Ask Doctor K: a new forum for health questions

Anthony Komaroff, MD

Editor in Chief, Harvard Health Letter

One of the things I enjoy most about being a doctor—talking with my patients and explaining the what’s, how’s, and why’s of health and illness—is also one of the most important things I do. Sometimes the conversation and explanation are as helpful to my patients as the diagnosis I make or the treatment I recommend.

I have been fortunate to expand this conversation beyond the bounds of my medical practice. As Editor in Chief of Harvard Health Publishing, I help guide the development of newsletters, reports, and books that offer high-quality health information to the public.

Earlier this year, I was invited to create a column to answer health and wellness questions from people all across the country. It launched this week. Called Ask Doctor K, the column appears every day in more than 450 newspapers, most of them in the U.S. The questions and answers are also posted on You can also follow Ask Doctor K on Twitter and Facebook.

In the column, I will offer clear answers and straight advice to readers’ questions. I plan to talk about new treatments that are available today, or will be soon. I will also focus on proven changes in lifestyle that can keep readers healthy, help them cope with chronic diseases, and improve their quality of life.

If you have a health question that needs an answer, please send it to me via this link, or by email at I can’t offer personal medical advice, since only your doctor knows you well enough to do that. And I won’t be able to answer every question—we’ve received more than 200 question in the first three days. But I will provide clear, general answers based on the best medical evidence available.

I hope you will join the conversation.


  1. tony

    Its been a long time since I had sex with my wife and when I do it usualy last five minutes. Ihad surgery in my bladder ten years ago ever since my sexual desired has been going down since. I tried viagra but doesnt work. please tell me what is the problem with me.

  2. clyde Washbufrne

    Regarding the question from a parent;concern about sport injuries..
    Dr.Komaroff touched upon equipment and rehab, and when to return..
    I’ve been coaching since boyhood and still am at age 81; my concern is that too many are allowed to enter the coaching ranks without a knowledge of kinesiology and physics..Many youngsters are misdirected in how to force a collision and how to receive forceful contact..Neck and back injuries are related to mismatches in siZe and poor demos and general instruction..Serious injuries ARE ALLOWED to occur because of undereducated coaches..State coaches associations can up the qualification levels and athletic directors should be involved in evaluation..

    We as coaches should be better prepared at all levels and be further challenged with new discoveries in body mechanics,muscle and bone maturation anf so on..

    Thanks for reading and possibly passing it on.

    In Sport
    Clyde Washburne

  3. Audrey Buck

    In your column January 23, 2012, you talked about the “Nettie Port.” In it you told about using tap water with the sinus solution. The tapwater needs to be boiled before using. Several people have died from so-called amebias forming in the sinus cavity from using plain tap water.

    Audrey Buck

  4. LouiseYvonne Harp

    Your column is new to our newspaper. We are really enjoying it. My questions is “why do we get painful fever blisters on our lips? I can feal it coming on and put Campho-phinick on it and it helps. I do not remember haveing a fever and can not figure out why I get these. Thanks for your help

  5. Nanci Knight

    Dr. K,
    I love and appreciate your column, especially the brevity of questions. I recently had horrific pain in my jaw and tongue and had 2 root canals that gave me no relief. I was told to see a Neurologist who diagnosed me with Trigeminal Neuralgia. In addition, he told me I have had Multiple Sclerosis for 30 years. I ended up losing my job and because I could not speak and became permanently disabled. Please explain this excruciating disease, what can be done and the ultimate prognosis. I understand it is very rare and I wonder if how many others are suffering from it? Your help is appreciated! Best regards to you and how you’re helping others.

  6. Tom Deubert

    I had shingles 11 years ago. After a month a pain
    started in the area I had shingles also numbnes.
    Do you think the shot will help since I am 76 years
    old. Seems like my Dr. dosent know or not willing to give
    it to me.He worrid the Ins won”t pay for it

  7. Cindy

    In regards to today’s newspaper article on the Shingles shot, can you please explain why I had such a reaction to it?
    The first day I started with a quarter size hot red spot at the shot sight. In the morning I woke up with it being hot, red and the size of a baseball. Went back to the Dr. and was told to ice it and if I had a different reaction to come back.
    The second day it blistered up and I went back to the Dr. to have it popped and drained. Then bandaged up and a prescription cream.
    The next day it was a hot spot from my shoulder to my elbow.
    It has slowly healed a month later. Why did I have this kind of reation? Any comments would be appreciated.

  8. Karen

    is there really a test for mouth cancer(spitting)? also does your Dentist give thia to you , can you request this test from your Dentist.Do they even no about this test?
    I heard this on Fox new Sunday morning.

    Thank you for any ans., you can give me.

  9. Alejandro Gonzalez-pagina de inicio

    Congratulations to treat patients as real people and not mere numbers. There are many doctors who do not stop for a minute trying to know their patients

  10. Ella Carrier

    Please discuss tinnitus in your column. I have suffered with it for ten years, no relief from anyone, not even the famous House Ear Clinic.

    I read you in the “Ventura County Star”.

    Thank you.

  11. Anonymous

    Me fascina este blog, pienso volver varias veces para mirar las nuevas noticias sobre cuidado del cuerpo que encuentro, es muy bueno estar constantemente enterandonos de lo que sucede en estos planteamientos, y que todos juntos podamos colaborar con algo para estos temas tan magnificos. 🙂

  12. Hobert

    Doctor K, it’s great if every doctor have a great attitude like you.
    [URL removed by moderator]


    Dr. K. You might include in any future articles regarding sinusitis the benefits of using a simple sinus rinse which consists of 1/2 teaspoon of non iodized salt in 8 ounces of warm water. thank you.

  14. Sally Rhodes

    I have very serious reactions to MSG in food, drink, medications, and supplements.The medical profession, in general, does not recognize the symptoms as valid ones for msg. That is because medical literature does not list it as such. Unlike others, my reaction is spiking BP(210/110. seizures,heart palpitations/irregular heartbeat, chills, tingling, and top of head headaches. Initially I also had body flushing. Other than keeping away from Msg/free glutamic acid (almost impossible), what can I do? I was admitted to ER twice.My husband and I diagnosed it,thanks to internet searches. Sally

  15. P.C

    Dear Dr. K.

    I have a very embarassing problem that has caused me distress for several years now. It is causing my life to be misurable and I can’t find a solution. I pass flatulance almost constantly. I have taken over the counter medications, changed my diet, stopped all dairy and started soy products, tried exercise, tried anti-anxiety drugs, increased fiber and lowered fiber. No matter what I have tried, nothing helps. I have brought this up to my doctors many, many times and they don’t seem to take me seriously. I work in a very public job and am around a great many people. I find myself running out of the room or trying to supress it but I sometimes do not know when it will happen and have been totally mortified with myself. The only thing I do know is that if I am nervous, it’s worse and since I am worried about this all the time, it gets even more anoying. It happens almost immediately with any food, drink or even meds that I take. I can take a drink of water and it will happen. When I was growing up I remember that my father’s mother had this same problem throughout her life. It just became a mater of fact with her. I cannot do this because I work closely with others. This flatulance has an very foul odor and there have been times that I’ve been so embarrased that I have burst into tears. Can you help me to find the cause? Is there anyone else that suffers from this problem like this? I am totally serious here. This situation has invaded my whole life and I can’t take much more of this. If you know of any tests that I can ask for, please tell me so I can have the doctor run them. I’d give anything to just be a normal person again. I don’t want my grand children and co-workers remembering me as the “woman who passed gas all the time”.

  16. Joseph C. Franklin

    I have essential tremor. My age is seventy nine. Of course
    the tremor is more pronanced as I have aged. I have taken a beta blocker for blood pressure control which helped reduce the tremor. I decided to get off the beta blocker.
    What can I take to control the tremor. Incidentially, it is exactialy as you decribe in your column today.

  17. Erik Johnson

    Hi Dr K. I am a survivor of this incident and lived just a few houses up the street from Sandy Schmidt. I was hoping for a little research into something peculiar that I stumbled over, but this has never happened. I guess that it is clear by now that researchers have decided to never revisit this phenomenon or ask any questions about it.
    My question is….. “Why not?”
    -Erik Johnson

    “160 Victims at Lake Tahoe”
    Chronic Flu-Like Illness a Medical Mystery Story
    June 07, 1986|ROBERT STEINBROOK | Times Medical Writer

    INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — Sandy Schmidt, 42, came down with the mysterious illness soon after she ran a marathon in San Francisco last July. She got better before becoming sick again this spring, forcing her to quit her job as a business office manager. Running even one mile now would “put me in bed for a day and a half,” she said.
    Schmidt is among 160 residents of Lake Tahoe’s North Shore who have been diagnosed by two local physicians since the winter of 1985 as having a chronic flu-like illness in a medical puzzle that has assumed national proportions.

  18. Dr. Thomas H Treutler

    Congratulations! An excellent initiative that will hopefully be used by many readers and patients. Transparency and Objectivity are what our healthcare system needs. Patients want and need to know what is being done with them. The argument: “This is way too complex and a non-professional would never be able to understand it.” is an argument that does not count. If software companies are able to deliver a highly complex product in a way that most people understand it’s basics – practitioners should be able to transfer complex ideas into concepts everyone understands. Ask Doctor K should encourage readers and patients to become actively involved in their own healthcare. Again, Harvard is at the forefront of education!

    Dr. Thomas H Treutler

  19. naya

    Very nice and informative article. thanks.

  20. Nick, from Georgia, Tbilissi

    harvard… its best spring, where person can take erudition. Its best univercity ever…

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