Archive for December, 2014

When should I talk to my child about sex?

DEAR DOCTOR K: When should I start talking to my child about sex? And what topics should I discuss?

DEAR READER: Many parents are uncomfortable talking about sex with their kids, but they know the day will, and should, come. They often anxiously prepare in advance what they will say if their child asks a question about sex.

Why do I need to have another pneumonia vaccine?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm 70 years old. I already had a pneumonia vaccine, back when I was 65. At my checkup last week, my doctor said I need to get another one. Why?

DEAR READER: I always like to hear that adults are staying up to date with their vaccinations, as you did when you received a dose of the PPSV23 (Pneumovax) vaccine at age 65. Pneumovax helps protect against pneumonia caused by one common type of bacteria, called pneumococcus.

How do vaccines work?

DEAR DOCTOR K: You've written many columns about vaccines. Can you explain how they work?

DEAR READER: A vaccine prompts your immune system to build immunity against a particular germ. It mimics what would happen naturally if the germ entered your body. In order to understand how vaccines work, though, it helps to understand how your body's immune system works.

What helps us balance?

DEAR DOCTOR K: What are the body parts, or systems, that help us balance?

DEAR READER: You're asking a very interesting question. I never even thought about it until I went to medical school. When I learned what I'm about to tell you, I thought it was interesting. However, I didn't appreciate how important problems with balance would be for my patients.

What health conditions can Botox treat?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I thought Botox was just a wrinkle remedy. But a friend told me she uses it to treat overactive bladder. Then someone else said he had a Botox injection for tennis elbow. What exactly is Botox? What else does it treat?

DEAR READER: It's true, Botox's applications are more than skin-deep. Botox is one brand of botulinum toxin A. This is a substance made by the bacteria responsible for botulism, a foodborne illness that causes paralysis and sometimes death. When purified and diluted, however, botulinum toxin is a safe and useful drug.

What are fibroids and how are they treated?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I saw my doctor because of pain in my pelvis and heavy menstrual bleeding. Tests showed that I have fibroids. What are fibroids and how are they treated?

DEAR READER: A fibroid is a lump or growth in the uterus that is not cancerous. Fibroids can be as small as a pea or as large as a basketball. They are usually round and pinkish in color, and they can grow anywhere inside or on the uterus. The number of fibroids, their size and how fast they grow varies from one woman to another.

How do I stay healthy as I age?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Can you boil down all of the health advice out there? What do I need to do to age successfully?

DEAR READER: Wow, that's a tall order. Thirty years ago, when I heard people talk about "successful aging," they were talking about avoiding disease and living longer. These days, we want more. Of course we want to live long, disease-free lives. But we also want to be physically fit and functional.

Can a vasectomy be reversed?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I had a vasectomy many years ago. I've since remarried, and my new wife wants to have children. Can my vasectomy be reversed?

DEAR READER: A vasectomy is a minor surgical procedure that is done to make a man sterile (unable to father children). Normally, sperm -- the male reproductive cells that fertilize a woman's egg -- are made in the testicle. Sperm travel away from the testicle through a tube called the vas deferens.

Should I give my baby a pacifier?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm pregnant with my first child. Do you have any advice about whether or not to give my baby a pacifier? Also, is it OK if my baby sucks her thumb?

DEAR READER: My mother told me that when I was a baby I sucked my thumb a lot. And that she pulled it out of my mouth a lot. But since I have absolutely no memory of that, I doubt that it's so. Anyway, I checked in with my pediatrician colleagues on this question, and here's what they shared. Don't worry if your infant sucks her finger or thumb.

Does anxiety medication cause dementia?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm an older woman who sometimes takes Valium or Xanax for anxiety or if I'm unable to fall asleep. I recently heard that this type of medication may cause dementia. Should I stop using it?

DEAR READER: Valium and Xanax are benzodiazepines, a type of anti-anxiety drug. Like you, many people take these drugs to calm their nerves or help them sleep. And as you've heard, a recent study raised the possibility that benzodiazepine use may lead to dementia.