Chronic Disease

6 Things You Need to Know About Multiple Sclerosis

By | Chronic Disease

6 Things You Need to Know About Multiple Sclerosis

It’s time for some Multiple Sclerosis awareness! Around 2.3 million people are diagnosed with MS worldwide, and one in twenty Australians will be affected by MS in their lifetime – either personally or through a family member or friend. But what is MS, and how does it affect the people who have it?

  1. MS starts with a dysfunctional immune system.

If an electrical cord loses its plastic coating, the exposed wires are dangerous and can’t function as intended. Multiple Sclerosis happens when a person’s own immune system starts eating away at the protective coating around their nerves, called the myelin sheath. This means that the nerve signals start getting interrupted, which causes a wide range of symptoms.

  1. MS looks different for everybody.

Symptoms depend on which part of the nervous system is attacked by the immune system, and how bad the damage is. The two main ways the symptoms occur is in a relapsing-remitting form, where people with MS have symptoms that improve (sometimes almost completely) and then return; or the progressive form, where people get gradually worse.

  1. There is a wide range of symptoms.

There are 5 main areas that people with MS are affected:

  • Neuro-psychological symptoms – MS can cause difficulties with memory, depression, trouble with thought processes, and interfere with other brain processes.
  • Motor control – loss of control over muscles sometimes results in weakness and reduced function in limbs. Some people with MS can struggle with their balance and coordination.
  • Fatigue – people with MS sometimes struggle with feeling tired and lethargic, and occasionally can have sensitivity to heat.
  • Continence problems – Some people with MS might struggle to hold on to their urine, or might have constipation or other bowel-related issues.
  • Neurological issues – some neurological issues might include feelings of dizziness and vertigo, pins and needles, and issues with eyes.
  1. It often affects young, otherwise healthy people.

While Multiple Sclerosis can happen at any age, most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20 – 40. MS occurs in women about twice as often as in men. There does appear to be some genetic link, as the odds of having MS are increased if a family member has also been diagnosed. Some researchers have linked viral infections with relapsing of symptoms.

  1. It’s currently incurable.

Treatments for MS focus around managing symptoms and shortening the attacks, as we currently have no way to cure the condition. The most common types of medication used are immunotherapy drugs, corticosteroids, or direct treatments for symptoms. The aim is to help slow down the rate that the disease progresses, and ease symptoms.

  1. There are a lot of costs associated with helping MS patients and researchers.

Aside from medication, there is a range of treatments and professionals who can help a person with Multiple Sclerosis. People with MS might benefit from physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, nurses, social workers, eye specialists, or neuropsychological therapists who can help with symptoms that affect the brain. Research is ongoing and focuses on developing treatments for symptoms and finding a cure.


If you would to discuss MS further, or if you have any concerns about symptoms that you or someone you know is experiencing, talk to your GP. You can click here to book an appointment.

Clearing the Air – 4 Common Misconceptions about Asthma

By | Asthma, Chronic Disease

Clearing the Air – 4 Common Misconceptions about Asthma



World Asthma Day is a great opportunity to highlight the campaigns around the world that educate people about asthma, and to recognise the 1 in 9 Australians of all ages and ethnicities who live with this condition every day. Sadly, there is a lot of false information around about this condition. Let’s look at some common misconceptions about asthma.

Is asthma just an allergic reaction?

Asthma is a long-term lung condition that is caused by sensitive airways, not normally an allergic reaction (although allergy-induced asthma does occur). People can have their asthma triggered by common allergens such as pollen, dust mites or air pollution – but other triggers can also include exercise and cold air. Each person is different.

People with asthma can’t breathe properly, right?

When the sensitive airways of someone with asthma are exposed to a range of “triggers”, the muscles around the airways tighten up and they produce more mucous, making it much harder to breathe. When this occurs, we call it an “asthma attack”. A person with asthma who is not having an attack still has sensitive airways, but most often they breathe quite normally. With medication and good management, many people with asthma are able to live normal lives.

All asthma attacks look the same, don’t they?

Most asthma attacks include a range of different symptoms like tightening of the chest, troubled breathing, coughing and wheezing – some attacks bring up mucous, some don’t. Asthma attacks can worsen over weeks or occur in minutes. Asthma attacks are often different for the same person! Even the meaning of the word “attack” can change – for some people it might mean some difficulty breathing, while in others it means hospitalisation.

Doesn’t asthma go away as you get older? Can’t it be cured?

Sadly, asthma is a life-long condition, although it often does start in childhood. There is no cure, but there are a range of medications that can help keep asthma under control. Even during a bad attack, the tightness in the airways is almost always reversible with medical attention. Each person with asthma should work with their GP and specialists to develop their own plan for managing their asthma and avoiding attacks.

There are many excellent resources that can provide more information about asthma and asthma management. If you suspect that someone might have asthma, talk to your GP. If you have already been diagnosed, your GP can discuss different management strategies that can help you to take control of your asthma symptoms.


Click here to book in and discuss Asthma with a GP –>

It’s World Cancer Day – so let’s talk about cancer.

By | Cancer, Chronic Disease

It’s World Cancer Day – so let’s talk about cancer.

Sadly, the incidence of deaths from cancer each year is very high – at 8.2 million people. The aim of World Cancer Day (February 4) is to unite the world in the fight against cancer, in order to prevent millions of deaths each year.

What is cancer?

Cancer is an abnormal cell growth. Normally our body’s cells grow, divide and die. In a cancer this doesn’t happen in the usual way. This can form a lump called a tumour, or cause the blood of lymph fluid in the body to become abnormal.

Are there different kinds of tumours?

Yes there are. You may have heard of the term malignant and benign. A benign tumour is where the cells are confined in one location and are unable to spread throughout the body – this type of cell is not cancerous. The other type, malignant, is cancerous, as the cells are able to spread by travelling through the blood or lymph system.

How does cancer spread?

A localized cancer is one that hasn’t spread. The first spot that a cancer grows in is called the primary cancer. If cancer cells form at another site this is called a secondary cancer or a metastasis.

What kind of cancers can be screened for?

Screening is a process of working out someone’s risk of developing a particular disease. The benefit of screening, is that it can detect cancers at a very early stage. Screening looks at signs of cancer before it has developed or symptoms have started.

At a particular age, every at risk person should be screened for breast cancer, cervical cancer and bowel cancer as part of the Australian screening program.

  • Breast cancer screening is offered for women aged 50-74
  • Bowel cancer screening is also for people aged 50-74 and the test can be completed in the privacy of your home
  • Cervical screening, in the form of pap testing, is used to detect cervical cancer. All women between the age of 18 and 69 who have ever been sexually active should have regular pap tests.

In addition, people at high risk of certain cancers, such as lung cancer, can receive screening for these.

How can I reduce my cancer risk?

The major things you can do to reduce your risk of cancer are to:

  1. Maintain a healthy body weight
  2. Eat well and have an active lifestyle
  3. Limit alcohol
  4. Protect your skin from the sun and other forms of UV (such as tanning beds)
  5. Be a non-smoker and avoid second hand smoke 

What do I do if I am worried about cancer, or would like to be screened for cancer?

If you are concerned about having cancer, speak to someone, such as a GP, as soon as possible. Additionally, if you would like to be screened, you can book in with a GP who can arrange any necessary tests for you, and talk to you about any concerns you may have.


Click here to book an appointment with a GP to discuss cancer and/or screening –>

Everything you need to know about PCOS

By | Chronic Disease, Women's Health

Everything you need to know about PCOS

What is PCOS?

PCOS, or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, is a complex hormonal disorder, that can be difficult to diagnose. The reason it is so complex, is that there are a number of symptoms, and you don’t need all of them to be diagnosed with PCOS. In fact, different women with PCOS may have different symptoms. Further, the name is slightly misleading, because ‘polycystic’ suggests there may be multiple ‘cysts’ on the ovaries. However, not everyone with PCOS has ‘cysts’ and not everyone with ‘cysts’ will have PCOS. Not only that, but using the word ‘cysts’ isn’t completely accurate either, because what is being referred to are actually partially formed follicles which contain an egg. Phew!

So now that we have gotten that out of the way, you probably want to know a bit more about the symptoms of PCOS and why the symptoms occur in the first place.


What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of PCOS can include the following:

  • Excess hair on the face and body
  • Hair loss
  • Acne
  • Weight gain
  • Difficulties with fertility
  • Increased anxiety and depression
  • Symptoms associated with periods – such as irregular or no periods, or heavier or lighter bleeding during periods.


Why do the symptoms occur?

The main culprit causing many of the symptoms of PCOS is having high levels of androgens in the body. Androgens are a group of hormones, including testosterone. Under normal conditions, all women produce some androgens from the ovaries and adrenal gland. However, in PCOS, higher levels of androgens are prevalent, which can prevent ovulation and also disrupt the monthly menstrual cycle. The actual cause of PCOS is unknown, but there appears to be some connection with family history, insulin resistance and lifestyle.


The weight/insulin/PCOS cycle

For some women, being overweight and suffering from PCOS can go hand in hand, as being overweight can make insulin resistance and PCOS symptoms worse. This is because the more abdominal fat in the body, the more likely that insulin resistance will be present, causing the pancreas to potentially release more insulin. The more insulin released, the more the ovary is likely to produce excess androgens. This may all sound a bit overwhelming, but the important take home point, is that through lifestyle modifications you may be able to make a real impact on your PCOS symptoms. This is because insulin resistance is often partly caused by lifestyle factors, such as being over weight, having a diet high in sugar and fat or being physically inactive.


What can be done to treat my PCOS symptoms?

There are many different options for treatment of PCOS and PCOS symptoms. One of the main strategies likely to be discussed between you and your doctor will be a healthy diet and physical activity. Your GP may also discuss options of various medications with you, such as the oral contraceptive pill, or medications for insulin sensitivity or to lower testosterone levels. Each patient will be different and there won’t be a one size fits all, so it’s important to have these detailed discussions and come up with a tailored action plan for you.


Click here if you need to speak with a GP about PCOS –>

Skin cancer, skin checks and moles – oh my!

By | Cancer, Chronic Disease, Skin

Skin cancer, skin checks and moles – oh my! 

Why is skin cancer an issue?

  • 2/3 australians are diagnosed with skin cancer by 70!
  • More than 2000 people in Australia die from skin cancer each year and
  • The Cancer Council estimates that Australia spends more than $1 billion per year treating skin cancer, with costs increasing substantially over the past few years.

Preventing skin cancer

slip on sun-protective clothing, slop on SPF30 (or higher) broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen, slap on a broad-brimmed hat, seek shade and slide on sunglasses.

It’s just so easy to accidentally damage your skin. Even if you don’t intend to obtain a sun-tan, many Aussies often report that they have suntanned skin. This could be from very basic activities such as mowing your lawn, doing the gardening, having a barbecue, playing sports or going for a walk down the Berwick High Street! Even just passive recreation around the home can put you at risk of developing cancerous moles, if you don’t take proper steps to protect yourself.

It is also a good idea to talk to your doctor about your level of risk and for advice on early detection.

How to perform a skin check on yourself

Getting to know your skin and picking up on changes is one of the keys to reducing your skin cancer risk. This is because skin cancers rarely hurt and are more frequently seen than felt.

To check your skin, do the following regularly:

  • Make sure you check your entire body as skin cancers can sometimes occur in parts of the body not exposed to the sun, for example soles of the feet, between fingers and toes and under nails.
  • Undress completely and make sure you have good light.
  • Use a mirror to check hard to see spots, like your back and scalp, or get a family member, partner or friend to check it for you.


What should you look for?

  • New spots
  • Changes to existing freckles or moles

There are three main types of skin cancer- melanoma (including nodular melanoma), basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.




  • Most deadly form of skin cancer.
  • If left untreated can spread to other parts of the body.
  • Appears as a new spot or an existing spot that changes in colour, size or shape.
  • Can appear on skin not normally exposed to the sun.


Nodular melanoma

Nodular melanoma

  • Grows quickly.
  • Looks different from common melanomas. Raised and even in colour.
  • Many are red or pink and some are brown or black.
  • They are firm to touch and dome-shaped.
  • After a while they begin to bleed and crust.

Basal cell carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma

  • Most common, least dangerous form of skin cancer.
  • Red, pale or pearly in colour, appears as a lump or dry, scaly area.
  • May ulcerate or fail to completely heal.
  • Grows slowly, usually on areas that are often exposed to the sun.






Squamous cell carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma

  • A thickened, red scaly spot that may bleed easily, crust or ulcerate.
  • Grows over some months, usually on areas often exposed to the sun.
  • More likely to occur in people over 50 years of age.




What do I do if I notice changes?

Your GP will be able to assess any moles or changes in colour to anything on your skin and advise on the next steps. Your GP may recommend that they perform a mole removal procedure, or that they take a biopsy to check whether your mole is cancerous or not.

What is a mole removal procedure?

If your doctor does recommend a procedure, these can typically be performed by your GP in the treatment room of the medical centre. Usually the appointment would go for about half an hour, and involve the GP with the help of the practice nurse making you comfortable, applying anaesthetic and then removing or taking a biopsy of the area in question. You would then return for the follow up of results, and for the doctor to continue to monitor you.

What if I don’t want to or can’t do the skin check myself?

Your GP should be more than happy to perform a skin check for you. This is typically a half hour appointment, which involves your GP assessing all areas of your skin and examining any existing moles or freckles with a device called a dermatoscope.

HealthMint offers skin checks and mole removal in our practice located near the border of Berwick, Narre Warren South and Cranbourne. If in doubt – come on in for a skin check. We’ve had many experiences where people have come in for a completely unrelated issue and our doctors have picked up and removed cancerous moles. With summer approaching, now is the perfect time to have those moles or freckles looked at, it’s just not worth the risk of leaving them unchecked![/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

Eyes on Diabetes

By | Chronic Disease, Diabetes

Eyes on Diabetes

Why Diabetes Screening is so Importantwhat-is-diabetes


The 2016 theme for world diabetes day is ‘Eyes on Diabetes’ which promotes screening and obtaining early diagnoses of Type 2 Diabetes. This is so important because a massive 1 in 2 adults with diabetes are undiagnosed!

In support of keeping an eye on diabetes, we wanted to explain the symptoms, risks and screening process to inform as many people as possible on just how simple it is to be screened for diabetes.


What actually is type 2 diabetes?

As we consume food, it goes through a process of being absorbed by the body. This involves the sugars being broken down and entering our blood stream. In order to combat the spike in blood sugar levels, the pancreas produces Insulin. Type 2 diabetes is where the pancreas either doesn’t produce enough insulin and/or the body’s cells do not respond to insulin effectively. This results in a prolonged increase of blood sugar levels, which is dangerous of allowed to continue for an extended period of time.


What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of diabetes are typically:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Weight loss
  • Frequent urination
  • Lack of energy
  • Blurred vision


Am I at risk of diabetes?

There are a number of factors that may put you at risk of diabetes – some of the ones to look out for are:

  • Weight
  • Inactivity
  • Family history
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome
  • High blood pressure
  • Age


How can I check if I’m at risk of diabetes?

Getting screened for diabetes is the best thing to do if you believe you are at risk of diabetes. Your GP will be able to arrange screening for you, and arrange care if you are diagnosed with diabetes. Even if you don’t have diabetes, but do have some of the risk factors, your GP will be able to help you to improve your overall health and decrease your risk of developing diabetes.


What if I already have diabetes?

In order to prevent or delay complications, you will want to keep three things as close to normal as possible:

  1. Blood glucose levels
  2. Blood pressure
  3. Cholesterol levels


What can my GP do for me if I have diabetes?

Your GP will be able to help you monitor and stay on top of your condition, by preventing complications. They may prescribe certain medications and refer you to specialists and allied health professionals in order to monitor your feet, eyes and help you to lose weight.

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