I am a 64-year-old man and have been suffering from high systolic levels of blood pressure for many years now. The diastolic levels and pulse rate are however always within normal limits. Recently I have been measuring my blood pressure levels with a home digital monitor and have observed almost consistently that the first systolic reading is significantly higher (150 to 160) than a subsequent reading taken after a two-minute interval which is basically within acceptable levels (130 to 140). I am curious as to the reason for this and how I should interpret it in terms of needed intervention. A.L., Rishon Lezion
Dr. Reuven Ben-Dov, a veteran Jerusalem general practitioner, replies:
Relax! It is very common for the first blood pressure reading to have a higher systolic reading than subsequent ones. The reason is simply due to nervousness. That is why many physicians will repeat the blood pressure reading in the clinic, especially if the systolic reading is high on the first occasion. Doctors will ignore the higher reading - and so can you.
I am 78 years old. When going into a darkened room, it is almost complete darkness for me, with or without glasses. At night, street signs are hard for me to read. This problem has been with me for many years. The ophthalmologist said certain vitamins can help, but I have not noticed any improvement after taking them. Is there any remedy in my case? S.B., Jerusalem
Prof. Anat Loewenstein, head of the ophthalmology department at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, comments:
It sounds as though you have night blindness. I think you need to be examined and find the reason for your symptoms. It could be caused by multiple reasons, some of which are more serious than others. Just taking vitamins will not help. I would advise you to see a retina specialist and undergo a visual field test.
I am an 82-year-old woman who has long had hearing problems. Besides this and my lack of discernment of sounds over the years, I lost my hearing completely on a flight to Australia about six years ago. The CT and MRI scans fortunately showed no tumors, but as you can imagine, my life has been extremely difficult with this disability. I read your inspiring article in The Jerusalem Post of April 14 about the Israeli discovery of the function of microRNA and the possibility that could be used to treat or even cure all types of deafness. I don't know if treating my hearing loss is connected to this new research. I'd like to know if there is any hope from it for me. I would be grateful for any information from the head of the team, Prof. Karen Avraham or Dr. Lilach Friedman. H.S., Herzliya
Prof. Karen Avraham, a leading genetics researcher at Tel Aviv University's Sackler School of Medicine, answers
Thank you for your interest in our research. Unfortunately, the work we do is far from being transferred to humans, as was stated clearly in the article. But the work is promising for the future, and we are moving in this direction. What we have done is discovered that microRNAs - essential pieces of RNA in the cell - are crucial for proper hearing to occur. While we are trying to use this technology to treat hearing loss in mice, we are just beginning this route. Even if we succeed, the transition from mice to humans takes a long time. Today, the treatment available is hearing aids and for severe or profoundly deaf patients, cochlear implants.
The sudden hearing loss you mention is unusual, especially in both ears, with no recovery. I am very sorry to hear about your suffering from such a severe hearing problem. Until there is a better treatment, a hearing aid could surely help you. There are very good small ones available that could suit you.
Rx for Readers welcomes queries from readers about medical problems. Experts will answer those we find most interesting. Write Rx for Readers, The Jerusalem Post, POB 81, Jerusalem 91000, fax your question to Judy Siegel-Itzkovich at (02) 538-9527, or e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org, giving your initials, age and residence.