How can I prevent bacterial sinusitis?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I've had four bouts of "bacterial sinusitis" over the past several months. How can I kick this infection for good?

DEAR READER: Sinusitis is inflammation of the sinuses. Everyone has sinuses, and many of us are not happy about that. Like you, my sinuses frequently get inflamed. Sinuses are the moist air spaces behind the eyes, forehead, nose and cheeks, on each side of our head.

How can I make restaurant meals healthier?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I travel regularly for work, so I have to eat out a lot. Could you give me some strategies to make restaurant meals healthier?

DEAR READER: Eating out can ruin even the healthiest diets. That's because restaurants -- and not just fast-food joints -- tend to overdo the butter, sugar and salt. I spoke to registered dietitian Kathy McManus, director of the Department of Nutrition for Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital. She assured me that you can enjoy a meal (or several) on the road if you follow a few handy tips:

My child suffers from allergies every spring and fall — What can I do?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My 7-year-old daughter suffers from allergies every spring and fall. What can I do?

DEAR READER: Spring and fall are my favorite seasons, as is true for many people. But for those who suffer from seasonal allergies, spring and fall can be very unpleasant. Weeks of sniffling, sneezing, head congestion, red eyes and scratchy throats make it hard to appreciate the beauty and mild weather.

Poor vision is affecting my independence– are there tools to help with my daily activities?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have poor vision that is making it more and more difficult for me to live independently. Are there tools that can help with my day-to-day activities?

DEAR READER: Like you, some of my patients have poor vision, which limits their ability to perform activities such as reading a newspaper, using a computer, watching television, cooking a meal or crossing the street. For some, poor vision means poor central vision. For others, it is blurry vision, loss of peripheral vision or even double vision. But however your vision is affected, there are ways to cope:

What is actinic keratosis — is it skin cancer?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I saw my doctor about a patch of rough, brown skin that I noticed on my upper arm. He said it is actinic keratosis and needs to be removed. Is it cancer? How will it be removed?

DEAR READER: Actinic keratosis (AK) is a precancerous skin condition. That means it is not cancer now, but is likely to become cancerous if left untreated. AK appears as raised, scaly pink or red-brown rough patches on the skin. The patches are most likely to appear on the face, back of the hands or other areas commonly exposed to the sun. They can cause discomfort and itching.

What happens to our skin as we age?

DEAR DOCTOR K: As I've entered my 40s, the skin on my hands and face has started to change. What happens to our skin as we age?

DEAR READER: The shortest answer is that our skin gets old, like the rest of us. In fact, the three layers of skin get old in different ways. The skin's outermost layer, the epidermis, forms a protective physical barrier. The dermis, or middle layer, contains collagen and elastin, which provide strength, firmness and elasticity. It also contains blood vessels, immune cells, nerves and glands that produce sweat and oil.

How can I relieve the pain from my injured rotator cuff?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I've injured my rotator cuff. What can I do to relieve the pain?

DEAR READER: When people hear "rotator cuff injury," they often think of baseball pitchers. But most people with rotator cuff injuries are like you and me. Gradual wear and tear from everyday activities, over many years, makes all older adults vulnerable to such injuries.

My DEXA scan showed my T-score is minus 2.7– what does this mean?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm a 63-year-old woman, and recently I had a screening test for osteoporosis. My "T-score" was minus 2.7. What does this mean?

DEAR READER: In the past, osteoporosis -- a thinning of the bones -- was frequently diagnosed only after a bone fracture. Today, osteoporosis can be detected earlier with a bone mineral density test. Several tests can assess bone density. The most common, considered the gold standard for osteoporosis screening, is known as "dual energy X-ray absorptiometry" (DEXA). For this test, a machine sends X-rays through your bones in order to calculate bone density.

Are the new treatments for hepatitis C optimistic?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My son has a hepatitis C infection, based on a blood test. The doctor says he's OK now, but could someday become seriously ill. I hear there are new treatments for hepatitis C. Is there reason for optimism?

DEAR READER: Hepatitis C is caused by a viral infection that inflames and damages the liver. ("Hepatitis" means inflammation of the liver.) The hepatitis C virus (HCV) is usually transmitted through contact with infected blood. HCV can cause short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic) hepatitis C. Most people with acute hepatitis C eventually develop chronic hepatitis C.

What is sick sinus syndrome?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My doctor says I have "sick sinus syndrome." What is it?

DEAR READER:Your question reminded me of something that happened many years ago. A new patient came to my office. She told me that a colleague of mine had been her doctor, but she had stopped seeing him because "he didn't know what he was talking about." When I asked her to explain, she said that she had been weak and had almost fainted several times. At other times, her heart suddenly seemed to be beating too fast.