Q: I developed a hole in my eardrum and I think it is due to prolonged use of the mobile phone. I cannot manage without my phone.
A: The hole (perforation) in the ear drum is unlikely to have been caused by the use of a mobile phone. Usually it develops as a result of an ear infection (otitis media), an injury with a sharp object or a sudden loud sound near the ear. It needs to be evaluated. You should consult an ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgeon.
It may heal and close with antibiotics and the use of ear drops. A long-standing non-healing perforation may require an operation called a tympanoplasty.
In any case, why not use the speaker phones option?
Q: My 72 years old father, is a diabetic, whose blood sugar is well controlled by oral medications. He has a lot of discomfort in his lower legs and feet. He had consulted a neurologist and after certain tests was found to have neuropathy. Although he was given vitamin combinations he has had no relief.
A: Diabetic neuropathy is a nerve disorder that can occur as a complication of diabetes usually if there is poor blood sugar control. It can cause problems with the sensation in the feet. The symptoms are numbness, pain, or tingling in the feet or lower legs. There may be difficulty in walking and balance.
The first step is to bring blood sugar levels under control. You could purchase a glucometer and check the sugar level regularly at home. Make sure he always wears well fitting shoes. Walking regularly, taking warm baths, or using elastic stockings may help relieve leg pain. Analgesics, low doses of antidepressants, and some anticonvulsant medication can be prescribed, in addition to vitamins, in severely affected individuals.
Q: I have a son who is three and half years old. He has been suffering from acute constipation for the last one year. He passes hard stool, with pain. Sometimes small amounts are passed 10-12 times a day. He eats well and his diet includes 1,000ml of milk, which I give in a bottle at night.
A: The quantity of milk that you are giving is far in excess of what he requires. He needs only 400ml of milk a day at the very most. It can be split into two 200ml feeds, in the morning and evening, not at night. At three and a half years he is far beyond the stage of feeding bottles. Encourage bowel movement in the morning by making him sit in the toilet at a fixed time even if he does not feel the urge.
If the constipation persists a further evaluation with a paediatrician can be done to rule out thyroid deficiency or bowel malfunctions.
Worried about AIDs
Q: Does a married couple need to have sex with a condom? I want to prevent HIV infection in myself and my wife. I am worried about AIDS.
A: If either party has had prior sexual encounters, it is better to use a condom until you check for HIV and hepatitis B. It is better to check again after six months when the window period for HIV infection is over. If you go to a Voluntary Counselling and Testing Centre, the tests are free.
Married people need to use condoms as a contraceptive device if they wish to prevent pregnancy, or if one of the parties is HIV or HbAg positive (hepatitis B).
Seeking perfect eyesight
Q: I want perfect eyesight. What diet should I eat and what can I do?
A: Green leafy vegetables like spinach, beetroot, carrot and drumsticks help eyesight because of their vitamin and antioxidant content. Overcooking destroys heat sensitive labile beneficial vitamins of the B group. Steaming or microwave cooking vegetables or eating them raw is, therefore, better. Eating two raw tomatoes a day will give you all the vitamins you need.
There are eye exercises in yoga which, done regularly, help to maintain and improve your eyesight.
Q: I am 41 and my wife is 35. We have an eight-year-old daughter. We decided to try for a son. Despite our best attempts over the last one year, we failed. Although my wifes periods are irregular, no tests have been done. We have received all kinds of tablets from various doctors. Now we read that some of them have potentially dangerous side effects.
A: All medicines have some side effects even if they are aryuvedic, homeopathic or herbal. The tablets used to induce ovulation can be dangerous if given for too many cycles in improper doses.
Before proceeding consider
• You already have a healthy daughter.
• Do you really want another child?
•Test yourself do a semen analysis
• Do an ultrasound for your wife to see why the periods are irregular.
Dr Gita Mathai is a paediatrician with a family practice at Vellore. Questions on health issues may be emailed to her at firstname.lastname@example.org