Posts for: May, 2017
May is Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Awareness Month.
If you weren’t aware that this even existed, you are not alone. After all, that’s what an awareness month is for, making us aware of a disease that doesn’t often get a lot of press.
In fact, Ehlers-Danlos is not just one syndrome; it’s a series of 13 connective-tissue disorders that result primarily in various joint and skin related issues, but sometimes manifest in dangerous ways. It all has to do with your genetics. In fact, it’s as common as 1 in 5,000 people. It affects any of 12 different genes, and which one determines how they appear in physical symptoms.
Many types have normal life expectancies, but some can result in shorter-than-expected lifespan or painful complications. The wide array of symptoms range from things you probably know like hyper-elastic skin or rheumatoid arthritis-like finger deformities and many obscure syndromes, such as levido reticularis or Arnold-Chiari malformation. Trust me, there’s too many to list here, so we’re just going to look at one type: hypermobility.
People with this type of EDS have very loose joints, which allows for excessive movement and flexibility. However, while it may look cool to bend your body in strange directions, this condition can have your joints dislocating frequently, causing painful and lasting damage. Physical evaluation and family history are the only tools for diagnosis, and there is no known cure for the disease, only treatment for its symptoms.
Don’t worry though. You should know by now if you have EDS. But it’s always worth a quick Google search to learn more about it, especially since you are now aware that it’s Ehlers-Danlos Awareness Month!
Mother’s day is this coming Sunday (are you prepared?) and it’s time to thank our moms for everything they do for us. Besides, without them, you would have no feet! Around the 10th week of gestation, your paddle-like hands and feet start separating into fingers and toes. Two weeks later, you probably started celebrating your new feet by kicking and flexing them, testing your new muscles. But it took way longer until your feet were fully developed. In fact, until 6 months after birth, baby’s feet are still mostly cartilage. It’s not until age three or four that you develop a foot arch and it’s not until your teens that your foot bones finish growing. So thank your mom this Sunday for everything she does for you, including giving you your wonderful feet.
Humans often pride themselves on being the most intelligent creatures on the planet. We have evolved from living outdoors to building massive luxury homes for ourselves. We have progressed from thinking the sun revolved around the earth to unlocking the secrets of our human genome. In other words, we’re pretty smart. And one of the coolest things we have created are shoes! Okay, maybe not the very coolest, but they are important. So important in fact that we decided shoes were important for more than just the human race.
All the way back in 400BC, humans recognized the importance of shoes for horses and other working animals. In Asia, people would wrap horses hooves with rawhide or leather. The ancient Romans created metal boots that would strap to the hoof, protecting it from wear. It wasn’t until 500 or 600AD though that the modern metal horseshoe (nailed into the hoof) was invented. Don’t worry though, the outer layer of the horses hoof where the shoe is nailed is not sensitive and won’t be damaged by the nails.
It all started with the domestication of horses. When we change the environment, terrain, or work load of a horse it changes the conditions of a hoof. Imagine always going barefoot in a warm dry climate. Now imagine moving to Alaska and still trying to go barefoot. You’re probably not going to have a very good time of it. The same thing happened to horses. The added weight of a rider or a cart added greater strain on the hoof, wearing it down quickly over time. Colder and wetter environments can breakdown the keratin wall of the hoof, causing decay. Horseshoes were the best solution.
Modern horseshoes can be made of anything from steel and aluminum to specialized shoes of rubber, plastic, or titanium. The shoe is specially shaped to each individual hoof for each individual horse and can help with protection, traction, and even gait correction for horses with bone or muscle deformities in the leg. Racehorses (like the ones competing in the Kentucky Derby this Saturday) often wear aluminum horseshoes because they are lightweight. Some racing shoes are actually glued onto the hoof rather than nailed to promote a healthier gait and hoof wall growth. With a growing multitude of styles, materials, and brands available, it’s just as important to match the shoe to the horse and activity, as it is to match a running shoe to your own foot and movement. So before you place your bets this Saturday, read up a bit on what shoes each horse is wearing. A good set of shoes can mean the difference between first and second place.