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Stacey’s Melanoma Story – An Unexpected Diagnosis

By | Cancer, Skin, Women's Health | No Comments

An Unexpected Diagnosis

When Stacey was just 28, she was diagnosed with Melanoma.

Finding the melanoma wasn’t supposed to happen, but due to a series of events Stacey is lucky it was found in such early stages.

“I booked my husband in for a mole check as one of his footy team mates was diagnosed with terminal cancer from a melanoma” Stacey recalls. “Unfortunately, (well very fortunately) my husband couldn’t make the appointment at short notice so instead of cancelling the appointment I decided to get my moles checked.”

stacey-murphy-healthmint-melanomaStacey was seen by Dr Paul Tescher who did a full skin check – checking every mole on her body. “He was concerned about a small mole, only 3mm in diameter that I thought looked just like a freckle”. A couple of days later the conspicuous mole was removed and sent off for testing.

“It was Sunday afternoon and my husband and I were shopping at Fountain Gate when I received a call from Dr Paul’s Clinic”. Stacey was asked to attend the clinic immediately. “Upon this phone call my husband and I knew the mole must of been cancerous and our legs went to jelly.”

Dr Paul broke the news to Stacey that the mole had tested positive to melanoma. The cancer was spreading across the surface of Stacey’s skin and towards her bloodstream and the entire circumference of the mole tested positive to melanoma. However due to the early diagnosis, “he was extremely positive and reassuring that I would return to full health.”

Once Stacey was given her options for the removal of the melanoma, Dr Paul was able to undertake the procedure.

“The idea of having cancer in my body was terrifying so I wanted to ensure it was gone as quick as possible.”

The procedure to remove the cancer took place the next day and 1cm was removed around the original incision. A hole about the size of a 20cent piece was cut to create a flap in the skin to stretch and cover the hole. Stacey received a total of 21 stitches. This was then sent off for testing – and luckily came back with the all clear and no further traces of melanoma.

stacey-murphy-healthmint-melanoma

A family history of melanoma is apparent in Stacey’s family, with a few of her Mother’s 6 siblings being diagnosed later in life. “They were definitely surprised with my diagnosis,” Stacey claims. “I have two siblings myself and both are blonde with fair skin, while I am a brunette with olive skin. Call me naive, but I thought they would be more at risk than myself!”

“Like most Australians, I love being outdoors and soaking up the UV rays, but we need to realise that without the proper skin protection, this can come at a price.” Stacey still enjoys summer and the outdoors but now uses a 50+ sunscreen any time she heads outside.

“The diagnosis changed my outlook on life. I try not to stress the small stuff, and I take very little for granted. I wanted to share my story to encourage people of all ages to get their skin regularly checked, and to also push the use of sun protection for themselves and their families.”

stacey-murphy-malenoma-scar

“I know have a big beautiful scar on my arm which I wear with pride. It is a reminder not only to myself, but to all that know me to Slip, Slop, Slap!”

 

Thank you to Stacey for giving her permission to publish her story and her voice to help raise awareness about the importance of getting your skin checked.

If you are concerned about any unusual spots, freckles or moles, book an appointment to have your skin checked by clicking here

You can read more about our skin checks and mole removal here

If you would like more information on melanoma and the signs and symptoms to look out for then read our other articles:

Melanoma Symptoms

Skin Cancer Facts

Summer Safe Skin – What you should know about skin cancer

Skin cancer, skin checks and moles – oh my!

Want more information?

Call (03) 5611 3365 to speak to a friendly patient concierge

or book an appointment here

Melanoma Symptoms

By | Cancer, Skin | No Comments

What is Melanoma, What are the Symptoms of Melanoma?

 

 

Fast and scary facts on melanoma

  • Melanoma is Australia’s national cancer
  • Melanoma kills more young Australians than any other type of cancer
  • 1 person EVERY 5 hours will die from melanoma in Australia
  • Estimated 1,905 people died from melanoma in 2018
  • Estimated over 14,000 will be diagnosed in 2019

(https://melanoma.canceraustralia.gov.au/statistics)

Melanoma has stages…and types

There are five stages of melanoma, and they range in severity from 0 to IV. Each stage is based on characteristics such as the ulceration, the thickness of the tumour and if lymph nodes or organs are affected. Once the melanoma is diagnosed, the stage it is in will guide the treatment.

Check out https://www.melanoma.org.au/understanding-melanoma/stages-of-melanoma/ for their definitions and treatments for each stage.

Symptoms of melanoma that are hidden in plain sight (!) The hidden threat

Lumps beneath the skin

These are called nodular melanomas and can occur anywhere on the skin. They are particularly dangerous because they grow into the skin much faster than they change dimensions on the skin surface. These can be very tricky to notice before they spread.

Under the nails

As well as palms of the hands and the soles of feet.

“Age spots”

Watch out for those spots you already have that you think are changing over time because you are just ‘ageing’. Think again and have them checked.

Changes in your scalp

These are so dangerous because if you have a full head of hair, the spots are not in plain sight.

The groin and more!

Areas that never see the sun are still at risk of developing melanoma

Vision changes

Eye melanoma may not produce any symptoms, but any changes in vision should be seen by a doctor immediately

Check out and learn your ABCDEs

abcde-melanoma-signs

A is for Asymmetrical – moles with irregular shapes and that have two very different halves

B is for Border (irregular) – notched, scalloped or irregular borders

C is for Colour (changes in) – growths that may have many colours or an uneven distribution of colours

D is for Diameter – look for moles that are greater than about 6mm in diameter

E is for Evolving – always look out for changes over time. Ones that grow, change in shape and colour, or begin to itch or bleed

Treatment options for melanoma

Treatment for melanoma will depend on the following:

  • The stage of the disease
  • The location of the cancer
  • The severity of the symptoms
  • Your general health and wishes

Treatment may involved the following:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Clinical trials
  • Immunotherapy
  • Targeted Therapy
  • Chemotherapy

Any of these treatment methods are invasive and if waited until too late they have no guarantee that they will be successful and carry many risks and side affects.

I want to be proactive in looking after my skin – how do I prevent melanoma?

In Australia it’s near impossible to not be exposed to the sun at some point in the day. It is still important to get some UV exposure in skin-water-summer-tan-healthmintorder to take in and absorb Vitamin D which is crucial to your health. However it is recommended to do this in the earlier hours of the day and in the evening when the sun is not at its strongest.

  • Avoid the sun in the middle of the day (generally 10am-4pm) which is when it is strongest and you are more likely to get sunburnt.
  • Wear sunscreen all year round and include it into your morning routine.
  • Avoid tanning beds – they emit UV rays and increase your risk of skin cancer
  • Get to know the skin you’re in – examine your skin regularly for new skin growths or changes in existing moles, bumps, birthmarks and freckles. Be sure you don’t neglect between your toes, the soles your feet and your genitals!

skin-sunscreen-healthmint-protect

Are you frightened by the information above? Terrified by the facts you didn’t realise about melanoma? Now is the time to get your skin checked. Book an appointment online here or call (03) 5611 3365

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Back to School

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Back to school!

Whether you’re sending your teenager off to their final year of schooling, or you have a little one beginning prep, it’s a busy and exciting time for families across the country over the next couple of weeks.

Here are some tips to help ease the transition and make for a happy and healthy year!

Master the art of the lunchbox

Bento style lunchboxes are all the rage. Keep it simple by adding cut fruit, sandwiches, vegetable sticks and their favourite yoghurt.

Walk to school

it doesn’t have to be every day, but if you can include this into you and your child’s routine, your health will thank you. Getting out in the early morning fresh air is great for your mental health too!

Stick to the same bed times

Make sure your child is getting enough (quality) sleep by enforcing a bed routine. Kids of any age need upwards of 10 hours of sleep a night. It’s also crucial to wind down before bed time- this means no iPads and TV at least a half hour before they hit the hay.

Handle the dreaded head lice 

Keep long hair tied up, don’t wash your kids hair too frequently (they love fresh hair!) and keep ‘butting heads’ to a minimum 😂

Ease those nerves

Starting school can be an exciting but daunting time for kids. Help ease any anxieties they may have by talking about all the positive and wonderful adventures and opportunities the new school year is going to bring. In the first few weeks back, give your kids something to look forward to after school like an evening at the beach, and ice cream, or dinner at their favourite cafe

Make sure their health is in check

Start the school year on the right foot with a visit to the doctors to make sure everything is in tip top shape. Be proactive with their health and ask your GP how you can help keep your kids (and yourself!) happy and healthy this year.

Book an appointment here or click the link below!

Want more information?

Call (03) 5611 3365 to speak to a friendly patient concierge

or book an appointment here
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The Health Benefits of Going Outside

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The Health Benefits of Going Outside

Most of us have been told since childhood that “getting fresh air” is important for a healthy mind and body. While there are many common myths used in parenting, spending time outside actually is extremely important to maintain health. Here are some reasons why it’s important to get out of your usual four walls.

Physical Benefits

One of the best things about getting outside is that it can actually benefit your physical body. Studies that looked at campers who spent two nights in the forest compared to people who had spent those nights in an urban environment showed the campers had a lower heartrate and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Inflammation in the body can have a range of negative effects over the long term, and people who spend time outside have been shown to have lower levels of inflammation.

Sleep Better

These lower levels of stress, inflammation and resting heart rate combine to give people who have spent time outside a better sleep. If you are struggling to get a good night’s sleep, finding time during the day to take advantage of natural light and natural surroundings could help you to calm down and doze off.

Feel Better

Going outside can reduce anxiety and counteract seasonal depression. Even working indoors with natural light from a window is beneficial to a person’s mental state, creating mood elevation and increasing alertness and concentration. Spending time in natural surrounds can have a significant impact on people experiencing depression and anxiety, helping them to calm and improve their mood.

Boost Creativity

Studies into people who spend time in nature find they experience a boost in creativity. While the improved sleep and mental clarity certainly helps, studies have shown that a single walk outside can measurably improve creativity.

Get Fit

While just getting some light and fresh air is a great place to start, pairing it with some exercise enhances the benefits even further. Going for a run, swimming, cycling or doing yoga in a park –most communities have a huge range of activities available to incentivise you to leave the house, and they could be very low cost or even free!

Meet New People

One thing your lounge room is very unlikely to have is new people to meet, but the outdoors is likely to have many. Find an activity that will allow you to meet new people, and you can add the benefits of healthy socialisation with the other improvements for your mind and body. Many communities host events and clubs, such as Park Runs, fishing clubs, nature walks, photography and art classes, exercise groups. Websites like MeetUp.com can help you connect with people who share similar interests and provide further incentives to leave the house.

If you’re struggling with feeling down, sleep problems, stress or anxiety, prioritise some outdoors time every day to help you feel calm and centred. If getting outside is not enough, you might need to chat to your GP. Even if you do need some extra help, lifestyle changes can help you feel better – and getting outside is a great place to start.

Want more information?

Call (03) 5611 3365 to speak to a friendly patient concierge

or book an appointment here
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Acne

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The Causes of Acne and What You Can Do About It

Acne is a common condition, but it is a medical issue that can range from mild to severe. While not dangerous, acne can leave sufferers with low self-esteem and cause long-term issues such as scarring. It’s not always just a matter of washing your face – acne has many causes and it can be difficult to budge. Here are some facts about acne and what you can do to treat it.

What is acne?

Our skin is covered in pores that connect to oil glands under the surface. Follicles connect the glands to the pores. When the pores become blocked, oil (or sebum) builds up under the skin. Acne is a chronic and inflammatory skin condition. Acne can come in the form of whiteheads, blackheads, pimples, cysts and nodules. It is most often seen on the face, shoulders, back, neck chest and upper arms.

Acne often comes during puberty due to changes in hormones and the activation of sebaceous glands, but it can come at any age. It affects both males and females. Acne is not dangerous, but it can leave scars and be traumatic for people who are concerned about acne’s effect on their appearance

What causes acne?

The basic cause of acne is blocked pores. However, what causes the pores to become blocked is slightly more complicated. The glands that produce oil are stimulated by hormones. When the gland becomes blocked, the surrounding area can become infected and then swollen. The bacteria that contributes to acne is called Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes).

However, not all bacteria give people acne – one strain even helps keep skin acne free. Genetic factors can also increase the risk of acne. Other factors that can cause or increase the likelihood of acne include the menstrual cycle, anxiety and stress, oil-based cosmetics, squeezing pimples and sweating.

How is acne treated?

Acne has a number of treatments ranging from mild to very strong, depending on how severe and persistent the acne is. There are a number of home remedies that can be tried, although for most options the research shows limited effect. Changing diet (especially increasing vitamins A, E and zinc, or switching to low GI),using tea tree oil, the topical application of green tea, and moisturisers (especially containing witch hazel or 10% aloe vera) are common home remedies from mild to moderate acne.

Over the counter medications are usually the next step, and are available from the supermarket or pharmacy. The most effective contain ingredients such as benzyl peroxide, salicylic acid, Retin-A, Azelaic acid and Resorcinol. People with sensitive skin should use cream-based instead of alcohol-based gels (which can be drying). People with acne should start with a lower concentration as these medicated preparations can cause skin irritation. The benefits are usually seen after six to eight weeks.

For acne that does not respond to these methods, the help of a specialist will be required. Your GP will be the first stop, so they can make some suggestions or refer you on to a dermatologist if necessary. The most intensive treatments include corticosteroid injection, oral antibiotics, hormonal birth control, topical antimicrobials and isoretinoin. These treatments need to be taken under the strict supervision of a medical professional.

Managing acne from home.

Wherever possible, prevention is the best option for people with acne. Some tips to avoid breakouts include:

  • Don’t pop, squeeze or disturb pimples
  • Avoid washing your face too frequently, and use mild soap and warm water
  • Wash your hands frequently, especially before putting products on your skin, and avoid touching your face as much as possible
  • Clean things that touch your face such as your glasses, phone and razor
  • Loose clothing can let the skin breathe and reduce pimples on the body
  • Clean hair, free of oily products like cocoa butter, will be less likely to cause acne
  • Be conscious of the cosmetics you use, and remove makeup before bed
  • Avoid sweating too much wherever possible

There are many options for people who are looking to manage acne, but if you can’t get it under control from home, you should talk to your GP and get professional help. Acne is a very common condition, but it can be hard to shift. If you’re concerned about your acne, have a chat with a medical professional and start the journey towards clear skin.

Want more information?

Call (03) 5611 3365 to speak to a friendly patient concierge

or book an appointment here

Skin Cancer Facts

By | Body Systems, Cancer, Skin | No Comments

It’s beginning to heat up, and Australians are eager to get out into the sun. We all know that skin cancer is a problem, but many people show a concerning disregard of sun safety. Australia has some of the highest melanoma rates in the world – two out of every three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer before they are 70. It’s clearly an issue we need to address as a nation. Here are some facts about skin cancer that serve as a reminder to take sun safety seriously.

Melanoma is very common – and it can be deadly. Melanoma is the third most common cancer in men and women. It accounts for only 2% of diagnosed skin cancers, but it is responsible for 75% of skin cancer deaths. In the last 20 years, melanoma rates have doubled and are still on the rise. That being said, if melanoma is detected early it can often be completely cured with just a simple procedure.

But melanoma isn’t the only concern. Skin cancer occurs from damage to skin cells, and there are three main types. Along with melanoma, you could be at risk of basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. While melanoma is the leading cause of skin cancer death, there are still significant numbers of deaths due to non-melanoma skin cancer.

It’s not worth it for a tan. Tanned skin used to be considered healthy, but actually a tan is a sign that you have been exposed to enough UV radiation to damage your skin. Many people ignore sun safety in favour of tanning for beauty-related reasons, but tanning can also cause wrinkles, sagging, and yellow or brown discolouration on the skin. A fake tan is ok from a skin cancer point of view, but don’t forget that it won’t actually protect you from the sun – you can still get sunburn.

You and your doctor make the best team. You should take time to get familiar with how your skin looks to make it easier to identify any changes. There are many great resources around to help you understand what you’re looking for. The Cancer Councils website is a great place to start. They suggest you keep a close eye out for:

  • any crusty, non-healing sores
  • small lumps that are red, pale or pearly in colour
  • new spots, freckles or any moles changing in colour, thickness or shape over a period of weeks to months.

If you notice any changes or haven’t had a skin check recently, you should see your GP to get your skin assessed. You will need to go to a skin specialist, who will examine your skin to identify any potential areas of concern.  Keeping up regular checks, both at home and every year or so with a professional, will help make sure your skin isn’t preparing a nasty surprise.

We all love the sun, but with summer on the way make sure you protect yourself and your loved ones. Team up with your doctor to ensure that if there is a problem, you’ll pick up on it early. Sunburn is a serious issue, so don’t forget to enjoy the sunshine – but stay safe.

Want more information?

Call (03) 5611 3365 to speak to a friendly patient concierge

or book an appointment here

Broken Toes

By | Body Systems | 2 Comments

All about Broken Toes

When people break a bone, it’s usually a serious occurrence that requires a trip to hospital. With broken toes, that’s not always the case. Here are some ways to tell if you might have a broken toe, and what you should do about it.

How can you tell if your toe is broken?

Unless you have an extreme break, the only sure way to tell that your toe is broken is to be diagnosed by a medical health professional. The diagnosis is often made by a physical examination combined with medical imaging like an x-ray when necessary. The symptoms of a broken toe can be very similar to other injuries, so it’s important to get your toe looked at by your doctor if you suspect it might have a fracture.

There is no easily definable set of symptoms to diagnose a broken toe – some people with toe fractures are in extreme pain and unable to walk, whereas others can still move around. There are a number of factors that determine how severe your symptoms are, such as:

  • How severe the break is
  • How it was broken
  • Where the break is
  • How close to a joint the break is
  • If the bone has been displaced
  • Other conditions like arthritis or gout

Types of toe fractures.

There is more than one type of fracture that can occur. The two main types are:

Traumatic Fractures. Traumatic fractures are a result of an incident involving the toe, such as dropping something on it or kicking something. They can be minor or severe.

The symptoms happen straight after the event, and could include pain that doesn’t go away with rest, swelling, throbbing and redness.  Most traumatic breaks will develop a dark bruise. These symptoms can persist for weeks if they are left untreated.

Stress fractures. Stress fractures don’t happen as a result of a single event, but build up over time. They are usually hairline fractures that come as a result of repeated stress on the bone. Sometimes stress fractures occur when the muscles become too weak to absorb impact, making toes vulnerable to impact and pressure, which leads them to eventually crack.

Stress fractures often hurt after walking or running, but the pain goes after rest. They are generally sore or tender when touched, and are swollen but without bruising.

Treating a broken toe

If you are diagnosed with a broken toe, there is a range of treatment options that doctors might recommend.

  • Standard treatment for mild fractures, bruises and sprains is following R.I.C.E. – rest, ice, compression and elevation. These techniques reduce pain and help the toe to heal. If the break isn’t severe, it’s possible that this will be the only treatment you need – but let your doctor decide if this is the only treatment you need
  • Strapping toes together or “buddy taping” to keep the broken toe supported
  • A shoe or boot to help you walk without bending the your toe
  • Resetting the bone where the break has caused the toe to become displaced
  • Antibiotics or tetanus shot if the skin has been broken
  • Surgery if the break is very severe and can’t be fixed suing another method.

There is such a wide variety of symptoms and a range of how severe a break could be that it is very important to get your injury assessed by a medical professional. Your GP is a great place to start. When it comes to a sore toe, it’s better safe than sorry. If your toe is giving you trouble, get it check by a professional, and get back on your feet in no time.

Want more information?

Call (03) 5611 3365 to speak to a friendly patient concierge

or book an appointment here
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Rosacea: HealthMint Skin Series

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What You Need to Know About Rosacea

What is rosacea?

Rosacea is a kind of skin inflammation, almost always on the face. It is not contagious, and the cause is unknown. Rosacea is enlarged capillaries (tiny blood vessels on the surface of the skin) which give a permanent flush to the face, and can also cause yellow-headed pimples.

Some things that can trigger rosacea or make symptoms worse are:

  • Overheating (especially at night)
  • Stress
  • Alcohol
  • Hot drinks
  • Spicy food
  • Overexposure to sunlight
  • Some moisturisers and skin care products.

Who can get rosacea?

Men and women can get rosacea. Most people are diagnosed with the condition between the ages of 30-50. The most common first sign is frequent blushing or being flushed in the face. As the capillaries enlarge over time, the redness can become permanent. Men with rosacea can sometimes have a secondary condition called rhinophyma, which causes the nose to become enlarged and red.

As people get older, the symptoms of rosacea tend to get worse. There is no permanent cure for rosacea, although there are a number of treatment options.

How do you know if you’ve got rosacea?

The symptoms of rosacea include:

  • A permanent flush across the nose and cheeks
  • Redness resembling sunburn that doesn’t go away
  • Frequent blushing
  • A burning or stinging sensation
  • A rash on the face
  • Mildly swollen cheeks and nose
  • Enlarged visible capillaries
  • Painless lumps or pimples under the skin
  • red or irritated eyes or swollen eyelids.

What can you do to treat rosacea?

There is no single treatment for rosacea, and for many people treatment is focussed on managing symptoms. Some treatment options that might be prescribed by a doctor or dermatologist include:

  • Antibiotic- or azelaic acid-containing gels and creams
  • Antibiotic pills
  • Laser treatments to reduce the appearance of visible blood vessels
  • Surgery or laser therapy for enlarged noses
  • Non-irritating skin care products
  • Diathermy – a heat-generating device is used to treat damaged blood vessels
  • Frequent use of a gentle sunscreen
  • Avoiding known triggers such as alcohol, spicy food and anxiety

Sometimes people with rosacea have symptoms in their eyes, which requires specialised treatment by an ophthalmologist, and a dermatologist can help with symptoms that occur on the skin. The first step to getting checked should be to visit a trusted GP, who can help diagnose your condition, begin treatments and refer you to specialists if necessary.

Rosacea can be unsightly and uncomfortable, so it’s a great idea to get it looked at before it becomes a bigger problem. Looking after your skin is important to your health and well-being, and beginning a treatment plan can be as simple as having a chat with your GP.

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Stacey’s Melanoma Story – An Unexpected Diagnosis

An Unexpected Diagnosis When Stacey was just 28, she was diagnosed with Melanoma. Finding the…
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What is Melanoma, What are the Symptoms of Melanoma?     Fast and scary facts…
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Want more information?

Call (03) 5611 3365 to speak to a friendly patient concierge

or book an appointment here
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4 Reasons Your Urine Might Smell

By | Body Systems, Diabetes, General Wellbeing, Lifestyle | No Comments

4 Reasons Your Urine Might Smell

One of the best ways to tell what’s going on inside your body is to pay attention to what’s on the way out. Your kidneys act as filters for your body, and urine is how the waste they remove leaves your body. Urine is mostly water, so the waste is usually what gives it any smell or colour.

Normal urine is clear to straw coloured, and generally should not have a strong smell. If your urine output significantly changes and you can’t think of an obvious reason why, it could be a sign of something going on in your body. Here are 4 common changes to urine and what they might mean.

 

1. Dehydration

If you are not consuming adequate liquid, your urine output will reduce and become more concentrated. That could lead to a darker colour and strong smell, getting more noticeable as the dehydration worsens. Simple dehydration can be managed at home by drinking more liquids, but if your dehydration doesn’t resolve quickly, if you have other symptoms like diarrhoea and especially if your urine becomes very dark, you should see your doctor.

2. Oral Intake

 

Sometimes food and medication can change the colour or odour of urine. Asparagus is a classic example – often after eating this vegetable, urine can take on a very distinct odour. If the change is due to a food source it should go away within a day or two. If the change is due to medication, the changes might stay for as long as you are taking the medicine. Some foods and medications can even turn your pee pinkish-red. Feel free to mention the change to your doctor if you are concerned.

3. Infection

 

A urinary tract infection, or UTI, could cause your urine to change in appearance and smell. The presence of bacteria could cause your urine to have a foul smell, as well as appearing cloudy or even bloody. These symptoms could go along with a burning sensation when you pee, and a frequent urge to urinate. UTIs are fairly common, and will need to be assessed and treated by your doctor.

4. Diabetes

 

When a person has high blood sugar, excess sugar is excreted through the urine – which can cause urine to have an unusually sweet smell. In more dangerous cases, a “fruity” smell could be an indication of ketoacidosis, a condition where the body produces toxic substances due to extremely high blood sugar. Undiagnosed or untreated diabetes and ketoacidosis are potentially life-threatening conditions and should be considered an emergency.

If you see any change in your pee and can’t immediately think of what caused it – a recent meal or a new medication – you might want to think about seeing a doctor. Changes that last longer than a day or two and are accompanied by other symptoms should be addressed by a doctor as soon as you can. Some additional symptoms that can go along with urine changes could be pain in your side or back, fever, significantly increased thirst, fatigue, vomiting, or discharge. Your doctor can easily refer you for a urine test to see what’s going on.

Want more information?

Call (03) 5611 3365 to speak to a friendly patient concierge

or book an appointment here

Coeliac Disease

By | Chronic Disease, General Wellbeing, Nutrition | No Comments

Coeliac Disease – What You Need to Know

There is an increasing amount of awareness around coeliac disease. However, many people still misunderstand the condition. Here are 6 things that you need to know about coeliac disease.

Coeliac Disease is an Abnormal Response to Gluten

Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, rye, barley and oats. When a person with coeliac disease ingests this protein, their immune system over-reacts, damaging the small bowel. The bowel is lined with tiny, finger-like villi that help absorb nutrients from food. When a coeliac eats gluten, the villi become inflamed and flattened, which reduces the surface area of the bowel and therefore reduces the surface area available for nutrient absorption. Symptoms relating to inflammation can also occur in other parts of the body.

All Types of People Can Have Coeliac

Coeliac disease affects people of all ages, both male and female. You must be born with certain genes to develop coeliac disease, although it is often triggered by environmental factors. If you have a close relative with coeliac disease, you have a 10% chance of having it yourself. Coeliac disease affects around 1 in 70 Australians.

You Could Have Coeliac Disease and Not Know It

While approximately 1 in 70 Australians have coeliac disease, around 80% of them remain undiagnosed. That means the majority of people who have it haven’t ever been diagnosed. There are more cases diagnosed in recent years – partially because our awareness and rates of detection are increasing, but also because there is an actual rise in the number of people who have the disease.

Tests Can Confirm Your Diagnosis

Many people with coeliac disease are aware that something is not right with their bodies, but they may not know what the problem is. Some people feel very unwell, while others don’t have symptoms. Some common signs of coeliac disease are:

  • Feeling unwell after eating gluten
  • Vomiting
  • Problems with growth
  • Constipation and/or diarrhoea
  • Fatigue
  • Stomach pain
  • Mouth issues
  • Problems with fertility
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Other general symptoms, such as joint pain, headaches and irritability

If you suspect you might have coeliac disease, the first step is to go to your doctor. They will arrange for you to have tests. Do not stop eating food with gluten – if you do, it could produce a false-negative result. Firstly you will receive a blood test. The next step to confirm the diagnosis is an endoscopy.

There’s No Cure, But It Can Be Managed

As far as we know, someone who is diagnosed with coeliac disease will need to avoid gluten for the rest of their lives. However, managing coeliac disease is as simple (and complicated) as avoiding gluten. Strict avoidance of products containing gluten lets the small bowel lining heal. Gluten can be found in a daunting number of products in some form – obvious choices like bread and pasta made with wheat are out, and some tricky ingredients like some types of soy sauce and other flavourings make other products unsafe.

Products in Australia are required to disclose any gluten-containing ingredients. If you have been newly diagnosed with coeliac disease it can be daunting when you realise how many modern products include gluten. The easiest way to approach your new diet is to start simply and get more complicated as you find substitutes for your regular ingredients. Meals that contain basic ingredients like meat and vegetables will be gluten free (but pay close attention to any sauce or flavouring). From that point, you can begin to make your meals more complicated – just be sure to read the labels on everything so you can be sure they are free from gluten.

There Are Consequences For Undiagnosed Coeliacs

If someone has coeliac disease that goes untreated, they are subjecting their system to years of chronic inflammation, poor nutrition and malabsorption of nutrients. There are a wide range of very serious complications that can occur as a result of undiagnosed, unmanaged coeliac disease.

Seeing a doctor is the first step in getting a diagnosis. Without good management, coeliac disease can have serious long and short term consequences. By working with your doctor, you can help reduce your risks of further complications and enjoy the benefits of healthier living.

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