We know it’s good to talk, but there are some people who we don’t get a chance to sit down and have a good old natter with. While top of this list may be our partners, coming a close second would be our healthcare professionals. Famously time-stretched, an appointment is often a speedy affair. So, when we got the chance to pin a few doctors down, we didn’t hesitate.
Meet Dr J Kasirsky, a specialist OB/GYN at Welcare Hospital; Dr Shagufta Zia, a specialist in family medicine at Medcare Medical Center and General Practitioner at Infinity Clinic Dr Kay Deeming; all three are about to answer the questions they want to hear.
How can I make the most of my appointment?
Dr Deeming: If you have a long list of symptoms ask the receptionist to book a longer appointment for you so the doctor can take time to work through your questions. Place the symptoms in a list in order of importance in which they trouble you – many people leave their most important symptom to the end of the consultation and then it doesn’t receive the time and attention it warrants. Remember, never discount symptoms nor leave out the ones too embarrassing to discuss.
Dr Kasirsky: I love it when my patients prepare a list of questions or concerns ahead of time and prioritise them because as much as I love to speak with them, I do have time restraints. If I know up front what the major concerns are, I can make sure I address them all in order. Also, if it’s the first meeting, I will ask you about your past history and current medications. Having that information written down beforehand makes it easy to run through things quickly.
Is Googling symptoms useful or just asking for trouble?
Dr Zia: Asking for trouble! I’m not in favour of it as it can make a patient more scared than needed. It’s always best to book an appointment and to see a professional to combat any unnecessary worrying.
Dr Deeming: Googling symptoms is a minefield and often increases the patients’ anxieties into thinking the worst case scenario. Medicine is a mixture of taking an accurate history, examination and investigations into account in order to format a diagnosis, so I would initially discourage internet searches until a diagnosis has been made.
Dr Kasirsky: There really is no substitute for speaking with a real, live doctor!
What has been the most over-hyped health scare recently?
Dr Kasirsky: It seems that women are always worried they have ovarian cancer - which is the ninth most commonly diagnosed cancer in women - and many women walk into my office and want a pelvic ultrasound to look at their ovaries. They’re not asking to have their cholesterol checked but you’re more likely to die of heart disease than ovarian cancer.
Dr Zia: Food allergies – they’re everywhere!
Dr Deeming: Last year’s H1N1 Swine Flu caused high levels of fear.
Is there any health problem that should be publicised more?
Dr Kasirsky: This is a tough question because the concerns differ depending on where a woman is in her life. Those who are planning a family worry about whether they can get pregnant or not; those in their 40s worry about breast cancer.
Dr Deeming: Vitamin D deficiency is a common problem here in the UAE. It’s mainly absorbed through the skin and also partly comes from your diet, however, in view of the hot climate and the cultural covering of the skin, vitamin D levels can be lower than normal. This vitamin is essential for bone density and recent research reveals that it protects against heart disease and some forms of cancer.
Dr Zia: I think we should have more information about diabetes, obesity and the simple iron deficiency, anemia.
What piece of health advice would have the biggest impact on our lives?
Dr Deeming: Eating five pieces of fruit or vegetables daily in conjunction with the recommendation of exercise for 20-30mins three times a week is essential general advice that should be adhered to.
Dr Zia: You should never ignore regular breast and cervical cancer screenings.
Dr Kasirsky: Women need to take care of themselves! We spend so much time looking after others, we often forget ourselves. Make the time to exercise, eat carefully and seek out ways to de-stress your life.
Are you in favour of complementary medicine?
Dr Deeming: Absolutely. Chinese medicine has been around a lot longer than traditional medicine. Traditional medicine often treats or masks symptoms rather than removing the underlying cause, whereas complementary medicine helps reduce the body’s stress levels which can help remove the precipitating cause.
Dr Kasirsky: I think it can help in many ways that traditional medicine may not. For example, I have many patients who find relief when it comes to their musculoskeletal problems through acupuncture or chiropractors.
Dr Zia: Yes, I think that it can help some people psychologically.
Do you recommend regular health check-ups?
Dr Kasirsky: A woman aged 21-100 should have a yearly exam with a gynaecologist at the very least. Depending on a woman’s history this may involve a full exam, or it may involve talking about health concerns.
Dr Deeming: Yes I do. A health check-up can help identify some of the genetic risks which the individual patient may be exposed to from through their family history, plus they can pick up any ‘silent’ conditions such as high blood pressure, pre-diabetic state and high cholesterol levels. Treatment for these ‘silent conditions’ can then be started before dramatic symptoms present themselves.
What are your patients most apathetic about?
Dr. Deeming: That’s a tricky one because they’re unlikely to own up! However, I would guess taking their tablets regularly. I say this from personal experience as whenever someone has prescribed me a course of tablets, you can guarantee I will forget to take several! I can’t be alone on that one!
Dr Zia: Bone aches and pains, obesity and diabetes.
Dr Kasirsky: I think worldwide women know, but don’t always admit, that smoking cigarettes and shisha is very bad for your health. Not only because of the risk of lung cancer, but also due to the risk of heart disease and cervical cancer.
Are there any health problems you see more in the UAE than elsewhere?
Dr Deeming: Possibly stress, anxiety and depression are seen in slightly higher numbers amongst patients in Dubai. These conditions can be invoked by the general upheaval of moving internationally and leaving behind the supportive networks of family and friends. Stress levels tend to increase in the run-up to moving overseas, and then a further six months tend to be required to settle down into a new life and to establish a supportive network of friends.
What is the problem that most worries women?
Dr Zia: Vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
Dr Deeming: Their weight. Quick fixes for weight loss rarely work, rather, a long term solution is to aim for slow, steady weight loss and to look at healthy dietary habits in conjunction with regular exercise.
What’s the threat to our health that we don’t know about?
Dr Kasirsky: The media does a good job of keeping us informed. I wish there would be more focus on women and heart disease and osteoporosis though.
Dr Zia: High blood pressure – it’s huge here.