Ask the Doctor: Hip replacement, leg cramps, and influenza

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Doctor Rob Riley joins us from Memorial Family Medicine every Tuesday to answer viewer questions.

Here are the questions he addressed during NewsCenter 16 at Noon on March 1, 2016:

Chuck: Is there any cause/effect relationship between hip replacement and polycythemia?

Dr. Riley: There's another one of those big medical terms. Polycythemia is a term referring to a condition where there are too many red blood cells in the blood. You might think of it as sort of the opposite of anemia. The most common cause is a problem in the bone marrow, where most red blood cells are made. In these cases, the bone marrow produces too many red blood cells. I'm not aware of any association between this condition and hip replacement surgery. In fact, more commonly, any type of surgery might cause a temporary anemia due to some blood loss during surgery.

Diana: How do you handle cramps in the legs while sleeping?

Dr. Riley: Night leg cramps are caused by spasms in the leg muscles, and as the viewer knows, they can really hurt. When it's happening, you want to do whatever you have to to stretch that muscle back out. The spasm may be so tight that you can't do this with the other leg muscles alone, and you may have reach down with your hands and pull the foot up to get that muscle to release. In terms of prevention, staying well-hydrated is important. Some people seem to benefit from doing stretching exercises before bedtime. And if you're in an exercise program that works the legs, increasing your activity gradually may reduce your risk. If this is a persistent problem, seeing your doctor can be helpful as occasionally some blood tests may be helpful in identifying a cause. Some prescription medications are helpful.

Katie: How long does the flu last? I'm on day three, and I'm hoping it won't be much longer.

Dr. Riley: I hope not, either, because influenza can make you feel really crummy! We are in influenza season now, and we are still seeing it in our community. For most people, flu will run its course over about 1-2 weeks. Usually, the worst of the symptoms start to subside by about day three, so our viewer may start feeling better very soon. This gives me a chance to remind everyone that it's still not too late to get a flu shot. We prefer to get people vaccinated early in the season, but as long as there's flu in the community, the vaccine may still be helpful.

If you have medical questions, you can call the health professionals at Memorial Hospital.