Ask the doctor
Professor Kerryn Phelps answers readers’ questions about snoring, back pain, arthritis and colonoscopy preparation.
Q I recently turned 40 and have been getting a lot of pain in my fingers. I broke them as a child – could I be developing arthritis? L.O. Old injuries may have damaged the joint surfaces or surrounding structures such as ligaments. This may cause pain later in life. Painful fingers may also be an early sign of one of the many forms of arthritis. Your GP can get the ball rolling with X-rays and blood tests. Q My husband has severe lower back pain and constantly takes painkillers, but I worry about the impact of this. What else can he do? G.A. He should have the pain investigated by his GP. This will involve imaging and blood tests. There might be a treatable mechanical cause, such as a prolapsed disc. Physiotherapy, stretches and targeted exercises may help. Q I am 63 years old and having trouble with snoring. It wakes me up and I’m unable to go back to sleep. How can I stop snoring? N.D. Ask your GP to refer you for sleep apnoea assessment. The cause may be in your upper airway, or could be a result of being overweight, smoking or drinking excess alcohol. The assessment will guide your treatment: lifestyle measures first, with surgery sometimes necessary if there is an obstruction in your nasal passages, for example. A machine called CPAP (Continuous Positive Airways Pressure) worn all night can help stop the snoring. Q I had a cancerous polyp removed from my bowel 12 years ago, so I need regular colonoscopy checks. But I always have a bad reaction to the prep liquid. What can I do? P.D. Good bowel clean-out is essential to check for polyps. This involves a laxative kit, which flushes out the contents of your bowel. Some people do have adverse reactions, but there are different types of prep. Ask your gastroenterologist about your options.