EVER WONDERED WHAT CAUSES BUTTERFLIES IN YOUR TUMMY… October 2005
…OR SEEING STARS? RACHEL MURPHY GETS THE LOWDOWN FROM HARLEY STREET SPECIALIST MALCOLM VANDENBURG
by Rachel Murphy
PINS AND NEEDLES
THE prickly sensation, medically known as paraesthesia, happens when you cut off the nerve impulses from your limbs to your brain, usually by sitting awkwardly. Initially there is numbness, but when you start to move and the messages circulate again the pins and needles feeling begins.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Wiggling hands or feet can help, but don’t stamp or bash them if they are completely numb – you could hurt yourself. Eating garlic or taking a herbal supplement of Ginkgo Biloba (Holland & Barrett, £4.49 for 30 tablets) can improve blood circulation. Pins and needles are also a common symptom of anxiety or panic, so relaxation techniques can help.
WHEN TO WORRY: “If the pins and needles don’t go away or skin colour changes it may be a sign of a trapped nerve or Raynaud’s Syndrome, a circulatory disorder,” says Dr Vandenburg. “So see your GP.”
THIS happens when balance organs of the inner ear are disturbed, causing any combination of dizziness, nausea, vomiting, drowsiness and sweating. Sea-sickness is due to the difference between what you see and how you feel – messages from your muscles, joints and inner ear tell your brain you’re moving, but when you see that the boat itself is moving, your body thinks you’re standing still.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Eating ginger just before you travel can help, as can wearing acupressure bands like Sea-Bands (Chemists, £7.99). Sea- sickness can also be eased by standing on a low deck and fixing your gaze on the horizon.
WHEN TO WORRY: “Repeated vomiting can lead to dehydration, especially in children,” says Dr Vandenburg. “Keep fluid levels up, take Dioralyte to replace lost salts and see a doctor if the tongue goes dry or fainting occurs,” he advises. Dioralyte blackcurrant sachets are available from Boots, £3.49 for 12.
STARS IN YOUR EYES
SEEING stars when you rub your eyes occurs because you have stimulated sensors at the back of the eye, tricking the brain into believing that it’s seeing light. The stimulation makes the eye see tiny stars instead of a clear picture.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Get more sleep – so you don’t feel like rubbing your eyes. Rubbing eyes doesn’t damage them, but it can pull your skin and make you look wrinkled.
WHEN TO WORRY: “Flashing lights for no reason could mean you have a disease in part of the eye or even diabetic retinopathy, which can lead to blindness,” says Dr Vandenburg.
THE sensation is part of the body’s fight-or-flight response to anxiety or danger.
When you’re under pressure, blood is quickly diverted from the stomach to your muscles, so you’re left with a fluttering feeling in your tummy.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Don’t worry – this level of stress is positive.
WHEN TO WORRY: “If the stress gets too much or never seems to subside, try some relaxation or meditation techniques,” says Dr Vandenburg. “Deep breathing can also help.”
THAT feeling you get when you knock your elbow is caused by the ulnar nerve that runs the length of the arm. It carries signals from the hand to the brain, but can be triggered by a bang on the elbow. Then the brain gets a message that you’ve hurt your arm and combined with the twang on the nerve – which causes temporary paralysis – it can make you laugh.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Enjoy the laughter.
WHEN TO WORRY: “If a strange sensation continues for over an hour or the elbow area swells up, you may have a small fracture or torn ligament, so get it checked out,” says Dr Vandenburg.
THESE sudden periods of acute anxiety occur when there’s no real danger. Symptoms include shortness of breath, palpitations, hot flushes and trembling. In most cases, panic attacks are alleviated with some form of counselling, which suggests the problem is largely psychological.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Learning mind-over-matter techniques or self-hypnosis can help, as can talking to a counsellor. Contact self-help groups like No Panic (0808 808 0545) or the National Phobics Society (0870 122 2325).
WHEN TO WORRY: “If panic attacks are disabling your life, see a doctor,” says Dr Vandenburg. “Avoiding situations or stopping work are signs you need help.”
THERE are several theories about why we sometimes feel we’re reliving something. One is that it’s caused by an electrical short-circuit in the brain. An event gets lodged in the memory before it reaches your consciousness so when it actually happens, your senses tell you you’ve been through it all before. You have – a split second earlier.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Don’t worry – it’s not a problem.
WHEN TO WORRY: “If you feel it happens too often, your memory is impaired or you have trouble concentrating, it may be linked to a brain disorder,” says Dr Vandenburg.
IT’S actually your oesophagus – the tube that connects the throat to the stomach – that burns. Certain foods can make gastric acid from the stomach splash into the lower portion of the oesophagus, causing discomfort. As the tube passes behind the breastbone, the irritation that takes place feels like a burning sensation in the heart.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Avoid the most common triggers – wolfing down your food, eating chocolate, garlic, onions, tomatoes, curries, chillies or citrus fruits, lying down after a meal, smoking after eating, drinking coffee or alcohol, being very overweight, wearing tight clothing and swallowing air. Try taking Pepcid Two tablets, too. They’re available from most good chemists priced £3.69 for 12.
WHEN TO WORRY: “Heartburn is also a common sign of stress so examine your lifestyle,” says Dr Vandenburg. “If you’re a very frequent sufferer you may need tests to check for any internal inflammation.”
STUDIES have shown that being in love produces chemical changes in the brain that can leave you feeling nervous and make your temperature rise. In an effort to cool you down, blood vessels in the face, hands and feet expand and can make you blush.
Scientists also reckon the break-up of a relationship can cause you to suffer withdrawal symptoms akin to an addict coming off drugs.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Breathe properly – it’s calming and stops you going so red. Wear extra deodorant when you’re in love as you sweat more – and go easy on the blusher.
WHEN TO WORRY: “If the break-up makes you behave irrationally by drinking too much or seeking revenge through promiscuity, for example, try counselling,” says Dr Vandenburg.
YOU’RE most likely to get this pain under the ribs when you’re running. That’s because when you breathe out your diaphragm goes up and at the same time, the force of your foot striking the ground causes your liver to go down. This stretches the ligaments that attach the liver to your diaphragm, causing pain.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: Stop running and press your hand deep into your liver to raise it up against your diaphragm. At the same time, purse your lips and blow out against the tightly-held lips as hard as you can.
WHEN TO WORRY: “If you get a stitch when you’re not running, see your GP,” says Dr Vandenburg. “It might indicate a hernia or gall bladder problem.”
THEY’RE caused when the diaphragm – the major muscle involved in breathing – goes into spasm. It can be triggered by eating too fast, or having fatty foods that irritate the diaphragm.
WHAT YOU CAN DO: There are lots of popular remedies, including experiencing a shock, holding your tongue with your thumb and index finger and gently pulling it forward, and swallowing a small amount of ice. Deep breathing and doing something to take your mind off it can also work.
WHEN TO WORRY: “Hiccups aren’t dangerous, but they can become very uncomfortable if they persist,” says Dr Vandenburg. “Seek medical advice if a child has hiccups for more than an hour.”
To contact Dr Vandenburg visit samedaydoctor.co.uk