DEAR DR. DONOHUE: The right side of my nose is totally blocked, and the left side is getting there. If I walk at all fast, I have to breathe through my mouth. I don’t like seeing doctors, but I figured I had put this off for too long. The doctor says I have nasal polyps, and he has referred me to an ear, nose and throat doctor for removal. How does a person get nasal polyps? Are they the same as colon polyps? Is there treatment other than surgery? — H.O.

ANSWER: Polyps are soft, pea-size growths that spring from the lining tissue of many organs, including the colon and the nose. Nose polyps are gray to white and are filled with a gelatinous material. They can be induced by chronic sinus infections, allergies, aspirin sensitivity and asthma. More often than not, none of those is present in a polyp patient. The polyps just grew.

Unlike colon polyps, nasal polyps are rarely, if ever, a precursor to cancer. A young woman once wrote to me, saying her mother had a nasal polyp that became cancerous. I believe that her mother was diagnosed as having a nasal polyp, but in truth it was most likely, from the start, a nasal cancer, a very rare kind of cancer.

Large nasal polyps can obstruct the flow of air through the nose completely. They also can produce a runny nose.

You can mention to the ear, nose and throat doctor your reluctance to have surgery. Cortisone sprays like Flonase, Rhinocort or Nasarel can shrink polyps, but they often return after the spray is discontinued.

Polyp surgery isn’t as daunting as you might imagine.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Two years ago, I had a heart attack. Since the attack, I haven’t been able to attain an erection. My wife suggests I try Viagra. Is it safe for me to take this drug after having a heart attack? — M.K.

ANSWER: I can’t give you a definite answer. I’d have to know how well your heart functions and how great was the damage done to your heart by the attack.

However, I can tell you that most men are able to have an active sex life after a heart attack, and men who need Viagra can use it after an attack.

Your doctor is the only one who can provide a definite answer. If you take three or more blood pressure medicines, or if you have had a recent stress test that shows evidence of poor heart circulation, you might be advised not to take Viagra.

Also, if you take nitrates (nitroglycerin is one nitrate medicine), Viagra is contraindicated because the combination can result in a dangerous drop in blood pressure.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: How much weight can I lose with liposuction?

I am 200 pounds overweight. I have done all the diets you can think of. None works for me. I have been told I am a candidate for gastric bypass surgery, but that is too radical.

I think liposuction might be the answer. Does fat come back when fat cells are removed? — B.A.

ANSWER: Liposuction isn’t designed for weight reduction. It’s a way to remove fat from a few selected areas for a better body shape. Love handles at the sides and fat hanging under the chin are two places where liposuction is the procedure of choice.

At most, about six pounds of fat are taken during a typical liposuction treatment.

Someone who is 200 pounds overweight isn’t going to benefit all that much from liposuction. You have to consider one of the many surgical procedures. The laparoscopic banding operation might be something you would accept. It’s done with small incisions through which a scope is passed into the abdomen and a band is wrapped around the stomach to shrink it. Recovery is not long.

As to your question about fat, it doesn’t return to areas where fat cells are removed.

Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Readers may also order health newsletters from www

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