Medical Myths?
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Popular culture is loaded with myths and half-truths. Most are harmless. But when doctors start believing medical myths, perhaps it's time to worry.
In the British Medical Journal this week, researchers looked into several common misconceptions, from the belief that a person should drink eight glasses of water per day to the notion that reading in low light ruins your eyesight. "We got fired up about this because we knew that physicians accepted these beliefs and were passing this information along to their patients," said Dr. Aaron Carroll, assistant professor of pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine. "And these beliefs are frequently cited in the popular media."
And so here they are, so that you can inform your doctor:
Myth: We use only 10 percent of our brains.
Fact: Physicians and comedians alike, including Jerry Seinfeld, love to cite this one. It's sometimes erroneously credited to Albert Einstein. But MRI scans, PET scans and other imaging studies show no dormant areas of the brain, and even viewing individual neurons or cells reveals no inactive areas, the new paper points out. Metabolic studies of how brain cells process chemicals show no nonfunctioning areas. The myth probably originated with self-improvement hucksters in the early 1900s who wanted to convince people that they had yet not reached their full potential, Carroll figures. It also doesn't jibe with the fact that our other organs run at full tilt.
Myth: You should drink at least eight glasses of water a day.
Fact: "There is no medical evidence to suggest that you need that much water," said Dr. Rachel Vreeman, a pediatrics research fellow at the university and co-author of the journal article. Vreeman thinks this myth can be traced back to a 1945 recommendation from the Nutrition Council that a person consume the equivalent of 8 glasses (64 ounces) of fluid a day. Over the years, "fluid" turned to water. But fruits and vegetables, plus coffee and other liquids, count.
Myth: Fingernails and hair grow after death.
Fact: Most physicians queried on this one initially thought it was true. Upon further reflection, they realized it's impossible. Here's what happens: "As the body’s skin is drying out, soft tissue, especially skin, is retracting," Vreeman said. "The nails appear much more prominent as the skin dries out. The same is true, but less obvious, with hair. As the skin is shrinking back, the hair looks more prominent or sticks up a bit."
Myth: Shaved hair grows back faster, coarser and darker.
Fact: A 1928 clinical trial compared hair growth in shaved patches to growth in non-shaved patches. The hair which replaced the shaved hair was no darker or thicker, and did not grow in faster. More recent studies have confirmed that one. Here's the deal: When hair first comes in after being shaved, it grows with a blunt edge on top, Carroll and Vreeman explain. Over time, the blunt edge gets worn so it may seem thicker than it actually is. Hair that's just emerging can be darker too, because it hasn't been bleached by the sun. [My best friend in high school was from India, and said that girls at around the age of 5 get their head shaved in order to make it grow in thicker]

Myth: Reading in dim light ruins your eyesight.
Fact: The researchers found no evidence that reading in dim light causes permanent eye damage. It can cause eye strain and temporarily decreased acuity, which subsides after rest.
Myth: Eating turkey makes you drowsy.
Fact: Even Carroll and Vreeman believed this one until they researched it. The thing is, a chemical in turkey called tryptophan is known to cause drowsiness. But turkey doesn't contain any more of it than does chicken or beef. This myth is fueled by the fact that turkey is often eaten with a colossal holiday meal, often accompanied by alcohol — both things that will make you sleepy.
Myth: Mobile phones are dangerous in hospitals.
Fact: There are no known cases of death related to this one. Cases of less-serious interference with hospital devices seem to be largely anecdotal, the researchers found. In one real study, mobile phones were found to interfere with 4 percent of devices, but only when the phone was within 3 feet of the device. A more recent study, this year, found no interference in 300 tests in 75 treatment rooms. To the contrary, when doctors use mobile phones, the improved communication means they make fewer mistakes.
"Whenever we talk about this work, doctors at first express disbelief that these things are not true," said Vreeman said. "But after we carefully lay out medical evidence, they are very willing to accept that these beliefs are actually false."
The biggest medical myth of all: It's always best to listen to your Jewish doctor. Second only to Pasteur's germ theory.
My favorite myth:  raw milk has almost magical health benefits for people.

I could get into obstetric myths here, but it would go on for pages [Image: laff.gif]

I'd really like to know those obstetric myths.

Satori Wrote:I'd really like to know those obstetric myths.

One very common myth is that c-sections are necessary for breech and posterior babies.  Midwives deliver them successfully all the time, and yet doctors say it's "too dangerous".

Another common myth is that babies must be born "on time", when in fact, gestation times for people can vary a lot between women.  For example, my own gestation seems to be 43-44 weeks, which is well past what doctors consider normal.
So a huge number of labors are now induced by doctors.

Last one for now-- the myth that repeated c-sections are safe.  They carry all kinds of risks, and those risks just increase the more c-sections you have.  These risks include rupture (rare), placenta accreta (the placenta grows into the muscle of the uterus and must be surgically removed and may cause life threatening hemmorage), placenta previa, and abruptions (the placenta detaches from the uterus too early, which deprives the baby of oxygen).  It comes down to, the more scar tissue a woman has in her uterus, the less "good spots" there are for the placenta to grow.
Ya, and don't forget that great risk--anesthesia. Ya gotta have anesthesia before the doctor can slice open your abdomen. A lot deaths and injuries caused by just "going under" too.

But ya know, there is another risk of cell phone usage in the hospitals...the ring tones. So often they can sound like some of the alarms on many various equipment in use in these environments.

It is already plenty noisy in most places in the hospital, we don't need to add some more to the mix!


Here's some obstetric myths.

Myth: Pregnant women should avoid cats because their feces can cause birth defects.

Reality: There is some level of truth to this myth, although the chances of it occurring are slim. "Toxoplasmosis is an infection that can be bad for a pregnancy if the fetus gets infected. The organism is carried in the feces of cats and other similar animals. Therefore, cats that are out in the wild, who eat dead meat of other animals infected with toxoplasmosis, can pass the organism to a pregnant women," according to Dr. Helen Kay, chairman of the UAMS Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. "However, if it is a house cat that never goes out, never ingests feces or meat from other infected animals and remains under the care of a veterinarian, it is HIGHLY unlikely that there will be a problem. Good hand washing and perhaps avoiding changing the cat litter should be fine although that isn't even a problem if the cat is unaffected." Dr. Kay recommends that anyone concerned with possibility of toxoplasmosis should take their cat to a veterinarian to make sure the cat is not infected.

Myth: Prenatal care clearly improves pregnancy outcome. Truth:

Myth: Antibiotics decrease the effectiveness of oral contraceptives. Truth: Myth: Home pregnancy tests are over 95% accurate. Truth:

But I like this one:

1: Chewing gum takes seven years to pass through your digestive system.
____ True ____ False _____ Only Juicy Fruit
ANSWER: False. The gum component itself is pretty indigestible, but will "pass" in a mass and will not stick your insides together, either. This one probably got going when exasperated parents tired of buying more gum after half an hour because their kids had chomped, then swallowed, their allotment. Also, swallowing gum was seen as ignorant and lower class.
"My husband's mother told him he would grow a gum tree in his stomach!" Loraine Stern, MD, clinical pediatrics professor at UCLA, tells WebMD.
Incidentally, the desire to chew for chewing's sake is quite ancient. Our ancestors used to chap away at tree resin. Did you know that Santa Anna of Alamo fame first turned gum manufacturers onto the gum resin. He thought it would be a good substitute for rubber. It's OK to swallow the occasional watermelon seed, too, unless you suffer from intestinal inflammation. Doctors are pretty sure watermelon seeds do not grow into full-fledged watermelons.

Related to the c-section, scar tissue thing...when I was in labor for this last baby, my own doctor was off duty and some other doctor with absolutely no "bedside manner" was on duty.  She scrutinized my record, noted that my first (17 years ago)was a c-section,and asked me if my doctor had informed me that even though I had had 7 vaginal births since the section, there was still risk that the incision in my uterus could rupture.  When I kind of brushed her off, she got mad at me.  Boy!  Yeah, I guess it could happen, but the chances?  And informing of me while I'm in the beginning stages of labor?  Sheesh!



ErinIsNotNice Wrote:So a huge number of labors are now induced by doctors.

I feel lot of doctors induce labor because of unscientific reason: they simply prefere birth where they are on duty, rather than to have to come to the hospital when loabor naturally occur.
Of course, because every decision must be embedded in a "scientific reason" they try to find one.
ErinIsNotNice Wrote:My favorite myth:  raw milk has almost magical health benefits for people.
I agree that is a real myth. That raw milk from grassfed animals is a nutritious and wholesome food and part of a healthy diet is no myth at all though. I also agree on the c-section myth.

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