DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am responding to the reader who dreaded flying because of intense ear discomfort during descent or landing. I, too, tried everything. The pain was like somebody hammering a nail into my ear. Finally my husband discovered EarPlanes at the drugstore. I thought they must be a gimmick. But they really work! Your reader must try them. They’re made by Cirrus Healthcare Products in Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y. – L.P.

Thanks to L.P. and the hundreds of others who wrote to tell me how wonderful EarPlanes are in preventing the pain that comes from a change in cabin pressure upon landing and sometimes takeoff. I did know about them, but I was afraid to mention them until I had testimony from a user. I have that testimony in spades. I’ll not neglect to mention them the next time around. They look like earplugs used by swimmers, and they’re relatively cheap.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am a 68-year-old woman (5 feet, 3 inches tall, weighing 110 pounds) with moderately high blood pressure. I had a thyroidectomy when I was 24 and take thyroid hormone daily. For my blood pressure, I take lisinopril and HCTZ (hydrocholorothiazide). Since I started the HCTZ, I feel nauseated and weak. My doctor tells me these medicines are for life and that I may not be able to reduce or get off them. My blood pressure is normal at home. Could my thyroid medicine be elevating the blood pressure? Is it possible to take a higher dose of lisinopril and not HCTZ? – M.G.

Since your thyroid gland was removed, you’re taking replacement thyroid hormone, and you have to take it for life. It is unlikely to be the cause of a blood pressure rise.

Since your home blood pressure readings are normal, your doctor can accept them as reflecting your real blood pressure. Office-taken blood pressure can misrepresent true blood pressure because of the anxiety that a doctor visit engenders. Take your machine with you to your next doctor’s appointment and see if you get the same readings as he does. If you do, he won’t be reluctant to accept your recordings.

Since your symptoms began when you began HCTZ, it’s logical to blame it as the source of your trouble. It’s a diuretic – a water pill – and a very popular blood pressure control medicine. Other diuretics exist, and a substitute can be found without much trouble. Or, as you suggest, the dose of lisinopril can be upped.

How about trying nonmedicine approaches to lowering blood pressure? Cut way back on salt. Most of our salt intake comes from foods like luncheon meats, hot dogs, canned vegetables, soups, processed foods, frozen dinners and snacks like potato chips. Keep your sodium consumption to less than 2,400 mg (6 g of salt), and preferably lower, around 1,200 to 1,500 mg (3 to 3.8 g salt). Your diet should center on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products. Go easy on red meat, sweets and processed foods. Daily exercise also lowers blood pressure.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: What can be done for trigger finger? I have it in the middle finger of my left hand. It locks and is painful. – H.E.

Trigger finger involves swelling of the tendon that bends the finger or swelling of the protective cover of that tendon. The swelling causes a clicking noise when the finger bends. The finger can lock in the bent position or the fully straight position.

Moist heat can sometimes reduce the swelling. Wearing a splint at night is another way to treat this problem.

A doctor can inject one of the cortisone drugs into the area surrounding the swollen tendon, and that often brings quick relief.

If all fails, surgically releasing the tendon from its sheath is the answer.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: You questioned a woman who used coenzyme Q10. The medical-care establishment has an orthodoxy of what is acceptable and what is quackery. For it, alternative health care has to be suppressed. Look at the last line you wrote to that woman. – R.S.

The last line was: “What makes you want to take it (the Q10)?” My question asked what medical condition did she have that brought her to use Q10. If you read the entire piece, I said nothing about not using it. You misinterpreted my meaning.

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

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