Caffeine is a naturally occurring psychoactive agent in coffee. In several sodas and energy drinks, manufacturers also use it. Although it is a socially acceptable substance, reports on its safety and long-term effects are contradictory.
A study of university students in 2019 found that there is an average intake of around 173 milligrams per day (mg/day) for people who drink caffeine.
This is moderate caffeine intake. Moderate consumption can encourage a variety of health advantages, including a lower risk of some cancers, brain diseases, and liver disorders, according to several reports.
The consumption of caffeine, however, carries many risks. Drinking too much can lead to harmful effects as well.
We examine the possible health benefits and adverse side effects of the intake of caffeine in this article.
In coffee, the main psychoactive component is caffeine. This is a compound that comes naturally from over 60 different sources of plants, including coffee beans, tea leaves, seeds of cacao, and seeds of cola nut.
People typically consume caffeine outside of coffee through tea, soft drinks, particularly energy drinks, and chocolate. In certain prescription and non-prescription medicines, such as cold, allergy, and pain medicine, it is also an ingredient.
Caffeine, as well as its calming effects, can offer several health benefits.
A different study of 40 studies found in the same year that drinking 2-4 cups of coffee every day was associated with a decreased risk of death from all causes.
Several other studies have associated coffee intake with positive effects on the brain.
A research published in the World Journal of Biological Psychiatry in 2013 indicated that drinking 2-4 cups of coffee a day in adults can reduce the risk of suicide.
More recent studies in the journal Nature showed that long-term memory can be improved by consuming caffeine.
A postdoctoral research fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Steven E. Meredith, however, told Medical News Today that many people forget that caffeine is a psychoactive substance. This may be because of widespread consumption.
To stimulate the CNS, caffeine crosses the blood-brain barrier.
“Unlike most other psychoactive substances, caffeine use is socially acceptable, and the drug is widely used. In fact, caffeine is the most commonly used psychoactive substance in the world.
In addition, the vast majority of users of caffeine regularly use the substance without apparent harm. These variables are likely to lead to the perception that caffeine is a benign substance that can be used by anyone without having any harmful effects.
However, ingesting high doses of caffeine can lead to more adverse health effects.
Several undesirable side effects of consuming over 400 mg of caffeine per day were reported in a 2015 study, including:
- sleeping problems
- a fast heartbeat
When individuals undergo caffeine withdrawal, these symptoms may also occur.
Previous study, however, has related even moderate levels of caffeine to adverse health impacts.
The findings of a major prospective study in 2013 indicated that consuming 300 mg of caffeine a day during pregnancy could increase the risk of having a low-birth-weight baby.
In order to confirm whether long-term ingestion of caffeine is safe and whether it offers benefits or raises the risk of health problems, more research is required.
Meredith, however, told medicalnewtoday that the effects of caffeine will differ for each person. The mixed results of studies on the effect of caffeine on the body can be explained by this.
He advised, for example, that people with anxiety disorders are more prone to caffeine’s anxiety-increasing effects.
For different reasons, caffeine can also be metabolized at different rates among individuals. Cigarette smokers, for example, metabolize caffeine twice as rapidly as nonsmokers,” he added.
“However, caffeine metabolism is slower among infants, pregnant women, and individuals with liver disease. In addition, some medications slow caffeine metabolism, which may increase the risk of caffeine intoxication. But the effects of caffeine also vary simply because we’re all different.”
Rob M. Van Dam, Associate Associate Professor of the Harvard School of Public Health Department of Nutrition, told MNT that the effects of caffeine depend on individual genetic features and other lifestyle factors.
“Some people may have trouble sleeping or experience tremors or stress with relatively low intakes of caffeine, and if these occur, it is helpful to be aware of these symptoms and reduce the intake of caffeine.”
Addiction and withdrawal
Given the positive effects that caffeine can have as a stimulant, Meredith told MNT that for certain individuals, this may lead to caffeine addiction:
“Caffeine activates many of the same behavioral and neuropharmacological mechanisms that are activated by other reinforcers, including other drugs of abuse.
And caffeine is correlated with multiple beneficial subjective effects, such as increased well-being, sociability, and feelings of vitality and alertness, like many other reinforcers. A small percentage of the population develops caffeine use disorder for this cause and others.
Some individuals can become physically reliant on caffeine. In these people, the absence or reduction of coffee intake contributes to the withdrawal of caffeine.
This can cause a variety of symptoms, like:
- a headache
- reduced energy and alertness
- low mood
- concentration problems
“Dependence can become so strong for some people that, despite knowledge of recurrent physical or psychological issues associated with continued use, they are unable to reduce consumption,” Meredith added.
Meredith indicated that doctors should address with their patients the use of caffeine in order to decide if they are consuming healthy stimulant levels.
He cautioned that this is critical for children and adolescents in particular.
As researchers do not completely understand its effects on the developing brain, the majority of pediatricians suggest that young people should stop drinking caffeine. This is explained by Meredith in the following terms:
Caffeine interferes with sleep, in particular, and sleep plays a vital role in learning. Some laboratory research indicates that caffeine interferes with adolescent rodent sleep and learning, which in turn hinders regular, observable neurological growth into adulthood.
“Some psychologists are also concerned that a pattern of young people’s use of caffeine or abuse can lead to subsequent problematic use of drugs and alcohol.”
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that before adding caffeine into a young person’s diet, people speak to a pediatrician.
FDA Deputy Commissioner for Food and Veterinary Medicine Michael R. Taylor said:
“We are particularly concerned about children and adolescents, and the FDA and the food industry are responsible for protecting public health and respecting social norms that suggest that our children should not be marketing stimulants, such as caffeine.”
Many food and drink products now contain added caffeine to improve their calming effects, such as jellybeans, waffles, syrup, and chewing gum.
Mixed findings have been provided by research into the effects of caffeine.
Although moderate caffeine intake is unlikely to cause adverse effects in most individuals, stimulant reactions are based on highly specific factors, such as genetics and lifestyle choices.
People should be mindful that when they use caffeine, they are drinking a psychoactive substance.
- Borota, D., et al. (2014). Post-study caffeine administration enhances memory consolidation in humans [Abstract].
- Capelletti, S., et al. (2015). Caffeine: Cognitive and physical performance enhancer or psychoactive drug?
- Kim, Y., et al. (2019). Coffee consumption and all-cause and cause-specific mortality: A meta-analysis by potential modifiers [Abstract].
- Inoue, M., & Tsugane, S. (2019). Coffee drinking and reduced risk of liver cancer: Update on epidemiological findings and potential mechanisms [Abstract].
- Lucas, M., et al. (2013). Coffee, caffeine, and risk of completed suicide: Results from three prospective cohorts of American adults [Abstract].
- Mahoney, C. R., et al. (2019). Intake of caffeine from all sources and reasons for use by college students.(LINK)
- Is caffeine bad for you? (LINK)
- Mo, L., et al. (2018). Coffee consumption and risk of myocardial infarction: A dose-response meta-analysis of observational studies.
- Sajadi-Ernazarova, K. R., & Hamilton, R. J. (2019). Caffeine, withdrawal.
- Sengpiel, V., et al. (2013). Maternal caffeine intake during pregnancy is associated with birth weight but not with gestational length: Results from a large prospective observational cohort study.
- Spilling the beans: How much caffeine is too much? (2018).
Symptoms, causes, and treatment of transient ischemic attack (TIA)
A transient ischemic attack (TIA), also known as a ministroke, happens when the brain’s blood supply is interrupted for a short period of time.
Although the diminished blood flow normally only lasts 5 minutes, a TIA is still a medical emergency. It could be a precursor to a massive stroke.
Because the symptoms of a TIA resolve fast, many people do not seek medical care. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one-third of people who don’t get treatment for a TIA will have a severe stroke within a year.
According to statistics, 20% of persons who have a TIA will have a stroke within three months, and half of these will happen within two days of the TIA.
Knowing the signs and symptoms of a TIA and seeking care as soon as possible can help you avoid a more serious and perhaps life-threatening incident.
In this article, you’ll learn more about what a TIA entails and what to do if one arises.
What is a TIA?
A transient ischemic attack (TIA) has symptoms that are similar to those of a stroke, but it causes only a few minutes. The decreased blood flow normally only lasts a few seconds, but the symptoms can last for several minutes. They can last for a few hours on rare occasions.
TIAs occur when a blood clot stops blood flow to the brain cells for a brief period of time, preventing oxygen from reaching the cells. The symptoms usually go away when the clot breaks up or moves on. These events do not stay long enough to cause brain cells permanently.
People should not dismiss a TIA since it could be an indication of a big stroke, according to the American Stroke Association.
According to statistics, TIAs afflict about 2% of the population in the United States.
When the supply of oxygen to the brain is interrupted, a TIA ensues. This could be as a result of:
- atherosclerosis, in which fatty deposits cause the arteries to become harder, thicker, narrower, and less flexible
- blood clots due to heart disease, cardiovascular disease, or an irregular heart rhythm
- blood clots due to a blood condition, such as sickle cell disease
- an embolism or blood clot that has traveled from elsewhere in the body
- an air bubble in the bloodstream
The symptoms of a TIA are determined by which area of the brain isn’t getting enough blood.
The acronym FAST (facial, arms, speech, time) might help people recall the symptoms to look for, just as it can with a severe stroke:
- F = face: The eye or mouth may droop on one side, and the person may be unable to smile properly.
- A = arms: Arm weakness or numbness might make it hard to raise one or both arms or keep them raised.
- S = speech: The person’s speech may be slurred and garbled.
- T = time: Someone should call the emergency services at once if a person has one or more of these symptoms.
The person may also have:
- numbness or weakness, especially on one side of the body
- sudden confusion
- difficulty understanding what others are talking about
- vision problems
- problems with coordination
- difficulty walking
- a very bad headache
- a loss of consciousness, in some cases
TIA symptoms are only present for a short time. They can last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours, and they normally go away after 24 hours.
However, if anyone experiences symptoms that could signal a TIA, they should seek medical care right away because a massive stroke could result.
The same variables that cause temporary blood flow insufficiency in a TIA can cause a stroke, which can result in irreversible brain damage owing to a longer-lasting blood flow deficit.
Conditions with symptoms that are similar
A TIA’s symptoms can be similar to those of other diseases, such as:
- multiple sclerosis
- a hemorrhagic stroke or ischemic stroke
- fainting due to low blood pressure
Even if the symptoms of the TIA have subsided, getting an accurate diagnosis can assist a person get the proper treatment to help minimise the risk of a future stroke.
- having a family history of stroke or TIA
- being 55 years or above
- being assigned male at birth
- being Black or Hispanic, compared with being non-Hispanic white
- having high blood pressure
- having cardiovascular disease
- smoking tobacco
- having diabetes
- getting low levels of exercise
- having high cholesterol levels
- eating a diet that is high in unhealthy fats and salt
- having high homocysteine levels
- having overweight or obesity
- having a type of heartbeat known as atrial fibrillation
Treatment options will be determined by the cause of the TIA. The parts that follow will go over some of the possibilities.
A doctor may recommend medicine to reduce the risk of a second blood clot and catastrophic stroke.
The treatment options will vary depending on the cause of the TIA, however they usually include:
- anti-platelet drugs to prevent clotting, such as include aspirin, ticlopidine (Ticlid), and clopidogrel (Plavix)
- anticoagulants such as warfarin (Coumadin) and heparin, which also help prevent clotting
- medications to manage high blood pressure, or hypertension
- drugs to help manage cholesterol levels
- medications to manage heart disease and regulate irregular heart rhythms
All of these medications can cause side effects and may interact with other medications.
As a result, people should tell their doctor about any other prescriptions they’re taking, including over-the-counter drugs, supplements, and herbal therapies.
If a person has negative side effects while taking a medication, they should consult a doctor. It’s possible that another option exists.
A doctor may propose surgery to remove a blockage or a portion of a damaged artery in some instances.
Preventive actions and lifestyle changes
A risk of lifestyle changes can help minimise your chances of having a TIA or stroke. These are some of them:
- avoiding or quitting smoking
- avoiding exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke
- eating a nutritious and varied diet, with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables
- managing one’s intake of salt and unhealthy fats
- getting regular exercise
- avoiding the use of recreational drugs
- managing body weight, if appropriate
- following any treatment plan for heart disease, diabetes, or other conditions
Before making any major lifestyle changes, such as beginning a new workout plan, it is best to consult with a healthcare practitioner to determine the best course of action.
Anyone who has signs or symptoms of a TIA should seek medical help right away to figure out why it happened and how to avoid a recurrence or a more serious occurrence.
Symptoms can fade fast, and by the time the person sees a doctor, they may be gone. A witness who was present at the time, on the other hand, may be able to assist the individual in explaining the situation to the doctor.
The doctor will likely:
- ask what happened and ask about any ongoing symptoms
- ask how long the symptoms lasted for and how they affected the person
- consider the individual’s personal and family medical history
- carry out a neurological examination, which may include memory and coordination tests
If the doctor suspects the patient suffered a TIA, he or she may be referred to a neurologist for further evaluation.
The following are some examples of possible tests:
- blood tests to check blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and clotting ability
- an electrocardiogram to measure the electrical activity and rhythms of the heart
- an echocardiogram to check the pumping action of the heart
- a chest X-ray to help rule out other conditions
- a CT scan to reveal any signs of an aneurysm, bleeding, or changes to blood vessels in the brain
- an MRI scan to help identify damage to the brain
The doctor may also request that the patient wear a Holter monitor for a few days or weeks in order to track their heart rhythms over time.
The symptoms of a TIA can last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours. However, it is critical to seek medical help because a TIA can be a symptom of a massive stroke.
A TIA is marked by weakness and numbness on one side of the body, facial drooping on one side, and difficulty speaking. If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, call 911 right away.
Following a TIA, lifestyle changes and the use of medicine to lower the risk of future blood clots are two choices for treatment.
Types, conditions, and treatments of facial tics
A facial tic is an uncontrollable, involuntary spasm of the facial muscles. The tic is unwelcome and occurs frequently enough to be bothersome to the individual who has it.
A person can keep in a tic for a short period of time, similar to how a person can hold in a sneeze, but doing so frequently causes the individual to become progressively uncomfortable.
Facial tics can be caused by a variety of conditions, but they rarely signify a serious medical condition.
Facial tics are more common in children than in adults, according to a study published in Pediatric Neurology, and males appear to be significantly more prone to them than girls. After a few months, most children’s facial tics disappear.
When to consult your doctor
Facial tics are frequently temporary and fade away on their own. If a person has a tic that lasts more than a year, they should contact a doctor.
Anyone who has severe, chronic tics that affect a variety of muscle groups should see their doctor for a correct diagnosis.
Although it is not always possible to prevent facial tics, many of them do not require treatment and will go away on their own.
For persistent tics, there are treatments that can help people manage the tic. Some people may benefit from learning stress relief techniques and consulting a therapist.
Involuntary muscular movements that occur anywhere on the face are known as facial tics. However, they normally occur in the same location each time and are frequent enough to annoy the individual. Tics that are severe can have a negative impact on a person’s quality of life.
The following are examples of common facial tics:
- raising the eyebrows
- opening and closing the mouth
- mouth twitching
- rapid eye blinking or winking
- flaring the nostrils
- scrunching the nose
- clicking the tongue
- sucking the teeth
Some people may also have vocal tics, such as clearing their throat or grunting, in addition to muscle tics.
A person can temporarily repress a tic, but it will eventually emerge.
Types of tic disorders
Facial tics can be caused by a variety of conditions. The severity of the tic, as well as the existence of other symptoms, can assist a doctor figure out what’s wrong.
Transient tic disorder
Tics are only present for a short time. A regular facial or vocal tic may be caused by transient tic condition, however the tic usually lasts less than a year.
Tics are usually only present when a person is awake with transient tic disorder. Tics are uncommon when people are sleeping.
The majority of causes of tics in children are due to transient tic disorder. They normally go away on their own without any treatment.
Chronic motor tic disorder
Chronic motor tic disorder is a type of tic disorder that lasts longer. A person with chronic motor tic disorder must have had tics for more than a year, for periods of at least 3 months at a time, in order for a doctor to diagnose them.
Chronic motor tic disorder, unlike transitory tic condition, causes tics that can occur while sleeping.
Both toddlers and adults can develop chronic motor tic condition. Young children with persistent motor tic disorder may not require treatment since their symptoms are more tolerable or go away on their own.
Adults with the illness may require medication or other forms of treatment to keep their tics under control.
Tourette’s syndrome, often known as Tourette’s condition, is a persistent disorder that causes one or more motor or vocal tics.
Tourette’s syndrome affects the majority of people throughout their childhood, however it can also affect adults. Tics normally get less acute as a person gets older.
Both physical and verbal tics are present in people with Tourette’s syndrome. They may unintentionally create sounds or pronounce words.
Small motor tics, such as fast blinking or throat clearing, are common in people with Tourette’s syndrome. They may, however, have more complex motor tics, such as:
- saying inappropriate words
- making inappropriate gestures
- yelling out
- shrugging one or both shoulders
- shaking the head uncontrollably
- flapping the arms
Behavioral therapy can help people with Tourette’s syndrome manage their symptoms. People with any other underlying problems, on the other hand, may require medicine.
Treatment for facial tics varies according to the tic’s nature and intensity. Many tics, such as those caused by transitory tic condition, may fade away over time if not treated.
Tics that interfere with school or work performance may require treatment. Tics that endure a long time, such as those caused by Tourette’s syndrome, may require more intensive treatment.
Tics can be treated in a variety of ways, including:
Alpha-adrenergic agonists, neuroleptic medications, and dopamine blockers are some of the pharmaceuticals used to treat tics.
Doctors may recommend Botox injections in the case of persistent facial tics or twitches. Botox injections can temporarily block facial muscles, which may be enough to prevent tic recurrence.
Any underlying diseases causing the tic, such as Tourette’s syndrome or ADHD, can also be treated with medication.
Doctors may prescribe that a person meet with a psychotherapist on a regular basis to help them change or remove their tics.
Some people may benefit from behavioural modification and habit reversal strategies to assist them overcome their tics and improve their quality of life.
The person is usually taught to recognise when the tic is about to happen as part of the therapy. When a person is able to accomplish this, the therapist will encourage them to try to replace the tic with another behaviour.
This may assist a person replace a physical habit with one that is less distracting or does not interfere with daily functioning over time.
In severe cases of facial tics, such as those caused by Tourette’s syndrome, several surgical treatments may be helpful.
Deep brain stimulation is one surgical treatment option. Electrical currents may be able to reach specific parts of the brain via electrodes implanted in the brain, according to some experts, which could assist control brain waves and eliminate tics.
Deep brain stimulation may help ease symptoms of Tourette’s syndrome, according to a recent study, but further research is needed to find the appropriate parts of the brain to stimulate.
Natural therapies for facial tics may also be recommended by doctors. Because stress is thought to play a role in the development and maintenance of tics, natural treatments will focus on lowering stress in the individual’s life.
Among the stress-relieving activities are:
- imaginative play
- light exercises
For people wanting to minimise stress and find relief, getting a full night’s sleep is also essential. A doctor may suggest counselling in some cases.
Spinal problems causing tremors: What to know
Tremors are uncontrollable shaking movements in one or more bodily parts. Muscle contractions are the cause of these unusual movements.
Tremors are usually caused by a problem with the region of the brain that governs movement. Multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and traumatic brain damage are all examples of neurological illnesses. Anxiety, an overactive thyroid, alcohol use disorder, and certain drugs are all possible causes of tremors. Doctors, on the other hand, are frequently unable to pinpoint the source of the cause.
The majority of sources do not mention spinal issues as a possible cause of tremors. Tremors have been reported in people with spinal cord compression on a rare occasion.
Continue reading to learn more about the links between spinal problems and tremors, treatment options, and when to seek medical attention.
When to consult a doctor
Anyone experiencing tremors should see a doctor for a diagnosis and to rule out any dangerous causes.
To assess the tremor, the doctor will begin the diagnosis process by doing a physical and neurological examination. They’ll also ask about the person’s medical history. Medical tests, such as diagnostic imaging to examine brain and spinal injury and an electromyogram to diagnose muscle and nerve abnormalities, may be ordered after that.
They can prescribe the best treatment based on the results of these tests.
Tremors and spinal problems
Tremors are uncommon in people with spinal problems, but there have been instances of tremors in people with spinal cord compression.
In one case, a 91-year-old man got tremors as a result of cervical myelopathy, which is caused by spinal cord compression in the neck. The man developed tremors in both arms and legs over the course of two weeks, rendering him unable to feed himself or move without assistance.
Doctors initially suspected the man had Parkinson’s disease, but they eventually ruled it out because he exhibited no other symptoms. The individual had a herniated disk at vertebrae C3–C4 in his neck, according to an MRI study.
Tremors can also be caused by a condition known as cervical dystonia. This uncommon neurological condition starts in the brain and causes to uncontrollable neck muscular contractions. These contractions might be continuous or come in the form of spasms that seem like tremors. The severity of the condition varies, but it can cause in severe pain and incorrect posture, both of which can have a negative impact on one’s quality of life.
What are tremors?
Tremors are involuntary movements of the body that are difficult to control. The hands are the most common site of involuntary muscle contractions, but they can also affect the arms, hands, head, torso, legs, feet, or face muscles.
Tremors have varied effects on different people. They are able to:
- come and go or occur continuously
- happen on their own or occur in response to another issue
- be mild or severe
- affect one or both sides of the body
Tremors can be classified as follows:
- Essential tremor: This condition is known as benign essential tremor by doctors. It’s the most frequent tremor, and it’s caused by nervous system issues. The hands are most affected, although it can also affect the head, tongue, voice, legs, and trunk.
- Dystonic tremor: This movement issue can occur in people who have dystonia. Dystonia is a condition that causes incorrect posture due to involuntary muscular contractions. Twisted and repetitive movements can harm any muscle in the body, according to some people.
- Parkinsonian tremor: This tremor is common in people with Parkinson’s disease. It usually affects one or both hands while lying down, although it can also affect the face and legs.
Why might spinal, back, or neck issues cause tremors?
If the spinal cord is compressed, back and neck disorders might cause tremors. Millions of nerve cells in the spinal cord connect the brain to motor neurons, which allow the body to move.
Compression of these nerves in the back and neck may impair how they communicate, resulting in tremors. However, this is a rare occurrence, with only a few accounts of people suffering tremors as a result of spinal abnormalities.
Treatment options for tremor-related back pain may be determined by the cause.
Doctors may propose surgery in the case of a disk herniation. An anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) technique may be used by a surgeon to treat the condition. The aberrant, bulging section of the disk that presses on the nerves in the spinal cord is initially removed during an ACDF. The bones will then be fused together to prevent them from rubbing against one another.
Cervical dystonia cannot be cured by doctors. They may, however, suggest one or a combination of the following treatment options:
Botulinum toxin (Botox) injections
This neurotoxin is injected into the neck muscles in modest dosages by a doctor. It stops nerves from sending out signals that cause muscle contractions.
At this time, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any oral drugs. Doctors may, however, suggest the following to alleviate symptoms:
- anticholinergic agents, such as benztropine
- dopaminergic agents, such as levodopa
There are two surgical procedures available to you. The first involves severing the nerves that supply dystonic muscles, although this can have serious adverse effects and take a long time to recover from.
Another approach is deep brain stimulation (DBS). DBS entails a surgeon implanting electrodes in the globus pallidus, a specific portion of the brain. Stimulators then provide little electrical pulses to the brain, which help to improve dystonic movements.
People with spinal disorders may likely find it difficult to prevent tremors. Cervical spondylotic myelopathy, for example, is caused by the degenerative changes in the spine that occur as people age, and tremors are common in the elderly.
Reduced spinal strain and injury risk can help people prevent herniated disks. However, disk material degrades gradually with age, and even modest strains or twisting movements might cause disk rupture.
The cause and prevention of cervical dystonia are frequently unknown to clinicians. However, because up to 25% of people have a family history of the condition, researchers have discovered linked gene abnormalities.
Tremors are involuntary shaking motions that can affect the muscles of the limbs, trunk, or face. Tremors are rarely caused by spinal issues. However, if the spinal cord is squeezed, the nerves’ ability to communicate is disrupted, which can result in tremors.
Surgery, injections, and medication may be used to treat tremor-related back disorders, depending on the cause.
People who avoid putting undue strain on their spine and are aware of potential injuries can lower their risk of having tremors as a result of spinal disorders.
Anyone who has tremors should seek medical advice for a diagnosis and treatment.