Chest pain from GERD
I get chest pain frequently, especially at night. I had it evaluated as I thought it was due to heart disease. The doctors said it is due to GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease). They have given me medication. Is there anything else I can do?
You can reduce the symptoms to an extent with a few lifestyle modifications along with the medication. Come down to your ideal body weight. Eat frequent small meals instead of single large ones. Do not lie down for at least an hour after eating food. Wear loose-fitting clothes and sleep with the head end of your bed raised.
GERD is not just uncomfortable; it can lead to the formation of ulcers at the lower end of your oesophagus too.
I get frequent attacks of vomiting and diarrhoea, sometimes with a fever as well. I thought it was due to chronic dysentery. The doctor says it is due to food poisoning. I do eat out a great deal. Can I take some antibiotics prophylactically?
If you eat out, try to make sure the eatery is clean, and the vessels in which the food is served are well washed. Avoid drinking tap water. Do not eat raw or half-cooked food. Try to make sure the food is freshly cooked.
Food poisoning is due to the toxins released by bacteria and viruses. The actual disease-producing bacteria or virus may be long dead. You can probably tide over the symptoms by taking small quantities (a tablespoon) of khichdi every hour and hydrating yourself with water or lightly salted buttermilk.
I am afraid that my father is developing dementia. What are the symptoms?
Dementia can set in after the age of 65 years, or occur more quickly if there has been brain damage, poisoning or oxygen deprivation. The symptoms to watch out for are memory loss sufficient to disrupt daily life. Watch out for mood swings with your father becoming increasingly irritable, fearful, suspicious, unable to listen to reason or logic, and general confusion. He may be unable to adapt to any change in routine. Many forget the way to a familiar place and have difficulty with reading and writing.
It is important to get an objective professional evaluation. Some precipitating causes like diabetes or vitamin deficiencies can be controlled, improving the situation.
The writer is a paediatrician with a family practice at Vellore and the author of Staying Healthy in Modern India. If you have any questions on health issues please write to firstname.lastname@example.org