Worldstar Hip Hop posted this video of a woman suffering a tonic-clonic seizure on the reality series Celebrity Rehab. Tonic-clonic seizures were formerly referred to as grand mal seizures and involve both sides of the brain.

The tonic phase of the disorder is the shortest, usually lasting a few seconds. This is when the muscles and ligaments tense up, the patient moans and falls to the floor.

The clonic phase, the longest, is when the muscles begin to relax and contract at the same time causing convulsions. It isn't abnormal for a patient to bite parts of their tongue off during this phase due to the jaws contracting. Some patients will experience an aura or lightheadedness minutes before the seizure comes on.

Once a seizure begins, there isn't much that can be done other than to make them comfortable (place something soft under their heads like a jacket). Position their heads to the side so that if they vomit they will not choke. And most importantly, make sure their airway is not obstructed by bedding, pillows, etc.

Contrary to popular belief, patients who have seizures do not swallow their tongues. But the tongue can fall back and block the airway.

Seizures can be caused by brain injuries, rapidly flashing lights, fatigue, drugs such as antihistamines, anxiety, diseases such as diabetes, and other factors.

Call 911 if the patient is not a known epileptic (prone to having seizures), or if the patient injures herself or has difficulty breathing. Otherwise, just remain with the patient until the seizure is over. The patient's limbs will relax and she will appear to be sleeping. Once she is awake, she will be groggy and disoriented for a short period of time.

This has been your Medical Minute.

As always, any medical information published on this blog is not intended as a substitute for informed medical advice and you should not take any action before consulting with a health care professional.

A couple of loyal readers emailed me to ask what death by "natural causes" means. In the last three weeks we've read about two high profile deaths attributed to natural causes: actress Brittany Murphy and heiress Casey Johnson, who was found dead in LA yesterday morning.

Death by natural causes simply means the deceased had a preexisting condition (disease, long term illness, etc.) that caused the death. Natural causes also applies if the coroner can't find a cause of death and there is no evidence of foul play or homicide.

Hospitals are known to cover up medical negligence cases by attributing a patient's death to natural causes. The patient's death is by natural causes, therefore, there is usually no autopsy performed. It's left up to the patient's family to demand an autopsy if there is any hint that negligence was involved.

In Brittany Murphy's case, she was diagnosed with type 2 (non-insulin dependent) diabetes and was reportedly very sick (nausea and vomiting) for days before she collapsed and died of cardiac arrest. It's very likely that her cardiac arrest was brought on by severe dehydration from vomiting.

A Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) is sometimes referred to as a "mini stroke" or a "warning sign" of an impending stroke. It is caused by a disruption of blood supply to a particular area of the brain by a blood clot in your brain or neck.

Your blood carries oxygen to the brain. Therefore, if the blood supply is disrupted by a clot, it could result in death of the brain (nerve) cells in that area.

A TIA is categorized as a mini stroke because the symptoms lasts less than 24 hours. Most TIAs last less than 5 minutes. If the symptoms lasts longer than 24 hours it is referred to as a Cardiovascular Accident (CVA) or stroke. Some people experience a TIA and don't even know it.

It's important to recognize the symptoms because a mini stroke (TIA) usually precedes a stroke which causes permanent damage to the brain/nerve cells.

Temporary Symptoms of a TIA (less than 24 hours)

  • Weakness on one side of the body (hemiparesis)
  • Confusion
  • Slurred speech
  • Headache, migraines
  • Visual disturbances (blurred vision, flashes of light)
  • Numbness or tingling on one side (paresthesia)

Some people who experience one or more TIAs will likely have a stroke later on. Recognizing and treating a TIA is the best way to reduce your risk of having a stroke. If you experience the above symptoms, call 911 or have someone transport you to a local emergency room immediately.

If your doctor diagnoses a TIA he or she will prescribe blood thinners or Aspirin to prevent clots from forming in your blood stream which can lead to a stroke. Your doctor will also run an EKG or ECG (Electrocardiogram) to determine if you have a preexisting heart condition (arrhythmia's) that can cause TIAs or strokes.

This has been your Medical Minute.

More info on the Web

Transient Ischemic Attack - TIA -- American Heart Assoc.
Transient Ischemic Attack -- MayoClinic
Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA, Mini-Stroke) -- eMedicine

As always, any medical information published on this blog is not intended as a substitute for informed medical advice and you should not take any action before consulting with a health care professional.

Sharron Thornton, a 60-year-old grandmother who lost sight in both eyes 9 years ago due to a rare corneal disease, can see again after docs implanted a part of one of her eyeteeth into her left eye.

The procedure known as as modified osteo-odonto-keratoprosthesis, was the first of its kind performed in the United States. The surgery has already been performed with success in Britain.

Doctors at the University of Miami's Bascom Palmer Eye Institute extracted one of Thornton's canine teeth (eyeteeth) and shaved off the crown of the tooth that's visible above the gum leaving only the root and a portion of the surrounding bone.

Doctors then shaved off a part of the root and bone leaving only a sliver of the root and bone. In other words, the entire tooth was not implanted in her eye.

Oral mucous membrane from inside her cheek was removed and grafted to her left eye. Thornton had been blind for 9 years after a rare corneal disease her corneas permanently scarred.

A hole was drilled into the center of the sliver of bone and tooth to serve as an anchor for the cylinder lens, which was placed in the center. The cylinder lens allows light to reach the back of her eye enabling her to see again.

Read more »

A loyal reader asked me to write a Medical Minute about Tonsiloliths, aka tonsil stones, also called tonsil calculus, pebbles, tonsil corn, etc. There is very little medical literature on tonsiloliths and your doctor may not have even heard of them. Some doctors mistakenly diagnose the yellowish tonsil calculi as a throat infection and prescribe antibiotics.

Tonsil stones usually affect adults who never had their tonsils removed. The stones are formed in crypts and crevices of your tonsils usually after you've had a bout of tonsilitis (infection of the throat). A tonsil stone may feel like a foreign object trapped in the side of your throat such as a popcorn kernel. You may be tempted to dig them out, but that is not advised.

The tonsils are lymphoid tissue on either side of your throat that act as part of your immune system to protect against infection. Crypts and crevices in your tonsils can run deep. Undigested food particles may become trapped inside these crypts where they are acted upon by bacteria and your immune system.

The undigested food is encapsulated inside a cheesy material that oozes out of your tonsils and adenoids and hardens into a foul smelling yellowish stone (calculous).
Read more »

Stomach cancer is one of the deadliest forms of cancers. The disease has a poor prognosis. Life expectancy for a patient diagnosed with stomach cancer is usually 6 months. That is because the early symptoms of stomach cancer are often very vague and sometimes non-existent. By the time symptoms do appear the cancer has already metastasized and spread to other organs.

One in a million people under age 55 seeking treatment for indigestion are diagnosed with stomach cancer. One in 50 of all ages experiencing excess burping and gas (indigestion) are diagnosed with stomach cancer. Don't just assume that excess burping and gas is a result of what you ate. Especially if those symptoms continue for more than two weeks.

If you change your diet, eliminating foods that cause excess gas, and you're still burping and passing gas, it's time to see a doctor. Popping Rolaids and Tums for more than two weeks (and you haven't seen a doctor) is an indication of a more serious problem.

The bacteria H. Pylori is thought to be the main risk factor in 60-85% stomach cancers and GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease, or excess stomach acid entering the esophagus and causing erosion and pain). If you test positive for H. Pylori, doctors will prescribe a course of antibiotics.

The symptoms of stomach cancer are very vague or nonexistent in the early stages. Symptoms include:

Early

  • Indigestion or a burning sensation (heartburn)
  • Loss of appetite, especially for meat
  • Excess burping and/or flatulence (passing gas)

Late

  • Abdominal pain or discomfort in the upper abdomen, pain radiating to the back
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Bloating of the stomach after meals
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Bleeding (vomiting blood or having blood in the stool), which can lead to anemia
  • Black tarry (sticky) stools

Read more »

According to an inside source, incarcerated rapper T.I., real name Clifford Harris Jr., is not among those inmates sickened by a gastrointestinal bug that's going around the Arkansas prison where he's serving a 366-day sentence.

Rumors that T.I was sick spread quickly after it was announced that visits to the federal prison were temporarily suspended until the bug could be contained.

This type of illness occurs frequently inside institutions, schools, college dorms, hospitals, or anywhere that large groups of people congregate.

The illness, known as gastroenteritis or stomach flu, can be caused by food poisoning, parasites, virus or bacteria introduced from the outside -- which is why visits to the prison have been temporarily suspended.

Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Abdominal pain (cramping)
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Malaise (weakness)
  • Bloody stools

Symptoms usually begin 1-2 days following the introduction of the infection, and may last for up to 10 days. Gastroenteritis is usually not life threatening and some patients recover without treatment. But gastroenteritis can lead to dehydration and death if prolonged diarrhea and vomiting are left untreated.

Treatment includes antibiotics (which are not helpful against a virus), anti-parasitic medications, and medications to relieve symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. In some cases, patients may require hospitalization to replace fluids lost (rehydraton therapy).

This has been your Medical Minute.

Info on the Web:

Gastroenteritis - Web MD
Viral Gastroenteritis - CDC
Gastroenteritis (Stomach Flu) - Medicine Net

Past medical studies comparing skin cancer rates among Caucasians and blacks have shown that cases among whites were proportionately higher due to their lack of skin pigmentation.

But new studies reveal that that a deadly form of skin cancer (malignant melanoma) is now increasing among biracial people and light skinned blacks who have less pigmentation than dark skin blacks.

From Black Voices blog:

Studies show that when blacks do get skin cancer, it is often discovered at a later stage and is more deadly. Musician Bob Marley, for instance, died of malignant melanoma, an aggressive skin cancer that spread to his organs.

Sunscreen is the first layer of defense against the sun's dangerous rays, but a Consumer Reports poll shows that while 67 percent of people identifying themselves as light-skinned wear sunscreen, only 27 percent of dark-skinned people do. Experts recommend that everyone, regardless of skin color, protect themselves with SPF 15 sunscreen.

For black people with skin cancer, melanoma will usually appear in places where there is less pigmentation, like the palms of the hands, bottoms of the feet, under nails and on the genitals, but it may look different based on skin tone. The best way to be safe is to get any suspicious growths or moles checked out, just as you would a lump in your breast. It may be less likely that you'll have skin cancer, but no one is immune. READ MORE...

Photo: Wireimage/Getty

On Monday Barack Obama made another in a series of embarrassing goofs by suggesting that the swine flu pandemic was "not a cause for concern." Just two days later, Obama has reversed his stance, saying the outbreak of swine flu had created a "serious situation" in the United States requiring the "utmost precautions," such as closing down schools where cases of swine flu are reported.

The cases of swine flu has risen in the U.S. to 91, including one death -- an infant who died in a Houston hospital.

Be aware that there are no vaccines for this particular strain of swine flu. Also, antiviral medications do not kill the virus that causes swine flu. They only interfere with the ability of the virus to bind to certain cells in the body. Antivirals are only effective against specific virus, and only if administered in the early stages of infection (up to 48 hours). There is no known cure for a virus.

What can you do to protect yourself? Wash your hands frequently with soap and water (as warm as you can stand it) or alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Remember when using public restrooms to use a paper towel when turning off the faucet and when opening restroom doors.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth especially when out in public.

It's important to note that the majority of people infected with swine flu do make a full recovery, so don't panic. Remember, it isn't the virus that kills, it's the body's inflammatory response to the virus.

If you have flu-like symptoms (cough, sneezing, runny nose), don't go to work or school. If you have accompanying joint pain, fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, go to the emergency room or notify your doctor immediately.

Information about swine flu on the web:

http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/

Medline Plus

The swine flu outbreak in Mexico is caused by a deadly new strain, or variant, of a particular strain of influenza virus that is naturally occurring among pigs. This strain mutated over time and jumped from pigs to humans. It is now transferred easily from human to human through coughing, sneezing, touching and through contact with the nasal and oral mucosa.

Swine flu transmission cannot occur through eating pork. There is no known cure for a virus other than a vaccine, which is usually made from a part of the virus itself. There is no vaccine for swine flu, and antibiotics are ineffective against a virus.

Swine flu kills relatively quickly, and it affects mainly the young and healthy. The mean age range of the 149 deaths reported in Mexico is between 20-40 years old.

So far outbreaks are being reported in New York (28 cases), California (7), Texas (2), Kansas (2), Ohio (1). Canada is reporting 6 cases, and there are 19 cases reported worldwide -- not including Mexico.

The signs and symptoms of swine flu to look out for are similar to the flu:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Runny nose
  • Cough
  • Fatigue (feeling unusually tired)
  • Sore throat
  • Joint pain

The symptoms progress quickly to nausea, vomiting, disorientation and confusion ending in death.

Information on the web:

http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/

Flu cases in the United States - USA Today