DEAR DR. DONOHUE: When I turned 24, my pierced ears started to reject (bleeding, itching, swelling) my earrings. I have used 14-karat gold, sterling silver and cheap metal earrings. What is the cause? Is there a solution? — E.L.
ANSWER: That reaction suggests allergic contact dermatitis, a sensitivity your skin has developed to the metal in your earrings. Nickel is the metal most often responsible. If the gold is 14 karat, it probably contains nickel. Silver jewelry is usually safe, but the clasps and solder on it can have nickel.
If this is allergic contact dermatitis, the best treatment is stopping the use of the offending earrings.
To be sure that this is nickel sensitivity, a dermatologist can give you a skin test for it.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My father is in the last stages of Alzheimer’s disease. He is in a nursing home and is bedridden for most of the day. He doesn’t recognize my mother or me. We cannot communicate with him.
My mother is worried that he might be feeling pain and is unable to tell anyone. Is there some way I can assure her that he is not suffering? This is most important to my mother. — J.F.
ANSWER: If your dad reacts to a pinch, he can feel pain and he can communicate the feeling as we all do — by wincing. It’s a reflex that most often remains intact even in the late stages of Alzheimer’s.
The staff at the nursing home is instructed to pay careful attention to any signs that a patient is in discomfort. They take particular care to inspect all patients for any signs that the skin might be breaking down to form a bedsore.
Alzheimer’s disease is an illness almost as hard on relatives as it is on patients. The Alzheimer’s booklet gives the details of this illness and its treatments. Readers can order a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue — No. 903W, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6 Canada with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: You have mentioned celiac disease more than once. You omit oats as one of the grains to avoid. I know for sure that oats throw me into trouble. You should clarify this. — P.N.
ANSWER: Celiac disease is a digestive illness where the digestive tract is thrown for a loop by gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. The symptoms are diarrhea, weight loss and bulky, foul-smelling stools. Sometimes people with celiac disease present with anemia or osteoporosis without any digestive-tract symptoms. These illnesses come on because celiac disease interrupts the absorption of minerals, vitamins and other nutrients.
Oats do not contain gluten. However, they can be contaminated with gluten because they are sometimes refined with the same machinery used to refine those other grains. Many celiac patients tolerate oats well. If they don’t, they should avoid oats along with the other grains.
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.
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