Q. My cystitis just won’t go away. I am surprised that medics haven’t discovered something to stop it recurring every few months as millions of women suffer as I do. I know some people say cranberry juice helps. Am I missing out on something?
A. Even as a one-off episode, bladder infections such as cystitis are uncomfortable and distressing. Recurrent cystitis is particularly troublesome and infections can become resistant to antibiotics, so taking repeated prescriptions could eventually stop them from working.
Contrary to popular belief, cranberry juice, dietary changes or passing urine before or after sex will not help ease recurrent cystitis (stock image)
However, taking a six-month course of a low-dose antibiotic is a way round this and does provide the cure for some women, so it is certainly worth asking your GP. It may be worth considering a concurrent probiotic alongside the drug to counter the disruption of gut bacteria caused by prolonged antibiotics use.
Cystitis can often be related to sexual activity: if this is the case, an antibiotic can be used preventatively within two hours of sex. Women in this situation should also avoid using female contraception such as diaphragms.
In some cases, a course of antibiotics is the only way
Contrary to popular belief, cranberry juice, dietary changes or passing urine before or after sex will not help ease recurrent cystitis. If the recommended preventative treatments are not working, consider reviewing your situation with a urologist who specialises in female bladder issues.
In some cases, a course of antibiotics is the only way to deal with the problem (stock image)
Some women suffer recurrent cystitis due to underlying problems such as bladder stones or anatomical abnormalities that allow regular infections to take hold, and need correcting to provide a cure.
Q. My granddaughter has recently been diagnosed with autism, leaving my daughter and me in a panic and desperately researching different treatments. I recently came across a procedure involving stem cell transplants. Does it work and how can my granddaughter get it?
A. Almost 700,000 Britons have autism, a lifelong developmental disability that has immeasurable impact on sufferers’ lives. The condition can be frustrating and distressing for families.
Understandably, out of desperation parents will seek potential cures, some of which may be obscure or not routinely recommended. Research is continuing into the field of stem cells but currently they are not scientifically proven to cure or alter the prognosis of a child with autism. The advertised treatments therefore may be unregulated and unsafe, with their benefits exaggerated.
It was only last year that leading UK researchers warned of the dangers of unscrupulous marketing of unproven stem cell treatments that was putting lives at risk. Stem cells are highly successful for treating blood cancers, but are not an approved treatment for autism.
I would urge any family dealing with an autism diagnosis to seek help from patient support groups such as the National Autistic Society. Finding a local support network for the child and parents could be one of the most helpful things a worried relative can do as seeking out others in the same boat is tremendously helpful and reassuring.
There is no cure for autism – help is centred around therapies that help a child learn and develop, as well as securing their mental and physical health needs. Community paediatricians work with a team of therapists to ensure the needs of an autistic child are met.
There’s always time to show compassion
Doctors and nurses are being urged to improve their bedside manner when treating patients.
Rachel Power, the new head of the Patients’ Association, rightly points out that compassion and communication should not be considered ‘extras’, but as an essential part of the service.
She is absolutely right.
It is sad that the British Medical Association responded by saying there may not always be time for compassion due to pressures on resources.
As someone on the front line of the NHS, I would argue there is always time to communicate kindly and to empathise with patients.
Doctors should also remember that a good relationship with a patient is not just about niceties – it improves a patient’s understanding as well as how likely they are to engage with treatment.