DR ELLIE CANNON: Are my new heart pills turning me bald at 61?
A 61-year-old reader has asked DR ELLIE CANNON whether his new heart pills could be responsible for his sudden hair loss
I am 61 and have always had a full head of hair. In the past two months I’ve begun to get male pattern baldness, seemingly out of nowhere. All the men in my family have retained their full heads of hair until old age. I am taking a number of medications for a heart condition. Could this be to blame?
Male pattern baldness, or androgenetic alopecia, is hair loss in the typical pattern we think of as ‘baldness’ – losing hair from the front of the scalp, and temples gradually, which then progresses towards the back of your head. It is usually a slow process that starts before your 40s, so a dramatic change at 61 is likely to be something else.
Hair loss is a well-known side effect of many medications and is usually a generalised thinning that happens very noticeably at the start of taking specific drugs, and can become obvious with weeks.
Common culprits include blood thinners, blood pressure tablets, anti-epilepsy medication and some antidepressants. Those with heart conditions could be on two or three medications at once that could cause hair loss – for example, an ACE inhibitor and a blood thinner.
ACE inhibitors such as ramipril are frequently prescribed to control blood pressure and prevent heart attacks – and alopecia is a common side effect.
Unfortunately, the only treatment for this type of alopecia is stopping the medication, which should start to reverse the changes within three to six months. But when you weigh this up against the benefits of protecting your heart, it might not be an option.
After years of tummy pain and embarrassing wind I had a scan – and was told I have a prolapsed bowel. My GP was told no further action was needed. I have tried to ease my problem with mild laxatives. Anything else I can do?
Bowel prolapse usually means the rectum, the last part of the bowel, has slipped down from its normal position.
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It can cause a lot of discomfort and embarrassment, and I think it is certainly something that requires further action from your doctor.
Rectal prolapse is most often seen in women over 60 – and particularly in those who have suffered with years of constipation or diarrhoea.
It can cause a range of symptoms, including a lump at the anus, changes in bowel movements and pain.
Although this has been diagnosed by scan, it needs to be assessed by your GP with an examination to evaluate the degree of prolapse as well looking for other conditions such as haemorrhoids and cancer.
The first step of treatment is indeed laxatives. Also ask your doctor to refer you for pelvic floor physiotherapy – this can strengthen the sling of muscles that supports the rectum.
Surgery may be recommended, but a fifth of people who opt for this suffer another prolapse at some point.
Sweet treats definitely just for Christmas
Shock news last week: a Vente Chocolate Salted Caramel Gingerbread Triple Whip Praline Brownie Cream Latte contains… a lot of sugar.
Some might say, of course, the clue is the name.
But presumably not Action On Sugar, which felt compelled last week to highlight that festive drinks sold at high street coffee shops are really, really sweet.
Action On Sugar felt compelled last week to highlight that festive drinks sold at high street coffee shops are really, really sweet – with one drink containing more calories than a KFC six-piece bargain bucket
OK, I made up the drink mentioned above. But you get my point.
The report highlighted a Starbucks Signature Caramel Hot Chocolate, loaded with almost 100g of tooth-decaying sugar and 758 calories – more than a KFC six-piece bargain bucket – which seems excessive for a drink.
I don’t think anyone is remotely claiming they’re ‘healthy’ choices.
But if you were in any doubt, I’d say that these are just for Christmas, and not for every day.
More GPs needed… by the thousand
NHS general practice is not in a good state, and it breaks my heart to say that. Patients can be faced with a three-week wait to see a doctor, and we GPs are stressed to the point of burnout.
The new head of the Royal College of GPs has announced most GPs would not consider working full-time now, due to the stress of having to see 60 or 70 complex patients a day.
So as doctors work fewer hours, waiting times get worse and the crisis deepens. There’s no easy answer, although thousands more GPs joining the workforce would be a good start.
DO YOU HAVE A QUESTION FOR DR ELLIE?
Email [email protected] or write to Health, The Mail on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London, W8 5TT.
Dr Ellie can only answer in a general context and cannot respond to individual cases, or give personal replies.
If you have a health concern, always consult your own GP.
When will the Government learn that community services are vital to health? I was shocked to find out last week that almost 800 libraries have closed since 2010 as a result of funding cuts. You might not think this is a health issue, but it absolutely is.
Libraries are the epicentre of many social activities for thousands of older, isolated adults. Many of my patients make daily visits to the library near my practice, even if it’s just to read the newspaper in the same room as another human being.
With loneliness fast becoming one of the nation’s biggest killers, we can’t afford to lose the social hubs that are a lifeline for so many. There’s so much more to a library than simply borrowing books.
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