Monthly Archives: January, 2011

Don’t You Make Your Brown Eyes Blue

Opticians have warned that the current trend of young adults wearing colored contact lenses could damage their eyes. Inspired by Lady Gaga in her video “Bad Romance” (see below), thousands have now  bought these contact lenses from foreign websites for around USD 30, without an eye examination or a prescription. Popular with teenage girls and women in their twenties, they imitate the round, oversize eyes of Japanese anime characters.

Eye specialists worldwide are expressing concern that people are buying online without proper fitting as all eyes are not of the same shape and size.  The lenses could fit too tightly. That could decrease the amount of oxygen reaching the eye and if untreated, the blood vessels can grow through the line of sight, causing permanent vision impairment.

A bewildering range of lenses are available - but never buy them online

Other possible dangers include allergic reactions, corneal ulcers, corneal scarring and abnormal blood vessel growth in the cornea (which can cause permanent blindness).

Corneal Ulcers - the most dreaded complication of wearing contact lenses - can lead to permanent blindness


However, eye specialists seem not to be too concerned if these lenses are prescribed by opticians, after due examination and measurements have been undertaken.

Coffee – Good or Bad?

Some patients asked recently whether coffee was good for one’s health. Part of the recent upsurge in interest in the health benefits of this beverage has been the shift in marketing strategy by coffee-makers locally in promoting it as a rich source of anti-oxidants.

coffeePourPlain Black Coffee – rich in antioxidants and with zero calories


Yes, coffee is a rich source of anti-oxidants, like chlorogenic acid and melanoidins, the latter being the most important component of roasted coffee. Some of the other beneficial effect of drinking coffee include:

  1. Reducing the incidence of Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s. Read “A Cup of Coffee a Day will Keep Alzheimer’s Away”.
  2. Protecting against diabetes. Moderate consumption  may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes in younger and middle aged women.
  3. Preventing liver disease and the formation of liver and kidney stones.
  4. The beneficial effects of caffeine in coffee on alertness, attentiveness, and wakefulness.

And the bad news? Among other things:

  1. Unfiltered coffee (as in Turkish coffee and kahawa) raises blood cholesterol. Filtered coffee, as in instant coffee, does not do so as diterpenes, responsible for raising cholesterol, are removed by filtration.
  2. Coffee consumption is also associated with an increase of plasma homocysteine, a risk factor for coronary heart disease.
  3. Caffeine in coffee can increase the risk of elevated blood pressure and hardening of the arteries, as well as palpitations.
  4. 4 cups or more will hasten osteoporosis, especially in those with low calcium intake in the diet.
  5. Coffee increases heartburn, aka gastro-eosophageal reflux disease (GERD).

What about heart disease? The verdict’s not in just yet..on one hand, diterpenes cause a rise in cholesterol and homocysteine but this seems balanced by the beneficial anti-oxidant properties.

I ought to clarify here that we are talking about coffee, just coffee. The pendulum swings the other way when we consume coffee with additives like milk and sugar. The latte at the local Starbucks will add on quite a substantial amount of fats, sugars and calories (260 to be precise, see here). Compare that to the ZERO calories of plain black coffee!


Gotten into a heated discussion recently about coffee preventing a proper sleep? Some people find that the mild stimulation of caffeine consumed even hours before bed time delays sleep, while others can consume a cup which will knock them out in no time! This paradox has never been fully explained even in medical circles..

Cosmetic Surgery, Hair We Come..

What does a celebrity do when your business empire is tottering, your ratings are falling and you have a much-publicised spat with your relatives? Do a make-over, of course. Ask Gordon Ramsay.

The hot-tempered foul-mouthed chef had quite a few cosmetic appointments recently. On the advice of Simon Cowell, he had his teeth whitened and Botox injections to smoothen out his crinkly chin. And, last month, he was reported to have undergone a USD 50,000 hair transplant in Los Angeles.

Gordon Ramsay - after (left) the teeth whitener, Botox and hair transplant. A distinct change from before(right)

This latest method of hair transplant, called follicular unit extraction, is now widely available and involves a time -consuming process of a cosmetic surgeon employing a 1mm diameter punch to extract the healthy follicle from the scalp at the back of the head without causing damage before implanting it again elsewhere.  Up to 6,000 grafts can be done in  in one day. In other words, 6,000 hair pieces are laboriously removed one by one and replanted into the bald areas of the scalp.

Understandably, it is more costly but much more acceptable than the older method of strip-harvesting, where pieces of the scalp are transplanted. Why use hair from the back of the head? That’s because follicles at the back of the head are less sensitive to the circulating male hormone which causes hair to thin and shorten. Once relocated they continue to behave as if they are still alive.

Looking at the results of some patients and friends of mine, the hair ‘growth’ is astounding and natural-looking. Even so, a successful procedure depends on 2 things: finding enough hair at the back of the scalp in the first place and getting a good cosmetic surgeon to do it.

Doctor2008’s Top Healthcare Stories of 2010

As we herald the new decade, and leave 2010 behind, the year seemed devoid of blockbuster healthcare issues, but I subsequently changed my mind upon deeper review. Here’s my updated  list:

1. The Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill – the sheer magnitude of this man-made disaster on the environment is mind-boggling. 5 million barrels of crude oil were spilled from April to July, causing permanent ecological damage to 1000 miles of coastline, adverse effects on the fishing and tourism industry, poisoning of the global food chain, not to mention the 11 lives lost during the explosion.

A brown pelican grounded by oil slick at a Florida beach (AP)

2. Haiti Double Whammy – the January earthquake resulted in a quarter million deaths with over 300,000 injured. Barely had the people recovered from the economic and health effects, when the spectre of cholera, never before seen in Haiti, appeared in October, causing over 3,300 deaths, as at end-December.

Cholera, largely due to over-crowding and poor sanitation, is causing 50 deaths a day in Haiti

3. AIDS breakthrough – among the doom and gloom, AIDS treatment research made tremendous breakthrough in 2010. Among the good news:

  • Men taking Gilead’s pill Truvada daily as a preventive measure reduced their risk of catching HIV by 44%.
  • U.S. government scientists also discovered two potent human antibodies that can stop more than 90% of known global HIV strains from infecting human cells, thus giving hope for a vaccine to prevent AIDS.

AIDS Vaccine - nearing Reality in 2011

4. The Battle of the Bulge – I had written in an earlier posting that practically all slimming pills have been banned due to safety reasons (see Where Have All The Slimming Pills Gone? Taking that obesity is a major healthcare issue worldwide, the pharma industry is racing to produce a safe diet pill which will produce a block-buster which will bring in untold profits. While the FDA rejected Arena’s lorcaserin and Vivus’s Qnexa, Orexigen Therapeutics’s  Contrave had received a thumbs up.

Contrave - recently obtained FDA approval as a diet pill

5. CPR Change – for as long as many care to remember, CPR meant a combination of chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth breathing, the latter a common reason why bystanders were somewhat reluctant to get involved, In 2010, new guidelines were introduced where the so-called  kiss of  life was abolished. Read my post here.

6. Misleading Marketing by Cord Blood Banks – ABC News found the costs of private banking outweigh the potential benefits to many families.

In their marketing material, many private banking firms tout an impressive list of 70 to 80 diseases that purportedly are treated by stem cell transplants. But research has yet to prove that stem cells from cord blood work for all of the listed conditions. Private cord blood banks store blood on the possibility that in the future, there will be diseases that will affect the baby for which stem cells found in the cord blood can be used then to cure the disease.

A baby's cord blood is stored in banks, to be used in the future to cure diseases which may affict the child -myth or reality?



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