Comas are a popular plot point in movies and television, but what exactly is a coma?
What Is a Coma?
When someone falls into a coma, he or she is in a prolonged state of unconsciousness. To outsiders, it looks as though the patient is just in a deep sleep; however, the patient can’t be awakened.
What Causes a Coma?
Comas are the result of injury to the brain. The injury can be caused by bleeding, increased pressure, buildup of toxins or a lack of oxygen. The injury can be either temporary and reversible or permanent. Over half of comas are related to head trauma or to disturbances in the circulatory system of the brain.
The following problems in the brain can lead to a coma:
- blood sugar
- oxygen deprivation
- repeated seizures
What Are the Types of Coma?
Types of coma include:
- Toxic-metabolic encephalopathy—an acute condition of brain dysfunction where the patient presents as confused, delirious, or both. This condition can usually be reversed. The causes are varied, but can include infection, systemic illness and organ failure.
- Anoxic brain injury—This brain condition is caused by a complete lack of oxygen to the brain. When the brain lacks oxygen for a few minutes, brain tissues can experience cell death. Anoxic brain injuries can be a result of a heart attack, drowning, head injury or trauma, drug overdose or poisoning.
- Persistent vegetative state—Patients in this state are severely unconscious. The patient is unaware of his or her surroundings and is not able to move. Even if a patient in a persistent vegetative state is able to awaken, he or she may have no higher brain functioning. Those in persistent vegetative state are able to breathe and have sleep-wake cycles.
- Locked-in syndrome—With this rare neurological condition, the patient is completely paralyzed except for the eye muscles. The patient remains awake and alert and has a normal mind.
- Brain death—Brain death can be caused by lasting or widespread injury to the brain. The patient loses all brain function, and the condition is irreversible.
- Medically induced—This is a type of temporary coma, or a deep state of unconsciousness. Doctors use this type of coma to protect the brain from swelling if the patient has suffered an injury. The doctor administers a controlled dose of anesthetic, which makes the patient lose feeling or awareness. The doctors then watch the patient’s vitals.
Can Comas Be Treated?
Treatment for comas is mostly supportive. The patient may receive medications, surgery or antibiotics to help relieve complications. If a patient has suffered a coma because of an overdose, the coma can usually be reversed if the patient receives medical attention quickly.
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When weaknesses develop along the abdominal wall, abnormal bulges can develop as organs push through. This could also occur at other areas of the body such as the groin, the belly button, and surgical scars. The risk of having this condition is directly proportional to age. It has been observed that men tend to get it more than women. Aside from the bulge, other symptoms of a hernia include:
The region where organs are squeezing themselves into the weaken muscle wall is bound to feel pain. These walls are there to keep everything intact inside the body. Pressure at the weak points can cause the organs to spill over and damage the tissues even further. The pain can be more pronounced with sudden movements such as jumping or running. Lifting heavy objects and straining can also trigger pain in the herniated region.
Those who are suffering from this condition may also feel lightheaded. Blood circulation and organ function may be affected by this mechanical defect leading to nausea. This is particularly common when the problem is located around the stomach area.
In some cases, the nausea comes with vomiting. The body may have a hard time digesting food and the physical stress could upset the stomach, forcing everything back up. This can be extremely worrying incident. Call the doctor if it happens more than once and you suspect that hernia is the cause.
If the issue is happening at the upper part of the stomach, then there is a great risk for acid reflux symptoms to occur. The acid inside the stomach may go up the esophagus causing heartburn which can be very uncomfortable. This can make mealtime a challenging ordeal. Patients must not lie down right away after eating to allow the food to travel down past the herniated area.
Since the muscle walls are irritated, the surrounding tissues can swell until the problem is corrected. Surgery is commonly advised to move the organs back in their proper place and close the hole on the wall.
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When you go to your doctor for a checkup, you should maximize the visit by asking direct questions about your condition. Do not hesitate to probe because your health and well-being is always the top priority. The following guide provides good ideas on questions to ask your doctor:
The doctor will inquire about your symptoms, medical history, and other pertinent matters. He or she will then do an initial health check to gather more information. These should provide enough data to make a preliminary diagnosis. After these, ask the doctor what he thinks is causing the problem. There may be two or more factors at play so explore all the possible causes. Have the doctor walk you through what could happen for each scenario — that is, the course of the condition and the long-term outlook.
The initial diagnosis may need to be confirmed by laboratory tests to increase certainty. Ask what types of tests may be done to pinpoint the cause, what these involve, how much they cost, and how reliable they are. Have the physician explain the process step by step. For your peace of mind, raise the issue of safety and get an assurance that these tests will not have major detrimental effects. If there are multiple options, solicit the pros and cons of each test so that you can make an informed decision about your personal health.
Once the condition has been confirmed, the focus shifts into the resolution of the problem. Ask about the treatment options available for relief. Probe into the effectiveness of each option given your particular situation. Try to learn more about the benefits of these treatments and weigh them against the risks. Make a request for pertinent information regarding the prescribed medications including their possible side effects. If you are pregnant or have a chronic illness, tell the doctor about it. Ask whether the drugs are safe given your delicate condition. Get the schedule of follow-up visits if needed.
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