DEAR DR. ROACH: My friend, who is 79 years old, started having his fingertips split open at random several years ago. The splits resemble small knife slices, and are extremely painful to him, along with limiting his ability to pick up objects as his fingers become numb. Last year he went to a dermatologist, who diagnosed it as psoriasis and gave him strong steroid ointments.
During the warm weather, his fingertips don’t seem to split, but when the weather starts turning colder, regardless of these ointments or even wearing gloves over the ointment at night, they get worse. We are concerned that the diagnosis of psoriasis may not be correct. — S.G.
ANSWER: Cracking of the tips of the fingers has several possible causes, including psoriasis, but also a condition called dishydrotic eczema. Moisturizers and powerful steroid ointments are appropriate for both conditions. Many of my readers have reported good results from liquid bandages, some of which have antiseptic properties, and some are a medical form of super glue.
There are other possible diagnoses, including progressive systemic sclerosis (scleroderma), so I think he should have another visit with the dermatologist.
DEAR DR. ROACH: You mentioned lupus in a recent column. Is there a connection between lupus and arthritis? — D.J.T.
ANSWER: Systemic lupus erythematosis (SLE) is a disease that can affect virtually any organ in the body, and usually affects several — often at the same time. The most common symptoms are fatigue, fever and weight loss. Skin signs can be very specific, such as the classic “butterfly rash,” a red, butterfly-shaped rash across the nose and cheeks. Arthritis (joint inflammation) or arthralgia (joint pain) is present in 90 percent of people with lupus at some point in the illness.
The arthritis booklet discusses joint pain found in lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Readers can order a copy by writing: Dr. Roach — No. 301W, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853- 6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.
DEAR DR. ROACH: Why are so many people reluctant to wear a hearing aid? It seems as though there is a stigma associated with it when there isn’t a stigma associated with wearing glasses, and both are common as we age. — M.A.
ANSWER: I also am concerned that many older people with hearing loss refuse a hearing aid (or even to be evaluated for one). This is an important issue, since a hearing aid can improve quality of life as well as safety, not to mention the hearing of those around a person who is hard of hearing if he or she listens to music or the television at loud volumes.
I suspect that glasses, often worn by younger people, aren’t associated with aging as much as hearing loss is, which is far more common in the elderly. We seem to be afraid of aging, or at least of appearing to age. I regret this, since it focuses on what can be lost with aging, and not what is gained.
©2014 North America Synd.