DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I believe I read in your column about something that can be given for hepatitis C. My doctor says there isn’t any treatment. Will you please advise me? — Anon.
ANSWER: Chronic infection (lifetime infection) happens to about 80 percent of those infected with the hepatitis C virus. Worldwide, the virus infects 170 million people. In the United States, 3.2 million are infected. Of the chronically infected, close to 20 percent will develop either liver cirrhosis or liver cancer. It takes 20 to 30 years before signs of such complications become apparent.
Predicting who benefits from treatment, therefore, is not an easy task. Perhaps your doctor said you would not benefit from treatment now. Indications favoring treatment are finding hepatitis C virus RNA (ribonucleic acid) in the blood and documenting liver changes suggesting cirrhosis is beginning to take place. As I said, only 20 percent of those infected with this virus are at risk for these complications.
Treatment isn’t 100 percent effective for all. Success depends on which strain of virus infects a person. Strains 1 and 4 are less susceptible to treatment.
Standard treatment is ribavirin and peginterferon. New treatments are about to become available, and they show great promise in improving treatment success. Boceprevir and teleprevir are going to be launched for general use later this year. They will establish a new era for treatment.
The booklet on hepatitis A, B and C details these illnesses, how they are acquired and how they are treated. Readers can obtain a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue — No. 503W, 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. DONOHUE: Please tell me what causes brown spots on the hands and arms. Is there anything you can do to prevent them or erase them? — A.C.
ANSWER: Sunlight and aging cause those brown spots, known as solar lentigos. To prevent them, use sunscreen on the affected skin every day of the year, whenever you go outdoors. You can’t prevent aging. In popular language, these spots are called age spots or liver spots, even though the liver has not one thing to do with them.
If you’re desirous of getting rid of them, doctors can freeze them off or use a laser on them. You can apply tretinoin cream, an acne medicine. It takes a long time to fade the spots, but they will lighten in time. Bleaching creams like Eldopaque and Solaquin also work.
You have to be sure that your insurance covers the cost. This is cosmetic medicine and often not covered by insurance policies.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: it possible for a man with prostate cancer, before it is treated, to pass the cancer to his wife through intercourse? This subject came up during lunch with friends. Some said it was possible. — C.N.
ANSWER: Prostate cancer is not passed from a man to his wife through intercourse or in any other way.
Readers may write Dr. Donohue at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. ©2012 North America Synd.