Viewpoint: Dr Claire Butler: The problem is a basic lack of moisture

The politicians have got it all wrong, writes Dr Claire Butler. Even a cursory glance through my pile of prescriptions on any given afternoon will tell you what the problem is. Who would have thought that so many problems would come down to a basic lack of, well, moisture?

Dr Butler: 'Perhaps it’s not so much a lack of moisture as just the wrong kind of moisture.'
Dr Butler: 'Perhaps it’s not so much a lack of moisture as just the wrong kind of moisture.'

Where did it all go, I wonder, and why will so many people fork out £8.05 to have it put back? Air conditioning frequently gets the blame. Air conditioning at work? (Who are these people and what do they do? Haven’t they heard of windows?)

But it would appear that there’s something ‘in the air’ in the last year or so which means the number of ‘optical lubricants’ now reads like a wine list, sometimes with prices to match, and there are more and more eyes with a thirst for more.

Perhaps it’s not so much a lack of moisture as just the wrong kind of moisture

Perhaps our bodies are just keeping up with modern culture, after all, the trend for drinking two litres, eight glasses or just ‘whatever you’re doing, it’s not enough’ has been with us for some time. On the whole, I’m sure it’s true that if we all drank more water we’d be more alert, less grumpy, eat less and be less at risk from NSAID’s dark side; but should it not also come with a health warning?

I shudder to think what would happen to some of my elderly patients if they suddenly decided to start drinking eight glasses of water a day. Hospitalised with hyponatraemia, most likely. We may sigh and shrug at the octogenarian man admitted with a UTI who survives on three cups of tea a day, but fail to recognise that (1) he’s managed 80+ years on that ‘system’ and (2) may be grateful that he only gets up to wee once a night.

Or maybe Galen had it right with his four humours: bile, phlegm, blood and wee. No, tea. No, the other kind of bile. Perhaps it’s not so much a lack of moisture as just the wrong kind of moisture. Well, if there’s one thing for sure, it’s that the ‘moisture movement’ is here to stay, and I for one am grateful. I quite like how it has made drinking tea seem a little bit edgy and dangerous; it definitely needed a new image. Nothing is more satisfying than listening to the patients’ itchy/sore/uncomfortable history, then peering at their predicament and thinking: ‘Hang the diagnosis ­ I’ve got just the cream/drops/ointment for this.’ Must get back to those prescriptions. Thirsty work. Who’s for a cup of generic hypromellose?

  • Dr Claire Butler is a salaried GP in Kings Heath, Birmingham.

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