Archive for March, 2016

Can anything be done to treat childhood tics?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My young daughter will suddenly blink her eyes or twitch her nose repeatedly, for no good reason. The doctor says she has "tics," a condition of her nervous system. Will this go away, and is it serious?

DEAR READER: Tics are upsetting -- both to the person who has them and to the people who see them. We like to feel in control of our world. A sudden, uncontrollable, rapid repetitive movement (called a motor tic) says we're not in control. So it's understandable that both you and your daughter should be concerned.

Has the SPRINT trial led to a change in blood pressure goals?

DEAR DOCTOR K: A few months ago, I read that results from a big trial were going to change blood pressure treatment goals. Where do things stand now?

DEAR READER: I'll bet you're referring to SPRINT. In September 2015, the National Institutes of Health (which funded the study) reported that the study had been stopped earlier than planned because its results were clear. Recently, the complete report of the study (called SPRINT) and its results was published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Is there any evidence that music therapy can help healing?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I recently visited a friend in the hospital. During my visit, a music therapist came in and played music for her. The idea of music therapy seems very New Age to me. Is there any evidence for it?

DEAR READER: Music therapists are accomplished musicians who use their knowledge of music and its effects to help people get through medical challenges such as recovering from a stroke or healing after surgery. Music therapists may play music for you or with you. They may even teach you how to play an instrument.

Is it possible to ease the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My husband has a problem with alcohol. He has finally decided to quit and has set a date for his final drink. How will his body react once he stops? Is there anything we can do to help ease his withdrawal symptoms?

DEAR READER: Alcohol withdrawal refers to the changes the body goes through when a person who has been drinking heavily for a long time suddenly stops.

What is executive function?

DEAR DOCTOR K: An aging friend was told he has problems with "executive function." So, of course, I'm wondering what that is, if I also could have that problem, and what can be done about it. Could you explain?

DEAR READER: Executive function refers to a set of mental attributes required to make choices, plan, initiate action and inhibit impulses. While "executive function" is a term used to describe attributes of business executives, it applies to everyone.

Do natural sleep aids work?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm 71 years old and have trouble sleeping. I don't want to take sleep drugs, but I'm interested in supplements and natural treatments. Do they work?

DEAR READER: I understand your concern about conventional sleep medicines. Several widely used medicines have been discovered to have important side effects years after they were first approved for use.

How can I fight the urge to eat when I’m stressed out?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I eat whenever I'm stressed out -- and I always reach for the sweet stuff. Why does stress have this effect on me? How can I fight the urge?

DEAR READER: You're not alone. Ongoing stress, the hormones it unleashes, and the effects of high-fat, sugary "comfort foods" push many people toward overeating.

Is online cognitive behavioral therapy effective?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I've been looking into cognitive behavioral therapy to help with my anxiety. It would be convenient to do this therapy from home and, surprisingly, there seem to be many online CBT options. But would the therapy be less effective if I didn't have a personal connection with an actual therapist?

DEAR READER: Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) attempts to correct ingrained patterns of negative thoughts and behaviors. It's an effective treatment for depression, anxiety and other behavioral health problems. It also is widely used to help people with chronic diseases cope with that burden.

What can I do to get relief from a sinus infection without antibiotics?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My doctor won't give me an antibiotic for my sinus infection. So what can I do to feel better?

DEAR READER: Most cases of sinusitis are caused by viral infections. Viruses are bulletproof to antibiotics. All antibiotics can do in this case is cause side effects. So, the best course of action for occasional sinusitis is to use self-care steps to ease symptoms while the body clears the infection.