Archive for October, 2016

Can anything be done to control heavy menstrual bleeding?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I bleed very heavily during my menstrual periods. Is there anything that can be done about this? Or do I just have to put up with the discomfort and inconvenience every month?

DEAR READER: Excessive menstrual bleeding (the medical term is menorrhagia) is a common problem. In my experience, a few primary-care doctors tell their patients just to "live with it." Not surprisingly, obstetrician/gynecologists are more likely to recognize excessive menstrual bleeding as a problem that needs treatment.

Does acetaminophen help relieve back pain?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have frequent back pain. I usually take acetaminophen (the Tylenol brand), but I hear it may not be effective for back pain. Is there anything to that?

DEAR READER: If you'd asked me that question even a year ago, I would have said, "Acetaminophen works fine for most people." Lots of people are bothered by back pain. When it strikes, all you want is relief -- and fast. Many folks turn to over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen and aspirin).

What can I do to prevent my daughter from getting another urinary tract infection?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I think my 4-year-old daughter may have a urinary tract infection. How will it be treated? And what can I do to make sure she doesn't get another one?

DEAR READER: A urinary tract infection (UTI) occurs when bacteria infect urine in the kidneys, bladder or urethra, a small tube that connects the bladder to the outside.

How can I add whole grains to my diet?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I know I should be eating more whole grains, but for years I've been eating white bread, white rice and white pasta. I don't know where to begin the switch to whole grains. Can you help?

DEAR READER: Like you, many of my patients and I are making the switch to whole grains. Why? Diets rich in whole grains are linked with a reduced risk of many medical conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, obesity and certain cancers.

Is it safe to swaddle a baby?

DEAR DOCTOR K: The other day I swaddled my niece before putting her down for her nap. My sister told me that's dangerous. Really?

DEAR READER: My colleague Dr. Claire McCarthy, assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, confirmed that your sister is right.

Should I be worried about blood test results that fall out of the normal range?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Last week I received the results of some recent blood work. A few of my values fell just outside the normal range. My doctor says it's fine, but I'm still worried. Do I need to be?

DEAR READER: A printout of lab results typically indicates normal ranges for each blood test next to your personal results. If your personal result is right in the middle of the normal range, you'll likely feel relief.

How does strength training slow bone loss?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I was recently diagnosed with osteopenia. My doctor advised strength training because it can help slow bone loss. How does it do that?

DEAR READER: Osteopenia is a thinning of the bones. It is often a precursor to osteoporosis, a more severe thinning of the bones. Osteoporosis puts you at risk for disabling, and sometimes debilitating, fractures.

What should I look for when choosing a toothpaste?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm confused by the many types of toothpaste on pharmacy shelves. What should I look for in a toothpaste?

DEAR READER: To prevent cavities and tooth decay, you need to brush away plaque -- that sticky, bacteria-laden material that builds up on teeth. It's best to brush at least twice daily: once after you eat breakfast, and then again before you go to sleep.

Should I get a prostate cancer screening test?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I've heard so many conflicting opinions about whether or not to get screened for prostate cancer. Are there official guidelines? What do they recommend?

DEAR READER: To say that prostate cancer screening has been controversial is an understatement. I spoke to my colleague Dr. Marc Garnick, clinical professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, to hear his thoughts.

What is a frozen shoulder?

DEAR DOCTOR K: What exactly is a frozen shoulder and can I do anything to speed up the healing process?

DEAR READER: Everyday, temporary shoulder aches and stiffness are common. Frozen shoulder is different. The shoulder starts to ache, particularly when you move it. Lifting a pan from the stovetop, brushing your hair, scratching your back -- they all hurt. So you move your shoulder less. The pain and mobility become substantially worse over time. The condition usually affects just one shoulder.