Friday, December 30, 2016

Weird theory of why we misjudge time for a task

Something as random as the length of a song can mean misjudging the time it will take to do something.

According to a study in the J of Experimental Psychology, people also base the time they think they will need to do something on how long it took them to do it before.

However--outside influences, such as background music, can throw that off.

Say you are running--the number of songs that play in your headphones can cause you to over or understimate how long you ran.

How long something will take is called--prospective memory. Is that an oxymoron?

Some researchers at Arts & Sciences tried to see the difference between young and old people in this respect. They gathered 36 college undergrads and 34 healthy adults in their-60s-80s.

First they were asked to estimate how long a trivia test had lasted--it was 11 minutes for all.  Some did the test with no background noise, the others heard either two long songs or four short songs.

Later, the participants were asked to put together as much of a puzzle as they could in 20 minutes--again no clock.

Both ages groups completed future tasks on time at the same rate--but the older adults reported ignoring the songs and relying on their internal clock. Seniors underestimated on the first test and ran long on the second.

The younger adults who heard two long songs performed like the older adults. But for younger people, the music played a big role in being early or late.

In other words, the tricks we use to stay on time vary as we age.

The researchers also concluded that checking a clock, if one is available, is better than relying on a feeling about elapsed time.


Also, they say good news for older adults--the ability to do complex time-related tasks may be preserved into old age.

I believe they call this experience on other planets.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

How about a medication checkup next year?

I take three prescriptions for blood pressure and two vitamins (for diagnosed deficiency), and several other nostrums. I have to stagger them throughout the day or get nauseated.

Milta Little, DO, associate professor of geriatrics at Saint Louis University, recommends that people over 65 have their doctors go over their meds (many of which may come from other doctors).

Older people metabolize meds differently than younger ones (I have heard that older people should not take timed-release preparations--they don't break down as designed).

"Drugs may not play well with each other," Little says. This includes over-the-counter stuff.

Little says as a geriatrician, she thinks six prescriptions are too many--and stats show that those taking more than 10 have a higher mortality rate.

When Little goes over a patient's meds, she asks herself:

--How old is the patient? A "good" blood pressure for a younger person is 120/80. But for an older person, 160/90 may be OK. If drugs get the top number, the systolic, too low, say less than 130, the risk of falling is greater. Even her prescriptions for someone 90 are different than for someone 65. Over 100--she says she probably would prescribe nothing--if a person gets to 100, she says, it is probably not from anything doctors did.

How long has the person been taking the medicine? Prescriptions are not forever. For instance, there is no evidence that a 76-yr-old with high cholesterol, on a statin, should still be on it 15 years later if he or she has not had a heart attack or stroke within the year.

--Is the dosage correct? A small dose may be fine as you get older. Start low and go slow is her motto.

--What are the side effects? A drug may address one problem, but create another. Antidepressants, for example, can cause more frequent urination--which can lead to incontinence. An anti-diuretic for blood pressure can lead to or worsen gout.

Too many medicines can make you feel crappy instead of better.  Think about it. And get a doctor to go over everything.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Are you in the hospital reading this?

I don't know how many people check their sites while hospitalized, but here goes with some tips for making the most of the holidays while feeling the least festive you ever have.

First, realize you can REALLY get the blues while in the hospital--people drop by, if you're lucky, and then leave you to your little yucky world.

Still, sometimes those people are bringing therapy dogs or singging carols.

Rev Karen Schnell, director of the UCLA Health Spiritual Care Dept, there are some things you can do to celebrate:

--Ask someone to bring in a little plastic tree or Menorah.

--Have relatives or friends open gifts with you.

--Attend hospital services if you feel up to it. You could also ask a chaplain to come if you are not up to going elsewhere in the hospital.

--Send a card to someone you miss.

--And RECEIVE instead of give. People want to give--let them--you will both feel better.

Also, I might add, hospitals can be short-staffed at holiday time--be your best advocate, insist on someone coming in if you need help, don't let empty IVs beep and beep, and if an unfamiliar face is giving you drugs, ask about those drugs...engage in conversation.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Why people eat some "Christmas" foods

I love fruitcake. There, I said it! But people sneer--yes, they do.

Roger Adams, associate professor of the university archives at K-State, has studied traditional foods and says fruitcake got the bad rap because the recipes deviated from the 1487 cookbooks.

Fruitcake has become the ugly sweater of foods.

Fruitcake goes back to ancient Rome. This version was pine nuts, pomegranate seeds, and raisins in a barley mash. Barley mash--alcohol.

 The cake part was flour and eggs preserved with lard of suet. Butter becomes rancid over time.

Suparplums were an ideal treat for kids--they did not contain alcohol.

Mincemeat pies actually contained meat--as well as suet and dried fruits.

How about figgy pudding? Well, English puddings were more like cakes and contained raisins and other dried fruit (hence the figs).

Wassail is a warm punch. It was designed to be enjoyed by a warm fire.

Get out an old cookbook or get one from the library, Adams urges. Try something new--or new to you.

Oh--and feel free to send me any fruitcakes you spurn.

Friday, December 23, 2016

What does blue taste like?

Taria Camerino is a gastoral  synesthete. She experiences all five senses as taste.

If she looks at something blue, she can describe the taste of that shade--the blue oceans on a world map, she says, have a metallic taste like car keys.

No one knows how many people are synesthetes--maybe one in 5,000 has some trace of this sort of crossed wiring in the brain. For some, it means seeing a color when you hear a sound.

But Taria has deficits, too. She has no auditory or visual memory--an hour after seeing a movie, she can't remember if she saw it.

If she tries to talk about the taste of say, the 1812 Overture, she says it starts with a vibration in her chest  and spreads to the top of her head. Taste has a vibration, like sound, she thinks.

Her talent has made her a world-class chef.

Flavor perception is complicated. There are three receptors for vision--red, blue, green--but more than 1,000 for odors.

She can taste feelings--fear tastes like blood and metal, she says. Also ideas--the election was bitter but with a chemical taste like hairspray.

She plans to use her talents to explore the usually negative role taste plays in cancer treatment.

Interesting, huh?

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Safeguarding your voice during the festivities

Parties, chitchat, caroling, church choir--your voice can take a beating at this time of year.

People tend to take their voice for granted, says laryngeal surgeon Anca Barbu, MD. They expect it to be in  good working order no matter what.

Still,  it might be a good idea to take some steps:

--Stay hydrated. Vocal cords rely on moisture. Overheated homes, dry airliner air and cabin pressure, all can impair your voice.

--Plug in the humidifier. Be sure to buy a new one or thoroughly clean your old one. A cheaper option is a steamy shower.

--If you throw a party, keep the music low. If it's not your house, move closer to the person you are talking with.

--Avoid eggnog and peppermint. These two can cause more acid reflux, which affects your vocal cords. If you do eat a spicy treat, don't lie down--take a walk.

--Budget your voice. If you have upcoming choir performances, don't shout your lungs out at a football game or screech at the kids.

--Still experience throat pain or raspiness? See a voice specialist if it doesn't go away in three weeks.

I am prone to laryngitis--and I learned that even whispering when you have that is bad.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Santa--still going at 550 years old

Santa may be a bad role model, says Jennifer Caudle, DO, with the Rowan Family Medicine and an assistant professor at the Rowan School of Osteopathic Medicine.

He engages, she says, in risky behavior--racing from rooftop to rooftop in cold weather without a seatbelt and sneaking into homes and gobbling treats.

But--she says--he is still active at 550 and so he must be doing something right.

Carrying all those toys, builds up muscles, she adds.

Also, Santa used to smoke a pipe--but you don't see him with it much anymore.

Sadly, she observes that Santa's BMI is still quite high. Instead of cookies, how about apples and peanut butter? (Santa has no known allergies.)

On the plus side, he and Mrs. Claus have been married for centuries--some studies show health benefits from a long marriage.

And he has pets--the reindeer--and household help.

The proof in in the um..pudding. He flies to millions of households on one night. He must have some secret.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Drugs older people should avoid

Past 50--let me assure you--your body begins to not be as reliable. You may get the occasional wibble-wobbles. Spicy food? You may regret the extra hot sauce.

And medications--those are a real problem...Older people tend to be prescribed more things--even things to help the side effects of other drugs.

Older people also tend to go along with their doctors and slam in every pill recommended.

Did you know pharmacists--who tend to chitchat with patients and get the skinny--have a black list of drugs older people should avoid?

Certain antibiotics, for example. Writing on the site NextAvenue, Patricia Corrigan details how the antibiotic doxycyline failed to stop a sinus infection, and another doctor prescribed levofloxacin (Levaquin). This drug is not recommended for those over 60--and it attacked her Achilles tendon, the pain awakening her in the night.

The American Society of Consultant Pharmacists (a former client of mine) is the only international processional society dedicated to improved health outcomes for oldies.

Here are some drugs ASCP isn't crazy about for older people:

--Bensodiazepines. This is Valium, Ativan, Xanax, and Librium. They increase confusion and risk of falling.

--Non-Benzodiazepines. These are insomnia drugs--Ambien, Sonata, Lunesta. Highly addictive and can cause sleepwalking, which in turn can be dangerous.

--Anticholinergics. Benadryl, Tylenol PM, and certain muscle relaxants. Confusion, constipation, dry mouth, blurry vision, or bloating. Cumulatively--can lead to dementia.

--Nonsteroidal anit-inflammatory drugs. Ibuprofen (Motrin),  naproxen (Aleve),  aspirin. These are tough on the kidneys and can cause stomach bleeds. For arthritis pain--Tylenol (also sparingly), physical therapy, acupuncture, swimming, or acupressure.

--Anti-psychotics. Too often these big drugs are prescribed not for significant psychosis, but for agitation or anxiety in older people. Not appropriate.

--Old drugs, Sometimes the older meds are still good, but barbiturates are rarely prescribed anymore--they are highly addictive.  You don't want to live in The Valley of  the Old Dolls.

Blood pressure meds can also lead to falls...remember those wibble-wobbles, I mentioned.

Also--watch out for ranitidine (Zantac) for heartburn. A normal dose may be 150 mg twice a day, but in an older person, the kidneys may not clear that amount.

No one should have to live with a problem caused by a drug--that is the ASCP way. Talk to your doctor and pharmacist.

I recommend taking all your pills to your doc once a year for a look-see.

I know this is drastic--but you might also want to read that info the pharmacist gives you--on side effects and dosage.

Monday, December 19, 2016

High cost of drugs

I heard about some newfangled drug for Hepatitis C that costs $90,000 for three months. I am sure there are worse examples,

It's not your imagination if you think the cost of prescription drugs is going up.

Brand name drugs, explains Lixian Zhong, PhD, assistant prof of pharmaceutical sciences at Texas A& M, "due to the high cost of development, start out expensive and then tend to go up in price every year. Combine this with other factors...and you have ballooning prices."

Still, generic drugs are actually going down--it's the averaging of brand name and generic, that brings up prices overall.

The most expensive drugs treat "orphan" diseases--those affecting fewer than 200,000 people. The fewer the potential customers, the fewer people who can buy it before the patent expires, and the less time the company has to recoup its investment.

Specialty drugs--treating complex, chronic conditions, also tend to be expensive. This includes drugs to treat Hep C, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and others.

Still, the $90,000 Hep C drug mentioned above can cure the disease--which saves even more money in hospital feesm which can cause insurance companies to look kindly on such drugs.

Experts point out that most people don't pay these sticker prices. Insurance companies and others negotiate prices with the companies.

If you need an expensive drug:

--Seek help from patient assistance programs (at pharmcos, states and non-profits).

--If you have private insurance, look for copay coupons--ask.

--Shop around--rates vary at pharmacies.

--Ask the pharmacy if they will negotiate--some will. Doesn't hurt to ask.

What a hodgepodge our system is.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Does deliciousness make you gain weight?

There is a concept going around that it is the flavor of a food that makes you eat more and thus gain weight. Say a piece of cake.

But now the famous "taste" lab Monell says that they have determined that good taste may govern what we eat, but not how much.

Researchers have long known that rodents (test rats and mice) avidly eat great-tasting human food--cookies, chips, and condensed milk--and get fat. This has led to the idea that tasty foods make you fat.

So they separated the positives of tasty food from their high sugar and fat content.

First, they established like lab mice liked food with added sweetness or oiliness--they offered rodent food and a cup of chow mixed with noncaloric sweetener. A second group got a choice of boring old chow and chow mixed with mineral oil (no cals).

Next, they got new mice and divided them in three groups. Plain chow for six weeks, chow with no-cal sweetener, and chow with mineral oil. The ones that ate sweetener or oily chow were no fatter.

The sweetener and oily groups both preferred their forms six weeks later.

Now--they say--the key is to create foods that don't have fat or sugar that are good-tasting. Supposedly they won't lead to over indulgence.

I know those low-fat cookies so popular a while back substituted sugar for fat. People ate them and got fatter.

Maybe there is no free lunch...

Also, pardon me, but don't even try to put mineral oil in cake.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

How to keep kids on track in the holiday chaos

I say they are faking it.
St Joseph's University's professor of psychology Jodi A., Mindell, PhD, reminds us (as if we need it) that kids get off schedule, overexcited, and over-sugared this time of year.

Some of her tips for dealing with this:

--Keep bedtimes and naptimes consistent, the usual sleep schedule.

--Stick with the familiar bedtime rituals..bath, story, bed, or whatever.

--Doing the routine in a special way or new location (say Grandma's) can create problems. If you want the bedtime stories beside the fireplace--this can get the kids overexcited instead of the opposite.

As for mornings (especially Christmas morning):

--Stick to the routine as much as you can.

--Set the earliest they can wake you. A nightlight on a timer can click on, cluing in the littlest ones.

What about electronics?

--If the child gets his or her first smartphone or tablet, set limits from the start--using the thing at bedtime can interfere with the normal hormone melatonin and jangle kids.

--Never use the devices for say, the bedtime story.

One way to do this is for the whole family to charge their phones OUTSIDE the bedrooms every night. The kids do this from the start.

Pretty good--but how do you solve the too-many-cookies-and-candy problem?

By parenting--I forgot for a second.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Ugh--winter dry skin

My legs feel like rough cement. I slather on lotion--but I have never done it right after a shower as ALL the skin gurus suggest. I may try it.

Jeff Moore, an instructor of pharmaceutics at the University of the Sciences, explains that lotions provide a protective barrier that keeps skin from drying, weakening, and cracking...Those sound kinda bad, don't they?

Moore runs the Industrial Pharmacy Laboratory, where students get hands-on experience in compounding lotions and creams (hands-on--get it?).

Different types of products work best on different types of skin:

--Oil-based. These rehydrate skin faster than other products.  It actually allows healing--like a protective Band-Aid. On the label, watch for petrolatun or petroleum jelly as the primary ingredient.

--Water-based. People like these because there is no oily residue--and they do soothe and rehydrate--but need to be reapplied more often.

--Yes, apply after a shower. Also--keep the water warm but not hot.

--Ingredients like shea butter, aloe or cocoa butter can soothe cracked skin.

--Avoid products with heavy fragrances or dyes.

--And remember, a high price does not necessarily mean the best cream.

Still confused--Moore says ask the pharmacist. You may not need to run to the dermatologist.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Have more joy than worry at this magical time

Some people just love to diss the holidays or try to make them annoying for others. I have no idea why. I still get a thrill like I did when I was a child.

These people and all the "have-to's" create stress.

To minimize this, Jennifer Caudle, DO, a family physician and professor at the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine:

--Forgive yourself for not being perfect, Maybe two kinds of cookies are plenty. The tree can be fake and hauled out of the garage. Some trees come with lights on them (see picture).

--Forgive yourself if you eat too much or don't work out for a few weeks. You will get back to it--nothing is ruined forever.

--Go casual--potluck is fine, Yes, people can bring something. Tell them what--appetizer, main, dessert.

--Say no if you don't want to go someplace.

--Exercise is a great stressbuster..walk at least, in the cool air.

--Think less. WAY less. Sit and try to empty your mind--even five mins makes a difference.

--Focus on others...For some, the hols are a sad or angry time, a self-accusatory I said above. Recognize this and try to think of some little way to make it better for someone.

And I might add--DO stand under the mistletoe! At every opportunity.


Monday, December 12, 2016

Shoulder replacements zooming in popularity

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, the number of partial and total shoulder replacements has gone from 18,000 in 2000 to 45,000 in 2013.

I know two people who have had this surgery. It's less common than knee and hip replacements, but equally good at relieving arthritis pain.

One patient cited by Loyola, which performed ten times as many shoulder replacements in 2015 than in 2010, could not lift his arm above his head, put dishes away or even stay asleep--the pain would wake him up. He regained full range of motion and is pain free.

According to one doctor, patients often say they should not have waited--the results were that good.

A total replacement involves a metal ball and plastic socket. A partial is just the ball, fitted to the patient's own socket.

What about recovery time? The surgery usually means one night in the hospital and a sling for a month or so as activity is gradually increased. Full recovery takes 6-10 months.

If you are dealing with bad should pain and restricted activities--ask your doctor about this. Of course, any surgery has some risks--get all the facts.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Do people who give "bad" gifts do it on purpose?

Typically, each US consumer will buy 14 gifts this season.

New research looks into how many of these will cause dissatisfaction--and whether the gift giver gives an inappropriate gift deliberately.

Deborah Y. Cohn, a school of manager associate prof at NYIT, says that people who give bad gifts do it knowingly.

Prior research said bad gifts were mistakes. But Cohn plumbed in-depth interviews and data from message boards, and describes five categories of bad gifts:

--Gifts that threaten the recipient's self-concept (a pregnancy test for a childless daughter-in-law)

--Gifts that benefit the giver (say a big screen TV for the household but given to the wife)

--Gifts meant to offend (I Am With Stupid T-shirt)

--Gifts given out of obligation (grudging, maybe bland or regifted)

--Gifts allowing the giver to out-gift someone else (such as a gift from a grandparent that the parents do not want the child to have)

Cohn also sees an opening for retailers to score in taking back unwanted gifts or finding an easy way for recipients to give them to charity. Stores should also provide gift counselors to help shoppers. Gift counselors? They would have to be psychiatrists!

I almost got my perennially late daughter a "pointed" gift--a watch with all the numbers strewn at the bottom and the caption: "WhatEVER, I am always late anyhow."

Then I thought better of it.

Also, men--most women don't want appliances or power tools. What are you intimating--their motor needs to get revving?

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Older people toking up

Eight states have legalized recreational pot, and 26 allow medicinal use.

But who is smoking? Not just young people. The Boomers, in fact, have reported higher rates of substance use than any preceding generation.

This is a never before seen cohort of older adults using recreational drugs, says Benjamin Han, MD, MPH, a geriatrican and health services researcher at Langone Medical Center in New York.

Han and his team led a study published in Addiction to determine the prevalence and patterns of cannabis use, attitudes, and other info among adults over age 50.

They looked at 47,140 such adults who responded to an earlier survey on Drug Use and Health.

--They found a 71% increase in marijuana use among adults over 50 between 2006 and 2013.

--Adults over 65 and a lower rate of use that the 50-64 set, but it had increased there by 2.5 times in the right years.

--Only 5% of the adults felt using pot once or twice a week was a health risk.

The researchers thought older people scorned drugs as risky--but surprise, this is the 60s generation.

Since the majority of self-reported users started before age 18, they either used it all this time or started again recently.

Of course, researchers worry about brain changes, already a worry in the elderly, and many older people use it for pain control, but the team persisted in wondering if it could lead to more falls.

Awww, maaan, chill.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Bikini waxing linked to increased risk of STDs

HealthDay News ran a story on grooming of the nether parts, shall we say. In a study done at the Texas Dell Medical School in Austin, it was learned that frequent groomers of pubic hair are three to four times more likely to get a sexually transmitted disease such as herpes, HPV, or syphilis.

The study did not prove that one CAUSED the other, but there was a clear association between the grooming and the STDs.

Such grooming is becoming more popular worldwide. So the researchers surveyed 7,580 US residents, 18 to 65, about their grooming habits, sexual behavior, and history of STDs.

Eight-four percent of the women said they had tried grooming at least once--66% of the men, same.

Seventeen percent of the groomers were "extreme," meaning they removed all hair more than 11 times a year. Daily or twice weekly earned 22% the label of "high frequency."

Extreme groomers have a quadrupled (4 times) risk of an STD--high frequency had a 3.5 times risk.


Maybe, thought the researchers, the grooming itself left little cuts allowing in infections.

Or do people who groom more often engage in more sex? (I would lean toward this one.)

Still, even those who said they had EVER groomed had an 80% increased risk.

On the bright side? Grooming eliminates most of another problem--crabs.

But maybe--this hair had some purpose? Think?

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Tiny tots love streaming

I am such a relic. So vintage. OK--old. But in my defense, I am developing some kids' cartoons.

And DHX Media is one place my work has been read (no sale, sad face). Anyhow, this is a Canadian kids programming giant, and they did a survey of 2,700 parents in the US, Canada and the UK to understand how kids 0-12 get their entertainment (and their commercials, of course).

According to the Animation World Network site (, they are talking about what they call the global on-demand generation.

Surprise! Kids love mobile devices and streaming. And parents are "very comfortable" with this--even though these venues include commercials.

Tablets are the kids' preferred "screen." In the survey, 72% of daily kid viewing is from streaming services, such as YouTube, Netflix, Amazon and others.

--78% of  the households had at least one tablet

--29% of those had a tablet just for the child

--40% of the kids used smartphones.

----90% of the households with kids under 13 had at least one smartphone, 14% had a smartphone for the child alone

YouTube is by far the most popular streaming platform, specially the ad-supported Video on Demand (AVOD). YouTube Gamers captured 24% of the kids.

Perhaps a little disturbingly, parents also liked a new concept called One Click Content to  Retail--that allows viewers to click directly from a commercial to the buy site. Eight-one percent of the parents even liked the idea of their kids keeping a wish list with One Click Content to Retail.

Oh, well, folks--it's a brave new world...My cartoons have great merch possibilities--anyone? Anyone?

Monday, December 05, 2016

Meat, dairy and eggs--without involving animals

I don't just mean shaped tofu, either.

Liz Specht, PhD, a self-described "science nerd," is interested in global health problems.

She started her career in the area of simplifying diagnostic tests for use in underdeveloped countries--and  got interested in the global food situation.

From there she hit on animal agriculture as an underserved opportunity to do enormous good. Not only could more food be produced, but it could be healthier to eat--addressing obesity, chronic disease, and antibiotic resistance.

At the Good Food Institute, she works with scientists, entrepreneurs, venture capital firms, and the public to advance new food technologies to make animal agriculture obsolete.

Already there are companies making milk and eggs without animals. Other companies are working on making clean meat--grown from cells.

Plant-based foods that taste more like meat are also a focus.

The field, she says, needs more human capital--more researchers, companies, and bright minds.

Also more money.

Won't the big agriculture companies throw up roadblocks?

Tyson Foods, she says, are already invested in Beyond Meat, which creates plant-based alternatives to meat.

Interested in getting involved. Go to GFI,org and check out the opportunities section.

Friday, December 02, 2016

How to select toys that are fun not funky

It's such a cliche that kids will toss the toy and play with the box. Maybe the cat will get in the box, but kids like the toys.

Obviously in shopping for the tots, no sharp edges or long strings or cords.

Equally importantly, though:

--Be mindful of age. Play is the WORK of childhood," says Sue Rzucidlo, a nurse practitioner at Penn State Pediatrics. But don't think a child will grow into a toy--say a bike--without the "work" skills to operate it.

--Remember, younger siblings may try to play with an older child's toy. Little kids put everything in their mouths...tiny movable parts on big sister's toy--not good.

--If a child is under three, make sure none of their toys would fit through a toilet paper tube.

--Those small, button batteries are often swallowed.

--Latex balloons can choke.

--Small magnets, when swallowed, can glom onto each other through the intestinal wall and cause a blockage or infection.

--When giving a toy with wheels--bike, skateboard--also give the safety gear.

--See what the toy is made of. Some plastics are toxic. Older toys--say from yard sales--can have lead paint on them.

Remember those lawn dart recalled some years ago--yeah. those were genius...

And ant farms? Those ants can escape. Take it from me.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

"Suicide headaches" affect men more than women

They are called "cluster headaches" because they occur in clusters, usually at the same time of day or night, for several weeks. Spring and fall can be especially bad.

They are relatively short in duration but extremely painful--like being mutilated by an icepick, according to one doctor.

Cluster headaches are three times more likely to occur in men than women. They strike one side of the head, often behind or around one eye. They may or may not be preceded by a migraine-like aura and nausea. The intense pain lasts about three hours and can awaken people.

Other symptoms include tears, runny nose or congestion, sweating and redness on one side of the face only.

Luckily these headaches are relatively rare and can be treated. Migraine drugs can work within seconds. And there are preventive drugs, too.

If you suffer from these, seek out a headache specialist at the United Council for Neurologic Subspecialities.

What causes these? Unclear. The important thing is to not suffer in silence, much less commit suicide.