The Ask Doctor K Column Has Ended

The Ask Doctor K column was published 6 days per week from September 2011 until November 30, 2016, distributed by United Features Syndicate to over 400 newspapers in North America. The column’s author, Dr. Anthony Komaroff, has retired from medical practice, and from writing the column. His last column, a note of goodbye, is shown just below. For more about the column, go to About Doctor K.

Why do I yawn all the time?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I get plenty of sleep. So why do I yawn all the time?

DEAR READER: We all yawn frequently, more often in the early morning and late evening. Does it mean we're tired? Bored? Short on oxygen? As common as it is, we know little for certain about yawning.

What is chondromalacia?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I saw my doctor because of aching pain in my knee, which sometimes buckles unexpectedly. He says I have chondromalacia. What is this, and what can I do to relieve the pain?

DEAR READER: The joints in your body are cushioned by cartilage. This tough, rubbery tissue covers and protects the ends of bones inside a joint, allowing them to glide smoothly against one another as the joint moves.

As I get older, what steps can I take to improve my balance and avoid falling?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm in my 70s. A friend of mine recently fell and broke her hip. I'd like to avoid a similar fate. What steps can I take to avoid falling?

DEAR READER: Falls send millions of people in the United States to emergency departments each year with broken hips and head injuries. Imbalance is a common cause of falls. Liz Moritz, a physical therapist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital, recommends several strategies to people looking to improve their balance.

Is it possible to fight chronic inflammation without medications?

DEAR DOCTOR K: You've written that chronic inflammation has been linked to diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Is there anything I can do to fight inflammation without using medications?

DEAR READER: Inflammation in the body is a double-edged sword. Short-lived inflammation, directed by your immune system at invaders like bacteria or viruses, protects your health.

What is intestinal angina?

DEAR DOCTOR K: For months I've experienced severe pain in my abdomen after eating. After excluding a number of other conditions, my doctor diagnosed intestinal angina. I've heard of angina related to the heart -- is this the same?

DEAR READER: The underlying process is the same for intestinal and cardiac angina. Let me explain.

Why did my doctor suggest cognitive behavioral therapy to treat my chronic back pain?

DEAR DOCTOR K: My doctor suggested cognitive behavioral therapy to treat my chronic back pain. Does he think I'm imagining my discomfort?

DEAR READER: I'm often asked this question about cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Because it was developed by a psychiatrist and involves "talk therapy," people assume that it is used to treat just psychological problems.

Can anything be done to control heavy menstrual bleeding?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I bleed very heavily during my menstrual periods. Is there anything that can be done about this? Or do I just have to put up with the discomfort and inconvenience every month?

DEAR READER: Excessive menstrual bleeding (the medical term is menorrhagia) is a common problem. In my experience, a few primary-care doctors tell their patients just to "live with it." Not surprisingly, obstetrician/gynecologists are more likely to recognize excessive menstrual bleeding as a problem that needs treatment.

Does acetaminophen help relieve back pain?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have frequent back pain. I usually take acetaminophen (the Tylenol brand), but I hear it may not be effective for back pain. Is there anything to that?

DEAR READER: If you'd asked me that question even a year ago, I would have said, "Acetaminophen works fine for most people." Lots of people are bothered by back pain. When it strikes, all you want is relief -- and fast. Many folks turn to over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen and aspirin).

What can I do to prevent my daughter from getting another urinary tract infection?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I think my 4-year-old daughter may have a urinary tract infection. How will it be treated? And what can I do to make sure she doesn't get another one?

DEAR READER: A urinary tract infection (UTI) occurs when bacteria infect urine in the kidneys, bladder or urethra, a small tube that connects the bladder to the outside.

How can I add whole grains to my diet?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I know I should be eating more whole grains, but for years I've been eating white bread, white rice and white pasta. I don't know where to begin the switch to whole grains. Can you help?

DEAR READER: Like you, many of my patients and I are making the switch to whole grains. Why? Diets rich in whole grains are linked with a reduced risk of many medical conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, obesity and certain cancers.