Tracing unusual side effects


Sharing medical experience

Wondering whether your abdominal pain is related to your Synthroid medication or if your insomnia is a side effect of Albuterol?

The Web site aims to help people connect the dots between the drugs they take and how they feel. The site, which is free, merges social media and medical data to help people get to the root of their problems.

Users can find studies, anonymously ask a question or peruse queries posed by others. The site provides an extensive database of the possible side effects of 45,000 drugs, vitamins and supplements; it also connects users with other people who suffer from similar problems.

Questions are not answered by medical professionals. Instead, when someone posts a question, the site invites other eHealthMe users of the same gender and similar age who have taken the same medications to answer the question. As the site warns, this does not replace the advice of a doctor, but knowing, for example, that you're not the only one who has experienced sudden hearing loss when using eye drops is comforting. It may also help users ask better informed questions when they do seek medical help.

Unexpected toxins

Lather, rinse, repeat? You may want to think twice before following this advice the next time you wash your face -- and not because it might dry out your skin.

Microbeads are a popular new addition to exfoliating facial scrubs and cleansers, but the tiny plastic balls are also contributing to pollution in American waterways, according to the fall issue of On Earth magazine.

"While microbeads may be less visible than plastic bags, they are no less environmentally problematic," Susan Freinkel writes in the Natural Resources Defense Council publication.

A big part of the problem is the size of the microbeads. The spheres are a fraction of a millimeter in diameter and designed to go down drains and through pipes; this means they're also small enough to pass through filters and into lakes, rivers and oceans.

Once in the water, they're slow to break down but quick to absorb other pollutants. Because they "look just like fish eggs, and thus like food," according to one researcher, they're gobbled up like "toxic junk food" by such aquatic creatures as plankton, mussels and larger fish.

The article reports that some manufacturers have pledged to remove microbeads from their products, but it may take several years before the plastics are phased out.

In the meantime, the magazine has a suggestion: "How about just using some soap and a washcloth?"

-- Washington Post


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