Vitamin D deficiencies can cause severe muscle weakness that leaves victims unable to walk, according to University of Buffalo endocrinologists.
Although the problem can easily be treated with vitamin D supplements, the disorder is often diagnosed as a more serious disease, says Dr. Paresh Dandona. Vitamin D is produced by the liver in the presence of sufficient calcium and sunlight, and deficiencies are generally caused by limited exposure to the sun and insufficient intake of dairy products.
Dandona and his colleagues report in today's Archives of Internal Medicine (http://archinte.ama-assn.org) on five patients who used wheelchairs because of severe muscle weakness. They were a 37-year-old woman with diabetes, a man and a woman in their 70s, a 67-year-old woman with cancer and a 46-year-old woman with a history of psoriasis, joint pain and anorexia nervosa. In each case, the weakness had been attributed to disorders such as diabetes and general debility or to old age.
After vitamin D therapy, four of the patients regained normal strength and were able to walk. The fifth was able to stop using a wheelchair and walk with support.
9 Some Types of Ephedra Can Be Dangerous
Commercial preparations of ephedra, a nutritional supplement also known as ma huang and often marketed as an "energy booster" or weight-loss aid, often do not contain the indicated amount of active ephedra and may contain dangerous amounts of other ingredients, according to a new study by pharmaceutical scientist Bill J. Gurley of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
Gurley and his colleagues studied 20 different ephedra products purchased locally or online, measuring the content of the active ingredients, a group of chemicals called ephedra alkaloids.
They will report in the May 15 American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy (now available online at http://www.ashp.org/public/pubs/ajhp/vol57/num10/5b-rgurley.html) that half the products tested had at least 20% more or less alkaloids than indicated on the label. One contained none at all.
Some of the products had potentially dangerous combinations of ingredients, such as caffeine, ephedrine, pseudoephedrine and the more potent forms of norephedrine. Mixing these can produce effects similar to those of methamphetamines. Five also contained substantial quantities of norpseudoephedrine, which is severely limited by the Food and Drug Administration.
Possibly a Better Way to Ease Preemies' Breathing
In premature infants suffering from breathing difficulties called respiratory distress syndrome, naturally occurring surfactants isolated from animals are a more effective treatment than synthetic surfactants, according to British and American physicians.
The surfactants, which are sprayed through a tube down the throat, lower the surface tension of fluids in the lungs, allowing the lungs to expand more readily and take in more oxygen.
A team from the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle upon Tyne and Children's Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati studied 212 premature infants with breathing problems. Half were given the artificial surfactant pumactant and half were given poractant alpha, produced from the lungs of cows and pigs. The study was originally designed to determine which product cleared the respiratory distress more quickly.
But the study was halted prematurely, the team reported in Saturday's Lancet (http://www.thelancet.com), when it became apparent that there was a significantly higher death rate among those infants receiving pumactant. The researchers suspect other chemicals in poractant alpha help breathing.
New Drug Could Counter Acromegaly
Underproduction of growth hormone leads to dwarfism, but overproduction is a problem as well. The resulting condition, called acromegaly, is marked by headaches, sweating, soft-tissue swelling, joint disorders and deformities in teeth and facial bones.
An international team of endocrinologists has found that a new drug called pegvisomant can impede the progression of acromegaly. The team reported in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine (http://www.nejm.org) that the drug alleviated symptoms in 89% of patients who received the highest dose in a 12-week study. The ill effects of acromegaly are caused by a hormone called insulin-like growth factor, whose release is triggered by growth hormone. Pegmisovant prevents that hormone from binding to its receptor and producing damage.
Blacks, Women May Get Subpar Heart Care
Blacks and women who visit emergency rooms complaining of chest pain are less likely than white males to be admitted and receive appropriate treatment, according to a team from the New England Medical Center in Boston. Dr. Hector Pope and his associates studied 10,689 such patients who visited emergency rooms in six states during 1993. Among those, 889 had suffered a heart attack and 966 had unstable angina, which requires hospitalization for treatment.