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Broken Toes

By Body Systems No 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.

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Rosacea: HealthMint Skin Series

By Skin No Comments

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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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.

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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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Common Health Myths

By Body Systems, Featured, General Wellbeing, Lifestyle No Comments

It’s important to revisit what we know about our health to check that our knowledge is actually based on good science. Here are 5 common health myths you might have come across, and why they might not be as accurate as many people think.

  1. You can catch a cold by getting cold

It sounds obvious – if you get cold and wet, you’ll come down with a cold.  These days, most people know that colds are in fact caused by a virus, but they’re still quick to blame being cold for their illness.

We pick up viruses and other organisms through contact with other infected people. While these colds are more likely during the cold winter months, it’s likely that the majority of infections are picked up because bad weather forces people indoors, in closer proximity to one another.

The air temperature might have some impact on how long viruses can stay alive, and that inhaling cold air can cool the nasal passage down which can help some viruses to break the mucus barrier and enter the body. However, while cold weather can make it more likely that you will catch a cold, it’s not the weather’s fault when you’re ill.

  1. Cracking your joints can cause arthritis

People who crack their knuckles are routinely told they are making themselves more susceptible to arthritis. The truth is that the risk of arthritis is almost exactly the same for people who do crack their knuckles when compared to people who don’t.

When you crack your knuckles, you are pulling apart the joint very slightly. That causes a pressure decrease in the fluid that keeps the joints lubricated. Bubbles form in the fluid, and the variation in pressure causes the cracking sound. It might be annoying to people around you, but it won’t give you arthritis.

  1. Drink eight glasses of water every day.

Drinking water is essential for a healthy body, but how much should we be drinking? The answer is – enough. The amount of water each person needs can vary widely. Another factor that can influence how much water you need to consume is how much liquid you are consuming from other sources. 80% of an average person’s water intake is sourced from drinks (including caffeinated beverages like coffee), with 20% coming from the food they eat.

Studies show that on average, women require 2.7 litres of water per day, with men requiring 3.7 litres. However, that figure represents the total water intake – meaning your coffee counts. You should still try to drink water, but forcing yourself to drink a pre-determined amount is not necessary.

  1. Choosing low-fat products is better for your health

Low-fat products are sold as healthier options, but that advertising is misleading in many cases. Many low-fat products have increased sugar and salt to compensate for the loss of taste. Low-fat products can contain as many (or even more) kilojoules than their full-fat equivalents. Fat can help you feel full for longer, and a carefully balanced diet will include some healthy fats. Advertisers are very good at getting you to choose their product, but don’t be deceived by claims on the packaging.  A better strategy for choosing healthier options is to practice reading nutritional labels.

  1. The flu vaccine causes the flu

It’s a common misunderstanding that the flu vaccine can give people the flu. The truth is, you cannot catch influenza from a flu shot. The flu vaccine contains inactivated viruses that can’t harm you. However, some people do have mild side effects from the vaccination such as low-grade fever and body aches that can cause them to incorrectly self-diagnose with the flu. It’s important to remember that the flu vaccine is most often offered during periods of increased risk of catching the flu, which can cause a false association between the symptoms and the vaccine.

The vaccine only contains the strains of the influenza virus that authorities predict are the most likely for that season, which leaves people potentially open to other strains of influenza. It also does not provide 100% immunity, although most people will experience reduced symptoms if they do happen to catch the virus. Lastly, many people pick up a bad cold and mistakenly assume they have the flu – and blame their flu shot. Getting the flu shot helps protect you and vulnerable members of the community, and could save you from getting seriously sick.

When it comes to your health, the right advice is crucial. If you are looking for answers to your health questions, your GP is a great place to start. Cut through the conflicting information and get health advice tailored directly to your personal situation.

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Psoriasis: HealthMint Skin Series

By Body Systems, Skin No Comments

What You Need to Know About Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a skin condition that can be uncomfortable and make people unhappy with the appearance of their skin. Because it often comes and goes, many people just put up with the symptoms. While the condition isn’t curable, it can be managed with help from your GP.

What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a skin condition where the life cycle of skin cells is sped up, which causes cells to build up thickly on the skin’s surface. The patches of skin that have an excess skin build-up can form into scales or red patches. These areas tend to be itchy and uncomfortable, and sometimes even painful. It is most often found on the outside of the elbows, knees or scalp, though it can appear on any part of the skin. Some people get a few small patches of scaling that look almost like dandruff, while others get major eruptions that cover a large area of skin.

Psoriasis is associated with other serious health conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and depression. It also causes a particular type of arthritis known as psoriatic arthritis, which can sometimes occur without a noticeable skin irritation.

Who can get psoriasis?

People of any age can get the skin condition, from small babies right up to elderly people. However, most people are diagnosed in their early adult years. Men and women have almost equal instances of psoriasis. All people groups can get it, although it does occur more frequently depending on racial background.   

How long does psoriasis last?

Psoriasis is a chronic condition, which means the potential for the irritating skin patches is probably not going to go away any time soon. The irritated areas themselves will probably come and go.

How do you know if you’ve got psoriasis?

The signs and symptoms are different for everyone, but here are some common identifiers  you should look out for:

  • Small scaling spots (commonly seen in children)
  • Red patches of skin covered with thick, silvery scales
  • Dry, cracked skin that may bleed
  • Thickened, pitted or ridged nails
  • Itching, burning or soreness
  • Swollen and stiff joints

If you develop a rash that doesn’t go away with an over-the-counter medication, psoriasis is one option your doctor might consider.

What can you do to treat psoriasis?

Because psoriasis currently has no cure, the aim is to improve the symptoms. With mild psoriasis, products are usually recommended or prescribed to be used on the skin, such as moisturisers, vitamin D preparations, or corticosteroid creams.  Ultraviolet light therapy is another way medical professionals can slow down the production of skin cells.

If your psoriasis is severe or not responding to other options, you might need oral or injected medication. You can work with your health professionals to manage your symptoms by giving up smoking, managing stress, regularly moisturising and following the treatment plan given to you by your doctor.

Skin conditions are almost always manageable, and you don’t have to put up with your symptoms. Get in touch with your GP if you think you might have psoriasis, and start yourself on a journey towards clear, healthy skin.

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Social Media and your Mental Health

By General Wellbeing, Lifestyle, Men's Health, Mental Health, Women's Health No Comments

Social media and your mental health: Mental health is incredibly important to maintain, and there are many sources that say social media could be impacting our mental health in a negative way. Even Facebook has expressed concern that excess use of social media could be detrimental to people’s health. So what is healthy use of social media, and what are the consequences of not sticking to a moderate level of use?

The benefits of social media

Social sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram allow a degree of connectivity that has never been available before. People can keep up to date with friends in other countries, receive information about current events, products and services, and communicate with new people to learn things and express ideas.

For many people, social media allows them to find like-minded people and feel connected to the world around them. It gives them a chance to express their thoughts, opinions and ideas, and even to seek help. Facebook and other sites can be a great place to share exciting news, and to ask for support when needs arise.

It’s not all good news.

Some studies have shown links between the amounts of time spent on social media and negative body image, difficulty sleeping, symptoms of depression, and eating issues. Some people are even partially blaming an increased suicide rate on the prevalence of social media.

Social media can activate the reward centres of the brain, meaning users can become addicted to getting “likes”. It can also lead to envy and unhealthy comparison between users. Online bullying and trolling experienced via social media can be extremely detrimental to mental health, and there is a flood of information online with little way to verify whether it is true or not, causing people to change their world view based on false assumptions.

What can you do to keep social media use healthy?

Social media doesn’t affect everyone in the same way, so you will have to have an honest look at how your use affects you personally. However, there are some key things everyone can do to make sure social media use doesn’t have a negative impact on their mental health

  • Turn off your phone: There is some worrying data emerging about blue light coming from phones and human health. There is little doubt that it can negatively affect your sleep, and checking social media when you should be sleeping is worse. Make a firm cut-off a few hours before bedtime, and stick to it.
  • Be careful of comparison: It has been said that social media is comparing someone else’s highlight reel to your everyday life. Many people only put the absolute highlights for others to see, so social media is not a good baseline for reality. Comparison is the thief of joy, so don’t let it get you down.
  • Communicate with others: Ultimately social media is designed for people to connect together, so use it for its intended purpose! Use your time on social media to communicate with people and groups that are trustworthy and build you up. It’s good to follow current events, but try to add some light-hearted pages that make you laugh to offset too much bad news.
  • Limit your time: It is definitely possible to have too much of a good thing. Find a balance in your life where you are able to be present, instead of constantly getting lost in social media. If you find yourself checking Facebook, Instagram, then back to Facebook, it might be a sign you need a break. If loved ones are telling you that you spend too much time on your phone – listen to them. If you need help regulating your time, there are plenty of apps that can help you track and/or restrict your usage.

Social media can be very positive if it is used in the right way for a limited amount of time. If you feel caught in a spiral, or if you want to talk to someone about your mental health, your GP is a good place to start. The online world can be a great place, but don’t forget to balance that out with plenty of time in the real world as well.

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Is Your Poo Normal?

By Body Systems, General Wellbeing, Men's Health, Women's Health No Comments

Without special tests and equipment, it can be hard to know what is going on inside your body. However, there is one way you can get some clues – your poo. It might not sound pleasant, but paying attention to what is leaving your body might help you understand what is going on inside it.

What should your poo look like?

There is an ideal type of poo! You want a poo that comes out easily in one go, is smooth and soft and a shade of brown. It shouldn’t smell too bad, and ideally would sink. Once you’ve finished, your bowels should feel properly emptied. It’s normal for people to poo from three times a day to once every three days. Go with what’s normal for you – if you go from needing to empty your bowels once every three days to suddenly heading to the toilet three times a day, it could potentially signal a change in your diet or your body.

Obviously, your faeces is related to what you eat and how you’re feeling. If your poo varies a bit for a day or two and goes back to normal, it probably isn’t anything to be concerned about. If you have an issue that lasts for a number of days or weeks, you might want to talk to your GP. You might notice a change in frequency, if you have constipation or diarrhoea, or if the colour of your stool changes. It’s also important to note if there are any accompanying symptoms like abdominal discomfort, nausea, change in appetite, or weight loss.

Colour

Black and red can signal that there is blood in your poo – black stools have had the blood in them for a longer time, causing them to change from red to black. The colour could signal problems in the upper digestive system like a stomach ulcer, but sometimes can be related to a food or medication. Bright red blood in your stool is most likely a haemorrhoid or small tear, but it’s best to get this checked out. Any potential blood in your stool is a symptom you will need to talk to your doctor about.

Stools can be yellowish, tan, clay-coloured or grey, which would probably indicate digestive problems with the liver, gall bladder, or issues like celiac disease. Green stool can be related to an infection in the digestive tract. Sometimes the colour of your poo can be simply related to what you’ve eaten – a dark red stool might be alarming, but if you ate a lot of beetroot that might explain the colour. If you have any concerns, make sure you ask your GP.

Consistency

Hard poo can mean you are constipated, which is usually caused by inadequate fibre intake or not drinking enough water. Loose stools can indicate a digestive problem such as celiac disease or irritable bowel syndrome. Diarrhoea is often related to a bacterial infection in the digestive tract, lactose intolerance, food poisoning or medicine intake. Pay very careful attention to keeping hydrated, and if diarrhoea lasts for more than a few days, see your GP.

There are many different explanations for why your poo might be unusual, so it’s worth checking and considering what is normal for you. It’s important for everyone to have a good fibre intake, drink lots of water, exercise and avoid stress as much as possible. If you’ve done these things and notice any significant changes, you should have a chat with your GP. It’s smart, not embarrassing – poo is your best clue to what’s happening inside you.

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Men and Mental Health

By Men's Health, Mental Health No Comments

Men and Mental Health

Physical health is important to maintain, but mental health can be just as crucial. There is a “silent crisis” around the world, where men struggle with mental health but feel they can’t talk about it or get help. No matter how good things look on the outside, if you have something on the inside that doesn’t feel right, it’s time to check up on your mental health.

Why it Matters

Mental health issues are more common than you think. According to Beyond Blue, on average around one in eight men will experience depression, and one in five men experience anxiety at some point in their lives. There are many other mental health issues that affect men and can have serious consequences for their ability to work, be around other people, and live life to the fullest.

Many men try to bottle up issues, but attempting to tackle mental health issues alone makes it far more likely that issues will go unrecognised and without any treatment. Depression is a big risk factor for suicide, and men are far more likely to commit suicide – around six out of every eight deaths by suicide are men. The number of yearly suicides in Australia is almost double the number of people who die on the roads in a year.

Everyone’s mental health goes through changes from time to time. Mental health check-ups and maintenance can help your overall quality of life, help build you up to support others, and allows you to perform at your peak.

What to look out for

Men and women share many of the same mental health issues, but they often differ in how their symptoms show up and how willing they are to talk about what’s going on. For example, depression might feel like sadness, frustration, anger or feelings of hopelessness – or all of them, together or at different times. Many people turn to drugs or alcohol to help deal with their mental health issues. Symptoms can even show up as physical problems like headaches, a rapid heartbeat and/or tight chest, or even digestive issues.

Some signs to look out for include:

  • Not feeling yourself

  • Changes in mood, appetite or energy levels

  • Change in sleeping patterns – more or less than usual

  • Issues with concentration

  • Difficulties relaxing

  • Feeling flat, sad or hopeless

  • Increasing high-risk activities

  • Using substances more often

  • Unusual thinking or behaviour that interferes with everyday life, or worries other people

What to do about it

Bottling things up doesn’t help anyone – not you, and not the people around you. Recognising that there might be an issue and taking steps to fix it is the responsible thing to do. There are many things you can do to help get you back to yourself.

  • Keep physically well. Looking after your body can help work out issues with your mind. A good place to start is by staying active, eating well and getting lots of good quality sleep. Just getting outside can make a difference in how you feel. You might not want to, but keep pushing through and doing things you usually enjoy, and you could find that you’ll begin to enjoy them again.
  • Keep connected. You’re not alone if you feel lonely. Men struggle with loneliness more than women, and not just men who live by themselves. It’s easy to get into a pattern of working hard, with organising a catch up becoming too much trouble. However, including other people in your life is important to your mental health, and you might be doing them a favour as well. Try to catch up in person but even a quick message can help both of you feel more connected – and you never know who else might be going through a rough patch. Joining a local team or club can help get you around other people.
  • Keep communicating. It can be very hard to talk about what’s going on inside your head, especially if you’re not used to putting feelings into words. But if you’re struggling with anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts or worry that something is not quite right with your mental health, keeping quiet does much more harm than good. You might want to talk to someone who knows you, like a family member, or you could talk to someone completely anonymously, by making a call to a group like Beyond Blue. Think about who you could talk to – opening up to friends, family, or a health professional can help put you on the road to recovery.

There are many paths you can take to good mental health, and many people who can make your journey easier. Your GP is a good place to start, and can make recommendations or refer you on to people who can help you get back to feeling yourself.

Do you or someone you know need help or support?

If this article has raised any concerns for you, or if you or someone you know needs help please call

Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14

Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636

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Eczema: What is it? HealthMint Skin Series

By Children's Health, Family Planning & Parenting, Men's Health, Skin, Women's Health No Comments

Skin Series – All About Eczema

Skin is the largest organ in the body, and it works as a barrier to keep the body safe. When that barrier is broken, eczema can occur. Let’s look at what eczema is, how it occurs and steps you can take to avoid an eczema flareup.

What is Eczema?

Eczema is also known as atopic dermatitis. It’s an irritating, and sometimes painful skin condition that occurs when the skins barrier becomes compromised. The skin becomes red, dry and itchy, and over time rough patches might develop. The most common areas to have an eczema flare-up include the creases of the elbows, behind the knees, across the ankles and sometimes on the face, ears and neck. There are many triggers that might cause eczema to flare up, and with careful observation most people are able to identify them to help manage their condition.

Who is Affected by Eczema?

Eczema can occur in people of any age, but it is most common in children. Around one in five children under 2 years old will have the condition. It can also occur in older children and adults, but for most people it improves with age. Even adult eczema normally goes away by middle age, although a small number of people might need to manage the condition for the rest of their lives.

What Causes Eczema?

We don’t really know why some people get eczema. Eczema seems to go along with other issues like allergies, hayfever and asthma, which appears to show that genetics influence the risk of someone developing eczema.

When the skin barrier is damaged, it allows moisture to evaporate and lets irritants and allergens past the skin. In turn, the skin releases chemicals that make the skin itchy, and scratching makes the skin release even more. That creates an irritating and painful cycle that makes the problem worse.

Known irritants that can trigger eczema include:

  • Dry skin
  • Infections
  • Chlorine from swimming pools
  • Sand (especially in sandpits)
  • Scratching
  • Sitting on grass
  • Chemical irritants like soap and perfumes
  • Changes in temperature
  • Pollen sensitivity

If a person has allergies, then coming into contact with allergens can cause eczema to occur. Constant exposure to water, soap, grease, food or chemicals can also damage the protective barrier function of the skin, which often causes eczema.

Sometimes because an allergic reaction to food and an eczema flare-up can happen around the same time, people assume that the food has caused the eczema, causing them to remove the food from their diet. In some cases, removing foods can help with eczema management but it should only be attempted under the supervision of a doctor.  More often, food issues are unrelated to eczema flare-ups and don’t need to be removed from the diet.

What Treatments are Available?

Unfortunately, eczema can’t be cured. However, it can be treated and managed. Staying away from allergens can help avoid flare-ups, and keeping the skin moisturised and protected can help stop the skin barrier from breaking. People with eczema need to work together with their doctor to identify triggers for their eczema, and work on minimising flare-ups.

People can help manage their own symptoms by:

  • Keeping baths and showers lukewarm
  • Moisturising every day, preferably within a few minutes of bathing
  • Wearing soft, natural fabrics
  • Using mild cleansers, preferably non-soap
  • Gently drying skin after bathing by patting or air-drying
  • Avoiding sudden changes of temperature
  • Using a humidifier when the weather is dry

Your doctor might prescribe:

  • Corticosteroid creams and ointments
  • Systemic corticosteroids
  • Antibiotics, antivirals and antifungals if a skin infection has occurred
  • Barrier repair moisturisers
  • Phototherapy – UV A or B light can be used to treat moderate dermatitis.

Managing eczema is an ongoing battle. Even adults who have outgrown childhood eczema can find their skin is easily irritated. Once an area of skin has healed, it still needs ongoing care to ensure the barrier stays intact. People who struggle with eczema need to be proactive, and work with their doctor to identify their triggers, alleviate their symptoms and prevent further breakouts. A cure isn’t currently available, but good skin management can free eczema sufferers from irritation and discomfort.

 

ASCIA Guide to eczema (atopic dermatitis) management:

Click Here

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