Is Your Health at Risk?

When do medications expire?

More than 80 percent of medications will last up to a year after their expiration date. Beware, though. Certain medications, like antibiotics, do go bad. Tetracycline, an antibiotic commonly used to treat acne, can actually become poisonous after its expiration date. Dr. Travis states that people should always finish their antibiotics anyway, so no one should have to worry about their expiration date!


Do you lie to your doctor?

The Doctors take their cameras to the street to find out just what people do and don’t tell their doctors! Poll participants admitted to lying about the number of sexual partners they’ve had, sexually transmitted diseases, monogamy, how many times a week they exercise and how much alcohol they consume.


“If you admit to drinking, smoking, STDs, whatever -- we’re not passing judgment --it’s important to know that information because it may affect how we treat you,” urges Dr. Ordon. He adds that it’s especially dangerous to omit information prior to undergoing surgery.

Next, The Doctors count down the top five warning signs that your health may be at risk and why they’re more serious than you think!


5. Floss

Celebrity dentist Dr. Bill Dorfman explains that without regular flossing, plaque and bacteria can build up on teeth and cause gingivitis, which is inflammation of the gums. Gingivitis progresses to periodontitis, which leads to the gradual loss of bone and tissues that support the teeth. In addition, the bacteria are systemic, which means that it circulates throughout the bloodstream and can cause more serious health problems such as heart disease. In women who are pregnant, the bacteria can pass through the placenta and increase the chances of pre-term birth by an astonishing 700 percent.


Dr. Bill demonstrates the correct way to floss and adds, “I floss after every meal!” He likens plaque to an ongoing infection that the body must fight. After years of fighting it, the body is at greater risk for serious diseases like cancer, diabetes and pneumonia. 



4. Mixing medications

Mixing medications can be deadly. Most people don’t realize that the term “medications” includes over-the-counter drugs, prescription pills, vitamins and herbal supplements. It’s crucial to tell your doctor everything you’re putting into your body because drug interactions can have terrible consequences. Dr. Lisa adds that women often think all herbal supplements are natural and therefore safe to take during pregnancy, and that isn’t necessarily true. To be sure, expectant mothers should check with their doctor first.


Dr. Ordon comments, “I think it’s great when a patient comes prepared (to a check-up) with a list of all the medications and supplements they’re taking because a doctor will always ask for that information.”   


Dr. Michael Negrete, CEO of the Pharmacy Foundation of California, states that the greatest risks come from the fact that most people think that non-prescription drugs are not dangerous, which is not true. Acetaminophen is a common ingredient in many drugs, and if people do not pay close attention, they can easily take too much of it and cause serious liver damage. In fact, 68 percent of liver failures are due to an excess of acetaminophen.  “It’s critical to check labels on prescriptions,” Dr. Travis adds.


Polypharmacy is a term used to describe individuals who take various medications for different ailments, often obtained from a number of doctors, specialists and pharmacies. Among the many dangers is that the medications can duplicate effects or cause negative interactions. Medications often thin the blood, which can endanger a patient’s life during surgery. Dr. Negrete urges, “People really need to make sure that they communicate before they medicate.”


Additionally, it’s very important to tell your doctor about any pre-existing conditions before undergoing any kind of surgery. “You should always have clearance from your general doctor as well,” Dr. Ordon says. “Even if you don’t think it’s important,” Dr. Sears adds, “it just might be.”



3. Sunscreen

Some prescriptions, such as antibiotics and acne medication, can make the skin more sensitive to sun damage. Skin cancer develops in response to prolonged sun exposure and burning. Melanocytes in the deeper layers of the epidermis (skin) grow and form a tumor called a melanoma. The melanoma can then spread throughout the body and mutate into a fatal form of skin cancer. Adequate sunscreen and limited exposure to the sun are excellent weapons to fend off skin cancer.


We’ve all suffered sunburn at one time or another, but imagine if your body could never repair the damage? Graycen, 6, is allergic to sunlight. She has a condition called Xeroderma Pigmentosa (XP), which is an incurable genetic disorder that renders her body unable to repair skin damage.  As a result, she must wear protective clothing, stay out of sunlight and remain vigilant for skin cancer.  Pediatric dermatologist Dr. Bari Cunningham, a leading expert in XP, explains that Graycen is missing an enzyme in her skin that helps her DNA repair sun damage.


Michelle, founder of the XP Family Support Group, donates special window coverings to Graycen so that she can see the daylight outside but be guaranteed 100 percent protection from ultraviolet rays. 



2. Smoking

Cigarette smoking increases the risk of heart disease and stroke, especially in women.

Women over 35 years of age who smoke and take oral contraceptives increase their risk of stroke by 90 percent. Dr. Lisa stresses that the risk is so great that most doctors will not prescribe birth control pills to women who smoke.


Shana, 37, from Columbus, Ohio, calls in to share her story. She had been on birth control pills since she was a teenager and started smoking in her twenties. At age 32, she suffered a stroke and is now disabled with a chronic pain condition. She implores, “It’s just real important that you not smoke.”


Dr. Ordon adds that a smoker’s breathing capacity is greatly diminished when undergoing surgery and their ability to heal is severely compromised in comparison to a non-smoker.



1. Mixing medications and alcohol

In the last 20 years, the number of Americans who died from accidental overdoses rose by an astounding 3,200 percent. The main culprit is alcohol, a central nervous system depressant, which interacts with prescription medications and can cause heart attack, accidental overdose and other hazardous reactions. It is crucial that patients follow instructions on their medication to avoid dangerous and sometimes deadly consequences.







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OAD 10/29/08