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home : columns : ask the doctors August 20, 2019

Healthy gut biome could help with insulin resistance
Does insulin resistance increase as we age? I just read it has something to do with the gut. Why would that be true?
Monday, August 19, 2019

Remember the ABCDE rule when watching moles
Why is melanoma so dangerous? I had a squamous cell growth removed, and it was no big deal. However, a mole that had to be biopsied for melanoma (it turned out to be benign) has my doctor worried.
Friday, August 16, 2019

As temperatures rise, readers should head inside
Hello again, dear readers, and welcome to the oh-yes-it's-summer edition of our monthly letters column. To date, it seems no part of the nation has escaped the unique misery of a heat wave. Please be careful when temperatures spike, and take all local heat advisories seriously. It's easy to underestimate the effects of extreme heat and humidity and to overestimate our ability to withstand it.
Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Lifestyle changes could help prevent kidney stones
My husband was in agony recently, and it turned out he was passing a kidney stone. Why does that hurt so much, and what can he do to keep it from happening again?
Monday, August 12, 2019

Water safety is crucial for kids' summer education
Our summer is filling up with pool and beach activities, and though it's great that our kids will get exercise and have fun, I'm also worried. The older boys are decent swimmers, but the youngest, who just turned 4, is still learning. How do we keep them all safe?
Friday, August 9, 2019

Lymphedema common after cancer treatments
My best friend had a successful breast cancer surgery last spring. But the surgeon took out some lymph nodes, and now she's getting lymphedema in her left arm. Is it true that there's no cure?
Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Acute flaccid myelitis seen mostly in children
What's the latest on the new children's disease that's kind of like polio? It's been all over the news, and like a lot of the moms around here, I'm getting worried.
Monday, August 5, 2019

Drug-resistant UTIs are harder to treat
Dear Doctor: I had a urinary tract infection that improved on the antibiotic Keflex, but lab tests showed the bacteria was actually resistant to the Keflex, so I had to switch to a different antibiotic. I don't understand -- if the infection was resistant, why did the symptoms go away?
Friday, August 2, 2019

Keep vigilant to prevent Rocky Mountain spotted fever
My wife and I appreciate your articles about ticks, and we wonder if you could talk about Rocky Mountain spotted fever? A friend of ours here in Arkansas got really sick from it, and since our family is big on outdoor activities, we want to know what to look for.
Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Best solution for gallstones is surgery
Our granddad is 86 and wound up in the ER with extreme abdominal pain, which turned out to be gallstones. The doctors say he should have his gallbladder removed. Why? Isn't that a big operation just to take care of gallstones?
Monday, July 29, 2019

Medication is a short-term solution for dementia
Dear Doctor: I'm 95 and was recently diagnosed with dementia. The doctor recommended a pill, but it's not a cure. I don't want to go through that illness for years, as it would be too hard on my daughter. Do you have any other suggestions? I do word search puzzles all the time.
Friday, July 26, 2019

Body's ability to synthesize Vitamin D decreases with age
A recent column about vitamin D prompted a reader to ask this follow-up question: "It is my understanding -- via a doctor -- that when you reach 65 to 70, the body's ability to make vitamin D begins to decrease. Is this true?"
Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Symptoms vary when ticks transmit Lyme disease
We moved from the city to rural Massachusetts, and suddenly Lyme disease is a real threat. I've read about it forever, but now that we're here, I realize I don't know much about the disease. How do you know if you've got it? And how do we protect ourselves and our kids?
Monday, July 22, 2019

Lifestyle changes can help heal hemorrhoids
Like a lot of older people, I suffer from hemorrhoids that cause some pain as well as intermittent bleeding after bowel movements. My doctor recommended surgery, but I've also found relief using a hemorrhoid cream. What's the best treatment?
Friday, July 19, 2019

Research suggests mindfulness has myriad benefits
I'm looking for new ways to deal with all the stress I feel these days, and a friend keeps talking about something called "mindfulness." What is that, exactly? Is there any proof that it actually works?
Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Lichen planus causes pain and itching on skin, scalp and more
Recently, my skin became irritated and started blistering. I was diagnosed with lichen planus, which I'm told is pretty common. What is it? How can people deal with the irritation and itchiness it causes?
Monday, July 15, 2019

Your clean house could be hurting your lungs
Dear Doctor: How bad are cleaning products for our lungs? My mom keeps talking about a news story that said chemicals in cleaning products are as dangerous as cigarettes. Is my clean kitchen killing me?
Friday, July 12, 2019

Study links fracking to low birth weight
Fracking just started near my Ohio hometown, and I remember reading about a connection to the risk of having a baby with low birth weight. I want to get pregnant, but now I'm worried. How close do you have to be to a site to be affected?
Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Getting enough potassium requires more than a supplement
Your recent column about how potassium can help lower blood pressure was quite helpful, but when I looked into supplements, they turned out to be almost useless. Why is that? What foods should I be eating?
Monday, July 8, 2019

Most prepared baby and toddler foods contain heavy metals
Is it true there's lead and heavy metals in some brands of baby and toddler foods? My husband and I both work, and it's hard to completely avoid using prepared foods. 
Friday, July 5, 2019

Excess Biotin can skew lab tests
I've been taking biotin for my nails, but I've read that it can mess up the results of important lab tests. Should I stop taking it?
Wednesday, July 3, 2019

New research suggests Parkinson's begins in gut
What's all this I'm hearing about Parkinson's disease having something to do with the gut? I thought it was about the nervous system and the brain.
Monday, July 1, 2019

Changing sense of taste is just one chemotherapy side effect
Dear Doctor: A dear friend is about to start chemotherapy treatments, so I've been researching the side effects she can expect, and it's a lot. I've read that even her sense of taste could change. Is that true? Can anything be done?
Friday, June 28, 2019

Vagus nerve plays a part in sensory, motor functions
One of the yoga teachers at our gym always goes on and on about the importance of the vagus nerve whenever we do deep-breathing exercises to relax. What is she talking about, and why is it important? 
Wednesday, June 26, 2019

You make the call about wireless earbuds
Dear Doctor: Are those wireless earbuds everyone seems to be wearing nowadays safe? I heard that some international researchers are petitioning the World Health Organization about them because the signals that they emit may be hurting our brains. Should we be concerned?
Monday, June 24, 2019

Energy drink consumption linked to stimulant use
Could energy drinks really lead to stimulant use? How can that be? No one's ever linked coffee or cola consumption to an increased risk of drug abuse. This sounds like some kind of urban legend.
Friday, June 21, 2019

Be on the lookout for ticks this summer
Hello again, dear readers, and welcome to our monthly column devoted to your thoughts, notes and suggestions. We're deep into spring, so here's our annual reminder to be on high alert for ticks. Dress defensively, use repellents and do thorough and regular tick checks. Always seek medical care if a tick bite is followed by a rash, fever or other flulike symptoms. Be sure to also protect any four-footed companions with access to the outdoors. And now, to the inbox.
Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Male infertility most commonly caused by sperm
My second husband and I have tried to get pregnant for over a year now, but we have had no luck. Should we be worried about infertility? I'm the mother of a 2-year-old girl and a 4-year-old boy, so the problem probably isn't with me. What causes that in a man?
Monday, June 17, 2019

Alcoholism impacts almost every part of life
DEAR DOCTOR: We have a dear friend who is 46 and has alcoholism. His liver is failing, but he blames that and all of his symptoms (fatigue, burning lungs, severe stomach pain, sinus problems, confusion) on factors besides his drinking. What are the long-term effects of abusing alcohol?
Friday, June 14, 2019

Black licorice should be consumed only in moderation
My wife wants me to quit eating black licorice because she heard it's bad for you. I think it's just that she can't stand the taste of it herself. I told her I was writing this email, and she said I have to include that I'm 42 and on blood pressure meds.
Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Pacemakers keep the heart beating
My mom is 93, and her doctor says she needs a pacemaker to control a heart arrhythmia. How does a pacemaker work? Is the operation dangerous for someone her age?
Monday, June 10, 2019

Loss of smell may not have link to past cocaine use
Some years ago, I was addicted to cocaine. I've overcome that addiction, but it has cost me my sense of smell. Why did this happen, and what can I do?
Friday, June 7, 2019

Halotherapy should be taken with a grain of salt
I keep hearing about something called halotherapy, or salt therapy. Can it really help people who have respiratory problems and inflammation? I've heard that it's good for arthritis and for regulating blood pressure, too.
Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Basal tears crucial to eye health, cause blocked ducts
I've got a blocked tear duct that I'm told requires surgery. My eye weeps, but it isn't painful. However, it has become infected once. What can you tell me about this condition, and what are my treatment options?
Monday, June 3, 2019

Grilling moderation should limit health risks
Dear Doctor: Our family loves the summer barbecue season, but the "take the fun out of everything" lobby keeps saying this can increase our risk of cancer. Just how unhealthy is grilled meat? Can we do anything to make it safer?
Friday, May 31, 2019

Vigorous exercise could slow Parkinson's progress
A relative of mine was recently diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. I read recently that exercise can help slow the progression, so I want to suggest it to him, but I don't know if it's actually true.
Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Resistive breath training could lower blood pressure
A good friend of mine is into this new thing called resistive breath training. She says it helps runners build endurance, and she even bought a breathing gadget to practice it. Does it really help?
Monday, May 27, 2019

Just throw away that E. Coli-ridden food
- We had several questions regarding how E. coli is finding its way into romaine lettuce, and whether thorough washing can render suspect batches of leafy greens safe again.
Friday, May 24, 2019

Electric blankets may be cozy, but they can be dangerous
My wife and I sleep with an electric blanket for heat. Is there a health hazard in using it too long at night?
Wednesday, May 22, 2019

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