Health: Dr Ann Robinson answers health questions

Food allergies

Q
I think I have a food allergy but have had no help to find out what I am allergic to. I get blinding headaches, tummy bloating and cramps from time to time. My GP seems to put it all down to stress but did, reluctantly, refer me to an allergy clinic which apparently has a two-year waiting list. I can't afford to go private. What advice could you give me?

A
One third of the entire British population think they have an allergy and many are in the same position as you in finding it hard to get specific advice. The UK Food Standards Agency reckons that probably only 10% of would-be allergy sufferers actually do have a provable allergy. Many of us are sensitive to particular foods which you find out by trial and error. I know I get headaches and tummy pains when I eat breakfast cereal. If I avoid it, I'm OK and when I try it again, the symptoms return. That's all the proof I really need and there's no test that could prove it more effectively. Food allergies tend to cause swollen lips, tightening of the throat, vomiting or a rash within a few hours of eating the culprit. Adults with a particular food allergy, as opposed to sensitivity, are usually all too aware of their allergy and avoid that food like the plague.

Male menopause

Q
Is there such a thing as the male menopause? Is there a test for it? I'm a 50-year-old man who is finding life very difficult at the moment. I seem to lack motivation, sex drive or enthusiasm for anything at work or at home. How can I find out more?

A
Forgive me for being pedantic, but obviously there is no such thing as a male menopause because the word means the cessation of periods and you can't cease what you never started. However, there's no doubt that as men get older, muscle turns to fat and the hormone that drives virility, testosterone, becomes less rampant. A blood test to check testosterone doesn't usually give you useful information because you can have normal blood levels but become less responsive to the effects of testosterone. Failing responsiveness to testosterone is a gradual process and affects everyone differently and unpredictably. The loss of enjoyment in life that you are experiencing is more likely to be due to depression than hormonal changes and you may feel you'd like to explore this further with a sympathetic partner, friend or health professional.

Cataract cures

Q
I've just been to my optician and was shocked to learn that I have a cataract. I'm 72 and had been aware that my eyesight wasn't as sharp as it had been, but with new glasses I've been managing fine. Will I need an operation?

A
Cataracts are a thickening of the lens of the eye which leads to gradual loss of vision. You don't need an operation unless you want one and you probably won't want one until the cataract starts to interfere with your daily life. The surgery itself is one of the success stories of our age. Complications are rare and the success rate extremely high.

Morning sickness

Q I'm two months pregnant and I can't cope with the morning sickness. Mine actually lasts most of the day and is making me feel wretched. I don't want to take any drugs, but I don't think I can cope with this much longer.

A
Eat little and often, avoid the more whacky cravings like pickled eggs which might make anyone nauseous, and don't let yourself get too tired. Ginger helps some people. Acupuncture has been shown to help and is safe in pregnancy. Nausea can be a sign of a urinary infection so you could take a urine sample to your GP or midwife to be checked.

• 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 drann@dircon.co.uk 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.

Thanks to guardian.co.uk who have provided this article. View the original here.