DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My husband died abroad on a business trip on the morning when he was supposed to have come home. He was 64. He never had a health problem.

An autopsy indicated he died of a cerebral hemorrhage. Is this a stroke?

The day before he died he was supposed to have a meeting with colleagues. He did not show up, so they went to see him in his room. They found him asleep and snoring loudly. Would he have lived if they had called emergency help then? Did he suffer during those next hours? I need some kind of closure to this. – T.C.

ANSWER: A cerebral hemorrhage is a stroke, a less common kind of stroke. Ordinary strokes are caused by a blockage of blood flow to part of the brain. They’re called ischemic (is-KEY-mick) strokes. The obstruction can be in one of the large neck arteries supplying blood to the brain or in one of the brain arteries. Ischemic strokes account for 85 percent of all strokes.

Your husband’s hemorrhagic stroke most likely came from a ruptured brain artery aneurysm. An aneurysm is a bulge from a weak spot in the wall of an artery. It often causes no symptoms until the moment it gives way and blood gushes out of it and compresses the brain.

Sometimes a person with a ruptured aneurysm complains of a terrible headache. Sometimes the person slips into a coma without any warning, and I believe that’s what happened to your husband.

Even when rushed to the hospital alive, about 45 percent of hemorrhagic stroke patients die within a month of the event. When emergency treatment is possible, surgeons can put a clip at the base of the broken aneurysm to stop bleeding, or doctors can fill the aneurysm with tiny platinum coils that obliterate it by inducing a clot.

Your husband did not suffer in his final days. He was in a coma. Even if he had been rushed to a hospital, it is quite likely that he would have had severe neurological problems – inability to speak or move – if he had survived.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My nephew, 49, had some tests and has been determined to have a blood disease called polycythemia vera. We are desperate to know if it is treatable. – D.S.

ANSWER: “Poly” stands for “many”; “cyt,” for “cells”; and “emia,” for “blood.” It’s the condition where there are too many blood cells – white, red and platelets. Red cells are the ones mostly involved.

Symptoms, when they occur, include dizziness, ear ringing, headaches and itching. Showering or bathing can intensify the itch. Because the blood thickens with so many cells, strokes can occur.

Polycythemia is quite treatable. Treatment consists of removing blood from time to time until the blood count normalizes. Most polycythemia patients live long, active lives.

If blood removal can’t keep the blood count in check, medicines can be added to the program.

“Vera” is the Latin word for “true,” and it’s attached to the name to distinguish this rise in blood count from rises that come from other causes, like living at high altitudes or having certain lung diseases.

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.DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I take Synthroid each morning. Is it necessary to take it and then wait one hour to eat, or to wait two hours to eat? – Z.A.

ANSWER: Synthroid is thyroid hormone and is given when the thyroid gland isn’t making enough hormone.

It’s preferable to take Synthroid on an empty stomach to enhance its absorption. The manufacturer suggests taking it one-half to one hour before having breakfast.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My doctor has me take one aspirin a day. I came across an article that says it can cause blindness. I asked my doctor, and he said “poppycock.” He is a heart specialist. My eye doctor said the same thing. I would like your opinion. – J.G.

ANSWER: I am a daily aspirin user and I don’t plan to stop. (People should use it, however, only on the advice of their doctors.)

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