July 3, 2014 at 1:00 am

To Your Health

Low body temperature is worth exploring

Dear Dr. Roach: I am a 55-year-old, active female. My body temperature is consistently 95-96 F. Also, my blood pressure seems to be going down each time I visit the doctor. At my most recent visit (two days ago), it was 96 over 67. The nurse tells me it is fine, but I am not comfortable with these readings. I do get light-headed on occasion, and I fainted once. I have a normal diet and am slightly overweight for my height. I exercise regularly (high-level tennis three times per week, and walk 18 holes of golf) but get out of breath climbing stairs or going uphill. Could you please comment on this?

(I had my husband check his temperature. He was 99.2, so I checked mine again, and it was 95.3). Thanks for any information you can give.


Dear K.L: Although we were all taught that 98.6 degrees Fa­hrenheit (37 degrees Celsius) is the “normal” body temperature, most people average 98.2, with temperatures lower in the morning and higher in the evening. Still, 95 degrees is not normal.

Similarly, a blood pressure of 96/67 may be normal for some people. Putting these two findings together with getting out of breath on exercise, I am concerned about low thyroid levels, and other rare conditions, especially low cortisone (Addison’s disease). These conditions easily can be tested for, but the hard part is suspecting the diagnosis. While it may be likely these are unrelated and normal for you, they aren’t quite normal, and to­gether raise my suspicion eno­ugh to recommend you discuss more testing with your doctor.

Dear Dr. Roach: I have an eye question. I am 84, and I have mild hemorrhages in my left eye. My doctor said this is due to old age, and to just wait and see if it gets worse. He did say that it could indicate a prelude to a brain stroke-type hemorrhage.

What can I do? I am very concerned. Does every old person have this problem?


Dear J.I.: I assume you mean a hemorrhage in the white of your eye, called a subconjunctival hemorrhage. These are very common, can be seen easily in the mirror, and they usually do not indicate increased stroke risk. They are more likely in people taking aspirin or other anti-inflammatory drugs. They also can come from even minor trauma, as people in their 80s do typically have somewhat more fragile blood vessels.

If you have a retinal hemorrhage, which he would see with an ophthalmoscope in the back of the eye, that indicates a greater risk for stroke. Since the blo­od vessels in the retina are essentially the same as inside the brain, hemorrhage in the retina predicts stroke. In that case, yo­ur doctor would recommend car­eful control of any risk fac­tors you may have, especially blood pressure, diabetes and smoking.

Email questions to ToYourGoodHealth@med.cornell.edu.