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home : columns : ask the doctors January 20, 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

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










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