Archive for the ‘Diseases & Prevention’ Category

chilblains

Chilblains

Winter has arrived, and unfortunately this means many people will again start to suffer from irritating chilblains. It’s now time to take some proactive measures to ensure maximum relief from these itchy and red bumps that occur as a reaction to the cold.

Chilblains are small red and itchy bumps that form as a result of localised vasculitis, or inflammation of blood vessels. In cold conditions, blood vessels can close down in the hands and feet, and when rewarmed, leakage of blood from these vessels results in the painful and itchy chilblain sores that cause great discomfort.

The majority of chilblain sufferers are the young and elderly, but people who suffer from lupus erythematosus, peripheral vascular disease, low body weight and pregnant women are at a higher risk.

Chilblains commonly appear on the fingers and toes, but can also be found on the heels, lower legs, nose, ears and on the wrists of babies. Chilblains take between two to three hours to appear and commonly erupt as itchy red swellings that subside over one to two weeks. Occasionally blistering, scabs and ulceration will occur, with the added potential for infection.

Unfortunately, chilblains respond poorly to treatment and in severe cases topical corticosteroid cream like Prednisone may be used to relieve itching and swelling. Despite this, prevention is better than cure, and there are a number of measures that can be taken to prevent the occurrence and reoccurrence of these irritating sores.

It’s important that sufferers avoid smoking, caffeine and decongestants as they cause constriction of blood vessels, which can exacerbate existing chilblains or result in the formation of new ones. Furthermore, avoidance of extreme cold, with insulated gloves, woollen socks and protective footwear is recommended.

Some medical practitioners will prescribe Nifedipine, a drug that helps dilate blood vessels and relieve chilblains, but the use of this medication would need to be discussed with your GP or registered health care provider first.

With chilblains tending to get worse every year, it’s important to take some proactive measures to prevent and relieve these painful sores. Through this, you’ll be able to gain relief and greater comfort both now and in the future.

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stretch marks

Stretch Marks

While scars and stretch marks can be difficult to avoid, there are ways that you can improve their appearance.

What are stretch marks?

Stretch marks are red or purplish lines that appear on the skin when it is overstretched in times of rapid growth. They occur because the skin is unable to keep up with rapid stretching and repair itself – resulting in permanent tear-like structures appearing. Over time the scars will fade, leaving shiny-looking lines.

Causes

Periods of rapid growth and stretching of the skin cause stretch marks. Common causes include:

• Pregnancy. Over 50 per cent of women will develop stretch marks in pregnancy. They most commonly appear on the abdomen, but also the breasts and thighs.

• Rapid excessive weight gain including bodybuilding.

• Rapid growth and weight gain in teen years. Stretch marks in the teen years can be distressing. They very commonly happen in young girls in the breast and thigh region. It’s important to note that they are a very common byproduct of growing.

• Cushing’s syndrome.

• Corticosteroid medication.

• Zinc deficiency may also increase the prevalence of stretch marks.

Prevention

Try to avoid rapid extreme weight gain if possible and eat a healthy diet full of fresh fruit and vegetables and whole grains. Vitamin C and zinc supplements are essential for collagen (helps with skin elasticity), production and skin repair, so may help to reduce the prevalence of stretch marks. If you’re pregnant, wear a supportive bra throughout your pregnancy and while you breastfeed.

What causes scars?

Scars can occur for a wide variety of reasons, from trauma to the skin like a cut, graze or burn, to acne and chicken pox. Scarring is a natural part of the healing process, but the appearance of the scar may vary depending on the severity of the trauma and genetics.

How to reduce the appearance of stretch marks and scars

You may not be able to make scars and stretch marks completely disappear, but you can fade them. Recent studies show that laser treatment and creams containing Retin-A can be very beneficial. Also, why not try:

• See your pharmacist for products that are specifically formulated to reduce the appearance of scars and stretch marks.

• Self-tanning creams are a great way to mask the appearance of stretch marks and scars.

• Creams and ointments containing vitamin E may help.

• With regular use, rose hip oil may dramatically improve the appearance of scars and stretch marks.

• In severe cases a plastic surgeon or dermatologist may help with laser surgery, skin grafts, chemical peels, dermabrasion or steroid injections.

• Always wear sunscreen if you expose your skin to the sun as it may inflame scars.

• Use cosmetics to help cover unsightly scars. Try a foundation and cover-up that has been formulated for inflamed and uneven skin tones.

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With the cold and flu season well and truly here, it helps to have a few tools up your sleeve to help combat winter lurgies.

Do you dread the onset of winter because you seem to pick up the latest cold or flu year after year? Never fear, there are ways to help boost your immune system and alleviate the symptoms of winter viruses.

Spot the difference between a cold and the flu

Common cold

Contrary to its namesake, the common cold is not actually caused by a cold environment but rather a virus that results in an upper-respiratory infection. Winter does increase the prevalence of cold and flu though, as we tend to spend more time indoors and in close proximity to one another. There are over 200 different viruses that cause a cold, so it’s impossible to be immunised against it.

Some people mistake the symptoms of a cold with the flu, but while you can feel quite ill with a cold for a few days, most people make a full recovery without needing medical attention.

Symptoms of the common cold include:

1. Sore throat
2. Runny nose
3. Blocked sinuses
4. Earache
5. Cough
6. Headache
7. Fatigue
8. Fever, nausea and vomiting are less common symptoms

Feverish flu

Influenza, or the flu as it’s commonly known, can have far more serious health implications than a cold, especially in the elderly or those who suffer from respiratory illnesses like asthma.

Unlike a cold, flu symptoms usually last for at least a week and tend to require bed rest for a few days. While serious complications are rare, people with compromised immune systems may be susceptible to developing secondary medical conditions including pneumonia and inflammation of the brain and heart.

If you are at risk of contracting the flu, you may require an annual flu vaccination – see your doctor for more information.

Flu symptoms include:

1. High fever.
2. Aches and pains.
3. Earache
4. Runny nose.
5. Sore throat.
6. Cough.
7. Extreme fatigue.

Give your immune system a boost

If you tend to come down with cold and flu each winter, there are plenty of natural supplements you can take and lifestyle changes you can make to give your immune system a much-needed boost.

Antioxidants: Vitamins C, A and E are essential for healthy immune function.

Zinc: A mineral that’s essential for a healthy immune system.

Herbs: Andrographis, Echinacea, olive leaf, garlic, horseradish, licorice, sage, thyme and elderberry are herbs that may reduce the symptoms and severity of the common cold.

Diet and de-stress: Ditch the junk food and try to eat a diet rich in immune-boosting fresh fruit and vegetables. Take some time out daily to relax and unwind and make sure you get enough sleep.