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home : columns : ask the doctors October 1, 2020

Navigating the confusing waters of mammogram recommendations
I keep hearing different things about at what age and how often a woman should be getting a mammogram. Can you please go over the latest advice?
Wednesday, September 30, 2020


How you can volunteer to be in a COVID-19 vaccine study
How can I volunteer for a COVID-19 vaccine study?

Governments and companies are setting up websites where people can sign up.

Enthusiasm is high: More than 400,000 people have signed a registry  of possible volunteers that’s part of a vaccine network set up by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

But before raising your hand, it’s important to understand how the research works.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Cervical surgery relieves mystery itch
A friend had to get one of his cervical discs replaced because it got damaged from surfing. He was surprised when his doctor said that getting a new disc is also why a constant itch along his right forearm finally went away. What's the connection? Why would neck surgery fix that itch?
Monday, September 28, 2020

What makes a food 'processed'?
I know that processed foods aren't good for me and should be avoided, but I still have some questions. Could you please explain why they are unhealthy and provide some specific examples of such foods?
Friday, September 25, 2020

Dad's diuretic could be linked to gout
Can you please explain what gout is and how it's treated? Our father is 81 years old and was just told that he has gout. His doctor says it could be because he takes water pills for swelling due to congestive heart failure. Does that make sense?
Wednesday, September 23, 2020

COVID-19 affects sense of smell differently than colds, flu
Why are people making a big deal out of the fact that you can lose your sense of smell and taste when you get sick with COVID-19? The same thing happens to me when I've got a plain old cold.
Monday, September 21, 2020

Gutoscopy uses smart pill to collect samples
Dear Doctor: What on earth is a "gutoscopy"? We saw it on the news -- something about a pill that goes in one end and comes out the other, but it sounded more like science fiction than anything real.
Friday, September 18, 2020

Breathing into a paper bag can calm anxiety attack
I was having a panic attack and thought I might faint. My dad had me breathe into a paper bag, and it helped me calm down. I've only ever seen that on TV. Why did it work? Was it because I ended up doing deep breathing?
Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Readers still have questions about COVID-19
Hello again, dear readers, and welcome to the late-summer edition of the letters column. Along with so many of you, we're facing record-breaking heat, high humidity and a few natural disasters. All the more reason to seek refuge in our ongoing chat about health and medicine.
Monday, September 14, 2020

Drusen severity depends on if they're hard or soft
My eye doctor says I have something called "drusen" on top of my retina. I've read that this is connected to macular degeneration, and I'm worried. Can you please explain more about it?
Friday, September 11, 2020

Preventing falls could save lives
Would you please write about the risks of falls for the elderly, which can be fatal? The colonial houses in my area are dangerous and lead to many serious injuries and deaths. Now that so many of us are home alone more than ever, calling attention to this would be helpful.
Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Toenail fungus takes time to fix
I've tried all the toenail fungus cures in our drug store, and so far nothing works. Why not? What can I do? I really miss wearing sandals.
Monday, September 7, 2020

Cause of motion sickness still unclear
DEAR DOCTOR: What can you recommend for motion sickness? We've been taking the family driving a lot lately to get us out of the house, but unless I'm the one behind the wheel, the mountain roads where we live make me nauseated.
Friday, September 4, 2020

Sneezing after eating is a common occurrence
Why do I sneeze after a meal? It doesn't matter what kind of food it is, and it doesn't have to be after a particularly big meal. Beverages don't seem to be an issue. What's going on?
Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Co-workers dubious about business owner's kid
I work for my family's business. My father is the head of our company. Staff whisper the typical stigma about me: If I weren't his son, I would not have my job or would not keep my job, and the only reason that I have succeeded in moving up in the company is because of, as a co-worker said, "my birthright." It is tough having to prove my worth to my co-workers every day just to be accepted by them because they feel we are different and they will never move up in the company like I have. I don't find that to be true. I know that if I were bad at my job, my father would remove me and give the job to someone else. At the same time, yes, this company is my family's legacy, and I deserve the chance to succeed. I do not want to feel guilty for this fact; I just want everyone else off my back
Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Quarantine bubbles only as safe as least-careful person
Our kids are having a hard time with social distancing, which seems like it will last forever. My husband and I know some people who have formed a "quarantine bubble" for socializing and getting the kids together. How does that work? Is it safe?
Monday, August 31, 2020

Parkinsonism and Parkinson's disease not the same thing
I was treated for pelvic cancer earlier this year, and ever since finishing chemo, I've had problems with balance and movement. My doctor thinks it could be parkinsonism. Is that the same as Parkinson's disease? Did the chemo cause it?
Friday, August 28, 2020

Stress tests help to see how the heart behaves
I'm a 56-year-old man. I have been out of breath lately and have had some mild chest pains. My doctor wants me to have a stress test. Is it really necessary? What will it entail?
Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Boys and girls can benefit from the HPV vaccine
Everyone talks about girls getting the HPV vaccine. But what about boys? Isn't it just as important for boys to be vaccinated as well?
Monday, August 24, 2020

A suspected concussion requires medical care
Dear Doctor: I tripped while I was out running a few months ago and got pretty banged up, including a knock to the head. My wife worried about a concussion and wanted me to see a doctor. How do you know if you have a concussion?
Friday, August 21, 2020

Asymptomatic carriers can still spread COVID-19
Hello again, dear readers, and welcome to part two of our monthly letters column. We received so many letters last month that we needed a bit of additional real estate to get to the most popular topics.
Wednesday, August 19, 2020

It may take some time to get better sleep
I'm having trouble sleeping these days, and so is my wife. We're both 33 years old, we've been working from home and we have two very active young sons. What can we do?
Monday, August 17, 2020

Whole-body approach can help with immune boost
I always seem to get sick when I start a job. Makes sense -- new people, new germs. I started a job in February, then we all had to work from home. I worry that being isolated for weeks puts me back at square one. What can I do to boost my immunity in preparation for going back to the office?
Friday, August 14, 2020

Use of alpha blockers can complicate cataract surgery
I am a 76-year-old man, very active and in fairly good health. I need cataract surgery, but I have learned that serious complications can occur with patients who are on Flomax, as I recently was. Can you explain? I'm at a loss as to what course of action I should follow.
Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Not all masks are created equal
Hello, dear readers, and welcome back to our monthly letters column. We hope you're all doing as well as possible during these challenging times. We've received even more mail than usual, much of it -- no surprise -- virus-related. We'll address some of those questions here, and the rest in an extra letters column soon.
Monday, August 10, 2020

Buruli ulcer unlikely to hit the United States
Dear Doctor: I heard about a place in Australia where there's suddenly a whole bunch of cases of flesh-eating bacteria. What kind of bacteria is this? Can something like that happen here in the United States?
Friday, August 7, 2020

The best mask for kids is one they'll wear
Our city requires face masks now, and we're not sure what's the best kind for our kids. Our teen wears an adult mask, but we have a 6-year-old and a 9-year-old as well. Do you have any advice?
Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Yoga can help kids connect to their bodies
What do you think about yoga for children? We're having trouble keeping three kids busy without their usual play dates and activities, and our 8-year-old has been saying that she wants to try doing yoga.
Monday, August 3, 2020

Theory suggests thymus plays role in severity of covid
What's the connection between the novel coronavirus and the thymus gland? A friend of ours who is a doctor says it's probably what keeps young kids from getting so sick. I've never even heard of the thymus. What does it have to do with coronavirus?
Friday, July 31, 2020

Wearing heels damages foot muscles
I'm 44 years old, and after wearing high heels to work for the last 20 years, I've lost flexibility in my feet. It also seems to be affecting my balance. Can you recommend foot exercises that can help?
Wednesday, July 29, 2020

COVID-19 antibody tests are not yet reliable
I had a coronavirus test, and it was negative. Then I had the antibody test, and I was surprised when it came back positive because I hadn't been sick. How do these coronavirus tests work? Are they accurate?
Monday, July 27, 2020

Lymphedema causes swelling and requires close monitoring
Dear Doctor: My 36-year-old son has recently been diagnosed with primary lymphedema. He has developed open wounds on both of his legs and is in a lot of pain. The condition limits his movement, and he has become depressed. Can you provide information about treatment, and where to seek it?
Friday, July 24, 2020

Find the cause of bloating through elimination diet
My husband and I ate more junk food than usual during the coronavirus lockdown, and we both gained a few pounds. We're trying for a healthier diet, with more fresh fruit and vegetables, but now I'm getting bloated after meals. What causes that? How can I make it stop?
Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Spinal stenosis can be managed with minimal invasion
Dear Doctor: My wife is 77 and has spinal stenosis. She's often in pain. We read about a new procedure called "minimally invasive lumbar decompression," which we are hoping might help. She really wants to avoid surgery. What can you tell us about it?
Monday, July 20, 2020

Graves' disease causes hyperthyroidism
I saw my doctor because my heart was beating funny and I was losing weight even though I wasn't dieting. She did a blood test, and it turns out to be Graves' disease. Why did I get that? Is there a cure?
Friday, July 17, 2020

Sunscreen and insect repellent both have expiration dates
Let's start with a question regarding two essential tools of outdoor summer living -- sunscreen and insect repellent. A number of you have written to ask how long these products remain effective. It's true that most don't include an expiration date on the packaging. However, the Food and Drug Administration requires sunscreen to maintain its original efficacy for at least three years.
Monday, July 13, 2020

Lone star tick bites can cause red meat allergy
Dear Doctor: I got bitten by a tick, and my doctor said it might make me allergic to meat. That was a few months ago, and I can still eat a hamburger and not get sick. How long does it take for the allergy to start? Will it ever go away?
Friday, July 10, 2020

Hoarding disorder is not a sign of laziness
Dear Doctor: Our older sister has become a hoarder. The halls in her house are filling up with junk, and you can't even get into her kitchen anymore. My brother and I worry she's not safe. Why does a hoarding disorder happen? How do we help her?
Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Eye tracking tests may help diagnose Alzheimer's disease
Dear Doctor: I've heard that there's finally a test for Alzheimer's disease, and that it has to do with your eyes. What is it, and how does it work?
Monday, July 6, 2020

World Almanac
Today is the 187th day of 2020 and the 16th day of summer.
Saturday, July 4, 2020

Many cancers require more than one kind of treatment
Friday, July 3, 2020









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