Anticlotting therapy for atrial fibrillation: Should you stay with the devil you know?

People with atrial fibrillation, a heart rhythm condition, take blood thinners to prevent stroke. Clots that can cause stroke form when irregular heartbeats allow blood to stagnate in the upper chambers of the heart (the atria). A new class of blood thinners, or anticoagulants, have some potential advantages over the standard of care, warfarin (Coumadin), but there are disadvantages and risks too. Using the new drugs requires people to be diligent about taking the drugs on time and as directed. In contrast, warfarin’s dose must be adjusted in response to regular blood tests of clotting function. (Locked) More »

On call: Does skin cancer come back?

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) of the skin is very treatable when completely removed. However, it does recur at some other spot on the body in about 40% of people. Routine skin examinations can find repeat cancers early. (Locked) More »

On call: Do I have an allergy?

It is possible to develop an allergy later in life, but a constant runny nose that is not associated with itchy eyes and sneezing is more likely due to something called nonallergic rhinitis. (Locked) More »

Do multivitamins make you healthier?

Research has not shown yet that taking a multivitamin reduces the chance of heart disease or mental decline, but it does reduce the risk of being diagnosed with cancer or developing cataracts. Some experts say taking a daily supplement is not worth the trouble, but other experts think it may be worth it. No study has shown multivitamins to be risky, but that doesn’t mean they are not. It is not a good idea to take large doses of particular vitamins, especially vitamins A or E. Taking a multivitamin will not confer the same health benefit as eating a varied, balanced, nutritious diet. More »

Better shoes help you walk away from a common cause of heel pain

Plantar fasciitis is a common cause of heel pain. This intensely painful condition affects the tough, fibrous band of connective tissue (fascia) on the bottom of the foot. The pain comes from the spot where the band attaches to the heel bone. Healing from a flare-up can take months, but in the meantime basic self-help steps can relieve the pain and inflammation. Wearing shoes that support the arches of the feet is important to prevent or relieve heel pain from plantar fasciitis. For cases that do not get better on their own, doctors can offer a range of therapies that help most people recover, but they don’t work for everyone. (Locked) More »

Insomnia or jittery nerves? Use tranquilizers with caution

The sedating medications called benzodiazepines are among the most widely prescribed drugs in the world. They have fallen out of favor because they can cause falls in people with impaired balance or vision. They can be used for short periods for sleeplessness and anxiety, but only for two or three weeks at most. Long-term users may need to taper off these drugs gradually to prevent unpleasant and dangerous withdrawal symptoms. Alternatives are available that are just as effective and less risky. (Locked) More »

When is it time to stop being checked for prostate cancer?

Routine PSA testing to check for prostate cancer is no longer recommended for most men. Guidelines specifically discourage routine testing for men 70 and older. But despite what the experts suggest, many men and their doctors continue to opt for regular PSA tests. This includes a surprisingly large number of men in their 70s. Older men stand less to benefit from PSA testing because of a shorter life span. Having any chronic health conditions also reduces the potential benefit. Those who choose to continue testing anyway should be aware of the potential risks. The risks include the chance of serious complications of treatment, which most men choose after diagnosis with low-risk, early-stage prostate cancer. More »