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Answers to questions about 'floaters' in the eye, E. coli infection, and dandruff.

Q I've noticed black specks floating across my field of vision. Should I be concerned?

A These specks are often referred to as "floaters," appearing as small, dark shapes that move as your eyes move and dart away when you try to focus on them. They occur when the vitreous fluid in the eye shrinks and forms strands that cast shadows on the retina. Floaters are common and are more likely to develop in people who have severe nearsightedness, diabetes, or have undergone cataract surgery.

Floaters that develop gradually usually aren't a cause for alarm and require no treatment, and over time you'll become less aware of them. However, the sudden appearance of many floaters, especially when accompanied by flashes of light or a loss of peripheral vision, may signify a retinal detachment, a serious condition that requires immediate evaluation by an ophthalmologist.

If floaters cause you concern or significantly impair your vision, talk to your eye doctor.

Q How can I prevent E. coli infection?

A Escherichia coli (E. coli) are bacteria that serve important functions in the intestinal tract. But some E. coli, can cause diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps or illness outside the intestinal tract. In some people, especially those with weakened immune systems, the bacteria can produce more serious, sometimes fatal, results.

The virulent E. coli 0157:H7 strain, responsible for several recent outbreaks in fresh produce and certain meats, generates a toxin that can damage the lining of the intestines and kidneys. That strain has been found in undercooked or raw hamburgers, ready-to-eat lettuce and spinach salads, salami, alfalfa sprouts, unpasteurized milk, apple juice and apple cider, and contaminated well water.

Take these steps to protect yourself from E. coli infection:

* Meats: Cook all hamburgers and other beef products thoroughly, and make sure the meat is not pink in the middle. Wash your hands, utensils, and cooking areas thoroughly after they come in contact with raw meat. Order only medium-well or well-done burgers or steaks at restaurants, and send any undercooked meats back for further cooking.

* Produce: Wash raw fruits and vegetables carefully, and remove the outer leaves of leafy vegetables. Consider eating cooked vegetables and peeled fruits.

* Water and beverages: Drink only pasteurized milk, juice, or cider. If you get your water from a well and are concerned about E. coli, boil your water or purchase bottled water. Have your well tested. (Note that many in-home water filters will not keep E. coli out of your water.)

* Hygiene: Wash your hands thoroughly after using the bathroom or changing diapers.

Q How can I get rid of dandruff?

A Regular use of over-the-counter shampoos usually solves the problem. These shampoos contain dandruff fighters such as pyrithione zinc (Head & Shoulders[R]), salicylic acid (Neutrogena T/Sal[R]), selenium sulfide (Selsun Blue[R]), coal tar (Neutrogena T/ Gel[R]), and ketoconazole (Nizoral[R]).

You may need to try several kinds to find out which one works best, and if one seems to lose its effectiveness, try switching to another or alternating between two types. Try the shampoo daily until your dandruff is controlled, and then use it two or three times a week. Keep the lather on your scalp for at least five minutes before rinsing.

If the dandruff persists, you may want to consult a dermatologist, who may recommend stronger prescription shampoos and/or steroid lotions.

Editor-in-Chief Richard S. Lang, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.C.P.

Vice Chairman, Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute
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Title Annotation:ASK DR. LANG
Author:Lang, Richard S.
Publication:Men's Health Advisor
Date:Oct 1, 2014
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