Archive for February, 2016

What is body dysmorphic disorder?

DEAR DOCTOR K: The doctor says my 14-year-old daughter has something called "body dysmorphic disorder." What is it, and can it be treated?

DEAR READER: I've had questions about this condition before and have consulted with my colleague Dr. Michael Miller, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

Can yoga really help to relieve stress?

DEAR DOCTOR K: A friend is urging me to try yoga because I'm stressed out. I am suspicious of all these "touchy-feely" practices. Does yoga have scientifically proven benefits?

DEAR READER: Yes, many studies have found that yoga can improve strength, flexibility and balance. It also is effective in relieving stress and anxiety. It has minimal side effects, although there are a few precautions I should mention.

What’s behind the recent epidemic of opioid addiction?

DEAR DOCTOR K: The news media say that we suddenly have an epidemic of addiction to prescription opioid painkillers. These pills have been around for a long time. What's changed?

DEAR READER: Developing treatments that reduce or eliminate pain has been one of the great accomplishments of medical science. Until the past couple of centuries, our ancestors had no way to relieve the pain from a major injury, or from a disease like cancer.

Are physician-rating websites a good way to find a new doctor?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I've recently moved and would like to find a doctor for my kids and myself. I don't know many people here yet, so I've hesitated to ask for personal recommendations. What do you think about physician-rating websites?

DEAR READER: There are a lot of doctor rating sites out there, like or Even websites that offer reviews of restaurants and repairmen (such as Yelp and Angie's List) feature critiques of doctors, dentists and other clinicians.

What is cognitive restructuring?

DEAR DOCTOR K: In your column you've mentioned something called cognitive restructuring. Can you explain this in more detail?

DEAR READER: Cognitive restructuring is one part of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a type of "talk therapy" that attempts to correct ingrained patterns of negative thoughts and behaviors. CBT is the leading therapy for anxiety. It is also used to treat stress, depression, eating disorders and many other problems.

Could low-nicotine cigarettes help me quit smoking altogether?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I've decided to quit smoking. Do you think low-nicotine cigarettes could be a good stepping-stone to kicking the habit completely?

DEAR READER: I'm always glad when readers ask about how to quit smoking. It causes so many health problems and so much misery. And while it's not easy, people can quit smoking. Yet millions of adults and teenagers continue to smoke. The main reason is nicotine.

What can I do if my child is a picky eater?

DOCTOR K: My preschooler will eat only white foods. I'm worried he's not getting the proper nutrients to grow and develop. What can I do?

DEAR READER: I'm not a pediatrician, but when I trained in pediatrics in medical school, I was amazed by how many parents brought their kids to the doctor because the kids were picky eaters.

What will happen during my hearing test?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My hearing is going. Before I get a hearing aid, I'm told I need a hearing test. How will the test help?

DEAR READER: The hearing test (formally called an "audiological evaluation") identifies how bad your hearing loss is in each ear. It also determines where the problem is worst. Is it with high-pitched sounds? Is it in distinguishing a particular sound -- like someone speaking to you -- in a noisy place? This is what the audiologist (a health professional specializing in hearing testing and hearing aids) needs to know in order to tell if you could benefit from a hearing aid and, if so, which style and type would help the most.

Why can’t women drink as much as men?

DEAR DOCTOR K: Can you explain why "moderate" drinking is defined differently for men and women? Is it because men tend to be heavier? Or is there more to it?

DEAR READER: Women are advised to drink less alcohol than men because they are much more vulnerable to alcohol's harmful effects.

Why are generic drugs becoming more expensive?

DEAR DOCTOR K: A generic drug that I've been taking for years suddenly became much more expensive. I can't afford the new price. What can I do?

DEAR READER: Prices of generic versions of some commonly prescribed drugs have been skyrocketing. Like you, many of my patients have been affected.