DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I read your column all the time, and I was wondering if anyone has ever written to ask a question about burning in the throat. I was a smoker for years. It’s been five months since I have had a cigarette. This throat burning occurs when I walk or try to exercise or even carry laundry. I would like to know what it means. It feels like hot ice in my throat. — F.R.
ANSWER: I don’t want to alarm you, but I will breathe more easily if you see a doctor very soon. What you describe could be a sign of angina, pain caused by the narrowing of a heart artery or arteries.
More often, people describe angina as chest tightness or discomfort that occurs when they’re active, as in walking, exercising or carrying laundry, and then lets up when they stop. The variations on angina pain are many. It can be felt as jaw pain, shoulder and arm pain (on the left more often than the right) or neck pain. People use words like “squeezing,” “crushing” or “suffocating.” Some say it feels like throat tightness. Burning throat pain could be another variant of angina.
Do see a doctor quickly. Stop doing things that bring on this pain until you do.
The booklet on angina and coronary artery disease explains this common malady and how it’s treated. Readers can obtain a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue — No. 101W, 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: My daughter is on Effexor for depression. She’s been on it for six months, and actually is doing quite well. She’s able to handle her job and take care of her family. Does she take this medicine for life? I worry about addiction and what it might be doing to her brain. — N.M.
ANSWER: Antidepressants are not addicting. They don’t damage the brain. What they do is restore normal brain chemistry. An imbalance in brain messenger chemicals is believed to lead to depression.
Your daughter’s doctor will tell her when she can stop taking the medicine. If a person relapses into another depression after stopping medicine, then she should take antidepressants for a more prolonged period, possibly for life.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I think my husband is an alcoholic. He’s not abusive, but his consumption of alcohol is more than a six-pack of beer a day, and sometimes whiskey. He usually falls asleep in a chair. My sister tells me the cage test can diagnose alcoholism. What is it, and where can he get it done? He won’t talk about these things to me. — C.L.
ANSWER: It’s not a lab test. It’s four questions. They are: 1) Have you ever felt the need to Cut down on your drinking? 2) Are you Annoyed when people criticize your drinking? 3) Do you ever feel Guilty about your drinking? 4) Have you ever taken a drink first thing in the morning as an Eye-opener?
Two “yes” answers indicate alcoholism. It’s a simple but reliable test.
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