DR ELLIE: The British-made sex aid promising ‘orgasms on prescription’ that may help menopausal women. PLUS How to help burning mouth syndrome

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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I have been diagnosed with burning mouth syndrome and I’m at my wits’ end dealing with the constant pain. 

My jaw is so tight and my teeth always hurt. The pain also radiates down into my neck and shoulders. I have seen various consultants who say there is no cure or medication. What would you advise?

Dr Ellie replies: Burning mouth syndrome is a distressing and painful condition and sadly it is not surprising to hear that somebody has been offered no cure or help.

As the name suggests, the condition causes horrible symptoms within the mouth which are usually described as a burning pain that may feel like scalding, tingling or even pins and needles.

Some sufferers also find that chewing gum, consuming cold drinks or sucking ice cubes provides temporary relief for burning mouth syndrome 

Some people will also notice a numbness in the mouth as well as changes in how things taste and a feeling of dryness.

It can affect any part of the mouth but usually it is the tongue and roof of the mouth. It most commonly affects women over the age of 60. Doctors are still unsure what causes it.

Unfortunately these symptoms can be long-term for most sufferers. And it is true there are no specific treatments that will work for everybody.

Moreover, because it is an unusual type of pain, normal painkillers may not help relieve the debilitating sensation.

However, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do to manage symptoms. Many experts believe it is linked to stress and poor mental health, which is why specialists often recommend relaxation such as yoga and meditation to help reduce the pain. 

Doctors may prescribe a low-dose antidepressant which can help. Some sufferers also find that chewing gum, consuming cold drinks or sucking ice cubes provides temporary relief.

I want to get the shingles vaccine but I’ve never had chickenpox. I heard it contains the chickenpox virus, so I’m worried it could make me sick. Is it safe for me to get it?

Top tip: Don’t be coy with receptionists 

I was concerned to read that millions of people are regularly having to wait more than a month to see their GP – and it is worrying that this is becoming the norm for many patients. The good news is that, while frustrating, waiting four weeks to see a GP about a health problem is usually safe. However, there are exceptions.

If a patient with a new breast lump or a change in bowel habits has to wait a month, this can be dangerous as both are sometimes signs of cancer. This is why it is important to tell the GP receptionist what symptoms you have, so they can decide whether you need to be seen quickly.

Have you been forced to wait more than a month to see a GP about a serious health issue? Please write to me on the email address on the right and let me know.

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Dr Ellie replies: It is perfectly safe to have the shingles vaccine if you have not had chickenpox — but it’s highly likely you have at some point. 

Chickenpox is caused by the varicella virus which can live in the body long-term and reactivate to cause the painful skin blister condition shingles in later life.

The majority of people get chickenpox in childhood. Symptoms typically include a high temperature and a rash of red, itchy spots. 

However, many people develop chickenpox without realising it, because the symptoms can often be very mild, with just one or two spots.

For the small percentage of people who have not had chickenpox, the shingles vaccine – called Shingrix – does not pose a threat. 

The jab contains only a small part of the virus – called a protein – not the whole virus. This protein is enough to help the immune system to recognise the varicella virus and make defensive antibodies to protect you. But it cannot give you chickenpox. 

This is why the NHS encourages everyone eligible for the shingles vaccine to come forwards for it, even if they think they haven’t had chickenpox. 

The vaccine is offered to people turning 65 and those aged between 70 and 80. Controversially, the NHS has decided not to offer the jab to people aged between 66 and 69.

If you are worried you have not had chickenpox, then speak to your GP.

I’m 58 and I’ve had ulcerative colitis for nearly two decades. For the past few years I’ve been taking immune-suppressant medicines, which have kept the disease in-check. 

However, I worry what the long-term impact will be, as I read that there are a lot of possible side effects. I’ve not seen my consultant since the pandemic apart from telephone calls. What should I do?

Dr Ellie replies: Patients with a chronic condition like ulcerative colitis should expect to take medication for life – which is why it is important they have good communication with clinicians.

Ulcerative colitis is a bowel disease where the colon becomes inflamed and damaged. It is thought to be triggered by an overactive immune system, which is why immune-suppressing drugs are effective.

However, these medicines do have a number of side effects, not least that they can make patients more susceptible to infections. Research suggests that some of these medicines can increase the chances of developing certain types of cancer, particularly skin cancer.

Understandably, these possible complications can be worrying for patients. But it is important to remember that the risk of them occurring is relatively low. The benefits of taking the drugs tends to outweigh the negatives.

Occasionally, people can have periods of remission, where the disease is under control so that it is possible to temporarily come off medication. However, it can be hard to predict when these remission episodes will occur, and they can often be disappointingly short periods.

It will be up to your specialist, rather than your GP, to decide when you can temporarily stop taking immune-suppressants.

You should be able to request a face-to-face consultation with the specialist team.

Orgasms are good for you… doctors’ orders 

A British-made sex toy has been given approval as a medical treatment – it’s called the MysteryVibe Legato and is designed to stimulate blood flow to the labia and help tackle vaginal dryness after menopause.

There’s also an eye-catching ad campaign promising orgasms on prescription. 

I’m not endorsing it, but just as we GPs talk to men about erectile dysfunction, we are also here to advise on female sexual health.

Emma Thompson stars in Good Luck To You, Leo Grande, as a middle-aged woman who has never had an orgasm

Emma Thompson stars in Good Luck To You, Leo Grande, as a middle-aged woman who has never had an orgasm 

Problems with climaxing can be a side effect of medication – particularly antidepressants – or related to menopause. And orgasms are good for us: they improve sleep, heart health and ease headaches and other pain.

Have you, like Emma Thompson’s character in the movie Good Luck To You, Leo Grande, pictured above, never had one?

And does that bother you? Do you think having orgasms in midlife and beyond is important or not? Please write and let me know – you can remain anonymous.

Do you have a question for Dr Ellie Cannon? Email DrEllie@mailonsunday.co.uk

Dr Cannon cannot enter into personal correspondence and her replies should be taken in a general context.

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