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Be vigilant for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in primary care

28 Jul 2017Registered users

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is now the most common cause of chronic liver disease in the Western world. Between 10 and 30% of NAFLD patients will develop non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) with a risk of progression to cirrhosis. Of those with NASH and fibrosis at presentation, studies have suggested that approximately 21% of patients will have some regression of fibrosis while 38% of patients will progress over five years’ follow-up.

Chronic pancreatitis may be overlooked and undertreated

28 Jul 2017Registered users

The prevalence of chronic pancreatitis is variable, with estimates between 4 and 52.4 per 100,000. A mismatch exists between reported incidence and prevalence in many studies suggesting chronic pancreatitis is under recognised. One cause for this mismatch is that once diagnosed many patients are lost to secondary care follow-up. Therefore, although a GP may only see two new cases during their career they are likely to encounter patients requiring recurrent consultations.

Early referral key to better outcomes in eating disorders

22 Jun 2017Registered users

Early recognition, referral and treatment are essential to achieve good outcomes for children and adolescents with eating disorders. Eating disorders have the highest mortality of all psychiatric conditions. However, provided there is access to early and evidence-based treatment, the majority of patients who are diagnosed with an eating disorder before the age of 18 will make a full recovery. Overall, outcomes in this age group are better than in adults. All children and adolescents with a possible eating disorder should be referred to their local specialist community-based eating disorder service for children and young people as soon as possible.

Diagnosing heart disease in children and adolescents

22 Jun 2017Registered users

Heart disease in children and adolescents can be congenital, in which structural defects of the heart and major blood vessels are present from birth, acquired, whereby disease develops during life, or genetic, including diseases affecting the heart muscle, electrical system or the aorta. The incidence of congenital heart disease has decreased over the past 30 years, with approximately 1 in 180 babies born with congenital heart disease in the UK each year. Several cardiac diseases are genetic and can manifest in childhood. Most are primary cardiomyopathies, ion channel diseases, coronary artery disease from familial hypercholesterolaemia or aortopathies.

Diagnosing and managing mild cognitive impairment

23 May 2017Paid-up subscribers

The prevalence of mild cognitive impairment in adults aged 65 and over is estimated to be 10-20%. It is likely that this figure will increase in line with trends in dementia diagnosis. In some cases, mild cognitive impairment may be a prodrome for dementia, and may be caused by any of the dementia pathology subtypes. It is important to obtain a history of cognitive changes over time, as well as information about the onset and nature of cognitive symptoms, confirmed by a reliable informant, if available.

Be vigilant for dementia in Parkinson’s disease

23 May 2017Paid-up subscribers

It is estimated that up to 80% of patients with Parkinson’s disease will eventually develop cognitive impairment over the course of their illness. Even at the time of diagnosis, cognitive impairment has been reported in 20-25% of patients. Commonly affected domains are executive function, visuospatial ability and attention control. In addition, patients with Parkinson’s disease dementia may present with deficits in language function and verbal memory.

Diagnosing and managing androgen deficiency in men

24 Apr 2017Paid-up subscribers

Androgens play a crucial role in bone, muscle and fat metabolism, erythropoiesis and cognitive health. In men aged 40-79 years the incidence of biochemical deficiency and symptomatic hypogonadism is 2.1-5.7%. Decreased libido or reduced frequency and quality of erections, fatigue, irritability, infertility or a diminished feeling of wellbeing may be presenting complaints. However, a significant proportion of men with androgen deficiency will be identified when they present for unrelated concerns.

Diagnosing testicular lumps in primary care

24 Apr 2017Paid-up subscribers

Although the incidence of testicular cancer has increased over the past few decades, testicular tumours are still rare and many GPs will only see one or two new diagnoses in their career. When examining scrotal swellings, the key question is whether the lump is intra- or extra-testicular, as palpable intra-testicular lesions are highly likely (around 90%) to be malignant, whereas those lying outside the testis are usually benign.

Tailor management to the patient with fibroids

22 Mar 2017Registered users

Fibroids are benign, hormone-dependent tumours of uterine smooth muscle and connective tissue. They are commonly asymptomatic, but can cause symptoms such as heavy menstrual bleeding and pelvic pressure symptoms. Between 20 to 30% of women with heavy menstrual bleeding have fibroids. Fibroids are most prevalent in women aged 30-50 years and there may be a genetic predisposition. They are more common in black women than white women. Other risk factors include obesity and nulliparity. Asymptomatic women should only be referred if their uterus is palpable abdominally, if fibroids distort the uterine cavity or the uterus is larger than 12 cm in length.

Preventing stroke and assessing risk in women

22 Mar 2017

Ischaemic stroke is rare in premenopausal women but risk increases with advancing age and doubles in the ten years following the menopause. Up to the age of 75 years men have a 25% higher risk of suffering a stroke compared with women. However, the increased life expectancy of women ultimately results in a higher overall incidence. Twice as many women die from stroke compared with breast cancer. Women with cerebrovascular disease are more likely to present with atypical symptoms than men. Atrial fibrillation and hypertension, although less common than in men, are more potent risk factors for stroke in women.

Pyelonephritis can lead to life-threatening complications

22 Feb 2017Paid-up subscribers

As distinct from cystitis and lower urinary tract infection (UTI), which are much more common, pyelonephritis involves the upper tract with potentially more serious sequelae. It is most commonly caused by bacterial infections, typically ascending from the lower urinary tract; haematological seeding from bacteraemia is less common.

Diagnosis and management of nephrotic syndrome

22 Feb 2017Paid-up subscribers

Nephrotic syndrome is uncommon in general practice. A GP may only see two or three adult cases in their career. Nephrotic syndrome develops following pathological injury to renal glomeruli. This may be a primary problem, with a disease specific to the kidneys, or secondary to a systemic disorder such as diabetes mellitus. The most common cause in children is minimal change glomerulonephritis. In white adults, nephrotic syndrome is most frequently due to membranous nephropathy whereas in populations of African ancestry the most common cause of nephrotic syndrome is focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS). Diabetic nephropathy is the most common multisystem disease that can cause nephrotic syndrome. 

Frailty predicts adverse outcomes in older people with diabetes

23 Jan 2017Registered users

In older people living with diabetes, geriatric syndromes, which indicate frailty, are emerging as a third category of complications in addition to the traditional microvascular and macrovascular sequelae. Frailty is defined by the presence of three or more phenotypes (weight loss, weakness, decreased physical activity, exhaustion and slow gait speed). Patients may progress from a non-frail to pre-frail or frail state. With timely intervention, there is a greater chance for an individual to recover from pre-frail to non-frail than to deteriorate into frailty.

Depression is linked to dementia in older adults

23 Jan 2017Registered users

Depression and dementia are both common conditions in older people, and they frequently occur together. Rather than a risk factor, depression with onset in later life is more likely to be either prodromal to dementia or a condition that unmasks pre-existing cognitive impairment by compromising cognitive reserve. The distinction between depression and early dementia may be particularly difficult. Detailed histories obtained from patients and their relatives as well as longitudinal follow-up are important. 

Improving joint pain and function in osteoarthritis

16 Dec 2016Paid-up subscribers

Osteoarthritis has become a major chronic pain condition. It affects more than 10% of adults and accounts for almost 10% of health service resources. The impact of osteoarthritis is amplified by underuse of effective muscle strengthening exercises and a focus on often less effective and poorly tolerated analgesic therapies. Muscle strengthening and aerobic exercise have been shown to improve joint pain and function. Weight loss not only improves joint pain and function but has a myriad of other health benefits.

Diagnosis and management of polymyalgia rheumatica

16 Dec 2016Paid-up subscribers

Polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) is a common inflammatory condition of unknown aetiology. There is no specific diagnostic test for PMR but the usual pattern is a commensurate rise in CRP and ESR. A small proportion of PMR patients will have normal inflammatory markers. At diagnosis and each follow-up visit it is imperative to consider the potential for associated giant cell arteritis (GCA). If there is any suspicion of GCA, urgent discussion with the rheumatologist should take place that day.

Assessment and management of active and latent TB

24 Nov 2016Paid-up subscribers

Clinically significant disease occurs through progression of primary infection or through later reactivation of latent TB infection (LTBI); this is most likely to occur in the first few years following infection, although late reactivation can occur several decades later, particularly in individuals who become immunosuppressed. Risk of TB acquisition is increased in people who have come to the UK from high incidence countries or who are born in the UK but come from high-risk ethnic minority groups. Other risk groups include those who are homeless, in prison or who misuse drugs or alcohol.

GPs have key role in improving outcomes in acute asthma

24 Nov 2016Paid-up subscribers

Features which indicate a high risk of severe attacks include: previous admission to intensive care, particularly if requiring mechanical ventilation; previous admission with asthma especially in the past year or repeated emergency admissions; history of worsening asthma in January or February; use of three or more classes of asthma medication; heavy use of beta-2 agonists; anxiety traits; and marital stress. 

Early recognition vital in acute coronary syndrome

24 Oct 2016

Acute coronary syndrome (ACS) includes both ST (STEMI) and non ST elevation (NSTEMI) MI, and unstable angina. Patients with ACS typically present with chest pain; classically central chest pain that radiates to the left arm. Additional symptoms include dyspnoea, nausea, sweating and syncope. However, patients can present atypically with gastric symptoms. These are often more common in patients with diabetes, women and the elderly. A 12-lead ECG should be performed if possible within 10 minutes of presentation or ideally at first contact with the emergency services.

Prompt diagnosis of AF lowers risk of complications

24 Oct 2016Paid-up subscribers

Estimates suggest an AF prevalence as high as 2% in adults with an exponential relationship with increasing age. Opportunistic screening for silent AF is recommended in at-risk groups. AF is associated with a 1.5-2 fold increased risk of death, and is responsible for 20-30% of all strokes. The CHA2DS2-VASc risk stratification score is recommended to assess stroke risk in patients with AF. Risk of severe bleeding with warfarin should also be assessed using the HAS-BLED score.

Diagnosis and management of motor neurone disease

23 Sep 2016Paid-up subscribers

Motor neurone disease is a rapidly progressive and fatal neurodegenerative condition which causes progressive weakness, with normal sensation. Key clinical presentations include bulbar (slurred or difficult speech, problems swallowing, tongue fasciculation), limb (typically in one limb with weakness and muscle wasting), respiratory (breathlessness, chest muscle fasciculation) and cognitive features (behavioural change, emotional lability, features of frontotemporal dementia).

Tailor treatment to the patient with neuropathic pain

23 Sep 2016

Neuropathic pain is defined as pain that is caused by a lesion or disease of the somatosensory nervous system and is estimated to affect 6-8% of the general population. A low threshold of suspicion in conditions associated with neuropathic pain can aid diagnosis. Typical neuropathic descriptors include burning, shooting, electric shock pain with numbness, pins and needles or itching.

Diagnosis and treatment of inflammatory bowel disease

01 Aug 2016Registered users

Patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) may previously have received a diagnosis of irritable bowel syndrome and there may be a delay in making the correct diagnosis. This is particularly the case in patients with ileal Crohn’s disease and those under 40. Diagnosis of IBD involves endoscopy and biopsy. Approximately 25% of people with IBD will have extra-intestinal manifestations of the disease, involving skin, eyes, joints or the liver. There is an increased risk of colorectal cancer in patients with ulcerative colitis.

Improving the detection of coeliac disease

01 Aug 2016Registered users

The common presentation of coeliac disease has shifted from the historically classical symptoms of malabsorption in childhood to non-classical symptoms in adulthood such as irritable bowel syndrome-type symptoms, anaemia, chronic fatigue, change in bowel habit, abdominal pain and osteoporosis. A combination of coeliac serology and duodenal biopsy is required to diagnose coeliac disease in adults. A lifelong strict gluten-free diet is the only effective treatment currently available. All patients should be referred to a specialist dietitian for guidance and support.

 

Early intervention crucial in anxiety disorders in children

23 Jun 2016Paid-up subscribers

Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health disorders of childhood. Three quarters of anxiety disorders have their origins in childhood, with presentation often chronic in nature. Where the child is experiencing significant distress or functional impairment (e.g. missing school, not taking part in age-appropriate activity), then specialist input is likely to be needed.

Optimising the management of wheeze in preschool children

23 Jun 2016Paid-up subscribers

One third of all preschool children will have an episode of wheeze and many of these present to primary care. Most will fall within a spectrum of diagnosis ranging from episodic viral wheeze to multiple trigger wheeze or early onset asthma. The child should be referred to hospital immediately if you suspect an inhaled foreign body or anaphylaxis (after administering IM adrenaline). NICE recommends immediate referral for children with wheeze and high-risk features and also those with intermediate-risk features failing to respond to bronchodilator therapy.

Diagnosing young onset dementia can be challenging

23 May 2016Paid-up subscribers

The most common causes of young onset dementia are early onset forms of adult neurodegenerative conditions and alcohol. Vascular dementia is the second most common cause of young onset dementia after Alzheimer’s disease. Conventional vascular risk factors may be absent and diagnosis relies on imaging evidence of cerebrovascular disease. Those with suspected young onset dementia should be referred to a neurology-led cognitive disorders clinic where available as the differential diagnosis is considerably broader than in older adults and requires specialist investigation.

Be vigilant for post-traumatic stress reactions

23 May 2016Paid-up subscribers

The diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) differs from most psychiatric disorders as it includes an aetiological factor, the traumatic event, as a core criterion. The DSM 5 core symptoms of PTSD are grouped into four key symptom clusters: re-experiencing, avoidance, negative cognitions and mood, and arousal. Symptoms must be present for at least one month and cause functional impairment.

Managing lower urinary tract symptoms in men

25 Apr 2016Paid-up subscribers

Up to 90% of men aged 50 to 80 may suffer from troublesome LUTS. A thorough urological history is essential to inform management. It is important to determine whether men have storage or voiding LUTS or both. Based on history, examination and investigation findings an individualised management plan should be formulated.

The role of PSA in detection and management of prostate cancer

25 Apr 2016Paid-up subscribers

The prostate specific antigen (PSA) test clearly provides the opportunity for clinically relevant prostate cancer to be detected at a stage when treatment options are greater and outcomes may be improved. In addition, a raised PSA may often indicate benign prostatic enlargement, and this may provide an opportunity for treatment of this condition before complications develop. However, in some patients the PSA test may lead to investigations which can identify clinically insignificant cancers which would not have become evident in a man’s lifetime.

Managing debilitating menopausal symptoms

21 Mar 2016Registered users

Severity and duration of menopausal symptoms varies markedly. Eight out of ten women experience symptoms and on average these last four years, with one in ten women experiencing symptoms for up to 12 years. Menopausal symptoms can begin years before menstruation ceases. A recent study found that women whose vasomotor symptoms started before the menopause suffered longest, median 11.8 years. Women whose hot flushes and night sweats started after the menopause had symptoms for a median of 3.4 years.

Underestimating risk in women delays diagnosis of CVD

21 Mar 2016Registered users

CVD remains the most common cause of mortality in women. There has been an increase in the prevalence of MI in women aged 35 to 54, while a decline in prevalence was observed in age-matched men. Although men and women share classic cardiovascular risk factors the relative importance of each risk factor may be gender specific. The impact of smoking is greater in women than men, especially in those under 50. Diabetes is a more potent risk factor for fatal CHD in women than men.

Optimising the management of polycystic kidney disease

22 Feb 2016Registered users

Polycystic kidney disease is the most common inherited renal disorder that results in chronic kidney disease. Clinical features include visible haematuria, loin pain, UTI and hypertension. The typical clinical course is a progressive increase in the number and size of renal cysts associated with gradual loss of kidney function (falling eGFR).

Managing acute and chronic renal stone disease

22 Feb 2016Paid-up subscribers

The incidence of renal stone disease is increasing globally. In the UK the lifetime risk is estimated to be 8-10%. On a population level, the increase in stone incidence, erosion of gender disparity, and younger age of onset is likely to reflect increasing prevalence of obesity and a Western diet with a high intake of animal protein and salt.

Controlling joint pain in older people

25 Jan 2016Paid-up subscribers

The prevalence of chronic pain in older people in the community ranges from 25 to 76% and for those in residential care, it is even higher at 83 to 93%. The most common sites affected are the back, hip, or knee, and other joints. There is increased reporting of pain in women (79%) compared with men (53%). Common conditions include osteoarthritis and, to a lesser extent, the inflammatory arthropathies such as rheumatoid arthritis. The differential diagnosis includes non-articular pain such as vascular limb pain and nocturnal cramp, some neuropathic pain conditions (such as compressive neuropathies and postherpetic neuralgia), soft tissue disorders such as fibromyalgia and myofascial pain syndromes.