asthma causes swelling in a person’s airways which makes it hard for them to breathe. While there is no cure, it can be managed with medication and preventive measures, like not exerting yourself, or limiting your exposure to environmental triggers.

Nearly 25 million, or 1 in 13, Americans have asthma. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America:

  • 8% of adults and 7% of children have asthma
  • Around 20 million Americans aged 18 and older have asthma
  • It’s more common in adult women than adult men
  • Around 5.1 million children under 18 have asthma
  • It’s the leading chronic disease in children
  • It’s more common in boys than girls
  • African Americans are nearly three times more likely to die of asthma than white Americans
  • 10 Americans die from asthma each day.

Asthma Causes

It’s not clear how it’s caused. Contributing factors, however, include genetics, environment, and occupation. If an immediate family member — like a parent or sibling — has asthma, it’s likely you have it.

Environmental elements like dampness, mold, dust mites, pollution, and tobacco smoke have all been linked to developing asthma. Working near dust, chemicals, or insulation can lead to the development of occupational asthma.

Doctor Treating Children

Diagnosis

Asthma can be hard to diagnose, especially in children under five. There are multiple tests doctors can conduct to determine if a patient has asthma, a respiratory infection, or some other chronic condition.

The most common measure is lung function. Doctors will test how much air can be exhaled after a deep breath. They may also use a device to measure how hard a person can breathe out. These tests are usually conducted before and after taking a medication to open the lungs. If there’s a difference, you probably have asthma.

Other tests include:

  • Allergy testing
  • Asthma triggers to cause airways to tighten
  • Exercising to trigger a response
  • Looking for certain white blood cells — eosinophils — in saliva and mucus
  • Measuring nitric oxide in someone’s breath
  • X-rays

Avoiding Attacks

Asthma only affects people when they have an attack. Attacks are caused when someone is exposed to an asthma trigger.

People with asthma have different triggers. The most common are:

  • Air pollution
  • Cockroaches
  • Dust mites
  • Exercise
  • Mold
  • Respiratory infections
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Wood smoke

People learn to identify their triggers, and avoid them, by working with health care professionals.

 

Treating Asthma

Asthma stays with you for life. You never outgrow it. You may have fewer symptoms the older you get, but it’s always there.

Two-thirds of children under six who may have wheezed when they had colds, may not as they get older, likely never had asthma.

Taking medicine exactly as directed and avoiding asthma triggers are the best ways to avoid an asthma attack. The medicine can vary from a pill to inhaled medications. They are prescribed to provide either long-term relief or emergency relief — like from an asthma attack with the use of an inhaler.

There can be some side effects from asthma medicine, but most are mild and soon go away.

Work with your doctor to develop an asthma plan and make sure you share it with the right people. Also, make sure to take your long-term control medicine whether you are having symptoms or not.

We’re Here to Help

Asthma is a chronic condition but not one you have to face alone. AltaMed is here to offer support with treatment and developing an asthma action plan to prevent attacks. Contact

AltaMed at (888) 499-9303 for more information or to make an appointment.

Headaches and What to Do about Them