That's torn it
Q I turned awkwardly while playing tennis, heard a twang and then couldn't put my weight on that leg. My calf aches like mad, I can only hobble on tiptoe and can't put my foot down flat. I've got a bruise where the leg hurts and still can't walk properly.
A Don't panic. This common injury happens when you tear a few fibres of your calf muscle, gastrocnemius. It is a salutary reminder that warming up is not a wimpy waste of time. Muscles have a great blood supply so inevitably a couple of little blood vessels snap and leak their contents, hence the bruising. Because of gravity, the bruise will track down your calf so don't be alarmed if your ankle turns funny colours. Use ice (or a bag of frozen peas), a tubigrip bandage, anti-inflammatory painkillers if you want and see a physio if possible.
Q I am a 62 year old in good health who has been eating a high-fibre, low-fat diet for about 12 years. My bowels used to work once a day with firm stools, but about three years ago this changed to going two or three times a day at less regular times, generally with softer stools or slight diarrhoea (no blood). The GP mentioned "diverticulosis" and I was checked at the hospital by a barium x-ray which found nothing.
A Lots of people notice a change in their bowel frequency as they get older; in many cases an increasing tendency to constipation. In itself, it is nothing to worry about. Diverticulosis is the presence of small pouches (diverticulae) that develop in the wall of the large bowel. Bits of faeces can get stuck in these pouches which causes inflammation, known as diverticulitis which you experience as a sudden onset of pain and tenderness on the lower left abdomen. You may feel feverish and unwell. These flare-ups are usually treated with strong antibiotics, so let your GP know if it happens. Other than that, the trick is to keep the stool flowing smoothly - so a comfortable amount of fibre, plenty of fluids and exercise are ideal. You can have antispasmodic drugs if you get gripey pain (eg mebeverine), suck peppermints if you feel bloated, and anti-diarrhoeal drugs (eg loperamide) if the stool gets too loose.
Haggard and hot
Q I had a baby eight weeks ago and since then the weight has been falling off me. I'm looking really haggard, feel hot and sweaty and often feel quite anxious, a bit like having a panic attack. My hair is also falling out. Is it likely to be due to the stresses of motherhood or could it be hormonal?
A Motherhood can certainly make you anxious and breastfeeding burns up a lot of calories (500 a day). Many women also find they moult in the six weeks after delivery. But you sound as though you have an over-active thyroid. A simple blood test by your GP will tell you. The two commonest reasons for an overactive thyroid are Grave's disease in which the body produces antibodies to your own thyroid, or inflammation of the thyroid (thyroiditis) which can happen after childbirth. A hospital isotope scan can be arranged in which you have an injection into your arm of a substance that is taken up by the thyroid and shows whether the gland is active or not; a gland with lots of uptake is Grave's and no uptake is thyroiditis. If it's Grave's, you're given drugs (carbimazole) to block the thyroid, but if it is thyroiditis your condition is likely to clear within a few weeks. Beta blockers can stop the anxiety, palpitations and sweats. You can carry on breastfeeding on beta blockers but not on carbimazole. Either way, you will need six-monthly blood tests to check your thyroid levels because you may swing the other way and end up with an underactive thyroid in time.
· These answers are intended to be as accurate and full as possible, but should never be used as a substitute for visiting a doctor and seeking medical help. If you have a question for Dr Robinson, email her or write to her c/o The Health Editor, The Guardian, 119 Farringdon Road, London EC1R 3ER. She regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.