MY friend was recently taken into hospital with severe tummy pain which turned out to be gallstones. How can I avoid developing them?

GALLSTONES are caused by a chemical imbalance in the bile inside the gallbladder. Typically the 'stones' that are created are made principally of cholesterol but this is not related to cholesterol levels in the blood. While we don't know exactly what causes this imbalance, we do believe that diet can have an effect, so eating a well balanced, lower cholesterol diet and ensuring you get your five portions of fruit or vegetables should help lower the risk.

I HAVE recently been through the menopause and I am taking Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) but I have noticed that my hair is thinning. Are the two linked? Should I stop HRT?

THE link is less likely to be with HRT than it is with the changes within your body. While many see baldness as a male issue (about half of all men will suffer some hair loss from their late twenties to their fifties) women can also experience a thinning of the hair on top of the head, usually later in life and after the menopause.

Minoxidil , an over the counter lotion which is rubbed on the scalp each day, is currently the only treatment for female pattern baldness. Women tend to respond better to Minoxidil than men with one in four seeing new hair growth and many others seeing hair loss slow or stop completely. I

WHAT is a bone cyst?

A bone cyst is a fluid-filled hole that develops inside a bone. They mostly occur in children and young adults. Bone cysts do not usually cause any symptoms, they are not cancerous and they do not usually pose a serious threat to health.

There are two types of bone cysts. The first is unicameral, which can develop anywhere in the body, although 90% of cases involve either the bone of the upper arm or the thigh bone. They often do not need treatment. Most cases affect younger children between five and 15 years of age, with the average age at diagnosis being nine years. Boys are twice as likely to be affected by a unicameral bone cyst as girls.

The second, called an aneurysmal cyst is thought to be very rare, affecting about one in every million people in any given year. They are not cancerous, but they can grow quickly and disrupt the normal workings of the affected bone. Most cases of aneurysmal bone cysts affect young people who are between 10 and 20 years of age. It is thought that aneurysmal bone cysts are slightly more common in females.

Aneurysmal cysts will provide symptoms of pain or swelling. You may also notice a lump on the bone or a decreased range of movement. If an aneurismal cyst develops in the spine, it can cause additional symptoms such as persistent headaches, tingling sensations in the arms or legs and a loss of muscle control.

You should always contact your GP if you or your child experiences persistent bone pain or any of the neurological symptoms, such as muscle weakness or paralysis, described above.

Diagnosis will usually involve an X-ray which will highlight any hollows or cavities in the bone. In many cases, a bone cyst will only be discovered by chance when X-rays are used to diagnose an unrelated condition. Alternatively, a diagnosis may be confirmed after the affected bone has been fractured.

With unicameral cysts, if the cyst is small and the affected bone is strong, a policy of watchful waiting may be recommended. This means your child will not receive any immediate treatment, but they will be given regular check-ups to make sure the cyst is not getting larger. About one in four unicameral bone cysts heal by themselves without the need for treatment.

If treatment is needed, this will typically involve steroid injections to prevent the cyst growing. A surgeon will drain the fluid out of the cyst before injecting the steroids into it. Repeated injections may be required every few months over the course of a year before the cyst fully heals.