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DR JAMES WRIGHT HEALTH COLUMN No.581
Sun, 24th May 2020
 

Questions & Answers

 
THYROID

Q: 

I was prescribed thyroid tablets (thyroxine), keep having it repeated, and the doctor says this may continue for life, an email reads.

A: 

Thyroxine, the active hormone produced by the thyroid gland in the neck, must be supplied artificially if the gland is under-active. Usually small doses only are needed. But without it, the body metabolism slows down. Fatigue, feeling the cold, lack of normal pep and energy, physical and mental slowing, constipation, falling hair, dry cool skin, deep voice may occur (called myxodema). Response to treatment with Thyroxine is amazing. Regular blood levels indicate the need to vary or maintain the dose (called TSH, T3 and T4).

 
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SKIN CANCERS

Q: 

If the doctor removes a skin cancer, how does a person know if it recurs?, a young guy asks

A: 

Regular skin examination for skin cancer is essential. Majority of Australians will develop at least one in their lifetime, probably many. It is related directly to lifetime exposure to the sun, and negative effects are cumulative. So, if you sunbaked (and burnt) for hours as a youngster, cancers will inevitably develop long term. Their removal is essential. Although this is very straight forward treatment, if left they may spread and kill. Melanoma (the black/dark blue ones) are the most dangerous. I have a full body check by the dermatologist six monthly. Most are removed by nitrogen spray.

 
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VITAMIN D

Q: 

The doctor says I need a vitamin D (Ostelin) capsule daily, even though I walk in the sun each day, this person writes.

A: 

The sun reacts with the skin to produce vitamin D essential for strong bones (and preventing thinness called osteoporosis). But in older persons, the process is slower. To make sure, many take a daily capsule to make certain. Otherwise, a fall may result in a fractured bone.

 
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LEG CRAMPS

Q: 

If walking up a hill, I often notice cramps in the legs, which fortunately ceases when I stop for a rest. A 60 year old asks.

A: 

This is intermittent claudication, caused by narrowed arteries to the lower limbs. I bet you smoked. This means inadequate oxygen is reaching the muscle fibres, and lactic acid (the bad stuff) cannot escape, so pain is inevitable. Imaging will indicate the extent. Sometimes stents may artificially widen the narrowed parts. Losing weight will also assist. Similar damage is occurring to your heart vessels called Angina.

 
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WINE

Q: 

Why is it that at a party, a woman will be off her brain after one single glass of wine, whereas guys sitting alongside can chuck down several before the same effect is noticed, writes an annoyed 25 year old.

A: 

Women lack an enzyme which means alcohol has a rapid effect on the brain cells. Roughly, a guy can drink twice the amount as a woman before similar symptoms set in. Girls, never try and keep up with the blokes where alcohol is involved.

 
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ALTERNATIVE DRUGS

Q: 

Aspirin comes from willow bark, the contraceptive pill and malaria medication from bark of a Peruvian tree, tamoxifen (for breast cancer) from the golden yew, and eucalyptus from gum trees. Why do not we use more of nature, rather than relegate it to scorn, this email says.

A: 

Antibiotics also come from mould, and were discovered by serendipity. I agree with you, and tens of thousands of plants, barks, roots, soils worldwide have been researched for possible new drugs to help cure illness. This continues regularly, despite South America being denuded of its valuable forests where most of these are found.

 
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TEA TREE OIL

Q: 

What is the current view on tea tree oil, a lady inquires.

A: 

This comes from Australias own tea tree, and there are large commercial plantations in north NSW and Queensland. The oil is produced on the underside of the leaf, and removed by distilling, a relatively simple process. It is an excellent antiseptic. It is produced to prevent the tree from being attacked by predators. It has been used in Australia (mostly as an alternative medicine) for more than a century, and is certainly very effective.

 
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BREAST IMPLANTS

Q: 

Is it possible to have breast implants removed or replaced? a middle-aged woman emails.

A: 

The answer is yes. A few years ago, when a terrible scare erupted with claims the liquid leaked and could cause serious unrelated disorders, thousands were removed in panic. Now, years later, the same women want them replaced. We now use the same stuff, although there are also other optional liquids inside the implant. Hard tissue may occur around the implant, making them feel hard and unattractive.

 
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TUBERCULOSIS

Q: 

Is TB still a significant disease in the world today, a guy asks.

A: 

Once almost conquered in the western world including Australia, it has again raised its ugly head. In developing countries, especially with HIV infection rampant. Unfortunately, the routine therapy is now largely ineffective, as resistant strains of the TB germ have developed. In Australia, most cases are imported. This is pathetic, but common since mandatory x-rays for those entering the country was abolished some years ago.

 
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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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