the whole world burns

Archive for category 'medicine'

Scott and Scurvy


Fascinating essay on the "second coming" of scurvy, caused by vitamin C deficiency, which we're usually taught was "cured" in the British navy in mid-18th century by requiring sailors to drink lime juice daily (hence "limeys"). In reality, it was lemon juice, and the later shift to limes from the West Indies was only one of the blunders, against a milieu of inaccurate scientific and medical assumptions, that caused the simple cure to be lost.

The Depressing News About Antidepressants


Short version: they don't work better than placebos.

Right about here, people scowl and ask how anti-depressants--especially those that raise the brain's levels of serotonin--can possibly have no direct chemical effect on the brain. Surely raising serotonin levels should right the synapses' "chemical imbalance" and lift depression. Unfortunately, the serotonin-deficit theory of depression is built on a foundation of tissue paper. How that came to be is a story in itself, but the basics are that in the 1950s scientists discovered, serendipitously, that a drug called iproniazid seemed to help some people with depression. Iproniazid increases brain levels of serotonin and norepinephrine. Ergo, low levels of those neurotransmitters must cause depression. More than 50 years on, the presumed effectiveness of antidepressants that act this way remains the chief support for the chemical-imbalance theory of depression. Absent that effectiveness, the theory hasn't a leg to stand on. Direct evidence doesn't exist. Lowering people's serotonin levels does not change their mood. And a new drug, tianeptine, which is sold in France and some other countries (but not the U.S.), turns out to be as effective as Prozac-like antidepressants that keep the synapses well supplied with serotonin. The mechanism of the new drug? It lowers brain levels of serotonin. "If depression can be equally affected by drugs that increase serotonin and by drugs that decrease it," says Kirsch, "it's hard to imagine how the benefits can be due to their chemical activity."

Monster: The Medical Annotation


A close look at the Naoki Urasawa's manga thriller. I seem to recall there being less medicine in later volumes, but still, good while it lasts.

(From Polite Dissent, the only blog specializing in representations of medicine in comic books...)

UK nurses want to supply clean blades to self-harmers

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Oh brave new permissive world! What does a person need to do for their behaviour to be deemed abnormal and in need of fixing?

Pathology in the Hundred Acre Wood


We begin with Pooh. This unfortunate bear embodies the concept of comorbidity. Most striking is his Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), inattentive subtype. As clinicians, we had some debate about whether Pooh might also demonstrate significant impulsivity, as witnessed, for example, by his poorly thought out attempt to get honey by disguising himself as a rain cloud.

Zombie Dogs

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A fine example of awful, sensationalist journalism, but still:

US scientists have succeeded in reviving the dogs after three hours of clinical death, paving the way for trials on humans within years.

Pittsburgh's Safar Centre for Resuscitation Research has developed a technique in which subject's veins are drained of blood and filled with an ice-cold salt solution.

A medical journal's diagnosis of Gollum

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A space occupying lesion such as a brain tumour is unlikely as his symptoms are long standing. Gollum's diet is extremely limited, consisting only of raw fish. Vitamin B-12 deficiency may cause irritability, delusions, and paranoia. His reduced appetite and loss of hair and weight may be associated with iron deficiency anaemia. He is hypervigilant and does not seem to need much sleep. This, accompanied by his bulging eyes and weight loss, suggests hyperthyroidism. Gollum's dislike of sunlight may be due to the photosensitivity of porphyria. Attacks may be induced by starvation and accompanied by paranoid psychosis.

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