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Question: One of your columns dealt with pancreatitis. The impression given was that it is caused by the intake of alcohol, and I realize that that can be so. However, I suffer from pancreatitis and am not now, nor have I ever been a drinker. Friends questioned me about this, much to my chagrin. Will you kindly comment on it? It's embarrassing, to say the least, to be labeled a drinker.

- Mrs. F.P.

Answer: I am sorry if your friends drew odious conclusions from my statements about pancreatitis.

Of course, you are absolutely correct: One need not have been a "drinker" to develop pancreatitis or, for that matter, liver inflammation and cirrhosis.

Alcohol is but one of many agents that can inflame the pancreas. And gallstones, abdominal trauma, viral illnesses and high blood calcium or triglycerides can cause pancreatic damage.

We should never hastily and incorrectly attribute such illnesses to demon rum.

Question: You wrote of Behcet's syndrome. I was diagnosed two years ago with it. The doctors finally diagnosed it after I suffered multiple genital ulcers, mouth sores and skin rashes for some time. I have not had genital ulcers in about a year, but still have sores in the mouth and throat. I am treated with prednisone. It helps somewhat, but I feel like I am at a dead end, and it is taking a toll on my family. My doctor tells me he is always looking for new treatments. Can you help?

- Mrs. S.P.

Answer: Your doctor is offering you the standard treatment for Behcet's (BAY-sets) syndrome. Prednisone is one of the cortisone drugs. It tempers the inflammation process.

Now, I have heard of applying the cortisone in liquid or ointment form to the mouth ulcers to add a little punch to the therapy. You can ask your doctor about that. NOTE: You cannot do that for throat ulcers.

In mild cases, colchicine can be used. That medicine is more familiar as a gout therapy.

In severe cases, when the nervous system or the eyes become involved, a combination of prednisone and azathioprine or cyclosporine might be tried.

I should add that the syndrome often abates with time.

For the uninitiated, Behcet's syndrome causes painful mouth and genital ulcers. Skin rashes might appear, and for some, joints become painful.

We all wish we knew more about the syndrome, but knowledge - as to precise cause, for example - remains sparse.

Question: I am 58 and told I have emphysema. At the last checkup, they said I had "COPD" and "hypoxia." I use an oxygen machine and also inhalants. I'd like your comments.

- P.L.M.

Answer: "COPD" stands for "chronic obstructive pulmonary disease," a phrase that pretty much describes itself. In brief, it means that emphysema, chronic bronchitis or both have obstructed your lungs.

One consequence of such illnesses is hypoxia: There is too little oxygen in the blood. Normally, blood oxygen gets transported to every nook and cranny of the body aboard red blood cells. But because of your damaged lungs, an insufficient amount is getting through.

"COPD" is found on the health reports of many elderly citizens.