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Spring Is In the Air… So Is Pollen

Sneezing, wheezing, hives, nasal congestion and itchy, watery eyes – more than 67 million Americans suffer from these and other seasonal allergy symptoms.

Here’s what the experts say:
• Hot, dry, windy days usually mean more pollens and molds are in the air.
• Rain showers tend to wash pollens out of the air.
• Generally, at ground level, the peak pollen count is between 8:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. and between 5:00 and 9:00 p.m.
• Pollen counts fall during times of higher humidity and rise during low humidity.
• The warmer the temperature, the greater the pollen.

According to Andrew Battiata, MD, a physician at Lexington ENT & Allergy, the severity of an allergic reaction can vary from mild discomfort to life threatening situations.

Dr. Battiata

Dr. Battiata

“An allergy is characterized by an overreaction of the immune system to a foreign substance (called an allergen) that is eaten, inhaled, injected or touched. This overreaction can result in symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose and scratchy throat. In severe cases, it can also result in rashes, hives, lower blood pressure, difficulty breathing, asthma attacks and even death,” said Dr. Battiata.

For people with allergies, their immune systems work too hard and react even when relatively harmless substances, such as pollen, are present. And left untreated, allergies can lead to chronic health problems.

“By far, the most common side effect from an untreated allergy is frequent sinus infections that require steroids and/or antibiotics, or even sinus surgery. People with untreated allergies also miss time from school or work and have decreased quality of life,” said Dr. Battiata.

field of flowers_1In the spring, the most common allergen is tree pollen, which begins to release between January and April, depending on the climate and location. The trees include elm, pine, birch, ash, hickory, poplar and cypress…just to name a few. Grass pollen takes over in summertime, and weed pollen appears in the fall.

And allergies can be both environmental and genetic.

“If one parent has allergies of any type, chances are 1 in 3 that each child will have an allergy. If both parents have allergies, it is much more likely (7 in 10) that their children will have allergies,” he said.

So testing is important, too.

Dr. Battiata recommends skin testing as the most accurate way to determine allergies. Blood testing, known as radioallergosorbent (RAST) testing, is also available.

Allergies and their symptoms can be a big problem, but there are ways to find relief.

“There are three types of treatments that can be used in combination: avoidance of the allergen, use of anti-histamines, steroids or other medications, and immunotherapy (allergy shots) to desensitize the allergic response,” said Dr. Battiata.

Although avoiding all airborne allergens is virtually impossible, knowing the peak pollen season and tracking daily pollen counts can help minimize exposure.

You can also use allergy devices in your home, such as an air cleaner and air conditioner, which will help remove pollen and mold spores from the air. Be sure to keep the filters clean!

Lexington Medical Center Begins 3D Mammography

As part of a comprehensive program for the diagnosis of breast cancer, Lexington Medical Center is pleased to announce it now offers 3D mammography. This new breast cancer screening tool creates a group of three dimensional images of the breast and allows doctors to view tissue one millimeter at a time, making tiny details visible earlier and easier. 3D mammography, also known as digital breast tomosynthesis (DBT), is currently recommended for women who are having their first screening mammogram or who have dense breast tissue.

mammogramXLexington Medical Center is the first facility in the Midlands to offer this technology. Studies in the Journal of The American Medical Association have shown that 3D mammography increases breast cancer detection, and reduces false positives and unnecessary callbacks for patients with dense breast tissue.

“Lexington Medical Center is excited to offer this leading edge technology for breast cancer screening,” said Dr. Beth Siroty-Smith, director of Women’s Imaging services for Lexington Radiology Associates at Lexington Medical Center. “3D mammography reduces difficulties in identifying abnormalities in women with denser breast tissue and results in increased cancer detection.”

In the images below, you see a 2D mammogram on the left and a 3D image (Tomosynthesis) on the right. The suspicious area in the 2D image is more blurry and easier to miss. In the 3D (Tomosynthesis) images on the right, it’s more clearly defined and an obvious abnormality.

Read_Me_Case_6_-_Cancer_Cases_1_.pdf

Read_Me_Case_6_-_Cancer_Cases.pdf

3D mammography uses a low dose X-ray to create multiple images within seconds that are similar to the “slices” of images in a CT scan. The FDA-approved procedure uses the same type of equipment as a 2D mammogram and a similar dose of radiation. Women who have questions about whether or not they should receive a 3D mammogram should talk to their doctor.

breast cancer ribbonWomen who are having a first screening mammogram or whose doctors have told them they have dense breast tissue may schedule a 3D mammogram at Lexington Medical Center’s Women’s Imaging facility on the main hospital campus in West Columbia. Women’s Imaging will nearly double the number of daily scheduling slots in an effort to accommodate all interested women. Evening and weekend hours will also soon be available. To schedule an appointment, please call (803) 791-2486.

In addition to being an American College of Radiology Breast Imaging Center of Excellence, Lexington Medical Center’s breast program has accreditation from the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers and the cancer program has accreditation with commendation by the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer.