Eye Discharge

Ever wake up from a nice nap or a great sleep to find little white crusties in the corner of your eyes? Sometimes, they might even be slimy! But what are those things and why do we find them?

What are Eye Crusties aka Dream dust aka Rheum aka Sleep?

When I was little, one of my friends told me that those little white/yellowish crusties were called ‘dream dust’ and we got them because the Sandman wanted us to have nice dreams. So for years, that’s what I’ve been referring to them as, though I was almost 100% sure the reasoning wasn’t on par.

When I started looking into this,  I found that the real name for the eye crusties actually is Sleep, but the scientific umbrella term for it is Rheum. Sleep is a type of Rheum, which in turn is simply discharged mucous. You might remember seeing the term rheum on Benylin bottles, or other cough and cold syrups, for the French translation. The term sleep just refers to the rheum that is discharged when one is sleeping. Fitting, I’d say.

But sleep does include the discharge from your nose and mouth while you’re sleeping as well. There is a specific term for the mucous that is discharged from our eyes while we sleep: goundGound is mainly composed of an oil produced by a sebaceous gland that line our eyelids, mucous, and some other particles like dust and skin cells. We actually produce gound during the day, but we blink it away which doesn’t give it the chance to clump.

Main point: eye crusties = mucous discharge.

Why does it happen?

Mucous likes to help our bodies protect themselves against infectious diseases.  So the discharge of mucous from our eyes while we sleep might just be our eyes protecting themselves from infections; the mucous usually carries away the harmful agents, be it makeup or bacteria, towards the corners of our eyes (known as the inner canthi and the outer canthi).

If you have a cold or the flu, you are more likely to produce gound to excrete the bacteria that are making you sick. If you don’t take off your makeup before you go to bed, you’re likely to produce a lot of gound too.

Worries?

On its own, these discharges of mucous shouldn’t be too alarming. But if they are coupled with other symptoms involving the eye, such as inflammation or visual changes, they can indicate more worrying conditions such as Conjunctivitis or a corneal ulcer. Consult with your physician if there are multiple symptoms.

Sometimes, the excessive production of gound can lead to your eyes being glued shut. In this case, it is best to place a warm washcloth on your eyes to loosen them. Just make sure to dispose or wash the washcloth thoroughly, since reusing it can just bring those harmful agents back into your eyes!

 

And that’s really all there is to say about eye crusties. Now you’ll know that they’re proof that your body wants you to stay healthy!

Have a suggestion? Why not place it here?

 

Hiskey, D. 2011. What the ‘sleep’ in your eyes is. TodayIFoundOut.com. <http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2011/02/what-the-sleep-in-your-eyes-is/>. August 27, 2013.

IMG Health Publications. 2013. Eye discharge. EyeHealthWeb.com. <http://www.eyehealthweb.com/eye-discharge/>. August 27, 2013.

 

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Diarrhea

Aw, poo! Is diarrhea getting you down? Well, seeing as I’ve mentioned diarrhea a few times, I thought it was about time that I explored the topic. So let’s find out what diarrhea is and why we get it. You may be surprised to find out just how great diarrhea can be, even though it’s definitely not pleasant in the moment.

What is diarrhea?

Diarrhea is runny or watery bowel movements (poo), where there is the characteristic loss in the form of the stool.

What causes diarrhea?

Diarrhea is usually an immune response indicating that you are suffering a gastrointestinal infection that has been caused by an endoparasite. In other words, diarrhea is the symptom of an infection in your gastrointestinal tract.

These infections are usually highly contagious as it can be spread via dirty hands contaminating food or water. These hands could have been changing a diaper or a pet’s fecal matter or simply cleaning the toilet but not washed properly (c’mon guys, just wash your hands!).  Kids usually get diarrhea frequently due to their tendency of putting their fingers into their mouths.

When we suffer from gastrointestinal infections, our bodies want to excrete the ingested endoparasite that is causing the infection out as quickly as possible. In order to do this, the muscles in your digestive tract contract at a faster rate than usual. This can cause a sharp pain in your abdomen.

These fast contractions also prevents your intestines from absorbing water from your waste; this means that the water in your intestinal tract leaves the body with your fecal matter instead of being retained in your body. This is why you get dehydrated when you have diarrhea, which is why you need to drink a lot of water and electrolyte-containing drinks (as you lose electrolytes and nutrients with your stool too).

Final thoughts

Okay, so basically diarrhea is great in that it helps us recover from an infection faster by excreting the endoparasites once it’s been detected by our immune system.

So while it’s a pain to deal with, it really teaches us the importance of hygiene. If we wash our hands properly and sanitize our hands and other items, there will be less of a risk of getting an infection. However, there are some endoparasites that won’t be phased by this, so diarrhea will be inevitable. The best thing you can do to recover from this infection is to stay hydrated. Your immune system is taking care of you, don’t you fret.

Without diarrhea, your body could become the new home to awful endoparasites. So just remember, it’s for the greater good.

Cholesterol – Bad?

Last week, we talked about the good side of cholesterol, which we don’t really hear about. No, instead we hear about the evils of cholesterol and how it can lead to heart disease. But cholesterol seems to help us out a lot, so what makes it so bad?

Types of Cholesterol

There are two ‘types’ of cholesterol. I use ‘types’ but it’s really the type of transport that the cholesterol uses that differentiates one ‘type’ from the other.

You see, cholesterol requires a transport system between the liver, where it is predominantly produced, and other cells because cholesterol is insoluble. The transporters for cholesterol are lipoproteins. Lipoproteins are molecules that consist of a mix of lipids and proteins. The lipid portion of the lipoprotein can interact with the cholesterol, while the protein portion allows the complex to travel in the bloodstream.

There are two different transporters that transport cholesterol; LDL and HDL. LDL stands for Low-Density Lipoprotein while HDL stands for High-Density Lipoprotein. LDLs transport cholesterol from the liver to the other cells in the body, while HDLs transport cholesterol from the cells of the body to the liver.

“Bad Cholesterol”

This refers to cholesterol that is being transported by LDLs. Since the LDLs carry the cholesterol from the liver to the cells, which have a lower storage capacity for cholesterol, there is the possibility of the build-up of the LDLs (and cholesterol) in your bloodstream if you have more cholesterol in your bloodstream than is required for your cells. The build-up will occur on the walls of the arteries that lead to your heart and brain. Too much build-up can result in the formation of a clot, which can induce heart attacks or strokes.

They’re not all bad…

HDL is the superhero of lipoproteins. It’s like the older sibling that looks out for their younger sibling, slowly cleaning up any mess they make. HDLs carry cholesterol from the cells and the bloodstream back to the liver, where it can be broken down into bile and then stored in the gallbladder. On their way, they can help clean up the LDLs’ messes by grabbing them and dragging them back to the liver, where the cholesterol is deposited for further storage. This reduces the amount of LDL in the bloodstream, reducing the build-up in your blood and reducing your risk of heart disease. This is probably why HDLs are referred to as “Good cholesterol”.

LDLs are larger than HDLs, which is probably why the former causes clots whereas the latter doesn’t.

Lowering your Risk

You produce LDLs and HDLs naturally. While you can’t control exactly how much your body produces, you can control what you eat as it was found that certain fats stimulate the production of LDLs.

The American Heart Association’s Nutrition Committee strongly advises these guidelines for people over the age of two:

  • Limit total fat intake to less than 25–35 percent of your total daily calories (TDC)
  • Limit saturated fat intake to less than 7 percent of TDC
  • Limit trans fat intake to less than 1 percent of TDC
  • The remaining fat (17-27% of TDC) should come from sources of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats
  • Limit cholesterol intake to less than 300 mg per day, for most people.  If you have coronary heart disease or your LDL cholesterol level is 100 mg/dL or greater, limit your cholesterol intake to less than 200 milligrams a day.

Your physician can check your cholesterol levels by performing a blood test. You want to keep your LDL levels below 130mg/dL and your HDL levels ideally above 60mg/dL. You want low LDL levels and high HDL levels to reduce your risk of heart disease. If you have high LDL levels (the dreaded “high cholesterol”) and/or low HDL levels (the dreaded “low cholesterol”), then you’re going to want to look into dietary and lifestyle changes.

So, it looks like cholesterol can be the good guy or an accomplice depending on who it’s traveling with. Or, I suppose it could be considered a bystander. But now you know that bad cholesterol doesn’t really have to do with the cholesterol itself, but rather its ride.

 

American Heart Association. 2013. Know Your Fats. Heart.org. <http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Cholesterol/PreventionTreatmentofHighCholesterol/Know-Your-Fats_UCM_305628_Article.jsp> May 30, 2013.

Vaccines

Remember that scare in 2009, when the swine flu (H1N1) broke out and everyone was rushing to clinics? They were worried about this new, terrifying virus and hurried to get the vaccinations that would protect them from it. And the vaccines did just that; with the help of the H1N1 vaccinations, 300 lives were saved, and roughly 1 million illnesses and 6000 hospitalizations were prevented. But what are vaccines and how do they help us?

What are vaccines?

Vaccines are preparations of agents that look like disease-causing microorganisms. These agents are considered antigens, which basically means they are something that is foreign, or unfamiliar, to our immune system. The antigens in vaccines are usually just parts of a microorganism, a dead microorganisms, or live microorganisms that have been altered to be harmless.

How do vaccines work?

The purpose of using vaccines is to familiarize your immune system to microorganisms you have yet to encounter so that it will be able to learn how to recognize this new antigen and how to attack it so that it doesn’t cause further damage to your body.  Since the vaccines don’t contain the real, health-threatening organisms, when you’re injected with the vaccine, you won’t show any symptoms.

Vaccines are basically a test run for your immune system to learn how to protect you from different dangerous organisms. The cells of the microorganisms (in the vaccines and in real life) have proteins on its membranes that will allow your immune system to recognize them. Your immune system will recognize these injected cells as antigens and try to figure out a way to attack them. Different cells have different properties, so there are several ways for your immune system to dispose of these foreign agents.

Your immune system will eventually figure out a way to destroy the antigens and will keep this whole trial in its memory. It will remember two things:

  • What it found during the test run: the cells of the microorganism, any particular proteins on the cell surface, etc.
  • How it dealt with the organism to ensure your safety

It then applies that knowledge when you’re exposed to the real organisms. This artificial immunity is long-lasting, which is why it’s preferred for new dangerous diseases.

Your doctor provides you with a list of vaccinations you should be getting at certain ages, it’s in your best interest to make sure you’ve gotten them all!

Roos, R. 2013. CDC: Pandemic vaccine prevented 1 million cases, 300 deaths. CIDRAP.umn.edu. <http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/cidrap/content/influenza/swineflu/news/feb0113panvax.html&gt; February 28, 2013

Seeley, R.R., Stevens, T.D., and Tate, P. 2008. Anatomy and Physiology (8th ed.). pp. 818, 1012. New York: McGraw-Hill.