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Pills have stopped my heart flutter so do I still need them?

I am active, fit and healthy but, in February, I started having a heart flutter – and was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. Since then I have been on blood-thinning tablets. Weirdly, my pulse seems to have returned to normal. Shall I stop treatment?

Atrial fibrillation, also known as AF, is a common heart-rhythm problem in which the beating pattern becomes very fast and irregular. There are several different types of the condition.

One, called paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, features sporadic periods of irregular heartbeats which last just a few days – but keep recurring. There’s also what’s known as continuous atrial fibrillation, which never goes away without treatment.

Atrial fibrillation, also known as AF, is a common heart-rhythm problem in which the beating pattern becomes very fast and irregular. There are several different types of the condition. (File image)

Most people with atrial fibrillation also have another problem, including high blood pressure, a history of heart attack or a lifelong heart condition. Some have other health problems – like diabetes or a bad infection.

Drinking a lot of caffeine or alcohol also increases the risk of atrial fibrillation.

The condition is serious because the erratic pulsating of the heart increases the risk of life-threatening blood clots and strokes. And those who suffer short bouts of this are just as likely to suffer these complications as those with continuous atrial fibrillation.

Doctors treat the condition by controlling blood pressure and preventing clots using blood-thinning medication – so patients should definitely keep taking the tablets.

My 79-year-old wife has suffered urinary tract infections for the past two years. Antibiotics have helped ease the discomfort but do not get rid of the problem. She has HRT patches too, which I’ve read are supposed to help with problems like this. Can anything else be done?

Urinary tract infections are incredibly common – especially in elderly people. But it is really important that patients see a GP if they think they have an infection, because there might be other factors that are causing the symptoms. When patients develop a urinary tract infection, they feel the need to go to the toilet often, and suffer burning or soreness when urinating.

Sometimes they notice a strong smell in the toilet, or that the water they pass is cloudy.

A GP will perform something called a dipstick test to spot the infection. But there are other, more detailed tests which involve sending a sample off to a lab to find out exactly which bacteria is the issue.

Doctors have to know the type of bacteria that are lurking around so they know which antibiotics to prescribe. But recurrent symptoms that seem to be a urinary tract infection may be due to something else. Crucially, it could be a sign of ovarian and other gynaecological cancers.

The bladder sits very close to the womb and other organs. A problem with these organs can irritate the bladder, causing UTI-like symptoms. An ultrasound scan of the pelvis area would give a good indication of potential problems with these organs, as well as the bladder and kidneys.

Changes after the menopause can cause symptoms similar to a UTI, mostly because a lack of oestrogen makes the tissues in the intimate area dry and irritated. If the issue is recurrent infections, doctors may suggest preventative antibiotics.

This involves taking a daily low dose on a long-term basis, and has been proven to be highly effective.

Can statins cause prickly heat rash? Ever since my husband started taking atorvastatin in September 2019, he’s suffered extreme severe prickly heat. It happens every time we go abroad – nothing soothes it.

Prickly heat rash is a very uncomfortable reaction to very hot climates. It is caused by excessive sweating: sweat gets trapped in the glands under the skin, triggering small, raised, itchy spots. But it is not to be confused with another, similar condition called polymorphic light eruption.

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This problem is caused by the skin’s reaction to sunlight – causing an itchy, burning rash.

There are key differences.

Polymorphic light eruption results from sunlight itself rather than just heat. It also causes blisters, burning or patches of raised pink or red spots. The reaction happens when sufferers haven’t been exposed to sunlight in a long while, and symptoms can get worse in further sunlight.

After a while, the skin of people with polymorphic light eruption becomes resistant to the sun – patients find they can stay out for longer. But the affected areas of skin can become hard, and these patches can be difficult to get rid of. 

Patients can avoid it by covering the areas prone to rashes with loose-covering clothing and a good sun cream. Using an SPF50 sun block with a high UV-protection rating is important. Dermatologists recommend cream, steroid pills or antihistamines to stop the itchy, burning feeling.

Specialists may also suggest increasing your resistance to the sun at home before travelling. This involves being in the sunshine for short periods every summer to build up tolerance.

Drugs including statins can cause photosensitivity and reactions of the skin in the sun.

This may be the case if the reaction appeared shortly after the course of drugs began – but it can be difficult to pinpoint a direct trigger.

Ditch silly ideas and get serious, Mr Khan

Earlier this year London Mayor Sadiq Khan (above) toured California to, among other things, explore if London should follow its lead in legalising cannabis

Earlier this year London Mayor Sadiq Khan (above) toured California to, among other things, explore if London should follow its lead in legalising cannabis

I am sick of politicians using taxpayers’ money to fund silly public health ideas. 

Earlier this year London Mayor Sadiq Khan toured California to, among other things, explore if London should follow its lead in legalising cannabis. 

Now he wants to investigate potential benefits of decriminalising the drug. Last week it was revealed this five-day trip cost £35,000. Nearly £3,000 of that went on business-class flights.

I could have given him an answer for free: no, we shouldn’t legalise cannabis. Colleagues are already reporting an increase in young patients suffering mental health problems due to smoking too much dope. 

Plenty of evidence shows links between psychosis and frequent cannabis use, and doctors in California are warning about an impending crisis in weed-related complications – as detailed in MoS deputy health editor Eve Simmons’s recent report from LA.

Perhaps that £35k could have been invested in recruiting more doctors and nurses, or cracking down on knife crime on London’s streets – serious public health ideas.

A dirty grill is yucky but safe 

Last month I warned of the dangers of food poisoning during barbecue season – with cases of meat contamination rife. Now some readers have written to ask me about another potential risk: dirty grills. 

It seems you are concerned that bacteria lurking on the racks can cause similar infections. While they may be offputting, dirty grill racks don’t pose the same risk of food poisoning as meat that isn’t cooked properly.

Any bacteria lurking on racks will be killed off instantly by the hot flames. The problem lies with meat contaminated with bacteria that doesn’t get hot enough to destroy the bugs.

While we’re back on the subject, here’s another tip: try not to dip meat – raw or cooked – in dips and marinades.

It can easily lead to a host of bugs making their way across the entire spread.

While they may be offputting, dirty grill racks don't pose the same risk of food poisoning as meat that isn't cooked properly

While they may be offputting, dirty grill racks don’t pose the same risk of food poisoning as meat that isn’t cooked properly

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