Archive for November, 2013

Sometimes I experience shortness of breath — Should I be worried?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I sometimes get short of breath. Should I worry that it's serious?

DEAR READER: Shortness of breath is often no big deal. It's normal to be short of breath for a little while after strenuous exercise or at high altitudes. Some people breathe hard when they're anxious. When should you worry that shortness of breath might indicate a serious heart or lung condition?

How can an enlarged prostate cause troublesome urinary symptoms?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have BPH. Can you explain how an enlarged prostate causes troublesome urinary symptoms?

DEAR READER: Around the time of a man's 25th birthday, his prostate gland begins to grow. This natural enlargement is called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). It is the most common cause of prostate enlargement. If a man lives long enough, he will almost certainly experience some degree of BPH.

What could be causing my slow heartbeat and is it dangerous?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Last time I went to the doctor, my heart rate was 55 beats per minute. What could be causing my slow heartbeat? Is it dangerous?

DEAR READER: A normal heart rate at rest is between 60 and 100 beats per minute. A slow heart rate, of less than 60 beats per minute, is called bradycardia. You have just a slight bradycardia. Bradycardia can be normal if you're a well-conditioned athlete. A patient of mine bicycles 50 miles a week and has a resting heart rate of 50. Regular exercise improves the heart's ability to pump blood efficiently.

How do I know if statins are worth the risk of their side effects?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Lately I've been hearing more about the side effects of statins. For example, I've heard that they increase the risk of muscle problems and diabetes. How do I know if they're still worth the risk?

DEAR READER: I've said this before, and I'll say it again: No drug is 100 percent safe. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't take one if you need it. But you should continually weigh the risks and benefits. When it comes to cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, the benefits are proven. But your concerns are worth a closer look.

How old can you start disciplining children?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My sister and I both have young children. She believes that toddlers are too young to discipline, but I think it's important to establish rules and consequences early. What do you think?

DEAR READER: Discipline is important for all children, including babies and toddlers. Disciplining your toddler means teaching and protecting your child, both at once. Your goal is to keep her safe by teaching her self-control and the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. Discipline does not mean punishment.

I have a patch of hard skin on my foot — What is it and how should I treat it?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have a patch of hard skin on my foot. Is it a corn or a callus? How should I treat it?

DEAR READER: I can't answer your question without seeing it. But I can tell you what to look for, and when it requires a visit to your doctor. Corns and calluses are areas of hardened skin. They develop to protect the foot from the damage that can be caused by friction from poorly fitting shoes.

My doctor recommended Monistat for my strong “fishy” vaginal odor but that hasn’t helped. What can I do?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have a strong "fishy" vaginal odor and a little discharge. My doctor recommended Monistat, but that hasn't helped. What can I do?

DEAR READER: Miconazole (Monistat) is an antifungal medication. It treats vaginal yeast infections, which are caused by a fungus. If Monistat didn't work, you most likely don't have a yeast infection. Instead, you probably have bacterial vaginosis (BV).

I’ve been drinking more recently — How can I rein in my drinking before it becomes a problem?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm a 36-year-old woman. Lately I've been drinking more than I used to. How can I rein in my drinking before it becomes a problem?

DEAR READER: Even for people who initially have a healthy relationship with alcohol, things can change over time. So how can you prevent casual drinking from crossing into problem drinking? First, some basics. A standard drink equals 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.

Is there any risk with over-the-counter medicine for my toddler’s frequent constipation?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My toddler has frequent constipation, and I have been giving him milk of magnesia about once a week. Is there any risk with this over-the-counter medicine?

DEAR READER: I'd suggest speaking to your pediatrician or family physician before continuing to give your son milk of magnesia. Normally, children pass stool at regular intervals without much effort or pain. Infants and toddlers typically have several bowel movements a day. Most children age 2 or older have one every day.