Q. I had to have some minor surgery on my foot and I want to get a cane. What kind should I get?
This is a question that opens up the subject of mobility aids, the icons of aging. We’ll discuss canes in this column and save crutches, walkers, wheelchairs and scooters for a future column.
Q. Do people who are color blind see everything in black and white?
"Color blindness" is the common term used to describe color vision deficiency. The term is misleading because total color blindness that turns the world into shades of gray is rare.
The most common type of color blindness makes it difficult for people to discriminate between red and green. The next most common form of the deficiency affects the perception of blues and yellows. Those with blue-yellow blindness almost always have red-green blindness, too.
Q. What exactly is a "charley horse" and why do I get them in my legs at night?
According to the American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, the term "charley horse" was first used in the 1880s by baseball players to describe a muscle cramp. No one knows the true origin, but the dictionary states, "Among the more likely theories proposed is that it alludes to the name of either a horse or an afflicted ball player who limped like one of the elderly draft horses formerly employed to drag the infield."
Q. I had a bad cold so I asked my doctor for an antibiotic. He seemed reluctant, but I insisted and he gave me the prescription. I was supposed to take it for 10 days, but I stopped after seven days because I felt better and I ...
Stop! Next you'll tell me you prefer not to cover your mouth when you cough.
Taking antibiotics unnecessarily and not completing your prescription are the leading causes of "superbugs," bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics. These superbugs are one of the most serious threats to global public health.
Q. What's the difference between a CAT scan and an MRI?
The CAT scan, MRI and others are known as diagnostic-imaging tests. Let's go over the common ones.
X-ray;One of the oldest forms of medical imaging , an X-ray examination uses electromagnetic radiation to make pictures.
An X-ray machine passes a beam through your body and records an image digitally or on film. Body tissues produce different results. Tissues show up in shades of gray. Bones look white. Lungs that contain air appear dark.
Q. My doctor put his stethoscope on my neck and muttered to himself, "No brooey." I'm not the type to ask the doctor questions, but I'm still wondering what he meant by that. My spelling is probably wrong.
Your doctor was checking your carotid arteries on the sides of your neck to see if the blood flow to your brain was blocked. If one of the arteries was blocked, it would make a "swoosh" that the medical profession calls a bruit. Your phonetic spelling is excellent. Bruit is pronounced "broo-ee," like "phooey."
Q. I had a bird's nest in my chimney and was told that we were probably getting some carbon monoxide in the house. He said that this is bad for your health. How bad?
Carbon monoxide (chemical symbol CO) is a colorless and odorless gas that can kill you. CO is a byproduct of combustion. It comes out of car tailpipes, gas ovens, fireplaces and heating systems.
That bird's nest was blocking the evacuation of CO out of your chimney from your furnace and hot-water heater. The gas was backing up into your house.
Q. My wife has complained of being short of breath while shopping in the mall. She says it's just a sign of age, but I'm concerned about her.
The likelihood of suffering shortness of breath or "dyspnea" (disp-nee-ah) becomes greater the older we get. As we age, our air passages get smaller, chest muscles weaken, and our lungs become less flexible. These changes reduce our air flow.
Q. I'm a geezer and I believe in herbal products because they're natural and I think you should tell your readers how wonderful they are.
I get a kick out of people who are big on "natural" and "organic." Poison ivy is natural and organic. So is cobra venom.
You have to be very careful when you use herbal health products and dietary supplements, especially if you are a senior. Always consult a doctor before taking any of these products, which I like to label "alternatives."
Q. A friend who uses a lot of psychobabble described a new woman in our retirement community as having a "personality disorder." I would call this woman a "pain the neck". What's the difference between a personality disorder and just a lousy personality?
People with a personality disorder are more than just pains in the neck. They have serious trouble getting along with others. They are usually rigid and unable to adapt to the changes life presents to all of us. They simply don't function well in society.