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Ask Dr. Gott 7/7
Spasms present choking risk
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    DEAR DR. GOTT: My husband has occasional bouts with difficulty in swallowing. It seems as though his esophagus contracts, and he is unable to swallow at all for one half to two hours. During this time, great quantities of phlegm come up. He is 78 years old, and I worry that as he ages, he might choke. He usually has bouts two or three times a year, and this has been going on for many years. He does not mention this to the doctor when he has physicals, but I am concerned. Is there anything to help his attacks or prevent them from happening?
    DEAR READER: Spasm of the esophagus is a common cause of periodic dysphagia (difficulty swallowing). Your husband needs an X-ray swallowing study to document this. He really should share his problem with the doctor, who is the logical first step in diagnosing the problem and providing medication to prevent the esophageal spasm.
    DEAR DR. GOTT: I have a daughter who is 48 years old. She drinks at least 2 pints of vodka a day and smokes abut two packs of cigarettes daily. Her stomach is so big it looks like she is nine months pregnant. Her eyes are kind of bulging, and I’m worried about her. What would make her stomach so big?
    DEAR READER: As a consequence of her overindulgence in alcohol, her liver may be enlarging because of fat infiltration, a first step toward cirrhosis (liver scarring). She needs to get her life under control. Also, alcohol-induced liver malfunction can lead to a build-up of fluid in the abdominal cavity, called ascites, a potentially serious result of excess alcohol consumption.
    I urge her to be examined and tested by her physician. Her drinking and smoking need to be addressed aggressively. This might be accomplished through attending AA meetings, or, if her drinking is completely out of control, she might need to start in a rehabilitation facility. Her primary-care physician should order an X-ray because of her excessive smoking habit. Whatever the direction, I share your concerns and believe you are on the right track with your intervention. Let me know what happens.
    To give you related information, I am sending you a copy of my Health Report “Help: Mental/Substance Abuse.” Other readers who would like a copy should send a long, self-addressed stamped envelope and $2 to Newsletter, PO Box 167, Wickliffe, OH 44092. Be sure to mention the title.

    DEAR DR. GOTT: I’m a female, 90 years old. I have a problem of being very cold. Often, I wear two sweaters and am still cold. I’ve been told by my doctor that I have an underactive thyroid. Is there anything that can help me from being so cold?
    DEAR READER: If you are chronically cold-sensitive and have an underactive thyroid gland, your physician needs to prescribe thyroid-replacement medication. The medicine is inexpensive and could make a world of difference.
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