Author: Emma Yasinski

Emma Yasinski

I am a freelance science and medical journalist, fascinated by how the scientific process leads to incredible discoveries, but also can lead to publication bias leaning toward positive findings and minimizing negatives. With a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience from Lafayette College and a Master’s in Science and Medical Journalism from Boston University, I’ve written about clinical trial transparency, organ donation, and basic molecular biology for publications like The Scientist, The Atlantic, Undark.org, Kaiser Health News, and more. At MedShadow, I research and write about the sometimes unexpected ways that medicines can affect us, and what we can do if and when it does.

DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) got a bad reputation in the 1980s and 1990s when reports circulated suggesting that the active ingredient in many bug sprays caused seizures, brain swelling, and death. Since then, researchers have assured the public that the chemical is safe and lowers the risk of contracting insect-borne infections such as Lyme disease, West Nile Virus, and Zika. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have reviewed case reports and clinical trials and state that, as long as it’s used according to the directions, DEET is both safe and effective. While DEET is one…

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The primary cause of acne is clogged pores. Your pores can be clogged by bacteria, dead-skin cells or sebum, an oily substance secreted by your skin. The clogs cause redness and inflammation, which can be painful. Some doctors and patients believe that our diets can be the root cause of certain types of acne, but, for the most part, our lifestyles and hygiene are not to blame. Many women experience hormonal acne, which flares up at specific times during their menstrual cycles, or because of hormonal conditions, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a disorder that affects many women. What…

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A now world-wide outbreak of hepatitis ‘that began in fall 2021 among young children, sickening hundreds, continues nearly eight months later, as of May 2022. The medical community is searching for its cause.  Some researchers believe it may have been triggered by COVID-19 infections or by colds or other viruses. The challenge is that the term hepatitis denotes an inflammation of the liver, but in order to treat it, a doctor needs to know what caused that inflammation. That’s problematic, because a doctor must know the cause to treat it effectively. Here’s what you need to know about the many…

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Does a person’s higher weight impact how effective a recommended drug dosage may be? Researchers found, for example, that common versions of Plan B (levonorgestrel), the morning after emergency contraceptive pill, was less effective in women who weighed more than 165 pounds, and not effective at all for those over 175. Last year, that fact caught a wave on social media after TikToker @anadelrey.xo shared a video suggesting that anyone over 150 to 155 pounds should take two pills instead of one. Note: Specialists do not recommend taking two pills. Instead, they suggest the alternative medicine Ella (ulipristal).  @anadelrey.xo Reply…

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When MedShadow started collecting comments for its side effects of COVID-19 vaccine tracker, what quickly emerged is that COVID-19 shots are also associated with substantial arm pain. That result was so common that we published a separate article about the redness, pain and rashes that sometimes followed the jabs. In most cases, this was a typical response to the vaccine, which cleared up within a few days. Injection-site reactions, including redness and pain, were the most reported side effect in the COVID vaccine trials, affecting more than 84% of patients who received a Pfizer shot. On occasion, though, the reactions appeared…

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When Lily was diagnosed with cervical cancer at age 27, she blamed herself. “Why hadn’t I taken care of myself properly?” she thought. She had regularly skipped her annual Pap smears—a common procedure, in which the doctor collects cells from the vagina wall to test for signs of cervical cancer. “I didn’t think I needed to go,” she said. But when she started bleeding and experiencing daily pelvic pain, she finally visited her OB/GYN and found out that she had cervical cancer. She’s been treated, but regrets having postponed screening because the disease left her infertile. Lily is now an…

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Tyrvaya, a new nasal spray designed to treat dry eye disease, in October 2021. A major benefit of the new drug is that it won’t require patients to apply drops directly to their eyes, which is very hard for some to tolerate. Some eye drops on the market irritate eyes and can even cause a rebound effect, making symptoms worse overtime. Some might wonder about the frequency with which patients are directed to use Tyrvaya. Rather than drops that are used as-needed, the new drug is a nasal spray that you squirt into…

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✅ This article was reviewed by Cecile Levy, MD, member of our MedShadow Medical Advisory Board. Seventy percent of adults say they have sensitive skin, according to a 2019 study. Erum Ilyas, MD, a dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology, explains that sensitive skin is not a medical condition in and of itself. The self-diagnosed condition can mean different things to different people. “Usually when people say they have sensitive skin, they are implying that their skin gets irritated really easily,” he says. Your skin can get irritated for a variety of reasons, from dryness to allergies and even because of products…

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In June, police announced surprising charges in a nearly three-year-old murder case: the victim’s friend had poisoned her with eye drops. This is far from the first time the seemingly innocuous over-the-counter (OTC) medication Visine and its ilk have been used to inflict harm. In 2020, a woman was sentenced to 25 years in jail after using the same toxin to kill her husband. And the stories go back, too. A 2013 article in Wired starts by rattling off a series of criminal cases involving the liquid sold in a tiny bottle that can be poisonous, if used the wrong…

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Samantha Welch spent about 11 months avoiding the direct sunlight as best she could. She had been prescribed isotretinoin, an oral medication that treats cystic acne. A few weeks after she started taking it, she discovered that “my skin was extremely sensitized,” she says. “My face and lips were dry and visibly flaking. Direct sunlight during midday would slightly sting, even with sunscreen on. I’ve had to avoid the sun altogether.” While Welch’s prescription was intended to affect her skin, many drugs that seem to have nothing to do with your skin can cause sensitivity to sunlight. For example, over…

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