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Fasting safely this Ramadan – expert advice for Muslims with diabetes

Ramadan, the ninth month in the Islamic calendar when Muslims devote themselves to their faith and fast from sunrise to sunset, starts on Sunday 5 May.

Lasting until Tuesday 4 June, the Ramadan fasting period is obligatory for almost all Muslims.  Although certain groups are exempt for health and other reasons, some people with diabetes are keen to observe the fast, although the long daylight hours in the UK at this time of the year makes it a challenging time, even for those without medical conditions.

Diabetes UK has highlighted that: “long fasts of 15 hours or more can put people at higher risk of hypoglycaemia and dehydration, which can make you ill”.

To help people to fast safely, the diabetes team at NHS Milton Keynes Clinical Commissioning Group is encouraging people to seek advice from their GP and Imam before starting their fast and has encouraged people to bear in mind this practical advice:

  • Appropriate portion sizes (for example 1-2 dates are the recommended amount to break the fast due to high sugar content)
  • Reduced carbohydrate content (this has the most impact on blood glucose levels)
  • Glycaemic index (low GI foods e.g. brown/basmati rice or porridge/shredded wheat help keep blood glucose stable)
  • Cooking methods (baking rather than frying)
  • Using healthier options where possible (balanced meals with vegetables and salad)
  • Hydration (sugar content should also be considered in drinks)

Those with diabetes who fast are at risk of experiencing high and low blood glucose levels. They also need to be aware that there are changes to the body during fasting, so they may need to change when and how they take any medication that they rely on. Speak to your community pharmacist for individual advice.

While fasting can be good for us, as many faiths will attest; it can however also have risks if you have ongoing health conditions.  You may be exempt from fasting but even if you’re exempt and want to fast, particularly if you have diabetes, you should get medical advice before you fast, and take care when you break the fast.

Useful links:

For further advice, the Diabetes UK website is a useful source of information www.diabetes.org.uk/guide-to-diabetes/managing-your-diabetes/ramadan

  • Alternatively you can call the Diabetes UK Helpline on 0345 123 2399. If you wish to speak in a language that is not English, this can easily be arranged.

How to manage your Hay Fever

Hay fever is caused by an allergy to pollen. The symptoms of hay fever are caused when a person has an allergic reaction to pollen. Common hay fever symptoms are:

  • a runny, itchy and/or blocked nose
  • sneezing
  • itchy eyes

Pollen is a fine powder released by plants as part of their reproductive cycle. Pollen contains proteins that can cause the nose, eyes, throat and sinuses to become swollen, irritated and inflamed.

How to treat hay fever

Many hay fever symptoms can be controlled with over-the-counter medication at your local pharmacy.

  • Steroid nasal sprays help to prevent or reduce inflammation in the lining of the nose and some can help to relieve watery eyes. Available from your local pharmacy.
  • Antihistamines help to relieve a runny nose, sneezing, itching and watery eyes. Some types of antihistamines make you drowsy and are best taken before bed. Newer antihistamines are less likely to make you drowsy and are a common choice for children and people with milder or occasional symptoms of hay fever. Available from your local pharmacy.
  • Decongestant nasal sprays and tablets are used to unblock the nose. They should never be taken for more than a few days at a time. Available from your local pharmacy.
  • Eye drops can be used to treat itchy or watery eyes. Available from your local pharmacy.

If none of the above treatments are effective for you, please book an appointment to discuss other treatments.

Useful Links

NHS – Hay fever
NHS – Find your local Pharmacy
Met Office – Pollen forecast

Smear tests don’t detect ovarian cancer

One in five women think a smear test (cervical screening) can detect ovarian cancer, but they are mistaken.

Smear tests are performed to detect abnormal cells on the cervix, the entrance to the womb. If abnormal cells are identified they are removed from the cervix and that can help prevent cervical cancer.

Ovarian cancer is different to cervical cancer. Ovarian cancer develops when cells in the ovary (connected to the womb by the fallopian tubes) begin to grow and divide in an abnormal way, eventually growing to form a tumour.

GPs check for ovarian cancer by doing a pelvic examination to determine whether the ovary is enlarged and by taking a sample of blood to test for a substance called CA125, which, if high in the blood may indicate ovarian cancer.

The lack of awareness behind the purpose of a smear test means many women may think they are ‘safe’ or ‘protected’ from ovarian cancer. As March launches Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, it’s important to know the signs of the cancer:

  • Constant bloating or swollen stomach
  • Feeling full quickly and/or loss of appetite
  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Urinary symptoms, including needing to wee more urgently or more often than usual.

Dr Nicola Smith, GP and Chair of NHS Milton Keynes Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said:

“Everyday 20 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the UK, and over half of these newly diagnosed patients are already at a late stage of cancer.

“It is crucial women are aware of the symptoms of ovarian cancer, and if women are presenting any of the signs, not to be embarrassed and book an appointment with their GP.

“If changes have been noticed they may not be due to cancer, but if it is, the earlier the diagnosis the higher the rate of successful treatment.”

For more information about ovarian cancer, visit https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/ovarian-cancer/

For more information about smear tests (cervical screening), visit https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cervical-screening/

For more information about cervical cancer, visit https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cervical-cancer/

Important Announcement

It is with sadness that we say goodbye to Dr Paul Minney who has been a GP at Parkside Medical Centre for over 25 years. Dr Paul Minney has been an important influence on patient care including being involved in prescribing safety as part of MK prescribing Advisory Group. He officially leaves on 31st March.

Patients registered with him will be transferred to a new GP in due course. We will contact you as soon as we can.