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Coronavirus (COVID-19) – Test to see if you have an active current infection – Now available

Posts tagged Womens health

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Why businesses are ordering Covid-19 private PCR tests

Posted 27 November 2020 in Men's Health, Womens health

Swab testingWith Covid-19 cases holding firm in many parts of the UK, it’s no surprise that some businesses and individuals are taking testing matters into their own hands.

While NHS tests are rightly reserved for those who have Covid symptoms – the main ones being a new and continuous cough, a loss of taste or smell, or a high temperature – private antigen testing, which detects if you currently are positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that leads to Covid-19, is also available.

This provides a safety net for those who are concerned they have been exposed to someone with the virus or who have been away to a high-risk location. They are also providing invaluable to some businesses that want to provide regular testing for staff to help minimise risks within the workforce and even television companies that want to keep their crews and cast safe.

There are clear advantages to providing regular testing, but it is essential that any kits you order are CE marked because these are the only ones that meet the Government’s stringent quality standards.

There could be other reasons why you want to have peace of mind and order a test: as we face the end of the autumn university term and students head back to home for the Christmas break this month (December 2020), ordering a PCR swab kit on their return to the household could help to provide additional peace of mind for families during the festive season.

Americas Cup sailing boatOver the past few months, we have seen a growing number of organisations requesting these tests and we even managed the Covid testing programme for INEOS TEAM UK as part of their preparations to travel to New Zealand to compete in the  forthcoming America’s Cup, racing in a yacht that was assisted in the design  by the Mercedes AMG Formula 1 Team.
 

So, what does each test do?

Covid-19 home tests

If you are ineligible for an NHS antigen (Covid-19) test, it is possible to order a private polymerase chain reaction (PCR) swab test to carry out in your own home.

These antigen swab tests are exactly the same as those used by the NHS and they can detect if you have SARS-CoV-2, the virus that leads to Covid-19, if you have symptoms or if you were in contact with someone between one and five days prior who has tested positive.

While the test will pick up if you are positive or negative at the time, it is important to remember that it could take up to two weeks for you to display symptoms.

The swab test involves taking a single combined swab of your mouth and then your nose. It works by detecting RNA (ribonucleic acid), which provides the genetic information of the virus to establish if someone has the virus, even very early on in the infection stage.

The good news is that these tests are very accurate, too. The PCR swab assays we use are from The Doctors Laboratory, which is the largest independent provider of clinical laboratory diagnostic services in the UK and which also supplies the NHS. They have a minimum sensitivity of 98%, which means the rate for detecting an individual as having the virus is extremely high. This results in very few false positives. They also have a specificity of 100%, which means all individuals without the virus are correctly identified as being healthy.

Antibody tests

Antibody tests are designed to tell you if you have had Covid-19 – not if you are currently infected.

These simple-to-use CE-marked tests are different from the antigen tests as they require a small sample of blood, produced by using a sterile lancet that is supplied in the testing kit.

The lancet is used to prick the side of your middle or ring finger and then a small amount of blood is deposited into the collection tube.

We supply the Roche Diagnostics Elecsys Anti-SARS-CoV-2 assay, which is approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulations Authority (MHRA) and is UKAS (ISO15189) accredited.

It is a tried and tested procedure, with a minimum sensitivity of 97.4% and a specificity of 100% and has been evaluated as a total antibody assay that will detect both IgG and IgM antibodies.

Immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies are the most common and are found in the blood and body fluids. They protect against both bacterial and viral infections. Immunoglobulin M (IgM) antibodies are mainly located in the blood and lymph fluid and are the first antibodies the body makes when it is fighting a new infection.

It is important to note that you should not consider having an antibody test until 14 days after exposure to someone with Covid-19 or onset of symptoms of the virus. This is because the body will not have developed sufficient antibodies to be detected by the test.

However, if you believe you may have had the virus but not developed any symptoms (ie, you were asymptomatic) in the past few months, the antibody test may well be suitable.

If your test comes back positive for antibodies, it means you have had Covid-19. However, because little is understood about our immune response to SARS-CoV-2, it is not safe to assume you are fully or partially immune from future infection because it is not yet known how long immunity can last.

It is crucial, therefore, that you continue to follow the Government’s social distancing guidelines.

Want to order a test?

Order a PCR test or antibody test between Monday and Friday before 4pm, you will receive it the next working day via courier (you can upgrade the delivery option if ordering on a Friday to ensure Saturday delivery). Once you have completed the PCR swab test, place the sample in the pre-paid envelope and post it in a priority postbox. Blood samples can be posted in any post box. You will receive the results of the PCR test between 48 and 72 hours after the lab has taken delivery of the sample and between 24-48 hours for the antibody test.

You can find out more about our antigen PCR tests and antibody tests, but if you have any queries or need to speak to us about bulk ordering swab test kits for your business, sports team or organisation, you can contact us at: team@webmedpharmacy.co.uk or by phone on: 0161 491 1899. We’re open Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm.

Test for Covid-19

Posted 11 April 2020 in Men's Health, Womens health

Virus White BackgroundThe rate of Covid-19 (coronavirus) infection in the UK continues to increase rapidly every day and so we have introduced a simple swab test that you can perform, in the comfort of your own home, to find out if you have an active current infection.

If you suspect that you have been exposed to the coronavirus due to you having recently travelled to a high-risk country,  you think you may have come into contact with someone who has Covid-19 or you have symptoms then you can test 5 or more days post exposure.

COVID-19 swab test kit

It's a simple swab test  to find out if you have an active infection.

- Swab of the mouth and nose

- Post to lab in a pre-paid envelope

- Results in 48 hrs of the lab receiving the sample

- UK Accredited lab

Symptoms may not appear for up to two weeks after you have become infected with the virus. This means that it is possible to spread the virus without having any symptoms.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

  1. A high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
  2. A new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
  3. Fatigue
  4. Shortness of breath

What is the test?

The test involves taking a single combined swab of your mouth and then your nose. The swab is then posted in any post box in a 1st Class pre-paid envelope. Once the test sample reaches the lab we receive the test results within 48 hours.

This swab test is not to be confused with the Chinese Home Rapid Tests that were found to be unreliable and we do not recommend.

Click here to purchase your Covid-19 home test kit.

The test is performed by The Doctors Laboratory, who provide quality UK accredited pathology services worldwide. The Doctors Laboratory (TDL) is a medically-led laboratory, established in 1987. It is the largest independent provider of clinical laboratory diagnostic services in the UK.

Important advice for everyone regarding Covid-19 from the NHS https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

Written by: Superintendent pharmacist Margaret Hudson BSc(Hons)MRPharmS 10/04/20

Stay safe when buying medicines online

Posted 4 February 2020 in Erectile Dysfunction, Men's Health, Sexual Health, Womens health

More than fake news

We have all become familiar with the great convenience of purchasing goods online but how safe and reliable can the relatively uncontrolled web be, when it comes to buying medicines?

A question mark made of pillsBuying medicines online, in the comfort of your own home, without having to take time off work or interrupt your busy schedule to visit your GP is a service we would all like to access. It becomes even more attractive if the nature of your treatment is for sensitive or intimate conditions.

Webmed Pharmacy Ltd, a fully approved and Regulated UK Pharmacy, only supply medicines from UK wholesalers.

You can confidentially order by completing a confidential online medical consultation and, if suitable, will be prescribed your treatment by our GMC regulated doctor.

Webmed Pharmacy specialises in treatments where patients may feel embarrassed or awkward talking to their GP; or simply find it difficult to get an appointment; or aren’t able to take time off from work.

We provide a secure next working day delivery; within a 1 hour time slot, to the vast majority of postcodes in the UK. Or you can Click & Collect with a choice of 2,500+ pickup shops.

All our products are delivered in discreet packaging with no mention of the contents or where it is from.

A simple guide of how to check for genuine medicines online 

Regulated

CQC Regulated LogoAll websites selling prescription medication that is issued by a General Medical Council (GMC) doctor in England, should be registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

The CQC are a government appointed, independent regulator of health and social care. They should have a clickable link that will take you to the CQC register to show you that they are compliant*
*or equivalent regulator in Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales

Registered

EU Registered PharmacyAll internet pharmacies in the UK must be registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)

GPhC Registered Pharmacy logoTo check if the website is legitimately registered, click on the logos which should take you through to their registers.

Reliable

With a 5* Trust Pilot score and an out-of-hours service for confidential advice and delivery of test results; we aim to offer an unrivalled personal service when it means the most to you.

We care at Webmed Pharmacy Ltd.

Written by: Superintendent pharmacist Margaret Hudson BSc(Hons)MRPharmS 03/02/20


The best delivery service in the UK.

Posted 22 November 2019 in Allergies, Erectile Dysfunction, Hair Loss, Men's Health, Sexual Health, Weight Loss, Womens health

All of our treatments and tests are guaranteed next working day delivery in a 1 hour time slot by dpd to all mainland UK*.

DPD update

Predict & Follow my parcel

dpd are our preferred carrier with their industry-leading predict and follow my parcel service. With this service you will receive a message via your chosen method, SMS or email at approximately 8am, on the day of delivery giving you your one hour delivery window. It also allows you in real time map to track the progress of your parcel all the way down to a 15 minute window so you don’t have to wait in all day.

In-flight options

If you are not going to be home, you will be offered other options:

On the day you place your order you will receive a confirmation message by your chosen method, giving you the option to divert your parcel to the nearest dpd Pickup Shop. This could be close to home, or work or on your journey and many of the stores have extended opening times.

Divert to a Pickup Shop is also available at checkout. All deliveries must be signed for unless you ask for it to be left in a safe place (includes posting through your letterbox) where you will be asked to accept a disclaimer.

All of this excellent service is included within your price. No hidden extras at the checkout.

Webmed use dpd as our preferred courier to deliver to all mainland UK*.
*Excluding the Scottish Highlands and islands where we use Royal Mail Special Delivery.

Discrete packaging

At Webmed one of our most popular FAQ’s is what sort of packaging will it come in?

We understand the need for discreet packaging and there is no mention of what’s inside or where its from. Here is a picture of a typical dpd Expresspak bag used.

DPD packaging
 

DPD are the 'delivery company of choice' for the biggest and best-known retailers and are the UK's number one next-day specialist.

Today in the UK, DPD delivers over 200 million parcels a year, employs over 12,000 people  and operates more than 7,000 vehicles from 65 locations.

A DPD Van

Saturday and Sunday deliveries

At checkout we offer the option for Saturday or Sunday delivery to all mainland UK (except the Scottish Highlands and islands) by dpd for just a small cost of only £2.00.

For the Scottish Highlands, Northern Island, Scilly Isles and the Isle of Man we use Royal Mail Special Delivery offering a Saturday delivery for £4.00.

DPD Innovations

dpd have led the way with innovative technology including the “Your dpd App”, now used by more than 3.5million people.

dpd’s new £150m hub

Work is well underway on a new state-of-the-art hub in Hinkley, Leicestershire which is equivalent to 22 football pitches. Making it the largest parcel hub in Europe.

dpd Opens electric vehicle hub in central London

October 2018 saw the opening of dpd’s first all-electric vehicle depot in Westminster which will be delivering up to 2,000 parcels. They are using a fleet of 10 Nissan eNV200 all-electric vans for the last mile delivery which have a capability of making 120 drops per day. They plan to have 550 electric vehicles by 2021.

Webmed Pharmacy uses dpd as we want to offer our customers the best delivery service in the UK.



Period drama on holiday? What would Lady Crawley think...

Posted 20 September 2019 in Womens health

This week’s blog is from our guest blogger Hanna, reminiscing about her summer holiday and how Aunt Flo tried to ruin it.

Summer sunbathingWell we’re into the last days of summer and as I was barbequing at the weekend in my puffy coat and bobble hat (slight exaggeration but I feel the summer’s getting shorter each year), I was wistfully thinking back to my summer holidays…
 
I’m renowned for leaving everything to the last minute and my holiday plans are no different. Whilst the holiday might have been booked months in advance, the panic buying of hair products, sunscreen and hangover remedies were being done in a supermarket-sweep style rush during my lunch break, on the Friday before we were due to fly. 

Finally, almost packed with over 24 hours to go – the most prepared I’ve ever been for a holiday – I’m just putting together my ‘first aid’ kit; which consists of rehydration sachets, paracetamol and aloe vera, and I find I’m down to my last four contraceptive pills for a fourteen day holiday.

Panic sets in. I’ll be on my next vaycay before I can get an appointment in at my local doctor’s and although these girls on the feminine hygiene adverts look like they’re having a whale of time; plugging their flow and dancing around in white shorts, my monthly experiences are more hormonal, spotty, bloated and all the other side effects that are not conducive to me looking hot in a bikini.

Online ordering again saves the day! And unlike the hoards of dresses that I can’t quite fit in but were too late to return, this online order will be utilised; Norethisterone. Or period delay pills, as they’re more commonly known. Three a day, started three days before you’re due on and you can take them for up to 14 days. It may have been my favourite accessory this holiday. But girls, it does not stop you getting pregnant or contracting any other venereal disease – so ensure you pack the trusty condoms too.

Buy Norethisterone online right here

#perioddelay #supermarketsweep #holidayblues

Why Nitrofurantoin for Cystitis? The burning question!

Posted 12 September 2019 in Womens health

A lady suffering from cystitisWe have changed to Nitrofurantoin(brand name Macrobid) as first line treatment for women with lower urinary tract infection (also called cystitis)due to the NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) guidelines for women who do not have a catheter. It aims to optimise antibiotic use and reduce antibiotic resistance.(1)

Previously Trimethoprim was recommended as first line treatment but developing resistance to it’s effectiveness has meant that Nitrofurantoin may be the preferred choice. It depends on your geographical location and your kidney function.

PHE (Public Health England) have found that the number of urinary tract infections (UTIs) caused by drug resistant bacteria is increasing. One in three (34%) of the samples analysed were found to be resistant to Trimethoprim whereas only 3% of the UTI samples showed resistance to Nitrofurantoin.(2)

NICE have recommended that the first choice antibiotic for an uncomplicated urinary tract infection, UTI, be either Nitrofurantoin, if you are not suffering from reduced kidney function, or Trimethoprim  if there is a low risk of resistance to it where you live. (3)

There are AMR (Antimicrobial Resistance Indicators) local indicators that can give your doctor and yourself information on the effectiveness of any antibiotic. (4)

Antibiotic prescribing and antibiotic resistance are inextricably linked, as overuse and incorrect use of antibiotics are major drivers of resistance. The AMR local indicators are publicly available data intended to raise awareness of antibiotic prescribing. They can be used by your doctor to prescribe the most effective antibiotic appropriate for your infection.

We will offer Nitrofurantoin to women with cystitis but if Trimethoprim is deemed to be more appropriate by our doctor, using the AMR local indicators and other factors, then she will change it to Trimethoprim.

Why do we only treat women?

Urinary tract infection is more common in women and easier to treat than in men ; when it occurs in men they have to have the cause investigated and treated.

We only treat women with typical symptoms of cystitis when there is no concern that the infection has extended beyond the bladder. This is defined as acute simple cystitis. When there is concern that the infection has spread (eg when there is flank pain or other features suggestive of inflammation of the kidneys, fever and/or other signs of systemic illness including sepsis) we consider this to be a complicated UTI and needs referral to the GP.

However, Nitrofurantoin should not be used by women who have a reduced kidney function where their eGFR (estimated Glomerular Filtration Rate) is below 45(ml/min/1.73m ).

Most people are aware that their blood pressure and cholesterol numbers are important in knowing their risk for heart and blood vessel disease. Yet few know about their eGFR, one of the numbers that tells them about the health of their kidneys.

What is the glomerular filtration rate (GFR)?

When your kidneys are working well, they filter out wastes and excess fluid that become part of the urine your body makes each day. When kidneys aren’t working well, you do not remove enough wastes and fluids to keep you healthy. You also cannot make important hormones for your blood and bones. Your eGFR number is an estimate of how well your kidneys are working and keeping you healthy. If your eGFR number is low, your kidneys are not working as well as they should.

In adults, the normal eGFR number is more than 90. The eGFR declines with age, even in people without kidney disease.

How is kidney function measured?

A blood test called eGFR (estimated glomerular filtration rate) indicates roughly how well the kidneys are working to filter out waste from your blood. eGFR is reported in millilitres per minute and a normal eGFR is greater than 90 mL/min. eGFR is often shown as a percentage of normal and people find it useful to think of kidney function as a percentage, going from 100% (fully functioning) to 0% (no function). (5)

The table below indicates the various stages of chronic kidney disease (CKD)

Therefore, people with a moderate to severe loss of kidney function should not take Nitrofurantoin.

Our doctor will review your completed medical questionnaire for cystitis and decide which antibiotic is most appropriate for you.

References

  1. https://bnf.nice.org.uk/drug/nitrofurantoin.html
  2. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/ uploads/attachment_data/file/656611/ESPAUR_report_2017.pdf
  3. https://cks.nice.org.uk/urinary-tract-infection-lower-women#!scenario
  4. https://fingertips.phe.org.uk/profile/amr-local-indicators
  5. https://www.kidneyresearchuk.org/health-information/stages-of-kidney-disease
  6. Author
    Superintendent pharmacist Margaret Hudson BSc(Hons) MRPharmS
     12th September 2019

New therapy in the pipeline for Parkinson's disease?

Posted 14 March 2019 in Men's Health, Womens health

A brain scan showing substantia nigra in red. Source: medicalimages.comParkinson’s disease affects one in every 500 people, with symptoms beginning to show over the age of 50 in most cases, but for 5% of people with the condition, symptoms will first appear before the age of 40. It can have a devastating impact on a person’s quality of life, with movement, balance, memory, mental health and sleep all having the potential to be affected. Current treatment aims solely to ease symptoms and does not cure the condition. But a recent trial of an innovative therapy has hinted at new hope for those with Parkinson’s disease. (1, 2)

What is Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease involving damage and death of dopamine-releasing nerve cells in a region of the brain known as the substantia nigra, which regulates body movements. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, which is a chemical which acts as a communicator between nerve cells. Therefore, the diminution in dopamine levels in the brain caused by the death of these cells reduces intercellular communication relating to movement and leads to tremor, sluggishness and stiffness. Symptoms do not usually show until only around a fifth of these nerve cells remain. (2, 3)

In addition to the primary movement symptoms, people with Parkinson’s disease can also experience a deterioration in mental health, difficulty keeping balance (and therefore greater risk of falling), insomnia, reduced sense of smell and poor memory. (2)

What is the outcome of the recent trial?

The results of a recent trial of a radical treatment for Parkinson’s disease have been released. The treatment, known as glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), is an entirely new approach, administered via a ‘port’ that is embedded in the side of the patient’s head. This allows the drug to be delivered directly into the brain, where it then acts on dopamine nerve endings. (1)

Before the trial, the 35 participants had surgery which involved embedding four tubes into their brains. These tubes would be the route of administration of the drug into the brain, with the outer end being attached to the port where the drug would enter the tube. (1)

The trial lasted nine months, during which half of the participants were administered with a dose of GDNF every month, with the other half being administered a placebo infusion (containing no drug). For those given the drug, brain scans after the trial suggested that the progression of the disease had been significantly reversed. The average length of time since diagnosis for the trial’s participants was eight years, but the post-trial scans appeared to show features typical of brains just two years after diagnosis. This implies that GDNF can revitalise dying nerve cells and restore their function. (1)

However, it is too early to know whether GDNF will become a routine treatment at this stage – more trials involving larger numbers of participants, longer treatment courses and different doses will need to be performed before its licensing is considered. The placebo effect will need to be ruled out (this is when a participant being given a placebo experiences an improvement in their condition or symptoms). (1)

Regardless, it is very exciting that new modes of drug delivery such as this are being developed and tested. If successful, the approach may even be used to develop treatments for other conditions affecting the brain, including Alzheimer’s disease and brain tumours. (1)

References

  1. Therrien A (2019). ‘Radical Parkinson’s treatment tested in patients’, BBC News. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-47370498

  2. NHS. Parkinson’s disease – Overview [cited 1 March 2019]. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/parkinsons-disease/

  3. NHS. Parkinson’s disease – Causes [cited 1 March 2019]. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/parkinsons-disease/causes/

    Author
    Gabby Gallagher MPharm

    Medically reviewed by
    Superintendent pharmacist Margaret Hudson BSc(Hons)MRPharmS 
    14/03/19

Sore throat: a real pain in the neck!

Posted 12 February 2019 in Men's Health, Womens health

A woman with a sore throat. Source: medicalimages.comAt this time of year, sore throats are just one of many ailments that become rife in the community. Most are caused by simple viral infections and will resolve on their own within a week or two. But it’s also useful to know in which instances you’d need to seek medical advice or treatment.

What can I do to help ease a sore throat?

When you first develop a sore throat, there are several self-care approaches that you can take to ease the symptoms while your body fights off the infection:

  • gargling with warm salt water (not recommended for young children due to the risk of swallowing)

  • resting (including resting your voice!)

  • getting plenty of fluids, but steering clear of hot drinks

  • avoiding rough, sharp, hot or acidic foods

  • sucking ice cubes, sweets or lollies (ice cubes and boiled sweets not recommended for young children as they pose a choking hazard)

  • avoiding smoking, including second-hand smoke (1)

What medication is available to buy to help a sore throat?

There are a number of medicines available on the shop floor and over the counter in pharmacies to help ease a sore throat, including:

  • ibuprofen (which is also an anti-inflammatory)

  • paracetamol (which can also help with any associated fever)

  • medicated or anaesthetic lozenges and anaesthetic sprays and mouthwashes, containing active ingredients such as flurbiprofen and benzydamine (anti-inflammatories), benzocaine (an anaesthetic), and amylmetacresol (a mild antiseptic) (1)

When should I see the GP for a sore throat?

Most sore throats will get better by themselves after a few days. However, if you find you experience any of the following, you’ll need to see your GP:

  • your throat is just as painful after a week of symptoms developing

  • recurrent sore throats

  • fever (feeling hot and shivery with a raised temperature)

  • you have a condition that weakens your immune system, such as diabetes

  • you are receiving treatment that weakens your immune system, such as chemotherapy (1)

A long-lasting and very painful sore throat can be a sign of infection with a type of bacteria called Group A Streptococcus (this condition is commonly known as strep throat). This will need treatment with a course of antibiotics. (1)

A recurrent or long-lasting sore throat can signify other underlying health issues, such as deficiencies and low levels of certain types of blood cells. Your GP can investigate this and ensure you get the appropriate treatment.

A long-lasting sore throat accompanied by hoarseness and coughing with no other symptoms can be indicative of throat cancer. That’s why it’s so important to see your GP if you experience this with no signs of improvement.

In the news: new pharmacy-based sore throat scheme

Over 30 pharmacies in North Wales are offering a new scheme involving the use of a questionnaire and potentially a swab test to determine whether a patient’s sore throat is bacterial or viral in origin. If a bacterial infection is present, then pharmacists who provide the Common Ailments Scheme (which encourages patients to visit a pharmacy before seeing their GP) will be authorised to supply the relevant antibiotics to treat the infection. If this is a successful service, it may eventually be rolled out across the country, giving the public greater and faster access to the sore throat treatment they need. (2)

References

  1. NHS. Sore throat [cited 28 January 2019]. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/sore-throat/

  2. North Wales Pioneer. New sore throat test and treat service to be piloted in pharmacies across North Wales [cited 28 January 2019]. Available at: https://www.northwalespioneer.co.uk/news/17386085.new-sore-throat-test-and-treat-service-to-be-piloted-in-pharmacies-across-north-wales/

Author
Gabby Gallagher MPharm

Medically reviewed by
Superintendent pharmacist Margaret Hudson BSc(Hons)MRPharmS 
05/01/19

Stress: how can I regain control?

Posted 17 December 2018 in Men's Health, Womens health

A stressed lady with her head in her handsThe festive season is well underway, but it can often be overlooked that the financial, social and emotional pressures associated with this time of year can be a major source of stress. So now is the perfect time to consider the ways in which we can aim to reduce the impact of stress on our day to day lives.

What is stress? 

Stress is a physical response to a challenging or threatening situation, initiated by an increase in ‘fight or flight’ hormone adrenaline. It is characterised by an increase in heart rate and breathing rate, sweating and tensing of the muscles. Once the situation is overcome, the body can quickly return to the usual relaxed state. However, if the difficult situation is long-term, such as financial worries, workplace pressures, family or relationship problems, illness, or bereavement, it can cause chronic stress, which can lead to the development of stress-related symptoms. (1)

What are stress-related symptoms?

Chronic stress can manifest itself in various forms. Emotionally, it can make you feel overwhelmed and helpless. You may find you have a short fuse and snap at people easily. Your confidence in yourself and your abilities may drop, and you may feel anxious and uncertain about the future. (1)

Stress can make it difficult to concentrate on tasks, with fleeting thoughts constantly popping up in your mind. You may worry excessively, and sometimes irrationally. Decision making can become very daunting as you over-analyse each option and its outcome. (1)

Physically, you may experience frequent headaches, feel tired and/or dizzy, have trouble sleeping and develop muscle pain as a result of constant tensing. Stress can also affect our diet – some people find they feel less hungry or forget to eat, meaning they don’t eat enough; others find they turn to food for comfort and eat too much. Other unhealthy behaviours that may be adopted during times of stress include heavy drinking, smoking and recreational drug use. (1)

How can I beat stress?

It’s often not possible to completely remove the factor that is causing stress from your life – at least not immediately. Therefore it’s important to try to find coping mechanisms to reduce the impact stress has on your health and wellbeing. If chronic stress is not tackled, it could lead to mental illnesses including anxiety and depression, and changes in diet could lead to poor physical health – undereating potentially leading to being underweight, deficiencies and muscle wastage, and overeating to being overweight or obese, with associated problems such as raised blood pressure and cholesterol and increased risk of diabetes. (1, 2)

Talk to someone about your stress

Talking to people close to you about the causes of your stress can not only help you to feel less alone in your struggles, but to gain a different insight and receive advice which could help to solve problem(s). Spending quality time with friends and family can help you to wind down and focus on enjoying the moment. (1, 2)

Alternatively, you can speak to your GP, or there are a number of organisations which have helplines available to offer advice and support, often 24 hours a day, including SupportLine and AnxietyUK. (1, 2)

Look after number one

Many people find work begins to become the centre of their life, or they strive to look after others whilst neglecting their own needs. Try not to let this happen - make sure you take time to do the things you enjoy. Whether it’s something as simple as setting an hour aside in the evening to do some reading, to going for a family meal, to booking a short break to escape from the stresses of day to day life for a few days. Finding a new hobby can help to refocus your thoughts and renew your sense of purpose. (2)

Get moving

Physical exercise can also help to clear your mind and boost levels of mood-enhancing chemicals (called endorphins) in the brain. Not to mention the clear benefits to your physical health! Find a form of exercise that works for you – whether it be going to the gym, a walk or run, swimming, cycling, attending a dance class, or even gardening! (2)

Offer a helping hand

Doing your good deed for the day can be surprisingly uplifting and increase your resilience. It can be something as small as pointing someone who’s lost in the right direction to donating to a charity of your choice or volunteering for a good cause. (2)

Count your blessings

Remember the positives in your life. It’s easy to take them for granted when something else is really getting you down. At the end of each day, try writing down three things that you enjoyed or that you’re grateful for. This should help you to put things into perspective and think more rationally. (2)

There is a new article on Stress Relief by Katie Holmes, where she has compiled some fantastic comments from 34 different therapists, psychologists, social workers and others on how to overcome stress. (3) With suggestions including:

  • Practice deep breathing exercises
  • Develop strong relationships and let yourself be surrounded by your loved ones
  • Practice mindfulness
  • Take a trip in your mind with guided imagery
  • Disconnect from technology
  • And much more.

References

  1. NHS Moodzone. How to deal with stress [cited 10 December 2018]. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/understanding-stress/
  2. NHS Moodzone. 10 stress busters [cited 10 December 2018]. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/reduce-stress/

  3. 3.  How To Relieve Stress: 34 Comments From Therapists, Psychologists and people Who’ve Overcome Stress at: https://outwittrade.com/how-to-relieve-stress


    Author
    Gabby Gallagher MPharm 

    Medically reviewed  and updated by
    Superintendent pharmacist Margaret Hudson BSc(Hons)MRPharmS 
    17/12/18, updated 24/09/20

HIV: commonly asked questions

Posted 28 November 2018 in Men's Health, Sexual Health, Womens health

A question mark of pillsNational HIV Testing Week begins on Saturday 17th November 2018 and World AIDS Day on December 1st, so now is the best time to look over some of the most commonly asked questions about HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) testing and treatment!

How soon can HIV be detected by a blood test after contracting the virus?

Generally, it is one month after exposure to HIV that the virus is easily detectable in the blood. Tests done less than one month after exposure are considered unreliable. (1)

What is the window period for HIV testing?

The window period is the one-to-three month time frame following possible exposure to HIV, depending which test you use. The window period for the lab test is 28 days but is 90 days for the “Home” test. If you test before the recommended time frames then the HIV test may need to be repeated. This applies whether an earlier test came back positive or negative, as results from tests conducted earlier than the recommended “window period” for HIV can be unreliable, as previously mentioned. (1)

However, you shouldn’t wait until you may be in the window period before seeking medical help - you should do this as soon as you can if you believe you may have come into contact with HIV. Within the first 72 hours after suspected exposure, a type of medication called post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) can be taken, which may prevent the infection from taking hold altogether. (1)

Can you receive instant results from an HIV Test?

Tests which provide instant results are available to use. Some genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics and sexual health clinics offer finger prick testing, and home testing kits can be purchased from some online or high street pharmacies. (1)

How can I test for HIV at home?

There are a number of tests available from Webmed Pharmacy which allow you to test or take a sample in the comfort of your own home.

How accurate are HIV Tests?

  • The latest 5th generation HIV lab test kit is 99.8% effective at detecting HIV at least 28 days after potential exposure. It contains a sterile lancet and a test tube. A blood sample is collected by pricking the little finger with the lancet and massaging a small amount of blood into the tube. This is then sealed (further instructions are found in the kit) and sent off to a lab for testing using the pre-paid envelope included. Results should be available two to three days after the sample is received by the lab – you will be able to access these via your secure account.

  • The 3rd generation INSTI HIV Home self test allows you to sample and test for HIV yourself, all within just 60 seconds. It is only reliable if used at least 90 days after potential exposure. Like the lab test, blood is collected by pricking the finger (full instructions supplied in the kit). The result is clearly shown as one dot for HIV negative, two dots for HIV positive. Negative results are at least 99.5% accurate and positive results are at least 99.8% accurate.

  • The PrEP annual test kit can be used if you are taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) – this medicine is used by HIV negative people to prevent infection with HIV. This test can be performed yearly to check HIV status and also kidney function, which can be affected by taking PrEP.

  • The pre-treatment PrEP test kit is suitable if you are thinking of starting PrEP. It checks your HIV status, kidney function and also whether you have hepatitis B.

What should I do if I test positive for HIV?

If you get a positive result, seek medical help. You will need to have regular blood tests to monitor the levels of a type of cell called CD4 lymphocytes. CD4 lymphocytes are one of the types of cells that make up the immune system and are also the cells that are targeted by HIV. HIV particles ‘hijack’ the CD4 lymphocytes, replicate themselves within the cells, and are then released in greater numbers when the cell dies, going on to infect further cells. You will need to start treatment to keep your CD4 levels high enough to keep you in good health - if someone with HIV does not start treatment, their CD4 levels will eventually fall so low that they will be at risk of serious infections such as flu, pneumonia and tuberculosis, which their immune system will not be able to cope with (this is known as AIDS  - see below). (2)

Even if your CD4 levels are high, you will still need to start medication to limit the progression of the disease. The aim of treatment is to achieve an undetectable viral load (levels of HIV in the blood being so low that they do not show up on blood tests).

What medications are available for HIV?

There is a wide range of HIV medications available, which are grouped into the following categories:

Other HIV medications outside these categories include enfuvirtide and maraviroc, which work in different ways to the medications listed above. (3)

Taking HIV treatment correctly should allow you to stay in good health, free from symptoms and to achieve a normal lifespan.

What is the difference between HIV and AIDS?

We often hear the abbreviations ‘HIV’ and ‘AIDS’ used interchangeably, but they are not the same! AIDS, or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, is the most severe stage of HIV. It is characterised by CD4 levels falling so low that the body is very susceptible to opportunistic infections and cancers. Without treatment, AIDS will lead to death, usually within around three years. Fortunately, it is rare in the present day for people in the UK with HIV to progress to AIDS thanks to the thorough prevention, testing, monitoring and treatment strategies. (4)

References

  1. NHS Choices. HIV and AIDS: Diagnosis [cited 16 Nov. 18] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/hiv-and-aids/diagnosis/

  2. NAM Aidsmap. Factsheet CD4 cell counts [cited 16 Nov. 18] Available at: https://www.aidsmap.com/

  3. British National Formulary (version 2.1.6) [Mobile application software]. Retrieved from: www.bnf.org

  4. CDC. What is HIV? [cited 16 Nov. 18] Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/whatishiv.html

    Author: Gabby Gallagher MPharm

    Medically reviewed by: Superintendent pharmacist Margaret Hudson BSc(Hons)MRPharmS 28/11/18
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