INDYHealth A-Z

Eye damage: 'Could the optician's bright lights have damaged my eye?'

Certain types of bright lights can damage the eyes. The light that is emitted by welding arcs, for example, emits enough ultraviolet radiation to damage the cornea. This condition is almost always temporary. Intense visible lights can dazzle, but they should not damage the eye unless they contain ultraviolet radiation, so the examination lights used by opticians should not cause permanent damage. It is more likely that there was an underlying weakness which only became apparent after the exam. It is important to have regular check-ups, but you should make the optician aware of what happened last time.

Weight loss: 'How can I get rid of my last bit of fat?'

Your genes are probably the main determinant of where fat gets deposited on your body and, unfortunately, you can't exchange your genes for a new set. Although there are health benefits to being skinny, I wonder if putting on a few pounds would make your spare tyre a bit less obvious. Two other options – neither of which I would recommend – are liposuction and surgery. But I fear that there is no simple solution. Do any readers have suggestions?

Hip replacement: The risks

"I had a total hip replacement, and now that leg is two inches longer than the other. The surgeon is mystified. Was the prosthesis the wrong size?"

Smell: 'I've lost my sense of smell. Is it age-related?

Vision and hearing tend to deteriorate with age, but smell usually holds up well. Losing it can be the first sign of something serious. Alzheimer's and Parkinson's can start with the loss of sense of smell. It can also be caused by a head or nose injury that damages the olfactory nerves. Slow-growing brain tumours can press on the olfactory nerves, preventing them working. But a far more common cause is allergy, leading to the lining of your nose becoming swollen and inflamed. There are treatments for allergic nasal problems that can restore your smell to normal. First, get a proper diagnosis, via referral to an ENT or allergy specialist. Allergies to simple things, like dust, feathers and household pets, can cause this kind of problem.

Stomach gas: What's wrong and how can it be cured?

You could be lactose intolerant. Lactose is the natural sugar that is present in milk products. People who are lactose intolerant cannot digest it because they are lacking an enzyme called lactase, which breaks lactose down into glucose and galactose. Undigested lactose ferments in the stomach, causing a build-up of gas. Even if you were not lactose intolerant when you were younger, you may develop it, as it becomes more common with age. If you don't want to take a test to see if you are lactose intolerant, you could try to reduce or eliminate lactose from your diet and see if you are any better.

Memory loss: Will sage oil help?

In 2003, scientists at Newcastle University found that sage had a beneficial effect on memory. They used capsules that contained 50 microlitres of sage extract in sunflower oil. Have a look at the label on your capsules to get a dose similar to this. A few patients may develop raised blood pressure when taking sage, so if you have high blood pressure, avoid sage.