Panic attack sufferers should see doctor


Hello again, dear readers, and welcome to the monthly letters column. Thank you to everyone who wrote to let us know these columns, and the tips and thoughts from fellow readers, have been helpful. It means a lot to us. And now, onward.

-- We wrote about panic attacks recently, which a reader from Sand Springs, Oklahoma, said he had been experiencing for many years. There turned out to be a connection between his panic attacks and a congenital heart abnormality, and following a valve replacement and treatment with beta blockers, his episodes have stopped. He urges people living with panic attacks to talk to their health care providers, just in case there is a physical cause. “I should have gone to a doctor and discussed this many years earlier, but you know us men, just walk it off,” he wrote. “People with panic attacks should see their doctor.” Agreed.

-- Several of you have written regarding the column about motion sickness. The gist was to let fellow sufferers of seasickness and motion sickness know that you have had good luck with the Sea-Band. It’s the elastic acupressure bracelet we mentioned, which uses a small knob to exert a gentle and constant pressure on the inside of the wrist. The Sea-Band is inexpensive, and it is widely available without a prescription at most major drugstores.

-- In a column about how to ease the confusion some older adults experience after surgery and during hospitalization, we explained that the goal is to help the patient become and remain aware of where he or she is. Making sure they have their eyeglasses, hearing aids and dentures can make a big difference. A reader shared his experience. “My brother had severe paranoia after heart surgery,” he wrote. “A large clock or time display that includes a.m. and p.m., and the day and date, is very helpful. Green potted plants and flowers are also a plus, especially for longer stays.” Another reader said she places family photos in prominent places in a hospital room. Those are all excellent ideas, and we are glad to share them.

Elizabeth Ko, MD and Eve Glazier, MD

-- A reader who contracted COVID-19 wrote to ask about a common symptom that they have developed. “I have COVID-19, and I've lost my taste and smell,” they wrote. “This is my fourth day, and I wonder, what's the average time people lose these senses?” It varies. About half of patients regain their sense of smell and taste within a few weeks. Most patients recover the senses by eight weeks. Only 2% of patients with COVID-19 report a continuing loss of these senses after six months.

We want to remind you that we cannot offer a diagnosis in this column, or comment on specific illnesses, conditions, medications or medical histories. Also, due to the pandemic, letters sent through the U.S. mail are not reaching us on a regular basis. If possible, please send your comments and questions via email. Thank you again for taking the time to write and share your thoughts. We’ll see you here again next month.

(Send your questions to [email protected], or write: Ask the Doctors, c/o UCLA Health Sciences Media Relations, 10880 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1450, Los Angeles, CA, 90024. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.)