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.

MedShadow recently posted an article in which a journalist investigates his own sleep apnea diagnosis and ends up forgoing expensive machinery and learning that sleeping on his side was all it took in his case to keep his oxygen levels stable through the night. In the Kaiser Health News article, author Jay Hancock describes an “expensive testing cascade” including an at-home test and two separate nights in a sleep lab testing for different characteristics of the condition.  Testing is not the only cascade in medicine. In recent years, researchers have started to identify “prescription cascades”—situations in which a patient is…

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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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Diane Vukovic, who runs the website, Mom Goes Camping, says that it was “inevitable” she’d get Lyme disease at some point, given how much time she spends outside. Researchers hope to have a vaccine to prevent the disease soon, but have only recently begun clinical trials. Luckily, Vukovic noticed the rash quickly, even though hers didn’t immediately resemble the characteristic bullseye. In addition to the rash, she was exhausted and weak. In addition to antibiotic treatment, she credits having eliminated sugar from her diet for helping her bounce back from the disease rapidly. What Is Lyme Disease? Lyme disease is…

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Two years ago, a researcher who specializes in the safety of breast milk was in the midst of breastfeeding her own child when she experienced a serious bout of postpartum depression. She had a televisit with her doctor, who refused to write her a prescription for antidepressant medications as long as she was still breastfeeding, even though the drugs are considered safe to take during pregnancy and breastfeeding.  “A lot of times, [the] health [of the new mother] isn’t prioritized as much as that of the infant. And that’s something that we really worry about,” says Kaytlin Krutsch, PharmD, a…

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The Northern Hemisphere is in the midst of yet another record-breaking heat wave. 1,700 people died from heat-related causes in Spain and Portugal over the past week. The heat is now battering the United Kingdom. Simultaneously, dangerous levels of heat are blanketing large swaths of the United States. Extra-high temperatures are perilous for everyone, but they are even more so for the elderly, people who need electric medical equipment and for those on medications with side effects that can increase their sensitivity to heat. You may need to take extra caution to remain safe when the heat rises. Heat exhaustion…

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Two recently authorized antiviral drugs designed to protect against the most severe outcomes of COVID-19 may be game-changers during the ongoing pandemic. Those benefits may come at a cost, however. It’s crucial that you and your healthcare providers understand these drugs’ potential side effects, so you use them as safely as possible. “Obviously, if you’ve got a serious case of COVID, you need to be treated,” despite the risk of side effects says Katherine Seley-Radtke, PhD, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. How Effective Are They? Both drugs, Lagevrio (molnupiravir) and Paxlovid (nirmatrelvir and…

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Shalamar suffered from chronic insomnia. She couldn’t fall asleep after her late-night shifts as a server at a New York City bar. To address the insomnia, she sought advice from a psychiatrist who prescribed pills and told her to take them both at night and in the morning. She thought it was odd that she would need to take a pill to help her sleep during the day, but her doctor said that is how the medicine worked. She followed the doctor’s recommendations, though. “It did help me to sleep. I slept like a rock,” she says.  What her doctor…

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Taking too many medications raises your risk of adverse events. Deprescribing—the thoughtful process of identifying problematic medications and reducing the dose or stopping those medications in a safe, effective manner that  helps people maximize their well-being—is often easier said than done, explains Cynthia Boyd, MD, MPH, director of geriatric medicine and gerontology at Johns Hopkins University.  This is especially critical, if you have dementia or multiple chronic conditions. “There is relatively little research about how we actually deprescribe,” she says. “That speaks to the issue of how people end up on a whole bunch of medicines. It often is much…

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In 2018, two young men were found dead in their respective bathrooms in Texas after using a concentrated powder form of tianeptine.  Tianeptine is an antidepressant prescribed in Europe, Asia and South America. It’s banned in the US, but it’s found its way here. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning about the drug’s risks in 2018. Then in February 2022, the agency put out a new warning after scientists found a large increase in calls to poison control centers related to tianeptine poisoning. What is Tianeptine? Tianeptine, sold under the brand names of Coaxil and Stablon, is…

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Missing out on sleep can dampen your mood and make you less focused and more prone to overeating. It can increase your risk of both depression and cancer and leave your body more vulnerable to infections. Still, some of the drugs you are prescribed can make it harder to get the all-important shut-eye you need. Below are the four types of drugs that can cause insomnia as a side effect as well as tips to help you get to sleep. 1 Oxycontin and Other Opioids A 2019 meta-analysis suggested that while opioids may reduce activity and restlessness while sleeping, they…

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