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Body systems

Our bodies consist of a number of biological systems that carry out specific functions
necessary for everyday living.

The job of the circulatory system is to move blood, nutrients, oxygen, carbon dioxide,
and hormones, around the body. It consists of the heart, blood, blood
vessels,arteries and veins.
The digestive system consists of a series of connected organs that together, allow the
body to break down and absorb food, and remove waste. It includes the mouth,
esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, rectum, and anus. The liver and
pancreas also play a role in the digestive system because they produce digestive
The endocrine system consists of eight major glands that secrete hormones into the
blood. These hormones, in turn, travel to different tissues and regulate various bodily
functions, such as metabolism, growth and sexual function.
The immune system is the body's defense against bacteria, viruses and other
pathogens that may be harmful. It includes lymph nodes, the spleen, bone marrow,
lymphocytes (including B-cells and T-cells), the thymus and leukocytes, which are
white blood cells.
The lymphatic system includes lymph nodes, lymph ducts and lymph vessels, and
also plays a role in the body's defenses. Its main job is to make is to make and move
lymph, a clear fluid that contains white blood cells, which help the body fight
infection. The lymphatic system also removes excess lymph fluid from bodily tissues,
and returns it to the blood.
The nervous system controls both voluntary action (like conscious movement) and
involuntary actions (like breathing), and sends signals to different parts of the body.
The central nervous system includes the brain and spinal cord. The peripheral
nervous system consists of nerves that connect every other part of the body to the
central nervous system.
The body's muscular system consists of about 650 muscles that aid in movement,
blood flow and other bodily functions. There are three types of muscle: skeletal
muscle which is connected to bone and helps with voluntary movement, smooth
muscle which is found inside organs and helps to move substances through organs,
and cardiac muscle which is found in the heart and helps pump blood.
The reproductive system allows humans to reproduce. The male reproductive system
includes the penis and the testes, which produce sperm. The female reproductive
system consists of the vagina, the uterus and the ovaries, which produce eggs.
During conception, a sperm cell fuses with an egg cell, which creates a fertilized egg
that implants and grows in the uterus. [Related: Awkward Anatomy: 10 Odd Facts
About the Female Body]
Our bodies are supported by the skeletal system, which consists of 206 bones that are
connected by tendons, ligaments and cartilage. The skeleton not only helps us
move, but it's also involved in the production of blood cells and the storage of
calcium. The teeth are also part of the skeletal system, but they aren't considered
The respiratory system allows us to take in vital oxygen and expel carbon dioxide in a
process we call breathing. It consists mainly of the trachea, the diaphragm and the
The urinary system helps eliminate a waste product called urea from the body, which
is produced when certain foods are broken down. The whole system includes two
kidneys, two ureters, the bladder, two sphincter muscles and the urethra. Urine
produced by the kidneys travels down the ureters to the bladder, and exits the body
through the urethra.
The skin, or integumentary system, is the body's largest organ. It protects us from the
outside world, and is our first defense against bacteria, viruses and other pathogens.
Our skin also helps regulate body temperature and eliminate waste through
perspiration. In addition to skin, the integumentary system includes hair and nails.

Vital organs
Humans have five vital organs that are essential for survival. These are the brain,
heart, kidneys, liver and lungs.

The human brain is the body's control center, receiving and sending signals to other
organs through the nervous system and through secreted hormones. It is
responsible for our thoughts, feelings, memory storage and general perception of the
The human heart is a responsible for pumping blood throughout our body.
The job of the kidneys is to remove waste and extra fluid from the blood. The kidneys
take urea out of the blood and combine it with water and other substances to make
The liver has many functions, including detoxifying of harmful chemicals, breakdown
of drugs, filtering of blood, secretion of bile and production of blood-clotting proteins.
The lungs are responsible for removing oxygen from the air we breathe and
transferring it to our blood where it can be sent to our cells. The lungs also remove
carbon dioxide, which we exhale.

Fun facts
 The human body contains nearly 100 trillion cells.
 There are at least 10 times as many bacteria in the human body as cells.
 The average adult takes over 20,000 breaths a day.
 Each day, the kidneys process about 200 quarts (50 gallons) of blood to filter out about 2
quarts of waste and water
 Adults excrete about a quarter and a half (1.42 liters) of urine each day.
 The human brain contains about 100 billion nerve cells
 Water makes up more than 50 percent of the average adult's body weight
Main Structures
From the outside, the human body can be divided into several main structures. The
head houses the brainwhich controls the body. The neck and trunk house many of
the important systems that keep the body alive and healthy. The limbs (arms and
legs) help the body to move about and function in the world.


The human body has five main senses that it uses to convey information about the
outside world to the brain. These senses include sight (eyes), hearing (ears)Hearing
and the Ear, smell (nose), taste (tongue), and touch (skin).

Organ Systems

The human body consists of several organ systems. Each system is made up of
organs and other body structures that work together to perform a specific function.
Most scientists divide the body into 11 systems.

1. Skeletal System - The skeletal system is made up of bones, ligaments, and

tendons. It supports the overall structure of the body and protects the organs.
2. Muscular System - The muscular system works closely with the skeletal
system. Muscles help the body to move and interact with the world.
3. Cardiovascular/Circulatory System - The circulatory system helps deliver
nutrients throughout the body. It consists of the heart, blood, and blood
4. Digestive System - The digestive system helps to convert food into nutrients
and energy for the body. Some of the organs included in the digestive system
are the stomach, small intestine, large intestine, liver, and pancreas.
5. Nervous System - The nervous system helps the body to communicate and
allows the brain to control various functions of the body. It includes the brain,
spinal cord, and a large network of nerves
6. Respiratory System - The respiratory system brings oxygen into the body
through the lungs and windpipe. It also removes carbon dioxide from the
7. Enocrine System - The endocrine system produces hormones that help
regulate the other systems in the body. It includes the pancreas, adrenal
glands, thyroid, pituitary, and more
8. Urinary System - The urinary system uses the kidneys to filter the blood and
eliminate waste. It includes the kidneys, bladder, and urethra.
9. Immune/Lymphatic System - The lymphatic and immune systems work
together to protect the body from diseases
10. Reproductive System - The reproductive system includes the sex organs that
enable people to have babies. This system is different for males and females

11. Integumentary System - The integumentary system helps protect the body
from the outside world. It includes the skin, hair, and nails.

Cells, Tissues, and Organs

Like all living organisms, the human body is made up of cells. There are all different
types of cells in the human body. When lots of similar cells work together to perform
a function, they make up tissue. There are four main types of tissue in the human
body including muscle tissue, connective tissue, epithelial tissue, and nervous

Organs are somewhat independent parts of the body that carry out special functions.
They are made up of tissues. Examples of organs include the eyes, heart, lungs,
liver, and stomach.

Interesting Facts about the Human Body

 The human body is made up of around 37 trillion cells.

 The average human heart beats around 100,000 times every day.
 If you spread out the wrinkles in the brain it would be about the size of a pillow
 Fingernails grow much faster than toenails. They are both made of a protein
called keratin.
 About 60% of the human body is made up of water.
 The brain itself does not feel pain.
 The largest of the human internal organs is the small intestine.
 Acid in the stomach is powerful enough to dissolve some metals.
 The left lung is typically around 10% smaller than the right lung. This is to
make room for the heart.
 Humans are born with 270 bones. Several of these bones fuse together by
adulthood making a total of 206 bones in the adult human body.
Circulatory System: Facts, Function & Disease
The circulatory system is a vast network of organs and vessels that is responsible for the flow
of blood, nutrients, hormones, oxygen and other gases to and from cells. Without the
circulatory system, the body would not be able to fight disease or maintain a stable internal
environment — such as proper temperature and pH — known as homeostasis.


Description of the circulatory system

While many view the circulatory system, also known as the cardiovascular system, as simply
a highway for blood, it is made up of three independent systems that work together: the heart
(cardiovascular); lungs (pulmonary); and arteries, veins, coronary and portal vessels
(systemic), according to the U.S National Library of Medicine (NLM).
In the average human, about 2,000 gallons (7,572 liters) of blood travel daily through about
60,000 miles (96,560 kilometers) of blood vessels, according to the Arkansas Heart Hospital.
An average adult has 5 to 6 quarts (4.7 to 5.6 liters) of blood, which is made up of plasma,
red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. In addition to blood, the circulatory system
moves lymph, which is a clear fluid that helps rid the body of unwanted material.

The heart, blood, and blood vessels make up the cardiovascular component of the circulatory
system. It includes the pulmonary circulation, a "loop" through the lungs where blood is
oxygenated. It also incorporates the systemic circulation, which runs through the rest of the
body to provide oxygenated blood, according to NLM.

The pulmonary circulatory system sends oxygen-depleted blood away from the heart through
the pulmonary artery to the lungs and returns oxygenated blood to the heart through the
pulmonary veins, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Oxygen-deprived blood enters the right atrium of the heart and flows through the tricuspid
valve (right atrioventricular valve) into the right ventricle. From there it is pumped through
the pulmonary semilunar valve into the pulmonary artery on its way to the lungs. When it
gets to the lungs, carbon dioxide is released from the blood and oxygen is absorbed. The
pulmonary vein sends the oxygen-rich blood back to the heart, according to NLM.

The systemic circulation is the portion of the circulatory system is the network of veins,
arteries and blood vessels that transports blood from heart, services the body's cells and then
re-enters the heart, the Mayo Clinic noted.
Find out all about the blood, lungs and blood vessels that make up the circulatory system.
Credit: Ross Toro, Livescience contributor

Diseases of the circulatory system

According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of
death in the United States. Because of its vastness and critical nature, it is one of the systems
of the body most prone to disease.

One of the most common diseases of the circulatory system is arteriosclerosis, in which the
fatty deposits in the arteries causes the walls to stiffen and thicken the walls. For example, 2.6
million people in the United Kingdom suffer from narrowing of the heart arteries. According
to the Mayo Clinic, the causes are a buildup of fat, cholesterol and other material in the artery
walls. This can restrict blood flow or in severe cases stop it all together, resulting in a heart
attack or stroke.
Stroke involves blockage of the blood vessels to the brain and is another major condition of
the circulatory system, according to Mitchell Weinberg of the North Shore-LIJ Health
System. "Risk factors include smoking, diabetes and high cholesterol," he noted.
Another circulatory disease, hypertension — commonly called high blood pressure — causes
the heart to work harder and can lead to such complications as a heart attack, a stroke, or
kidney failure, the NLM noted. Around 75 million American adults, or one in every three
adults, have high blood pressure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and

An aortic aneurysm occurs when the aorta is damaged and starts to bulge or eventually tear,
which can cause severe internal bleeding. This weakness can be present at birth or the result
of atherosclerosis, obesity, high blood pressure or a combination of these conditions,
according to Weinberg.

Peripheral arterial disease (also known as PAD) typically involves areas of narrowing or
blockage within an artery, according to Jay Radhakrishnan, an interventional radiologist in
Houston, Texas. In addition, chronic venous insufficiency (also known as CVI) involves
areas reflux (or backward flow) within the superficial veins of the lower extremities.

PAD is diagnosed with noninvasive testing including ultrasound, CT scan and/or MRI.
Ultrasound is the least expensive of these methods, but also gives the least amount of detail,
as CT and MRI show a much higher degree of anatomic detail when identifying areas of
narrowing/blockage within an artery. CVI is diagnosed with ultrasound as the venous reflux
can be measured accurately by ultrasound, which ultimately guides treatment.

Study of the circulatory system

Cardiologists are specialists who are certified to diagnose, treat and prevent disease of the
heart, arteries and veins. Cardiologists are certified by the American Board of Internal
Medicine (ABIM) after meeting educational and practice requirements. Before being certified
as cardiologists, those aspiring to the specialty must be certified in internal medicine.

Then cardiologists can become certified in one of several cardiology subspecialties, including
transplant cardiology, cardiovascular disease, clinical cardiac electrophysiology and
interventional cardiology.

 16th century B.C.: The Ebers Papyrus, an ancient Egyptian medical document, provides some of
the earliest writing on the circulatory. It describes the connection of the heart to the arteries.
 6th century B.C.: Ayurvedic physician Sushruta in ancient India describes how vital fluids
circulate through the body.
 2nd century A.D.: the Greek physician Galen documents how blood vessels carry blood,
identifies venous (dark red) and arterial (brighter and thinner) blood and notes that each has a
separate functions.
 1628: William Harvey, an English physician, first describes blood circulation.
 1706: Raymond de Vieussens, a French anatomy professor, first describes the structure of the
heart's chambers and vessels.
 1733: Stephen Hales, an English clergyman and scientist, measures blood pressure for the first
 1816: Rene T.H. Laennec, a French physician, invents the stethoscope.
 1902: American physician James B. Herrick first documents heart disease resulting from
hardening of the arteries.
 1903: Dutch physiologist Willem Einthoven invents the electrocardiograph.
 1952: The first successful open-heart surgery takes place by F. John Lewis, an American surgeon.
 1967: South African surgeon Christiaan Barnard performs the first transplant of a whole heart
from one person to another.
 1982: American physician Robert Jarvik designs the first artificial heart, and American surgeon
Willem DeVries implants it.
 2016: Study finds that 45 percent of all heart attacks in the United States may not have any
symptoms, according to the study, published in the journal Circulation.
 2017: Researchers find that marijuana may reduce the likelihood of A-fib among heart failure
patients. "I was very surprised that it was actually a reduced association I found," said study lead
author Dr. Oluwole Adegbala, a medical resident at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center in
New Jersey. Adegbala presented the findings this month at the American Heart Association's
Scientific Sessions meeting in Anaheim, California.
 2018: A type of virus called a bacteriophage, which was procured from a lake, saves an elderly
man who had an antibiotic resistant infection in his heart. [A Man with a Life-Threatening Heart
Infection Was Saved by a Virus Plucked from a Lake]
 2018: Google scans 300,000 patients retinas to train AI to detect heart disease

The human digestive system is a series of organs that converts food into essential nutrients
that are absorbed into the body and eliminates unused waste material. It is essential to good
health because if the digestive system shuts down, the body cannot be nourished or rid itself
of waste.

Description of the digestive system

Also known as the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, the digestive system begins at the
mouth, includes the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine (also known
as the colon) and rectum, and ends at the anus. The entire system — from mouth to
anus — is about 30 feet (9 meters) long, according to the American Society of
Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE).

Digestion begins with the mouth. Even the smell of food can generate saliva, which
is secreted by the salivary glands in the mouth, contains an enzyme, salivary
amylase, which breaks down starch. Teeth, which are part of the skeletal system,
play a key role in digestion. In carnivores, teeth are designed for killing and breaking
down meat. Herbivores’ teeth are made for grinding plants and other food to ease
them through the digestion process.

[Image Gallery: The BioDigital Human]

Swallowing pushes chewed food into the esophagus, where it passes through the
oropharynx and hypopharynx. At this point, food takes the form of a small round
mass and digestion becomes involuntary. A series of muscular contractions, called
peristalsis, transports food through the rest of the system. The esophagus empties
into the stomach, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The stomach’s gastric juice, which is primarily a mix of hydrochloric acid and pepsin,
starts breaking down proteins and killing potentially harmful bacteria, according to
ASGE. After an hour or two of this process, a thick semi-liquid paste, called chyme,

At this point the pyloric sphincter valve opens and chyme enters the duodenum,
where it mixes with digestive enzymes from the pancreas and acidic bile from the
gall bladder, according to the Cleveland Clinic. The next stop for the chyme is the
small intestine, a 20-foot (6-meter) tube-shaped organ, where the majority of the
absorption of nutrients occurs. The nutrients move into the bloodstream and are
transported to the liver.

The liver creates glycogen from sugars and carbohydrates to give the body energy
and converts dietary proteins into new proteins needed by the blood system. The
liver also breaks down unwanted chemicals, such as alcohol, which is detoxified and
passed from the body as waste, the Cleveland Clinic noted.

Whatever material is left goes into the large intestine. The function of the large
intestine, which is about 5 feet long (1.5 meters), is primarily for storage and
fermentation of indigestible matter. Also called the colon, it has four parts: the
ascending colon, the transverse colon, the descending colon and the sigmoid colon.
This is where water from the chyme is absorbed back into the body and feces are
formed primarily from water (75 percent), dietary fiber and other waste products,
according to the Cleveland Clinic. Feces are stored here until they are eliminated
from the body through defecation.

Diseases of the digestive system

Many symptoms can signal problems with the GI tract, including: abdominal pain,
blood in the stool, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, incontinence, nausea
and vomiting and difficulty swallowing, according to the NIH.

Among the most widely known diseases of the digestive system is colon cancer.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 51,783 Americans died from
colon cancer in 2011 (the most recent year for available data). Excluding skin
cancers, colon and rectal cancer, or colorectal cancer, is the third most common
cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States, according to
the American Cancer Society.
Polyp growth and irregular cells, which may or may not be cancerous, are the most
common development paths for colorectal cancers (also referred to as CRC), and
can be detected during a routine colonoscopy, according to Dr. John Marks, a
gastroenterologist affiliated with the Main Line Health health care system.

“The best news is that, if caught early enough, they can also be removed during the
colonoscopy — eliminating the possibility that they grow further and become cancer,”
Marks said.

For those patients whose cancer has already spread, there are various minimally
invasive surgical options that have extremely good prognoses. It is recommended
that asymptomatic patients without a family history begin getting tested regularly
between the ages 45 and 50, according to Marks. “Symptoms which may suggest
that you need a colonoscopy at an earlier age include rectal bleeding and
stool/bowel habit changes which last for more than a few days.”

While CRC gets a great deal of attention, many diseases and conditions of the
digestive system — including irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis, GERD (acid
reflux) and Crohn’s disease — can be chronic and are difficult to diagnose and treat,
according to Dr. Larry Good, a gastroenterologist affiliated with South Nassau
Communities Hospital. “With many of these diseases, blood work and colonoscopies
all looks normal, so there is an absence of red flags.”

Many of the diseases of the digestive system are tied to the foods we eat, and a
number of sufferers can reduce their symptoms by restricting their diets, Good said.
“Of course no one wants to hear that they can’t eat certain foods, but many times,
eliminating acidic things from the diet, such as tomatoes, onions, and red wine, can
have an impact,” Good said.

There are a number of tests to detect digestive tract ailments. A colonoscopy is the
examination of the inside of the colon using a long, flexible, fiber-optic viewing
instrument called a colonoscope, according the American Gastroenterological
Association. Other testing procedures include upper GI endoscopy, capsule
endoscopy, endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography and endoscopic
Study of the digestive system
Gastroenterology is the branch of medicine focused on studying and treating the
digestive system disorders. Physicians practicing this specialty are called
gastroenterologists. The name is a combination of three ancient Greek
words gastros (stomach), enteron (intestine) and logos (reason). It is an internal
medicine subspecialty certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine.

To be certified as a gastroenterologist, a doctor must pass the Gastroenterology

Certification Examination and undergo a minimum of 36 months of additional

References to the digestive system can be traced back to the ancient Egyptians.
Some milestones in the study of the gastrointestinal system include:

 Claudius Galen (circa 130-200) lived at the end of the ancient Greek period and reviewed the
teachings of Hippocrates and other Greek doctors. He theorized that the stomach acted
independently from other systems in the body, almost with a separate brain. This was widely
accepted until the 17th century.
 In 1780, Italian physician Lazzaro Spallanzani conducted experiments to prove the impact of
gastric juice on the digestion process.
 Philipp Bozzini developed the Lichtleiter in 1805. This instrument, which was used to examine
the urinary tract, rectum and pharynx, was the earliest endoscopy.
 Adolf Kussmaul, a German physician, developed the gastroscope in 1868, using a sword
swallower to help develop the diagnostic process.
 Rudolph Schindler, known to some as the “father of gastroscopy,” described many of the diseases
involving the human digestive system in his illustrated textbook issued during World War I. He
and Georg Wolf developed a semi-flexible gastroscope in 1932.
 In 1970, Hiromi Shinya, a Japanese-born general surgeon, delivered the first report of a
colonoscopy to the New York Surgical Society and in May 1971 presented his experiences to the
American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy.
 In 2005, Australians Barry Marshall and Robin Warren were awarded the Nobel Prize in
Physiology or Medicine for their discovery of Helicobacter pylori and its role in peptic ulcer
Endocrine System: Facts, Functions and Diseases

The pancreas is located deep inside the abdomen.

Credit: Sebastian Kaulitzki

The endocrine system is the collection of glands that produce hormones that
regulate metabolism, growth and development, tissue function, sexual function,
reproduction, sleep, and mood, among other things.


The endocrine system is made up of the pituitary gland, thyroid gland, parathyroid
glands, adrenal glands, pancreas, ovaries (in females) and testicles (in males), according to
the Mayo Clinic.
The word endocrine derives from the Greek words "endo," meaning within, and
"crinis," meaning to secrete, according to Health Mentor Online. In general, a gland
selects and removes materials from the blood, processes them and secretes the
finished chemical product for use somewhere in the body. The endocrine system
affects almost every organ and cell in the body, according to the Merck Manual.

Although the hormones circulate throughout the body, each type of hormone is
targeted toward certain organs and tissues, the Merck Manual notes. The endocrine
system gets some help from organs such as the kidney, liver, heart and gonads,
which have secondary endocrine functions. The kidney, for example, secretes
hormones such as erythropoietin and renin.

The thyroid also secretes a range of hormones that affect the whole body. "Thyroid
hormones impact a host of vital body functions, including heart rate, skin
maintenance, growth, temperature regulation, fertility and digestion," said Dr. Jerome
M. Hershman, a professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at
UCLA and author of the thyroid sections of the Merck Manual.

"In this way, the thyroid gland is the body's master metabolic control center," said
Cindy Samet, a chemistry professor at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
"Brain, heart and kidney function, as well as body temperature, growth and muscle
strength — and much more — are at the mercy of thyroid function."

Diseases of the endocrine system

Hormone levels that are too high or too low indicate a problem with the endocrine
system. Hormone diseases also occur if your body does not respond to hormones in
the appropriate ways. Stress, infection and changes in the blood's fluid and
electrolyte balance can also influence hormone levels, according to the National
Institutes of Health.
The most common endocrine disease in the United States is diabetes, a condition in
which the body does not properly process glucose, a simple sugar. This is due to the
lack of insulin or, if the body is producing insulin, because the body is not working
effectively, according to Dr. Jennifer Loh, chief of the department of endocrinology
for Kaiser Permanente in Hawaii.
Diabetes can be linked to obesity, diet and family history, according to Dr. Alyson
Myers of North Shore-LIJ Health System. "To diagnose diabetes, we do an oral glucose
tolerance test with fasting."

It is also important to understand the patient's health history as well as the family
history, Myers noted. Infections and medications such as blood thinners can also
cause adrenal deficiencies.

Diabetes is treated with pills or insulin injections. Managing other endocrine

disorders typically involves stabilizing hormone levels with medication or, if a tumor
is causing an overproduction of a hormone, by removing the tumor. Treating
endocrine disorders takes a very careful and personalized approach, Myers said, as
adjusting the levels of one hormone can impact the balance of other hormones.

Hormone imbalances can have a significant impact on the reproductive system,

particularly in women, Loh explained.

Another disorder, hypothyroidism, a parathyroid disease, occurs when the thyroid

gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone to meet the body's needs. Loh
noted that insufficient thyroid hormone can cause many of the body's functions to
slow or shut down completely. It has an easy treatment, though. "Parathyroid
disease is a curable cause of kidney stones," said Dr. Melanie Goldfarb, an
endocrine surgeon and director of the Endocrine Tumor Program at Providence
Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California, and an assistant professor of
surgery at the John Wayne Cancer Institute in Santa Monica. The damaged part of
the gland is removed surgically.

Thyroid cancer begins in the thyroid gland and starts when the cells in the thyroid
begin to change, grow uncontrollably and eventually form a tumor, according to Loh.
Tumors — both benign and cancerous — can also disrupt the functions of the
endocrine system, Myers explained. Between the years of 1975 and 2013, the cases
of thyroid cancer diagnosed yearly have more than tripled, according to a 2017 study
published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). "While
overdiagnosis may be an important component to this observed epidemic, it clearly
does not explain the whole story," said Dr. Julie Sosa, one of the authors of the new
study and the chief of endocrine surgery at Duke University in North Carolina. The
American Cancer Society predicts that there will be about 53,990 new cases of
thyroid cancer in 2018 and around 2,060 deaths from thyroid cancer.

Hypoglycemia, also called low blood glucose or low blood sugar, occurs when blood
glucose drops below normal levels. This typically happens as a result of treatment
for diabetes when too much insulin is taken. While Loh noted that the condition can
occur in people not undergoing treatment for diabetes, such an occurrence is fairly

What is an endocrinologist?
After completing four years of medical school, people who want to be
endocrinologists then spend three or four years in an internship and residency
program. These specialty programs cover internal medicine, pediatrics, or obstetrics
and gynecology, according to the American Board of Internal Medicine.

Endocrinologists-in-training then spend two or three more years learning how to

diagnose and treat hormone conditions. Overall, an endocrinologist's training will
take more than 10 years after the undergraduate degree. They are certified by the
American Board of Internal Medicine. Endocrinologists typically specialize in one or
two areas of endocrinology, such as diabetes or infertility. These specialists treat
patients with fertility issues and also assess and treat patients with health concerns
surrounding menstruation and menopause, Loh noted.

Milestones in the study of the endocrine system

200 B.C.: The Chinese begin isolating sex and pituitary hormones from human urine
and using them for medicinal purposes
1025: In medieval Persia, the writer Avicenna (980-1037) provides a detailed account
on diabetes mellitus in "The Canon of Medicine" (c. 1025), describing the abnormal
appetite, the collapse of sexual functions and the sweet taste of diabetic urine.
1835: Irish doctor Robert James Graves describes a case of goiter with bulging eyes
(exophthalmos). The thyroid condition Graves' disease was later named after the
1902: William Bayliss and Ernest Starling perform an experiment in which they
observe that acid instilled into the duodenum (part of the small intestine) causes the
pancreas to begin secretion, even after they had removed all nervous connections
between the two organs.
1889: Joseph von Mering and Oskar Minkowski observe that surgically removing the
pancreas results in an increase of blood sugar, followed by a coma and eventual
1921: Otto Loewi in 1921 discovers neurohormones by incubating a frog's heart in a
saline bath.
1922: Leonard Thompson, at age 14, is the first person with diabetes to receive
insulin. Drugmaker Eli Lilly soon starts mass production of insulin.
Additional reporting by Alina Bradford, Live Science contributor.

Immune System: Diseases, Disorders & Function

T-cells attacking a cancer cell.

Credit: Andrea Danti | Shutterstock
The role of the immune system — a collection of structures and processes within the body —
is to protect against disease or other potentially damaging foreign bodies. When functioning
properly, the immune system identifies a variety of threats, including viruses, bacteria and
parasites, and distinguishes them from the body's own healthy tissue, according to Merck

Innate vs. adaptive immunity

The immune system can be broadly sorted into categories: innate immunity and adaptive

Innate immunity is the immune system you're born with, and mainly consists of barriers on
and in the body that keep foreign threats out, according to the National Library of
Medicine (NLM). Components of innate immunity include skin, stomach acid, enzymes
found in tears and skin oils, mucus and the cough reflex. There are also chemical components
of innate immunity, including substances called interferon and interleukin-1.

Innate immunity is non-specific, meaning it doesn't protect against any specific threats.

Adaptive, or acquired, immunity targets specific threats to the body, according to the NLM.
Adaptive immunity is more complex than innate immunity, according to The Biology Project
at The University of Arizona. In adaptive immunity, the threat must be processed and
recognized by the body, and then the immune system creates antibodies specifically designed
to the threat. After the threat is neutralized, the adaptive immune system "remembers" it,
which makes future responses to the same germ more efficient.

Major components
Lymph nodes: Small, bean-shaped structures that produce and store cells that fight infection
and disease and are part of the lymphatic system— which consists of bone marrow, spleen,
thymus and lymph nodes, according to "A Practical Guide To Clinical Medicine" from
the University of California San Diego (UCSD). Lymph nodes also contain lymph, the clear
fluid that carries those cells to different parts of the body. When the body is fighting
infection, lymph nodes can become enlarged and feel sore.
Spleen: The largest lymphatic organ in the body, which is on your left side, under your ribs
and above your stomach, contains white blood cells that fight infection or disease. According
to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the spleen also helps control the amount of blood
in the body and disposes of old or damaged blood cells.
Bone marrow: The yellow tissue in the center of the bones produces white blood cells. This
spongy tissue inside some bones, such as the hip and thigh bones, contains immature cells,
called stem cells, according to the NIH. Stem cells, especially embryonic stem cells, which
are derived from eggs fertilized in vitro (outside of the body), are prized for their flexibility in
being able to morph into any human cell.
Lymphocytes: These small white blood cells play a large role in defending the body against
disease, according to the Mayo Clinic. The two types of lymphocytes are B-cells, which
make antibodies that attack bacteria and toxins, and T-cells, which help destroy infected or
cancerous cells. Killer T-cells are a subgroup of T-cells that kill cells that are infected with
viruses and other pathogens or are otherwise damaged. Helper T-cells help determine which
immune responses the body makes to a particular pathogen.
Thymus: This small organ is where T-cells mature. This often-overlooked part of the
immune system, which is situated beneath the breastbone (and is shaped like a thyme leaf,
hence the name), can trigger or maintain the production of antibodies that can result in
muscle weakness, the Mayo Clinic said. Interestingly, the thymus is somewhat large in
infants, grows until puberty, then starts to slowly shrink and become replaced by fat with age,
according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Leukocytes: These disease-fighting white blood cells identify and eliminate pathogens and
are the second arm of the innate immune system. A high white blood cell count is referred to
as leukocytosis, according to the Mayo Clinic. The innate leukocytes include phagocytes
(macrophages, neutrophils and dendritic cells), mast cells, eosinophils and basophils.

Diseases of the immune system

If immune system-related diseases are defined very broadly, then allergic diseases such as
allergic rhinitis, asthma and eczema are very common. However, these actually represent a
hyper-response to external allergens, according to Dr. Matthew Lau, chief, department of
allergy and immunology at Kaiser Permanente Hawaii. Asthma and allergies also involve the
immune system. A normally harmless material, such as grass pollen, food particles, mold or
pet dander, is mistaken for a severe threat and attacked.

Other dysregulation of the immune system includes autoimmune diseases such

as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

"Finally, some less common disease related to deficient immune system conditions are
antibody deficiencies and cell mediated conditions that may show up congenitally," Lau told
Live Science.

Disorders of the immune system can result in autoimmune diseases, inflammatory diseases
and cancer, according to the NIH.

Immunodeficiency occurs when the immune system is not as strong as normal, resulting in
recurring and life-threatening infections, according to the University of Rochester Medical
Center. In humans, immunodeficiency can either be the result of a genetic disease such as
severe combined immunodeficiency, acquired conditions such as HIV/AIDS, or through the
use of immunosuppressive medication.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, autoimmunity results from a hyperactive immune
system attacking normal tissues as if they were foreign bodies, according to the University of
Rochester Medical Center. Common autoimmune diseases include Hashimoto's thyroiditis,
rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes mellitus type 1 and systemic lupus erythematosus. Another
disease considered to be an autoimmune disorder is myasthenia gravis (pronounced my-us-
THEE-nee-uh GRAY-vis).

Diagnosis and treatment of immune system

Even though symptoms of immune diseases vary, fever and fatigue are common signs that
the immune system is not functioning properly, the Mayo Clinic noted.

Most of the time, immune deficiencies are diagnosed with blood tests that either measure the
level of immune elements or their functional activity, Lau said.

Allergic conditions may be evaluated using either blood tests or allergy skin testing to
identify what allergens trigger symptoms.

In overactive or autoimmune conditions, medications that reduce the immune response, such
as corticosteroids or other immune suppressive agents, can be very helpful.

"In some immune deficiency conditions, the treatment may be replacement of missing or
deficiency elements," Lau said. "This may be infusions of antibodies to fight infections."

Treatment may also include monoclonal antibodies, Lau said. A monoclonal antibody is a
type of protein made in a lab that can bind to substances in the body. They can be used to
regulate parts of the immune response that are causing inflammation, Lau said. According to
the National Cancer Institute, monoclonal antibodies are being used to treat cancer. They can
carry drugs, toxins or radioactive substances directly to cancer cells.
Milestones in the history of immunology
1718: Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, the wife of the British ambassador to Constantinople,
observed the positive effects of variolation — the deliberate infection with the smallpox
disease — on the native population and had the technique performed on her own children.
1796: Edward Jenner was the first to demonstrate the smallpox vaccine.
1840: Jakob Henle put forth the first modern proposal of the germ theory of disease.
1857-1870: The role of microbes in fermentation was confirmed by Louis Pasteur.
1880-1881: The theory that bacterial virulence could be used as vaccines was developed.
Pasteur put this theory into practice by experimenting with chicken cholera and anthrax
vaccines. On May 5, 1881, Pasteur vaccinated 24 sheep, one goat, and six cows with five
drops of live attenuated anthrax bacillus.
1885: Joseph Meister, 9 years old, was injected with the attenuated rabies vaccine by Pasteur
after being bitten by a rabid dog. He is the first known human to survive rabies.
1886: American microbiologist Theobold Smith demonstrated that heat-killed cultures of
chicken cholera bacillus were effective in protecting against cholera.
1903: Maurice Arthus described the localizing allergic reaction that is now known as the
Arthus response.
1949: John Enders, Thomas Weller and Frederick Robbins experimented with the growth of
polio virus in tissue culture, neutralization with immune sera, and demonstration of
attenuation of neurovirulence with repetitive passage.
1951: Vaccine against yellow fever was developed.
1983: HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) was discovered by French virologist Luc
1986: Hepatitis B vaccine was produced by genetic engineering.
2005: Ian Frazer developed the human papillomavirus vaccine.
Lymphatic System: Facts, Functions & Diseases

The lymphatic system is a network of tissues and organs that help rid the body of toxins,
waste and other unwanted materials. The primary function of the lymphatic system is to
transport lymph, a fluid containing infection-fighting white blood cells, throughout the body.


The lymphatic system primarily consists of lymphatic vessels, which are similar to the
circulatory system's veins and capillaries. The vessels are connected to lymph nodes, where
the lymph is filtered. The tonsils, adenoids, spleen and thymus are all part of the lymphatic

Description of the lymphatic system

There are hundreds of lymph nodes in the human body. They are located deep inside the
body, such as around the lungs and heart, or closer to the surface, such as under the arm or
groin, according to the American Cancer Society. The lymph nodes are found from the head
to around the knee area.

The spleen, which is located on the left side of the body just above the kidney, is the largest
lymphatic organ, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM). "The spleen . . .
acts as a blood filter; it controls the amount of red blood cells and blood storage in the body,
and helps to fight infection," said Jordan Knowlton, an advanced registered nurse practitioner
at the University of Florida Health Shands Hospital.

If the spleen detects potentially dangerous bacteria, viruses, or other microorganisms in the
blood, it — along with the lymph nodes — creates white blood cells called lymphocytes,
which act as defenders against invaders. The lymphocytes produce antibodies to kill the
foreign microorganisms and stop infections from spreading. Humans can live without a
spleen, although people who have lost their spleen to disease or injury are more prone to
The lymphatic system helps keep the body healthy by eliminating infections and diseases.
Credit: by Ross Toro, Infographics Artist

The thymus is located in the chest just above the heart, according to Merck Manual. This
small organ stores immature lymphocytes (specialized white blood cells) and prepares them
to become active T cells, which help destroy infected or cancerous cells.
Tonsils are large clusters of lymphatic cells found in the pharynx. According to the American
Academy of Otolaryngology, they are the body's "first line of defense as part of the immune
system. They sample bacteria and viruses that enter the body through the mouth or nose."
They sometimes become infected, and although tonsillectomies occur much less frequently
today than they did in the 1950s, it is still among the most common operations performed and
typically follows frequent throat infections.
Lymph is a clear and colorless fluid; the word "lymph" comes from the Latin word lympha,
which means "connected to water," according to the National Lymphadema Network.

Plasma leaves the body's cells once it has delivered its nutrients and removed debris. Most of
this fluid returns to the venous circulation through tiny blood vessels called venules and
continues as venous blood. The remainder becomes lymph, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Unlike blood, which flows throughout the body in a continue loop, lymph flows in only one
direction — upward toward the neck. Lymphatic vessels connect to two subclavian veins,
which are located on either sides of the neck near the collarbones, and the fluid re-enters the
circulatory system, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Diseases and disorders of the lymphatic system

Diseases and disorders of the lymphatic system are typically treated by immunologists.
Vascular surgeons, dermatologists, oncologists and physiatrists also get involved in treatment
of various lymphatic ailments. There are also lymphedema therapists who specialize in the
manual drainage of the lymphatic system.

The most common diseases of the lymphatic system are enlargement of the lymph nodes
(also known as lymphadenopathy), swelling due to lymph node blockage (also known
as lymphedema) and cancers involving the lymphatic system, according to Dr. James
Hamrick, chief of medical oncology and hematology at Kaiser Permanente in Atlanta.

When bacteria are recognized in the lymph fluid, the lymph nodes make more infection-
fighting white blood cells, which can cause swelling. The swollen nodes can sometimes be
felt in the neck, underarms and groin, according to the NLM.

Lymphadenopathy is usually caused by infection, inflammation, or cancer. Infections that

cause lymphadenopathy include bacterial infections such as strep throat, locally infected skin
wounds, or viral infections such as mononucleosis or HIV infection, Hamrick stated. "The
enlargement of the lymph nodes may be localized to the area of infection, as in strep throat,
or more generalized as in HIV infection. In some areas of the body the enlarged lymph nodes
are palpable, while others are to deep to feel and can be seen on CT scan or MRI."
Inflammatory or autoimmune conditions occur when a person's immune system is active, and
can result in enlargement of lymph nodes. This can happen in lupus, according to Hamrick.

Lymphoma is cancer of the lymph nodes. It occurs when lymphocytes grow and multiply
uncontrollably. There are a number of different types of lymphoma, according to Dr. Jeffrey
P. Sharman, director of research at Willamette Valley Cancer Institute and medical director
of hematology research for the U.S. Oncology Network.

"The first 'branch point' is the difference between Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin
lymphoma (NHL)," Sharman said. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is more common of the two,
according to the Lymphoma Research Foundation.

The most common types of NHL are follicular, which accounts for about 30 percent of all
NHL cases; diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), which comprises 40 to 50 percent of
NHL cases; and Burkitt's lymphoma, which accounts for 5 percent of NHL cases. "The
remainder of cases makes up the bewildering complexity of NHL," Sharman said.

"Though there can be a significant range within an individual category, the clinical approach
to each category is unique and the expectations of patient outcome varies by category,"
Sharman said.

When a person has had surgery and/or radiation to remove a cancer, the lymphatic flow back
to the heart and can result in swelling or lymphedema, Hamrick noted. This most commonly
occurs in women who have had surgery to remove a breast cancer. Part of the operation to
remove the breast cancer involves removing lymph nodes in the armpit.

The more lymph nodes removed the higher the risk of chronic bothersome swelling and pain
due to lymphedema in the arm, Hamrick explained. "Fortunately, modern surgical techniques
are allowing for fewer lymph nodes to be removed, and thus fewer cases of severe
lymphedema for breast cancer survivors."

Some interesting research has been done on why people possibly get lymphoma. For
example, VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam researched a nationwide Dutch
pathology registry between 1990 and 2016. From the research, they estimated that the risk of
developing anaplastic large cell lymphoma in the breast after getting implants is 1 in 35,000
at age 50, 1 in 12,000 at age 70, and 1 in 7,000 at age 75. The study was published in the Jan.
4, 2018 issue of the journal JAMA Oncology.
Castleman disease is a group of inflammatory disorders that cause lymph node enlargement
and can result in multiple-organ dysfunction, according to the Castleman Disease
Cooperative Network. While not specifically a cancer, it is a similar to a lymphoma and is
often treated with chemotherapy. It can be unicentric (one lymph node) or multicentric,
involving multiple lymph nodes.
Lymphangiomatosis is a disease involving multiple cysts or lesions formed from lymphatic
vessels, according to the Lymphangiomatosis & Gorham's Disease Alliance. It is thought to
be the result of a genetic mutation.

Tonsil stones are another problem that can happen to the lymphatic system. Small bits of
debris catches on the tonsils and white blood cells attack the debris and leave behind hard a
hard biofilm that breaths oxygen. They are not smooth like regular stones, though. "Instead,
they look like prunes, with crevices where bacteria can accumulate," said Chetan Kaher, a
dentist in London. Usually, tonsil stones fall away and get swallowed, but sometimes they
need to be manually removed.

Diagnosis and treatment

Diseases of the lymphatic system are usually diagnosed when lymph nodes are enlarged,
Hamrick noted. This may be discovered when the lymph nodes become enlarged enough to
be felt ("palpable lymphadenopathy") or are seen on imaging studies such as CT scans or

The majority of enlarged lymph nodes are not dangerous; they are the body's way of fighting
off an infection, such as a viral upper respiratory infection. If the lymph nodes become
significantly enlarged and persist longer than the infection, then they are more worrisome.
There is no specific size cutoff, but typically nodes that persist at larger than a centimeter are
more worrisome and warrant examination by a doctor.

Common symptoms of any lymphatic disorder include swelling of the arm or groin, weight
loss, fever and night sweats, according to Stephanie Bernik, chief of surgical oncology
at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. "A PET or CAT scan is usually ordered to further

The diagnosis of lymphadenopathy depends on the location of the abnormal lymph nodes and
other things that are going on with the patient. If the patient has a known infection, then the
lymph nodes can simply be followed to await resolution with treatment of the infection. If the
nodes are growing quickly and there is no obvious explanation then typically a biopsy is
warranted to look for a cancer or an infection. If the node can be felt then this can be done at
the bedside with a needle, according to Hamrick.

If the lymph node is deeper, such as in the abdomen or pelvis, Hamrick said the biopsy might
need to be done by an interventional radiologist using image guidance to place the needle into
the node. Sometimes the biopsy needs to be done by a surgeon in the operating room. This is
often where the most tissue can be obtained to make a diagnosis, he said.

With many types of lymphoma and leukemia, there are unique treatment options for each
type, according to Sharman. "There is no one 'summary' of treatment options. Treatment
options can include traditional chemotherapy, immunotherapy (such as using antibodies or
immune modulating drugs), and even radiation."

Treatment of lymphatic diseases depends on treating the underlying cause. Infections are
treated with antibiotics, supportive care (while the immune system does its job, as in a viral
infection) or antivirals. Lymphedema can be treated by elevation, compression and physical
therapy. Cancers of the lymphatic system are treated by chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery,
or a combination of those modalities, Hamrick noted.

In last several years, Sharman noted that there has been explosion of new treatment options.
"There are a handful of newly approved drugs that target the actual disease causing processes
within cells. Ibrutinib, idelalisib, obinutuzumab, lenalidomide have been approved in various
indications and it is likely that we will see multiple more in coming years."
Muscular System: Facts, Functions & Diseases

While most people associate muscles with strength, they do more than assist in lifting heavy
objects. The 650 muscles in the body not only support movement — controlling walking,
talking, sitting, standing, eating and other daily functions that people consciously perform —
but also help to maintain posture and circulate blood and other substances throughout the
body, among other functions.

Muscles are often associated with activities of the legs, arms and other appendages, but
muscles also produce more subtle movements, such as facial expressions, eye movements and
respiration, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
[Image Gallery: The BioDigital Human]

Three types of muscles

The muscular system can be broken down into three types of muscles: skeletal, smooth and
cardiac, according to the NIH.

Skeletal muscles are the only voluntary muscle tissue in the human body and control every
action that a person consciously performs. Most skeletal muscles are attached to two bones
across a joint, so the muscle serves to move parts of those bones closer to each other,
according to The Merck Manual.

Visceral, or smooth, muscle is found inside organs such as the stomach and intestines, as well
as in blood vessels. It is called a smooth muscle because, unlike skeletal muscle, it does not
have the banded appearance of skeletal or cardiac muscle. The weakest of all muscle tissues,
visceral muscles contract to move substances through the organ, according to The Merck
Manual. Because visceral muscle is controlled by the unconscious part of the brain, it is
known as involuntary muscle, as it cannot be controlled by the conscious mind.

Found only in the heart, cardiac muscle is an involuntary muscle responsible for pumping
blood throughout the body, according to The Merck Manual. The heart's natural pacemaker is
made of cardiac muscle that signals other cardiac muscles to contract. Like visceral muscles,
cardiac muscle tissue is controlled involuntarily. While hormones and signals from the brain
adjust the rate of contraction, cardiac muscle stimulates itself to contract.

Muscle shapes
Muscles are further classified by their shape, size and direction, according to the NIH. The
deltoids, or shoulder muscles, have a triangular shape. The serratus muscle, which originates
on the surface of the second to ninth ribs at the side of the chest, and runs along the entire
anterior length of the scapula (shoulder blades), has a distinctive sawlike shape. The
rhomboid major, which attaches the scapula to the spinal column, is a diamond shape.
Size can be used to differentiate similar muscles in the same region. The gluteal region (the
buttocks) contains three muscles differentiated by size: the gluteus maximus (large), gluteus
medius (medium) and gluteus minimus (smallest), the NIH noted.

The direction in which the muscle fibers run can be used to identify a muscle. In the
abdominal region, there are several sets of wide, flat muscles, according to the NIH. The
muscles whose fibers run straight up and down are the rectus abdominis, the ones running
transversely (left to right) are the transverse abdominis and the ones running at an angle are
the obliques. As any exercise enthusiast knows, obliques are among the hardest muscles to
develop to achieve "six-pack" abs.

Muscles also can be identified by their function. The flexor group of the forearm flexes the
wrist and the fingers. The supinator is a muscle that allows you to roll your wrist over to face
palm up. Adductor muscles in the legs adduct, or pull together, the limbs, according to the

Diseases of the muscular system

There is no single type of doctor that treats muscular diseases and disorders.
Rheumatologists, orthopedists and neurologists may all treat conditions that affect the
muscles, according to the American Medical Association.
There are a number of common neuromuscular disorders, according to Dr. Robert Schabbing,
chief of neurology at Kaiser Permanente in Denver.

Common primary muscle disorders include inflammatory myopathies, including

polymyositis, which is characterized by inflammation and progressive weakening of the
skeletal muscles; dermatomyositis, which is polymyositis accompanied by a skin rash; and
inclusion body myositis, which is characterized by progressive muscle weakness and wasting.
Other common disorders are muscular dystrophies and metabolic muscle disorders, he said.
Muscular dystrophy affects muscle fibers. Metabolic muscle disorders interfere with
chemical reactions involved in drawing energy from food.Neuromuscular junction disorders
impair the transmission of nerve signals to muscles, Schabbing noted.

The most common neuromuscular junction disorder is myasthenia gravis, which is

characterized by varying degrees of weakness of the skeletal muscles. Schabbing said. "There
are many types of peripheral neuropathies that can be secondary to other medical conditions,
such as diabetes, or due to a variety of other causes, including toxins, inflammation and
hereditary causes," he said.

Motor neuron disorders affect the nerve cells that supply muscles, Schabbing said. The most
recognizable motor neuron disease is amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, commonly
known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
Learn about the muscles that move your body and keep you alive.
Credit: by Ross Toro, Infographics Artist

Symptoms, diagnosis and treatment

The most common symptom or sign of a muscle disorder is weakness, although muscle
disorders can cause a number of symptoms, according to Schabbing. In addition to weakness,
symptoms include abnormal fatigue with activity, as well as muscle spasms, cramping or
twitching. Neuromuscular disorders affecting the eyes or mouth can cause drooping eyelids
or double vision, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing or, sometimes, difficulty breathing.

Electromyography — commonly referred to as an EMG — is often used to diagnose

muscular disorders. An EMG helps characterize causes of nerve and muscle disorders by
stimulating nerves and recording responses, Schabbing noted. Rarely, nerve or muscle
biopsies are needed.

Steroids and other medications can help to reduce spasms and cramping. Milder forms of
chemotherapy can help treat many muscular disorders, according to Dr. Ricardo Roda, an
assistant professor of neurology, neuroscience and physiology at NYU Langone Medical

Nervous System: Facts, Function & Diseases

The nervous system is a complex collection of nerves and specialized cells known as neurons
that transmit signals between different parts of the body. It is essentially the body's electrical


Structurally, the nervous system has two components: the central nervous system and the
peripheral nervous system. According to the National Institutes of Health, the central nervous
system is made up of the brain, spinal cord and nerves. The peripheral nervous system
consists of sensory neurons, ganglia (clusters of neurons) and nerves that connect to one
another and to the central nervous system.
Functionally, the nervous system has two main subdivisions: the somatic, or voluntary,
component; and the autonomic, or involuntary, component. The autonomic nervous system
regulates certain body processes, such as blood pressure and the rate of breathing, that work
without conscious effort, according to Merck Manuals. The somatic system consists of nerves
that connect the brain and spinal cord with muscles and sensory receptors in the skin.

Description of the nervous system

Nerves are cylindrical bundles of fibers that start at the brain and central cord and branch out
to every other part of the body, according to the University of Michigan Medical School.

Neurons send signals to other cells through thin fibers called axons, which cause chemicals
known as neurotransmitters to be released at junctions called synapses, the NIH noted. There
are over 100 trillion neural connections in the average human brain, though the number and
location can vary. For example, a new study published January 2018 in the journal
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that out of the 160 participants
studied, the brains of highly creative people have more connections among three specific
regions of the brain than less creative thinkers.

"You have these three different systems that are all located in different parts of the brain, but
they are all co-activated at once," said lead study author Roger Beaty, a postdoctoral fellow
studying cognitive neuroscience at Harvard University. "People who are better able to co-
activate them [came] up with more-creative responses."

A synapse gives a command to the cell and the entire communication process typically takes
only a fraction of a millisecond. Signals travel along an alpha motor neuron in the spinal cord
268 mph (431 km/h); the fastest transmission in the human body, according to Discover
Sensory neurons react to physical stimuli such as light, sound and touch and send feedback to
the central nervous system about the body's surrounding environment, according to
the American Psychological Association. Motor neurons, located in the central nervous
system or in peripheral ganglia, transmit signals to activate the muscles or glands. [Here's
What You'd Look Like as Just a Nervous System]
Glial cells, derived from the Greek word for "glue," are specialized cells that support, protect
or nourish nerve cells, according to the Oregon Institute of Health and Science University.
The brain's connections and thinking ability grew over thousands of years of evolution. For
example, a virus bound its genetic code to the genome of four-limbed animals, and the code
can still be found in humans' brains today, according to two papers published in the January
2018 journal Cell. This code packages up genetic information and sends it from nerve cells to
other nearby nerve cells, a very important process in the brain. [An Ancient Virus May Be
Responsible for Human Consciousness]
Find out about the workings of the brain and nerves.
Credit: Ross Toro, contributor
Diagnosing nervous system conditions
There are a number of tests and procedures to diagnose conditions involving the nervous
system. In addition to the traditional X-ray, a specialized X-ray called a fluoroscopy
examines the body in motion, such as blood flowing through arteries, according to the NIH.

Other standard neurological exams include an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), CT scan,
and an electroencephalogram (EEG), which records the brain's continuous electrical activity.
Positron emission tomography (PET) is a procedure that measures cell or tissue metabolism
and brain activity to detect tumors or diseased tissue or tumors, the NIH noted.

A spinal tap places a needle into the spinal canal to drain a small amount of cerebral spinal
fluid that is tested for infection or other abnormalities, according to the NIH.

Diseases of the nervous system

"Of all the diseases of the nervous system, the most common difficulty that people have is
pain, and much of that is nerve-related," according to Dr. Shai Gozani, founder and CEO of
NeuroMetrix, a medical device company. "There are 100 million people who live with
chronic pain."

According to the Mayo Clinic, patients with nerve disorders experience functional
difficulties, which result in conditions such as:
 Epilepsy, in which abnormal electrical discharges from brain cells cause seizures
 Parkinson's disease, which is a progressive nerve disease that affects movement
 Multiple sclerosis (MS), in which the protective lining of the nerves is attacked by the body's
immune system
 Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a motor neuron
disease which weakens the muscles and progressively hampers physical function
 Huntington's disease, which is an inherited condition that cause the nerve cells in the brain to
 Alzheimer's disease, which covers a wide range of disorders that impacts mental functions,
particularly memory.

Mayo Clinic also noted that the nervous system can also be affected by vascular disorders
such as:

 Stroke, which occurs when there is bleeding on the brain or the blow flow to the brain is
 Transient ischemic attack (TIA), which are mini-type strokes that last a shorter period of time but
mimic stroke symptoms; and
 Subarachnoid hemorrhage, which is specifically bleeding in the space between your brain and the
surrounding membrane that can be the result of a trauma or rupturing of a weak blood vessel;

Infections such as meningitis, encephalitis, polio, and epidural abscess can also affect the
nervous system, the NIH noted.

Treatments vary from anti-inflammatory medications and pain medications such as opiates, to
implanted nerve stimulators and wearable devices, Gozani said. "Many people also turn to
herbal and holistic methods to reduce pain, such as acupuncture."

Study of the nervous system

The branch of medicine that studies and treats the nervous system is called neurology, and
doctors who practice in this field of medicine are called neurologists. Once they have
completed medical training, neurologists complete additional training for their specialty and
are certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN).

There are also physiatrists, who are physicians who work to rehabilitate patients who have
experienced disease or injury to their nervous systems that impact their ability to function,
according to the ABPN.

Neurosurgeons perform surgeries involving the nervous system and are certified by
the American Association of Neurological Surgeons.

Reproductive System: Facts, Functions & Diseases

An illustration of a sperm cell penetrating an egg.

Credit: Jezper, Shutterstock
The reproductive system is a collection of internal and external organs — in both males and
females — that work together for the purpose of procreating, according to the Cleveland
Clinic. Due to its vital role in the survival of the species, many scientists argue that the
reproductive system is among the most important systems in the entire body.

How reproductive systems work

The male reproductive system consists of two major parts: the testes, where sperm are
produced, and the penis, according to Merck Manuals. The penis and urethra belong to both
the urinary and reproductive systems in males. The testes are carried in an external pouch
known as the scrotum, where they normally remain slightly cooler than body temperature to
facilitate sperm production.

The external structures of the female reproductive system include the clitoris, labia minora,
labia majora and Bartholin's glands, according to the Cleveland Clinic. The major internal
organs of the female reproductive system include the vagina and uterus — which act as the
receptacle for semen — and the ovaries, which produce the female's ova. The vagina is
attached to the uterus through the cervix, while the fallopian tubes connect the uterus to the
ovaries. In response to hormonal changes, one ovum, or egg — or more in the case of
multiple births — is released and sent down the fallopian tube during ovulation. If not
fertilized, this egg is eliminated during menstruation.


The female reproductive system.

Credit: National Institute of Health

Fertilization occurs if a sperm enters the fallopian tube and burrows into the egg. While the
fertilization usually occurs in the oviducts, it can also happen in the uterus itself. The egg
then becomes implanted in the lining of the uterus, where it begins the processes of
embryogenesis (in which the embryo forms) and morphogenesis (in which the fetus begins to
take shape). When the fetus is mature enough to survive outside of the womb, the cervix
dilates, and contractions of the uterus propel it through the birth canal.

Variations in the reproductive system

Around 49.5 percent of the world's population is female, so there are slightly more men on
the planet than women, according to World Bank. A person's sex is determined by what
reproductive system the person has, but it isn't always so simple. Some humans are born with
parts of both male and female reproductive systems or incomplete reproductive organs of one
sex or the other. Those with both male and female reproductive parts are considered intersex.
Sometimes children are labeled as male or female, depending on how complete or functional
one sexual reproductive system is over the other. Then, the other organs are removed.
Today, many parents are opting to leave both sets of reproductive organs intact with the
intent of letting the child decide to keep or remove the various parts when they are older. A
baby is born atypical genitalia in one in about 1,500 to 2,000 births, according to Intersex
Society of North America.
Females that are born without all of their reproductive system are labeled as having Mayer
Rokitansky Kuster Hauser Syndrome. This occurs in one in 5,000 female births, according to
the Center for Young Women’s Health.

Diseases of the female reproductive system

Many parts of the male and female reproductive systems can be affected by cancer. In
females, cancer can attack the uterus, ovaries, breast and cervix, among other organs,
according to the American Cancer Society.
Many experts have seen what they refer to as the "Angelina Jolie" effect, where women are
taking proactive measures by having breasts and internal reproductive organs removed if they
have a family history of cancer before there are signs of the disease. "With better genetic
testing and screening, we have seen a number of women who are being more proactive about
their reproductive health," said Dr. Shana Wingo, who specializes on gynecologic oncology
at Arizona Oncology.
Ovarian cancer tends to have a poorer outcome than other gynecological cancers, Ross
noted, because it is not typically diagnosed until it has progressed significantly. "There is no
standard screening available for ovarian cancer, so it is very difficult to identify it early."
Tests to detect ovarian cancer, as well as cancer of the fallopian tube, and primary peritoneal
cancer are currently being studied, according to the National Cancer Institute.
There are two tests used to screen for cervical cancer. The Pap test screens for cellular
changes in the cervix called cytology, while the genital human papillomavirus (HPV) test
identifies the presence of infection with high-risk HPV, the strains that are linked to cervical
cancer, according to Dr. Charles Dubin, an OB/GYN in Santa Monica, Calif.

A recent study published by Cancer Cytopathology, found that HPV-only screening misses
more cervical cancer in women than Pap-only or co-testing, based on approximately 8.6
million women ages 30 to 65. There is approximately a three-fold improvement in the cancer
detection rate of co-testing compared to HPV only.

Current guidelines recommend that women first start getting the Pap test alone when they
turn 21 and repeat every three years if the test is normal until age 30. A Pap-plus-HPV test, or
co-testing, is recommended for women ages 30 to 65, and if both are negative repeated every
five years, regardless of whether they have received HPV vaccination. "However, there is
compelling scientific evidence that co-testing every three years misses less cases of cancer
and pre-cancer than every five-year co-testing," Dubin noted.

While genital HPV is typically associated with females, it is the most common sexually
transmitted infection. The majority of sexually active people in the United States — male and
female — will have HPV at some time in their lives, but most will not experience any
symptoms. In a small portion of women, it can result in cervical cancer and genital warts; in
men, it can cause penile and anal cancer and genital warts, according to the NIH.
Both genders can develop sexually transmitted diseases, including genital herpes, gonorrhea
and syphilis, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). HIV/AIDS, a disease of the
immune system, is not exclusively transmitted through sexual contact; sexual activity is one
of the ways that the HIV virus is spread.
For females, severe menstrual cramping, or dysmenorrheal, is the most common disease of
the reproductive system occurs with a woman's monthly menstrual period, according to Dr.
Sheryl Ross, OB/GYN and Women's Health Specialist at Providence Saint John’s Health

"Severe pain before or during your period can last anywhere from one to seven days and
disrupt your normal day-to-day routines at school, work and socially," Ross noted. Diagnosis
is made by the patient's medical history and a pelvic exam. The best treatment includes
medications that block the effects of prostaglandins and include ibuprofen and naproxen. The
birth control pill also works well in treating dysmenorrhea by decreasing the blood flow,
Ross noted.

Another common disorder of the female reproductive system is a vaginal yeast infection,
which is caused by a yeast fungus in the vagina. Most can be successfully treated with over-
the-counter medications, according to WebMD.
Endometriosis is a condition where that normally lines the inside of your uterus — the
endometrium — ends up outside of uterus, most commonly in the ovaries, bowel or the tissue
lining your pelvis. The endometrial tissue becomes trapped, causing pain, according to
the Mayo Clinic.
Pelvic inflammatory disease can involve an infection of any of the female reproductive
organs, including the uterus and ovaries. Sexually transmitted diseases, such as gonorrhea
and chlamydia, are typical causes of pelvic inflammatory disease, according to the NIH.
"Any of these STIs can cause serious and potentially long term reproductive problems that
include chronic pelvic pain and infertility," Ross said.

The male reproductive system

Credit: National Institute of Health

Diseases of the male reproductive system

Of male-specific diseases of the reproductive system, prostate cancer is the most common,
but men can also suffer from testicular and penile cancer, according to the American Cancer

Treatment for prostate cancer depends on the age, severity of the disease and other health
conditions of the patient. The usual treatments for prostate cancer are surgery, radiation
therapy, watchful waiting, and hormonal treatment, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Erectile dysfunction is a common condition that affects about one in 10 males on a long-
term basis, the Cleveland Clinic noted. It can be linked to vascular disease, neurological
disorders such as Multiple Sclerosis, trauma and psychological episodes.
Prostatitis typically involves swelling or inflammation of the prostate gland, according to the
Mayo Clinic, and can cause painful or difficult urination and ejaculation. Nearly half of all
men experience symptoms of prostatitis at some point during their lives.

Defining and treating infertility

Infertility is defined as a couple's inability to conceive after one year of unprotected
intercourse. It can be caused by a condition in one partner or a combination of circumstances,
according to the Mayo Clinic.

In males, infertility is a condition in which they produce no sperm cells (azoospermia) or too
few sperm cells (oligospermia), or their sperm cells are abnormal or die before they can reach
the egg. Causes range from chromosomal defects to hormonal imbalance to tumors. Lifestyle
factors, such as drug and alcohol use, can also play role. In rare cases, infertility in men is
caused by an inherited condition, such as cystic fibrosis, according to the Mayo Clinic.

In women, infertility is defined as a disorder of the reproductive system that hinders the
body's ability to ovulate, conceive, or carry an infant to term.

Reproductive conditions are treated by a variety of specialists. In women, many issues are
treated by obstetricians/gynecologists and for males, urologists handle many disorders of
their reproductive systems. There are also infertility experts that treat couples who are unable
to conceive and endocrinologists who treat hormonal disorders

Respiratory System: Facts, Function and Diseases

The human respiratory system is a series of organs responsible for taking in oxygen and
expelling carbon dioxide. The primary organs of the respiratory system are lungs, which
carry out this exchange of gases as we breathe.


Red blood cells collect the oxygen from the lungs and carry it to the parts of the body where
it is needed, according to the American Lung Association. During the process, the red blood
cells collect the carbon dioxide and transport it back to the lungs, where it leaves the body
when we exhale.
The human body needs oxygen to sustain itself. A decrease in oxygen is known as hypoxia
and a complete lack of oxygen is known as anoxia, according to the National Institutes of
Health. These conditions can be fatal; after about four minutes without oxygen, brain cells
begin dying, according to NYU Langone Medical Center, which can lead to brain damage
and ultimately death.
In humans, the average rate of breathing depends on age. A newborn's normal breathing rate
is about 40 times each minute and may slow to 20 to 40 times per minute when the baby is
sleeping, according to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
For adults, the average resting respiratory rate for adults is 12 to 16 breaths per minute,
according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. Physical exertion also has an effect on respiratory rate,
and healthy adults can average 45 breaths per minute during strenuous exercise.

Parts of the respiratory system

As we breathe, oxygen enters the nose or mouth and passes the sinuses, which are hollow
spaces in the skull. Sinuses help regulate the temperature and humidity of the air we breathe.

The trachea, also called the windpipe, filters the air that is inhaled, according to the American
Lung Association. It branches into the bronchi, which are two tubes that carry air into each
lung. (Each one is called a bronchus.) The bronchial tubes are lined with tiny hairs called
cilia. Cilia move back and forth, carrying mucus up and out. Mucus, a sticky fluid, collects
dust, germs and other matter that has invaded the lungs. We expel mucus when we sneeze,
cough, spit or swallow.

The bronchial tubes lead to the lobes of the lungs. The right lung has three lobes; the left lung
has two, according to the American Lung Association. The left lung is smaller to allow room
for the heart, according to York University. Lobes are filled with small, spongy sacs called
alveoli, and this is where the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide occurs.

The alveolar walls are extremely thin (about 0.2 micrometers). These walls are composed of a
single layer of tissues called epithelial cells and tiny blood vessels called pulmonary

Blood passes through the capillaries. The pulmonary artery carries blood containing carbon
dioxide to the air sacs, where the gas moves from the blood to the air. Oxygenated blood goes
to the heart through the pulmonary vein, and the heart pumps it throughout the body.

The diaphragm, a dome-shaped muscle at the bottom of the lungs, controls breathing and
separates the chest cavity from the abdominal cavity, the American Lung Association noted.
When a breath it taken, it flattens out and pulls forward, making more space for the lungs.
During exhalation, the diaphragm expands and forces air out.

Diseases of the respiratory system

Diseases and conditions of the respiratory system fall into two categories: viruses, such as
influenza, bacterial pneumonia, enterovirus respiratory virus; and chronic diseases, such as
asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). According to Dr. Neal Chaisson,
who practices pulmonary medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, there is not much that can be
done for viral infections but to let them run their course. "Antibiotics are not effective in
treating viruses and the best thing to do is just rest," he said.
COPD is the intersection of three related conditions — chronic bronchitis, chronic asthma
and emphysema, Chaisson told Live Science. It is a progressive disease that makes it
increasingly difficult for sufferers to breath.


Asthma is a chronic inflammation of the lung airways that causes coughing, wheezing, chest
tightness or shortness of breath, according to Tonya Winders, president of the Allergy &
Asthma Network. These signs and symptoms may be worse when a person is exposed to their
triggers, which can include air pollution, tobacco smoke, factory fumes, cleaning solvents,
infections, pollens, foods, cold air, exercise, chemicals and medications.

Lung cancer
Lung cancer is often associated with smoking, but the disease can affect non-smokers as well.
Every year, about 16,000 to 24,000 Americans die of lung cancer, even though they have
never smoked. In 2018, the American Cancer Society estimates there will be about 234,030
new cases of lung cancer (121,680 in men and 112,350 in women) and around 154,050 deaths
from lung cancer (83,550 in men and 70,500 in women).

Diagnosing and treating respiratory ailments

Pulmonologists treat the respiratory system, including the lungs, according to the American
College of Physicians. Because of the critical nature of the respiratory system,
pulmonologists work in hospitals as well as in private practice. A pulmonologist must first be
certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine and then obtain additional training in
the subspecialty.

Common diagnostic tools for diagnosing respiratory disease include chest X-rays and a
pulmonary function test (PFT), according to Merck Manuals. A PFT measures how well the
lungs take in and release air and how well they circulate oxygen.

A doctor may also perform a bronchoscopy by inserting a tube with a light and camera into
the airways — the trachea and the bronchial tubes — to examine for bleeding, tumors,
inflammation or other abnormalities. A similar procedure is a thoracoscopy, in which a
doctor uses an optical device to examine the surfaces of the lungs.

A physician may order a PFT as part of a routine exam — especially for smokers, according
to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. A PFT may also be ordered to test lung
function before surgery or to help diagnose lung conditions or diseases.

A new nasal swab test measures RNA or protein molecules in human cells and can identify a
viral infection, according to a study published Dec. 21, 2017, in the Journal of Infectious
Diseases. "It's a simpler test and more cost-effective for looking at viral infection," the
author, Dr. Ellen Foxman, assistant professor of laboratory medicine at Yale School of
Medicine, told YaleNews. During the test, RNAs predicted viral infection with 97 percent

For most healthy individuals, the most common respiratory ailment they may face is an
infection, according to Dr. Matthew Exline, a pulmonologist and critical care expert at The
Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. A cough is the first symptom, possibly
accompanied by a fever.

"However, cough can be a sign of chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma, chronic
bronchitis or emphysema," he said. "In chronic lung disease, most respiratory diseases
present with shortness of breath, initially with exertion, such as walking a significant distance
or climbing several flights of stairs."

The most certain way to diagnose asthma is with a lung function test, a medical history and a
physical exam, according to Winders. "However, it's hard to do lung function tests in children
younger than 5 years. Thus, doctors must rely on children's medical histories, signs and
symptoms, and physical exams to make a diagnosis."

For COPD, many patients benefit from respiratory rehabilitation, according to Dr. Brian
Carlin, assistant professor of medicine at Drexel University College of Medicine. "It is much
like cardiac rehabilitation for heart patients, and can provide education, exercise and training
to reduce the number of respiratory incidents."

Some milestones in the study of the respiratory system.

 13th century: Anatomist and physiologist Ibn Al-Nafis advances his theory that the blood must
have passed through the pulmonary artery, through the lungs, and back into the heart to be
pumped around the body. This is believed by many to be the first scientific description of
pulmonary circulation.
 1897: Gustav Killian uses a rigid esophagoscope to extract a pork bone from a farmer's bronchus.
 1898: A. Coolidge performs the first bronchoscopy in the United States at Massachusetts General
 1905: Looking to improve the care of tuberculosis patients by sharing their experiences and
discoveries, a small group of physicians forms what becomes the American Thoracic Society.
 1907: In Philadelphia, Chevalier Jackson develops and improves the instruments for
bronchoscopy and esophagoscopy.
 1963: James Hardy of the University of Mississippi performs the first human lung transplant. The
patient lives for 18 days.
 1964: Shigeto Ikeda develops a prototype of a flexible bronchoscope.
 1983: Joel D. Cooper, a thoracic surgeon, performs the first successful lung transplant in Toronto.
 1986: Cooper performs the first successful double lung transplant.
 2013: GuineIN Tube, a robotic, self-guiding intubation device is introduced.
 2013: Researchers at the University of Michigan use 3D printing to create a splint to hold open a
baby's airway so he could breathe.
 2015: Scientist convert human embryonic stem cells into lung cells.
Skeletal System: Facts, Function & Diseases
By Kim Ann Zimmermann, Live Science Contributor | March 16, 2018 10:04pm ET
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The adult human skeletal system consists of 206 bones, as well as a network of tendons,
ligaments and cartilage that connects them. The skeletal system performs vital functions —
support, movement, protection, blood cell production, calcium storage and endocrine
regulation — that enable us to survive.


Animals with internal skeletons made of bone, called vertebrates, are actually the minority on
Earth. As much as 98 percent of all animals are invertebrates, meaning they do not have
internal skeletons or backbones.

The amount of bones a person is born with isn't the final tally later on. Human infants are
born with about 300 bones, some of which fuse together as the body develops. By the time
humans reach adulthood, they have 206 bones, according to Arizona State University’s
School of Life Sciences. Human males grow until their late teens and females grow until two
years after the beginning of their menstrual cycle, typically. This is when the growth plates
on bones usually close, halting bone expansion.
The skeletons of adult males and females have some variation, primarily to accommodate
childbirth. The female pelvis is flatter, more rounded and proportionally larger, for example.
A male's pelvis is about 90 degrees or less of angle, whereas a female's is 100 degrees or
more. [Image Gallery: The BioDigital Human]
While they become brittle when outside of the body, bones are very much alive inside the
body, being fed by a network of blood vessels from the circulatory system and nerves from
the nervous system, according to Healthline.
A typical bone has a dense and tough outer layer. Next is a layer of spongy bone, which is
lighter and slightly flexible. In the middle of some bones is jelly-like bone marrow, where
new cells are constantly being produced for blood, according to the Merck Manuals.
Teeth are considered part of the skeletal system but they are not counted as bones. Teeth are
made of dentin and enamel, which is strongest substance in your body. Teeth also play a key
role in the digestive system.
The skeletal system has two distinctive parts: the axial skeleton and the appendicular
skeleton, according to the U.S National Library of Medicine(NLM).

The axial skeleton, with a total of 80 bones, consists of the vertebral column, the rib cage and
the skull. The axial skeleton transmits the weight from the head, the trunk and the upper
extremities down to the lower extremities at the hip joints, which help humans maintain our
upright posture, the NLM noted.
The appendicular skeleton has a total of 126 bones, and is formed by the pectoral girdles, the
upper limbs, the pelvic girdle and the lower limbs, according to the NLM. Their functions are
to make walking, running and other movement possible and to protect the major organs
responsible for digestion, excretion and reproduction.

Diseases of the skeletal system

X-rays, MRIs, bone density tests and arthroscopy are some of the primary diagnostic tools
used to detect diseases and deformities of the skeletal system. Bone scans and bone marrow
biopsies are used to diagnose cancer, according to the Merck Manuals.

The primary skeletal conditions are metabolic bone diseases such as osteoporosis,
osteomalacia, and a few other rarer conditions, said Dr. Nathan Wei of the Arthritis
Treatment Center.
Osteoporosis is a prevalent disease, particularly among the elderly, resulting in the loss of
bone tissue. In osteoporosis, bone loses calcium, becomes thinner and may disappear
completely, according to Wei. Osteomalacia is a softening of the bones, according to the
Mayo Clinic. It is often caused by a vitamin D deficiency and results from a defect in the
bone-building process. Osteoporosis, on the other hand, develops in previously constructed

Arthritis is a group of more than 100 inflammatory diseases that damage joints and their
surrounding structures. Arthritis can attack joints, joint capsules, the surrounding tissue or
parts throughout the body. It usually affects the joints of the neck, shoulders, hands, lower
back, hips or knees. "The diagnosis is suspected by a careful history and physical exam and
confirmed through laboratory and imaging studies. Treatment depends on the type of
arthritis," Wei said.

Also common is scoliosis, a side-to-side curve in the back or spine, often creating a
pronounced "C" or "S" shape when viewed on an x-ray of the spine. This condition is
typically becomes evident during adolescence, the Merck Manuals noted. Two to 3 percent of
the population — an estimated 6 to 9 million people in the United States — suffers from
scoliosis, according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons.
About 90 percent of people will experience lower back pain at some point in their lives,
according to Dr. James Nace of LifeBridge Health. "Patients can often be helped with things
such as anti-inflammatory medications, but in some cases may need treatments such as
topical medications, patches or electrical stimulation."
One of the much rarer diseases of the skeletal system is bone cancer. It may originate in the
bones or spread there from another part of the body. The American Cancer Society estimates
around 3,450 new cases will be diagnosed for bones and joint cancer and around 1,590
people will die from it in 2018 in the United States. Bone cancer accounts for less than 0.2
percent of all cancers, according to the American Cancer Society. Cancers that metastasize —
originate from other parts of the body and then spread to the bones — are much more
common than primary bone cancer.
Bone cancer is a malignancy arising in the bones and supporting structures such as cartilage,
according to Dr. Robert Christie, medical oncologist and hematologist at Virginia Cancer
Specialists, a practice in The U.S. Oncology Network. "Unfortunately, these bone cancers are
often seen in younger patients in their 20s and 30s versus lung cancer and breast cancer
which are typically diagnosed later in life."
While leukemia is a cancer that primarily affects the blood, the skeletal system is involved as
the cancer starts in the marrow of the bone. With this type of cancer, abnormal white blood
cells multiply uncontrollably, affecting the production of normal white blood cells and red
blood cells, according to the American Cancer Society.

Bursitis is a disorder that most commonly affects the shoulder and hip joints, Nace said. It is
caused by an inflammation of the bursa, small fluid-filled bags that act as lubricating surfaces
for muscles to move over bones.

The skeletal system is also susceptible to breaks, strains and fractures. While bones are meant
to protect the body's vital organs, it takes about 10 to 16 pounds of pressure to break an
average bone. Bones such as the skull and femur are much tougher to break.

Study of the skeletal system

Orthopedics is the medical specialty responsible for treating entire skeletal system. In the
United States, orthopedic surgeons have typically completed four years of undergraduate
education and four years of medical school. They then undergo residency training in
orthopedic surgery. The American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery oversees the certification
process for this specialty. Many go on to further specialize in specific areas, such as the
spine, hand or sports injuries.

Humans have been dealing with injuries and disease from the beginning of time. Some
important milestones in the history of orthopedics include:

 In the Paleolithic period, early man engraved human bones after eating their owners. "Engraving
is usually considered part of a modern behavior kit, a new way of expression typical of our
species," said study lead author Silvia Bello, a paleoanthropologist at the Natural History
Museum in London.
 Hippocrates, the ancient Greek father of medicine, develops splints for fractures of the tibia.
 During the Roman era, Galen (199-129 B.C.) describes the skeletal system and the surrounding
muscles. Medical experts of the time also develop the first artificial prostheses.
 Ambroise Pare (1510-1590), the father of French surgery, develops techniques for amputations
and artificial limbs.
 Antonius Mathysen (1805-1878), a Dutch military surgeon, in 1851 invents the plaster of Paris
(POP) bandage. A POP cast remains the primary method of fracture immobilization today.
 In 1895, Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen accidentally discovers an image cast from his cathode ray
generator, projected far beyond the possible range of the cathode rays. He wins the Nobel Prize
for Physics in 1901 for his discovery of X-rays.
 Sir Reginald Watson-Jones (1902-1972) publishes "Fractures and Joint Injuries" in 1940, which
remains a standard reference for several decades.
 In 1949, H. Lowry Rush (1879-1965) uses stainless steel pins to treat long bone fractures.
 Marijuana is found to possibly heal bone fractures, according to research by the Tel Aviv
University's Sackler Faculty of Medicine in 2015.
 2016 sees the creation of living bone grown from the cells of patients for the first time.
Skin: The Human Body's Largest Organ

The majority of skin is water-proof because of keratin, a fibrous protein.

Credit: PanicAttack | Shutterstock

Skin is more than a fleshy surface for pimples, tattoos and wrinkles. Skin is the body's largest
organ, and along with hair, nails, glands and nerves, is part of the integumentary system,
according to Oregon State University. This system acts as a protective barrier between the
outside and the inside of the body.
In adults, skin accounts for about 16 percent of total body weight and covers a surface area of
approximately 22 square feet (2 square meters).
There are different thicknesses and textures of skin on different parts of the body. For
example, skin is paper-thin underneath the eyes, but is thick on the soles of the feet and palms
of the hand, according to the Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library.

Three layers of tissue

Human skin is composed of three layers of tissue: the epidermis, dermis and hypodermis,
according to the Cleveland Clinic.
The epidermis is the top, visible layer of skin and it's constantly being renewed as dead skin
cells are shed on a daily basis. The main functions of the epidermis include:
 Making new skin cells. New skin cells form at the bottom of the epidermis. As these newer cells
form, it takes them about one month to reach the top layer of the epidermis. The new cells will
replace the old cells found on the skin surface, which are dead and continuously flake off.
 Giving skin its color. The epidermis contains melanocytes, which are cells that produce melanin,
the pigment that gives skin its color. Melanin is also responsible for suntans and freckles.
 Protecting skin. Keratin, a protein made by cells found in the epidermis, gives skin its toughness
and strength, and protects skin from drying out.
The dermis is the middle layer of skin, found underneath the epidermis. It is the thickest layer
of skin and contains nerves and blood vessels. It is also home to the sweat glands, oil glands
and hair follicles. The dermis gives skin its flexibility and strength, according to the Johns
Hopkins Medicine Health Library. It is made up mostly of a protein called collagen that
makes skin stretchy and strong.

According to the National Library of Medicine, the roles of the dermis include:

 Sensing pain and touch. Nerve endings in the dermis contain receptors that transmit sensations,
such as pain, pressure, touch, itchiness and temperature to the brain.
 Producing sweat and oils. Sweat glands help to cool the body, and sebaceous glands make the
oils that keep skin soft and moist.
 Growing hair. Hair follicles found in the dermis grow the hair on your head, face and body. That
hair also helps to control body temperature and protect the body from injury.
 Bringing blood to the skin. Blood vessels found in the dermis nourish the skin and help control
body temperature. When skin becomes too hot, blood vessels enlarge to release heat from the
skin's surface, while cold constricts blood vessels so they retain body heat.
 Fighting infection. Lymphatic vessels, which drain fluid from the tissues and are an important
part of the immune system, are housed in the dermis. They help ward off infections and other
harmful substances.
The hypodermis — also called subcutaneous fat — is the deepest layer of skin. This layer is
made up mostly of fatty tissue, which helps to insulate the body from heat and cold. The
hypodermis also serves as an energy storage area for fat. This fat provides padding to cushion
internal organs as well as muscle and bones, and protects the body from injuries, according to
the Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library.

Common skin conditions

Dermatologists are physicians who specialize in treating diseases, disorders and injuries of
the skin, hair and nails. They treat common conditions such as acne and warts; chronic skin
conditions such as eczema and psoriasis; and more serious diseases like skin cancer,
according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).
Warts and moles
Warts are benign (noncancerous) growths on the skin caused by the human papillomavirus
(HPV), according to the AAD. They often occur on the hands and soles. Sometimes, tiny
black dots will be visible in a wart.
"These are blocked blood vessels, which are a common occurrence with a papilloma viral
infection," said Dr. Charles E. Crutchfield, a clinical professor of dermatology at
the University of Minnesota Medical School, and medical director of Crutchfield

The best treatment for warts is to cause a mild irritation of these skin growths — usually by
freezing them, applying a chemical such as salicylic acid or using lasers — so the immune
system can recognize the viral infection and get rid of it.
Moles are another type of common growth on the skin. They're most often brown or black,
but some can be red or skin-colored, and they may appear flat or raised. If a mole starts
changing in size, color or shape, or if it bleeds and doesn't heal on its own in three weeks, it
should be evaluated to make sure it's not turning into skin cancer, Crutchfield said.
Acne and eczema
Acne, a disorder of the hair and oil glands, is among the most common skin conditions
treated by dermatologists, Crutchfield told Live Science.
Acne occurs when hair follicles become plugged with oil and dead skin cells, according to the
Mayo Clinic. The condition presents itself as red bumps and pimples on the face, chest and
back, Crutchfield said. Treatments for acne include vitamin A products (retinols prevent
plugging of hair follicles), salicylic acid (to unplug pores), benzoyl peroxides (to decrease
bacteria) and antibiotics (to reduce inflammation).
Eczema looks like patches of red, itchy, bumpy skin, and the most common type is known as
atopic dermatitis. The condition can occur anywhere on the skin. Sometimes, it flares up on
its own, and at other times, it is caused by a specific trigger, such as a skin irritant like poison
ivy, or exposure to an allergen, according to Crutchfield.
Eczema is best treated with topical anti-inflammatory creams and ointments, which can
reduce itching and redness. For mild symptoms, over-the-counter medications work well, but
a prescription-strength cortisone product may be needed for more severe cases.
Skin cancer
Skin cancer is an abnormal growth of skin cells, and the most common type is basal cell
carcinoma, Crutchfield said. More than 4 million cases of basal cell carcinoma are diagnosed
in the United States each year, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. This type of cancer
is skin colored, pink or has a slight pearly white color to it, and usually appears on sun-
exposed areas of the face, ears or neck, according to the Mayo Clinic. It rarely spreads to
other parts of the body, but it can be very problematic if it's not treated, Crutchfield
The second most common type of skin cancer is squamous cell carcinoma. It may appear as a
pink or white bump, a rough, scaly patch or a sore that won't heal, according to the AAD.
The most serious skin cancer is melanoma, which looks like a dark, changing, bleeding skin
spot, Crutchfield said. This cancer begins in the skin's pigment-producing cells, and although
it is the rarest form of skin cancer, it causes the majority of skin cancer deaths.
Additional resources:
 National Library of Medicine: How Does Skin Work?
 Johns Hopkins Medicine: Anatomy of the Skin
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Protecting yourself from skin cancer
Urinary System: Facts, Functions & Diseases

The urinary system, also known as the renal system, produces, stores and eliminates urine,
the fluid waste excreted by the kidneys. The kidneys make urine by filtering wastes and extra
water from blood. Urine travels from the kidneys through two thin tubes called ureters and
fills the bladder. When the bladder is full, a person urinates through the urethra to eliminate
the waste.


The urinary system is susceptible to a variety of infections and other problems, including
blockages and injuries. These can be treated by a urologist or another health care professional
who specializes in the renal system.

Description of the urinary system

The urinary system works with the lungs, skin and intestines to maintain the balance of
chemicals and water in the body. Adults eliminate about 27 to 68 fluid ounces (800 to 2,000
milliliters) per day based on typical daily fluid intake of 68 ounces (2 liters), National
Institutes of Health (NIH). Other factors in urinary system function include fluid lost through
perspiring and breathing. In addition, certain types of medications, such as diuretics that are
sometimes used to treat high blood pressure, can also affect the amount of urine a person
produces and eliminates. Some beverages, such as coffee and alcohol, can also cause
increased urination in some people.
The primary organs of the urinary system are the kidneys, which are bean-shaped organs that
are located just below the rib cage in the middle of the back. The kidneys remove urea —
waste product formed by the breakdown of proteins — from the blood through small filtering
units called nephrons, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Each nephron consists of a ball
formed of small blood capillaries, called a glomerulus, and a small tube called a renal tubule.
Urea, together with water and other waste substances, forms the urine as it passes through the
nephrons and down the renal tubules of the kidney.

From the kidneys, urine travels down two thin tubes, called ureters, to the bladder. The
ureters are about 8 to 10 inches long (20 to 25 centimeters), according to the Cleveland

Muscles in the ureter walls continuously tighten and relax to force urine away from the
kidneys, according to the NIH. A backup of urine can cause a kidney infection. Small
amounts of urine are emptied into the bladder from the ureters about every 10 to 15 seconds.

The bladder is a hollow, balloon-shaped organ that is located in the pelvis. It is held in place
by ligaments attached to other organs and the pelvic bones, according to the Kidney &
Urology Foundation of America. The bladder stores urine until the brain signals the bladder
that the person is ready to empty it. A normal, healthy bladder can hold up to 16 ounces
(almost half a liter) of urine comfortably for two to five hours.
To prevent leakage, circular muscles called sphincters close tightly around the opening of the
bladder into the urethra, the tube that allows urine to pass outside the body. The only
difference between the female and male urinary system is the length of the urethra, according
to Merck Manuals. In females, the urethra is about 1.5 to 2 inches long (3.8 to 5.1 cm) and
sits between the clitoris and the vagina. In males, it is about 8 inches (20 cm) long, runs the
length of the penis and opens at the end of the penis. The male urethra is used to eliminate
urine as well as semen during ejaculation.

Diseases of the urinary system

Different specialists treat urinary system ailments. Nephrologists treat kidney diseases, while
urologists treat problems with the urinary tract, including the kidneys, adrenal glands, ureters,
bladder and urethra, according to the American Urological Association (AUA). Urologists
also treat the male reproductive organs, while gynecologists often treat urinary diseases or
disorders in females, including yeast infections. Nephrologists and urologists often work with
endocrinologists or oncologists, depending on the disease.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) occur when bacteria enter the urinary tract; they can affect the
urethra, bladder or even the kidneys. While UTIs are more common in women, they can
occur in men. UTIs are typically treated with antibiotics, according to Dr. Oscar Aguirre, a
urogynecologist in Denver. In the United States, about 8.1 million people have a urinary tract
infection each year, according to the American Urological Association.

Incontinence is another common disease of the urinary system. "The most common bladder
problems I see in my practice in women are frequent urges to urinate and leakage of urine,"
said S. Adam Ramin, urologic surgeon and founder of Urology Cancer Specialists in Los
Angeles. "The most common bladder problems in men are frequent urination at nights and
incomplete bladder emptying. This is usually due to an enlarged prostate causing obstruction
of bladder emptying."

Problems can come in the form of a pelvic prolapse, which can result in leakage and can be
the result of a vaginal delivery. Then there is the overactive bladder, "which we see a lot and
is not related to having children or trauma," Aguirre said. A third condition involves
overflow, in which the bladder does not completely empty.

"Holding your urine for a short period of time, usually up to one hour, is typically okay," said
Ramin. "However protracted and repeated holding of urine may cause over-expansion of
bladder capacity, transmission of excess pressure into the kidneys, and the inability to
completely empty the bladder. These problems in turn may lead to UTI [urinary tract
infection], cystitis and deterioration of kidney function."

Some common treatments involve medications, physical therapy and pelvic mesh surgery,
Aguirre noted. Vaginal laser surgery is also becoming a viable treatment option, he
explained. "In another 10 to 15 years, vaginal laser surgery will be another common option
for the treatment of urinary conditions."

Interstitial cystitis (IC), also called painful bladder syndrome, is a chronic bladder condition,
primarily in women, that causes bladder pressure and pain and, sometimes, pelvic pain to
varying degrees, according to the Mayo Clinic. It can cause bladder scarring, and can make
the bladder less elastic. While the cause isn't known, many people with the condition also
have a defect in their epithelium, the protective lining of the bladder.
Prostatitis is a swelling of the prostate gland and, therefore, can only occur in men. Often
caused by advanced age, symptoms include urinary urgency and frequency, pelvic pain and
pain during urination, the Mayo Clinic noted.

Kidney stones are clumps of calcium oxalate that can be found anywhere in the urinary tract.
Kidney stones form when chemicals in the urine become concentrated enough to form a solid
mass, according to the Cleveland Clinic. They can cause pain in the back and sides, as well as
blood in the urine. Many kidney stones can be treated with minimally invasive therapy, such
as extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy, which disintegrates the kidney stones with shock

Kidney failure, also called renal failure and chronic kidney disease, can be a temporary (often
acute) condition or can become a chronic condition resulting in the inability of the kidneys to
filter waste from the blood. Other conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension, can cause
chronic kidney disease, according to the Mayo Clinic. Acute cases may be caused by trauma
or other damage, and may improve over time with treatment. However, renal disease may
lead to chronic kidney failure, which may require dialysis treatments or even a kidney

Bladder cancer is diagnosed in about 75,000 Americans each year and is more frequent in
men and the elderly according. It is predicted that 81,190 new cases of bladder cancer (about
62,380 in men and 18,810 in women) and bout 17,240 deaths from bladder cancer (about
12,520 in men and 4,720 in women) will occur in 2018, according to American Cancer
Society. The symptoms, including back or pelvic pain, difficulty urinating and urgent/and or
frequent urination, mimic other diseases or disorders of the urinary system.

Bladder: Facts, Function & Diseases

Two long tubes called ureters connect the bladder, which stores urine, to the kidneys, which
produce urine.
Credit: Nerthuz | Shutterstock

The bladder is a round, bag-like organ that stores urine. It is located in the pelvic area, just
below the kidneys and right behind the pelvic bone. While it is basically a fleshy storage
tank, it is very complex in its design.

The bladder is typically the size of a large grapefruit, according to the Weill Cornell Medical
College. It can stretch much larger when needed, though, and shrinks back when it is empty.
In fact, it can hold around 16 ounces (almost half a liter) of urine at one time for two to five
hours comfortably, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM).
It is normal to urinate around six to eight times in a 24-hour period, according to
the Cleveland Clinic. More frequent trips to the bathroom may indicate a problem with the
bladder, though it is common to urinate more as one ages.

The bladder is connected to the kidneys by two long tubes called ureters. When urine is
produced by the kidneys, it travels down the ureters to the bladder, where it is stored. The
bladder has four layers.

From the inside out, the epithelium is the first layer on the inside of the bladder. It acts as a
lining for the bladder. The lamina propria is the next layer. It consists of connective tissue,
muscle and blood vessels. Wrapped around the lamina propria is the layer called the
muscularis propria or detrusor muscle. According to John Hopkins Pathology, this layer
consists of thick, smooth muscle bundles. The final, outer layer is the perivesical soft tissue,
which is made up of fat, fibrous tissue and blood vessels.

The other parts of the bladder are located at the bottom of the sack. An opening at the bottom
of the bladder is connected to the urethra. A circular, muscular sphincter pinches tight to keep
the opening and the urethra from leaking urine.

When a person urinates, the detrusor muscles contract to squeeze the urine out of the bladder
while the sphincter relaxes to open the opening of the bladder and urethra. The opening at the
bottom of the bladder empties urine into the urethra, where it then empties from the body.

Diseases & conditions

Many diseases and conditions can originate in the bladder. "The most common bladder
problems I see in my practice in women are frequent urges to urinate and leakage of urine,"
said S. Adam Ramin, urologic surgeon and founder of Urology Cancer Specialists in Los
Angeles, California. Leakage and frequent urges often are caused by the decreased capacity
of the bladder and overactivity of the bladder. An overactive bladder can be caused by a wide
range of conditions, including constipation and excess caffeine in the system, according to
the Mayo Clinic. Leakage of urine, or incontinence,can also be caused by bladder spasms or
stress. A bladder sling is sometimes used to treat stress urinary incontinence.

"The most common bladder problems in men are frequent urination at nights and incomplete
bladder emptying. This is usually due to an enlarged prostate causing obstruction of bladder
emptying," Ramin told Live Science.

Bladder infections may be another cause of frequent urination. Bladder infections, also called
cystitis, are among the most common bacterial infections, according to Harvard Health.
Around one-third of all females get a bladder infection at least once. Some of the symptoms
include burning or pain during urination, needing to urinate a lot though only a small amount
of urine is passed each time, sudden needs to urinate, lower abdomen pain and cloudy or
bloody urine.
Another problem that can originate in the bladder is bladder cancer. About 577,400 people in
the United States live with bladder cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. It
typically affects older people, though younger people have been known to develop bladder
cancer, according to the Mayo Clinic. Some symptoms of bladder cancer include blood in the
urine, frequent or painful urination and back or pelvic pain.
An anterior prolapse, also called a prolapsed bladder or cystocele, is a bladder problem
specific to females. It happens when the tissue between a woman's bladder and vaginal wall
weakens due to a strain. The weakening allows the tissue to stretch and the bladder bulges
into the vagina, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Bladder stones are caused by concentrated urine that crystalizes in the bladder. Typically,
people who have problems emptying their bladder have problems with bladder stones,
according to the Mayo Clinic. Though many bladder stones are so small they can barely be
seen with the human eye, one man was found to have an egg-shaped bladder stone that
weighed 1.7 lbs. (770 grams) and measured 4.7 inches by 3.7 inches by 3 inches (12 by 9.5
by 7.5 centimeters). This isn't the largest bladder stone on record, though. The largest bladder
stone was 7 inches long, 5 inches thick and 3.7 inches tall (17.9 by 12.7 by 9.5 cm), and
weighed 4.2 lbs. (1.9 kg), according to Guinness World Records. [Related: This Man's
Bladder Stone Was Almost as Big as an Ostrich Egg]

Promoting good bladder health

Sometimes, there is no choice but to hold urine, but it may not be good for the bladder.
"Holding your urine for a short period of time, usually up to one hour, is typically okay,"
Ramin said. "However, protracted and repeated holding of urine may cause over-expansion
of bladder capacity, transmission of excess pressure into the kidneys, and the inability to
completely empty the bladder. These problems in turn may lead to UTI [urinary tract
infection], cystitis and deterioration of kidney function."

Drinking plenty of water throughout the day can also help prevent bladder stones by
preventing the concentration of minerals that cause the stones. The Mayo Clinic suggests
asking a medical profession about how much water the body needs according to age, size and
activity level.
Human Brain: Facts, Functions & Anatomy

The human brain weighs about 3 pounds (1.4 kilograms).

Credit: Alex Mit | Shutterstock

The human brain is the command center for the human nervous system. It receives signals
from the body's sensory organs and outputs information to the muscles. The human brain has
the same basic structure as other mammal brains but is larger in relation to body size than any
other brains.

Facts about the human brain

 The human brain is the largest brain of all vertebrates relative to body size.
 It weighs about 3.3 lbs. (1.5 kilograms).
 The average male has a brain volume of 1,274 cubic centimeters (cm3).
 The average female brain has a volume of 1,131 cm3.
 The brain makes up about 2 percent of a human's body weight.
 The cerebrum makes up 85 percent of the brain's weight.
 It contains about 86 billion nerve cells (neurons) — the "gray matter."
 It contains billions of nerve fibers (axons and dendrites) — the "white matter."
 These neurons are connected by trillions of connections, or synapses.

Anatomy of the human brain

The largest part of the human brain is the cerebrum, which is divided into two hemispheres,
according to the Mayfield Clinic. Underneath lies the brainstem, and behind that sits the
cerebellum. The outermost layer of the cerebrum is the cerebral cortex, which consists of four
lobes: the frontal, parietal, temporal and occipital. [Related: Nervous System: Facts,
Functions & Diseases]

Like all vertebrate brains, the human brain develops from three sections known as the
forebrain, midbrain and hindbrain. Each of these contains fluid-filled cavities called
ventricles. The forebrain develops into the cerebrum and underlying structures; the midbrain
becomes part of the brainstem; and the hindbrain gives rise to regions of the brainstem and
the cerebellum.


The cerebral cortex is greatly enlarged in human brains and is considered the seat of complex
thought. Visual processing takes place in the occipital lobe, near the back of the skull. The
temporal lobe processes sound and language, and includes the hippocampus and amygdala,
which play roles in memory and emotion, respectively. The parietal lobe integrates input
from different senses and is important for spatial orientation and navigation.

The brainstem connects to the spinal cord and consists of the medulla oblongata, pons and
midbrain. The primary functions of the brainstem include relaying information between the
brain and the body; supplying some of the cranial nerves to the face and head;
and performing critical functions in controlling the heart, breathing and consciousness.
Between the cerebrum and brainstem lie the thalamus and hypothalamus. The thalamus relays
sensory and motor signals to the cortex and is involved in regulating consciousness, sleep and
alertness. The hypothalamus connects the nervous system to the endocrine system — where
hormones are produced — via the pituitary gland.

The cerebellum lies beneath the cerebrum and has important functions in motor control. It
plays a role in coordination and balance and may also have some cognitive functions.

Humans vs. other animals

Overall brain size doesn't correlate with level of intelligence. For instance, the brain of a
sperm whale is more than five times heavier than the human brain but humans are considered
to be of higher intelligence than sperm whales. The more accurate measure of how intelligent
an animal may be is the ratio between the size of the brain and the body size, according to
the University of California San Diego's Temporal Dynamics of Learning Center.
Among humans, however, brain size doesn't indicate how smart someone is. Some geniuses
in their field have smaller- than-average brains, while others larger than average, according to
Christof Koch, a neuroscientist and president of the Allen Institute for Brain Science in
Seattle. For example, compare the brains of two highly acclaimed writers. The Russian
novelist Ivan Turgenev's brain was found to be 2,021 grams, while writer Anatole France's
brain weighed only 1,017 grams.

Humans have a very high brain-weight-to-body-weight ratio, but so do other animals. The
reason why the human's intelligence, in part, is neurons and folds. Humans have more
neurons per unit volume than other animals, and the only way to do that with the brain's
layered structure is to make folds in the outer layer, or cortex, said Eric Holland, a
neurosurgeon and cancer biologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the
University of Washington.

"The more complicated a brain gets, the more gyri and sulci, or wiggly hills and valleys, it
has," Holland told Live Science. Other intelligent animals, such as monkeys and dolphins,
also have these folds in their cortex, whereas mice have smooth brains, he said.
Humans also have the largest frontal lobes of any animal, Holland said. The frontal lobes are
associated with higher-level functions such as self-control, planning, logic and abstract
thought — basically, "the things that make us particularly human," he said.

Left brain vs. right brain

The human brain is divided into two hemispheres, the left and right, connected by a bundle of
nerve fibers called the corpus callosum. The hemispheres are strongly, though not entirely,
symmetrical. The left brain controls all the muscles on the right-hand side of the body and the
right brain controls the left side. One hemisphere may be slightly dominant, as with left- or

The popular notions about "left brain" and "right brain" qualities are generalizations that are
not well supported by evidence. Still, there are some important differences between these
areas. The left brain contains regions involved in speech and language (called the Broca's
area and Wernicke's area, respectively) and is also associated with mathematical calculation
and fact retrieval, Holland said. The right brain plays a role in visual and auditory processing,
spatial skills and artistic ability — more instinctive or creative things, Holland said — though
these functions involve both hemispheres. "Everyone uses both halves all the time," he said.

BRAIN Initiative
In April 2013, President Barack Obama announced a scientific grand challenge known as
the BRAIN Initiative, short for Brain Research through Advancing
Innovative Neurotechnologies. The $100-million-plus effort aimed to develop new
technologies that will produce a dynamic picture of the human brain, from the level of
individual cells to complex circuits.
Like other major science efforts such as the Human Genome Project, although it's expensive,
it's usually worth the investment, Holland said. Scientists hope the increased understanding
will lead to new ways to treat, cure and prevent brain disorders.

The project contains members from several government agencies, including the National
Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Defense
Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), as well as private research organizations,
including the Allen Institute for Brain Science and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in
Chevy Chase, Maryland.

In March 2013, the project's backers outlined their goals in the journal Science. In September
2014, the NIH announced $46 million in BRAIN Initiative grants. Members of industry
pledged another $30 million to support the effort, and major foundations and universities also
agreed to apply more than $240 million of their own research toward BRAIN Initiative goals.
When the project was announced, President Obama convened a commission to evaluate the
ethical issues involved in research on the brain. In May 2014, the commission released
the first half of its report, calling for ethics to be integrated early and explicitly in
neuroscience research. In March 2015, the commission released the second half of the report,
which focused on issues of cognitive enhancement, informed consent and using neuroscience
in the legal system.
The Brain Initiative has achieved several of its goals. As of 2018, the National Institutes of
Health (NIH) has "invested more than $559 million in the research of more than 500
scientists," and Congress appropriated "close to $400 million in NIH funding for fiscal year
2018," according to the initiative's website. The research funding facilitated the development
of new brain-imaging and brain-mapping tools, and helped create the BRAIN Initiative Cell
Census Network — an effort to catalog the brain's "parts' list." Together, these efforts
contribute to major advancements in understanding the brain.

Colon (Large Intestine): Facts, Function & Disease

The large intestine, also called the colon, is part of the final stages of digestion. It is a large
tube that escorts waste from the body.
Credit: S K Chavan | Shutterstock

The body has two types of intestines. The small intestine is connected to the stomach and
handles the middle part of the digestion process. The large intestine, also called the colon, is
part of the final stages of digestion. It is a large tube that escorts waste from the body.

The colon is much wider than the small intestine, but is also much shorter. According to
the Cleveland Clinic, the small intestine is 22 feet (6.7 meters) long. The colon is only 6 feet
(1.8 m) long.

This 6 feet of dense muscle is divided into four parts: the ascending colon, the transverse
colon, the descending colon and the sigmoid colon. Each part represents a location in the
broken rectangle shape that the colon makes in the body. The ascending colon is the right arm
of the broken rectangle. The beginning of the ascending colon is called the cecum. The
cecum is connected to the small intestine and the appendix.

The transverse colon is the top arm that spans from the left side to the right side like a bridge.
The left arm is called the descending colon. The sigmoid is the “broken” part of the rectangle
that creates an S-shape that hangs off of the descending colon. It empties into the rectum.

The function of the large intestine is to get rid of food left over after the nutrients are
removed from it, bacteria and other waste. This process is called peristalsis and can take
around 36 hours, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

First, liquid and salt is removed from the waste as it passes through the colon. Then, the
waste makes its way to the sigmoid, where it is stored. Once or twice per day, when the body
is ready for a bowel movement, the waste is dumped into the rectum.

Diseases & conditions

There are many diseases and conditions that are associated with the colon. Colorectal cancer
is cancer that occurs in the colon or in the lower colon near the rectum. It is one of the most
common causes of cancer-associated death. The American Cancer Society estimates there
will be 93,090 new cases of colon cancer in the United States in 2015 and one in 20 will get
colorectal cancer in their lifetime.
Polyps are an abnormal growth of tissue on the inner lining of the colon or rectum that are
benign, non-cancerous tumors, according to the American Cancer Society. These polyps can
sometimes turn into cancer, but many times do not. There are several types of polyps.
Adenomatous polyps can change into cancer and are considered pre-cancerous. Hyperplastic
polyps and inflammatory polyps are not typically pre-cancerous, though some in the medical
community think they may be signs of future colon cancer, according to the American Cancer
Society. Doctors usually remove all polyps, just in case.

Colon dysplasia is when a spot of cells on the lining of the colon look abnormal under a
microscope. These cells are not cancerous, but can change into cancer over time. People who
have had diseases such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease for many years can develop
colon dysplasia.

Spastic colon, also called irritable bowel syndrome, is more than just a colon problem. It is
the spontaneous contractions or loss of movement of the muscles in the small and large
intestines, according to the

Ears: Facts, Function & Disease

The ears not only provide the ability to hear, but also make it possible for maintain balance.

The ear isn’t just the hearing organ. It is a complex system of parts that not only allows
humans to hear, but also makes it possible for humans to walk.
Ears come in many shapes and sizes. Typically, men’s ears are larger than women’s,
according to a study in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. Researchers also
found that the average ear is about 2.5 inches (6.3 centimeters) long, and the average ear lobe
is 0.74 inches (1.88 cm) long and 0.77 inches (1.96 cm) wide. They also noted that the ear
does indeed get larger as a person ages.
Another study at Texas Tech University confirmed this observation. The study found that as
people age, the ear's circumference increases on average 0.51 millimeters per year, likely due
to aging changes of collagen. A correlation between age and ear circumference can be put
into an equation: Ear circumference in mm = 88.1 + (0.51 x subject's age). Conversely, a
person’s age can therefore be calculated by the size of a person’s ear, using the
equation: Subject's age = 1.96 x (Ear circumference in mm – 88.1)

The ear has three main parts: external ear, middle ear and inner ear. They all have different,
but important, features that facilitate hearing and balance.

The external ear, also called the auricle or pinna, is the loop of cartilage and skin that is
attached to outside of the head. It works much like a megaphone. Sound is funneled through
the external ear and piped into the external auditory canal, according to Nebraska
Medicine. The auditory canal is the part of the ear hole that can easily be seen when looking
an ear up close.

The sound waves pass through the auditory canal and reach the tympanic membrane, better
known as the eardrum. Just like a drum being hit be a drumstick, the thin sheet of connective
tissue vibrates when sound waves strike it.

The vibrations pass through the tympanic membrane and enter the middle ear, also called the
tympanic cavity. The tympanic cavity is lined with mucosa and filled with air and the
auditory ossicles, which are three tiny bones called the malleus (hammer), incus (anvil), and
stapes (stirrup), according to Encyclopedia Britannica.
As the bones vibrate, the stapes pushes a structure called the oval window in and out,
according to the National Library of Medicine (NLM). This action is passed on to the inner
ear and the cochlea, a fluid-filled, spiral-shaped structure that contains the spiral organ of
Corti, which is the receptor organ for hearing. Tiny hair cells in this organ translate the
vibrations into electrical impulses that are carried to the brain by sensory nerves.
Anatomy of the ear.
Credit: Alila Medical Media Shutterstock

The Eustachian tube, or pharyngotympanic tube, in the middle ear equalizes air pressure in
the middle ear with the air pressure in the atmosphere. This process helps humans retain their

The vestibular complex, in the inner ear, is also important to balance because it contains
receptors that regulate a sense of equilibrium. The inner ear is connected to the
vestibulocochlear nerve, which carries sound and equilibrium information to the brain.

Diseases & conditions

Ears are delicate organs that can often have problems due to damage, bacteria or even
changes in the environment.

Ear infections are the most common illness in babies and younger children, according to the
NLM. Common symptoms of ear infections are drainage from the ear, hearing loss, earache,
fever, headaches, pain in the ear and a feeling of fullness in the ear, according to
the American Academy of Family Physicians.
Meniere's disease a disease of the inner ear that may be the result of fluid problems inside the
ear. Symptoms include hearing loss, pressure or pain, dizziness and tinnitus. Tinnitus is a
roaring in the ears. It can also be caused by loud noises, medicines or a variety of other

Ear barotrauma is an injury to the ear due to changes in barometric or water pressure,
according to the NLM. It typically occurs during flights in an airplane, traveling to places at
high altitudes or diving into deep waters. Symptoms include pain, stuffy ears, hearing loss
and dizziness. Barotrauma can usually be fixed by “popping” the ears by yawning, chewing
gum or trying to blow outward while keeping the nose pinched and mouth closed.

Ear wax, also called cerumen, has antibacterial properties and also lubricates and protects the
ear. Normal amounts shouldn’t bother most people, though sometimes, wax can build up and
should be removed, according to The American Academy of Otolaryngology. Symptoms of
wax build-up is a feeling of blockage in the ears, coughing, odor, discharge, itching and
hearing loss.
Hearing typically declines with age naturally, though damage to the ear can cause hearing
loss at a very young age. “We are seeing more and more patients with significant hearing loss
as early as the late teenaged years," Dr. Sreekant Cherukuri, a board-certified
otolaryngologist based in Chicago and the founder of MDHearingAid, told Live Science.
"Noise-induced hearing loss is a growing problem in this country. We are connected to
phones and music players, often for hours each day. When our ears are exposed to harmful
noise, delicate cells in the inner ear become damaged. Unfortunately, the damage is
cumulative over time.”

Promoting good ear health

Once hearing is gone, it is impossible to repair it naturally. Most patients with hearing loss
need surgery or hearing aids. “The good news is that this is 100 percent preventable," said
Cherukuri. "I tell my patients to follow the 60-60 rule when they use earbuds or headphones:
no more than 60 percent of full volume for no longer than 60 minutes at a time."

People who participate in noisy activities or hobbies, such as sporting events, music concerts,
shooting sports, motorcycle riding or mowing the lawn, should also wear earplugs or noise-
canceling or noise-blocking headphones to help protect the ears.

Careful cleaning is another way to prevent hearing loss and damage. The American Academy
of Otolaryngology suggests cleaning the external ear with a cloth. Then, put a few drops of
mineral oil, baby oil, glycerin, or commercial drops in the ear to soften the wax and help it
drain out of the ear. A few drops of hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide may also help.
Never insert anything into the ear.
Esophagus: Facts, Functions & Diseases

The esophagus is a tube that connects the throat and the stomach.
Credit: Nerthuz | Shutterstock

If the mouth is the gateway to the body, then the esophagus is a highway for food and drink
to travel along to make it to the stomach. This body part has a very simple function, but can
have many disorders.

The esophagus is a tube that connects the throat (pharynx) and the stomach. It is about 8
inches (20 centimeters) long. The esophagus isn’t just a hollow tube that food slips down like
a water slide, though. The esophagus is made of muscles that contract to move food to the
stomach. This process is called peristalsis, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

At the top of the esophagus is a band of muscle called the upper esophageal sphincter.
Another band of muscle, the lower esophageal sphincter is at the bottom of the tube, slightly
above the stomach. When a person swallows, these sphincters relax so food can pass into the
stomach. When not in use, they contract so food and stomach acid do not flow back up the


Conditions and diseases

As a person ages, the sphincters weaken, making some people more prone to backflow of
acid from the stomach, a condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD
can cause severe damage to the esophagus, according to the National Library of Medicine.

“GERD is due to the reflux of acid contents of the stomach that get refluxed up into the
esophagus," Dr. Lisa Ganjhu, a clinical assistant professor of medicine and gastroenterologist
at NYU Langone Medical Center, told Live Science. "Acid is not meant to be in the
esophagus so the symptoms of that may be a burning sensation in the chest, the pain can be
so intense that it feels like a heart attack. It is always best to seek medical attention if you are
having those symptoms.”

Some people are sensitive to certain foods that lower the pressure of the lower esophageal
sphincter and this allows the acid to wash up into the esophagus. Anxiety also increases the
sensitivity of the esophagus so the sensation is more severe.

GERD can also cause esophagus ulcers. An ulcer is an open sore that, in this case, is located
in the esophagus. Some symptoms are pain, nausea, heartburn and chest pain, according to
the University of Minnesota Medical Center.
Barrett’s esophagus is a condition that may occur when the lining of the esophagus changes
to be more like the lining of the intestine, according to The National Institute of Diabetes and
Digestive and Kidney Diseases. This condition can turn into a rare cancer called esophageal
adenocarcinoma. There is no known cause of this disorder, but doctors have found that those
with GERD are more likely to get Barrett’s.
According to the American Cancer Society, esophageal cancer typically has no symptoms
until it is advanced. Symptoms include difficulty swallowing (also called dysphagia), chest
pain and weight loss.
Esophagus spasms, also called "nutcracker esophagus," are unexplained muscle contractions
of the esophagus that can be quite painful, according to the Mayo Clinic. One of the
symptoms is severe, sudden chest pain and, if the spasms are frequent, they can prevent

Another disorder that can prevent swallowing is motor neuron disease. Motor neuron diseases
(MND) affecting millions of Americans, with over 100,000 diagnosed annually. Between 80
to 95 percent of people living with MND experience some loss of speech and swallowing
before they die, according to a press release by Johns Hopkins. “The disease really is
characterized by, and for the most part, normal mental function, normal sensation," said Dr.
Nicholas Maragakis, co-medical director of The Johns Hopkins ALS Clinic. "Patients
gradually get weaker, over time. Unlike stroke, it’s not a disease that happens overnight.”

Promoting good esophagus health

Ganjhu gave these tips for the best way to prevent reflux of food and acid into the esophagus
and ways to help treat GERD:

 Eat small meals so that the food does not sit in the stomach and instead moves on to the small
bowel to be further digested.
 Try acid-blocking medications.
 Avoid or reduce consumption of foods and beverages that contain caffeine, chocolate,
peppermint, spearmint and alcohol.
 Avoid all carbonated drinks.
 Cut down on fatty foods.
 Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, although it may best to avoid acidic vegetables and fruits
(such as oranges, lemons, grapefruit, pineapple and tomatoes) if they bother you.
 Quit smoking.
 Overweight people should try to diet and exercise to lose weight. A starting goal is to lose 5 to 10
percent of your present weight.
 People with GERD should avoid wearing tight clothing, particularly around the abdomen.
 If possible, GERD patients should avoid nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as
aspirin, ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) or naproxen (Aleve).
 After meals, take a walk or stay upright.
 Avoid bedtime snacks. In general, do not eat for at least two hours before bedtime.
 When going to bed, try lying on the left side rather than the right side. The stomach is located
higher than the esophagus while sleeping on the right side, which can put pressure on the lower
esophageal sphincter (LES), increasing the risk for fluid backup.
 Sleep in a tilted position to help keep acid in the stomach at night. To do this, raise the bed at an
angle using 4- to 6-inch (10 to 15 centimeters) blocks under the head of the bed. Use a wedge
support to elevate the top half of your body. Extra pillows that only raise the head actually
increase the risk for reflux.

How the Human Eye Works

Perfect vision is described as 20/20 vision.

Credit: IKO | Shutterstock
The human eye belongs to a general group of eyes found in nature called "camera-type eyes."
Just as a camera lens focuses light onto film, a structure in the eye called the cornea focuses
light onto a light-sensitive membrane called the retina.

Structure of the eye

The cornea is a transparent structure found in the very front of the eye that helps to focus
incoming light. Situated behind the pupil is a colorless, transparent structure called the
crystalline lens. A clear fluid called the aqueous humor fills the space between the cornea and
the iris.

"The cornea focuses most of the light, then it passes through the lens, which continues to
focus the light," explained Dr. Mark Fromer, an ophthalmologist and retina specialist at
Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. [The 7 Biggest Mysteries of the Human Body]

Behind the cornea is a colored, ring-shaped membrane called the iris. The iris has an
adjustable circular opening called the pupil, which can expand or contract to control the
amount of light entering the eye, Fromer said.

Ciliary muscles surround the lens. The muscles hold the lens in place but they also play an
important role in vision. When the muscles relax, they pull on and flatten the lens, allowing
the eye to see objects that are far away. To see closer objects clearly, the ciliary muscle must
contract in order to thicken the lens.

The interior chamber of the eyeball is filled with a jelly-like tissue called the vitreous humor.
After passing through the lens, light must travel through this humor before striking the
sensitive layer of cells called the retina.
The retina
Fromer explained that the retina is the innermost of three tissue layers that make up the eye.
The outermost layer, called the sclera, is what gives most of the eyeball its white color. The
cornea is also a part of the outer layer.

The middle layer between the retina and sclera is called the choroid. The choroid contains
blood vessels that supply the retina with nutrients and oxygen and remove its waste
products. [Image Gallery: Eye Implant Restores Some Vision to Blind]

Embedded in the retina are millions of light sensitive cells, which come in two main varieties:
rods and cones.

Rods are used for monochrome vision in poor light, while cones are used for color and for the
detection of fine detail. Cones are packed into a part of the retina directly behind the retina
called the fovea, which is responsible for sharp central vision.

When light strikes either the rods or the cones of the retina, it's converted into an electric
signal that is relayed to the brain via the optic nerve. The brain then translates the electrical
signals into the images a person sees, Fromer said.

Vision problems/diseases
The most common problems with vision are nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness,
(hyperopia), a defect in the eye caused by nonspherical curvature (astigmatism) and age-
related farsightedness (presbyopia), according to the National Eye Institute.

Most people will develop presbyopia in their 40s or 50s, and start needing reading glasses,
Fromer said. With age, the lens gets denser, making it harder for the ciliary muscles to bend
the lens, he said.

The leading causes of blindness in the United States include cataracts (clouding of the lens),
age-related macular degeneration (deterioration of the central retina), glaucoma (damage to
the optic nerve), and diabetic retinopathy (damage to retinal blood vessels), according to the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Other common disorders include
amblyopia ("lazy eye") and strabismus (crossed eyes), the CDC says.
Gallbladder: Function, Problems & Healthy Diet

The gallbladder, shown in red, lies beneath the liver within the torso.
Credit: Sebastian Kaulitzki | Dreamstime

The gallbladder is an organ that is part of the human biliary system, which is involved with
the production, storage and transportation of bile. Bile is a yellowish-brown fluid produced
by the liver and used to break up and digest fatty foods in the small intestine.

The gallbladder is not absolutely necessary for human survival, as bile can reach the small
intestine in other ways, according to Britain's National Health Service. Some problems
associated with the gallbladder are gallstones, gallbladder attack and gallbladder disease.
Gallbladder pain is usually caused by biliary colic, gallstones, cholecystitis, pancreatitis and
cholangitis, according to MedicineNet.

Gallstones are somewhat common. In fact, up to 20 million Americans have gallstones,
according to National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDKD).
Only around 20 percent of these stones cause problems, though, according to the World
Gastroenterology Organization.

Gallstones are solidified particles of substances in the bile. They are made of a "combination
of bile salts, cholesterol and bilirubin," said Jordan Knowlton, an advanced registered nurse
practitioner at the University of Florida Health Shands Hospital. Gallstones can be as small as
a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball, according to The Oregon Clinic.

"Gallstones can be painful, and cause obstruction," Knowlton said. "Depending on where the
obstruction is, [it] causes a variety of problems: gallbladder obstruction (cholecystitis), biliary
tree obstruction (jaundice) and pancreatic duct obstruction (pancreatitis)." Gallstones can
block the gallbladder ducts so that bile cannot reach the small intestine as effectively, which
may prevent the gallbladder from doing its job and can lead to other gallbladder diseases.

Knowlton explained that while most gallstones pass on their own, some require a minor
procedure or even surgery. "Diagnosis can be made by labs, ultrasound, or Hida scan," she
According to the Mayo Clinic, factors that contribute to the risk of gallstones include obesity,
high-fat or high-cholesterol diets, diabetes and taking medicines with estrogen. Women,
people over 60, Native Americans and Mexican-Americans are also at a higher level of risk.

Gallstones can range in size from a grain of sand to a golf ball.

Credit: Roblanshutterstock

Gallbladder attack
Gallstones can cause sudden pain that is called a gallbladder attack, according to the National
Institutes of Health (NIH). Gallbladder attacks are usually the result of the gallstone blocking
the bile ducts, thereby increasing pressure in the gallbladder. They usually occur soon after
eating, especially heavy meals. According to the NIH, they can last from one to several hours
or, according to the Mayo Clinic, as little as several minutes. The University of Maryland
Medical Center lists the following as symptoms of a gallbladder attack: nausea, vomiting,
loss of appetite and pain primarily in the upper right side of the abdomen. Pain may be acute
or dull, and may be accompanied by jaundice. These symptoms can last from 15 minutes to a
few hours.
The University of California San Francisco Department of Surgery pointed out that the
symptoms of a gallbladder attack might be similar to those of a heart attack and other
conditions, so it is important to consult a doctor for a correct diagnosis.

Gallbladder disease
There are several types of gallbladder disease:

Cholecystitis is the most common type of gallbladder disease, and often what medical
professionals associate with the phrase. Knowlton described it as "inflammation of the
gallbladder." It is caused by gallstones obstructing the ducts to the small intestine. In addition
to upper right abdominal pain, Knowlton said, cholecystitis carries with it a variety of
symptoms, "including fever, positive Murphy's sign [pain when the abdominal area is
examined], nausea and vomiting." She said, "treatment depends on the severity of the
symptoms ... this can often be managed by rest and antibiotics, but for severe cases, surgery
is the definitive treatment."
Calculous cholecystitis is the most common type of cholecystitis and accounts for around 95
percent of all cases. This happens when the cystic duct specifically gets blocked by a
gallstone or a type of bile called biliary sludge.
According to the NIH, after several attacks of pain, chronic cholecystitis may occur. This
involves the gallbladder shrinking and losing its function.
"Those prone to gallbladder disease usually fall into the "5 F's": fair, fat, 40, female, and
flatulent!" said Knowlton.

Choledocholithiasis is the "presence of at least one gallstone in the common bile duct,"
according to Penn Medicine. It can block the flow of bile and cause the gallbladder to
become inflamed or distended.
Acalculous gallbladder disease occurs without the presence of gallstones, according to the
University of Maryland Medical Center. It happens when the gallbladder muscles or valve are
not working correctly, and is often found in patients who are suffering from other serious
Cholangitis is inflammation in the common bile duct. According to the Medical University
of South Carolina's Digestive Disease Center, the most common cause is gallstones becoming
lodged in the bile duct, though the condition can also be caused by bacterial infections,
blockages caused by medical procedures, and tumors.
Gallbladder cancer is relatively rare, according to the Mayo Clinic. It can be difficult to
diagnose because its symptoms are similar to other gallbladder ailments (nausea, vomiting,
jaundice, fever).
Gallbladder polyps are lesions or growths in the gallbladder that are usually harmless and
carry no symptoms, according to Healthline. The University of Southern California Center
for Pancreatic and Biliary Diseases, however, warns that they can occasionally be a risk
factor for gallbladder cancer.
Gangrene results from inadequate blood flow and can develop in the gallbladder if acute
cholecystitis is left untreated. The NIH lists the following symptoms: confusion, fever, gas in
tissues under the skin, feeling ill, low blood pressure and persistent pain.
Abscesses occur when the gallbladder becomes inflamed with pus. Like gangrene, it can
occur as a complication of acute cholecystitis, according to The New York Times.

Gallbladder surgery and removal

According to the Mayo Clinic, when dealing with gallstones, doctors often recommend
removing the gallbladder through surgery. If the problem does not involve gallstones,
antibiotics are often the first treatment. But if the problem persists, the gallbladder will often
be surgically removed. Around half a million people go through gallbladder removal each
year, according to Brattleboro Memorial Hospital.
The most common and least invasive method of gallbladder removal is laparoscopic surgery.
The NIH explained that in this procedure, the surgeon makes three or four small holes in the
belly, inserts a laparoscope — a long tube with a camera — and then removes the gallbladder
with tiny surgical tools.
If laparoscopic surgery cannot be performed, the doctor may remove the gallbladder through
open abdominal surgery, according to the NIH.

Both forms of surgery are done under general anesthesia.

Diet for a healthy gallbladder

Maintaining a healthy diet and weight go a long way in keeping the gallbladder healthy. "You
should eat a well-balanced diet with fruits, veggies, lean meats and fiber," advised Knowlton.
According to New Health Guide, foods that are particularly good for the gallbladder are:
Fresh, fiber-rich fruits and vegetables: Some great ones are avocados, cranberries, berries,
grapes, cucumbers and beets. Broccoli, bell peppers and oranges are high in fiber and vitamin
C, which if lacking can contribute to gallstones. Pectin-rich fruits — such as apples,
strawberries and citrus — can also help, according to Radishes are a terrific
option because they increase bile flow, but those already suffering from gallbladder problems
shouldn't eat too many of them.
Lean meat, fish and poultry: The least fatty cuts are loins or "rounds," according to New
Health Guide. Any type of fish, pork, lamb and skinless chicken are also good choices.
Whole grains: These include oats, bran cereal and brown rice. Try breads and cereals that
contain whole, various grains and high amounts of fiber.
Low-fat dairy: Pay attention to the fat content in any type of dairy food.
Caffeinated coffee and alcohol: Studies have actually shown that moderate amounts
(typically two drinks per day) of alcohol or caffeine from coffee may reduce the risk of
gallstones. Caffeine from sources other than coffee, such as tea and soda, has not been shown
to have a beneficial effect.
Plenty of water: advises this one, pointing out that hydration is essential for
maintaining the proper amount of water in the bile.
Nuts: The jury is still out on nuts. According to Everyday Health, some studies have shown
that eating peanuts or tree nuts such as almonds and walnuts can help prevent gallstones, but
it is important not to eat too many because nuts are high in fat.

Keeping away from certain foods can help, too. "Avoid fatty, fried foods, and limit alcohol!"
cautioned Knowlton. According to New Health Guide, some other foods to steer clear of are:

Sweeteners, sugar, and refined carbohydrates: This includes high-fructose corn syrup and
refined sugars, like those found in cookies, soda and snack foods.
Frozen or canned fruits and vegetables: They may have additives that make it harder for
the gallbladder to do its work.
White flour foods: This includes white bread, pasta and many desserts.
Processed snacks: Potato chips, cookies, pies — almost any packaged snack are bad for your
High-fat foods: Fried food, fatty cuts of meat, whole-milk dairy products and foods that are
highly processed should be avoided.
Very low-calorie diets: This generally means eating less than 1,000 calories a day. These
diets can increase gallstone formation.
Human Heart: Anatomy, Function & Facts

Credit: Dreamstime

The human heart is an organ that pumps blood throughout the body via the circulatory
system, supplying oxygen and nutrients to the tissues and removing carbon dioxide and other

"The tissues of the body need a constant supply of nutrition in order to be active," said Dr.
Lawrence Phillips, a cardiologist at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York. "If [the
heart] is not able to supply blood to the organs and tissues, they'll die."

Human heart anatomy

In humans, the heart is roughly the size of a large fist and weighs between about 10 to 12
ounces (280 to 340 grams) in men and 8 to 10 ounces (230 to 280 grams) in women,
according to Henry Gray's "Anatomy of the Human Body."

The physiology of the heart basically comes down to "structure, electricity and plumbing,"
Phillips told Live Science.

The human heart is about the size of a fist.

Credit: tlornaShutterstock

The human heart has four chambers: two upper chambers (the atria) and two lower ones (the
ventricles), according to the National Institutes of Health. The right atrium and right ventricle
together make up the "right heart," and the left atrium and left ventricle make up the "left
heart." A wall of muscle called the septum separates the two sides of the heart.

A double-walled sac called the pericardium encases the heart, which serves to protect the
heart and anchor it inside the chest. Between the outer layer, the parietal pericardium, and the
inner layer, the serous pericardium, runs pericardial fluid, which lubricates the heart during
contractions and movements of the lungs and diaphragm.

The heart's outer wall consists of three layers. The outermost wall layer, or epicardium, is the
inner wall of the pericardium. The middle layer, or myocardium, contains the muscle that
contracts. The inner layer, or endocardium, is the lining that contacts the blood.

The tricuspid valve and the mitral valve make up the atrioventricular (AV) valves, which
connect the atria and the ventricles. The pulmonary semi-lunar valve separates the right
ventricle from the pulmonary artery, and the aortic valve separates the left ventricle from the
aorta. The heartstrings, or chordae tendinae, anchor the valves to heart muscles.

The sinoatrial node produces the electrical pulses that drive heart contractions.

Human heart function

The heart circulates blood through two pathways: the pulmonary circuit and the systemic

In the pulmonary circuit, deoxygenated blood leaves the right ventricle of the heart via the
pulmonary artery and travels to the lungs, then returns as oxygenated blood to the left atrium
of the heart via the pulmonary vein.

In the systemic circuit, oxygenated blood leaves the body via the left ventricle to the aorta,
and from there enters the arteries and capillaries where it supplies the body's tissues with
oxygen. Deoxygenated blood returns via veins to the venae cavae, re-entering the heart's right

Of course, the heart is also a muscle, so it needs a fresh supply of oxygen and nutrients, too,
Phillips said.

The cardiovascular system circulates blood from the heart to the lungs and around the body via blood
Credit: The BioDigital HumanTM developed by NYU School of Medicine and BioDigital Systems LLC

"After the blood leaves the heart through the aortic valve, two sets of arteries bring
oxygenated blood to feed the heart muscle," he said. The left main coronary artery, on one
side of the aorta, branches into the left anterior descending artery and the left circumflex
artery. The right coronary artery branches out on the right side of the aorta.

Blockage of any of these arteries can cause a heart attack, or damage to the muscle of the
heart, Phillips said. A heart attack is distinct from cardiac arrest, which is a sudden loss of
heart function that usually occurs as a result of electrical disturbances of the heart rhythm. A
heart attack can lead to cardiac arrest, but the latter can also be caused by other problems, he

The heart contains electrical "pacemaker" cells, which cause it to contract — producing a

"Each cell has the ability to be the 'band leader' and [to] have everyone follow," Phillips said.
In people with an irregular heartbeat, or atrial fibrillation, every cell tries to be the band
leader, he said, which causes them to beat out of sync with one another.

A healthy heart contraction happens in five stages. In the first stage (early diastole), the heart
is relaxed. Then the atrium contracts (atrial systole) to push blood into the ventricle. Next, the
ventricles start contracting without changing volume. Then the ventricles continue
contracting while empty. Finally, the ventricles stop contracting and relax. Then the cycle

Valves prevent backflow, keeping the blood flowing in one direction through the heart.
Facts about the human heart
 A human heart is roughly the size of a large fist.
 The heart weighs between about 10 to 12 ounces (280 to 340 grams) in men and 8 to 10 ounces
(230 to 280 grams) in women.
 The heart beats about 100,000 times per day (about 3 billion beats in a lifetime).
 An adult heart beats about 60 to 80 times per minute.
 Newborns' hearts beat faster than adult hearts, about 70 to 190 beats per minute.
 The heart pumps about 6 quarts (5.7 liters) of blood throughout the body.
 The heart is located in the center of the chest, usually pointing slightly left.

Kidneys: Facts, Function & Disease

Kidneys are bean-shaped organs located on both sides of the spine, behind the stomach.
Credit: Lightspring | Shutterstock

Most people have two kidneys. They are bean-shaped organs located on both sides of the
spine, behind the stomach. Each one is about the size of an adult fist. Their main purpose is to
keep the composition of blood in the body balanced to maintain good health.

The kidneys filter extra water and toxins from the blood. The kidneys filter about 120 to 152
quarts (113 to 144 liters) of blood to create 1 to 2 quarts (0.94 to 1.8 l) of urine every day,
according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
They aren’t just one big filtering sponge, though. Each kidney is a system of millions of tiny
filters called nephrons. A nephron has two parts. The glomerulus is the first part of the
filter. It strains blood cells and large molecules from the toxins and fluid. The fluids and
toxins that pass through then go through the tubule. The tubule collects minerals that the body
needs and puts them back into the bloodstream and filters out more toxins.


While filtering, the kidneys produce urine to carry the toxins away. The urine is sent through
two tubes called ureters down to the bladder, where the urine then leaves the body through
the urethra.

The kidneys also make hormones. These hormones help regulate blood pressure, make red
blood cells and promote bone health.

Poor kidney care and genetics can cause a wide range of health problems. Chronic kidney
disease, also called chronic kidney failure, is when the kidneys slowly stop functioning. One
in three American adults are at high risk for developing kidney disease, according to
the National Kidney Foundation. There are many conditions that can cause kidney disease,
including type 1 and 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, obstructions in the urinary tract and
inflammation of various parts of the kidneys, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Kidney failure is the most severe stage of kidney disease. It occurs when kidneys stop
functioning without help. People with kidney failure need dialysis or a kidney transplant to
survive. People with healthy kidneys can donate part of a kidney or a whole kidney to those
in need without becoming sick, in most cases. Kidney transplants are one of the most
common surgeries in the United States, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Kidney cancer is the seventh most common type of cancer. According to the Mayo Clinic, the
most common type of kidney cancer is renal cell carcinoma. In the United States, 61,560
adults will be diagnosed with kidney cancer and renal pelvic cancer in 2015, and it will be the
cause of around 14,080 deaths in 2015, according to the American Society of Clinical
Kidney stones are exactly what they sound like. They are stones made from hardened
minerals and acid salts that collect in the kidneys, usually formed by concentrated urine. The
minerals in the urine crystalize and stick together, according to the Mayo Clinic. Though they
are very painful, they usually don’t cause any damage to the body.
Kidney infections, also called pyelonephritis, are usually caused by bacteria that enter the
urethra, ascend into the bladder and make their way to the kidneys, according to the Urology
Care Foundation. If a kidney infection goes untreated, it can cause permanent kidney

Promoting good kidney health

Proper care can keep kidneys running properly well into old age. One of the most important
things to remember is to stay hydrated. Kidneys need water to function properly and to carry
away toxins.
“In the most serious cases, dehydration can eventually harm the body causing seizures,
kidney failure and even death,” said Dr. Buck Parker, a trauma surgeon who also recently
appeared on NBC’s reality TV show “The Island.” Parker suggested that the best ways to
avoid dehydration included drinking water before you get thirsty, since thirst indicates
dehydration; eating foods, like fruits and vegetables, with a high water content; avoiding soda
or other caffeinated drinks; and limiting alcohol consumption.

Vitamins can be very important to the function and health of kidneys. “(Folic acid) helps to
reduce levels of homocysteine, which has been linked to heart disease, stroke and kidney
disease,” said Dr. Kristine Arthur, an internist at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in
Fountain Valley, California. Vitamin A is also very important to healthy kidney function.

Taking too much vitamin C, though, may lead to kidney stones, according to Arthur.

Another supplement that may cause trouble is calcium. “Some older women who get their
calcium from supplements rather than in their diet are more prone to kidney stones,” said
Dr. Linda Girgis, a family practice doctor in South River, New Jersey. “Many people falsely
assume that taking vitamins is healthy and safe, but this is not always the case. Sometimes
people take too much. It is very hard to get too much when ingesting it is food,” said Girgis.

Keeping blood pressure in check may also contribute to long-term good kidney health. A
study by the National Kidney Foundation found that moderately high blood pressure levels in
midlife might contribute to late-life kidney disease and kidney failure.
The American Kidney Fund also suggests avoiding a diet high in fat and salt, limiting
alcohol, avoiding tobacco and exercising most days as good ways to keep kidneys healthy.

Liver: Function, Failure & Disease

Credit: Sebastian Kaulitzki | Shutterstock

The liver is an abdominal glandular organ in the digestive system. It is located in the right
upper quadrant of the abdomen, under the diaphragm and on top of the stomach. The liver is
a vital organ that supports nearly every other organ to some capacity.
The liver is the body's second-largest organ (skin is the largest organ), according to the
American Liver Foundation (ALF), weighing about 3 lbs. (1.4 kilograms). At any given
moment, the liver holds about 1 pint (half a liter) of blood — about 13 percent of the body's
blood supply, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

The liver is shaped like a football, or a cone, and consists of two main lobes. Each lobe has
eight segments that consist of 1,000 small lobes, or lobules, according to Johns Hopkins. The
lobules are connected to ducts that transport bile to the gallbladder and small intestine.


"The liver has a complex role in the function of the body," said Jordan Knowlton, an
advanced registered nurse practitioner at the University of Florida Health Shands Hospital.
"Detoxification, metabolism (including regulation of glycogen storage), hormone regulation,
protein synthesis, digestion, and decomposition of red blood cells, to name a few."

In fact, more than 500 vital functions have been identified with the liver, according to Johns
Hopkins, including:

 Production of bile, which helps carry away waste and break down fats in the small intestine
during digestion.
 Production of certain proteins for blood plasma.
 Production of cholesterol and special proteins to help carry fats through the body
 Conversion of excess glucose into glycogen for storage (glycogen can later be converted back to
glucose for energy) and to balance and make glucose as needed
 Regulation of blood levels of amino acids, which form the building blocks of proteins
 Processing of hemoglobin for use of its iron content (the liver stores iron)
 Conversion of poisonous ammonia to urea (urea is an end product of protein metabolism and is
excreted in the urine)
 Clearing the blood of drugs and other poisonous substances
 Regulating blood clotting
 Resisting infections by making immune factors and removing bacteria from the bloodstream
 Clearance of bilirubin, also from red blood cells. If there is an accumulation of bilirubin, the skin
and eyes turn yellow.

One of the best-known roles of the liver is as a detoxification system. It removes toxic
substances from blood, such as alcohol and drugs, according to the Canadian Liver
Foundation. It also breaks down hemoglobin, insulin and excessive hormones to keep
hormone levels in balance. Additionally, it destroys old blood cells.
The liver is vital for healthy metabolic function. It metabolizes carbohydrates, lipids and
proteins into useful substances, such as glucose, cholesterol, phospholipids and lipoproteins
that are used in various cells throughout the body, according to Colorado State University's
Department of Biomedical Sciences' Hypertexts for Pathophysiology: Metabolic Functions of
the Liver. The liver breaks down the unusable parts of proteins and converts them into
ammonia, and eventually urea.

Liver disease
According to the Canadian Liver Foundation, there are more than 100 types of liver disease,
and they are caused by a variety of factors, such as viruses, toxins, genetics, alcohol and
unknown causes. The following are among the most common types of liver disease:
 Alagille syndrome
 Alpha 1 anti-trypsin deficiency
 Autoimmune hepatitis
 Biliary atresia
 Cirrhosis
 Cystic disease of the liver
 Fatty liver disease
 Galactosemia
 Gallstones
 Gilbert's syndrome
 Hemochromatosis
 Liver cancer
 Liver disease in pregnancy
 Neonatal hepatitis
 Primary biliary cirrhosis
 Primary sclerosing cholangitis
 Porphyria
 Reye's syndrome
 Sarcoidosis
 Toxic hepatitis
 Type 1 glycogen storage disease
 Tyrosinemia
 Viral hepatitis A, B, C
 Wilson disease
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), one symptom of liver disease is
jaundice — yellowish skin and eyes. Other symptoms include abdominal pain and swelling,
persistent itchy skin, dark urine, pale stools, bloody or black stools, exhaustion, bruising
easily, nausea and loss of appetite.

Fatty liver
There are two types of fatty liver, according to the Cleveland Clinic: that caused by excessive
alcohol consumption (fatty liver) and that which is not (non-alcoholic fatty liver or non-
alcoholic steatohepatitis).

Speaking of both conditions, Knowlton said, "Some fat on the liver is normal, but when it
starts to accumulate to greater than 5-10 percent, it can lead to permanent liver damage and
cirrhosis." It also increases the chance of liver failure or liver cancer. Fatty liver "can be
caused by genetics, obesity, diet, hepatitis, or alcohol abuse," said Knowlton. Other risk
factors include rapid weight loss, diabetes, high cholesterol, or high trigycerides, according to
the ALF.

Some people may get fatty liver even if they don't have any risk factors. Up to 25 percent of
the U.S. population suffers from fatty liver disease, according to the University of Michigan
Health System. There are no medical treatments for fatty liver disease, though avoiding
alcohol, eating a healthy diet, and exercising can help prevent or reverse fatty liver disease in
its early stages.

Enlarged liver
According to the Mayo Clinic, an enlarged liver (or hepatomegaly) isn't a disease itself, but a
sign of an underlying serious problem, such as liver disease, cancer or congestive heart
failure. There may be no symptoms of an enlarged liver, though if they are they are the same
as the symptoms for liver disease. Normally, the liver cannot be felt unless you take a deep
breath, but if it is enlarged, your doctor may be able to feel it, according to the NIH. The
doctor may then do scans, MRIs, or ultrasounds of the abdomen to determine if you have an
enlarged liver. Treatment will involve addressing the underlying problem.

Liver pain
Liver pain is felt in the upper right area of the abdomen, just below the ribs. Usually, it is a
dull, vague pain though it can sometimes be quite severe and may cause a backache.
Sometimes people perceive it as pain in the right shoulder. It is often confused with general
abdominal pain, back pain or kidney pain, according to New Health Guide. It can be hard to
pinpoint the exact location or cause of such pains, so it is important to see a doctor. Doctors
may do blood tests, ultrasounds or biopsies to determine the cause of pain.

Liver pain can be the result of a variety of causes. Some common causes are: ascites (fluid in
the abdomen), cirrhosis, hepatitis, liver failure, enlarged liver, liver abscess, and liver
Liver failure
Liver failure is an urgent, life-threatening medical condition. It means that the liver has lost
or is losing all of its function. "Livers typically fail gradually," said Knowlton, "but
sometimes [it] can be rapid." Early symptoms of liver failure are general, making it difficult
to know that the liver is failing. Knowlton said, "Symptoms of liver failure may include
nausea, appetite changes, fatigue, diarrhea, jaundice, easy bleeding." As the condition
worsens, she said symptoms might include "mental confusion and coma."

"Typical causes of liver failure include Tylenol overdose, viruses, hepatitis B & C, cirrhosis,
alcoholism, and some medications," said Knowlton. Georgia's Emory Healthcare stated that
there are two types of liver failure: chronic and acute. Chronic liver failure is the most
common type of liver failure. It is the result of malnutrition, disease and cirrhosis, and it can
develop slowly over years. Acute liver failure is rarer, and it can come on suddenly. Acute
liver failure is usually the result of poisoning or a drug overdose.

Liver failure treatments depend on the case. Knowlton said, "Treatment options are mostly
supportive (hospitalization and treatment until the liver recovers), but ultimately may require
liver transplantation."

Liver transplant
Donated livers can come from cadavers or living donors. In the case of living donors, the
donor donates part of his or her liver to another person, according to the American College of
Gastroenterology. The liver can regrow itself, so both people should end up with healthy,
functional livers. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney
Diseases the most common reason adults get liver transplants is cirrhosis, though transplants
can also be done for patients with various liver diseases or early stage liver cancer.
A liver transplant is a very serious surgery that may take up to 12 hours. According to
the Mayo Clinic, there are several risks involved with liver transplants, including:
 Bile duct complications, including leaks or shrinking
 Bleeding
 Blood clots
 Failure of donated liver
 Infection
 Memory and thinking problems
 Rejection of donated liver

If you have a liver transplant, you can expect to stay in the hospital for at least a week after
the surgery, to get regular checkups for at least three months, and to take anti-rejection and
other medications for the rest of your life. It will take six months to a year to feel fully healed
from the surgery.

Liver transplant success depends on the individual case. Transplants from cadavers have a 72
percent success rate, meaning that 72 percent of liver transplant recipients lived for at least
five years after the surgery. Transplants from living donors had a slightly higher success rate,
at 78 percent, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Things that can harm the liver

While some liver diseases are genetic, others are caused by viruses or toxins, such as drugs
and poisons. Some risk factors, according to the Mayo Clinic, include drug or heavy alcohol
consumption, having a blood transfusion before 1992, high levels of triglycerides in the
blood, diabetes, obesity and being exposed to other people's blood and bodily fluids. This can
happen from shared drug needles, unsanitary tattoo or body piercing needles, and unprotected
Pesticide exposure was associated with a 71 percent increased risk of liver cancer, according
to a meta-analysis of more than 480,000 participants in Asia, Europe and the U.S. Though the
study was large, more research needs to be done on what exact pesticides are the most
Alcohol is big player in liver damage. It is believed that alcohol could possibly change the
type of fungi living in the liver, leading to disease, according to a small study published May
22, 2017, in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. If this is true, it could lead to new treatment
options. The findings suggest that "we might be able to slow the progression of alcoholic
liver disease by manipulating the balance of fungal species living in a patient's intestine,"
study co-author Dr. Bernd Schnabl, an associate professor of gastroenterology at the
University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, said in a statement. [How Alcohol
& Gut Fungus Team Up to Damage Your Liver]

Lungs: Facts, Function and Diseases

The right lung is shorter than the left lung to make room for the liver. The left lung is
narrower than the right to make room for the heart.
Credit: Shutterstock

Lungs are sacks of tissue located just below the rib cage and above the diaphragm. They are
an important part of the respiratory system and waste management for the body.

A person's lungs are not the same size. The right lung is a little wider than the left lung, but it
is also shorter. According to York University, the right lung is shorter because it has to make
room for the liver, which is right beneath it. The left lung is narrower because it must make
room for the heart.

Typically, a man's lungs can hold more air than a woman's. At rest, a man's lungs can hold
around 750 cubic centimeters (about 1.5 pints) of air, while a woman's can hold around 285
to 393 cc (0.6 to 0.8 pints) of air, according to York University. "The lungs are over-
engineered to accomplish the job that we ask them to do," said Dr. Jonathan P. Parsons, a
professor of internal medicine, associate director of Clinical Services, and director of the
Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at the OSU Asthma Center
at The Ohio State University. "In healthy people without chronic lung disease, even at
maximum exercise intensity, we only use 70 percent of the possible lung capacity."


According to the American Lung Association, adults typically take 15 to 20 breaths a minute,
which comes to around 20,000 breaths a day. Babies tend to breath faster than adults. For
example, a newborn's normal breathing rate is about 40 times each minute while the average
resting respiratory rate for adults is 12 to 16 breaths per minute. [Respiratory System: Facts,
Function and Diseases]

Though breathing seems simple, it is a very complex process.

The right lung is divided into three different sections, called lobes. The left lung has just two
lobes. The lobes are made of sponge-like tissue that is surrounded by a membrane called
pleura, which separates the lungs from the chest wall. Each lung half has its own pleura sack.
This is why, when one lung is punctured, the other can go on working.

The lungs are like bellows. When they expand, they pull air into the body. When they
compress, they expel carbon dioxide, a waste gas that bodies produce. Lungs do not have
muscles to pump air in and out, though. The diaphragm and rib cage essentially pump the

As a person breathes, air travels down the throat and into the trachea, also known as the
windpipe. The trachea divides into smaller passages called the bronchial tubes. The bronchial
tubes go into each lung. The bronchial tubes branch out into smaller subdivisions throughout
each side of the lung. The smallest branches are called bronchioles and each bronchiole has
an air sac, also called alveoli. There are around 480 million alveoli in the human lungs,
according to the Department of Anatomy of the University of Göttingen.

The alveoli have many capillary veins in their walls. Oxygen passes through the alveoli, into
the capillaries and into the blood. It is carried to the heart and then pumped throughout the
body to the tissues and organs.

As oxygen is going into the bloodstream, carbon dioxide passes from the blood into the
alveoli and then makes its journey out of the body. This process is called gas exchange. When
a person breathes shallowly, carbon dioxide accumulates inside the body. This accumulation
causes yawning, according to York University.

The lungs have a special way to protect themselves. Cilia, which look like a coating of very
small hairs, line the bronchial tubes. The cilia wave back and forth spreading mucus into the
throat so that it can be dispelled by the body. Mucus cleans out the lungs and rids them of
dust, germs and any other unwanted items that may end up in the lungs.

Diseases & conditions

The lungs can have a wide range of problems that can stem from genetics, bad habits, an
unhealthy diet and viruses. "The most common lung related conditions I see are reactive
airways or asthma, as well as smoking-related emphysema, in my general practice," Dr. Jack
Jacoub, a medical oncologist and director of thoracic oncology at Memorial Care Cancer
Institute at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California, told Live

Asthma, also called reactive airway disease before a diagnosis of asthma, is a lung disease
where the air passageways in the lungs become inflamed and narrowed, making it hard to
breath. In the United States, more than 25 million people, including 7 million children, have
asthma, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
Lung cancer is cancer that originates in the lungs. It is the No. 1 cause of deaths from cancer
in the United States for both men and women, according to the Mayo Clinic. Symptoms of
cancer include coughing up blood, a cough that doesn't go away, shortness of breath,
wheezing, chest pain, headaches, hoarseness, weight loss and bone pain.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is long-term lung disease that prevents a
person from breathing properly due to excess mucus or the degeneration of the lungs.
Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are considered COPD diseases. About 11.4 million
people in the United States suffer from COPD, with about 80 to 90 percent of COPD deaths
attributed to smoking, according to the American Cancer Society.
Sometimes, those with COPD get lung transplants, replacement lungs garnered from organ
donors, to save their lives. Research is also being done on growing new lungs from stem
cells. Currently, stem cells extracted from the patient's blood or bone marrow are being used
as a treatment to heal damaged lung tissue.
Lung infections, such as bronchitis or pneumonia, are usually caused by viruses, but can also
be caused by fungal organisms or bacteria, according to Ohio State University. Some severe
or chronic lung infections can cause fluid in the lungs and other symptoms such as swollen
lymph nodes, coughing up blood and a persistent fever.

Being overweight can also affect the lungs. "Yes, being overweight does adversely affect the
lungs because it increases the work and energy expenditure to breath," said Jacoub. "In the
most extreme form, it acts like a constricting process or vest around the chest such as that
seen in the 'Pickwickian syndrome.'"

Promoting good lung health

One of the best ways to promote good lung health is to avoid cigarette smoke because at least
70 out of the 7,000 chemicals in cigarette smoke damages the cells within the lungs.
According to the Mayo Clinic, people who smoke have the greatest risk of lung cancer. The
more a person smokes, the greater the risk. Those who smoke are 15 to 30 times more likely
to get lung cancer according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If a person
quits, their lungs can heal from much of the damage, said Dr. Norman Edelman, a senior
scientific adviser for the American Lung Association and a specialist in pulmonary medicine.
[Do Smokers' Lungs Heal After They Quit?]
The Rush University Medical Center also suggests practicing deep breathing exercises,
staying hydrated and regular exercise to keep the lungs healthy. Parsons also recommends
having homes tested for radon. "Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas produced by
the breakdown of uranium in the ground. It typically leaks into a house through cracks in the
foundation and walls. Radon is the main cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers, and the second-
leading cause of the disease after smoking," said Parsons.

Nose: Facts, Function & Disease

Credit: schankz | Shutterstock

The human nose is more than just a flap of flesh and cartilage on the front of the face.
Besides being part of the respiratory system that inhales oxygen and exhales carbon dioxide,
the nose also contributes to other important functions, such as hearing and tasting.

Size and shape

Human noses can have a wide array of shapes and sizes due to genetics and injuries. Men
generally have larger noses than women, researchers say. According to the Guinness Book of
World Records, the largest human nose on a living person belongs to Mehmet Ozyurek of
Turkey. His nose is 3.46 inches (8.8 centimeters) long from the bridge to the tip.

The two openings in the nose care called nostrils, or napes. They lead to two nasal cavities
that are separated by the septum, a wall of cartilage. Inside the face is an intricate system of
canals and pockets of air called sinus cavities. Sinus cavities span all the way to the back of
the skull, right above the oral cavity, within the cheekbones and between the eyes and brows.
All of these areas are responsible, at least in part, for breathing, smelling, tasting and immune
system defense.


The human nose can smell over 1 trillion scents, according to researchers. The nose smells
with the olfactory cleft, which is the roof of the nasal cavity. It is right next to the “smelling”
part of the brain, which consists of the olfactory bulb and fossa. This part of the nose has
many nerve endings that carry smell sensations to the brain, according to the American
Rhinologic Society.
The nasal passageways on either side of the nose open into the choana and then into a
chamber called the nasopharynx, which is the upper part of the throat. This chamber opens
into the oropharynx, the throat area behind the mouth. When air is inhaled through the
nostrils, it travels through the nasal passages, the choana, the nasopharynx, the oropharynx
and the voice box and ends up in the lungs. Basically, in the respiratory system, the nose is a
passageway for air.

Sinus cavities span all the way to the back of the skull, right above the oral cavity, within the
cheekbones and between the eyes and brows.
Credit: Sebastian Kaulitzki Shutterstock

Snot and boogers

The nose is also the first line of defense against sickness. The nose is lined with fine, hair-like
projections known as cilia. The sinuses are lined with mucus-making cells. The mucus (or
"snot") keeps the nose from drying out. Together, cilia and snot collect dust, bacteria and
other debris before they can enter the rest of the body, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.
[Infographic: What Your Snot Says About You]
Typically, nasal mucus — made of water, proteins, antibodies and salts — is clear. But
during an infection, snot can change to yellow or green, indicating the body is fighting off a
bacterial or viral infection. The green color comes from a chemical secreted by white blood
cells — specifically, the heme group in the iron-containing enzyme myeloperoxidase — to
kill pathogens.

Clumps of dried mucus, dirt and debris are called "boogers," and despite the taboo, one
Canadian scientist thinks "picking your nose" — and eating your boogers — may be good for

Scott Napper, a biochemistry professor at the University of Saskatchewan, hypothesizes that

snot tastes sweet for good reason (take his word for it or try it yourself). That may be a signal
to the body to eat it and get immune-boosting benefits.

"By consuming those pathogens caught within the mucus, could that be a way to teach your
immune system about what it's surrounded with?" Napper told the Canadian Broadcasting

His hypothesis fits on with other theories about the link between improved hygiene and an
increase in allergies and autoimmune disorders, he said. "From an evolutionary perspective,
we evolved under very dirty conditions and maybe this desire to keep our environment and
our behaviors sterile isn't actually working to our advantage."

Other senses
Without the nose, the body wouldn’t be able to taste food nearly as well. What humans call
“taste” is actually a mixture of different sensations. One of the sensations is smell. When
food is eaten, the nose smells the food and sends information to the mouth in a process called
olfactory referral. This is why those with a cold or other nose condition finds that food lacks

The nose also plays a role in hearing. The nasopharynx is flanked on either side by eustachian
tubes. These tubes connect the nasopharynx to the middle ear. The nasopharynx fills the
middle ear with air, equalizing air pressure in the ear with the atmosphere around it, which is
an important part of hearing properly, according to the American Rhinologic Society.

Diseases & conditions

Since the nose is complex, there are many things that can go wrong. “The most common
ailments people come to our office with are difficulty breathing through the nose, nasal
obstruction, nasal allergies, chronic sinus infections, and nasal polyps. Another thing we’re
seeing more of is people coming in for a poor sense of smell,” said Dr. Seth J. Kanowitz,
attending physician at the Department of Otolaryngology at the Morristown Medical Center
in Morristown, New Jersey, and co-director of the hospital’s skull-based surgery program.
The most common cause for the loss of the sense of smell is a viral infection, like a cold,
Kanowitz told Live Science. Sinus infections, nasal polyps, tobacco use, head trauma and, in
exceedingly rare instances, tumors, may also cause smell loss. Some loss of smell also occurs
during the natural aging process, much akin to visual and hearing loss.

Sinusitis is another common nose condition. “Sinusitis is a condition meaning inflammation

of the sinuses,” Dr. Rob Straisfield, medical contributor for MJ Wellness, told Live Science.
The inflammation can come from allergies, viruses and certain diseases. Some symptoms are
weakness, fever, fatigue, cough and congestion, according to the U.S. National Library of
Medicine (NLM).

The nasal septum, the flat plate of cartilage in the center nose, can be damaged and pushed to
the left or right, or the nose can grow crookedly. This condition is called a deviated nasal
septum. A deviated septum can cause breathing problems and discomfort because one or both
of the nasal chambers are smaller than they are supposed to be. Sometimes a deviated septum
is corrected with surgery.

Many people have problems with clogged sinuses or a stuffy nose. This can be caused by
swollen tissue or the blockage of mucus. Often, these problems can be dealt with at home.
“Nasal saline irrigations with high volume, low pressure bottles have been shown to be very
effective to keep the nasal passageways clear, remove allergens and thick mucus, and
alleviate sinus infections — potentially removing the need for antibiotics,” Kanowitz said.

Things coming out of the nose can be a problem. A runny nose is caused by the production of
mucus in the nose. The production of mucus can be triggered by anything that irritates or
inflames the nose, such as allergies, a cold, the flu or dust, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Bloody noses are caused when the tiny blood vessels in the nose break due to dry air,
irritants, chemicals, impacts to the nose and various other factors.

Pancreas: Function, Location & Diseases

The pancreas is located deep inside the abdomen.

Credit: Sebastian Kaulitzki
The pancreas is an abdominal organ that is located behind the stomach and is surrounded by
other organs, including the spleen, liver and small intestine. The pancreas is about 6 inches
(15.24 centimeters) long, oblong and flat.

The pancreas plays an important role in digestion and in regulating blood sugar. Three
diseases associated with the pancreas are pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer and diabetes.

Function of the pancreas

The pancreas serves two primary functions, according to Jordan Knowlton, an advanced
registered nurse practitioner at the University of Florida Health Shands Hospital. It makes
"enzymes to digest proteins, fats, and carbs in the intestines" and produces the hormones
insulin and glucagon, he said.


Dr. Richard Bowen of Colorado State University's Department of Biomedical Sciences wrote
in Hypertexts for Pathophysiology: Endocrine System, "A well-known effect of insulin is to
decrease the concentration of glucose in blood." This lowers blood sugar levels and allows
the body's cells to use glucose for energy.
Insulin also allows glucose to enter muscle and other tissue, works with the liver to store
glucose and synthesize fatty acids, and "stimulates the uptake of amino acids," according to
Bowen. Insulin is released after eating protein and especially after eating carbohydrates,
which increase glucose levels in the blood. If the pancreas does not produce sufficient
insulin, type 1 diabetes will develop.
Unlike insulin, glucagon raises blood sugar levels. According to the Johns Hopkins
University Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center, the combination of insulin and
glucagon maintains the proper level of sugar in the blood.
The pancreas' second, exocrine function is to produce and release digestive fluids. After food
enters the stomach, digestive enzymes called pancreatic juice travel through several small
ducts to the main pancreatic duct and then to the bile duct, according to the Medical
University of South Carolina’s Digestive Disease Center. The bile duct takes the juice to
the gallbladder, where it mixes with bile to aid in digestion.

Location of the pancreas

"The pancreas is located in the upper abdomen behind the stomach," Knowlton said. The
right end of the pancreas is wide and called the head. From the head, the organ tapers to the
left. The middle sections are called the neck and body, while the narrow end on the left side
of the body is called the tail.

The Hume-Lee Transplant Center at Virginia Commonwealth University described the

pancreas as "j-shaped." The portion of the pancreas called the uncinate process bends
backward from the head and underneath the body, according to the Pancreatic Cancer Action

Pancreas pain
Intense pancreatic pain is usually associated with acute pancreatitis. It can be hard to identify
pancreas pain and evaluate pancreas diseases because the organ sits deep in the abdomen,
according to The National Pancreas Association. Other signs that the pain may be pancreatic
include jaundice, itchy skin and unexplained weight loss. If you are experiencing pancreas
pain, consult your doctor.
The National Institutes of Health defines pancreatitis as inflammation of the pancreas,
happening when "digestive enzymes start digesting the pancreas itself." It can be acute or
chronic, but both forms should be taken seriously and may lead to additional health problems.
Chronic pancreatitis

There are up to 23 cases of chronic pancreatitis per 100,000 people per year worldwide. In
just the United States, it results in more than 122,000 outpatient visits and more than 56,000
hospitalizations per year, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

"Chronic pancreatitis is a persistent inflammation (greater than three weeks) of the pancreas
that causes permanent damage," Knowlton said. The condition is often caused by "heavy,
ongoing" alcohol consumption, but she added that there are other causes, including "those
that cause acute pancreatitis attacks." Other causes may be cystic fibrosis, high levels of
calcium or fat in the blood and autoimmune disorders.

Symptoms include upper abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and oily stools.
According to Peter Lee and Tyler Stevens, in an article for the Cleveland Clinic, "clinically
apparent" oily stools (steatorrhea) do not appear until "90 percent of pancreatic function has
been lost."
"Chronic pancreatitis requires dietary modifications, including a low-fat diet and cessation of
alcohol [intake] and smoking," Knowlton said. Chronic pancreatitis does not heal and tends
to worsen with time, and "treatment options are mostly for pain relief." She added that
treatments "may include a pancreas stent or, for severe cases, surgery (either a
lateral pancreaticojejunostomy, or a Whipple procedure)." Pancreatiocojejunostomies are
designed to decrease pancreatic leakage while the Whipple procedure removes the head of
the pancreas where, according to the Mayo Clinic, most tumors occur.

There may be a link between chronic pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer. According to the
University of California Los Angeles Center for Pancreatic Diseases, "Recent studies reveal a
2-5 times increase in the incidence of pancreatic cancer in patients with chronic pancreatitis
from a variety of causes."

Acute pancreatitis

"Acute pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas (lasting less than three weeks), that is
most often caused by gallstones," said Knowlton. It usually comes on suddenly and
disappears within a few days of treatment. In addition to gallstones, Knowlton said that
causes "may include medications, high triglycerides, high calcium in the blood and high
alcohol consumption."

Pancreas pain is the chief symptom of acute pancreatitis, according to Medscape. The pain is
usually severe and sudden. It increases in severity until it becomes a constant ache. This
pancreas pain is felt in the upper abdomen. The Mayo Clinic noted that the pain can radiate
through to the back, and Knowlton pointed out that it might be worse after eating. Other
symptoms of acute pancreatitis include nausea, vomiting, fever and diarrhea.
According to Knowlton, "This patient often looks acutely ill, and requires hospitalization
(typically for three to five days), intravenous (IV) hydration, nothing by mouth (for bowel
rest), pain medication, treatment of underlying conditions, and possibly a radiologic
procedure called an endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), which can
more specifically target the problem." If the acute pancreatitis was caused by gallstones,
doctors may recommend removing the gallbladder.

Pancreatic cancer
It is hard to diagnose pancreatic cancer early. The Mayo Clinic noted that symptoms typically
don't occur until the cancer has advanced. Knowlton said, "Unfortunately, symptoms can be
vague, but can include abdominal pain, jaundice, severe itching, weight-loss, nausea,
vomiting, and digestive problems."

Making matters even more complicated is the pancreas' deep-in-the-abdomen location. The
NIH pointed out that as a result, tumors cannot usually be felt by touch. Because of the
difficulty of early diagnosis and the rapidity with which pancreatic cancer spreads, the
prognosis is often poor.

Risk factors for pancreatic cancer include smoking, long-term diabetes and chronic
pancreatitis, according to the National Cancer Institute.

According to the American Cancer Society, pancreatic cancer usually begins in the cells that
produce pancreatic (digestive) juices or in the cells that line the ducts. In rare occasions,
pancreatic cancer will begin in the cells that produce hormones.

According to the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, to diagnose pancreatic

cancer, doctors typically conduct physical exams, blood tests, imaging tests, endoscopic
ultrasounds and tests and biopsies. Treatment options include surgery, radiation,
chemotherapy and therapies targeted to attack cancer cells without harming normal cells.

Artificial pancreas
When a person's pancreas isn't functioning properly or has to be removed, doctors may
replace or supplement it with an artificial pancreas. These devices that automatically monitor
blood glucose and provide the appropriate insulin doses are often called closed-loop systems,
automated insulin delivery systems, or autonomous systems for glycemic control, according
to the Food and Drug Administration.

In a 2014 study published in the journal The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, researchers
found that an artificial pancreas offer people with type 1 diabetes a reliable way to keep
glucose levels in check, when compared to other treatments. "Our study confirms that both
artificial pancreas systems improve glucose control and reduce the risk of hypoglycemia
compared to conventional pump therapy," study author Ahmad Haidar, of Institut de
Recherches Cliniques de Montreal, said in a statement.
How the Small Intestine Works

The small intestine is about as big around as a middle finger, but it is about 22 feet (6.7
meters) long.
Credit: Sebastian Kaulitzki | Shutterstock

The small intestine, despite its name, is the longest part of the gastrointestinal tract. It works
with other organs of the digestive system to further digest food after it leaves the stomach and
to absorb nutrients. The entire digestive system works together to turn the food you eat into
The small intestine is a long, winding tube connected to the stomach on one end and the large
intestine on the other. According to the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC)
Digestive Disease Center, the small intestine is only about as big around as a middle finger
(approximately 1 inch or 2.5 centimeters) and is from 20 to 25 feet (6 to 7.6 meters) long in
an adult.

The inner workings

Food comes into the small intestine from the stomach through the uppermost part of the small
intestine, known as the duodenum, according to the Children’s Hospital of
Pittsburgh (UPMC). This section of the small intestine makes up about one-fifth of the total
length of the organ and receives a semisolid sludge of partially digested food from the
stomach. Bile and enzymes from the liver, pancreas and gallbladder help further break down
the food in the duodenum. [11 Surprising Facts About the Digestive System]

The middle section, about two-fifths of the length of the small intestine, is called the jejunum,
and the last section is the ileum. The primary function of both of these sections is to absorb
nutrients into the bloodstream. Both the jejunum and the ileum have linings with many folds
that increase the surface area of the small intestine (about 2,700 square feet or 250 square
meters) for maximized nutrient absorption. These folds contain tiny, finger-like cells known
as villi, which are each covered with a layer of microvilli (microscopic hair-like structures)
that further increase the surface area available for nutrient absorption.
Once the digested food leaves the ileum, more than 95 percent of the nutrients (such as
vitamins, minerals, proteins and carbohydrates) the body needs has been absorbed. What's
left moves on to the large intestine, according to the MUSC Digestive Disease Center.

Conditions and diseases

The small intestine can become diseased or problematic in many ways. According to the U.S.
National Library of Medicine (NLM), disorders of the small intestine include bleeding, celiac
disease, Crohn's disease, infections, intestinal cancer, intestinal obstruction and
blockage, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, pain, and bacterial overgrowth.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, a few factors can increase the risk of developing problems
with the small intestine: eating diets that are low in fiber, not getting enough exercise,
experiencing stress or changes in routine, eating large amounts of dairy, resisting the urge to
have a bowel movement, taking certain medications, and being pregnant.
Gluten-free diets have been touted as a great way to improve small intestine health. However,
this is true for only a small number of people, those who have celiac disease, an immune
disorder that can result in damage to the small intestine if the person eats gluten. According
to National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 1 in 141 people in the
U.S. have celiac disease, although it is estimated that many have the disease without realizing
Cancer of the small intestine is very rare, with fewer than 1 in 10 cancers occurring in the
gastrointestinal track, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). About 10,470 people
were diagnosed with some type of small intestine cancer in 2018, with about 1,450 people
dying from the disease.

How to promote good small intestine health

According to Harvard Health Publishing, there are many ways to help keep the small
intestine, as well the rest of the gastrointestinal track, healthy. Those include not smoking,
limiting alcohol and caffeine, keeping a healthy weight, eating a balanced and healthy diet,
drinking enough water, exercising regularly and reducing stress.
The Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at NYU Langone Healthsuggests that in
addition to taking preventative measures, it's also important to get screened for
gastrointestinal abnormalities regularly, especially if there is a family history of disorders or
cancer in the GI tract.
Probiotics and occasional bowel stimulants may also help keep the small intestine healthy.
But it is important to discuss these options with your doctor to find the best option and avoid
any unnecessary side effects.

Spleen: Function, Location & Problems

The spleen is located on the left side of the abdomen, under the ribs.
Credit: Sebastian Kaulitzki | Shutterstock

The spleen is the largest organ in the lymphatic system. It is an important organ for keeping
bodily fluids balanced, but it is possible to live without it.

The spleen is located under the ribcage and above the stomach in the left upper quadrant of
the abdomen. A spleen is soft and generally looks purple. It is made up of two different types
of tissue. The red pulp tissue filters the blood and gets rid of old or damaged red blood cells.
The white pulp tissue consists of immune cells (T cells and B cells) and helps the immune
system fight infection.

According to Medical News Today, a helpful tip to remember the size of the spleen is
the 1x3x5x7x9x11 rule:

 An adult spleen measures around 1 inch by 3 inches by 5 inches.

 It weighs around 7 oz.
 It is located between the 9th and 11th ribs.

"The spleen . . . acts as a blood filter; it controls the amount of red blood cells and blood
storage in the body, and helps to fight infection," said Jordan Knowlton, an advanced
registered nurse practitioner at the University of Florida Health Shands Hospital. If the spleen
detects potentially dangerous bacteria, viruses, or other microorganisms in the blood, it —
along with the lymph nodes — creates white blood cells called lymphocytes, which act as
defenders against invaders, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. The
lymphocytes produce antibodies to kill the foreign microorganisms and stop infections from

According to the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, when blood flows into the
spleen, red blood cells must pass through narrow passages within the organ. Healthy blood
cells can easily pass, but old or damaged red blood cells are broken down by large white
blood cells. The spleen will save any useful components from the old blood cells, including
iron, so they can be reused in new cells. The spleen can increase in size in order to store
blood. The organ can widen or narrow, depending on the body's needs. At its largest, the
spleen can hold up to a cup of reserve blood.

Spleen problems
Some problems associated with the spleen are:
Lacerated spleen or ruptured spleen
According to Knowlton, spleen lacerations or ruptures "usually occur from trauma (like a car
accident or contact sports)." These emergency situations cause a break in the spleen's surface
and can lead to "severe internal bleeding and signs of shock (fast heart rate, dizziness, pale
skin, fatigue)," said Knowlton. The Mayo Clinic reported that without emergency care, the
internal bleeding could become life-threatening.
On the continuum of spleen breakage, a laceration refers to a lower-grade extent of injury, in
which just a part of the spleen is damaged. A ruptured spleen is the highest grade of broken
spleen injury, according to HealthTap, an online network of doctors who answer health
According to Medical News Today, symptoms of a lacerated or ruptured spleen include pain
or tenderness to the touch in the upper left part of the abdomen, left shoulder and left chest
wall, as well as confusion and lightheadedness. If you experience any of the symptoms after a
trauma, seek emergency medical attention immediately.
Treatment options depend on the condition of the injury, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Lower-grade lacerations may be able to heal without surgery, though they will probably
require hospital stays while doctors observe your condition. Higher-grade lacerations or
ruptures may require surgery to repair the spleen, surgery to remove part of the spleen, or
surgery to remove the spleen completely.
Humans can live without their spleen, but those without one may be more susceptible to
infection. More on that, below. [What Organs Can You Live Without?]
Enlarged spleen
An enlarged spleen, also called a splenomegaly, is a serious but typically treatable condition.
"An enlarged spleen puts one at risk for rupture," said Knowlton. According to the Mayo
Clinic, anyone can get an enlarged spleen, but children suffering from mononucleosis, adults
with certain inherited metabolic disorders including Gaucher's and Neimann-Pick disease,
and people who live or travel to malaria-endemic areas are more at risk.
Knowlton listed infection, liver diseases, cancer, and blood diseases as typical causes for
enlarged spleens. According to the Mayo Clinic, specific infections and diseases include:
 viral infections, such as mononucleosis
 bacterial infections
 parasitic infections, such as malaria
 metabolic disorders
 hemolytic anemia
 liver diseases, such as cirrhosis
 blood cancers and lymphomas, such as Hodgkin's disease
 pressure on or blood clots in the veins of the liver or spleen

In many cases, there are no symptoms associated with an enlarged spleen, according to the
University of Maryland Medical Center. Doctors typically discover the condition during
routine physicals because they can feel enlarged spleens. When there are symptoms, they
might include:

 pain in the upper left abdomen that may spread to the shoulder
 fatigue
 anemia
 bleeding easily
 feeling full without eating

Typically, enlarged spleens are treated by addressing the underlying problem, according to
the Mayo Clinic. If the cause of the enlarged spleen can't be determined or if the condition is
causing serious complications such as a ruptured spleen, doctors may suggest removing the

Spleen cancer
Cancers that originate in the spleen are relatively rare. When they do occur, they are almost
always lymphomas, blood cancers that occur in the lymphatic system. Usually lymphomas
start in other areas and invade the spleen. According to the National Cancer Institute, adult
non-Hodgkin lymphoma can have a spleen stage. This type of spleen invasion can also
happen with leukemia, blood cancer that originates in bone marrow. Rarely, other types of
cancers — like lung or stomach cancers — will invade the spleen.

Spleen cancer symptoms may resemble a cold or there may be pain or fullness in the upper
abdomen. An enlarged spleen can also be the result of spleen cancer.

Treatment for spleen cancer will depend on the type of cancer and how much it has spread.
The National Cancer Institute lists spleen removal as a possible treatment.
Spleen removal

Spleen removal surgery is called a splenectomy. Knowlton said that the procedure is done in
cases such as: "trauma, blood disorders (idiopathic thrombocytopenia purpura (ITP),
thalassemia, hemolytic anemia, sickle cell anemia), cancer (lymphoma, Hodgkin disease,
leukemia), and hypersplenism to name a few."

Spleen removal is typically a minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery, according to

the Cleveland Clinic, meaning that surgeons make several small incisions and use special
surgical tools and a small camera to conduct the surgery. In certain cases, a surgeon may opt
for one large incision, instead.
"You can live without a spleen because other organs, such as the liver and lymph nodes, can
take over the duties of the spleen," said Knowlton. Nevertheless, removing the spleen can
have serious consequences. "You will be more at risk to develop infections," said Knowlton.
Often, doctors recommend getting vaccines, including a pneumococcus vaccine,
Haemophilus B vaccine, Meningococcal vaccine, and yearly flu vaccine after a splenectomy,
according to University of Michican Hospitals and Health Centers. It is important to see a
doctor at the first sign of infection if you do not have a spleen.
Stomach: Facts, Functions & Diseases

The stomach can hold a bit more than a quart (1 liter) of food at once.
Credit: Sebastian Kaulitzki | Dreamstimeephanie Pappas

After swallowing, food and drink make its way down the esophagus to the stomach. The
stomach is the first stop in the digestive tract before food moves on to the small intestine.

The stomach is a bean-shaped sack located behind the lower ribs. Once food hits the stomach,
sphincters at the opening of the stomach and the exit into the small intestine close. The lining
of the stomach then secretes hydrochloric acids and enzymes that break down the food so that
it can continue on its journey through the digestive system, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
As it secretes acid and enzymes, the stomach muscles contract in a process called peristalsis
to mix the food with the acid and enzymes.
The acid also works to kill harmful microbes that may have made their way into the body
along with food and drink. The acid could damage the stomach, so it secretes a sticky,
neutralizing mucus that coats its walls and protects it from damage. The stomach also makes
a substance that is necessary for the body to absorb vitamin B12, according to the Digestive
Disease Center (DDC).
The stomach is the widest part of the digestive system. It not only digests food, it also stores
it. According to the BBC, the stomach can hold a bit more than a quart (1 liter) of food at
once. The design of the stomach allows a person to eat a large meal that can be digested
slowly over time. It can take four to six hours or longer to digest a meal, according to the
BBC. The higher the fat content of the food, the longer it takes for the food to digest.

Conditions and diseases

The stomach can have many different conditions and diseases that can cause pain,
discomfort, digestion problems and even death.

One of the most common stomach problems is upset stomach or dyspepsia. “Dyspepsia is a
term used to describe one or more symptoms, including a feeling of fullness during a meal,
uncomfortable fullness after a meal, and burning or pain in the upper abdomen,” Dr. Lisa
Ganjhu, clinical assistant professor of medicine and gastroenterologist at NYU Langone
Medical Center, told Live Science.

Upper abdominal pain, indigestion and heartburn affects around 25 percent of the population
each year, according to the DDC. Treatment of upset stomach usually depends on the cause.
The cause can be as benign as food intolerance or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD),
or as serious as an ulcer or cancer.

GERD happens when acid contents in the stomach get refluxed up into the esophagus. Spicy
foods, mint, chocolate, caffeine, alcohol or citrus foods increase inflammation or acidity in
the stomach, which can trigger reflux. Foods that take longer to digest, like fatty foods, can
make GERD symptoms worse. Stress and anxiety can also contribute to GERD, said Ganjhu.

Stomach ulcers are breaks in the lining of the stomach, caused by certain medications and too
much acid in the stomach. These breaks are exposed to the acids in the stomach, causing
pain. In most cases, ulcers can easily be treated with medication.

Stomach cancer is cancer that originates in the stomach. According to the U.S. National
Library of Medicine (NLM), it mostly affects older people. Two-thirds of the people affected
with stomach cancer are over age 65. In its advanced stages, some symptoms of stomach
cancer are unexplained weight loss, vomiting, blood in the stool, jaundice or trouble
swallowing. Around 10,720 people die from stomach cancer each year, according to
the American Cancer Society.
Stomach flu isn’t a flu at all. It is a stomach virus. Flus affect the respiratory system, not the
digestive tract. According the Mayo Clinic, some common symptoms are watery, usually
non-bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps, vomiting, nausea, muscle aches, headache and low-
grade fever.

Promoting good stomach health

Ganjhu gives these tips for the best way to prevent digestive problems such as constipation
and upset stomach:

 Eat small meals.

 Avoid all carbonated drinks.
 Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and cut down on fatty foods.
 Quit smoking.
 Lose weight.
 After meals, take a walk or stay upright.
 Avoid bedtime snacks.
 Avoid irritating foods.
 Drink at least eight glasses of water or other non-caffeinated liquid per day.
 Use acid-blocking medications, if needed.
 Load up on fiber to bulk your stools. Eat at least 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day.
 Exercise 30 to 40 minutes, three to five times a week to help with total gastrointestinal (GI)
health. Walking, running, weight training/resistance training all help.
 Eat probiotics to keep the microbiome healthy if you have GI issues.
 Go to the bathroom when you have the urge. Don't wait.
 If you are having hard stools try over-the-counter stool softeners or try 1 tablespoon of mineral
oil, olive oil or flax seed oil.

The Tongue: Facts, Function & Diseases

The tongue consists of eight interwoven, striated muscles that can move in any direction.
Credit: Djomas | Shutterstock

Though the tongue may seem like a simple organ, it has a wide range of purposes, such as
licking, breathing, tasting, swallowing and articulating speech. Its many talents are due to the
construction of the tongue.
Typically a human tongue is around 3.3 inches (8.5 centimeters) for men and 3.1 inches (7.9
cm) for women, according to the University of Edinburgh. The world’s longest tongue is 3.97
inches (10.1 cm) long, from the tip to the middle of the closed top lip, and belongs to Nick
Stoeberl of Salinas, California, according to Guinness Book of World Records. The longest
tongue for a woman is 3.8 inches (9.75 cm), belonging to Chanel Tapper of Los Angeles.

The tongue consists of eight interwoven, striated muscles that can move in any direction,
making it quite flexible. Throughout the muscles are glands and fat, while the outside is
covered by a mucus membrane. The top of the tongue, also called the dorsum, is covered
with papillae, tiny nodes that contain the taste buds and the serous glands.


The serous glands secrete some of the fluid found in saliva, while the taste buds taste food
through receptors that send information to the brain. Receptors are nerve endings that have a
chemical reaction to the food that is being eaten. There are different reactors for different
types of flavors, and there are around 50 to 150 taste receptor cells inside each taste bud,
according to Encyclopedia Britannica.
It is a myth that different parts of the tongue taste different things. While it is true that
different receptors taste different flavors, these various receptors are bunched in four places
on the tongue. Most of the taste receptors are found on the tip of the tongue, according to
the University of Texas Medical Branch.

The bottom of the tongue is smooth. Its purple color comes from the many blood vessels that
run along the bottom of the tongue.

The root of the tongue is the bottom part of the tongue that can't be seen. It has arteries,
bundles of nerves and muscles that branch out to the rest of the tongue.

Sticking it out
Sticking out your tongue is considered unacceptable behavior in many cultures, but it is a
sign of respect in others, according to Bright Hub Education. In Tibet, sticking out the tongue
is a greeting. When two people meet, they stick out their tongues at each other. Among the
Maori people of New Zealand, sticking out the tongue is part of a war chant and is meant to
intimidate the enemy. If a Maori woman sticks out her tongue, it is a sign of defiance.
[Infographic: Will Your Tongue Really Stick to a Frozen Flagpole?]
The unusual condition known as "geographic tongue" causes red and white patches that give the
appearance of continents on a map.
Credit: Bin im Garten Wikimedia Commons

Diseases & conditions

Though the tongue is small, it can develop many different conditions. "The most common
condition that I see as a dentist is [oral] erythema migrans, aka 'geographic tongue,'" said Dr.
Corbin Brady of Brady Dental Care in Des Moines, Iowa. This condition is characterized by
red patches on the tongue with a yellow or white serpentine border that disappears and
reappears on different parts of the tongue. "Its etiology is unknown and no known conditions
seem to cause it. The good news is that no pain or symptoms are typically associated with it,"
said Brady. (Erythema migrans is also the name of a skin rash that is a symptom of Lyme
disease. The two are not related.)

Like with geographic tongue, most shape changes or discoloration of the tongue, such as
furry tongue or black or yellow coloring, are harmless.

Oral thrush, or oral candidiasis, is caused by an accumulation of a fungus on the lining of the
mouth. It causes creamy white lesions on the tongue and inner cheeks, according to the Mayo
Clinic. It is more likely to affect babies, the elderly and people with suppressed immune
systems, such as people with HIV/AIDS.

Smoking can cause a wide variety of tongue problems. People who smoke often find that
their sense of taste is deadened or changed. "Nicotine is a known vasoconstrictor, something
that limits blood flow — it limits your bodies cells from functioning or healing. For the
tongue, continued smoking has shown to alter the morphology of the fungiform papillae,
which hold your taste buds. Smoker's papillae have been shown to typically be less dense in
number, have less blood flow (less capillaries), and have thicker 'skin' (more keratin)," Brady

Smoking and other tobacco products can also cause tongue cancer. According to Cancer
Treatment Centers of America, some of the symptoms may include:
 Difficulty swallowing or chewing
 Persistent tongue and/or jaw pain
 White or red patch on the gums, tongue, tonsil, or lining of the mouth
 A lump or thickening in the inside of the mouth
 Sore throat or feeling that something is caught in the throat that does not go away
 Difficulty moving the jaw or tongue
Invention Inventor Date

Adhesive plaster-covered Paul Beiersdorf 1882


Anesthetic William Morton 1846

Anthrax vaccine Louis Pasteur 1881

Antiseptic Joseph Lister 1865

Artificial heart Denton Cooley 1969

Artificial hip John Charnley 1972 (perfected)

Artificial skin Dr. John F. Burke and Ioannis 1979


Bacteria (discovered) Anton van Leeuwenhoek 1674

Birth control pill Gregory Pincus, John Rock 1960 (approved

and Min-Chueh Chang by FDA)

Blood William Harvey 1628

circulation(discovered) (published)

Blood transfusion(modern) Dr. Thomas Blundell 1818

Cholera vaccine Louis Pasteur 1880

Contact lenses(glass) Adolf Fick 1887

Corneal transplants Eduard Zirm 1905

Cough drops James Smith and sons 1847

Dental drill (motor-driven) George Fellows Harrington 1864

Disposable syringe Colin Murdoch 1956

DNA (structure discovered) Frances Crick, James Watson 1953

and Rosalind Franklin

Electrocardiograph Willem Einthoven 1903

Gas mask Garrett Augustus Morgan 1912

Genetics Johann Gregor Mendel 1865

Heart transplant Christiaan Barnard 1967

Invention Inventor Date

Hypodermic syringe Charles Gabriel Pravaz and 1853

Alexander Wood

Insulin (discovery) Frederick Banting and Charles 1921


Iron lung Philip Drinker 1929

Microscope(compound) Hans Janssen 1590

Morphine Friedrich Wilhelm Adam 1803


Ophthalmoscope Charles Babbage 1847

HermannLudwig von 1851

Pacemaker (human) Wilson Greatbatch 1960 (first use)

Pasteurisation Louis Pasteur 1864

Pathology Giovanni Battista Morgagni 1761

Penicillin Alexander Fleming 1928

Plastic surgery Archibald Hector McIndoe 1940s

Polio vaccine Jonas Salk 1953

Quinine Pierre Joseph Pelletier and 1820

Joseph Bienaime Caventou

Rabies vaccine Louis Pasteur 1885

Rubella vaccine Paul D. Parkman and Harry M. 1966

Meyer Jr.

Scurvy vaccine James Lind 1753


Smallpox vaccine Edward Jenner 1796

Stethoscope René Laënnec 1819

Thermometer(medical) Thomas Allbutt 1866

X-rays Wilhelm Roentgen 1895

10. Active Bionic Prosthesis (Wearable Robotic Devices) Named as one of Mayo Clinic’s top
medical technologies of 2012, this medical invention allows us to replicate the action of a
person’s tendons and muscles to mimic natural human body motion. Battery-powered motors,
microprocessors, and Bluetooth technology allow a person to adjust settings easily with a smart
phone to ensure natural and consistent motion.
9. Health IT (Especially Mobile/Wireless Devices) Fortunately, today’s physicians no longer
have to dig through piles of books and case studies to find the information they need to help a
patient. Now they can look up information, access patient records, and view digital medical
information in seconds, no matter where they are located. In fact, nearly 82% of physicians are
projected to use smartphones in 2012.
8. Molecular Breast Imaging (MBI) This technology is making an impact in the fight against
breast cancer. While mammography has been one of leading methods of detection for breast
cancer for years, it has not been effective in detecting tumors in dense tissue. MBI is a safe and
more powerful scan which serves as an encouraging alternative to mammography.
7. Modern Telehealth Telehealth is helping to significantly reduce the number of ER visits and
hospitalizations around the world. By combining powerful telecommunications technology and
healthcare advancements, patients and doctors can connect like never before without
consideration for geographical boundaries. Telehealth supports more efficient diagnosis,
treatment, and care management for patients by enabling doctors to share and access diagnostic
images, video, and patient data.
6. Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy (HAART) This medication has been in development
stages for years but has proven to be a powerful symptom reliever for patients suffering from
HIV/AIDS. By using three medications to create one powerful combination, HAART has been
clearly shown to delay progression to AIDS and prolong the life of infected patients anywhere
from 4 to 12 years.
5. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) By non-invasively recording brain signals
without the risks of radiation, this new technique tracks blood flow in the brain to monitor areas of
activity. It can be used to monitor the growth of brain tumors, determine how well the brain is
functioning after a stroke or diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, and find out where in the brain
seizures are originating.
4. Minimally Invasive Robotic Surgeries Surgeries aided by robots were first introduced in the
late 1980’s with laproscopic procedures and have been advancing ever since. Today’s “da Vinci”
robot has treated more than 775,000 patients, and Instead of leaving patients with extensive
scarring, these minimally-invasive surgeries leave only a few small marks on the body and allow
for greater accuracy during surgery and less post-operation recovery time.
3. Laser Surgeries Laser surgeries were first used to correct vision, but today their use spans
across many medical and cosmetic procedures. Whether used for corrective eye surgeries,
cosmetic dermatology, or the removal of precancerous lesions, Light Amplification by Stimulated
Emission of Radiation (LASER) allows for accurate focus on very small areas of the body.
2. The Artificial Heart Robert Jarvik, MD is widely known as the inventor of the first successful
permanent artificial heart, the Jarvik 7, first implanted in 1982. Since that time, this medical
invention has helped save thousands of lives all over the world, as heart disease is the number
one cause of death in the United States and many other countries, leading cardiologists to
continually search for ways to improve heart health. Currently, temporary and permanent artificial
hearts are being used to help patients stay healthy while awaiting a heart transplant or to nurse
their current hearts back to health.
1. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Computerized Tomography (CT) These two
medical technologies seem like standard procedures today, hinting at their significant impact on
healthcare. The first whole-body MRI scanner was constructed 1977 by Dr. Damadian, which he
dubbed the “Indomitable” and CT scans were developed by Sir Godfrey Hounsfield and Dr. Alan
Cormack, for which they were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1979.

More X-rays and EKGs

6. Willem Einthoven (1860-1927)
The Dutch doctor and physiologist is best known for his invention of a practical
electrocardiogram (ECGor EKG) (an early version as shown on Wikipedia is
shown above). It was an achievement that won him the Nobel Prize in Physiology
or Medicine in 1924.
7. William D. Coolidge (1873-1975)
The General Electric researcher invented the Coolidge tube for x-ray machines in
1913. "The key advantages of the Coolidge tube are its stability, and the fact that the
intensity and energy of the x-rays can be controlled independently. ... The high
degree of control over the tube output meant that the early radiologists could do with
one Coolidge tube what before had required a stable of finicky cold cathode tubes,"
says a paper on Oak Ridge Associated Universities' websites.
8-9. Philip Drinker (1894-1972) and Louis Agassiz Shaw Jr. (1886-1940)
The two Harvard School of Public Health researchers invented the first widely
used iron lung in 1928. The iron lung was credited with saving the lives of
thousands of polio victims who otherwise would have been unable to breathe.
10. John Heysham Gibbon (1903-1973)
The Philadelphia surgeon is remembered as the inventor of the heart-lung
machine, which allowed for pioneering open-heart surgeries.
11. Charles R. Drew (1904-1950)
The African-American surgeon pioneered improved techniques for blood
storage. Early in World War II, he helped create large scale blood banks. His work
led to the American Red Cross Blood Bank, though the Drew himself resigned from
the Red Cross in protest of its racial segregation of blood donations.
12. David S. Sheridan (1908-2004)
David S. Sheridan--a serial entrepreneur dubbed the "Catheter King" in 1988 by
Forbes Magazine--is credited with inventing the modern disposable catheter in
the 1940s.
13. John Charnley (1911-1982)
The British orthopaedic surgeon pioneered hip replacement surgery. In the
early 1960s, he discovered that high molecular weight polyethylene was the best
material for implantable sockets. One of his early artificial hips is shown above.
14. Willem Kolff (1911-2009)
Kolff was a bioengineer who pioneered hemodialysis and artificial organs. Under his
supervision, the first "permanent" artificial heart was implanted in a patient in 1982.
The Dutch native was still a distinguished professor emeritus of bioengineering,
surgery and medicine at the University of Utah before his death in 2009 at age 97.
15. Paul M. Zoll (1911-1999)
Paul M. Zoll was a Harvard cardiologist who pioneered the development of
heart monitors, pacemakers and defibrillators during the 1950s.


16. Otto Wichterle (1913-1998)
The Czech chemist invented soft contact lenses.
17-18. Ake Senning (1915-2000) and Rune Elmqvist (1906-1996)
The first implantable pacemaker was developed through collaboration by cardiac
surgeon Ake Senningand the doctor and engineer Rune Elmqvist in Sweden. They
implanted their first pacemaker in 43-year-old Arne Larsson in 1958; he died at
age 86 after using a total 26 pacemakers. An early model is shown above.
19. Charles Hufnagel (1916-1989)
U.S. surgeon Charles Hufnagel invented the mechanical heart valve in the
early 1950s. In 1952, Hufnagel implanted the device in a 30-year-old woman who
was able to lead a normal life after the surgery. Although the device proved to be
successful in some patients, its design did not allow it to be inserted into the heart.
21. Wilson Greatbatch (1919-2011)
The American engineer and inventor's achievements included his work on
implantable pacemakers. He joined William Chardack, MD, and Andrew Gage, MD,
at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Buffalo, NY, in the late 1950s to develop
what would become the Chardack-Greatbatch implantable pulse generator produced
by Medtronic.
22-23. Godfrey Hounsfield (1919-2004) and Allan McLeod Cormack (1924-1998)
The two men shared the 1979 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for developing
the diagnostic technique of x-ray computed tomography. CT scanners marked a
significant advance because they further reduced the need for physicians to engage
in exploratory surgery of patients. Shown above is an early CT scanner image from
the Science Museum, London.
24. Forrest Morton Bird (1921-2015)
Forrest Morton Bird helped to create the first reliable mass-produced mechanical
25. Helen Murray Free (1923-)
Helen Murray Free is best known for creating a series of self-testing systems for
diabetes while she was a researchers at Miles Laboratories, which is now owned by
Bayer AG.

20. C. Walton Lillehei (1918-1999)

The University of Minnesota surgeon pioneered open-heart surgery and direct
pacing of the heart, playing an important role in the creation of Medtronic. Along the
way, he created numerous techniques, equipment, and prostheses
for cardiothoracic surgery.


26. Alejandro Zaffaroni (1923-2014)
The Uruguayan-born serial entrepreneur pioneered controlled drug delivery
systems modelled after the processes discovered in endocrinology.
27. Earl Bakken (1924-)
Earl Bakken, the co-founder of Medtronic, developed the first battery-operated
external pacemaker in the late 1957. An electrical engineer by training, he developed
the device after at the behest of open-heart surgery innovator C. Walton Lillehei, MD,
whose infant patients temporarily relied on pacemakers that were plugged into
outlets. Bakken not only built Medtronic, but also wrote the Medtronic Mission.
28. Michel Mirowski (1924-1990)
Mirowski (pictured above) was instrumental in the development of the first
implantable cardioverter-defibrillator in the 1960s after his mentor Harry Heller, MD,
died from arrhythmia. The first human implant of the device was in 1980. ICDs have
saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.
29. Robert S. Ledley (1926-2012)
Ledley invented the whole-body CT (computerized tomographic) diagnostic x-ray
scanner. He has been inducted into the U.S. National Inventors Hall of Fame.
30. Albert Starr (1926-)
Heart valve pioneer Starr performed the first mitral valve implant in 1960. Starr
worked with Miles Lowell Edwards to develop what would be called the Starr-
Edwards valve, which helped lay the groundwork for the development
of transcatheter aortic (and mitral) valve replacement technology.


31. Per-Ingvar Brånemark (1929-2014)
Brånemark, the father of dental implantology, also contributed to breakthroughs
in osseointegration. He won the European Inventor Award 2011 for lifetime
achievement for his work on dental implants.
32. Paul Lauterbur (1929-2007)
Lauterbur helped lay the groundwork for the development of the MRI. Lauterbur,
along with his collaborator, the physicist Peter Mansfield, were awarded the Nobel
Prize in 2003. Laterbur's doctoral thesis on the subject was published in the
early 1960s. Following that, he would continually work on the technology up until the
first human full-body MRI was carried out in the 1970s.
33. Rangaswamy Srinivasan (1929-)
The LASIK innovator Srinivasan had spent the vast majority of his career studying
ultraviolet light. An employee of IBM Research, Srinivasan collaborated with
surgeons on the use of lasers to reshape the cornea, which would later become
known as LASIK (Laser in situ keratomileusis).
34. Charles Kelman, MD (1930 - 2004)
Kelman helped develop the cryoprobe for cataract surgery in 1962. (One such early
probe is shown above). The technology soon became a common method for
removing cataracts until it was replaced by extracapsular cataract extraction using
irrigation and aspiration--a technique also developed by Kelman. 1963, Kelman also
helped develop the use of cryopexy, or freezing of retinal detachments, a technique
that is still used at present. Kelman is now revered as one of the greatest
ophthalmologists of the last century.
35. Luc Montagnier (1932-)
Montagnier is perhaps most famous for the discovery of HIV in the early 1980s,
helping lay the groundwork for the development of a laboratory test to detect the
presence of virus in the blood. He would win a Nobel for this achievement. He has
also helped develop technology that uses electromagnetic waves to detect chronic
degenerative diseases in patients' blood plasma.


36. Morton Mower, MD (1933-)
U.S. cardiologist Mower was also instrumental in the development of the automatic
implantable cardioverter defibrillator along with Michel Mirowski. He has also
contributed to pacemaker advances. He was included in the National Inventors Hall
of Fame in 2002.
37. Peter Mansfield (1933-)
The British physicist Sir Peter Mansfield worked with Paul Lauterbur on important
MRI research in the 1970s that earned them both the 2003 Nobel Prize in Physiology
or Medicine. A center dedicated to MRI research, known as the Sir Peter Mansfield
Magnetic Resonance Centre, has been established at the University of Nottingham.

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38. M. Stephen Heilman, MD (1933-)

Heilman was another one of the inventors who helped develop the automatic
implantable cardioverterdefibrillator. He has also helped develop contrast-enhanced
medical imaging, the first wearable defibrillator, and heart assist devices. He also
founded the company Medrad Inc., which is now a division of Bayer Healthcare.
39. Thomas Fogarty (1934-)
The balloon catheter pioneer Thomas Fogarty is one of the most famous medical
device inventors. He holds more than 150 patents. In 2000, he was awarded the
$500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize for his medical device inventions, which include a
minimally invasive breast cancer diagnosis device and a self-expanding stent-graft to
treat aortic aneurysms less invasively. Fogarty won the MDEA Lifetime Achievement
award in 2012.
40. Raymond Vahan Damadian, MD (1936-)
Raymond Damadian, MD, led a three-person team that invented the first full-body
MRI in the late 1970s. He remains the president and chairman of the company he
founded, Melville, NY-based Fonar Corp., which went on to build the world's first
upright MRI machine. He is shown above standing next to an early MRI system
(image from Wikipedia).

The Apgar scale is a standardized scale that is used to determine the physical status of an
infant at birth. This simple, easy-to-perform test was devised in 1953 by Dr. Virginia Apgar
(1909-1974), a professor of anesthesia at the New York Columbia-Presbyterian Medical
Center. The Apgar scale is administered to a newborn at one minute after birth and five
minutes after birth. It scores the baby's heart rate, respiration, muscle tone, reflex response,
and color. This test quickly alerts medical personnel that the newborn needs assistance.

Dr. Virginia Apgar (1909-1974), a professor of anesthesiology at the New York
Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, devised the Apgar Scale in 1953. The Apgar scale
is a simple, easy-to-perform, standardized scale that is used to determine the physical
status of an infant at birth. The Apgar scale is administered to a newborn at one minute
after birth and five minutes after birth. It scores the baby's heart rate, respiration, muscle
tone, reflex response, and color. This test quickly alerts medical personnel that the
newborn needs assistance.

Bandages for wounds had been around since ancient times, but an easy-to-
use dressing with an adhesive was invented by Earle Dickson (a cotton buyer at the
Johnson & Johnson company). Dickson perfected the BAND-AID® in 1920, making a
small, sterile adhesive bandage for home use. Dickson invented the BAND-AID® for his
wife, who had many kitchen accidents and needed an easy-to-use wound dressing.
Dickson was rewarded by the Johnson & Johnson company by being made a vice-
president of the company.

Christiaan Neethling Barnard (1923- 2001) was a South African heart surgeon who
developed surgical procedures for organ transplants, invented new heart valves, and
performed the first human heart transplant (on Dec. 3, 1967, in a five-hour operation with
a team of 20 surgeons). The 55-year-old Louis Washkansky received the heart transplant;
Washkansky lived for only 18 days after the operation, dying from pneumonia (his
immune system had been weakened by drugs designed to suppress the rejection of the new
heart). The donor of the heart was a woman who had been fatally injured in a car crash.
Barnard performed more successful transplants later in his career; some of his later
transplant recipients survived for years. Barnard was the head of the cardiac unit at Groote
Schuur Hospital until he retired in 1983
Dr. Solomon A. Berson (1919-1972) and Dr. Rosalyn Sussman Yalow (1921- ) co-
invented the radioimmunoassay (RIA) in 1959. The radioimmunoassay is a method of
chemically analyzing human blood and tissue and is used diagnose illness (like diabetes).
RIA revolutionized diagnoses because it uses only a tiny sample of blood or tissue and is a
relatively inexpensive and simple test to perform. Blood banks use RIA to screen blood;
RIA is used to detect drug use, high blood pressure, infertility, and many other conditions
and diseases. For inventing RIA, Yalow won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1977 (Yalow
accepted for Berson, who died in 1972). Yalow and Berson did not patent the RIA; instead
they allowed the common use of RIA to benefit human health.

The idea of a blood bank was pioneered by Dr. Charles Richard Drew (1904-1950). Dr.
Drew was an American medical doctor and surgeon who started the idea of a blood bank
and a system for the long term preservation of blood plasma (he found that plasma kept
longer than whole blood). His ideas revolutionized the medical profession and saved
many, many lives. Dr. Drew set up and operated the blood plasma bank at the Presbyterian
Hospital in New York City, NY. Drew's project was the model for the Red Cross' system
of blood banks, of which he became the first director.

Contact lenses are tiny removable lenses that are worn in contact with the eye (they rest
directly on the cornea of the eye). Like glasses, they improve the wearer's vision. This type
of lens was envisioned (but not actually made) by Leonardo da Vinci (around 1508) and
later by René Descartes (around 1636-1637).

Contact lenses were invented and made in 1887 by the German physiologist Adolf Eugen
Fick (1829-1901). He first fitted animals with the lenses, and later made them for people.
These lenses were made from heavy brown glass and were 18-21mm in diameter. The
lenses were improved by August Muller in 1889; he made lenses that corrected myopia

Plastic contact lenses were first made by the California optician Kevin Tuohy in 1948.
Soft contact lenses (hydrophilic lenses) and gas-permeable lenses (which let oxygen pass
through the lens and to the cornea) were invented in the 1970s.

Bandages for wounds had been around since ancient times, but an easy-to-
use dressing with an adhesive was invented by Earle Dickson (a cotton buyer at the
Johnson & Johnson company). Dickson perfected the BAND-AID® in 1920, making a
small, sterile adhesive bandage for home use. Dickson invented the BAND-AID® for his
wife, who had many kitchen accidents and needed an easy-to-use wound dressing.
Dickson was rewarded by the Johnson & Johnson company by being made a vice-
president of the company.

The disposable diaper was invented in 1950 by Marion Donovan. Her first leak-
proof diaper was a plastic-lined cloth diaper. Donovan then developed a disposable diaper.
She was unsuccessful at selling her invention to established manufacturers, so she started
her own company.

Marion Donovan (1917-1998) was an American mother, inventor, and architect
who invented the disposable diaper in 1950. Her first leak-proof diaper were fast-selling
"Boaters," plastic-lined cloth diapers (diapers lined with pieces cut from a shower curtain,
and later with surplus parachute nylon). Donovan then developed a completely disposable
diaper. She was unsuccessful at selling this invention to established manufacturers, so she
started her own company, which she later sold. Donovan produced many other consumer-
based inventions and held more than a dozen patents


Dr. Charles Richard Drew (1904-1950) was an American medical doctor
and surgeon who started the idea of a blood bank and a system for the
long-term preservation of blood plasma (he found that plasma kept longer
than whole blood). His ideas revolutionized the medical profession and
have saved many, many lives.

For more information on Dr, C. R. Drew, click here.

Gertrude Belle Elion (January 23, 1918 - February 21, 1999) was a Nobel Prize winning
biochemist who invented many life-saving drugs, including 6-mercaptopurine (Purinethol)
and 6-thioguanine (which fight leukemia), Imuran, Zovirax, and many others. Elion worked
at Burroughs-Wellcome (now called Glaxo Wellcome) for decades (beginning in 1944)
with George Hitchings and Sir James Black, with whom she shared the Nobel Prize. She is
named on 45 patents for drugs and her work has saved the lives of thousands of people.

Philo Taylor Farnsworth (1906-1971) was an American inventor.
Farnsworth invented many major major components of the television,
including power, focusing systems, synchronizing the signal, contrast,
controls, and scanning. He also invented the radar systems, cold cathode
ray tube, the first baby incubator and the first electronic microscope. Farnsworth held over
300 patents.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) was an American statesman, writer, printer,
and inventor. Franklin invented bifocal glasses and the Franklin stove. He
also experimented with electricity, determining that there are two types of
electricity, positive and negative. In 1752, his experiments with a kite in a
thunderstorm (never do this, many people have died trying it!) led to the development of
the lightning rod.
Ida Henrietta Hyde (1857-1945) was an American
physiologist who invented the microelectrode in the 1930's.
The microelectrode is a small device that electrically (or
chemically) stimulates a living cell and records the electrical activity
within that cell. Hyde was the first woman to graduate from the
University of Heidelberg, to do research at the Harvard Medical
School and to be elected to the American Physiological Society.

Dean Kamen is an American inventor who has invented many revolutionary devices and
holds over 35 U.S. patents. He developed the portable medical infusion pump, which
allows patients to receive medication, like insulin, away from the hospital, and has
allowed diabetic women to carry and deliver babies much more safely. Kamen designed
the iBot, a revolutionary wheelchair (that uses gyroscopes and computers) that the user
"wears" - it allows increased mobility (it can even climb stairs) and improved social
interaction (the user can "stand"). He also invented intravascular stents (devices that hold
blocked arteries open) and the portable kidney dialysis machine, which has enabled kidney
dialysis patients to avoid long hospital visits - they can do the dialysis themselves while
they sleep. The Segway is a rechargable electric, single-person vehicle he invented.

Kamen founded an educational learning center for children called Science Enrichment
Encounters (or "SEE"), and FIRST ("For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and
Technology") which has a yearly robot competition for high school students.

Ida Henrietta Hyde (1857-1945) was an American
physiologist who invented the microelectrode in the 1930's.
The microelectrode is a small device that electrically (or
chemically) stimulates a living cell and records the electrical activity
within that cell. Hyde was the first woman to graduate from the
University of Heidelberg, to do research at the Harvard Medical
School and to be elected to the American Physiological Society.


Dean Kamen is an American inventor who has invented many revolutionary devices and
holds over 35 U.S. patents. He developed the portable medical infusion pump, which
allows patients to receive medication, like insulin, away from the hospital, and has
allowed diabetic women to carry and deliver babies much more safely. Kamen designed
the iBot, a revolutionary wheelchair (that uses gyroscopes and computers) that the user
"wears" - it allows increased mobility (it can even climb stairs) and improved social
interaction (the user can "stand"). He also invented intravascular stents (devices that hold
blocked arteries open) and the portable kidney dialysis machine, which has enabled kidney
dialysis patients to avoid long hospital visits - they can do the dialysis themselves while
they sleep. The Segway is a rechargable electric, single-person vehicle he invented.

Kamen founded an educational learning center for children called Science Enrichment
Encounters (or "SEE"), and FIRST ("For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and
Technology") which has a yearly robot competition for high school students.

Dr. Solomon A. Berson (1919-1972) and Dr. Rosalyn Sussman Yalow (1921- ) co-
invented the radioimmunoassay (RIA) in 1959. The radioimmunoassay is a method of
chemically analyzing human blood and tissue and is used diagnose illness (like diabetes).
RIA revolutionized diagnoses because it uses only a tiny sample of blood or tissue and is a
relatively inexpensive and simple test to perform. Blood banks use RIA to screen blood;
RIA is used to detect drug use, high blood pressure, infertility, and many other conditions
and diseases. For inventing RIA, Yalow won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1977 (Yalow
accepted for Berson, who died in 1972). Yalow and Berson did not patent the RIA; instead
they allowed the common use of RIA to benefit human health.


X-rays were discovered in 1895 by Wilhelm Konrad von Roentgen (1845-1923).
Roentgen was a German physicist who described this new form of radiation that
allowed him to photograph objects that were hidden behind opaque shields. He even
photographed part of his own skeleton. X-rays were soon used as an important diagnostic
tool in medicine. Roentgen called these waves "X-radiation" because so little was known
about them.

Jonas Salk (1914-1995) was a research physician who formulated a vaccine against the
devastating disease polio. Poliomyelitis, also called infantile paralysis, had crippled
thousands of children during an epidemic that hit the world during the 1940's and 1950's.
It is estimated that one of every 5,000 people (mostly children) fell victim to polio. Some
victims were totally paralyzed and need to live in "iron lungs" (a large apparatus that
helped the patient breathe). Salk's developed his vaccine in 1947, while working at the
University of Pittsburgh Medical School. The vaccine was made from killed polio virus. In
1955, after many trials of the new vaccine, the vaccine was made public, and put an end to
the polio epidemic. Salk wrote many books, including: "Man Unfolding" (1972), "The
Survival of the Wisest "(1973), "World Population and Human Values: A New Reality"
(1981), and "Anatomy of Reality" (1983). When Salk died, he had been working on a
vaccine for the AIDS virus.

Dr. Chien-Shiung Wu (Shanghai, China, May 31, 1912 - New York, USA, February 16,
1997) was a nuclear physicist who studied beta-decay (a weak interaction in which one of
the neutrons in the nucleus of an atom decays into a proton and an electron; the proton
enters the nucleus, forming an isotope, and the electron is emitted as a beta-particle). In
1956, Madam Wu did experiments showing that parity is not conserved in weak
interactions (demonstrating parity violation in the nuclear beta decay in cobalt 60). Her
experiments supported T. D. Lee and C. N. Yang's revolutionary idea that parity was not
conserved in weak interactions (parity conservation had been a basic assumption in
physics). Madam Wu worked on the Manhattan Project (a secret US project during World
War 2 to develop an atomic bomb in order to defeat Hitler), developing a process for
separating the uranium isotopes U235 and U238 by gaseous diffusion. She also helped
develop more sensitive Geiger counters (devices that detect radiation). Madam Wu also
studied the molecular changes in hemoglobin associated with sickle-cell anemia.

X-rays were discovered in 1895 by Wilhelm Konrad von Roentgen (1845-1923).
Roentgen was a German physicist who described this new form of radiation that
allowed him to photograph objects that were hidden behind opaque shields. He even
photographed part of his own skeleton. X-rays were soon used as an important diagnostic
tool in medicine. Roentgen called these waves "X-radiation" because so little was known
about them.

Dr. Solomon A. Berson (1919-1972) and Dr. Rosalyn Sussman Yalow (1921- ) co-
invented the radioimmunoassay (RIA) in 1959. The radioimmunoassay is a method of
chemically analyzing human blood and tissue and is used diagnose illness (like diabetes).
RIA revolutionized diagnoses because it uses only a tiny sample of blood or tissue and is a
relatively inexpensive and simple test to perform. Blood banks use RIA to screen blood;
RIA is used to detect drug use, high blood pressure, infertility, and many other conditions
and diseases. For inventing RIA, Yalow won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1977 (Yalow
accepted for Berson, who died in 1972). Yalow and Berson did not patent the RIA; instead
they allowed the common use of RIA to benefit human health.

1. X-rays
X-ray technology has earned the number one spot in this top 10 list, having
transformed the understanding of the body and healthcare administration.
The first X-ray image was generated in 1895 by Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen
and was of his hand. The first use of X-rays in a medical setting came less
than a month after Röntgen published a paper on their ability to produce
images of the internal structure of the body.

The short wave lengths that X-rays have enable them to penetrate thick
matter and the black, white and grey 2D images they produce are the result
of varying rates of absorption of different tissues. One of the main
advances that has come as a result of X-ray technology is the CAT-scan.
Using X-rays to produce 3D images of the body, the CAT scan has
transformed diagnoses, enabling doctors to see not just the location, but
the size and depth of tumours.

2. Stethoscope
French stethoscope inventor René Laennec came up with the idea in 1816.
His initial interpretation consisted of a wooden tube, with a wide and narrow
end and was similar to hearing aids of that time. Later developments of
stethoscopes saw the addition of flexible tubes, double ear pieces and
improved acoustics. Stethoscopes are today one of the most important
tools for doctors.

3. Hypodermic syringe
Despite early forms of intravenous injections dating back to 1670,
hypodermic syringes were the first to utilise needles that were fine enough
to pierce the skin. Their invention in 1853 revolutionised mass healthcare
administration and was quickly followed by the introduction of glass
syringes in 1866 and the more recent invention of disposable plastic
syringes in 1956.

4. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

MRI technology provides an alternative method of looking into the body
without having to use potentially harmful X-rays or resorting to surgery. It
was not until the late 1980s that MRI was introduced to the healthcare
sector but popularity came quickly; 2002 witnessed the performance of
over 60 million MRI exams and the global use of 22 million MRI cameras.

5. Radiation therapy
Radiation or radiotherapy is used across the world as a method of treating
and managing cancer. Nobel-prize winning scientist Marie Curie is one of
the main personalities behind its development in the 1900s. Advances in
radiation therapy can be attributed to the development of technologies such
as MRI, giving oncologists clearer images to better target and treat
cancerous cells.

6. Thermometer
Santorio Santorio is credited with inventing the original, albeit inaccurate
clinical thermometer in 1612. It was not until 1867 that Sir Thomas Allbutt
came up with the first practical and precise medical thermometer, at six
inches long it was portable and able to record temperatures within five
minutes. Today thermometers can be found in homes, surgeries and
hospitals across the world.

7. Ultrasound
The discovery and development of Ultrasound came in the mid-1900s; the
first paper on medical ultrasonics was published in 1942 which was soon
followed by the advance of ultrasound technology and the identification of
specific applications and uses. Using sound waves to form pictures,
ultrasound is now commonly used across the world in pregnancy scans
and condition diagnosis.
8. Band aids
Band aids, or plasters, were invented in 1920 by Johnson & Johnson
employee Earle Dickinson. His wife found it difficult to use the separate
gauze and bandage dressings when she cut her fingers, so Earle attached
some gauze to adhesive tape and kept it sterile by adding crinoline. His
boss manufactured his invention, made him Vice-President of the company
and band aids revolutionised home healthcare.

9. In vitro fertilisation (IVF)

The world’s first baby conceived as a result of IVF was born in 1978, just a
few years after the first unsuccessful IVF pregnancy. After a fairly rapid
succession of IVF births during the late 1970s, further advances, including
the utilisation of the hCG hormone, saw IVF grow from a research project
to a functional clinical fertility treatment.

10. Artificial pacemaker

In 1950, Canadian John Hopps developed the world’s first pacemaker,
although being powered through AC wall sockets it came hand-in-hand with
an electrocution risk and many attempts to utilise a rechargeable battery as
a power source were made without success. The first wearable and
implantable pacemakers were eventually developed in 1958 and the first
clinical pacemaker implantation also took place.