Blog Posts by Health Xchange

  • Heart disease: Which treatment option is right for you?

    Treatment options for coronary artery disease include medication, coronary angioplasty and coronary artery bypass graft surgery. (Thinkstock photo)Treatment options for coronary artery disease include medication, coronary angioplasty and coronary artery bypass graft surgery. (Thinkstock photo)

    Many people find out they have coronary artery disease (CAD) when they experience chest pain called angina or have a heart attack. There are three treatment options for CAD: medical treatment, coronary angioplasty and coronary artery bypass graft surgery. How do doctors decide which treatment option to use?

    CAD is due to a build-up of plaque inside the coronary artery. The plaque narrows the artery and eventually impacts the blood supply to the heart. It can present in two ways with very different prognosis and treatment:

    1. Stable angina, where patients only get symptoms on exertion.
    2. Acute coronary syndrome, where symptoms occur even at rest, resulting in a heart attack.

    “All patients with CAD should receive baseline medical treatment, which consists of medication and lifestyle modifications that aim to control symptoms and risk factors,” says Dr Aaron Wong, Head and Senior Consultant, Department of Cardiology, National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS), a member of the SingHealth

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  • Parkinson cases expected to rise in Singapore

    Parkinson patients may have swallowing difficulties (Thinkstock photo)Parkinson patients may have swallowing difficulties (Thinkstock photo)

    Parkinson disease is a neurological disorder that may present with a slight shaking or tremor in one’s finger, hands, lips or feet.

    Tremors associated with Parkinson disease usually occur when the person is at rest and stop when the person is moving. That’s unlike essential tremors, another neurological disorder, which tend to occur during voluntary activities like writing or eating, but stop when the patient is at rest.

    “Parkinson disease affects three out of every thousand individuals, aged 50 years and above in Singapore, and its prevalence is expected to increase with an ageing population,” says Associate Professor Louis Tan, Senior Consultant at the Department of Neurology, National Neuroscience Institute (TTSH Campus), a member of the SingHealth group.

    What causes Parkinson disease?

    Parkinson disease is the result of damage to a group of neurons in the brain called substantia nigra. These dopamine-producing neurons are responsible for keeping the body’s movements smooth and

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  • Try a low FODMAP diet to ease your IBS symptoms

    Dairy products such as ice cream, milk, cheese, yogurt and custard contain lactose, a FODMAP that can cause IBS. (Thinkstock photo)Dairy products such as ice cream, milk, cheese, yogurt and custard contain lactose, a FODMAP that can cause IBS. (Thinkstock photo)

    Do you suffer from flatulence, cramping or a bloated stomach? These are common gastrointestinal complaints often associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a chronic medical condition affecting about 9 per cent of the population in Singapore.

    Bloated stomach and other gastric symptoms can be caused by a variety of factors such as abnormal movement of the gastrointestinal tract, impaired food absorption, intestinal bacteria and psychological factors such as anxiety. In most cases, the cause is benign and the gastric discomfort can be resolved with dietary and lifestyle management.

    “Abdominal bloating is a common complaint and may be due to numerous medical conditions involving both the gastrointestinal tract as well as other organs,” says Dr Wang Yu Tien, Consultant, Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth group.

    When the cause of bloated stomach and other IBS symptoms is the fermentation of poorly absorbed foods

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  • Why are Singaporeans living longer?

    Keeping physically active can help you to be disability-free and as healthy as possible in your senior years. (Thinkstock photo)Keeping physically active can help you to be disability-free and as healthy as possible in your senior years. (Thinkstock photo)

    Efforts put into early prevention and detection of chronic diseases, as well as close monitoring by doctors, have paid off. Singaporeans now have longer life expectancy, according to the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010. In Singapore, men can expect to live up to 78.8 years and women, 83.3 years.

    “One reason why Singaporeans are living longer is better chronic disease management. Primary and community-based healthcare providers have taken a bigger role in managing chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure”, says Dr Nguyen Minh Ha, Associate Consultant, Department of Geriatric Medicine at Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth group.

    Chronic disease management – key to living longer

    Poorly controlled chronic diseases reduce life expectancy unless patients receive long-term medications and follow-up. Cancer, heart and hypertensive diseases are among the top causes of death in Singapore.

    "Primary care doctors are now able to provide

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  • Want to save money? Prepare correctly for medical check-ups

    Caffeine should be avoided at least 30 minutes prior to measuring your blood pressure. (Thinkstock photo)Caffeine should be avoided at least 30 minutes prior to measuring your blood pressure. (Thinkstock photo)

    The point of health screening is to detect certain conditions before they show symptoms. Early detection and treatment can result in better outcomes, a reduced risk of complications and savings on the cost of treatment later. Thus, it’s important to go for a medical check-up regularly even if you feel healthy.

    Common health screening tests include blood pressure measurement, diabetes screening test, a cholesterol test, a Pap smear (for ladies) and a colonoscopy to help detect colorectal cancer. Here are some tips from our doctors to remember for your next medical check-up.

    Common health screening tests

    1. Blood pressure measurement

    One thing you ought to know about blood pressure measurement is that you should refrain from smoking or ingesting caffeine 30 minutes prior to the measurement, says Dr Goh Lay Hoon, Family Physician from SingHealth Polyclinics (Sengkang), a member of the SingHealth group.

    Contrary to some beliefs, emptying your bladder right before the BP measurement will

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  • Ever heard of delayed drowning? It could kill you

    To save a person from drowning, call for help and try looking for a floatation device. (Thinkstock photo)To save a person from drowning, call for help and try looking for a floatation device. (Thinkstock photo)

    Unlike in the movies where drowning victims are seen flailing their arms and shouting for help, real drowning victims stay quiet as they are struggling to breathe. They may try to “grab” the water surface in order to keep themselves above water.

    “To the untrained eye, drowning victims may appear like they are doing the dog paddle when, in fact, they are quietly drowning,” says Dr Wee Choon Peng Jeremy, Consultant, Department of Emergency Medicine, Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth group.

    The Singapore Life Saving Society reported that 48 cases of death by drowning were heard in the coroner’s courts in Singapore in 2012 (some of these deaths occurred the previous year). About two-thirds of victims were males.

    Drowning leads to lack of oxygen

    During drowning, water enters through the nose and mouth and causes the person to initially gasp for air and swallow small amounts of water. What follows is the natural reflex to hold one’s breath before the urge to

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  • Young people can also have urinary problems

    Urinary problems don’t just affect the elderly but young men and women as well. (Thinkstock photo)Urinary problems don’t just affect the elderly but young men and women as well. (Thinkstock photo)

    Urinary problems are not restricted to the elderly. Young men and women can also suffer from poor urination or severe urgency, the sensation of incomplete urination or even urinary incontinence, just like older people.

    These problems are known in medical terms as lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS).

    Young LUTS patients can complain of various voiding (obstructive) symptoms:

    • a poor stream when urinating,
    • the need to wait very long before urine can be passed out (“hesitancy”),
    • the need to strain or push to clear urine,
    • the sensation of incomplete voiding or even
    • urine retention

    Patients can also have storage (irritative) problems such as:

    • urinary frequency
    • severe urgency
    • need to pass urine many times after going to bed (nocturia) or even
    • urge incontinence

    While many older men with voiding symptoms are diagnosed with benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH), this diagnosis cannot be made in a younger man (below the age of 50).

    When voiding problems occur in young patients

    Many young patients,

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  • Severe upper abdominal pain can cause death if unchecked

    Severe upper abdominal pain is the hallmark feature of acute pancreatitis. (Thinkstock photo)Severe upper abdominal pain is the hallmark feature of acute pancreatitis. (Thinkstock photo)

    Acute pancreatitis occurs when there is sudden onset of inflammation of the pancreas. It is important to detect it early since it carries a risk of serious complications and even death in severe cases.

    The pancreas has two main functions:

    1. Secretion of digestive enzymes and
    2. Production of insulin and glucagon (hormones involved in blood glucose control).

    Digestive enzymes are normally released in a controlled fashion from the pancreas into the small intestine, where the enzymes are then activated to help digestion. Pancreatic damage occurs when activated digestive enzymes are released from the pancreas in an uncontrolled fashion and begin attacking it.

    Most attacks of acute pancreatitis are mild and will resolve after a few days. Some attacks are severe, and will require intensive care. It is of vital importance to recognise acute pancreatitis, and to assess whether the case is mild or severe. For severe pancreatitis, medical or surgical intervention may be needed.

    There is no local

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  • Can’t get out of bed? You may have depression

    Exercising produces mood-enhancing endorphins that help to prevent depression. (Thinkstock photo)Exercising produces mood-enhancing endorphins that help to prevent depression. (Thinkstock photo)

    If you’re going through a period of unhappiness and feeling depressed, does that necessarily mean that you’re suffering from depression? What are the key symptoms of depression, also known as major depressive disorder, and what are the treatment options?

    Dr Chan Herng Nieng, Consultant Psychiatrist with the Department of Psychiatry at Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth group, answers these questions and discusses treatment and prevention methods.

    What’s the difference between being depressed and suffering from depression?

    “Most everybody have ups and downs, but the feelings of unhappiness eventually go away after a few days. Those who suffer from depression remain in a depressed state for weeks to months, or for some, even years” explains Dr Chan.

    The hallmark of depression is a persistent and pervasive low mood that is not affected by external circumstances e.g. a depressed person is usually not cheered up by joyful events. In fact, people suffering from

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  • Noice-induced hearing loss is becoming more common in young Singaporeans. (Thinkstock photo)Noise-induced hearing loss is becoming more common in young Singaporeans. (Thinkstock photo)

    If you think blasting music in your earphones or headphones is your safe haven from the noise and bustle on the bus or MRT train, think again. Plugging into your earphones for more than an hour at a time and at very high volume can lead to noise-induced hearing loss over time.

    Otolaryngologists at the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) are seeing more younger Singaporeans aged below 30 with hearing difficulties.

    “Listening to high-decibel music for prolonged hours may cause sensorineural hearing loss. With each exposure to loud music, the tiny hair cells or nerve endings in the inner ear or cochlea may become damaged,” says Dr Barrie Tan Yau Boon, Consultant and Head of the Department of Otolaryngology (Ear, Nose & Throat) at Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth group.

    Hearing loss occurs when the damaged nerve cells fail to send sound signals to the brain, adds Dr Tan, who is also Director of the SGH Centre for Hearing and Ear Implants.

    A team of researchers

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