Breast feeding in the systemic lupus erythematosus patient [Letter]
Sex Differences in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus: Epidemiology, Clinical Considerations, and Disease Pathogenesis
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic, multiorgan, systemic autoimmune disease that is more common in women than men and is typically diagnosed during reproductive age, necessitating sex-specific considerations in care. In women there is no substantive evidence to suggest that SLE reduces fertility, but subfertility may occur as a result of active disease, immunosuppressive drugs, and age-related declines in fertility related to delays in childbearing. Although pregnancy outcomes have improved, SLE still poses risks inÂ pregnancy that contribute to poorer maternal and fetal outcomes. Cyclophosphamide, an important agent for the treatment of severe or life-threatening lupus, may adversely affect fertility, particularly with increases in dose and patient age. Fertility preservation techniques are therefore an important consideration for women and men before cytotoxic treatment. There is mixed evidence as to whether exogenous estrogen in the form of oral contraceptive pills or hormone replacement therapy may increase the risk for the development of SLE, but among women with SLE already diagnosed, combined oral contraceptive pills and hormone replacement therapy do not confer risk for severe flare and remain important in reproductive care. The higher incidence of SLE in women may nonetheless be attributable to effects of endogenous estrogen, as well as failures in X chromosome inactivation, increased Toll-like receptor gene products, and changes in microRNA function. A greater appreciation of the biological underpinnings and consequences of sex differences in SLE may lead to more targeted treatments and improved outcomes for patients with SLE.
Breastfeeding in the systemic lupus erythematosus patient [Letter]
African American race associated with body image dissatisfaction among patients with systemic sclerosis
OBJECTIVES/OBJECTIVE:Studies have shown a high degree of body image dissatisfaction among patients with systemic sclerosis (SSc). We aimed to identify demographic and phenotypic characteristics that correlate with body image dissatisfaction. METHODS:Ninety-eight patients with SSc were recruited from Georgetown University Medical Center 2003-2004. Anonymous surveys collected demographic information (age, race, gender, duration/type of SSc) and assessed degree of body image dissatisfaction on a scale of 0-3 in relation to phenotypic features of SSc (hand contractures, finger ulcers, pigmentation changes, lip wrinkling/thinning, telangiectasias). A composite total distress score was derived. Parametric and nonparametric T tests were used to compare groups. RESULTS:Of 98 patients, 86 were female and 12 male. The majority of patients were 30-60 years old. The sample was 62% Caucasian, 27% African American, and the rest identified as "other". Twenty-seven percent had limited SSc, 48% diffuse, and 25% "other". African American patients had greater total body image dissatisfaction (p=0.002), specifically with respect to digital ulcers, pruritus, and pigmentation changes, than Caucasian participants. Patients with diffuse SSc had greater body image dissatisfaction than those with limited disease (p=0.002). CONCLUSIONS:Our results suggest that African American patients with SSc and those with diffuse subtype suffer a higher degree of body image dissatisfaction. Screening for and addressing this issue in SSc patients is prudent. Further study is needed to understand racial differences in body image dissatisfaction among patients with SSc.
Perspective: Environment, biodiversity, and the education of the physician of the future
Ours is an age of unprecedented levels of environmental alteration and biodiversity loss. Beyond the exposure to environmental hazards, conditions such as environmental degradation, biotic impoverishment, climate change, and the loss of ecosystem services create important health threats by changing the ecology of many pathogens and increasing the incidence and/or severity of certain noncommunicable conditions. They also threaten health in the future by weakening the Earth's life support systems.Although physicians remain one of the most often accessed and most trusted sources of information about the environment, there is currently little emphasis on educating medical professionals about these environmental issues. This lack of training reduces the ability of most physicians to be efficient science-public interfaces and makes them ineffective at contributing to address the fundamental causes of environmental problems or participate in substantive environmental policy discussions. This is an important challenge facing medical education today.To turn medical students into effective physician-citizens, an already-overwhelmed medical school curriculum must make way for a thoughtful exploration of environmental stressors and their impacts on human health. The overarching question before medical educators is how to develop the competencies, standards, and curricula for this educational endeavor. To this end, the authors highlight some of the critical linkages between health and the environment and suggest a subset of key practical issues that need to be addressed in order to create environmental education standards for the physician of the future.
Getting back to nature: non-medical birth options in Athens, Greece
Childbirth in modern Athens: the transition from homebirth to hospital birth
The transition of birthing practices in Greece from a homebirth culture, in which women deliver at home surrounded by family and under the supervision of a typically female birth attendant, to a biomedical birth model, in which women deliver in a hospital with numerous forms of medical intervention and under the control of a physician, has been unusually rapid. Today, Western biomedicine not only dominates the health care system in Greece but has an essential hegemony on women's health care. My research examines whether the pervasive utilization of biomedical environments for birthing can be explained by a lack of alternatives or by women's satisfaction with the technology and care available in hospitals. I also examine how women retain control over their experience of pregnancy and childbirth within the biomedical context and attempt to explain the emerging construction of a "natural" discourse on pregnancy and childbirth in Athens. Major themes that emerged from interviews with Athenian women were the lack of consent for medical intervention during birth, limited infrastructure to support women who seek non-medical alternatives, and limited emotional support and collective education for mothers in the urban environment of Athens. Also, women described choosing the right caregiver as essential to maintaining a sense of control over their pregnancy and, more generally, over their life. In light of women's apparent interest in improving women's experience of pregnancy and childbirth in Athens, it is recommended that researchers further explore the interaction of medical and non-medical discourses on pregnancy and childbirth.