10 Questions That Could Save Your Life | Reader's Digest

10 Questions That Could Save Your Life

What you need to ask the doctor when every moment counts.

By Pamela F. Gallin | MD from Reader's Digest | February 2007

We’re not always present every time our kids trip, get hit in the head or fall off the junglegym. Yet injuries from sports, minor accidents or even child abuse can cause eye and brain damage. They show up as a range of behavior changes that can signal a life-threatening problem from head trauma. If your child isn’t acting like himself and is unusually sleepy, inattentive or agitated, take him to the doctor and ask:

“Could a head injury or trauma account for my child’s symptoms?”

Every year, at least 1.4 million Americans sustain a traumatic brain injury, making it a leading cause of death and disability in children and young adults. The symptoms, subtle or severe, can point to a range of problems. Concussions happen when the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord has been throttled. A more serious problem occurs when there is progressive pooling of blood from a torn vessel on the surface of the brain (subdural hematoma) — a medical emergency requiring surgery. Retinal hemorrhages (bleeding in the eye) are easily visible changes, helping doctors diagnose shaken baby syndrome and significant repetitive injuries from sports.

Other signs on a doctor’s exam: slight weakness in the arms and legs, or abnormal pupil responses. Testing should include a CT scan and a full eye and neurological exam. The best prevention? Helmets.

Macular Degeneration
Macular degeneration, which affects the center of your vision and can begin as early as age 50, is reaching crisis levels: It is the leading cause of blindness in America. More than ten million people have reduced vision due to the disease, with 200,000 new cases every year. If you’ve been diagnosed with macular degeneration, talk to an ophthalmologist and ask:

“Can the new medications I’ve heard about, Lucentis and Avastin, apply to me?”

In June 2006, two important drugs made headlines and quickly improved the lives of patients. Lucentis, which was approved by the FDA, not only halts the progression of macular degeneration but also can reestablish better vision. A second medication, Avastin, was already approved for treatment of colon cancer and is now being used by ophthalmologists to help those with macular degeneration. Talk with your eye doctor to see if they might be right for you.