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Monthly Archives: February 2012

The approach of the sneezin’ season!

Gavin LeSueur - February 27, 2012

During the next month the influenza vaccine will become available. Influenza can be quite a serious disease, particularly if you have underlying medical conditions. Anyone with chronic heart conditions, lung conditions, diabetes etc is susceptible to the complications of influenza, and therefore anyone with any of these underlying conditions should be immunized every year.

In Australia the Flu Vaccine is available free to everyone over 65 years of age.

Are there any side effects?

All that can happen is that you get a slightly sore arm and you might have a touch of fever, but you really can’t catch influenza. One of the big myths about this whole thing is that people say you can catch influenza from having the vaccine but that’s not the case.

After any vaccine, it takes a couple of weeks for antibodies to develop so during that period you’re still at risk. The flu vaccine does not stop you catching the common cold and when people catch this is it common to hear them say ‘oh well the vaccine didn’t work, did it’. But that’s not the case. Colds are usually shorter in nature and much less severe that the flu.

Should well people consider the flu vaccine?

Immunization is also recommended (but not necessarily free) for people who can put vulnerable people at risk of infection. People who work with or live in close contact with people who have an underlying medical condition or reduced immunity are also recommended to be vaccinated to avoid spreading the virus and to protect themselves and their family. They include:

* Public and private hospital staff who provide direct care to patients
* Staff in long-term care facilities or nursing homes
* People who live with, or care for someone who has a chronic illness or is aged
* Carers of homeless people
* Workers, particularly those in workplaces that provide essential services
* People who work with children
* People involved in the commercial poultry and pig industry
* Workers in other ‘high risk’ industries
* Anyone traveling as part of a group

I am pregnant – does this matter?

Influenza vaccine is recommended for women planning a pregnancy and for pregnant women at anytime during the pregnancy.
So as the flu season approaches seriously consider immunization.

Varicose veins? Prevention and management tips.

Gavin LeSueur - February 15, 2012

Varicose veins are superficial veins swollen by ‘back pressure’ . The valves that stops this back pressure have failed and the cause can be genetic or acquired. Here are a few tips to help prevent them causing a problem or worsening.

If you are standing still, flex your calf muscles
Think of your calf muscles as the “heart” of your venous circulation. If you point and flex your foot enough to strongly contract the calf muscle, you will move one cup of blood out of the leg. You can also squeeze your feet together in your shoes, or go up and down on your toes. Shaking your leg is not very effective. You need to make your muscles work.
Avoid binding clothing, on a day to day basis
Tight girdles, knee-high nylons or socks can block the movement of blood up the leg. The vein wall has to expand to get around this barrier. As a result, the valves lose their tight fit and can start to fail, allowing blood to pool – the beginning of varicose veins.

Control your weight
Most, though not all, studies report obesity as a factor in the development of varicose and spider veins. Weight loss should be considered if overweight. Weight loss results from reduced calories and an exercise program.

Fluctuating hormones during the menstrual cycle can affect veins

Changing hormone levels, both pre-menstrual and mid-cycle (at ovulation), allow the vein wall to relax. In this relaxed state, the vein holds more blood, which puts pressure on the valves. So if you think that sometimes your veins look worse than other times, they do. For some patients, being on the pill or taking estrogen replacement hormone will have this same effect on their veins. In these situations, support hose, exercise, and weight control can all help in keeping the vein walls fit.
Pregnancy can expand veins
Pregnancy also causes an elevation of many hormones. Estrogen relaxes the smooth muscle and collagen fibres in general, which may contribute to the vein wall expanding. In addition, the amount of blood in the systems increases by up to 40%. When patients report the sudden development of varicose or spider veins, one of the first questions is, “Are you pregnant?” Veins can change rapidly when a woman is only 5 weeks pregnant and is still unaware of her pregnancy.
About 70% of women who become pregnant and who have inherited a family gene for varicose and spider veins will develop these veins. The good news is many of these veins will disappear 4 to 6 weeks after finishing breast-feeding. For many women, it is usually the third pregnancy when these varicose and or spider veins remain and require treatment. Again, support hose, exercise, and weight control are helpful.
Avoid wearing high-heeled shoes every day
High heels are not fashionable for your veins. If you wear a heel that is more than 1.5 inches high every day, your calf muscle will not be effectively pumping blood out of the leg. You can try this at home. Feel how the calf contracts when you walk in lower heels and then switch to high heels. The foot simply moves forward in high heels, and you won’t feel your calf contracting as you walk.
Exercise with care
A well-toned leg muscle will pump out much more blood than a weak muscle as you walk or move – and the more venous blood you move out of the leg, the less chance the vein has to expand and cause valve damage.
You should be careful with strenuous exercise, however. Abdominal pressure can block the flow of blood back to the heart. For example, when lifting heavy weights, make sure that you blow out. Otherwise, you increase your abdominal pressure and the veins have to expand to get around this block.
Wear graduated support hose
Many pharmacies carry special knee-high socks, nylons, pantyhose, and tights that are good for your legs and come in a variety of very fashionable colours. These stockings apply a gentle, graduated pressure to the leg, from the foot upward, which helps to decrease the expansion of the vein wall.

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