WHAT IS BLOCKCHAIN?
Blockchain is the technology that enabled the Bitcoin transactions popularised in 2009. It can be visualised as a digital ledger that is maintained and visible to everyone across the network.
With its core function to provide a decentralised collection of records that cannot be changed or compromised, blockchain eliminated the need for a centralised bank that manages all the financial transactions.
The security of data and visibility of timestamps on every block is what makes this technology extremely popular in sectors that rely on transactions of any kind — be it monetary, material goods supply or sensitive information.
Expanding its horizons from the banking and finance industry to pharma and healthcare, blockchain is running high on unleashing its virtues exponentially
With the potential to transform healthcare, it places the patient at the centre of the healthcare ecosystem and provides security, privacy, and interoperability of health data. These primary features of blockchain have disrupted the healthcare sector and introduced new and unmatched operational efficiencies.
HOW BLOCKCHAIN CAN DISRUPT THE HEALTHCARE INDUSTRY
Where there is sensitive data, there will be an attempt to breach it. As with any industry, the healthcare sector has seen its fair share of breaches over the years making it a rising concern to have some measure in place to prevent unethical leaking of medical data. However, the application of Blockchain is not limited to just that.
The primary benefit of blockchain is the ease in data portability and data security. While ensuring the safety of patient records by decentralising it, with blockchain, it becomes very efficient to share patient data among the healthcare providers safely and ethically. Patients can also be provided ownership of their data, which can be accessed from their mobile devices.
Another aligned benefit is the seamless switching of patients among the healthcare providers. All the new organisation or medical personnel would need is a private key authorised by the previous organisation and the patient to access it. This helps to reduce the delay that presently arises due to the time taken to access and accumulate a patient’s previous medical history. With blockchain, these records will be easily retrievable for hospitals, doctors and pharmacists, diagnoses will be made available more swiftly and healthcare plans can be made highly personalised. This even helps to curb miscommunication and mishandling of vital details.
The one benefit that has shot blockchain’s current popularity is its provision of traceability. The risk of counterfeit drugs and tampered medicines are potentially fatal. Research shows that about 30% of Covid vaccines circulated in developing countries are fraudulent. With the introduction of blockchain, every ingredient can be traced, the drug’s trajectory can be tracked both post-delivery and in real-time, and the supply chain is made transparent and unsusceptible to tampering.
Data on the blockchain is authenticated by all the devices on the network, rather than being given credibility by a single authorised entity. This lack of a trusted intermediary makes many stakeholders and market players hesitant about adopting this tech for storing and processing such highly sensitive data. Additionally, this technology is still too young for us to completely understand the multitude of challenges and vulnerabilities that might arise.
Regardless, the potential of this technology is enormous. The implementation has only just begun with the field ripe for uncharted possibilities. For blockchain technology to be widely adopted, the medical fraternity including the policymakers, the major stakeholders and the industry leader would need to work together and concentrate their efforts in a united approach.
Covid-19 has led to an explosion of technology acceleration in the healthcare world and driven adoption at unseen rates. The time is ripe and reports already claim that by 2025 about 55% of the health applications will be based on commercially developed blockchain.
The blockchain is unique in the way it allows privacy of data and transparency of exchange reliably and efficiently. Any player to successfully leverage this technology will see it pay off in the near future.
The writer is the founder & CEO of NeoSOFT Technologies.
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ALLERGIES: A COMMON IRRITATING FACT
Allergic diseases are one of the key challenges in health management worldwide. “Allergies can make one feel like a zombie.” Although it is difficult to point out one reason for the increasing trend, changing environmental factors and genetics play an important role. Allergies can involve all systems but may manifest in one or more. Early identification of childhood allergies will improve the quality of life both for the child and the family and reduce school absenteeism and parental stress.
Innumerable allergens may cause allergies and finding the exact allergen is impossible. The allergens can be airborne, food or by direct contact, airborne being the commonest. Automobile fumes are very high risk especially for children as these fumes are heavy and concentrate at around 3-4 feet which is the height of children. Seasonal, due to very high pollen count as we see in April-May and September-October and in winters, viruses can be bad allergens. The other common type is food allergy. Reactions vary from urticaria to anaphylaxis and death. Most children tend to outgrow milk and egg allergies.
Common Symptoms: Skin rashes or hives, difficulty breathing (asthma), sneezing, coughing, runny nose, itchy eyes and frequent stomach upset
Common Allergy Triggers
Outdoors: smog, dust, air pollutants, pollens, insect bites or stings
Indoors: pet’s furs, cockroach dander, dust mites, (carpets, cushions, mattresses, curtains), mould
Irritants: cigarette smoke-direct or passive, coal and wood fire smoke, perfume, aggarbattis, chalk dust, car exhaust, and recent addition- vehicle tyres rubbing on roads produce dangerous particles
Foods: tree nuts, peanuts, eggs, cow’s milk, wheat
Allergic rhinitis: It is most common, the symptoms include runny, itchy nose, sneezing and blocked nose (turbinate hypertrophy) along with itchy, watery red eyes, as well as itchy painful ears and chronic ear problems- like fluid collection in the ears causing a decreased hearing and poor speech development in long run. Also severely blocked nose and mouth breathing causes dry throat, infections of throat, lack of sleep and sleep apnoea and poor school performance. Also, severe congestion of surrounding areas leads to symptoms like headache, a swollen tongue, and loss of taste and smell. Allergens can trigger rashes like eczema and about 50% may have other allergic manifestations also
Food allergies are again very common in children. The common food allergens include eggs, tree nuts (pistachio, cashews, walnuts), wheat, soy and milk especially cow’s milk “A favourite in Indian homes”, fish and seafood (crab, lobster, crayfish and shrimp). Allergies tend to last lifelong although children often outgrow allergies to milk, eggs, soy and wheat.
All parents should be aware of the possibility of anaphylaxis—a potentially life-threatening reaction which impairs breathing, low blood and shock.
Parents must inform school authorities of any allergies.
Physical education and sports are an important part of the school curriculum. Children with asthma and allergic problems should participate in all sports activities. For asthma, prescribed controller medication should be administered by an inhaler before exercise to prevent any symptoms in asthmatic children.
Diagnostic tests have limited value in identifying the offending allergen. Skin prick tests and blood tests are available in the field of diagnostics but have a limited role. Some supportive tests can be done to establish allergy but then all cases may not show positive results. Avoiding the suspected allergens is the first and most important step in management. Symptoms can be relieved by drugs like antihistamines, anticholinergics, leukotriene-modifying agents, and topical and systemic steroids. Immunotherapy against the confirmed antigens can be tried but again not very successful because pointing out a single allergen is impossible.
The writer is MD paediatrics, Academic and DNB coordinator, Madhukar Rainbow Children’s hospital New Delhi
IS AI-ASSISTED DIGITAL PATHOLOGY THE FUTURE OF DIAGNOSTICS?
AI makes the pathologist more efficient and allows handling of a much larger sample load than what she or he can do today without the help of AI.
Digital pathology—the ability to scan a glass slide containing a physical-biological specimen with an automated digital microscope and view the sample on a computer screen rather than under a microscope—has been around for several decades now. The first algorithm and implementation of a digital slide scanner were published in the 1970s! Early players in this field building digital slide scanners include Leica, Roche, Hamamatsu, Philips, etc. Digital pathology helps streamline the microscopy work in a clinical laboratory, by allowing remote review, and also takes away the stress and strain of looking through a microscope all day long for the pathologists.
While the technology has been around for some time, its widescale adoption has started to pick up only in the recent past. One of the primary reasons for lukewarm adoption is the cost. These are precision machines, and their cost is unaffordable for all but the largest clinical laboratories. Further, the regulatory clearance for such devices has been slow in coming. The first digital slide scanner to receive USFDA clearance was only in 2017. This was a model from Philips. It was followed by a model from Leica in 2019.
AI for digital pathology builds on top of the automated slide scanners. It takes the digital images from the scanners as input, and automates, at least partially, the detection of different types of cells, tissues, normal and abnormal cells and cell formations, etc. This helps the pathologist by quickly drawing her attention to the areas of interest, and aids in quicker and often better diagnosis of diseases. AI makes the pathologist more efficient and allows handling of a much larger sample load than what she or he can do today without the help of AI. Prominent players in the field of digital pathology include Paige AI, Path AI, Proscia and others.
Cancer is on the rise worldwide. Cases are expected to rise by 70% all over the world in the next two decades. This will translate to the diagnosis of 27.5 million new cases annually if the current trend continues. Pathology is a vital tool for diagnosing cancer. Close to 70-80% of treatment decisions depend on the findings of a pathologist. This, in turn, leads to multiplying workload for the pathologists. Yet, there is a severe shortage of pathologists, not only in India but even in the developed world. For example, a third of pathologists in the UK are expected to retire in the next four to five years. In the US, there will be an estimated shortage of 5,700 pathologists by 2030.
Thus, making the diagnosis process more efficient and accurate through technology is the only way to battle both the shortage of pathologists and the rising incidence of diseases. This is where AI-assisted digital pathology has a very important role to play. Remote review through digital slides helps in making pathological diagnoses more accessible—by removing the need for the pathologist to be co-located with the sample. The use of AI to assist the pathologist helps bring down the diagnosis time and has the potential, at least theoretically, to increase the accuracy of diagnosis as well. This potential for the future is what is driving the quicker adoption of AI-assisted digital pathology worldwide in the recent future.
We, at SigTuple, are at the forefront of AI for pathology. Unlike many other slide scanner manufacturers (who build only the hardware) and AI for pathology companies (who build only the AI), we offer an end-to-end solution consisting of both the hardware—the digital slide scanner—and the AI for the analysis of the sample.
Our solution is much more affordable compared to the existing devices, and hence it is witnessing a very quick adoption even in the most cost-sensitive markets like India, where other providers have hardly any presence.
The writer is founder & CEO, SigTuple.
AI for digital pathology builds on top of the automated slide scanners. It takes the digital images from the scanners as input, and automates, at least partially, the detection of different types of cells, tissues, normal and abnormal cells and cell formations, etc. This helps the pathologist by quickly drawing her attention to the areas of interest, and aids in quicker and often better diagnosis of diseases.
‘BUILDING PERSONAL RESOURCEFULNESS CRITICAL IN ENABLING MENTAL WELL-BEING’
Shilpa G. Manari, founder of Authentic Living, spoke to The Daily Guardian Review about the need to strengthen the Indian mental health infrastructure, and shared tips to deal with stress, anxiety and more.
Q: How is your organisation helping to make mental healthcare services more accessible in our country?
A: We, at Authentic Living, provide therapy and other well-being services to adults and children digitally via virtual platforms to make it accessible to people irrespective of their geography. This also addresses the challenge of privacy and existing social stigma due to lack of awareness as care can be accessed from their homes. Through our AL Assist program, we provide quality care at significantly subsidised charges so that people with limited financial resources have the option of seeing a healthcare professional in their time of need. We also work with institutions and corporates bringing well-being to their employees through EAP services and well-being-focused employee engagement activities. Workplace culture significantly influences one’s mental well-being, so we help organisations build a work culture that is well-being informed and integrates psychological safety when creating workplace policies and people practices.
Along with curative care, we also focus on preventive initiatives such as awareness building via our social media platforms, masterclasses and immersive workshops. Recently we hosted our first international mental health summit where we had 20+ field experts exploring systemic, structural, and socially inflicted inequalities that are often overlooked in the mental health space and ways to address them. We have identified that building personal resourcefulness is critical in enabling mental well-being and hence invest in providing tools and techniques that can be practised by individuals regularly to manage their well-being.
Q: How crucial is it to focus on strengthening the Indian mental health infrastructure? A: It is extremely crucial to focus on strengthening the Indian mental healthcare infrastructure and dedicate resources towards it. Let’s look at some quick statistics, the National Mental Health Survey 2015-16 has estimated that 150 million people across the country are in need of mental healthcare interventions. A 2017 study published in The Lancet Psychiatry reported that number to be 197.3 million; with mental health contributing to 4.7% of the total DALYs in India. DALYs are the sum of the years lost due to premature mortality and the years lived with a disability. The WHO estimates an economic loss of US$ 1.03 trillion in India due to mental health disorders. Statistically, it is clear that this is a significant problem but we are currently facing immense challenges to bridge this gap and cater to the millions of people who need help. We have a severe shortage of mental healthcare professionals in India, there are only 0.75 psychiatrists and 0.067 psychologists for every 1,00,000 population while the recommended ratio is 3 psychiatrists and 1.5 psychologists per 1,00,000 population. They are also primarily located in the urban regions making them inaccessible to rural India. There is a significant lack of awareness about mental health and well-being leading to severe stigmatisation for those who suffer from mental illnesses, this can be addressed via awareness campaigns and using media effectively to normalise mental health and create an informed community. Affordability of quality care is another challenge that we face which deters people from accessing therapy and other services that are necessary to manage illnesses in the long term. This can be addressed via government-funded schemes and by mandating all health insurances to cover mental healthcare costs. We do not have a strong regulatory body that covers the entire spectrum of mental health solutions.
Q: Can you share some easy tips to deal with stress and anxiety?
A: Stress and anxiety are different. Stress can be due to multiple intrinsic or extrinsic drivers such as sudden change, workload, distressing news, physical illness, pressure to perform, and meet expectations. Anxiety is an excessive irrational fear that disrupts daily functioning in individuals, usually a response to the stressors being experienced.
Stress will always exist in some form or the other in life. We need to build our capacity to manage stress and regulate our emotions and responses to stressful situations. People can list down everything that is creating stress in their life and strike out the things that aren’t in their control and create a plan of action for those that are within their control. Also, move the body regularly to shake off the restless energy stored in the body due to stress. Basic mindfulness practices such as focusing on the breath or doing the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique help to reduce anxiety. Another great practice is to spend time in nature and practise some grounding techniques. If self-regulation is becoming difficult, talk therapy, art-based or movement-based therapy also helps.
Q: How can overthinking impact people negatively and what are the ways to curb it?
A: Overthinking can often put people into a negative loop cycle of distress and loss of control which can lead to anxiety, panic attack, depression, high blood pressure, insomnia, and psychosomatic illnesses affecting their mental and physical well-being. It also takes away their ability to stay in the present and experience life as they are often in the past or future which adds to the sense of dread. It can be caused by stress, self-doubt or low self-esteem or it could be a trauma response.
It is necessary to remember that we are not our thoughts, overthinking happens when we lose control of our ability to regulate our thought patterns but it is possible to retrain our brain through self-awareness of what is triggering the overthinking, understanding the distortions that exist in our brains and working through them by challenging it and reframing the thoughts using techniques like cognitive behaviour therapy.
During moments of overthinking, one can break the thought cycle by taking the attention away from the head into the body through simple movements such as going for a walk, or by bringing attention to our breathing pattern as well as other mindfulness practices. Journalling often helps people pen down their thoughts and transfer them from the mind to the paper as a way of releasing them. If overthinking is a trauma response, it would require deeper healing which can be done through therapy.
Q: What can people do to improve their mental well-being?
A: We are all holistic beings, where one aspect of our life or well-being affects the others. To improve our mental health, we need to take care of our physical well-being such as having healthy daily habits and routines in the form of nutrition, sleep, and exercises/movement.
Next, it is important to invest in some mental and emotional well-being practices like mindfulness, journaling, practising gratitude, therapy, learning to regulate our emotions and manage stress in a healthy way, spending time with loved ones as well as making space to do things that we enjoy and also to slow down once in a while.
Lastly, I think it is crucial to build personal resourcefulness such as having a support system, reaching out for help when needed, and knowing that mental well-being is as important as physical well-being and the stigma around it is unwarranted.
What Does Different Angel Numbers Mean For You In 2022?
Angel numbers have repetition or a sequence in them (222, 333, 4444, 2323). These are used in numerology like tarot card readers, and astrologists use other specific tools. According to numerologists, they convey a special divine message to an individual that you are on the right track.
If you see some series of numbers repeatedly, usually in a pattern of three, it might not be a coincidence but a sign from the spiritual realm. These signals have the power to transform your lives. They are a way angels communicate to us. They can show up as license plate numbers, receipts, house numbers, prices, phone numbers, bank account numbers, etc.
They don’t inevitably come from your birthdays like your life path number. Angel numbers are distinct from what is known as your life path number, which you can obtain by taking your birthday—month, day, and year—down to one number. For example, a birthdate of August 15, 1989, would take 8, 6 (1 +
5), and 9 (1 + 9 + 8+ 9= 27, followed by 2 + 7) to get a life path number of 5 (8 + 6+ 9 = 23, followed by 2 + 3). But if you see your birthday angel numbers, it means the angels are sending unique messages to you and want you to connect to them.
What to do when you see an angel number?
Always take a numerology analysis when you see an angel number. Just feel lucky and think that the message is designed specifically for you. So take it personally and be open to the signals in the future. Give your feedback and be an active participant. Try to track your progress in a diary and keep writing the numbers you are seeing.
What are the meanings of different angel numbers?
Different angel numbers have varied meanings and can be seen in numerous combinations. Let us have a look into the meanings of various angel numbers one by one.
- 666 Meaning (Reflect)
666 angel number tells you that something is distracting you from your goals. You need to re-focus and realign your energies. Something is not visible to you right now, but if you look at the bigger picture, you will be able to understand what you are missing.
- 000 Meaning
It means that new opportunities are on the way. Secondly, you have to be careful of toxic people around you. You just have to focus on the good energy and stay away from negative thoughts. The angels are with you.
- 111 Meaning (Intuition)
It signifies new beginnings. Some new chapters of your life are about to start. It might be in terms of love, money, or any other aspect. You are ready to get engaged in something new and fresh that was on hold for a long time.
- 222 Meaning (Alignment)
When you are about to face major decisions or transitions in your life, this number might appear. It conveys that you have to rethink and re-examine some decisions. Once you are sure of your decision, you will work hard and achieve your dreams.
- 333 Meaning (Support)
It symbolizes that the angels are trying to connect with you. You need to take second thoughts about decisions taken in the past. Besides, you need to get rid of bad vibes around you. In terms of love life, you might find self-acceptance or love in life soon.
- 444 Meaning (Protection)
It conveys you might be in love already. You must stay determined, brave in every field of life, and ready to go. The angel is there protecting you from evil.
- 555 Meaning (Change)
It tells you that it is time for transformation. Change is around the way. A new, better path is developing, and you just need to seize the next few steps.
- 777 Meaning (Luck)
It is an auspicious number that symbolizes that you are ready to get the fruits of your efforts. Be it happiness, blessings, miracles, or a piece of good news. There is some good change on the way.
- 888 Meaning (Balance)
This number signifies material wealth, money, good fortune, and many good vibes. You will also be able to do the toughest of tasks, emerge victorious, and achieve balance in your life.
- 999 Meaning (Release)
The number 9 represents endings, meaning that one life cycle is ending, and a critical fresh phase is originating. The number 9 represents endings.
- 100 Meaning
It is the most positive angel number signifying prosperity, confidence, and success in life. You should follow your path confidently, which will undoubtedly lead to victory. Bad situations are only temporary.
If you notice an angel number repeatedly appearing before your eyes, you can just take it as a sign of backing and affirmation that you’re on the perfect path. Angel numbers ensure our connection with God—they’re a reassurance that someone or something is always listening. So the next time you see an angel number, let it be a remembrance that we are not alone on this planet, divine powers are at work around us, and our lives are in the hands of angels.
6 Amazing Products That Will Surely Cure All Your Digestive Problems
Digestive problems can be disastrous, causing severe discomfort. The digestive tract plays a significant role in human health. It is responsible for the absorption of nutrients and the elimination of waste. Due to different reasons, people suffer digestive problems such as bloating, abdominal pain, cramping, constipation, diarrhea, and gas.
In addition, people with digestive issues may develop health conditions such as Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), heartburn, and Crohn’s Disease, which are very detrimental and can lead to serious health problems. The following article will look at some of the few products to help cure digestive problems.
Most people probably take cannabis products for fun or self-satisfaction without understanding some health benefits. Apart from giving you a relaxed feeling and changing your moods, delta 8 THC can be beneficial in treating digestive problems. Delta 8 has excellent effects on the digestive tract and helps reduce any digestive symptoms. For example, delta 8 THC can help treat inflammatory bowel disease, one of the digestive problems that most people suffer. In addition, it helps to reduce stomach emptying, reduce abdominal pain, increase appetite, and minimize bowel movement frequency.
There is a wide variety of delta 8 products to order to treat your digestive problems. People who go through surgeries or are under cancer medication undergo digestive issues such as vomiting and indigestion. Delta 8 can help reduce such symptoms effectively. However, before using cannabis products to treat digestive problems, you need to consult a doctor for a prescription of the appropriate doses to take. Further, if you are under medication with other drugs, you need the best advice regarding the use of cannabis in conjunction with the medicine you are taking.
Taking food and drinks rich in probiotics can be very helpful in easing digestive problems—for example, yogurt made from fermented milk. Yogurt contains probiotics in the form of friendly bacteria that live in the digestive tract and helps to improve digestion and keep the gut healthy. Though probiotics should occur naturally in the body and especially in the stomach, you can boost it by taking foods such as yogurt rich in probiotics. Probiotics help ease digestive issues such as diarrhea, constipation and bloating.
However, you have to ensure that it contains probiotics when buying yogurt. You can get specific about this by looking at the package to ensure it has a live and active culture description. Probiotics in yogurt contain living organisms such as bacteria and yeast similar to those in the gut and play a crucial role in digestion. Taking yogurt as a supplement can help treat digestive problems and improve general digestive health.
Dark Green Vegetables
Fiber plays a vital role when it comes to digestion. Green vegetables are a great source of insoluble fiber. Insoluble fiber is responsible for adding bulk to the stool and quickening its pace through the digestive tract. In addition, green vegetables are also rich in magnesium and are vital in relieving constipation by improving muscle contraction in the gastrointestinal tract. Some of the most popular dark green vegetables that are beneficial to your health and should consider adding to your diet include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, spinach, and other leafy greens.
Further, green leafy vegetables contain sugar that feeds the gut with friendly bacteria, which can help digestion and impair some contagious bacteria that can cause serious illness.
Licorice has been vital in treating many symptoms of indigestion, such as heartburn and acid reflux. Though licorice is very effective, it should only be taken when purified as an unpurified form can lead to serious side effects such as increasing high blood pressure. One of the purified licorices is DGL, as it has no chemicals and does not cause any side effects. However, pregnant women should not take DGL or another licorice supplement without the doctor’s prescription.
Ginger is one of the products that has been widely used to treat digestive problems and other conditions such as stomachaches. In addition, pregnant women experiencing issues such as nausea and vomiting during pregnancy can use ginger which is a very effective natural medicine. You can take ginger in different forms, such as powder, tablets, capsules, or freshly cut roots. However, you should limit the number of doses and take small amounts per day. Ginger helps provide some comfort in the stomach and ease the discomfort caused by gas and constipation.
Glutamine is a natural nutrient found in the body and vital in supporting the intestines and other organs responsible for digestion. Supplementing your naturally occurring glutamine with L-glutamine can help relieve diarrhea caused by surgery, stress, or infections. In addition, l-glutamine can be vital to people who have too many unfriendly bacteria in their digestive system as it helps fight them. People taking cancer drugs or those who have undergone an intestine surgery should take l-glutamine supplements to improve the absorption of nutrients.
In conclusion, digestive problems can cause severe pain to your health and even lead to detrimental health risks. However, you can naturally mitigate this problem by using the natural product regularly to treat them or prevent them.
Infertility: Causes, diagnosis, risks and treatment
WHAT IS INFERTILITY?
Infertility is a disease of the male or female reproductive system defined by the failure to achieve a pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse.
Infertility can be primary or secondary. Primary infertility is when a pregnancy has never been achieved by a person, and secondary infertility is when a woman can’t get pregnant again after having at least one successful pregnancy.
WHAT CAUSES INFERTILITY?
Infertility may be caused by a number of different factors, in either the male or female reproductive systems. However, it is sometimes not possible to explain the causes of infertility.
In the female reproductive system, infertility may be caused by:
• Tubal disorders such as blocked fallopian tubes, which are in turn caused by untreated sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or complications of unsafe abortion, postpartum sepsis or abdominal/pelvic surgery.
•Uterine disorders could be inflammatory in nature (such as endometriosis), congenital in nature (such as septate uterus), or benign in nature (such as fibroids).
•Disorders of the ovaries such as polycystic ovarian syndrome and other follicular disorders.
•Disorders of the endocrine system causing imbalances of reproductive hormones. The endocrine system includes hypothalamus and the pituitary glands. Examples of common disorders affecting this system include pituitary cancers and hypopituitarism.
In the male reproductive system, infertility may be caused by:
•Obstruction of the reproductive tract causing dysfunctionalities in the ejection of semen. This blockage can occur in the tubes that carry semen (such as ejaculatory ducts and seminal vesicles). Blockages are commonly due to injuries or infections of the genital tract.
•Hormonal disorders leading to abnormalities in hormones produced by the pituitary gland, hypothalamus and testicles. Hormones such as testosterone regulate sperm production. Example of disorders that result in hormonal imbalance includes pituitary or testicular cancers.
•Testicular failure to produce sperm, for example, Overheated testicles. Causes include an undescended testicle, a varicocele or varicose vein in the scrotum, the use of hot tubs, wearing tight clothes, and working in hot environments or medical treatments that impair sperm-producing cells (such as chemotherapy). Mumps If occurs after puberty, inflammation of the testicles may affect sperm production.
•Abnormal sperm function and quality, there are conditions or situations that cause abnormal shape (morphology) and movement (motility) of the sperm negatively affect fertility. For example, the use of anabolic steroids.
Environmental and lifestyle factors can affect both male and female fertility such as smoking, excessive alcohol intake and obesity. In addition, exposure to environmental pollutants and toxins can be directly toxic to gametes (eggs and sperm), resulting in their decreased numbers and poor quality, leading to infertility.
DIAGNOSTIC TOOLS USED FOR FEMALE INFERTILITY ARE
•Pelvic examination including PAP smear
•Blood tests like, hormone levels – Thyroid, AMH, FSH and LH
DIAGNOSTIC TOOLS USED FOR MALE INFERTILITY ARE
•Blood test–Testosterone, Thyroid, Genetic blood test for chromosomal abnormality
•Age above 40 years (male) and above 32 years (female)
•Smoking and alcohol
•Not enough exercise
•History of Sexually transmitted Infections (STIs)
•Exposure to some chemicals: pesticides, herbicides, metals, such as lead, and solvents.
•Chemo or Radiotherapy
Treatment will depend on the underlying cause of infertility, in form of
•Surgery: blockage in tube that store and carry sperm (male) or blockage in fallopian tube/fibroid/polyp/endometriosis (female).
a. IUI (Intrauterine insemination): Used long thin tube to place sperm directly into the uterus.
b. IVF (In vitro fertilisation): Harvesting egg at the end of stimulation and placing sperm and egg together in a lab dish. The sperm fertilises the egg. Fertilised egg is transferred into the uterus.
c. ICSI (Intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection): tiny needle, called a micropipette, is used to inject a single sperm into the centre of the egg.
d. Sperm or egg donation
e. Assisted hatching
f. Electric or vibratory stimulation to achieve ejaculation
g. Surgical sperm aspiration
HOW TO PREVENT INFERTILITY
•Eat a well-balanced diet and maintain a healthy weight.
•Don’t smoke, misuse drugs or drink excessively.
•Get treated for STIs.
•Limit exposure to toxins.
•Stay physically active, but don’t overexercise.
The writer is Chief of Laboratory Services (Rajkot, Gujarat), Metropolis Healthcare Limited.
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