Health Highlights: March 16, 2008

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:

Optical Scanning Method May Be Able to Detect Early Onset of Alzheimer's

A team of researchers from Harvard Medical School and Boston University says it has found a way to detect the amyloid plaque in the brain that may be able to signal the progression of Alzheimers disease while the patient is still alive.

According to a news release from the Optical Society of America, the detection method, which uses near-infrared light detection to scan a person's brain to find the plaque, is being tested on living subjects. Finding the amyloid substances, believed to be the chief cause of memory loss and other symptoms of Alzheimer's dementia, had previously been accomplished only during autopsies.

WHAT TO KNOW
    • Optical Scanning Method May Be Able to Detect Early Onset of Alzheimer's
    • Varicose, Spider Vein Removal Jump to No. 2 as Most-Performed Cosmetic Surgery
    • Meningitis Kills 1 of 3 College Students in Upstate New York
    • Breast Cancer Awareness Program Unites U.S., Mexico
    • Lubbock Has Worst Teeth in U.S.: Study
    • Microwave Popcorn Chemical Damages Airways: Study

"We're primarily interested in finding a way of diagnosing and monitoring Alzheimer's disease during life," U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Research Scientist Eugene Hanlon says in the news release. "We think this technique has a lot of potential for detecting the disease early on."

Hanlon and his colleagues from Harvard Medical School-Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Boston University used the near-infrared scanning technology to demonstrate that as the microscopic plaques accumulate, the optical properties of the brain change. The current research on living subjects will determine the technology's effectiveness as a an early-detection tool, the news release said.

The study is published in the current issue of the journal Optics Letters.

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Varicose, Spider Vein Removal Jump to No. 2 as Most-Performed Cosmetic Surgery

Varicose vein removal has moved ahead of eyelid surgery as the second most often performed cosmetic surgical procedure, according to a new survey.

The reason for this, The American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery (AACS) says in a news release, is cosmetic surgery preferences of men, not women, have changed dramatically. Sclerotherapy, the removal of spider veins and varicose veins, has increased about 226 percent among U.S. men in the past five years, the AACS says, while it has only increased about 3.5 percent as a preference for U.S. females.

By contrast, U.S men seem to be thinking twice about hair transplants, according to the survey. Price may be a factor, with hair transplant costs increasing by almost $1,300 in the past five years, while sclerotherapy costs have declined by slightly more than $100, according to AACS statistics.

Liposuction remains the top cosmetic surgical procedure, the AACS says, followed by sclerotherapy and blepharoplasty (eyelid surgery). The top non-surgical cosmetic procedure is Botox injection, the AACS reports.

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Meningitis Kills 1 of 3 College Students in Upstate New York

An 18-year-old student at an upstate New York college has died from what health officials suspect is a case of bacterial meningitis, the New York Times reports.

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