Blisters

My roommate’s boots were extremely vicious today, causing these alarmingly large blisters to form on the back of her heels. But what allows boots, and other footwear, the right to ruin our days so easily with the formation of blisters? How do they even do it?

Let’s start with the basics: What’s a blister?

A blister is a layer of skin, more specifically one of the epidermis layers, that splits from the other layers of skin, allowing pus to squeeze between them.

Pus is the term used to describe the blood serum (without red blood cells and clotting factors) that usually consists of water, white blood cells, blood proteins in addition to a few other things (it can sometimes have bacteria, gross).

How do blisters form?

Footwear can cause blisters as a result of the friction between the two. This friction leads to the uppermost layers of the epidermis peeling away from some of the other layers, without falling off. This is is normally referred to as a Friction Blister (fitting, right?). Some footwear need to be broken into so that they don’t keep rubbing against your skin too often.

But there are things other than friction that can cause blisters too! These factors are:

  • Heat (sunburns can lead to blisters!)
  • Chemical reactions
  • Medical conditions (like cold sores or the chicken pox)

Don’t burst your bubble

Like most other things the body does, the formation of the blister is actually a good thing. If they remain intact, then the liquid in the blister will be reabsorbed after a new layer of skin has been formed underneath the blister and the old layer of skin will peel away completely.

If you pop the blister, however, it can lead  to the further infection of your skin since the unhealed area has been exposed. The raised layer of skin and the pus act as a protective shield against infections and allows your body to regenerate its new skin in peace.

However, if they hurt too much then you may need to let the pus out using sterile equipment, a sterilized needle or blade. It may hurt a lot when the pus in the blister has infectious particles or intrusive particles. If the pus is white/yellow, then it definitely contained infectious particles (this differs from healthy pus, which would be clear). If your skin around the blister is red or warm for a long time, that’s another sign of infection! If you think your blister is infected, it is best to get medical attention.

For the most part, the blisters are here to help us with our silly needs like uncomfortable (but fancy!) shoes or going out in the sun without sunscreen. They’ve got our backs, for sure, so let’s let them be.

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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.

 

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.

Lactose Intolerance

So, one of my friends and I have recently discovered that we’re probably lactose intolerant after eating some sweet, delicious, pain-inducing ice cream. So I thought I’d talk a bit about it and explore how one can develop lactose intolerance.

What is Lactose Intolerance?

This is when an individual is unable to digest a particular sugar, lactose, that is found in dairy products. Lactose is a molecule that is made up of two smaller sugars: glucose and galactose. Your body prefers sugars in their simplest forms so that you can easily obtain energy from them.

To get sugars in their simplest forms, you require different enzymes (which are little protein superheros) that break the sugars. For lactose, you need a specific enzyme known as lactase to simplify it into glucose and galactose.

People who have lactose intolerance do not have much of this enzyme, resulting in their difficulty in digesting lactose.

So what happens to the lactose that they don’t break down? This lactose gets broken down by bacteria. Byproducts of this bacterial reaction are methane and hydrogen gases. The digestion of lactose via bacteria causes the symptoms of lactose intolerance: gassy-ness (due to the methane gas), bloating, cramps and diarrhea (sounds like the beginning of a Pepto Bismol commercial, I know).

Make sure you don’t confuse lactose intolerance with an allergy to milk. An allergy is different than the inability to digest something!

How can someone develop lactose intolerance?

Some researchers have found that we develop less enzyme levels as we grow older, including lactase levels. This is likely why I’m more sensitive to dairy now than I was when I was a youngin’ (when I used to eat blocks of cheese and drink cartons of milk). TMI maybe? Okay, sorry.

There are individuals who are lactose intolerant at a young age, which may be due to genetics, damage to the cells that produce lactase, or a premature birth of 6 weeks or greater. The latter reasoning is only a temporary state, however.

How common is lactose intolerance?

Lactose intolerance is actually viewed as a regularly occurring health issue and, therefore, normal. There are supplements available to those who require help digesting lactose, including lactase pills and drops that you take before eating dairy foods or put into your dairy drinks.

So don’t fret, my lactase-deficient friends! We’ve been saved. And now we can eat our ice cream with smiles all around.

Cavities

So we keep hearing about these holes that form in our teeth, which are known as cavities.We know that we get cavities when we don’t brush our teeth frequently enough or properly, but what causes cavities?

What is a cavity?

Cavities are also referred to as dental caries or tooth decay. They are structural damage, such as holes, formed on our teeth.

What causes a cavity?

Remember when we talked about how there are bacteria in our mouths, some of which are selfish? Well, two selfish bacterial species, Streptococcus mutans and Streptococcus sobrinus, love to eat the food residues on our teeth. This food allows them to grow quickly and reproduce, which can lead to plaque formation, which is a problem.

But these bacteria, in addition to other bacterial species that feast on the food residues on our teeth, are also responsible for the formation of cavities. When they eat the sugars that we haven’t swallowed or digested, the bacteria oxidize the sugars; they break the sugars down into smaller molecules in their cells in order to obtain energy. The products of this break down of sugars are high acidic. They are so acidic that our teeth are unable to withstand it, and are consequently damaged slowly. This leads to the formation of structural damages and, in the case of cavities, holes!

Brush your teeth at least twice a day!

The recommended frequency of brushing your teeth is twice/day, while its duration is recommended to be approximately two minutes. If you don’t brush your teeth properly by getting every area of your teeth or if you don’t brush your teeth frequently enough, then your chance of forming cavities increases significantly. Sugars, food residues and bacteria will accumulate on the surfaces of your teeth without a good brushing routine. The bacteria will then be able to use those sugars to grow, which will result in the production of more acid, which leads to more structural damages to your teeth.

Fluoride

Remember when we talked about fluoride in toothpaste last week? Well, toothpastes that help to prevent cavities contain fluoride as it helps to promote strength in your teeth. This increase in strength will allow any [hopefully minimal] acid production to have a lesser effectiveness, meaning there will be less damage!

So brush your teeth often, properly with a dash of toothpaste and SMILE.

Brushing Your Teeth

It’s at the start of your day and, hopefully, before you shut your eyes for bed when you brush your teeth. But why do we need to brush our teeth? Sure, the ‘scary’ dentist tells us to. Our parents scared us into it too; except when I was smaller, we were given sticker books that we got to fill for every morning and night we brushed our teeth (stickers=fun!!). But what’s the deal with brushing our teeth?

Why do we brush our teeth?

Alright, you smart alecs, I know what you’re going to say: Because it’s hygenic, Meera! Okay, yes, you’re all right, it is hygenic. But how? What are we trying brush off?

Why do we really brush our teeth?

There are several species of bacteria in our bodies, helping us perform various cellular processes but there are also some bacteria who are just selfish. There are two notable species of bacteria in our mouths; Streptococcus mutans and Streptococcus sobrinus. Both of these bacteria are greedy.

After we eat food, the food residue(sugar) on our teeth act as a buffet of sorts for these two bacteria. The by-products of this consumption of sugar are acids, which break down the enamel of our teeth. These bacteria also grow, thanks to the supply of sugars that they’ve received; their growth in a thin layer on our teeth is what we call the formation of plaque. Plaque can lead to gingivitis, which is a disease of the gums which makes them inflamed and sore.

It’s important to remember that it’s the sugars that we eat that provides bacteria with the nutrients to grow and multiply. So the more sugar we eat, the more food we’re giving to the bacteria.

So we really brush our to break down the bacterial plaque that forms on our teeth after we eat. This is why it’s necessary to brush at least twice a day; with all the sugar we consume in one day, it’s necessary that we prevent bacteria from forming plaques.

And that is how brushing your teeth is a form of hygiene. Next week, we’ll talk about how toothpaste works to help us brush our teeth. 

Treating Acne – Natural

Okay guys, this is going to be short and sweet (if you only want natural methods – otherwise, you’re going to want to look here:). To treat your acne naturally, you’ll need to do three things:

1.) Cleanse

2.) Stop petting it

3.) Be patient

Like I mentioned in how to make your pores seem smaller, you need to keep your skin clean. This will help unclog your pores, regardless of whether there’s a build-up of dead skin cells, bacterial cells or sebum. Exfoliating will help clear your skin too in addition to keeping your skin moisturized! But this isn’t going to be an instant cure or anything, you need to keep your skin clean and regularly wash your face to get rid of the clog eventually and keep your pores from clogging again.

By constantly touching your acne, you’re simply making it worse. Your hands have oils on them too, so if you are constantly touching your already clogged pores with your oily hands, your pores are just going be clogged further.

Also, popping pimples isn’t really the way to deal with them, unless you’re a bit impatient. Popping pimples can rupture your skin and spread the infection of bacteria (if it’s a whitehead, zit, or pimple), not to mention it’ll be a big red spot – so it’s not even worth it, really.

So, that’s the natural way to take care of your acne. Stay calm, cleanse, keep your hands away from your face and you’ll be golden.

Acne – Types

Last we briefly discussed what causes acne. But there are several types of acne, so today we’re going to look at what some of the different types of acne are and what causes them specifically. Prepare for a lot of terminology, folks. Lots and lots of it.

Blackheads (aka Open Comedones)

When you pore is partially clogged by dead skin cells, this prevents sebum from being released (remember, sebum is the oily stuff usually released from the sebaceous glands and leaves the body through your pores). The sebum then accumulates beneath the epidermis. When sebum is partially released and is exposed to the air, it hardens and turns black  (due to oxidation, for all you science kids).

This type of acne isn’t inflammatory and are often referred to as grade I acne.

Whiteheads (aka Closed Comedones)

These are also non-inflammatory, grade I acne, where there is no way for the sebum or for the bacteria to exit through the pore. This bump in the skin is usually caused by the accumulation of bacteria and sebum due to a closed or narrow pore.

Pimples (Papules)

This type of acne is a grade II inflammatory (red) acne. These develop from whiteheads; when the whitehead becomes really swollen with the mixture of bacteria and sebum, it ruptures (but similar to a leak, not like a balloon popping). This rupture causes the mixture to be released into the dermis. The bacterial contamination leads to your immune response team swooping in and trying to repair the damage while trying to rid the system of the bacterial cells. This immune response leads to the inflammation that we see when get pimples.

Zits (Pustules)

Zits are pretty much a continuation of pimples, where the immune response to also leads to the formation of pus. This pus will then make it’s way back up to the epidermis, which forms a zit. Zits are also considered Grade II acne.

These four are the most common types of acne. There are more severe forms of acne, like nodules (Grade III) and cysts (Grade IV),that are formed by a deep rupture (POP!) of any of the acne types listed above. This rupture causes that mixture of bacterial cells and sebum  to affect more cells in the dermis than in pastules and papules, causing a more severe immune response; this means more swelling and more inflammation (ouchy!)

Next week, we’ll talk about how to treat these bad boys before they become nodules or cysts!

If you have anything you’d like to learn about, hit me up in the comments and I’ll try my best to educate myself and teach you about it!

AcneHubs.com. 2013. Types of Acne. AcneHubs.com. <acnehubs.com/types-of-acne/>. April 04, 2013.

Seeley, R.R., Stevens, T.D., and Tate, P. 2008. Anatomy and Physiology (8th ed.). pp. 166. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Acne

What is Acne?

The clogging of your pores is what is known as Acne! It can be caused by the accumulation of sebum, bacteria, dead skin cells, dirt or a combination of those factors! If you don’t remember, sebum is an oily substance released from your pores in an attempt to help moisturize your skin.

Acne in Teenagers

As long as you keep your skin clean and moisturized, your pores will likely be on their best behaviour. But when you’re undergoing puberty, your pores tend to act out as though they’re the teenagers and you’re the parent. Puberty is the reason why acne is usually more prevalent in teenagers.

Your pores seem to be overstimulated by the hormonal changes in your body when you’re going through puberty, so they release more sebum (from the sebaceous glands in your skin).  This excessive production and release of sebum can result in the clogging of your pores. More sebum, more clogging, more acne, less happy.

But don’t really get upset over this, little ones. Just keep cleaning and moisturizing your face at least twice daily, and you’ll be golden. A lot of skin care companies target their products towards teenagers because they’re more likely to have acne (thanks puberty). So don’t let acne get you down because those companies are going to play the sympathy card and swindle you for more money than you really need to spend.

Next week, we’ll talk about the different types of Acne! Until then, take care, kiddies.

 

Nemours Foundation. 2013. Acne. KidsHealth.org. <http://kidshealth.org/kid/grow/body_stuff/acne.html&gt; March 28, 2013.

Organisms Causing Gastroenteritis

You wanted to look at the list of organisms that can cause the stomach flu, well here you are you keener!

Here are some of the bacterial species that can cause the stomach flu and how they’re usually contracted:

  • Escherichia coli (E. coli) – Contaminated food or drinking water, food poisoning
  • Salmonella – handling poultry or reptiles that haven’t been properly cleaned
  • Campylobacter – undercooked meat or milk that hasn’t been heated to kill bacteria (Don’t worry, the latter is handled by the processors of dairy products!)

Some of the types of viruses that can cause the stomach flu are:

  • Norovirus – this is the virus that causes the largest number gastroenteritis outbreaks.
  • Rotavirus, which  is the most common cause of gastroenteritis in children. It can also infect adults who are exposed to children who have the virus.
  • Astrovirus
  • Enteric adenovirus

And two parasites  that causes really watery diarrhea are Giardia lamblia and Cryptosporidium, though the latter only really affects those with weak immune systems.