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Health Highlights: July 17, 2017

Last Updated: July 17, 2017.

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Speech Problems May be Early Sign of Mental Decline: Study

Speech problems may be an early sign of mental decline that could lead to Alzheimer's disease, according to a new study.

It included volunteers who were asked to describe a picture they were shown in taped sessions two years apart. Those with early-stage mental decline (mild cognitive impairment) showed much greater decreases on certain verbal skills than those without mental decline, the Associated Press reported.

The study was released Monday at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in London.

"What we've discovered here is there are aspects of language that are affected earlier than we thought," before or at the same time that memory problems appear, said study co-leader Sterling Johnson of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the AP reported.

If further research confirms the findings, speech analysis may offer a simple and cheap method of screening people for very early signs of mental decline.

Mild cognitive impairment causes noticeable changes but they aren't severe enough to interfere with daily life. Not all people with mild cognitive impairment develop Alzheimer's disease, but 15 to 20 percent do, the AP reported.

Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia, which affects about 47 million people worldwide. In the United States, about 5.5 million people have Alzheimer's.

Current drugs can ease Alzheimer's symptoms, but can't slow or reverse the disease. Doctors believe treatment needs to begin as soon as possible to do any good, so there's a push to find early signs of Alzheimer's, the AP reported.


Dozens of Contact Lenses Found in Woman's Eye

Doctors in England say they found 27 contact lenses in a patient's eye when she was being prepped for cataract surgery.

The lenses in the 67-year-old woman's eye were clumped together in a "blueish mass" and were "bound together by mucus," according to an article in the British Medical Journal, the Washington Post reported.

The patient had worn monthly contact lenses for 35 years, but rarely saw an eye doctor during those years.

The doctors were confused by how all the contact lenses got there, but wrote that the patient had "deep set eyes, which might have contributed to the unusually large number of retained foreign bodies," they wrote in the article.

Two weeks after the contact lenses were removed, the woman told doctors her eye felt much more comfortable, the Post reported.


U.S. Doctor to Assess Charlie Gard

An American doctor specializing in treating rare genetic conditions has traveled to England to assess Charlie Gard.

Over the next few days, Dr. Michio Hirano of Columbia University will meet with the child's mother, Connie Yates, and specialists caring for the critically ill 11-month-old, the Associated Press reported.

Charlie has a rare genetic disease called mitochondrial depletion syndrome. He is brain-damaged and unable to breathe unaided.

His parents are embroiled in a legal fight to get permission to take Charlie to the United States for treatment. However, doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital say a new treatment won't benefit Charlie and could make him suffer, the AP reported.

Hirano's visit was arranged during a court hearing last week after he testified it was worth trying the the new treatment.


Tuskegee Syphilis Study Descendents Group Seeks Remaining Settlement Money

Any money remaining from a $9 million legal settlement over a U.S. government study that left hundreds of black men untreated for syphilis should be awarded to their descendents, a group says.

The money could be used for college scholarships and a memorial garden, said Lillie Tyson Head, the president of the Voices of our Fathers Legacy Foundation, an organization for descendents of men in the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, the Associated Press reported.

A county-owned museum in Tuskegee has separately requested the funds, but the decision should be up to the descendants, Head said. Her group has asked a judge to withhold a decision on the money until the foundation can hire a lawyer and file documents in a class action lawsuit over the study.

Beginning in 1932, government medical workers in rural Alabama withheld treatment from unsuspecting black men who had syphilis so that doctors could follow progression of the disease and examine the men's bodies after they died. The study was halted after it was revealed by the AP in 1972.

All of the approximately 600 men in the study are now dead. More than 6,000 of their heirs received settlement payments through the decades, but an undisclosed amount remains in court-controlled accounts, according to court officials, who say they cannot find additional descendants, the AP reported.

Court documents say the remaining amount of money as "relatively small" interest earnings.


7 Million Lbs of Hot Dog and Sausage Products Recalled

More than 7 million pounds of beef and pork hot dog and sausage products distributed by Marathon Enterprises of Bronx, N.Y. have been recalled because they may contain bone fragments.

The products were produced on various dates between March 17, 2017 and July 4, 2017, and have the establishment number "EST. 8864" inside the USDA mark of inspection. The products were shipped to retail and institutional locations across the U.S, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service said.

One minor mouth injury has been reported in connection with the recalled products, according to FSIS.

It said consumers who bought the products should throw them away or return them to the place of purchase.

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