DR ELLIE CANNON: Can my wife cool her burning feet?

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Burning feet is a recognised syndrome, sometimes called Grierson-Gopalan syndrome, where sufferers experience burning and heaviness in the legs at night time.

Sometimes, there’s a feeling of numbness and aching too.

It tends to affect the soles of the feet, but can spread to the top of the feet and even to the ankles and lower legs.

Grierson-Gopalan usually affects people over the age of 50. Capsaicin is a compound found in chilli peppers – it gives them their heat.

It’s also found in medical creams used to treat nerve pain. The intense heat from the capsaicin supposedly quietens the nerves, making them less likely to trigger pain.

But be cautious with using it.

The cream has been known to make the feeling of burning even worse. Start by using it in very small amounts, in the lowest concentration.

Raise the feet and legs in bed, and try soaking them in cool water shortly before sleeping. Taking an anti-inflammatory tablet, such as ibuprofen or aspirin, could help too.

This kind of itching can be highly embarrassing, but it’s surprisingly common.

The most common explanation would be a skin problem called contact dermatitis, where the skin on the vulva reacts to products like cream, lubricant or washing powders.

A pharmacist can give you a steroid ointment for this.

They could also offer a calming emollient, used instead of soap or shower gel, to protect the skin while washing.

Another possible cause could be a yeast infection, which is easily treated with a special cream from the pharmacist.

Yeast infections can cause some burning – particularly when going to the toilet. Even if the symptoms reduce, an examination by your GP is still crucial. There is a pre-cancerous condition called VIN which presents in most women, at first, as an itching or burning. The doctor would see changes to the skin or lesions and refer you to a specialist. In the meantime, get some anti-histamine tablets from the pharmacist. Whatever the cause, you need some relief from the itching.

She didn’t utter a word – but actress Fay Ripley spoke for millions of women with breast cancer last week.

In an episode of ITV drama Cold Feet, her normally unflappable character Jenny, above, who has been having chemotherapy, sits alone in her bedroom and removes her wig in front of the mirror.

There’s no breakdown or tears. She lightly massages her scalp, and tidies her wispy, post-chemo hair. Her face says it all: weary but unbeaten; dealt a dud hand, but making the best of it; a normal woman trying to get on with life in the most abnormal of situations.

If we want to use TV and film to help real sufferers feel less alone, the stories must be told truthfully – in all their unglamorous, unsensational glory.

Fay nailed it.

It’s not too late for New Year’s resolutions, so here’s a great one that involves no exercise whatsoever: give blood, especially if you’re a bloke.

When I went to donate mine last week, I was shocked to hear that there is a serious lack of male blood donors.

Only 41 per cent of new donors in England are men. I hate to say it, but their blood is actually more useful than women’s, as it is iron-rich and doesn’t contain compounds that are produced during pregnancy.

Surely the most important of all New Year goals is one that might just save a life.

So what are you waiting for? Visit www.blood.co.uk to register and become a blood donor.  

Do you have a question for Dr Ellie Cannon? 

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.

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