April is Women’s Eye Health and Safety Month, the perfect time for women to learn more about eye issues that affect them more regularly than men.

Women, here’s what you should know about your eyes

Dr. Shaista Vally

Dr. Shaista Vally

Written by Shaista Vally, OD, an optometrist at UK Advanced Eye Care.

Eye health and vision issues can affect everyone, but there are certain conditions that are more common in women than in men. April is Women’s Eye Health and Safety Month and a great time for women to learn more about the issues that uniquely affect them.

Dry eyes, migraines

With women’s hormonal changes being so frequent throughout their lifetime, including changes associated with birth control, it’s no wonder that women experience eye and vision issues linked with hormonal changes. Two such issues include dry eyes and migraines.

Dry eyes can be annoying and debilitating, but the good news is that they are easy to treat. Artificial tears, emulsions, gels and ointments can offer relief for dry eyes. If heavy lubrication with artificial tear eye drops is not working to manage your symptoms of burning, redness and irritation, speak with your eye doctor about alternative treatment options.

Migraines are severe, painful headaches sometimes accompanied by symptoms of nausea, numbness, light and noise sensitivity, and vomiting. But they can also cause visual disturbances known as scintillating scotomas. These moving lights and patterns, sometimes called a visual aura, can mimic the signs of a retinal detachment or tear. If you see flashes of light or spots in your view, be sure to have a dilated eye exam within 24 hours of these symptoms.

Eye issues linked to obesity

With diabetes and cardiovascular disease on the rise, Americans – both men and women – are struggling with obesity. However, overweight young women of child-bearing ages are at an increased risk for a condition known as idiopathic increased intracranial pressure, or pseudotumor cerebri. This condition causes an increase in brain pressure, damaging the optic nerves and potentially leading to blindness.

Women with pseudotumor cerebri often complain of headaches, ringing sounds in their ears and mild visual blurriness, though sometimes visual symptoms are not present at all. If you think you may be at risk for this condition and are experiencing any of these symptoms, contact your eye doctor to schedule a comprehensive eye exam.

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Distracted driving

Texting, other distractions could cost you your life

The majority of car crashes involve drivers who were distracted in the seconds leading up to the accident. In Kentucky alone, distracted driving caused 58,000 collisions in 2015. Not surprisingly, younger drivers under the age of 20 are most likely to be responsible for accidents stemming from distracted driving.

There are three main types of driving distractions:

  • Visual distractions, which occur when you take your eyes off the road.
  • Manual distractions, which occur when you your hands off the wheel
  • Cognitive distractions, which occur when you take your mind off what you’re doing.

Although all distractions can endanger a driver’s safety, texting is the most alarming because it involves all three types of distractions.

Since 2015, Kentucky has banned drivers under 18 from using cellphones – including hands-free devices – while the vehicle is in motion. Drivers of all ages are prohibited from texting while on the road.

If you are 18 or older, use good judgment if talking on a cellphone while driving. Tell the caller you may have to end the conversation. Follow these guidelines:

  • Position your phone within easy reach.
  • Dial numbers while you are not moving.
  • Do not engage in stressful or emotional conversations while driving.

Be aware that cellphones are not the only culprits in distracted driving. Other causes include:

  • Reaching for an object.
  • Using music controls.
  • Talking or listening to passengers.
  • Reading and/or writing.
  • Eating, drinking or smoking.
  • Grooming.
  • Children and pets.

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Chefs in Action

Chefs In Action teaches healthy cooking techniques

When UK HealthCare opened its state-of-the-art dining facility, Chandler Dining, last year, it embraced the concept that food service should be as involved in teaching healthy habits as medical and nursing staff.

The long lines of institutional steamers and shelving to slide plastic trays along were gone, replaced instead with cooking hubs where diners can choose nutritious, freshly prepared food ingredients and have their dish prepared to order before their eyes.

The new facility, which is open to patients, families, staff and the public, offers restaurant-quality food selections that you wouldn’t expect to see in a hospital cafeteria.

Perhaps less expected was a teaching kitchen where chefs can demonstrate healthy meal preparations. UK HealthCare Executive Chef Pete Combs was tasked with creating a platform for sharing with hospital patients, visitors and staff the tips and techniques that make food more nutritious. The result? A monthly series called Chefs in Action.

“Chefs in Action is designed to help people see that it’s not difficult to cook healthy dishes with high-quality ingredients,” said Combs, a food service industry veteran of more than 30 years. “The power of food [in improving health] is huge.”

At 4 p.m. on the third Thursday of every month, Combs and sous chefs Justin Clark and Sarah Null prepare a themed menu with an extra dash of theater and humor. At the February event, the Heart Month-themed menu included:

  • Flaxseed hummus with almond crackers, jicama, rainbow peppers and carrot.
  • Three-bean salsa with avocado, tomato and cucumber chips.
  • Roasted butternut squash boat with asparagus, ginger, almond and wild mushrooms.
  • Rainbow trout stuffed with Fuji apples, walnuts, spinach and raisins with orange saffron sauce.
  • Raspberry banana and dark chocolate bites.

As they demonstrated each recipe and distributed free samples to the audience, dietitians Andrea Francis, Jill Haeberlin and Katie Lewis listed the ingredients in each dish and explained how they boosted heart health.

“Sharing nutrition information is as important as showing people how to make the recipe,” Combs said. “People may not want to make the apple-walnut stuffing, but they might add walnuts to one of their favorite dishes once they learn that walnuts can reduce cardiovascular problems and Type 2 diabetes.”

Housley says the long-term goal for Chefs in Action is to make the demos available to patients via the Get Well Network, an in-room patient engagement system that helps improve the transition of care from hospital to home.

“UK HealthCare is not just about medicine,” said J.J. Housley, UK HealthCare’s director of enterprise operations. “This enterprise strives to provide Kentuckians with the tools for healthy living, and why wouldn’t our food service be a significant player in that effort?”

The next Chefs in Action will be at 4 p.m., this Thursday, April 20.  The menu will center on healthy twists to Kentucky’s classic dishes. No reservations are necessary and the event is free. Check out the video below to learn more about Chefs in Action.

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World Voice Day

On World Voice Day, take time to celebrate your voice

JoAnna E. Sloggy, MA, CCC-SLP

Written by JoAnna Sloggy, a speech-language pathologist and singing-voice specialist at the UK Voice & Swallow Clinic.

In the U.S., 7.5 million people have trouble using their voices. We often forget the important role voice plays in our daily lives. On Sunday, April 16, World Voice Day is a time to stop and consider the importance of the human voice in every part of our daily lives. World Voice Day aims to celebrate the human voice and raise awareness for voice disorders, vocal health, vocal training and voice research.

What causes voice disorders?

Voice is created by vibration of the vocal folds, and a voice disorder occurs when the vocal folds are unable to vibrate well enough to create a clear vocal sound. A voice disorder may be caused by voice overuse or misuse, neck and throat injuries or growths, and diseases such as cancer or Parkinson’s disease. Voice adds intent, mood and meaning to the words we speak – imagine the interpersonal loss of not being able to express yourself vocally through speech or song.

Most people have experienced temporary vocal problems such as hoarseness or loss of voice due to allergies, colds or cheering too enthusiastically for your favorite team. Usually, voice returns to normal within several days. However, if a voice change lasts for longer than two weeks, the problem should be checked by your doctor.

Be sure to practice vocal hygiene

To keep your voice healthy, follow these vocal hygiene recommendations.

  1. Listen to how your voice sounds. Hoarseness or other voice changes lasting longer than two weeks should be evaluated by a voice care team, such as an otolaryngologist and a speech-language pathologist who specializes in voice disorders.
  2. Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water to keep your vocal folds and voice box well lubricated.
  3. Quit smoking. Tobacco, nicotine, chemicals, inhaled heat and other substances can cause inflammation and swelling of the voice box and cause cancer in the mouth, nose, throat and lungs.
  4. Avoid screaming, cheering loudly or talking over loud noise. These behaviors cause damage to the vocal fold tissue and strain to the voice muscles.
  5. Limit alcohol and caffeine. These substances have a drying effect on the vocal folds.
  6. Avoid repeated throat clearing and/or coughing. These behaviors can cause vocal damage. Try sipping water and swallowing hard when you have the urge to cough or throat clear.
  7. Manage acid reflux. Stomach acid can damage the tissue of your throat and cause hoarseness and other vocal problems.
  8. Give your voice a rest when recovering from hoarseness. When your vocal folds are swollen and inflamed, there is increased risk of vocal damage. Until your voice returns to normal, avoid straining or forcing your voice.
  9. Give your voice a break. Vocal “naps” are good when your voice is tired from overuse or from talking too loudly.

You are never too young or too old to stop and check your vocal health. Making changes to improve or maintain your good voice habits will benefit your health for years to come. This World Voice Day, take time today to celebrate your voice!

This column is scheduled to run in the Lexington Herald-Leader this weekend.

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What you need to know about mumps

What you need to know about mumps

Last week, UK’s University Health Service saw a couple of isolated cases of mumps, a contagious virus whose tell-tale symptom is swelling near the neck and jaw.

Although the overwhelming majority of people who get mumps recover completely, it’s important to know the signs of the virus and what to do if you think you have it.

What is mumps?

Mumps is an illness caused by the mumps virus. It’s easily spread by airborne droplets from the upper respiratory tract.

Mumps typically starts with a few days of fever, headache, fatigue and loss of appetite, followed by swollen salivary glands, or swelling near the neck and jaw. Since the introduction of the mumps vaccine, cases of mumps in the U.S. are uncommon.

What are the symptoms of mumps?

Many children have no symptoms or very mild symptoms. The following are the most common symptoms of mumps that may be seen in both adults and children:

  • Discomfort in the salivary glands (in front of the ears), which may become swollen and tender.
  • Difficulty chewing.
  • Pain and tenderness of the testicles.
  • Fever.
  • Headache.
  • Muscle aches.
  • Tiredness.
  • Loss of appetite.

The symptoms of mumps may look like other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

What should you do if you think you have mumps?

  • UK students: Students who have swollen parotid salivary glands should make an appointment with UHS to be evaluated or see their family physician. Students can go online and make a clinician appointment via the Student Health Link on the LinkBlue/My UK portal or by calling 859-323-APPT (2778) Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • UK faculty and staff: If you have symptoms, see your local clinician, or if you can’t get an appointment with your regular clinician and have UK HMO, PPO, or EM, you can call for an appointment at the UK Health Plans Urgent Care Clinic at 859-323-SICK (7425).
  • Non-UK employees: If you’re not a UK employee, but are experiencing symptoms, contact your primary care physician and make an appointment.

If you have any of the symptoms of mumps, avoid prolonged close contact with other people for five days after your salivary glands began to swell. You should not go to work or classes during this period.

In addition to staying away from others, you can help prevent the virus from spreading by covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, washing hands frequently, and wearing a mask if you have to be around others.

What complications are associated with mumps?

Complications of mumps occur more frequently among adults than children, and may include:

  • Meningitis or encephalitis. Inflammation of the membrane that covers the brain and spinal cord or inflammation of the brain.
  • Orchitis. Inflammation of one or both testicles.
  • Mastitis. Inflammation of breast tissue.
  • Oophoritis. Inflammation of one or both ovaries.
  • Pancreatitis. Inflammation of the pancreas.
  • Deafness

How is mumps diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and medical exam, your healthcare provider may also take a swab of the side of your mouth to confirm the diagnosis.

What is the treatment for mumps?

Treatment is usually limited to medications for pain and plenty of fluids. Sometimes bedrest is necessary the first few days. According to the CDC, adults should stay home from work for five days after glands begin to swell. Children should stay out of school until symptoms have subsided. Both adults and children with mumps symptoms should minimize contact with other people who live in their homes. Good basic hygiene practices, such as thorough hand-washing, covering the mouth when sneezing or coughing, and regularly cleaning frequently-touched surfaces, are also important in disease control.

How can mumps be prevented?

The measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) is a childhood combination vaccination against mumps, measles and rubella. The MMR provides immunity for most people. People who have had the mumps are immune for life.

If you have not previously been vaccinated or if you are unsure if you have received two doses of the MMR vaccine, we are recommending that you get vaccinated.

Usually, the first dose of the MMR vaccine is given when a child is 12 to 15 months old, and a second dose is given at 4 to 6 years of age. However, if 28 days have passed since the first dose was given, a second dose may be given before the age of 4.

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A research study from UK and University of Indiana-Purdue University Indianapolis shows the benefits of massage therapy for lower back pain.

Got lower back pain? Massage therapy may help, says UK researcher

William G. Elder Jr., PhD

Clinical massage therapy can alleviate lower back pain according to new research published in part by William Elder, PhD, a researcher at UK Family & Community Medicine.

The results from the Kentucky Pain Research and Outcomes Study appeared in the March edition of the journal Pain Medicine. The researchers tested the effectiveness of massage therapy intervention to reduce pain and disability and improve quality of life in patients with chronic lower back pain.

Elder said the results fill in a gap of medical literature showing the real-world effects of massage therapy as an alternative to pharmacologic therapies for lower back pain.

“Our study generated convincing evidence that massage may be used as a beneficial therapy for sufferers of lower back pain,” Elder said. “With a high prevalence of lower back pain across the nation, our study responds to the need for effective complementary therapies that can be disseminated through a primary care setting.”

In the study, Kentucky primary care physicians referred patients with chronic lower back pain to a licensed community massage therapist, and study participants were evaluated after 12 weeks and after 10 massage-therapy sessions, as well as at a 24-month follow-up appointment. At 12 weeks through the intervention, 75 percent of participants experienced improvement in physical and cognitive measures. The study also showed participants experienced meaningful improvement at the 24-week mark.

In addition, the study showed that adults 49 and older benefited from massage therapy more than younger adults.

Elder collaborated with co-author Niki Munk, a licensed massage therapist and health sciences researcher at the University of Indiana-Purdue University Indianapolis. The study was recently featured on Time.com.

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spring cleaning

Before you start spring cleaning, check out our safety tips

Wayne Sanderson

Wayne Sanderson

Written by Wayne Sanderson, a professor of epidemiology in the UK College of Public Health.

The arrival of spring inspires fresh starts and clean slates. Longer daylight hours and warmer temperatures energize homeowners to empty out their garages, fertilize their lawns or start home improvement projects.

However, using chemicals, sprays and equipment to complete household projects always poses some level of risk. To stay safe during spring cleaning, follow these simple safety measures:

Cleaning with chemicals

The state poison control office receives 10 percent of its annual calls during the spring season. While working with cleaning products containing ammonium and chlorine, keep buckets and bottles out of a child’s reach. If you suspect a child has ingested a cleaning product, call poison control immediately at 800-222-1222.

Cleaning solutions with an ammonium or chlorine base can also burn the skin and cause respiratory distress. Always wear impervious gloves while working directly with these products. Because these products release chemicals as mists and vapors, it’s important to ventilate the area by opening a window or wearing a protective mask.

Serious chemical burns also occur when a cleaning solution is absorbed into clothing and remains in contact with the skin. If a cleaning solution is absorbed into clothing, change clothes right away. If the burning and reddening of the skin persists, go to the emergency room.

Pressure washers

Pressure washers get rid of the grit and grime that builds up in garages, siding and decks. However, gasoline-powered pressure washers emit carbon monoxide, and over-exposure to exhaust fumes can cause sudden death. Carbon monoxide is a tasteless, odorless gas that can cause confusion, fatigue and weakness in minutes. The safest practice is to never bring pressure washers indoors.

Yard work

While mowing the grass, remember to protect your ears. Recent research has shown younger yard workers who lacked ear protection while mowing were more likely to suffer from hearing loss. Weed eating poses risks to both the ears and the eyes, as debris can ricochet into a worker’s face. Invest in a protective headset and protective eyewear, which are available at local hardware stores.


For larger-scale renovations, owners of older homes must consider the health risks associated with asbestos. Asbestos is a group of minerals found in the insulation and floor tiles of homes built prior to the 1960s. Scientific evidence suggests an association between asbestos and certain types of cancer, such as lung cancer.

When removing any insulation material that might contain asbestos, workers should wear a respirator approved by the National Institutes of Occupational Safety and Health. If there is a legitimate concern for asbestos contamination, the safest decision is to let the professionals handle the work.

With the right equipment and knowledge of household safety risks, you can have a productive spring season.

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Art therapy

Art therapy helps patients improve emotional health and well-being

Art therapy, a division of UK HealthCare’s Creative Arts Therapies program, allows patients to use artistic activities to help ease the depression and anxiety associated with illness and being in the hospital.

Fran Belvin

Fran Belvin

“Art and mental health therapy are intertwined,” said Fran Belvin, MA, ATR-BC, LPAT, a licensed art therapist serving patients at UK Markey Cancer Center and Eastern State Hospital. “Some people who have been in the hospital for a while feel depressed and isolated. Art therapy is about making a connection and getting them engaged in something that instills hope.”

A patient doesn’t have to be a consummate painter or sketch artist to benefit from art therapy services.

“It can be something as simple as using art materials to draw with lines, colors and shapes how the patient is feeling that day – an abstract drawing to depict emotions and what’s on their mind,” Belvin said. “Then we talk about what the different shapes and colors mean to them.”

Affirmations representing a patient’s current emotional needs are also helpful.

“If you’re anxious, you might use an affirmation that says, ‘I am calm and serene,’” Belvin explained. “By using that affirmation as a basis for a drawing or a collage, the patient is embodying that positive statement, which brings hope. By choosing concrete images [for a collage], people are giving themselves touchstones; they’re actually experiencing the feeling of calm while making their artwork.”

Art therapy

With cancer patients at Markey, Belvin has started a project that she hopes to put on public display in the future. When patients undergo radiation for cancer of the head or neck, they’re required to wear a white mesh mask from their head to their upper chest. The mask ensures that the patient remains still and the radiation is delivered to the appropriate area.

“It’s a confining and uncomfortable treatment, and most people aren’t happy about the radiation mask,” Belvin said. “By taking the mask and turning it into an art project, people can reclaim the whole process of their treatment and feel less victimized by the mask.”

It can be easy to misconstrue art therapy as simply handing out coloring books to provide some distraction and help pass the time. However, it is much more than that, Belvin said.

“Art therapy is not simply an activity to keep you busy or distracted, although it can be beneficial to have something else to think about other than treatment and illness,” she explained. “It’s a way for people to explore and find meaning in their illness. I think that’s the way people get over anything traumatic: to look for something that changed them in a way that they welcome. Art therapy helps people find a way to explore and express those things.”

Next steps:

  • Learn more about UK Integrative Medicine & Health, a program that focuses on the treating the whole patient using all appropriate therapies, healthcare expertise and disciplines to achieve optimal health and healing.
  • UK Arts in HealthCare enhances the healing atmosphere of UK Albert B. Chandler Hospital through artwork and installations by local and international artists. Learn more.
As parents, taking care of ourselves is necessary in order to have the energy, health and disposition to be the best parents we can be.

Parents, taking care of yourself can help your kids, too

Christina R. Studts, PhD

Written by Dr. Christina Studts, assistant professor in the Department of Health, Behavior and Society in the UK College of Public Health.

For many parents, it’s difficult to find time for regular exercise. This can be especially true for parents with young children, all of whom have behavior problems from time to time. At the beginning or end of a long day, exercising often feels like the last thing we want to do.

But as parents, taking care of ourselves is necessary in order to have the energy, health and disposition to be the best parents we can be.

Keeping up with your kids

Research shows that parents with depression and/or poor physical health have a harder time practicing effective parenting strategies. When we don’t feel good, parenting is that much harder. On the other hand, exercise can have positive effects on both psychological and physical health.

We know from research that exercise can ease symptoms of depression and anxiety; it’s correlated with increased happiness, better moods, improved cognitive performance and, of course, physical fitness. Exercise also releases “feel-good” hormones and increases body temperature, which can help calm us.

Staying physically active can also help us maintain enough energy to keep up with our kids (especially those little ones!) and live long lives so that we’re there for our children as they grow up. Although it might be difficult to find ways to add physical activity to your life, doing so can improve your own well-being, your parenting and your relationship with your children.

You don’t need a gym membership

One strategy to add more physical activity to your life is to do fun, active things as a family. Instead of watching a movie, you could play pretend and chase each other around your house. You can go on a walk together, explore a new park (but don’t sit on the bench while the kids play), take the stairs and count them together, or park far away from the store and note all the colors of cars as you walk to the door. You could learn to jump rope, Pogo stick or hula hoop together.

There are also many online, at-home exercise programs that are designed specifically for parents that playfully incorporate children into exercise. A quick Google search will lead you to a variety of options, including free and low-cost video programs.

If you have low energy and/or are not enjoying time with your child, it is important to speak to your healthcare provider.

Join our research initiative

At UK, we are currently conducting a research study to learn more about the relationship between physical activity and parenting, and we’re looking for parents to participate. If you are the parent of a 3-5 year old child, sometimes struggle with your child’s behavior and do not exercise regularly, you may be eligible for this study. To learn more about this opportunity, visit UKClinicalResearch.com or call Meagan Pilar at 859-257-8911.

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spring exercise

It’s spring! Get out and get moving

With more daylight and warmer temperatures beckoning, many people are ready to say goodbye to the winter doldrums and get active. If you’ve been holed up since Thanksgiving, however, lacing up your running shoes and heading out for a two-mile run may not be the best way to ease into a new exercise routine.

Spring is a great time to get moving, and our five-step guide can help you create a successful  and enjoyable  fitness plan.

Step 1: Talk with your doctor

Before you start working up a sweat, schedule a visit to your doctor to gauge on your overall health. Discuss any aches, pains or limitations that might impact your plans to get active. Talk about how to build a cardiovascular foundation that will lend itself to further activity.

Step 2: Make a plan

Exercise should be planned for a time in the day when you feel rested and have the most energy. If you are planning to exercise outside, avoid extreme temperatures (warmer than 85° F or colder than 32° F). Remember to dress appropriately for the weather and wear comfortable, supportive footwear. An indoor contingency plan for exercise can help you stay active even during spring showers.

Step 3: Warm up and cool down

Aerobic exercise, such as walking or biking, is recommended for those getting started with a new routine. Your exercise session should start with a warm-up period of slow walking or low-resistance bicycling and end with a cool-down segment at similar intensity. At the end of exercise, stretch the major muscle groups used by holding each stretch for 20-30 seconds. This can minimize injury and fatigue and increase flexibility.

Step 4: Make it manageable

Begin your exercise routine with an amount of time that is manageable, something as short as a five-minute walk around the neighborhood. Once you’re comfortable exercising for that long, slowly increase the duration of your sessions. Don’t push yourself too hard, either. You should be able to maintain a conversation at all times of exercise without experiencing breathlessness.

Step 5: Stay active

Exercise shouldn’t be a slog, so make sure you’re doing something that you enjoy and makes you feel good. A successful start of a new routine will keep you motivated to continue and progress. Fitness trackers and fitness apps are additional options to stay engaged and monitor progress. Enlisting a companion for exercise will add an element of support and keep the activity enjoyable.

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