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Walking pneumonia...treating tinnitus...sudden cardiac arrest.

Q What is walking pneumonia?

A The term is used to describe a milder form of pneumonia. It means that you don't need to hospitalized or bedridden. In essence, you can be walking around. Pneumonia affects about two million people annually. It is an infection of the lungs (one or both) where the tiny sacs fill with mucous, which causes coughing and makes breathing difficult. The illness is contagious but how contagious depends on the type of pneumonia. Most pneumonia, including walking pneumonia, is caused by bacteria, which can be treated with antibiotics. Pneumonia can also be caused by a virus. If you have the viral form, antibiotics should not be prescribed because they do not kill viruses. Instead, other medicines, such as antivirals, would be the typical course of treatment. For people over age 65, pneumonia can be more dangerous because the immune system weakens with age. The illness can linger longer and cause fatigue for a month or more. Vaccines are recommended for older adults, people with asthma, diabetes, liver disease or other chronic conditions. The current recommendation is that all adults 65 years of age or older receive a dose of PCV13 (pneumococcal conjugate) vaccine followed by a dose of PPSV23 (pneumococcal polysaccharide) vaccine at least one year later. The vaccine is a once-in-a-lifetime shot, though some physicians may recommend a booster shot five to 10 years after the first.

Q I suffer from tinnitus, which sometimes comes and goes for no apparent reason. When it does occur, it's really annoying. Are there any new cures out there?

A Unfortunately, there are no cures, but there are treatments that can help people better cope with the condition. Tinnitus typically occurs from overexposure to loud noises that damage the sensory hair cells in the inner ear. Musicians, factory workers, police, fire, and ambulance workers as well as military personnel can all be affected. But just like your tinnitus comes and goes, sometimes the condition develops for no apparent reason and can disappear as mysteriously as it came. Though you "hear" noise, the problem may not be what's happening in your ears but in your brain. Scientists are still trying to figure exactly what's going on, but the current dunking is that it's like chronic pain in that the sound persists even after the noise that caused it is long gone. Noise-related damage to the inner ear may throw off how sound is processed in the brain. In a recent clinical trial, researchers found that transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) significantly improved tinnitus symptoms for more than half of study participants. TMS generates a magnetic field that can penetrate and affect the activity of brain neurons. As for treatments available now, if hearing loss accompanies the tinnitus, some people benefit from hearing aids. There are also wearable sound generators that fit into the ear and emit sounds that mask tinnitus. Behavioral counseling can help people find different ways to cope, too. Earwax can cause tinnitus and simply clearing it out can "cure" the problem. To prevent tinnitus from getting worse, avoid loud environments, or wear ear plugs to dampen the sound.

Q What's the difference between heart attack and sudden cardiac arrest?

A Both are serious heart events but they are distinctly different. A heart attack is a circulatory issue, and a sudden cardiac arrest is an electrical problem. A cardiac arrest is sudden, often fatal, and occurs without warning. The heart stops beating and no longer pumps blood. Cardiac arrest may be reversed with immediate CPR or use of an automated external defibrillator. A heart attack results from blocked arteries. Without proper blood flow to the heart, a section of it may begin to die. Heart attacks can be mild or intense but typically the heart does not stop beating. While not as fatal as a cardiac arrest, a heart attack is serious. Both conditions require immediate medical attention.

Editor-in-Chief Jonathan Wanagat, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor, Division of Geriatrics
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Title Annotation:ASK THE DOCTOR
Author:Wanagat, Jonathan
Publication:Healthy Years
Date:Jan 1, 2017
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