Some Medical Questions And Answers By Dr.Gita Mathai

The medicines don’t seem to work :-

Q: My father has become old and forgetful. His neurologist has started him on some very expensive tablets, but there hasn’t been much improvement. We are in a quandary as to whether the treatment is worth continuing.
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It is important to remember that medications for neurological diseases in old age may take time to act

A: Forgetfulness often occurs as people get older. In 10 per cent of them it is due to dementia. In others, it may be due to Alzheimer’s disease or caused by arteriosclerotic changes (fat deposits) in the arteries which compromise the blood supply to crucial areas of the brain. It is difficult to reverse damage that has already occurred. However, progression can be prevented by treating and controlling any underlying diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure and correcting lipid profile abnormalities. Mental exercises involving memorising, regular walking and physiotherapy are beneficial. There are also specific medications which do prevent progression and offer some improvement. These are expensive and take time to act. In the long run it may be better to follow the neurologist’s advice.

Too much gas :-

Q: I am badly constipated and when I am in public I release foul smelling gas. My stomach also feels bloated all the time. It is embarrassing and uncomfortable. I went to a gastroenterologist who said there is no block or disease.

A: Constipation in the absence of a physical block or a medical problem occurs when there is not enough roughage in the diet. Roughage is found in high fibre foods like whole grains, fruits and vegetables. The present recommendations for these are 4-5 helpings a day. In addition, fluid intake should be at least three litres a day. Milk increases the feeling of bloating and gas production. Reduce the intake of milk to 400 ml a day. Physical exercise like walking for 40 minutes a day will help the intestines function efficiently.

Immunise now:-

Q: I read about immunisation and when I questioned my mother found that she has not given me any injections after the age of one year. I am now 20 years old.

A: It is never too late to complete your immunisation schedule and make it up to date. Unfortunately, many adults feel “I did not receive all these new injections and I grew up without a problem.” This is an argument brought forth again and again. Immunisations prevent disease. Although 90 per cent of the people recover from these preventable diseases without sequelae, 10 per cent do develop problems. Some of these like paralysis, blindness, brain damage or sterility may be devastating, though not life threatening. You have probably missed MMR (measles mumps rubella), hepatitis A, hepatitis B, varicella (chicken pox), pneumococcus, menigococcus, typhoid and your boosters due at 1.5, 5 years, 10 years and 16 years.

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Cold limb :-

Q: I am a heavy smoker (15 cigarettes a day) and now I feel that my left leg is cold, painful, heavy and weak.

A: The nicotine in cigarettes can compromise blood supply to the limbs. The vessels narrow and go into spasm. This is called thrombo anginitis obliterans or Berger’s disease. The limb becomes cold and numb. Eventually gangrene may set in. Please go to a vascular surgeon and check if this is the case. He may be able to release any block or bypass it. Any treatment offered will only succeed if you stop the precipitating factor — cigarettes. Remember, cigarette smoking is injurious to health.

Weaning time :-

Q: At what age can I wean my baby?

A: The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends exclusive breast feeding for six months. That doesn’t seem very practical if the mother is working as most organisations don’t give more than three months of maternity leave. Weaning can be started after 120 days (4 months). It’s best to use home-made and home-cooked powders and cereals rather than precooked readymade tinned preparations. Try to use a bowl and spoon for feeding and avoid bottles and pacifiers.

Sources:The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

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