Saturday, October 30, 2010

Alternative Medicine


Alternative Medicine, also called unconventional medicine, therapeutic practices, techniques, and beliefs that are outside the realm of mainstream Western health care. Alternative medicine emphasizes therapies that improve quality of life, prevent disease, and address conditions that conventional medicine has limited success in curing, such as chronic back pain and certain cancers. Proponents of alternative medicine believe that these approaches to healing are safer and more natural and have been shown through experience to work. In certain countries, alternative medical practices are the most widely used methods of health care. However, many practitioners of modern conventional medicine believe these practices are unorthodox and unproven.

By some estimates 83 million United States residents use alternative medicine, spending more than $27 million a year. Reports from Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia also indicate a widespread interest in alternative therapies.

A special report prepared for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Alternative Medicine: Expanding Medical Horizons, categorizes alternative medicine practices into six fields. The first field, mind-body intervention, explores the mind’s capacity to affect, and perhaps heal, the body. Studies have shown that the mental state has a profound effect on the immune system, and these studies have provoked interest in the mind’s role in the cause and course of disease. Specific mind-body interventions include meditation, hypnosis, art therapy, biofeedback, and mental healing.

Bioelectromagnetic applications, the second field of alternative medicine, make use of the body’s response to nonthermal, nonionizing radiation. Current uses involve bone repair, nerve stimulation, wound healing, treatment of osteoarthritis, and immune system stimulation.

The third field is alternative systems of medical practice. Each of these systems is characterized by a specific theory of health and disease, an educational program to teach its concepts to new practitioners, and often a legal mandate to regulate its practice. Examples include acupuncture, Ayurvedic medicine, homeopathy, and naturopathy.

Touch and manipulation are the mainstays of the manual healing methods, which constitute the fourth field of alternative medicine. Practitioners of chiropractic and massage therapies such as Rolfing structural integration believe that dysfunction of one part of the body often affects the function of other, not necessarily connected, parts. Health is restored by manipulating bones or soft tissues or realigning body parts.

The pharmacological and biological treatments that make up the fifth field of alternative medicine consist of an assortment of drugs and vaccines not yet accepted in mainstream medicine. Compounds such as antineoplastins (from human blood and urine) for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), various products of the honey bee for arthritis, and iscador (a liquid extract from mistletoe) for tumors have not been scientifically evaluated because of the expense of conducting safety and effectiveness studies.

Throughout the ages people have turned for healing to herbal medicine, the sixth field of alternative medicine. All cultures have folk medicine traditions that include the use of plants and plant products. Many licensed drugs used today originated in the herbal traditions of various cultures, such as the medication commonly used for heart failure, digitalis, which is derived from foxglove. In the United States, herbal products may be marketed only as food supplements. Since they are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there is no guarantee of their purity or safety. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 4 billion people, or 80 percent of the world’s population, use herbal medicine for some aspect of primary health care.

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Friday, October 29, 2010


Alcoholism or Alcohol Dependence, chronic disease marked by a craving for alcohol. People who suffer from this illness are known as alcoholics. They cannot control their drinking even when it becomes the underlying cause of serious harm, including medical disorders, marital difficulties, job loss, or automobile crashes. Medical science has yet to identify the exact cause of alcoholism, but research suggests that genetic, psychological, and social factors influence its development. Alcoholism cannot be cured yet, but various treatment options can help an alcoholic avoid drinking and regain a healthy life.

People tend to equate any kind of excessive drinking with alcoholism. But doctors and scientists recognize that disorders related to alcohol use lie along a continuum of severity. They prefer to use the term alcohol dependence instead of alcoholism to designate the most severe of the alcohol-use disorders. The terms alcohol abuse and problem drinking designate less severe disorders resulting from immoderate drinking.

Alcohol dependence develops differently in each individual. But certain symptoms characterize the illness, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), a United States government agency that is part of the National Institutes of Health. Alcoholics develop a craving, or a strong urge, to drink despite awareness that drinking is creating problems in their lives. They suffer from impaired control, an inability to stop drinking once they have begun. Alcoholics also become physically dependent on alcohol. When they stop drinking after a period of heavy alcohol use, they suffer unpleasant physical ailments, known as withdrawal symptoms, that include nausea, sweating, shakiness, and anxiety (see Drug Dependence). Alcoholics develop a greater tolerance for alcohol—that is, they need to drink increasing amounts of alcohol to reach intoxication. The World Health Organization (WHO) notes that other behaviors common in people who are alcohol dependent include seeking out opportunities to drink alcoholic beverages—often to the exclusion of other activities—and rapidly returning to established drinking patterns following periods of abstinence.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

What is Abortion ?

Abortion, termination of a pregnancy before birth, resulting in the death of the fetus. Some abortions occur naturally because a fetus does not develop normally or because the mother has an injury or disorder that prevents her from carrying the pregnancy to term. This type of spontaneous abortion is commonly known as a miscarriage. Other abortions are induced—that is, intentionally brought on—because a pregnancy is unwanted or presents a risk to a woman’s health, or because the fetus is likely to have severe physical or mental health problems.

Induced abortion, the focus of this article, is one of today’s most intense and polarizing ethical and philosophical issues. Modern medical techniques have made induced abortions simpler and less dangerous. But in the United States, the debate over abortion has led to legal battles in the courts, in the Congress of the United States, and state legislatures. The debate has spilled over into confrontations, which are sometimes violent, at clinics where abortions are performed.

This article discusses the most common methods used to induce abortions, the social and ethical issues surrounding abortion, and the history of the regulation of abortion in the United States.

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Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)

Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), human viral disease that ravages the immune system, undermining the body’s ability to defend itself from infection and disease. Caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), AIDS leaves an infected person vulnerable to opportunistic infections—infection by microbes that take advantage of a weakened immune system. Such infections are usually harmless in healthy people but can prove life-threatening to people with AIDS. Although there is no cure for AIDS, new drugs are available that can prolong the life spans and improve the quality of life of infected people.

Transmission of HIV—the AIDS-causing virus—occurs most commonly as a result of sexual intercourse. HIV also can be transmitted through transfusions of HIV-contaminated blood or by using a contaminated needle or syringe to inject drugs into the bloodstream. Infection with HIV does not necessarily mean that a person has AIDS. Some people who have HIV infection may not develop any of the clinical illnesses that define the full-blown disease of AIDS for ten years or more. Physicians prefer to use the term AIDS for cases where a person has reached the final, life-threatening stage of HIV infection.

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