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Personal Health: News and Notes

Breastfeeding may stave off MS relapse

Women with multiple sclerosis who breastfeed for at least two months may reduce their risk of an MS relapse within a year.

In a small study, Stanford University researchers conducted periodic interviews with 32 MS patients during their pregnancies and the first year after giving birth. Their neurological records were also reviewed.

Among the 14 patients who breastfed exclusively for at least two months, five (36 percent) suffered an MS relapse within a year. Among the 15 women who breastfed for a shorter period or supplemented with formula, 13 (87 percent) had a relapse.

MS, an autoimmune disease that attacks the nervous system, typically goes into remission during pregnancy but often flares up soon afterward. Since MS drugs are not recommended during pregnancy and nursing, most patients breastfeed briefly or not at all.

The researchers said the apparent beneficial effects of nursing may be linked to hormone fluctuations, but studies are lacking. The new study appears in the August issue of Archives of Neurology.

- Marie McCullough

Acupuncture could ease a side effect of pregnancy

Acupuncture could be the answer for pregnant women experiencing indigestion, reflux, abdominal pain, and other symptoms of dyspepsia, according to a study in the BMJ journal Acupuncture in Medicine.

The small study by Brazilian researchers followed 42 pregnant women randomly split into two groups. All the women were counseled by nurses about lifestyle and dietary changes to relieve their dyspeptic symptoms. They were also allowed to get antacids from their doctors.

One group was sent for acupuncture once or twice a week for eight weeks. Except for the acupuncture, there was no difference between the groups.

The women treated with acupuncture reported significant improvements in their symptoms and used fewer medications.

The researchers from Federal University in Sao Paulo concluded that acupuncture could alleviate heartburn during pregnancy, although the small number of participants and difficulty measuring symptoms were limitations.

- Josh Goldstein

Whooping cough far more likely without vaccination

Children whose parents refuse to have them vaccinated for pertussis - commonly called whooping cough - are far more likely to contract the disease.

So concludes a new study in the June issue of Pediatrics, which compared 156 children who contracted the disease with 595 controls who did not. Among kids with the disease, 18 had been denied the vaccine by their parents. Among those who didn't get sick, just three children had not been vaccinated.

In other words, children who did not get vaccinated were nearly 23 times as likely to get the disease, the analysis found.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were more than 25,000 cases of pertussis reported in 2005, in both children and adults. Among children under age 1 who get the disease, more than half must be hospitalized. - Tom Avril

Many are not replacing contact lenses on time

More than a third of contact lens wearers don't replace them on the recommended schedule, a new study finds, increasing their risk of problems ranging from mild irritation to severe infection.

An analysis of 1,654 patient surveys determined that 59 percent of participants with two-week silicone hydrogel lenses did not replace them on time, compared with 29 percent of those with one-month lenses and 15 percent who wore daily disposables.

The "noncompliant" patients also reported signficantly worse ratings of comfort, vision and dryness. More than half of the two-week and one-month lens wearers who delayed replacement said they simply forgot the date, and a quarter reported trying to save money. People with daily disposables gave a range of reasons.

The researchers, from the University of Waterloo School of Optometry in Ontario, presented the findings - based on patients in the United States - at last month's annual clinical meeting of the British Contact Lens Association in Birmingham.

The study was funded by Ciba Vision, a contact-lens-maker in Duluth, Ga. But the perils of overlong wear and the tendency of patients to delay replacement have been generally known.

- Don Sapatkin