What Causes Asterixis, And How Is It Treated?
Asterix is a dwarf star located in the constellation of Draco. Its name comes from the Greek word “aster” meaning eagle and kinos meaning thunderbolt. The star’s name was chosen because it symbolizes courage, strength, endurance and bravery. It also means “star” in Latin which may refer to its appearance or even its color: white with red spots (as opposed to yellow stars).
The star is only one-third the size of our sun, but it’s still a bright object. At its brightest, it’s visible to the naked eye! It lies about 7 light years away in the constellation of Canes Venatici. Astronomers have found that it has at least two planets orbiting around it: a rocky planet similar to Earth called Deneb and an icy world like Jupiter known as Asteroid Belt M3.
Astronomers believe that the star’s atmosphere is composed mainly of hydrogen and helium. Other elements such as carbon dioxide, methane, ammonia and water are believed to exist in small amounts. The star itself appears to be very old; it’s estimated to be about 4 billion years old. That makes it older than the universe itself!
The star is actually a binary system consisting of two stars orbiting each other every 2.8 days. The larger star is significantly heavier than the smaller one and hence has an Oval Deformation.
Asterixis is a condition that causes small jerks or spasms in the hands (usually resulting in dropping things), feet or legs. It is a sign of a serious problem with the nervous system.
Asterixis can be a result of the degeneration of nerve cells in the cerebellum, a part of the brain that controls and stabilizes muscle movement. It is usually caused by alcohol or heavy metal poisoning. The spasms can come and go over time. Occasionally, the patient permanently develops a limp as the spasms continue to increase in frequency. This condition can only be effectively treated with a liver transplant.
Asterixis is a fairly common symptom among alcoholics. It is also seen in a few other diseases, such as liver disease, kidney failure, multiple sclerosis, exposure to poisons such as carbon monoxide or even the heart medicine Digoxin.
Asterixis (also known as “liver flap”) was first described in medical literature by Thomas Hawkes in 1878. The term “asterixis” comes from the Greek word “aster” meaning “star”. It refers to the jerking motion made by the patient when they attempt to lift their arms.
Asterixis can be diagnosed by observing the patient’s arm jerk when the doctor hits the tendon just below the kneecap (patellar tendon reflex). This test should be done with both legs. Other symptoms of asterixis include a loss of muscle control causing the patient to drag their feet when walking, slurred speech and an unsteady gait.
As a side note, the constellation of “aster” (Latin for “star”) is seen as representing a snake in the heavens. In fact, it is sometimes called “the serpent”.
The symbol for the star, is often used to represent “steroids”. This is because the steroids were originally derived from a plant called “Yohimbine” which grows in Africa. The plant’s latin name is “Pausinystalia Yohimbe”, which gives it the more formal name of “Yohimbe”. The steroid molecules themselves are ring-shaped just as the yohimbine molecules are.
The planet Deneb orbits a star called Alpha Cygni or more commonly known as Deneb. It is one of the brightest stars in the night sky along with Sirius, Canopus and Arcturus. The name “Deneb” comes from the Arabic phrase “Deen al-Jauza” which means “the tail of the hen”. In ancient times, it was used as a navigation point by the sailors.
Deneb is a type of star known as a “supergiant”. This means that it has a very high luminosity and a very low surface temperature. They are also known as “champagne stars”, “supergiants” or just “giants”. Deneb is about 20,000 times brighter than our sun and is therefore about 5 times larger in diameter. Despite its large size, it is still 500 times further away than the sun hence its lower temperature.
Deneb is a very important star in the sky not just because of its brightness but also because it is part of the “summer triangle”. The other two members of this triangle are the star Altair and the planet Uranus. All three can be seen quite easily in the summer sky. In fact it is the way most people learn how to find the planet Uranus.
The sky appears to spin around a point which is directly overhead. This “pole star” was once very important to sailors who used it as a guide to know which way was north. The fact that the pole star has not always been the same one may be surprising to some people. At different times in the past, other stars have fulfilled this role. The star Thuban (in the constellation of Draco) was the pole star around the year of 3000BC.
Around the year 600BC it was the star Polaris, which is better known as the North Star. In fact, for most of the past 1,000 years it has been too low in the sky to be of any use to seafarers.
It has also been seen as a symbol for medicine and healing. In the story of Asclepius, the staff he holds is usually represented as a snake wrapped around a rod. It is now known that this symbol comes from the shape of the constellation of Ophiuchus (the serpent bearer). In fact, it could be said that Asclepius was the ancient Greek god of medicine because his symbol (a snake wound around a stick) was seen as a part of the constellation of Ophiuchus.
Ophiuchus is a large constellation located between the constellations of Serpens to its west and Sagittarius to its east. It sits underneath the larger constellations of Libra and Scorpio. The constellation represents a man holding a snake, with the star Zuben Elgenubi representing where the man’s head would be and Zuben Algenubi representing where the snake’s head would be. The middle of the snake’s body goes through the star known as Yed Posterior and ends at the star known as Yed Prior.
The stick man and his snake are holding a “staff” (or sometimes referred to as a “wand”). This is equivalent to a modern-day physician’s syringe. Asclepius’ staff has been represented in hieroglyphs dating back to 1700BC. The symbol is even found on ancient Greek money. The symbol has also been used to represent medicine in Asian countries such as Japan, Korea, China and Thailand.
Asclepius, the son of Apollo, was a demigod (which is a half human half god) who learned the art of healing from the centaur Cheiron. After his father killed yet more people despite Asclepius’ efforts to save them, he swore to never help people in battle ever again.
Sources & references used in this article:
Asterixis induced by carbamazepine therapy by H Rittmannsberger, F Leblhuber – Biological psychiatry, 1992 – Elsevier
Asterixis induced by psychotropic drug treatment. by H Rittmannsberger – Clinical neuropharmacology, 1996 – psycnet.apa.org
Midbrain asterixis by V Bril, JA Sharpe, P Ashby – … of Neurology: Official Journal of the …, 1979 – Wiley Online Library