Ask the Doctors

Hello again, dear readers! Many of your medical questions tackle complex topics that don't fit into the allotted space in a newspaper, so we're back with your questions and comments. These regular follow-ups let us turn the one-way communication of a column into something far more satisfying: a conversation.

We've addressed the issue of balance a few times now, and those columns continue to draw a response. Many of you have written to share your struggles with balance and to say the suggestions offered in the columns have been helpful. We're so happy to know that.

A physical therapist based in Fresno, California, who specializes in geriatrics wrote to recommend a balance enhancement and fall prevention initiative known as the Otago Exercise Program. Originally developed in New Zealand and adapted for use in the United States by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this program is a series of exercises that focus on preventing falls and injuries among older adults. Check with your local senior center to see whether Otago is being offered. A self-paced online version is also available.

A reader from Texas suggests a variation to the balance exercises we recommended in our columns:

"One of my favorite balance exercises is standing on one foot with my eyes closed. Do it for each foot," he wrote. "I was surprised that you did not mention this in your article. In fact, one could add this step to most of your balance exercises."

This adds a level of difficulty, so we recommend that you work near a stable object you can grab if you lose your balance, or work with a spotter.

In response to the column about the possibility of developing an allergy to meat after being bitten by a Lone Star tick, we heard from a reader in Little Rock, Arkansas, who developed that very allergy following a tick bite 28 years ago.

After decades of uncertainty, "it's nice to have the explanation," she wrote. "I was most interested to read your article in support of this theory, since I have lived with this for so long."

We received a lot of mail about the challenge of getting the most out of your appointment with a busy physician. Many of you recommend writing down all the questions you want to ask the doctor, and giving her or him a copy. Other suggestions include bringing a list of all your medications, as well as dates of vaccinations and copies of any relevant tests, scans or lab results. As busy physicians, we have to say this all sounds good to us.

Finally, thank you to everyone who wrote in response to the column in which we offered a young reader the science and studies he requested, so he could persuade his parents to let him have a dog. If anyone put this information to use and now has a pet to show for it, we'd love to hear from you.

As ever, we appreciate the time you take to read -- and respond to -- our column. Thank you!

(Send your questions to askthedoctors@mednet.ucla.edu, or write: Ask the Doctors, c/o Media Relations, UCLA Health, 924 Westwood Blvd., Suite 350, Los Angeles, CA, 90095. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.)

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