DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Is schizophrenia mental or emotional? What are the medicines given? Is it passed from one generation to the next? My niece’s husband was 35. He was taken to the emergency room by his mother, who understood his situation. Another person had put him down verbally, and he began ripping off his clothes and heading for the door. He ran across railroad tracks, jumped into a fishing hole and lost his life.

Could he have had a gene and have given it to one of his daughters, ages 5 and 15? – B.K.

I think it’s better to consider schizophrenia a brain disease. Something has gone wrong with the proper connection between brain cells or with the chemical messengers through which they communicate with each other.

People with this illness are afflicted with erroneous beliefs, like that there is a conspiracy against them or a criminal syndicate is pursuing them. Erroneous beliefs are delusions. Schizophrenia also gives rise to hallucinations.

Patients see things that are not there are or hear voices telling the person to act in a certain way. Frequently, they lose fluency in expressing themselves and withdraw from social contact.

This illness makes it difficult to hold a job or to function harmoniously in society. It is not something that people bring on themselves. It is an illness.

Genes do have a hand in its generation. If a mother or father has the disorder, their child has an increased risk of coming down with it. That does not mean that every child of every affected parent will develop schizophrenia. It means only that children of schizophrenics have a greater risk of it than do children born to people who do not have the illness.

I can’t list all the medicines available. There are far too many. But today’s medicines allow many people with this affliction to function in society without hallucinations or delusions. This is a far cry from what the outlook was only a generation ago.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have talked with people who have had prolotherapy. Each had marvelous results. Do you have information on it? How do you find a practitioner? – M.A.

Prolotherapy involves injecting a substance (often the sugar dextrose) that causes local inflammation to boost the production of collagen. Collagen is the body’s support tissue. It’s like a steel girder. The increased support eases pain. It’s used for ligament and tendon injuries. Low-back pain is a frequent reason for prolotherapy injections.

Personally, I don’t know any doctor who practices prolotherapy. I don’t mean this as a flip answer, but why not ask those people who got such marvelous results?

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have a condition called stasis dermatitis. I would like to know its origin and treatment. – L.D.

If you pay attention to people’s legs, you won’t have any trouble finding someone else with stasis dermatitis. With it, the skin of the lower third of the legs turns reddish brown with flecks of darker pigmentation scattered in the involved area. It comes from leakage of fluid out of leg veins whose valves are no longer working.

Vein valves keep blood flowing back to the heart. Defective valves cause blood to pool in the veins. Fluid and blood cells leak out into the surrounding tissue. Skin can become dry and itchy.

Elevation of the legs above heart level for one hour, twice a day, helps drain blood out of those veins. You have to lie down with your legs propped up on pillows. Compression hose (elastic stockings) help move blood back to the heart and out of those veins.

Cortisone ointments or creams relieve skin inflammation and itchiness.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am 32 and expecting my first child in three months. My doctor checked my blood sugar, and I have diabetes. How can this be?

No one in my family has it, and I feel well except for the usual complaints of pregnancy. I might be urinating more often, but I ascribed that to my big uterus pressing on my bladder. Am I going to have diabetes for life? – T.R.

You won’t have diabetes for life if you have what’s known as gestational diabetes, the diabetes of pregnancy. About 4 percent of women acquire diabetes during their pregnancy. It’s so common that many doctors screen all their pregnant patients for diabetes between the 24th and 28th week of pregnancy.

Pregnancy is a time when women make many hormones that blunt the action of insulin, so blood sugar rises to diabetes level in some women.

Often, diet can regulate blood sugar during gestational diabetes. If diet doesn’t keep blood sugar normal, then insulin injections are needed. In some countries, oral diabetic medicines are used rather than insulin.

Treatment of a pregnant woman’s high blood sugar is important. High blood sugar can cause the woman to lose protein into the urine and can elevate blood pressure. It makes the fetus gain excessive weight, and that can make delivery difficult. Babies born to women whose blood sugar is high frequently show low blood sugar soon after birth.

After delivery, almost all women with gestational diabetes revert to a normal blood sugar. However, many women who have had gestational diabetes become overt diabetics 10 years after this happens.

You and all women like you must have blood sugar levels followed in the coming years, and you have to do what’s necessary to prevent diabetes. Two important preventive steps are staying on the slim side and faithfully exercising.

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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