Doc, is cell phone use a cause of memory loss?

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Cell phones may also affect sleep negatively. 

Photo credit: SHUTTERSTOCK

What you need to know:

  • The negative effects of cell phone use have been found to be more severe in those below 15 years, and those above 60 years.
  • To prevent these effects, reduce the amount of time you spend on your phone, have a phone free day each week, put the phone far from you or in another room while you are sleeping, turn off notifications, uninstall unnecessary apps and use headphones or a loud speaker when talking on the phone.


Does use of a cell phone for eight hours a day cause loss of memory ? And if I reduce the use of the phone, will my brain be able to recollect the lost memories?

Dear reader,

Using a cell phone, even for five minutes continuously, has been found to impair working memory.

That is, it makes it difficult to retain short term memory, which is the information you need to perform your current tasks. This memory improves the longer you stay away from your phone.

This challenge with memory may be due to being distracted by the phone, which interferes with our cognitive processing and ability to form memories.

Cell phones may also affect sleep negatively, which is necessary to detoxify the brain and give the brain time to move short term memory to long term memory.

The negative effects of cell phone use have been found to be more severe in those below 15 years, and those above 60 years.

To prevent these effects, reduce the amount of time you spend on your phone, have a phone free day each week, put the phone far from you or in another room while you are sleeping, turn off notifications, uninstall unnecessary apps and use headphones or a loud speaker when talking on the phone. It is also ad
visable for you to be examined for other possible causes of memory loss.

I recently gave birth and from my observations and research online, my newborn has jaundice. Can I treat my baby’s jaundice at home? And how long does it take before it goes away?

Dear reader,

Jaundice refers to yellow discolouration of the skin, eyes and mucus membranes. When it happens in a newborn within the first month, it is called neonatal jaundice.

During the normal process of breaking down of red blood cells by the body, one of the products of the breakdown is bilirubin, which is a yellow pigment.

If there is too much bilirubin produced or if there is a problem with clearing it from the body, then jaundice develops.

Jaundice is common in newborns because the liver is immature and may not be able to clear bilirubin well.

If the baby was born at 38 weeks gestation or more and is feeding well, with no illnesses, then the jaundice is likely to be mild.

In most of these cases, the jaundice clears on its own within two or three weeks as the liver matures and the baby starts feeding.

In some cases, the bilirubin levels are too high or take too long to clear.

This may happen when the baby is born very premature (below 35 weeks gestation), there is poor feeding, infection, internal bleeding, liver problems, blockage of the biliary tract, incompatibility between the mother’s blood and the baby’s blood, abnormalities of red blood cells and other disorders that cause excessive breakdown of red blood cells.

Jaundice may be noticed from the second day after birth, and the bilirubin levels are usually highest — three to seven days after birth.

You can see the yellow discolouration in the white area of the eye or the mucus membranes of the mouth. Also, if you press gently on the forehead or nose, you can see the discolouration on the skin.

Symptoms of severe jaundice include excessive yellowness, poor feeding, poor weight gain, excessive sleepiness, high pitched cry and fever.

Very high bilirubin levels can lead to brain damage, which may have permanent effects.

The only way to tell the exact amounts of bilirubin present in the blood is by measuring the bilirubin levels.

Also, if there are any concerning symptoms, then the baby needs to be checked for other illnesses. Mild jaundice is managed by feeding the baby frequently and adequately.

Moderate to severe jaundice is treated with phototherapy, where the baby is exposed to blue light from a special lamp, while wearing only a diaper and protective goggles.

Very severe jaundice is managed by exchange blood transfusion. Any underlying illnesses should be treated.


Dear Doc,

I have recently been struggling with penile hygiene challenges, something I never had before. I bathe two times a day and clean my penis thoroughly with soap. However, it accumulates too much smegma, which becomes very itchy. I am considering going for circumcision to get rid of the foreskin. Are there any risks given my age — 40 — and how long will it take to heal ? Kind regards, Kassem

Dear Kassem,

Smegma refers to a whitish substance that is a collection of oils, skin cells, bacteria and other fluids, found on the foreskin the penis or folds of the vulva.

It is not a symptom of a sexually transmitted infection. Build-up of the smegma can lead to irritation, inflammation and pain.

The best way to treat it is by washing the genital area thoroughly with mild soap and water, and gently pulling back the foreskin and washing under it.

Since the symptoms have been recurrent, you may have an inflammatory skin condition or an infection contributing to the build-up. It is advisable to see a doctor for examination and treatment.

Circumcision is the surgical removal of the retractable foreskin of the penis.

It can be performed in an adult of any age for medical reasons such as when the foreskin becomes tight (phimosis, paraphimosis), or inflammation of the foreskin and tip of the penis (balanitis).

The procedure can be done within less than an hour, either using local or general anaesthesia. You may be discharged from hospital the same day if you so wish.

After surgery, there is medication given to reduce pain and inflammation, though the tip of the penis may be swollen for three to five days after the procedure.

Apply petroleum jelly to the area to avoid it sticking to clothes, and wear loose fitting clothes. It takes about two weeks for the penis to heal.

Avoid sexual intercourse for at least four weeks after the procedure. You should be able to pass urine normally after the procedure.

Potential complications include infection, bleeding and poor healing, which can be addressed immediately.

Send your health questions to [email protected]
 

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