Monday, August 24, 2015

GUEST BLOG: Non-suicidal self injury, and gender and sexual minorities

Open Minded Health discusses self-injury. In all likelihood, you know someone who does this.

Recent reports have highlighted the frequency of non-suicidal self-injury among gender and sexual minorities. 41.9% of transgender people have self-injured. I was unable to find a percentage for cis lesbian, gay and bisexual people beyond the general report that the rate was “much higher”. Gender and sexual minority (GSM) youth are at particular risk, as are cis women.
So let’s take a quick look at non-suicidal self injury this week. What is it? Why do people do it? And what should those who currently self-injure, and their loved ones, know?
Non-suicidal self injury (NSSI) is a term that refers to deliberate attempts to cause oneself injury without intending suicide. The “without intending suicide” is the important bit there. This is a separate phenomenon from suicidality, though both suicidality and NSSI can come from the same psychological source. NSSI can take many forms, but cutting and burning are the most common. People who have higher levels of stress, such as GSMs, are at higher risk for NSSI. Transgender people may have an additional risk factor because of extreme body dysphoria.
To most who have never participated in NSSI, it can seem baffling.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Cataract Journey: Interregnum

in·ter·reg·numˌin(t)ərˈreɡnəm/. noun. A period when normal government is suspended, especially between successive reigns or regimes. An interval or pause, as in, "the interregnum between the discovery of radioactivity and its detailed understanding."
After cataract surgery on my first eye, I entered a bizarre period in which that eye had excellent vision at intermediate distances (computer screen, conversation) and the other was a total blur. I’m very near-sighted (as in -15 diopters), so there was no possibility of fusing images. So the world looks blurry and sharp at the same time, and I have to use parallax (shifting my head) for any kind of depth perception. Needless to say, I do not feel safe driving. Or pouring water from a pitcher, unless I can brace the lip of the pitcher against the glass – we found this out in a somewhat spectacular fashion.

One solution might have been to wear a contact lens in the nonsurgical eye, and I had worn hard or RGP (rigid gas permeable) lenses for over 50 years. But a couple of years ago my eyes, which had become drier over the decades, flatly refused to put up with contact lenses. I tried all sorts of lubricating drops, but was never able to wear my lenses more than a few (2-4) hours a day. If I did any work on the computer, that time dropped to an hour (people blink less often while staring at a computer monitor, hence increase in scratchy, red eyes). Finally, earlier this year, I lost one of my lenses. This has happened maybe half a dozen times over  the years. I looked everywhere (if you wear contacts or are close to someone who does, you know the crawling-around-on-the-floor routine) and eventually concluded that after I had cleaned them the night before, the lens had stuck to my finger instead of sliding off into the soaking solution. Since then, I had washed my hands and tidied up the counter area. So, no hope. I’d been wrestling with spectacles ever since.

My next idea, which friends have tried, was to pop a lens out of my spectacles, so that my nonsurgical eye sees through the remaining lens. Great idea, right? And it worked – so long as I covered one eye, didn’t matter which. When I tried to fuse the equally-clear images, however, my brain went nuts. It turned out the images were of sufficiently different sizes, too disparate for my brain to turn them into one. This might not have been the case with a person less near-sighted than I am. So, rather than putting a patch over one eye – toss a coin as to which one – I’ve been wandering around in this visually bizarre state.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

GUEST BLOG: Article review: Cancer and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transsexual, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) populations

From Open Minded Health:

Gender and sexual minority health isn’t just about HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted infections, and mental health. It’s also about cancers, and our exposures to risk factors for cancers. Why? Because everyone can get cancer, and we all need both preventative and therapeutic health care.
Cancer is not just one disease, which is why it’s been so difficult to “cure”. Cancer is when a cell mutates and grows out of control. The cells begin to invade other tissues, and can spread throughout the body. Any cell can become cancerous. And different cancers are caused by different things and have different treatments.
A recent paper, published online ahead of print, looked at the data surrounding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender/transsexual (LGBT) populations and cancers. They specifically looked at cancers which may be more common in LGBT communities: anal, breast, cervical, colon/rectal, endometrial, lung, and prostate cancers.
Why might these cancers be more common in LGBT communities? Perhaps because of higher levels of risk factors like obesity, smoking, and certain infections. Or perhaps because of lack of preventative health care.
But what do the data say? What data do we even have? So far it looks like we don’t have much information. Most studies about cancers don’t ask about sexual orientation or gender identity. But let’s take the data one cancer type at a time, just as the paper did…