Archive for October, 2013

I’ve read about hypothyroid supplements that could help my symptoms — Should I take them along with my thyroid medicine?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have hypothyroidism. According to the Internet, there are several supplements that could help my symptoms. Should I be taking a supplement along with my thyroid medicine?

DEAR READER: Hypothyroidism is a condition in which the thyroid gland (located in the front of the neck) doesn't produce enough thyroid hormones. Every cell in the body needs thyroid hormone for normal function. When there is not enough hormone circulating in the blood, symptoms develop.

Can medications help me quit smoking?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I've tried to quit smoking on my own, but it never lasts. Could medications help? How do they work?

DEAR READER: Medicines can help, and they have improved "quit rates." Although smoking is a particularly hard habit to break, you can do it. The proof: There are more ex-smokers in the United States today than there are smokers.

I often feel guilty and frustrated when taking care of my mother with Alzheimer’s — Can you help me change my outlook?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I do my best to care for my mother, who has Alzheimer's disease. But I often feel guilty and frustrated. Can you help me change my outlook -- for my sake and my mother's?

DEAR READER: Fortunately, I never had to face the challenge that you face, as my parents both died while in full possession of their faculties. But many of my patients and friends are experiencing what you are going through. And like you, they often feel guilty and judge themselves harshly.

I was recently diagnosed with lupus — what is this and what is the treatment?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I saw my doctor for a rash on my face. After further tests, she diagnosed me with lupus. What is this? What is the treatment?

DEAR READER: Lupus is an autoimmune disease. Your body's immune system mistakenly attacks your body's own tissues rather than protecting them from outside invaders. Immune proteins called autoantibodies attack many different parts of the body.

What is agoraphobia?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My daughter's new roommate is afraid to leave a 10-block area around their apartment in New York City. She has something called "agoraphobia." What is that?

DEAR READER: Agoraphobia is the fear of certain situations in which an individual feels threatened and trapped and unable to escape. Most often, the fear is of being in open or public places. In the most severe cases, people with agoraphobia become afraid to leave home at all.

Can you tell me more about ALS?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Former Massachusetts governor Paul Cellucci recently died from complications of ALS. Can you tell me more about this disease?

DEAR READER: ALS stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. You may know it as Lou Gehrig's disease, named after the famous baseball player who suffered from it. There are many different kinds of brain cells. Some do our thinking, some move our muscles (when the ones that think tell them to), and other brain cells do other things (such as see and hear). ALS primarily causes a slow degeneration of the nerve cells that control muscle movements. As a result, people with ALS gradually lose the ability to control their muscles.

I like and trust my doctor, but I feel like he doesn’t listen to me or explains things — What can I do to change that?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I like my doctor and I trust his judgment, but I don't feel he really listens to me or explains things. What can I do, besides look for another doctor?

DEAR READER: Like every doctor, I am a patient as well as a doctor. I think I can see things from both perspectives. Let me respond first as a patient. If you like and trust your doctor, I'd recommend that you put him to the test before looking for another. At your next visit, gently but firmly make certain things clear: Suppose he says something you don't understand. Tell him you're sorry, but you don't understand. Ask him to explain it again.

My doctor thinks the pain in the ball of my foot is caused by a Morton’s neuroma– How did I get this?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have pain in the ball of my foot. My doctor thinks it is caused by a Morton's neuroma. How did I get this, and what can I do about it?

DEAR READER: Morton's neuroma is a swelling of the nerve between the bones at the base of the toes in the ball of the foot. The pain it causes usually is in one spot. It can feel like you have a pebble in your shoe. Once the nerve starts to swell, the nearby bones and ligaments put pressure on the nerve, worsening the irritation and inflammation.

What “superfoods” do you recommend?

DEAR DOCTOR K: What are "superfoods"? Which ones do you recommend?

DEAR READER: "Superfood" isn't a technical term; it's shorthand for foods that can improve your health and prevent disease. I don't much like the term, since it implies that some foods have magical powers that will keep you healthy regardless of what else you eat or do. But there are foods that do appear to confer more health benefits than others.