Dr. Swiner’s Medical Note of the Month-July 2010 II-Ask Dr. Swiner! (topics: sunspots, potty training, pain in pregnancy)

Here are a few recent questions I’ve gathered from Facebook and e-mails. Contact me or comment on The Tribune’s website if you have a question you’d like answered.

Q: What can reduce the appearance of sunspots? – L.K., 32-year-old mother and lawyer

A: Sunspots are called “lentigines,” and if you have a few of them, you can avoid the sun with SPF or makeup to cover. Prescription creams like Hydroquinolone, gels or laser treatments from a dermatologist are other options. If widespread or many come all of a sudden, let your doctor examine them.

Q: With all the news about the chemicals in sunscreens causing cancers, can you recommend a good/safe sunscreen? – T.B., 45, mother of two

A: In general, it’s recommended we all (yes, black people included) wear a sunscreen with SPF 15 or 30. I wasn’t able to find anything specific about the dangers of cancer with sunscreen. I did see that for those with risk of having low vitamin D (which is linked to some cancers), sunscreen can prevent absorption of it from the sun, which is our major source of the vitamin other than foods.

Q: What does it mean when the body (last week it was my face/cheek and more recently it was my arm) twitches? Is this common? Please tell me these aren’t stroke symptoms or something! – A.S.

A: I think twitching, like when it happens in one or both of my eyelids, can be a sign of stress or fatigue. Isolated twitching alone is not a sign of a stroke. If stress is low and you’re getting enough sleep, your nerves could be irritated because they’re pinched at the root (in the back or spine), muscles are overworked and spasming. If you’re worried about it or it happens for days on end, see your doc.

Q: Is there anything medically that can delay a child’s potty training development? – G.D., father of 3-year-old son

A: Don’t fret, for some reason boys take longer than girls to potty train. I’m sure you’ve tried all the encouragement and giving rewards for sitting on potty and staying dry, right? Is he in day care? Often, seeing his peers being “big boys and girls” will encourage him to step up. Is he afraid of sitting on the potty? Will he let you know when he has to go? You may have to – if you haven’t already – schedule potty time every couple of hours. Also, make sure he’s not constipated and get encouragement from your doc.

Q: I’m sure that it’s pregnancy related, but I have this “catch” in my lower back, like possibly my butt bone. Sometimes, if I am sitting, I cannot lift my left leg to put it on the ottoman, or if I bend over to pick something up, or if I move too quickly, it hurts bad enough to take my breath. What can I do to relieve the pain? Also, I have been told that I should sleep on my left side, but after just a little while my hip aches so bad. What do I do? – A.B., third-trimester pregnancy.

A: Depending on how far along you are, it’s most commonly round ligament pain or the stretching of the ligaments holding the full uterus up in the pelvis against the heavy contents. Gentle prenatal yoga, warm baths and massage therapy can help. Another is a long body pillow to sleep with between your legs.

  1. Nicole Price Swiner, MD, works for the Durham Family Practice in Durham. Contact her at 220-9800.
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