Archive for December, 2011

Is too much “screen time” unhealthy?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm starting to think I have an unhealthy addiction to electronic media. I spend a lot of time on social networking sites, on the Internet, playing video games and watching TV. Basically, I think I spend too much time staring at various screens. How bad is this for me?

DEAR READER: We all have habits that we'd be better off without. Sometimes they creep up on us before we notice. If your various types of "screen time" are taking over your life, it's time to take stock. Wanting to change is the necessary first step.

What can I expect during a colonoscopy?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My brother was recently diagnosed with colon cancer. Now my doctor wants me to have a colonoscopy. Can you tell me what will happen during this procedure?

DEAR READER: Your brother's diagnosis puts you at higher risk for colon cancer, so I'm glad to hear your doctor has recommended that you get checked.

Does shellfish have the same health benefits as fish?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I know I should be eating fish regularly, but I don't like fish. Is it OK to eat shellfish instead?

DEAR READER: Eating fish several times a week is good for your heart, and may also be good for your brain. Fish has plenty of protein and omega-3 fats ("good" fats). While this has not been absolutely proven, most nutritional scientists believe that it is the omega-3 fats in fish that make them heart-healthy.

What are the treatment options for carpal tunnel syndrome?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have carpal tunnel syndrome. My doctor wants me to consider surgery, but I'd like to learn about other treatment options first.

DEAR READER: In carpal tunnel syndrome, a nerve that leads from your neck down your arm to your hand becomes trapped, or pinched, in your wrist. The nerve passes through a little tunnel (the carpal tunnel) in the wrist. The tunnel is made of very tough tissue. Usually it is wide enough to allow the nerve to pass through it easily. But sometimes the tunnel gets narrowed and the nerve gets pinched. The classic symptoms are pain, weakness and tingling in the fingers. Often these symptoms occur at night and awaken you from sleep.

Is there treatment for varicose veins?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have unsightly varicose veins on my legs. Is there any way to get rid of them? And can I prevent new ones from forming?

DEAR READER: Varicose veins are very common, and as in your case, they're usually found in the legs. They can look blue, swollen or stretched out, kinked or twisted.

What is an exercise stress test?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I recently had some mild chest pains, so my doctor scheduled an exercise stress test. What will happen during this test?

DEAR READER: An exercise stress test is also known as an exercise tolerance test. As in your case, stress tests are often given to people with chest pain or other symptoms that could indicate coronary artery disease.

Should I take a multivitamin?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I try to eat a balanced diet but don't always succeed. Should I take a single vitamin supplement? How about a multivitamin?

DEAR READER: This apparently simple question is tough to answer. Here's why. In the past 200 years, doctors discovered several diseases that were caused by severe deficiencies of particular vitamins. An example is scurvy, a disease that was caused by lack of vitamin C.

What is the best way to treat teen acne?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My teenage son has moderate acne, and it's starting to affect his self-esteem. How can I help him treat it?

DEAR READER: Acne is widespread among adolescents. That's probably small comfort to your son. It bothers him, and you want to help him. (Of course, he may not want his parents to help him -- after all, he's a teenager.)