Heart Health And How You Can Improve It
Heart-related diseases or cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are still the number one killer of men and women in the world. According to recent estimates, more than 18 million people lose their lives due to CVDs each year. In Australia, 1 in 5 adults (22%) of the population are diagnosed with CVD every year. It is expected that by 2030 more than 23 million people living in different parts of the world will die from cardiovascular diseases.
The good news is that most of these heart diseases or CVDs can be prevented easily by making healthy lifestyle choices. Most of these choices revolve around minimising or completely eliminating the risk factors that increase your chance of developing CVD (heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and arrhythmia). Controlling the risk factors can significantly reduce your chances of experiencing any heart-related complications.
To understand how you can improve health of your heart, it is important to first have a good understanding of the risks factors that increase your chance of developing cardiovascular disease.
Risk Factors Associated with CVDs
There is no single thing that causes cardiovascular diseases; in fact, there are “risk factors” that increase your chances of developing CVDs. Some of the risk factors are:
- having high blood pressure
- having a high cholesterol level
- having insomnia (lack of sleep)
- having diabetes
- having depression
- being overweight
- being physically inactive
- heavy alcohol use
How to Improve Your Heart Health
Here are a few practical yet simple steps you can take at your end that will surely get you on the road to a healthier heart and better health in general.
Say Goodbye to Smoking
Smoking is one of the major risk factors of cardiovascular diseases. The nicotine in cigarettes stimulates the body to produce a hormone called “adrenaline” which makes the heart beat faster and raises the blood pressure. Smoking also reduces the amount of oxygen that the blood can carry to the heart, this damages the artery walls. Other chemicals present in cigarettes damage the lining of the arteries and make the blood more likely to clot. All of these things increase the risk of stroke, heart attack, angina, and peripheral arterial disease.
Saying goodbye to smoking is the single most important thing you can do to improve your heart health.
Be Physically Active
Regular physical activity is good not only for your heart but also for your general wellbeing. People who are physically active have healthier bodies and minds than those who are not physically active. Regular physical activity helps to:
- build healthy muscles, bones, and joints
- improves cholesterol levels
- reduces the risk of diabetes
- improves mood and helps you sleep better
- decreases the risk of heart diseases
- lowers blood pressure
- improve body composition (body-mass-index ratio)
Moderate intensity rhythmic (aerobic) exercises such as cycling, brisk walking, and swimming are considered to be ideal for a healthy heart. Make physical activity part of your daily routine and aim to do at least 150 minutes of different aerobic exercises in a week to keep your heart in good shape.
Achieve & Maintain a Healthy Body Weight
If you are obese or overweight, you are at a higher risk of facing serious health problems like heart diseases, high blood pressure, high cholesterol level, diabetes, asthma or other breathing problems. Achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight goes a long way in keeping your heart healthy.
You need to first examine your daily eating habit and make sure you are not eating more calories than your body is able to burn, these extra calories actually result in weight gain. By eating the right portion sizes and cutting down on sugar and fats, you can dramatically reduce your waist size. Increasing your physical activity can help you burn the extra calories, and keep your body weight in check.
Eat Heart-Healthy Diet
Good nutrition plays a big role in keeping your heart healthy. By making smart food choices, you can significantly reduce your risk of CVDs. A heart-healthy diet helps lower blood pressure, cholesterol level, and your waistline. According to experts, here is what constitutes a heart-healthy diet:
- more portions of plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, and plain unsalted nuts
- un-refined whole grains and cereals such as oatmeal, brown rice, pasta, bread, and noodles
- moderate amounts of lean unprocessed meats, reduced dairy products, and skinless chicken
- oily fish such as tuna, salmon, sardines, herring and lake trout (at least twice a week)
- low fat or fat-free milk and dairy products
- plant-based oils, such as olive oil, canola oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil
- limited or no use of salt
The exact composition of the heart-healthy diet will ultimately depend on individual characteristics such as your age, gender, physical and mental health, lifestyle, the degree of physical activity, availability of food items in your area, and dietary customs.
Keep your Stress Levels under Control
There is a strong link between stress and heart health. Studies have shown that people who are under constant stress or do not have quality social support are at a greater risk of developing CVDs. Constant stress can also lead to the adoption of unhealthy habits such as smoking, use of drugs, and excessive use of alcohol, all of which increase the risk of heart diseases.
It is, therefore, very important to learn how to relax and effectively deal with stress. Here are some simple tips you can follow to tackle day-to-day stress:
- identify situations/activities that make you feel stressed and try to avoid them, if possible
- be realistic about your expectations/goals and do not try to push things to the limit to satisfy your end goals
- make sure to keep yourself active by engaging yourself in activities that you like
- try relaxation techniques or join meditation/yoga classes
- be socially active and share your feelings with your loved ones
It is never too late to make changes in your life and adopt a healthy lifestyle. Whatever your age, race, sex or medical condition, you can always make these adjustments in your life to protect your heart and your overall health.
Skin Cancer Moles | Mole Checks & Treatments
Moles, medically referred to as “melanocytic nevi” are pink, brown, or tan colored raised or flat skin lesions of cells that produce “melanin” – the pigment that gives human skin its color. Presence of moles on the skin is not unusual. On average, most people have 10-40 moles on different parts of their skin. They may be present at birth (congenital melanocytic nevi) or may develop in the later parts of life (usually adulthood) as a response to external stimuli (sunlight or UV light), these moles are referred to as acquired melanocytic nevi. Although genetics play an important role in determining the pattern and frequency of skin moles, exposure to sunlight and UV light can also cause you to have more moles and make the ones you already have larger and darker. So, how can you differentiate between a normal skin mole from a skin cancer mole?
While a skincare specialist (dermatologist) is the ideal person to tell the difference between a normal mole and an abnormal one, there are few simple things you can do at home to identify a troublesome mole/blemish/freckle.
Skin Cancer Mole Check
Moles come in different shapes, sizes, and colors. Most of them are usually harmless and do not change, there are some that can grow, change in shape and color and even become cancerous (melanoma). Melanomas can develop from existing moles or they can appear as “new mole-like marks” on the normal skin. The good news is that moles that are considered unusual or “atypical” affect only 10% of the population and only 1 in 10,000 people will have a cancerous mole. With early diagnosis and detection, most melanoma cases can be successfully treated.
While a detailed exam by an experienced Dermatologist is the best way to determine if a mole is cancerous or not, there are a few specific things you can do on your own to spot changes or identify any potential cancerous growth. The ABCDEs of moles can help you analyze moles and check for warning signs that may indicate melanoma. If you see one or more signs, you need to consult your dermatologist immediately.
- Asymmetry – if the two halves of the mole may differ in appearance
- Border – if the outside edges or border of the mole is uneven, distorted, or ill-defined
- Color – if the color of the mole is changing and not consistent or if you see different colors of dark black, blue, red, purple, pink, or brown within the mole
- Diameter – if the diameter of a mole is larger than the diameter of the eraser found on the backend of pencil
- Evolution – if you notice any changes in color, size, shape, or thickness and if this change is rapid or different than you notice in other moles
The ABCDE formula is just a handy tool to watch for general signs, not all skin cancer moles have these traits. Some might be growing quickly but not have other characteristics, while others may not be growing but show discoloration and asymmetry. Your dermatologist will be able to come to a better conclusion after performing a careful history and physical examination and conducting some additional tests such as a biopsy.
The Treatment Options
The treatment for skin cancer moles depends on a number of factors, such as the type and stage of cancer, the size, location and depth of the melanoma, and your overall health. Surgical removal of the cancerous mole is the most preferred treatment option. A team of specialists including a dermatologist, a pathologist, a plastic surgeon, an oncologist, and a specialist nurse usually participates in these surgeries. In order to make sure that no traces of active cancer cells are left behind, the surgeon may remove a normal margin of the tissue surrounding the mole. If the team of doctors finds that a melanoma has spread beyond the skin, other treatment options may be used, such as:
- Radiation Therapy
- Biological Therapy
- Targeted Therapy
Knowing your risk factors and being aware of the early warning signs is the best way to deal with skin cancer moles. If you note any changes in the color, size, shape or appearance of your skin moles, don’t wait – consult your dermatologist as soon as possible.
Southbank Medical Centre
Skin Cancer Moles
Prostate Cancer | What Tests are Available For Detection
Who Is More at Risk, Why Don’t We Have a Screening Program For All Men, How Is It Diagnosed, What Treatments are Available
The prostate is a small walnut-shaped gland located under the bladder and surrounding the urethra. The gland is part of the male reproductive system and is mainly responsible for the production of semen – the fluid that carries the sperm.
The formation of a tumor (abnormal, malignant cell growth) is referred to as prostate cancer. Sometimes the abnormal uncontrolled cell growth does not remain confined and may start to spread.
Prostate Cancer is generally a slowly progressing disease; the majority of men do not experience any marked symptoms and live with it for the rest of their lives without it spreading to other parts of the body and becoming life-threatening. However, high-grade cancer can spread very quickly and can prove to be fatal, therefore early diagnosis and management is the key to survival.
What Tests are Available for Detection of Prostate Cancer?
It is often very hard to detect since it normally grows very slowly and does not cause any other health problems. Moreover, some of the tests (such as PSA used for early screening of prostate cancer) may not yield accurate results and can prove to be misleading. This can lead to unnecessary treatment which can result in nasty side effects.
The most commonly used tests for detection are PSA blood test and digital rectal examination. However, both of these test do not diagnose, they are only helpful for detecting changes in the prostate gland.
- Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) Blood Test
PSA is actually a protein made by the prostate cells as well as by cancerous cells. In order to measure the levels of PSA, a blood test is used. If the results of the blood test are above the normal range for your age or if they are rising rapidly, this may indicate the possibility of cancer. A high PSA level does not necessarily mean cancer since other prostate diseases can also raise the PSA levels in the blood.
- Digital Rectal Examination (DRE)
Although not recommended as a routine test for men with no symptoms, the DRE is used to check the size, shape, and any abnormalities. DRE can be uncomfortable for some patients, but it is rarely painful. The examiner inserts a gloved lubricated finger into the rectum to probe any abnormalities. Presence of abnormalities does not always indicate prostate cancer, similarly, the absence of any abnormalities also does not rule out the chances of prostate cancer.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Scan
A specialised type of MRI is used for men suspected of having prostate cancer; it is called the mpMRI or multi-parametric MRI scan. The mpMRI combines the results of three MRI scans to show a clearer image of the abnormal areas. The mpMRI scan is usually recommended to help work out if a biopsy is needed and on which area to perform a biopsy (if needed). The mpMRI scan is also used to find out whether cancer has spread from the prostate to other nearby areas.
If the results of the above tests indicate the presence of abnormalities in the prostate, a biopsy is performed. Small amounts of tissues from different parts of the prostate are taken using a specialised needle. These samples are then examined by an expert pathologist to see if cancer cells are present or not.
Who Is More at Risk?
While it is still unclear what causes prostate cancer, your risk of developing prostate cancer can increase because of the following risk factors:
- Age – prostate cancer is most commonly diagnosed in men aged 60-79 and is very rare among men under 45.
- Genetics – a person has a higher risk of developing prostate cancer if his brother or father had it. Certain ethnic groups are at a higher risk because of their genetic makeup. In the US it is 60% more common and deadly among black men than white or non-Hispanic men.
- Geographical Location – people living in North America, the Caribbean Islands, Australia, and northwestern Europe are at an increased risk for reasons unknown.
- Diet – a diet rich in high-fat products or red meat is linked with increased risk of developing prostate cancer, but the links are weak and not confirmed yet.
- Obesity – some studies link obesity to be one of the risk factors of prostate cancer, however, there is no clear-cut evidence linking the two.
- Medication – use of certain medications such as NSAIDs is linked with the reduction of prostate cancer, while some studies suggest the use of NSAIDs to be a high-risk factor of death from this disease.
Why Don’t We Have a Screening Program for All Men?
Screening refers to testing a person for the early stages of cancer or any other disease before he/she starts to experience any symptoms. Screening for cancer patients is usually recommended if:
- the results of the screening tests are reliable
- the benefits would outweigh the risks
- screening tests have good value for money
The simple answer to the question “why don’t we have a screening program for all men” for prostate cancer is that we do not yet have any reliable enough screening test to use. The most commonly used tests for detection of prostate cancer are PSA blood test and digital rectal examination. However, both of these results do not diagnose cancer, they are helpful only for finding out changes in the prostate gland. Moreover, some of the tests (such as PSA used for early screening of prostate cancer) may not yield accurate results and as mentioned before can prove to be misleading.
Prostate Cancer – What Treatments are Available
Depending on your age, health status, and the stage of prostate cancer, your doctor will develop an appropriate treatment plan for you. Since it is a slow progressing cancer, many patients do not experience any symptoms or long-term issues, so treatment is not necessary. Treatment options for men with prostate cancer might include:
- Active Surveillance of Prostate Cancer
- Radiation Therapy
- Hormone Therapy
Southbank Medical Centre
Rosacea | What You Need To Know About
For most people, red flushed skin on the face is a common reaction to emotional feelings such as shyness, anger, embarrassment, or excitement. Yet, for others, it is a manifestation of an all-too-common, non-contagious inflammatory skin condition – Rosacea.
Rosacea is quite a complex medical condition and is often confused with Acne, Eczema, or skin allergy. It is quite common in women (especially during menopause and people with fair skin. In Australia, 10% of the population struggles with Rosacea. More women get affected by this skin condition than men, although in men the symptoms are usually more severe. The first symptoms of Rosacea start to appear between the ages of 30 to 50 years and tend to worsen with the passage of time.
Rosacea is a common but often poorly understood chronic relapsing inflammatory skin disease with significant medical, cosmetic, and psychological impact on the daily lives of millions of people.
What Is It?
Rosacea, medically referred to as “rosacea acne” is a non-contagious inflammatory skin disease characterised, alone or in combination, by symmetric flushing, inflammatory lesions (pustules and papules), central facial erythema (redness), stinging sensation, telangiectasias, and phymatous changes (nodules and tissue hyperplasia).
Frequent flushing or blushing that lasts for just a few minutes is commonly the first sign. Over time, permanent redness may develop on the face, and in more severe cases, it can also affect the neck and the chest.
How Do I Know If I have Rosacea?
Occasional flushes of redness on the cheeks aren’t anything to worry about but if you experience persistent facial redness coupled with a burning sensation and slight swelling, it is possible that you have rosacea. Here are some other important signs and symptoms to look for:
- enlarged capillaries (telangiectasis)
- small red lines under the skin which appear somewhat swollen, warm, and red
- a permanent flush across cheeks and nose
- burning or stinging sensation
- small spots or lumps (which may later become painful) on the cheeks, chin, and forehead
- inflamed eyes/eyelids
- facial swelling
- a swollen nose (in men it becomes red, larger, and bumpy)
- thickening of the skin
While not all patients encounter all the symptoms and in the same severity, multiple symptoms can surface at once. If you encounter any or a combination of these symptoms, it is a good idea to look for triggers that aggravate the condition and cause the symptoms to worsen.
What Causes Rosacea?
Although the exact cause of rosacea is still unknown, many researchers believe that internal inflammation, heredity factors, lowered immune system, some bacteria, and dermodex mites (a microscopic creature that lives on everyone’s skin) are the major contributors.
Some of the factors (triggers) that can aggravate the condition and make the symptoms worse, include:
- emotional stress
- anxiety or anger
- hormonal changes (due to menopause)
- exposure to extreme weather conditions (hot or cold weather)
- eating spicy food
- drinking coffee and tea or other hot drinks
- UV exposure
- long term use of steroids
- strenuous exercise
- excessive alcohol consumption
Can Rosacea Be Cured?
It is important to note that rosacea is a chronic skin condition that can be controlled but not cured. The good news is that rosacea is generally responsive to treatment and with early diagnosis; most of the symptoms can be effectively treated and controlled.
The range of treatments available for rosacea are as diverse as the rosacea symptoms themselves, from topical applications to laser therapy or light treatment, your doctor (dermatologist) will be able to suggest the most suitable treatment plan for you.
Here are some of the treatment options for rosacea that your doctor (dermatologist) may suggest, depending on the type and severity of the symptoms:
- Self-help Measure
- taking good care of your skin
- avoidance of known triggers
- keeping the eyes/eyelids clean
- using less makeup
- Topical Treatments
- Azelaic Acid
- Brimonidine Tartrate
- Tretinoin cream
- Sodium sulfacetamide and sulfur
- Oral Medications
- Laser and Intense pulsed light (IPL) treatment
- Cosmetic Surgery
- Alternative Therapies
How Long It Takes To See Results?
Depending on the type and severity of symptoms and the type of treatment option used, the time to see results will vary from person to person. Most people will start noticing some improvement with 3-4 weeks and significant improvement in 2-3 months.
Southbank Medical Centre
MEN’S HEALTH – WHICH MEN ARE AT HIGHER RISK
What Are The Common Causes Of Premature Death In Men; What Deaths Are More Likely In Men Than In Women; What Health Checks Should Men Have?
Very few men can expect to have a life expectancy like Misao Okawa of Japan, who recently died at the age of 117, and women live an average of 5-10 years longer than men. Although the male population enjoys a numerical advantage at birth (105 males for every 100 females), this advantage, however, decreases with the passage of time. By their first birthday, 21% more males than females will die and this pattern of excess male demise persists through every stage of life, such that by the time they reach the age of 65 and older, only 75 males are left for every 100 females. Moreover, this pattern of women outliving men is noted across all cultures. So, which men are at a higher risk of premature death, what are the causes of premature death in men, what deaths are more likely in men than in women, and what health checks should men have to beat the odds of premature death.
Which Men Are At A Higher Risk Of Premature Death?
People living in highly developed countries like Japan, Iceland, Hong Kong, and Australia enjoy higher life expectancy rates, in fact, Australia ranks the highest when compared with these three nations. However, Australian males do not enjoy a longer life when compared to their female counterparts. On average, Australian women can expect to live 84 years while Australian men enjoy a life expectancy of 79 years. This is because men are 2 times more likely to have liver diseases, 1.3 times more likely to have cancer and almost 3X more likely to contract HIV/AIDS. Yet, most men, especially the younger generation often tend to ignore common health issues that disproportionately affect them. Let’s have a closer at some categories of men which are at a higher risk of premature death:
- Men Involved In a Criminal Activity – men who are involved in any criminal activity increase their risk of dying from homicides, suicides, accidents or other risky unlawful ventures.
- Men With a Bigger Body Size – although bigger is sometimes better, unfortunately not when it comes to body size and longevity connection. On average, men with bigger body size (height of more than 6 feet) do not live as long as their shorter counterparts.
- Men Addicted to Alcohol, Smoking, or Drugs – smoking, drinking alcohol, and using drugs in excess amounts can lead to a lot of serious health complications for men’s health.
- Men Associated With High-Risk Occupations – all the world’s most dangerous (high-risk) occupations (firefighting, law enforcement, military, construction sites) are predominantly dominated by males.
- Men With Weak Social Connections – women have stronger social connections, this is one of the reasons they enjoy a longer life. Men, on the other hand, are often not that open to discuss and share their problems with others; therefore they experience more psychological and mental health issues.
- Men Who Put-Off Regular Checkups And Medical Care – men usually have a tendency to avoid or delay regular checkup and medical care. Women, on the other hand, are very health conscious. Men’s health relies on checkups
What Are the Common Causes of Premature Death in Men?
As per the data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the common causes of premature death in Australian men, in order from first to last are:
- Ischaemic heart disease
- Trachea and Lung Cancer
- Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease
- Cerebrovascular disease
- Chronic lower respiratory disease
- Prostate Cancer
- Colon and Rectum Cancer
- Blood and lymph Cancer
What Deaths Are More Likely In Men than In Women
With the exception of sex/gender related deaths, such as childbirth mortality, men outnumber women in many non-sex-related deaths. For example
- Colon and rectum cancer – 55% of deaths are male
- Suicide – 75% of deaths are male
- Blood and lymph cancer – 58% of deaths are male
- Trachea and lung cancer – 60% of deaths are male
- Ischaemic heart disease – 57% of deaths are male
What Health Checks Should Men Have?
While there is nothing you can do to avoid death, you can increase your odds of living a healthy and happy life and adding a year or two to it by being proactive about your health. Changing your lifestyle, adopting healthy eating habits, and performing routine screening tests can help you monitor and maintain your health.
Depending on your age, lifestyle choices, family history, and health condition, some of the following health screening checks may be recommended on regular basis for men’s health:
- Blood Pressure Checkup
- Cholesterol Profile
- Blood Sugar/Diabetes Test
Southbank Medical Centre
TYPE 1 & 2 – WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO
Diabetes – Can It Be Prevented? How Is Treated?
Our bodies cells and organs need energy in order to perform various functions. Although many tissues use fat or proteins as a source of energy, some organs such as the brain and red blood cells rely on glucose for energy needs. A hormone called insulin, produced by the beta cells of the pancreas helps to convert blood sugar into usable energy, it also helps to control blood sugar levels and keep them in the normal range. Sometimes the pancreas is unable to produce enough or any insulin or fails to use insulin well, this results in an increase in the blood glucose (sugar) levels.
What is Diabetes?
Medically termed “diabetes mellitus” or simply DM is a metabolic disorder in which the body is unable to properly store, process, and use sugar. This can lead to an increase in the sugar levels in our blood. Increased levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood can lead to serious health complications including but not limited to heart diseases, kidney failure, blindness, and lower-extremity amputations.
Diabetes is the epidemic of the 21st century and a challenging problem for public health worldwide. It is estimated that roughly 1.7 million Australians suffer from this chronic disorder, and a further 2 million are at a high risk of developing it in the coming years. As per the data shared by the World Health Organization, it will be the seventh leading cause of death by 2030. Despite all the dangers associated with it, many are still living with outdated assumptions about what it is, what the different types are, what the differences between Type 1 and Type 2 is, what are the causes and its risk factors.
Type 1 & 2 – What is the Difference between the two
Type 1 diabetes aka juvenile onset or insulin-dependent is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system starts to destroy the pancreas – the insulin-producing gland. Since the body is unable to produce its own insulin, people suffering from Type 1 may have to use multiple insulin injections or a continuous infusion of insulin throughout the day in order to keep the blood sugar at normal levels. Although type 1 can occur at any age, children, teenagers, and young adults are the ones most affected by this type. Type 1 accounts for 10% of all people with diabetes in Australia. Unfortunately, there is no cure or means of preventing this type, it can only be managed.
Type 2 aka adult-onset or non-insulin is the most common type and accounts for more than 80% of all diagnosed cases in Australia. People suffering from this type do produce insulin, but the cells in the body do not respond to it the way they used to or become resistant to the body’s own insulin. Type 2 is generally diagnosed after the age of 40, but it can also occur in childhood. If diagnosed early, type 2 can be effectively controlled or managed through a healthy diet, weight loss, and physical activity.
What Causes It
The underlying causes of type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes are different, and despite popular belief, none of them is caused directly by eating too much sugar.
Causes of type 1:
- autoimmune destruction of beta cells
- damage or removal of the pancreas
- endocrine disease
- unfavorable environmental factors
- viruses and infections
- hereditary predisposition
- autoimmune disease
- drugs and toxic chemicals
Causes of type 2:
- sedentary lifestyle
- biochemical/hormonal imbalances
- cellular starvation
- high blood pressure
- insulin resistance
Prevention and Treatment
Many studies suggest that a good diet accompanied with increased physical activity and other healthy lifestyle changes such as losing weight, quitting smoking, and limiting alcohol intake can dramatically reduce the progression of type-2 and may control type-1 diabetes. In addition to this, certain oral anti-diabetes drugs may also help prevent the development of type-2 diabetes in prediabetes individuals. Secondary prevention involves early identification of people with type-2 diabetes and offering support to make necessary lifestyle changes as well as following an effective treatment plan for both type-1 and type-2 diabetes in order to stop costly diabetes complications.
How Is Diabetes Treated
The key to leading a healthy life and reducing the risk of developing complications from diabetes is to seek the best possible treatment available. A number of treatment options are available to help you manage or treat diabetes. The treatment will vary depending on the type of diabetes, the age, lifestyle, and your individual needs.
Treatment Options for Type-1 Diabetes:
- multiple daily injections (MDI)
- insulin pump therapy
- incretin mimetics
- islet cell transplant
Treatment Options for Type-2 Diabetes
- Tablets and medications
- weight loss surgery
- healthy diet and exercise.
Southgate Medical Centre
Common Eye Problems
Twitching Eyes or Blepharospasm; Eye ‘Floaters’; Myopia (shortsightedness); Astigmatism; Watery Eyes
Your common eyesight is one of the most valuable assets as 80% of what we perceive come through our sense of sight. In fact, a greater part of the brain is dedicated to vision than to all the other four senses combined. Most of us tend to take good eye health for granted, until the time we face a serious eye problem. Many eye problems have no early symptoms; you may not feel any pain or notice loss of vision until the issue has become quite advanced. The best way to avoid all such eye complications is through regular professional eye examinations. So what are some common issues affecting the eyes
Twitching Eyes |Common Eye Problems
Eye twitching medically referred to as Blepharospasm is an involuntary, abnormal blinking of the eyelid. This involuntary spasm of the eyelid muscles may happen in one or both eyelids and is rarely uncomfortable, but it can be irritating. They are very common and often last for a few seconds and often go away on their own, but if they last for more than 2 weeks, it is best to consult an ophthalmologist. Although anyone can experience eye-twitching at any time, it is fairly common in middle-aged people and elderly women.
Eye twitching or spasm of eyelid muscles can be attributed to the electrical activity in the brain that causes the nerve cells to flash signals to the eyelid muscles. There are no visible external or internal stimuli that cause eye twitching. Other conditions which may increase the likelihood of eye twitching include:
- irritation of the eye or eyelids
- dry eyes
- excessive caffeine intake
- excessive alcohol intake
- disrupted sleep patterns
- bright light
- high winds
Mild cases of eye twitching do not require any medical treatment, getting some rest, minimizing caffeine and alcohol intake, and reducing stress can help relieve symptoms. However, more chronic forms of this condition may require any of the following medical treatments:
- Medications – your GP may advise you to use certain medicines to treat the eye twitching problem. However, these medications do not give the same results to everyone and tend to only mask the symptoms for a short period of time.
- Facial Injections – for severe cases, your GP may use facial injections such as Botulinum toxin to help paralyze the muscles that cause this eye twitching. In most cases, the eyelid muscle contractions stop immediately.
- Surgery – for patients who do not respond to the other forms of treatment, surgery may be the last option. The surgeon removes the muscles around the eyelid or part of the nerve in order to lessen the severity of the spasms.
Eye “Floaters” |Common Eye Problems
As the name suggests, the eye “floaters” are small spots, specks, strands, cobwebs, or lines that aimlessly drift through your field of vision. They are more prominent when you look at light-colored backgrounds such as a white wall or blue sky. They move as you move your eyes and usually disappear when you try to look at them directly. They may appear in different shapes and sizes and in most cases they are normal and harmless. Although anyone can experience eye floaters at any time, they are usually experienced by middle-aged people.
It is generally agreed that eye floaters are caused by an irregularity in the jelly-like fluid “vitreous humour” that makes the bulk of the eye. As we grow older, this jelly-like fluid becomes more watery with tiny clumps of protein floating through it. These tiny clumps of protein cast a shadow onto the retina as soon as bright light enters the eye; this is what we see as small spots, specks, strands, cobwebs, or lines floating through our field of vision.
Besides abnormalities in the vitreous humour, eye floaters can be caused as a result from other diseases and conditions, such as:
- inflammation in the back of the eye
- bleeding in the eye
- infection in the eye
- torn retina
- eye surgery
- eye medications
Witnessing something floating around your field of vision may at first seem like a matter of concern, but floaters are very common and usually harmless. Under very rare cases they require any medical treatment as they usually go away on their own with the passage of time. The best way to deal with floaters is to ignore them, however, if they start to interfere with your vision or create other complications, you should seek medical advice. Your doctor, after carrying out a detailed examination of your eyes, may consider any of the following treatment options:
- Laser Therapy for Eye Floaters – laser therapy is used to either disrupt the floaters or break them up in tiny pieces so they are less noticeable. Although not widely used, laser therapy for floaters is a relatively new treatment approach and is in the experimental phase. People have reported varying results of this therapy, some witness improvement after the procedure, while others see no or little difference.
- Surgery for Eye Floaters – a small surgery (vitrectomy) may be performed by a surgeon to remove the vitreous fluid and replace it with a solution. If the surgery is not performed well, it can create complications and can also give rise to new floaters. Most of the surgeons, therefore do not recommend a surgery for eye floaters unless the floaters seriously interfere with your daily life and vision.
Myopia |Common Eye Problems
Myopia, commonly known as “shortsightedness” or “nearsightedness” is a refractive error of the eye in which the eye fails to focus clearly on distant objects. People who suffer from this eye focusing disorder are unable to see distant objects clearly but often can see reasonably clear at short distances. It is generally categorized as an eye-focusing disorder, rather than a disease.
Myopia is a fairly common eye-focusing disorder and usually begins in childhood. It is estimated that by 2050, almost half of the global population will be affected by this disorder.
Myopia usually occurs when the eyes grow slightly too long from front to back. As a result of this deformity, the light does not focus on the retina (the light-sensitive tissue), instead, an image is created in front of the retina, resulting in blurred vision. Scientists are still unclear as to why this deformity of the eye happens, they often link it to heredity or environmental factors such as poor diet, poor posture, poor light, excessive reading, and lack of exposure to natural sunlight.
Despite so many advances in the field of medicine, no drug or treatment for myopia has been discovered. Recent research suggests that some drugs might slow the progression of myopia. A number of treatments, however, are available to correct myopia symptoms all of which focus on making the light rays fall on the retina to make a clearer image of the distant object.
- Corrective lenses – such as glasses or contact lenses
- Laser eye surgery – laser eye surgery is performed to make the necessary corrections to the shape of the eye. Laser eye surgery is however not advisable for children since their eyes are still developing.
- Artificial lens implants – the natural lens is replaced with an artificial lens on a permanent basis to help the eyes focus correctly.
Astigmatism |Common Eye Problems
Like myopia (nearsightedness/shortsightedness) and hyperopia (farsightedness), astigmatism is a refractive error/disorder of the eyes and not a disease. In astigmatism, the light entering the eye fails to focus on the retina, resulting in distorted or blurred vision. This refractive error occurs because of an irregularly shaped lens (lenticular astigmatism) inside the eye or irregularly shaped cornea (corneal astigmatism). In a normal eye, the cornea and the lens are curved like a basketball with an equal degree of roundness in all areas; this makes the light bend evenly to give a clear view. An eye with astigmatism, however, has a lens and cornea that is curved more like a football (egg-shaped), with one meridian being slightly more curved than the other, this makes the light bend more in one direction than the other resulting in blurred or distorted vision.
The exact cause of astigmatism (deformity) of the cornea or lens of the eyes is still not known, but scientists consider genetics to be a big factor. Astigmatism is often present at birth; however, there have also been instances of astigmatism developing in later part of life.
Like myopia and hyperopia, most cases of astigmatism can be effectively corrected with eyeglasses, contact lenses, or refractive surgery. If astigmatism is mild, your doctor may not suggest any treatment. The two most common treatment options for normal astigmatism are:
- Corrective lenses – such as glasses or contact lenses
- Refractive Surgery – with the help of laser light, the shape of the cornea or lens is changed.
Watery Eyes |Common Eye Problems
Tears are very important for the health and wellbeing of your eyes. We generally associate tears with emotions or onions. However, if you have tears in your eyes for no reason, an eye condition may be the reason. The good news is that most of these eye conditions can be effectively treated with over-the-counter medicines.
Epiphora or excessive abnormal tearing is a condition in which the eye/s make more tears than they can effectively drain making the eye/s wet for a prolonged period of time. While not necessarily harmful, watery eyes can be very frustrating and embarrassing at the time and can even cause vision problems.
The most common causes of watery eyes (Epiphora) are:
- Excessive productions of tears – irritation or inflammation of the surface of the eye are the two reasons which can cause the eye to produce more tears to rinse the irritant away.
- Blockage of the tear ducts – some people are born with blocked tear ducts, while others may develop it later in life as a result of narrowing of ducts because of swelling or inflammation or displacement of drainage openings (puncta).
- dry eyes
- pink eyes (conjunctivitis)
- keratitis – infection of the cornea
- eye strain
- allergies – such as hay fever
- use of certain medications
- corneal cancer
- cut or scrape on the eye
- ingrown eyelash
Most cases of watery eyes are not serious and will resolve on their own with the passage of time or by using certain OTC medications. However, in case of tear drainage problems, minor surgery is performed to create a new channel of drainage from the tear sac to the inside of the nose. In case, the drainage channels are narrowed and not entirely blocked, the surgeon may use a probe to make them wider.
Southbank Medical Centre
Common Eye Problems
What Is Arthritis And What Are The Different Types Of Arthritis?
Put simply, the term refers to “joint inflammation”. It is typically referred to as a single disease, in reality, however, it is an umbrella term used to describe more than 200 medical conditions/diseases (rheumatic diseases) that affect the joints including bones, ligaments, muscles, and cartilage.
Usually associated with older people, it can affect anyone from young children to senior citizens. It is one of the most common medical conditions in Australia, affecting more than 3.9 million adults and children, creating disability and medical expenses that exceed billions of dollars a year.
Whether you have recently been diagnosed with arthritis or have been living with it for quite some time, it can raise many concerns and questions. So, what are the different types, what can you do to prevent it, how is it treated, and what are some of the newer treatment options that can help you better understand and deal with its debilitating symptoms more effectively.
There are over 100 different types which affect people in different ways, but all of them share the following common symptoms:
- persistent joint pain
- swelling in joint/s
- tenderness and stiffness
- decreased range of motion
Although there is no single common cause for the different types of arthritis, wear and tear of the joints, connective tissues, and ligaments from frequent use and/or injuries may result in an arthritic condition. Sometimes, it is difficult to pinpoint an underlying cause, but a combination of factors is thought to play a part. Some possible causes of arthritis may include:
- genetics, such as osteoarthritis
- immune system dysfunction, such as SLE and RA
- injury, leading to degenerative arthritis
- infections, such as arthritis in Lyme disease
- abnormal metabolism, such as in osteoarthritis
What Are The Different Types?
Though arthritis can take more than 200 different forms, the most common types of arthritis are:
- Osteoarthritis (OA) – also referred to as degenerative arthritis is probably the most common type of arthritis which affects the whole joint including muscles, bones, ligaments, and cartilage. More than 2.1 million Australians are affected by this type of arthritis.
- Rheumatoid (RA) – is the most common inflammatory form of arthritis caused by malfunctioning of the body’s immune system which starts to attach the connective tissues of different body parts/joints causing inflammation, pain, and degeneration of joint tissues.
- Juvenile (JA) – an umbrella term used to describe different types of arthritis that affect children. Also referred to as Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA) or Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, this is actually a type of auto-immune disorder that affects around 6,000 Australian children annually.
- Psoriatic (PSA) – this type of arthritis usually affects people with the skin disease psoriasis, however only 10-20% of the people with psoriasis will also have Psoriatic arthritis.
- Reactive – this type of arthritis usually develops following an infection and causes swelling, pain, and inflammation of the joints.
- Gout – another common type of rheumatic disease which is caused by the accumulation of urate crystals inside the joints causing inflammation, pain, and swelling. This type of arthritis usually affects the joints at the base of the big toe, but it may affect other body joints such as joints in the wrists, knees, ankles, and elbow.
- Fibromyalgia – also referred to as fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is a type of central pain syndrome in which the brain processes the pain signals differently and amplifies the perception of the pain. It causes generalized body pain, extreme fatigue, and muscle stiffness.
- Lupus – also known as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), is also a type of autoimmune disease in which body’s own immune system starts to attack other healthy body tissues, producing widespread inflammation. SLE can impact other body organs such as kidneys, brain, heart, lungs, and skin besides affecting joints.
What Can I Do To Prevent It?
Aging is a natural process and there is nothing we can do to stop or avoid it. As we age, several parts of our body naturally wear down; especially our joints that help connect the bones. The wearing of joints makes them inflamed or damaged over time and this is one of the main reasons we experience arthritis pain. By the time we reach the age of 65, nearly half of us will suffer from some type of arthritis.
Although there is nothing you can do to stop the natural aging process, or change your genes, there are certain things you can do to keep your joints healthy, maintain mobility and functionality, and make yourself a less likely candidate for certain types of arthritis.
- Lose Weight – being overweight is a risk factor for developing osteoarthritis and many other chronic diseases. Overweight women are 4X more likely to experience osteoarthritis pain than women with healthy body weight. Losing weight is a good start to lowering your risk of developing osteoarthritis.
- Be Physically Active – by participating in various physical activities, such as walking, running, weight lifting, swimming, etc you will not only be able to reduce your excess weight but also strengthen the muscles around the joints. Certain exercise programs such as stretching and aerobic activities will also help you maintain your flexibility and range of motion.
- Eat Healthy Diet – healthy diet rich in certain nutrients such as vitamin D and Omega-3 fatty acids is linked with healthy bones and joints and reducing inflammation. Eating fish like sardines, trout, salmon, and mackerel twice a week may lower the risk of rheumatoid arthritis in women.
- Avoid Injury – people with past joint injuries are at a greater risk of experiencing arthritis pain. Therefore make sure to wear protective gear while playing any sports and always use the correct techniques.
- Protect Your Joints – the better you take care of your joints, the better they will take care of you down the line. Avoid lifting heavy items, avoid sitting in awkward positions, and avoid putting too much pressure on your joints to protect them for later part of your life.
Pay Regular Visits to your Doctor – arthritis is a progressive disorder, means the longer you wait to seek treatment, the more the damage. Visit your doctor or a rheumatologist on regular basis and seek his/her professional advice on how to prevent arthritis and preserve your mobility.
Southbank Medical Centre
What Are Warts? | What Are The Different Types & How Are They Treated?
How Do I get them?
These are a few common questions that most people feel embarrassed to ask. But despite their bad rep, they are incredibly common especially in school-aged children or those who are immunosuppressed.
Also referred to as verrucae vulgaris or papillomas, are tiny, grainy skin growths (non-cancerous) that appear when the top layer of skin is infected with one of the many viruses of the human papillomavirus (HPV) family. While they can appear anywhere on your skin, you are more likely to get them on your hands or feet. The viruses that cause them are highly contagious; therefore they can easily spread by contact. It takes the virus 2-6 months to develop into a wart once it comes in contact with the skin. The good news is that they eventually disappear on their own and they are harmless, except their physical appearance which is quite bothersome and embarrassing for some.
What Causes Them?
Regardless of their type they are caused by the same virus – the human papilloma virus (HPV). The HPV virus has more than 150 known strains, some of these strains (HPV-1, HPV-2, HPV-4, and HPV-27) are responsible for skin warts that are common in children and tend to disappear with increasing age. Some strains such as HPV-6 HPV-11 are responsible for genital warts.
Since the viruses that cause them are contagious, you may get them by coming in direct contact with a person who is infected with them. Alternatively, you can also get them by coming in contact with contaminated surfaces such as towels, razors, tissues, or public places (swimming pools, gyms, etc).
What are the different types?
Depending on their size, appearance, and location, they can be broadly classified into the following 5 main types:
- Common (verruca vulgaris) – these are small, flesh-colored growths usually round in shape with a rough surface found on the back of the hands, the fingers, and the on the skin around nails and feet. Sometimes they have little black dots that make them look like tiny seeds.
- Foot (plantar warts) – these are usually flat, thick, and have a tough texture and found on the sole of your feet. Since there is pressure on them (from standing or walking), plantar warts are usually flat in shape and found in clusters.
- Flat (verruca plana) – these are flatter, thicker, and often come in large numbers (often 20-100 at a time). Flat warts are most commonly found on the face, forehead, legs, and hands.
- Filiform – these are long, thin, thread-like warts that usually appear on the face – around your eyes, nose, or mouth. They are very fast-growing and among the most visually shocking warts.
- Genital – these warts come with a grainy “cauliflower-like” appearance and are grey or off-white in color. Since they are sexually transmitted, they usually appear in the vagina, anus, the cervix, and around the vulva. Genital warts can also appear in the mouth and throat.
How Are They Treated?
The majority are harmless and usually go away on their own, unless, of course, they become painful or grow in size and become very embarrassing. Waiting for them to go away on their own, however, may prove to be risky as they might grow in size and volume and there is always the risk of contaminating others with this disease. As such, it is best to seek immediate medical treatment to reduce the risk to others. The best treatment for warts will ultimately depend on the type, complexity, and location of the wart and the age and physical health of the patient. Keep in mind, there is no cure for the human papillomavirus, so even though the wart may be gone from your skin, the virus might stay in the skin and the wart may reappear. Let’s have a look at some of the common treatment options for warts:
- use of prescription creams (with strong salicylic or glycolic acid)
- use of peeling products (OTC liquids, gels, and pads with salicylic acid)
- cryosurgery (use of liquid nitrogen to freeze off warts)
- cantharidin (often used to treat warts in young children)
- laser light
- use of immune system stimulators such as imiquimod – often used for the treatment of genital warts
- vaccination (such as Gardasil)
What Is Anxiety? What Are The Different Types And How Can I Manage It?
Occasional anxiety (a feeling of nervousness, apprehension, fear, and worry) is an expected part of modern life. It is our body’s natural response to keep us safe from various stressful or unexpected situations/changes. For instance, speaking in public, going to a job interview or before taking a test may cause some people to feel nervous and fearful. However, if the symptoms of anxiety do not go away and happen without any particular reason or cause, you may be a victim of an anxiety disorder.
What is Anxiety Disorder?
Anxiety disorder is the most common form of mental illness characterized by feelings of constant, excessive, uncontrollable, and unrealistic fear or worry, even when there is little or nothing to provoke it. In Australia, anxiety disorder affects more than 2 million people in a single year. On average, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men will experience this form of mental illness at some stage in their life.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Anxiety Disorder?
Anxiety disorder is an umbrella term and encompasses several different conditions each with a unique set of symptoms. However, all the different forms of anxiety orders share the following general symptoms:
- overwhelming fear, panic, and uneasiness
- hot and cold flushes
- a surge of doom and gloom
- trouble concentrating
- shortness of breath
- sleep problems
- increased or irregular heartbeat
- muscle tension
- back pain
- muscle tension
The Different Forms
Let’s have a look at the five major types:
- Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – characterized by a feeling of excessive, unrealistic, and constant fear and worry about everyday things, even when there is little or nothing to trigger it.
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – characterized by recurring irrational thoughts (obsessions) that lead the patient to perform specific, repeated behaviors (compulsions).
- Panic Disorder – characterized by feelings of anxiety (panic attack) combined with a range of physical symptoms. The patient may live in constant fear of the next panic attack.
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – characterized by a set of adverse emotional, cognitive, and behavioral changes that are experienced persistently following a traumatic event.
- Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) – characterized by a strong feeling of extreme fear or anxiety and self-consciousness about every day social situations.
How to Manage It?
There are many ways to effectively manage your disorder before it takes control of your life. The type of treatment that’s good for you will ultimately depend on the type you are experiencing. Often, it can be easily managed by using a combination of
- medication – antidepressants, Pregabalin, Beta-blockers, Benzodiazepine tranquilizers
- psychology – counselling, applied relaxation therapy
- behavioural therapy – CBT
What to Do When You Experience a Panic Attack
Panic attacks can be sudden and very terrifying. They can last from a few minutes to a few hours and can leave the patient frightened and uneasy. Panic attacks are usually accompanied by physical and emotional symptoms. Learning to effectively manage a panic attack can help limit potential triggers and reduce the risk of re-occurrence. Here are some things that can help manage panic attacks:
- acknowledge you are having a panic attack
- retreat to a quiet place
- divert your focus onto something enjoyable
- deep, focussed breathing
Southbank Medical Centre