Archive for August, 2012

What are the early signs of autism?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I've read that early treatment of autism can make a big difference. But what are the early signs of autism?

DEAR READER: You're right -- my colleagues who are experts in autism say that early recognition and treatment really can help. Autism (also called autism spectrum disorder, or ASD) is a developmental disorder of the brain. Kids and adults with autism have problems communicating and interacting socially. They also may have unusual behavior patterns, interests and activities. Symptoms range from mild to severe.

What can cause recurring headaches?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm a 47-year-old woman. Lately I've been getting headaches several times a week. Should I see a doctor?

DEAR READER: I think anyone who is having frequent headaches can benefit from medical attention. That's especially true if they're interfering with your ability to function. I'm assuming that you have not been bothered by frequent headaches earlier in your life. In a person who's 47 and is having frequent headaches for the first time, it is very important to get them evaluated.

What happens during a corneal transplant?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My eye was severely injured in an accident and I am scheduled to have a corneal transplant. What will happen during this procedure?

DEAR READER: The cornea is the clear, round "window" of tissue at the front of your eye. Light enters your eye from the cornea, then travels through the pupil and the lens, falling on the retina, the light-sensing part of the eye. A damaged cornea can cause significant vision loss. If this damage is irreversible, a corneal transplant often is the best solution.

Which drugs have interactions with warfarin?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I recently had a stent placed and am now taking warfarin. Do I need to worry about drug interactions?

DEAR READER: You (and your doctor) need to be careful about drug interactions. Many other drugs have dangerous interactions with warfarin (Coumadin). Warfarin is an anticoagulant, or blood thinner. It decreases your blood's ability to clot.

Can exercise help prevent osteoporosis?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I've read that certain types of exercise help prevent osteoporosis. What types are best? How do they prevent bone loss?

DEAR READER: Osteoporosis is a disease that weakens bones and makes them more susceptible to breaks. Bones are very dynamic. Inside every bone, some cells are laying down new bone and other cells are chewing up old bone. You want these bone-building and bone-destroying forces to always remain about equal, and for most of our young and early adult lives they are.

What is metabolic syndrome?

DEAR DOCTOR K: A friend recently told me about a condition called metabolic syndrome. What is it? And what can I do if I have it?

DEAR READER: Metabolic syndrome may be the most common condition you've never heard of. Many of my patients have it; nearly 50 million Americans have it -- and many of them don't know it. Metabolic syndrome is dangerous. If you have it, you have a much higher risk of stroke or a heart attack, and of developing diabetes, kidney and liver disease.

What can I do about edema?

DEAR DOCTOR K: What can I do about my edema? The diuretics my doctor prescribed haven't helped.

DEAR READER: Edema is swelling caused by a buildup of extra fluid. Edema most often affects the feet and legs, but it can affect the hands and even the face. The skin becomes puffy and swollen. The fluid in your body is in three places: inside each of the 13 trillion cells in your body; in the blood (which means inside all your blood vessels); and in the space between your cells and your blood vessels. Edema occurs when unusual amounts of fluid leak out of the blood vessels and into the space between your blood vessels and cells.

How can I choose a healthy breakfast cereal?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I know breakfast is important, but in our house we only have time for cereal. How can I make sure to at least choose a healthy one?

DEAR READER: You're right to make breakfast a priority, no matter how busy your mornings. A good breakfast can help you concentrate, maintain the right weight and get the nutrients you need to stay well. And the right cereal is a very healthy, and quick, breakfast. But not all cereals are created equal. Some are largely empty calories and contain too much sugar and salt. Some cereals that are heavily marketed to children, in particular, are unhealthy because they contain way too much sugar.

Are insect repellents safe?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Can you recommend an insect repellent that is safe and effective?

DEAR READER: The itch from mosquito bites -- or the yuck factor of pulling a tick off your skin -- can be irritating and unpleasant. But even worse are the illnesses that insects can carry, including West Nile virus, Eastern equine encephalitis and Lyme disease.