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Thoracic Medicine

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Sleep Medicine

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Often times when we can’t sleep or we feel tired throughout the day, there are common “quick fixes” which we use to help us fall asleep easier and give us an extra boost in the morning. However, some of these habits can often be detrimental to your sleep health, affecting you not just at night, but throughout the day as well.

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New research has found that the less we sleep in midlife, the faster our brains can decline and lead to cognitive impairment in old age.

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“What is happening in YOUR sleep?!? How can you really know? Ever thought of using a sleep app? There are some misunderstandings to what data is relevant when using sleep apps so understanding the limitations are IMPORTANT. "It is always recommended to follow up with a sleep study to be sure nothing is missed. “

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A diagnosis of obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) may raise the risk of osteoporosis, particularly among women or older individuals, according to a new study. OSA is a condition that causes brief interruptions in breathing during sleep. If left untreated, OSA can raise the risk for stroke, cardiovascular disease and heart attacks.  New research shows that OSA may also increase the risk of osteoporosis.

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Insomnia predisposes individuals to increased risk of stroke and this association is profound among young adults – up to eight times greater among insomniacs 18 to 34 years old.  The results of a recent study underscore the clinical importance of identifying and treating insomnia.

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Heavy drinking damages the body in many ways. In addition to liver failure, alcoholics are at a much greater risk of developing pneumonia and life threatening acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), for which there is no treatment. Researchers suspect that alcoholics are more susceptible to these lung diseases because the immune system in the lung is no longer strong enough to protect from infection and damage, but, it had been unclear why the immune system in the lung fails.

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Asbestos and the Lungs

What is Asbestos? 

Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that has been used for over 4500 years.  Asbestos is one of the most useful and versatile materials known to mankind because of its flexibility, tensile strength, insulation (from heat and electricity) and chemical inertness.

Asbestos is now a banned substance in Australia due to its dangerous effects on the lungs and its connection to lung cancer.

where was asbestos used?

Asbestos was used in:
  • fibro-sheeting
  • corrugated roofing
  • asbestos cement pipes
  • thermal insulation
  • fireproofing. 
  • paints and sealants
  • textiles such as felts and theatre curtains
  • friction products like brake linings and clutches 
  • building of hospitals, schools and libraries.

Who was most at risk of asbestos exposure?

Throughout the middle of the 20th century, asbestos-related lung disease occurred at very high rates because people were exposed decades earlier to asbestos.

Most current patients were once exposed to asbestos in:

  • mines 
  • mills 
  • factories
  • homes building or renovating
  • automotive repair
  • boilermaking 
  • construction 
  • pipefitting 
  • launderers of asbestos-containing clothing

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how does asbestos get into the lungs

When asbestos fibers are breathed in, they may get trapped in the lungs and remain there for a long time. 

Over time, these fibers can accumulate and cause scarring and inflammation, which can affect breathing and lead to serious health problems including lung disease.

diagnosing asbestos-related diseases

Symptoms 

  • Shortness of breath, wheezing, or hoarseness.
  • A persistent cough that gets worse over time.
  • Blood in the sputum (fluid) coughed up from the lungs.
  • Pain or tightening in the chest.
  • Difficulty swallowing.
  • Swelling of the neck or face.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Weight loss.
  • Fatigue or anemia.

Physical examinations including lung function tests and a chest x-ray may be recommended by your physician. 

some common lung diseases associated with asbestos

Asbestosis 

Inflammation in the lung tissue leading to fibrosis.  The lung stiffens and cuts down the passage of oxygen between the air and the blood.

Mesothelioma 

A cancerous tumor of the lining of the lung and chest cavity (pleura).

Pleural Plaques 

Smooth, white, raised irregular areas of fibrous collagen tissue that develop on the pleura (lining of the lung). 

 

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ASBESTOS research group

In conjunction with the Wesley Research Institute, the Asbestos Research Group was formed in June 2008.  Karen Banton, widow of mesothelioma victim and campaigner Bernie Banton, is a patron of this new organisation.

Unique in Queensland, the group seeks to facilitate research and raise awareness of asbestosis and asbestos-related diseases both to the medical fraternity and the general community, with the aims of improving treatment and enhancing quality of life of those affected.

Currently new research programmes are being developed. 

If you are affected we would welcome your potential participation in future projects. Referrals will also be accepted by treating medical practitioners.

You can also help by donating to the Asbestos Research Group to help fund medical research that offers hope to sufferers of asbestos-related diseases would be appreciated. 

All donations over $2 are completely tax deductible and will be acknowledged by an official receipt.

To find out more, visit the Asbestos Research Group page.

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what should you do if you think you have had exposure to asbestos? 

Speak with your GP – and ask about a screening.  This may include chest x-rays, CT scans and/or lung function testing.  

Your GP may also decide to refer you to a thoracic physician who is a specialist in lung disease.

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