Archive for March, 2012

Can glaucoma treatment prevent vision loss?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I was recently diagnosed with open-angle glaucoma. What can I expect in terms of treatment? Will the doctor be able to save my vision?

DEAR READER: Our eyes are filled with clear fluid. In glaucoma, pressure builds up in the fluid. This increased pressure damages the optic nerve, which carries information from the eye to the brain. Because of the damage to the optic nerve, the information reaching the brain is reduced, and you cannot see as clearly.

Will it someday be possible to slow the aging process?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I've heard it may one day be possible to slow or stop the aging process. Is there any truth to this?

DEAR READER: In the past, most experts believed that aging was inevitable. Recent research indicates that may not be true. Life expectancy in developed countries has risen continually for 165 years. At the turn of the 20th century in the United States, just 112 years ago, life expectancy was about 50 years. Today, it is approaching 80 years — a 60 percent increase.

Should I be concerned about mercury in the fish I eat?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I enjoy eating fish, and I know that doing so can keep me healthier. But how worried should I be about mercury and other pollutants in fish?

DEAR READER: Fish ranks way up there on the list of healthful foods we should be eating. It's an excellent source of protein, and its healthy oils protect against cardiovascular disease. A diet rich in seafood benefits the brain and the heart. But depending on the species and the water it was harvested from, fish comes with a catch.

Can I treat urinary incontinence without drugs or surgery?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm a middle-aged woman with urinary incontinence. Is there any way to treat this problem without drugs or surgery?

DEAR READER: I'm glad you asked. Surveys of women across the country indicate that millions have urinary incontinence — the inability to keep from sometimes leaking urine. The reason I'm glad you asked is that those same surveys indicate that more than half the women with this problem never seek care for it. That's a shame, because there is much that can be done to fix it. There are several strategies you can try before considering medications or surgery.

What are keloids?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I am a 46-year-old African-American man with keloids on my chest. My first problem is that I don't like how they look. But I'm also worried about other effects -- are keloids a threat to my overall health?

DEAR READER: First, let me calm your fears: Keloids are harmless. Because keloids look like growths, some of my patients who have them are worried they may turn into cancer. You may not like how they look, but they do not become cancerous. And they don't cause other serious health effects, either.

How does emotional stress affect physical recovery?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I am recovering from breast cancer surgery. Unfortunately, my healing process is coinciding with several unexpected stressful events in my life. Can stress actually slow my healing?

DEAR READER: Stress does have far-reaching physical effects. There is plenty of research showing that stress -- especially long-term stress, and the feeling that you cannot get control of your life -- can harm your body.

What is a sun allergy?

DEAR DOCTOR K: A friend recently revealed that she is allergic to sunshine. I was so surprised -- what does this mean, exactly?

DEAR READER: I agree that it's a strange-sounding concept, but sun allergy is a real phenomenon. A sun allergy is an immune system reaction to sunlight.

How can body lice be prevented and treated?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My 19-year-old daughter is in college, and she recently told me there had been an outbreak of body lice in her dorm. She didn't get them herself, but I'm still afraid she'll bring them with her when she comes to visit. What can you tell me to calm my fears?

DEAR READER: Your chances of getting body lice are slim. I'll discuss why, but first let's talk about what body lice are and how to deal with them if you get them. Body lice are small, parasitic insects. They live mostly in a person's clothing or bedding. One or more times a day, they crawl onto the skin to feed on a person's blood.

How is adult acne treated?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm a woman in my mid-50s plagued with acne for the first time in my life. Please help!

DEAR READER: Most people get acne in childhood — about 80 percent of teenagers suffer from it. However, it's not that unusual for someone to first get it later in life. Acne occurs when the lining of hair follicles becomes blocked. Hair follicles are little pores in the skin through which hairs grow. Tiny glands in the skin squirt body oils into the follicles.

How can I help my teen stay healthy while losing weight?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My 15-year-old daughter wants to go on a diet. How can I make sure she stays healthy while losing weight?

DEAR READER: My first question is whether your daughter really needs to go on a diet. Before your teen starts any weight-loss program, talk with her pediatrician, who can help determine an ideal weight for your teen and give her guidance about dieting. Many people (teens and adults) view themselves as overweight when, by medical standards, they are not. They will not get any health benefits from losing weight — though they may think they will look better.