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When You Visit Your Doctor - Vaginitis

Updated January 30, 2017

Vaginitis

Questions to Discuss with Your Doctor:

  • How long have you had this vaginal discomfort?
  • Does it itch or burn?
  • Do you have vaginal discharge? Does it have a bad odor? What is the consistency?
  • Are you pregnant?
  • Are you sexually active?
  • Is sexual intercourse painful?
  • Do you have pain or burning with urination?
  • Are you urinating more frequently?
  • Do you have urinary incontinence?
  • Are you post-menopausal?
  • Do you have vaginal dryness?
  • Do you have diabetes?
  • Have you recently taken antibiotics or corticosteroids?
  • Is your immune system suppressed in any way?
  • Do you take birth-control pills?
  • Do you wear tight pants or synthetic fabrics (nylon)? (These are all predisposing factors for yeast infections).
  • Have you or your partner ever had a sexually transmitted disease?
  • Do you have fevers, chills, abdominal pain, joint pain, or a rash?

Your Doctor Might Examine the Following Body Structures or Functions:

  • Abdominal examination
  • Pelvic examination

Your Doctor Might Order the Following Lab Tests or Studies:

  • Sample of the vaginal discharge to examine under a microscope (wet smear)
  • Cultures of the vaginal discharge
 

When You Visit Your Doctor - Spinal Stenosis

Updated January 30, 2017

Spinal Stenosis

Questions to Discuss with Your Doctor:

  • Where is the pain in your back?
  • Does it radiate to your legs?
  • Is it worse when you walk?
  • Does the pain from walking occur suddenly or gradually?
  • Is it relieved by standing?
  • Is it relieved by sitting or lying down?
  • What bothers you more, the pain in your back or the pain in your legs?
  • Does the pain worsen when you cough or sneeze?
  • Do you have numbness or decreased sensation in your legs?
  • Have you had problems with your balance?
  • Have you had any changes or difficulty in your ability to urinate?
  • How long have you had the pain?
  • Is it getting worse?
  • How much does it limit your usual activities?
  • How is your quality of life affected by the pain?
  • Have you ever had spinal surgery?
  • Have you ever injured your back?
  • Have you ever had hip surgery?
  • Do you have diabetes?
  • Do you have poor circulation, such as peripheral artery disease?
  • Do you have foot ulcers?
  • Have you ever had vascular surgery?
  • Do you have any sort of neuropathy (nerve damage)?
  • What are you doing to treat the pain?
  • Have you seen a physical therapist?
  • Are you interested in an injection of a cortisone-like medication into your back? Do you know anything about this procedure?

Your Doctor Might Examine the Following Body Structures or Functions:

  • Spine
  • Hip
  • Pulses in the feet, behind the knee and in the groin
  • Neurologic exam

Your Doctor Might Order the Following Lab Tests or Studies:

  • X-rays of the spine
  • CT scans of the spine
  • MRI scans of the spine
 

When You Visit Your Doctor - Thrombocytopenia

Updated January 30, 2017

Thrombocytopenia

Questions to Discuss with Your Doctor:

  • What medications do you take (including over-the-counter drugs and herbal remedies)?
  • Have you been ill recently?
  • What other medical problems do you have?
  • Could you be pregnant?
  • Have you ever been tested for HIV?
  • Have you had fever?
  • Have you had rashes?
  • Have you had diarrhea?
  • Have you had abdominal pain?
  • Have you had headache?
  • Have you had neurologic symptoms?
  • Have you been lightheaded?
  • Have you been short of breath with minimal exertion?
  • Have you had chest pain or pressure?
  • Have you had a cough?
  • Do you have any bruises or nosebleeds?
  • Do your gums bleed when you brush your teeth?
  • If you are a woman, have you had unusually heavy menstrual periods?
  • How long have you had symptoms?
  • Does anyone else in your family have low platelets?
  • How many alcoholic beverages do you drink in an average week?

Your Doctor Might Examine the Following Body Structures or Functions:

  • Eyes
  • Mouth
  • Heart
  • Lungs
  • Abdomen
  • Skin

Your Doctor Might Order the Following Lab Tests or Studies:

  • Blood tests, which might include complete blood count with microscopic evaluation, kidney function tests, liver function tests, antinuclear antibody, an HIV test
  • Bone marrow biopsy
 

Benefits of moderate sun exposure

Updated January 20, 2017

Dr. Robert S. Stern, chair of the Department of Dermatology at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center , calls them "solar-phobes": people so concerned about getting skin cancer that they stay inside or cover every bit of skin. "They cover up like they were going out into the Arabian Desert ," he says. The marketing of ultrablocking sunscreens and special sun-protective clothing plays into these fears.

There's no getting around the fact that sunlight is hard on your skin. Age gets blamed for wrinkles and rough, dry skin. But the real culprit is a combination of age and sun that dermatologists call photoaging. The short UVB wavelengths that cause sunburn can also damage DNA and suppress the skin's immune system. The longer, more penetrating UVA wavelengths may create highly reactive oxygen molecules capable of damaging skin cell membranes and the DNA inside.

New information on fibromyalgia

Updated September 1, 2005

People who suffer from fibromyalgia know something is not right, even though they appear fine otherwise. This painful condition is not well understood, making it that much more difficult to diagnosis and treat. New research offers a better understanding of the disorder and may provide doctors with a way to diagnose the condition and monitor treatment.
Fibromyalgia causes mild to severe pain in the joints, tendons, and muscles of the body. Other symptoms may include fatigue and disrupted sleep. Fibromyalgia can last indefinitely, but does not seem to progress or affect survival. Although the condition is traditionally classified as a rheumatic disease, researchers believe fibromyalgia has its roots in the nervous system. This idea is supported by the results of a study published in the May 2003 issue of Arthritis and Rheumatism.

The study involved sensory testing of 85 individuals suffering from fibromyalgia and 40 healthy volunteers. Using testing of the pain reflex, various temperatures, mechanical pressure, and electrical stimuli, the researchers discovered that patients with fibromyalgia have highly excitable pain centers in their nervous systems compared to healthy individuals. This translates to higher pain sensitivity and lower tolerance for pain than the average person. A simple pinprick may be excruciatingly painful for someone with fibromyalgia.

Essential tremor—TheFamily Health Guide

Updated December 1, 2004

Essential tremor

We use our hands constantly. Every morning millions of people shower, shave, get dressed, eat breakfast — tasks that would be incredibly difficult without steady hands. For an estimated 10 million Americans with a neurological disorder called essential tremor, shaking of their arms and other body parts makes it difficult or even impossible to perform the simplest of movements.

The condition, which affects the muscles of the hands, head, and voice, is often mistaken for Parkinson's patients. But essential tremor is 5-10 times more common than Parkinson's disease. Most people diagnosed with essential tremor have action tremor, which means they shake when they move, and some develop a distinctive nodding or shaking of the head. People with Parkinson's usually experience tremors at rest, along with stiffness and slowness of movement.

Heart attacks in women

Updated December 16, 2019

Although hard-to-read heart attacks happen to both men and women, they are more common in women. One reason for this is that men's symptoms initially set the standard for recognizing heart trouble. Now a growing body of research shows that women can experience heart attacks differently than men.

Understanding sex differences in heart disease is important. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women. Although it mostly affects older women, it isn't rare in younger women. One in 10 of all women who die from heart disease or a stroke are under age 65, and this age group accounts for one-third of heart- or stroke-related hospitalizations. Even so, younger women and their doctors don't necessarily suspect a heart attack even when all the signs are there.

Treating interstitial cystitis

Updated January 23, 2017

Interstitial cystitis is a chronic inflammation of the bladder that causes people to urinate -- sometimes painfully -- as often as 40, 50, or 60 times a day. Their quality of life, research suggests, resembles that of a person on kidney dialysis or suffering from chronic cancer pain. Not surprisingly, the condition is officially recognized as a disability.

There's no cure for interstitial cystitis, but many treatments offer some relief, either on their own or in combination.

The lowdown on eye exercises

Updated May 6, 2020

If you wear glasses or contacts, chances are you've been at least a little bit tempted to investigate the infomercials and books promoting eye exercises to improve your eyesight without surgery. Some programs even claim that faithful adherents may be able to give up their glasses. If this sounds too good to be true, that's because it is.

Purveyors of self-directed eye exercise programs have not conducted randomized trials to verify the effectiveness of their programs, and there is no medical evidence for their oft-stated claim that wearing lenses weakens the eyes and necessitates ever-stronger prescription eyewear. Furthermore, some programs are based on ideas that don't quite square with the anatomy and physiology of vision.

Respiratory tract infection - Is it contagious?

Updated January 23, 2017

"Stay away from me! I don't want to get sick, too." Most of us have had to utter those words to a family member, friend, or colleague who was sneezing or coughing incessantly. But how do we know how great the chances of catching someone's cold or other illness really are? A medical review published in the New England Journal of Medicine tells us when to exercise concern over eight respiratory tract infections.

Illness

(Infectious agent)

How it gets transmitted

Places of highest risk

Percent risk of infection

Bronchiolitis

(Respiratory Syncytial Virus, RSV)

Direct contact with ill person, large-droplets from coughs or sneezes, contact with tissues, linens, or other surfaces holding the virus

Homes, day-care centers

In day-care centers, 100% of exposed children become ill, previous infection somewhat lowers the risk

Flu

(Influenza viruses)

Direct contact with ill person, large- and tiny-droplets from coughs or sneezes

Homes, schools, bars, dormitories, areas with poor ventilation or recirculated air

20%-60% from a family member, only half of those infected will have symptoms of influenza

The common cold

(Rhinovirus)

Direct contact with ill person, large-droplets from coughs or sneezes, contact with tissues, linens, or other surfaces holding the virus

Homes, dormitories

66% from a family member

Tuberculosis

Tiny-droplets from coughs or sneezes

Homes, bars, dormitories, nursing homes, areas with poor ventilation

25%-50% with close contact with a person with active disease, prolonged exposure is usually required

Upper respiratory illness

(Adenoviruses)

Direct contact with ill person, large- and tiny-droplets from coughs or sneezes

Camps, schools, military camps

10% of those exposed may become ill, 40% among children, many infected individuals show no symptoms and infection leads to immunity from future infection

Strep throat, scarlet fever

(Group A Strep)

Direct contact with ill person, large-droplets from coughs or sneezes

Homes

10% from a family member

Bacterial meningitis

(Neisseria meningitides)

Direct contact with ill person, large-droplets from coughs or sneezes

Homes, schools, camps

2%-3% for a child whose sibling has active illness, 0.2%-0.4% for household contacts of the ill child, more than 95% of the time a second case of the disease does not follow a first.

Pneumococcal pneumonia

(Streptococcus pneumoniae)

Direct contact with ill person, large-droplets from coughs or sneezes

Day-care centers, homeless shelters, camps, prisons, nursing homes

Generally not regarded as contagious, risk of infection depends on one's general health

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