Ask the doc­tor: read­ers’ health ques­tions an­swered

Pro­fes­sor Ker­ryn Phelps an­swers your ques­tions on pso­ri­a­sis, large breasts, bloat­ing, com­pres­sion stock­ings and mer­cury lev­els in fish.

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS -

QI’m 58, and when­ever I go on a plane, my legs swell up. Do you rec­om­mend com­pres­sion stock­ings? What else can I do apart from stretch­ing my legs dur­ing the flight to re­duce swelling? S.M. Leg swelling on long-haul flights is a com­mon prob­lem. I rec­om­mend you al­ways wear com­pres­sion stock­ings and move around reg­u­larly. Avoid salt in your food for 24 hours be­fore your flight and drink plenty of wa­ter dur­ing the trip to main­tain hy­dra­tion.

QMy hus­band re­cently had a se­vere case of gas­troen­teri­tis. For the past few weeks, he’s had trou­ble swal­low­ing food. Do you have an ex­pla­na­tion? P.O. First things first, I wouldn’t ac­cept a di­ag­no­sis of gas­troen­teri­tis with­out fur­ther en­quiry. Are you re­fer­ring to vom­it­ing and di­ar­rhoea or just vom­it­ing? Per­sis­tent trou­ble swal­low­ing is a med­i­cal “red flag” and must be med­i­cally in­ves­ti­gated. Pos­si­ble causes in­clude a neu­ro­log­i­cal prob­lem, in­flam­ma­tion in the oe­soph­a­gus, or a block­age from a stric­ture or a tu­mour in the oe­soph­a­gus.

QMy 20-year-old daugh­ter has strug­gled with pso­ri­a­sis since she was in her early teens. We’ve tried many creams, but noth­ing has re­ally worked. I read that some foods can make the con­di­tion worse. What items should she be avoid­ing? K.L. If she’s over­weight, try to help her achieve a healthy weight, be­cause ex­cess weight may con­trib­ute to in­creased sever­ity of pso­ri­a­sis. En­cour­age plant­based foods and avoid re­fined su­gars and pro­cessed foods. A sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of peo­ple with pso­ri­a­sis re­spond to a strict gluten-free diet, so that’s worth try­ing, too.

QI have rather large breasts (size 14E) and have been ex­pe­ri­enc­ing se­vere back pain for the past few months. I’m con­tem­plat­ing a breast re­duc­tion. Would you rec­om­mend it? B.S. If you’re very un­happy with the size of your breasts for any rea­son, you can dis­cuss breast re­duc­tion with a plas­tic sur­geon. If back pain is your main mo­ti­va­tion, ex­plore pos­si­ble other causes for your dis­com­fort. A phys­io­ther­a­pist or os­teopath can help you with this.

QI’m con­stantly feel­ing bloated af­ter I eat. I’m only eat­ing un­til I’m about 80 per cent full, but the pain and dis­com­fort I ex­pe­ri­ence lasts an hour or more. How can I over­come this? T.Y. You’ll need to see your doc­tor, who’ll test you for he­li­cobac­ter with both a blood and a breath test. Your GP will also talk to you about a gas­troscopy (an en­do­scopic ex­am­i­na­tion of the up­per di­ges­tive tract) to check for ul­cer­a­tion or other stom­ach pathol­ogy.

QI’ve heard there is now a shin­gles vac­ci­na­tion avail­able in New Zealand. Who should be hav­ing the vac­cine? R.M. Shin­gles is a painful con­di­tion caused by the re­ac­ti­va­tion of the chick­en­pox virus. One in three adults is at risk of devel­op­ing shin­gles and it has a par­tic­u­larly de­bil­i­tat­ing ef­fect on older peo­ple. The Zostavax vac­cine, which is given as a one-dose in­jec­tion, is avail­able to peo­ple aged 50-plus, as this is the de­mo­graphic most sus­cep­ti­ble to shin­gles. The vac­cine is not pub­licly funded, how­ever, so ex­pect to pay around $200. Speak to your GP about its suit­abil­ity for you.

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