Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Undiagnosed eye disease can cause blindness

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

KOTA KINABALU: Overlooked symptoms of eye disease and eye complications can cause blindness if left undiagnosed for a long time, said the Head of Ophthalmology Department Queen Elizabeth Hospital One (QEH1).

Dr Sheena Alexander said diseases such as Glaucoma, Diabetic Retinopathy and Cataracts can go undiagnosed for a long time and by the time it is, it’s too late to save the person’s vision.

Information from the internet explains that Glaucoma is a disease that is caused by damage in the optic nerves, abnormally high pressure inside the eye (intraocular pressure) usually, but not always, causes this damage, which may cause gradual loss of vision.

Meanwhile Diabetic Retinopathy is an eye disease caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina.

In some people with diabetic retinopathy, blood vessels may swell and leak fluids.

In others, abnormal blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. The retina is the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye.

People with this disease may not notice changes to their vision but over time, diabetic retinopathy can get worse and cause vision loss. It usually affects both eyes.

The disease known as Cataracts is a clouding of the eye’s natural lens – which lies behind the iris and the pupils – is a common cause of vision loss in people over the age of 40. In short, Cataracts usually show with age.

Dr Sheena, also the organising chairperson of the Eye Screening Drive programme at the QEH1 yesterday, said the hospital is hoping to spread more awareness among the public of the importance of eye screenings.

“The eye screening drive programme was held to encourage the public to identify the causes of preventable blindness, eye diseases. This is to ensure patients can get treatment at an early stage to avoid blindness,” she said.

To prevent blindness, we have to diagnose it before the patients develop symptoms of decreased vision.

In a survey which was conducted 10-20 years ago, Dr Sheena said the blindness rate was high but with the availability of better healthcare nowadays, she is positive that the number of patients going blind has decreased.

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Many not aware they have diabetes

Saturday, November 15th, 2014

PUTRAJAYA: BASED on statistics from the National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS), 50 per cent of Malaysians who have diabetes are not aware of their condition.

Malaysian Diabetes Association council member Prof Datuk Dr Wan Mohamad Wan Bebakar said the survey also discovered that children as young as four were prone to the disease if their eating patterns and lifestyles were not controlled.

Diabetes, he said, was a silent disease that could lead to complications if left untreated and more than 2.6 million Malaysians were suffering from it.

“From this figure, five per cent or 130,000 diabetic patients are between 18 and 30 years old.

“The number of young diabetic patients is increasing and the number will continue to rise if changes to lifestyle are not made,” he said after attending the Diabcare Malaysia 2013 workshop that was held in conjunction with World Diabetes Day.

Dr Wan Mohamad said most Malaysians only realised they were diabetic when they sought treatment after a heart attack, which was one of the complications arising from the disease.

“Diabetes is not only a disease, but a silent threat as it can trigger a host of problems related to the eyes, kidneys and heart.”

He said as early prevention was better than cure and Malaysians should get medical check-ups for diabetes, especially if there was a history of diabetes in their families.


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Tobacco, health and trade rules

Monday, October 27th, 2014

Malaysia is taking the lead on two fronts to prevent the use of trade and investment agreements from blocking anti-smoking measures, but will these initiatives succeed?

SMOKING cigarettes is the number one preventable cause of death. Six million people die each year from tobacco use and this number will rise to eight million by 2030, most of them in developing countries.

Almost 200 countries signed the World Health Organisation’s Tobacco Control Convention and are obliged to take measures to curb tobacco use.

But the industry has hit back. A big tobacco company, Philip Morris, has taken Uruguay and Australia to tribunals under bilateral investment treaties, claiming billions of dollars in compensation for the two countries’ measures to have big warning signs and small or no brand logos on cigarette packets.

Under trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), companies can similarly sue governments, claiming loss of profits resulting from policy measures. At the World Trade Organisation, cases are also being taken against countries for their tobacco control measures.

Now for the good news. Many governments are fighting back against the Big Tobacco onslaught, with Malaysia taking a lead role on two important fronts: the Tobacco Control Convention and the TPPA.

Malaysian non-governmental org­anisations such as the Ma­laysian Council for Tobacco Control and the Bantah coalition have linked up with government health and trade authorities to forge a position to exclude tobacco control measures from all the TPPA’s disciplines.

The Malaysian initiative won it bouquets from international health groups and theNew York Times published an editorial urging the United States to support it. Even attorneys-general of many states in the United States supported it.

However, reports indicate that the Malaysian position is not acceptable to the United States. The tobacco lobby is fighting hard and the United States is proposing a weaker kind of exclusion, which health groups view as inadequate.

Last week, Malaysia led a move at the Tobacco Control Convention’s Conference to thwart the tobacco industry’s use of trade and investment agreements to block anti-smoking measures.


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Substance in broccoli improves autism symptoms, says study

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

A dose of a chemical found in broccoli and other vegetables may improve the behavioural and social symptoms of autism in young men, according to a new study.

But for now, people would have to eat a possibly unrealistic amount of broccoli and other vegetables to reach the dose of the molecule – known as sulphoraphane – used in the new study, says the lead researcher.

In the study, those who were given sulphoraphane, found in cruciferous vegetables, were found to have improved in behaviour, social interaction and calmness, says expert. — Filepic

“The extract product we used is not on the market,” says Dr Andrew W. Zimmerman. “There are other things like it but in different forms.”

Sulphoraphane is found in cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, but more so in the raw vegetables than cooked. Previous studies have found that it inhibits some bacterial growth and may slow the growth of some cancers.

For the new study, the researchers divided young men with moderate to severe autism spectrum disorder into two groups. One group received varying daily doses of broccoli sprout extract. The others received an inert placebo capsule.

The researchers and caregivers, who did not know which men received extract and which received placebo, regularly rated the young men’s behaviour and social interaction after the trial began. They also rated the participants a month after the trial ended. The men were rated on irritability, tiredness, repetitive movements, hyperactivity, communication, motivation and mannerisms.

The average scores on both scales were better from four weeks onward for the young men assigned to sulphoraphane compared to those in the placebo group, Zimmerman and colleagues reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Sulphoraphane may not work for everyone, but for those who do there was a noticeable improvement, says expert. — Filepic

Of the 26 young men given sulphoraphane, 17 were judged to have improved in behaviour, social interaction and calmness by caregivers and staff. There was little change among those in the placebo group.



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Exercise protects the brain against depression

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

Well-conditioned muscles make it easier for the body to purge a harmful protein associated with depression, a new study suggests.

“If you consistently exercise and your muscle is conditioned and adapted to physical exercise, then you acquire the ability to express a class of enzymes that can detoxify chemicals that accumulate during stress and that will be harmful for you,” says senior study author Dr Jorge Ruas of the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm.

Exercise creates enzymes in the body that breaks down depression-causing proteins. – Filepic

The body metabolises this substance, kynurenine, from tryptophan, a process that is activated by stress and by inflammatory factors, Dr Ruas and his team explain in their report, published in Cell. Studies have linked high levels of kynurenine – which readily crosses the blood-brain barrier – to depression, suicide and schizophrenia.

Their new study was done in skeletal muscle-PGC-1alpha1 transgenic mice, which were genetically modified to express high levels of this protein in their muscles, mimicking the effects of aerobic muscle conditioning. The researchers subjected these mice, as well as a control group of wild-type mice, to five weeks of mild stress. The normal mice developed signs of depression, but the PGC-1alpha1 mice didn’t.

In addition to higher levels of kynurenine in their blood, the transgenic mice also had higher levels of KAT enzymes, which convert kynurenine into kynurenic acid, a more easily metabolised form that can’t cross the blood-brain barrier.

When the researchers directly administered kynurenine to the PGC-1alpha1 mice, their blood levels of the substance did not increase, because the KAT enzymes were able to break it down so quickly. However, giving kynurenine to the wild-type mice increased their blood levels of the chemical, and also caused depressive symptoms.



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Outcry over unnecessary medical tests and diagnosis

Sunday, October 5th, 2014

Medicine galore: Pills and capsules of all shapes, colours and sizes are now available worldwide. — AFP

Medicine galore: Pills and capsules of all shapes, colours and sizes are now available worldwide. — AFP

PETALING JAYA: Already struggling to cope with high medical costs, Malaysians are now worried about over-diagnosis and over-treatment – a growing global trend.

Shirley Yeh, 56, complained that she was charged over RM50,000 when her mother was recently admitted to a private hospital in the Klang Valley for a month. She underwent a battery of tests and was prescribed a long list of medication by five different specialists who treated her.

“After my mum was discharged, she suffered a seizure and I took her to another hospital. The doctor said the drug dosage she was prescribed was too high. From paying RM500 for her monthly medication, we are now paying less than RM30,” she said.

Yeh herself was nearly subjected to over-treatment when a doctor recommended a hysterectomy to remove her cyst.

“I got a second opinion where the doctor explained that a cure should not be more severe than the ailment. He removed the cyst and the treatment was much cheaper and less painful than if I had done a hyste­rectomy,” she said.

Housewife S. Shalini, 30, said she spent close to RM30,000 on a surgery to remove a cyst and fibroid followed by two MRI scans and countless other tests but was still bleeding and in pain.

“I’ve seen three doctors already and undergone all sorts of tests but my condition has not improved,” she complained.

Mother-of-two Alice Cheah, 36, said the paediatrician who treated her son recommended a slew of tests, claiming that his bones were under-developed.

“After spending thousands of ringgit on tests, I got a second opinion and was told that they were all unnecessary. My son is now doing fine,” she said.


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‘Budget should address healthcare issues’

Saturday, September 27th, 2014

KUALA LUMPUR: THE medical fraternity and the public are hoping that Budget 2015 will address a number of shortcomings in the provision of healthcare services.

Malaysian Medical Association president Dr H. Krishna Kumar said despite being ranked as third best in the world in providing healthcare services, the amount of money allocated by the government was still minimal.

“The government should look into improving medical staff remunerations to avoid losing them to the private sector.

“Many doctors do not stay in the public service after serving the required years,” he told the New Straits Times yesterday.

Dr Krishna said although Malaysia produced a large number of doctors, it did not have enough specialists.

“With a shortage of specialists, longer working hours are required from doctors,” he said, adding that there should also be adequate trainers to train specialists.

He said there was no point in building more hospitals if there was an insufficient number of specialists.

“The government must also make it compulsory for every university offering medical programmes to have their own hospitals.”

Dr Krishna said the government should raise certain taxes and lift sugar subsidies to check on the rising number of non-communicable diseases.

He said tax exemption be given for gym memberships to promote a healthy lifestyle.

Suthakar Govindan, 51, who frequently visits government hospitals, said they should reduce the waiting hours, especially for senior citizens. He suggested that hospitals come up with express lanes dedicated to senior citizens to collect their medications.

Suthakar said the government should increase the number of beds at public hospitals.

Pharmacist Nanthini Suriayanarayan, 24, said the Health Ministry should consider opening drive-through medication dispensing facilities for patients to collect their monthly medical supplies.


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Handshake, peck will not spread HIV – doctor.

Friday, September 26th, 2014

KOTA KINABALU: HIV and AIDS patients will not infect the people through handshakes or kisses on the cheek, said a medical doctor.

“These hands have shaken hands with thousands of HIV patients. There is no problem,” said Menggatal Health Clinic’s family medicine specialist Dr Mohd Nazri Mohd Daud yesterday.

Speaking at the Seminar on HIV/AIDS and Women 2014 at a resort near here, Dr Mohd Nazri said he also would not mind receiving a smooch on his cheek by people suffering from HIV.

“The HIV virus also cannot be spread on a fruit that has been tainted with a small drop of blood from an HIV positive person who accidentally cut himself while cutting the fruit,” he said.

He emphasized that while the HIV virus was exceptionally strong and difficult to destroy inside a human host, it was an extremely weak virus outside of one.

“It can die within minutes outside a human host,” he said.

On claims that eating certain herbs and consuming the organs of certain reptiles can cure HIV patients, Dr Mohd Nazri said that he could only vouch for claims that had received confirmation from scientific organisations.

Wash hands to keep Ebola away

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

KUALA LUMPUR: Washing hands with water and soap and sanitising regularly are among the simplest ways to prevent the transmission of the Ebola virus.

Sean G. Kaufman, a biosafety expert, advised Malaysians not to be overly worried or afraid of Ebola, as the virus was very fragile and could be “inactivated” through such precautionary measures.

He said although Ebola was considered a deadly virus, preventive methods had proven to work.

“Out of all the deadly viruses that exist, Ebola is one of the easiest to be deactivated. Ebola is a lipid-enveloped virus which means the virus is coated with a protective layer that protects the virus and the layer can be weakened.

“Any common household detergent can easily weaken that envelope and kill the virus,” he said after attending a workshop on biorisk awareness “Infection Prevention and Control for Ebola Viral Disease Management” here yesterday.

The workshop was organised by the Malaysian Biosafety and Biosecurity Association (MBBA) to educate the clinical workforce to be fully prepared if Ebola were to infect Malaysians.


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‘Global effort needed to fight Ebola’

Sunday, September 21st, 2014

KUALA LUMPUR: To effectively combat the Ebola outbreak, international communities should work together to coordinate and mobilise resources to ensure adequate humanitarian response on the ground, says Malaysia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UN) Datuk Hussein Haniff.

He said at this juncture, it was crucial to ensure that support to the affected countries was coordinated and sustained at an international level.

“It is also important for all UN agencies to stay proactive, coordinated and flexible in responding to the unparalleled challenges posed by this deadly epidemic,” he said at the UN Security Council in New York on Thursday.

“The challenges posed by the outbreak would be overwhelming for any single country to cope alone.”

Hussein said Malaysia commended the contributions and pledges by countries to fight the pandemic.


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