Australian Health Today - - Contents -

GP with 20 years of ex­pe­ri­ence in gen­eral prac­tice. Wok­ing in Perth since 2010 with spe­cial in­ter­est in women’s health and men­tal health.

I’m hav­ing pain and numb­ness in my wrists and some­times I need to shake them af­ter wak­ing up. Even when I’m driv­ing my fin­gers some­times get tingly? Is it se­ri­ous? I’m afraid to see my GP. (Brenda, 43)

Your symp­toms sound like Carpal Tun­nel syn­drome where one of the nerves sup­ply­ing the hands are com­pressed and this then causes the tin­gling, numb­ness and pain. The me­dian nerve runs through a lit­tle tun­nel in the wrist and if there is any pres­sure or swelling around this area it can cause th­ese kinds of symp­toms. It of­ten hap­pens at night when you sleep with your wrists bent or when you hold onto your steer­ing wheel in a cer­tain way while driv­ing. You will then find when you shake your hands a bit the symp­toms will clear. If the pain gets more in­tense or lasts longer or if you start de­vel­op­ing weak­ness in your wrists and hands, it is a sign of a more se­ri­ous com­pres­sion of the nerve and you would not want it to get to that point. It is im­por­tant to dis­cuss this with your doc­tor who will ask a few ques­tions and ex­am­ine your hands, arms and neck to rule out some other pos­si­ble causes. The doc­tor might also send you for some nerve con­duc­tion tests to con­firm which nerve is trapped. Usu­ally a wrist splint to wear at night or while driv­ing to stop you from bend­ing your wrist will help al­le­vi­ate the symp­toms. If it is quite se­vere, your doc­tor might re­fer you to an Or­thopaedic sur­geon who can do a small op­er­a­tion to re­lease the nerve by cut­ting the lit­tle tun­nel open.

Af­ter a blood test, I am low in vi­ta­min D and iron. I’ve been tak­ing sup­ple­ments for the last 3 months but I still feel tired and find it hard to con­cen­trate at uni. What’s the quick­est way to help me re­gain my en­ergy? My pe­ri­ods are re­ally heavy some­times, but not al­ways. (Chris, 19)

Low iron is a very com­mon cause of tired­ness and espe­cially in fe­males that have heavy pe­ri­ods. To sup­ple­ment with oral iron tablets works well, but it of­ten takes at least 3 months to reach an op­ti­mum level. It can some­times also cause some side ef­fects like con­sti­pa­tion or nau­sea that can be trou­bling. An iron in­fu­sion, on the other hand, can be done in your doc­tor’s surgery and will make you feel bet­ter quicker and has less side-ef­fects. It is also very im­por­tant to ad­dress the cause of your iron de­fi­ciency and talk to your doc­tor about op­tions to re­duce the heavy flow of your pe­riod to pre­vent your iron stores be­com­ing de­pleted again and again. A low vi­ta­min D level is usu­ally due to a lack of sun­shine or di­etary in­take. You might need quite high doses (30005000IU/D) ini­tially to get it back to nor­mal lev­els and then about 1000IU/d to main­tain. 20 min­utes of sun­shine per day should also be enough to main­tain nor­mal lev­els. I would sug­gest you go back to your doc­tor to dis­cuss this.

My part­ner and I are try­ing to get preg­nant and have been try­ing for 12 months. Should we see some­one, like a fer­til­ity spe­cial­ist, or wait a lit­tle more be­fore in­ves­ti­gat­ing? I don’t want my wife to start feel­ing that there is some­thing wrong if we haven’t given it enough time. (Steve, 34)

The­o­ret­i­cally, if you have been try­ing to con­ceive for more than 12 months you should seek some med­i­cal ad­vice. I would sug­gest that you and your wife see your GP to have a con­ver­sa­tion about the mat­ter as there might be some ba­sic is­sues that need to be ad­dressed first. The GP will make sure that you and your part­ner’s gen­eral health is good and might do some tests to es­tab­lish that there are no ob­vi­ous prob­lems. Things like a pap-smear and some blood tests for her and per­haps a spermiogram for your­self might be re­quested and the GP will also make sure that your part­ner takes the nec­es­sary sup­ple­men­ta­tion like folic acid.

For ex­pert ad­vice please email your ques­tions to:


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