DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I recently tested positive for lupus, about which I know nothing. Please furnish me with some information. — E.L.
ANSWER: Men, children and the elderly can come down with lupus, but the main target group is young women between the ages of 15 and 45. Lupus causes a staggering number of signs and symptoms. No one person develops all, but some have many. Joint swelling and pain; a drop in the number of white and red blood cells; a tendency to form clots in veins; skin rashes; malfunctioning of nerves, the brain and the spinal cord; inflammation of the coverings of the heart and lungs; kidney damage; and an injuring sensitivity to sunlight are the major troubles facing lupus patients.
All of this comes about because the immune system declares war on body organs and tissues for reasons not fully understood. Antibodies — products of the immune system — are signs of the immune attack. They are useful for diagnosing the illness. When you say you tested positive for lupus, do you mean you had a positive blood test? One frequently used is the ANA (anti-nuclear antibody) test. A positive ANA suggests lupus but is not diagnostic of it. Two other antibody tests, anti-dsDNA and anti- SM, are stronger evidence of lupus.
Lupus is a formidable illness, but modern treatment has taken away much of its dread. In the past, it shortened life. Now 80 percent to 90 percent of lupus patients live 10 or more years. Lupus is subject to flare-ups and periods when it greatly quiets down. For flares, the cortisone drugs are put into play. For quiet periods, medicines with fewer side effects are prescribed. The list of medicines available for lupus is large. A new one has just come on the market.
The booklet on rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, two similar illnesses, gives a comprehensive view of lupus and its treatment. To order a copy, write: Dr. Donohue — No. 301W, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853- 6475. Enclose a check or money order for $4.75 with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: have seen a specialist for jock itch. I was told there is no cure. Why not? Men in service during the wars must have had this. — W.K.
ANSWER: Men and women in and out of service get tinea cruris, jock itch, a fungal infection of the skin in the groin. Cure is possible. The infected skin is red to brown and has a raised, scaly margin. It’s often itchy. In another part of your letter, you mentioned an antifungal drug that is effective. Stick with it. It can require a month or more of treatment, and you should keep treating for one full week after all signs of it have gone. Other effective medicines are miconazole (Micatin) and clotrimazole (Lotrimin AF), both available without a prescription. If your current medicine or these medicines don’t make a dent, then you might have to go on prescription oral medicines. In that case, considerations of conditions that look like jock itch should be assessed, things like erythrasma, a bacterial skin infection, and psoriasis.
Readers may write Dr. Donohue or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. ©2011 North America Synd.