My knees click - are they seizing up?
Question: For as long as I can remember, my knees have "clicked" when I bend down. Sometimes it's quite loud. I'm in my mid-30s and of average weight. Why does this happen, and does it mean I'm more at risk of suffering joint problems in later life?
Answer: Don't worry about the sound: it is just innate to the structure of your knee and joint cartilage, not an illness or a sign of degeneration or arthritis. It is not linked to later joint problems, just a nuisance. But I don't know that anything can be done about it - sorry!
My wife drinks to relax, but doesn't realise how much
Question: My wife has a senior management job and, like many, uses alcohol to relax. Each week she drinks seven bottles of wine and half a bottle of spirits. She says this is not an issue, but I'm worried she's becoming an alcoholic. What can I do?
Answer: She is drinking far too much for her long-term brain and liver health. Whether she should be labelled an alcoholic is neither here nor there - she needs to cut down drastically before she does herself serious damage. She certainly can't last on this load of alcohol every week. You can't do anything until she recognises she has a problem. Show her this if it helps.
How safe is the pill?
Question: I was on the pill for four years, but came off recently. It did wonders for my complexion - I never got spots - but I worried about its effects on my general health and wellbeing. How long can you stay on it safely? I'm 37.
Answer: The pill is famous, of course, for its side-effects, but they are, in fact, much rarer than is popularly supposed. Most women who take it for many years find it has no ill effect on their health: in fact, when it comes to longevity, long-term studies of thousands of women who have taken the pill for many years (20 or more) have tended to show that they are at least as healthy as, and often live longer than, women who have never taken it. There are a few precautions: for example, at 37 you absolutely should not smoke, at all, if you take the pill. The combination leads to a much higher than normal risk of venous thrombosis (blood clots in veins), which may lead to pulmonary embolus (the clot breaking off and passing into a lung) or stroke. Otherwise, if you feel well and confident on the pill, there is no reason to stop. As long as you have a regular breast check and a six-monthly blood pressure check (some women's pressure rises with the pill: they should stop it), you should be able to carry on with it indefinitely.
It'll all blow over
Question: My husband is 45, a bit overweight but otherwise healthy. However, he sneezes loudly and violently over and over again every morning, accompanied by much sniffing, nose-blowing and streaming eyes. It started suddenly a few years ago, and at the time I assumed it was an allergy that would pass. He seems satisfied to put up with it, but I find it irritating, and worrying too. What should he do?
Answer: This is probably a residual irritation in the nasal passages after a cold - it can last for years, so I can understand your anxiety. If he explains the problem to his doctor, he will be given a decongestant steroid spray to damp down the irritation. If that doesn't help, go for an ENT opinion - he may have polyps in his nasal passages, which may need surgery.
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