Bethlehem Press

Monday, October 21, 2019

Healthy Geezer: MRI, antibiotics, cramps

Friday, August 23, 2019 by FRED CICETTI Special to The Press in Focus

Q. How does an MRI work?

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create pictures of cross-sections. In many cases, MRI gives more information than other types of diagnostic imaging. Sometimes, contrast agents are used to enhance the images.

Most MRI machines are large cylinders. Inside the machine, the human body produces very faint signals in response to radio waves. These signals are detected by the MRI machine. A computer then interprets the signals and produces a three-dimensional representation of your body. A cross-section can be extracted from this representation.

There are MRI machines that are open on all sides. These newer, open MRI scanning systems are useful for the claustrophobic, obese or anyone who feels uncomfortable about lying inside a cylinder.

The MRI often helps with the diagnosis of central nervous system disorders such as multiple sclerosis, because it produces such high-resolution images of the brain and spinal cord.

Q. Why is it so important to complete an antibiotic prescription and not stop taking the medicine when you feel better?

Taking antibiotics unnecessarily and not completing your prescription are the leading causes of “superbugs,” bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. These superbugs are one of the most serious threats to global public health.

The first thing you should know is that antibiotics are used to combat bacteria, not viruses. These potent drugs should be used for infections of the ear, sinuses, urinary tract and skin. They’re also used to treat strep throat. They should not be used for viruses that cause most sore throats, coughs, colds and flu.

Doctors in the United States write about 50 million antibiotic prescriptions for viral illnesses. Patient pressure is a major cause for these prescriptions.

When you don’t finish your prescription, your antibiotic doesn’t kill all the targeted bacteria. The germs that survive build up resistance to the drug you’re taking. Doctors are then forced to prescribe a stronger antibiotic. The bacteria learn to fight the stronger medication. Superbugs are smart, too. They can share information with other bacteria.

More than 70 percent of the bacteria that cause hospital-acquired infections are resistant to at least one of the antibiotics most commonly used to treat them. About 100,000 people die each year from infections they contract in the hospital, often because the bacteria that cause hospital-acquired infections are resistant to antibiotics.

Q. What causes muscle cramps?

A cramp is an involuntarily contracted muscle that does not relax. The common locations for muscle cramps are the calves, thighs, feet, hands, arms and rib cage. Cramps can be very painful. Muscles can cramp for seconds or can continue for many minutes.

Almost all of us have had muscle cramps. No one knows for sure why they happen. Many healthcare professionals attribute cramping to tired muscles and poor stretching. Other suspected causes are dehydration, exerting yourself when it’s hot, flat feet, standing on concrete, prolonged sitting, and certain leg positions while sedentary.

Muscle cramps are usually harmless. They can be symptoms of problems with circulation, nerves, metabolism or hormones. Less common causes of muscle cramps include diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, hypoglycemia, anemia, thyroid and endocrine disorders.

Geezers are more likely to get cramps because of muscle loss that starts in our 40s. Your remaining muscles don’t work as efficiently as they used to. Studies show that about 70 percent of adults older than 50 experience nocturnal leg cramps.

Have a question? Email: fred@healthygeezer.com. Order “How To Be A Healthy Geezer,” 218-page compilation of columns: healthygeezer.com

All Rights Reserved © 2019 Fred Cicetti

The Times News, Inc., and affiliates (Lehigh Valley Press) do not endorse or recommend any medical products, processes, or services or provide medical advice. The views of the columnist and column do not necessarily state or reflect those of the Lehigh Valley Press. The article content is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.