DR ELLIE CANNON: Why do I get tight chest pain now I’ve cut back on booze?
For the past month I’ve had a tight pain in my chest and my stomach has felt unsettled.
I used to drink three bottles of wine most weeks but I recently cut back – now I’m having only the odd glass.
The pain seems to have coincided with my different drink schedule. Could the two be related?
Drinking more than the recommended amounts of alcohol over a long period of time can cause issues including acid reflux and stomach ulcers, which can cause chest pain. (stock image)
Three bottles of wine contain 30 units of alcohol, more than twice the safe alcohol limit for an adult, which is under 14 units a week.
If this has been a regular consumption for a considerable time, it could cause problems.
One would be inflammation of the stomach and gullet – conditions known as gastritis and oesophagitis, which would cause chest and stomach symptoms.
This inflammation triggers pain, vomiting and, for some, bleeding.
It also causes acid reflux and stomach ulcers and these can be the causes of chest pain and unsettled stomachs.
These symptoms all develop with drinking too much alcohol over years.
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They may appear once someone cuts down because they become more noticeable – drinking less can make people more aware of what’s happening with their bodies.
We often see this when people give up unhealthy habits, such as smoking: when you are expecting to feel better, you notice the things you were ignoring before.
To establish whether gastritis is the problem, a doctor may offer an endoscopy to check the stomach for inflammation or a trial of an stomach-acid-suppressing drug, such as omeprazole.
A similar medication, esomeprazole, is available over the counter, so while waiting for an appointment it’s worth trying to see if symptoms settle.
Chest pain should always warrant a discussion with a doctor, as it’s associated with heart disease and can be angina – the type of chest pain that can precede a heart attack.
Sustained excess alcohol consumption would also put some at risk of this problem.
Last year I had private treatment for cataracts in both eyes.
The procedure improved my eyesight so I don’t need glasses as much, but something doesn’t feel right.
It seems as though not enough light is coming in and I have slightly blurred vision.
Do I contact my GP or the private hospital?
Cataracts are very common as we get older and happen when the lens of the eye becomes cloudy.
As a result, not enough light gets through the eye, making vision blurry and misty.
More from Dr Ellie Cannon for The Mail on Sunday…
Age increases the risk of cataracts because debris builds up in the lens over time.
Without treatment, vision will get worse, eventually leading to blindness.
A lack of access to cataract surgery around the globe is thought to be responsible for half of the world’s cases of blindness.
Cataract surgery is generally very safe and effective and often dramatically improves patients’ quality of life.
The cloudy lens of the eye is replaced with a clear artificial one and recovery takes up to six weeks.
A small minority of people suffer complications after the operation.
I’ve recently been flooded with letters from readers desperate for help in persuading their partner to see their GP.
In almost all of these cases the problem is something the person deems embarrassing – like trouble going to the toilet.
I must tell you, patients who are too shy or ashamed to see a doctor for these types of issues are usually those who end up with the most miserable outcomes in the long run.
Doctors will have seen your problems hundreds of times before, no matter what it may be. And a few moments of feeling uncomfortable is a small price to pay for something that could save your life.
So persuade your partner to at least have a phone consultation first. Once they see how unfazed the GP is by their problem, they may feel better about a face- to-face appointment if needed.
The most common is further clouding of the lens that occurs over months or years.
This can be corrected with laser surgery.
Less common are complications that affect the other parts of the eye and dislocating of the new lens.
If something does not feel right after surgery, patients should go back to their surgeon and ask their opinion.
Three weeks ago I developed a pain in my cheekbone and my left eye became itchy.
My doctor prescribed aciclovir tablets which had awful side effects – headache, dizziness and numbness in my cheek, nose and teeth.
I’ve been given painkillers, but they’re not helping.
Can anything make it go away?
This sounds like shingles, which is a condition caused by the herpes virus – the same one that causes chicken pox.
It typically affects a single strand of the nervous system, which is why the symptoms are always one-sided.
Usually, it causes a red rash that can blister but not always.
It also causes burning pain, so the skin feels sore even with the lightest touch.
This pain can persist for weeks and in up to 50 per cent of cases up to a year – we call this post-herpatic neuralgia.
We offer the same treatment, even if there isn’t a rash: aciclovir, an antiviral medication.
It might be recommended that this is taken for an extended period, if post-herpatic pain is a problem.
Aciclovir does have side effects, like any medication, and this includes headaches.
But numbness is not a known side effect – it’s much more likely to be related to the neuralgia.
Standard painkillers may help but usually for neuralgia we need to use a specific nerve painkiller such as amitriptyline or gabapentin
Don’t blame GPs if ovarian cancer is missed, says DR ELLIE CANNON
I was irritated to read a charity report last week that seemed to suggest GPs are ‘ignoring’ signs of ovarian cancer.
This, along with patients being unable to spot symptoms themselves, was said to be responsible for thousands of needless deaths every year because of late diagnosis.
But the story isn’t that simple.
It is true that the telltale signs of ovarian cancer – bloating and pains in the lower tummy – can easily be mistaken for more common, less serious conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome.
But that doesn’t mean GPs are ‘ignoring’ the possibility of ovarian cancer.
The truth is not all doctors can refer patients for all the tests we think they need because of a lack of resources in certain areas.
In my North London practice, I can easily refer patients for gynaecological ultrasound scans but I know a colleague in another part of the country who can’t unless the patient is high risk.
Instead of placing all the blame with GPs, charities ought to put pressure on health chiefs to stamp out the postcode lottery within our NHS.
Ministers need to identify regions with limited resources and plough more money and staff into the system.
We know the signs of ovarian cancer all too well – but if we can’t order a test, early diagnosis is virtually impossible.
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