DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My daughter has been very ill since 1994. She suffers every day from pain in almost every part of her body. She is only 40. She went to a naturopathic doctor who just recently was knighted for her work with autistic children.

ANSWER: Lyme disease is an infection transmitted to humans by ticks infected with a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi. It was only in the mid-1970s that the relationship between humans, ticks and the Borrelia bacterium was established in children on the East Coast who were mistakenly diagnosed as having arthritis. The outbreak centered in Lyme, Conn., and that’s how it came by its name. Descriptions of similar illnesses had been made earlier in Europe.

Lyme disease goes through stages. The earliest stage is heralded by a distinctive skin rash – erythema migrans – which consists of a red circular patch that grows to at least 2 inches in diameter and can attain a diameter of 6 inches. Often, the center clears and gives it a bull’s-eye appearance. Untreated Lyme features many symptoms – sore joints, achy muscles, fatigue, neurologic signs, heart-rhythm abnormalities and pain. Treatment consists of antibiotics, and the ones often used are doxycycline or amoxicillin. Almost all patients make a full recovery.

Much of what is written and said about Lyme disease is generated by hysteria, and not founded on facts. Your information on what happens in pregnancy is an example. Most authorities have grave doubts that mother-to-child transmission occurs.

Your daughter lives only 70 miles from the largest city in her state, where there is an excellent medical school and an excellent department of infectious diseases. She should see one of the doctors in that department.

Fibromyalgia is an illness having many signs and symptoms in common with Lyme disease.


Readers who would like to learn more about it can order the booklet on that topic by writing: Dr. Donohue, No. 305, 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: I am at the end of my rope in what to do with my 16-year-old son. He sleeps between 15 and 18 hours a day when he isn’t in school or working at his summer job. I have taken him to a doctor as well as a psychologist. What should I do? – A.T.

ANSWER: If your son is healthy, and the doctor says he is, this amount of sleep is too much. Wake him up after eight hours of sleep and make him get out of bed.

If he has a specific physical complaint, take him back to the doctor. If this is a psychological problem, ask the doctor for the name of another mental health professional.

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: My daughter is 38 years old. She gets migraine headaches just before her menstrual periods. Is there something she can do? What causes these headaches? – G.F.

ANSWER: Menstrual periods trigger migraine headaches in susceptible women because of the abrupt changes in hormones that occur then. There’s a drop in estrogen production. Your daughter should pay careful attention to other migraine triggers during the days before her periods – things like red wine, aged cheeses, caffeine in any form, processed meats, freshly baked yeast-based products and dried fruits. They could be adding to her woes.

If that doesn’t help, she can take one of the triptan medicines, beginning two days before an anticipated period. Triptans include Amerge, Maxalt, Frova, Relpax, Zomig and Imitrex. Propranolol, a beta-blocker drug, is another medicine that prevents migraines. Or she can take a boost of estrogen during those days. These are matters for her to discuss with her doctor.

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