OUR bodies can sometimes seem like a mystery.
We eat, sleep, work, exercise, and our body usually goes about its business, mostly without even thinking about what it’s doing and what’s going on inside.
But when things go wrong, or when we’re fighting an illness or an infection and we’re not feeling well, the changes in your body – the signs and symptoms that indicate something might be going on – are what GPs like myself look for.
From lumps and bumps to bowel movements, it’s important to know what’s normal for you, so you can let us know if anything is out of the ordinary.
Here are this week’s reader questions. . .
Q: I SEEM to get urinary tract infections (UTIs) after sex. How to prevent this? We use condoms, any tips?
The best way to prevent this is to urinate soon after sex.
UTI are usually caused by bacteria from our stool that has managed to get into the urethra (the tube we come out of) and then into bladder.
The opening of the urethra is between the inner lips (labia minora) of the vulva, where it is below the clitoris and above the opening of the vagina, so in women it is in close proximity to the anus.
The male urethra opens at the tip of the penis, much further away, so UTIs are much more common in women than in men.
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There are billions of bacteria in every gram of our poo, and it’s usually a type of bacteria called Escherichia coli what causes a UTI.
It only takes a few live individuals to enter the urethra to put us at risk of infection.
After using the toilet, it is always recommended to wipe from front to back, as this habit reduces the risk of E. coli being carried from the anus to the urethra.
During sex, it is very likely that some bacteria will be transferred from the anus to the urethra. Therefore, peeing immediately afterwards will flush the bugs out of the urethra before they can cause an infection.
Q: I experienced flickering and a black curtain in my eyes after several strokes.
I’m tired and my neck hurts. I am waiting for an appointment with a neurologist. What could it be?
A: These symptoms of visual impairment are of great concern, especially if you have suffered several strokes.
Flashing lights and a black curtain that partially obscures vision can have a number of causes – one of them being retinal detachment at the back of the eye.
This can be suspected if the blinking started suddenly and you see repeated flashes. Detachment of the retina is serious and can lead to permanent vision loss if left untreated, so see an ophthalmologist urgently if you suspect this is the cause.
It should be noted that many people, especially the elderly, experience floating spots and flare-ups that are not a sign of anything serious.
This is especially true if they are in them for a long time, they do not deteriorate and vision is not impaired.
This is usually caused by a harmless process called posterior vitreous detachment (PVD), where the gel inside the eye changes.
Another cause can be blockages in the arteries that supply the eyes, or temporary blockages in the blood vessels in the brain, called transient ischemic attacks, or TIAs.
A TIA is the same as a stroke, except the symptoms last for a shorter period of time. A TIA occurs when a blood vessel in the brain becomes blocked, but the blockage resolves on its own.
A TIA is also known as a mini-stroke and is a serious sign of a stroke and therefore requires urgent medical attention.
The fact that you are waiting to see a neurologist leads me to believe that you have already had a series of tests that have ruled out anything too serious. A neurologist can consider other reasons, including migraine.
Why hearts can enlarge
Q: Could you provide information on the enlarged heart, Dr. Zoe?
A: An enlarged heart means an increase in the size of the heart compared to what is considered normal for a person’s size. The medical term is “cardiomegaly”.
It is not a disease in itself, but it is a sign that another health condition is affecting the heart.
It can be divided into two different types. The first is when the enlarged chambers of the heart make it large. This is called “dilated cardiomyopathy” and it can affect the heart’s ability to pump properly and lead to heart failure.
The second is due to the thickened muscular walls of the heart, and we call this “hypertrophy”. Sometimes athletes or pregnant people get a small amount of hypertrophy and that’s fine.
The heart adapts to pumping harder, so athletes often have a very low resting heart rate because the heart can work more efficiently with each pump.
However, sometimes hypertrophy occurs only in the left ventricle of the heart, because the heart has to pump excessively high pressure.
This is a matter of arterial hypertension (high blood pressure) and a condition called aortic stenosis, where the main artery that receives blood from the heart (the aorta) is narrowed.
These thickened walls can cause the left ventricle to weaken, stiffen, and lose elasticity, which can prevent normal blood flow. There is also a genetic heart disease called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
Here, the affected genes cause the walls of the left ventricle to become thicker than normal. This can be especially dangerous for athletes, as repeated training worsens the problem and the muscle wall can become so thick that it stops the normal flow of blood to and from the heart.
This condition caused Fabrice Muamba to go into cardiac arrest while playing in the FA Cup quarter-final in 2012. In a nutshell, that’s enlarged hearts and I hope this gave you the information you were looking for.