A Calming Experience?

LayersOf Our Lives.com focuses on health and well-being. Taking a look at posts in the different categories makes that abundantly clear. This blog post is going to focus on the owner of the blog and overcoming something that was causing mental unbalance.

anxiousIt’s a very short story about facing fear, overcoming it and busting through the other side. Coming out smiling and feeling much better and with a more robust outlook on life. Mental health is very much brushed under the carpet by a lot of people – it’s a lot simpler to sympathise with a broken leg than it is to sympathise with a seemingly illogical, but crippling fear. It’s a lot easier to laugh at something like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder than it is to try and understand the suffering behind it and the underlying reasons for it.

I have for some time been dealing with the inner torment caused by an overwhelming sense of dread and anxiety when it comes to facing my fear of driving. Queue jokes about women drivers and how they’re better off in the kitchen, right?

I have been putting it off for decades – I’ve never need to actually drive anywhere and have good, compassionate friends that have always been willing to help (and I compensate them for fuel), but there comes a time when a girl’s gotta face up to things and that’s exactly what I’ve done in booking driving lessons with the very sympathetic guys at Keendrivers Driving School.

Obviously, an over-anxious middle aged lady student is something they’ve dealt with before. At least that’s the way it seems, as I have been made to feel as comfortable as possible and it’s making a massive difference in the mental demons that I have to face every time I get behind the wheel.

But, it’s getting better. It’s getting easier. Slowly. It’s by no means a calming experience, but I am getting there and I will achieve my goal of ridding myself of this unnecessary mental yoke.

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Clinical Depression Causes, Triggers, Symptoms and Treatment

Clinical depression, also known as major depressive disorder (MDD) is a mental disorder that is characterized by persistent low mood and accompanied by low self-esteem and loss of pleasure and interest in normally enjoyable activities. Sense of despair and hopelessness accompany individuals affected by this disorder, and it is often difficult for them to do everyday activities like working, studying, eating, sleeping, enjoying friends and activities. Some individuals may be affected only once, while others may be affected several times during their lifetime. The disorder seems to occur from one generation to the next in some families, but it can affect individuals with no family history of clinical depression.


Clinical depression affects the individual’s personal relationships and everyday activities, and its impact on well-being and functioning is similar to that of chronic medical condition like diabetes. Symptoms of clinical depression are numerous and the most common ones include:

  • Loss of energy and fatigue on an everyday basis
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Indecisiveness and lack of focus
  • Insomnia, hypersomnia
  • Diminished interest in everyday activities
  • Restlessness, feeling slowed down
  • Anger, irritability
  • Weight loss or gain (5% or more of body weight within a month)
  • Drug/alcohol abuse
  • Recurring thoughts of suicide or death

Causes and Triggers of Clinical Depression

Three types of factors play a role in clinical depression development: biological, psychological and social factors. A pre-existing vulnerability is often triggered by various life events. The vulnerability can be genetic as well. One other cause of depression is direct damage to the cerebellum. Physical, emotional and sexual abuse, as well as social isolation, major life changes and grief from losing a loved one due to divorce, separation and death are all known triggers of depression.

Risk factors

Some individuals are more at risk of clinical depression. The disorder affects about 6.7% of the U.S. population over the age of 18. Between 20% and 25% of individuals suffer from an episode of major depression at some point during their lifetime. Older adults, teens and children are also affected, but it often goes unnoticed in these populations. The number of women affected by clinical depression is twice as high, the reason behind it being hormonal changes during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, menopause and miscarriage.

There are some other factors that boost the risk, like increased stress at home or work. Women who raise a child on their own are often more susceptible to depression as well. Clinical depression in men is underreported because they are less likely to seek professional help.


Major depression is diagnosed by a health professional – either a primary care doctor or a psychiatrist – after performing a major medical evaluation. The evaluation includes:

  • Personal and family psychiatric history
  • Depression screening test
  • Blood work may be done to exclude medical issues that have similar symptoms

Treatment Options

Clinical depression is treatable and treatment varies depending on the severity of symptoms. Psychotherapy, talk therapy and antidepressant medication are the most common way to treat clinical depression. Other medication may be added to antidepressants to boost their effectiveness. It might take some time to find the right type of medication and dose for each patient, as they all react differently.

Shock therapy is another option, if drugs prove to be ineffective or if the symptoms are severe. Taking the necessary precautions, such as reporting any symptoms to your doctor as soon as they appear, reduces the risk of development.

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Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – RTS for the Wrists

The carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a condition where the median nerve is compressed in the carpal tunnel. The carpal tunnel is a narrow and rigid passage of bones and ligament, located at the base of the hand. When the median nerve becomes pinched or impinged, it will cause pain, tingling, weakness and numbness in the part of the hand that receives signals from it (mostly hand and fingers, but it might radiate into the forearm). The reason why a median nerve becomes compressed is the swelling of the tendons or the nerve in the wrist.

History of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal Tunnel SyndromeThe incidents of carpal tunnel syndrome appeared in the surgical literature during the mid 19th century, with the first compression of the median nerve being mentioned in 1854 by Sir James Paget. The term “carpal tunnel syndrome” was first used in the year 1939 and its incidence started being more commonplace after World War II. The pathology was identified by Dr. George S. Phalen after working with patients in the 1950s and 1960s.


The symptoms start gradually, and include the following:

  • Frequent tingling, burning or itching numbness of the palm and the fingers (especially thumb, index and middle finger)
  • Swelling
  • Symptoms often appear during the night first, and may affect one or both hands
  • Decreased grip strength
  • Difficulty to form a fist or grasp small objects
  • Muscle dystrophy in severe and/or untreated cases

Causes of carpal tunnel syndrome

There is no single cause that triggers carpal tunnel syndrome; it is most often triggered by a combination of factors that increase the pressure on the tendons of the carpal tunnel and the median nerve. The most common causes include:

  • A congenital disposition – individuals who have a smaller carpal tunnel are more susceptible to the condition.
  • Trauma and injury to the wrist that cause swelling, such as a sprain or a fracture
  • Work stress – repeated use of vibrating hand tools
  • Fluid retention – during pregnancy or menopause
  • Development of a cyst/tumour in the canal
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Diabetes

Treatment options

Carpal tunnel syndrome might resolve on its own without utilizing any treatment, but most of times, this isn’t the case. Treatment should begin as early as possible, under a constant doctor’s supervision. Initial treatment involves resting and avoiding activities that worsen the symptoms. Further damage is avoided by immobilization, and inflammation is treated with cold packs,

Various drugs can ease the pain and swelling. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are often used as pain relievers, and diuretics can reduce swelling. Corticosteroid injections are administered directly to the wrist and provide immediate (but temporary) relief to individuals who display mild or intermittent symptoms. Exercise and stretching has beneficial effects, but it should be done under the supervision of a physical therapist. Acupuncture and chiropractic care have been beneficial in some cases, but their effectiveness varies from person to person.

Should the symptoms last for more than six months, a surgery may be the only choice left. To reduce the pressure on the median nerve, a band of tissue around the wrist is severed. The surgery is done under local anaesthesia. The symptoms often disappear immediately after surgery, but full recovery might take months.


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Macular Degeneration – Symptoms and Causes

Macular degeneration is the gradual loss of vision in the central visual field due to the breakdown of cells that make up the macula. The macula is a small area at the center of your retina that is responsible for clear vision, particularly in your direct line of sight. Macular degeneration is the major cause of visual impairment in adults above 50 years old.

macular degenerationThere are two types of macular degeneration: dry and wet. The less severe type, dry macular degeneration, occurs when the retinal pigment epithelial layer under the retina wastes away, which results in loss of vision through the loss of photoreceptors (rods and cones) in the central part of the eye. Cellular debris called drusen, accumulates in the eye. Drusen is the key to identifying the dry type.

Wet macular degeneration is the more severe type of MD. It occurs when there is an abnormal growth of blood vessels which leads to the loss of vision. Wet macular degeneration usually progresses from the dry type. However, only 10% of patients with macular degeneration have the wet type.

Symptoms of Macular Degeneration
Macular degeneration symptoms develop gradually. The condition may affect one eye or both eyes. This condition is not painful at all and this condition may be undiagnosed for some time. If only one eye is affected, visual changes are unnoticeable because the good eye compensates for the weak one.

  • You need more bright light when you read or work with objects that you need to look at close range.
  • Your eyes find it more and more difficult to adjust to low light levels.
  • Your overall vision is becoming increasingly hazy.
  • There is a blind spot or a distortion at the center of your visual field.
  • Colors become less intense and bright.
  • Straight lines appear to be distorted.
  • Printed words become increasingly blurred.
  • You find it hard to recognize faces.

What Causes Macular Degeneration?
The exact cause of macular degeneration is unknown, but there are factors that put you at risk for the condition. The following is a list of predisposing factors for macular degeneration:

  • Age: Macular degeneration mostly affects people over the age of 50. The older you are, the higher your risk for MD.
  • Gender: Women are at a higher risk than men for MD.
  • Heredity: If one of your family members had macular degeneration, you are more likely to develop MD.
  • Race: Macular degeneration affects more Caucasians than people of other races.
  • Diet: If you do not eat enough fruits and vegetables or your diet is filled with crap, you are putting yourself at a greater risk for MD.

Other risk factors include smoking, obesity, hypertension, elevated blood cholesterol level and early menopause.

What to Do When You Have Macular Degeneration
You should immediately let your ophthalmologist know when you notice any changes in your vision especially when these changes are consistent with the symptoms of MD. Unfortunately, there is no treatment available to reverse MD. Treatment only delays visual deterioration. It cannot restore vision. However, MD often progresses slowly. Annual eye exams may be necessary to see how the condition is progressing.

You may also have to make some dietary changes. Including fruits and vegetables in your diet will contribute to your eye health. Colorful fruits and vegetables have antioxidants that prevent cell damage. Healthy unsaturated fats, such as olive and palm oil, may reduce the risk of vision loss. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish such as salmon, sardines and tuna may help protect your eyesight. Be sure to avoid smoking and manage your weight by eating a healthy diet and getting enough exercise.

Aids For Macular Degeneration
Macular degeneration is not life-threatening. However, it does threaten to reduce your quality of life. This condition affects your central vision which you need for common daily tasks such as reading and driving. Fortunately, there are some vision aids for macular degeneration that can help you function to the best of your ability and maintain your independence. Here are some aids for Macular Degeneration that can help improve your quality of life:

  • Macular Degeneration Magnifiers – As macular degeneration progresses, the need for magnification increases. When choosing a magnifier, you need to choose the right power for your eyesight and consider the tasks that you need to do. The focal length is also important. Remember, the closer the magnifier is to the object, the greater the magnification. Magnifiers come in different types such as pocket magnifiers, reading magnifiers, 5 diopter floor lamp magnifiers, electronic magnifiers and many more.
  • JORDY glasses (Joint Optic Reflective Display) – JORDY glasses are goggles that allow you to see at any distance and in any visual conditions. These glasses can magnify up to 50 times the original size.
  • Low Vision Lighting – The lighting needs also increase as macular degeneration progresses. That means you will need more lamps and brighter bulbs at home. However, the light from a standard light bulb is usually not bright enough to help you see objects in clearer detail. Luckily, there are types of lighting that are well-suited for patients with MD.
  • One type of lighting that works best with patients with macular degeneration is Ott lighting. Ott lighting simulates natural light, enhances contrast and reduces glare helping you see things more clearly. Aside from Ott lighting, you can also use magnifying lamps. Just be sure to read reviews, as there’s loads of types and styles . This lamp increases your area of vision and gives you the brightness and magnification that you need.
  • Computer Screen Magnifier – Computer magnifiers are easy to attach to your computer screen. They usually offer features such as full screen magnification and anti-reflective coating for sharper images. It is a must if you do not want to give up using your computer and surfing the Internet despite having MD.
  • Low Vision CCTV (closed circuit television) – Low Vision CCTV is a device that uses a camera and a monitor to magnify objects. This is for people who have moderate to severe vision loss. To use this device, you place the object under the camera and view it on the screen at a desired level of magnification. Some low vision CCTVs even have mirrors so you can shave better or put on your makeup without any problem at all.
  • Electronic reading devices – When you suffer from MD, it does not mean that you have to give up reading the books you love or to miss out on the new bestsellers from your favorite authors. There are reading devices that scan printed text and convert it to speech.
  • Amazon Kindle is a good electronic reading device for those who suffer from MD. Not only does the Kindle offer a text-to-speech conversion feature, it also offers options for font magnification and contrast. The screen rotates to landscape. It is portable, light weight and easy to use.

Macular degeneration is a progressive, irreversible loss of vision that could lead to blindness. However, you need not despair if you suffer from MD. There are treatments that can significantly slow down the deterioration of your eyesight. With dietary and lifestyle adjustments and with the right vision aids for macular degeneration, it is possible for you to live a relatively normal and productive life.

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