ASK THE DOCTOR
I have a bulging disc in my back and am on several types of painkillers and seeing a chiro – how long does this usually take to heal? K.H., NSW
Risk factors for disc problems include obesity, advancing age, lack of exercise and incorrect lifting techniques. In most cases, the prolapsed disc, which has slipped out of its usual place, will shrink back over several weeks. We usually give it about 12 weeks to see if it can recover spontaneously before referral to a neurosurgeon to consider surgery. Urgent referral is needed if there are signs of nerve root compression (numbness or weakness of the legs, or impairment of bladder or bowel function).
The skin on my face is becoming increasingly red – I think it might be rosacea – are there any lifestyle changes that I should make to prevent it? Should I see a doctor? G.L., Qld
Yes, you do need to see your doctor for a diagnosis first. If it is rosacea, there are several lifestyle changes which might help include avoiding alcohol and spicy foods, minimising stress and avoiding sunburn. Choose low irritant, fragrancefree and alcoholfree cosmetic products which won’t aggravate your skin.
After eating a meaI, I have sugar cravings – even after eating a big salad. Is there a physiological reason for this or is it psychological – and is there anything I can do to reduce cravings? G.W., Qld
For many people, looking for a sugar hit after meals is just a habit. In some cases, postmeal sweet craving is physiological, due to low serotonin levels causing a low mood. Sugars prompt the body to release serotonin, lifting your mood. This can be avoided by having balanced meals of lowGI foods like beans, fruit, milk, pasta, grainy bread, porridge and lentils, and having regular mealtimes.
I keep hearing about fatty liver disease. What is the cause, the symptoms and how is it diagnosed and treated? B.S., Vic
Fatty liver disease is a buildup of fat in the cells of the liver. The cause is unknown but it is linked to overweight, insulin resistance, high blood sugar and high triglycerides, which can be a sign of increased risk of heart attack or stroke. There may be no symptoms, but it may be suspected when the liver is found to be enlarged, or there is pain in the right upper abdomen. Some people just feel tired. It is often diagnosed by chance, after finding an abnormality on liver function tests, which are done as part of standard blood tests, or when a person is having an abdominal ultrasound. There is no specific treatment but avoiding alcohol, exercising and losing weight can help reduce or reverse it.