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Portugal’s pandemic switch to ‘teletrabalho’ causes irritable bowels and quite a bit more…

It’s another unexpected and far from ideal downside of Portugal’s response to the pandemic. By jettisoning so many office workers into ‘teletrabalho’ (remote working from home) – for many weeks complicated by the presence of children trying to cope with their own ‘distance learning’ regimes – adults have developed ‘digestive disorders’, from ‘irritable bowels’, to hemorrhoids and quite a bit else in between. 

Gastroenterologist Guilhereme Macedo has been talking to Lusa, explaining some of the  collateral damage suffered by hundreds of thousands of workers obliged to work from home.

“To be frank, ‘teletrabalho’ is a great obstacle to the digestive system”, explains the expert who heads up the gastroenterology department at Porto’s São João University hospital (CHUSJ).

“From acid reflux to obesity, passing irritable bowel syndrome and ending in hemorroidal diseases, this is the kind of suffering teletrabalho has promoted, and not in any way helped…”

Fellow expert Ricardo Marcos-Pinto working out of Porto university hospital (CHUP) agrees, suggesting as much as 15% of the Portuguese population is now having to cope with irritable bowels.

He terms it a “visceral manifestation of day-to-day preoccupations”, stressing that since deconfinement he has had ‘several requests for consultations for these kinds of symptoms’.

“What we have seen in our patients is that they have become worse with teletrabalho, with the fact that they have been at home and cannot go out. We have seen a form of decompensation that accompanies illnesses like anxiety and depression”, said Ricardo Marcos-Pinto, who also lectures at ICBAS (Porto university’s institute of biomedical sciences Abel Salazar).

The interview was yet another trying to highlight the need for anyone with digestive disorders to seek medical advice ‘sooner rather than later’ – because another result of the pandemic is that so much has been ‘put on the back burner’, particularly when it comes to routine medical tests, to the point that when people do turn up for help, they can be at ‘advanced stages’ of various illnesses.

Said the medical professional: “In gastroenterology we have never seen so much advanced disease as we are seeing now. We’re seeing what we haven’t seen for many years, in very advanced stages – sometimes beyond treatment”.

As has been stressed in the recent past (click here), every day 11 Portuguese die of colon cancer, “when a simple colonoscopy exam could avoid these numbers”.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com