Archive for May, 2013

What is vasculitis and how is it treated?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My father recently saw his doctor, complaining of fever, fatigue, joint pain and rashes. His doctor suspects vasculitis. What is vasculitis? How is it diagnosed and treated?

DEAR READER: Vasculitis is an inflammation of the blood vessels. This inflammation can be severe enough to reduce blood flow to tissues and organs. We don't know for sure what causes it, but scientists believe it is an autoimmune disease.

How can I understand what I see on my electrocardiogram?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I recently had an electrocardiogram and my doctor gave me a copy of the tracing. Can you tell me what I'm looking at?

DEAR READER: When the 20th century began, more than 100 years ago, doctors had no way of looking inside the body of a living person. Yet we knew from autopsies of people who had died that all of the normally invisible internal organs could become diseased. So the search was on for ways to "see" inside the body.

Are calcium supplements unhealthy for men?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm a man in my 60s. I've been taking a calcium supplement to protect my bones, but I recently read that men shouldn't take calcium supplements. Why not?

DEAR READER: I wish I could give you a clear answer. Several recent studies have raised a question about whether regular use of calcium supplements might be bad for the heart. The bottom line: It's too early to know if this risk is real.

How can I get my toddler to stop biting?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Today at the playground my toddler bit another child. How can I make sure she doesn't do this again?

DEAR READER: Lots of toddlers between 1 and 3 years go through biting and/or hitting stages. Children at these ages cannot yet express in words their feelings, so they may bite or hit parents, children or caregivers to get attention or to express frustration. These young children also may bite just to see what kind of reaction it provokes.

Can good posture ease back pain?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have mild back pain. I sit at a desk all day and tend to slouch. My mother says that sitting up straight may help. Is she right?

DEAR READER: I hope it's true. Otherwise, my mother (like yours) was wrong. And I think it is true.

Does my frequent yawning mean my brain isn’t getting enough oxygen?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I yawn a lot. My friend said this is a sign my brain isn't getting enough oxygen. Is that true?

DEAR READER: Most of us yawn more often in the early morning and late evening. Does it mean you're tired? Bored? Not getting enough oxygen? It turns out that we actually know very little about why we yawn.

Should I worry about the glycemic load of foods I eat?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Can you explain the importance of glycemic load, as opposed to glycemic index, when judging carbohydrates?

DEAR READER: Carbohydrates, along with proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, water and oxygen, are nutrients: We need them to live and grow. But even though we need carbohydrates, there still are carbohydrate-rich foods that are "good carbs" and "bad carbs."

Should I use mouthwash, in addition to brushing my teeth?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I brush and floss regularly. Do I need to use mouthwash too?

DEAR READER: Judging from the ads, you need mouthwash to prevent plaque (the yellowish film of bacteria that attaches to your teeth and leads to cavities) and gingivitis (inflammation of the gums). But mouthwash actually plays a fairly minor role in the prevention of plaque and gum disease. Brushing and flossing are much more important.