Ask the Doctor: Pollen Sensitivity, Fatty Liver and Piriformis Syndrome

Dr. Rob Riley joins us each week from the South Bend Clinic. Here are his responses from September 24th.

Debra: What plants are in bloom now that might create a problem for those who are sensitive to pollen? While on a walk, I noticed a lot of goldenrod.

We do see a lot of goldenrod right now, but that’s typically not the culprit for those with fall allergies. Chances are you’ll see the real menace growing nearby and that’s ragweed. Ragweed typically starts to be a problem for people in August and can continue through much of the fall. Other common triggers for people this time of year can be the year-round allergies which include molds and indoor dust mites. Most people can get some relief with daily use of the steroid-containing nasal sprays like Flonase or Nasonex. Some will need to add in an antihistamine like Benadryl or the less sedating ones like Claritin or Zyrtec. Usually, the ragweed counts are falling as we get into October so for those of us who suffer from this, the calendar is our friend and it won’t be too much longer before things get better.

Jan: How serious is a non-alcoholic fatty liver diagnosis?

Fat in the liver of people who don’t drink much alcohol is not that rare. Most of the time, it’s a reflection of obesity or poorly controlled diabetes or both. But in some people, for reasons we don’t understand entirely, that fat in the liver causes inflammation and that inflammation can cause scarring. Scarring in the liver is what we call cirrhosis and that can lead to liver failure which is very serious. We only have one liver and we need it in order to live. For people with fatty liver, your doctor is likely to recommend weight loss and will want to monitor some blood tests to look for signs of liver inflammation. If present, your doctor will likely want to look at your liver directly from time to time with things like ultrasound or CT scanning to look for signs of that scarring. Most people with fatty liver will do just fine, but sometimes it can be a serious issue.

Linda: What is piriformis syndrome?

Low back pain is a really common complaint and unfortunately there are a lot of things that can cause it and piriformis syndrome is one of those. The piriformis muscle is in the buttocks and it can cause pressure on the sciatic nerve as it comes through from the lower back heading down into the legs. People typically have pain in the back and buttocks areas and sometimes have pain, tingling, and weakness going down into the leg on that side. Treatment is often successful and typically includes a combination of anti-inflammatory medications, stretching exercises, and sometimes working with a physical therapist. Fortunately, surgery is rarely needed.