Question: My wife suffers from ice cube headaches. She underwent tests and visited doctors but no one seemed to know what caused it. I am writing to you out of despair. What can we do to help her?
An ice headache, also known as a primary stabbing headache, causes severe pain around the eye or on the side of the head that comes on suddenly.
This feeling lasts only a few seconds, but can happen up to 50 times a day. It is not known what causes it, but it can be triggered by bright lights or stress. They are more common in people with similar conditions, including migraines.
Visit a doctor for tests and examination when it first occurs so they can make sure there is nothing else more serious going on.
It is also wise to have an assessment with a neurologist who specializes in this area, as ice headaches can be confused with things like cluster headaches, which have similar features – a neurologist will be able to spot the difference between the two.
Dr. Eli Cannon says ice headaches can be crippling because they cause a lot of pain, which is why pain clinics often recommend psychological support.
Medications including the pain reliever indomethacin may be used to prevent attacks
Because the headache pain caused by ice chips is so transient, even though it is so severe, it is difficult to treat it at the time. However, medications including indomethacin can be used to prevent attacks. Indomethacin is a pain reliever that is also used as an anti-inflammatory in conditions such as arthritis.
Ice headaches can be disabling because they cause a lot of pain, which is why pain clinics often recommend psychological support.
Q: I had a scan a few years ago to see if I had multiple sclerosis (MS) but it didn’t find anything. I have been suffering from extreme fatigue for a decade and my legs often feel sluggish and heavy. Recently I have been feeling slight numbness and tingling on one side of my body. Can I still have MS?
MS is a neurological disease that can affect the brain, nerves and spinal cord, affecting around 130,000 people in the UK. This happens when the immune system attacks the body and attacks the protective layer around the nerves called the myelin sheath.
The damage this causes can lead to numbness or tingling in the face and body, extreme fatigue, blurred vision, problems walking, and even difficulty controlling the bladder.
There are different types of the disease, although most people find that their symptoms come and go. Unfortunately, some people’s MS gets worse over the years, without any periods of improvement.
It may be worth having a neurologist take a look at anyone who has had unexplained symptoms of nerve damage for a long time, despite a long wait to see an NHS specialist.
When diagnosing a patient with MS, a doctor first rules out other causes of nerve damage, such as vitamin B12 deficiency. Another test would be a nervous system check to see how effective your reflexes are, which may involve tapping the knee or bicep with a hammer reflex.
In some cases, an MRI scan can detect MS by picking up damage to the myelin sheath of nerves in the brain and spinal cord.
But it is still possible for someone to have MS even if a scan doesn’t detect it, because it may not appear in all areas of the brain or it may be less noticeable if it is small or if it is at an early stage. Your neurologist may order other tests to help diagnose MS, including a lumbar puncture — also known as a spinal tap. This involves using a needle and syringe to take some fluid from around the spinal cord, which is then analysed. A person’s eyes may also be tested to see if there is damage to the optic nerve, which can be an early sign of MS.
Q: A huge 3-inch cyst was found on one of my ovaries in August and I was listed for urgent surgery. But the doctors also discovered that I had long QT syndrome, which causes an irregular heartbeat, and now there seemed to be indications that I would not be fit for surgery. What should I do?
The important thing is not to panic. Having to wait for surgery may be a good sign – ovarian tumors can be aggressive, so you’ll usually be called in for surgery quickly if doctors think the cyst is cancerous.
However, noncancerous ovarian cysts can be painful. Pressure from the cyst can also cause bloating and pain in the pelvis, constipation or problems emptying the bladder.
Long QT syndrome is a rare condition in which the heart’s electrical system takes a long time to recharge between beats, which can lead to loss of consciousness, palpitations, and seizures. People usually have no idea about this until they have an electrocardiogram – a simple test that records the electrical activity of the heart. The concern is that it is often associated with unexpected death in young people who were not aware they had it.
But knowing that someone has long QT syndrome means doctors can offer treatments to help control it, such as beta blockers or a pacemaker.
Having this condition should not cause any delay in surgery, but a cardiologist may be asked for an opinion if there is a risk that someone will have a dangerously irregular heartbeat during the procedure.
Anyone experiencing unexpected delays in getting care should speak to their GP, who can check that everything is on hand. Sometimes we find that patients think they are on the waiting list when they are not.
Do you have a question for Dr. Eli Cannon? Email DrEllie@mailonsunday.co.uk
Dr. Cannon cannot enter into personal correspondence and her responses must be taken in a general context.
Are you left without an NHS dentist?
Shocking images of a huge queue snaking outside a new NHS dentist in Bristol show just how desperate the UK’s dental crisis has become.
People regularly come to my list of clinics with toothaches or other problems, but GPs are not trained to treat such problems, so I have to send them away with a little advice about painkillers.
A shortage of available appointments and high treatment costs have led some patients to resort to extreme measures, such as traveling abroad for care or extracting their teeth, for example.
Have you or someone you know relied on similar unusual lengths? Or have you struggled to find a dentist to take you on as a patient? Please write to the address below and let me know.
A huge queue forms outside a new NHS dentist in Bristol – showing how desperate the UK’s dental crisis has become
There is no place for homeopathy
Amid reports about the King’s cancer diagnosis, I read a story about Dr. Michael Dixon, the head of the Royal Medical Household.
The GP is also said to be a fan of homeopathy – treatment based on diluted substances. But when Dr Dixon’s position was made public last year, Buckingham Palace was quick to point out that it did not believe such alternatives could cure cancer.
And so we see face to face. But I believe that homeopathy has no place in medicine at all, let alone in such a serious disease.
Whenever I say this there seems to be an outcry from “believers” on social media, angry that I can refuse what they consider a vital treatment.
The truth is that there is no good evidence that homeopathy does anything at all, and it certainly has no place in cancer care. We are safer sticking to traditional medicines.