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SYMPTOMS OF ARTERITIS DEPEND ON WHICH ARTERIES ARE INFLAMED

Question: How does one gets arteritis? Is it passed on to children? Also, if it is temporal arteritis, what would the symptoms be? I was told I had it 20 years ago, and at the time they didn't know much about it. Mine was diagnosed after a biopsy.

- R.B.

Answer: I can't tell you why some people get arteritis (artery inflammation) and others escape, but it is not hereditary. You don't pass it on. Believe me, even the briefest review of arteritis would fill a book.

Arteritis. If you glance at the word hastily, you might mistake it for arthritis, with which is has no connection. Arthritis is joint inflammation. Now some temporal arteritis patients have a second condition - polymyalgia rheumatica, a muscle inflammation problem - a story I propose for another day.

Arteritis symptoms depend on the vessels involved and how extensively so. Because arteries are main blood conduits, inflammation of their linings has immense effect in diminished blood supply to organs, etc. Polyarteritis nodosa, for instance, involves kidney vessels, leading, if unchecked, to kidney failure.

Temporal arteritis affects cranial arteries, causing headache, fever and a general fatigue. I assume you had all that years back; but artery biopsy remains a chief means of confirming the vessel inflammation.

Cortisone has been the salient treatment for arteritis, particularly for temporal arteritis, which unchecked threatens vision.

Temporal arteritis occurs in older people. How old were you?

Yes, varieties of artery inflammation seem infinite. Takayasu's, for example, strikes younger women, whose large arteries become inflamed and who consequently lack a wrist pulse. You may hear it referred to as the "pulseless" disease. Polymyalgia rheumatica often accompanies temporal arteritis, as I noted. For more on that problem read the report of that name. For a copy, readers may write: Dr. Donohue - No. 45, P.O. Box 5539, Riverton, NJ 08077-5539. Enclose $3 and a self-addressed, stamped (55 cents) No. 10 envelope.

Question: Someone wrote you about ringing in the ears. You gave good advice, but I would like to pass on my experience. I had just moved to St. Louis and established a good doctor relationship. His office referred me to an eye, ear, nose and throat specialist. He thought I had a jaw joint problem (mandible): I was a teeth clencher. He made an occlusal splint for it and the ringing in the ears stopped. I still use the splint at night and on the tennis court and piano bench, but my ears no longer ring.

- Mrs. J.L.V.

Answer: I have no doubt that misalignment of the mandible with the temporal bone of the skull can produce such ear ringing, and I thank you for passing on your experience. But I don't want all those ear ringing patients out there to storm physician phone systems, believing they have found a universal cure to their troubling ear phenomena. Perhaps a handful might find they have this jaw joint connection.

Question: In a recent column, you answered a letter about breast pain before menstruation. After years of coping with this problem, I finally realized that part of the solution was a bigger cup size for my bra. Sometimes, what should be the most obvious is the most easily overlooked.

- B.N.

Answer: Mrs. N, truer words have never been uttered. You have hit on a profound secret of medicine sometimes missed, even in medical schools. It's called common sense, and it probably has contributed to more "cures" than all of our scientific therapies.