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home : columns : ask the doctors February 24, 2018

Study shows probiotic can relieve breast-fed colicky babies

DEAR DOCTOR: When our first son was born, we almost lost our minds as we rode out his bouts of colic. Our second son is due this spring and the idea of dealing with colic again already has me panicking. I've been reading that certain probiotics can help. Is this true? 

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Rare transient global amnesia mostly affects people over 50

DEAR DOCTOR: Can you shed some light on transient global amnesia? I was diagnosed with this five years ago (I'm now 71) after my family noticed that I couldn't recall common facts. I had no physical ailment or injury prior to this, and I'm told that the recurrence rate is 1 percent. 

Friday, February 23, 2018

When sitting at a workstation, be sure to get up and move around
DEAR DOCTOR: I never gained the infamous "freshman 15" while I was in college. But now I've graduated and am behind a desk for nine hours a day for my new job. I'm not only putting on the pounds, I feel generally lousy. Is this just adjusting to working life, or is sitting so much bad for you?
Thursday, February 22, 2018

Bad communication can imperil doctor-patient relationship
DEAR DOCTOR: My ex-wife was seeing a primary care doctor who also treated her heart issues, which were not of a serious nature. She sought a second opinion from a specialist, which prompted her own doctor to unceremoniously drop her as a patient, without even informing her. She found out the next time she called for an appointment. Is this ethical -- or even legal?
Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Readers offer advice on teething devices and portion control
Hello again, dear readers! How is 2018 treating you so far? Thank you, as ever, for your emails and letters. Your kind comments warm our hearts; your criticisms make us want to do better; and your questions, comments and opinions widen our worldview. And on that note, onward! 
Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Rise of C. diff linked to mass-production of sugar substitute
Monday, February 19, 2018

Managing lymphedema takes sustained effort and self-care
DEAR DOCTOR: I'm 26 years old and have been diagnosed with lymphedema in all four limbs. I'm 5 feet 8 inches and weigh 193 pounds. I work out for an hour every morning and am physically active. What else can I do to help my lymphedema?
Saturday, February 17, 2018

Evidence suggests popular supplements not needed for bone health
DEAR DOCTOR: If vitamin D and calcium don't reduce the risk of bone fractures in older adults, as I recently read, is there any point in taking them?
Friday, February 16, 2018

Milk banks offer moms safely pasteurized milk for babies
DEAR DOCTOR: After the hurricane in Houston, a lot of moms donated their breast milk to help the babies. Is that safe?
Thursday, February 15, 2018

Steady, rapid heartbeat during the morning cause for concern
DEAR DOCTOR: Every morning upon waking, I feel an even/steady pulsing of about 200 beats per minute, although my pulse is normally about 60 beats per minute. I'm 84, with no symptoms of atrial fibrillation and a body mass index of 24. I take no medications and have no aches and pains. Again, this high pulse rate occurs only when I wake up, and I feel normal at the time. What could be causing this, and should I be concerned?
Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Study suggests time of day may have effect on surgical outcome
DEAR DOCTOR: It seems like doctors always want to schedule surgeries as early as possible. But I recently read that heart surgery survival chances are better in the afternoon. Why would this be? Should people push their doctors for afternoon surgeries? 
Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Dementia can be diagnosed with a battery of tests
DEAR DOCTOR: How is one screened for/diagnosed with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia? What type of doctors does one see? What sorts of tests do they run? It runs in my family, and lately I've been forgetting conversations soon after they happen. But I don't know where to look for answers.
Monday, February 12, 2018

Study looked at grandparents' influence on grandkids' health

DEAR DOCTOR: I read that grandparents can increase a child's cancer risk by encouraging bad behaviors. Quite frankly, I'm offended by this. Couldn't they also improve a child's health? When our grandkids are visiting, we get them to eat much healthier food than they typically get at home.  

Friday, February 9, 2018

Erosive osteoarthritis typically affects the joints of the hands

DEAR DOCTOR: I was just diagnosed with erosive osteoarthritis. What can you tell me about it? I have it mainly in my hands and feet. 

Friday, February 9, 2018

Study suggests link between teen depression and social media
DEAR DOCTOR: I read that spending too many hours on social media is linked to an increase in teen depression and suicidal thoughts. I worry about my own kids, but what can we do? Everything is online now, and I don't want my kids to be outcasts. 
Thursday, February 8, 2018

How much water one should drink based on variety of factors
DEAR DOCTOR: There is an ongoing debate in my house about fluid/water intake to keep hydrated. Doesn't it make sense to drink water primarily when you feel thirsty? If not, how much do you need? 
Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Mild to moderate exercise has great benefits for mental health
DEAR DOCTOR: I've been feeling a bit down lately, and I read that even one hour a week of exercise could reduce depression. How much exercise is optimal to reduce the likelihood of depression?
Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Rates of relatively uncommon anal cancer have increased
DEAR DOCTOR: A friend of mine was diagnosed with, and treated for, anal cancer about two years ago. She never told me the location of her cancer until recently because she thought that "anus" and "anal" were shameful words. She also let the symptoms drag on for a year or so because she thought they were due to hemorrhoids. What are the symptoms, how is this type of cancer treated, and is it on the increase?
Monday, February 5, 2018

Scientists studying how synbiotics can prevent neonatal sepsis
DEAR DOCTOR: I recently read that probiotic bacteria could protect newborns from sepsis. Does that mean I should be giving probiotics to my newborn? 
Saturday, February 3, 2018

Link between zinc and prostate enlargement needs further study
DEAR DOCTOR: I developed acute prostate problems at the early age of 29. My doctor's prescriptions didn't work, so when a neighbor recommended 50 milligrams of zinc a day for at least 30 days, I gave it a shot. I haven't had any problems since -- and that was more than 30 years ago. Why don't more people use this miracle mineral for an enlarged prostate?
Friday, February 2, 2018

Patients are their best advocates when diagnosing an illness
DEAR DOCTOR: I'm a 63-year-old female, and for the last four months, I've had tingling sensations in my arms, legs, eyes and other parts of the body. These are followed by muscle spasms. Two doctors have told me they don't know the cause. What do you think is happening? 
Thursday, February 1, 2018

Taking too many vitamins can lead to unnecessary side effects
DEAR DOCTOR: How about a warning about the effect of too many vitamins? One example: B6. I recently checked my daily vitamin formula and found that it had more than twice the recommended B6. This is on top of what I get from my daily "health drink" and my healthy diet. My B6 level recently tested five times above the suggested level.
Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Study shows over-the-counter pain meds ease emotional suffering
DEAR DOCTOR: I recently heard a radio report that said Tylenol could ease the pain of hurt feelings. That seems hard to believe. If it's true, how does it work?
Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Colonoscopies still best method for detecting colon cancers

DEAR DOCTOR: I know that colonoscopies are more thorough than the at-home DNA stool test for colon cancer. But how much better? I have such a terrible time with anesthesia and gas. Both make me nauseated for several days. No one in my family has ever had any colon problems or polyps. I'd really like to pass, if possible. 

Monday, January 29, 2018

Although rare, type 1 diabetes can be diagnosed in adulthood

DEAR DOCTOR: I always thought Type 1 diabetes developed when you were a child, or not at all. But now they're saying it can happen as an adult, which is very alarming. How do I know if I develop it? 

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Data suggesting marriage wards off dementia not conclusive

DEAR DOCTOR: I recently read that marriage reduces the risk of mental decline in old age. I'm not sure I buy it. But, assuming it's true, why would that be?  

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Recent bacterial outbreak linked to pet store puppies

DEAR DOCTOR: We just got a new puppy, but I'm almost afraid to let my child play with it. I read a news story that said puppies have been linked to some sort of bacterial infection. What should I do? 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Aplastic anemia can't simply be cured with iron supplements

DEAR DOCTOR: I have aplastic anemia. It is hard to explain this to people. Most of them hear the anemia part and get stuck there. I hear often: "Just take some iron" or, "My aunt had that and was cured with B12 shots." How do I quickly explain it better? 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Cochlear implants can be adjusted to user's hearing needs

DEAR DOCTOR: I'm contemplating a cochlear implant for my right ear. How do they work, and what is the success rate of such procedures?  

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Devastating Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease largely unknown to many

DEAR DOCTOR: Could you please explain Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease? Some people call it "mad cow disease," which gives it a stigma. I lost my twin brother to this disease, and it's left our family shattered. 

Monday, January 22, 2018

New guidelines help track hypertension in children
DEAR DOCTOR: How important is it to keep track of a child's blood pressure? I read that the American Academy of Pediatrics just updated its guidelines for screening and managing high blood pressure in kids. Is this really a problem that I need to worry about? 
Saturday, January 20, 2018

What medicare recipients can expect at 'preventive care' checkup
DEAR DOCTOR: I am a senior citizen on Medicare. I don't have a "regular" doctor, but rather, I go to a clinic when I have a problem. What is covered in the annual Medicare physical? What should I, as a patient, know and do?
Friday, January 19, 2018

Readers offer advice on headache relief and annual physicals
Hello, dear readers! We hope that you're settling into 2018. (It still sounds odd to say it!) We love that you're keeping our inbox full, and, as ever, we remain grateful for your interest and engagement in our columns. 
Thursday, January 18, 2018

No matter the time of day, always wear sunscreen
DEAR DOCTOR: Because I have fair skin and live in an area with a lot of sun, I try to do my outdoor activities early in the day (before 9 a.m.) or late in the afternoon (after 4 p.m.). Do I still need to wear sunscreen?
Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Headline-grabbing flesh-eating bacteria still extremely rare
DEAR DOCTOR: Every now and then I read about a death related to "flesh-eating bacteria" that was contracted in water of some sort. The most recent one was in the floodwaters of Hurricane Harvey, near Houston. How does this happen? Is there anything we can do to stay safe?
Tuesday, January 16, 2018

More patients getting preventive care from different providers
DEAR DOCTOR: In the last few years I've noticed that after making an appointment to see a doctor, I'm often seen by a physician's assistant or nurse practitioner instead. What's the difference? When should I insist on being seen by a physician?
Monday, January 15, 2018

Getting shampooed at salon not as hazardous as headlines imply

DEAR DOCTOR: The back of my neck hurts when I have my hair shampooed at the salon. This worries me because I've read that some people have strokes when they have this type of shampoo, due to the arteries in the neck. Is there truth to this? 

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Restless legs worsened by iron deficiency and lack of sleep

DEAR DOCTOR: I am 56 and in menopause. A couple of months ago, I started having severe restless leg syndrome, which even included my arms. I am now taking ropinirole before bed every night -- I also take Pristiq for depression. Although the medication has eliminated my restless leg syndrome, I worry about potential long-term effects. Any idea what could cause restless leg syndrome?

Friday, January 12, 2018

Flu vaccine won't give you the flu, despite repeated claims

DEAR DOCTOR: What is in the flu vaccine that makes people feel so bad? A co-worker of mine got a flu shot last year and wound up feeling quite ill. Can a flu shot give you the flu? 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Patient's withdrawal symptoms have her rethinking going off SSRI
DEAR DOCTOR: I am a 70-year-old woman who has been taking 20 milligrams of Paxil for 17 years. It has worked wonders for me, changing my life after a lifetime of depression. Last year my doctor told me she wants me to go off Paxil, saying that patients taking the drug were dying earlier. I have severe withdrawal symptoms when missing more than one dose, but she has left it up to me to wean myself from the drug. Do you suggest I continue the medication? Also, is there a connection between Paxil and Alzheimer's/dementia? It is very prevalent in my family. 
Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Increased diet soda intake linked to host of health problems
DEAR DOCTOR: I feel better when I eat less sugar. Because I love having a soda with my snacks and meals, I drink a few diet colas every day. Is it true that diet sodas can increase the risk of developing diabetes?
Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Treating Meniere's with drug combination can be effective

DEAR DOCTOR: I have been diagnosed with Meniere's disease in my right ear. So far I've used conservative measures, such as dietary changes, diuretics, sedatives and oral steroids, but they haven't helped. My ear, nose and throat doctor has suggested a procedure called "inner ear perfusion." Could this lead to hearing loss? 

Monday, January 8, 2018

Reader's visual disturbances could be migraine auras
DEAR DOCTOR: I never have headaches, but I have visual disturbances that I believe are migraine auras. They're not bothersome and clear up within 10 minutes. But are they dangerous in any way? Am I having a migraine?
Saturday, January 6, 2018

Array of illnesses takes a toll on long-married couple
DEAR DOCTOR: My husband is in kidney failure, has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure and Type 2 diabetes. We have been married 48 years. He sleeps most of the day, is so short of breath that a walk to the bathroom is difficult and never leaves the house except to go to the doctor. He is angry and depressed, often taking his temper out on me. What can I do to help him (and us) besides watch his diet?
Friday, January 5, 2018

Fermented kefir currently the food fad of the moment
DEAR DOCTOR: Is kefir really the miracle food that it's cracked up to be? I'll confess that fermented milk does not sound very appealing to me. What is it, exactly? And how much should I consume a day?
Thursday, January 4, 2018

Getting IUD to reduce cervical cancer risk may not be necessary
DEAR DOCTOR: I'm too old (almost 30) for the HPV vaccination that can reduce my risk of cervical cancer. But I read that an IUD could do the same thing. Should I think about getting one, even though I prefer other forms of contraception?
Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Exercise, lessen stress and improve diet to lower blood pressure
Welcome to part two of our discussion about high blood pressure. For those who missed it, a previous column examined new blood pressure guidelines released by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, in which normal is now a range below 120/80. It's a conservative definition that puts people with blood pressure in the range of 120-129/80 into the "elevated" category. This is not a diagnosis of high blood pressure, or hypertension. Rather, it's a warning sign that, without certain lifestyle changes, hypertension may well be in your future.
Tuesday, January 2, 2018

New blood pressure guidelines leave many confused and concerned

DEAR DOCTOR: I'm so confused by the new blood pressure guidelines. Yesterday, my blood pressure was normal. With the new guidelines, though, I'm now considered to have high blood pressure. Is my doctor going to put me on medication? 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Mushrooms known for antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties

DEAR DOCTOR: I thought mushrooms were kind of a nonstarter from a nutritional standpoint, but now I read they are the best source of the antioxidants linked to anti-aging. Have I underestimated their health benefits? They're kind of icky, but I'll eat them if I have to. 

Friday, December 29, 2017

Learning portion size is important when choosing proteins
DEAR DOCTOR: Would you please explain what "grams of protein per pound of body weight" etc. actually LOOKS like on someone's dinner plate? I think a lot of readers would love to have a visual for how much protein we are supposed to be eating.
Thursday, December 28, 2017

Angioplasty not always necessary in patients with stable angina
DEAR DOCTOR: I've been having chest pain, and my doctor said that although I shouldn't panic, I should consider a stent. Now I read they're useless. What are my options? 
Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Readers offer advice on doctors' visits and treating rashes
Hello again, dear readers! Your letters continue to pour in, and we are impressed by and grateful for your curiosity, kindness and your thirst for knowledge. We, too, are lifelong students and love learning from you. 
Tuesday, December 26, 2017

You're extremely unlikely to catch the same cold twice
DEAR DOCTOR: My wife had a bad cold, and then I unfortunately caught it. Then, just as I was recovering, she got it again. What's going on? I didn't think it was possible to get the same cold twice.
Saturday, December 23, 2017

Joint replacement usually needed for avascular necrosis
Friday, December 22, 2017

Age-related loss of taste and smell not uncommon
DEAR DOCTOR: Does loss of taste occur naturally with old age, or could it be a symptom of an illness? I'm 89, in pretty good shape with good blood pressure, but seem to be losing my sense of taste.
Thursday, December 21, 2017

Relative's unusual behavior could be result of 'silent strokes'
DEAR DOCTOR: A relative long ago diagnosed with atrial fibrillation has been behaving differently, such as sitting with his mouth gaping open, not attending to financial matters, taking too long to do errands, that kind of thing. Could silent TIAs be the culprit?
Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Mother-in-law's concerns about baby stress new mom
DEAR DOCTOR: I just had my first baby, and I'm breastfeeding him. I really enjoy the experience, and our pediatrician says he's hitting his weight milestones. But my mother-in-law is afraid he's not getting enough nutrients and is pressuring me to switch to formula. How do I know if my newborn is getting enough breast milk? 
Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Marijuana use may lead to more sex, but also more risky behavior
DEAR DOCTOR: Do marijuana users really have more sex? Why would that be? I ask out of simple curiosity, of course.
Monday, December 18, 2017

Dad's diabetes caused painful peripheral neuropathy in feet

DEAR DOCTOR: My dad is 65 years old and has Type 2 diabetes. He recently developed pain in his feet, which his doctor says is peripheral neuropathy. What is that, and what treatments are available?  

Saturday, December 16, 2017

A mid-afternoon nap is one of life's great pleasures

DEAR DOCTOR: My Type A husband, who naturally falls asleep for about 25 minutes on weekend afternoons, complains that he's wasting time when he does so. How do I explain to him the benefits of napping? 

Friday, December 15, 2017

Artificial sweeteners should be an occasional part of our diet

DEAR DOCTOR: What are the possible health risks from artificial sweeteners? What are they, and how do we know if they're safe? 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Herpes virus is highly contagious and incurable
DEAR DOCTOR: What are the best ways to cope with herpes simplex 2? 
Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Man's injuries from sleep behavior disorder worry wife
DEAR DOCTOR: My husband, who has been diagnosed with a sleep disorder, acts out all his dreams. He recently tore his rotator cuff and dislocated his shoulder when he fell out of bed during a dream about playing basketball. We're worried this might happen again. Are there any new treatments or research into this disorder?
Tuesday, 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

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