Are allergy shots effective?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm plagued by seasonal allergies. Should I consider immunotherapy?

DEAR READER: Many people know all too well the misery of allergies -- the sneezing, runny nose, postnasal drip, watery eyes and itchy throat. They try to fight back with allergy medications. But immunotherapy, also known as allergy shots, may be a better option.

What is a rectocele?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm a woman in my 60s. I saw my doctor because of rectal pain and constipation. She told me I have a "rectocele." What does this mean?

DEAR READER: The vagina is separated from the rectum by a wall of tough, fibrous tissue called fascia. Sometimes, an area of this wall gets weak, and part of the rectum bulges into the vagina. This bulge is called a rectocele.

Why have I suddenly lost my sexual desire?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm a woman in my mid-50s. Lately I haven't been able to become sexually aroused. What could be wrong?

DEAR READER: Sex is complicated, but you probably already know that. Sexual desire surely resides in the head, but other parts of the body can affect desire as well. In particular, the genital organs communicate with the brain. Likewise, the brain communicates with the genital organs. Desire in the brain causes changes in the pelvic organs. Perceiving these changes can, in turn, enhance sexual desire.

What lifestyle changes can help relieve my heartburn?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Can lifestyle changes help relieve my heartburn?

DEAR READER: Heartburn is an uncomfortable burning sensation that radiates up the middle of your chest. It results from a condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or "reflux." With GERD, stomach acid surges up into the esophagus, the "swallowing tube" that connects our mouth to our stomach.

Is it safe to drink diet soda during pregnancy?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My beverage of choice is diet soda, but my girlfriend told me I should stop drinking it now that I'm pregnant. Is she right?

DEAR READER: For some time now, research has shown that when pregnant women gain a lot of weight during pregnancy, they have heavier babies. Heavier babies tend to grow into heavier children, who tend to grow into heavier adults. And being overweight or obese in childhood can adversely affect a child's future health and well-being. So it's a good idea for pregnant women to try not to gain more than their doctors tell them to.

How does Alzheimer’s disease typically progress?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My mother has Alzheimer's disease. What should I expect in the coming years?

DEAR READER: It's impossible to predict exactly how Alzheimer's disease will affect someone. Symptoms of the disease, and how quickly they progress, can vary widely from person to person. In some people, for reasons we don't understand, the disease progresses very slowly.

What should I look for in a pair of high-quality sunglasses?

DEAR DOCTOR K: During my last eye exam, my eye doctor advised me to buy a pair of "high quality" sunglasses. But she didn't tell me what she meant by high quality. Can you help?

DEAR READER: When you buy sunglasses, it's natural to look for a style that looks good on you and is comfortable. But don't fail to consider the most important detail: the amount of harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation the lenses screen out. Without proper UV protection, sunglasses can work against you by enabling you to see comfortably in light that is harming your eyes.

Does it matter where I do my rehabilitation therapy after hip replacement surgery?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm having hip replacement surgery next month. I know I'll need rehabilitation afterward, but does it matter where I do it?

DEAR READER: It's been routine after hip replacement surgery to have extensive physical therapy. This rehabilitation therapy, or "rehab," usually consists of a series of outpatient appointments with a physical therapist, as well as exercises to do at home. The goal of rehab is to improve the strength, stamina and balance of walking.

Does psoriasis affect body parts other than the skin?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My doctor thinks my arthritis and heart disease are connected to my psoriasis. Is this possible? I thought psoriasis was a skin condition.

DEAR READER: Psoriasis (pronounced so-RYE-uh-sis) is named for an ancient Greek word meaning an itchy or scaly condition. It is classified as a skin disease, but psoriasis is the result of an immune system abnormality that can cause problems throughout the body.