Each Tuesday, Doctor Rob Riley joins us on NewsCenter 16 at Noon to answer viewers' medical questions. Here are the questions he addressed on June 20.
Why do I get an earache when I sleep? It goes away once I'm up."
Dr. Riley: Several possibilities here. Some ear infections hurt more at night, perhaps due to fluid shifts that occur with lying flat. Sometimes dental problems can do this. If you're a mouth breather, drying out the throat at night can cause irritation to the bottom of the Eustachian tubes which we can perceive as ear pain. And it can be as simple as sleep position. If you're putting pressure on a nerve that goes to the ear as you sleep, that will get better when you get up and the pressure is relieved. In any event, if this problem persists, it's definitely worth a visit to your physician who can examine your ear canals, look at the middle ear spaces, look at your inside of your mouth and throat and see if there's something there that requires treatment.
"I know as we age we get a bit shorter. I've shrunk three inches and now my belly is getting bigger. I tell people that as I got shorter, my innards had to go somewhere. Is this explanation anywhere near the truth?"
Dr. Riley: Well, maybe. It's true that we all tend to lose a little height as we get older. The little shock absorbers between the bones of our spine tend to get a little flatter over time and it adds up. Losing three inches is a lot, though, and suggests some of the height loss may be due to compression of the bones themselves. So it may be a good idea for our viewer to be checked for osteoporosis as we have some treatments for that that may reduce the risk of bone fractures later in life. In terms of tummies pooching out, I suppose a shorter spinal column might contribute some, but it's more likely to be due to increased belly fat that's pretty common as we age.
Why does the inside of my body feel cold but my skin is burning hot?"
Dr. Riley: We don't know the age of our viewer, but temperature regulation issues are common as part of menopause. Classically, we think of women getting hot flashes, but temperature problems in general can accompany menopause. This time of year, a bad sunburn can cause people to get the chills. Another concern that comes to mind is thyroid disease. Thyroid hormone affects lots of body functions, including temperature regulation. Low levels of thyroid hormone can cause the person to feel cold when everyone else in the room is comfortable. This condition is much more common in women than in men and is diagnosed with a simple blood test. It's treated by giving people additional thyroid hormone that they can take in pill form. That often takes care of the problem.
Dr. Riley joins us from Memorial Family Medicine.