Ask the doctor
Professor Kerryn Phelps answers questions on urinary tract infections, ingrown toenails, glandular fever and bruising, and has a reminder about vitamin C.
My husband has been complaining that his left big toenail is ingrown. What causes it and are there any home remedies that we can try? J.K.
Ingrowing toenails are very common and the condition usually affects the big toe. It can be caused by injury, incorrect nail trimming, or tight shoes. They are quite painful and he may need expert treatment by a podiatrist to remove the ingrowing nail section under local anaesthetic. To prevent them, advise him to trim his nails straight across rather than rounding off the edges, so that the edge of the nail does not press into his skin, and he should wear comfortable, properly fitting shoes.
I am 82 years old and I keep getting urinary tract infections. My doctor recommended cranberry tablets to prevent them. Do they work? What else can I do to stop this? K.O.
It is best to try to avoid long-term antibiotics. Oestrogen cream applied regularly to your vulval area may help. An oral probiotic, vitamin C and cranberry tablets can also be useful. Drink plenty of water throughout the day and avoid alcohol and caffeine.
My 16-year-old daughter was diagnosed with glandular fever several months ago. She is always tired and struggling to concentrate at school. She is sleeping at least eight hours a night and is taking a multivitamin, but nothing seems to be working. What else should we be doing? L.P.
Recovery from glandular fever can take time and there is no specific medical treatment to hasten the process. Fatigue is the most common persistent symptom. Have her medically reviewed in case she has a correctable cause for fatigue such as iron deficiency. Focus on healthy plant-based food, high-quality sources of protein and drinking plenty of water. Encourage her to gradually increase activity.
My mother bruises very easily and has them all over her legs and arms. She is 72 years old, but I’m worried the bruises might be a sign of something else as she doesn’t appear to be falling or bumping herself. Is bruising like this common in older people? T.Y.
Skin does become more prone to bruising and injury with age. Her GP needs to look into possible causes such as a medication side-effect (aspirin for example) or a blood disorder.
I was planning on having a natural birth, but I have been told I have marginal placenta previa and will most likely need a caesarean. Is this common in pregnant women? Is a caesarean the best option for me? V.B.
You must allow yourself to be guided by your obstetrician. Placenta previa means the placenta is lying over the cervix and could cause bleeding, which may be catastrophic for you and your baby if you were allowed to go into labour. This is why a planned caesarean delivery is a far safer option.
My daughter is considering having my granddaughter’s ears pinned back. What does the procedure involve and is it painful? D.D.
Surgery to pin back ears which stick out too much involves a general anaesthetic and an expert plastic surgeon to remove excess cartilage and then stitch the skin over the remodelled ears. She will be uncomfortable for a week or two, but children tend to recover quite quickly. As with any surgery, your daughter will need to consider any potential risks and complications.