Raising awareness about Wilson Disease

Sara Racine, shown here with her children, was very ill and with proper care has gone on to lead a very happy and successful life.

Sara Racine, shown here with her children, was very ill and with proper care has gone on to lead a very happy and successful life.

All of us need some copper to survive, however some people are born with a genetic disorder that eliminates the body’s ability to remove excess copper. This is called Wilson Disease and it affects about 1 in 30,000 people worldwide. If left untreated, copper levels can become dangerously high and cause severe tissue damage in the liver and brain. In some cases, it can be fatal.

Sara Racine, of North Branch, was born with Wilson Disease, but she did not know it until much later as a college student in her 20s.

“My primary doctor had been running some blood work on me for annual physicals, and my liver function levels were always elevated. I started not feeling well. I was tired all the time. I had no energy to really do the daily tasks of going to college. My doctor couldn’t really explain what was going on. My gallbladder had signs of not working well, so they thought that if I had it removed that I would be feeling better.

However, when it came time for the procedure to remove her gallbladder, Sara’s blood work showed that her liver function and enzymes were far from normal and the surgeon would not operate.

“By that time I was feeling defeated and upset because I just wanted to feel better. I remember feeling scared at that time because nobody knew what was going on with me and had no clue how to make it better. With my energy even more depleted, I had to drop out of school because I knew I wasn’t going to be able to function. I had no energy to do anything.” Continue reading

Did norovirus just make you sick? U-M researchers are working to understand why

Stool samples now being collected from current and recent sufferers

A microscopic view of norovirus particles. Source: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

A microscopic view of norovirus particles.
Source: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

It came on like a thunderbolt, and is still making people sick and miserable across Ann Arbor.

But the norovirus outbreak that put the University of Michigan in the spotlight over the past week may have a silver lining.

Resarchers are working to better understand this virus that sickens tens of millions of Americans each year.

Just last week, a U-M Medical School research team received permission to begin collecting stool samples from people who are experiencing norovirus-like symptoms or just recovered in the past three days.

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Understanding liver cancer and liver metastases

Former President Jimmy Carter recently was diagnosed with advanced cancer after having liver surgery.

Theodore Welling III, M.D., Neehar Parikh, M.D., and Tracy Licari, PA-C, discuss a patient in the U-M Multidisciplinary Liver Tumor Clinic.

Theodore Welling III, M.D., Neehar Parikh, M.D., and Tracy Licari, PA-C, discuss a patient in the U-M Multidisciplinary Liver Tumor Clinic.

While we don’t know the origin or extent of his cancer, it’s possible that the cancer had spread to his liver from another part of the body. We sat down with the directors of the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Liver Tumor Program, Neehar Parikh, M.D., medical director, and Theodore Welling III, M.D., surgical director, to learn more about liver cancer and liver metastases.

What does it mean when cancer is found in the liver but it’s not liver cancer? What’s the difference?
It means that the cancer is a secondary (not primary) liver cancer which is the result of spread from Continue reading

When Celiac Disease is a family affair.

celiac disease web grahics blog

I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease (CD) in the spring of 2006 by Dr. John Kao at the University of Michigan GI clinic, but I had my first symptoms of digestive system problems in 1990.

In the time between my first symptoms and my diagnosis, I was diagnosed with IBS, ulcers, hiatal hernia, acid reflux, h-pylori and other disorders. My primary medical doctor was treating me based on my symptoms, but I could not get better.

In the five years prior to being diagnosed with CD I was not a healthy person. I was taking many types of antacids and put through numerous tests including a colonoscopy, an EGD, and various blood tests. I was even put through a stress test and sleep monitoring to rule out heart problems. I was on Nexium at one point and then they doubled my script. Instead of helping, it made me worse. I was in a fog, I couldn’t function properly, and I had trouble sleeping.

It was Dr. Kao who determined these factors were all related to CD, and confirmed this by performing a scope and taking a biopsy of my small intestine. It was also discovered that all three of my children have CD as well.

In the first years following the confirmation that I had CD, I felt much better but I was still having problems. I learned from the physician’s assistant (PA) in Dr. Kao’s office, Christine Marie Brozo, that I also had a bacteria overgrowth in my intestines, and would need to follow a low FODMAP diet to avoid bad sugars, dairy and other foods.

Managing CD in the years since my diagnosis has been tricky due to the amount of misinterpreted information that is available. My family and I have learned to rely on quality sources such as the Celiac Disease Foundation. We’ve also had to reconfigure our home, replacing pots and pans and many items that we cooked with because they contained gluten from past meals.

The number one challenge has been the ability to eat out. So many restaurants today offer a gluten free meal in their ads or menu, but this is not always the case. We always have to ask: do they understand cross contamination issues? Do they truly understand a gluten free process? Over the years we’ve found a few local places that we can trust, and we’ve interviewed several chefs and cooks on the subject.

I would recommend Dr. Kao to anyone for this issue. He has been fantastic, sympathetic and passionate about me and my family and our diets. If it were not for Dr. Kao, I would still be on a wild goose chase of medications and tests.

Take the Next Steps:

signature-vertical.fwThe University of Michigan Digestive and Liver Health services is one of the largest programs in the country, providing prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases involving the gastrointestinal tract and liver. Our 70-plus physicians are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of all diseases of the gastrointestinal system.




A Gentler Colonoscopy Prep

Gentler Colonoscopy PrepMany people will tell you that the worst part of a colonoscopy is the prep. Preparation is critical, though, to help your doctor identify any polyps — it also helps the colonoscopy go faster. Some colonoscopy prep involves drinking up to four liters of a prep solution to help cleanse your colon. Even for someone who typically drinks a lot of fluids, that’s a large amount and you have to drink a few ounces every 15 minutes, which makes the prep almost a full-time job.

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Best Nap Ever!

Colonoscopy is a quick procedure and a guaranteed day of rest

Best Nap Ever blogSure, a colonoscopy isn’t on anyone’s list of favorite things to do, but look at the bright side — you’ll get an awesome nap. Most people receive what is known as “conscious sedation” during their colonoscopy. Anesthesia is delivered via an IV and you’ll feel drowsy almost immediately. You’ll nod off and when the procedure is over, you will be woken up. Most patients feel nothing during the procedure nor do they remember anything about the procedure.

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