Ask the Doctors

Dear Readers: When we first began writing this column, we wondered how we would know if we were reaching anyone. The answer came almost immediately, via your letters, all of which are read. It has been heartwarming to learn that we have helped many of you, delightful to discover how studious and curious you are about science and medicine, and humbling to have you engage us at such a personal level about your health issues and your lives.

We quickly learned that some of our columns, in which we answer a specific question or discuss a particular topic, give rise to a host of new questions. Many of these can and will be answered in future columns. Some of the letters we receive are, unfortunately, so personal and specific that we are unable to address them. But even in these letters we often find a more universal question that can be useful to discuss in the future.

So far, the columns about veganism, shingles, postpartum depression, vitamin B12 and toenail fungus have sparked the liveliest discussions. Regarding the column about the specific nutritional needs of vegans, we received appreciative notes from families who are considering the move to a vegan diet. We were also taken to task for not congratulating the potential vegans who wrote to us for advice regarding their new direction.

The truth is, we are deeply appreciative of how engaged you, the readers, are in living the healthiest lifestyle possible. We celebrate every query that reveals an interest in a better life. We're thrilled when we can help and do our best to offer the most useful, well-rounded explanations and information.

In the future, we will revisit the question of shingles as well as the vaccine, delve deeper into the importance of vitamin B12, and explore the causes and cures of various types of anemia. An excellent question we received asked for advice on how to get the most out of the relationship with one's family physician. In an upcoming column, we will discuss what we do to create the most useful relationships with our patients, and how we strive to serve them.

Finally, the other category of letter we get is from individuals sharing some interesting and surprising solutions to the problems many of us face. This one came from a 94-year-old gentleman who was diagnosed with sleep apnea, which occurs only when he sleeps on his back. How to assure you don't roll over onto your back once you're asleep? His family doctor had an ingenious solution:

"As suggested by my doctor, my wife sewed a pocket on the back of my pajamas to hold an everyday tennis ball. It was easily removable for washing. Since then, I have slept very comfortably, but only on one side or the other. And no longer do I snore."

So thank you again for making this column part of your lives and for taking the time to write to us. We, in turn, will make responding to your letters part of ours.

(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.)

More like Ask the Doctors