Having basic health knowledge goes a long way. It can mean the difference between seeking timely medical attention and waiting till it’s too late.
Five doctors from Mount Elizabeth Hospitals share important facts about these common health conditions and how to keep them at bay, as the year-end celebrations roll around.
Alcohol-induced liver disease
It is wise to limit your intake of alcohol, even if you’re attending a festive party this season.
Dr Tan Yu-Meng, general surgeon at Mount Elizabeth Hospital, says that the risk of damage to the liver and other organs are related to the volume of alcohol a person consumes.
Liver damage comes in many forms, including inflammation of the organ, cirrhosis — irreversible scarring of the liver — and cancer formation.
According to the Health Promotion Board, men should limit themselves to two standard drinks per day while women should stick to just one per day. A standard drink is equivalent to a can of beer (330ml), half a glass of wine (100ml) or a single pour of spirit (30ml).
“Mild liver dysfunction shows subtle signs, like tiredness, decreased appetite, mild abdominal discomfort, indigestion, weight fluctuations, poor sleep patterns or sexual dysfunction,” he says.
Dr Tan adds that the key is to prevent further damage to the liver before the condition becomes irreversible.
“Often, there are no symptoms to liver damage until it is too late. Patients with limited liver reserve or function cannot recover them. Cirrhosis, for example, is linked to limited liver regeneration. At the end stage of such liver conditions, a transplant may be required,” he says.
Tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow
People commonly get back into a fitness routine after a busy holiday season to burn the copious amounts of high-calorie treats they have consumed during the festivities.
Pacing yourself is important, especially if you are engaging in popular sports such as badminton, golf or tennis. These types of sports may cause elbow tendinopathy, a common condition where the tendons are injured by heavy and repetitive use of the wrist and forearms.
Dr Andy Wee, orthopaedic surgeon at Mount Elizabeth Hospitals, says that the two most common forms of elbow tendinopathy are lateral epicondylitis and medical epicondylitis.
The former, also known as tennis elbow, affects the tendons that connect the forearm muscles to the bone on the outer part of the elbow. A common symptom of tennis elbow is pain and tenderness in the bony knob on the outer area of the elbow.
Medial epicondylitis, or golfer’s elbow, affects the tendons in the forearm muscle that connect to the inside of the elbow. Symptoms linked to this condition include pain when flexing the wrist towards the forearm and a weakened wrist.
“Most forms of elbow tendinitis can be treated non-operatively with rest, anti-inflammatory medications, an elbow brace, elbow injections or physiotherapy. Keyhole surgery is rarely required and only recommended after the failure of non-operative treatments,” says Dr Wee.
Obstructive sleep apnoea
Holiday feasts and naps go together like turkey and mashed potatoes. Many of us tend to hit the sack after a big meal, which may also be prime time for you to check if your spouse has obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA).
OSA is common in men between the ages of 30 and 60.
Dr Ravi Seshadri, ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgeon at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, says that the condition is characterised by loud snoring, daytime fatigue, poor concentration levels and choking sensations while asleep.
“This is due to repeated collapse of the airway leading to low oxygen levels and an elevated blood pressure,” he adds.
“OSA is a medical issue and should be diagnosed with a sleep study, known as polysomnography. There are various methods of treating this problem such as medication, oral mandibular device or surgery, depending on the cause of the obstruction.”
Ovarian cancer and cysts
Before you dive into the holiday season, it’s important to pay attention to the “me” in “merry”. Go for a health screening to make sure that you’re in the pink of health.
Dr Cindy Pang, obstetrician and gynae-oncologist at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, advises women above 40 years old to add a pelvic ultrasound to their usual health screenings.
She explains that ovarian cancer has been termed a “silent killer” as it does not usually present symptoms until the later stages of cancer growth. It is also the fifth most common cancer among women in Singapore.
“The early stage of the cancer can be detected on ultrasound as cysts containing solid substances with increased blood supply. The detection allows early intervention and increases the patient’s chance of survival,” she says.
A pelvic ultrasound may also detect benign cysts such as endometriotic cysts, which are linked to a common disorder where the womb lining grows outside the uterus, and dermoid cysts. The latter is a sac-like growth in the ovary that usually contains a variety of tissues, including hair, teeth or skin glands.
Your doctor will be able to recommend suitable treatments if these cysts are found during a pelvic ultrasound.
The likelihood of developing an enlarged prostate increases with age. According to Dr Tan Yung Khan, urologist at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, prostate enlargement affects up to 50 per cent of men by the time they are 50 years old.
Symptoms of prostate enlargement can include slow urine flow, a urinary stream that starts and stops, urgency to urinate and frequent night-time urination.
In extreme situations, these symptoms may lead to urinary retention, the inability to completely empty the bladder, and kidney failure.
Dr Tan says: “UroLift is a new technology that gives patients with prostate enlargement better relief than medicine, without the side effects of medication or surgery. It is a day procedure and patients can usually return to work in a day or two, with long-lasting benefits.”
According to Dr Tan, UroLift does not cause bleeding or pain and works like a facelift. The procedure involves the lifting of the enlarged prostate tissue so it no longer blocks the urethra.
For more information, visit Mount Elizabeth Hospitals’ website or call 6250-0000 (Orchard)/6898-6898 (Novena).
This article provides general information only and is not a substitute for medical advice. Please consult medical or healthcare professionals for advice on health-related matters.