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From numb arms while sleeping to dry eyes – Dr Zoe Williams answers your health queries

CHRISTMAS party season has arrived and many of us will be enjoying a few festive drinks.

Hitting the mulled wine and prosecco is all very well, but don’t forget to follow alcohol guidelines and stay hydrated.

Dr Zoe Williams answers some common questions sent in by readers

The NHS recommends no more than 14 units a week, and taking days off from booze.

It is also wise to alternate alcohol with some water or soft drinks.
This will help ward off your hangover, too.

Here’s what readers asked me this week. . .

Q) MY husband has been diabetic for many years, but over the last few he has experienced some problems getting erections.

Viagra does not work at all. He is too embarrassed to go to the doctor, plus his working hours are chaotic. He has tried using a vacuum device, which just caused discomfort.

However, in a previous relationship, the doctor gave my ex a machine that worked well. Are these still available, or could you please suggest one that will do the job?

A) Thanks so much for writing in about what is a very sensitive issue.
Your husband really needs to see his GP as there are potentially a number of things to be addressed.

Firstly, how well controlled is his diabetes? Some conditions can cause erectile dysfunction, such as diabetes and some cardiovascular problems — for example high blood pressure. Making sure they are well managed is important.

He may be taking medication that might cause erectile dysfunction. If the GP knows about this issue, they can consider substituting it with an alternative drug.

Also, as your husband has diabetes, the GP would be able to prescribe substitutes for Viagra, too. Devices such as vacuum erectile devices are available to buy but take advice from your doctor before you purchase one.

If your husband tries all of the above with his GP and there is still no improvement, then a urologist referral should be the next step.

Q) I’M a 59-year-old man with diabetes and I have plantar fasciitis and asthma. I don’t want to take painkillers for ever. What can I do?

A) The plantar fascia is a long, thin ligament that lies directly beneath the skin on the bottom of your foot. It connects the heel to the front of your foot and supports the arch of your foot.

Plantar fasciitis happens when that ligament is strained. This causes the ligament to become weak, swollen and inflamed, which leads to heel and arch pain. Repeated strain can also cause tiny tears in the ligament.

There are many reasons this tissue can become strained. People who have diabetes are sometimes more susceptible, as are those who are carrying larger amounts of body weight. It is also more common in runners and people who work on their feet because it is put under more pressure.

That is why the initial treatment, along with painkillers, is relative rest.

Plantar fasciitis can typically take anywhere from three and 12 months to get better. But you can improve your chances of a speedy recovery by using at-home treatments.

These include stretches and exercises (there are some good videos on the Versus Arthritis website) and massage of the fascia. One way to do this is by rolling a cold soft drink can under the foot. Other treatments include investing in more supportive footwear and orthotics.

If you have been consistently using home remedies for a couple of months, and you are not seeing an improvement in pain or it is worsening, a podiatrist might be able to give more specific recommendations and sometimes may recommend a steroid injection.

Q) WHAT can be done about my very red, dry, swollen eyes? I don’t want to leave the house because they look so bad.

A) This sounds extremely unpleasant and I imagine it is uncomfortable. It is important to speak to your GP because the first steps are to try to figure out what is causing it and then give some appropriate advice and treatment.

You could complete an e-consult request and attach some photographs of your eyes so the GP can see.

Alternatively, you could request a video consultation if you are not keen to leave the house.

My advice for both photos and video consultation is to do them facing a window, with natural light, if you can.

If this isn’t possible or it is dark outside — which it is by 4pm now — be in a well-lit room, with the main light source in front of you. It really helps to improve the picture quality.

In the meantime you could try some antihistamines, if you haven’t already, in case there is an allergic cause. The pharmacist can advise about eye drops and ointment to use at night for dry eyes. Sometimes, a red eye can be a medical emergency.

If redness in the eye is accompanied by severe eye pain, unusual sensitivity to light (called photophobia), suddenly altered vision, or if it develops after a head injury or direct trauma to the eye, then emergency medical attention is required.

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