I had a rash last winter that began with a small itchy spot on my leg and now is all over my legs, back and arms. I have been referred to a dermatologist but I am worried that the rash will continue spreading as I wait for the appointment.

You haven’t described any new symptoms that happened at the same time as the appearance of the rash that might give a clue as to what it is. It might be worth considering if you had started any new tablets, over the counter or herbal remedies as these could potentially cause a rash. Your GP may also have asked you about any new detergent or soap products used around the time of this rash starting. Unfortunately, without examining any rash, a diagnosis is difficult. Sometimes like in your case, even examining it carefully and trying a treatment does not tell us what exactly what it is. In these cases, an expert opinion from a skin specialist i.e. a dermatologist is very useful and on occasion rashes need to have a sample taken i.e. a biopsy to find out exactly what they are. Your GP has referred you to a dermatologist and this may move you closer to a diagnosis and the best treatment for you. If your rash does indeed begin to spread quickly, change in its appearance or become associated with new symptoms then you should see your GP again. If the rash is very itchy, it might be worth speaking to your pharmacist or GP about trying an antihistamine tablet, which may help with the rash.

I’m struggling to get a good night’s sleep and I don’t know why. Can you help?

There are many causes of disrupted sleep, including taking too much alcohol or caffeine, worrying about something, depression or even stress. Some medicines can even cause disturbed sleep. Some things you can do to help include keeping a regular routine at bedtime, taking regular exercise during the day, avoiding eating a heavy meal close to bedtime and avoiding caffeine. You could also try eating a banana before going to bed – bananas contain an amino acid called tryptophan, which is thought to convert into a calming and sleep-inducing chemical in the brain called serotonin. If the problem persists or is interfering with your day-to-day functioning talk to your GP, who will be able to give you advice. Keep a sleep diary so that you can tell them exactly what the problem is, and how long it has been going on for. You may be able to see a pattern of sleeplessness that could help you work out the cause.

What is Sciatica?

Sciatica is the name given to any sort of pain caused by irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve.

The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in your body. It runs from the back of your pelvis, through your buttocks, and all the way down both legs, ending at your feet.

The pain of sciatica is usually felt in the buttocks and legs.

Most people find it goes away naturally within a few weeks, although some cases can last for a year or more.

When the sciatic nerve is compressed or irritated, it can cause pain, numbness, a tingling sensation that radiates from your lower back and travels down one of your legs to your foot and toes, and weakness in the calf muscles or the muscles that move the foot and ankle

Your GP can usually confirm a diagnosis of sciatica based on your symptoms and recommend appropriate treatment.

A simple test known as the passive straight leg raise test can also help your GP identify whether you have sciatica.

This test involves lying flat on your back with your legs straight, and lifting one leg at a time. If lifting one of your legs causes pain or makes your symptoms worse, this usually suggests sciatica.

Most cases of sciatica pass in around six weeks without the need for treatment.

However, a combination of things you can do at home – such as taking over-the-counter painkillers, exercising, and using hot or cold packs – may help reduce the symptoms until the condition improves.