Lack of saliva makes life miserable

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Let your readers hear about dry mouth. I have had it for two months. I’d never heard of it. Several doctors told me there is no cure. They suggested it could be a side effect of the antidepressant medicine I take. One doctor who has the condition chews Trident bubble gum all his waking hours. Can you help? — M.E.

ANSWER: Saliva protects against dental decay. It moistens food so it can be swallowed. It enables us to talk. Lack of it makes life miserable. A cure is found only if a cause is identifiable. Medicines can dry the mouth, and some antidepressants are among those medicines. See if your doctor will change your current antidepressant to one that’s less drying.

Always carry a squeezable water bottle with you, and don’t hesitate to use it. Sugarless chewing gum stimulates the salivary glands. Your doctor is a testimonial to it. Artificial salivas abound. Biotene products, on the shelves of all drugstores, are tailor-made to keep the mouth moist. Numoisyn Lozenges and Numoisyn Liquids have a following of devoted fans. Make sure your home has humidity between 40 percent and 60 percent. Evoxac, Salagen and pilocarpine are three prescription medicines that jump-start saliva production.

In search of a cause, ask your doctor if you might have Sjogren’s syndrome. Dry mouth is one of its salient features. Sjogren’s patients also might have dry eyes, and sometimes they have joint pain. Their immune systems have turned against their salivary and tear glands. Other Sjogren’s symptoms include a low-grade fever, fatigue and muscle and joint pain.

Laboratory tests can confirm if your immune system is attacking your salivary glands.

Don’t fail to contact the Sjogren’s Syndrome Foundation for information on the treatment of dry mouth and the other symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome if you have them. The foundation’s number is 800-475-6473, and its Web site is:

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I started having jock itch about one year ago. Will you shed some light on this subject? — G.D.

ANSWER: The official name for jock itch is tinea cruris. It’s a fungal infection. The involved skin, mainly the upper thighs — the groin area — becomes red and scaly, and often itchy. The border between the rash and normal skin has tiny bumps on it, or small pimples. A number of effective over-the-counter powders, creams and ointments work well. Desenex Cream, Desenex Jock Itch Spray, Micatin Cream and Tinactin Cream are readily available, and there are others.

If these products don’t get rid of the rash, then you have to step up to prescription medicines. The oral drug griseofulvin usually works well. The doctor who writes the prescriptions for you can check your rash to be sure it isn’t something else. Erythrasma (a bacterium-caused rash), candida (a yeast-caused rash) and psoriasis all look somewhat like tinea cruris. They each call for different treatments.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have a lot of rumbling sounds in my stomach. I asked my doctor about it, but she can’t give a reason. People around me can hear these sounds. It’s embarrassing. What causes them? — J.S.

ANSWER: Those noises have a name — borborygmi (BORE-buh-RIG-my). They come from the churning of gases and liquids in the intestinal tract.

One way to quiet them is to grab something to eat. Carry a bagel or cookie with you and munch it down when the music starts. Gas-relieving products, of which there are many, are found in every drugstore and you can give them a try. Stay away from beans and carbonated beverages, especially beverages that also have a high sugar load.

If you have pain along with the noises, see your doctor.

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

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.