DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My grandson has Tourette’s syndrome. We all want the best for our grandchildren with the least amount of bumps in the road. Is there anyplace we can turn to? The boy is 4 and a great little guy. We need help – for him and for his parents. – J.D.

ANSWER:
There is help for all Tourette’s patients. People in the United States can turn to the Tourette Syndrome Association via its toll-free number, 1-888-4-Touret, or its Web site, www.tsa-usa.org. For Canadians, the Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada can be reached at 1-800-361-3120, and its Web site is www.tourette.ca. Patients and relatives of patients will find these two organizations willing and able to provide help and information to flatten some of those “bumps in the road” that this illness brings.

Tics are the manifestations of this syndrome. Unlike the common childhood tics that usually vanish within a year, the tics of Tourette’s last and last. Tourette tics usually begin between the ages of 5 and 7, peak around age 10, and by age 18 they might begin to diminish. Some patients, however, have them for life.

The tics take many forms. Excessive blinking, nose-wrinkling, facial grimaces, head or hand jerks, body shrugs and jumping are some examples.

The tics might be vocal. Barking noises, nonstop throat-clearing and the endless repetition of a word or sound are some of the so-called phonic tics.

These tics are involuntary. A child (or adult) might be able to suppress them for a short while, but they come back with a vengeance.

Medicines are helpful. Haldol, Orap and Pamelor are only three of many.

One of the worst aspects of this condition is the lack of public awareness of it and the unjustified and hurtful blaming of innocent patients for behavior not of their making.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Recently my left eye (the white side near the nose) got very bloodshot. To my knowledge there was no reason for this to have happened. It didn’t bother me, but it looked awful. It cleared up, but I am curious why it happened. Could it happen again? – D.G.

ANSWER:
Covering the front of the eye is a membrane, the conjunctiva, that’s about as fine as a sheet of cellophane. It protects the eye from the myriad of particles blowing in the wind.

Beneath the conjunctiva are delicate blood vessels, so delicate that they easily break. A sneeze can break one of those vessels, but most people cannot remember a specific incident that caused the bleeding.

The result is as you describe. The eye becomes bright red, usually on the nasal side. It makes other people turn their head for a double take when they see a person with a subconjunctival hemorrhage, as the bleeding is called.

These hemorrhages do not hurt, do not interfere with vision and do not damage the eye. The body mops up the spilled blood within a week or two. They are the eye’s equivalent of a bruise but without the trauma that usually causes bruises.

It can happen again, but many have only one subconjunctival hemorrhage in their lives.

This is my guess of what you had, so take it with a grain of salt and, at your next visit to your doctor, mention what happened.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I had my first colonoscopy at age 37, and it was severely painful. Now, at 47, I might need the procedure again. I am utterly petrified. Even a sigmoidoscopy was almost unbearable. Are there any alternative tests? – L.K.

ANSWER:
A colonoscopy is a scope examination of the entire colon to detect problems such as polyps, cancer or inflammation. A sigmoidoscopy is a scope exam of the lower part of the colon, done for the same reasons. Neither should be a gut-wrenching (a deliberate choice of words) experience.

A double-contrast barium enema – an X-ray procedure – can yield just about as much information for someone in your shoes. Barium is a chalky material that outlines colon defects. With a “double-contrast” study, air is also introduced to make polyps stand out even more clearly.

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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