DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I went to the doctor because of headaches. On examining my eyes, she discovered that my pupils don’t constrict and dilate. She sent me to an eye doctor. He said I have an Adie’s pupil. Is this a disease or a syndrome? Can this be causing my headaches? He told me it was nothing.

My headaches feel like there’s a tight cap on my head. Please enlighten me on these things. – G.S.

ANSWER:
An Adie’s (AID-ease) pupil is one that is slightly larger than the other pupil and it narrows very slowly when a bright light is shined on it. It’s not an indication of illness and has nothing to do with your headaches. If other signs are present, like a loss of the knee-jerk reflex when the knee tendon is struck with a rubber hammer, then you call the mix Adie’s syndrome.

Your headaches fit the description of tension headaches, the most common kind of headache. People who have them say they feel like a tight band encircles their head or that a weight is on their head or that their head is squeezed or, as you say, that they are wearing a tight cap. Pain is felt on both sides of the head, and rarely is it throbbing pain, as it is with many other headaches. The pain lasts from half an hour to seven days.

These headaches are called tension headaches because at one time they were believed to result from contraction of the scalp muscle. Now the explanation is that innocent brain signals are misinterpreted by the brain as pain signals. If that explanation helps you, it doesn’t do much for me.

Start treatment of your headache without drugs. Heat packs to the neck or head might ease them. If heat doesn’t do the trick, try ice. Massage sometimes work, especially neck massage. Get enough sleep, but not too much. Too much is as bad as too little.

Popular tension headache medicines are aspirin and Tylenol (acetaminophen). If they aren’t effective, tablets that combine them with caffeine can be. Caffeine enhances their painkilling properties. Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Naprosyn) and Ketoprofen (a prescription drug) have a good batting average against these headaches. Don’t overuse medicine. Constant use promotes constant headaches.

The headache booklet deals with the common headaches and their treatment. To order a copy, write: Dr. Donohue – No. 901, 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. Allow four weeks for delivery.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Does the consumption of foods packaged or wrapped in aluminum foil pose a risk for contracting or accelerating Alzheimer’s disease? – M.E.

ANSWER:
The answer is no. The brains of some Alzheimer’s patients have more than the usual amount of aluminum. Some have interpreted that as indicating aluminum as a cause. Few scientists hold to that theory.

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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