Can I hold off a varicose vein?
A varicose vein is developing on the back of my left calf. It's like a set of small bruises, is always warm and slightly painful on pressure. My GP says the only treatment is surgery once it has developed. Can I do anything to prevent it developing further? I am 27, exercise regularly, don't smoke and work at a desk.
Does your doctor know that it is always warm and is tender? Neither of these symptoms is typical of an uncomplicated varicose vein. There may be a superficial phlebitis (inflammation) or some other change in the vein that needs treatment or investigation. So please see your doctor again - you may need an anti-inflammatory or even an antibiotic, depending on the cause. As for the possible surgery, for a single calf vein it is very minor and is the best option. It is great that you don't smoke, because smoking initiates vein inflammation.
I'm feeling flushed
I am 54 and have had hot flushes for more than four years. Is there any way of knowing how much longer they are likely to continue - and is there anything I can do to lessen the effects?
Please see your doctor - he or she can help a lot. Prescription medicines range from hormone replacement therapy (don't be scared of HRT: it really works and last year's scare stories don't apply to women taking it for a short time) to specific non-hormonal drugs for those who can't take HRT. Your doctor will guide you through them. It's impossible to predict how long symptoms will last - five years is a good average, but some women suffer for a decade.
The itchy and scratchy show
My four-year-old son started playgroup a few months ago and now has an itchy rash all over his chest and upper back. The spots are tiny and rough, raised from his skin, and blanch when I press on them. What can it be, and could he have caught it from other children?
It's possibly scabies, a tiny mite that burrows into the outer surface of the skin - your GP can confirm this or rule it out. If it is scabies, a simple overnight treatment with a cream will clear it. Your whole family will need to be treated, and you must tell the playgroup leader. Where he caught it is a moot point - it would be unwise to pinpoint other children without very good evidence.
My cold sore hell
I'm a single 36-year-old woman who has had severe cold sores all my life. Their main trigger seems to be kissing. Any kiss that's more than a peck on the cheek initiates cold sores all over my face. Bar never dating again, what can I do?
As soon as you feel the initial symptom of a sore - a slight tickle, or just a peculiar sensation - put aciclovir cream on the spot and apply it five times a day. That should prevent the sore appearing, and may even break the cycle for you. If you delay until the sore arises, it won't work as well. You can buy aciclovir from your pharmacist. However, your sores seem so severe that it may be worth asking your doctor for a check on your general health and immunity. Sometimes (though thankfully rarely) severe recurrent symptoms such as these are a sign that your immune system isn't at its best, and that may mean further tests to find out why. The fact that you have had these sores all your life tends to suggest that it's not so in your case, but there's no harm in ruling it out.
• Do you have a question for Dr Smith? Email firstname.lastname@example.org