This is time of the year when everybody reviews the highlights of (almost gone) 2014, and I decided to do the same with health and medicine highlights. We start by taking a look at Google trends for 2014, and we see that two subjects are health-related. Number 3 is Ebola virus disease, number 5 is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, which besides raising a lot of money for the cause, helped many people become familiar with ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis)…At the top of the list though, is the death of Robin Williams, which is not strictly a health matter, but his suicide due to a depression problem increased Google searches on “depression” and people’s awareness on how depression can be a very serious problem…
Needless to say, the majority of us consult regularly “Dr Google” to satiate our curiosity on health matters…The “What is…” list also features among the top 10, four health issues: ” What is Ebola?” What is ALS?” “What is asphyxia?” What is MERS”… We as doctors many times have to deal with “Dr Google’s answers” and we might have endless discussions on all the positive and negative aspects of that…
Regardless of Google trends, for this post I picked 5 health issues that kept us talking during 2014. The reason for choosing them was either because they are medical breakthroughs, or due to their considerable media attention…
1) PARALYSED MAN WALKS AGAIN AFTER CELL TRANSPLANT
Darek Fidyka was paralysed from the chest down since 2010 after being stabbed in the back. He can now walk using a frame thanks to a therapy involving the transplant of cells from his nasal cavity into his spinal cord.The treatment was carried out by surgeons in Poland in collaboration with scientists in London.
This is to date the first person with a severe spinal cord injury to have regained movement and sensation in his lower limbs following a cell transplant.
These results are very encouraging, but like with every revolutionary treatment, it will need to be reproduced in a larger group of patients with a similar problem to proof its value…
Read more here.
2) SOCIAL MEDIA: DO THEY AFFECT OUR MENTAL HEALTH?
The Pew Internet Project on social networking showed that, in the USA, 74% of online adults use social networking sites, and 71% of online adults use Facebook. The rise of smartphones has made social networking even easier to access. Fully 40% of cell phone owners use a social networking site on their phones…
Do social media really make us more happy and social? An earlier study had shown, after surveying British university students, that half of them had feelings of anxiety and inadequacy when compared to their online friends; two thirds of the respondents had difficulty relaxing and sleeping after using social media sites (see here). Later studies have found that Facebook can increase feelings of jealousy (as compared to “social” friends). There are also several reports on social media addiction (see this article), and distraction from work and interpersonal relationships.
But can social media have positive impact on our mental health? New research suggests that happy status updates encourage happy updates from other users (see here). In addition, experts state that social-media exchanges – such as birthday wishes or congratulatory messages after a major life event – may make people feel more connected to their social network and loved. Read more here and here.
3) EGG FREEZING AS AN EMPLOYEE’S BENEFIT?
Facebook and Apple announced last October that they will be paying egg freezing for their female employees. This measure intends to support women workers to alleviate the conflict many of them face between career and family, in a way to somehow “fool” the biological clock . These headlines have raised lots of controversy, between those believing that this is a major, avant-garde move from the companies, and those affirming that it will turn into a boomerang on women, giving companies the right to demand them more commitment, longer hours at work and full time availability to their job…See more here.
4) CELL AND CORDLESS PHONES RELATED TO BRAIN TUMOURS
The relationship between cell and cordless phone use and brain tumour risk has been debatable for years, with studies results being contradictory. This year, cell phones are again in the spotlight, as a Swedish study showed that long-term use of both mobile and cordless phones is associated with an increased risk for glioma, the most common type of brain tumour.
The new study shows that the risk for glioma was tripled among those using a wireless phone for more than 25 years and that the risk was also greater for those who had started using mobile or cordless phones before age 20 years. Read more here.
5) LIVEBIRTH AFTER UTERINE TRANSPLANTATION
Swedish scientists announced the birth of a baby whose mother had received a uterine transplant, as reported in October in the prestigious journal The Lancet. Read my post on this subject here.