DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I read your article on macular degeneration. However, you did not go into the two different types: wet and dry. Wet can be treated. I think people would like this information. – Anon.

You are right. There are two forms of macular degeneration, the eye disease where the macula comes under attack. The macula is a tiny area, about the size of a printed, lowercase o. It’s the part of the retina responsible for central, detailed sight, the kind needed to thread a needle, read a book or watch television. Peripheral vision – vision off to the side – remains, another point I failed to mention. A New York eye doctor kindly reminded me to do so.

Wet macular degeneration accounts for 10 percent to 20 percent of all macular degeneration cases. It is a proliferation of blood vessels beneath the retina and the macula. What starts this growth is one of medicine’s great unknowns. The consequence is leakage of fluid and blood into the macula that eventually, and sometimes quickly, destroys it.

Wet macular degeneration must be treated without delay. Early treatment preserves vision. One technique is photodynamic therapy. A dye is injected into a blood vessel, and the dye makes its way to the vessels of the eye. The dye sensitizes the newly formed vessels to the light from a special kind of laser, the cool laser. The laser beam activates chemicals in the dye that shrink and plug the leaking vessels.

Ultraviolet rays in sunlight contribute to the dry form of macular degeneration. Sunglasses that filter out ultraviolet rays are a worthwhile investment to protect the macula. I add this piece of information because we are in the midst of the summer season, when hours and hours are spent outdoors.

Both kinds of macular degeneration, plus their treatment and prognosis, are discussed in the pamphlet devoted to that topic. Readers can obtain a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue – No. 701, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.50 U.S./$6.50 Can. with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: You printed a letter from a reader asking if there is a place where he or she could donate a shoe, since the reader had only one leg. Well, there is such a place. The National Odd Shoe Exchange serves as a clearing house for unneeded single shoes. People can reach the Exchange at (480) 892-3484. – P.D.

That letter represents the many letters sent me with the number of the National Odd Shoe Exchange. I thank each one for taking the time to write. (P.D. is me.)

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My wife, 65, refuses to go off female hormones even though she knows there is a risk in taking them after menopause. The symptoms of menopause are too much for her. Every now and then she has a period. Does that mean she could become pregnant? – L.J.

She cannot become pregnant. Her hormone status is artificially the same as it is in premenopausal women. However, her ovaries have no ova.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am taking a week’s vacation to the West Coast. I take blood pressure medicine. Do I stay on New York time, or do I switch to West Coast time for taking the medicines? There is a three-hour difference. – J.L.

You can take your medicines at times that are most convenient for you. If you want to adapt to the West Coast time, do so. If you want to stay on East Coast time, that too is OK, but bring an alarm clock.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: We would like to know if there is any difference in health benefits of drinking distilled water. Our friend claims that distilled water is the only water free from all minerals. He says that drinking distilled water flushes out stone-forming minerals. – E.E.

People do not have to drink distilled water to prevent stones – kidney or gallbladder. Do you know of many people who drink only distilled water? I don’t know one.

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.

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