Dr. John: Medications, T.B, tinnitus

KUSA - Dr. John Torres from Premier Urgent Care answers your questions every week. If you have a medical question for Dr. John, send it to mornings@9news.com and make sure to have Ask Dr. John in the subject line.

Question #1
Hello! I have a question: Why must I take some of my medications with food and some without? Thanks, Chris

This basically comes down to a difference in absorption versus irritation. Whenever you take medications it mixes with whatever food is inside your stomach at the time. This food/medicine mixture influences how well the medication gets absorbed into your body. Some medications need to be absorbed slowly so taking them with food will slow down how long it takes to get into your body. Other medicines need to get in quicker and foods can slow down their absorption too much so are better taken on an empty stomach. But medications, like ibuprofen, can also irritate the stomach and taking them with food can cut down on how much they bother you. That's why there is a difference in how you have to take the various medications. The important part is to carefully follow instructions when taking medications, that way you'll get their full benefit.

Question #2
Hi Doc, I was just wondering about T.B. I was diagnosed with T.B. back in 1985 in the Navy. I heard that it is possible to come back as you get older. How would I know if it does come back, since I cannot have a PPD test done any more? Thank you, Pat

The overall answer to your question is yes, even though you were diagnosed with tuberculosis, TB, in the past, you can still get it again. There are basically two different ways this can happen. If the original TB was not fully treated this bacteria can hide out in the body and reemerge years, even decades, later as full blown TB. If it was fully treated than you can get tuberculosis again by getting re-infected, possibly by a different strain of the TB bacteria. Either way, the treatment for tuberculosis is antibiotics but if it's a reoccurrence of the original strain then treatment will probably be with stronger, longer term medications. But you are also correct in that once you've been exposed to TB the skin test is no longer available to you. That's because the skin test will come up positive based on your prior exposure so it will be useless in determining a new exposure. Other testing methods include chest X-rays, sputum cultures and some new blood test that can help determine both exposure infection from tuberculosis.

Question #3
I have had tinnitus for about 10 years now, brought on by hearing loss, I think. Are there any new developments in the treatment, aside from hearing aids and sound therapy? I had heard something about a vagus nerve. Shelley

Tinnitus is a noise usually described as a ringing or roaring in the ears. This noise comes about either because of medical issues, certain medications or more than likely because of damage from years of loud noises. These load noises can take a cumulative effect on our hearing resulting in tinnitus. This type of noise can be very annoying but is common with 1 in 5 of us suffering from it. Medical issues or ear issues like a buildup of wax should be ruled out first. Masking devices, like hearing aids or white noise generators can often help block the constant noise but don't do anything to eliminate it. A newer technique involving stimulating the vagus nerve has been used in clinical trials and holds promise for those suffering from this issue. This nerve is stimulated to eliminate the particular frequency of noise a person with tinnitus is constantly hearing. Once this frequency is blocked, the ringing or roaring is eliminated. Although it's in the trial stage right now, expect to see it more readily available soon. In the meanwhile, prevention is important. Avoiding loud noises, especially from music played through earbuds can go a long way towards preserving important hearing for years to come.


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