Archive for October, 2014

Can lifestyle changes help relieve heartburn?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Can lifestyle changes help relieve my heartburn?

DEAR READER: Heartburn is an uncomfortable burning sensation that radiates up the middle of your chest. It results from a condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), or "reflux." With GERD, stomach acid surges up into the esophagus, the "swallowing tube" that connects our mouth to our stomach.

Is psoriasis linked to arthritis and heart disease?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My doctor thinks my arthritis and heart disease are connected to my psoriasis. Is this possible? I thought psoriasis was a skin condition.

DEAR READER: Psoriasis (pronounced so-RYE-uh-sis) is named for an ancient Greek word meaning an itchy or scaly condition. It is classified as a skin disease, but psoriasis is the result of an immune system abnormality that can cause problems throughout the body. With psoriasis, white blood cells of the immune system become overactive.

Is it dangerous to have shingles a second time?

DEAR DOCTOR K: A couple of months ago, my wife had shingles. The rash spread to her face, near her eye. This went away without treatment, but the doctor said it could return. If it comes back, does this pose any special danger?

DEAR READER: It sure does. Beyond the pain and discomfort that shingles can cause anywhere in the body, when it gets near the eye it can threaten eyesight. Shingles is caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). This is the same virus that causes chickenpox. Once you have had chickenpox, VZV quietly remains in your body's nerve tissues and never really goes away.

What is the best treatment for cubital tunnel syndrome?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have cubital tunnel syndrome. What's the best treatment for it?

DEAR READER: Cubital tunnel syndrome is a trapped or pinched nerve problem, much like its better-known relative, carpal tunnel syndrome. Cubital tunnel syndrome occurs when the ulnar nerve gets compressed. The ulnar nerve extends from the spinal cord in your neck to your forearm and the pinky side of your hand. The nerve passes through a series of passageways, or tunnels. The tunnels are composed of tough layers of fibers that can pinch the nerve running through them.

What is the outlook for someone as Alzheimer’s progresses?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My mother has Alzheimer's disease. What should I expect in the coming years?

DEAR READER: It's impossible to predict exactly how Alzheimer's disease will affect someone. Symptoms of the disease, and how quickly they progress, can vary widely from person to person. In some people, for reasons we don't understand, the disease progresses very slowly.

What nicotine replacement options can help me quit smoking?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I've been trying to quit smoking with nicotine replacement patches, but it hasn't worked. Any suggestions?

DEAR READER: Smoking may be the toughest unhealthy habit to break, but it is possible. There are more ex-smokers in the United States today than there are smokers. There are two main obstacles that make cigarettes particularly hard to quit: First is the physical withdrawal from nicotine. Second is the psychological withdrawal from a habit that has become part of your daily routine.

Who should NOT get the shingles vaccine?

DEAR DOCTOR K: You've written about who should get the shingles vaccine, and why. Are there any groups of people who should not get the shingles vaccine?

DEAR READER: I'm glad you asked because, yes, there are groups of people who should not get the vaccine. Shingles is a painful skin rash, often with blisters, that lasts from two to four weeks. Its main symptom is pain, which can be quite severe. For some people, the severe pain of shingles continues long after the rash clears up. Called post-herpetic neuralgia, this condition can last for months, or even years. It can be quite debilitating.