Ask the Doctor with Rob Riley - December 31

Dr. Rob Riley stopped by 16 News Now at Noon to answer your weekly medical questions on December 31st.

Question 1: "I had osteomyelitis in 2015. During that time, certain areas of my leg went numb. I still get a burning sensation sometimes and that area is still numb. Any advice?

Burning and numbness really suggest a problem with the nerves in the area, either pinching or some sort of nerve damage. Osteomyelitis is a bone infection and I wouldn’t expect that to cause nerve damage directly. But some of the medications used to treat a serious infection might affect the nerves, as might any surgical procedures that may have been required at the time.

It’s also possible that, although these two issues arose at the same time, they may be unrelated. Lots of things can cause pinching of nerves and a fairly long list of medical conditions can affect nerves, too.

Your doctor can consider some blood tests to look into some of those, and there are special tests that can be done on nerves to help sort things out. If the problem turns out not to be fixable, there are treatments which help with the symptoms. So following up with your regular physician would be the best next step.

Question 2: "I’ve been really dizzy since yesterday. Can you talk about what causes vertigo?"

Vertigo is that abnormal sensation that things are spinning. Most commonly, this relates to a problem in the inner ear. A common condition we see more frequently in older folks is called benign positional vertigo. This is caused by little granules in the inner ear that end up in the wrong place, causing people to experience dizziness when they turn their heads. There are exercises which help to get those granules back where they belong your doctor can teach you.

Another common cause is just a viral illness that affects the nerves of the inner ear. Like most viruses, this will go away by itself as the immune system kicks in. There are some more serious conditions which can cause vertigo and your physician can often sort these out just with physical examination, so if this problem persists, your doctor can help to make the right diagnosis and prescribe treatment to help you feel better.

Question 3: "I haven’t been able to smell or taste for over a year. It came on suddenly. What could it mean?"

The senses of smell and taste are closely related, so it’s common for problems with one to affect the other. The list of causes, unfortunately, is a really long one, including everything from just a cold to serious brain conditions.

Chronic sinus problems are high on the list of things causing this sort of problem and good treatment can resolve the issue. Sometimes the nerves responsible for smell and taste are damaged as a result of an acute illness like influenza. In those cases, there isn’t much to offer in the way of treatment but the nerves will sometimes heal themselves.

When the cause isn’t clear, doctors will sometimes recommend advanced imaging studies like MRI to help sort things out. Our viewer, who’s had symptoms for over a year should definitely get this checked out.