Vitamin D

Cholecalciferol, commonly known as Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, is becoming more important as research results continue to be published on its many virtues.

Traditionally, we have always known that Vitamin D helps build and maintain strong bones, which in turn prevents osteoporosis, or thin fragile bones, especially in old age.

However that is not vitamin Ds only function in the body.

Muscle

Research has shown that vitamin D also plays a big part in the strength of muscles. Most noticibly in the elderly, a lack of vitamin D is a risk factor for poor muscle strength and co-ordination.

Immunity

There are also studies that show that vitamin D affects the function of immune cells in the body. Separate independent studies have also shown increased risk of serious consequences in pneumonia (lung infection), when the patient is deficient in vitamin D.

There are more and more research coming out even now, as many more functions of vitamin D are discovered.

Where do we get vitamin D?

1. Sunlight - this is very variable depending on what time of the day, how much of the body, and what color skin you have

2. Food - small amounts occur in foods, which is why it is difficult to get enough from diet alone. Fatty fish, beef liver, egg yolk have more vitamin D than other foods.

3. Supplements - now days it is much easier to take supplements. As your doctor for a good quality supplement.

On Health Insurance

There are a few different types of insurance out there, though the one I come across the most often, is health or medical insurance.

This is the type of insurance that covers costs for investigations - such an x-ray or ultrasound scan, as well as seeing a specialist 'in private' - as opposed to being referred to the public waiting list to see a specialist at the public hospital clinics.

There have been a rise in advertisements recently, promoting affordable health insurance packages.

I have but one thing to point out: read the Policy Document!

Different packages come with different cover, and not all insurance policies are created equal. Make sure you look through the documents that describes what you are entitled to with that particular policy.

For example, the majority of the health insurance policies out there will not cover treatments for diseases that is not funded by the public health system. Therefore, if you get X disease, and the medicine used to treat X disease is not funded by the public health system, the insurance policy will not pay for this treatment either.

Such is the finer details that can catch people out, and I have had more than a handful of patients who feel blindsided by such revelations when they were thinking "it's alright, the health insurance will pay for it".

 

Unfortunately the wording of insurance policies is an exact pursuit, so you will be presented with pages and pages of clauses and exceptions and exclusions and definitions...

The best way, is to find an insurance broker, and ask them to sit down and go through each part of the policy, and how it would apply to you.

If you have had the foresight to purchase health insurance, do not let the couple of hours you need to understand the policy catch you out!

Drink up!

I'm back from overseas!

The festive season is upon us again (for those that celebrate Christmas), and inevitably there are occasions that calls for a relaxing drink.

Some people have asked about the 'safe' amount of alcohol to consume.

First we have to talk about the Standard Unit, or 'an unit'.

One standard unit of alcohol, is 10 grams of alcohol. That is usually:

330mL of 4% beer - usually a can or a 'stubbie'

100mL of 12.5% wine - small glass

30 mL of 40% spirit - a double 'shot'

So how much is healthy?

The general rule of thumb, is no more than 15 units of alcohol per week, and no more than 6 units in one occasion.

So, is your drinking safe this Christmas?

 

In-grown toe nails

Sore, red, swollen. It may even been lumpy and bumpy.

http://www.dermnetnz.org/common/image.php?path=/fungal/img/paron3.jpg

The edge of the nail is just digging into the toe, and it hurts to wear shoes! 

It is an in-grown toe nail, and an infection of the skin.

Whatever you do, DO NOT cut the nail back!  It seems counter intuitive, but it will only perpetuate the problem. This is because the nail will just grow into  the toe again, and we will be back to square-one.

To settle the problem:

1. Clear the infection: usually this means oral antibiotics, but sometimes if the infection is not severe, bathing in antiseptic may be enough. Only when the infection has settled, can you proceed to the second step - otherwise it would be too sore!

2. Raise the nail: roll up a tiny ball of cotton wool, and secure it under the nail in order to raise the nail as it grows (over weeks/months). See the photo below.

3. Once the nail grows out, cut it so there is still at least 2-3 mm of nail left, especially at the sides.

If in-grown toe nails keep occuring, sometimes your doctor may need to remove a part of it permanently to prevent it from happening again.

Insert a cotton ball under the toe nail to raise the nail while it grows

Insert a cotton ball under the toe nail to raise the nail while it grows

Fungal Skin Infections

"My skin just won't clear up!" Scott, a patient of mine recently saw me for Athelet's Foot, or tinea pedis, a fungal skin infection in the feet.  

"I put the cream on for a week, it clears up, and then it comes back! Arh! So annoying." His gripe was the fact that they keep coming back, and asked for another cream to put on it.

"It gets itchy and raw, the skin goes red and peels," Scott complained.  

I had to explain to him - the pain of a fungal infection, is that they are so persistent! Usually the treatments for them is antifungal, most commonly in the form of creams, however, it needs to be continued for a solid TWO weeks after all the symptoms have cleared up.

"Why? But doesn't it mean the fungus is gone when the symptoms clear up?"  

Yes, technically. Fungus reproduce by depositing spores - kind of like seeds. These seeds get deposited in the skin, and are protected from the antifungal medication.  

If one stops applying the medicine, once the spores start growing again...we're back to square one. 

So keep applying the cream for at least two weeks after everything clears up, and then some, to make sure it doesn't come back.  

The same goes for any kinds of fungal skin infections - ring worms, jock itch and so on.