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Wed, 25th June 2014
 

When making a home medical visit the mother opened the linen press by the bathroom for a towel. I couldn't help but notice they were all striped, and when folded and stacked the stripes formed perfect unbroken vertical lines. I casually mentioned this, and was told that everything had to be in its right orderly place. It was a bit like a grab from Charles Dickens. I went into the bathroom, tiled black, and there was not a single water mark anywhere. "The bathroom must be spotless", the lady remarked. "I spend half my life cleaning this house". She kept rubbing her nose - was this another part of the lady's make up. Of course what this lady has, although probably unimportant and not needing treatment (yet) is what tens of thousands suffer. A mild form of OCD. That means "Obsessive Compulsive Disorder".

OCD

Repeating useless unnecessary actions. Look around, specially when people are motionless like waiting in their car at the traffic lights. How many pick at the face, twist the neck, widen and constrict their eyes, hunch their shoulders, and make other entirely unnecessary movements. Some inner force keeps them at it. It may have been in response to a local irritation initially. But then it developed into a "habit", and then OCD gradually took over. They are not comfortable unless making purposeless movements.

Purposeless Movements

Once done, the need to repeat it soon arises. Of course, if it advances to a state when they want to wash their hands continually, cannot leave the house rechecking the light switches a dozen times before leaving, then it needs intervention. Today, the SSRI family of medication often brings relief from the hidden urges. If you see yourself heading in this direction, have a chat to your doctor before it worsens and completely takes over your life.

 
DARK EYES

Q: 

I often seem to develop dark areas around the eye. I also cough and sneeze.

A: 

Dark circles usually mean stagnating blood. From a bright red, it turns dull and lusterless, reflected through the skin as being dark. More aeration is needed. Allergies, often causing sneezing and clogged airways, impede circulation to the nose and tissue around the eyes. Clearing airways may assist. Simple salt water inhalations, or Narium Mist (a fine nasal spray) often give relief. Drops are best avoided. Sometimes the non-sedating antihistamines can help. See the doctor if it persists for a fuller evaluation.

 
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SMS THUMBS

Q: 

My daughter has recently developed sore swollen thumb joints. She seems to spend hours a day sending her friends SMS messages.

A: 

This (and sore backs and wrists) are the coming "disease" of the millennium. Some call it "repetition use syndrome". The incessant overuse of the thumb joints causes irritation, then inflammation, swelling and pain. The simplest cure is to wind down this very specific activity. This is possible, as before she had the gear, the messages were not sent, and life went on. Novelties are a common cause of disability. Alternate hot and cold soaks, massaging gently with a heat producing cream, paracetamol, and maybe the NSAIDS (but preferably in small doses for minimum time) help reduce pain.

 
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MEDICAL CARE

Q: 

For fun I have been reading Charles Dickens, as an adult and by choice. I am amazed at the vitality and humour of his writing, so different to views when it was forced reading at school. It also makes one gasp as to how anyone ever lived during the 19th century with their barbaric and useless medical care.

A: 

Nature fixed most illnesses, otherwise the person simply died. Childbirth was a major hazard, and many mothers had up to twenty babies, Mrs Dickens had twelve. Diarrhea killed vast numbers in the first year of life. Modern medicine as we know it didn't really come to be until the antibiotic era of the 1950s. Most medication was based on alcohol and morphine, prepared by the apothecary.

 
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MISERIES

Q: 

Are there some simple tips for overcoming the "miseries"?

A: 

This is very common and increasing, as real illness subsides and psychological ones take their place. Stress is the big bogey. Ideally, get out and circulate as much as possible, preferably within a happy friendly circle. The more you talk and chatter to friends, the less depressed one becomes. Walking, engaging in any sporting activity produce positive outcomes. Music is relaxing and soothing. Cognitive behavioural therapy helps others - this is a non drug intervention. Adequate rest, simple food, minimum booze also help. Medication is probably the last resort.

 
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TUMMY ACHE

Q: 

I have discomfort in my lower abdomen. A colonoscope revealed no abnormalities, apart from "mild diverticulosis". An ultrasound was OK. I have regularity and no fever. I exercise daily.

A: 

Diverticulosis means little outpocketings in the large bowel. These may fill with food and gas, distend and cause discomfort. High fibre foods, such as fruit, veggies, cereals and wholemeal breads help. Drink lots of water, and continue the exercises. However, abdominal wall strain from exercising can also cause discomfort. Psyllium husks (2-3 tsp a day) in water or added to food is also good. See the GP again if it persists or worsens for occasionally infection supervenes.

 
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This health advice is general in nature. You are advised to seek medical attention from your doctor or health care provider for your own specific symptoms and circumstances.

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