MEN’S HEALTH: SYMPTOMS NOT TO IGNORE JUNE IS NATIONAL MEN’S HEALTH MONTH
‘It’s nothing.” That’s the classic retort you hear when you suggest that the man in your life see a doctor for symptoms he’s having. But it could be something—something which could endanger his health and interfere with his quality of life. Minor complaints needn’t worsen, especially since many of the latest treatments at Memorial Hermann can be minimally or even noninvasive. So, here’s how to get him to see a physician for some common health complaints. FATIGUE, HEAVY SNORING Symptoms: He gasps, chokes or even stops breathing while dozing. Likely culprit: He may have obstructive sleep apnea, in which excess throat tissue blocks the airway, says Fernando Gomez-Rivera, MD, an assistant professor of surgery at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston and ENT (otolaryngology) surgeon affiliated with Memorial Hermann Southeast Hospital. Sleep apnea deprives him of oxygen and may raise his risk of arrhythmias and difficult to control blood pressure. It also doubles his risk of stroke or heart attacks. Treatment options: “For sleep apnea, a Continuous Positive Air Pressure (CPAP) mask is the gold standard, but unfortunately there are a lot of issues with adherence to therapy and effectiveness due to multiple factors, frequently people find it uncomfortable and don’t use it,” Dr. Gomez-Rivera says. Dental devices or surgery can move the jaw or tongue forward to open the airway. Surgery can improve throat opening while sleeping and/or address nasal obstruction. As with many conditions, weight loss can make a big difference, in this case because that puts less pressure on the throat. Your doctor may recommend physical activity, healthy eating and portion control,
with a weight-loss specialist’s support. Adults with moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea and a body mass index (BMI) less than 35 may be eligible for Inspire, a device that’s like a pacemaker for the throat. During outpatient surgery, the doctor implants an Oreo®-sized battery in the upper chest. Turned on with a remote, Inspire sends a gentle electrical pulse to a nerve beneath the tongue with each breath. “That causes the tongue to stiffen and move forward,” Dr. Gomez-Rivera says. HEARTBURN Symptoms: He feels burning or pain in his chest after meals or at night, or is hoarse, or has a sour taste or trouble swallowing. Likely culprit: He may suffer from reflux, the upward surge of acid from the stomach via the esophagus to the throat, says Hoang Le, MD, general surgeon with Memorial Hermann Medical Group Southeast General Surgery. Habitual heartburn may be gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which erodes and inflames the esophageal lining and can lead to Barrett’s esophagus, a condition which boosts cancer risk, Dr. Le says. “White men over 50—especially those with round bellies and who smoke or drink—are more vulnerable.” Treatment options: If he is under 50 and over-the- counter antacids don’t correct the symptoms, he may be prescribed acid-suppressing drugs called Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs). He’ll also be discouraged from having heavy evening meals. If those measures don’t work, an upper endoscopy is performed which sends a narrow tube with a camera to the stomach and upper intestines to rule out ulcers or inflammation. “The gastroenterologist also can send down tools through the endoscope to seal bleeding vessels and do biopsies,” Dr. Le says. If he is over 50, the physician may do an endoscopy before prescribing medication. To confirm GERD, the doctor can do another procedure, in which a tiny
acid- or pH-measuring probe (Bravo capsule) is attached to the lower esophagus. It comes with a monitor, whose buttons the patient presses when symptomatic. Bravo stays attached for 4 days, then passes through the digestive tract. Reflux can be cut down by losing weight and stopping smoking and drinking. If not, he may need surgery to repair the valve (or sphincter) that serves as a flapping door between the esophagus and stomach. The operation, fundoplication, strengthens the flap by wrapping the top of the stomach around the lower esophagus. FREQUENT BATHROOM BREAKS Symptoms: He urinates urgently, slowly and with difficulty. Likely culprit: An enlarged prostate (benign prostate hyperplasia) can press upward on the bladder or curb urine flow by impeding the urinary tract as it moves through the prostate, says Angie Staller, MD, urologist with Memorial Hermann Medical Group Urology Associates Southeast. “Eventually the obstruction may lead to bladder dysfunction, inability to urinate and urinary tract infections. It also can progress to kidney (renal) failure,” Dr. Staller says. Treatment options: Medications can shrink the gland or relax the prostatic tissue, making it easier to urinate. Urologists can perform minimally invasive, in-office procedures to ease the flow, Dr. Staller says. The UroLift® procedure inserts tiny implants to separate prostate lobes, which lessens pressure on the urethra. Some treatments must be performed in the hospital. Aqua ablation uses a computer and high-pressured water, to destroy excess tissue while transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP) uses heated electrodes or a laser to take out the central part of the prostate. Surgeons also can cut through the abdomen to do a simple prostatectomy, in which they remove the interior tissue of super-sized glands.
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