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It's crucial you don't take your senses for granted.

THE senses are the tools with which we experience the world, so it is virtually impossible to imagine what life would be like without them.

But how do we deal with it when things go wrong? Cathy Owen looks at the effects various conditions, which often carry a stigma, can have on our ability to touch, taste, smell and hear.

TOUCH Your skin is the largest organ of the body, but it can be susceptible to different conditions: Adult acne Acne is more associated with teenagers, but around 50% of females in their twenties and above suffer with this problem and about half that percentage of men - with numbers in both sexes actually on the increase.

Dr Joanna Longstaffe, clinical director of the Independent General Practice in Cardiff, said: "It can cause a huge amount of anxiety in sufferers, particularly when you start to feel you have no control over it.

"There is not one specific cure for acne, but there are various treatments available and as with anything, the best thing you can do is arm yourself with knowledge about what may be at its root cause in order that the best treatment method - which may simply involve changes in lifestyle, for example - can be found.

"Whatever your age, acne develops because of a build up of excess sebum - the oil that is produced by the body to naturally keep the skin moist - bacteria and skin cells.

"General causes of this in adults can include hormonal changes, certain medications, stress, diet and also a family history of the problem.

"In general, with the right advice, most cases of acne can be treated with the chosen form of acne therapy and although not nice to look at, will not adversely affect your health in any other way."

Psoriasis This is a condition which affects the skin and causes red, dry and flaky patches of skin with a scaly appearance to develop in certain areas, It is mainly found around elbows, knees or on the back but it can actually affect any area of the body. It is often itchy and uncomfortable for the sufferer but it is not infectious and you can't 'catch' it from anyone.

Psoriasis is a condition which affects around 2% of people in the UK (upwards of 80% of these being affected by plaque psoriasis) and can occur at any age, although it's most likely to develop from the teenage years onwards and less likely to occur once past the age of 50.

Dr Longstaffe said: "While it looks unsightly and can of course be particularly uncomfortable for the sufferer, it can't be passed on but people suffering with it often lose confidence and their self-esteem can take a battering purely because of its physical appearance and the perception that people are avoiding them in case they catch it themselves."

Rosacea Around one in ten people are affected with this condition. Symptoms tend to start with redness or flushing - almost like a constant blush - and can progress to spotty outbreaks that can appear similar to acne, burning, the noticeable appearance of red blood vessels and in the worst cases the actual thickening of the skin so it becomes almost swollen in appearance.

It can also lead to irritation of the eyes. It tends to affect far more women than men - though if men are affected they tend to be so more severely.

"There is no one definitive cause of rosacea and a number of factors are believed to play a part," explained Dr Longstaffe.

"Treatments available include creams and gels - which will probably be effective for the majority of simple cases - and if these don't work, other options include specific antibiotic medicines, the use of Azelaic acid on the affected area or laser treatment on blood vessels."

TASTE While the survival rates of many cancers is on the increase, mouth cancer is unfortunately bucking the trend. Current statistics point to a 40% increase in the number of newly diagnosed cases across the UK over the last decade and it is said to claim over 2,000 lives each year.

Survival rates with this particular cancer have shown very little improvement over the last 20 years - the five-year survival rate is just 50%.

A diagnosis of mouth cancer and the associated impact of its management have enormous implications on day-to-day activities of life such as eating, drinking, talking, socialising and working.

Indeed, it remains one of the most disfiguring and debilitating of all malignancies. Not only that, but it is the fastest growing cancer in the UK and it kills more people than testicular and cervical cancer combined. And it is not only men who have been smokers all their lives who are affected, it is being detected in an increasing number of women and young people. Fifty years ago mouth cancer was five times more common in men than women; now it's only twice as common and an increasing number of people under the age of 40 are developing the condition.

The fact that smoking is on the decline, makes the statistics even more surprising.

"The current smoking ban in public places in the UK has gone some way to influencing a reduction in smoking and the recent ban on the sale of tobacco products in England, hopefully to be followed by legislation in Wales, will make it more difficult for young people to access tobacco," said Alison Lowe, a Cardiff-based dental hygienist. "Nonetheless, around a fifth of the UK's population still smoke and the habit is still considered to be the leading cause of mouth cancer."

Growing alcohol consumption has been pinpointed as a major factor - exceeding the recommended limits can more than treble the risk of mouth cancer. Alcohol has been found to aid the absorption of tobacco into the mouth, so those who smoke and drink to excess are up to 30 times more likely to develop the disease.

"They say that there is 'no smoke without fire' but it is a misconception that 'smokeless' tobacco is safer than smoking - the reality is that it's much more dangerous," added Alison.

Poor diet is another lifestyle factor, with up to a third of cases can be attributed to this.

Although, various studies have shown that women with high folic acid intake are at lower risk from mouth cancer and that an increase in high fibre foods and omega 3 can help decrease the possibility. Another factor that is thought to help is by eating more vegetables from the cruciferous family including cauliflower, broccoli, sprouts and cabbage.

"Most dental teams are on the ball when it comes to detecting mouth cancer and their early intervention and screening is vital in saving lives," said Alison. "However, there are calls from health experts for better on-going training for the dental team to recognise the warning signs and take action sooner.

"To this end, the General Dental Council has confirmed that 'Improving Early Detection' is to be included as a recommended topic in its Continuing Professional Development (CPD) scheme. This is essential, as early diagnosis gives patients a 90% chance of survival."

Cancers of the lip, tongue and throat all come under the mouth cancer umbrella and the BDHF os urging people to have a little look at the insides of their mouth.

If you find anything unusual then it is worth visiting your dentist. Possible signs to look out for include: An ulcer in the mouth that has not healed; White or red patch in the mouth that doesn't go away; Lump or thickening on the lip or in the mouth and/or throat; Difficulty or pain with chewing and swallowing; Loose teeth for no apparent reason; A lump in the neck As Alison said: "It is really important to remember that the disease is potentially curable if caught early enough. So, if in doubt - get checked out." For more information, visit SMELL Smelling disorders are mainly to do with the loss of the sense of smell, which is known as Anosmia. This is the most common smelling disorder and can be temporary or permanent.

Dysosmia is a distorted sense of smell, where the patient senses non-existent unpleasant odours. It can be caused by medical and mental conditions.

Hyperosmia is an increased sensitivity to smell and can be a characteristic of someone with a neurotic or histrionic personality.

While Hyposmia is the diminished sense of smell and is usually a temporary condition that a person may experience after a case of acute influenza.


It's not just teenagers that suffer with acne
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 18, 2013
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