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Your Guide to Understanding Erectile Dysfunction

Posted Wednesday 17 April 2019 15:00 by in Erectile Dysfunction by Johanna Galyen

“Almost all men have [Erectile Dysfunction] at some point. It’s how they deal with it that counts.” says Mark L. Held, PhD, a clinical psychologist.

While Erectile Dysfunction (ED) solely affects men, it is both women and men who are impacted by this condition. It is rarely the man who seeks help for this condition alone, but it most frequently the woman who encourages the man to seek out help for this condition. The knowledge and understanding of ED can make all the difference in your relationship – and perhaps be the key to enabling genuine sexual chemistry to prevail.

What is Erectile Dysfunction?

As silly as this question may be, this is not a laughing matter. It is a very important question because while it may seem that everyone knows what erectile dysfunction is, it is always important to clarify the terms. Erectile Dysfunction, according to the Urology Care Foundation, is “trouble getting or keeping an erection that's firm enough for sex.”

For a man to perform the act of sexual intercourse, the penis must become very firm and erect. To become erect, the penis needs sexual arousal to produce chemical and biological changes. Dr. Burnett, professor of urology at Johns Hopkins Medicine, says the “release of the chemical nitric oxide, a neurotransmitter that is produced in nerve tissue, triggers an erection by relaxing muscles that allow blood to fill the penis.” This allows the penis to become hard and rise up, which is called an erection. This erection lasts until the sexual arousal dies down or a man ejaculates and the trapped blood slowly returns to the rest of the body.

For a man struggling with ED, the penis does not become engorged with blood and neither does it become erect in position. This may happen occasionally to some men and they are able to resolve it in a few moments, and others are not able to have an erection at all.

What Causes Erectile Dysfunction?

There are a number of stigmas and misconceptions attached to erectile dysfunction. For example, you may have heard that impotence is purely a sign of a man's age or that it is related to a man's lack of sexual prowess; perhaps you've read somewhere it is due to a porn addiction or that it is caused by a lack of attraction. Some may say that it is caused by medications, and others blame poor diets and a lack of exercise. The cause and reality of ED is much more complex than one simple answer.

Medical Conditions

The Mayo Clinic lists 16 possible medical causes of ED in men. Here they are:

  • Heart disease
  • Clogged blood vessels (atherosclerosis)
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Metabolic syndrome – a condition involving increased blood pressure, high insulin levels, body fat around the waist and high cholesterol
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Certain prescription medications
  • Tobacco use
  • Alcoholism and other forms of substance abuse
  • Sleep disorders
  • Treatments for prostate cancer or enlarged prostate
  • Surgeries or injuries that affect the pelvic area or spinal cord

So as you can see from the above list, there are many possible causes. But go back to the list, and pause for a few moments. How many of these can actually be seen by your eyes? Sure, as a woman, you may see that your man has gained some weight, or that he uses tobacco or alcoholic beverages. And for sure, you would probably know if he is in the later stages of Parkinson’s Disease or Multiple Sclerosis – but the early stages may not present with traditional symptoms.

High blood pressure and high cholesterol have very few recognizable traits. Type II Diabetes is rarely recognized in its early stages, and is only found if other problems are seen or if a General Practitioner (GP) performs a physical. Medications come with a very long list of side effects, and most people do not read the entire lists, and ED may be a side effect. The point here is this: the medical causes of ED are often hidden in men.

Psychological Causes

Sexual intimacy requires a man to mentally present to the situation. The mental stimulation is vital for the body to respond with the right chemical responses. There must be some kind of incitement in the man’s mind before the penis changes into a full erection. A man’s mind will not be fully present if he is struggling from depression or anxiety.

Depression is a confusing condition when combined with ED. Men who are already struggling with symptoms of sadness, low self-esteem, hopelessness may begin to have erection difficulties as a result of their depression. On the opposite side, men who already have ED, may start to show symptoms of depression because they are unable to sexually perform. Unfortunately, either way you look at depression as the cause of erectile difficulty or a side effect of depression.

Anxiety is similar to depression in that it can be a causing factor or a side effect. However, anxiety around intimacy can begin to be a greater issue. In depression, the man may have a reduced desire to be physically intimate. Anxiety can quickly turn into performance anxiety where sex becomes something to be feared or dreaded.

Past sexual problems or abuse can also interfere with obtaining an erection in men. Sometimes the problems may have occurred many years ago, but over time the memories start to resurface. A triggering event (such as a comment, a certain smell, a similar situation, or visiting friends) can cause a man to remember something that he had forgotten for a while and instead of being able to be intimate, his mind is focused on the event. These triggering events can come from trauma.

However, traumatic events do not have to relate to serious past traumas, sexual or otherwise, and they may simply relate to painful arguments or recent stresses in life that the man is dealing with at that moment. Traumatic events can be something as little as a painful argument or an inappropriate touch from years ago.

Lifestyle Causes

Stress is one of the worst causes of erectile difficulties in men. If a man is overly stressed with work, family life, finances, or health concerns – he will be less inclined and able to perform sexually. We know that we all face increasing amounts of stress each day, and while we wish that there was a turn-off switch in our minds to be intimate, men don’t have that ability anymore than most women.

The impact of pornography in a sexual relationships is one that scientists are trying to establish and many studies seems to contradict each other. In one Italian study of 28,000 men, it was found that “Men are suffering from 'sexual anorexia' and are unable to get erections because of Internet porn use that started in their mid-teens”. On the other side, Nicole Prause, PhD, a sexual psychophysiologist and licenced psychologist at the Sexual Psychophysiology and Affective Neuroscience Laboratory states that “In one case, the study found stronger sexual arousal in men who reported viewing more sex films at home.” The men who did had erectile dysfunction were “those whose personal values contradict with viewing sex films may be experiencing general shame around sex that also influences their erectile functioning.”

What scientist do know about pornography viewing and men is this: pornography usage can stimulate a man’s appetite for vivid sex, and it can be difficult to be aroused if not exposed to that same level of stimuli with a partner.

What Treatments are Available?

Self Care

Like most conditions, the first step in treating a problem is to ensure that you are in the best health possible. Here are some excellent ways to improve your health:

Non-Medical Helps

Acupuncture and natural supplements have been found to be helpful for some men. Supplements such as L-arginine, Propionyl-L-carnitine, Yohimbe, Red Ginseng, and Maca have been studied by scientists, and while some are more beneficial than others, they should only be taken with the proper permission. L-arginine, according to the Mayo Clinic, can interfere with Viagra and should never be taken together. Supplements, like all medications, can have interactions and negative side effects such as diarrhea, acne, stomach pain, increased anxiety, and an irregular heartbeat.

Other non-medical helps that a man might use would be a penis ring or a vacuum pump to enhance penile size. Both of these can assist in increasing the blood supply to the penis and allowing it to become engorged with blood to become erect.

Medications

Available by prescription only, there are specific medications that can help create an erection for a man.

Viagra / Sildenafil: The most popular of all erectile medications is Viagra. It is also available in its generic form Sildenafil. The generic form is cheaper, but they both work to increase blood flow to the penis.

Benefits: Improve the man’s ability to get and maintain an erection; this medication works in approximately 60 minutes and can last for 4 hours.

Cons: Does not enhance sexual arousal. Medication has to be taken prior to planned intimacy. Excessive alcohol mixed with this medication headaches, dizziness, or an unsafe drop in blood pressure. Possible side effects are headache, dizziness, upset stomach (nausea), back pain, and muscle pain.

Spedra / Avanafil: If you are wanting a quick medication for impromptu intimacy, then speak to your GP about this medicine. Avanafil is similar to Sildenafil; they both work the same way to increase blood supply to the penis, but this medication works much faster.

Benefits: Body can absorb this medicine in as little as 15 minutes. The medicine lasts up to 5 hours.

Cons: A large meal can slow down absorption. The penis will not harden without sexual intimacy; this medicine must be used in tandem with intimacy.

Levitra / Vardenafil: Like Viagra, this medicine helps men achieve an erection.

Benefits: Works faster than Viagra, and often has fewer side effects. It is also considered safer for men who have diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol. The medicine also has a shorter half-life, which means the body is able to remove the medicine faster.

Cons: The shorter half-life means it does not work as long as Viagra

Cialis / Tadalafil (as needed): This medicine works just like Viagra and Spedra, but it has the ability to last much longer in the man’s body.

Benefits: Can be taken up to 36 hours prior to intimacy. This medicine has been approved for men who suffer with high blood pressure.

Cons: Similar to Viagra

Cialis / Tadalafil (every day): While this medicine is almost identical to Cialis (as needed), it is a much smaller daily dose. This daily dose allows the man to be sexually active without the need to remember to pre-dose on medication prior to intimacy.

Vitaros / Alprostadil: Is the only approved medication that is not a pill, but it is a cream that is applied to the penis. The medication permeates the skin of the penis and relaxes the blood vessels just like the other medications work.

Benefits: Works in as little as five minutes, and not have to taken orally

Cons: The medicine needs to be stored in a refrigerator, and can lose potency if kept in a warm place for more than a few days. Additionally, the cream may be irritating to your partner; a latex condom should be placed over the penis and cream to protect them from the irritation.

What is the Psychological Impact of ED?

Anybody who believes that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach flunked geography. Robert Byrne

The impact on men

If I as a writer and a registered nurse had one wish, it would be this: slow down and read this section very carefully. Erection difficulty is not a problem that can be fixed by one call to the GP or one visit to a therapist. The answer could be as simple as your partner purchasing new lingerie, a fancy date night, or a prescription, but that often does not address the whole issue. ED is not merely a penis problem. Here’s why:

  • Men identify with their penis much like women identify with their breasts.
  • The penis (specifically the size) is a symbol of manhood.
  • The level of perceived success in the bedroom equals the level of self esteem for a man.
  • It’s embarrassing for a man to not be able be sexually intimate on demand.
  • A man may feel less-than, humiliated, and painfully vulnerable in his life when he struggles to obtain an erection.
  • It can make a man “fear that their breakdown in penile functioning will result in their being unwanted by a partner and their resulting fears of loneliness, isolation, and impotence.” (Morris Psychological)

Some men, due to the above issues, could eventually obtain an erection with help – but would that be good enough? Would they be able to accept an erection with help? For some men, the answer is no. Obtaining an almost-normal erection will not deal with the “underlying existential anguish” that Dr. Daniel Watter, Board Certified Sex Therapist, addresses. In simple terms? The erection is just a symptom of a greater problem in a relationship. If a man does not feel safe, connected, loved, empowered, and free to express himself in a true way, he will not change if he can get an erection momentarily with help.

The impact on relationships

The impact of feeling connected in a relationship versus feeling isolated must be acknowledged. Men want to feel connected and important in a relationship in many of the same ways that women do, and if they do not feel connected, isolation can start to come into the relationship. If the man feels isolated, the relationship quickly begins to suffer.

Women are also affected by erectile dysfunction in a relationship, and it’s not solely because their partner is unable to get an erection. Andrew McCullough, MD, director of sexual health and male infertility at NYU Medical Center says that women “think when a man can't get an erection is that it's her fault, and nothing could be further from the truth." After blaming herself, the woman often begins to wonder if the man is cheating within the relationship or (even worse) thinking that he does not find her sexually appealing anymore. Before too long, arguments begin to develop all based on erroneous thoughts when none of it may be true.

So You’ve Got the RX, But Now What?

Understand the treatments limitations

A prescription for medication is just one of many possible treatments for Erectile Dysfunction. As you can see from the above lists, there are many options available and each of them have varying benefits and side effects. The medications are not the only answer, they are merely a tool in a toolbox to assist a man to be intimate. They will not create or produce intimacy within a relationship – that part is up to you and your partner.

Focus on romance and lovemaking versus intercourse

Focusing on romance does not mean that the partner should just stroke the man harder or pull out more lingerie. When the spotlight is merely on traditional penis-in-the-vagina intercourse, it puts a lot of pressure on the man to perform. ”There are lots of different ways to be sexual, and if one way becomes difficult or even impossible, you have to explore, together, the things you can do with each other than are sexually exciting," says Jennifer Downey, MD, a psychiatrist at New York State Psychiatric Institute suggests.

Keep communicating

The morning after the first erectile difficulty is not the best time, nor is everyday after it happens. “The best thing to do is to discuss things outside of the bedroom – not right after it happens, but days or even weeks later," Dr Downey suggests. She further encourages the woman to speak about it like other medical issues, and not make the concern bigger and more difficult. Some men may feel more comfortable if the woman attends the doctor’s appointment, and others prefer to by themselves — whichever they choose, it is always good to offer support and encouragement.

Identify stressors that may be causing ED

One of the ways Medical News Today recommends to stop the cycle of performance anxiety, is to “identify what stressor or worry influenced the symptoms of ED. The cause may be simple, such as an upcoming project at work or planning a family trip.” When you are able to shift “the focus to the cause, rather than the symptoms, may help a person reduce the pressure to perform well every time, especially during times of increased stress.”

Consider therapeutic counselling

It’s understandable that you may feel awkward going and talking to a therapist for sexual difficulties, but trained therapist can help you overcome the “underlying emotional and psychological troubles that may be causing ED.” says Everyday Health. Just knowing what happens in therapy can help relieve some stress. Quality therapy happens in a real office with nicely appointed chairs; there is no sexual contact nor does the client get undressed. Some offices may offer teletherapy using video conferencing so you do not have to leave your phone. If you choose to do this therapy, just make sure they are a qualified, licensed therapist.

Most therapist begin the discussion by asking general questions such as ones about your health, education around sex, and what brought you to the office. Based off of these answers, a treatment plan can be created. One of the unique benefits of therapy is communication strategies, as the International Society for Sexual Health points out. In a session “clients may practice asking for what they want or need sexually or emotionally in a relationship,” and this is crucial because most couples do not know how to ask for intimacy, they just try to do it like they seen on television.

Remember this: real life intimacy requires good communication and learning what the other partner's wants and needs for intimacy to be meaningful.

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April Is Alcohol Awareness Month 2019

Posted Friday 05 April 2019 16:47 by in Weight loss by Tim Deakin

alcohol awareness

Alcohol addiction continues to be an issue on both a national and global scale. In their lifetime, one in every 12 adults – or 17.6 million people – will suffer from an alcohol use disorder or develop dependence on alcohol. [1]

Statistics like these are what make Alcohol Awareness Month so important. With its slogan “Help for Today, Hope for Tomorrow”, this year’s initiative aims to reduce the stigma associated with alcohol addiction by offering information, support and guidance.

Alcohol Awareness Month was founded and sponsored by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. To do our bit for Alcohol Awareness Month 2019, we’re here with further information to raise awareness of exactly what impact alcohol can have on your health.

Alcohol and your body

Alcohol and sleep

Many adults use alcohol to help them fall asleep, but while it can make you fall asleep fast, it also contributes to poorer quality sleep overall.[2] Drinking can aggravate breathing problems, block REM sleep and interrupt your circadian rhythm.

Alcohol and sexual function

One 2007 study found that 72% of male participants experienced sexual dysfunction, most notably premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction. The amount of alcohol consumed was the most significant factor in determining sexual problems.[3]

Alcohol and urine

Most drinkers are familiar with the sensation of ‘breaking the seal’, which occurs because alcohol is a diuretic. This means it acts on your kidneys and makes you pee out more than you take in. In fact, for every 1g of alcohol consumed, urine excretion increases by 10ml.[4] This can cause significant levels of dehydration.

Alcohol and blood pressure

Drinking too much can also impact your cardiovascular health, leading to a range of symptoms including high blood pressure. A 2013 study found that 16% of hypertension problems in the US are linked to excessive alcohol consumption.[5]

Alcohol and migraines

The NHS lists alcohol as one of the significant dietary triggers for migraines.[6] These can be hugely painful and debilitating headaches, often striking regularly throughout one’s life. You can find effective migraine medication at Express Pharmacy.

Alcohol and disease

Alcohol and liver disease

Currently, one in five people in the UK drink alcohol to a level which could harm their liver. This can lead to conditions like a build-up of fat in the liver, hepatitis and even cirrhosis, which affects one in 10 people who drink harmful amounts.[7]

Alcohol and cancer

Along with smoking, alcohol is one of the biggest preventable causes of cancer. Alcohol can cause up to 7 kinds of cancer, including breast cancer, liver cancer and bowel cancer.[8]

Alcohol and diabetes

There are several risk factors associated with Type 2 diabetes, including family history, age, weight and ethnic background. However, alcohol is another significant factor. Not only can it lead to weight gain, but excessive intake is also associated with an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes.[9]

Alcohol and heart disease

There is a very clear link between alcohol and high blood pressure. Over time, excessive alcohol can put further strain on the heart leading to cardiovascular disease, increasing your risk of heart disease and stroke.[10]

Alcohol and your appearance

Alcohol and physical appearance

Alcoholism can have a significant impact on your physical appearance. Factors like personal hygiene and general grooming can suffer, but excessive drinking can also lead to poor complexion, dark under-eye circles, dehydration, tiredness and an overall more haggard appearance.[11]

Alcohol and ‘beer bellies’

Drink large amounts of beer has been linked to both weight gain and an increase in belly fat. In fact, one study found that men who drank more than three drinks a day were 80% more likely to have a lot of belly fat.[12]

Alcohol and weight management

Alcohol and food equivalents

The average wine drinker takes in 2000kcal from alcohol every month, while drinking 5 pints a week for a year adds up to 44,000kcal. The NHS offers an insight into the calorie content and food equivalents of some of the UK’s most popular drinks. For example:

  • One standard glass of wine (126kcal) = 1 Cadbury Chocolate Mini Roll
  • One pint of 5% strength beer (215kcal) = 1 packet of McCoy’s salted crisps[13]

Alcohol and weight loss

As well as containing significant amounts of calories, alcohol can also prevent weight loss by lowering inhibitions, making a take away or a chocolate bar seem much more appealing. It can also make you less likely to exercise.[14]

You can find safe and effective weight loss medication at Express Pharmacy.

Alcohol and mental health

Alcoholism and dependence

Alcoholism is the most serious form of drinking problem. It describes a strong desire to drink which often can’t be controlled. For alcoholics, drinking takes priority over all obligations including work and family. It usually develops as instances of harmful drinking, or binge drinking, become more and more regular.[15]

Alcohol and anxiety

While alcohol may sedate anxiety in the short term, in the long term it can make it worse. This is true even for moderate amounts of alcohol. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that 20% of people with a social anxiety disorder also suffer from alcohol dependence.[16]

Alcohol and aggression

When we’re drunk, we’re more likely to misinterpret other people’s behaviour and react to things emotionally rather than logically. Alcohol reduces our ability to think straight, hence why aggression and alcohol are so closely linked. Binge drinking increases our chances of both being aggressive and being the subject of someone else’s aggression.[17]

Alcohol withdrawal

Withdrawal symptoms are almost always an aspect of alcohol dependence and are a clear sign that you are drinking too much. They may include physical symptoms like sweating, nausea and tremors, as well as psychological symptoms such as depression, irritability, anxiety and insomnia.[18]

Alcohol and depression

Depression is a common mental health concern, affecting one in five of us in our lifetime.[19] Drinking can make depression more likely. Over time, regular drinking lowers your levels of serotonin, the brain chemical that helps to regulate your mood, making you more susceptible to depression.[20] What’s more, drinking can create a vicious cycle whereby your relationships, work life and social life all suffer, which again can make depression more likely to occur.

Managing alcohol dependence can be a long and difficult road to navigate, but it isn’t one you should suffer alone. Speak to those around you or arrange an appointment with a GP to start making positive changes to your life today – one step at a time.

If you have any queries or concerns about your health, contact Express Pharmacy today. We offer access to effective medication easily and discreetly. Get in touch today using our Live Chat service or by calling 0208 123 07 03.


[1] Facing Addiction. Alcohol Awareness Month — April 2019. 2019

[2] National Sleep Foundation. How Alcohol Affects the Quality — and Quantity — Of Sleep. 2018

[3] Aracknal, B.S., Benegal, V. Prevalence of sexual dysfunction in male subjects with alcohol dependence. 2007

[4] Drink Aware. Why Does Alcohol Make You Pee More? 2018

[5] Loyke, H.F., MD. Five Phases of Blood Pressure in Alcoholics. 2013

[6] NHS. Migraines. 2019

[7] British Liver Trust. Alcohol and Liver Disease. 2019

[8] Cancer Research UK. Does alcohol cause cancer? 2018

[9] Diabetes UK. Alcohol and diabetes. 2018

[10] British Heart Foundation. Effects of alcohol on your heart. 2017

[11] Alcohol Awareness. What are the physical signs of alcoholism? 2016

[12] Schröder, H. et al. Relationship of abdominal obesity with alcohol consumption at population scale. 2007

[13] NHS. Calories in Alcohol. 2016

[14] Drink Aware. How does alcohol affect weight loss? 2017

[15] Drink Aware. What is alcoholism? 2019

[16] Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Social Anxiety Disorder and Alcohol Abuse. 2018

[17] Home Office. Violence in the night-time economy: key findings from the research. 2004

[18] Drink Aware. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms. 2017

[19] Royal College of Psychiatrists. Depression. 2019

[20] Pietraszek, M.H. et al. Alcohol-induced depression involvement in serotonin. 1991

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For Better and for Worse: How Our Dietary Habits Have Changed

Posted Friday 29 March 2019 14:12 by in Weight loss by Marina Abdalla

The health of UK adults is constantly shifting – with both positive and negative effects. For example, in 2016/17 there were 617,000 admissions to NHS hospitals in which obesity was a factor, a rise of 18% on 2015/16.[1] This is an important fact to note, as obesity is associated with a range of serious health concerns including several forms of cancer.[2]

However, in other ways our health is becoming more positive overall. For example, the UK has seen a huge reduction in deaths from infectious disease. In 1901, around a third of deaths were due to infectious disease, but now this is around 8%.[3]

Now, newly released results from a nine-year analysis of the UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey has provided a clear holistic picture of our nation’s health, for better and worse. Let’s take a look.

THE GOOD: We’ve seen a large drop in fizzy drink consumption

The findings report that a significant number of children are turning their backs on fizzy drinks, with numbers falling by a third in the last nine years. Around half of children do not drink them, and those that that do are consuming less than children did a decade ago in 2008-2009.[4]

This has helped to contribute to a larger overall reduction in sugar consumption across the country.

Researchers asked people to keep a diary over four days, and those who did not drink any fizzy drinks in that time were categorised as ‘non-consumers’. These accounted for over half of all respondents.

What’s more, these tests were carried out before the tax on sugary drinks was introduced in 2018.

THE BAD: More needs to be done to help increase fruit and vegetable intake

It wasn’t all good news. The report, from the Food Standards Agency and Public Health England, also found that fruit and vegetable consumption has not improved, and remains under the recommended five-a-day. Fibre intake has also fallen, as had vitamin and mineral consumption overall.[5]

The government campaign for five-a-day was launched in 2003, but seems to have had little effect. The campaign was based on advice from the World Health Organisation that eating a minimum of 400 grams of fruit and vegetables a day can lower the risk of serious health concerns like stroke, heart disease and various forms of cancer.[6]

The importance of lifestyle changes

What these results show is that improving your health begins by making the right lifestyle changes, be that increasing your fruit and veg intake or cutting down on high-sugar products.

Other examples of positive lifestyle changes would be engaging in regular exercise, which can help with weight management, mental health and cardiovascular health[7], or quitting smoking. Smoking is the single biggest avoidable risk factor for cancer, and it also plays a role in a whole host of other health concerns such as respiratory disease, diabetes and reproductive issues.[8]

Of course, medical intervention is often required for a wide range of physical and mental health concerns, be it in the form of surgery, counsel or medication. However, changing your lifestyle in positive ways is the ideal starting point for improving your health in the long run.

At Express Pharmacy, you’ll find medication for a range of health concerns, such as weight management, erectile dysfunction and smoking cessation. Our simple 3-step services makes it easy to access treatment quickly and discreetly. Get in touch to find out more. Call 0208 123 07 03 or use our Live Chat service.


[1] NHS Digital. Statistics on Obesity, Physical Activity and Diet. 2018 [Accessed March 2019]

[2] Cancer Research UK. Overweight and obesity statistics. 2018 [Accessed March 2019]

[3] Public Health Matters. 10 facts that sum up our nation’s health in 2017. 2017, Public Health England [Accessed Mach 2019]

[4] Public Health England. UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey. 2018 [Accessed March 2019]

[5] Public Health England. UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey. 2018 [Accessed March 2019]

[6] NHS UK. Why 5 a day? 2018 [Accessed March 2019]

[7] Bupa. Benefits of exercise. 2019 [Accessed March 2019]

[8] Action on Smoking and Health. Fact Sheets. 2018 [Accessed March 2019]

Tags: General Health Weight Loss

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Is Malaria Really That Serious?

Posted Thursday 28 March 2019 17:41 by in Anti Malaria by Johanna Galyen

It’s been around for centuries. We all know we should avoid it, protect ourselves from it, use the right medications to prevent it, and a net to protect our beds at night from it – but why? Why is malaria such a big deal? It’s 2019, should you really worry about a tiny mosquito as you travel on holiday this summer? Why is such a tiny little pest causing so many problems?

The answer is rather scary. The World Health Organisation stated “There were an estimated 219 million cases of malaria in 90 countries. Malaria deaths reached 435,000 in 2017.” While many measures are in place to help lower these terrible statistics, the prevalence of malaria is something that should not be ignored.

You need to know the symptoms of malaria

After being bitten by a mosquito carrying malaria, there are no symptoms initially. Only the female Anopheles mosquitos carry malaria, and they’re actually carrying a parasite that is injected into your bloodstream when they bite. These little ladies do not leave a bite mark, and the site does not swell up or does spot itch as most people think of mosquito bites. This is one of the reasons that the bite is so dangerous; you probably don’t even know that it happened.

The symptoms can take one to two weeks to appear (or even a year) in your body because the parasite travels to your liver and begins to grow there. The National Health Service (NHS) says that Malaria’s symptoms are similar initially to a flu-like illness:

  • High fever, above 38° C
  • Chills and sweats alternating
  • Headaches
  • Muscle aches
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea

Without proper care, malaria can cause liver failure, fluid in the lungs (pulmonary oedema), kidney failure, anaemia, and ultimately death.

You Need to Know Where Malaria is Prevalent

Malaria countries, or countries affected by Malaria, are located in Africa, Central and South America, some parts of the Caribbean, Asia, Eastern Europe, and the South Pacific. Mosquitos like warm, moist climates and thrive in areas near bodies of water.

Africa has the most significant amount of malaria, according to WHO, and “it was found that 92% of malaria cases and 93% of malaria deaths was prevalent here” in 2017. The World Health Organisation also stated that “In 2017, five countries accounted for nearly half of all malaria cases worldwide: Nigeria (25%), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (11%), Mozambique (5%), India (4%) and Uganda (4%).”

You Need to Know How to Protect Yourself

If you are travelling to an area that has Malaria, there are many necessary steps to protect yourself from this disease. Each of the three preventative steps is important, but none of them will protect 100%. Therefore, if possible, you should utilise all three ways simultaneously.

1.Anti-Malarial Medications

Anti-Malarial medications work to destroy the parasite within the body. Three of these medications are Doxycycline, Malarone or Lariam. Because Malaria is a parasite that has different growing stages, these medications must be taken prior, during, and after your trip (for a certain number of weeks) to ensure that your body has the right amount of malaria-fighting properties in it. If you do not take the medication in its entirety, some of the parasites may survive.

While the three medications are equal in their effectiveness, they each come with differing side effects and interactions. It is essential that you speak with your GP to ensure that you take the right medication for you.

2. Malaria Net for Your Bed

A simple mosquito net for your bed is very inexpensive. It is so financially cheap that you may wonder why a net is so important? To help you understand this, it is good to remember that the female Anopheles mosquito doesn’t start working at 8 am. She likes to work late at night around 10 pm to 2 am, which most people are going to bed or asleep at these times. To prevent even one mosquito from biting you, a simple net can help protect you.

3. Bug Spray

So if you’re taking the medications and using a net, is bug spray still needed? The answer is yes. Bug spray is helpful if you are going to be up and moving during the later hours of the evening, such as walking outside of your tent to use the restroom. According to Fit for Travel, it is best to use a bug spray that has at least DEET 20-30%, Picaridin 20%, or Lemon eucalyptus 30%. They each smell differently, have varying concentrations and warnings and should be reapplied at different intervals. It is important to look carefully at your bug spray's directions and follow it’s recommendations.

You Need to Know What To Do If You Think You Have Malaria

Just like most illnesses, the sooner you can begin treatment for Malaria, the better it is for your body. So if you start experiencing symptoms, it is best to get to your healthcare provider and be tested. It is crucial to inform your doctor that you have been in an area that has Malaria so they can order the right blood tests that may be missed otherwise.

A thick blood smear is currently the most sensitive test accord to Lab Test Online, and it is considered to be “the gold standard” of testing. By taking a few large drops of blood, smearing it on a glass slide, and looking at it under a microscope, the doctor can search for the Plasmodium parasite.

If you do have Malaria, your GP may prescribe medication for you. Currently, Artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) are used to treat Malaria. In years past, Chloroquine was used, but many types of Malaria have become resistant against them. Some physicians may use anti-malarial drugs in combination with ACT therapy as well. Whichever medications you are prescribed, it is important to take the entire dose of medicine in the right quantity each day. Even if you start to feel better after a few days, you must take all of the medication to ensure that all of the parasites are destroyed.

Conclusion

Malaria is a serious illness that you should take the appropriate preventative steps to avoid. Even though it has been around for centuries, it is still a significant threat to your health in 2019. So as you plan for your holiday this season, be sure to research and make the right plans for your trip. A little bit of planning and preventative steps can ensure that you will be healthy and able to enjoy your time away!

Being prepared for Malaria is very important, and we are here to help you get ready in the most effective way possible. Discover medications for your anti-malarial needs – here at Express Pharmacy. We can help you gain access to effective treatment swiftly and discreetly. Contact us today by calling 0208 123 07 03 or by using our online Live Chat service.

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How to Spot the Differences Between Hay Fever and a Cold

Posted Monday 18 March 2019 13:31 by in Hay Fever and Allergy Relief by Johanna Galyen

hay fever medication

As the cold weather turns into springtime, we start to feel the urge to get outside and enjoy the flowers, budding trees, gentle breezes, and sunshine. The excitement of the warmer weather can quickly dampen with the coming of hay fever season. But is it really hay fever? Is the scratchy sore throat a sign of allergies or an infection? Isn’t it still cold and flu season? Should I just stay home from work? Before the panic starts to ensue, let’s stop for a few moments and look at the eight differences between hay fever and the common cold.

1: The common cold is caused by a viral infection

According to Medical News Today, the common cold is most frequently from coronaviruses or rhinoviruses. While there are over 200 subtypes of viruses that can cause these symptoms, it is usually impossible to tell which virus is making a person sick. Thankfully, these viruses are generally short-lived, and you’ll start to feel better pretty soon.

2. Hay Fever is caused by an allergic reaction

pollen countThe body protects itself through the immune system. The immune system works 24:7 to protect you from germs, viruses, and bacteria. For those susceptible to hay fever, the pollen is identified as an invader and many symptoms like allergic rhinitis can be seen. Just know this: your immune system wants it gone!

To get rid of the allergen, the body produces histamine. Histamine is similar to a chemical messenger in that it signals your body to start making more fluids and mucus to trap the invader and flush it away. What does that mean for you? Hay fever can produce watery eyes, fluid in your ears, congestion in your nose, and a draining-like sensation in the back of your throat.

As annoying as these symptoms are, the body is just trying to protect itself from the foreign invaders. To treat these symptoms, your GP may recommend some antihistamines (a medicine that fights against the histamine).

3. An itchy throat is different than a sore throat

When you first notice that dreaded feeling in your throat, stop and evaluate what you are really feeling. There is a difference between a dry, scratchy (itchy) throat and a painful throat. Pain and soreness usually indicate an infection like the common cold. Severe throat pain may mean that you have a bacterial infection like strep throat.

A scratchy, itchy feeling in your throat is typical of allergies. This feeling is caused by the presence of pollen or growing grasses that irritates your nose and mouth.

A word of caution: An itchy throat is also a sign of a dangerous allergic reaction, called anaphylaxis. It may be accompanied by a swelling or a tight closing sensation in the back of your throat. Sometimes, a person’s voice may start sounding – typically higher-pitched and more strained. If you have any of these symptoms, seek medical treatment immediately by calling 999.

4. Check the colour of your mucus

This may sound a little bit gross, but the colour of your mucus is helpful to determine if you have allergies or illness. Clear drainage is typical of allergies whereas shades of yellow and green can indicate an infection. If you are seeing green, then you should be seeing your general practitioner.

Here’s a tip: don’t check the colour of the mucus for the first few hours when you wake up. During the night, the mucus can dry out somewhat, and it naturally turns yellow, greenish, and brown. Wait a few hours, and then see what colour it is.

5. Look at your eyes

The Eyes are the window to your soul – Shakespeare

Shakespeare wasn’t a physician, but he was very accurate when talking about the eyes. How your eyes look also can reflect your health. Symptoms of hay fever that involves the eyes can include:

  • Redness around the eyes
  • Itching of the eyes
  • Clear watering or tearing of the eyes
  • Puffiness around the eye
  • Pain around the sinuses

Sometimes a cold virus can affect the eyes, so it is important to highlight how the similarities and differences. Those who have a cold virus may experience:

  • Redness of the eye (also known as pink-eye)
  • Soreness around the eyes
  • Yellow or green drainage (worse in the mornings)
  • Painful eyes
  • Sinus pressure and pain

Remember, if you have yellow or green drainage coming out of your eyes, this should be handled carefully. The drainage can carry the virus and can be shared with others, so wash your hands frequently!

6. Timing is important

The timing, or the progression of a cold virus, is different than allergies. A cold often comes on slowly over a few days and progressively gets worse. Allergies can attack you at any time with any range of severity. How long that you are ill is also important to note. The common cold typically lasts up to 14 days. Allergies can last for weeks and months.

Here’s a tip: check the pollen counts for the day, and see if you should protect your nose and mouth from the pollen before you go outside.

7. Do you have body aches and a fever?

Aching joints and muscle pains are often the symptoms of the common cold or flu virus. These typically occur at the beginning of the infection. Additionally, if your body temperature goes above 37.6° C, this usually indicates that you have a fever as your body is trying to kill the virus.

Seasonal allergies, like hay fever, do not cause body aches or fever in most people. Some people may experience a slight increase in temperature, but it is really a fever unless your temperature passes 37.6° C or 100.4° F.

8. Is there an Allergic Salute?

Just as a member of the military salutes a higher-ranking official, there is a salute for allergies. The so-called allergic salute refers to the constant wiping of one’s nose. It can create a small red crease on the bridge of the nose, and it is most often seen in children. Adults, who suffer from hay fever, can also have this redness.

Those with the common cold typically have red, puffy noses from constant blowing, but they do not have the crease on their nose or are seen wiping it continually.

Knowing the difference between hay fever and the common cold is important for your health. In some situations, you may need additional support, treatment, and medication. Discover medication for a variety of health concerns – from antihistamines to nasal sprays – here at Express Pharmacy. We can help you gain access to effective treatment for hay fever swiftly and discreetly. Contact us today by calling 0208 123 07 03 or by using our online Live Chat service.

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