DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Will you please write about cataracts? My eyes feel like they have dirt in them, and my head aches all the time on top and in the forehead. — B.P.
ANSWER: A bit inward from the pupil of the eye is the eye’s lens. It’s a clear, oval-shaped affair that focuses incoming light on the retina to form a sharp image. A cataract is a smudge on the lens. It blurs the incoming image. It’s like trying to look through a very dirty window. It’s something that happens to everyone with aging. Diabetes, smoking, excessive alcohol and sunlight also contribute to cataract formation.
Eye doctors replace clouded lenses with sparkling-clean artificial ones. Vision is restored. If a person had worn glasses prior to surgery, the new artificial lens can be fashioned to the same specifications that the person’s eyeglasses had. Many people, after cataract surgery, no longer need glasses. It’s quite remarkable.
It’s even more remarkable how quick and trouble-free cataract surgery is. A few decades ago, cataract surgery required people to remain in the hospital with their head between sandbags so they didn’t move it after the operation. Now people return home the same day.
Gritty eyes are not a sign of cataracts. Headaches are not a typical symptom, either. Vision loss is the principal cataract sign.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: In case you didn’t notice my address, I currently am a resident of the department of corrections of my home state. Contrary to popular opinion, the medical care provided here leaves a much to be desired. I think most Third World countries get better care. Doctors here think naproxen fixes everything. I hope you can shed some light on my problem involving my hands and feet. They sweat constantly. They sweat to the point where they drip. It is a disgusting problem. I have battled with it most of my life and have yet to find a remedy. In a world where hand-shaking is a custom, what can I do? — B.S.
ANSWER: The first thing to try is a regular antiperspirant, one found in all drugstores. Make sure it’s not just a deodorant. It has to say “antiperspirant.” The most effective ones contain aluminum chloride. CertainDri is one that is often recommended. The same company that makes CertainDri also makes a foot powder of the same name with the same properties.
If these products fail, then the next step to take is a higher concentration of aluminum chloride — 20 percent. It’s available as Drysol. A prescription is required.
Medicines that calm the digestive tract also can decrease sweat production. Robinul and Robinul Forte are two such medicines. They are not expensive. They sometimes produce unpleasant side effects, like a dry mouth and constipation.
I don’t know if the authorities will swing for a Drionic device. It’s a battery-powered gadget that delivers an electric current to the palms and soles (and to the underarms if need be) either through a water bath or saturated pads. The current plugs sweat glands. Maybe you’ll never need this treatment. I hope one of the other methods works for you. Botox injections can stop sweating. One reader told me that her experience with these shots was quite painful. As a last resort, severing the nerves that control sweating is another possible solution.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My husband completed a physical exam for a Coast Guard renewal. He was a fishing captain. He smoked. He went for a simple blood panel in the morning, then ate breakfast. Later for lunch, he ate spaghetti. One minute later he complained of nausea and dizziness. Forty-five minutes later he died. The doctor explained that he had a massive heart attack. I did not recognize the signs. I thought he had indigestion. I am left with guilt for not getting him the help he needed. — D.L.
ANSWER: You are guilty of nothing. Most people would have taken your husband’s symptoms as indigestion. His signs were not typical of a heart attack.
The booklet on heart attacks explains them and their presentation. To obtain a copy, write: Dr. Donohue — No. 102, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order for $4.75 U.S./$6 Can. with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.
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 or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Readers may also order health newsletters from www.rbmamall.com.