In January I had radiotherapy to treat a tumour in my neck. Then I had chemotherapy, which brought on a terrible cold. Since then I have lost my sense of taste. Is there anything I can take or do to regain it?
Cancer treatment is known to cause taste loss in as many as half of patients who undergo chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy – especially when the head and neck are involved.
The nerves in the brain that control taste are often damaged by radiotherapy or surgery to remove tumours. Chemotherapy drugs both dull the sensitivity of taste buds and lead to a loss of appetite due to nausea.
Some people find chemo makes certain tastes become more bitter, or sweeter. Others struggle to taste foods at all.
Cancer treatment is known to take its toll on patients and that could include a loss of appetite
Taste returns between three to six months after chemo treatment for most patients, sometimes even sooner.
But if radiotherapy is the cause, permanent damage to the nerves means that taste may not fully return for years, if ever.
Specialists recommend trying strange-tasting or unfamiliar foods to give the best chance of sensing flavour before the sensation starts to come back.
Foods with citrus, herbs and spices, and garlic as well as pickles and strong sauces such as horseradish can be useful.
I’ve developed a large bunion on my foot. It’s only painful when I wear certain shoes, but it looks ugly. How can I get rid of it without an operation?
Bunions affect more than a third of women and about one in ten men. They occur when the large toe bends towards, and sometimes even overlaps, the second toe. This creates a large and obvious bump – the bunion – on the big toe joint which can often be unsightly and painful.
Non-surgical treatments won’t get rid of the bunion but they will reduce symptoms and pain.
Bunions affect more than a third of women and about one in ten men (stock image above of a person with bunions
These include wearing soft-soled, flat and wide shoes and using anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen.
Bunion pads that provide a cushion between the bunion and shoe can help, as can ice packs. A podiatrist can offer a type of insole called an orthotic to take pressure off the joint.
Are patients being prescribed diabetes drugs they don’t need, as was reported last week?
The answer is complicated.
For almost two decades we have prescribed to diabetics medication under guidelines that have led to massive improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol and blood-sugar control.
This has undoubtedly saved millions from disability, and an untimely death.
For almost two decades doctors have prescribed diabetics medication under guidelines that have led to massive improvements (stock image of a doctor above)
But the guidelines may not have taken into account that as people age, medication needs to change. Diabetes drugs act differently in patients over 70, particularly if they’re frail and have other health problems.
One thing to watch out for is if you are older, diabetic and keep having low blood-sugar episodes, or hypos. If you’re over 70 and have been on diabetes medication for a long time, it’s important to have a proper review with your GP. Your doses might need to be adjusted, and you may need to have your kidney health monitored.
Doctors should take note too: what is safe to prescribe for a 70-year-old may not be for a frail 95-year-old, whatever the guidelines may say.
It’s so easy to keep a check on your blood pressure
You can’t see it, or feel it, but having high blood pressure is a huge risk to health, leading to heart attacks, strokes and a host of other problems.
Having high blood pressure is a huge risk to health and it’s easy to check it (stock image of woman checking her blood pressure above)
This is why the British Heart Foundation launched a drive last week to get more people tested – and stressed that it’s not just older people who are affected. It’s thought there could be more than a million undiagnosed and under 45.
And it’s easy to get blood pressure checked – do it at your GP surgery, a high street pharmacy or at BHF-run mobile testing stations at supermarkets, railway stations and football stadiums.
And don’t be alarmed if you get a single high reading. Blood pressure fluctuates, and feeling anxious – which many people do when they have tests – can make it shoot up.
We only diagnose hypertension, the medical term for chronic high blood pressure, after successive high readings. We do this by sending patients home with a blood-pressure monitor.