Women's Health Terms Beginning with the Letter "D"
If dandruff is the only thing standing between you and a closet full of basic black, you're not alone. At any one time, millions of Americans have this chronic scalp disorder, which is marked by itching and excessive flaking of the scalp. Although dandruff isn't contagious and is rarely serious, it can be embarrassing and surprisingly persistent.
The good news is that dandruff can usually be controlled. Mild cases may need nothing more than daily shampooing with a gentle cleanser. And stubborn flakes often respond to medicated shampoos. What's more, researchers have identified a yeast-like fungus that may cause or aggravate dandruff, a discovery that may lead to better treatments and even to a whole new wardrobe.
Deep vein thrombosis
Thrombo means "clot." Phlebitis is inflammation of a vein. Thrombophlebitis (throm-bo-fluh-BI-tis) occurs when a blood clot causes inflammation in one or more of your veins, typically in your legs. On rare occasions, thrombophlebitis (often shortened to phlebitis) can affect veins in your arms.
The affected vein may be near the surface of your skin (superficial thrombophlebitis) or deep within a muscle (deep vein thrombosis, or DVT). A clot in a deep vein increases your risk of serious health problems, including a dislodged clot traveling to your lungs and blocking an artery (pulmonary embolism).
Thrombophlebitis often is caused by prolonged inactivity, such as from sitting during a long period of travel in an airplane or automobile or from lengthy bed rest after surgery. Such inactivity decreases blood flow through your veins and may cause a clot to form. Paralysis, certain types of cancer and use of the hormone estrogen also may lead to thrombophlebitis. An inherited tendency for blood clots places you at higher risk of thrombophlebitis.
You can use self-care methods to ease pain and reduce your risk of clots. Various treatments, including medications and surgery, also are available.
A professional athlete — strong, fit and apparently in excellent health — collapses during a workout on a hot day and never recovers. The cause of death is dehydration (hypohydration), which occurs when the body doesn't have enough water to carry out its normal functions. Although stories of high-profile athletes succumbing on the playing field grab headlines, such cases are rare. On the other hand, millions of ordinary people — many of them infants and older adults — die worldwide of dehydration every year.
What's more, even mild dehydration — as little as a 1 percent to 2 percent loss of body weight — can cause symptoms such as weakness, dizziness and fatigue and may have a negative effect on long-term health. Severe dehydration, usually defined as a loss of 9 percent to 15 percent of body weight, is a life-threatening medical emergency.
In the simplest terms, dehydration occurs when you lose more water than you take in. Even a slight imbalance causes serious problems because water is essential to human life: It forms the basis for all body fluids, including blood and digestive juices; it aids in the transportation and absorption of nutrients; and it helps eliminate waste.
You can usually reverse mild to moderate dehydration by increasing your intake of fluids, but severe cases need immediate medical treatment. The safest approach is not to become dehydrated in the first place. You can do that by monitoring your fluid loss during hot weather, illness or exercise, and drinking enough liquids to replace what you lose.
Depression is a disorder that affects your thoughts, moods, feelings, behavior and physical health. People used to think it was "all in your head" and that if you really tried, you could "pull yourself out of it." Doctors now know that depression is not a weakness, and you can't treat it on your own. It's a medical disorder with a biological or chemical basis.
Sometimes, a stressful life event triggers depression. Other times depression seems to occur spontaneously with no identifiable specific cause. Whatever the cause, depression is much more than grieving or a bout of the blues.
Depression may occur only once in a person's life. Often, however, it occurs as repeated episodes over a lifetime, with periods free of depression in between. Or it may be a chronic condition, requiring ongoing treatment over a lifetime. The disorder affects more than 18 million Americans of all ages and races.
Medications are available that are generally safe and effective, even for the most severe depression. With proper treatment, most people with serious depression improve, often within weeks, and can return to normal daily activities.
The birth of a baby can trigger a jumble of powerful emotions — excitement, joy, even fear. But it can also result in something you might not expect — depression.
Depression after childbirth can vary in duration and severity — ranging from mild to severe forms. Many new moms experience a mild, short-lived depression, sometimes called the baby blues. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists estimates that 70 percent to 85 percent of women experience the baby blues after childbirth. This condition includes symptoms such as sadness and anxiety, which usually begin in the initial days after childbirth and last for about seven to 10 days.
About 10 percent of new mothers experience a more severe form of depression called postpartum depression. The associated feelings, such as sadness, anxiety and restlessness, can be so strong that they interfere with daily tasks. Postpartum depression can occur at any time within about the first six months after giving birth. If left untreated, it can last up to a year or longer.
In rare cases, an even more severe form of depression, postpartum psychosis, can develop. Some of the symptoms of this mental illness are similar to those of postpartum depression, but they're more extreme.
Experiencing depression after childbirth isn't a character flaw or a weakness. For many, it's a normal part of giving birth. The good news is that for most, a combination of self-care measures and medical treatment can improve symptoms.
Your skin is constantly exposed to the elements, making it susceptible to a variety of problems. Every year, more than 12 million people in the United States visit a doctor because of a skin rash, such as dermatitis.
Dermatitis, also called eczema, is an inflammation of the skin. It can have many causes and occur in many forms. Generally, dermatitis describes swollen, reddened and itchy skin.
Dermatitis is a common condition. It's not life-threatening, and it isn't contagious. But it can make you feel uncomfortable and self-conscious. A combination of self-care steps and medications can help you treat dermatitis and its symptoms.
Diabetes — also known medically as diabetes mellitus — is a group of diseases that affect the way your body uses blood sugar (glucose). This sugar is vital to your health because it's your body's main source of fuel.
Normally, glucose is able to enter your cells because of the action of insulin — a hormone secreted by your pancreas. Insulin acts like a key to unlock microscopic doors that allow glucose into your cells. But in diabetes mellitus, this process goes awry. Instead of being transported into your cells, glucose accumulates in your bloodstream and eventually is excreted in your urine. This usually occurs either because your body doesn't produce enough insulin or because the cells don't respond to insulin properly.
Diabetes mainly occurs in two forms:
- Type 1 diabetes. This type develops when your pancreas makes little or no insulin. It affects between 5 percent and 10 percent of
- Type 2 diabetes. This type is far more common than type 1, affecting between 90 percent and 95 percent of people with diabetes over age 20. It occurs when your body is resistant to the effects of insulin or your pancreas produces some, but not enough, insulin to maintain a normal glucose level.
More Americans have diabetes than ever before. The disease affects 17 million adults and children, yet close to a third of them may not know they have it. That's because diabetes can develop gradually over many years, often with no symptoms. Both types of diabetes are serious. The accumulation of glucose in your blood can damage almost every major organ in your body. Eventually, diabetes can be fatal. It's the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
No one has yet found a cure for diabetes mellitus. But the good news is that eating right, maintaining a healthy weight and getting plenty of exercise can help prevent the disease. And if you have diabetes, diet and exercise along with medications that control blood sugar can help you continue to live a healthy and active life.
Approximately 3 percent to 5 percent of pregnant women in the United States develop gestational diabetes — a type of diabetes that occurs only during pregnancy. Like other forms of diabetes, it affects the way your body uses blood sugar (glucose), your body's main source of fuel.
Normally, glucose is able to enter your cells because of the action of insulin — a hormone secreted by your pancreas. Insulin acts like a key to unlock microscopic doors that allow glucose into your cells. But in gestational diabetes, this process goes awry. Instead of being transported into your cells, glucose accumulates in your bloodstream. The result can be a variety of health problems for your baby.
Any woman can develop gestational diabetes, but certain factors, including a family history of diabetes and being overweight or older than age 30, can increase your risk. Still, the majority of women who develop gestational diabetes have no known risk factors.
The goal in treating gestational diabetes is to keep your blood sugar levels within a normal range. Most women can control their blood sugar with diet and exercise alone, but some may also need medication. The good news is that controlling your blood sugar can help ensure a healthy pregnancy for you and a healthy start for your baby.
You start to change your baby's diaper, and there it is — a patchwork of bright red skin on your baby's bottom. Don't panic. What you're seeing is most likely diaper rash, a common form of inflamed skin (dermatitis).
Most infants develop a diaper rash at some time or another; some even arrive home from the hospital with a slight rash. Diaper rash may be more common after solid foods are added to your baby's diet or when your baby is taking antibiotics. Other factors that can lead
to diaper rash include continuously wet or infrequently changed diapers, diarrhea and the use of plastic pants to cover a diaper. Diaper rashes can occur intermittently, anytime while your child is in diapers, but they're more common in babies during the first 12 months. Diaper rash can alarm parents and annoy babies, but fortunately most cases disappear after a few days with simple home treatments.
Acute diarrhea is an unpleasant digestive disorder that virtually everyone experiences at one time or another. The loose-stool consistency usually lasts a few days at most. Diarrhea often means more frequent trips to the toilet and may mean your stool is greater in volume. A few of the more common causes of loose, watery stools and abdominal cramps are infections from viruses, bacteria or parasites. Other causes include medications — particularly antibiotics — and artificial sweeteners.
Chronic diarrhea lasts much longer than acute diarrhea. It can be a sign of a serious disorder, such as inflammatory bowel disease, or it may be due to a less serious condition, such as irritable bowel syndrome.
Diarrhea may cause your bowel to lose significant amounts of water and salts. Also, chronic or recurrent diarrhea may signal a more serious underlying medical problem, such as chronic infection, inflammatory bowel disease or poor absorption of nutrients (malabsorption). Most cases of diarrhea clear on their own without treatment. But if diarrhea persists or you become dehydrated, see your doctor.
A joint is a point where two or more of your bones come together. A dislocation is an injury to your joint in which the ends of your bones are forced from their normal positions. The injury temporarily deforms and immobilizes your joint and may result in sudden and severe pain.
Dislocations may occur in your major joints — shoulder, hip, knee, elbow and ankle — or in the smaller joints in your fingers, thumbs and toes. The cause is usually trauma, such as a fall or a hard blow to a joint. Dislocations are common injuries in contact sports, such as football and hockey, and in sports that may involve falls, such as downhill skiing, gymnastics and volleyball.
If you suspect a dislocation, seek prompt medical attention to return your bones to their proper positions without damaging your joint. When treated properly, most dislocated joints will return to normal function after several weeks of rest and rehabilitation. However, some joints, such as your shoulder and kneecap (patella), have an increased risk of repeat dislocation.
Nearly half the Americans older than age 60 have small, bulging pouches (diverticula) in their digestive tracts — a condition known as diverticulosis. Although diverticula can form anywhere, including in your esophagus, stomach and small intestine, most occur in your large intestine — especially on the left side of the colon just above the rectum. Because these pouches seldom cause any problems, you may never know you have them.
Sometimes, however, one or more pouches in the colon may become inflamed or infected, causing severe abdominal pain, fever, nausea and a marked change in your bowel habits. When diverticula become infected, the condition is called diverticulitis. Mild cases of diverticulitis can be treated with rest, changes in your diet and antibiotics. But serious cases may require surgery to remove the diseased portion of your colon. Occasionally, you may develop complications that require emergency surgery.
Fortunately, only 15 percent to 20 percent of people with diverticulosis ever develop diverticulitis. Best of all, you can help prevent both types of diverticular disease by including more high-fiber foods in your diet.
As a child, spinning until you were dizzy was great fun. But now, finding the room spinning when you get out of bed isn't pleasant at all. The word dizzy is used to describe everything from feeling faint or lightheaded to feeling weak or unsteady. Dizziness that creates the sense that you or your surroundings are spinning or moving is called vertigo.
Keeping your sense of balance depends on your brain processing a variety of information from your eyes, your nervous system and your inner ears. However, if your brain can't process signals from all of these locations, if the messages are contradictory, or if your sensory systems aren't functioning properly, you may experience dizziness and loss of balance.
Dizziness is one of the most common reasons older adults visit their doctors. Aging increases the risk of developing any of several conditions that may cause dizziness. Although it may be disabling and incapacitating, dizziness rarely signals a serious, life-threatening condition. Treatment depends on the cause and your symptoms.
Down syndrome is a genetic disorder that results in varying degrees of physical and mental retardation. The condition varies in severity, causing developmental problems that range from mild to severe. The disorder occurs as a result of extra genetic material.
In most people, the genes are contained on 23 pairs of chromosomes, for a total of 46 chromosomes. Most people with Down syndrome have an extra copy of the No. 21 chromosome, for a total of 47 chromosomes.
Down syndrome is the most common chromosomal disorder. An estimated 1 in 800 infants are born with Down syndrome. Down syndrome is also a common cause of miscarriage. Every year, as many as 5,000 babies are born with Down syndrome in the United States.
You may be hooked emotionally and psychologically. You may have a physical dependence, too. If you're addicted to a drug — whether it's legal or illegal — you have intense cravings for it. You want to use it again and again. When you stop taking the drug, you may have unpleasant physical reactions.
An estimated 19.5 million Americans over the age of 12 use illicit drugs. Many other people abuse or are addicted to legal substances. Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug. While not everyone who uses drugs becomes addicted, many people do. As many as 19,000 people die of drug-related causes every year.
Drug addiction involves compulsively seeking to use a substance, regardless of the potentially negative social, psychological and physical consequences. Certain drugs, such as narcotics and cocaine, are more physically addicting than are other drugs.
Breaking a drug addiction may involve support from your doctor, family, friends and others who have an addiction, as well as inpatient and outpatient treatment.
A sad movie or a wedding can make your tears flow. But tears don't come only on those occasions. Healthy eyes are continuously covered by a tear film — a constant layer of fluid designed to remain stable between blinks. A stable tear film prevents irritation of the nerves of the cornea, the clear front surface of your eye, and allows the eye to maintain clear, comfortable vision.
The tear film protects your eyes and lubricates them. It also reduces the risk of eye infection and, with each blink of your eyelids, helps clear your eyes of any debris. When your eyes become irritated from dust or are bothered by wind, smoke or fumes, extra tears form to help wash away the foreign material.
Decreased production of fluids from your tear glands can destabilize the tear film, allowing it to break down rapidly and creating dry spots on the cornea that cause irritation and diminished vision. An imbalance in the substances that make up the tear film also can make your eyes become dry.
For most people who have dry eyes, it's a chronic condition. The goal of treatment is to reduce the number of "bad days," with hope to zero, and make the symptoms on the bad days as minimal as possible.
Too much stress, too much spicy food, and you may be headed for an ulcer — or so the thinking used to go.
Peptic ulcers are open sores that develop on the inside lining of your stomach, upper small intestine or esophagus. The most common symptom of a peptic ulcer is pain.
Not long ago, the common belief was that peptic ulcers were a result of lifestyle. Doctors now know that a bacterial infection or medications — not stress or diet — cause most ulcers of the stomach and upper part of the small intestine (duodenum). Esophageal ulcers may also occur and are typically associated with the reflux of stomach acid.
Depending on their location, ulcers have different names:
- Gastric ulcer. This is a peptic ulcer that occurs in your stomach.
- Duodenal ulcer. This type of peptic ulcer develops in the first part of the small intestine (duodenum).
- Esophageal ulcer. An esophageal ulcer is usually located in the lower section of your esophagus. It's often associated with chronic gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Peptic ulcers are common. The good news is that oftentimes successful treatment of ulcers takes just a few weeks.Dyslexia
Dyslexia is an impairment in your brain's ability to translate written images received from your eyes into meaningful language. Also called specific reading disability, dyslexia is the most common learning disability in children.
A learning disability is a condition that produces a gap between someone's ability and his or her performance. Most people with dyslexia are of average or above-average intelligence, but read at levels significantly lower than expected. Other types of learning disabilities include attention difficulties, an inability to perform well at writing skills and an inability to perform well at math skills. Learning disabilities affect about 5 percent of all school-age children in public schools in the United States. The majority of schoolchildren who receive special education services have deficits in reading, and dyslexia is the most common cause.
Dyslexia occurs in children with normal vision and normal intelligence. Children with dyslexia usually have normal speech but often have difficulty interpreting spoken language and writing. Dyslexia seems to be caused by a malfunction in certain areas of the brain concerned with language. The condition frequently runs in families.
Treatment may involve a multisensory education program. Emotional support of your child on your part also plays an important role.
Even if you're not familiar with the term, if you're a woman, chances are you've experienced dysmenorrhea at some time in your life. Dysmenorrhea is simply the medical term for menstrual cramps, that dull or throbbing pain in the lower abdomen many women experience just before and during their menstrual periods. For some women, the discomfort is merely annoying. For others, it can be severe enough to interfere with everyday activities for a few days every month.
Dysmenorrhea can be primary or secondary. Primary dysmenorrhea involves no physical abnormality. These so-called normal cramps affect 50 percent to 90 percent of all menstruating women. Primary dysmenorrhea usually begins within three years after a girl begins menstruating. Secondary dysmenorrhea involves an underlying physical cause, such as endometriosis or uterine fibroids.
If you have primary dysmenorrhea, there are some measures you can take to ease the discomfort. You also can take comfort in knowing that cramps tend to decrease in intensity as you get older, and often disappear after a pregnancy. For secondary dysmenorrhea, managing your cramps involves treating the underlying cause.
Pain in the vagina or pelvis experienced during sexual intercourse.
You might take swallowing for granted — you take a bite of food, chew and swallow. Most people don't think much more about it. But for some people, swallowing is a challenge with every meal.
Occasional difficulty in swallowing usually isn't cause for concern, and may simply occur when you eat too fast or don't chew your food well enough. But persistent swallowing problems may indicate a serious medical problem requiring treatment.
Dysphagia (dis-FA-je-uh) is difficulty in moving food or liquid from your mouth to your stomach. Dysphagia may be associated with pain while swallowing, or not being able to swallow at all.
Dysphagia can occur at any age, but is most common in older adults. The causes of dysphagia vary, and treatments depend upon the cause. In many cases, dysphagia can be partially or completely corrected.