Two major warning signs you’re lacking the vitamin found on your face

PMQs: Boris Johnson urged to introduce vitamin D treatment

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Vitamin B12 is a crucial ingredient for the healthy running of one’s body, as it’s needed to make red blood cells. Signs of a deficiency can develop very slowly but there are two major warning signs found on your face including facial neuralgia and jaundice.

Pain on the face or facial neuralgia is one warning sign of low levels of B12 to look out for in the face, according to The Thyroid Patient Advocacy.

It continued: “The pain is usually felt on only one side of the face at a time.

“This pain varies so much that it would be difficult to describe all the possibilities.

“It can be a dull pain in the cheek bone right underneath an eye.

“It can also be a sharp shooting pain across the forehead, sometimes coming downward from the scalp to the edge of the nose by the eye.

“This can be excruciating but is usually fleeting.”

A study published in MD Edge Neurology found that vitamin B12 deficiency may cause isolated facial neuralgia with sensations of a decrease in touch and pain, as well as numbness on the affected side.

“It was somewhat unexpected that vitamin B12 deficiency can cause isolated facial neuralgia,” said Dr Jitendra Baruah, a neurologist.

He continued: “Treatment for facial neuralgia is sometimes very difficult, and patients may often go into multimodalities treatment without much success.”

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Those lacking B12 may also notice the colour of their face is more yellow. 

The whites of the eyes may also appear less white and more yellow.

The reason for this colour change in the face is due to the body’s red blood cell production being affected.

When the body lacks B12, it is not able to make red blood cells as easy.

People with a B12 deficiency often look pale or have a slight yellow tinge to the skin and whites of the eyes, a condition known as jaundice.

This happens when a lack of B12 causes problems with your body’s red blood cell production.

Due to the low levels of healthy red blood cells, leading to a type of anaemia called pernicious anaemia.

Symptoms of pernicious anaemia may include diarrhoea, loss of appetite, and jaundice.

How should I respond to these symptoms?

You should see a GP if you’re experiencing symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, the NHS says.

“These conditions can often be diagnosed based on your symptoms and the results of a blood test,” explains the health body.

It’s doubly important for vitamin B12 deficiency to be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.

“Although many of the symptoms improve with treatment, some problems caused by the condition can be irreversible if left untreated,” warns the NHS.

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India Covid variant: Two reasons why new variant found in UK raises major concerns

Coronavirus 'double mutation' variant found in UK

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Figures published by Public Health England (PHE) show there is a new coronavirus variant proliferating on UK shores. There have been 73 cases detected in England and another four in Scotland of the new Indian variant, also known as B.1.617. It is thought to be behind a tsunami of cases being recorded in India. 

The variant raises particular alarm bells because it has undergone a “double mutation”.

Mutations are part of the natural course of viruses, but this latest strain has undergone two mutations, which could make it more resistant to antibodies and more infectious.

One of the mutations – L452R – has been detected in a variant circulating in California.

The other variant – E484Q – shares some of the characteristics of the mutated spike protein seen in the South African variant, and some others.

But there are also differences in the genome and this uncertainty raises legitimate concerns over vaccine effectiveness.

The government said that an analysis of the samples collected from the western state of Maharashtra showed “an increase in the fraction of samples with the E484Q and L452R mutations” compared with December last year.

“Such [double] mutations confer immune escape and increased infectivity,” the health ministry said in a statement.

Lab tests show both mutations help the virus to infect human cells and evade some antibodies.

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Speaking to the BBC, Dr Jeremy Kamil, a virologist at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center Shreveport, said the E484Q is similar to E484K – a mutation seen in the B.1.351 (South Africa) and P.1 (Brazil) variants, which have sprouted up independently several times.

If enough mutations happen in a viral family tree or a lineage, the virus can begin to function differently and the lineage can become a so-called “variant of concern”, Dr Jeremy Kamil said.

As far as the L452R mutation – also found in the “double mutation” in India – it first got attention as part of B.1.427/B.1.429 lineage in the US, which is sometimes called the “California variant”, he told the BBC.

Will the vaccines work agains the new Indian variant?

In short, it’s too early to say how effective the current crop of vaccines will prove against the new variant.

“Because COVID-19 vaccines train our immune system to respond to the spike proteins on the surface of the virus, there is concern that new variants with changes to the spike protein that help them evade immune responses may also render vaccines ineffective,” explains the COVID Symptom Study app.

Fortunately, research has shown that the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine is working well against the B.1.1.7 variant first discovered in the UK.

However, because the trial mainly included young people who don’t tend to get seriously ill from COVID-19, it wasn’t possible to investigate the vaccine’s effect on rates of severe disease.

Laboratory studies suggest that the Pfizer and Oxford AstraZeneca vaccines offer some protection against the Brazil variant, but more work is needed to confirm this.

As COVID-19 continues to spread in many places, new variants will continue to emerge, especially in areas where rates of infection remain high.

According to the team behind the Symptom Study app, experts think future variants could help the virus avoid immune recognition, meaning that we will need new vaccines.

The CEO of Pfizer has signalled that the threat of new variants will not be going away anytime soon.

Albert Bourla said a potential booster shot of the Pfizer vaccine would be administered six to 12 months after being fully vaccinated.

The jab will then be offered annually, he suggested during a panel discussion.

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What are the symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency? Full list of 10 common signs

Dr Dawn Harper on signs of vitamin B12 and vitamin D deficiency

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Vitamin B12 is a type of water-soluble vitamin that’s crucial for the body’s overall function. If you aren’t getting enough B12 in your diet, you may start to develop some noticeable symptoms, including a sore tongue and irritability.

Vitamin B12 is used by the body to make red blood cells and DNA.

But the body doesn’t naturally manufacture B12, like it does for vitamin D, for example.

So it’s essential that you get enough vitamin B12 in your daily diet.

If you develop a B12 deficiency, you may slowly start to notice some key symptoms which you shouldn’t ignore.

READ MORE: Vitamin B12 deficiency – breath symptoms to spot

There are 10 common signs of a deficiency, but as they tend to develop quite slowly, you might not even notice they’re there.

You may start to change the way you walk or move around the house, or have subtle changes to your vision.

Some people even have an increasingly swollen tongue or persistent mouth ulcers.

The symptoms may be caused indirectly by a lack of red blood cells – which is also known as anaemia.

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Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms

  • Pale yellow tinge to your skin
  • Sore and red tongue (glossitis)
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Pins and needles (paraesthesia)
  • Changes in the way that you walk and move around
  • Disturbed vision
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Changes in the way you think, feel and behave
  • Decline in your mental abilities, such as memory, understanding and judgement (dementia)

“See a GP if you’re experiencing symptoms of vitamin B12 or folate deficiency anaemia,” said the NHS.

“These conditions can often be diagnosed based on your symptoms and the results of a blood test.

“It’s important for vitamin B12 or folate deficiency anaemia to be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.

“Although many of the symptoms improve with treatment, some problems caused by the condition can be irreversible if left untreated.”

The best sources of vitamin B12 include animals foods, or some products that have been fortified with it.

Dairy products, eggs, fish, meat and poultry all rich in vitamin B12.

But, that means vegans and – to a lesser extent – vegetarians are most at risk of the deficiency.

Taking B12 supplements is an easy way to treat a deficiency.

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Diabetes: Four foot changes that require urgent medical attention

Diabetes type 2: Dr Zoe Williams discusses high blood sugar risks

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Exponentially high blood sugar levels destroy the inner workings of the body. Seemingly minor foot issues can rapidly evolve into serious problems, so seek medical attention right away if you notice any of these warning signs. Any changes in the colour and shape of the feet is considered an emergency by the health charity Diabetes UK. Another red flag is when the feet feel abnormally cold or hot, or if you can see blisters and cuts but you can’t feel them.

The final alarming distress signal is when there’s a foul smell coming from an open wound on the foot.

Any of these four foot changes require immediate medical attention.

There may be other changes that also require a check over from your GP.

This includes seeing shiny, smooth skin on the feet, swollen feet, hair loss on the feet and legs, and feet that don’t sweat.

Other noteworthy changes that would benefit from GP assistance include:

  • Tingling sensation or pins and needles (like numbness)
  • Pain (burning)
  • A dull ache
  • Loss of feeling in your feet or legs
  • Wounds or sores that don’t heal
  • Cramp in your calves when resting or walking

“Someone with diabetes is 20 times more likely to experience an amputation,” warned Diabetes UK.

I’ve noticed a problem, now what do I do?

Firstly, take the weight off your foot; secondly, contact your GP or foot protection team immediately.

If a GP or a member of the foot protection team aren’t available, go to your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department.

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How does high blood sugar cause such significant foot issues?

Diabetes UK explained that raised blood sugar levels can cause less blood supply to reach the feet.

Without good blood supply, the feet will have issues with healing any cuts and wounds you may get.

You may not even realise you have a cut or wound on your foot, as high blood sugars can lead to a loss of sensation in the feet and toes.

Wounds on the feet can then turn into foot ulcers and infections, while you remain totally unaware.

This is why it’s so important to check your feet daily, and to alert your diabetes team if you see a blister or cut.

How to look after my feet

Diabetes UK advise all diabetics to not smoke as this can worsen poor circulation, meaning less blood can reach the feet.

It’s also key to manage blood sugar levels, cholesterol and blood pressure to prevent foot issues from developing.

Another tip is to cut your toenails correctly to avoid piercing the skin by mistake, which can lead to further injuries.

Cutting toenails:

  1. Cut them often but not too short or down the side
  2. Trim them with nail clippers and then use an emery board to file any corners
  3. Clean them gently with a nail brush – don’t use the sharp points of scissors to clean as this isn’t safe.

“Washing daily is also a simple way to keep your feet and toenails clean and away from infection,” added the charity.

Fitted footwear

“If your shoes or socks are too tight, too loose or rub, then don’t wear them,” said Diabetes UK.

Old innersoles, socks with holes in them or those that have thick seams could all cause problems with people with diabetes, so don’t risk it.

It’s good to have shoes that:

  • Are broad fitting
  • Have a deep and rounded toe area
  • Are flat or low heeled
  • Are fastened by a lace or buckle to stop your feet sliding around.

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Pandemic taking ‘massive toll’ as women fight depression

Denise Welch talks to depression sufferer for MHFA England

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Almost 60 percent of women feel more stressed or overwhelmed since the pandemic began, compared with 41 percent of men. The survey, commissioned by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), revealed that almost half of women (48 percent) now feel more depressed or hopeless, while only 38 percent of men feel the same way.

One in 10 women who accessed counselling services have done so for the first time in the past six months, and just over half of those said it was influenced by Covid-19.

BACP’s annual public perceptions survey was conducted as part of its Friends First campaign, which is urging meeting up as part of the “rule of six friends”.

This comes after the recent relaxing of restrictions, meaning groups of six can now meet outdoors.

The campaign also wants to help people spot the signs of deteriorating mental health and encourage loved ones to seek professional support if needed.

Some 87 percent have become more conscious of the mental health of friends and family since the pandemic and 37 percent of those who have never had counselling before said they would consider it if a friend or family member suggested it.

Lorraine Collins, a registered BACP counsellor based in London, said: “The onset of the pandemic brought a rapid emotional gear shift for women in the home that has seen a disproportionate effect on their mental health.

“Stress factors such as no longer having physical or mental space to decompress, coupled with expectations to manage everything under one roof while working and being the main care givers, has made a real impact.”

BACP’s Fiona Ballantine Dykes, a senior counsellor and supervisor, said: “While we recognise the important role that friends and family will play in the mental wellbeing of their loved ones, we are acutely aware that overcoming mental health obstacles requires professional help.

“It’s important that people try to spot the signs of where support is needed, such as someone retreating from conversations or not responding to messages.

“Equally as important is that friends do not become overwhelmed and give the wrong advice, however well meant.”

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Pfizer vaccine: South African Covid variant can ‘break through’ new study warns

Matt Hancock grilled on effectiveness of Pfizer on variants

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Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine efficacy has shown to be 91 percent for up to six months. Those were the findings published from one clinical trial at the beginning of April. But now an Israeli study has warned the Covid variant first discovered in South Africa, found to be circulating in the UK, may be more effective in bypassing the vaccine than the original COVID-19 strain.

Researchers at Tel Aviv University studied 400 people who tested positive for COVID-19 after being vaccinated more than two weeks earlier.

Among patients who received two doses of the vaccine, the South African variant’s prevalence rate was eight times higher than those unvaccinated.

This indicates the Pfizer vaccine is much less effective against the South African mutation, compared to the original coronavirus strain and the variants first identified in Kent, the researchers explained.

Adi Stern, of Tel Aviv University, said: “We found a disproportionately higher rate of the South African variant among people vaccinated with a second dose, compared to the unvaccinated group.

“This means that the South African variant is able, to some extent, to break through the vaccine’s protection.”

In Pfizer’s study of the South African strain, it said out of a group of 800 volunteers in South Africa, nine infections were found, all of which occurred among participants who got the placebo.

Of the nine cases, six were among individuals infected with the South African variant.

According to Stern, low prevalence of the South African strain was encouraging.

“Even if the South African variant does break through the vaccine’s protection, it has not spread widely through the population,” he added.

The government first announced it had detected two cases of the South African variant in the UK on 23 December 2020.

Up to 31 March, the number of cases had risen to 469.

Protection against the South African Variant with the AstraZeneca vaccine has also shown some concern.

In a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine were found to have only a 10.4 percent efficacy against mild-to-moderate infections caused by the strain.

The trial evaluated the safety and the efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine in HIV-negative adults aged between 18 to 64 years old with a median age of 30 years old.

Out of the trial’s 750 vaccine recipients, 19 developed mild to moderate COVID-19 more than 14 days after the second dose, compared with 23 of 717 placebo recipients.

Of the 42 total cases of COVID-19, 39 were caused by the South African variant.

Concerns over the South African variant and a deadlier, lesser-known strain first identified in Nigeria are rising among government scientific advisors after a sharp increase in cases of both in the UK over the past week.

There have now been more than 470 cases of the South African variant.

At the end of February there were fewer than 100 cases of the Nigerian variant, but in the last week this has climbed above 300.

While figures are still in the hundreds, and outweighed by the dominant Kent variant, experts are concerned as more people get vaccinated, the South African and Nigerian strains will spread more widely as the virus tries to escape the immunity created by the jabs.

A senior Sage source told The i: “If it can infect and transmit in vaccinated people, B1351 (South African variant) will increase in that population. It is slowly going up, but that might be because we are looking for it so hard.”

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AstraZeneca vaccine may be linked to capillary leak syndrome – what are the symptoms?

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The AstraZeneca Covid vaccine could now be linked to capillary leak syndrome – a rare disorder characterised by a rapid fall in blood pressure as a result of fluid leaks from capillaries. This can sometimes be life threatening. The European Medicines Authority (EMA) said five cases of capillary leak syndrome had been reported in vaccinated patients on the continent.

Data has shown the UK’s regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), had spotted three cases of capillary leak syndrome out of 20 million people given the AstraZeneca vaccine by late March.

Symptoms of capillary leak syndrome

“Attacks” of systemic capillary leak syndrome are often preceded by one to two days of one or more nonspecific symptoms, advises the Mayo Clinic.

This may include:

  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Muscle aches
  • Increased thirst
  • Sudden increase in body weight

It explains: “As the fluid leaks out from the bloodstream, blood volume and blood pressure drop. This can starve tissues in the kidneys, brain and liver of the oxygen and nutrients they need for normal function.”

If the condition is left untreated it can lead to organ failure and death.

The capillary leak syndrome link spells another potential blow for AstraZeneca, after reports of rare blood clots in the brain and abdomen.

The recommendation for under 30s in the UK being offered an alternative Covid vaccine comes after a review by the UK drugs regulator found by the end of March 79 people had suffered rare blood clots after vaccination – 19 died.

But officials insist there is still no evidence the jab causes the blood conditions.

They also stress the benefits of getting vaccinated far outweigh the risk.

The 79 cases and 19 deaths occurred after 20 million doses were administered.

This gives a risk factor of about four in one million developing a blood clot, and one in a million dying.

The people who died were aged between 18 and 79 – three of them aged under 30.

The Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccine is also under review by EU regulators after reports of blood clots in the US.

Rare blood clots were reported in four people who received the Johnson & Johnson jab.

The company said it was aware of the reported blood clots and was working with regulators to assess the data and provide relevant information.

The vaccine is currently only used in the US. It was authorised in the EU last month but has not started to be rolled out to member states yet.

Like all medicines, vaccines can cause side effects, although not everybody gets them.

In clinical studies with the AstraZeneca vaccine, most side effects were mild to moderate in nature and resolved within a few days, with some still present a week after vaccination.

Drug regulators say blood clots are a “very rare AstraZeneca side effect”.

Very common side effects are:

  • tenderness, pain, warmth, itching or bruising where the injection is given
  • generally feeling unwell
  • feeling tired (fatigue)
  • chills or feeling feverish
  • headache
  • feeling sick (nausea)
  • joint pain or muscle ache

If you get any side effects, talk to your doctor, pharmacist or nurse.

If you are concerned about a side-effect it can be reported directly via the Coronavirus Yellow Card reporting site or search for MHRA Yellow Card in the Google Play or Apple App Store and include the vaccine brand and batch/Lot number if available.

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Diabetes type 2 symptoms: Four signs you have a diabetic blister – what to look for

Type 2 diabetes can be a 'devastating diagnosis' says expert

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It is hard to put a specific number on the amount of people living with type 2 diabetes in the UK because many people will currently have it without knowing it. That’s because the condition can be subtle or symptomless for many years. Perceptible changes can crop up if rising blood sugar levels – a feature of type 2 diabetes – start to interfere with bodily processes.

Blisters are a perceptible warning sign of blood sugar damage.

The majority of patients with diabetic blisters have pre-existing complications such as nephropathy and neuropathy, explains an article published in the British Journal of Diabetes.

Nephropathy and neuropathy are two common complications associated with blood sugar damage.

How to spot diabetic blisters

It’s rare, but people with diabetes can see blisters suddenly appear on their skin.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD), diabetic blisters have the following features:

  1. You may see a large blister, a group of blisters, or both
  2. The blisters tend to form on the hands, feet, legs, or forearms
  3. They look like the blisters that appear after a serious burn
  4. Unlike the blisters that develop after a burn, these blisters are not painful.

According to the AAD, you should tell your doctor about the blisters.

As the health body explains, you’ll want to take steps to prevent an infection.

General symptoms of type 2 diabetes include:

  • Peeing more than usual, particularly at night
  • Feeling thirsty all the time
  • Feeling very tired
  • Losing weight without trying to
  • Itching around your penis or vagina, or repeatedly getting thrush
  • Cuts or wounds taking longer to heal
  • Blurred vision.

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What to expect from your GP appointment

The NHS explains: “Type 2 diabetes is often diagnosed following blood or urine tests for something else.”

According to the health body, what the GP will discuss with you during your appointment depends on the diagnosis and the treatment they recommend.

Generally, they’ll talk to you about:

  • What diabetes is
  • What high blood sugar means for your health
  • Whether you need to take medicine
  • Your diet and exercise
  • Your lifestyle – for example, alcohol and smoking.

It’s usually difficult to take in everything the GP tells you during the appointment.

“Talk to family and friends about what the GP told you, and write down any questions you have,” advises the NHS.

What happens next

Following a formal diagnosis, a GP will usually recommend lifestyle changes to lower high blood sugar levels.

There are two key components to blood sugar control – diet and exercise.

There’s nothing you cannot eat if you have type 2 diabetes, but you’ll have to limit certain foods.

Carbohydrate foods are broken down quickly by your body and cause a rapid increase in blood sugar.

The worst offenders are those that rank high on the glycaemic index (GI).

The GI is a rating system for foods containing carbohydrates – it shows how quickly each food affects your blood sugar (glucose) level when that food is eaten on its own.

High GI foods include:

  • Sugar and sugary foods
  • Sugary soft drinks
  • White bread
  • Potatoes
  • White rice.

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EMA announcement: European Medicines Agency to give safety update on AstraZeneca vaccine

Moderna vaccine: Unpaid carer receives first UK jab

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The European Medicines Agency (EMA) will hold a briefing on Wednesday which will discuss the investigation of the AstraZeneca vaccine relating to cases of thromboembolic events. Millions of people have been given the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine without experiencing severe side effects. However, in recent months there have been a small number of reports that recipients of the AstraZeneca vaccine have experienced extremely rare blood clots.

Some countries have suspended the use of the vaccine as a precaution, while other countries have set age limits on the AstraZeneca jab.

A senior official for the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said in an interview published on Tuesday there was a link between the vaccine and rare blood clots in the brain but the possible causes were still unknown.

The EMA later said in a statement that its review of the vaccine was ongoing and that it would give an update on its investigation on Wednesday afternoon.

When is the EMA AstraZeneca vaccine briefing?

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) briefing will be held on Wednesday at 3pm. 

Speakers at the EMA briefing will include EMA executive director Emer Cooke and EMA safety committee chairwoman Dr Sabine Straus.

The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) will also be giving a televised briefing at 3pm on Wednesday.

The briefing will be led by Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England Professor Jonathan Van-Tam.

Professor Van-Tam will be joined by MHRA chief executive Dr June Raine, chair of the Committee of Human Medicines Sir Munir Pirmohamed and chair of the JCVI Professor Wei Shen.

The briefing is also expected to address whether the AstraZeneca vaccine is directly causing rare brain blood clots.

Both the EMA and the MHRA have carried out reviews into reports of rare brain clots in people who have had the AstraZeneca vaccine.

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The updates from both the EMA and the MHRA have been widely anticipated, with vaccine rollout uncertain in many countries due to the reports.

Some European countries have restricted the vaccine use in younger people following reports of low platelet counts and cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST), a specific type of clot that prevents blood from draining from the brain.

However in the UK, experts this week have urged people to take the AstraZeneca vaccine if they are offered it, stressing vaccine rollout should continue to help protect people against COVID-19.

Former MHRA chief Professor Sir Kent Woods also told LBC radio: “Covid itself – the infection itself – is known to be associated with a substantial increased risk of blood clots of various kinds.

“At a time when the population has got lots of Covid going around, it’s very difficult to know what the actual background rate of these clotting events is without the vaccine.

“We can say, I think, that if there is a connection, it’s a very, very rare one.”

Ravi Gupta, professor of clinical microbiology at the Cambridge Institute of Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Diseases, also urged people to keep their vaccine appointments.

He told Sky News: “I think that’s on balance at the moment – there’s still transmission of Covid, and there is a risk to all of us of being infected, particularly as the economy is being opened up and society’s opening up, we are at risk of getting severe infection.

“So I would certainly be going forward for that vaccine in the current situation.”

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Cancer symptoms: Leukaemia survivor details swollen stomach as sign and launches new app

Blood cancer: Symptoms explained by healthcare professionals

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Chronic myeloid leukaemia is a type of cancer less common in young people, which is why it took Brad, 27, some time to get diagnosed. When he was first diagnosed, the disease was already quite advanced. He told Express Health: “When I got my leukaemia diagnosis I felt like I’d been hit by a train, the rug was pulled from under my feet, and it was like the world stopped – all rolled into one. It sounds dramatic, but there’s no easy way to explain that experience.

“I think my shock mostly came from the fact that I didn’t really know anything about leukaemia.

The symptoms of cancer don’t come up in school, conversations with friends, or family chats. I had no idea that what I was experiencing should have worried me.”

Brad’s symptoms included rapid weight loss, fatigue, night sweats and random bruises all over his body.

His stomach also swelled up because his spleen was swollen – a key symptom for leukaemia.

“One of the most important things that young people should know is that exhaustion is not normal,” he continued.

“I was involuntarily falling asleep, and blamed it on my A Levels, school, and my part time work. But if you know you’re getting a good night’s sleep, but you’re still feeling properly exhausted, then it’s something to raise with your GP.”

Brad’s cancer was treated with chemotherapy before being moved on to long-term maintenance treatment to enable him to have a more normal quality of life.

But in 2017, his cancer relapsed. “I had to leave my life in London behind and return to Yorkshire to stay with my parents,” he said. “I remember feeling really angry at how unfair it was that, after rebuilding my life the first time round, five years on I had to go through it all again: the harsh treatment, and the loneliness.

“Bone marrow transplants can be fatal. But I didn’t feel I could tell my family about my fears, because they wanted me to be okay.

“I survived the bone marrow transplant, but I still have long term effects as a result of the transplant which saved my life.”

Having faced cancer once, Brad didn’t feel prepared to go through it all over again.

The second time round, he knew how lonely cancer treatment could be.

“From being a closeted gay teenager in a rural area to experiencing cancer at both 19 and 24, loneliness has unfortunately been a big part of my life,” he said.

“I’ve been fortunate to build a group of friends who have experienced cancer and share experiences, but I only found this group when my second round of treatment had finished. I know what it’s like to be stuck in a room, feeling the worst you’ve ever felt, and having no one to talk to who gets it. And I don’t want anyone else to ever have to feel that way.”

In a bid to help others with cancer feel less lonely, Brad went about developing app Alike.

He explained: “Before I thought of creating an app, I always knew I wanted to create a youth-led charity that provided dedicated peer support for people impacted by cancer.

“Thanks to volunteering in the charity service and with the NHS, before my relapse I had a strong group of friends who had also experienced cancer. Alike, as a charity, is the culmination of all my personal and professional experiences. What motivates me has always been the memory of being in a hospital bed and feeling a type of loneliness that words can’t give full credit to.

“What I’ve seen in my community was a problem with access. There’s some great organisations that help our community, but if you’re in a rural area, or less mobile, or facing life after treatment, it can be much harder to make those connections. I’m not an expert in developing apps or charities. I’m an expert in lived experience. What I didn’t have skills in, I reached out to experts in the field. This is what makes Alike special. Alike isn’t my charity. It’s by and for everyone in the community.”

The app’s feedback has been “really encouraging” said Brad, with many people emailing and posting on the app how grateful they are for the service.

What’s more, added Brad, is young people are making connections and sharing their experiences in a safe place.

He said: “At Alike, we’re very clear that our mission is to combat isolation in cancer patients. I’m a very ambitious person, and the Alike app is only the beginning.

“Cancer doesn’t just impact the person who is diagnosed; friends, family, partners, children all struggle with feeling set apart from everyone else they know. Who is caring for the carers? We want to grow the app to support cancer patients and survivors and those closest to them.

“We want every person impacted by cancer to know that, because of Alike, they don’t have to face it alone. As a charity, we can only continue this important work with support.”

Alike is currently looking for further funding to help them support the millions of young people that have been diagnosed with cancer that will find comfort in the Alike community.

It’s available to download on the App Store and Google Play now.

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