DR ELLIE CANNON: Cramp in my calf is starting to spread – I blame my statins

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For the past five months I’ve been getting cramp in a calf. Recently it’s been a little higher, just down from behind my knee. 

Could it be due to the statins I’ve been taking for years?

A third of people over the age of 60 regularly suffer from cramps. 

They can be caused by dehydration, certain exercises, liver disease and drinking too much alcohol.

Cramps may also be a sign of an underactive thyroid gland, and, yes, they can be a side effect of certain medicines.

People on statins often report muscle aches and pains, which can start even after taking the tablets without any problems for years.

For the past five months I've been getting cramp in a calf. Recently it's been a little higher, just down from behind my knee. Could it be due to the statins I've been taking for years?

For the past five months I’ve been getting cramp in a calf. Recently it’s been a little higher, just down from behind my knee. Could it be due to the statins I’ve been taking for years?

The simple way to find out if statins are to blame is to stop taking them for at least four weeks – having first spoken to your GP. 

If that helps, the answer is clear and a different tablet to lower cholesterol can be used. 

Or the doctor, having reviewed the case, may consider that these drugs are no longer necessary.

Twenty years ago we prescribed statins to anyone with high cholesterol. 

Now we are more considered in our approach, taking into account family history, lifestyle factors such as smoking and diet, age, weight and other illnesses, including diabetes. 

So a discussion with the GP would always be worthwhile.

Regular exercises can help to reduce cramps and even prevent them happening at all.

If you Google ‘NHS calf cramp exercises’, you should be able to find some simple options.

After a nasty bout of shingles last year I’ve been suffering ongoing pain where the rash was – called post-herpetic neuralgia – and have been told the virus also caused a tear in my cornea. 

The vision in my right eye is like looking through a fog all the time, which is upsetting as I have a driving job and I now rely on my good left eye. Might a cornea transplant help me?

Shingles  is a viral infection that affects up to a third of us. For most people it causes a bout of intensely sore and painful lesions with no long-term problems. 

I’m all for jabbing kids… but let’s not rush it 

Should we be vaccinating children? Some countries, such as the Netherlands, pictured above, are pressing ahead with this policy, but I think it shouldn’t be something we jump into.

I’m glad that the UK’s regulator, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, is taking its time to weigh up the evidence for risks and benefits.

Should we be vaccinating children? Some countries, such as the Netherlands, pictured above, are pressing ahead with this policy, but I think it shouldn't be something we jump into

Should we be vaccinating children? Some countries, such as the Netherlands, pictured above, are pressing ahead with this policy, but I think it shouldn’t be something we jump into

Some say Covid doesn’t pose a danger to children. 

This is absolutely wrong. Children are very unlikely to get severe Covid, and statistically are also unlikely to suffer from long Covid, but they are at risk from school closures, loss of learning, loss of development and mental-health issues, all of which are caused by an ongoing pandemic.

To me, this is justification in favour of vaccinating them.

But for a minority, the consequences can be very difficult, and this is particularly the case when an eye is affected.

The shingles virus can move into the nerve controlling the eye and cause serious issues, including glaucoma, blindness, corneal ulcers and debilitating inflammation. 

Shingles within the eye is considered an emergency and requires immediate and urgent hospital treatment under a specialist.

Sufferers should be given follow-up appointments with a specialist ophthalmologist, particularly if there are ongoing symptoms such as blurred vision or pain.

The cornea is a clear layer which protects the eye and bends light to help focus it correctly on the retina. 

If it is damaged, sight is affected. Transplants – from a deceased donor – may be offered to those with scarred corneas.

An eye specialist would advise on the feasibility of this, but I’d also like to address the issue of driving. Legally, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) needs to know if someone has visual defects, such as a blind spot, even in one eye. 

For anyone with a serious eye condition whose work involves driving, it is imperative they get an optician assessment and seek advice from the DVLA. 

If you were to have an accident and it turned out you hadn’t notified the DVLA, you could be in very serious trouble.

I am troubled with a problem in my pubic hair, and sometimes I feel as if my lower stomach and buttocks are itchy as well. I can’t see anything at all, but it is driving me crazy and making me depressed. 

I’ve not been intimate with anyone for more than 40 years, and I just don’t know what to do. Can you offer any advice?

Itchy skin is maddening, especially in the genital region.

Infestations such as scabies – a kind of mite – are a common cause. People assume scabies is associated with poor hygiene, but that is not the case. 

You usually contract it from someone living or working closely with you.

Scabies causes intense itchiness and marks on the skin, but these are not always visible without a thorough examination.

The treatment is a prescription insecticide called permethrin, which a GP can issue alongside advice on decontaminating bedding and clothing.

DO YOU HAVE A QUESTION FOR DR ELLIE? 

Email [email protected] or write to Health, The Mail on Sunday, 2 Derry Street, London, W8 5TT.

Dr Ellie can only answer in a general context and cannot respond to individual cases, or give personal replies.

If you have a health concern, always consult your own GP.

Intense itchiness can also be caused by a contact allergy to products such as washing powder or fabric conditioner. 

Even when detergents have been used for years, their formulations can change and cause a problem, so this is always worth considering.

Skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and lichen sclerosus would also cause persistent itchiness, although usually with visible skin changes. 

Conditions like these would respond well to calming creams such as emollients, as well as steroid cream to dampen down any inflammation.

Itching in the genital region is worth discussing with a GP as there is a long list of potential causes, with even hormonal changes and some very rare skin conditions possible culprits.

Doctors are very comfortable discussing these issues with patients of all ages and it is a relatively common reason for people to go to the doctor, so there is no need to feel embarrassed.

An antihistamine tablet can also be used to calm the itching and the desire to scratch, although it is a not a solution to the underlying cause. This can offer some respite and break the itch-scratch cycle that develops. 

Drug-free nasal sprays are best  

I recently suggested that decongestant nasal sprays are an option for people who suffer from hay fever, and also if you have a permanently runny nose due to a condition called post nasal drip.

A worried reader wrote in to point out, rightly, that these medicines are not without their downsides. If they are used for too long, they can sometimes worsen the problem, particularly when you try to stop using them.

We see the same issue with people taking painkillers for headaches, which paradoxically often go on to perpetuate the headache.

If you need continuous nasal sprays, it is best to stick to the drug-free ones such as sea-water sprays and sinus rinses.

GPs would only recommend using steroid sprays for a short two-week course.

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