When to go to the doctor: If you are taking the maximum dose of painkillers regularly to get relief, speak to your doctor. It’s also important to differentiate between headaches and migraines. “The pain pathways are completely different,” explains Boots Pharmacist Angela Chalmers (Migraines are typically throbbing, “one-sided” head pains, accompanied by light sensitivity and nausea. They are often preceded by fuzzy vision and made worse by movements). “Sumatriptan is a good over-the-counter painkillers for migraines,” she adds.
Self-help: “Most headaches can be resolved without any medication at all,” says Chalmers. “The trick is to work out what’s caused it… When did you last eat or drink? Have you been at a computer for hours without break? It’s also worth considering an eye test. Often, drinking a big glass of water, or rubbing the temples and neck for five minutes to relieve any tension, is sufficient.” Similarly, keeping a diary can help to identify migraine triggers and avoid attacks.
For more information, go to: The Migraine Trust (www.migrainetrust.org.)
Leg health: Faulty veins are the main cause of serious leg problems.
“But only half of cases have any visible signs,” says Professor Mike Whiteley, consultant surgeon and clinical director of the Whitely Clinic. Most worrying are ‘hidden’ varicose veins. Another common – and potentially fatal – problem is deep-vein thrombosis (DVT), a blood clot in one of the deep veins of the leg. This is usually caused by inactivity and restricted movement (which is why long flights can be a problem) but family history and obesity are risk factors.
When to go to the doctor: Symptoms of DVT include pain, heat, redness and swelling in the calf, all of which should be checked out urgently. “The tell-tale signs for varicose veins are legs that ache when you stand but get better when you sit down,” explains Professor Whiteley. “You may also have swelling, itchy skin or red/brow stains in the lower leg and ankles – all caused by blood pooling under the skin. Left untreated, this can result in leg ulcers.”
Self-Help: A venous duplex ultrasound scan is a good idea if you suspect hidden varicose veins. Sitting or standing for long periods? Help keep DVT at bay by rocking back and forth on your feet, rotating your ankle and pointing and flexing the feet. For more information, go to: Assess your risk of varicose veins at www.veinsscreening.co.uk.
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