Medical News Today: Stronger muscles lead to stronger brain

A study led by the University of Sydney in Australia has found that gradually increasing muscle strength through activities such as weightlifting improves cognitive function.
[Elderly woman showing off her muscles]
Stronger muscles reduce cognitive impairment in elderly patients.

The study was conducted in collaboration with the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA) at the University of New South Wales and the University of Adelaide.

The results have been published in the Journal of American Geriatrics.

The trial involved a Study of Mental and Resistance Training (SMART) carried out on patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) between 55-68 years old. Patients with MCI have a higher risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

The findings are particularly significant given the high incidence of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease among the aging population. According to the 2016 World Alzheimer Report, 47 million people worldwide have dementia and this number is expected to triple by 2050.

In the United States, the figure predicted for people with Alzheimer’s disease in 2050 is 13.8 million.

Due to the high cost of care for patients with dementia, the World Alzheimer Report recommends moving beyond specialist care. The report suggests a holistic approach that focuses on improving the quality of life for people living with the condition.

Seen in this context, a link between physical training and improving brain function might be a step in the right direction.

How a disciplined weightlifting schedule can improve cognition

The trial looked at progressive resistance training – such as weightlifting – and the functioning of the brain.

The study examined 100 older adults living with MCI. “Mild cognitive impairment” refers to older patients who have cognitive difficulties that are noticeable but not significant enough to interfere with their daily activities.

Eighty percent of patients diagnosed with MCI develop Alzheimer’s disease after approximately 6 years.

For the trial, MCI patients were divided into four groups and assigned a range of activities. These included a combination of resistance exercise – including weightlifting – and placebo resistance in the form of seated stretching. Activities also included computerized cognitive training and its placebo equivalent.

The cognitive training and placebo activities did not yield cognitive improvements.

However, the study did demonstrate a proportional relation between improvement in brain function and improvement in muscle strength.

“What we found in this follow-up study is that the improvement in cognition function was related to their muscle strength gains. The stronger people became, the greater the benefit for their brain.”

Lead author Dr. Yorgi Mavros

Previous studies have shown a positive link between physical exercise and cognitive function, but the SMART trial led by Dr. Mavros provides further information on the type, quality, and frequency of exercise needed to get the full cognitive benefits.

In the trial, participants did weightlifting sessions twice a week for 6 months, working to at least 80 percent of their peak strength. The weights were gradually increased as participants got stronger, all the while maintaining their peak strength at 80 percent.

“The more we can get people doing resistance training like weightlifting, the more likely we are to have a healthier aging population,” says Dr. Mavros. “The key, however, is to make sure you are doing it frequently, at least twice a week, and at a high intensity so that you are maximizing your strength gains. This will give you the maximum benefit for your brain.”

This is also the first time a study has shown a clear causal link between increasing muscle strength and improving brain function in patients over 55 years old who have MCI.

Exercise and cognitive function

It has been suggested that exercise indirectly helps prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and lowers the risk of cognitive impairment. Exercise helps with physiological processes such as glucoregulation and cardiovascular health. When these are sub-optimal, they increase the risk of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.

Exercise also improves other cognitive processes, such as selective attention, planning, organizing, and multitasking.

Some studies have also suggested a connection between an increase in the size of certain brain areas and exercise training.

With age, the hippocampus is known to reduce in size, which leads to cognitive impairment. However, aerobic exercise has shown an increase in the size of the anterior hippocampus by 2 percent, which can improve spatial memory.

Earlier this year, a team of researchers that included Dr. Mavros released a similar test where they noticed cognitive improvement after weightlifting.

Using functional magnetic resonance (fMRI), they analyzed changes in the brain after 6 months of progressive resistance training and computerized cognitive training in older adults. They found that progressive resistance training such as weightlifting “significantly improved global cognition.”

Authors of this study pointed out that it remains unclear whether physical training in itself stops the degenerative effects of old age, or whether they boost some other mechanisms that support cognition.

Although muscle strength seems to be clearly connected with cognitive impairment, the mechanism behind it is still not entirely evident.

In the future, Mavros and team hope to uncover it by connecting the increases in brain size to muscle strength and cognitive improvement.

“The next step now is to determine if the increases in muscle strength are also related to increases in brain size that we saw. In addition, we want to find the underlying messenger that links muscle strength, brain growth, and cognitive performance, and determine the optimal way to prescribe exercise to maximize these effects.”

Senior author Prof. Maria Fiatarone Singh, University of Sydney

Read about Alzheimer’s disease and how close we are to finding a cure.

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Medical News Today: Brain folding ‘slackens’ with age, study finds

The abundance of crevices and ridges in the outer layer of the human brain – commonly referred to as “folds” – make the organ instantly recognizable. Theory holds that the folding brain is a result of evolution, a way to condense the cerebral cortex and improve brain cell communication and functioning. Now, researchers have shed light on how folding occurs in the human brain and how it changes with age.
[the human brain]
Researchers find that the cerebral cortex loses tension as we age, and this change is even more pronounced in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

The cerebral cortex is a critical part of the human brain. Composed of folded gray matter, the cerebral cortex is responsible for higher-level functions, such as consciousness, language, intelligence, and memory.

Only a handful of species – including humans, cats, dogs, and dolphins – have folds in the cerebral cortex.

Previous research has suggested that the way in which these folds arise follows a universal law across species, meaning that they all fold in the same way, irrespective of the shape and size of the cortex.

“However, it was yet to be determined whether this law also applies to the morphological diversity of different individuals in a single species, in particular with respect to factors, such as age, sex, and disease,” note the study authors, led by Dr. Yujiang Wang of Newcastle University in the United Kingdom.

A ‘simple universal law’ for cortical folding in humans

To find out whether folding of the cerebral cortex is universal in humans, Dr. Wang and team used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to map the brain folds of more than 1,000 healthy adults.

The results – published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences – revealed that cortical brain folding in humans does follow a “simple universal law.”

However, the team found that as we age, cortical folding changes. Specifically, the researchers found that tension on the inside of the cerebral cortex reduces.

“It would be similar to the skin,” explains Dr. Wang. “As we age, the tension drops and the skin starts to slacken.”

The researchers also identified gender differences in cortical folding; among men and women of the same age, the cerebral cortex of women showed slightly less folding.

Cortical folding differs in patients with Alzheimer’s

On assessing cortical folding in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, the team found that these patients showed more pronounced, earlier changes in cortical tension and folding than healthy adults.

Additionally, the mechanism by which cortical folding changes in patients with Alzheimer’s disease differed to that of healthy men and women.

“More work is needed in this area but it does suggest that the effect Alzheimer’s disease has on the folding of the brain is akin to premature aging of the cortex,” says Dr. Wang. “The next step will be to see if there is a way to use the changes in folding as an early indicator of disease.”

Overall, the researchers believe their study has provided some much-needed insight into the factors that influence cortical folding in the human brain.

“It has long been known that the size and thickness of the cortex changes with age but the existence of a general law for folding shows us how to combine these quantities into a single measure of folding that can then be compared between genders, age groups, and disease states.”

Dr. Yujiang Wang

Read about a study that suggests nicotine has the potential to halt brain aging.

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Medical News Today: Women now drinking almost as much as men

Traditionally, alcohol consumption and alcohol abuse have been more commonly associated with men than women. But as more women drink alcohol, a new analysis finds they are catching up with men at an unprecedented rate. This also means women are affected by the same harmful effects of alcohol as men, and the new study highlights the need for women-specific information and educational campaigns in order to reduce the negative effects of alcohol consumption.
[Woman relaxing on a couch holding a glass of wine]
The new study finds women are now drinking almost as much as men.

Historically, men have used alcohol anywhere between 2-12 times more than women, the analysis reports.

However, the new research revealed a steady decrease in the sex ratio of alcohol consumption, alcohol abuse, and related harms.

In the early 1900s, males were twice as likely to consume alcohol than females and almost four times more likely to develop an alcohol-related condition.

By contrast, in the late 1900s, the gender gap has nearly disappeared, with males only 1.1 times likelier to consume alcohol than females and just 1.2 times more likely to experience alcohol-related problems.

The closing gap is most obvious in the youngest adults, namely those born as recently as 1990 and aged between 15-25 years.

The analysis – published in the journal BMJ Open – examined studies that tracked alcohol patterns in participants born as early as 1891, ranging all the way to 2001. The research collected data between 1948-2014 and included more than 4 million people. Some of the studies considered spanned over 30 years or more.

Health risks of alcohol use

Alcohol is one of the leading risk factors for global disease, together with smoking, pollution, and high blood pressure.

In 2010, alcohol accounted for 5 percent of deaths worldwide and was the leading risk factor in Eastern Europe, Andean Latin America, and southern sub-Saharan Africa.

In 2012, alcohol accounted for 3.3 million deaths, which is 5.9 percent of the global number of deaths.

In the United States, alcohol is currently listed as the fourth preventable cause of death by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).

Traditional gender expectations and alcohol consumption

Some studies have pointed to the connection between gender expectations and alcohol consumption patterns. Social norms associate drinking with displays of masculinity, while traditionally defined femininity associates women with abstinence.

Because of sex-based social roles, we also tend to judge women more harshly for using alcohol or having an alcohol addiction.

Gender roles perceived in this traditional way might cause women’s drinking problems to be ignored or mishandled. In fact, a study reported that women often feel that the social stigma stands in the way of seeking and receiving treatment, and women were more likely to report stigmatization than men.

Women must be warned of alcohol risks

The analysis conducted by Slade and team questions traditional assumptions and urges relevant institutions to put women at the center of new prevention and intervention programs:

“Alcohol use and alcohol use disorders have historically been viewed as a male phenomenon. The present study calls this assumption into question and suggests that young women, in particular, should be the target of concerted efforts to reduce the impact of substance use and related harms.”

The study does not provide any explanations for why the gender gap is closing, but speculations include changes in traditionally female gender roles; the researchers point to a study that showed alcohol consumption rates were most similar between men and women in countries where male and female roles were most equal.

The men and women in the analysis were very young and early in their alcohol use, the authors warn. As a result, more studies will have to be carried out as the young males and females age into their 30s and 40s.

Read about the causes, symptoms, and treatments for hangovers.

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Medical News Today: How to Get Rid of a Stye: Treatments and Home Remedies

MNT Knowledge Center

A stye is a very common condition that affects many people. It is also known as a hordeolum.

Styes are red, swollen lumps that form along the edge of the eyelid, close to the lashes. Sometimes, a stye can occur inside or under the eyelid.

Usually, styes are a minor annoyance and only need treatment at home. There are some situations where it is important to consult a doctor, however. Read on for more information about ways to manage a stye and preventing them in the future.

Types of styes

a stye on an eye
Styes can affect everybody and may be treated at home easily.

There are two types of styes, depending on where they are located.

  • External: When the stye is located at the base of an eyelash follicle
  • Internal: When a stye is found in the oil glands inside or under the eyelid

A chalazion is very similar to a stye. They occur when an oil gland inside the eyelid becomes clogged with oil. Without treatment, an internal stye can turn into a chalazion.

It can be difficult to tell the difference between a chalazion and a stye. Chalazia tend to occur further away from the eyelash line than a stye. In addition, chalazia usually don’t cause any discomfort.


Styes are caused by a bacterial infection of the eyelash follicle.

There are small oil glands that sit around the eyelid and drain through ducts into the eyelashes. If objects clog the duct, the oil can’t drain and backs up into the glands. The gland becomes swollen, causing the stye.

Risk factors

Anyone can develop a stye in their eye, but there are certain factors that can increase the risk of developing styes.

Someone who has had a stye or chalazia in the past is more likely to get another one in the future.

Certain skin conditions, like rosacea or dermatitis, can make a person more likely to get a stye. Other medical issues, like diabetes, swelling of the eyelid, and high serum lipids can have the same effect.

Using old makeup or not completely removing eye makeup on a regular basis can also increase the risk.

Home treatment for styes

Most styes can be treated at home easily. There are over-the-counter ointments that can be used. The most effective treatment tends to be a simple warm compress, however.

Someone with a stye should soak a clean washcloth in warm water and apply to the affected area for up to 15 minutes. This should be done a few times each day until the stye is gone. If the washcloth cools off, more warm water can be added.

It is important to avoid intentionally popping the stye. This can cause the infection to spread to the rest of the eyelid.

If the stye opens on its own, people should massage the area around the opening to help drain the infected fluid. This discharge may be white or yellow, similar to pus.

Avoid wearing makeup or contact lenses until the stye has completely healed.

Medical treatment for styes

Doctors may prescribe an antibiotic ointment if the stye becomes infected or does not improve with home treatment.

The doctor may also give a steroid injection to reduce swelling or inflammation in the stye or chalazion.

If these treatments don’t work or the stye starts to affect the vision, surgical removal may be needed. For this procedure, the doctor will inject numbing medicine around the affected area. They will then make a little opening in the stye to drain the infected fluid.

The doctor who would carry out surgery on a stye will usually be an ophthalmologist, or eye doctor.

Preventing styes

There are some easy ways to prevent getting a stye. People should completely wash makeup off the face and eye area every night so that it doesn’t clog the follicles around the eyes.

People should be sure to replace old makeup around every 6 months to prevent bacterial growth and infection. Avoiding sharing makeup with other people can also prevent getting an infection from someone else.

A person who uses contact lenses should ensure good hand hygiene when taking out, putting in, and caring for their lenses. In addition, avoiding touching the eye area can also prevent spreading bacteria to the skin around the eyes.

Symptoms of a stye

A doctor inspects a ladies right eye
If a stye persists after a week’s treatment, it is recommended to see a doctor.

Styes usually only happen in one eye at a time, though it is possible for both eyes to have a stye.

Early symptoms of a stye are generally mild and may include slight discomfort or redness along the lash line. The affected eye may also feel irritated.

As the stye develops, other symptoms may include:

  • A red bump that resembles a pimple along the eyelid that is close to the eyelashes
  • A small yellow spot in the middle of the bump
  • Feeling as though something is in the eye
  • Light sensitivity
  • Eye discharge or crustiness along the eyelid
  • Excessive tear production

A chalazion produces similar symptoms, but the lump is hard and painless.

When to see a doctor

If the stye doesn’t go away within a few days of applying warm compresses or keeps recurring despite treatment, people are recommended to see a doctor.

Other signs that it is time to see a doctor include if:

  • The stye gets worse very quickly
  • It is bleeding
  • It starts to affect vision
  • The stye spreads to the white of the eye
  • There is redness in the cheeks or other parts of the face


Styes usually go away on their own within a few days up to a week. A chalazion may last a little longer, sometimes for up to a month or longer.

Though rare, recurrent styes in the same location can sometimes indicate a more serious problem. In this case, a doctor may perform a biopsy to rule out other conditions.

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Medical News Today: Blood test could predict pregnancy complications, poor fetal growth

A blood test to predict the likelihood of pregnancy complications may be in sight, after researchers reveal the discovery of a blood protein in expectant mothers that they say is a reliable indicator of pregnancy complications and poor fetal growth.
[A pregnant woman having a blood test]
Researchers say measuring DLK1 levels in the blood of expectant mothers may be a reliable way to predict pregnancy complications.

In the journal Nature Genetics, researchers reveal that a protein called DLK1 is important for providing energy to the developing fetus, and low levels of this protein in a mother’s blood during pregnancy may signal reduced fetal growth as a result of pregnancy complications.

Levels of DLK1 are known to be increased in the blood of rodents and humans during pregnancy, but according to the research team – including lead researcher Dr. Marika Charalambous from Queen Mary University of London in the United Kingdom – little is known about what the protein does.

With a view to finding out, Dr. Charalambous and colleagues conducted a series of experiments in pregnant mice and humans.

In pregnant mice, the researchers “knocked out” the DLK1 gene that encodes the DLK1 protein, allowing them to pinpoint the source of the protein and get a better understanding of its function.

Uncovering the role of DLK1 in pregnancy

The team found the DLK1 protein derives from the embryo, suggesting that blood levels of the protein may provide information about an embryo’s biological condition.

Further investigation revealed that deactivation of the DLK1 protein in pregnant mice halted a process known as ketosis in response to fasting.

The body usually uses glucose as its main form of energy. When glucose is unavailable – through a low-carbohydrate diet or fasting, for example – ketosis kicks in. This involves the burning of the body’s fat stores in order to meet cells’ energy needs.

Their finding, the researchers say, suggests that the DLK1 protein is important for providing energy to a developing fetus, and subsequently, fetal growth.

Additionally, the researchers found that reduced DLK1 protein levels in the blood of pregnant mice were associated with lower fetal mass.

Low DLK1 levels linked to pregnancy complications, reduced fetal growth

For the second part of the study, Dr. Charalambous and colleagues teamed up with researchers from the U.K.’s University of Cambridge to assess whether DLK1 levels in the blood of pregnant women may be associated with fetal health.

The team assessed the blood samples – taken at around 36 weeks of pregnancy – and pregnancy outcomes of 129 first-time mothers.

The researchers found that mothers with low blood levels of the DLK1 protein were more likely to have infants that were small for gestational age (SGA) than those with higher DLK1 protein levels.

Further study revealed that lower DLK1 levels in expectant mothers were associated with reduced fetal growth, which was due to restricted blood flow through the umbilical cord and other pregnancy complications.

Overall, the researchers say their findings suggest that blood DLK1 protein levels may be an accurate indicator of pregnancy complications among expectant mothers.

“It’s incredibly important to start developing tests that can give an obstetrician much more information on the pregnancy before delivery, so that they can intervene before complications come to crisis point.

Measuring DLK1 levels in the mother’s blood could be a reliable and noninvasive way of predicting whether there are likely to be complications, especially those that cause reduced nutrient supply to the baby. In those instances, you really need to get the baby out quickly, so women could opt to have an early elective delivery.”

Dr. Marika Charalambous

While these new findings are no doubt promising, the researchers note that further clinical studies are needed to better understand the diagnostic potential of DLK1 for pregnancy complications.

Learn how heatwaves and cold snaps may increase the risk of preterm birth.

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Medical News Today: Stroke risk higher for younger than older pregnant women

Older women are usually considered at greater risk of pregnancy complications than younger women. However, when it comes to stroke during pregnancy, a new study suggests it is younger women who are most at risk.
[A pregnant woman with both hands on her belly]
Researchers find younger women are more than twice as likely to experience stroke during or just after pregnancy than their non-pregnant counterparts.

Researchers found that pregnant older women had a similar stroke risk as their non-pregnant counterparts, while younger pregnant women were found to be at more than double the risk of stroke than non-pregnant women of the same age.

Lead study author Dr. Eliza C. Miller, of the Department of Neurology at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) in New York, and team published their findings in JAMA Neurology.

Each year, around 795,000 people in the United States are affected by stroke, and it is the cause of more than 130,000 deaths.

It is well known that pregnancy can raise stroke risk; gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, and increased bleeding after birth are all factors that can make expectant mothers more susceptible to stroke.

According to Dr. Miller and colleagues, stroke affects around 34 in every 100,000 pregnancies in the United States, and this number is on the increase.

“The incidence of pregnancy-associated strokes is rising, and that could be explained by the fact that more women are delaying childbearing until they are older, when the overall risk of stroke is higher,” notes senior study author Dr. Joshua Z. Willey, assistant professor of neurology at CUMC.

“However,” he adds. “very few studies have compared the incidence of stroke in pregnant and non-pregnant women who are the same age.”

Assessing stroke risk by age at pregnancy

For their study, Dr. Miller and team set out to determine the risk of stroke during pregnancy by age.

Using data from the New York State Department of Health Statewide Planning and
Research Cooperative System (SPARCS) inpatient database, the researchers were able to pinpoint 19,146 women in New York State aged 12-55 years who had been hospitalized for stroke between 2003-2012.

Of these women, 797 (4.2 percent) were pregnant or had given birth in the last 6 weeks.

The researchers looked at the incidence of stroke for both pregnant and non-pregnant women across four age groups: 12-24 years, 25-34 years, 35-44 years, and 45-55 years.

Overall, the team found that stroke incidence increased with age; there were 14 stroke events per 100,000 pregnant or postpartum women aged 12-24, while the stroke events for pregnant or postpartum women aged 45-55 were 46.9 per 100,000.

Stroke risk doubled for younger expectant mothers

However, when it came to assessing stroke risk relative to non-pregnant women, the team found younger women fared worse.

For women aged 12-24, the researchers identified 14 stroke events per 100,000 pregnant or postpartum women, compared with 6.4 per 100,000 for women aged 12-24 who were not pregnant – representing a more than twofold greater risk of stroke for expectant or new mothers.

Among women aged 25-34, pregnant or postpartum women were 1.6 times more likely to have a stroke event than non-pregnant women of the same age, the team reports.

However, among women aged 35-44, stroke incidence among pregnant or postpartum women was comparable to that of non-pregnant women, at 33 per 100,000 and 31 per 100,000, respectively.

Among women aged 45-55, stroke incidence was higher for non-pregnant women, at 73.7 per 100,000, compared with 46.9 per 100,000 for pregnant or postpartum women.

Based on their findings, Dr. Miller and team say it is perhaps time to increase focus on identifying and reducing stroke risk among younger pregnant women.

“We have been warning older women that pregnancy may increase their risk of stroke, but this study shows that their stroke risk appears similar to women of the same age who are not pregnant.

But in women under 35, pregnancy significantly increased the risk of stroke. In fact, 1 in 5 strokes in women from that age group were related to pregnancy. We need more research to better understand the causes of pregnancy-associated stroke, so that we can identify young women at the highest risk and prevent these devastating events.”

Dr. Eliza C. Miller

The researchers stress that their results should be “interpreted with caution regarded and primarily as hypothesis generating.”

Still, the team concludes that while older expectant mothers are at greater risk of numerous pregnancy complications, “a higher risk of stroke may not be one of them.”

Learn how a woman’s pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI) might influence offspring’s lifespan.

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Medical News Today: Brown Recluse Spider Bite: Symptoms and Treatment

MNT Knowledge Center

There are more than 3,500 species of spiders that are found in the United States. Although many people are scared of these creatures, only about a dozen species are actually harmful.

These fall into two different groups: brown spiders and widow spiders. Brown recluse spiders are a member of the brown spider group. The other well-known poisonous spider is the black widow spider, which falls into the widow group.

What are brown recluse spiders?

brown recluse spider on a white background
Brown recluse spiders prefer to hide rather than bite humans.

The brown recluse spider is also known as the violin or fiddle-back spider. It is most commonly found in the Midwestern and southeastern part of the U.S. This spider is brown and has a darker violin-shaped spot on its back.

Unlike other spiders that typically have eight eyes, brown recluse spiders only have six eyes. The legs of a brown recluse are also thicker and not as spindly as other spiders.

These spiders are most active at night and hide during the day in dark areas to rest. If they come indoors, brown recluse spiders prefer closets, attics, basements, and other dark areas of the house.

The venom of a brown recluse is highly poisonous, but the spiders are only able to release a small amount during a bite. People are also more likely to come into contact with the male spider, which has only half as much venom as the females.

Why do they bite humans?

Brown recluse spiders do bite humans, but only rarely. They are not aggressive towards humans and prefer to run away rather than bite.

Bites happen most often when the spider gets tangled between bedsheets or clothing and skin.

When living in an area where these spiders are found, it’s important to check and shake out linen and clothes before using them. This is important if they haven’t been used recently.

What does a brown recluse spider bite look like?

There are many myths about brown recluse spider bites. One myth is that they always cause severe wounds where the skin tissue is destroyed. Only a small number of bites actually result in this type of injury.

The bite is usually painless to begin with, and symptoms progress with time. Over the first hour, someone with a brown recluse spider bite might experience:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Burning sensation

Over the next 8 hours, the site of the bite gets bigger and forms a blister. Within a day, the bite hardens into a painful lump and scabs over. The entire wound is often gone within about 2 months.

If the skin around the bite darkens or turns purple within the first few days, tissue destruction is possible. Rarely, the venom can spread through the entire body and cause symptoms like fever, nausea, and muscle cramps.

Risk factors

While these spiders don’t bite humans often, they can pose a slightly higher risk to indoor workers. Machinists, janitors, and housekeepers might be at an even higher risk due to their greater likelihood of coming into contact with them indoors.

Living in the southeastern U.S. also increases the risk of infestation and accidental encounters with this type of spider.


Despite their bad reputation, only about 10 percent of brown recluse spider bites result in serious injuries. Death is even rarer.

Home treatments for brown recluse spider bites

male doctor talks to female patient
Always seek medical advice if bitten by a brown recluse.

Most spider bites can be treated at home. If possible, people should collect and identify the spider that has caused the bite. The spider can be killed, but completely crushing it can prevent proper identification.

If someone is bitten, they should clean the wound with a mild soap and water and apply an over-the-counter antibiotic cream. They should raise the bitten area and try to keep it still.

If the bite is causing discomfort, bitten people should apply a cool compress or ice pack to reduce swelling and pain. A pain reliever, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, can be helpful in reducing discomfort. An antihistamine, such as Benadryl, may also help.

When to see a doctor

People should contact a doctor if a brown recluse spider is confirmed as being the biting spider. The doctor may recommend a tetanus booster if it’s been more than 5 years since the last one.

The doctor may also want to check the wound a few days after the bite to ensure that tissue is not being destroyed. Quick treatment can start if there are any concerns, which reduces the risk of other complications.


There are many other conditions that can cause a severe wound similar to brown recluse spider bites. These conditions include impetigo, diabetes, and other bacterial infections.

Unless the spider has been caught and properly identified, it can be difficult to be certain about diagnosing a brown recluse spider bite.


Someone who has been bitten by a brown recluse spider has an excellent chance of recovery, especially with quick treatment. In most cases, wounds from these types of bites heal completely within several weeks.

People with other medical conditions, such as diabetes or immune system problems, are at a higher risk of complications. It is especially important for them to contact their doctor in the event of an actual or suspected brown recluse spider bite.

Preventing brown recluse spider bites

wood pile
Wood piles are common homes for the brown recluse spider.

Though brown recluse spider bites are rare, it is possible to further reduce the risk of getting one. The best way to do this is by avoiding areas where brown recluse spiders tend to live, such as outdoor wood or rock piles. Someone who must work near or around these areas should wear gloves.

When indoors, people should be sure to shake out clothing or bedding that has not been used for a while. This is particularly important if they have been stored in an attic, basement, or dark closet.

Taking other measures to prevent brown recluse spiders infestations is crucial. Cleaning out attics, sheds, closets, and basements gets rid of places where these spiders like to hide. Removing woodpiles outdoors can prevent an infestation outside.


Even though these spiders have gotten a bad name, the actual risk of severe injury or death from a brown recluse is quite small.

Simple preventive measures are quite effective in further reducing the risk of encountering these spiders. They are even more effective at preventing their bite.

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Medical News Today: Youth football players show brain changes after just one season

When it comes to head impact in youth football, it is not just concussion that affects the brain. In a new study, researchers identified white matter changes in the brains of children after just a single season of playing football, even in the absence of a concussion diagnosis.
[Youth football players]
After just one season, youth football players with greater head impact exposure showed changes to white matter of the brain.

It is estimated that around 30 million children and adolescents in the United States take part in some form of sports.

While such participation has clear health benefits, the risks cannot be overlooked; each year in the U.S., more than 3.5 million injuries are incurred through youth sports, with the majority occurring in contact sports – such as football.

Among the most serious injuries are those to the head; according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2009, almost 250,000 children and adolescents were admitted to emergency departments as a result of sports-related injuries that involved traumatic brain injury (TBI) or concussion.

A number of studies have documented the effects concussion can have on the brain; a study reported by Medical News Today, for example, showed that concussion can lead to changes in the brain’s white matter that persist for at least 6 months.

Assessing the brain effects of non-concussion head impact

However, Dr. Christopher T. Whitlow – lead author of the new study and associate professor and chief of neuroradiology at Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, NC – notes that in relation to youth sports, few researchers have investigated the brain effects of head impact that does not result in a concussion diagnosis.

“Most investigators believe that concussions are bad for the brain, but what about the hundreds of head impacts during a season of football that don’t lead to a clinically diagnosed concussion?,” asks Dr. Whitlow. “We wanted to see if cumulative sub-concussive head impacts have any effects on the developing brain.”

For their study – published in the journal Radiology – Dr. Whitlow and team enrolled 25 male youth football players aged 8-13 years.

Using data from the Head Impact Telemetry System (HITs) – software that monitors the frequency and severity of head impacts in sports – the researchers tracked the cumulative exposure to head impacts among the participants over one football season.

In order to confirm the accuracy of this data, the team recorded and assessed every game and practice session of the season.

Greater head impact exposure linked to changes in white matter

Before and after the football season, each player underwent diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) of the brain – a form of advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) that can identify small changes to the structure of white matter.

Specifically, the team looked at fractional anisotropy (FA) measurements – the movement of water molecules along nerve fibers in the brain called axons.

The researchers explain that in healthy white matter, FA is high, representing a more uniform water movement. In some studies, irregular water movement has been associated with reduced FA and brain abnormalities.

In their analysis, Dr. Whitlow and team found that the youths who had experienced higher cumulative head impact exposure showed reduced FA in certain areas of the brain, compared with those who had low exposure to head impacts.

“These decreases in FA caught our attention, because similar changes in FA have been reported in the setting of mild TBI,” notes Dr. Whitlow.

Importantly, the team point outs that none of the players had signs or symptoms of concussion.

While the researchers say they are unable to conclude whether the reduced FA observed in the study is representative of functional brain changes or long-term abnormalities, their findings warrant further investigation.

“Football is a physical sport, and players may have many physical changes after a season of play that completely resolve. These changes in the brain may also simply resolve with little consequence. However, more research is needed to understand the meaning of these changes to the long-term health of our youngest athletes.”

Dr. Christopher T. Whitlow

Read about the call for further action to protect against football-related concussion.

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Medical News Today: Youth football players show brain changes after just one season
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