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The Practitioner

The Practitioner contributes to the formal clinical literature and is primarily aimed at GPs, with subscribers throughout the World. All articles in The Practitioner online include CPD frameworks for personal reflection on learning and drafting of plans that will have an impact on practice. Preset search links to PubMed and NICE Evidence are associated with most major articles.

 

Symposium articles

Detailed history the cornerstone of epilepsy diagnosis

24 Sep 2020Paid-up subscribers

The incidence of epilepsy in the UK is estimated to be 50 per 100,000 per year and up to 1% of the population have active epilepsy. The diagnosis of epilepsy will usually be made in a neurology clinic. A generalised seizure as part of a generalised epilepsy syndrome may occur without warning but may be preceded by blank spells or myoclonic jerks. A generalised seizure with focal onset may be preceded by an aura. Brain imaging is required in almost all cases where epilepsy is suspected, the only possible exception being people with generalised epilepsies proven on EEG. MRI is the imaging modality of choice.

GPs should be vigilant for acute deterioration in myasthenia gravis

24 Sep 2020Paid-up subscribers

Myasthenia gravis is an autoimmune disorder of neuromuscular junction transmission. It is relatively rare, with an approximate annual incidence of 1 per 100,000 population, and prevalence of 15 per 100,000 population in the UK. An ocular presentation may include fatiguing ptosis or diplopia. Typically, symptoms ‘fatigue’ (the physical power of the muscle deteriorates rapidly with repeated activity) and become more noticeable as the day progresses. More generalised symptoms include fatiguing difficulty with speech or swallowing. There may be fatiguing weakness of the arms and legs. The diagnosis will usually be confirmed by referral to a neurologist. 

 

Special reports

Optimising the management of depression in children

24 Jul 2020Registered users

In a large meta-analysis, the prevalence of depression was twice as common in adolescents (5.7%) than children (2.8%). The 2:1 female to male ratio of depression seen in adults becomes apparent from the age of 12 years. Three quarters of children aged 3-17 years with depression also have anxiety, and almost half have associated behaviour problems. Depression should be treated by child and adolescent mental health services unless the episode is mild and of < 2-3 months’ duration.

Diagnosis and management of thyroid dysfunction in primary care

22 Jun 2020Registered users

Hyperthyroidism affects up to 2% of women in the UK and the US and is ten times more common in women than men. In regions with normal levels of iodine, hyperthyroidism is caused by Graves’ disease in 60-80% of cases. In regions with iodine insufficiency toxic nodular disease (caused by toxic adenomas) accounts for 50% of cases of hyperthyroidism and this aetiology is more common in older people. Patients with hyperthyroidism should be referred. Overt hypothyroidism is present in 0.2-5% of the population and is more common in women and with advancing age. It is usually managed in primary care and rarely requires referral.

 

Paediatrics

Prompt treatment of impetigo reduces risk of spread

22 Jun 2020Paid-up subscribers

Impetigo is a common contagious bacterial infection of the skin. The causative organisms are either Staphylococcus aureus or, less commonly, Streptococcus pyogenes. The infection can occur at any age, but it is particularly common in children, especially the pre-school and early school age years, and tends to be more frequent during the summer months. It may arise on previously normal skin or complicate a pre-existing dermatosis. The diagnosis is essentially a clinical one, but if in doubt a swab should be taken for bacteriological culture.

Improving the detection and management of peanut allergy

25 May 2020Registered users

Peanut allergy currently affects around 2% of the population. It is the most common cause of fatal food related anaphylaxis. Most patients (80%) will have long-lived peanut allergy. Primary peanut allergy most commonly presents in the first 5 years of life after the first known exposure to peanut. Clinical features are those of an IgE-mediated reaction. All patients with a history suggestive of peanut allergy should be referred to an allergy clinic for comprehensive assessment and management.

Early recognition key in child and adolescent anxiety disorders

23 Apr 2020Registered users

Anxiety disorders are common, highly treatable conditions, with a strong evidence base for cognitive behaviour therapy. In a recent population sample of the under 12s, only 65% of those who met criteria for a diagnosis of an anxiety disorder had sought professional help and only 3.4% had received an evidence-based treatment. Assessment should include an exploration of neurodevelopmental conditions, drug and alcohol misuse, and speech and language problems.

Improving outcomes in allergic rhinitis in children

24 Jun 2019Paid-up subscribers

Allergic rhinitis can affect a child’s physical health, reduce their quality of life, sleep and concentration, and impact on school performance. Children with allergic rhinitis are at increased risk of developing asthma. Around 85% of those with asthma have allergic rhinitis, which can complicate diagnosis and management and also increase the risk of hospitalisation for asthma exacerbations. However, appropriate management of allergic rhinitis can improve asthma control. The diagnosis of allergic rhinitis can usually be made on the basis of the patient’s history and examination alone. 

 

Women's health

Have a high index of suspicion for ectopic pregnancy

24 Mar 2020Registered users

Ectopic pregnancy is estimated to occur in 1-2% of all pregnancies and continues to be the leading cause of maternal mortality in early pregnancy. Most ectopic pregnancies are located within the fallopian tube and carry a risk of tubal rupture and intra-abdominal bleeding. Women with ectopic pregnancy can present in a wide variety of ways, from acute collapse following rupture to asymptomatic and unaware that they are pregnant. Symptoms may include vaginal bleeding and abdominal pain. There may also be non-specific symptoms such as Gl and urinary symptoms, rectal pressure, dizziness, shoulder tip pain, fainting or syncope. 

 

Men's health

Managing bothersome LUTS

23 Apr 2020Registered users

Lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) in men can be defined by clinical symptoms arising from the bladder, bladder neck, urethral sphincter, urethra or prostate. Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) is the most common cause of LUTS. By 80 years of age almost 90% of men have developed BPH at varying symptomatic levels. If the patient’s symptoms and examination findings are suspicious of cancer then an urgent two week wait referral should be made to urology. Other reasons for referral include: complicated LUTS with recurrent or persistent UTI, retention, renal impairment, stress incontinence or bothersome LUTS not resolved by conservative or drug management.

Optimising the management of early prostate cancer

23 Apr 2020

Men born after 1960 in the UK now have a 1 in 6 estimated lifetime risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer. NICE recommends that men over 50 years old who request a PSA test should be fully counselled about the test beforehand. The test should also be offered to men with LUTS or an abnormal DRE. If the prostate feels malignant on DRE this should trigger a fast track referral to secondary care, via a suspected cancer pathway referral, even if the PSA is normal. Men with PSA values above the age-specific reference range should also be referred to urology urgently, via a suspected cancer pathway referral.

 

Psychiatry

GPs have a pivotal role in bipolar disorder

25 May 2020Paid-up subscribers

Bipolar disorder is a complex, recurrent, severe and potentially lifelong mental illness. The peak age of onset is 15-19 years, with most cases developing before the age of 30. It is crucial to distinguish bipolar from unipolar depression not only as an essential starting point for appropriate treatment and risk management, but also to avoid antidepressant monotherapy which can exacerbate the frequency and severity of mood symptoms and cause resistance to appropriate medications.

Treating psychological trauma in the real world

23 Jan 2020Paid-up subscribers

After a potentially traumatic event (PTE), many individuals experience either no distress or only transient distress, while others suffer considerable morbidity and may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Around one-third of people experiencing a PTE will develop PTSD, though this varies depending on the type of traumatic event and rates of PTSD are higher with type 2 trauma. Type 2 trauma involves repeated traumatic experiences over extended periods. Although PTSD symptoms can be present acutely, the diagnosis requires the persistence of symptoms for at least one month and the symptoms should cause functional impairment.

Early intervention key in first episode psychosis

20 Dec 2019Paid-up subscribers

Psychosis is a state of mind in which a person loses contact with reality in at least one important respect while not intoxicated with, or withdrawing from, alcohol or drugs, and while not affected by an acute physical illness that better accounts for the symptoms. Common positive symptoms of psychosis include delusions and hallucinations. These symptoms are strongly influenced by the underlying cause of the psychosis: delusions in schizophrenia tend to be bizarre; delusions in depression negative; delusions in mania expansive. When a patient presents with psychotic symptoms, it is important to take a full psychiatric history, perform a mental state examination and complete relevant investigations, as indicated in each individual case.

GPs are central to improving care of schizophrenia patients

20 Dec 2019Paid-up subscribers

Schizophrenia often runs a chronic course and is associated with considerable morbidity and mortality. While psychotic symptoms are the most obvious manifestations of the condition, negative symptoms (e.g. apathy and withdrawal) and cognitive symptoms (especially deficits in executive function) are often more disabling. It generally presents in late adolescence or early adulthood. Schizophrenia typically develops insidiously, potentially over several years. The GP is ideally placed to respond to family concerns, identify prodromal symptoms, screen for psychotic symptoms and initiate either a mental health review or active monitoring in primary care.

 

Editorials

Physical activity significantly reduces all-cause and cause-specific mortality

24 Jul 2020Registered users

Following recommendations for both aerobic and muscle strengthening activity can reduce all-cause mortality by up to 40%, a study of nearly half a million adults in the United States has shown. Individuals who met the target for aerobic activity only also had a significant reduction in all-cause mortality risk of 29% and those who participated in just muscle strengthening exercise at recommended levels had a reduction in risk of 11%.

 

HASLAM's view

What made you choose your practice?

24 Jul 2020Registered users

Kindness and thoughtfulness matter hugely in any working relationship, probably far more than premises, academic brilliance, list size, workload or income. General practice is a team game, and whatever your role in the organisation it matters that we treat each other with civility and kindness. 

 

Research reviews - by GPs with a special interest

Lifestyle intervention reduces risk factors in older patients with coronary artery disease

24 Jul 2020Registered users

Patients aged 65 years and over with coronary artery disease benefitted at least as much as younger patients in improving lifestyle risk factors in a community-based trial from the Netherlands. Older patients were more likely to achieve the weight loss target and stop smoking. Younger patients were more likely to show no improvement in lifestyle risk factors.

 

Cancer - Open access

Optimising the management of early prostate cancer

23 Apr 2020

Men born after 1960 in the UK now have a 1 in 6 estimated lifetime risk of being diagnosed with prostate cancer. NICE recommends that men over 50 years old who request a PSA test should be fully counselled about the test beforehand. The test should also be offered to men with LUTS or an abnormal DRE. If the prostate feels malignant on DRE this should trigger a fast track referral to secondary care, via a suspected cancer pathway referral, even if the PSA is normal. Men with PSA values above the age-specific reference range should also be referred to urology urgently, via a suspected cancer pathway referral.

Time to diagnosis key in improving lung cancer outcomes

25 Nov 2019

NICE recommends urgent referral via a suspected cancer referral pathway to the two week wait service if: chest X-ray findings suggest lung cancer or if patients aged 40 and over have unexplained haemoptysis. However, studies have indicated that around 20-25% of patients with confirmed lung cancer may have a chest X-ray reported as normal and this figure may be higher for early stage lung cancers. Therefore, the National Optimal Lung Cancer Pathway recommends that where there is a high suspicion of underlying malignancy (but the chest X-ray is normal), GPs should refer patients directly for a CT scan.

 

A hundred and fifty years ago

150 years ago: Sarsaparilla therapy in syphilis

24 Jul 2020Registered users

The antisyphilitic effects of sarsaparilla depend upon the dose in which it is given. The treatment has been in use for a quarter of a century at least in the Leeds Infirmary and no one has yet published the results. The cases in which sarsaparilla is most useful are cases in which the system is thoroughly infected with syphilis, during the tertiary and visceral modes of its appearances.Two cases will do to illustrate my opinions.

 

A hundred years ago

100 years ago: Where there's life there's hope

24 Jul 2020Registered users

Hope is the greatest motive power in the world. As a strong moral force alike in matters temporal and spiritual, it would be strange if such a powerful incentive to action did not find its place in the practice of medicine.  It is a good rule never to “give up” on a patient; exceptions will occur no doubt in this as with most rules. To give up hope is to give up effort, and it is here the tragedy comes in. Cases illustrating the value of a “never give up hope” attitude crowd on the memory. Of course the most sanguine and persevering must expect failure at times, but he will have the satisfaction of having had a good try.