Q. I have begun to experience numbness in my dominant hand. What might be causing it, and how can I fix it?
A. Hand numbness can be caused by irritation, compression, or damage of a nerve in the arm or nerve root in the cervical spine. Carpal tunnel syndrome is an example of nerve compression in the arm. Most other causes of hand numbness typically coincide with a specific diagnosis, such as diabetes, stroke, or Raynaud’s disease.
Hand numbness can affect your daily activities by making you more prone to drop things, increasing your risk of injury when using hot or sharp objects, and making you feel as if you’ve lost strength.
Avoid activities that irritate your symptoms, and rest your hand as much as possible. If the numbness doesn’t resolve in a timely manner or begins to occur more frequently, contact your physician. He or she may refer you to occupational therapy, which can help determine an appropriate treatment plan for your nerve condition. Like most health concerns, treating hand numbness early can help you avoid permanent damage that can occur if left untreated.
Q. My 2-year-old had four ear infections last year. Why is she so prone to them?
A. Middle ear infections, otherwise known as otitis media, occur most commonly in children between the ages of 3 months and 3 years old. A major cause of this is eustachian tube inflammation. The eustachian tube connects the middle ear to the upper throat and allows for proper fluid drainage and pressure equalization. In children, this tube is smaller and more horizontal than in adults. Any illness or allergy that causes nasal congestion can cause bacteria or fluid behind the eardrum to stagnate and lead to infection. Cigarette smoke exposure can also cause eustachian tube inflammation. Additionally, giving a child a bottle at bedtime can cause ear infections by allowing mouth bacteria to travel up the throat into the middle ear. Preventing childhood illness is the most effective way to prevent recurrent ear infections, but it is not always easy to do, and may still require tympanostomy tubes to prevent long-term effects on hearing and speech.
Q. How should I dispose of my medications that I no longer need or have expired?
A. Disposing of prescription medications can be done at home by following a few simple steps recommended by the FDA. Start by removing medications from their original containers and mixing them with an unappealing substance, such as kitty litter or coffee grounds. Place the substance in a sealed container, like a zipper storage bag, and toss it in the garbage. Be sure to mark out or remove all personal information on the prescription labels. Do not flush medications down the toilet or drain unless the labeling specifically instructs you to do so.
Proper disposal of medications helps to prevent poisoning of children and pets and deters misuse by teenagers and adults. Following these proper disposal steps also protects the environment from drug residue entering the water supply.
Q. I’ve been told it’s possible to brush your teeth too hard. Is this true?
A. Brushing regularly is considered vital for healthy teeth and gums, but many patients are surprised to find that you can brush your teeth too hard and cause tooth abrasion, which can lead to sensitive teeth and receding gums. Plaque and food debris are loose in your mouth, so you do not have to scrub hard like cleaning tile grout. Think of it more like massaging the teeth and gums versus scrubbing.
I always recommend soft, circular motions at a 45-degree angle to your teeth and gums with a soft-bristled or high-quality electric toothbrush.
If you think you have damage caused from over brushing, schedule an appointment to talk with your dentist.
Q. Why does my acne get worse in the winter, and what can I do to combat it?
A. Cozy sweaters, hot cocoa by the fire, festive get-togethers – these are the things we love about winter! Unfortunately, winter also comes with something we don’t love. The low humidity and colder temperatures leave many of us dealing with dry skin, and for some, worsening acne.
Chilling winds strip the skin of its natural lipid barrier, which leaves the skin more vulnerable to the bacteria that causes acne, along with redness, irritation, and inflammation. Finding ways to increase your natural lipid barrier can be as simple as using a gentle cleanser in the winter, avoiding hot baths that further strip away the skin’s natural surface lipids, and investing in a good moisturizer. Staying hydrated is also important – remember to drink 8-10 glasses of water a day!