It is never too late to kick excessive drinking habits to the curb

Photo: Pavel Danilyuk/PEXELS

There’s no magic number of drinks to have on a night out that will make you immune to alcohol problems.
by Tim Ditman
OSF Healthcare
URBANA - "Days of Our Lives" actor Cody Longo recently died of alcohol abuse, again raising awareness of the issue.

The dangers

How quickly can binge drinking turn problematic?

“Very easily,” says Andrew Zasada, MD, an internal medicine physician at OSF HealthCare.

Dr. Zasada says for women, binge drinking is defined as five or more drinks on one occasion, like a night out on the town that lasts three to four hours. For men, it’s 15 drinks. That takes into account the differences in how men’s and women’s bodies metabolize alcohol.

Dr. Zasada says the internal issues linked with excessive alcohol use can be devastating.

“It can cause brain dysfunction. It can cause liver disease and stomach ulcers,” Dr. Zasada says. “It’s just not a good thing. It can cause a wide variety of problems.”

Not to mention the outward symptoms like: acne, redness on your nose and palms and dry, wrinkled skin that makes you look older. And drinking during pregnancy can lead to a host of problems for the child, like facial abnormalities and developmental deficits.

“A lifetime of misery” for the little one, as Dr. Zasada puts it.

Safety, recovery

Just like there’s no magic way to prevent or cure a hangover, there’s no magic number of drinks to have on a night out that will make you immune to alcohol problems. But for Fourth of July revelers, Dr. Zasada has this advice: take it slow.

“If you’re an average size gentleman, probably a beer an hour is just about the max you can drink,” he says.

Dr. Zasada says are there many ways to help people who are drinking in excess. In the short term, such as during a party, call 911 if the person needs immediate medical attention. If they just need a break, take the person away from the clatter to rest. Take their car keys, and give them some water. A painkiller like Tylenol in appropriate doses can help with that hangover headache the next day.

Long term, a patient’s primary care provider can link them with resources to curb drinking, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or treatment centers. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism also has resources. And within OSF HealthCare’s footprint, Illinois and Michigan have phone numbers to call for behavioral health issues.

“If the person is trying to deny that they drink at all; if they are drinking alone when there is nobody else around; if they're trying to hide or cover up their drinking, those are all fairly serious warning signs that this person needs help,” Dr. Zasada says.

Dr. Zasada says it’s never too late to kick the habit of excessive drinking, but sooner is better.

“It's easier to mitigate any problems that have already occurred earlier, rather than wait for the problem to get very, very serious, very bad, and then quit,” he says. “Yeah, you'll get better. But you won't go back to what you were.”

That “getting better” looks like a lot of things.

“You might lose weight. You might lower your blood pressure. It may increase heart health,” Dr. Zasada says. “You'll think clearer. You'll sleep better.”

Here is how you can avoid those nasty ingrown toenails

Photo: Wangyan Wei/Pixabay

Some ingrown toenails will heal on their own. The question is how often should you trim them?
by Tim Ditman
OSF Healthcare
Is your toe sore to the touch? Is the skin around the nail puffy or red? An ingrown toenail may be to blame.

Marc Leonard, MD, an OSF HealthCare podiatrist, says it’s an issue he sees frequently, but it’s one that’s easily preventable.

Dr. Leonard says an ingrown toenail is when the nail grows into the skin on the nail’s side. Some people get ingrown toenails due to a family history of the problem. They may just have wide toenails, in other words.

For others, it’s a product of how you take care of your feet.

“Bicyclists wear very tight shoes. They clip onto the bike. The shoes are very unforgiving.” Dr. Leonard says as an example. “The person is getting extra pressure on the side of the toes. It can definitely contribute to ingrown nails.”

Dance shoes sometimes have the same effect, he says.

Another culprit: clipping your toenails too low toward the side of the toe. Instead, trim straight across using clippers with a straight, not curved, blade.

Avoiding these risk factors is crucial for people with diabetes, Dr. Leonard warns. While that group is not more prone to ingrown toenails, an occurrence may mean serious complications.

“If their blood sugar is not under control, the infections from ingrown nails can get severe quickly,” Dr. Leonard says. “Sometimes there can also be circulation problems with diabetics.”

Dr. Leonard says some ingrown toenails will resolve on their own. But if a person has to come to a podiatrist’s office, it usually means the site is infected.

“We might trim out the side of the nail. That’s the easiest way to treat it,” Dr. Leonard says. “In other situations, we have to numb the toe and take out the side of the nail.”

If the toe is really inflamed and irritated, he says, a doctor will remove a larger portion of the nail, plus some excess skin and tissue. The person may also be sent home with antibiotic medication to keep the infection down.

For people with frequent ingrown toenails, there’s a permanent solution.

“We’ll actually kill the side of the nail,” Dr. Leonard says. “We’ll put a chemical in the base of the toe to kill the root. That eliminates growth of the nail on the side.”

That’s an outpatient procedure done at a podiatrist’s office. And in the days and months ahead, you would trim the nail normally, Dr. Leonard says. The nail would just be narrower.

Regardless of what happens to your toe, recovery from ingrown nail treatment involves rest and soaking the toe in warm water. You should be back to normal activities “fairly quickly,” Dr. Leonard says.

One more burning question to answer: how often should I trim my toenails?

“For most people, probably once a month or once every couple weeks,” Dr. Leonard suggests. But if you have a history of ingrown toenails or other toe issues, talk to your primary care provider or podiatrist about proper toe care.

Learn more about foot and toe care on the OSF HealthCare website.

The worst BBQ ingredient ever: wire brush bristles

Why hundreds of people in the U.S. are sent to the emergency room each year
by Matt Sheehan
OSF Healthcare
Summer has arrived, and that means grilling season has come back after its winter hibernation.

But as Americans enjoy grilling their burgers, chicken, vegetables and more, there’s one ingredient you want to steer clear of.

Dr. Brian Curtis, M.D

"These short, metal brushes that you clean your grill with," Brian Curtis, M.D., vice president of the Clinical Specialty Services at OSF HealthCare says. "There are about 150-200 cases a year that occur in the United States. They may be underreported, but those are the ones that we know about."

While barbecues over an outdoor grill are a great way for people to come together and enjoy a meal, Dr. Curtis says it could be an extremely painful experience if you end up swallowing a bristle from a wire brush.

"The bristles can become embedded in your tongue. They can be embedded in the back of your throat, esophagus, stomach, and small intestine," Dr. Curtis says. "They can cause perforations, because it’s like swallowing a small needle. There are people every year that have surgeries trying to find these small objects because they are very tiny."

So how can you keep your food on the grill from getting an unwanted extra ingredient? Dr. Curtis says it’s all about preparation.

"You can use aluminum foil. Some people use nylon (scrapers)," Dr. Curtis says. "I just use a wool brush on mine. If you don’t want to go away from the wire brush, then you really have to inspect your grill very closely to make sure there’s nothing stuck on it."

Dr. Curtis says if you believe you’ve swallowed a wire brush bristle, you need to be evaluated immediately.

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