DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am a 26-year-old, healthy female. My hands perspire profusely, which makes me feel very uncomfortable. My family doctor cannot find a solution to fix this embarrassing problem. Do you have any suggestions? – N.Y.

ANSWER:
Sweaty palms are a source of embarrassment for many people. Sometimes, they’re a family trait. About one-quarter of people whose palms are always wet have other family members who suffer the same fate.

Begin with a simple treatment. Use an antiperspirant that contains aluminum chloride on your palms. If antiperspirants don’t stanch the flow, a 20 percent solution of aluminum chloride often can.

A prescription is required for it, and one product’s name is Drysol. You apply it nightly, cover the hands and fingers with a plastic wrap, like Saran Wrap, then put on gloves. In the morning, wash it off. Continue the applications until your hands become dry. Then apply the solution once or twice a week.

There are also devices that deliver a mild electric current via a water bath in which you soak the hands for 10 minutes to 20 minutes. The bath blocks sweat ducts.

Two commercial products are Drionic and the Fischer Galvanic Unit. They cannot be used by pregnant women or by people with pacemakers or metallic implants.

Botox injections can stop the flow of sweat. A reader has told me that they were too painful for her to tolerate, but they work for some. Another reader, L.P., testifies that Robinul Forte, a medicine used for diarrhea, keeps his hands dry.

For resistant cases, endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy is a procedure in which the doctor severs nerves that control palm sweating. It’s done with small incisions and with the aid of a scope. One possible unpleasant side effect of the operation is increased sweating in places supplied by nerves that lie below the cut nerves.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Some time ago, in Europe, they had an outbreak of mad cow disease caused by prions, which are hard to kill off. Now we have wasting disease of deer, another prion disease. How do deer and elk pass it to other animals? I am sure your readers would be interested in some information about it. – R.S.

ANSWER:
Chronic wasting disease is an illness confined to deer, elk and moose. No human has caught it. It’s a prion disease.

Prions are proteins. They are unique infectious agents; they have no nucleic acid, something that all other life forms have.

Disease-causing prions can effect a change in the normal prions found in many body cells. Those prions become disease-causing prions too. Animals infected with the wasting-disease prions keep losing weight and strength, and eventually die a death of starvation.

Hunters should not eat meat from animals that are emaciated. If chronic wasting disease exists in a particular locale, people should not eat tissues that might be infected with prions – brain, spinal cord, spleen, tonsils and lymph nodes.

A recent report demonstrates low levels of prions in muscle, but no new recommendations have been made since that discovery.

Blood and saliva are the principle fluids that transfer prions to other animals.

Are we about to face another frightening, new disease that threatens us as well as animals? I don’t think so. These “new” diseases are newly discovered illnesses. They might have existed for centuries but have been recognized only in the past few years.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My doctor tells me I have myoclonus. He has me on Depakote. I have been told that myoclonus is a brain dysfunction. What happens to the brain that makes me have jerking movements? – M.P.

ANSWER:
Myoclonus is sudden, rapid and brief muscle contractions. It can happen to muscles in a particular body site – like the arm or leg – or it can happen to many muscles and cause widespread jerking movements.

Many people experience a form of myoclonus when drifting off to sleep. Their bodies jerk. This kind of myoclonus is neither an illness nor a sign of any trouble.

The kind of myoclonus that calls for treatment is the kind that upsets a person’s functioning. It does come from a problem in the brain center that controls movement.

The problem can result from a former stroke (even a small one), from a previous brain infection, from an imbalance in the body’s minerals – like sodium and potassium – or from degenerative processes that take place in the brain due to aging. Sometimes myoclonus is associated with epilepsy, and sometimes no definite cause can be found for the change in the brain’s movement control center.

Depakote is a standard medicine used for myoclonus control. How is it working for you?

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


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