Health Updates 26 April 2012

  • Impulsive tots at risk for gambling problems later: “Preschoolers who are impulsive, restless, moody and inattentive are twice as likely as other kids to have a gambling problem in adulthood, according to a new study.  Researchers from the University of Missouri, Duke University and University College London said their findings are important considering ‘the ever-increasing number of [gambling] temptations our world presents’, such as the constant ability to gamble on the internet.  In conducting the study, the researchers analyzed information on 1,037 children aged 3 years….After a 90-minute assessment, the children were grouped into one of five categories: under-controlled (those who were more negative, restless and had trouble controlling their emotions); inhibited; confident; reserved; or well-adjusted.” By age 21, 13% of the children could be considered problem or compulsive gamblers; by age 32, about 4% still had problems with gambling that interfered with their financial, personal life or career.  Men had more gambling problems than women, and those with low childhood intelligence and socioeconomic status were also at greater risk for compulsive gambling.  “After taking these contributing factors into account, however, the study authors pointed out that impulsivity and inattentiveness as a preschooler was a significant predictor of compulsive gambling as an adult.” (HealthDay)
  • Acne drug tied to a doubled risk of eye problems: “Prescription pills used to treat severe acne were linked to a two-fold risk of developing eye problems, such as pink eye, styes and dryness, in a large new study from Israel.  Isotretinoin, which goes by brand names including Roaccutane, Claravis and Amnesteem, is known to have serious side effects, such as bone growth delays in teenagers and miscarriages and birth defects when taken by pregnant women.  The medications are quite popular, however, for treating severe cases of acne in both teens and adults…Some eye problems are already more common in people with acne, but in the new study of nearly 15,000 Israeli adolescents and young adults, 14 percent of those taking isotretinoin were treated for eye conditions within a year of starting the drug.  That compared to seven percent of an acne-free comparison group and 9.6 percent of subjects with acne who had never taken isotretinoin. ‘I would give parents the advice to [have their children] see an ophthalmologist before they take it, and every three months for the first year they take it, because if we catch things early we can fix them and not leave you with permanent side effects’, said Dr. Rick Fraunfelder, a professor at Oregon Health and Science University and an expert in eye problems related to medications.” (Reuters Health Information)
  • Kids today really are different: “Modern youth may roll their eyes at the statement, but researchers recently confirmed its truth: being an adolescent today is a whole lot different than it was years ago.  The adolescent phase in human development now lasts much longer than it once did, leading to a potential rise in is characteristic risks, including sexually-transmitted disease and excessive drinking, Susan Sawyer, MD, of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Melbourne, Australia, and colleagues reported in a special issue of The Lancet dedicated to adolescent health….Today, the phase of adolescence begins at 10 and ends at age 24, expanded at both ends by an earlier onset of puberty and a delay of mature social roles, respectively.  Despite its ‘widespread legal significance,’ Sawyer and colleagues wrote, ‘the age of 18 years clearly no longer signifies adulthood in many parts of the world’….Changes in the biological and social factors that define adolescence have also influenced health in this population.  Both the earlier onset of puberty and the later entrance into social norms, such as marriage, extends misuse and abuse, the researchers wrote, while more targeted marketing of unhealthy products and lifestyles — particularly by the tobacco industry — also has an impact.  And although greater exposure to social media can encourage engagement among young people, it can also lead to problems, such as decreased physical activity, sleep disturbance and cyberbullying, they said.” (Kristina Fiore, MedPage Today)
  • Study of fighters shows brain changes are seen before symptoms: “One of the questions Dr. Charles Bernick and his colleagues ask boxers who come to the Cleveland Clinic‘s Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health here is ‘How many times have you been knocked out cold or gotten a concussion?’.  Most say, ‘never’.  Then the doctors ask, ‘How many times have you felt dazed and stunned?’.  Most say, ‘many times’.  This is part of the Professional Fighters Brain Health Study, now a year old and with results from 109 fighters – more than have ever been complied in a single research project.  The principal finding: ‘There are detectable changes in the brain even before symptoms appear,’ like memory loss or other changes in cognitive function resulting from repeated blows to the head, Dr. Bernick said.  The physical changes, detected by MRI scans, are a reduction in size of the hippocampus and thalamus of the brains of fighters with more than six years in the ring.  These parts of the brain deal with such functions as memory and alertness. While those who had fought for more than six years did not exhibit any declines in cognitive function, fighters with  more than 12 years in the ring did.  Thus, Dr. Bernick’s group concluded, the lag between detectability and physical symptoms probably occurs sometime during those six years.” (Timothy Pratt, NY Times)

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