DR ELLIE CANNON: Why do I keep getting these frightening dizzy spells?
I am 71 and I can’t find my balance. It’s so bad that I need to rely on a cane. I feel light-headed when walking but fine when sitting or lying down. It’s very worrying. What is wrong with me?
Dizziness or being off-balance can feel very odd and, at times, worrying. But it’s normal to experience this occasionally.
However, when the sensation occurs regularly and interferes with your life, then you must visit the GP.
That said, we doctors often struggle to find out exactly what is causing dizziness and balance problems.
Dizziness or being off-balance can feel very odd and, at times, worrying. But it’s normal to experience this occasionally. (File photo)
A spell of light-headedness could be a sign that something is wrong with the heart, the nervous system, blood pressure or the inner ear.
It could even be a symptom of anxiety.
If the feeling is brought on by either sitting or standing, blood pressure is likely to be the cause.
A drop in blood pressure when someone stands up – very common in older people – is called postural hypotension.
This can be related to certain medications, especially those designed to regulate blood pressure. Ask your GP if this is the case, as they may be able to offer an alternative medication.
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Feeling off-balance can also be related to heart-rhythm problems or anaemia – a lack of iron in the blood.
In both cases, there is a reduced flow of blood or oxygen to the brain, causing light-headedness, particularly during activities such as walking, when the heart speeds up.
Then there are inner-ear problems, the most common being benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, or BPPV.
This usually causes bursts of dizziness, especially if you move your head in certain directions.
Infections in the inner ear triggered by cold or flu – the most common is one called labyrinthitis – can also leave you with a sense of vertigo when you’re moving around.
Very rarely, balance issues can be caused by something more serious, such as MS or a brain tumour.
Thorough tests looking at the heart and nervous system are needed to rule these out. It is therefore essential that any balance problems are checked by a doctor.
I’ve been suffering from agonising pains in my pelvis, lower back and down the front of my legs. Could it be arthritis? I’m a 61-year-old man and am otherwise healthy.
Pain in the pelvis and the front of the upper legs are common and often debilitating problems.
Sometimes, the pain travels to the hip, thigh, groin and buttocks.
Usually, it is an issue with the sacroiliac joints.
These connect the bottom of the spine to the hip bones and are a support structure for the entire body – stabilising and supporting the pelvis every time we walk.
These joints also absorb some of the impact when we’re running or jumping.
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If you have a health concern, always consult your own GP.
Just like any other joints in the body, they are vulnerable to arthritis. But damage to the sacroiliac joints can often be triggered by an exercise injury.
Damage can also occur due to uneven pressure between the feet while walking, caused by unsupportive shoes.
Because the pain encompasses much of the lower body, doctors may mistake it for nerve pain such as sciatica.
Surprisingly, the simplest treatments are often the most effective for sacroiliac pain.
Aspirin and ibuprofen, which reduce inflammation in the joint, are very helpful when taken for two weeks. But check with your pharmacist if you’re able to take these as they are inappropriate for some with specific conditions.
Exercises, instructed by an osteopath or physiotherapist, can strengthen the pelvis.
If the pain is not responding to these simple treatments, speak to your GP about an injection into the joints.
Our drug shortage is reaching crisis point – and it’s not just HRT.
At the last count, 36 common medications are now in short supply. I have never known anything like it.
My advice to all patients is this: before you visit your GP, ask pharmacists in your area what IS available.
If they are out of the medication you normally take, find out what equivalents are in stock.
Write this down and then tell your GP. It may just be a case of switching brands. But it could be more involved.
One patient told me their chemist had run out of a high-dose antidepressant, so we prescribed two tablets of a lower dose pill daily, instead of just one.
In another case, an eye drop with two ingredients wasn’t available, but we could prescribe two separate drops.
All this may take a while. So please do it in plenty of time before your prescription runs out.
Fiftysomethings need some safe sex lessons
We need to start educating everyone about safe sex – not just teenagers. Sexually transmitted infections in middle-aged men are rising, according to new Public Health England figures.
In fact, males in their 40s and 50s now outnumber teenagers in getting these diseases.
It’s little wonder. Not only is there a rising divorce rate and growing popularity for dating apps, but fiftysomethings have probably forgotten the sex education lessons they received at school.
And, in my experience, older people are less likely to visit the GP about sex-related matters, making them more vulnerable to infections.
Teenagers may need to teach their fathers a thing or two about talking to doctors about ‘embarrassing’ problems.
Many readers have asked me if they can have a flu jab while nursing a cough or cold. (File photo)
Many readers have asked me if they can have a flu jab while nursing a cough or cold.
The answer is yes – as long as you don’t have full-on flu, or another fever. You can even go ahead if you’re on antibiotics and most other medications.
This situation is bound to affect thousands in the coming weeks as the national vaccination scheme swings into action.
A GPs’ waiting room, filled with bugs and germs, won’t help you get over your cold, though. Take my advice: get a pharmacist to give you the jab instead.
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