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Wed, 10th May 2017
 

We will all suffer from a headache during life. With most it is occasional and not much to worry about. For others, it is excruciating, throbbing and recurring. Most are a simple "tension headache". Stress, fatigue, sleeplessness, the daily frazzle, arguing kids, nasty partners, an irritable boss are some of the myriad causes.

Nervous tension builds up, then suddenly the muscle fibres around the scalp go into spasm, and a headache is born. Simple treatments usually work. Take one or two paracetamol tablets (500 mg). Repeat as necessary but no more than 8 tablets maximum a day (otherwise it can upset the liver). Aspirin and NSAIDs are out of favour at present.

Next, place a cold face flannel or towel around the aching cranium. Place the feet in hot water, when they soon become red. Theory is this relaxes spasming muscle fibres, improves circulation to the feet and blood is dragged down there. It often works, although steeped in mythology!

Try and extricate yourself from the stress situation if possible. Get a few early nights. Don't resort to plonk which only makes it worse, and smoking is one of the worst causes, as it destroys normal circulation.

Migraine is another story. It may develop suddenly, usually on one side of the head, and may feel "like a red hot poker being thrust through the eyeball". Photophobia (light aggravates), nausea and vomiting often occur. Early use of an oral "triptan" tablet (or injection or nasal spray) will often abort it with remarkable success. The earlier this is taken the better. There is a vast list of other medication from the doctor.

Some claim allergy plays a part. Oranges, chocolate, thunderstorms, certain foods and chemicals are well known culprits - avoid if you can. When a series of migraines occur they are called "cluster headaches" - treatment is similar.

Any recurring headache or migraine needs medical intervention. There may be an obvious fixable cause. In some cases it may be serious, such as a brain tumour, but this is rare.

 
SLEEP APNOEA

Q: 

When my husband sleeps his body jerks spasmodically. On separate nights he has dreams, where he hits, kicks, punches or grabs me. Next day he relates the dream he had. His brother died three years ago.

A: 

This may be a subconscious nervous reaction to the past sad story. On the other hand, he may be suffering from sleep Apnoea - too little oxygen reaching the brain at night, causing symptoms. Referral to a Sleep Disorders Clinic will quickly give the answer. If positive, an CPAP machine will often give a quick "cure". This is a face mask which blows a soft stream of air into the airways and maintaining normal oxygen levels in the brain.

 
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FOOD

Q: 

When one sees the various and widely differing foods people eat around the world, it seems nearly anything maybe nutritious, even though obscene in our culture.

A: 

Just look at what our indigenous people eat. Grubs, snakes and lizards, birds, kangaroo or anything alive. Look what is eaten in SE Asia, to say nothing of Europe, where horse flesh is enjoyed by millions. It is largely "ones own culture", what is considered the norm, and the cost to produce. Basically, we all need adequate protein, carbs, some fat, vitamins, minerals and micronutrients, readily available in a vast range of living objects (whether with fins, legs, feathers, or growing out of the ground or on trees).

 
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FEMALE CIRCUMCISION

Q: 

What is the purpose of "female circumcision"?

A: 

In many eastern cultures this is carried out in pre-pubertal girls. It removes the clitoris (the sensitive part), and parts of the vaginal outer lips called the labia. It is supposed to suppress carnal thoughts and activities. It actually causes terrible physical scarring and serious complications at child-birth. In western society it is banned, but millions are still carried out illegally by "practitioners" often in a non-sterile environment. Young girls still yearn for it, painful though the operation is with no anesthetic.

 
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PREGNANCY

Q: 

What causes little lumps in the dark brown area around the nipple during pregnancy?

A: 

This is caused by female hormones produced during pregnancy, and is really enlarged sebaceous (fat) glands. It usually subsides later. Nipple hygiene (and toughening them up) before birth is essential. Otherwise, with breast feeding, they may become tender, even crack causing intense pain.

 
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STOMACH CANCER

Q: 

A friend in her mid-forties recently died with stomach cancer, but had relatively no symptoms.

A: 

This seems increasingly common, especially in young women in this age bracket. Occasionally there maybe abdominal discomfort, little else. It is now believed "helicobacter pylori", a germ carried by 80% of people (generally no symptoms) causes an ulcer which gradually develops into cancer. Ulcers can now be readily picked up by endoscopy, and cured with PPI medication (tablets) and antibiotics before cancer develops. If there is a family history of gut cancer, chances increase from 1 in 25 to about 1 in 5 - so regular screening is essential.

 
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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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