Dr. Iain Corness

Wednesday, 19 August 2015 16:11

The Kings of Swing

Many years ago, a very switched on copywriter was aware that HM King Bhumibol of Thailand was a jazz aficionado, a composer and accomplished musician. King Bhumibol had sat in for a jazz session with the late Benny Goodman, and it was too great an opportunity to miss, titling the photograph “The Kings of Swing”.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015 15:46

Smoking in cars? Another risk factor?

I do not like riding in cars where the driver smokes. The smell permeates everything including the roof lining, and the hot embers burn holes in the upholstery. But those are not the real reasons I dislike cigarette smoking in cars.

The real reason was spelled out by Dr Hilary Cass, the President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, who said, “Levels of tobacco smoke in a car can be even higher than in a smoky bar and the effect on children can be serious, with second-hand smoke strongly linked to chest infections, asthma, ear problems and cot deaths. You can’t smoke in public places any more. It’s illegal to inflict your smoke on colleagues at work. So why should you be allowed to inflict it on passengers?”

I think most of the readers of this column know my position on smoking, as I am very much against it, but being a pragmatist, I do not try and push the message too hard with adult smokers. They have heard all the statistics and have made up their own minds. I am not going to do a Joan of Arc over it.

However, it has been known for many years that children in smoking households suffer from more respiratory problems than the children from non-smoking households. “Thorax” the International Journal of Respiratory Medicine stated 12 years ago that “Previous reviews in this series have shown that parental smoking is associated with an increased incidence of acute lower respiratory illnesses, including wheezing illnesses, in the first one or two years of life, but does not increase the risk of sensitization to common aero-allergens, an important risk factor for asthma of later onset. Prevalence surveys of school children suggest that wheeze and diagnosed asthma are more common among children of smoking parents, with a greater increase in risk for more severe definitions of wheeze.”

I think you should just accept that at face value, do your own ‘googling’ if you like, but undoubtedly cigarette smoke and children is not a good mix. With the details that levels of cigarette smoke in closed cars is higher than in smoky bars, this should ring some warning bells.

As I said at the beginning of this article, I do not try and push the message to adult smokers, so please do not give me a barrage of ‘hate mail’. However, if this item about kids and smoking has hit a nerve, here is the truth on stopping smoking. The success rate really hangs on commitment. Leaving aside hypnosis and acupuncture, about which I know very little, but the good books tell me do not enjoy high success rates, let’s look at the other methods. Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) gums and sprays make Nicotine available for you in measured doses – much like cigarettes do. You get the craving, you chew the gum. You get the craving, you squirt the spray.

Patches are slightly different. They deliver the Nicotine slowly over a 12 or 24 hour period, supposed to stop the craving before it happens. But often do not. After stabilizing on the NRT it is time to bring the dosage down, which is the next hurdle at which many fall. The end result can be cigarette smoking plus NRT – a potentially fatal combination. In fact, I strongly believe that NRT should only be done under close medical supervision. Too much nicotine can kill too!

So what is the best way? It’s called Cold Turkey. The proof is in the numbers. There has been enough research done and the prime factor is that the quitter has to be committed to the concept of becoming a non-smoker. Doing it (quitting) for somebody else, because you lost a bet, because you are being nagged into it by your wife, girlfriend, boyfriend is doomed to failure, I am afraid. This is something which requires your total commitment. 100 percent all the way.

Cold Turkey demands you stop immediately. Go through any withdrawals. Come out the other side as a non-smoker and you can stay that way for the rest of your life (and your children’s lives).

Thursday, 13 August 2015 12:53

Have your discs slipped lately?

Back pain is one of the commonest orthopedic problems, and the often used terms such as lumbago, sciatica and slipped disc get bandied about at the dinner table. However, an acute bad back is not the sort of condition that you want to chat about. How many people have told you that they have a slipped disc? Would you be one of them? However, would you believe me that nobody actually “slips” a disc?

I was reminded about back problems when I experienced an acute lower back pain myself a few weeks ago. The symptoms were classical and the ones we meet so frequently. The patient is doing something and suddenly everything locks up and they are immobilized, frozen to the spot. I was once called out to a factory toilet where the chap was bent over the urinal, and too afraid to move, the pain was so acute. And this was exactly what happened to me! Let me assure you that the condition can be crippling and not “cute” in any way.

Let’s begin then with the “slipped disc” problem. First thing – discs do not “slip”. They do not shoot out of the spaces between the vertebrae (the tower of cotton reels that makes up your spine) and produce pain that way. The disc actually stays exactly where it is, but the center of the disc (called the nucleus) pops out through the edge of the disc and hits the nerve root. When this happens you have a very painful condition, as anyone who has had a disc prolapse (our fancy name for the “popping out” bit) will tell you. Think of the pain when the dentist starts drilling close to the tiny nerve in your tooth. Well, the sciatic nerve is a large nerve! When the nucleus of the disc hits the sciatic nerve, this produces the condition known as Sciatica - an acute searing pain which can run from the buttocks, down the legs, even all the way through to the toes.

Unfortunately, just to make diagnosis a little difficult (if it were all so easy why would we go to Medical School for six years!) you can get sciatica from other reasons as well as prolapsing discs. It may just be soft tissue swelling from strain of the ligaments between the discs, or it could even be a form of arthritis. Another complicating fact is that a strain may only produce enough tissue swelling in around 12 hours after the heavy lifting, so you go to bed OK and wake the next morning incapacitated. And then you have to convince the employer that you did it on his time and not yours.

To accurately work out just what is happening requires bringing in those specialist doctors who can carry out extremely intricate forms of X-Rays called CT Scans, Spiral CT’s or MRI that will sort out whether it is a disc prolapse, arthritis or another soft tissue problem. The equipment to do these procedures costs millions of baht, and the expertise to use them takes years of practice and experience. This is one reason why some of these investigations can be expensive.

After the definitive diagnosis of your back condition has been made, then appropriate treatment can be instituted. The forms of treatment can be just simply rest and some analgesics (pain killers), physiotherapy, operative intervention or anti-inflammatories and traction.

Now perhaps you can see why it is important to find the real cause for your aching back. The treatment for some causes can be the wrong form of therapy for some of the other causes. You can see the danger of “self diagnosis” here. Beware!

So what do you do when you get a painful back? Rest and paracetamol is a safe way to begin. If it settles quickly, then just be a little careful with lifting and twisting for a couple of weeks and get on with your life as normal. If, however, you are still in trouble after a couple of days rest, then it is time to see your doctor and get that definitive diagnosis. You have been warned! There is a branch of the Bangkok Spine Academy in my hospital.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015 13:16

Bad cars that I should have forgotten

A friend of mine sent me an item about the 10 best cars in the past 50 years, and obviously there would be many different ideas from the enthusiasts. Unfortunately, for many people, they are only guessing, because just how many of the readers have actually driven a Porsche GT3, or even a Porsche Targa?

Tuesday, 11 August 2015 13:13

Disqualified for a safety pin!

Racing cars are subjected to scrutineering. This covers two main areas. The first is Complying with the rules for the category the car is entered in and the second is Safety.

One Pattaya owner of a supercar found that there was no dedicated service center for his supercar. So what did he do? He built a center and stocked it and staffed it with the very best available.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015 13:09

VW passes Toyota

Volkswagen has become the world’s top-selling automotive company at the halfway mark of this year.

VW has achieved this milestone counting the sales in the VW group which includes Volkswagen itself, Audi, Porsche, Skoda, and Seat with over five million vehicles delivered to customers from January to June, while Toyota – which also includes Lexus, Daihatsu and Hino – has also posted a result of five million vehicle sales over the same period.

Volkswagen AG global sales chief Christian Klingler described the group’s result as “satisfactory” given the difficult market conditions experienced in the first half, with a recovery in Europe only partly offsetting “tense” developments in South America, Russia and, particularly, China, “where growth on the overall market has been shrinking steadily since the beginning of this year and became negative in June for the first time in several years”.

Volkswagen Group chairman of the board of management Martin Winterkorn said deliveries to customers in the second half should remain on a level with the previous year, despite a “persistently challenging market environment”.

“We are keeping a very close watch on global macroeconomic trends, especially where there are uncertainties such as in the Chinese, Brazilian and Russian markets,” Dr Winterkorn said.

The group’s luxury brands, particularly Audi and Porsche, continue to be key factors bolstering Volkswagen’s strong balance sheet, with Audi’s operating profit up 7.4 percent to €2.9 billion and Porsche up 21 percent to €1.7 billion.

However, I can’t see Toyota just lying down and capitulating to the VW onslaught, and expect a big push towards the end of the year. Anyone for a new Fortuner?

Tuesday, 11 August 2015 13:06

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I mentioned that a maker of aeroplanes decided to go into production of cars after WW II. The body was made of alloy, with thicker panels on the top of the front wings, where mechanics would lean during servicing. The engine was a two liter six cylinder which was appropriated from a German auto manufacturer as part of the war reparations. The body shape was very aerodynamic and in tests done in 1973 (20 years after the car had been discontinued), only four current production cars were found to have marginally better drag coefficients. What was this car? It was the Bristol 401, which even had the BMW double kidney grille.

So to this week. What cars is this? It could do 200 mph and had an eight cylinder in-line engine of 5,660 cc which developed 646 BHP at 5,800 RPM, independent double wishbone front suspension with 19 x 4.5 tyres on the front and 22 x 7 rears. That’s more than enough to be getting along with.

For the Automania free beer this week, be the first correct answer to email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Tuesday, 11 August 2015 12:39

Tyrrell’s Wines go deVine

The Royal Cliff organized another of their regular wine dinners at the end of July, with the Royal Cliff’s GM Antonello Passa welcoming everyone. This event was to let the deVine club members experience wines from Tyrrell’s Winery from Pokolbin on the East Coast of Australia.

Thursday, 06 August 2015 12:43

New circuit for Pattaya?

As reported in the daily press, Sonthaya Kunplome (elder brother of Pattaya Mayor Itthiphol Kunplome and previously a member of parliament) has plans to invest 1.2 billion baht to build a world-class motor racing circuit near Pattaya. The circuit should be operational in 2017.

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