Health

Health

For the past month and a half, we've been exploring the invisible forces that shape our lives in NPR's newest program, Invisibilia. Now we're ending the pilot season with a visible twist — exploring the ways computers shape our behavior, and the way we see the world.

When Wendy Sue Swanson started out as a pediatrician eight years ago, it never crossed her mind to bring up the option of intrauterine devices — an insertable form of long-acting contraception — when she had her regular birth-control discussions with teenage patients who were sexually active.

"The patch had been the thing," she said, referring to a small, Band-Aid-like plastic patch that transmits hormones through the skin to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

The U.S. surgeon general lists 21 deadly diseases that are caused by smoking. Now, a study in this week's New England Journal of Medicine points to more than a dozen other diseases that apparently add to the tobacco death toll.

To arrive at this conclusion, scientists from the American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute and several universities tracked nearly a million people for a decade and recorded their causes of death.

Scientists say nurses like Sunny Vespico are prime examples of what nursing schools and hospitals are doing wrong: They keep teaching nursing employees how to lift and move patients in ways that could inadvertently result in career-ending back injuries.

If you make a choice to hasten your own death, it can actually be pretty simple: Don't eat or drink for a week. But if you have Alzheimer's disease, acting on even that straightforward choice can become ethically and legally fraught.

The mysterious and complicated illness that has been called chronic fatigue syndrome has a new definition and a new name: systemic exertion intolerance disease, or SEID for short.

The name change is big news because many patients and experts in the field hate the name chronic fatigue syndrome; they feel that it trivializes the condition. Another name, myalgic encephalomyelitis, has been used in Canada, the United Kingdom and elsewhere, but it doesn't accurately describe the illness, either.

Pregnant With Cancer: One Woman's Journey

Feb 10, 2015

After years of debating whether to have a second child, my husband, Mark, and I decided to give it a try. Two weeks later, we found a lump. I was 35.

Senegal is full of tourist attractions: sandy beaches, historic buildings, religious sites. But when historian Donna Patterson visits, she heads to the drugstore.

Since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010, "repeal and replace" has been the rallying cry for Republicans who opposed it. But now that most of the law's provisions have taken effect, some health experts are pitching ways to tweak it, rather than eliminate it.

An ideologically diverse panel at the National Health Policy Conference on Monday presented different ideas to make the law work better. But the panelists agreed on one thing: The Affordable Care Act is too complicated.

More than 900,000 Texans have signed up for health insurance so far this year – about 200,000 more than last year. The deadline for signing up for a health plan on HealthCare.gov is Sunday, and some groups in south Texas are making a big push to get Latinos to enroll.

Across the world, a child's survival is a lot like drawing a lottery ticket. Factors based purely on chance — where a child is born, how much money his or her family has and what their ethnic background is — can determine if a child lives past age 5.

Treating cancer is a race against time.

Every once in a while, there's an experimental drug that's so promising it makes the race even more urgent. Patients and their families plead with pharmaceutical companies to get it before the Food and Drug Administration's approval.

The demand has been particularly high for a new class of drugs that harnesses the immune system to fight cancer.

As debate mounts in the U.S. over whether or not to require measles vaccinations, global immunization rates show something interesting: Many poor countries have far higher vaccination rates than rich ones.

Health officials in Illinois are trying to find the source of a measles infection, after five babies were diagnosed with the contagious respiratory disease in a Chicago suburb. Saying that more cases are likely, a health official warns, "The cat is out of the bag."

Because the Illinois patients are all under a year old, they can't be vaccinated. The new cluster of cases joins more than 100 other reports of measles in 14 states this year; most of them have been traced to an outbreak at Disneyland in California in December.

On a recent winter evening in the Bronx, a group of men and women in red-checkered shirts and dresses encircled Dr. Julie Hoffman during a ceremony. They pounded wooden drums crisscrossed with thick rope and shook maracas as they danced and sang.

The event took on a somber tone when Hoffman talked about the crisis that had brought them all together.

"Too many members of this community continue dying," she said in Spanish. "That's why I'm here. I want to work with you."

Odd that Americans, long known for their short attention spans and — oh, look, a sparkly thing ... are at the same time manic for marathonic undertakings.

Running, for example. A century ago, scores of marathoners competed before huge wintertime crowds in the 1909 Brooklyn Marathon. Flash forward, and this past November, more than 50,000 participants finished the 2014 New York City Marathon. (Applications for nonguaranteed entry in the 2015 race must be in by Feb. 15.)

If you walk the streets of China today, you'll quickly notice that most young people wear glasses. In Shanghai, for instance, 86 percent of high school students suffer from myopia, or nearsightedness, according to the government's Xinhua News Agency.

Myopia has risen quickly in much of East Asia and Southeast Asia. And researchers are still trying to pin down exactly what's driving the epidemic.

Most of the 92 cases of measles confirmed in California are among adults — more than 62 percent. Maybe they or their parents chose not to vaccinate, or maybe those people are allergic to one of the ingredients in the measles vaccine.

But it's also possible that a few of those adults happened to slip through the cracks when the measles vaccine first came to the public.

Something is destroying the kidneys of farm workers along the Pacific coast of Central America. Over the past two decades, more than 20,000 people in western Nicaragua and El Salvador — mostly men and many of them in their 20s and 30s — have died of a mysterious form of kidney failure. Researchers have been able to say definitively that it's not diabetes or other common causes of kidney failure.

The rate at which someone strokes your hair can cause feelings of pleasure or annoyance — too slow is repulsive, too fast is annoying, and just right soothes.

There's a scientific explanation for this: People have special nerve endings (wrapped around the base of hair follicles) that detect the deflection of the hairs.

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