Archive for May, 2012

What is rosacea?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I read your column on adult acne with great interest. For years, I thought I had adult acne, but when I finally saw a doctor, she diagnosed me with rosacea. I'd like to learn more about this condition.

DEAR READER: Rosacea is a long-lasting skin condition that causes inflammation and redness of the face. Remember the comic W.C. Fields — and what his nose looked like? He had rosacea. Rosacea tends to begin in adults over the age of 30, although it can affect younger adults and kids. Rosacea is sometimes confused with acne, but acne usually starts in childhood and affects more of the skin of the face than rosacea does. Rosacea also has different causes than acne.

When should I start rehabilitation after a neck injury?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm still recovering from a neck injury, but I'm scheduled to begin rehabilitation exercises with a physical therapist next week. How can I start rehab when I'm in so much pain?

DEAR READER: Although it may be hard to believe, without active exercises it is hard to relieve pain, restore function and reduce the risk of reinjury in your neck. If you're still in too much pain to perform rehab exercises, your physical therapist can do some "passive pain-relieving interventions" to ease your pain and get you ready for active rehab. These techniques are not a substitute for necessary exercises. Instead, they make it easier for you to do them.

How do I treat a yeast infection?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have a vaginal yeast infection. The itching and burning are unbearable. How should I treat it? And how did I get it in the first place?

DEAR READER: Vaginal yeast infections are caused by a fungus that is usually present in small amounts on our skin, particularly moist areas such as under the breasts and in the groin. They also are present in small numbers in the vagina. Sometimes the amount of fungus increases, causing a yeast infection.

What is diabetic neuropathy?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have diabetes. Lately I've had some new, unpleasant symptoms. My doctor says they're due to diabetic neuropathy. What is this? And what can I do about it?

DEAR READER: Diabetic neuropathy is nerve damage that results from diabetes. The most common symptoms of neuropathy are tingling, burning, other unpleasant sensations or a loss of sensation. The most common type of nerve damage from diabetes is peripheral neuropathy. It affects the peripheral nerves that extend from your spine to your arms and legs.

What is a spinal tap?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My doctor wants me to have a spinal tap to help confirm a diagnosis. What happens during a spinal tap?

DEAR READER: A spinal tap is also called a lumbar puncture, or "LP" for short. During this procedure, fluid known as cerebrospinal or spinal fluid is removed from the space surrounding your spinal cord. The term "spinal tap" sounds scary, but it is only briefly painful and mostly risk-free.

Is creatine safe for my teenage son?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My son wants to play football, but he's smaller than the other boys. Is it safe for him to take a nutritional supplement such as creatine to increase his muscle?

DEAR READER: Many teens, especially athletes, want to be bigger and stronger, and a fair number use creatine to do so. One study found that nearly 10 percent of high school boys have used it. Another study found that nearly half of college men have used it. Creatine is sold as a supplement, but it is found naturally in the body, mostly in muscle.

What causes anal itching?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm tormented by anal itching. What's causing it? And how can I make it stop?

DEAR READER: Anal itching occurs when something has irritated the skin around the anus. For example, if the anal area isn't cleaned properly after a bowel movement, a small amount of stool may be left behind on the skin. This would cause the area to itch.

Why do I need a tetanus booster shot?

DEAR DOCTOR K: What is tetanus? And why do I need a tetanus booster shot?

DEAR READER: When I graduated from medical school, I assumed I would never see a patient suffering from tetanus. It had become unusual since tetanus immunization became available. But it didn't take long for me to see my first case.

Is a high-fiber diet good for you?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I recently read that fiber doesn't prevent colorectal cancer. So is a high-fiber diet good for you or not?

DEAR READER: Many claims have been made about the health benefits of fiber. Yet studies have disagreed. With all the back and forth, I can understand why people are confused. And why they sometimes tune out and say, "Call me when you've discovered the truth."

What can I do about bunions?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have a bunion on my left foot and it hurts! What can I do?

DEAR READER: With a bunion, your big toe turns inward, bending toward, or even under, the other toes. Since your feet probably are inside shoes and not easily visible, I'll try to explain what happens to your big toe by asking you to look at your hand. Look at your thumb. Feel the joint where the thumb starts sticking out from the hand. Unless you have arthritis, the bone in your hand and the first bone in your thumb are lined up pretty straight.