Dear Dr. Donohue: Do the antibiotics prescribed today have stronger side effects than older ones? I never used to have trouble with penicillin, but with these new antibiotics, I get yeast infections, stomach pain, nausea and loss of taste. What's going on? Sometimes, side effects are so bad I discontinue the medicine before I should.
- Mrs. M.
Answer: Unlike penicillin, which targets only a few germs, most of the newer antibiotics have a broader range, at once their advantage and their failing.
It's best understood as a kind of biological struggle for germ turf.
Within the new antibiotics' wider target lie many friendly germs residing harmoniously in the body. As such germs fall before the onslaught of the antibiotic, the turf war tends to favor one or another of the germs previously held in check within a kind of balance of power. The germ void quickly attracts unfriendly organisms, and symptoms such as the ones you report begin to occur.
Therefore, today's physician has greater responsibility. The doctor must select antibiotics that kill only within the desired range. It's not always an easy task.
In addition, one must realize the basic limitations of antibiotics, which are useless against viruses. In fact, given inappropriately for a viral infection, the effect might be the decimation of harmless germs.
You should not stop taking a prescribed antibiotic without clearing it with your doctor.
Dear Dr. Donohue: For as long as I can remember, I have had dandruff. What is dandruff? How do you get rid of it?
- Mrs. D.K.
Answer: Dandruff is a shedding of fine white scales, causing a mild itch.
One theory indicts the fungus Pityrosporum ovale.
Treatments vary. Look for medicated shampoos containing one or more of the following ingredients: salicylic acid, selenium sulfide, coal tar and zinc pyrithione. They have had proven effect, although not each type works for every patient.
Follow the directions on the package. If the label says to leave the shampoo in the hair for five minutes before rinsing, to assure full effect, then do so.
Before leaping to conclusions and unnecessary expense, make sure dandruff is what you have. See a doctor.
Psoriasis, which can masquerade as dandruff, calls for different treatments.
For severe cases of dandruff, there are potent prescription drugs available.
For a copy of the Health Letter report on hair, write: Dr. Donohue - SR49, Box 5539, Riverton, NJ 08077-5539. Enclose $3 and a self-addressed, stamped (55 cents) No. 10 envelope.
Dear Dr. Donohue: I have low blood sodium, and using more salt does not help. Is there something I can do? I take Vasotec. I am 83.
Answer: Sodium plays a vital role in such important functions as nerve transmission and muscle contraction.
The causes of low sodium vary. Diuretics can do it, but levels return to normal after discontinuing the drug. Vasotec, a high-blood-pressure drug, can on rare occasions lower blood sodium.
Explore that possibility with your doctor but don't discontinue the medicine on your own.
Sometimes, drinking too much water or other beverages can cause a dilution and a relatively low reading.
There is no shortage of things to investigate. Heart failure, liver disease, kidney malfunction, diarrhea, hypothyroidism and adrenal gland underproduction all must be considered for potential asso-ci-a-tion.
Dear Dr. Donohue: I am writing in response to Mrs. L.B., who inquired about laser surgery for narrow-angle glaucoma. My experience might help her. My ophthalmologist used a laser, and the drainage holes are checked annually. It was a successful experience, one that should ease Mrs. L.B.'s concerns.
Answer: I should explain that the laser surgery corrects the eye's compromised drainage system - the cause of narrow-angle glaucoma. The faulty drainage prompts eyeball-fluid pressure to rise dangerously, threatening optic nerve damage and vision loss.
Mrs. L.B. should be relieved to hear your story.
Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him at P.O. Box 5539, Riverton, NJ 08077-5539.
1996, North America Syndicate Inc.
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