Q: My husband and I would like to leave our bodies for research when we die. Can you tell me how we go about it?
A This is a generous gesture and such gifts have helped generations of medical students, including me. A system is in place for making this as easy as possible. The website of the London Anatomy Office, www.lao.sgul.ac.uk contains a lot of background information about donating your body, diseases that might preclude donation and a frequently asked questions page, all of which you should find helpful. It also deals with the rules and regulations applying to medical staff and students who are involved in body dissection. The office deals with some London teaching hospitals and some in the southeast of England. If you live outside this area then you will find contact details for your area if you look on the ‘about body donation’ page and follow the links at the bottom of the page.
Q: I have developed rough, itchy patches of skin on the front of my feet and around my ankle bones. I’ve had diabetes for 18 years – could this be the cause?
A It is unlikely. Skin changes of this kind are very often due to poor vein function in the lower legs. Veins are responsible for taking blood back up the legs to the heart, against gravity. As we get older they often deteriorate and become varicose, one of the penalties of walking on two legs. Back pressure in the vein system shows itself at the lowest point of the system, around the ankles, with swelling, visible veins and skin changes. The skin effects vary from a type of eczema (which it sounds as though you have) through to brown staining of the skin and ulceration. One dermatologist I knew used to describe the brown staining as ‘rust’ , which is close to the truth as the stain comes from the products of broken down, iron containing, red blood cells. The problem should be taken seriously since ulcers can form if the skin deteriorates. Compression stockings which empty distended veins and encourage blood flow back up the legs are the only effective way to prevent ulcers forming. They may not be universally loved, but effective they certainly are. You should also seek advice on keeping the skin quality good with skin creams.
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