Archive for November, 2012

What is fatty liver disease?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My doctor says I have fatty liver disease, but I rarely drink. So how is this possible?

DEAR READER: I can understand your surprise, since it used to be that fatty liver disease was usually caused by abusing alcohol. However, it has also been true that obesity and diabetes could cause fatty liver. Perhaps you have one of these conditions. In the past 30 years, as obesity and diabetes have become more common, so has fatty liver disease.

Do I need surgery for a torn ACL?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I tore my ACL. Is surgery inevitable?

DEAR READER: The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a band of tissue that runs through the middle of the knee joint and keeps the shinbone from sliding forward past the thighbone. The ACL can tear during a sudden or awkward twist, turn or stop. More often than not, it's these non-contact injuries that injure an ACL. Between 100,000 and 200,000 ACL injuries occur each year in the United States.

Is fluoride bad for you?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm confused. Is fluoride harmful or not?

DEAR READER: I know there are people who think fluoride in drinking water, toothpaste or mouthwash is harmful, so I'm likely to get some mail about this column. But my job is to tell you what the scientific evidence shows.

What happens during an angioplasty?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I recently had an angiogram, and during the procedure the doctor found a blockage. He performed an angioplasty and placed a stent. He said my angina should go away, and it has, but I really don't understand what he did. Can you explain it?

DEAR READER: In yesterday's column I discussed coronary angiography. That diagnostic test allows doctors to detect blockages from plaques of atherosclerosis in arteries that supply blood to your heart. As in your case, if a doctor finds a blockage during an angiography, he or she may perform an angioplasty and place a stent to open up the blockage.

What happens during an angiogram?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My doctor suspects I have heart disease and wants me to have an angiogram. What will happen during this procedure?

DEAR READER: Coronary angiography is the gold standard for diagnosing coronary artery disease, a narrowing of the coronary arteries that reduces blood flow to the heart.

What are the symptoms of ADHD in children?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I think my son may have ADHD. What should I be looking for?

DEAR READER: Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can be a major problem for some kids (and even some adults). It can interfere with schoolwork, with friendships and socializing, and complicate the relationship between children and their parents. Kids with ADHD have inattention (inability to pay attention), hyperactivity (always being on the move) and impulsive behavior (acting without self-control).

How can I quit smoking?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have tried to quit smoking several times but just can't. The patch and Chantix didn't work. Support groups aren't for me. Are there any other approaches that might help?

DEAR READER: Keep trying. It often takes smokers several tries before they are successful. I spoke to my colleague, Dr. Thomas Lee, editor-in-chief of the Harvard Heart Letter, who has heard this question from many of his patients. Here are our thoughts.

How does positive psychology work?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm going through a tough time. Do you think positive psychology can help me?

DEAR READER: For many years, I was skeptical about various popular self-realization or self-improvement programs. That's because there weren't a lot of studies that showed they helped. That's still true, but I've seen individual instances where people clearly seemed to benefit.

How can I prevent food poisoning?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I recently suffered through a miserable bout of food poisoning. How can I protect myself in the future?

DEAR READER: There are few things less fun than food poisoning. I speak from experience, and not just experience as a doctor. Abdominal cramping, vomiting and diarrhea -- clearly not an experience you want to repeat. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to protect yourself.