Monday, October 06, 2008

Researchers explore amnesia, sex link


Growing evidence suggests a puzzling relationship between sexual intercourse and a temporary amnesia that occasionally ensues, researchers say. In a new study, doctors at the University Hospital of Puerta de Hierro, Spain, described six such cases, involving men and women between 42 and 60 years of age, that passed through their institution.

The precise mechanisms behind the sex-amnesia link "are unknown," they wrote, describing the cases in the Sept. 1630 issue of the Spanish-language research journal Revista de Neurologia. But a relation between the two occurrences "appears increasingly more often in the literature. We draw attention to the need to take sexual activity into account" as a possible cause for the disorder.

The amnesia usually goes away within a few hours, so "reassurance, based on clear diagnosis, is the most important treatment," wrote A.J. Larner of the Centre for Neurology and Neurosurgery in Liverpool, U.K., in a study published in the February issue of the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

The form of amnesia in question is called transient global amnesia. It is defined as a passing episode of short-term memory loss without other signs or symptoms of neurological impairment. Patients are unable to absorb any new information during the episodes, and sometimes temporarily forget some of the past as well.

The patients seen at the University Hospital -- four men and two women -- were brought there about 30 minutes to two hours after having sex, the physicians wrote. Their amnesias lasted from two to six hours, during which the patients displayed symptoms such as asking the same questions repeatedly despite having received answers.

Many other causes behind transient global amnesia have been described, the researchers wrote, including pain, anxiety, changes in temperature, exercise, diagnostic testing and long-distance flights. The first published medical reports of a sex/amnesia link came in 1979, said the Spanish researchers; a few dozen additional cases have been described since then. The steadily building number, they wrote, "makes one suppose that it is not as uncommon as generally believed."

Larner wrote that the amnesias probably are due to a disruption of blood flow in the brain, but more precise explanations have been lacking. The Spanish researchers noted that in four of the six cases they studied, patients suffered from high cholesterol, high blood pressure or both. Researchers with the University of Genoa, Italy, suggested in the October 2003 issue of the journal Neurological Sciences that in two cases they had studied, the popular erectile-dysfunction drug Sildenafil, or Viagra, may have been involved. The drug works by expanding blood vessels.


Australia: Fatties to pay for own medical care

Obese people in Queensland may have to pay for their own healthcare under a State Government plan as the annual cost of treating preventable diseases hits $5 billion. Queensland's health system spends almost $5 billion a year treating preventable medical conditions caused by obesity, smoking, alcohol and sun exposure.

Alarming new Queensland Government figures reveal so-called "lifestyle diseases" also cost the Queensland economy a further $22 billion in lost productivity and social factors, including lost earnings and the cost to carers. The cost of treating these preventable conditions will wipe out 57 per cent of the state's record $8.35 billion health budget for 2008-2009.

The Government says enough is enough and it is time for individuals to take more responsibility for their health. Conservatives in the State Government have put forward a plan that includes a user-pays health system for the obese. Smokers are already targeted through a "Fit 4 Surgery" campaign, which requires them to quit the habit before being treated. It's also considering compulsory health checks for three and four-year-olds at childcare centres around the state.

The plan is to spot any signs of chronic disease early and provide advice to parents. "We're facing a tsunami of chronic disease in the coming years, thanks to lifestyle changes and our rapidly ageing population," Queensland Health Minister Stephen Robertson said.

"Queenslanders need to realise they face an increasing financial burden from preventable chronic diseases," Mr Robertson said. "If Queensland continues its current rates of population growth, economic growth and public health spending, by 2042 the entire state budget will be consumed by health," he said. "That's why we need to tackle this upsurge in chronic disease before it overwhelms us."

Mr Robertson said preventative health care was "absolutely" the responsibility of individuals, as much as government.


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