The smoldering epidemic

Hepatitis C is caused by a virus, but it can go undetected for years or even decades because there are often no symptoms. If left untreated, the virus can cause inflammation of liver tissue that can lead to cirrhosis. Once cirrhosis develops, a lot may go wrong and there's no shortage of symptoms. Fluids may accumulate in the legs (edema) or abdomen (ascites). Veins in other parts of the body may expand and bleed because blood doesn't flow properly through the liver. The blood itself can become laden with toxins that a healthy liver would normally filter out. Eventually the cirrhotic liver may fail altogether, which leaves a liver transplant as the only treatment option. Cirrhosis also greatly increases the risk for hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common type of liver cancer. More »

Tiny specks may add up to heaps of trouble

The dust in a typical house is likely to contain allergens like pet hair and dander, or chemicals and poisons like lead or arsenic that make their way in from outdoors. David Layton, a researcher at the University of Arizona developed a computer model to track the migration of contaminated soil. His research, which has involved examination of dust samples from homes in California and the Midwest, has found measurable amounts of arsenic and lead from decades-old auto emissions and defunct coal-fired power stations. Other research has shown the concentration of pollutants in households to be much higher (two to 23 times higher) than the concentrations in the surrounding soil. And the house doesn't need to be next door to a Superfund site, either. Wind and weather can loft toxic particles into the atmosphere and deposit them hundreds of miles away. (Locked) More »

The aging face

People who want to look younger have a number of options for nonsurgical treatments for the face, such as injections of dermal fillers or laser treatments. And while they're not inexpensive — especially when you factor in the need for repeat treatments — you don't need a movie star–sized income to afford them. Here is just a sample of some of the things that you can do — or get done — to give your face a more youthful appearance: (Locked) More »

By the way, doctor: Should my mother get an angiogram?

My 82-year-old mother is having angina when she exerts herself. She is scheduled for an angiogram and maybe angioplasty. I've heard that women's heart disease is different from men's and that angioplasty may not be as effective in women. Should she get the angiogram? (Locked) More »