Doctor, how much alcohol is too much?

alcohol, alcoholism, binge drinking, whisky beer

A glass of whisky

Photo credit: SHUTTERSTOCK

What you need to know:

  • One unit of alcohol is 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol.
  • This is the amount of alcohol that your body is able to process fully in an hour.

Dear Doc, 
I read somewhere the other day that binge drinking is technically defined as five or more drinks in two or less hours for men. I usually take about three whisky drinks diluted with juice in about three hours. If I take such a drink two times on a Friday night (that's like six diluted drinks in six hours), is this still considered binge drinking?

Dear reader,
It is important to track alcohol intake for health purposes. The recommendation is 14 units or less per week. Binge drinking is drinking to get drunk or taking over eight units in a session for men or over six units for women. Risk of injuries and accidents increases two to five times after drinking over five units of alcohol.

One unit of alcohol is 10ml or 8g of pure alcohol. This is the amount of alcohol that your body is able to process fully in an hour. However, the ability to metabolise alcohol may vary from person to person, so the guidelines may not apply to everyone equally. The number of units in one drink vary with the strength of the drink and its size. To calculate the number of units consumed, multiply the strength of the drink (% alcohol by volume ABV) by the total volume, divided by 1,000. For example, to calculate the units in a double shot (50 ml) of spirit:

40 (%ABV) * 50 divide by 1,000, that is 2,000 divide by 1,000, which is two units.

For a quick calculation, you can use an online alcohol unit calculator. 

Dear doc,
My son's urethral opening is not located at the tip of the penis, rather at the middle. What’s the problem? Can I go ahead and have him circumcised since he is almost of age?

Dear parent,
The positioning of the opening depends on developmental processes during formation in the uterus. The urethral opening or meatus is normally located at the tip of the penis. However, the opening can be displaced, with the meatus placed anywhere near the tip of the penis or anywhere along the penile shaft. If the opening is near the tip of the penis, then there may be no complications. However, the further the opening is from the tip, the more the complications, including urinary incontinence and infection.

It would be advisable for him to be reviewed by a paediatric surgeon before circumcision. Depending on severity, the circumcision may need to be done together with urethral reconstruction. However, if the opening is near the tip, circumcision can be done with no need for reconstruction. 

What is proctitis and what causes it?

Dear reader,
Proctitis is inflammation of the inner lining of the rectum. It can occur due to trauma or due to infection from food borne organisms or from sexually transmitted infections. It can also occur as part of inflammatory disease of the bowel like crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. It can also be a side effect of treatment with radiation or antibiotics.

Symptoms of proctitis include pain in the rectum, pain and/or bleeding when passing stool, rectal discharge of pus, mucus or blood, loose stools, abdominal pain and feeling of rectal fullness. Complications include developing an ulcer or a fistula, and chronic bleeding leading to anaemia.

To diagnose proctitis, a physical exam including a rectal examination is done. Tests may include blood tests, stool tests, rectal swab and STI screening. In addition, examination of the rectum using proctoscopy, sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy. Treatment will depend on the cause such as antibiotics for infection, specific anti-inflammatory medication for inflammatory disease and symptomatic treatment such as thermocoagulation to stop bleeding.
At home, take lots of fluids, soft bland foods and avoid caffeine and fatty foods.
I have a cracked tongue and it pains when taking salt or acid foods. How can I cure this?

Dear Boniface,
About one in 20 people have a cracked or fissured tongue, also known as lingua plicata. This means that you have one or more shallow cracks on the top surface of your tongue. There is no known cause for a fissured tongue, but it is thought to be hereditary. It may also occur alongside other disorders.

Having a fissured tongue is not harmful, but it also cannot be cured. The condition is usually painless though some people experience a burning sensation when they take acidic food or drinks.

Also, debris can accumulate in the cracks leading to inflammation or infection, which can cause pain and irritation on the tongue, so it is advisable to clean the tongue using a brush and a tongue scraper. In case of infection, treatment specific to the type of infection can be administered.

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