Archive for July, 2012

How do I count calories to lose weight?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm trying to lose weight. How can I figure out how many calories I should be eating every day?

DEAR READER: Since your weight is influenced both by the number of calories you eat and by the number of calories you burn during your daily activities, let's assume that your daily activities won't change.

Is Lyme disease contagious?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My husband was just diagnosed with Lyme disease. Do I need to worry about catching it from him?

DEAR READER: In short, no. Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria that is passed from insect to human by ticks. It can't be passed directly from human to human.

Is milk good for you?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I always thought of milk as a healthy drink, but lately I've been hearing the opposite. Is milk good for adults or not?

DEAR READER: When I was a kid, my mother encouraged me to drink lots of milk. I rarely drink milk these days, except when I eat cereal. As with most things, there are both benefits and risks.

How can I improve my memory?

DEAR DOCTOR K: As I've gotten older, I've started to forget things here and there. Can you give me some strategies for improving my everyday memory?

DEAR READER: Believe me, you're not alone. Most of us experience more forgetfulness as we get older. And most of us who become a little forgetful don't have, and never will have, Alzheimer's disease or another type of dementia. Fortunately, there are plenty of behavioral strategies you can use to improve your memory. Many are simple things that you probably do already. But you still can benefit from doing them more regularly.

What is rTMS and how is it used to treat depression?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have major depression that hasn't responded to medication. My doctor said I might be a candidate for rTMS. What is this? How does it work?

DEAR READER: For most of the past century, the main treatments for major depression have been various forms of "talk therapy" and anti-depressant medicines. The primary exception was electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT (also known as shock therapy). While effective, it is used only in the most severe cases.

What is stroke rehabilitation?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My sister recently had a stroke and will be starting rehab soon. What can she expect?

DEAR READER: Rehabilitation helps restore abilities impaired by the stroke. How much progress your sister makes and how quickly it occurs will depend on the severity of her stroke and the part of her brain that was affected. Strokes can affect the strength of your muscles, your senses (like your sense of pain), your ability to speak and to understand speech, your vision, your emotions, your thinking and your level of consciousness.

What are eye floaters?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm 55 years old, and I've started seeing tiny black specks that move around in random directions. I'm worried that I may have an eye disease.

DEAR READER: Your symptoms most likely are caused by a common and harmless problem called floaters. The large chamber at the back of your eye is filled with a jelly-like material called the vitreous. In youth, the vitreous is clear and transparent, and allows light to pass freely to the back of the eyeball. There, the retina turns the light into nerve impulses that the brain reconstructs into images.

What is psoriasis and how is it treated?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I thought I just had severely dry skin, but it turns out I have psoriasis. Can you tell me more about this condition and my treatment options?

DEAR READER: Psoriasis is an autoimmune skin disorder. A person's immune system mistakenly attacks his or her own skin. Psoriasis causes inflammation and flaky, silvery white patches on the skin. It can also cause itching. Psoriasis is a chronic disorder, but symptoms may come and go.

Could my boss be a psychopath?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My boss is extremely manipulative and selfish. He doesn't care how his actions affect his employees. He gets away with it because he turns on the charm with his supervisors. I truly think he might be a psychopath.

DEAR READER: Just being manipulative and selfish doesn't make a person a psychopath, but those surely are characteristics found in one. In addition, psychopaths show a profound lack of empathy. They have no problem engaging in immoral and antisocial behavior for short-term gains. They are extremely egocentric, and they are not deterred by punishment or penalties.

What treatments are available for restless leg syndrome?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm a 55-year-old man with restless legs syndrome for the past several months. The condition is making it impossible for me to get a good night's sleep. What can I do?

DEAR READER: Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a neurological condition that causes uncomfortable sensations in the legs. In describing these odd sensations, my patients use words such as "tingling," "prickly," "crawling," "pulling" and, sometimes, "painful."