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Talks look at medical, sexual issues in aging

"Aging Successfully," the Catherine N. Stratton spring lecture series sponsored by the Women's League and the Medical Department, celebrates its 12th year with two programs: "New Approaches to Old Problems: Good Stories" on April 8 in Rm E25-111, and "Sexuality and Aging" on April 15 in Bartos Theater (E15-070).

Both lectures, which are open to the public, will begin at 9:30am (following coffee starting at 9am) and end at noon. An audience question period will follow each lecture. The public is invited.

In "New Approaches to Old Problems: Good Stories" moderated by Dr. William Kettyle, associate director of the Medical Department, the "old problems" of ulcers, arthritis and stroke and their new and dramatically successful treatments will be discussed.

Osteoarthritis affects 20 million Americans with painful swelling of the joints. Its crippling relative, rheumatoid arthritis, is caused by a fluke in the immune system. Happily, newly discovered medications can alleviate these situations. Dr. Simon Helfgott, a rheumatologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital and an assistant professor of medicine at the Harvard Medical School, will discuss both arthritis types and their treatments.

For the five million Americans with ulcers and the 400,000 new cases added annually, there are new approaches to medical management. The discovery that the Helicobacter pylori bacterium can cause ulcers has revolutionized the treatment of ulcer disease. The development of these new treatments will be highlighted by Dr. James Fox, a professor in the Division of Bioengineering and Environmental Health and director of the Division of Comparative Medicine.

Stroke, which strikes at least 730,000 Americans each year and is dreaded for its ensuing disabilities, now has a more hopeful outcome. "Clot-busting" medication, if given within three hours of onset, restores the blood flow and helps stave off further brain damage. If this crucial time has elapsed, however, new medication is now available which when combined with strenuous exercise helps people recover function -- even after a month. Dr. Lee Schwamm, assistant director of Acute Stroke Service at Massachusetts General Hospital and associate director of MIT's Clinical Research Center, will discuss stroke and its new treatments.

The second lecture, "Sexuality and Aging," will begin with a comprehensive overview of sexuality in the life cycle by the program moderator, Dr. Peter Reich, chief of psychiatry in the Medical Department.

Social, psychological and biological changes can affect the sexual experiences of older people. These will be discussed by Dr. Derek Polonsky, a psychiatrist with a special interest in relationships and couples therapy. Dr. Polonsky, a private practitioner, is an assistant professor in psychiatry at the Tufts and Harvard Medical Schools.

Bringing in the female perspective to the issue of "Sexuality and Aging" with a special interest in the care of women after menopause and their sexual dysfunction will be Dr. Katherine Wolf, a geriatric psychiatrist at Mt. Auburn Hospital and an instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Kettyle, an internist and specialist in endocrinology, will review the physiology of sexual dysfunction, its causes and possible remedies, including the use of Viagra.

For further information, call the Women's League at x3-3656.

A version of this article appeared in the March 31, 1999 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 43, Number 24).

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