Is a bloodshot eye the sign of something serious? And why won't baby's navel heal?



Twice in the past three months, I have woken up with an enormously bloodshot left eye. It is entirely painless and I am not aware of it until I either look in the mirror or someone points it out to me. It does not interfere with my vision and after a few days it is gone. Is this a sign of something more serious? I have never consulted my GP about it. Sadly, these days, there is virtually no chance of getting an appointment before the symptoms are gone.

This is a sub-conjunctival haemorrhage - a tiny blood vessel in the white of the eye has burst. Although the effects of bleeding in the white of the eye are dramatic, it is entirely harmless and usually does not have any serious significance. If a bloodshot eye is painful, uncomfortable, or interfering with vision, then it is not a simple sub-conjunctival haemorrhage. It is traditional to check the blood pressure of people who have sub-conjunctival haemorrhages, but these burst blood vessels are not usually caused by raised blood pressure. If a red eye is painful, it potentially represents something more serious. Infections such as conjunctivitis can cause a bloodshot eye. And other conditions, such as iritis (an inflamed iris) and glaucoma (raised pressure within the eye), can also cause pain and redness.

If you are getting any unusual bleeding or bruising elsewhere in the body, together with sub-conjunctival haemorrhages, you need to have a blood test to make sure that your blood is capable of clotting properly. People who take aspirin occasionally find that they get sub-conjunctival haemorrhages because the aspirin interferes with the clotting mechanism.



The belly button of our newborn baby is taking a very long time to heal up. Although we are keeping it clean, it continues to ooze a small amount of sticky fluid. The midwife says that it will all heal up by itself, but she is not able to say how long this will take.

Sticky belly buttons are not at all unusual in newborn babies and, as your midwife says, they usually sort themselves out if you just keep them clean. Quite a few babies have umbilical granulomas. These are tiny areas within the belly button that fail to heal up because they contain cells that won't allow dry skin to form. These granulomas occur where the umbilical cord separates from the baby.

There are several simple ways to treat granulomas. The simplest is to dab them with silver nitrate, which is a chemical than seals up the oozing cells. The problem with silver nitrate is that it can burn the surrounding skin if it is not applied very carefully. The best way to do this is to cover the surrounding skin with Vaseline. Many GPs will be happy to treat umbilical granulomas with silver nitrate, but occasionally a baby will need a referral to a paediatrician for treatment. Two or three treatments at weekly intervals are sometimes necessary. Very rarely, a persistently oozing belly button represents a more serious problem that requires surgery.



I am 10 weeks away from going on my first skiing holiday, and I fear that I am a long way from being fit enough to tackle the slopes. Is there any fast-track exercise programme that will prepare my slovenly body for action? I am in my mid-40s and haven't seen the inside of a gym for more than a decade.

Although 10 weeks is not a very long time, you should be able to make a huge difference in your fitness if you start now. You need to concentrate on three things: aerobic fitness, muscle strength and flexibility. Any vigorous exercise that makes your heart beat fast is good aerobic exercise. Start gradually and build up to half an hour at least three times a week. Brisk walking, jogging, swimming or cycling are all suitable aerobic exercises. You also need to strengthen your leg and back muscles. Skiing requires strength in the muscles at the front and back of the thighs - the quads and the hamstrings.

Any decent gym instructor will be able to show you how to do this. But you can also do it at home without elaborate equipment. Have a look at, and click on "OK, get me fit". This website will show you 10 exercises that will get you ready in time for your holiday. Skiing is a strenuous activity and can be exhausting, but you will enjoy it much more if you get yourself as physically fit as possible before you go.


CB's solution to a problem that affected her whole family:

In response to your reader's granddaughter's problem with a sore vulval area, this is a problem that both myself and my two daughters (aged nine and six) have suffered. We solved the problem by switching to a different brand of toilet paper. I was reminded that this was the culprit a few weeks ago when I bought a store's own brand. Within three days I was making an emergency shopping trip to revert to a "safe" brand due to the itching and discomfort from which we were all suffering. In two days we were back to normal. (Would anyone like eight new rolls of toilet paper?)

Send questions and suggestions to: A Question of Health, 'The Independent', Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; fax 020-7005 2182; or e-mail Dr Kavalier regrets that he is unable to respond personally to questions