Beth Krietsch

7 Things That Might Help If Screen Time Triggers Your Migraines

7 Things That Might Help If Screen Time Triggers Your Migraines

These days, most of us spend a ton of time staring at screens. We’re working from our computers all day, streaming from our tablets and televisions in the evenings, and constantly glancing at our phones for anything and everything. Screens are so ubiquitous that they’re hard to avoid, which is pretty problematic if staring at a screen is a migraine trigger for you.Migraine is a neurological disease that causes all sorts of symptoms, one of the most common being light sensitivity. This means you are extremely sensitive to things like bright light, natural light, and changes in light, as they all intensify migraine pain and discomfort.As you might have guessed, screens can aggravate this light sensitivity, Dawn Buse, PhD, clinical professor of neurology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, tells SELF. “Someone with migraine may have a hypersensitive nervous system that finds the light painful,” she says, and that can extend beyond migraine attacks. You might be extremely sensitive to light all the time, which can make all this screen time a huge challenge.In the hyper-digital world we live in, most people can’t just ditch their electronic devices altogether—so we need to go for the next best option: finding ways to deal with it. Here, migraine experts share their tips for managing when staring at screens all day tends to trigger or exacerbate your symptoms.1. Filter out blue light.Research shows that blue light can intensify migraine pain compared to green or white light. This means that if you’re already experiencing migraine symptoms, staring at a computer, phone, or any other device that emits blue light might leave you feeling even worse.1 Dr. Buse recommends trying blue light glasses, which filter out some wavelengths of light that contribute to eye strain. She suggests one brand called TheraSpecs that makes blue light glasses specifically for people with migraine.If blue light glasses aren’t your thing, you still have another option. Dr. Buse suggests swapping your phone over to “Night Shift” mode, which alters its display to use warmer tones and emit less blue light. You may also be able to do the same thing on your computer, depending on the type you have.2. Ditch the harsh overhead lighting.One helpful adjustment you can make in your home is to ditch bright overhead lights. Fluorescent lights in particular are typically too bright and harsh and can exacerbate someone’s headaches, Emad Estemalik, MD, section head for headache and facial pain at Cleveland Clinic’s Neurological Institute and assistant professor of neurology at the Lerner School of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University, tells SELF.So, what lights should you choose? Generally, incandescent bulbs are a better option than fluorescent and LED bulbs, and lights with a warm yellow or golden tone will probably be more comfortable for you than those with cooler tones like white or blue, Dr. Buse says. You can also try dimming the lights or using a desk lamp so you don’t even need to turn on those harsh overhead lights. This can also help if you work in an office and have your own space where you can control the lighting to some extent.3. Look away from your screen every once in a while.Periodic breaks from all these screens give your eyes time to rest. Dr. Estemalik suggests taking about five minutes away from your computer or phone every 45 minutes or so. “If you’ve been in a Zoom meeting for an hour, and then you have a break, don’t go to your phone to read unnecessary stuff,” he says. “Just stand up and walk and maybe do other things.”

How to Deal With Migraines at Work, From People Who Get It

How to Deal With Migraines at Work, From People Who Get It

Having these conversations can also help strengthen relationships and build trust, she adds. They can also clue in your coworkers to any simple adjustments they can make in your work setting to avoid triggering migraines. For example, de los Santos is a teacher, and one time the cameras were right outside her classroom door on school picture day. The flashing lights triggered a severe migraine attack and she had to go to the emergency room. “This was a new trigger for me and I didn’t realize how badly I would respond,” she says. “Once my admin and staff were aware, they were amazing—I have great support.”3. Take a break. Actually, take lots of breaks.Susan K. Shaffer, 53, has been living with migraine for about 15 years. Her tip for managing migraine while working is to truly take breaks when you need them, rather than trying to push through. “​​Save time by taking time,” she tells SELF. “When I feel a migraine coming on, my hack is to literally leave my desk for 20 to 30 minutes, give myself everything I need, and let it pass.”During these breaks, she heads to a quiet room away from people, dims the lights, takes her migraine medication, and lays down (occasionally with an ice pack). Usually, a half hour is enough time to let the feeling subside so that she can return to work.“If I try to fight it, it will only exacerbate the migraine and I’ll be out of commission the whole day,” Shaffer says. “When it comes to your health, give yourself what you need, and you’ll save valuable time in the long run.”4. Don’t forget to dim the lights if you need to.For Marla White, 58, bright light can trigger significant migraine pain. She has a few strategies for managing her exposure, whether she’s inside or out. “I keep my office slightly darker than the rest of the house,” she tells SELF. She also has tinted windows in her home and car, uses black shutters in her office, and never leaves home without sunglasses.Since looking at bright screens, in particular, can be painful for White, she always turns the brightness of her laptop and phone way down. “It really helps to keep the lights as low as possible,” she says.5. Plan ahead for moments when you’re not feeling your best.One of the many potential symptoms of migraine is brain fog, which can cause memory issues and trouble focusing—all things that can really interfere with getting your work done. “It took me years to learn to accept the high brain fog days and be kind to myself about it,” Lindsay Weitzel, 46, tells SELF.Beyond accepting that some days you simply may not feel your greatest, one way to manage the cognitive effects of migraine is by saving some easier work for times when you’re not feeling 100%. “I try to keep a ‘brain fog task’ on the back burner to do on days that I’m mentally not at my best,” Weitzel says.6. Try to make time for regular exercise.Lots of people with migraine swear it helps keep attacks at bay. Exercise definitely helps to reduce stress, which could be part of it, but the research is mixed and some people find heavy exercise to be a trigger—so listen to your body.

My ‘Ear Infection’ Symptoms Turned Out to Be Early Signs of Multiple Sclerosis

My ‘Ear Infection’ Symptoms Turned Out to Be Early Signs of Multiple Sclerosis

Rita Tennyson, 51, realized something wasn’t quite right with her health when she experienced a string of abnormal and mostly unexplained symptoms in her early twenties. Among them: numbness, muscle weakness, nausea, vertigo, and facial paralysis. At one point she was given an ear infection diagnosis—a doctor said she likely had a virus enter her ear while visiting SeaWorld on a windy day. Over the years, Tennyson had no idea what was going on with her body, but she had a strong feeling that something really wasn’t right.It turns out Tennyson didn’t have an ear infection; she has multiple sclerosis (M.S.), a chronic neurological condition that affects the central nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord. M.S. symptoms can vary from person to person, but some of its early signs can include vision problems, numbness and tingling, arm or leg weakness, changes in balance and coordination, and sensitivity to heat. One important thing to understand about M.S. is that it can’t be diagnosed using a single test. Instead, an M.S. diagnosis is made through a combination of things, including a person’s medical history, neurological exam, tests like an MRI and a lumbar puncture (spinal tap), blood tests to rule out other illnesses, and a physical exam. Tennyson’s experience isn’t exactly unique; an M.S. diagnosis can be challenging, and many M.S. symptoms overlap with those of other conditions. This is her story, as told to health writer Beth Krietsch.I learned I have M.S. when I was 26, but the road to an accurate diagnosis was a long one. My symptoms first started the summer after I graduated from college, when I was working as a waitress and randomly dropped something. I had also been experiencing a bit of numbness in my arms, so I went to the doctor and they scheduled me for nerve testing. The results didn’t show that anything was wrong, so they basically just said to let them know if similar symptoms popped up again.The next year I started getting really dizzy and nauseated, and I also had vertigo. I would lie down and not be able to move. If I got up, I would throw up. It got so bad that I went to the E.R., where a doctor told me I must have an inner ear infection. They flushed my ears and sent me on my way, but the relief didn’t last too long.Soon after, I headed back to my hometown for a wedding and brought my boyfriend at the time, who is now my husband. While there, the nausea and vomiting returned, and my mom assumed I was pregnant. But I knew that couldn’t be the case—this was the same nausea I’d been experiencing for a while.The next year I experienced paralysis on one side of my face. It was so bad that I couldn’t even smile or clear my nostril on that side. I was diagnosed with Bell’s palsy, which is a condition that causes temporary paralysis or weakness of the facial muscles, making it look like half your face is drooping. It may sound strange, but I was actually so relieved because it meant I had a concrete diagnosis that people could actually see. Previously so many of my “invisible” symptoms were things I could only feel. Bell’s palsy is something other people could see with their own eyes, so, in a way, I was happy about that.

7 Questions to Ask Your Doctor After an M.S. Diagnosis, From People Who Have Been There

7 Questions to Ask Your Doctor After an M.S. Diagnosis, From People Who Have Been There

Bhuta suggests asking your doctor about physical therapy, including water therapy, which research shows can help control pain and improve symptoms and quality of life among people with M.S.1 “I go to physical therapy more often than normal and it has helped me stay off the muscle relaxers,” Bhuta says.Cubero says speech therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and occupational therapy have all been tremendously helpful in managing her fatigue and cognitive symptoms, but she says these therapies weren’t offered until she asked about them. “I’ve learned that in order to take control over my medical care, I had to advocate for myself,” she says.Azure Antoinette, 39, says one of the most important things she’s learned in the past decade of living with M.S. is the importance of approaching symptom management holistically, factoring in things like exercise and diet, on top of choosing the right medication.“I encourage newly diagnosed M.S. warriors to speak up—not only to discuss what medication may be best for you but also ask your doctor for tips and resources to help with everything else that comes with living with a chronic illness,” Antoinette tells SELF.4. Can I exercise?Staying active was a top concern for dancer Courtney Platt, 34, after her M.S. diagnosis. “Anyone going through this journey should ask whether they can stay active, if there are limitations they should consider, and the benefits of staying active for their health,” she tells SELF. Platt’s neurologist let her know she could continue dancing, and movement has played an important role in keeping her body, mind, and soul strong since her diagnosis.Research shows that exercise benefits people living with M.S. in many ways, including helping with symptom management and improving quality of life.2 Exercise can help build strength, improve flexibility and mobility, and increase cardiovascular fitness, but you may need to adjust your exercise habits depending on your goals, abilities, and how you’re feeling on any given day.3Platt encourages working with your health care team to determine how much movement makes sense for you, and to listen when your body tells you to rest. “Know when you need to push through and know when you need to pause,” she says.5. Will anything make my symptoms worse?Sometimes M.S. symptoms can be triggered by seemingly simple things like stress and heat. Bhuta used to be able to spend tons of time in the sun but now loses energy if she gets too hot. Knowing that heat is a big trigger for her, she now uses cooling towels and wears a big hat to block the sun and prevent overheating. “Ask your doctor about what is likely to trigger your symptoms and what you can do to alleviate them,” Bhuta says.At the time of Bordelon’s diagnosis, her job as a medical surgery coder required long hours and a ton of computer time. But she had no idea that all that screen time (and the eyestrain that comes along with it) and the increased stress of working long hours would make her M.S. symptoms worse. “Had I known that staring at the computer screen would cause additional stress on my body and ultimately worsen my symptoms, I would have scaled back on my workload while I was finding the right treatment to manage my M.S.,” she says.6. Is there anything I can do to feel more prepared to deal with my symptoms on a day-to-day basis?You’re not alone if you feel worried and overwhelmed after an M.S. diagnosis. To alleviate some of that anxiousness, ask your doctor what you can do to prepare for symptom flares and to manage your condition on a daily basis. “Are there ‘just in case’ medicines they can prescribe? Is there support equipment that you can have in your house, like shower chairs and handles, canes, and walkers? Whatever you need, ask for it,” Bhuta says. If you find certain tasks have become more difficult, let your doctor know, and ask them what might help.7. How can I connect with others who have multiple sclerosis?You may feel alone and isolated after being diagnosed with M.S., but there are many other people out there feeling the exact same way who are also looking for some support. Ask your doctor how and where you can connect with people who have M.S. There may be a support group in your area, or you can connect with people on social media or join an online support group.“I highly recommend getting involved with the M.S. community because it will help you feel more normal and give you the comfort you need,” Bhuta says. “I spent a lot of time on the MS Society forums, and they will even pair you up with someone who has been diagnosed that you can talk to about your journey.”Bottom line: Know that it’s completely acceptable to advocate for yourself and ask lots of questions. “You’re not in this alone and the only way people know how to help you is if you speak up,” Bhuta says. “You allow people to see what you’re experiencing only by vocalizing it. Speak up often—it will be your greatest ally.”Sources:Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Hydrotherapy for the Treatment of Pain in People With Multiple Sclerosis: A Randomized Controlled TrialThe Lancet Neurology, Exercise in Patients With Multiple SclerosisSports Medicine, Exercise and Multiple SclerosisRelated:

How I Got Over My Shame About Living With a Painful Skin Condition

How I Got Over My Shame About Living With a Painful Skin Condition

Selina Ferragamo, 27, first started experiencing hidradenitis suppurativa symptoms in high school, but she wasn’t diagnosed with the condition until she was 22. Hidradenitis suppurativa (H.S.) is a chronic, inflammatory condition that causes painful bumps under the skin, often in sensitive areas like the armpits, groin, and beneath the breasts. The bumps and lesions can burst, releasing pus and blood and causing a lot of pain. Sometimes, the condition causes tiny tunnels beneath the skin connecting lesions, and it can also cause scarring.H.S. is a very visible and uncomfortable condition, so along with the physical pain, it can also impact emotional well-being. Self-inflicted body shaming and a lack of self-confidence are common. Ferragamo personally felt a lot of shame about the boils, cysts, and lumps brought about by her H.S., as well as the scars left behind by the condition and the surgeries she’s had to treat it. She says these negative feelings can make it hard to wear sleeveless shirts and bathing suits, or even just to get ready to go out to a party.When in a flare, shaving can irritate H.S. bumps and lesions, worsening the condition and making it more painful. But having hairy armpits adds another layer of shame, Ferragamo says. After a boil ruptures, she’ll often place gauze under her armpits, which people sometimes comment on. She also says that people—and even doctors—who didn’t understand H.S. made her feel like it was her fault: that she wasn’t showering enough, that it was due to her weight, that she wasn’t hygienic, that she wasn’t changing her razor blades enough. All of this blame really impacted how she viewed herself.Over the past few years, Ferragamo has managed to overcome a lot of her body shame and embarrassment related to H.S. Here is her story, as told to health reporter Beth Krietsch.Between May 2017 and August 2018, I had three surgeries on my armpits—my hidradenitis suppurativa flares were getting so big and painful that I wasn’t able to move without excruciating pain anymore. After my surgeries, it took me a long time to be comfortable wearing tank tops. If I lift my arms, my surgery scars are pretty noticeable, and you can also see the scars from the back of my arm because of how I was stitched up. It gets really hard sometimes, especially if I’m trying to find an outfit for a party or event. When I was getting fitted for my sister’s wedding, the tailor saw the scars underneath my armpits and she asked if I had cancer. I was kind of taken aback because I wasn’t really expecting anyone to say anything about it. I was like, “Oh no, it’s just surgery scars,” but it was really uncomfortable.Sometimes comments like that really get to me and make me feel self-conscious. I used to get really embarrassed talking about H.S. because it’s not the most pleasant thing to describe. I get nervous that people will judge me and think I’m disgusting, and then those thoughts spiral in a negative way. So it bothers me when people draw attention to my insecurities. But I try to remember this is not my fault—that this is an uncontrollable disease that I have to live with. I saw a meme that said something like, “those scars are showing the history of everything that you’ve been through.” So I try to see it that way.

My Migraine Attacks Took a Huge Toll on My New Marriage

My Migraine Attacks Took a Huge Toll on My New Marriage

Shoshana Lipson, 56, has lived with migraine for as long as she can remember. Many people think of a migraine as a bad headache, but Lipson and others with the condition know that it’s actually way more involved than that. Migraine is a complex neurological disorder that can cause intense head pain and other symptoms like nausea, weakness, and sensitivity to sound, light, and smells.1 A migraine attack can strike at any time, disrupting so many aspects of your life, from work to time with family and friends. People with migraine may need to cancel plans at the last minute or avoid certain activities that trigger an attack such as going to the movies, which can strain relationships. Lipson talks to SELF about how she’s learned to get to a place where her relationships are thriving.Migraine impacts my relationships in a big way because everything has to revolve around the condition. Migraine dictates where I can go and what I can do, and my plans always need to be flexible. Sometimes I can’t be available to my partner or my children. Some people think I can just take an over-the-counter pill and be fine, or that I am faking my condition. My first marriage was very challenging because my spouse really did not understand my condition. I was pushed to work a 9 to 5 job on top of caring for three young children and assisting my husband in his own business, which healthwise I wasn’t really able to do. I was pushed into doing things that I couldn’t do. The marriage didn’t survive the strain—it was just too much.When I eventually started dating again, I was pretty open about the disease with other people. But I was also so afraid of starting a relationship, wondering if the next person I met would be understanding. I did meet a partner who is incredibly supportive, and we’ve been married for nearly eight years now, but we had a challenging start. Around the time we decided to get married, my migraine attacks were out of control to the point where they didn’t respond to medication.My fiance knew I had migraine, but he didn’t see me in a full-blown attack until the night we got engaged. I spent the evening in the bathroom in excruciating pain and was unable to stop throwing up. When my migraine attacks happen they are completely and utterly debilitating and bring my life to a grinding halt, regardless of my responsibilities or plans. Within a month of getting engaged, I was no longer able to work and my health basically just crashed and burned. We expected to have a longer engagement so we could merge our lives together slowly. But because I was no longer able to financially support my family, we got married much sooner than planned.My fiance was understanding and really supportive of my condition. I think it helps that I constantly educate him about migraine, and he does his own research too. Still, in the beginning, I didn’t know if we were gonna make it. The strain in our marriage at the time was due to three things. First, we had full custody of five teenagers between us, so there were normal challenges to work out in a blended family. For example, fragrances can trigger a migraine attack and my stepdaughters didn’t understand why they couldn’t wear perfume or body spray as their friends did. Secondly, I was not able to work at all at that time, which caused a lot of financial strain. Thirdly, my health was so bad I had trouble doing basic housekeeping and being there for our children as needed.

Microplastics Have Been Found in Human Blood and Lungs

Microplastics Have Been Found in Human Blood and Lungs

The majority of us don’t purposefully eat plastic, but that doesn’t mean we’re not consuming it every day. Microplastics, which are tiny plastic fragments, are everywhere—including inside of our bodies, according to mounting research. For the first time, researchers found that 17 out of 22 people had microplastics originating from common products in their blood, according to a May 2021 paper published in the journal Environment International1.“This is the first study to identify plastics that we know are in containers, plastic bottles, clothing, and other products that we use, inside of people,” Andrea De Vizcaya-Ruiz, PhD, an associate professor in the department of environmental and occupational health at the University of California Irvine, tells SELF. The two most common types of plastic found in the study were polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is used to make plastic water bottles and clothing fibers, and polystyrene, which is found in food packaging, disposable utensils, and straws.In March 2022, researchers published a paper with another original discovery: 11 out of 13 people had microplastics in their lungs, according to the study published in The Science of the Total Environment2. Numerous other studies support that we’re regularly consuming plastic, Kelly Johnson-Arbor, MD, a medical toxicologist at MedStar Health in Washington, D.C., and co-medical director at the National Capital Poison Center, tells SELF. “Microplastics have been found in human saliva, scalp hair, and feces, suggesting that we are all likely exposed to these plastic fragments on a regular basis,” she says.Researchers are still exploring what this means for human health, but SELF talked to experts about what we do know.What are microplastics?Microplastics are tiny particles of plastic, less than 5 mm long, that are created in two ways. Primary microplastics3 are manufactured to make things like microfibers4, which are found in synthetic fabrics, or plastic microbeads, which are in some cosmetics. Secondary microplastics are formed after breaking off from larger plastic products like water bottles, car parts, and product packaging.Biodegradable items such as a banana naturally break down until they finally dissolve. But many plastics never decompose completely. They get smaller and smaller over time, but the pieces remain in our environments as pollution for hundreds of years, resulting in secondary microplastics, Dr. De Vizcaya-Ruiz says.Ok, but why are microplastics inside our bodies?Microplastics can be found in our water, air, food, and soil, so they’re unavoidable.“When humans consume food, drink water, or breathe air that is contaminated with microplastics, the plastic fragments can enter the body,” Dr. Johnson-Arbor says. Some estimates show that people in the U.S. consume and breathe in between 74,000 and 121,000 microplastic fragments each year5, according to Dr. Johnson-Arbor.But how exactly do these plastics get into our blood? After consuming food or water containing microplastics, researchers suspect those tiny particles make their way to the gut, through the intestinal membrane, and into the bloodstream, Dr. De Vizcaya-Ruiz says. Something similar may happen when microplastics enter the bloodstream after being inhaled and passing through the membrane of the lungs.How are microplastics affecting human health?Plastic may be ubiquitous now, but it’s only been widely used for the past 70 years or so6, meaning there aren’t a lot of studies examining what types of plastics may affect human health and in what quantities.

Here’s What It Really Means to Have Congestive Heart Failure

Here’s What It Really Means to Have Congestive Heart Failure

Even though congestive heart failure is a commonly used term, the details can get a bit confusing when you really dig into what it means. That’s because “congestive heart failure” isn’t a separate condition from “heart failure,” Dana Weisshaar, M.D., a cardiologist at Kaiser Permanente in Santa Clara, California, ​​tells SELF. Rather, the term is used to describe a type of heart failure that results in fluid retention, or congestion, throughout the body. Oftentimes, heart failure causes fluid build-up, which is responsible for many of its hallmark symptoms. And this can have serious consequences—90% of people who are hospitalized due to heart failure are admitted because of the symptoms resulting from congestion, research shows1.However, even though congestive heart failure is seen frequently, medical professionals do not use the term synonymously with any type of heart failure, Dipti Itchhaporia, M.D., program director of heart failure disease management at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian and president of the American College of Cardiology, tells SELF. In fact, most medical experts have moved away from using this differentiator at all. “It’s a little bit of an archaic term now. We just tend to use heart failure as the term.”So, why is it important to understand these nuances of heart failure, anyway? For one, the condition is common. About 6.2 million adults in the U.S. have heart failure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).Still a bit iffy on what congestive heart failure means for your health? Ahead, SELF asked cardiologists to break down what to know about a diagnosis, from symptoms to congestive heart failure treatment.What is congestive heart failure, and how is it different from other types of heart failure?First, it’s helpful to understand what’s going on in the body when a person develops heart failure in general. Despite what the name implies, heart failure means that your heart can’t pump enough oxygen-rich blood to keep your body running as it should—not that the organ stopped working, according to the CDC. If your heart isn’t functioning properly, everyday tasks like walking up a few stairs can become difficult, especially if you feel short of breath.When your heart struggles like this, it can affect your other organs too. “Many people with heart failure cannot eliminate fluids normally and hold onto volume rather than urinate out extra fluids,” Jennifer Haythe, M.D., associate professor of medicine and co-director of Columbia Women’s Heart Center, tells SELF. In this case, your kidneys don’t receive enough blood to filter extra fluid in your body into your urine, resulting in the “congestion” that characterizes congestive heart failure, according to the American Heart Association. This can happen suddenly (acute heart failure) or over time (chronic heart failure).It’s important to note that not everyone with heart failure will develop fluid overload. “I prefer to make the distinction that not all heart failure is congestive,” Dr. Weisshaar says.Back to topWhat are common congestive heart failure symptoms?Congestive heart failure symptoms can overlap with those of other types of heart failure—but you might also have some specific signs that there’s extra fluid in your body.According to the Mayo Clinic and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), some common heart failure symptoms include:Feeling very fatigued and weak when doing everyday activities.A rapid or irregular heart rate, even when you’re relaxing.Nausea, to the point where you can lose your appetite.Chest pain, or feeling tightness and heaviness in your chest.Bluish lips or fingers, which happens when your blood is extremely low in oxygen.

These Neurological Conditions Can Be the Culprit Behind Muscle Spasms

These Neurological Conditions Can Be the Culprit Behind Muscle Spasms

Anyone who has had tight muscles or a muscle spasm knows how uncomfortable and limiting these experiences can be. But when you have spasticity, which causes tight muscles and uncontrollable contractions, your pain is more than a temporary annoyance. Spasticity happens when all of your muscles contract at once, and is generally caused by injuries or neurological conditions, according to the Cleveland Clinic.Interested in learning more about what causes spasticity, as well as how it affects people with neurological disorders like multiple sclerosis, stroke, and cerebral palsy? Here’s what you need to know:What causes spasticity and why does it affect people with neurological conditions?First, a primer on your nervous system: Your brain and spinal cord have nerve pathways that your brain uses to send and receive signals via neurons, or nerve cells, in order to communicate with the rest of your body, according to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. This messaging allows you to do things like wave hello to someone or kick a ball. When everything runs as it should, your muscle movements are controlled, meaning some of your muscles tighten or contract, while other muscles relax, all of which plays a role in your range of motion and mobility.Spasticity usually occurs when the nerve pathways in your brain or spinal cord that help control muscle movement are damaged, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). This malfunction can happen due to physical trauma, neurological conditions, or other forms of disease that can damage this area of the body, causing multiple muscles to contract at the same time, making them very tight.That’s because there’s a delicate balance of neurotransmitters, or chemical signals, in your body, and they work together to make sure your muscles are contracting and relaxing in tandem to produce smooth, steady muscle movements, Natalie Diaz, M.D., a neurologist at the Pacific Movements Disorder Center at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, tells SELF. If the parts of your nervous system that are responsible for movement become damaged, that balance is thrown off. The result: A bunch of muscles that shouldn’t contract when you go to do something actually do contract, causing spasticity, or disrupted muscle movement patterns.Usually, damage in the cerebral cortex or in the brainstem (the part of the brain that connects the brain and the spinal cord) causes spasticity, but researchers still don’t fully understand why spasticity occurs.Some experts theorize that spasticity happens because your body is attempting to recover function previously controlled by damaged areas by making new nerve connections—but these new connections don’t work well, Robin Cohen, M.D., physical medicine and rehabilitation physician at Northwestern Medicine Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital, tells SELF.Spasticity isn’t the same as a muscle twitch, medically known as myoclonus. A twitch happens when your muscles unexpectedly contract or relax, causing them to jerk. Most muscle twitches are nothing to worry about and happen when your body suddenly releases motor neurons (the ones responsible for movement) to a specific muscle, according to the National Organization for Rare Disorders. This can be set off by stress, anxiety, and fatigue, though it’s not totally clear why a twitch happens in the first place.What neurological conditions cause spasticity?As we mentioned, spasticity happens because of nerve damage, which is commonly associated with a number of health conditions. Some common neurological disorders that can lead to spasticity include: 

10 Flu Vaccine Side Effects That Are Totally Normal

10 Flu Vaccine Side Effects That Are Totally Normal

We said it above, but it’s really worth emphasizing: These side effects tend to be mild and last a few days at most, according to Jan Carney, M.D., M.P.H., associate dean for public health & health policy and professor of medicine at the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont. But if you’re experiencing any worrisome symptoms that don’t resolve on their own within a few days, it’s a good idea to speak with a physician.Can the flu vaccine make you sick?Let’s just clear this up now: “You can’t get the flu from the flu vaccine,” Dr. Adalja says. Seriously, this is not a thing that is even remotely possible.However, in very rare cases, a flu vaccine can cause issues in people with pre-existing medical circumstances. The flu vaccine is safe for most people, but if you have any allergies, like to egg proteins or any other ingredients that could be in the vaccine, such as gelatin, it’s important to speak with your doctor or pharmacist before getting inoculated. “Those with an egg allergy can get the flu vaccine, but need to discuss with their doctor which specific vaccine is right for them,” Dr. Agarwal says.Overall, the CDC recommends speaking to a health care professional prior to getting a flu vaccine if you meet any of the following criteria:How do I know if I’m having an allergic reaction to the flu vaccine?Severe or life-threatening allergic reactions to the flu vaccine are very rare. (One CDC report suggests there are 10 anaphylaxis reactions per 7.4 million doses of the inactivated version of the flu vaccine2.) When allergic reactions to the flu vaccine do occur, they happen within minutes to hours after getting the vaccine and are generally mild.Symptoms of an allergic reaction to the flu vaccine include:Skin that looks paler than normalSuddenly having reddened, swollen bumps or itchy hives on your skinFeeling your heartbeat get faster for no other apparent reasonsFeeling dizzy or lightheadedHaving trouble breathing, feeling hoarse, or wheezingFeeling super weakThese serious allergic reactions are rare, but again, it’s important to tell your primary care doctor and/or your pharmacist about any allergy you have just to be safe. “If you have a history of allergies, let your physician, nurse practitioner, or pharmacist know in advance,” Dr. Carney says. Typically, these more serious reactions occur in people who are allergic to an ingredient in the vaccine, such as egg protein.In a very, very small number of cases (just one or two cases for every million people who have been vaccinated), the vaccine can be associated with a rare illness called ​​Guillain-Barré syndrome, in which your immune system attacks nerves within the body. The disease causes muscle weakness and tingling (usually in the legs and feet first) so you could feel a pinprick sensation or notice that you feel unsteady when walking, according to the Mayo Clinic. But try not to let the fear of ​​Guillain-Barré deter you from getting your flu vaccine—the CDC notes that the risk of ​​​Guillain-Barré syndrome is far lower than the risk of having severe complications from the flu.Can you get the flu vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine or booster at the same time?“You can get a COVID-19 vaccine and a flu vaccine during the same visit, according to the CDC and based on extensive research with vaccines,” Dr. Carney says. “This gives people the opportunity to get vaccinated for both flu and COVID-19 at the same time, increasing their protection against both of these infections.”

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