Health Tips ... from UPI

By LIDIA WASOWICZ, UPI Senior Science Writer  |  Sept. 23, 2003 at 9:00 AM
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Tinnitus, the perception of ringing or rushing sounds within the ear, can be treated with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, doctors say. Millions of people worldwide suffer tinnitus, the cause of which remains unclear. Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation is used to induce an electrical current in nearby regions of the brain to diagnose brain abnormalities. New research indicates it also might be useful as an inhibitor of tinnitus, scientists said. They noted no side effects from the therapy. The study suggests TMS should be explored as a long-term inhibitor of tinnitus, doctors said.


Measurements of loudness discomfort levels, used to evaluate and fit hearing aids, may serve other purposes as well, scientists say. The measurements have been applied only to patients with hearing loss, but they could also be used for evaluation and follow-up of tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, and other conditions, scientists suggested. Although LDL is one of the most important tests used to investigate hypersensitivity to sound, there is no consensus about the best procedure to evaluate the sound tolerance in "hyperacusic" patients to whom every noise sounds unbearably loud. The disorder is often chronic and usually accompanied by tinnitus, but can occur in patients who have little or no measurable hearing loss. Because LDL is so reliable, the test might serve well in gauging the problem in such patients, doctors said.


Doctors have found an unusually high rate of Lou Gehrig's disease among veterans of the 1991 Gulf war. The disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, typically does not strike until decades later in life, said Dr. Robert Haley, chief of epidemiology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. A study, reported in the journal Neurology, shows Gulf war veterans under the age of 45 have developed ALS up to three times more frequently than those of comparable ages in the general population. Another study by the Department of Veterans confirms Haley's findings using a different method. "This disease occurred in a very abnormal age group -- in people in their 20s and 30s instead of 60s and 70s," Haley said. "It raises the question whether the condition might have been caused -- or triggered prematurely -- by unusual environmental exposures in the war." The papers represent the first peer-reviewed studies establishing the increased incidence of ALS among Gulf war veterans, scientists said.


New recommendations list immunoglobulin infusions as the treatment of choice for Guillain-Barré Syndrome. The treatment and other major immunotherapy for the disabling autoimmune disease, such as plasma exchange, speed recovery and are equally effective, but immunoglobulin infusions are preferable because they carry less risk of side effects, neurologists say in the journal Neurology. In the treatment, large dosages of normal antibodies from donated blood are given intravenously. Plasma exchange involves removing the plasma from a patient's blood, isolating it from the blood cells, replacing it with the blood product albumin and returning the cells to the body. The researchers say hypotension -- low blood pressure -- is one possible side effect from plasma exchange. Catheter placement in large veins also has a tendency to cause more complications. IVIg is easier to use, they add, and there are fewer complications so it should be the treatment of choice.


(EDITORS: For TINNITUS and HEARING, contact Kenneth Satterfield at (703) 519-1563 or For GULF, Rachel Horton at (214) 648-3404 or th For SYNDROME, Lisa Copeland at (507) 284-5005 or

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