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Corner Clinic: Our Experts Answer Your Health Questions

This month we talk about resolutions, colds versus allergies and eye exercises

By: UC San Diego Health Experts   |   January 05, 2016
  1. How do I keep my New Year’s resolutions?
  2. How can I tell the difference between a cold and an allergy?
  3. Can the average person improve or protect their eyesight by doing eye exercises?

How do I keep my New Year’s resolutions?

Tracy Alderman, PhD, clinical psychologist

Tracy Alderman

Most of us have made New Year's resolutions that we committed to with passion, promised to uphold and swore we'd abide by for years to come. And, by mid-January many of us have dismissed, forgotten or just given up on these pledges. Why is it so difficult to stick to those plans?

First, we tend to get carried away with our goals. On New Year's Eve at 11:59 p.m., with a glass of champagne in one hand, going to the gym 20 times a week sounds like a brilliant idea. The next morning, the idea may not be so stellar. A key to any successful plan is to make it realistic.

Another is to determine your goal in advance. Put some thought into what you want to change and why. Do you want a different job because three of your buddies are dissatisfied with theirs and you're making a group pact to find new jobs over the upcoming year? Or are you looking for a career change and better income to improve your situation?

The reasons behind your goals will strongly influence your motivation. Spend some time developing a plan. Think what you'll actually need to achieve your goal. If you want to spend more time with family, how do you make that happen? Record your goal on paper, figure out the steps to make it happen and do it! You'll be amazed at the results. Suddenly, the resolution you made to lose a pound a month will be manageable rather than overwhelming. You may find your New Year's resolutions are achievable.

Alexander Kim

How can I tell the difference between a cold and an allergy?

Alexander Kim, MD, allergy and immunology specialist at UC San Diego Health’s Allergy Clinic

Common colds are caused by viruses while environmental allergies are caused by an immune response to allergens, such as dust mites, pollens and pet dander. Despite the different underlying mechanisms, it is often difficult to discern whether your symptoms are from a cold or from an allergy. Fortunately there are a few key differences.

One is the duration of your symptoms. Common colds rarely last longer than two weeks, but allergy symptoms can be present for as long as you are exposed to the triggering allergen. The type of symptom is also a clue. In general, a sore throat, body aches and fatigue occur predominantly with colds. Sore throat, however, can also result from post-nasal drip induced from allergic airway inflammation. Classic allergy symptoms include itchy, watery nose and eyes, congestion and sneezing, although the latter two symptoms may be seen with colds as well. Keep in mind, too, that “colds” that tend to recur the same time each year may in fact be seasonal allergies.

If you think you have a cold and your symptoms have lasted longer than ten days, please see your primary care physician for evaluation. Your physician may refer you to our allergy clinic for comprehensive evaluation and testing. Given the climate in San Diego, many types of pollens are active for the majority of the year and dust mites can induce symptoms year-round. Fortunately there is a broad range of effective treatment options, including nasal steroid sprays, nasal and ocular antihistamines, as well as allergy shots.

David Granet

Can the average person improve or protect their eyesight by doing eye exercises?

David Granet, MD, Anne Ratner Chair of Pediatric Ophthalmology, director, Ann F. and Abraham Ratner Children’s Eye Center, and director, Division of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Eye Alignment Disorders

Typically, the average person cannot improve the clarity of their eyesight with eye exercises. If you need glasses or contact lenses to correct your vision, there are no eye exercises that will let you throw your corrective lenses away. This is because clarity of vision is determined by the optics of the eye and not by the strength of the muscles that move the eyes. In adults, and especially in children, there are special techniques used to ensure an accurate prescription.

There are, however, very specific and very limited types of dysfunction in the way the eyes work together that can be treated with eye exercises. Someone whose eyes drift apart slightly, either inwardly or outwardly, may respond positively to eye exercises, for example. The caveat is that the lack of eye coordination must be mild. Exercises won’t work for a person who has a large misalignment of the eyes. In general, these people will need surgery. Even for most adults, eyes can be made to align together with proper intervention. Individuals who have suffered certain types of traumatic brain injury may be helped with some eye exercises, too, in recovery. In any case, it is very easy for parents or patients to be confused about what types of eye conditions can be improved with eye exercises (or any intervention) without a careful, comprehensive evaluation by an ophthalmologic specialist.


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