Monday, April 25, 2016

Doctor's Help for Fear of Flying

If your fear of flying is putting a damper on your summer travel plans, know that you are not alone- and that your family physician can offer you a few different medications that may reduce your stress. Many patients have told me they were afraid to ask for any medication, because they did not realize these drugs could be used situationally for a single event such as a flight.

Beta-blockers- this class of medication simply keeps your heart from racing, and lowers your blood pressure. This drug is used for public speaking anxiety as well.

Sedatives- although when used frequently these medications are definitely addictive, using a short-acting sedative for a flight is a very reasonable option. Alprazolam (trade name xanax) is commonly prescribed in small doses (and very small quantities). Note that these pills should never be combined with alcohol. 

Sleep aids-these are longer acting sedatives indicated for treatment of insomnia; physicians consider prescribing these for flights longer than 6 hours, such as fully across the country or overseas.

Behavioral modifications are also key to help the time "fly" by; consider:

  • Noise-cancelling headphones make a world of difference, especially if you can use them to engross yourself in a visual media as well, such as your favorite television series or movie. 
  • Music by itself, particularly a very familiar whole album or musical 
  • Crazily addictive games on your phone or iPad 
  • Puzzles or word searches

Avoid stimulants like caffeine and decongestants- no need to ramp up your heart rate before you even get on the plane!

If you have the luxury of time before you travel, consider biofeedback, hypnosis, or meditation training.

Bottom Line: Fear of flying is common- plan ahead and talk to your doctor if you would like to consider a medication to lesson your stress.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

ABCs of HIV for National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day

April 10th National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day logo with red ribbon on multicolor background

Today, April 10, 2016, is National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day. Why do we need a YOUTH awareness day? Because in 2014, nearly 10,000 young adults were newly diagnosed with HIV (age 13-24 years, 9731 cases). And that is only young people who got TESTED and therefore were DIAGNOSED. Nearly half of young people already living with HIV are UNAWARE that they are infected. In honor of this HIV Awareness Day, here are my quick HIV ABCs:

  • A: ALL people ages 15-64 should be tested for HIV at least once, regardless of risk factors. Why?Widespread testing will help identify the estimated 1 in 8 people living with HIV infection who do not know their are infected, and now with our highly accurate rapid testing, false positives are extremely rare.
  • B: BISEXUAL- meaning remember that HIV occurs in BOTH genders, as well as emphasizing the fact that HIV is most prevalent in gay, bisexual and other males who have sex with men (but not all MSM identify as gay or bisexual.) Nearly 20% of the 44,000 new HIV diagnoses in the US during 2014 were female, and the vast majority (87%) were infected through heterosexual sex. 
  • C: CONDOMS- "Safe Sex" means using condoms consistently and correctly, for all forms of penetrative intimacy. To be specific, use condoms for oral, anal and vaginal sex. (While oral sex is low risk for HIV transmission, other STIs such as gonorrhea and herpes simplex are easily transmitted this way.) Condoms do not make you bullet-proof, but they work extremely well -up to 98% decrease in transmission of HIV.

BOTTOM LINE: HIV has not disappeared, and many who are infected do not know. GET TESTED!

Friday, April 1, 2016

STD Awareness Month 2016 "Talk. Test. Treat"


Perfect theme for the CDC's 2016 STD Awareness Month! We can't have AWARENESS if no one is talking about these diseases. And because these diseases are mostly SILENT, you can't have AWARENESS that you have an STD unless you TEST for it.

The Bad News: 

  • Sexually transmitted infections affect over 20 MILLION Americans every year, and young people ages 15-24 make up over HALF of these cases. 
  • Chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis are on the rise for the first time in a decade.
  • Gonorrhea is more difficult to treat because it has become very resistant to antibiotics
  • Curable bacterial STDs, if not diagnosed and treated in a timely fashion, can have lasting impact by causing chronic pelvic pain or even infertility. 
  • Young people are the least likely to get tested and treated for numerous reasons, including ignorance that their non-intercourse sexual activities can transmit STDs, fear and embarrassment of telling their parents, inability to pay for or access healthcare on their own.

The GOOD News:

  • Many of these infections are preventable, and testing is easier than ever (no pelvic exam required in most cases- only a urine test for gonorrhea and chlamydia, and a blood test for HIV and syphilis). 
  • Gardasil vaccine prevents the vast majority of genital warts and HPV-related cancers.
  • Hepatitis B vaccine prevents Hep-B related cirrhosis and liver cancer.
  • Proper and consistent condom use greatly reduces transmission of most STDs.
I have found that sharing stories (with accurate medical information) is a powerful tool for teaching about sexually transmitted infections. Check out the newly released second edition of Seductive Delusions: how everyday people catch STIs.

BOTTOM LINE: TALK.TEST.TREAT  and learn how you can help spread KNOWLEDGE and stop the spread of DISEASE.