Restless leg syndrome: Do you have it?

Restless_leg_Dec_1_2015_blogRestless leg syndrome (RLS) is an uncomfortable sensation that gives a person the urge to move their legs. This sensation has been described in many ways; sometimes it can feel like a pain, a tingling or a “creepy-crawling” sensation. It is important to know that RLS happens when a person is awake, not asleep, although many people with RLS may move their legs while asleep. And it gets worse or occurs predominantly at night.

About 14% of people in the U.S. have restless leg. Some people feel that it is difficult to explain to their doctor and may not seek treatment. It is, however, a real sleep disorder that has consequences when it interferes with a person’s quality of life.

With RLS, everyday activities such as sitting down to watch TV in the evening or riding in a car or plane can be difficult.  Continue reading

New microscope offers hope for tumor patients

New technology series

University of Michigan's Dr. Daniel Orringer with the new SRS microscope which promises to make brain tumor and other cancer surgeries safer and more efficient

University of Michigan’s Dr. Daniel Orringer with the new SRS microscope which promises to make brain tumor and other cancer surgeries safer and more efficient

Here at the University of Michigan we are testing a new microscope that will radically change brain tumor surgery—making it safer and more efficient. So far, we have used the microscope on tissues from 89 patients with great success.

Timing and location are important

One of the most difficult things for a brain surgeon is figuring out exactly where a brain tumor starts and stops because brain tumor tissue can be hard to distinguish from the rest of the brain. The new stimulated Raman scattering (SRS) microscope allows us to see the edges of a tumor in a few seconds instead of waiting the 30-45 minutes it usually takes for a frozen tumor section to be developed.

Right now, we are using the microscope on an experimental basis through grants from the National Institutes of Health and the University of Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization for Life Sciences Program. We are using the microscope almost exclusively on neurosurgical cases. I’m also collaborating with Matt Spector, who is a head and neck surgeon, to look at squamous cell carcinoma.  Continue reading

For Parkinson’s: Everyday activity better than strenuous exercise

Woman doing laundryHere’s my latest prescription for Parkinson’s: Do the dishes, fold laundry, work in your garden and walk around your neighborhood.

Patients with Parkinson’s disease are often told to engage in (vigorous) exercise, but when my colleagues and I studied 48 individuals with Parkinson’s we found that everyday activities were much more effective than occasional strenuous exercise. We discovered that it is not so much the exercise but the routine activities from daily living that protect motor skills.

Exercise is fine, but there are many barriers to exercising. These include transportation, expense and time commitment. Furthermore, people typically exercise for only a short time and a few times per week.  Continue reading

What can the Target Christmas sweater teach us about OCD?

U-M psychiatrist explains what obsessive-compulsive disorder is REALLY about

target OCD sweater

This week, Target made news for debuting a holiday-themed sweater that labeled OCD as “Obsessive Christmas Disorder” – a play on the condition’s real full name, obsessive compulsive disorder.

Critics are accusing the store as “trivializing mental illness” and are saying that this message “perpetuates myths and misunderstandings.”

We sat down with OCD expert and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry Kate Fitzgerald, M.D., to set the record straight.

How do you identify true OCD?

Fitzgerald_576Dr. Fitzgerald: Typically, we diagnose true OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) in someone who has unusual, intrusive and repetitive worry or fears. These fears or worries may interfere with his or her functioning in some way (school attendance or performance, relationships with family members or peers, involvement in activities). Generally, a person with true OCD reports thoughts or fears that come to mind over and over again, even though they might realize the worries do not make sense. Some examples of obsessive thoughts are fear of contamination, accidental violence, or needing to feel “just right.”
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Jet lag? There’s an app for that!

Young Woman in Airport Jeg Lag blogIf you have ever crossed time zones by plane and felt so exhausted afterward that it takes days to get back to normal, you have experienced jet lag. Now, with a new app called Entrain, you can monitor your body’s circadian rhythms using your smartphone—and adjust faster to new time zones and schedules.

Jet lag is the result of a disrupted circadian clock. Entrain simulates your circadian clock and makes mathematically optimal lighting recommendations to help you adjust as quickly as possible to new time zones and schedules.  Continue reading

Lewy body dementia

The Alzheimer’s disease and dementia series

Michigan Alzheimer's Disease Center has established support groups for people with Lewy body dementia and their caregivers.

In partnership with a caregiver, Michigan Alzheimer’s Disease Center is offering support groups for people with Lewy body dementia and their caregivers.

Lewy body dementia (LBD) is the second most common form of degenerative dementia in the United States. LBD affects an estimated 1.4 million Americans. The symptoms of LBD are often mistaken for more well-known diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. They are so similar that only 30-50% of all LBD cases are accurately diagnosed.

What makes LBD different? 

The presence of Lewy bodies—abnormal deposits of the protein alpha-synuclein that build up in the brain—distinguish LBD from other dementias. The Lewy bodies are tiny spherical structures that develop inside nerve cells. Their presence leads to the degeneration of brain tissue.  Continue reading