Health risks of using natural gas appliances at home are low
DEAR DR. ROACH: There is much mainstream news recently about the health risks of using natural gas appliances. I am 75 and have survived playing with mercury from broken thermometers as a child, a lifetime of cooking and home heating, and hot water from natural gas. I certainly don't advise playing with mercury, but how seriously should I, and ...Read more
Risk of heart disease could be significantly lowered by statins
DEAR DR. ROACH: My husband's doctor is repeatedly pushing statins on my husband. His cholesterol was high in the past and is still slightly high (239 mg/dL -- borderline high). I've checked the heart risk calculator. It said his risk is 22.1% and goes down to 16.6% if he goes on statins, which is still considered high risk.
Also, my mother had ...Read more
Primary biliary cholangitis of the liver brings on severe itching
DEAR DR. ROACH: I am an 85-year-old female who has had primary biliary cirrhosis of the liver for many years. I have been on 300 mg of ursodiol taken three times a day for all those years, with no problems until now. I currently have severe itching all over my body. I am now taking 4 g of cholestyramine a day to relieve this terrible itching, ...Read more
Rare condition of bladder inflammation requires no treatment
DEAR DR. ROACH: I am looking for some clarification on cystitis glandularis. My 53-year-old son was recently diagnosed with this condition. He has been experiencing urinary frequency/urgency for more than two years. He is in excellent health and works out religiously, but he does smoke.
Online research provides conflicting opinions. Some sites ...Read more
Patient with risk of breast cancer questions safety of yearly MRI
DEAR DR. ROACH: Due to a slight genetic risk of breast cancer (my Tyrer-Cuzick Model score was 20.6%), my doctor wants me to get breast MRIs with contrast annually. I am concerned about long-term exposure to the gadolinium-based contrast dye. I've learned that this heavy metal is considered safe, but traces of it can be stored in the brain and ...Read more
Diabetes meds questioned due to insulin resistance and weight
DEAR DR. ROACH: My husband is an over-the-road truck driver, and he is 68. He has been on metformin for a long time, and I have been reading that this medicine does not help bring down blood sugar. He is also using human insulin two times a day.
What I want to know is if there's a better medication for him to take? I think he is gaining weight ...Read more
Daily back or hip pain calls for higher dose of meds or surgery
DEAR DR. ROACH: I have a degenerating L5-S1 disc as well as osteoarthritis in my left hip, and both are bone on bone. I will eventually need a hip replacement and possibly back surgery, but I'm trying to prolong anything until I get on Medicare in eight months. I stay as active as I can by walking my dog, exercising (weights and biking), and ...Read more
Does radon gas present dangers in the air quality of homes?
DEAR DR. ROACH: I would like your thoughts as to the danger that high levels of radon gas pose to owners and residents of a first-floor condominium. We reside in a condo located on a golf course in Naples, Florida. As a result of my work as a realtor, the sale of homes and condos typically require inspections for various issues, including radon ...Read more
Salt substition can provide benefits to people at any risk level
DEAR DR. ROACH: In a recent column, you said that using salt substitutes can reduce blood pressure and that, across a population, this would result in far fewer heart attacks and strokes.
While lowering blood pressure would have that effect, my understanding is that there is no significant research showing benefits from lowering salt intake in ...Read more
Cipro prescription is no longer the first-line treatment for UTIs
DEAR DR. ROACH: I was diagnosed with a UTI on my yearly physical urinalysis, but had no symptoms. I was prescribed Cipro. The five pages of warnings attached to the prescription scared me! So, I checked the FDA and Mayo Clinic websites. Both said that the "risks outweigh benefits" and it "should not be first choice to treat UTI." But my doctor ...Read more
The risks and benefits of taking tamoxifen must be weighed out
DEAR DR. ROACH: I had been on hormone replacement therapy for 20 years or so and was diagnosed with breast cancer last year. I had a lumpectomy (stage 1) and radiation (external, five days a week for 21 treatments). Now, the oncologist is saying I need to start taking tamoxifen indefinitely. I have read online that it can cause memory loss, ...Read more
Two tests for diabetes come back with inconsistent results
DEAR DR ROACH: I am a 74-year-old Chinese man with controlled hypertension, and I'm currently taking a statin at 10 mg. I am puzzled and confused with my recent tests results. They show that my fasting plasma glucose is normal (5 mmol/L), while my HbA1c shows that I fall in the "prediabetic" category at 6.3% (45 mmol/L).
Why the inconsistency ...Read more
Loss of taste and smell from virus still lingers three years later
DEAR DR. ROACH: I'm an 82-year-old, very healthy woman. In February 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic was starting to appear in North America, I had a viral infection that was relatively mild (a bit of coughing, runny nose, itchy throat) and lasted for a few days only, although I felt tired for a bit longer. One unusual symptom was that I lost...Read more
Why certain virus variants are more contagious than others
DEAR DR. ROACH: The newest COVID variant is reputed to be less deadly but highly contagious. What precisely makes one virus variant more contagious than another virus variant? Is it structure, size? -- S.
ANSWER: It's not size, because all coronaviruses are just about the same size. It is certainly the structure, but a virus has several ...Read more
Complex jargon prevents patient from understanding diagnosis
DEAR DR. ROACH: After many bouts of pain in my left leg, I was referred for an MRI. They diagnosed me with left lumbar radiculitis, spondylolisthesis and lumbar spondylosis. There are many people in my independent living facility who have gotten similar diagnoses. As an RN with a masters in nursing education, I have a question: When the ...Read more
Not getting enough iodine is rarely a concern in the U.S.
DEAR DR. ROACH: I notice that the specialty salts I now buy, such as Himalayan or sea salt, are not iodized. Should I be concerned about getting enough iodine in my diet? -- P.M.
ANSWER: Iodine is necessary to make the thyroid hormones. In the United States, the areas with the least iodine are the Great Lakes, Appalachians and Pacific Northwest...Read more
Case of hot flashes has yet to be resolved, despite therapy
DEAR DR. ROACH: I am 78 years old. I had a hysterectomy in 1976 due to excessive vaginal bleeding, but I still have my ovaries. I have had hot flashes since undergoing menopause -- they usually last three to five minutes, and I have them about every two hours around the clock (which obviously interferes with my sleep).
Over the last 28 years, I...Read more