Genetic condition targets the aorta
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Recently you addressed a question on aortic aneurysms. The writer’s sister passed away from one, and she wondered what caused it. I hope you will comment on the possibility of Marfan’s syndrome. It would be important for the family to consider if it was present. My 3-year-old son was diagnosed with Marfan’s syndrome at 18 months. Early discovery permits immediate management. — M.R.
ANSWER: Although few readers are familiar with Marfan’s syndrome, it is a relatively common genetic disorder. It can affect many organs
the heart, aorta, skeleton, joints, lungs and skin. A Marfan’s patient, however, might have only a few signs of the condition.
People with the Marfan’s gene are lanky
tall and thin. Their arms and legs are long, and their fingers are elongated. They’re naturals for sports like basketball and volleyball. The breastbone can be indented or can protrude. The spine often curves to one side. Nearsightedness is common, and the lens of the eye is apt to become dislocated. Joints are abnormally flexible.
The danger of Marfan’s lies in the heart and aorta. Heart valves frequently leak. The aorta is often dangerously widened and is at risk for splitting or forming a bulge
an aneurysm. Early diagnosis permits early treatment if these conditions are present and are getting worse. In the not-so-distant past, one of the United States female volleyball players, in spite of the many exams these athletes undergo, was not discovered to have Marfan’s syndrome. She died during a volleyball contest.
The outlook for a Marfan’s patient is quite good now. Medicines can prevent or slow heart and aorta changes. Surgical correction of defects is possible.
The National Marfan Foundation stands ready to help patients and their families. The foundation’s phone number is 800-8-MARFAN and its Web site is
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: You did not answer the question to a teenage grandson with Tourette’s syndrome. The question was: What foods contain dopamine? Are there any?
I said: I can’t find anywhere that a change in diet benefits control of Tourette’s syndrome. I meant that to indicate that no food
dopamine-containing or not controls the syndrome.
Apples, bananas, fish, cheeses, watermelon and honey are some of the foods that contain dopamine.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am 84. My husband passed away two years ago. Early in our marriage, he had an ulcer and was put on a strict diet that included drinking lots of milk. My 47-year-old son has an ulcer, and he’s not on any special diet. Would it be right for me to suggest to him that he should be drinking milk? Or is this no longer part of treatment?
Ulcer treatment has undergone a radical change from the time your husband was diagnosed. Milk was believed to coat the stomach and act as an antacid. It actually promotes acid production.
Nowadays, powerful medicines suppress acid formation, so dietary interventions are not as important as they once were.
Furthermore, today’s ulcer treatment often involves antibiotics to eliminate a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori, a germ associated with ulcers and their recurrence.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: What causes sebaceous cysts? I have had two. One broke open on its own and drained a terribly smelly discharge. Where do they come from?
The name “sebaceous” makes you think they come from oil (sebaceous) glands. They don’t. Their formation is mystifying. They’re soft nodules whose size ranges from small to more than an inch or two in diameter. They contain a cheesy material that has a very strong odor. When they are inflamed, a doctor can incise them to allow drainage and healing. Then the cyst can be completely removed.
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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