What You Need to Know About Shingrix

Shingrix is a new vaccine approved to prevent shingles. What’s shingles? Should you get this vaccine? What if you already had a vaccine for shingles? Good questions. Read on. To understand shingles, we have to understand chicken pox. Chicken pox was an extremely common childhood illness before 1995, when routine vaccination for chicken pox began. Before that, an average of 4 million people got chicken pox each year in the U.S. and about 100 people died. Chicken pox is caused by the varice...

Heart Stents Don’t Decrease Chest Pain

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.” -- Richard Feynman

This month brought more bad news for coronary artery stents. To understand how far coronary stents have fallen, we have to understand what we’ve been using them for. But first I should explain that coronary stents are life-saving treatments during a heart attack. That has been well established and is not changed by anything in this post. T...

It’s Norovirus Season

My longtime readers know that I love to inform you about ways that Mother Nature tries to hurt us. Since it’s winter, norovirus deserves our attention as it wreaks its seasonal havoc and occasionally closes down schools. Norovirus causes inflammation of the stomach and intestines. It’s commonly referred to as a “stomach virus” or “stomach flu”. (But it’s not related to the influenza virus. So let’s stop calling it the stomach flu. It just confuses people and makes them think that the flu ...

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy Releases Report on Addiction Epidemic

In 1964 the Surgeon General issued a report on smoking, summarizing the scientific evidence demonstrating the health risks of tobacco use. Scientifically, nothing in that report was new. It was a review of what was already known. But it had a profound societal effect by publicizing a health risk that had been until then largely ignored. Education, health policy, and the advice of many individual doctors were transformed. This week the Surgeon General released More

Top Ten Reasons to Have a Flu Shot

Photo credit: Cpl. Jackeline Perez Rivera / Wikimedia
Every year I write a post in the late summer letting you know that flu season is approaching and to get a flu shot. I try to keep my posts informative and evidence-based, but I don’t have anything new to tell you about that. Actually, I do have one bit of news. Some of you may have heard of FluMist, the flu vaccine given by nasal spray. It’s especially popular with children and with patients with needle phobias because it’s not injected. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC...

Why You Might Want More Blood Pressure Medicine

A patient's blood pressure being taken
We’ve known for over a generation that using medications to lower high blood pressure can decrease the risk of strokes, heart attacks, and kidney failure. National guidelines have recommended using medications to get the systolic blood pressure (the higher blood pressure number) below 140. So for my whole career a systolic in the 130s would lead to me pat the patient on the back and declare victory, while a systolic in the 140s would lead me to increase a dose of a medication or stress to th...

Consuming Peanuts in Infancy Can Help Prevent Peanut Allergies

Food allergies are commonly misunderstood, so please bear with me while I first explain what food allergies are and are not. Various foods can cause all sorts of unpleasant effects. Most of these are not allergies. Allergies are only reactions caused by a specific antibody (called IgE) that results in hives, trouble breathing, or a life-threatening condition called anaphylaxis. So, if yogurt gives you diarrhea, that’s not an allergy. It might be lactose intolerance. If coffee gives you palpi...