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  Topic: The Itch, New Yorker Article by Atul Gawande< Next Oldest | Next Newest >  
stevestory



Posts: 10127
Joined: Oct. 2005

(Permalink) Posted: June 28 2008,22:20   

Quote
The Itch
Its mysterious power may be a clue to a new theory about brains and bodies.
by Atul Gawande June 30, 2008

Scientists once saw itching as a form of pain. They now believe it to be a different order of sensation.

It was still shocking to M. how much a few wrong turns could change your life. She had graduated from Boston College with a degree in psychology, married at twenty-five, and had two children, a son and a daughter. She and her family settled in a town on Massachusetts’ southern shore. She worked for thirteen years in health care, becoming the director of a residence program for men who’d suffered severe head injuries. But she and her husband began fighting. There were betrayals. By the time she was thirty-two, her marriage had disintegrated. In the divorce, she lost possession of their home, and, amid her financial and psychological struggles, she saw that she was losing her children, too. Within a few years, she was drinking. She began dating someone, and they drank together. After a while, he brought some drugs home, and she tried them. The drugs got harder. Eventually, they were doing heroin, which turned out to be readily available from a street dealer a block away from her apartment.


continue reading

   
midwifetoad



Posts: 3992
Joined: Mar. 2008

(Permalink) Posted: June 28 2008,22:27   

I wouldn't wish Shingles on my worst enemy.

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Any version of ID consistent with all the evidence is indistinguishable from evolution.

  
stevestory



Posts: 10127
Joined: Oct. 2005

(Permalink) Posted: June 29 2008,00:21   

Quote
One morning, after she was awakened by her bedside alarm, she sat up and, she recalled, “this fluid came down my face, this greenish liquid.” She pressed a square of gauze to her head and went to see her doctor again. M. showed the doctor the fluid on the dressing. The doctor looked closely at the wound. She shined a light on it and in M.’s eyes. Then she walked out of the room and called an ambulance. Only in the Emergency Department at Massachusetts General Hospital, after the doctors started swarming, and one told her she needed surgery now, did M. learn what had happened. She had scratched through her skull during the night—and all the way into her brain.


With apologies to our viewers: fuuuuuuck.

   
Jim_Wynne



Posts: 1191
Joined: June 2006

(Permalink) Posted: June 29 2008,09:56   

Atul Gawande  is probably the best science writer working today. He's a surgeon by profession, and contrast his output to that of the idiot Michael Egnor.  He's been active in developing methods for reducing errors in surgery, and for a relatively young guy has made enormous contributions to science and to public understanding of it.

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Evolution is not about laws but about randomness on happanchance.--Robert Byers, at PT

  
Reciprocating Bill



Posts: 4265
Joined: Oct. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: June 29 2008,10:01   

Quote (midwifetoad @ June 28 2008,23:27)
I wouldn't wish Shingles on my worst enemy.

I experienced a brief bout of shingles about 20 years ago. I first noticed irritation in my left arm while camping one weekend. By the following Friday I was tormented by itching comparable to a bad case of poison Ivy. There were lesions scattered down the inside of my arm and the palm of my hand. At times I experienced the sensation of a hot match being briefly touched to those lesions.

Fortunately, I recognized the symptoms as shingles and went to a doc, who prescribed acyclovir in both cream and pill form. This very quickly squelched the whole thing. I totally recovered within a few days and escaped the post-shingles pain syndrome entirely.

Very interesting article, btw. I've been interested in the cerebral basis of tinnitus, which I've occasionally experienced but successfully deprogramed by listening to appropriate white noise.

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Myth: Something that never was true, and always will be.

"The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you."
- David Foster Wallace

"Here’s a clue. Snarky banalities are not a substitute for saying something intelligent. Write that down."
- Barry Arrington

  
Assassinator



Posts: 479
Joined: Nov. 2007

(Permalink) Posted: June 29 2008,10:03   

Quote (stevestory @ June 29 2008,00:21)
Quote
One morning, after she was awakened by her bedside alarm, she sat up and, she recalled, “this fluid came down my face, this greenish liquid.” She pressed a square of gauze to her head and went to see her doctor again. M. showed the doctor the fluid on the dressing. The doctor looked closely at the wound. She shined a light on it and in M.’s eyes. Then she walked out of the room and called an ambulance. Only in the Emergency Department at Massachusetts General Hospital, after the doctors started swarming, and one told her she needed surgery now, did M. learn what had happened. She had scratched through her skull during the night—and all the way into her brain.


With apologies to our viewers: fuuuuuuck.

Is that even póssible?? How can someone scratch open there skúll in the first place, and even if that's possible do it without waking up! That's just scary shit. I used to scratch open my legs during the night though, sometimes untill it bled. Never got myself tested on an allergy though, I better do, I don't want to end up with my lower leg scratched off or something...apperantly it seems possible.

  
khan



Posts: 1525
Joined: May 2007

(Permalink) Posted: June 29 2008,18:25   

Hope I die before I get old(er).

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"It's as if all those words, in their hurry to escape from the loony, have fallen over each other, forming scrambled heaps of meaninglessness." -damitall

That's so fucking stupid it merits a wing in the museum of stupid. -midwifetoad

Frequency is just the plural of wavelength...
-JoeG

  
stevestory



Posts: 10127
Joined: Oct. 2005

(Permalink) Posted: June 29 2008,19:05   

Quote (khan @ June 29 2008,19:25)
Hope I die before I get old(er).

seinfeld the other day:
Quote
George: Hey, what's your guy's name again?

Jerry: Fields. Sidney Fields. *87* years old. *87*. How about your

guy?

George: Ben Cantwell. 85. Huh... You think we'll make it to that age?

Jerry: We? No.


Edited by stevestory on June 29 2008,20:06

   
Lou FCD



Posts: 5402
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: June 29 2008,19:08   

Quote (stevestory @ June 29 2008,01:21)
Quote
One morning, after she was awakened by her bedside alarm, she sat up and, she recalled, “this fluid came down my face, this greenish liquid.” She pressed a square of gauze to her head and went to see her doctor again. M. showed the doctor the fluid on the dressing. The doctor looked closely at the wound. She shined a light on it and in M.’s eyes. Then she walked out of the room and called an ambulance. Only in the Emergency Department at Massachusetts General Hospital, after the doctors started swarming, and one told her she needed surgery now, did M. learn what had happened. She had scratched through her skull during the night—and all the way into her brain.


With apologies to our viewers: fuuuuuuck.

Holy shit.

That's all I got.

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Lou FCD is still in school, so we should only count him as a baby biologist. -carlsonjok -deprecated
I think I might love you. Don't tell Deadman -Wolfhound

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UnMark



Posts: 97
Joined: Mar. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: June 29 2008,23:19   

Very interesting article, but it left me all itchy-feeling. . . .

  
BWE



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Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: June 29 2008,23:47   

Can I be the first to say Fuuuuuuck? No? Oh. Yeeaacchh.

--------------
Who said that ev'ry wish would be heard and answered
When wished on the morning star
Somebody thought of that, and someone believed it
Look what it's done so far

The Daily Wingnut

   
Kristine



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Joined: Sep. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: July 02 2008,12:13   

Poor thing! I itched all the way through this, too. (But I do have OCD, in addition to sensitive skin.)

Yesterday's (July 1) New York Times has a piece on a woman, the science journalist's sister, who suffered from chronic eczema that became much worse:
 
Quote
Over the weekend, itchy spots broke out on her arms, back and belly. The tops of her feet had no rashes, but at bedtime, she recalled, they grew “insanely itchy.” Sleep was impossible.

On Monday, she saw a dermatologist, who said a bacterial infection — Staphylococcus aureus, a lab test revealed — had accelerated a full-body eczema outbreak. It was bizarre enough that three other doctors crowded into the room to ogle her rash under a magnifying lamp.

Her dermatologist gave her a shot of potent, anti-inflammatory cortisone and prescribed a daily corticosteroid ointment. Among other advice, he warned against too much showering or bathing because that dries the skin, irritating it; and the more so with hot water. Lukewarm water was best.

My sister cut back to showering every other day and generously moisturized with petroleum jelly. A prescription antihistamine aided her sleep, but left her zombielike at work.

The skin symptoms retreated, but only temporarily. My sister’s sensitive hide was quick to take umbrage — at dry air, warm temperatures, the roughness of denim, even stressful thoughts. She fell into a recurring cycle of flare-ups, and got a second cortisone shot. The doctor told her she might have to cope with the problem for the rest of her life.


Her story does have a happy ending, including weak bleach baths (yes, that's right!;) and her own astute conclusion:
 
Quote
It remains a mystery why eczema erupted so fiercely into my sister’s life. But the lesson we took from it is tried and true: making the effort to understand a medical condition and the details of how best to treat it, really pays off. So does persistence.

“You just have to try everything, and you can’t expect a doctor to know precisely what’s going to happen to you,” my sister said. A physician’s training is based on caring for an average patient, “and you may not be an average person.”

Certainly, my sister is not.

Friggin' A! I'd love to purge the English language of phrases such as "ordinary" or "average" people.

Just an aside - regarding this part of the NYorker article:
 
Quote
In a 1710 “Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge,” the Irish philosopher George Berkeley objected to this view. We do not know the world of objects, he argued; we know only our mental ideas of objects. “Light and colours, heat and cold, extension and figures—in a word, the things we see and feel—what are they but so many sensations, notions, ideas?” Indeed, he concluded, the objects of the world are likely just inventions of the mind, put in there by God. To which Samuel Johnson famously responded by kicking a large stone and declaring, “I refute it thus!”

Cynthia Ozick, one of my favorite writers, penned a hilarious short story regarding this famous anecdote about Johnson in relation to her profit-obsessed boss. It's called, "How I Lost My Summer Job." :D I recommend it (and everything else that she writes) to scratch your funnybone.

--------------
Which came first: the shimmy, or the hip?

AtBC Poet Laureate

"I happen to think that this prerequisite criterion of empirical evidence is itself not empirical." - Clive

"Damn you. This means a trip to the library. Again." -- fnxtr

  
midwifetoad



Posts: 3992
Joined: Mar. 2008

(Permalink) Posted: July 02 2008,12:58   

Anyone who remembers a dream knows that what we see and feel are constructs of the brain. Anyone who has kicked a large stone with bare feet knows that the constructs correlate with something "real."

--------------
Any version of ID consistent with all the evidence is indistinguishable from evolution.

  
Kristine



Posts: 3061
Joined: Sep. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: July 02 2008,14:30   

Quote (midwifetoad @ July 02 2008,11:58)
Anyone who remembers a dream knows that what we see and feel are constructs of the brain. Anyone who has kicked a large stone with bare feet knows that the constructs correlate with something "real."

But what if you kick a stone in a dream? ;)

(I've dreamed about dreaming, I am not kidding you. It usually portends a nasty headache.)

--------------
Which came first: the shimmy, or the hip?

AtBC Poet Laureate

"I happen to think that this prerequisite criterion of empirical evidence is itself not empirical." - Clive

"Damn you. This means a trip to the library. Again." -- fnxtr

  
C.J.O'Brien



Posts: 395
Joined: Aug. 2005

(Permalink) Posted: July 02 2008,14:32   

Quote
Anyone who remembers a dream knows that what we see and feel are constructs of the brain. Anyone who has kicked a large stone with bare feet knows that the constructs [usually] correlate with something "real."

Fixed that for you, since the entire article is about when they don't.
Fascinating article, btw, with a pretty good layman's explanation of the "sensorium as construct" concept. Being an amputee and intimately familiar with the phantom-limb phenomenon, I was especially interested in the success of the "mirror-limb" technique in giving relief to patients with bad phantom pain. I myself do not experience pain (usually) but just a slight, tingly presence, and so it isn't bothersome enough to call for therapeutic intervention. But it would be kind of cool to try, just to experience such a strange inversion.

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The is the beauty of being me- anything that any man does I can understand.
--Joe G

  
midwifetoad



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Joined: Mar. 2008

(Permalink) Posted: July 02 2008,14:39   

[/QUOTE]Fixed that for you, since the entire article is about when they don't.
[QUOTE]

My layman's understanding  is that correlation is a measure of probability.

I've had a couple of brief waking dreams. Call them hallucinations induced by strong expectations, or whatever. Makes me sympathetic toward people who have religious experiences, but lack sympathy for their conclusions.

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Any version of ID consistent with all the evidence is indistinguishable from evolution.

  
khan



Posts: 1525
Joined: May 2007

(Permalink) Posted: July 02 2008,17:28   

Quote (Kristine @ July 02 2008,15:30)
Quote (midwifetoad @ July 02 2008,11:58)
Anyone who remembers a dream knows that what we see and feel are constructs of the brain. Anyone who has kicked a large stone with bare feet knows that the constructs correlate with something "real."

But what if you kick a stone in a dream? ;)

(I've dreamed about dreaming, I am not kidding you. It usually portends a nasty headache.)

I dream about dreaming, and about talking to people about dreaming about dreaming.

I dream about having insomnia.

I dream about waking up and realize I'm dreaming about waking up, them dreaming about waking up...

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"It's as if all those words, in their hurry to escape from the loony, have fallen over each other, forming scrambled heaps of meaninglessness." -damitall

That's so fucking stupid it merits a wing in the museum of stupid. -midwifetoad

Frequency is just the plural of wavelength...
-JoeG

  
Dr.GH



Posts: 2113
Joined: May 2002

(Permalink) Posted: July 02 2008,17:32   

Quote (khan @ June 29 2008,16:25)
Hope I die before I get old(er).

Being "older" I can safely assert that dying is still less appealing. True, the hot chicks are only after my money- but why should I care?

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"Science is the horse that pulls the cart of philosophy."

L. Susskind, 2004 "SMOLIN VS. SUSSKIND: THE ANTHROPIC PRINCIPLE"

   
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