MANILA - President Duterte's health issues are not life-threatening but can cause extreme discomfort, a cardiologist said Wednesday.
Dr. Willy Ong explained the President, who said he has Buerger's disease, may be suffering from pain in his hands and feet.
Buerger's disease causes blockages in the blood vessels and is often associate with smoking, Ong said.
"Nagbabara yung arteries, mga ugat sa kamay pati sa paa... Kaya minsan iyung kamay, paa malamig tapos 'pag maglalakad, masakit, lalo na 'pag malamig ang panahon," he told radio DZMM.
(The arteries in the hands and feet become blocked. The hands and feet get cold and would throb painfully during cold weather.)
According to the former Department of Health consultant, the disease is not life-threatening but worst case scenarios could lead to amputation.
"Ang pinaka-complication, iyung talagang malalang-malala, pwedeng maputol iyung kamay o paa... Kasi nagkukulang ang supply sa kamay at paa kaya sumasakit, iyun lang ang pinaka-binabantayan. Pero 'di naman ito nakakaapekto sa isip, sa trabaho o sa haba ng buhay," he said, adding the condition may be alleviated by giving up smoking.
Duterte, a smoker during his youth, earlier said he no longer smokes and drinks.
MIGRAINES, BACK PAINS
The 71 year-old leader, the oldest to be elected president in the Philippines since the post-war period, has said he periodically suffers from migraine and back pains.
Ong said 15 percent of the population is affected by migraine, which is caused by inconsistent blood flow to the brain, and characterized by dizziness, double vision, and lack of coordination.
Minimizing stress and lack of sleep could prevent migraine attacks, he said.
But compared to migraine, Ong said he is more concerned with the President's spinal problem because this can be quite painful.
Duterte said doctors had advised surgery on his spine, but his wife, a nurse who used to work in the United States, did not agree because "a lot of operations for the spine went wrong."
He added, "If you guys see me always in a sad mood, I am actually pushing a nerve here to relieve the pain," and touched the right side of his face.
The President said he used to take fentanyl, a strong synthetic opioid analgesic often used to relieve pain during cancer treatments and major surgeries.
Ong strongly advised against the use of fentanyl and said the President could instead undergo rehabilitation therapy to relieve pressure on his spinal nerves.
The President must also avoid prolonged standing or sitting, the doctor advised.
Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella has insisted the health issues have not affected Duterte's work. "Nothing serious," he told reporters, when asked to comment on the President's remarks.
Duterte, however, missed some events during meetings of the ASEAN grouping of South East Asian nations in Laos in September and last month's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Peru, due to migraine attacks and a bad stomach.
He also cited migraine for skipping a widely promoted interview with host-actress Kris Aquino in November.