Unexpected Benefits of Depression Treatment

Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on February 04, 2011
Sources: © 2011 WebMD

Better Sleep

Depression can rob you of rest by making it hard to fall asleep or by waking you up too soon. That leaves you dragging the next day. And more important, lack of sleep can make depression more severe. Treatment for depression can help improve sleep.

Better Love Life

Some antidepressants may dampen the libido. But often, the bigger roadblock to a happy love life is depression itself. One study showed that 70% of people with depression reported a loss of sexual interest while not taking medicine. Treatment may help restore your self-confidence and strengthen your emotional connection with your partner.

Pain Relief

Treatment for your depression can make you feel better emotionally and may reduce pain. That’s because depression can contribute to the discomfort of pain. Studies have found that people who have conditions like arthritis and migraines actually feel more pain -- and are more disabled by it -- if they're depressed. Seeking treatment may help provide relief.

Improved Health

If you are depressed, getting treatment may help prevent some serious diseases down the road. That’s because depression can take a toll on your body. One study found that women who were depressed had double the risk of sudden cardiac death than women who weren’t. Getting treatment may help lessen health risks.

Better Performance at Work

Depression can make it hard to hold a job. If you’re depressed, you might lose focus at work and make more mistakes. If you think depression might be affecting you at work, getting help now could head off serious problems.

Sharper Thinking and Better Memory

Feeling forgetful? Does your thinking seem fuzzy? Experts have found that depression might cause structural changes to the areas of the brain involved in memory and decision-making.
The good news is that depression treatment may prevent or reverse these changes -- clearing away the cobwebs and strengthening your recall.

Happier Home Life

Irritable and angry? Constantly snapping at your kids -- and then feeling bad about it? Getting depression treatment can help boost your mood. And that can help reduce tension around the house and improve your relationship with your family.

Healthier Lifestyle

Why does depression cause some people to gain weight? In part, it’s behavioral -- you may withdraw and become less active, or turn to food for comfort. It’s also physiological -- low levels of certain brain chemicals can trigger a craving for carbs. Getting treatment may change that while giving you the energy to exercise and eat well.

Less Chaos, More Control

When depression zaps your energy, even the most basic tasks -- like vacuuming or paying the bills -- can become impossibly hard. The more chaotic things get, the less capable you feel. Depression treatment can restore the energy you need to take control of your life and get it organized.

Lower Risk of Future Depression

People who have been depressed have a higher risk of becoming depressed again. But ongoing therapy or medication may help prevent depression from coming back. Even if it does return, treatment now will prepare you. You’ll know the early signs. You’ll know some coping skills. And you’ll know where to get help.

Stronger Ties With Friends & Family

Treating depression may improve your social life. Depression isolates people. It can sap your self-esteem, making you feel unlikeable. While therapy and medication can help restore some of that lost confidence, you still need to decide to reach out. Reconnecting to old friends when you’re depressed -- not to mention making new ones -- is hard. But it’s a crucial part of getting better.

Getting Help

Some people with depression try to wait it out, hoping it will get better on its own without treatment. That's a mistake. Studies have found that the longer depression lasts, the worse your symptoms may get and the harder it is to treat.
See your doctor. Schedule an appointment with a therapist. The sooner you get help, the better your odds for a healthy future.

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Taking on Eye Allergies

Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on March 22, 2010
Sources: © 2010 WebMD

Understanding Eye Allergies

Eye allergies causing red, puffy eyes? You're not alone -- millions of Americans cope with eye allergies, or allergic conjunctivitis.  A cold compress can give you a quick fix before heading out in public. But for long-term relief, you need to identify triggers and treat symptoms.

Eye Allergy Symptoms

Symptoms can include redness in the white of the eye or the inner eyelid. Other signs: itchy eyes, tearing, blurred vision, burning sensation, eyelid swelling, and sensitivity to light. Eye allergies can occur alone or with nasal allergies and the allergic skin condition eczema.The only way to know for sure if it's eye allergies is to see your doctor.

Why Allergies Make Eyes Red

Eye allergies happen when your eyes are exposed to the offending allergen -- say pet dander or pollen. Cells in your eyes called mast cells release histamine and other chemicals, causing inflammation. The result: Itchy, red, and watery allergic eyes.

Don't Rub Your Eyes

It may be tempting, but rubbing itchy eyes can make things worse. Rubbing your eyes may cause the mast cells to release more of the chemicals that caused your eyes to itch in the first place! Instead, take contact lenses out (if you wear them), avoid eye make-up, and apply cool compresses to your eyes. Wash your hands often.

Eye Allergy Cover Up Tips

Apply a hypoallergenic concealer to help hide dark circles. Don't try to cover up with heavy makeup -- it will only call attention to red, watery eyes. Instead, emphasize another feature -- wear a pretty lipstick, for example.

Eye Allergy Triggers: Pollen

If your eyes well up around Mother Nature -- and not just because of all the beauty she inspires -- you may have seasonal allergic conjunctivitis. Grass, tree, and weed pollens are the worst offenders. When pollen counts are high, stay indoors, keep your windows closed and the air conditioner on. Wear sunglasses to keep pollen out of your eyes.

Eye Allergy Triggers: Pollen

If your eyes well up around Mother Nature -- and not just because of all the beauty she inspires -- you may have seasonal allergic conjunctivitis. Grass, tree, and weed pollens are the worst offenders. When pollen counts are high, stay indoors, keep your windows closed and the air conditioner on. Wear sunglasses to keep pollen out of your eyes.

Mop Away Allergens

If dust mites trigger your runny, watery eyes, invest in bedding and pillowcases that keep them out. Wash sheets in hot water, and try to keep the humidity levels in your home between 30 and 50%. Clean floors with a damp mop. Don't sweep, which stirs up allergens.

Eye Allergy Drops

Tear substitutes rinse the allergens out of your eye and keep eyes moist. Decongestant drops shrink blood vessels in your eyes, which decreases redness. But using them long-term can actually make symptoms worse. Both kinds of eye drops are available over the counter. People with certain conditions should not use certain types of eye drops, so ask your doctor.

Other Kinds of Eye Drops

Antihistamine eye drops reduce swelling, redness, and itching.  Some eye drops combine both antihistamines and mast cell stabilizers. These drops are available OTC and by prescription. Other prescription options may include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug eye drops and steroid-based eye drops.

Can Allergy Shots Help?

Allergy shots work well for eye allergies. Allergy shots (immunotherapy) help your immune system get used to the substances that cause your allergy symptoms. They are usually an option for severe allergies. Treatment can take months, and you may still need to use medicine. Are you a candidate? Talk to your doctor.

Ending Eye Allergies

From prevention and OTC artificial tears to prescription eye drops and allergy shots, there is a lot you can do to take the sting out of your eye allergies. Develop a plan of action with your doctor so today is the last day you have to put up with red, watery and itchy eyes.

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Swine Flu FAQ

What Is Swine Flu?

The H1N1 flu, often called "swine flu," first appeared in the U.S. in April 2009 and quickly went on to become a pandemic, which means it was seen worldwide. H1N1 spreads between people, not pigs. The "swine flu" nickname comes from the way the virus evolved, as a mix of genes from swine, bird, and human viruses.  By August 2010, the pandemic was over, but experts believe H1H1 will continue to hang around for several flu seasons.

Swine Flu Virus

Here is a picture of the 2009 H1N1 swine flu virus, colorized and magnified.

What Are Swine Flu Symptoms?

Symptoms of H1N1 swine flu are like regular flu symptoms and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with swine flu. Those symptoms can also be caused by many other conditions, and that means that you and your doctor can't know, just based on your symptoms, if you've got swine flu. It takes a lab test to tell whether it's swine flu or some other condition.

When Should I See My Doctor?

If you only have mild flu symptoms and you're not at high risk of severe disease, you don't need medical attention unless your illness worsens. If you are at high risk (pregnant women, young children, people with chronic medical conditions such as asthma, and elderly people), call or email your doctor at the first sign of flu-like symptoms.

When Is Swine Flu an Emergency?

Children should get urgent medical attention if they have fast breathing or trouble breathing, have bluish or gray skin color, are not drinking enough fluid, are not waking up or not interacting, have severe or persistent vomiting, are so irritable that the child doesn't want to be held, have flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and a worse cough, have fever with a rash, or have fever and then have a seizure or sudden mental or behavioral change. Adults should seek urgent medical attention if they have trouble breathing or shortness of breath, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, confusion, severe or persistent vomiting, or flu-like symptoms that improve, but then come back with worsening fever or cough.

How Does Swine Flu Spread?

The 2009 H1N1 swine flu virus spreads just like regular flu. You could pick up germs directly from an infected person, or by touching an object they recently touched, and then touching your eyes, mouth, or nose, delivering their germs for your own infection. That's why you should make a habit of washing your hands, even when you're not ill. Flu germs can start spreading up to a day before symptoms start, and for up to seven days after getting sick, according to the CDC.

How Is Swine Flu Treated?

The 2009 H1N1 swine flu virus is sensitive to the antiviral drugs Tamiflu and Relenza. But not everyone needs those drugs. Most people who have come down with swine flu have recovered without treatment. The CDC has recommended prioritizing antiviral drugs for people with more severe flu illness and people in high-risk groups.

Is There a Swine Flu Vaccine?

Yes. WebMD Senior Writer Dan DeNoon, pictured here, took part in a trial of the H1N1 vaccine. Swine flu came on the scene too late in 2009 to be included in the regular flu shot that people can get beginning in October each year. For winter 2010-2011, the H1N1 vaccine was included in the seasonal flu vaccine. It comes as a shot or nasal spray.

How Severe Is Swine Flu?

The severity of cases has varied widely, from mild cases to fatalities. Most U.S. cases have been mild, but there have been a number of deaths and hospitalizations. Flu viruses can change, and it's impossible to know whether the 2009 H1N1 swine flu virus will become more deadly. But so far, this particular virus hasn't changed much since it first appeared.

How can I prevent swine flu infection?

The CDC recommends taking these steps:

  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing. Or, use an alcohol-based hand cleaner.
  • Avoid close contact with sick people.
  • Avoid touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.
  • Got flu symptoms? Stay home, and when you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue. Afterward, throw the tissue in the trash and wash your hands.
What Else Should I Be Doing?

Keep informed of what's going on in your community. Your state and local health departments will have important information on how your area is handling flu.

Can I Still Eat Pork?

The nickname "swine flu" initially caused a lot of confusion and some worries about what was safe to eat. The answer is "yes," pork is safe to eat. You can't get swine flu by eating pork, bacon, or other foods that came from pigs.

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Fattening Foods of Summer

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on March 25, 2011
Sources: © 2011 WebMD, LLC.

Summer’s Most Fattening Foods

Ahhh, it's summer: backyard barbecues, cocktails at the pool, baseball games, and lots of fried chicken, ribs, potato salad, ice cream, hot dogs, and beer. Summertime living may be easy, but if you’re not careful, summer's fattening foods can really pack on the pounds. While most people are more active during the summer, it may not be enough to burn off all the extra calories from fattening summer treats.

High-Fat Meats on the Barbecue

The bad news: barbecue can sabotage your waistline. A 20 ounce T-bone can weigh in at 1,540 calories and 124 g fat; an average cheeseburger has about 750 calories and 45 grams of fat; and pork or beef ribs? They come from the fattiest part of the animal. The good news: You can go lean with cuts like pork tenderloin, skinless chicken breast, and lean ground beef.

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Hot dogs and sausages are favorite summer treats for many of us, but you might want to save them for baseball games. It’s not just about fat or calories (after all, you can choose lower fat varieties) but hot dogs, bratwursts, sausages and most dogs are high in sodium. A typical hot dog has 280 calories, 15 grams of fat, and 1,250 mg of sodium, while a 6-ounce kielbasa has 330 calories, 24 grams of fat, and 1,590 mg sodium.

Mayonnaise-Based Salads

A small half-cup portion of typical potato salad has 180 calories and 12 grams of fat; the same amount of coleslaw has about 150 calories and 8 grams of fat. To cut calories, try making your salads with light mayonnaise; or mix mayo with low-fat yogurt, light sour cream, or chicken stock. Or why not try a German-style potato salad, using more vinegar than oil? Then toss lots of veggies into any salad to increase the fiber and nutrients.

Frozen Concoctions

Sweet, fruity alcoholic drinks (the kind often served with an umbrella) may go down easy, but the calories add up in a hurry. A piƱa colada can range from 245-490 calories, a daiquiri from 300-800 calories, and a Long Island iced tea can set you back 520 calories or more -- with much of it from sugar. Instead of high calorie drinks, try wine, a wine spritzer, or a mixed drink with seltzer and a splash of 100% fruit juice.

Satisfying Thirst Quenchers

Staying hydrated is essential in summer, but those cold drinks can wreak havoc with your waistline. Be careful what you choose -- if you're drinking 12-ounce containers of sweet tea, sweetened soda, energy drinks, juice drinks, or beer, you're probably taking in about 150 calories a pop. Smoothies, milkshakes and cold coffee concoctions can go much higher. Keep liquids in check and drink water or light versions of your favorite quenchers.

Refreshing Frozen Treats

A cup of soft-serve ice cream can have 380 calories and 22 grams of fat. Make it a chocolate cookie dough milkshake concoction, and the calories soar to 720, with 28 grams of fat! You don’t need to give up frozen treats, just pass on the giant portions or high fat toppings. Look for frozen desserts like sherbet, fudge bars, fruit bars, or other treats under 150 calories per serving or fruit desserts like strawberry shortcake.

Frighteningly Fattening Fair Food

Fairs, carnivals, and boardwalks serve up some of the most fattening deep-fried diet disasters. From fried cheesecake (around 500 calories), fried macaroni and cheese (610 calories) to gigantic turkey legs (1,136 calories and 54 g fat), most eat-while-you-walk foods will give you calorie overload. Skip the fried foods and choose cotton candy, caramel apples, or a simple grilled meat or share your treat with a friend.

Salad Toppers

Salads can be the perfect summer dinner: light, refreshing, and a perfect way to get your produce and lean protein. If you top your salad with high-calorie items, it can go from lean to fattening in a hurry. High-calorie dressings, fried chicken strips, bacon, cheese, and croutons are among the biggest offenders. Instead, top your greens with grilled chicken, strips of lean meat, or eggs, then pile on the veggies and top with a light dressing.

Mindless Munching on Snacks

A handful of any kind of snack won't do much harm, but eat too much and it can sabotage your diet. Each ounce of potato chips or cheese puffs is roughly 160 calories and 10 grams of fat. Cheese nachos will set you back 692 calories (plus 38 g fat and 1,632 mg sodium); and a 10-cup box of movie theater popcorn has 550 calories, 31 g fat, and 972 mg sodium. Try snacking on fruits, veggies with light dip, or small portions of fat-free popcorn.

Finger-Licking Fried Chicken

A bucket of fried chicken is an easy way to feed a crowd, but it can wreak havoc on your waistline (and arteries), especially when you eat more than one. So forgo fried and toss boneless, skinless chicken breasts on the grill. A 3.5 oz. skinned chicken breast has only 167 calories and 7 grams of fat, compared to a breaded, fried chicken breast with about 360 calories and 21 g fat. Add flavor with marinades and spice rubs, or top it with fresh salsa.

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Food Allergy Triggers, Common and Uncommon


Peanuts cause more life-threatening allergic reactions than any other food. They're a legume, like soybeans, rather than a true nut.  But among people with a peanut allergy, 25%-50% will also react to tree nuts, such as walnuts. Foods and ingredients to avoid include beer nuts, goobers, arachic oil, and some hydrolyzed vegetable proteins. Baked goods, sauces, even chili can contain hidden peanut proteins.

Milk and Dairy Foods

A milk allergy is the most common food allergy in children, but 80% outgrow it. Infants may need hypoallergenic or soy formula, and sometimes breastfeeding mothers need to avoid drinking milk. Milk proteins, including casein, are ubiquitous in processed foods, even found in canned tuna. If you're allergic to cow's milk, goat's milk may not be safe, either. Lactose intolerance is not an allergy, but a digestive problem.


Eggs are the second most common cause of food allergy in children, although they usually outgrow this allergy, as well. Read the labels carefully for noodles, mayonnaise, and baked goods. Eggs can also be found in some unlikely products: the foam topping in drinks or the egg wash on pretzels. Eggs are used to produce the influenza vaccine, so check with a doctor before getting the flu vaccine.


An allergy to shellfish most often develops in adulthood, and it is a lifelong allergy. Shrimp, crab, crawfish, and lobster -- crustaceans -- produce the most severe allergic reactions. Mollusks can trigger reactions, too: clams, mussels, scallops, escargot, octopuses, and squid. People allergic to shellfish should avoid steam tables or stovetops where shellfish is cooked because the vapors can trigger a reaction.

Tree Nuts

Walnuts, almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, cashews, pistachios, Brazil nuts, and pine nuts may all be off limits if you have a tree nut allergy. These must be clearly labeled in packaged foods, but nuts are more difficult to avoid in restaurants and bakeries. Nutmeg, water chestnuts, sunflower seeds, and sesame are not nuts and can be eaten safely. Be aware that tree nut oils, such as shea oil, may be used in skin lotions.

Finned Fish

The protein in finned fish can cause severe allergies, most commonly from eating salmon, tuna, or halibut.  If you're allergic to one type, you may react to others, too.  Many ethnic restaurants flavor dishes with fish sauces.  So tread carefully in Thai and Chinese restaurants, and beware of Caesar dressing and Worcestershire sauce, made from anchovies. Some people can safely eat canned tuna and salmon, but not fresh fish.


If you're allergic to soy, you need to read the fine print very carefully on food labels. Soy protein is widely used in breads, cookies, canned soups, processed meats, and snack foods. Foods  to avoid include edamame, (young green soybeans), tofu, soy milk, miso, and soy sauce. Most people with soy allergy can still eat soy oil and soy lecithin. Soy allergy is more common among babies and children.


Wheat allergy is an allergic reaction to one of four proteins in wheat. You do not necessarily react to the gluten. People allergic to wheat can usually eat other grains, including barley, oats, rye, corn, and rice. Wheat allergy is more common among children and is often outgrown. Bulgur, couscous, and farina contain wheat protein, and many products, including beer, salad dressing, and processed meats, may contain wheat.

Contrast: Gluten Intolerance

People with celiac disease have an autoimmune disorder that is triggered by gluten, a protein in wheat, rye, and barley. Eating gluten actually damages the small intestine. Symptoms include diarrhea, bloating, weight loss, chronic fatigue, and weakness -- but not the skin rashes, swelling, or wheezing seen with a food allergy. Some people may have gluten intolerance that is a digestive problem and not immune-related. Celiac disease can be diagnosed with a blood test.

How a Food Allergy Begins

With the first exposure to a trigger food, your body treats it as something harmful and creates immunoglobulin E antibodies in your blood stream. You won't notice symptoms at the first exposure, but your body is primed to release histamine the next time. Although some food allergies are more common among young children, food allergies can develop at any time in life.

Symptoms usually occur within a few minutes to two hours after eating the food. Reactions range from mild to severe and can include:

  • Hives or other skin rash
  • Tingling or itching in the mouth
  • Swelling of face, tongue, or lips
  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Vomiting, diarrhea, or abdominal cramps
  • Swelling of throat and vocal chords
  • Difficulty breathing
Anaphylaxis: Severe Reaction

Mild symptoms can sometimes progress to a dangerous condition known as anaphylaxis, so it's important to act quickly. This life-threatening reaction involves constricted airways, throat swelling that may cause suffocation, and a large drop in blood pressure. Doctors often prescribe epinephrine injections such as EpiPen or Twinject to carry and use at the first sign of a reaction. You should still go to an emergency room for evaluation.

Myth: Food Allergy Is Predictable

If one bite of seafood went down OK last time, will you always be safe with one bite? Maybe, maybe not. In general, your reaction will depend on the extent of your allergy and the amount of the food you eat. But reactions can be unpredictable, so you may have hives once but vomiting or breathing problems on a different occasion.

Contrast: Food Intolerance

Trouble digesting a food isn't the same thing as a food allergy. An allergy occurs as an immune reaction. Food intolerance, such as lactose intolerance, can cause bloating, cramps, and diarrhea, but it doesn't cause an immune system reaction. Lactose intolerance occurs when the body doesn't produce enough lactase, an enzyme that breaks down lactose, the sugar found in milk and dairy products.

Contrast: Food Additives

A reaction to food additives also can be confused with food allergy. Monosodium glutamate (MSG), a flavor enhancer, can cause flushing, warmth, headache, and chest discomfort. Sulfites, sometimes used to prevent mold growth, can cause breathing problems for people who have asthma. Sulfites also are found in wine and other products. The FDA requires labeling of sulfites and bans their use as a preservative on fruits and vegetables.

Variant: Oral Allergy Syndrome

An allergy to certain raw (not cooked) fruits and vegetables is known as oral allergy syndrome. It occurs most often in people who have hay fever, especially hay fever triggered by birch or ragweed pollen. Raw produce such as apples, cherries, kiwis, celery, tomatoes, and green peppers may cause tingling, itching or swelling of the lips, tongue or throat, watery or itchy eyes, a runny nose, and sneezing.

Exercise-Induced Food Allergy

This food allergy only occurs when the food is eaten just before exercising. The rise in body temperature and the food trigger the reaction, which can range from itching, hives, or lightheadedness to anaphylaxis. The foods most often associated with exercise-induced allergy are crustacean shellfish, alcohol, tomatoes, cheese, and celery.

Elimination Diet
Sometimes a reaction is immediate after eating a particular food. But if you're not sure what caused your reaction, you may begin by keeping a diet diary and working with a health professional. In an elimination diet, you eliminate one food at a time from your diet. This may help you figure out which food is causing your problem.

Allergy Testing

In a skin prick test, an allergist places a drop of solution on your skin, then pricks the skin to allow it to penetrate. A negative result means you are not allergic, but there are sometimes false-positive results. A blood test measures antibodies to a particular food and also can produce false positives. Your doctor also may give you a medically supervised food challenge to see if you react to a food.

Outgrowing Allergies

Children are likely to outgrow allergies to milk, egg, wheat and soy but to have lifelong allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish. Blood tests for food-specific antibodies may help determine whether the child has outgrown an allergy. A doctor may supervise a "food challenge" to see if the child has outgrown the allergy. Do not try a food challenge on your own. Even a small amount of a food may produce a life-threatening reaction in some people.

Living With Food Allergies

There is no cure for food allergies, so you need to avoid the food that causes a reaction. The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act requires labeling of the eight major causes of food allergy. Call 911 at signs of anaphylaxis (wheezing, trouble breathing, dizziness) and use an epinephrine injection.  Maintain a food allergy action plan for yourself or your allergic child. You may want to wear a medical ID bracelet indicating the allergy.

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