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Managing osteoporosis in postmenopausal women

22 Mar 2018Registered users

Most patients with osteoporosis are asymptomatic unless a fragility fracture occurs. A fragility fracture is a type of pathological fracture that occurs as a result of normal activities, such as a fall from standing height or less, lifting, or bending. There are three fracture sites said to be typical of fragility fractures: vertebral fractures; fractures of the neck of the femur; Colles’ fracture of the wrist. Following fracture risk assessment a dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scan may be recommended.

Symptom recognition key to diagnosing endometriosis

22 Mar 2018Registered users

Endometriosis affects around one in ten women of reproductive age in the UK. NICE guidance highlights the importance of symptoms in its diagnosis. A normal abdominal or pelvic examination, ultrasound, or MRI should not exclude the diagnosis. Endometriosis should be suspected in women and adolescents who present with one or more of: chronic pelvic pain, significant dysmenorrhoea, deep dyspareunia, period-related or cyclical GI or urinary symptoms, or infertility. If endometriosis is suspected or symptoms persist, patients should be referred for further assessment.

Visible and non-visible haematuria may herald serious disease

22 Feb 2018Paid-up subscribers

Both visible (VH) and non-visible haematuria (NVH) may herald serious pathology e.g. malignancy or vasculitis. All patients with VH or symptomatic NVH should have urinalysis, urinary protein estimation (albumin:creatinine or protein:creatinine ratio), and a renal function test. These should also be requested if asymptomatic NVH persists, i.e. in two out of three samples over 6-8 weeks.

Prompt investigation improves outcomes for kidney cancer

22 Feb 2018Registered users

Renal cell carcinoma should be suspected in the presence of: localising symptoms such as flank pain, a loin mass or haematuria; constitutional upset including weight loss, pyrexia and/or night sweats; or unexplained test results. Smoking, obesity and hypertension are common risk factors and all three demonstrate a dose-response relationship with the relative risk of renal cell carcinoma.

Timely diagnosis of vascular dementia key to management

23 Jan 2018Paid-up subscribers

Vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia, after Alzheimer’s disease, and accounts for 15% of cases. The core diagnostic features include cognitive impairment in at least two domains (orientation, attention, language, visuospatial function, executive function, motor control and praxis), which affect social or occupational function, together with evidence of cerebrovascular disease (focal neurological signs or neuroimaging). Crucially there should be a temporal relationship between cerebrovascular disease and the onset of cognitive changes.

Pulmonary rehabilitation improves exercise capacity and quality of life

23 Jan 2018Paid-up subscribers

Pulmonary rehabilitation is a multifaceted programme of exercise and education that aims to improve breathlessness, exercise capacity, and quality of life, and aid self-management.  Patients with chronic respiratory failure, those on long-term or ambulatory oxygen and patients with anxiety and depression can all benefit from rehabilitation. It is one of the most beneficial and cost-effective treatments for COPD and should be considered a fundamental component of disease management rather than an option.

Prompt diagnosis can prevent joint damage in psoriatic arthritis

20 Dec 2017Registered users

Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is a chronic, autoimmune inflammatory condition that can affect up to 30% of patients with psoriasis. It is part of the seronegative spondyloarthropathy group of rheumatic diseases which also includes reactive arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis. It can be a multisystem disease affecting the eyes, the gut and the tendons and is associated with comorbidities such as ischaemic heart disease and metabolic syndrome. Early diagnosis is key as structural joint damage can occur within two years of disease onset. 

Early recognition pivotal in the management of spondyloarthritis

20 Dec 2017Registered users

The spondyloarthritis group is divided into two main subgroups: axial spondyloarthritis and peripheral spondyloarthritis. These may exist as separate entities or coexist in the same patient. Classically, axial spondyloarthritis presents with insidious onset inflammatory lower back pain, which is typically worse in the morning and after rest, and improves with activity. Peripheral spondyloarthritis can present with peripheral joint pain and/or swelling, swelling of the digits (dactylitis), tendon and entheseal pain that is not secondary to a mechanical cause. Early referral of patients with suspected spondyloarthritis to specialist care is strongly recommended as this can improve long-term outcomes.

Regular review pivotal in chronic asthma in children

23 Nov 2017Paid-up subscribers

The aim of asthma treatment is complete control of symptoms as soon as possible while minimising side effects and inconvenience to the patient. All parents and older children should be offered a written action plan. This should include details of the patient’s regular medicines, how to recognise deterioration and what to do in the event of an attack. Children should be referred to secondary care if: the diagnosis is unclear; control remains poor despite monitored treatment; they have suffered a life-threatening attack or red flag features are present.

Improving outcomes in COPD

23 Nov 2017Paid-up subscribers

Cigarette smoking is overwhelmingly the most important risk factor for COPD. In some cases, other factors such as occupation, passive exposure to inhalants and fetal nutrition/low birthweight are also important. The diagnosis should be suspected in symptomatic patients with risk factors, usually cigarette smoking, aged 40 years or above, albeit a majority of people with COPD present when considerably older. The 2017 GOLD guideline recommends that management should be focused on two objectives. First, to relieve symptoms of breathlessness (assessed using the MRC dyspnoea scale) and improve quality of life (assessed by the COPD Assessment Test). Second, to reduce risk assessed by the number of exacerbations and hospitalisations in the previous year.

Improving uptake of cardiac rehabilitation

23 Oct 2017Registered users

Data from the National Audit of Cardiac Rehabilitation show that 50% of eligible MI, PCI, and CABG patients do attend cardiac rehabilitation and that figure continues to rise, but the rates for stable angina and heart failure remain low. There is evidence that programmes which have a basis in psychoeducation (goal setting, self-monitoring, relapse prevention) are more likely to achieve long-term behaviour change than those based simply on delivering a fixed agenda of exercise and education. A recent Cochrane review of exercise-based cardiac rehabilitation continues to show the benefit of exercise prescription in terms of cardiovascular mortality, hospital readmission rates, and quality of life.

Assessment and management of CVD risk in adults

23 Oct 2017Registered users

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) affects seven million people in the UK alone. Modifiable risk factors for CVD include smoking, abnormal lipid profile, hypertension, diabetes, abdominal obesity, psychosocial factors, diet, alcohol consumption, and lack of physical activity. The INTERHEART study concluded that these factors account for more than 90% of the risk of MI worldwide. Well validated studies have suggested that QRISK2 is a better predictor of a patient’s ten-year risk of CVD compared with the traditionally used Framingham equation.

Diagnosis and management of complex regional pain syndrome

22 Sep 2017Registered users

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic debilitating painful condition comprising unremitting pain, sensory, sudomotor, vasomotor and motor abnormalities in the affected extremity. It has a peak incidence in the 55-75 age group and there is an association with asthma and migraine. CRPS is three times more common in women than men. CRPS should be suspected in any patient presenting with persistent pain in an extremity beyond the expected period of tissue healing following an acute injury, sprain, fracture or surgical procedure. Severe pain in a glove or stocking distribution is the predominant symptom in > 90% of cases.

Identifying neurological causes of daytime sleepiness

22 Sep 2017Registered users

The prevalence of sleep complaints in adults in a primary care setting is > 10%. The most frequently seen condition by far is that of primary insomnia, which affects 10% of adults on a chronic basis. In contrast to primary insomnia, in which most patients report tiredness and fatigue during the day but are unable to sleep during the day either, the second most frequent sleep disorder encountered, obstructive sleep apnoea, is typified by excessive daytime sleepiness. Patients with primary insomnia or fatigue syndromes typically will score low on the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS < 3) whereas those with organic sleep pathologies or sleep restriction will score higher. A score > 10 is seen as 'pathological', with a mean ESS in the population of 5-6. 

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.

Preventing stroke and assessing risk in women

22 Mar 2017Registered users

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.

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.

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 2017Paid-up subscribers

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.