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Health Topics
Every month there will be information here on a different health topic.

We hope this will be of interest to you and if you would like us to cover a particular topic please e-mail us your request at

Click on any month below to read the topic of that month.

You can, of course, always ask for information at the Pharmacy and use our Healthpoint information system which is conveniently located in the Pharmacy.

The staff will be happy to show you how to use it.

October 2011 - Meningitis
This is an infection or inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord (meninges) that can be caused by bacteria or viruses.
September 2011 - Emergency Contraception
Emergency contraception is a safe, effective and responsible method of preventing pregnancy when regular contraception has failed, no contraception was used and/or in the case of sexual assault.
August 2011 - C.O.P.D. and Emphysema
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is a group of conditions the produce difficulty with expiration (breathing out). The group includes chronic bronchitis, emphysema, chronic obstructive airways disease and some cases of asthma. There may be an inherited tendency to the disease. Exposure to chemical fumes or dust in the workplace is another possible cause but cigarette smoking is responsible for about 90% of cases of C.O.P.D.

The are various symptoms including early morning cough, shortness of breath on exertion, persistent coughing, mucus and phlegm, wheezing, repeated chest infection, leg swelling and blue lips.

There is no cure for C.O.P.D. and treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms. Patients should stop smoking and avoid other airborne irritants. Pulmonary rehabilitation programmes can improve respiratory symptoms and can increase exercise capacity and mobility. Vaccinations against flu and pneumonia are often recommended as these infections can worsen existing C.O.P.D. Patients are often prescribed inhalers to reduce muscle spasm and inflammation. Physiotherapy can also help to educate sufferers about exercise, breathing techniques, improving respiratory muscle function and relaxation. It is important to have adequate fluid intake so that secretions don’t become thick and hard to cough up. Some of those with severe symptoms may need oxygen therapy.

Some dietary supplements may be of help. Vitamin C, Zinc and Echinacea may be useful for the immune system. Antioxidants, such as vitamin E, grape seed extract and selenium may help with inflammation. Garlic might help to combat bacterial infection and omega-3 fatty acids may also be of benefit.

Emphysema is one of the conditions leading to C.O.P.D. It prevents adequate oxygen from reaching the blood. There is destruction of the small air sacs in the lungs with over-inflation of the lungs. This causes a loss of elasticity in the lungs, preventing gases from being exchanged properly. This in turn interferes with the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood. Emphysema is nearly always caused by smoking and occurs most often in smokers over fifty years of age. There is no cure but careful management can improve symptoms and prolong life expectancy. Eventually the disease will progress to either right-sided heart failure or respiratory failure.

A different condition called pulmonary interstitial Emphysema can occur in newborn babies. The air leaks out through the alveoli into the surrounding space and affects babies with poor lung function such as those on mechanical ventilators, premature births and those with respiratory distress syndrome. The condition usually resolves over days or weeks.

The symptoms of Emphysema do not appear until at least one third of lung function has been compromised. The symptoms include shortness of breath, cough or wheeze, barrel-shaped chest due to over-inflation of the lungs, weight loss and little or no mucus produced when coughing.

The best way to prevent Emphysema is to stop smoking. Even those already with the condition will benefit from stopping. This is the only treatment known to reduce the rapid decline in lung function. The condition requires ongoing monitoring and treatment. The main aim of the treatment is to prevent chest infections and inflammation in the lungs. This can include antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs. As the condition progresses the patient may need an oxygen mask at home. The oxygen therapy is particularly necessary when sleeping as oxygen loss and hyperventilation is greater when lying down. The activity levels of sufferers may become increasingly restricted.

Surgical treatment is rare but possible. Lung volume reduction surgery involves removing the damaged portions of the lung (usually about 20-30% of each lung) to improve oxygen exchange and elasticity. It is an option for severe cases in people under 75 years of age. Short-term results are good but temporary and lung function usually deteriorates again after two or three years. For this reason it is not often recommended. Total lung transplantation will restore the lung function to normal but the mortality rates following this surgery are high (50% in five years) and because of the shortage of donor organs, it is only considered in a very young patient.

Further information is available from the Irish Thoracic Society on its website:
July 2011 - Malaria
This is an infectious disease which is widespread in most tropical and sub-tropical areas.
June 2011 - Ingrown Toenail and Folliculitis
Ingrown Toenail is a condition where a side of the nail presses into the skin of the toe.
May 2011 - Angina Pectoris
This is a recurring pain, pressure or feeling of constriction in the chest that may spread to the neck and arms
April 2011 - Rosacea
Rosacea is a non-contagious inflammatory skin condition where the nose, cheeks and/or the forehead seem to be permanently flushed as the surface capillaries of the skin enlarge.
March 2011 - Bipolar Disorder
This is a condition where the patent experiences mood swings from extreme happiness to major depression. It is also known sometimes as manic depression.
February 2011 - Alzheimerís Disease
This is a degenerative disease leading to the loss of important brain cells and it is the most common form of dementia.
January 2011 - Peptic Ulcers
Peptic ulcer is used to describe a group of ulcerative disorders of the upper gastrointestinal tract.
December 2010 - Gout
This is an arthritic condition which is related to an excess of uric acid in the blood. It causes joints to become red, swollen and painful.
November 2010 - Osteoporosis
This is a condition that occurs when the bones decrease in mass and strength due to a reduction in the mineral content of the bones.
October 2010 - Parkinsonís Disease
This is a chronic, degenerative disease of the brain which affects the voluntary control of the body.
September 2010 - School Sores
School sores are a highly contagious condition also called impetigo. These sores can occur anywhere on the skin but are most commonly found on the face, around the mouth and nose area.
August 2010 - Foot Care
There are some complaints which are very common in feet and can be avoided by wearing suitable shoes and following a regular foot care routine.
July 2010 - Worms
“Worms” is used to describe the infestation of the body by various types of worms including threadworms, roundworms, hookworms and tapeworms.
June 2010 - Prostate Cancer and other Prostate Conditions
Prostate Cancer refers to cancer that occurs in the glandular cells of the prostate. This is a walnut-sized gland that is found in front of the rectum underneath the bladder and is only found in men.
May 2010 - Two Common Eye Conditions Ė Styes and Glaucoma
A stye is an infection of a sebaceous gland of the eyelid. Staphylococcus is usually the bacterium that causes the stye. The infection is usually found in the root of an eyelash on the edge of the eye. It is a small boil which develops on one of the oil glands.
April 2010 - Psoriasis
This is a chronic, non-contagious skin condition that causes red, scaly, circular patches on the skin. It can run in families and appears to be aggravated by stress.
March 2010 - Herbal Remedies

Plants have been used as medicine since prehistoric times. Herbs can be used naturally or formulated in ointments, infusions, decoctions and tinctures.

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Kevin McCormack B.Sc. Pharm. MPSI