Choosing among alternatives can pose a quandary

I'm always frustrated when I go to the ophthalmologist's office and must decide whether A is better than B, or B is better than C, when those different lenses are pushed up against my face for reading the chart. I usually have to see the choices at least twice.

During this past brutal winter, we were all advised to wash our hands often with soap and water - not sanitizer - to help keep colds and flu at bay. But then, still others advised against washing our hands so often as that dries out the skin, leaving it rough and cracking. This rather simple-minded alternative is indicative of what we face every day when it comes to alternatives that leave us wondering. (Of course, one can use a moisturizer after washing one's hands often - leaving that alternative easy.)

We may recall when health experts warned against eating egg yolks, with the admonition to eat egg whites instead because of the dreaded cholesterol. While there is considerable protein in the egg white, the yolk also contains protein as well as other nutrients. The yolk is infamous for its cholesterol, but it also contains lecithin, which may lessen the effects of the cholesterol. Keeping in mind that the egg yolk contains the very foundation of life, I go ahead and enjoy the whole egg in moderation as I do everything else.

But I am careful with the salt. The body needs sodium, but how much is too much? Processed foods are often loaded with salt, so many of us have opted for sea salt or Lite Salt, thinking that perhaps those are better alternatives - until someone later disputes their use.

Other more serious alternatives leave us scratching our heads. The doctor has ordered a specific medicine for your rheumatoid arthritis, but by the time you hear or read all the side effects of the drug you wonder whether you should take it. In fact, the same could be said of many prescribed drugs whose side effects are almost scarier than the illness for which they are prescribed.

My heart doctor was surely puzzling over what blood pressure medicine to give me when, after prescribing six different kinds, each time I wound up in the ER with an allergic reaction. He almost ran out of alternatives and had to resort to an older medicine!

Suppose the orthopedist has indicated that you need a knee replacement, but then he follows up by saying that he doesn't want you to stay in the hospital more than a day or two for fear of you getting the dreaded C. diff or MRSA. In such a scenario, we must always weigh the benefits against the hazards and perhaps take our chances with a new knee and a new lease on life.

When weighing the benefits of one alternative over another - A or B, or perhaps C - the question becomes which alternative is better for me since there seems to be no absolute best alternative.