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As we finish August and head into the new school year, parents are focusing on keeping their families healthy and happy! MUSC Storm Eye Institute’s Dr. Ed Wilson shares some of his top tips for parents in honor of Children’s Eye Health & Safety Month. Dr. Wilson is a pediatric ophthalmologist, specializing in pediatric cataracts.

Vision Screenings Every 1-2 Years

Children do not always complain when they have trouble seeing and there may be no outward signs of an issue. Parents may not know that their child is having trouble. That is why vision screenings are so important.

Regular vision screenings are available at pediatrician’s offices and often in schools. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends vision screening beginning at age 12 months and continuing every 1-2 years. These are easy and fun, instrument based screenings that provide a pass-fail result. Those that fail are directed to an eye care provider for a full comprehensive eye exam. 

What can parents can look for? If you notice an odd reflection in your child’s pupil or an intermittent crossing of the eyes, schedule an examination at a pediatric ophthalmology office.

Wear Eye Protection

Dr. Wilson recommends that all children playing sports should wear eye protection. Far too many serious eye injuries occur in youth sports including baseball, basketball, soccer and football. These are all preventable. In addition, projectiles from BB guns, paint-ball guns or pellet guns as well as sharp sticks, darts, and knives cause some of the most serious eye injuries in the 10-14 year age group. 70% of the patients with these injuries are boys.

Monitor Difficulty in School

Children with blurred vision often have difficulties in school. When near-sightedness or astigmatism is present, a simple pair of glasses can change a child’s learning achievement dramatically. Dr. Wilson gives a word of caution, however: specific learning disabilities such as dyslexia, reading or math problems are not usually caused by eye trouble and are not effectively treated with eye exercises.

Early Detection & Treatment of Cataracts

Catching serious eye problems early can preserve a child’s vision. Cataracts can develop in children as early as birth or as late as the teenage years. On the day of birth, a cataract presents as an absence of the normal red reflex (the red glow in the pupil – like the red eye in a photograph). The red reflex is checked by the pediatrician shortly after delivery. When cataracts develop in toddlers or school-aged children the presentation is often a white or grey-white reflex in the pupil, a new onset eye turn (an eye crossing inward or drifting outward) or a complaint of blurred vision and/or glare in bright light.

Early detection and treatment of cataracts in children is essential since delays can caused permanent vision loss from amblyopia (lazy eye). However, not every childhood cataract is severe enough to block vision. An experienced pediatric ophthalmologist needs to evaluate partial cataracts to see how visually significant the cataracts are. Mild or partial cataracts are often followed closely over time since they can worsen as the eyes continue to grow and develop.

Cataract surgery in children is very different than the surgery performed in elderly adults. Pediatric cataract surgeons are usually pediatric ophthalmologists with a special interest in cataracts. These surgeries are best performed by surgeons who perform these procedures frequently and have a dedicated team of technicians and nurses helping. Older children receive an artificial lens implant at the time of cataract removal. Babies, however, more often wear a special extended-wear contact lens after surgery and receive the permanent lens implant later, at around age 4-6 years.

Schedule Your Child’s Vision Screening at the MUSC Storm Eye Institute

The Storm Eye Institute offers the most comprehensive pediatric eye care services in the state. We have a team of four board-certified, award-winning pediatric ophthalmologists and two full-time pediatric ophthalmology fellows. Call 843-792-2020 or visit MUSC Children's Health to learn more and schedule an appointment for your child.

Immunizations are not just for infants and children going back to school. In honor of Immunization Awareness Month, we are shining a light on the vaccines that some may not realize are just as important – vaccines for older adults.

MUSC Health Primary Care doctors Mark Newbrough and Julianna Marwell are geriatricians, focusing on the care of older adults. Illnesses often take a bigger toll on our bodies as we age, including certain infections, such as influenza, whooping cough, pneumococcal pneumonia, and shingles. Fortunately, vaccines, or immunizations, are available that can lessen the chances for older adults to become seriously ill from these infections. 

Recommended Immunizations for Patients Over 50

Dr. Newbrough and Dr. Marwell sat down to talk through their recommendations for most patients over 50. They recommend four main immunizations for the flu, whooping cough, pneumococcal diseases, and shingles. These immunizations are covered by insurance and can be scheduled at a local MUSC Health Primary Care practice.

Flu Shots (Influenza)

Yearly flu shots are the first line of defense for older patients. Flu shots are available without a prescription at your doctor’s offices, community clinics, and pharmacies. Many employers and senior living facilities even offer the flu vaccine on site. The CDC states that getting the flu vaccination can reduce the risk of flu-associated hospitalization and death for older adults. And don’t forget — by getting the flu shot you’re also protecting those around you who may be more susceptible to the flu virus.

Can I get the flu from the flu shot? Dr. Newbrough clears up this common misconception saying, “Because the shot does not contain actual influenza virus, a person cannot get the flu from the flu shot.” There may be some side effects like soreness where the shot was given or low grade fever for a day or so, but the vaccine cannot actually cause the flu.

Tdap Vaccine

Whooping cough can be a serious disease for older adults, those with chronic lung disease, or young children. The Tdap vaccine protects people from tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (commonly known as whooping cough).

Although most older adults were immunized for these infections when they were younger, the CDC recommends boosters for all older adults to protect them and those around them who may be susceptible, including their grandchildren and great grandchildren. The Tdap immunization is available at pharmacies without a prescription, as well as at your doctor’s office. Tdap should be given once every ten years.  

Pneumococcal Vaccines 

Older adults are at greatest risk of illness and death from pneumococcal disease, and the pneumonia shots reduce these risks. All older adults need to take both shots, the PCV 13 and the PPSV 23, to be fully protected. The shots cannot be given at the same time, and people need to wait one year between shots. Once an adult over 65 has had both shots, they will not need to take anymore “pneumonia shots.” Pneumococcal vaccines are available at your primary care office, pharmacies, health clinics, and other locations without a prescription.

Shingles

The virus that causes chicken pox and shingles is the same virus. Most older adults were exposed to the chicken pox virus when they were young. Later in life, during periods of extreme stress or medical illness, the virus may reappear as a painful, localized rash called shingles. It can occur anywhere on the body, including in a person’s eye, and the pain may last long after the rash heals. For these reasons, the CDC also recommends the shingles vaccine for older adults. There are two different shingles vaccines including the new Shingrix vaccine. Talk to your doctor about which vaccine is best for you. 

Other Vaccines 

Your health provider can help you understand if there are other immunizations that you may need. For instance, hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccines are typically recommended for patients with certain conditions like chronic liver disease.

People  with certain allergies or health conditions may not be able to receive certain immunizations, so be sure to talk to your doctor about any conditions or allergic reactions you may have had previously that would affect your immunizations.

Keeping Track of Your Vaccinations

No matter where you get your immunizations, whether at your primary care doctor, pharmacy, or other certified immunization provider, electronic health immunization records are stored in the South Carolina Immunization Registry. These records do not transfer to other states, so keeping your own record is helpful if you’ve just moved to South Carolina or are moving to another state.

Dr. Marwell recommends keeping a record of your vaccines for easy reference, in your wallet or purse, along with a list of medications. Understanding your history helps your care team provide the best possible treatment for your unique needs. It is always okay to ask your provider questions about your care, especially why you’re getting a certain vaccine.

Primary Care Doctors at MUSC Health

MUSC Health Primary Care doctors like Dr. Marwell, Dr. Newbrough, and many more are available to help you with your health care, from vaccines to more complex issues. Dr. Newbrough explains that healthy aging takes a comprehensive approach, not only managing your physical health, but your social, spiritual, and mental health as well. Vaccinations are just one small part of the whole and we are here to help.

MUSC Primary Care Doctor Mark Newbrough with patient

MUSC Health Primary Care appointments are available in locations throughout the Lowcountry including downtown Charleston, West Ashley, Mount Pleasant, North Charleston, Summerville, and more. Call 843-792-7000 to schedule your appointment with an MUSC Health Primary Care physician.

Zika Virus in South Carolina

According to the CDC, as of July 3, 2018 there have been 28 cases of Zika reported in the United States, and none reported in South Carolina. In all 28 cases, the patients with Zika were returning home from traveling in affected areas, not from mosquito-borne transmission in the US. SCDHEC also confirms that there have been zero Zika cases reported in South Carolina in 2018.

Protecting Yourself from Zika

While the threat of Zika is lower in 2018 than previous years, it is still important to understand your risks and know how to protect yourself – especially if you plan on traveling to an affected area.

The Zika virus is mainly spread though mosquito bites. Zika can spread from a pregnant mother to her baby during pregnancy or birth, and cases of transmission through blood transfusion and sexual contact have been reported.

Protecting yourself from mosquitos is the best way to prevent Zika:

  • Use insect repellent
  • Wear clothes than cover the arms and legs
  • Use screens on windows and doors
  • Use air conditioning if available
  • Sleep under a mosquito net if outdoors or air conditioned/screened rooms are not possible
  • Empty items that hold water at least once a week (buckets, pools, pots, other containers)

When traveling to areas inside or outside of the US, know your risks before you go:

  • Review the CDC’s list of areas with Zika risk
  • Talk with your doctor about your travel plans
  • Talk with your partner about travel plans and Zika risk (especially for women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant), use condoms or don’t have sex to avoid getting or spreading the Zika virus

Zika Symptoms

The most common Zika symptoms are generally mild, including fever, rash, headache, joint pain, red eyes, and muscle pain. People typically do not need to go to the hospital with a Zika infection, because they likely do not even realize they’ve been infected. For pregnant women, Zika can cause a birth defect called microcephaly and other severe brain defects in unborn children. Learn more about Zika and Pregnancy from the CDC.

If you have traveled to an area with risk of Zika and are feeling similar symptoms, it is important to be tested by your doctor.

MUSC Health Doctors Near You in Charleston, SC

If you are concerned about upcoming travel or have Zika symptoms, schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor, ob/gyn, or talk with the MUSC Health Travel Medicine care team. Our women's health and primary care physicians are available in locations throughout the Lowcountry.

 

Sources

CDC

SCDHEC 

Ebola, or Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), is a rare but deadly illness that is widespread in sub-Saharan Africa. Ebola was first discovered in Africa in 1976, and the virus has emerged in several African counties over the years. Most recently, the Democratic Republic of Congo declared an Ebola outbreak in May of 2018.   

The CDC lists typical Ebola symptoms as fever, severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, fatigue, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, and unexplained bleeding or bruising.

Ebola Ebola, or Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), is a rare but deadly illness that is widespread in sub-Saharan Africa. Ebola was first discovered in Africa in 1976, and the virus has emerged in several African counties over the years. Most recently, the Democratic Republic of Congo declared an Ebola outbreak in May of 2018.   Symptoms: fever, severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, fatigue, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, and unexplained bleeding or bruising. Sources: who.int, cdc.gov

How To Protect Yourself from Ebola

While Ebola is very rare in the United States, Ebola is considered widespread in sub-Saharan Africa. According to the CDC, if you are visiting or living in a place where Ebola is widespread, there are ways to protect yourself and prevent the spread of the virus. When in an area affected by Ebola:

  • Avoid contact with blood and bodily fluids
  • Avoid items that may have come in contact with an infected person’s blood or bodily fluids
  • Avoid funeral rituals that require handling the body of someone who died from Ebola
  • Avoid contact with bats and primates or blood, fluids, or meat from those animals
  • Avoid meat from an unknown source
  • Avoid contact with semen from a man who had Ebola until you know the virus is gone from the semen

 

 

Travel Medicine at MUSC Health

Travelers from Charleston can stay healthy before, during, and after a trip with MUSC Health Travel Medicine services. Our infectious disease doctors specialize in protecting you against health risks you may face when traveling abroad. While an Ebola vaccine is not currently available, one of the best ways to avoid getting sick is to get vaccines for diseases that are common in the areas you are visiting. You can also schedule an appointment with an MUSC Health primary care doctor about your travel plans and schedule any necessary vaccinations.

MUSC Global Health

MUSC is also working toward creating healthier communities all over the world through the MUSC Center for Global Health. Our work includes research to find new solutions to global health problems, collaboration with experts around the globe, educating the next generation of global health leaders with hands-on clinical work in other countries, and improving care in developing countries through medical missions with MUSC doctors, nurses, and medical students.

Sources:

http://www.who.int/

https://www.cdc.gov/

Sun Salutation in Moderation: How to protect your skin in sunny Charleston

The sun salutation which means “to adore” is a signature Yoga pose that pays homage to the sun. Throughout the summer many of us will become “sun worshippers,” offering up our own salutations on the beaches of Charleston, South Carolina. Making sure we protect our skin from sun damage while we enjoy the beach (or any outdoor activity) is the key to maintaining healthy skin.

 

According to the Centers for Disease Control there are a number of rituals we can adopt to protect ourselves from the sun’s damaging rays.

Sun Safety Rituals

Sun Safety Rituals: Shade, Hat, Clothing, Sunscreen

Shade – Stay out of the sun by finding or creating a shady spot. Shade offers shelter from the harmful UV rays. It also reduces your risk of skin damage and skin cancer.

Hat – Block the sun from areas we often forget by covering your ears, face and neck with a wide-brim hat! Remember dark colors offer more UV protection.

Clothing – covering your skin with clothing that covers your arms and legs can block some of the UVA and UVB radiation. Look for long sleeve shirts and long pants with UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor).

And of course – sunscreen. Sunscreen, or sunblock, is one of the simplest ways to reduce your risk for skin cancer, burns, and wrinkles. Be sure that you pay attention the SPF level and the expiration date for your sunscreen. An SPF of 15 or above is recommended. And expired sunscreen may not offer optimal protection.

Finally, be sure to practice your sun worship in moderation.

MUSC Health Dermatology in Charleston, SC

If you are interested in protecting your skin, getting your annual checkup, or improving your skin health and appearance, MUSC Health offers both cosmetic dermatology  and medical dermatology in 8 locations throughout the Lowcountry. Learn more about your skin health options by visiting MUSC Health Dermatology online or by calling 843-792-8282.

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