DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I found a cover story in a national magazine that purports there is much question about the need to lower cholesterol and to prescribe statin medicines. I can’t believe this story wasn’t front-page news, since 18 million Americans take statin drugs. People taking statins are exposed to the risks of muscle pain, memory loss and sexual dysfunction. My husband experienced these firsthand. His doctor ignored all his complaints and changed only the brand of statin drug. I hope you look into these reports on cholesterol and statin drugs and get the truth out to your readers. – R.B.

ANSWER:
I know that voices of dissent arise about every medical theory and over every drug developed to correct what most consider a health hazard. Numerous studies have confirmed the proposition that high blood cholesterol and high blood LDL cholesterol lead to heart attacks and strokes. Most of the worldwide medical community subscribes to that proposition. Similarly, innumerable articles have demonstrated that lowering cholesterol and LDL cholesterol prevents heart attacks and strokes, prolongs life and can possibly reverse artery-hardening. All of this has been done by rigorous scientific investigations.

Statins are the most powerful medicines for the lowering of cholesterol. (Statins are: Zocor, Pravachol, Crestor, Lescol, Mevacor and Lipitor.) Muscle pain occurs in one in 1,000 users. Muscle damage occurs in much fewer. Memory loss and sexual dysfunction are very rare. Most of the side effects of statins are reversed with discontinuation.

Every doctor I know believes in the cholesterol theory and in the benefits of statin therapy. I put my money where my mouth is. I take a statin.

To be fair, the magazine should present the other side of the story.

The pamphlet on cholesterol tells the whole story in detail. Readers can obtain a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue – No. 201, Box 536475. Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6 Can. with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: How dangerous is radon? At what level is it a danger? Does it cause cancers other than lung cancer? – R.H.

ANSWER:
Radon gas cannot be smelled or seen. It is generated in the soil and in rocks and seeps into homes through cracks in the foundation or basement walls. It is feared because it can cause lung cancer. Lung cancer appears to be the only cancer it causes. Smokers greatly increase their already great risk of lung cancer if radon gas is at high levels in their homes. A safe level is one below 4 picocuries/L. That means nothing to people unless they have a radon detection kit, which can be obtained in many hardware stores.

The National Safety Council, in conjunction with the Environmental Protection Agency, sponsors a most informative radon Web site at www.epa.gov/radon and has a radon hotline at 800-557-2366.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My daughter, age 36, wife and the mother of three children, lives in Europe. She recently had painful sores on her legs. The doctors did a blood test and found she had a Strep infection. Did her infected sores infect the blood, or did her infected blood cause the sores? – E.M.

ANSWER:
Let me take some liberty in reconstructing your daughter’s story. Her blood test most likely tested for Strep antibodies. The immune system makes antibodies to bombard infecting germs. Antibodies also serve as a marker for infecting germs. That’s how the doctors came up with the diagnosis of a Strep skin infection for her sores. The Strep germ is responsible for many skin infections. If her blood had been infected, she would have had intravenous antibiotics in the hospital.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I live in the far north, where deep snow stays until late spring. This past winter my 16-month-old son came down with a rash. We were snowed in and I couldn’t get to the doctor, but I talked with him on the phone. The doctor said it was probably roseola, a herpes infection. The baby was never very sick, but I wonder if this roseola can cause future trouble. Can it? What’s the herpes connection? – A.S.

ANSWER:
Let’s get the herpes issue out of the way right at the start. The virus causing roseola is the herpes-6 virus, not the virus of genital infections – herpes-2 – or the virus of cold sores – herpes-1. It’s a common childhood infection. By the third year of life, 2 years of age, 80 percent of infants have been infected with it.

A sudden rise of temperature – 103 F (39 C) or higher – heralds the onset of the illness. Even in the face of this high temperature, most babies don’t look or act sick. The fever lasts three to five days and then goes as quickly as it came. Within 12 to 24 hours of the fever’s disappearance, the baby breaks out in a rash that is light red (rose-colored, the basis of the “roseola” name) and appears on the trunk. It spreads to the face, the upper arms and the upper legs. In one to three days, the rash leaves.

Almost all children recover quickly. There are no future consequences from the usual roseola infection.

No treatment is given, because no treatment is needed. However, children who have a defect in their immune system benefit from antiviral therapy.

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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