In primary care, sending blood samples to the laboratory is so routine that it is easy to take these tests for granted. But it is important to understand the purpose of each test; when it is appropriate; and how to act on the results. Here red blood cell tests and their role in identifying possible causes for anaemia are discussed.
Over 10 years ago, publication of Women's Health Initiative (WHI) studies affected both public perceptions and our clinical prescribing of hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Front-page reports of higher risks of heart attacks, stroke and breast cancer led to around a million women in the UK stopping HRT, many without medical advice or clinical assessment. Since then, new evidence has emerged, much of which does not support the earlier alarming headlines.
Malnutrition is a cause and consequence of disease, and affects at least 3 million adults in the UK, most of whom live in the community. By helping these vulnerable patients to eat the right types of food rather than use inappropriate supplements, practice nurses can not only help prevent and treat malnutrition, but also save the NHS millions of pounds each year.
Most people with coronary heart disease (CHD) can be managed with lifestyle change and optimal medical therapy, but some patients need to be referred for revascularisation procedures such as angioplasty with stenting (also called percutaneous coronary intervention; PCI). Practice nurses have an important role to play in follow-up of these patients to minimise adverse events, promote lifestyle change and ensure continuing concordance with medication.
A patient may present at any time suffering from the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis, (a severe, life-threatening, generalised or systemic hypersensitivity reaction). This article explains how to recognise anaphylaxis and how to treat anaphylactic shock. It also outlines the responsibilities of practice nurses and other members of the primary healthcare team after a patient has had a suspected anaphylactic reaction.
Liver disease is the fifth largest cause of mortality in England, after heart disease, cancer, stroke and respiratory disease. Of this 'big five', liver disease is the only major cause of death that is rising year on year, and it affects people at a younger age. It is also becoming clear that chronic hepatitis B infection is making an increasing contribution to the rising death toll from liver disease. Recently published NICE guidelines now give practice nurses and GPs a key role in the initial assessment and onward referral of patients to specialist services, and their subsequent care.
Androgens such as testosterone, male sex hormones produced by the testicles, control the development and maintenance of masculine characteristics. Reduced testosterone levels—known as male hypogonadism—may cause both physical and psychological effects. These effects may be severe enough to compromise a man's general wellbeing and his sex life in particular. But the decision to replace testosterone is not always straightforward, and patients need careful monitoring before and after starting treatment.