Q. What exactly degenerates when you get macular degeneration?

The macula. It is at the center of the retina in the back of your eye. The retina transmits light from the eye to the brain. The macula allows us to perform tasks that require central vision such as reading and driving.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of vision loss in Americans 60 years of age and older.

In some cases, AMD advances so slowly that people notice little change in their vision. In others, the disease progresses faster and may lead to a loss of vision in both eyes.

The risk of getting AMD increases with age. Other risk factors include smoking, obesity, race (whites are at higher risk), a family history of AMD, and gender (women are at higher risk).

Q. What is the difference between Tylenol and aspirin?

Acetaminophen is the most widely used pain-reliever and fever-reducer in the world. It is contained in more than 100 products. Tylenol is the best known over-the-counter (OTC) acetaminophen product. It is also a component of well known prescription drugs such as Darvocet and Percocet. Acetaminophen also is known as paracetamol and N-acetyl-p-aminophenol (APAP).

There are basically two types of over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers. Some contain acetaminophen, which is processed in the liver. Others contain non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which are processed in the stomach. Examples of OTC NSAIDs are aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen sodium (Aleve).

Taking too much acetaminophen can lead to liver damage. The risk for liver damage may be increased if you drink three or more alcoholic drinks while using medicines that contain acetaminophen.

Acetaminophen is one of the most common pharmaceutical agents involved in overdose, as reported to the American Association of Poison Control Centers.

NSAIDs are associated with stomach distress. You should talk to your doctor before using NSAIDS if you are over 60, taking prescription blood thinners, have stomach ulcers or other bleeding problems.

NSAIDs can also cause reversible damage to the kidneys. The risk of kidney damage may increase in people who are over 60, have high blood pressure, heart disease or pre-existing kidney disease, and people who are taking a diuretic.

It's a good idea for all older adults to consult their doctors before taking any OTC medication.

Q. How long do hip replacements last?

The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons says joint replacement surgery is successful in more than 9 out of 10 people. And replacement of a hip or knee lasts at least 20 years in about 80 percent of those who have the surgery.

In the procedure, an arthritic or damaged joint is removed and replaced with an artificial joint called a "prosthesis." Artificial joints are medical devices, which must be cleared or approved by the FDA before they can be marketed in the United States

The goal of surgery is to relieve the pain in the joint caused by the damage done to cartilage, the tissue that serves as a protective cushion and allows smooth, low-friction movement of the joint. Total joint replacement is considered if other treatment options will not bring relief.

The two most common joints requiring this form of surgery are the knee and hip, which are weight-bearing. But replacements can also be performed on other joints, including the ankle, foot, shoulder, elbow and fingers.

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