Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Book is Done!

Finally, at long last! The infamous book is finished and on its way to the printer in a matter of days. The cover is what you see here. Publication date is mid-March 2008. Watch this space for more information and links. Post your email or snail mail address here if you want a notice when the book is available, or email me at pspencer@unm.edu. It has been a long and educational road, a lot of fun, and boy am I glad it is over! I know you'll love this book.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Urinary Tract Infections

Q: Are all UTI’s caused by sex?

A: Thank you for this great question. The answer to your question is, “No, but…”
UTI stands for Urinary Tract Infection. It might also be called a bladder infection or cystitis. We see a lot of it at the Student Health Center, mostly in women. It is often related to sex, but indirectly, and not always. To explain, I need to subject you to a mini anatomy lesson. Bear with me.

The urinary tract is the system of organs that makes, collects and excretes urine. You have two kidneys, one on each side, located roughly behind your stomach. Each kidney makes urine and sends it down two tubes called ureters to your bladder, which collects it. Your bladder is located inside your body above your genitals. It is a soft, stretchy container with thin muscles in its walls. When your bladder is full, the urine is expelled from your body through another tube called the urethra. You control this process by consciously relaxing a muscle called a sphincter, which opens the urethra. Your bladder helps by contracting the muscles in its walls. The outside end of the urethra, called the meatus, is at the tip of the penis in men. In women, the meatus is on the vulva, between the vagina and the clitoris. This anatomical difference is why women get UTI’s more often than men, and why it is related to sex, as I will explain, after a mini microbiology lesson. Hang in there.

Urinary infections are caused by bacteria. Bacteria are everywhere. You think you’re clean? You probably are, but that does not mean you are bacteria-free. We share our personal space with more than 200 species of bacteria. In fact, there are ten times more bacteria in our intestines than there are cells in our entire body! Imagine that. Now, before you get all grossed out, know this. These little guys are your friends. They are called, as a group, “normal flora,” and they do lots of good. Good bacteria crowd out and kill bad bacteria. They also stimulate our immune system and help it develop, and some of the bacteria in our gut even make vitamins that we can use.

What kind of normal flora you have depends on your genetics, your age, sex, nutrition, stress and hygiene. We all have bacteria on our external surfaces and some internal surfaces, like nose, mouth, throat, intestines, and vagina. As long as they stay where they belong, there’s no trouble. But sometimes during sex, some of these critters can end up where they’re not wanted, like in the bladder. This happens more easily in women, due to the proximity of the meatus to the vagina and anus. Fluid, friction, moving body parts…use your imagination and you can see how it happens.

Sex is not the only way for bacteria to get near enough to the meatus to go in and cause a UTI, but it is the most common in college-aged people. One simple way to reduce sex-related UTIs is to urinate after sex. What this does is wash out any bacteria that have begun their sneaky trek up the urethra. Most of the time this works great. But if you find that you are experiencing burning when you urinate, blood in the urine, or the urge to go frequently, you might have a UTI. This goes for guys and gals. Please do not try to treat this yourself with cranberry juice, vitamin C or any other folk remedies. While some of these things can help you feel better, a true UTI is caused by bacteria, and the only way to kill bacteria is with an antibiotic.

Traumatic Stress Response

Remember the moment you heard about the shootings on the Virginia Tech campus? How you heard of it and where you were? Your reaction? The reactions of your friends and those around you?

Reactions to traumatic events are as varied as people are. Your response may be very different from your roommate’s or your mother’s. We’ll discuss what is normal and what is not, what to do now and when to get help.

Traumatic stress reactions can be loosely divided into physical and emotional, short term and long term. Many people initially feel shock and disbelief, even denial. Also common are anger, fear, anxiety, sadness, hopelessness, compassion, helplessness, and survivor’s guilt. You may feel emotionally numb, or conversely find that you are irritable and jumpy. Your moods may change back and forth quickly. You may struggle in your mind with why this happened, trying to find answers, to make sense of the tragedy. You may worry about something similar happening here. You may have physical responses, like nausea, headache, jitters, chest pain, trouble breathing, difficulty sleeping, or decreased appetite. All of these are normal. However, if you have severe emotional or physical symptoms in these first days, please get professional help.

This is already a stressful time on campus, with finals and graduations just around the corner. A background of existing stress can magnify the effect of a major tragic news event. If you have some kind of connection to Virginia Tech, your reactions may be even stronger. For example, if you knew one of the victims, or know a student at VT, or have friends or relatives or experience in the area, your feelings will probably be more intense.

If you have a history of previous trauma, as many of us do, the news of this tragedy might bring that past trauma to the front of your mind, and you might find yourself thinking, dreaming, reliving or having feelings about the other incident. The previous incident may seem totally unrelated, or it may be a similar event. This can be unsettling at best. The severe form of this kind of reaction is called PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but most cases are milder, a temporary resurfacing of memories which fade into the background again.

How can you cope with your own feelings and thoughts during this time? Connect with those you care about. Spend time with friends. Call your family. Talk about your feelings and reactions, or write about them. Post your condolences online, along with thousands of others. Above all take good, healthy care of yourself. Eat well, get as much rest as you can, exercise. Avoid the temptation to “drown your sorrows” with alcohol or drugs. Again, if you’re having severe reactions, get help.

While initial reactions to trauma may vary in kind and severity, most people return fairly soon to a competent pursuit of their normal activities. You don’t forget, but you aren’t immobilized either. An abnormal response is when you are affected to an extreme, or when your feelings or thoughts persist after the initial shock period. Next week and beyond, if you find yourself unable to concentrate or sleep well, or if you are having trouble performing your usual activities due to continuing trauma responses, please seek help.
Delayed responses to trauma can happen up to weeks and months after the initial event. Keep this in mind as you observe and care for your own mental health in the near future.

The Authors of "50 Ways" Interview on KCHF TV

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