Body & Fitness

What’s your problem: Yeast infections, ear wax, ingrown hairs

Yeast infections, ear wax, ingrown hairs? Northland-based doctor CJ Fleming has the solutions to your sensitive medical problems.
Yeast infections, ear wax, ingrown hairs? We have the solutions to your sensitive medical problems.

An eye on iron

Q. I have very high levels of ferritin (three times the recommended maximum at last blood test). What am I doing to cause this?

A. Ferritin levels measure the amount of iron you have stored in your body. Ninety per cent of the time, raised ferritin is due to inflammation, infection, liver disease, alcohol, diabetes, obesity or cancer. Ten per cent is due to a genetic condition causing iron overload (haemochromatosis).

Solution: See your GP for a full history and physical examination to work out what is most likely causing the high ferritin levels. Further tests will be done if needed. Haemochromatosis is treated by blood tests to remove blood (and therefore iron) from the body as required.

Hair mare

Q. Can ingrown hairs become infected?

A. Folliculitis or inflamed hair follicles can occur when hair is growing back after removal. They are usually not due to infection. Pustules, boils and abscesses may form if they become infected with bacteria.

Solution: Do not remove any more hair until the infection is resolved. Your body should be able to fight the infection itself. If the infection spreads, seek medical attention. Watch out for surrounding skin redness, tenderness, warmth and discharging pus.

On your toes

Q. My toenails have turned a yellow tinge – could it be because they’ve been locked up all winter?

A. Nail changes can be a subtle sign of many different diseases. Causes of yellow nails include infections, lymphoedema, diabetes, psoriatic arthritis or staining from nail polish.

Solution: To prevent fungal infections, wear clean socks, breathable shoes, avoid walking in public showers or pools, and avoid sharing towels and socks. See your GP for antifungal ointment. Maintain good foot hygiene and see a podiatrist to ensure the best care for the health of your feet.

All ears

Q. My ears get really waxy – to the point where it’s hard to hear. Sometimes using cotton swabs gives me an ear infection. Is there another solution?

A. Ear wax is secreted into the ear canal. Its role is to clean the ear, lubricate the skin and protect you from infections. Ideally you would never have to clean out your ears, but a build-up of ear wax can be uncomfortable and can cause hearing loss.

Solution: Stop using cotton buds immediately as these push ear wax further into the ear and only pick up the surface of the wax that sticks to the fibres. Careless use can cause ear drum perforations. Try placing drops of baby oil into your ears to soften the wax. See your GP for ear syringing or referral to a specialist for manual removal of wax.

The lowdown

Q. I keep getting vaginal yeast infections – almost every week or so. Why!?

A. A fungus called Candida albicans most commonly causes vaginal yeast infections. Symptoms include a thick white vaginal discharge, rash, itch and smell. Some women always have yeast inside their vagina but have no symptoms. Risk factors for yeast infections include diabetes, antibiotic use and increased oestrogen. Recurrent yeast infections usually occur when the fungi is not completely cleared by the treatment. It can also be due to your genetics.

Solution: Treatment of uncomplicated yeast infections involves oral tablets or vaginal creams. They have equal success rates but oral tablets can cause more side effects. Complicated yeast infections require the same medications but a longer course.

Fruit or foe?

Q. Is it true that eating grapefruit can prevent the oral contraceptive pill from working?

A. Grapefruit juice can interact with the oral contraceptive pill by inhibiting the liver enzymes which metabolise it, causing increased levels of the pill in your blood stream. The increased oestrogen can lead to adverse effects such as blood clots, but it will not stop the pill from working.

Solution: Avoid drinking grapefruit juice while on the oral contraceptive pill to prevent the risks of increased oestrogen. Other options include taking the progesterone-only contraception pill.

This content is not a substitute for personal medical advice, a diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your health provider regarding a medical condition.

Photos: Getty Images

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