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Wed, 22nd June 2016

Millions are wandering around suffering from a common but often unrecognised abnormality called "Sleep Apnea". Most have heard the word, some know its significance but most don't, including heaps of practitioners. The "typical" patient is an overweight man (woman) with the commonly (but incorrectly) called "beer belly". He/she tends to sleep on the back, often breathing through open mouth instead of the nostrils. Many snore, often loudly, sufficient to keep the whole house awake. Some roll onto the side, but it doesn't make much difference.


Following the snore there is often a period of silence - no inhalation. This may extend anywhere from several seconds to a minute. Then a grunt, and normal breathing recommences. This may occur dozens of times an hour, and hundreds during the night. During the silence, two events occur. First: The patient partially awakens. This means next day he/she has been in bed say for eight hours, but has only gained four hours of real sleep. So, many awaken feeling tired, listless, no pep or energy. Often mental acuity is dulled. Walking straight maybe difficult. They are a danger driving cars or trying to work machinery, where risks escalate. Second. During the "silent no breathing" period, oxygen supply to the brain is markedly reduced. Over time this becomes serious.


The brain needs a continual high level to maintain normal functioning. In time this may gradually lead to damage to microscopic vessels in the brain which in turn spreads to other vessels, including the heart. As arteries thicken, blood pressure increases. This dramatically increases risk of cardiovascular disease. Later on Angina (heart pain from inadequate oxygen) and in due course, probably a fatal heart attack or stroke. However, doctors have discovered many normal looking persons, not overweight, non-snorers, also suffer sleep apnea. It is hard to pick.


Any suspect is sent to a "Sleep Disorders Clinic" where electrodes hook the body up to gear which traces the breathing (or non-breathing) pattern. It becomes patently obvious when checked by a specialist. What to do? More air to the lungs. Today, this is readily carried out by use of a CPAP device - short for continuous positive air pressure. Discovered and designed by Dr Sullivan at Sydney University, it is now used world wide by the ResMed company. Flexible hosing travels from the little engine to a silicone mask which fits over the face and mouth. It delivers a smooth even air delivery all night. It takes a bit of time to become accustomed to but it can remake ones life. Also, long term probably saves yours life. Talk to your GP if the "typical" snoring patient, or even if you suffer daytime drowsiness and energy lack.



My cholesterol has been elevated for some time. Every tablet prescribed seems to cause painful muscles, making it hard to get out of bed.


Millions currently take the "statins" to reduce cholesterol levels. Heaps suffer a mild form of rhabdomyolosis, causing muscle fibre spasm and pain. There are now many different brands. Recent ones are claimed to cause less pain. Ezetrol (ezetimibel) was hailed as the miracle cure, but still failed the pain test in many Then came Crestor (rosavastatin). Same claims, and have found major improvement others not. It is a case of trial and error, and what suits the individual. Many remain on zocor, the original, and are perfectly happy. All successfully lessen cholesterol. There are also non-statin therapies as well - more next time.

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I suffer from skin cracks over some of my knuckles which can become painful, and is not good in the garden.


The old standby remedy was "Watkins Menthol and Camphor ointment", rubbed in each night. The cracks usually vanished within a few days. However, camphor is currently out of favour for questionable reasons - I still use it, for amounts required are minimum.

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Is there a simple remedy for superficial paper cuts. I use paper a lot, and often sharp edges cut finger surfaces. (The same goes for licking the back of envelopes, only with the tongue).


Toughen up the skin. This will help. Like getting stuck into gardening at weekends, letting the lovely brown earth contact your fingers and hands. Dig, rake, sweep, mow the lawns. Rubbing skin with methylated spirits (SVM) dissolves water. In the days of yesteryear it was massaged into bed patient backs to check chafing and bedsores. (Now virtually unknown). At bedtime ideally give the same spots some loving care with 10 per cent urea cream for skin needs moisture. Be very careful when handling paper. Self sealing envelopes have now virtually taken over, so cut tongues should now be history.

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I enjoy reading Charles Dickens for pleasure - hard going and convoluted, but magnificent language. It seems that alcohol and opium were the two main ingredients in the doctors prescription book.


Correct. Dickens who dominated the first half of the nineteenth century, wrote about contemporary England, mainly the 1825 era as railways were spreading over the country and the industrial revolution was under way. The doctor business as we know it today did not exist. "Doctors" prescribed potions, usually mixtures, laced heavily with opium (morphine) and alcohol as it was well know these knocked out pain and gave temporary relief. It was not until the mid 1900s (and discovery of the antibiotics) that "real medicine" took off. Historians will be saying the same things about todays medical prescriptions 100 years from now.

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I note persisting vulval irritation. Is this of medical significance.


The answer is yes. Please visit your GP or gynaecologist promptly. Although it may respond to simple anti-itch applications, it is also a well known early symptom of vulval cancer which is very serious, and may be life threatening All women should have regular pelvic inspections, including, of course, a smear test.

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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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