For several years I have had terrible pain in my feet. When I get up, it feels like I’m standing barefoot on a pebble beach. My doctor diagnosed neuropathy, which I’m told stems from stenosis of the spinal canal, which compresses the nerves. The specialist said nothing can be done. Is that true?
Neuropathy means there is damage to the nerves in the body. This can be caused by certain medications, chemotherapy and diseases such as diabetes. Injuries can also pinch or damage the nerves.
Spinal stenosis occurs when the space in the spine is very small, meaning spinal nerves become compressed.
Nerves are responsible for all of our sensations, including pain, touch, and temperature. Damage to these nerves causes numbness, tingling, burning, and a specific kind of pain called neuropathic pain.
Today’s reader asks Dr. Ellie if there is anything they can do to help the terrible pain in their feet after being diagnosed with neuropathy caused by spinal stenosis (stock photo)
Problems can be diagnosed using a nerve conduction study. These check whether the nerves are working properly.
When neuropathy develops because of a physical problem such as spinal stenosis, it can be difficult to treat. One option would be to manage the pain with specially designed pain relievers, such as gabapentin, pregabalin, and duloxetine.
Alternative forms of pain relief, such as acupuncture, can also help, and walking, stretching, or swimming can relieve pressure on the nerves, reducing pain. Physical therapists can recommend specific exercises.
Depending on the severity of the condition, a specialist may recommend surgery to decompress the spine and relieve pressure on the nerves.
My 78 year old husband started having problems going to the toilet earlier this year. The GP did a PSA test, which came back normal. But a second test showed a higher PSA level and a consultant diagnosed early prostate cancer. Six months have passed and we have heard nothing. I’m afraid the disease will spread. Are my fears rational?
No patient should have to wait six months for cancer follow-up care. In fact, most people diagnosed with cancer begin treatment within two months.
A detailed cancer treatment plan should be prepared by oncologists and surgeons and sent in writing to the patient’s primary care physician. It’s perfectly reasonable to ask for a GP appointment to talk about cancer treatment and understand what’s going on.
For some prostate cancers, treatment consists of active surveillance. This means avoiding a treatment for a cancer that doesn’t need it, sparing patients unnecessary side effects.
A reader is concerned after her 78-year-old husband was diagnosed with prostate cancer and had to wait six months for a follow-up appointment (stock photo)
Prostate cancer can grow very slowly and will not cause any problems or symptoms in some men. Therefore, monitoring the disease using scans, PSA tests, and biopsies is sometimes the best options.
If questionable test results emerge, surgery or radiotherapy may be offered quickly.
It is important that major gaps between appointments are properly explained to the patient, so it would be worth reviewing the letters you have had from the team of specialists to the GP.
If the plan is unclear, you can ask to talk to the specialist and ask questions about your treatment. The Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) is present in all hospitals and offers support to patients.
Another option is to contact the Prostate Cancer UK charity on 0800 074 8383 – they have specialist nurses who can advise.
I’ve noticed lately that my fingers are very stiff. The index finger on my right hand is especially bad, it keeps getting stuck. Last year I was diagnosed with osteopenia in my legs – could my new problem be related to this, or is it just arthritis?
There are many different forms of arthritis. The type that people often get in old age is osteoarthritis. It causes the joints to become painful and stiff and happens due to wear and tear over time.
Other types of arthritis include rheumatoid arthritis, gout, and arthritis associated with psoriasis.
More from dr. Ellie Cannon for The Mail on Sunday…
Of course, some joint problems are not arthritis at all.
Osteopenia, which is when the bones thin but not enough to warrant an osteoporosis diagnosis, can sometimes be related to arthritis.
It is not uncommon for the two conditions to develop at the same time in the same person.
If a finger feels like it is getting ‘stuck’, the cause may be a condition called ‘trigger finger’. This is actually a problem with the tendons, rather than the joints.
It makes the finger difficult to move when a tendon becomes swollen and causes pain, stiffness, and clicking. Patients usually notice that their symptoms are worse in the morning.
Trigger finger is more common in older people and seems to affect women more than men, as well as people with diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or gout.
General practitioners can recognize both a trigger finger and signs of arthritis during a simple examination.
It may be worth having an X-ray or other scan of the joints and exploring physical therapy which can be helpful for both problems.
Watch out for menopausal fearmongering, Linda Barker
Linda Barker, former Changing Rooms host, is the latest celebrity to launch and monetize a menopause awareness campaign. This one is called Changing Wombs – very clever – sponsored by the Essity feminine hygiene brand.
There was an accompanying video in which Linda, 61, told her 30-year-old daughter Jessica that menopause hit her “like a freight train,” that she had insomnia and hot flashes for a decade and feared she would become “invisible.” halfway through life.
Well, she certainly didn’t – and I’m sorry she struggled. I hope she had support.
Former locker room presenter Linda Barker (left), 61, told her 30-year-old daughter Jessica (right) that menopause hit her ‘like a freight train’
Menopause is not something to hide or be ashamed of, and I welcome the new openness about it. But scaremongering is not the way to raise awareness.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says women’s experience of menopause can vary greatly.
Each woman will have her own emotional and physical response to the changes.
Young women should also know that many of them will have an uncomplicated menopause that they will hardly notice, and will often feel liberated from having to worry about periods, cramps and mood swings.
Videos to trust Dr. YouTube
I usually caution against using social media for health advice. But I’ve found that YouTube can be surprisingly useful.
I was invited to a YouTube event a few days ago where the content related to health was shown, and I was surprised by what I saw.
“I usually warn against using social media for health advice. But I’ve found that YouTube can be surprisingly useful,” writes Dr. Ellie Cannon
It appears that numerous reputable organizations publish credible information on the video-sharing site, including the NHS, GP surgeries and leading specialist hospitals.
Even some top doctors share valuable stuff, and the videos are much more engaging than the pamphlets you find in the doctor’s waiting room.
But if you do, keep an eye out for accounts that have received a big green check from the online watchdog Patient Information Forum (PIF).
The tick is the hallmark of credible healthcare information and you can find a full list on the pifonline.org.uk website.