Snoring keeping you awake at night?

Surprisingly for such a common problem there is no standard treatment for primary snoring or snoring associated with a mild obstructive sleep apnoea (a sleep disorder in which the person stops breathing for at least 10 seconds each hour during sleep, caused by relaxation of the throat muscles – the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses and closes, resulting in blocked airways).

Snoring keeping you awake ?

But there might be hope yet for those sleepless bed partners. A Brazilian study has found that mouth and tongue exercises can significantly reduce the frequency of snoring by 36% and the total power of snoring by 59%. The exercises include:

• Pushing the tip of the tongue against the roof of the mouth and sliding the tongue backward

• Sucking the tongue upward against the roof of the mouth, and pressing the entire tongue against the roof of the mouth

• Forcing the back of the tongue against the floor of the mouth while keeping the tip of the tongue in contact with the bottom, front teeth

• And elevating the back of the roof of the mouth and uvula while saying the vowel “A”.

Got to be worth a try, surely?

Half of all people with glaucoma undiagnosed

How often do you get your eyes tested? If it is only when you can no longer read the small print, then a visit to an optician may be overdue.

There are an estimated 600,000 people with glaucoma in the UK, but 300,000 are undiagnosed. As there are no early symptoms people over 40 should have regular eye health checks every one or two years. Advanced glaucoma leads to serious loss of sight.

It was National Glaucoma Awareness Week in June and it focussed on driving and encouraging people to have regular eye health checks to ensure that they are safe to drive. Glaucoma causes misty, patchy or blurred vision in places. It can cause people to miss the unexpected such as a person crossing the road, a cyclist passing, or a vehicle merging into traffic.

One incentive to get along to the optician is that you are required by law to report to the DVLA if you have glaucoma. Failure to do so may mean a criminal conviction, a fine of up to £1,000 and you may be uninsured to drive.

The good news about glaucoma is with treatment you can protect your vision. Most people will retain useful sight for life.

No cure in sight for Alzheimer’s

There used to be a regular stream of stories in the media about a cure for cancer being just around the corner. After several decades cancer is much better understood but there is still no ‘magic bullet’.

Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease is the ‘new cancer’ with millions of pounds being spent looking at the cause of the disease. There was a frisson of excitement in the media in April when a study in the US found that in mice, in the early stages of the disease, some immune cells that normally protect the brain undergo changes and begin to chew up arginine, an important amino acid.

The researchers found they could stop the immune cells destroying arginine with a drug called difluoromethylornithine (DFMO). When they tested it on the mice, it prevented the brain plaques and memory loss that are characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease.

This is interesting but only serves to highlight that scientists haven’t been able come up with a cure or treatment for Alzheimer’s disease because they still don’t know exactly what causes it. They can see what happens to patients and predict what will happen but don’t know how or why – yet.

ME confirmed as a biological illness

Distinct changes in the immune systems of patients diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome (known medically as myalgic encephalomyelitis), have been identified by researchers at Columbia University in the USA.

Tired woman

Although the condition has been recognised for some time this is the first robust physical evidence that ME is a biological illness as opposed to a psychological disorder, which has been suggested by some doctors.

The findings could help improve diagnosis for the disorder, in which symptoms range from extreme fatigue and difficulty concentrating to headaches and muscle pain.

Patients often report getting sick, sometimes from a common infectious condition, and never fully recover. The results suggest the immune system doesn’t turn itself off after the infection has gone but remains stuck in high gear.

It will be some time before the a definitive diagnostic test can be devised, but there are already medicines on the market that can dampen the immune system down, so another prescription medicine available from your local pharmacy may be on the way.

Medicines that help treat baldness

Although hair loss rarely needs to be treated, many people seek treatment for cosmetic reasons.

In some cases the loss may be temporary if for example, it is due to chemotherapy. If it is caused by an infection or underlying condition, such as lupus, treating the problem may prevent further hair loss.

Men’s hair loss

Two licensed medicines for treating male pattern baldness are available from your local pharmacy, but you cannot get either on the NHS.

Propecia (containing finasteride) comes as a tablet is taken daily, but you might have to take it for up to six months before seeing any effects.

Regaine (containing minoxidil) is available as a lotion which is massaged daily onto the scalp. It also needs to be used for several months before any effect is seen.

Minoxidil is also licensed for female pattern baldness, but is only effective for one in four women.

With both products any improvements will be reversed when the medication is stopped. Ask for further advice at the pharmacy if you want to try either product.

Dementia hits women the hardest

The impact of dementia is being felt disproportionately by women, according to the charity Alzheimer’s Research UK.


Not only has dementia become the leading cause of death among women, but women are more likely to become carers of people with dementia, the charity says.

Currently 850,000 people are living with dementia across the UK and 61% of them are women. The condition, which is caused by brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, results in distressing symptoms including memory loss, confusion and personality changes, which get worse over time.

Dementia is the leading cause of death for women in the UK, accounting for 12% of women’s deaths in 2013.

Between 60 and 70% of all unpaid dementia carers are women, and women are more than twice as likely to provide intensive, 24-hour care than men.

A sun tan can come with skin cancer

Sun Awareness Week, promoted by the British Association of Dermatologists (with a web address you couldn’t better – took place in May, a sure sign that summer is here.

Skin cancer

To drum up publicity for the event BAD is promising that a major new study would reveal ‘shock findings into Britain’s attitudes towards skin cancer’. All very dramatic, but a good reminder that there are more consequences from over-exposure to sunshine than the red tingly pain of sunburn (not forgetting the suntan).

Non-melanoma skin cancer is the most common type of skin cancer and is caused by too much exposure to UV light. It can occur on any part of the body, but is occurs most often on areas of skin exposed to sunlight. Possible signs to look out for include a scab or sore that won’t heal or a flesh coloured pearly lump that won’t go away.

Prevention is better than cure, so head down to your nearest pharmacy to get some factor 30 – and keep your t-shirt on!

Time to ‘slip slop slap’

‘Slip slop slap’ has entered the national lexicon as a reminder to use a sunscreen when outdoors during the summer. The original campaign using the phrase was launched in Australia in 1981 (you can watch the original TV clip with Sid the Seagull here).

Skin cancer

Sunscreens – and there are a wide variety available from the pharmacy – help prevent the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation from reaching the skin. Two types of UV – UVA and UVB – damage the skin and increase your risk of skin cancer. UVB is the chief culprit behind sunburn, while UVA rays, which penetrate the skin more deeply, are linked to the ageing effects of sunshine

The sun protection factor (SPF) in a sunscreen is a measure of the protection you get from UVB. You should always use a product with SPF15 or higher. If it takes 20 minutes for your unprotected skin to start turning red, using an SPF 15 sunscreen theoretically prevents reddening for 15 times longer — about five hours.

But in real life no sunscreen, regardless of strength, will stay effective for more than two hours without reapplication. Also, reddening of the skin is a reaction to UVB rays alone and tells you little about what UVA damage you may be getting. So slip, slop, slap!