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Easing the airways

Viagra For Climbing Mount Everest?

 By Dr. Gifford Jones

Hmm… I had the naive belief that Viagra was strictly for making “amour”. Now I learn it may even help adventurers climb Mount Everest! On the other hand, if you decide to go down, rather than up, swim goggles may present a hazard. And handguns it seems are not the only things to shoot you these days. And is it really dangerous to eat nuts and seeds if you suffer from bowel problems?

Dr. Michele Andreoli, an ophthalmologist at Loyola University in Chicago, reported to The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology that the nail gun is a frequent cause of eye injury.

During a five year period 648 patients with an average age of 34 suffered severe eye injuries due to nail guns. 60 percent of incidents occurred on the job and 99 percent of the injured were males. Ophthalmologists at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary reported similar findings.

Many of the injured workers explained that the nail gun jammed, and they turned it around to examine the cause! Then the gun went off with disastrous results. The moral? If you plan on doing a weekend renovation use eye protection.

But some goggles may be hazardous. Dr. Benjamin Levine, an ophthalmologist at Cornell University in New York, studied the effects of goggles on 20 swimmers with an average age of 29 years. Intraocular pressure of both eyes was measured at one minute and at five minutes after the goggles were put on.

Dr. Levine reports that both readings showed a significant increase in intraocular pressure that returned to normal once the goggles were removed. In five of the 40 eyes the pressure increased 5 mm Hg. At the moment it’s not known whether this increase in pressure is of clinical significance. But a change of this magnitude could be of importance to patients who are being treated for glaucoma. It would not likely affect others.

On many occasions I’ve advised patients suffering from diverticulosis not to eat nuts. Diverticulosis (small hernias of the colon) is most often seen in elderly patients and those suffering from chronic constipation. It’s always been believed that if nuts became trapped in these pouches it would trigger inflammation and possible perforation of the bowel.

But Dr Lisa Strate, Assistant professor of Gastroenterology at the University of Washington, says that nuts and seeds do not increase the risk of diverticular complications. In fact, in some cases, these foods may decrease the risk.

Her study over 18 years involved 47,228 men ages 40 to 75 years to determine if nuts, corn and popcorn caused diverticular complications. At the start of the study all men were free of bowel problems.

During these 18 years there were 383 cases of diverticular bleeding and 801 cases of diverticulitis (inflammation of the pouch). But no association could be found between the bleeding and foods being ingested. Nor did the consumption of nuts, corn or popcorn appear to be associated with diverticulitis.

On the other hand, there was surprising news for those who had refused nuts and popcorn for years. The consumption of popcorn two or more times a week actually decreased the risk of diverticulitis by 28 per cent. For nuts the decrease was 20 percent. But this is only one study.

Now Viagra may make it easier to climb the world’s highest mountain. Normally blood pressure is lower in lungs than in the rest of the body. But as one ascends Mount Everest in an oxygen deficient atmosphere it can become dangerously high resulting in high altitude sickness.

Dr Martin Wilkins of Hammersmith Hospital, London, England, asked volunteers to breath low levels of oxygen for 30 minutes. This caused constriction of blood vessels and a 56 percent increase in pulmonary pressure. The experiment was then repeated after volunteers used Viagra. This time lung pressure remained normal. Viagra relaxes blood vessels.

Studies are currently being done to see if Viagra can be used to improve the lives of those suffering from chronic lung disease. It’s too early to know if mountain climbers will someday use Viagra to control pulmonary pressure. But taking Viagra at 29,035 feet (8,850 meters)? Hmm…. That might trigger unexpected and undesirable side effects!

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Dr. Gifford Jones  Bio
Dr. Gifford Jones Most recent columns

W. Gifford-Jones M.D is the pen name of Dr. Ken Walker graduate of The Harvard Medical School. He’s been a ship’s surgeon, hotel physician and family doctor and later trained in surgery at McGill in Montreal, University of Rochester N.Y. and Harvard. His medical column is published by 60 Canadian newspapers and several in the U.S. He is the author of seven books. Dr. Walker has a medical practice in Toronto. His Web site is: http://www.mydoctor.ca/gifford-jones

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