CheckUp medical column for April 8

A weekly round-up of news affecting your health.

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`BURNING’ SURGERY FOR ASTHMA SUFFERERS

A radical new surgical procedure involving `burning’ the inside of tubes linking the windpipe to the lungs, could revolutionise asthma treatment for severe sufferers.

Bronchial thermoplasty has been likened to the impact laser-eye surgery has had on improving eyesight, with an Australian trial proving it to be an effective treatment.

The minimally invasive procedure involves inserting a catheter tip into a patient’s airway, and heating it up to 65C for 10 seconds to singe off excess smooth muscle from airways, widening air passages.

It might prove to be a form of permanent relief for severe asthma sufferers, for whom inhalers and other traditional treatments don’t work.

“We’re at the tip of a new paradigm for how we treat asthma,” said lead researcher Associate Professor David Langton, Director of Thoracic Medicine at Peninsula Health, Melbourne.

“The results of these trials could have a global impact, and completely revolutionise our approach.”

The research from the trial involving 17 Australian patients was presented to a national group of lung health experts this week.

EYES BENEFIT FROM OUTDOOR LIGHT

It’s not smartphone and computer screens that are ruining children’s eyes – it’s a lack of outdoor light.

Groundbreaking research from Australian optometrists has found increasing exposure to outdoor light is the key to reducing myopia (short-sightedness) in children.

“Optometrists need to make their patients aware that less than 60 minutes exposure to light outdoors per day is a risk factor for myopia,” Queensland University of Technology lead researcher Associate Professor Scott Read said.

Outdoors light also helped slow down the progression of myopia, which can develop rapidly during adolescence.

The study tracked the eye growth of 101 children who wore wristwatch light sensors to record the light exposure and physical activity they were getting.

“Children exposed to the least outdoor light had faster eye growth and hence faster myopia progression,” Professor Read said.

NOT UNDERWEIGHT BUT STILL ANOREXIC

More Australian teenagers are becoming diagnosed with anorexia despite not being underweight, alarming new research shows.

The study from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute found an increase in the number of adolescents being diagnosed with atypical anorexia nervosa- where they’ve shed kilos but still weigh in around or above the normal weight range.

Despite not being underweight, they showed the signs of being in the grip of an eating disorder with malnutrition concerns and regular incidents of bingeing, purging and compulsive exercise.

A quarter had a dangerously low heart rate and a third had lost their periods. Two-fifths needed to be admitted to hospital.

The study highlights the need for health professionals and carers to be vigilant about dramatic weight loss in adolescents, regardless of their body size.

FRUIT AND VEG MAKE NON-FUSSY EATERS

If you want to raise a non-fussy eater, give your baby fruit and vegetables in their first year.

Babies and toddlers who try a spectrum of fruit and vegetables around the 12 to 14 months of age will be less picky eaters when they’re three and four years old, new research says.

The study from Queensland University of Technology Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation said it was the first evidence that linked early eating experiences to a child’s later health and diet.

The study found that children who had healthier food intakes at age 3.7 years were the ones who had been exposed to a wide variety of fruit and vegetable early on.

Although food preferences and eating behaviours could be inherited, they were also influenced by such early feeding experiences.

WINTER ALLERGY TIPS

With cough and cold season just around the corner, health professionals are warning asthma sufferers to do a quick household clean to sweep out allergy triggers.

More than seven million Australians have allergies, which are often aggravated in winter from spending extra time indoors amid mould, dust mites and pollutants.

The National Asthma Council of Australia is urging people to reduce their exposure before winter arrives by replacing heating systems like unflued gas heating and doing a thorough home clean.

Tips include sealing leaks in bathrooms and roofs to reduce mould, getting rid of cushions and soft furnishings that harbour dust mites and ensuring enough natural ventilation like a fan in the bathroom.