From the monthly archives:

June 2011

When do you stop researching the internet, and actually call your doctor? Well, let your common sense guide you. If you’re in doubt – make the call. But we can find help on the internet.

For example, The Mayo Clinic has a useful website. Let’s say you have a fever. Go to their web site and click on the “medical information” link. You’ll get an list of alphabetized medical conditions. Click on fever and you’ll go to a page that defines fever. Then click on “symptoms,” and you’ll go to a page that lists them, and tells you when you should see a doctor.

Any sudden, severe, or persistent pain should prompt you to seek care. New symptoms, or ones that get worse or won’t go away also warrant a call to your doctor. Tell your doctor if your body is not responding to medication.

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Do you know your hospital alphabet? What’s the difference between a CT scan and an MRI? Both are invaluable diagnostic tools.

A CT scan uses xray radiation to create detailed pictures of the inside of the body. A CT emits x-rays from different angles, and gives us cross-sectional images. We can even view the images in 3-D.

Uses include finding fractures, tumors, infections and blood clots. They’re also used to track cancer treatment, or to guide surgeons in certain procedures.

By comparison, MRI uses a strong magnetic field, and radiofrequency waves instead of radiation. MRI is especially good at looking at soft tissues, and is excellent for looking at organs from multiple angles. It offers a way to safely view the body’s internal organs, the brain and spinal cord, the heart and blood vessels, and joint disorders.

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We’re a nation on drugs. In 2009, about 3.9 billion prescriptions were filled in the United States. That’s about 40 percent more than in 1999.

Per capita, we average over 12 prescriptions a year.

So it’s a good idea to give some thought to choosing the right pharmacy.

Here are some tips.

Shop around to compare prices, of course. Check their services. Do they have an easy refill system? Do they offer special services, like infusion therapy, medication management, medication compounding, or home delivery?

Most importantly, do you feel comfortable there? Will the pharmacist take time to answer your questions?

It’s best to have one pharmacy fill your prescriptions. That way, they’ll have easy access to your records so they can screen each new prescription, and confer with your doctor for best results.

Pharmacists are a vital part of your healthcare team, and you should choose your partners well.

About 80 percent of the drugs approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration are available in generic form. We can all save money by using them.

So let’s de-mystify generics.

Drug companies spend billions researching, testing and marketing brand name medications. They protect these drugs with patents and trademarks so they can recoup those expenses. But when patents expire, other manufacturers can start making their own versions.

Here’s what’s important to know: The FDA requires that all generic drugs have the same ingredients, work as fast, and work as effectively, as the brand name drugs they replace. They just can’t look, or taste, or smell like the original.

Generics are cheaper because their makers haven’t had to pay billions to develop the original brand name product.

So when you use a generic drug instead of a brand name, you don’t give up anything, except higher prices.


Few symptoms are more alarming than chest pain, and everyone knows that it could be a sign of a heart attack. Yes, many other conditions can cause chest pain, but cardiac disease is very common – and our leading cause of death. It should not be ignored. The common symptoms of chest pain related to a heart attack include:

•Pressure, fullness or tightness in your chest

•Crushing or searing pain that radiates to your back, neck, jaw, shoulders and arms, especially your left arm

•Shortness of breath, sweating, or nausea

However, many people do not have classic symptoms when they are having a heart attack, especially women.

If you have chest pain or suspect you’re having a heart attack, call 911immediately! Don’t waste time trying to diagnose these symptoms or drive yourself to the hospital. Every minute counts. A visit to the emergency department could save your life – or bring you peace of mind if nothing is seriously wrong.