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home : columns : ask the doctors September 30, 2020

6/10/2020 7:55:00 AM
Reader queries cover a range of topics

Hello again, dear readers! You've kept our digital and postal mailboxes even more full than usual with your questions, thoughts and (thank you!) kind words. Not surprisingly, much of the discussion focused on COVID-19. To help with the volume of mail, we'll have a separate column with your virus-related questions next week. And now, onward to the more general discussion.

-- In a column about the search for a saliva test to diagnose Parkinson's disease, we mentioned the lack of a specific diagnostic test for the condition at this time. A reader from Oklahoma, whose wife lives with Parkinson's disease, wondered why a test known as a DaTscan wasn't mentioned. "It is considered reliable enough that it is often required at the start of treatment testing to prove a patient has PD," he wrote.

DaTscan uses a radioactive isotope to assess the health of the dopamine system in the brain. It's the loss of dopamine transporters (DaT) that leads to the neurological symptoms of Parkinson's disease. However, the scan will return an abnormal result in any neurological condition that involves dopamine transporters. It's used in conjunction with a neurological and physical exam to arrive at a final diagnosis, but in and of itself does not return a definitive PD diagnosis.

-- A reader from Spokane who suffers from chronic foot pain requested a copy of our column about a condition known as Morton's neuroma. Although we can't mail you a copy, we can provide you with the link. We hope it helps.

-- In that same vein, a reader from North Carolina is disappointed that her newspaper occasionally abridges our columns. The good news is that you can find the entire (and uncut) Ask the Doctors archive at

-- A reader whose 76-year-old mother has just received a diagnosis of colon cancer wonders where to learn about clinical trials looking into the disease. An excellent resource is The National Cancer Institute, at Enter the words "colon cancer clinical trial" in the search bar, and the top three results will give you a wealth of information.

-- To the reader who asked what RNA and DNA stand for, the answer is ribonucleic acid and deoxyribonucleic acid, respectively. These are the names of the sugars that serve as the backbones of the two molecules.

-- A column about hypertension led a reader to ask us to highlight something known as "white coat syndrome." This is a condition in which someone's blood pressure spikes in a clinical setting but is otherwise normal. Although there is no surefire cure or mitigation for this, it's important information for your health care provider to have. They may ask you to wear a portable blood pressure monitor for 24 hours to get an accurate reading.

We'll wrap up with another thank-you, this time to the sharp-eyed readers who pointed out an error regarding dietary guidelines for daily limits on sodium. You're correct that the unit of measurement should have been 2,300 milligrams, and not micrograms (sigh), as we wrote.

Eve Glazier, M.D., MBA, is an internist and associate professor of medicine at UCLA Health. Elizabeth Ko, M.D., is an internist and assistant professor of medicine at UCLA Health. Send your questions to, or write: Ask the Doctors, c/o UCLA Health Sciences Media Relations, 10880 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1450, Los Angeles, CA, 90024. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.

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