Q: My son is three and a half years old. He has been having seizures almost from birth. An EEG confirmed the diagnosis of epilepsy. The doctor also took an MRI scan and that shows some “birth injury”. We were not too happy with the allopathic medication as the seizures kept recurring. So we added some ayurveda but the epilepsy is still not under control. As a matter of fact, he is worse. We do not know whether to shift to homeopathy.
A: The brain works with electrical signals. When they encounter the damaged areas, the signals cannot pass freely, the voltage builds up and he has a seizure. It is not possible to reverse or rectify the brain damage your son suffered at birth. He may eventually “grow out” of it. These high voltage signals have to be suppressed with medication.
Treatment has to be individualised for each child, and increased step wise. After the maximum dose of one drug is reached another is added.
Some drugs have to be given “twice a day” others “three times”. This does not mean morning, afternoon, night or only after food. The timing of the medication has to be maintained — whether meals are eaten or not — such as 8am and 8pm (twice a day) or 6am, 2pm and 8pm (three times a day). The medicine acts for only a certain number of hours.
Do not mix different types of treatment such as homeopathy, ayurveda and allopathy. There are likely to be drug reactions and interactions. Give your doctor a chance by maintaining a diary of the timing and duration of seizures.
Q: I am a 36-year-old unmarried balding male. I take tablets of finesteride daily. I am planning to get married and am worried about the side effects of the medicine.
A: Finesteride does have side effects. It can cause impotence and loss of sexual desire. More importantly, if you stop the tablets you may become bald again. Male pattern baldness does respond to a topical application of five percent minoxidil, and this has fewer side effects. Please consult your dermatologist.
Since you are young, whatever treatment you decide on it will be a lifelong affair. It may be best to opt for a more permanent solution. Perhaps you can go in for hair transplantation or a wig? Or you could shave it off completely.
In a hurry
Q: I am 18 years, 5ft 6in tall and weigh 71kg. I want to reduce my paunch as the rest of me looks normal. I have started cycling a couple of times a week but didn’t see any noticeable change. Please suggest a way to get rid of belly fat quickly.
A: We cannot transform our bodies in a short span of time, even with meticulous attention to a combination of diet and exercise. Spot reduction of belly fat alone is not possible. You need to jog, run, walk, cycle or swim for at least an hour a day. You can change your body in a six-month period. At your age, that is probably less than two per cent of your life span. Forget quick change. Focus instead on a life of healthy eating, well-managed stress levels, quality sleep and regular exercise.
Q: I have been taking levocetrizine daily for five years for my allergies. I am now worried that I may develop side effects. If I stop the tablet my nose becomes blocked.
A: Levocetrizine is one of the safer medications. If you were to develop side effects, you would have done so by now. It is better not to take drugs long term if there is some other way to control your symptoms by making small alterations in your lifestyle.
Why don’t you try using a non-absorbed nasal spray twice a day, steam inhalations and 40 minutes of jogging or walking in the fresh air? There are also some very effective yoga asanas to prevent sneezing. Avoid allergens such as agarbathi, mosquito repellents and room fresheners.
Q: I want to lose weight. I read that water therapy is very effective. Does it really work?
A: Everything (including water therapy) should be done in moderation. It is definitely contraindicated if you are anemic, have liver, kidney or heart disease, or have been asked to restrict your water intake.
The ancient Indian and Japanese forms of water therapy involve drinking 1.5 litre of water first thing in the morning, followed by a 45 minute fast. This is in addition to your normal requirement of 8-10 glasses of water a day. If you consistently drink a glass of water before a meal, it will suppress your appetite and you will wind up eating less than normal.
There are a lot of blogs and anecdotes on the Internet about people who lost incredible amounts of weight with water therapy. Fact however has to be separated from fiction.
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