DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My son is in prison, and he has hepatitis C. He was told by a doctor that there is treatment for it, and it would help cure it. Is there a cure? Can a person live a healthy life after contracting the disease? My son is only 26 years old. Should he be on a special diet? – W.M.

ANSWER:
Treatment for hepatitis C consists of two medicines – interferon and ribavirin. Interferon is given intravenously once a week, and ribavirin is given orally every day. The combination doesn’t cure everyone, but it does provide evidence that a cure has occurred for many. That evidence is the inability to detect virus in the blood after treatment has ended.

No special diet for hepatitis C is recommended. However, people with it should be most careful about alcohol. They should abstain, or come as close to abstinence as possible.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Please help. I am married to an alcoholic who has hepatitis C. Our sex life used to be good until we found out about the infection. His doctor told him to use a condom. My husband does not like to use one.

If he gets a scratch or a sore, he picks at it until it bleeds. He wipes it off with his hand or a tissue and puts the tissue on a table. How should the table be cleaned?

My brother has hepatitis C and does not use a condom. His first wife never came down with it; neither has his second wife. My sister-in-law is with a man who has hepatitis C. She says her doctor told them that they can have sex without a condom. He told them hepatitis C comes from being an alcoholic. – Anon.

ANSWER:
The risk of transmission from an infected partner in a heterosexual relationship with one, constant partner is very low. For that reason, experts in the field of hepatitis do not routinely recommend using a condom.

An infected person should not share razors or toothbrushes with other people. As far as blood on the table, it can be cleaned in the usual manner, with disposal of the cleaning material. Your husband’s penchant for picking at a sore is going to cause him to become infected with a bacterium, as it would anyone else.

Hepatitis C comes from the hepatitis C virus, not from alcohol. But he has to stop alcohol use.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am 56 and a mechanic and equipment operator. I have been taken off work by something called CMT, Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. I have chronic lower-back pain. How does CMT differ from muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis? – R.C.

ANSWER:
Charcot (shark-OH)-Marie-Tooth disease is an inherited illness of nerves with a perplexing number of variations. The most common variety begins at young ages when the insulating material wrapped around nerves – myelin – begins to crumble. This blocks nerve transmission to muscles, with the result being muscle-wasting and weakness. Most often, the lower-leg muscles are first involved, and that presents great problems with walking. The hands can also be affected by muscle weakness and numbness. Back pain isn’t a common symptom. MCT is not related to muscular dystrophy or multiple sclerosis. Muscular dystrophy starts before age 5, and the problem lies in the muscles, not the nerves. Multiple sclerosis comes about because of scar formation (sclerosis) in the brain and spinal cord, which blocks nerve transmission.

There is a foundation, the Charcot-Marie-Tooth Association, that can provide you with an exhaustive supply of information. You can reach it at its toll-free number, 800-606-2682 (U.S. only) or on the Internet at www.charcot-marie-tooth.org.

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.

ANSWER:
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 www.rbmamall.com.


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