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home : columns : ask the doctors December 12, 2017

The elderly and very young are at risk of influenza virus
DEAR DOCTOR: I thought the elderly were at the greatest risk of flu-related death, but I've seen more than a few headlines about children who have died. Who's more at risk?
Saturday, December 9, 2017


Giant cell arteritis treated with anti-inflammatory steroids
DEAR DOCTOR: I was recently diagnosed with giant cell arteritis, but I don't know what it is or how to treat it. My pain is above my right eye, and it gets worse when I'm eating.
Friday, December 8, 2017

'Broken-heart syndrome' not all that uncommon
DEAR DOCTOR: I've heard that people can die from a broken heart. Is that really possible?
Thursday, December 7, 2017

Abundance of parabens in everyday products concerns reader
DEAR DOCTOR: Like millions of other women, I've always slathered myself with moisturizers and creams without paying any attention to the ingredients. But recently I read that the parabens found in these products have also been found in breast tissue. Should we rethink our use of these creams?
Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Exercise doesn't necessarily cancel out risks of drinking
DEAR DOCTOR: I just read about a study that says exercise cancels out alcohol's higher risk of death from cancer. Is it possible that I can walk off the cancer risk of the cocktail I have each night after dinner? (For the record, my husband is sure that you're going to say no.)
Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Husband's behavior suggests possible postpartum depression
DEAR DOCTOR: My husband has seemed really down since the birth of our son six months ago. We're both being run ragged, and very proud of our son, but my husband seems less happy than I had hoped he would be. Could he be suffering from postpartum depression? If so, how? I'm the one with the hormonal onslaught!
Monday, December 4, 2017

Consider the shingles vaccine to prevent a recurrence

DEAR DOCTOR: I had shingles about 10 years ago, just after I turned 50, and it was just as difficult and painful as everyone says. Now I hear that it's possible I can get it again. Is this really true? Should I get the vaccine? 


Saturday, December 2, 2017

Man looking for natural remedies to relieve an enlarged prostate

DEAR DOCTOR: Now that I'm in my 60s, with an enlarged prostate, I'm noticing ads and solicitations offering the latest and greatest herbal remedies for my prostate health, such as saw palmetto. Do any of these remedies actually work? 


Friday, December 1, 2017

Reader tries to explain cancer to curious 10-year-old
DEAR DOCTOR: Ever since my father was diagnosed with cancer last summer, our 10-year-old son keeps asking my wife and me to explain exactly what cancer is. Our answers don't seem to satisfy him, so we wonder: What would you say to a 10-year-old to explain this disease?
Thursday, November 30, 2017

Chronic disease has patient searching for treatment options
DEAR DOCTOR: I have been diagnosed with chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, and am being treated with immunoglobulin infusions every three weeks. My questions are: Can this be cured, and are there any clinical trials for this?
Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Recent studies show possible link between FSH and weight gain
DEAR DOCTOR: I recently read that blocking follicle-stimulating hormone can combat post-menopausal bone loss and weight gain in women. Please tell me how to go about blocking that hormone! 
Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Tips on countering painful ear pressure when flying
DEAR DOCTOR: Are some people just not meant to fly? I get severe ear pain when my plane is descending. I've tried chewing gum and repeated swallowing, and I never fly with a sinus condition. Unfortunately, I have clogged-up ears for several weeks afterward. Any suggestions?
Monday, November 27, 2017

Ensure optimal health by creating a sleep schedule
DEAR READER: In our last column, we explored some of the links between sleep deficit and Alzheimer's disease. This was in response to a question from a reader who was worried that his poor sleep patterns, which are becoming more pronounced with age, might put him at risk.
Saturday, November 25, 2017

Doctor's question about guns baffles patient
DEAR DOCTOR: Out of the blue, my new primary care doctor asked me if I owned a gun. Was it appropriate, or even legal, for her to ask that?
Friday, November 24, 2017

Female athletes tend to take longer to recover from concussions
DEAR DOCTOR: My granddaughter plays soccer, and I've long been worried about the risk of concussion. Now I read that they last longer in girls. Why? 
Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Reader questions link between yoga mats and infertility
DEAR DOCTOR: I read that yoga mats can reduce fertility. If so, what's in them? Whatever it is can't be unique to just yoga mats. 
Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Testosterone therapy can be beneficial to men with osteoporosis
DEAR DOCTOR: Are there any benefits to testosterone therapy for older men who have osteoporosis of the spine and hip? I understand that it comes with an increased chance of prostate cancer. 
Monday, November 20, 2017

Readers follow up with questions about previous columns
Hello, dear readers! We're back with our monthly column to continue our conversation regarding your questions, concerns and thoughts about previous topics. 
Saturday, November 18, 2017

A variety of medications can be used to treat essential tremor
DEAR DOCTOR: I know that essential tremor doesn't signify a disease, but the condition is very embarrassing and sometimes limits my activities. I've tried propranolol, but it didn't help. Any suggestions? 
Friday, November 17, 2017

Newly approved gene therapy a breakthrough in cancer treatment
DEAR DOCTOR: Our daughter was successfully treated for leukemia as a child, but the chemotherapy she went through was pretty brutal. Now I've read that we have the first gene therapy for cancer, which is a huge deal. How does it work? How much does it cost? Are there side effects?
Thursday, November 16, 2017

Firefighter trying to lose excess pounds in chest and stomach
DEAR DOCTOR: I’m a firefighter and in pretty good physical shape, even though I have Type 1 diabetes -- but my body doesn’t show it. Specifically, I have flabby abs and man boobs. I walk, run, do push-ups and crunches, and I think I eat pretty well. What else can I do?
Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Changing dietary guidelines frustrate health-conscious consumers
DEAR DOCTOR: It seems like if you just wait long enough, everything about nutrition gets contradicted. So now fat is good, carbs are bad, and we don't really need more than 4 servings of vegetables a day? Really? Is everything we've been taught wrong? 
Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Artificial tears and omega-3's can help with dry eyes
DEAR DOCTOR: My eyes are so dry, they often feel as if I have sand in them. I use drops, but they don't always work. Is there anything else I can do? And will this hurt my vision over time?
Monday, November 13, 2017

Although fairly uncommon, mumps outbreaks still occur
DEAR DOCTOR: I'm 79 years old and recently contracted mumps. I've never been so ill, and in fact, I am still suffering the aftereffects. Please help other older adults understand whether they should get the mumps vaccine.
Saturday, November 11, 2017

Limiting use of antibiotics can stem spread of MRSA
DEAR DOCTOR: A friend of mine was diagnosed with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. How does a person even contract such a disease -- and what does it do to you?
Friday, November 10, 2017

How to safely increase levels of protein in your diet
DEAR DOCTOR: I recently read about a woman who died from a protein overdose. Is it really possible to have too much protein? How much are we supposed to be eating?
Thursday, November 9, 2017

On the link between additional calcium intake and heart disease
DEAR DOCTOR: Calcium is frequently recommended to reduce the risk of bone fractures in the elderly, but I've read that calcium builds in the arteries and heart. So what choice do women have -- die of a hip fracture or die of a heart attack? Personally, I don't know which would be better.
Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Chronic disease can lead to depression in some patients
DEAR DOCTOR: My husband, who is 79, was diagnosed with Grover's disease. I don't know if that's the cause of his depression, but now he just sits in his recliner all day. He's also moody, confrontational and seems to have given up on life. Is there really no hope for us?
Tuesday, November 7, 2017

When to test your home for radon
DEAR DOCTOR: How important is radon as a cause of lung cancer? Should I get my home tested?
Monday, November 6, 2017

Recent news about mac and cheese worries parent
DEAR DOCTOR: Could boxed macaroni and cheese really be as bad for you as news reports suggest? Sometimes, that's all my kids will eat.  
Saturday, November 4, 2017

Huntington's disease a devastating reality for some families
DEAR DOCTOR: My grandmother has a daughter and a son with Huntington's disease, and her husband and a few of her in-laws passed away from it. What can you tell us about this terrible disease? Who in the family could yet develop it? 
Friday, November 3, 2017

Suspected link between PPIs and kidney disease not certain
DEAR DOCTOR: Proton pump inhibitors, which I take for my severe heartburn, have made my life enjoyable again. Now I'm reading that they may cause kidney damage. How serious is the risk? I really don't want to give them up. 
Thursday, November 2, 2017

West Nile symptoms often go undetected
DEAR DOCTOR: Amid all the talk about the Zika virus, I thought we'd stopped worrying about West Nile. Now I see that it's back -- or never left. What are the risks of this? Are they greater than Zika? 
Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Follow simple etiquette when encountering service animals
DEAR DOCTOR: Thank you for your column about service dogs and the tasks they perform. I wonder whether you could go a step further and explain the best way for people to respond when they see a working dog? A colleague of mine is blind, and dealing with well-meaning people who want to pet his dog adds another level of difficulty to his daily life.
Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Type 2 diabetes can be reversed, but reality isn't that simple
DEAR DOCTOR: Can Type 2 diabetes be reversed? My son was recently diagnosed with it, but I'm not sure he's taking it seriously enough. 
Monday, October 30, 2017

Recent study suggests caffeine dulls how we perceive sweetness
DEAR DOCTOR: Does drinking coffee really increase the craving for sweets? I tend to drink a lot of coffee throughout the day, and if it's true, it explains a lot about my dietary choices. 
Saturday, October 28, 2017

Despite study, pregnant women still encouraged to get flu shot
DEAR DOCTOR: I normally get a flu shot every year, but now I'm pregnant and have read that the vaccine might cause miscarriages. Is this true?
Friday, October 27, 2017

Reader needs colonoscopy, but can't drink prep solution
DEAR DOCTOR: Now that I've turned 50, I need to get a colonoscopy, but I just can't drink that disgusting prep solution. I've tried three different times, but I wind up so nauseated that I can't finish. Is there any other way to prepare? 
Thursday, October 26, 2017

Man's sudden weight loss may be attributable to wife's passing
DEAR DOCTOR: I am a 72-year-old male with no health problems other than GERD, which is well-controlled, and neurological problems associated with a back injury and surgeries. But in the past eight months, I've gone from 189 pounds to 142 pounds. Initially, I attributed this to stress over my wife's death six months ago, but now I don't know. A general physical, along with blood tests, CT scans of the chest and head, and X-rays of the chest have found nothing unusual. What should I do?
Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Checking for added sugars on nutritional labels can be tricky
DEAR DOCTOR: I've read that "added sugars" should be limited to 10 percent of our total daily calories. But how are added sugars listed on nutritional labels? Are they part of the carbohydrates category? Does the sugar in a peach or a glass of milk count?
Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Husband's cholesterol level prompts wife to question statin need
DEAR DOCTOR: At our last checkups, my husband's LDL was 147, and his HDL was 70. He doesn't know his total cholesterol. My LDL was 157, my HDL 77, and my total cholesterol was 254. But only my husband was prescribed a statin. Is there a reason for this, other than that we have different doctors?
Monday, October 23, 2017

Some NSAIDs linked to greater risk of heart attack and stroke
DEAR DOCTOR: Do NSAIDs really increase the risk of heart attacks, as I read in the news recently? I take aspirin or Tylenol whenever I get a headache, which is at least a few times each month. Should I be worried?
Saturday, October 21, 2017

Melatonin and CoQ10 have been shown to prevent migraines

DEAR DOCTOR: I've suffered with migraines for years, and my doctor wants to give me a daily medication to prevent them. I'm reluctant to rely too heavily on drugs. Aren't there any vitamins or non-prescription medications I can take to prevent migraines? 

 

Friday, October 20, 2017

Sandboxes are breeding grounds for bacteria
DEAR DOCTOR: My sister-in-law read that sandboxes are full of germs, and now she won't let her kids play with my sons in our backyard. I can see how a public playground might be less than clean, but isn't she overreacting by putting my yard off-limits?
Thursday, October 19, 2017

Recent hepatitis a outbreak devastates city's homeless
DEAR DOCTOR: I'm familiar with hepatitis C's connection to death, but hepatitis A? I had no idea that could be lethal, and now I'm reading about a number of deaths in San Diego. I thought anyone could get hepatitis A. 
Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Treadmill desk can be good way to avoid sitting at work all day
DEAR DOCTOR: I graduated from college last spring, and I just got my first full-time job, which I love. But it means that I'm sitting for more than eight or nine hours a day, and I hate it. Would one of those treadmill desks be a good way to stay fit?
Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Course of treatment varies for patients with thyroid cancer
DEAR DOCTOR: A recent study suggested that cancer for thyroid treatment can be delayed. What would be the point? 
Monday, October 16, 2017

Readers' advice on better balance and improved doctors' visits
Hello again, dear readers! Many of your medical questions tackle complex topics that don't fit into the allotted space in a newspaper, so we're back with your questions and comments. These regular follow-ups let us turn the one-way communication of a column into something far more satisfying: a conversation.
Saturday, October 14, 2017

Massage techniques can help alleviate swelling from lymphedema
DEAR DOCTOR: I have Stage 1 lymphedema in my left leg, which causes pain and swelling. I do self-massages every morning, but it's not enough. Can anything reverse this? I've heard that lymph node replacement hasn't been very successful.
Friday, October 13, 2017

Kids don't necessarily have to bathe every day
DEAR DOCTOR: My 10-year-old grandchild gets a bath only three times a week, and sometimes it's only twice a week. Is this normal? I thought that children should be bathed every day. 
Thursday, October 12, 2017

Dietary changes don't show any effect on UTIs
DEAR DOCTOR: I have a lot of urinary tract infections. My doctor told me not to drink anything with caffeine, but surely there must be something else I can do. Are there foods I should eat? Not eat?
Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The spread of Candida auris concerns health professionals
DEAR DOCTOR: First, there was a "superbug bacteria"; now there's a "superbug fungus"? What is this new fungus that I've been reading about? More to the point, how worried should I be? 
Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Minimal data on the cardiovascular response to marijuana use
DEAR DOCTOR: Can marijuana use really increase the risk of high blood pressure, as a recent study suggests? I thought marijuana was supposed to make you relax. 
Monday, October 9, 2017

Symptoms of sundowning syndrome upsetting for caregivers
DEAR DOCTOR: My husband was in the hospital recently, and at night he would get quite agitated. He yelled, took off his clothes and tried to pull out his IV. He had to be secured to his bed to keep him from leaving. But in the morning, he'd be fine and couldn't remember anything from the night before. What's happening? How can I help? 
Saturday, October 7, 2017

Panic attacks can derail prospects for normal life
DEAR DOCTOR: Could you explain panic attacks? I never knew what people were talking about until a few months ago, while sitting at the computer. I felt as if I had stopped breathing; I thought I was dying. I ended up in the ER, but no problems were found. This has happened several times since, and I want my life back. 
Friday, October 6, 2017

Moderate your intake of pickled vegetables
DEAR DOCTOR: A lot of my friends are talking about pickles these days because they're a way to get probiotics into your diet. But I read that pickled foods are associated with higher rates of cancer. Are pickles good or bad for you? I'm confused. 
Thursday, October 5, 2017

Connection between aluminum and alzheimer's not known
DEAR DOCTOR: My husband and I have been reading about a possible connection between aluminum and Alzheimer's disease. Some reports even discourage the use of aluminum foil for cooking. Is there a connection between aluminum and Alzheimer's? 
Wednesday, October 4, 2017

DEAR DOCTOR: What's the difference between probiotics and prebiotics? I'm really interested in how gut bacteria impact health, but I'm not sure I always understand the terminology.
Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Surgical procedure can lessen symptoms of neurological condition
DEAR DOCTOR: What can be done for normal pressure hydrocephalus? My dad was diagnosed with this condition six months ago after developing severe gait problems, urinary urgency and memory issues. He has a few other physical issues, but is otherwise healthy.  
Monday, October 2, 2017

Cancer treatments can have major effect on hair color
DEAR DOCTOR: Is it true that chemotherapy not only makes you lose your hair, but that it can also change the color and texture of hair that grows back, and even get rid of gray? 
Thursday, September 28, 2017

A range of exercises and medications can help with fibromyalgia
DEAR DOCTOR: My daughter, who is in her 40s, has fibromyalgia. Is there any cure for this painful condition, or any natural remedies? I hate to see her suffer. 
Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Cluster of symptoms necessitates further neurological testing
DEAR DOCTOR: I've been having trouble with my handwriting, not being able to control the letters. I have also had an occasional tremor in my little finger, and have an ongoing problem with a "frozen shoulder." Do you think a neurological evaluation would be appropriate?   
Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Blood test for ovarian cancer not effective
DEAR DOCTOR: How effective is the CA 125 blood test at detecting ovarian cancer? Because ovarian cancer is diagnosed so late, wouldn't it make sense to screen women with this test at the same time they get their Pap smears?
Monday, September 25, 2017

Studies suggest moderate drinking lessens diabetes risk
DEAR DOCTOR: News coverage of a study recently suggested that frequent, moderate drinking could ward off Type 2 diabetes. Could this be true?  
Friday, September 22, 2017

Complete recovery from pneumonia typically takes time
DEAR DOCTOR: My husband was recently hospitalized for pneumonia "of undetermined origin" and treated with IV antibiotics. Does that mean they don't know whether it was viral or bacterial? Are antibiotics used for both? I'm also worried that he might have a relapse. 
Thursday, September 21, 2017

When to measure TSH to check for hypothyroidism
DEAR DOCTOR: My mother and father have hypothyroidism, as do my two younger sisters. Now I've been experiencing symptoms that would indicate thyroid problems. My doctor checked my T3 and TSH levels, but did not check T4, and said I did not need medication. Shouldn't she also have checked my T4? 
Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Random chance and lifestyle choices often to blame for cancer
DEAR DOCTOR: My best friend, who never smoked, died of lung cancer last spring. My father, who has been a smoker since high school, is fine. What puts you at greater risk of getting cancer -- your genes, your habits, the environment, or is it just random chance?
Tuesday, September 19, 2017

More studies needed to assess vitamin k's effect on bone health

DEAR DOCTOR: My 83-year-old mother has advanced osteoporosis. She and I recently read several articles touting the benefits of vitamin K2. Does it help strengthen bones? If so, what is the recommended daily dose? Are there side effects? 

 

Monday, September 18, 2017

For certain shoulder injuries, a prp injection may benefit
DEAR DOCTOR: My doctor at the local bone and joint clinic said I was a good candidate for an experimental injection of PRP for arthritis in my right shoulder. What is your opinion? I'm 71.
Saturday, September 16, 2017

Service dogs can be trained to assist with a variety of tasks
DEAR DOCTOR: I've seen a lot of dogs recently in grocery stores and restaurants wearing those yellow service dog vests, but some of them can't obey even simple commands like "sit" and "stay." They seem to really be pets. What do trained service dogs do? Whom do they help? 
Thursday, September 14, 2017

Overprescribing antibiotics leading to increased drug resistance
DEAR DOCTOR: Do you, or do you not, need to take a whole course of antibiotics even when you begin to feel better? I've always dutifully done so, but new reports seem to suggest otherwise. 
Wednesday, September 13, 2017











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