Archive for January, 2014

Are electronic cigarettes safe?

DEAR DOCTOR K: After smoking for more than 15 years, I finally quit eight months ago. But I still miss my cigarettes. I recently heard about electronic cigarettes. Are they safe?

DEAR READER: I've been getting a lot of questions lately about electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, from my patients. Like you, my patients want to know if they're a safe alternative to cigarettes. The truth is that nobody knows if e-cigarettes are safe. That's because e-cigarette makers have not submitted their products for FDA approval, which would require proof of safety and effectiveness. Ads claim e-cigarettes help people stop smoking, but I'm not aware of any strong evidence to back this up.

What pain relievers are safe to take for tension headaches if you have cirrhosis of the liver?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have cirrhosis of the liver. I also get tension headaches. What pain reliever can I take for my tension headaches?

DEAR READER: One of the liver's many jobs is detoxification -- ridding the blood of toxins. Cirrhosis, a liver disease, interferes with the liver's ability to detoxify substances in the blood. Your liver sees medications as toxins. When your liver is compromised, medications that are normally considered "safe" may no longer be safe for you.

What is knee bursitis and how do I relieve my discomfort?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have knee bursitis. What is bursitis? What can I do to relieve my discomfort?

DEAR READER: A bursa is a sac-like structure that sits over large joints such as the knee or hip joints. Bursae act as cushions between muscle and bone and reduce friction during movement. When a bursa becomes painful or inflamed, the condition is called bursitis. The symptoms of knee bursitis include pain made worse by movement of the knee, but which is still present even when the knee is not moving.

How do you make sure a vegetarian gets enough protein?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My teenage daughter has become a vegetarian. How can I make sure she gets enough protein?

DEAR READER: You have less to worry about than you might think. When it comes to getting protein in your diet, there are many meat-free options. Our bodies need protein (made of amino acids) for the health of every cell, and particularly to build strong muscles, bones and skin. Some of these amino acids are called "essential."

What’s the best way to stop a nosebleed?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My son suffers from occasional nosebleeds. What's the best way to stop a nosebleed?

DEAR READER: Many people suffer from nosebleeds. I tend to get them this time of year when the air is cold and dry, as it irritates the normally warm, moist surfaces inside the nose. Most nosebleeds occur when a blood vessel in the nose's soft cartilage leaks.

How will my pregnancy with twins be different from my last one?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I just found out I'm pregnant with twins. How will this pregnancy be different from my last one?

DEAR READER: Congratulations! Along with double the diapers and late-night feedings, you'll experience double the love, laughs and fun. But, yes, you will have to deal with some challenges. In the United States, twins occur in one out of every 35 births. Twins can be fraternal or identical. Fraternal twins occur when two eggs are fertilized. This produces two embryos; they are not identical, and may not even be the same gender. In fact, fraternal twins are genetically no more similar than other siblings.

What can I do about my vitamin D deficiency?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I had some blood work done recently and was surprised to learn that I am deficient in vitamin D. How is this possible? What can I do about it?

DEAR READER: Vitamin D is an unusual vitamin. We get most vitamins from the foods we eat; our body can't make them. Unfortunately, vitamin D isn't found naturally in many foods. Fatty fish and milk (which is fortified with vitamin D) are the main food sources.