New migraine drugs bring hope for sufferers

Preventative migraine medication that tackles the underlying causes of the condition looks set to revolutionise treatment for chronic sufferers. “Many of those with migraine are able to manage their condition with over-the-counter medication,’ says Dr Eddie O’Sullivan who heads the Migraine Clinic at Cork University Hospital. “Others will need triptans – medicines used to treat acute attacks that relieve pain within hours.” For a smaller subgroup, the severity of their symptoms is exacerbated by

TV chef puts vitiligo in the spotlight

It was a shopping trip with his daughter that led celebrity chef, Dean Edwards, to confront his feelings about vitiligo, the skin condition he’d had since childhood. ‘We were standing outside a shop window at the time, where there was a photo of a model with vitiligo. My daughter pointed and said “Daddy, that’s like what you’ve got.”’ Vitiligo is a long-term disorder that causes patches on the skin to lose their pigmentation. Dean’s own condition began at the age of five. What started out as a

What is it really like getting a hysterectomy?

When an ultrasound showed up multiple uterine fibroids three years ago, I was referred to a gynaecologist who could count at least 11 of them on the scan pictures. I was in my early 40s, and wasn’t planning on having children, a decision I had made some years earlier. “If we’re going to go in anyway,” the gynaecologist said, referring to the operation to remove the fibroids, “then we may as well take away the lot.” Hysterectomy is one of the most common surgical procedures for women the world

Stop more strokes with simple pulse checks

Around 8,500 people suffer a stroke in Ireland every year, making it one of the country’s biggest health concerns. While one in five of strokes prove fatal, many more leave sufferers with life-changing disabilities: an estimated 60,000 people are currently living in the community with stroke-related impairments. Dr Angie Brown, medical director of the charity Irish Heart describes a stroke as a ‘brain attack.’ “Having a stroke is like having a heart attack, except it happens in the brain. The

Chronic pain: a disease in its own right

Chronic pain is a leading cause of disability and a major contributor to rising healthcare costs. In Europe, as many as one in five adults suffer from chronic pain, a quarter of whom are likely to lose their job because of the condition. “Persistent, ongoing pain changes the nervous system. It becomes over-sensitised and responds to lower pain thresholds,” says Dr Bart Morlion, President of the European Pain Federation (EFIC). The World Health Organization plans to classify chronic pain, not o

Which two things will stop you getting cervical cancer?

Cancer statistics can be unsettling, but when it comes to cervical cancer the news is good: the disease is almost entirely preventable. In Ireland around 300 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed each year. Yet vaccination against the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which causes cervical cancer, combined with regular smear tests, means there’s never been a more sure-fire way of averting the disease. The Irish Family Planning Association (IFPA) is encouraging more girls and women to have vacc

One woman’s vitiligo story offers hope to others

Natalie Ambersley was too young to remember when the first white patch of skin appeared on her hand. She was 18 months old and, being mixed race, the patch was immediately obvious. Her parents arranged for her to see the GP but, as Natalie says, ‘The doctor had no idea what it was or why it had developed on my skin. Back in the 1980s, vitiligo wasn’t a common condition and was therefore hard to diagnose.’ More than 30 years later and there is much that is still not properly understood about th

"I was in constant pain but opioids made it bearable"

Chronic pain can make life a difficult and isolating experience, but with the right medication and support the condition can be managed. At 12 years old, Emma Scott-Smith picked up a chest infection that her GP prescribed antibiotics to treat. Less than 24 hours later though, far from feeling better, Emma was screaming in agony. “I had a bad reaction to the medication,” says Emma. “The pain in my spine was excruciating.” The incident marked the beginning of a journey that, 25 years later, Emm

Your asthma is affected by indoor air quality

The statistics for asthma are enough to give anyone cause for concern. In Ireland, an estimated 470,000 people suffer from the condition – roughly 10 per cent of the population. In children, the incidences of asthma are even higher, at one in every five. The prevalence of asthma also puts a considerable strain on the healthcare system and is responsible for 50,000 hospital admissions annually, a visit to Emergency Department every 26 minutes, and one fatality every week. With the approach of w

Eating well helps cancer patients manage treatment

There is a real shortage of dietitian-approved information available that supports women living with breast cancer, so World Cancer Research Fund's booklet neatly fills a real gap in the market. In fact, the charity’s new survey has found that nearly half of cancer patients going through treatment receive no dietary advice at all that could help them with the side-effects they’re experiencing. Another 21 per cent only get ‘a small amount’ of advice. Endorsed by the British Dietetic Association

How to understand pain when you can’t see it

Pain is a universal phenomenon. While everybody understands what pain is and knows how unpleasant it feels, the experience of it is also highly specific: what amounts to tolerable discomfort in one sufferer may prove overwhelming in another. As the body’s normal response mechanism to injury, acute pain results from a trauma or illness and disappears after a period of time. Pain that is persistant is said to be chronic if it lasts longer than six months and can still occur even when the injury h

New breast cancer care may mean fewer side-effects

Women with breast cancer are soon set to benefit from new radiotherapy treatment options being made available. Following surgery to remove the primary tumour, breast cancer patients are currently administered radiotherapy to reduce the risk of the cancer returning. “The standard provision for radiotherapy had traditionally been given in daily doses over a five week period, concentrated on the whole breast,” says Dr Duncan Wheatley, consultant clinical oncologist at the Royal Cornwall Hospital i