DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Is there any answer for night sweats?

I am a man, age 77, and have had this problem for many years. My doctor has no answer. The sweating appears on my neck and upper chest. — J.R.

ANSWER: Night sweats bedevil many more people than you might believe. Considerations have to be given to some illnesses where night sweating is part of the picture. In the old days, TB was a prominent cause. Some cancers, episodes of low blood sugar and thyroid diseases are examples of some of the illnesses that can bring on night sweats. So can medicines. Aspirin is one such drug. Alcohol is another cause. Usually, these sweats involve the entire body and are not localized to particular areas, like yours are. The other thing that makes an illness-associated night sweat unlikely for you is the fact that you have had them for years, and no other symptoms or signs have appeared.

Let’s keep this simple. Try an antiperspirant on the areas that sweat. I don’t mean a deodorant; I mean an antiperspirant. They’re found in the section of stores where deodorants are found, but the main ingredient in an antiperspirant is aluminum chloride, aluminum chlorohydrate or aluminum zirconate. Antiperspirants plug sweat glands.

If an over-the-counter preparation isn’t keeping you dry, then get Drysol, which contains a 20 percent concentration of aluminum. It requires a prescription. If the druggist can’t find this product, tell him or her to contact Person & Covey Inc. in Glendale, Calif.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: A few months ago, someone wrote to you regarding a problem with cholesterol medicines. The person got muscle pains with the statins. I, too, have been on two statins (Zocor and Crestor) and have had muscle pain. You named some other cholesterol-lowering meds that didn’t cause muscle pain.

Will you be kind enough to mention them again? — J.T.

ANSWER: Have you gone the nonmedicine route? A diet that centers on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, olive oil and canola oil brings down cholesterol. Whole grains are grains that haven’t been refined. They retain their bran coat. Brown rice, for example, is a whole grain; white rice isn’t. Lessen your consumption of red meats and whole dairy products. You don’t have to eliminate them, but you need to cut back.

Exercise daily. Brisk walking for half an hour fills the exercise prescription.

Questran (cholestyramine), Colestid (colestipol), Welchol (colesevelam), niacin and fish oil lower cholesterol without causing muscle pain.

The facts on cholesterol can be found in the booklet on that topic. Readers can obtain a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue: No. 201, 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. Please allow four weeks for delivery.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: You had an article on miner’s knee or scrubwoman’s knee. The knee swells with fluid. This happened to me. The doctor drained it, but it returned in a short time. The doctor drained it again. When I go up stairs, climb a hill or cut grass with a push mower, the knee is very painful. It feels like it wants to kick out of its socket. Is there another name for this? What do I have to look forward to? — F.R.

ANSWER: In front of the kneecap is a bursa, a sac that prevents friction. People who work on their knees — carpet layers, scrubwomen, gardeners — are prone to irritate that bursa. The irritation and inflammation fill the bursa with fluid. The common name for the condition is housemaid’s knee. The official name is prepatellar bursitis.

Your comments about knee pain and instability make me think your trouble might be in the knee joint itself. Such a problem is more complicated than housemaid’s knee. Either revisit your doctor or see an orthopedic 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 www.rbmamall.com.


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