Sign in

Elemental
Your life, sourced by science. A publication from Medium about health and wellness.

Medicine

In Elemental. More on Medium.

A doctor warns about the impact of overprescribing

Photo: Towfiqu barbhuiya / Unsplash

Seven percent of individuals in the United States are prescribed levothyroxine, a synthetic version of the hormone, thyroxine, which is the main chemical produced by the body’s thyroid gland. The supplemental hormone consistently ranks among the top three prescriptions in the U.S. each year. In the past few days working at the hospital, I noted that one-sixth of the patients I saw were taking levothyroxine. This finding wasn’t terribly surprising to me and seemed like a fairly average sampling based on prior experience.

What has been surprising to me, however, is the mounting evidence indicating that most levothyroxine prescriptions, as…


Will circulating variants of Covid-19 “boost” immunity in vaccinated populations?

As the first group of people to receive Covid-19 vaccines reach the 6 month mark, the natural question in many people’s minds is: how long will this vaccine protect us against the virus? While research shows lasting and powerful protection, there is still concern that that immunity will fade with time. This raises the question of whether boosters are needed to prop up immunity.

With variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus still actively circulating amidst easing restrictions, many vaccinated individuals will likely be exposed to the virus. So the question is, will post-vaccination exposure to Covid-19 serve as a natural booster?


Because humans have sex. Because I believe in God. Because I am pro-life.

Photo: Maria Oswalt/Unsplash

I’ve worked in a county hospital, and I’ve worked in a private clinic. The waiting rooms looked different, the staff’s enthusiasm varied, and the patients of all ages came from different backgrounds, education levels, and phases of their lives. It never ceased to amaze me that despite variation in settings and situations, the look on someone’s face when seeking an abortion has mostly been the same. Eyes diverted toward the floor, shoulders curled slightly inward, hands fidgeting with one another, or arms crossed, the body is closed. She recedes into herself.

Sometimes the guilt is haunting.

She wants to focus…


Fountain of youth or fatuous fad, hyperbaric oxygen therapy requires a lot of nerve

Hyperbaric Center of Queens, Creative Commons

No one is really prepared to spend two hours in a high-pressure oxygen tube as though you’re about to be punted into space through an air-lock. But given recent news stories claiming hyperbaric oxygen therapy can make you younger, cure inflammatory conditions, and even treat neurological disorders, a lot of people are still willing to try. I decided to see what the treatment was all about — and I learned that it isn’t for the faint of heart.

The term hyperbaric just means high pressure. Therapy involves allowing a patient to breathe 100% oxygen inside a pressurized tube to increase…


Prescriptions are rising, but often the drugs don’t work, and other effective treatments are dismissed

Photo: Julia Zolotova/Unsplash

This is the third in a four-part series on preventing depression, a serious and growing mental disorder that can strike at any age and, if untreated, persist and worsen.

Antidepressant drugs can be an effective treatment for many people diagnosed with depression, particularly in the most severe cases. But these medications, which can have troubling side effects, are far from the only option, and for many people they simply don’t work. …


It’s been a long time since I saw a Covid patient in the ER, and I couldn’t be happier

Photo: Camilo Jimenez/Unsplash

I’m an emergency room doctor in New York City, and I haven’t seen a Covid-19 patient in weeks. It feels great having my old job back.

In March 2020, Covid flooded our ERs. At first, it was just a dribble — one or two Covid patients per day. But within a week, the virus had taken over every body in every bed. Every shift in the emergency room brought an endless stream of patients, one after another, all struggling to breathe and in desperate need of oxygen.

The swiftness of Covid’s arrival in our emergency rooms took us by surprise…


Despite the rise in gut health awareness, treatments for IBS have barely changed in decades

Photo: Jonathan Borba/Unsplash

You probably know the drill: you see a new doctor and have to answer a long checklist about your condition. For me, it’s a new gastroenterologist, and the long history bit is exhausting. Yes, I have flare ups — yes, they are painful. I suffer from IBS-C, which is slightly more polite than saying “irritable bowel syndrome with constipation.” Embarrassing, right?

Essentially, my digestive system goes paralytic. It just…stops. But of course, bacteria don’t stop; they continue doing the work of digesting things and creating byproducts that take up space. A lot of space. …


The unusual history of whiskey surgery and cocaine tooth drops

Photo: National Library of Medicine

There once was a time without pain killer. We had no aspirin, no ibuprofen, no anesthetic for surgery. How did we manage pain in the past? What led to the first breakthroughs in pain management? Can it help us confront chronic pain today?

It can be difficult to imagine a life without pain medicine. Just this morning, I awoke with a pressure headache due to an incoming storm front. I took a few ibuprofen and went on with my day. Most of us have passing pains like these: a stiff back from garden work, sore muscles from an overzealous romp…


My first experience with overseas treatment was A+

Photo: Michael Browning/Unsplash

I love my dentist. He’s a family friend, and a visit to his office on Staten Island, where I am from, is an easy and pleasant experience. I’m not one of those people who hates the drilling and the poking and the scraping. It’s not my favorite activity in the world, but a dental cleaning is just one of those things you’ve got to do, like paying your taxes or replacing the odd broken pipe — not always fun, but always necessary. Or else. In matters of the mouth, dare you not and you’ll risk an unpleasant smile, halitosis, and…


How a scientist’s daring experiments pushed the limits of medicine

Dr. Robert White standing behind medical equipment and a brain in a jar
Dr. Robert White standing behind medical equipment and a brain in a jar
Dr. Robert White in the Brain Research Lab. Image: Permission of White Family Archive

On a cold night in Cleveland in 1971, Dr. Robert White waited for signs of life. He stood, exhausted and still enrobed in a stiff surgical coat, over an operating table. Fluorescent lights bled color from the room, leaving it sterile, silent. A rhesus monkey lay before him — its shaved neck with the stitches still showing in a zipper seam that stretched 360 degrees.

On the line were years of work, months of waiting, and the stinging wounds of battles he’d fought against animal rights groups, the media, and even his own colleagues in the name of science. One…

Elemental

Your life, sourced by science. A publication from Medium about health and wellness.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store