Latest Breaking News & Top Headlines

How can we ease tinnitus for my sister with dementia? DR ELLIE CANNON answers your questions

0

My sister, who has dementia, has tinnitus in one ear – apparently it’s called abnormal eardrum tinnitus. Do you have any tips for dealing with it?

Tinnitus can be incredibly distressing. Patients describe it as a constant buzzing or ringing that comes from inside the head. It is more common in people with other ear problems, such as hearing problems or recurring infections.

In abnormal tinnitus of the eardrum, it is the eardrum that is causing the problem. The eardrum is the flexible thin wall that connects the outer and middle ear and helps transmit sounds through the canal so we can hear it. If it becomes damaged or stiff, the transmitted sound may become distorted. This is why patients hear sounds that aren’t there.

You may experience a similar effect if the ears are full of fluid, either from an infection or an earwax blockage. Unfortunately, treatments to control tinnitus may not be as effective for someone with dementia. For example, relaxation techniques or tinnitus training, which involves wearing a sound-generating device that aims to reduce the contrast between tinnitus and silence.

Tinnitus is more common in people with other ear problems, such as hearing loss or recurring infections (file photo)

But there are other ways to do this, for example by trying to drown out the tinnitus with background noises such as the radio, natural world sounds or classical music.

Anxiety and depression also make tinnitus much worse, and it is common for people with dementia to suffer from both. It may be worth taking medications that keep a person calm without being sedated, and it may be worth discussing this with a doctor. Patients also notice that their symptoms worsen with exhaustion, so good, deep sleep is essential.

If this is a problem, it’s worth exploring the possibility of sleeping tablets – at least temporarily – with your doctor.

WRITE TO DR ELLIE

Do you have a question for dr. Ellie Cannon? E-mail DrEllie@mailonsunday.co.uk

I am 85 and very active, but for three years I have suffered from very stiff calves and pain in my lower legs. I have been tested for arterial disease but was told that although my test was positive I don’t have it because I can walk. Stretching exercises don’t help. What do you suggest?

Arterial disease is essentially a problem with the arteries – the blood vessels that supply the body with oxygenated blood. When the legs are affected, doctors call it peripheral artery disease.

As with heart disease, it happens when the arteries are damaged and narrow, reducing blood supply. The most typical sign is leg pain that stops when you walk — doctors call this claudication. Most patients would describe this as pain rather than stiffness or aches. The cramps usually come after walking a distance, usually in the calves.

To measure the function of the arteries, doctors check pulses in the feet and legs and look for cold, pale skin. We also measure a blood pressure called ABPI. But there are many other causes of leg pain that are more common.

Stiff calves and pain can result from a problem with veins in the legs — which carry blood away from the feet and back to the heart — rather than arteries. This is called chronic venous insufficiency and is more common in old age. It causes leg pain, swollen ankles, cramps and sometimes a brown tinge under the skin of the ankles.

Stiff calves and pain may be due to a problem with veins in the legs - which carry blood away from the feet and back to the heart - rather than arteries (file photo)

Stiff calves and pain may be due to a problem with veins in the legs – which carry blood away from the feet and back to the heart – rather than arteries (file photo)

If doctors suspect it, they will refer patients for an ultrasound, called a duplex, to examine the veins, performed in a hospital’s vascular ward. The type of treatment offered depends on the severity of the symptoms. Patients could try compression stockings, which stimulate blood flow in the veins. Exercise also helps, as any leg muscle movement helps blood flow.

If the pain is worse when walking long distances, try walking for ten minutes during the day. There are plenty of other leg exercises that also help, such as lunges and squats, as well as stretches like yoga.

I keep waking up at night with a blocked nostril that makes it difficult for me to breathe. During the day it stops but I get a runny nose after showering and vacuuming. Do I have an allergy?

It is very common to experience symptoms that only occur at night, especially sore throat and runny nose. Lying in bed puts pressure on the head and neck, making us feel even more uncomfortable.

More from Dr Ellie Cannon for The Mail on Sunday…

Those with a stuffy nose, very runny nose, and a lot of sneezing around certain triggers may very well have an allergy.

Pollen and dust can trigger the symptoms, as well as more unusual triggers.

The easiest way to find out if you are allergic is to take an antihistamine for one to two weeks and see if the symptoms go away.

Antihistamines are well tolerated by most people, so this is a safe and quick way to diagnose an allergy.

Testing is available privately and sometimes on the NHS, but this does not always provide a conclusive answer.

Nasal polyps can also cause frequent symptoms affecting the nose. These are small, fleshy growths in the nostrils that are usually benign. They cause snoring and loss of sense of smell, as well as a runny or stuffy nose.

People with nasal polyps often say they feel like they have a constant cold. GPs can usually diagnose them during an exam and then treat them with a steroid nasal spray.

The back pain that may indicate pancreatic cancer

Sex And The City actor Willie Garson, pictured above, reportedly died of pancreatic cancer.  About eight in ten patients with this disease are diagnosed late, says Dr Ellie

Sex And The City actor Willie Garson, pictured above, reportedly died of pancreatic cancer. About eight in ten patients with this disease are diagnosed late, says Dr Ellie

The death of Sex And The City actor Willie Garson, reportedly from pancreatic cancer, reminded me of a few people close to me who also recently succumbed to the disease.

I think of a tell-tale sign they had that most of us would dismiss as nothing: back pain.

In most cases, it’s not serious, but it can be a warning sign of pancreatic cancer, especially if the pain is in the upper or middle back. I’ve been warning about this for a few years now as an ambassador for the charity Pancreatic Cancer Action. About eight in ten patients with this disease are diagnosed late, so there is no cure, and only seven percent live more than five years. If you have back pain, it’s probably because you’ve been sitting at a desk for too long.

But don’t count on it – check with your GP just to be sure.

Don’t forget those other shots…

Recent government figures show the use of the MMR shot, which protects against deadly measles, mumps and rubella, has fallen by two percent (file photo)

Recent government figures show the use of the MMR shot, which protects against deadly measles, mumps and rubella, has fallen by two percent (file photo)

Another troubling bit of collateral damage from Covid is becoming apparent: Too few children are getting the other, life-saving vaccines that should be routine.

Recent government figures show that uptake of the MMR shot, which protects against deadly measles, mumps and rubella, has fallen by two percent, while the number of teens who have had shots for cervical cancer and meningitis has fallen by 20 percent. .

Research published last week showed that the lack of MMR shots internationally is leading to tens of millions of unprotected babies at risk of potentially fatal infections. It is a direct result of school closures and children being sent home to self-isolate.

It is up to the parents to ensure that children do not miss anything. If yours is, contact your local school’s vaccination team, who will have information about catch-up programs.

.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.