I am 24 but my body itches a lot. A syphilis test was negative so what could be the cause of the itching? When I take citrizine tablets I get some relief but only for a short while. William

Dear William,
Itching of the skin, (pruritus) is an uncomfortable feeling that makes one want to scratch the affected area. Unfortunately, your whole body is itching making it difficult to scratch everywhere given that not the whole body will be accessible to the fingers we normally use to scratch.

One of the most common causes of itching of the skin is an overreaction (allergy) to something one may have eaten (foods and drugs), taken in by drinking or breathing or what has come in contact with the skin.

Though anybody can have a dry itching skin, as we grow older, we make less skin oil leading to skin dryness accompanied by itching. Bathing too much or using harsh soaps may also lead to a dry itching skin.
Many skin conditions including eczema, psoriasis, scabies, lice and chickenpox may affect the whole skin or specific areas of the skin accompanied itching or by other signs, such as a rash or blisters.

Itchy skin is not always a symptom of a skin condition with diseases of internal organs such as liver disease, kidney failure, iron deficiency anaemia, thyroid problems, cancer such as of blood (leukaemia) or immune system (lymphoma), conditions affecting the nervous system such as diabetes mellitus, and shingles (herpes zoster) can also show up with an itchy skin.

An itchy skin requires proper diagnosis of the cause so that it can be dealt with decisively. Unfortunately, in many cases the cause may not be found. Then drugs that reduce the effect of histamine, the substance produced during the allergy that leads to itching may be given. This may require to be used each time one gets itching because if it is due to an allergy it is chronic.

Ugandans are self-prescribing drugs called steroids (Dexamethasone, Predinsone) for itching skin resulting in serious side effects including herpes zoster, tuberculosis, candida and diabetes. Much as Ugandans blame syphilis for an itchy skin, usually the rash caused by syphilis does not itch.

What is ‘Pirelli’?

I am 43 years old. My main problem is what my husband described as Pirelli on my stomach. How can I deal with it?

Dear Sandra,
Love handles” or “Pirelli” are folds of skin usually in obese people. The handles may extend outwards from the hips and abdomen. Unfortunately, tight clothing makes them more prominent, the reason you should avoid wearing them.

Fat in women of child bearing age usually accumulates around the hips, bum and arms, the reason such women may have big hips, bums and fat upper arms. However, even in women of child bearing age, if the fat accumulation is excessive, it can lead to love handles.

That said, certain conditions may on their own risk the problem. This may include too much cortisol hormone like in stress, aging, a high fat diet or too much sugar, lack of physical exercise, sleep deprivation, and disease conditions including hypothyroidism. Women after or nearing menopause may particularly accumulate fat around the belly instead of hips, arms or bums risking “Pirelli”.

Love handles on their own are harmless but they can show a hidden risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, sleep apnoea (obstruction of breathing leading to snoring), stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancer, especially of the colon (big intestine) and breast, or wear and tear joint pains (osteoarthritis).

Therefore, prevention or treating love handles helps prevent the hidden risks of the said health problems.

Many people go in for physical exercise targeting the ‘Pirelli’ but general exercise such as brisk walking for more than 30 minutes every other day combined with minimising fatty foods while taking lots of vegetables and fruits to minimise the total amounts of food eaten, managing stress and increasing the number of sleep hours can help prevent or treat love handles. Surgery called liposuction should be done as a last resort.

I have been having heavy periods with clots and although I have taken aspirin, which is believed to reduce clots, they have persisted. Why? Martha

Dear Martha,
When a blood vessel is cut, bleeding will occur. Within the blood are platelets which aggregate together to form blood clots to plug a bleeding blood vessel and stop bleeding.

However, under certain circumstances and disease conditions, platelets can form blood clots in blood vessels risking heart attacks, stroke and when they form in the legs may travel to the heart and lungs and cause death. In disease conditions such as a history of stroke, diabetes and hypertension, Aspirin is given to prevent heart attacks and stroke.

During the period, women shed the inner membrane of the womb (endometrium) which, together with blood and cervical secretions form the blood that is released. Naturally, period blood may clot but the uterus or womb produces substances which break it up so that it becomes more liquid. With too much bleeding, these substances may not match the large amounts of blood resulting in period blood clots.

Aspirin is called a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug which works against substances called Prostaglandins which help shed the endometrium. Aspirin therefore, can theoretically help reduce period flow and stop clots. However, this requires higher doses which may lead to bad side effects, the reason other drugs are preferred.
Using aspirin to stop clots for prevention of heart attacks and stroke is welcome but not period clots whose cause should be investigated and treated appropriately.

I do not want my boyfriend to know that I am trapping him into impregnating me. I have tried for the last six months with no results. What do you advise? Mastula

Dear Mastula,
I do not advise you to trap a man by getting pregnant without his knowledge because you require having a candid discussion with him to avoid consequences of an unwanted baby to you, him and the future baby.

When fertile women have sex with fertile men at the time of ovulation, only about 30 per cent may get pregnant but 70 per cent may fail to do so. So not getting pregnant does not mean any of you is infertile.

Although it is true that an ovum (egg) is only viable for 12 to 24 hours, one can actually get pregnant if she has sex any time during the five days before ovulation and on the day she ovulates because sperms can survive in the fallopian tubes for up to five days.

Regular unprotected sex three times a week ensures that the elusive ovulation will find sperms in the fallopian tubes and result in fertilisation and pregnancy. Also, frequent sex with the same man will make the body take the sperms to be the bodies “own” hence preventing their rejection.

The menstrual cycle (the time from the start of one’s period to the start of the next period) can vary from 21-35 days yet a woman ovulates 14 days to the next period. This, therefore, means that the day of ovulation may range from the 7th day of the cycle to the 21st day of the cycle. Using the 14th day for pregnancy therefore, may lead to missing the mark.

A woman having unprotected sex three times a week if she takes one year without getting pregnant (or just feels concerned that she is taking long to get pregnant), should visit her doctor together with her sexual partner for further advice and possible treatment.

You have only taken six months after sex only at ovulation, meaning that both of you may be fertile but you may be failing to get pregnant because you are not having enough sex.