Equal rights for vision!

For the last 15 years, my family has purchased an individual health insurance policy. Individual plans, as opposed to employer-based insurance, usually don’t cover vision. We could buy a separate vision policy, but in an average year the premiums would cost more than our annual eye exams, glasses and contacts combined.

Even Medicare doesn’t pay for routine eye exams and corrective lenses, except one pair after cataract surgery.

Of course, eye diseases and injuries (your mother always told you not to run with pointy objects, didn’t she?) are covered as medical care.

But I’ve always wondered why screening exams for … Continue reading

Boning up on calcium

Out of sight, out of mind

The other day I was cleaning out a kitchen cupboard and unearthed an economy-sized bottle of calcium tablets. Oops! I should be taking one or two of those every day.

Or should I?

Everyone knows calcium is necessary for bone health. Most women have been told by their doctors that they need extra calcium after menopause because without estrogen’s help, bones do not absorb it well. Low calcium leads to osteoporosis, which leads to broken bones, which lead to huge health care costs. Oh no!

Too much of a good thing—or the wrong thing

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Do you didgeridoo?

didgeridoo playerAs I was skimming through some of my favorite medical blogs the other day, I ran across a post by Dr. Synonymous, a family medicine doctor somewhere in middle America. His post referred to the time and place of his first “Didgeridoo Hullabaloo” session that he was offering for his patients that suffered from snoring and sleep apnea.

What is a didgeridoo? It’s a native Australian wind instrument, which can be up to 10 feet long! It works like a large kazoo, and produces a low, resonant sound something like an elephant.

And how does this help snoring? Snoring and … Continue reading

Pucker up

Did you ever stop to wonder how the skin of your lips differs from the skin on the rest of your face?

The skin over your lips is very thin and highly vascular, hence their typical “vermilion” or red color. Your lips also have more nerve endings, making them very tactile and sensitive.

These anatomical differences make our lips attractive and nice for kissing, but they also make our lips vulnerable to dryness, sunburn and chemical sensitivities.

Painful and unattractive, chapped lips are especially common in the winter because of the dry, cold air outside, the dry, warm air inside, … Continue reading

Avoidable risk?

Last fall saw a frightening outbreak of fungal meningitis that resulted in the severe illness of almost 700 people and, tragically, the deaths of 45 others. Contaminated steroid injections were found to be the cause.

The Institute for Safe Medication Practices now reports that 13% of pharmacists found contamination in their supposedly sterile, compounded (made in the pharmacy) drugs last year, and almost 75% fear that such a horrific outbreak could happen again.

Several agencies are swaming the compounding pharmacies in a belated attempt to make sure it doesn’t happen again. But will their efforts be enough?

Maybe, but there … Continue reading

The eyes have it

Do you suffer from chronically dry, red, itchy eyes? The eye drops you use might actually be making your eyes look and feel worse.

Like so many over-the-counter (OTC) products, there are dozens of eye drops from which to choose. How do you know which is best?

As always, ignore the front of the package and read the ingredients.

Oxymetazoline HCl and naphazoline HCl are decongestants. Drops that advertise “decreased redness”, such as Visine, contain a decongestant that constricts the small blood vessels in the eye. It works temporarily, but has a “rebound” effect; that is, the redness gets worse … Continue reading

Tincture of time

Flu season hit hard this year, and the normal, if unwelcome, after effect of many viral upper respiratory infections is a lingering cough.

A recent review of the medical literature found that, on average, a cough will last 17.8 days! Fortunately, most coughs are self limiting; that is, they will get better without special treatment, such as antibiotics.

If you have a question about when to seek medical attention for a cough, visit FamilyDoctor.org ‘Check Your Symptoms’. 

For home treatment, however, the drugstore shelves are filled with a dizzying array of cough products. Which one, if any, is best?

Before … Continue reading

How to use a neti pot

Wash your nose?

I wrote in a previous post that frequent hand washing is your best defense against a cold virus; but what about washing your nose? The inside of your nose, to be exact.

You just need a neti pot.

The neti pot is an inexpensive device for saline nasal irrigation, which is a fancy term for nose washing.

It’s easy!

How do I use a neti pot? It’s very simple. I fill the pot—which resembles a small tea pot or Aladdin’s lamp—with warm saline (salt) solution. Leaning over a sink, I place the spout in one nostril and … Continue reading

Don’t overdose on acetaminophen!

Warning: Liver failure may occur

The other day I watched in horror as a friend with mild cold symptoms swallowed two extra-strength Tylenol tablets with a large swig of NyQuil.

If he had followed with a double whisky, I would have suspected a suicide attempt.

“What are you doing?!” I shrieked, and grabbed both bottles from him. “You just swallowed a massive dose of acetaminophen!”

“Really?” he replied, without much interest. “Hmm.”

Does anyone read the labels on over-the-counter (OTC) medications?

“Look!” I stabbed a finger at the warning label on the back of the NyQuil bottle.

Liver warning: This

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Flu update

It appears that the 2012-13 flu season is especially severe and has not yet reached its peak, which is when the maximum number of cases have been reported and we start to see a downward trend.

In early November, I posted about the advantages, health-wise and financial, of getting a flu shot.

It’s still not too late, and there is ample vaccine available.

FYI, it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to reach its full effectiveness.

FN

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First sleep, second sleep

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a report that 1 in 24 drivers admits to falling asleep while driving, and up to 33% of fatal traffic accidents may involve a drowsy driver.

Although frightening, this statistic is hardly news to those of us, myself included, who suffer from chronic sleeplessness. We can just add “death by fiery car crash” to the ever-expanding list of risks related to sleep deprivation, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, dementia and cancer.

Such stories invariably conclude with the advice “health officials recommend getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.”Continue reading

The healing power of mahjongg?

For more than five years, one of my best friends has been battling ovarian cancer. A fierce fighter (and fabulous friend!), she has endured surgeries and several rounds of chemotherapy to keep this grim disease at bay. Her oncologist monitors her condition with the blood test CA-125.

Early last summer, her CA-125 began creeping up into the “let’s watch it but not get too excited—yet” territory. She knew from past experience that she might be facing another round of chemo.

Then we began playing mahjongg. Or, more accurately, American mahjongg, which is a variant of the arcane Chinese game … Continue reading

Cure a cold with curry?

This morning as I scanned internet headlines, one caught my attention: How to beat a cold in just 24 hours.

Wouldn’t that be great if you could cure a cold in a day?

The information source for the article is a professor from the Common Cold Centre in Cardiff, Wales. I never knew such a place existed! I glanced at its website, and it appears to have links to some useful research, so I’ll definitely look there again.

But what does the article suggest and what do I think? Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Take a hot shower. Absolutely.
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Save money – vitamin C vs. zinc

Vitamin C…

It’s cold season and products that claim to prevent or significantly shorten colds are flying off the drugstore shelves.

As I emphasized in an earlier post, frequent hand washing is your best strategy to avoid a cold altogether.

Still, the advertisements for such products are both pervasive and persuasive  But are they worth buying?

Vitamin C (1000mg) is the major ingredient of Airborne and Emergen-C. Both are made into fizzy drinks. Airborne also claims to have a “proprietary blend” of minerals and herbs, but it’s really about the vitamin C. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will not … Continue reading

It’s not too late to get a flu shot!

A leading health headline today indicates that the 2012-13 flu season is off to an early and strong start.

Flu cases always peak at some point during the season, usually in January or February, but sometimes as late as March and sometimes, apparently like this year, as early as November.

However, it’s not too late to get your flu shot. Despite the early start, flu season will continue into March and April.

Also, this year’s vaccine is well-matched to the reported influenza virus, which means the vaccine is even more likely to protect you.

FN

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