Q. My 3-year-old son has a speech delay and is working with a therapist, but I’d like to get the whole family involved in supporting him. Is there anything we can do?
A. Involvement of family members in this journey of speech development can be great. A few ways to be supportive include sign language, praise, and patience. Basic sign language can be a quick and effective way to communicate some of our simple needs. Signs such as “more” and “all done” can limit frustration when we are working on building our speech and language skills. When we praise a child when they use their words, they are more likely to do it again. A phrase such as, “I love how you are using your words” can go a long way. It is important to be patient with children. If in the process they are often reprimanded, this can lead to feeling discouraged. You want to make learning words and using them a fun and positive experience for them. Activities including reading, singing, and dancing can be fun and support overall development.
Q. My husband is diabetic and will be having surgery soon. I worry that he may be at risk of infection, as his wounds tend to heal slowly. Would he be a good candidate for hyperbaric oxygen therapy?
A. In short, yes. Patients with diabetes, particularly those with diabetic lower extremity wounds, can benefit significantly from hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT). HBOT delivers oxygen to every tissue in the body, which can speed up healing, lower the likelihood of amputation, and significantly enhance a patient’s quality of life. Because HBOT increases oxygen concentration in the body’s tissues, it can promote healing by improving the function of white blood cells. Furthermore, HBOT can aid in rehabilitation after surgeries by stimulating the body’s production of stem cells. All of this would be very beneficial for patients with slow-healing wounds that often occur with diabetes.
Q. I have a family history of colorectal cancer. I am only 25, so I don’t currently have regular colonoscopies, but should I start earlier than most people?
Answer: If you have a first-degree relative (parent, sibling, or child) with a history of colon or rectal cancer, you should begin screening at age 40 or 10 years before your youngest relative developed cancer, whichever is earliest. For example, if your mother developed colon cancer at 42, you should begin screening at 32. This earlier screening interval also applies to first-degree relatives with “advanced polyps” found on colonoscopies.
If you develop any concerning symptoms, such as blood in your stool or changes in bowel habits, you need an earlier “diagnostic” colonoscopy to ensure these are not symptoms related to an early cancer. The gold standard for screening is a colonoscopy; however, if you are unwilling or unable to undergo a colonoscopy, the best screening test is the one that you are willing or able to take. Screening should now begin at age 45 for average-risk patients.
Q. I am scheduled to deliver my baby via C-section in a few weeks, and I am a bit nervous because I’ve never had surgery before. What should I expect from the procedure?
A. On the day of your C-section you can expect an excellent team of people taking care of you. This includes your OB (who will deliver your baby), an anesthesia provider (who will place your spinal and monitor you throughout), a pediatrician (who will evaluate your baby), and nurses for both you and your newborn. Most patients can also have a family member join them in the operating room to provide support. Uncomplicated C-sections take less than an hour. Once baby is delivered, he or she can spend time bonding with you “skin-to-skin” while your surgery is completed. You may feel sensations such as pressure and pulling throughout, but you will otherwise be numb from the belly down. This will wear off slowly after surgery, and you will spend the next few days in the hospital getting back on your feet. I encourage you to review the risks and benefits of surgery with your doctor and make sure all of your questions are answered before the big day. Congrats!
Q. I’ve been dealing with swelling in my calves and ankles for a while, and I’ve recently found some patches of flaky skin on my lower legs. Is this related to the swelling, and what should I do about it?
A. Swelling, pain, pressure, heaviness, and achiness in the lower extremities are not normal. Often this is related to venous disease. Normally, blood flows from the heart to the toes in the arteries, and the veins take the blood back to the heart. Abnormalities in the venous system can lead to high pressures, which can cause skin changes and the above symptoms. Dry, flaky skin that is itchy, or discoloration of the skin near the ankles, can lead to a chronic venous insufficiency diagnosis. Fortunately, with a simple, non-invasive ultrasound test, vascular doctors can diagnose venous problems and often counsel patients on how to control symptoms, prevent the worsening of disease, and offer solutions to repair the venous system. Venous disease is very common, often progressive, with many people suffering unnecessarily.