DEAR DR. DONOHUE: What is neurofibromatosis? I have it and don’t know anything about it. – L.P.

ANSWER: Neurofibromatosis is a relatively common disorder. It affects about one in 3,000 people. In a country like the United States, with a population of more than 305 million, that’s a large number of people. It is inherited in half of all cases. In the other half, it results from a genetic change during embryonic development.

The condition comes in a number of different varieties, but neurofibromatosis 1, also called von Recklinghausen’s disease, is the most common variety and the one I’m describing. Soft, somewhat large, warty-looking tumors – neurofibromas – spring up on the skin and can be few or number in the hundreds. These growths aren’t cancerous. Similar tumors can grow beneath the skin, and a kind of flat nerve tumor can spread in the tissues below the skin. These growths sprout just before or during puberty.

The earliest signs of the illness are cafe-au-lait (coffee with milk) skin spots – light-brown patches that are larger than .7 inches (1.5 cm) in diameter. Six or more such patches are tip-offs that the person has this illness. Another early sign is freckles in places where they are seldom seen, like under the arms and in the groin.

The consequences of neurofibromas depend on their number and their location. Their pressure on adjacent structures calls for surgical removal.

You really need to know as much as you can about this condition so you can take care of some of its possible complications, like high blood pressure, early. You can get that information and help at The Children’s Tumor Foundation, formerly called the National Neurofibromatosis Foundation. You can reach the foundation at 800-323-7938 and on the Internet at www.ctf.org.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am 52. When I was a teenager, I got an elbow in the nose really hard while playing basketball. My nose bled off and on for over an hour. I never saw a doctor, but since then I feel like my right nostril is plugged up. Things have been getting worse in the past year. My nose looks straight, so I don’t think I broke it. My wife says I have a deviated septum. Just what does that entail, and how is it fixed? – C.N.

ANSWER: The nasal septum is the cartilage wall that runs down the middle of the nose and separates it into a right and left nostril. A deviated septum is one that veers to one side and narrows that nostril. It can perpetually plug that side of the nose.

Surgery is the only way to correct such a problem. Aging worsens the deviation. An ear, nose and throat doctor can tell you if your septum is deviated and can fix it for you. The surgery doesn’t lay you up for long.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have a mouthful of saliva all the time – too full. It frequently drips from the corners of my mouth. I have to take three handkerchiefs with me to dab the corners of my mouth. Is there a medicine that stops this saliva production gone wild? – J.P.

ANSWER: Start with your dentist and your family doctor. They can look for conditions that cause a too-abundant production of saliva.

We make one to two quarts of saliva a day. We’re unaware of that volume because we unconsciously swallow it. Damage to the swallowing mechanism causes an accumulation of saliva in the mouth. This can happen after a stroke. Sinus infections can produce thick mucus that trickles into the mouth and throat. Bell’s palsy, a paralysis of facial muscles on one side, is another disorder that leads to drooling, because the facial muscles can’t keep the lips tightly shut. This is only a sample of causes.

If no cause is found, medicines can dry the production of saliva. They often have disturbing side effects, which makes their use unpleasant. Atropine and the scopolamine patch are two such drugs. If the situation is truly out of hand, an ear, nose and throat doctor can tie off some of the salivary gland ducts and the volume of saliva decreases markedly.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I’m not sure if you have heard of the lemonade diet, but it is the rage in my sector of the world. A Hollywood star lost 20 pounds on it in order to play a role in a movie. I decided to try it. I wanted to jump-start a diet and cleanse myself of toxins. I drank a cup of laxative tea on a Friday night. Saturday morning I drank a 10-ounce glass of water to which I had added organic maple syrup, concentrated lemon juice and a pinch of cayenne pepper. I was supposed to drink six to 10 glasses of this every day for 10 days. By noon Saturday, I started vomiting and didn’t stop until 8 p.m. that night. I also had a raging headache. The master cleanse came to an abrupt end. What happened? I went online and read that only those people who were severely toxic experienced such side effects. Am I a walking toxic waste dump? – J.C.

ANSWER:
In many instances, vomiting is protective. The body gets rid of something it finds distasteful or potentially dangerous. I think that’s the explanation for what happened to you.

The toxin theory raises its head again. We’re really healthy people, for the most part. And the colon is just as healthy as the eye.

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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