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9 Common Ailments That Drive You Crazy

How to manage leg cramps, dry eye, cold sores and more

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Everyday Nuisances That Drive You Crazy

— Ryan Snook

1. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

En español l What it is: Tingling, aching, pain or numbness on the thumb side of your hand that can stretch across your palm, through your fingers and even up your forearm. Carpal tunnel syndrome can make it painful to do anything that involves flexing your wrist, such as using a keyboard, holding a steering wheel or even grasping a bag.

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The reason: Tendons in the narrow part of your wrist (known as the carpal tunnel) swell, pinching the nerve that leads to your hand. A number of factors may contribute to this: normal aging, repetitive movements, hormonal changes and certain medical conditions like diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis.

The remedy: Use Advil, Aleve or another pain reliever to ease swelling and pain. If you work at a computer, take frequent breaks and rotate your wrists in both directions. If that doesn't help, a cortisone shot may provide temporary relief. In chronic cases, outpatient surgery to free the nerve is almost always successful, says Michelle G. Carlson, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York.

2. Spider and Varicose Veins

What they are: Enlarged, ropy and often painful, varicose veins are found most often on the thighs, lower legs and calves. The thin, purplish-red jagged lines on the face and legs are spider veins.

The reason: Genetic roulette, exacerbated by pregnancy, menopause, obesity, injury, sun damage and age.

The remedy: "Walk, bike, swim — anything that boosts circulation may prevent them from getting worse," says Ellen Marmur, M.D. Avoid sitting or standing for long periods. Take frequent breaks with your feet elevated. Try support panty hose or compression stockings. To remove spider and small varicose veins, sclerotherapy or laser-assisted sclerotherapy is the gold standard. Both are simple, outpatient procedures, though you may need more than one treatment.

For serious varicose veins, talk to your doctor about endovenous ablation or radio-frequency ablation therapy. Less invasive than older vein-stripping procedures, these treatments are covered by insurance and do not require general anesthesia — good news for people with medical problems that put them at risk for surgery.

Everyday Nuisances That Drive You Crazy

— Ryan Snook

3. Cold Sores

What they are: Small, painful blisters that usually occur on or around your lips.

The reason: Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus, which you can get by kissing or by sharing dishes, towels or utensils with someone who's infected. This is a variation of the same virus that causes genital herpes, though having one doesn't mean you'll get the other.

The remedy: Cold sores usually clear on their own after a week or two, but antiviral creams applied as soon as you feel a twinge or tingle can greatly speed healing. To numb the area during flare-ups, try ointments such as Abreva or Anbesol. Sucking on ice pops also offers relief. Since flare-ups can be triggered by sun exposure and stress, slather on sunscreen and lip balm (avoid mentholated products, since they're also irritating). If you're going through a stressful time or are plagued by frequent attacks, ask your doctor about taking antiviral medications to prevent outbreaks.

Next page: Leg cramps. »

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