Q. A first cousin on my mother's side of the family has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. My father's aunt also has MS. Is MS a genetic disease?

Q. A first cousin on my mother's side of the family has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. My father's aunt also has MS. Is MS a genetic disease?

A. Multiple sclerosis is not considered to be a genetic disease, although there are some families that seem to have more cases of the disease than would be expected by chance. For people who have a parent or brother or sister with the disease, the chance of getting it themselves is about one in 100. Cousins, aunts and uncles are more distantly related, so your chance of getting MS is less than one in 100.

Q. I have developed terrible hand dermatitis. The skin on all of my fingers is cracked and itchy. Originally I thought this was caused by washing-up, but the problem is continuing even though I now wear rubber gloves. What can I do?

A. The skin on your hands is reacting to something, but it is not clear what. Even so-called "gentle" washing-up liquid can cause allergic reactions. If the cracked skin is weeping, it may be infected as well as inflamed, so you should consider using either an antibiotic cream or oral antibiotics. To find out if you have a specific allergy you would need to have tests at a hospital dermatology clinic.

Q. I had a blood cholesterol test and my cholesterol was found to be very high. At the same time my thyroid was discovered to be underactive, and I was told that this might be the cause of my raised cholesterol. I am now taking thyroxine to treat my thyroid. How long will it be before my cholesterol returns to normal?

A. An underactive thyroid gland that is not producing enough of the hormone thyroxine will make the level of cholesterol in your blood go up. I suggest you have another thyroid blood test in about three months. If it is well controlled, then you should get your cholesterol checked. It is possible your cholesterol will still be raised even when your thyroid level is normal. If this is the case, you will need to reduce the amount of saturated animal fats in your diet.

Please send questions to A Question of Health, 'The Independent', Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; fax 020-7005 2182; or e-mail to health@independent.co.uk. Dr Kavalier regrets that he is unable to respond personally to questions

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