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Oct 15, 2004 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- SHIFT WORK MAY BRING ON SLEEP DISORDER

American Academy of Sleep Medicine researchers say certain shift workers may be suffering from a sleep disorder that compromises their alertness. Scientists say some of America's 15 million workers who rotate shifts or work at night may not feel alert even after sleeping, perhaps because of a condition known as shift work sleep disorder. Shift workers, who work outside the traditional 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. hours, are more likely to suffer from frequent colds, severe weight gain, heart disease and high blood pressure, doctors say. Shift work sleep disorder is classified as a circadian rhythm disorder. Circadian rhythm refers to the body's biological programming that tells it to be active during the day and to sleep at night. SWSD occurs when shift workers are unable to adjust to their schedules. Doctors advise workers who have trouble adjusting to their work hours to see a specialist regarding the tools, strategies and treatment available to them.

SYNTHETIC PROTEIN MAY HELP PREMATURE INFANTS

University of Michigan scientists say a synthetic protein may help premature infants with immature lungs to breathe, and live. The protein, called surfactant, has been shown to increase the survival of preemies. The team reports in the Journal of Perinatology surfactant can be administered using the ventilator and monitor available in neonatal intensive care units. By comparing two available types of surfactant, researchers found one formulation may be more effective in the long run. "The two different surfactants we looked at seem to have a different course of action," says senior study author Dr. Steven Donn, director of Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine and professor of pediatrics and communicable diseases. "Although we didn't see much of a change in lung function immediately after their administration, the Infasurf seemed to have a more lasting effect," Donn said.

OBESITY-FIGHTING SURGERY MAY RESULT IN NERVE INJURY

Mayo Clinic scientists say some patients who undergo anti-obesity surgery may suffer damage to nerves outside the brain and spinal cord. They say patients undergoing "stomach stapling" or gastric bypass surgery for weight reduction may develop peripheral neuropathy, or damage to nerves outside the brain and spinal cord. Because development of nerve damage is associated with malnutrition, researchers think it may be preventable with proper nutrition. "Surgeons who do weight-reduction surgery and the general public should be aware that nerve damage is a frequent consequence of the surgery," says Dr. P. James Dyck, neurologist and lead investigator in the study, presented at the American Medical Association Science Reporters Conference and published in the journal Neurology. "I'm not saying that people shouldn't have this surgery, but I am saying that there are real potential complications and that good follow-up care is necessary."

RESEARCHERS LINK EPILEPSY DRUG TO LOWER IQ

The anti-epilepsy drug sodium valproate may lead to developmental delay and lower IQ, researchers report in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry. Some five in 1,000 people have epilepsy. One in three people with epilepsy is a woman of childbearing age, and one in every 200 women attending antenatal clinics is being treated with anti-epileptic drugs. Most of the study children were exposed to anti-epilepsy drugs in the womb. The children were exposed to sodium valproate, carbamazepine, phenytoin or a mixture of drugs. The scientists found the children whose mothers had taken valproate had an IQ "in the low average range," one that was lower by an average of 7 points than the expected range. A verbal IQ score of 69 or below was more than three times as likely in children exposed to valproate, compared with those children whose mothers had not taken any anti-epileptic drugs.

(Editors: For more information about SHIFT, contact Mary Martin at (804) 231-0741 or mrmric@earthlink.net. For INFANTS, Nicole Fawcett at (734) 764-2220 or nfawcett@umich.edu. For OBESITY, Lisa Lucier at (507) 284-5005. For EPILEPSY, Emma Dickinson at +44 (0)20 7383 6529 or edickinson@bmj.com)

Copyright 2004 by United Press International.

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