Archive for October, 2012

Is there a diet that can help manage irritable bowel syndrome?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I recently heard about a new diet to manage IBS. Can you tell me about it?

DEAR READER: Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common gastrointestinal disorder that causes symptoms such as cramping, diarrhea, gas, and bloating. A new diet for IBS targets and eliminates certain types of carbohydrates that the small intestine has trouble absorbing.

How can I recognize a psychopath?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I hear people talk about psychopaths. Can you tell me how to recognize them so I can avoid them? Do they "snap" and become violent?

DEAR READER: Psychopathy is a psychological condition. I'm sure that events and relationships earlier in life have some influence on whether a psychopath behaves in a destructive way. But I also think the evidence shows that psychopaths are "born" more than they are "made." It is my opinion that the condition is inherited, and that it produces changes in brain chemistry that lead to psychopathic behavior.

What is an “almost psychopath”? — A case study

If women can be psychopaths, then they can certainly be almost psychopaths. Consider this: growing up, did you know any girls who might be considered bullies, girls who made your life miserable in school and who seemed to lack empathy? The idea of “mean girls” has caught on in popular culture, perhaps because, sadly, it […]

How likely are severe reactions to anesthesia?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm scheduled to have surgery soon, and I have never been under general anesthesia. How can I be sure I won't have a severe reaction to the anesthesia?

DEAR READER: Severe reactions to anesthesia, fortunately, are extremely rare. You may be concerned, in particular, with a severe, sometimes fatal, reaction to anesthetics called malignant hyperthermia. It usually occurs during or after surgery, but it can occur whenever anesthetic drugs are used. This includes emergency rooms, dental offices and intensive care units.

How do I properly wash my hands?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Is there a "right" way to wash your hands? I wash my hands regularly but still get sick.

DEAR READER: I answer a lot of questions about complicated, serious diseases. Yet your question, about something all of us do every day, is at least as important because we don't always do it well -- and we pay a price for that.

How is scabies treated?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My daughter picked up scabies at her day care center. How should I treat it? And what can I do to make sure she doesn't get infected again?

DEAR READER: Scabies is a skin infestation by tiny, parasitic insects called mites. It causes intense itching. When a person catches scabies, female mites lay eggs in the person's skin. The eggs hatch, mate and lay more eggs, continuing the cycle.

What are the symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder?

DEAR DOCTOR K: The term OCD is used so casually these days. How can you identify someone who truly has obsessive-compulsive disorder?

DEAR READER: There's a little bit of what is called "psychiatric illness" in most of us. For example, at one time or another we may all feel compelled to line up our pencils or double-check that we've locked the door.

Is it possible to reverse signs of sun damage?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I was a sun worshipper in my teens. Now, in my 60s, my skin is paying for it. Is it possible to reverse signs of sun damage?

DEAR READER: The answer is yes. That's not only good news for you; it's also good news for me. I was raised in Los Angeles and spent nearly every weekend of my youth on the beach -- without sunscreen. When we were young, we thought that having a tan made us look healthier and more attractive. We still think that. But we didn't know then, as we do now, the toll that excess sun exposure takes: wrinkles, sun spots and potentially deadly skin cancers.

Questions and answers about low testosterone

The following Q&A is excerpted from “Testosterone for Life,” written by my colleague Abraham Morgentaler, M.D., and published by Harvard Medical School. For more on low testosterone, read my column from October 10, 2012, “Could I have low testosterone?“ Q. Is it true that if a person has a normal sex drive, then he must have […]

Could I have low testosterone?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm a man in my early 50s. Lately, my sex drive isn't what it used to be. Plus, I'm irritable and depressed. Could I have low testosterone?

DEAR READER: Yes, you could, but that's not the only possible explanation of your symptoms. There are some rare diseases that can cause very low blood levels of testosterone and a host of symptoms. I won't be talking about those in this column. Instead, I'm talking about a more common condition.