Living Well

Think Twice Before Getting This Deadly ‘Emergency’ Surgery

Just seven emergency surgeries account for 80% of all admissions, deaths, complications… and costs to the patient.

Research published in JAMA Surgery found that the majority of these problems resulted from one of four different bowel surgeries (partial colectomy, small-bowel resection, removal of peritoneal adhesions, and laparotomy), as well as removal of the appendix, peptic ulcers, and gallbladder.

Don’t Pop That Boil

Seasoned athlete Henry was only 28 when he nearly lost his leg.

After a hard workout, he thought he had pulled a muscle. Pain seared through his leg, and within hours it was red and hot to the touch. He noticed a small white bump that looked like a pimple.

His primary care doctor didn’t test it or seem concerned. He shrugged it off as a viral infection and wrote a (useless) script for antibiotics.

But two days later, Henry couldn’t handle the pain and went for a second opinion. That decision saved his leg… and likely his life.

Henry had a serious staph infection. Once he took the right meds, he healed in a week. But his second doctor told him he’d come within a day of losing his leg.

Not only is this a case of terrible doctoring (don’t get me started on writing an antibiotic script for a virus!), but it’s an important lesson on when to get help.

Staph infections are surprisingly common. They’re caused by the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus. S. aureus lives in the dirt and all around us. In fact, 20% of us have it on our skin all the time. Another 30% of us carry it occasionally. It lives in the skin inside our noses as well as on our chest, armpits, and hands.

Sometimes staph bacteria get into our skin and cause an infection. The infections typically appear as small, painful lumps filled with white pus. They’re often hard, hot to the touch, and red. Most folks call these boils.

You can usually treat small (less than two inches across), less painful boils at home. Applying warm compresses helps the pus drain. After that, keep a clean bandage over it, changing it every time it gets dirty or at least twice a day. You’ll need to thoroughly wash your hands every time and make sure to wash everything the boil touches. That includes washing towels, clothes, and bedding.

However, staph infections of the skin can get more serious, as Henry experienced. If the pain is severe or the redness spreads, get to a doctor. Similarly, if you have immune system problems, you need to get medical care. That includes folks over 65, pregnant women, those with diabetes, and other immune-compromising diseases. If you’re in this category, don’t mess around. See a doctor right away.

The reason for concern here is important. Staph can spread to your bloodstream. That leads to sepsis and toxic shock – which can kill you.

The infection can also spread to your organs. In fact, it’s one of the main causes of something called infective endocarditis. That’s when your heart gets infected. It’s a life-threatening condition, but it only affects about 10,000 to 20,000 people in the U.S. each year (and many cases involve those with heart valve transplants or other infections).

Staph also causes cellulitis. Cellulitis appears as a red rash that’s hot, swollen, and tender to the touch. It happens when bacteria infect the lower layer of the skin. It can spread quickly and enter your bloodstream, which is why you should always get medical care for any skin condition like this.

Finally, the last reason you need to pay attention to staph… there’s a strain of staph bacteria you’re likely familiar with: methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, also known as MRSA. About 90,000 folks contract MRSA each year, with 20,000 dying from it. It’s common in hospitals and long-term care facilities.

The problem is that MRSA is resistant to methicillin, a standard antibiotic. That makes it hard to kill. Worse, we’re seeing more and more staph bacteria gaining this resistance to common drugs. It’s only a matter of time before waves of folks start dying from what used to be “harmless.”

The best defense: Only take antibiotics when you have a serious bacterial infection (like staph). Take all of the pills you’re given to make sure you kill all the bacteria. And be sure to wash your hands regularly with plain soap and water.

If you suspect you have a staph infection, make sure your doctor takes a culture and tests it. The sooner they do, the sooner you can get the correct medications to fight it.

Where Everybody Knows Your Name… And Literally Everything Else About You

Doc’s note: Today, I’m sharing an essay from famed political satirist P.J. O’Rourke. In a recent issue of his online magazine, American Consequences, P.J. details how privacy has become a thing of the past and the government is taking advantage of our oversharing culture.

American Consequences is edited by P.J. and written by some of the smartest contrarian market analysts in the world. The best part is… it’s 100% free. There’s no subscription fee or “paywall” or anything like that. Sign up to start receiving issues right here.

Don’t Let the Easter Bunny Bring You This Disease

This weekend, millions of Americans will gorge themselves on one thing: Candy.

Easter is the second-biggest holiday for spending money on candy. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), which keeps track of holiday spending, Americans spent $2.6 billion on Easter candy. Halloween spending sits in the first spot at about $2.7 billion.

This Rare Cancer Doesn’t Just Target Celebrities

Patrick Swayze, dead at 57. Michael Landon, dead at 54. Steve Jobs, dead at 56.

For most Americans, deaths of famous folks like these might be the only time they’ve ever heard about pancreatic cancer and its complications.

The No. 1 Way to De-Stress This Spring

It’s finally spring… which means it’s time to face one of your biggest stressors.

Each year, millions of Americans use the warmer temperatures to throw open their windows and do some “spring cleaning.”

The No. 1 Way to Beat Depression Without Pills

If you’re reading this issue, chances are that you or someone you know has battled depression.

About 16 million Americans have something called major depressive disorder (MDD). It’s characterized by changes in sleep (sleeping too much or insomnia), lack of concentration, loss of interest in activities, feelings of hopelessness and sadness, or thoughts of self-harm that interfere with daily living and persist for two weeks or more.

‘The Worst Epidemic of the 21st Century’

More than 100 million people in the U.S. currently have diabetes or prediabetes.

Worldwide, nearly 450 million people have diabetes. And those numbers have soared in recent decades.

These Pills Are Destroying Your Colon

I’ve railed against calcium supplements for years.

In October 2016, I wrote:

The ‘New’ Disease You Already Have

An alarming rate of Americans have this “new” disease.

You’ve probably never heard of it. But up to 46% of you reading this likely have it. It’s called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD.