Doctor on your bookshelf
Jaswant Singh

A Compendium of Family Health
by Dr Ishrat Syed and Dr Kalpana Swaminathan.
Rupa & Co, New Delhi. Pages 843. Price 395.

At a national seminar I attended recently, a session of interaction between doctors and patients was a welcome item. Medicine, like all sciences, is systematised and ever-evolving knowledge. Patients and their attendants are equally keen to know how a disease occurs and what is the remedy. While this compendium is not aimed at converting educated laymen to being doctors, it is a splendid effort to educate them of the basics of common diseases, their immediate management, when to call a doctor and avoid unnecessary panic.

Atheriosclerosis leads to blockage or narrowing of the arteries due to deposit of fatty material, thus decreasing or stopping of blood flow, resulting in heart attacks or strokes. Its basic precautions and immediate treatment is given in the compendium. Backache, a headache for doctors and patients, has been beautifully described and slip disc has been explained. Burns, an accident that happens to women and children all the time, causes much flutter at home.

A pregnant lady’s nightmare is delivery (normal or through caesarian section), which has been discussed with emphasis on maternal/foetal distress. One out of every thousand Indians is suffering from diabetes mellitus. Its cause, management, and precautions have been dealt with in the book. Female, fair, forty and fertile, we were taught, were all that was required to tell it was the gall bladder disease, which has been discussed in almost two pages of the book.

Liposuction or sucking out of fat deposits from the thighs, arms, buttocks and abdomen is a form of cosmetic surgery, explain the authors. Malaria, jaundice or icterus, haemorrhoids or piles, myocardial infarction or heart attack have been described in a simple language with details of the symptoms and immediate treatment.

Osteoarthritis and peripheral vascular disease are getting common due to the increased life span; the manifestations, treatment and change in lifestyle have been explained beautifully. Seizure or epileptic fit and stroke, hemiplegia, i. e., paralysis of one half of the body, are life threatening conditions and require vigorous life-saving measures by the family, before the doctor is called.

Urinary stones are formed in a large number of persons in north India; it has been discussed with reference to the latest techniques—extra corporeal lithotripsy (its mode of crushing stones and passing with urine), the PCNL and the URS. Varicose veins—that ugly bunch of veins on the legs, their causation, treatment and surgical operations have been discussed.

Any compendium of health without the mention of drugs is curry without meat, precept without practice. Analgesics, anti-anxiety drugs, antibiotics, anti-psychotic, anti-tubercular and many other drugs have been mentioned to acquaint the readers with basics, not with a view to dispensing with the doctor and starting self-medication, but with a view to understanding the doctor’s prescriptions.

I have also read Reader’s Digest series of Home Remedies, but this appears to be the first Indian book by gifted, practising general and pediatric surgeons after years of diligent, devoted hard work in the service of ailing humanity. Written in an easy running narration, it is an informative endeavor aimed at answering the FAQs (frequently asked questions). The book is like an all-time doctor-patient interaction. The alphabetic order of the entries makes the search easy.

The apple printed on the cover is meant to keep the doctor away.

—The reviewer is a surgeon and retired Major General.