DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have pseudogout. It’s hard for me to explain to people, so I either tell them I have gout or I don’t tell them anything.
Will you do me a favor and explain it in the paper? I’ll cut it out, carry it with me and give it to people who ask what I have. Thanks. — D.K.
ANSWER: “Pseudo” is the Greek word for “false.” Pseudogout is false gout, an illness that looks a lot like gout but really isn’t related to it.
With gout, blood uric-acid level rises. Crystals of uric acid deposit in joints and give rise to gout pain. With pseudogout, the crystals that invade joints and the tissues around joints are calcium pyrophosphate. What causes the rise of these crystals isn’t known. It’s not diet. The first attack of gout usually involves the base of the big toe. With pseudogout, it’s the knee. The pain of pseudogout is not false; it’s quite real. Both crystals target other joints as time passes.
Even though these two are different processes, treatment is similar. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are used for acute attacks of both, medicines like Indocin and Motrin. Colchicine, another gout medicine, is also used for an acute, painful attack of pseudogout. As in gout, cortisone injection of an inflamed joint reliably suppresses joint pain. The standard treatment of inflamed joints — ice packs and immobilization — are part of treatment for both illnesses.
Unlike gout, pseudogout doesn’t have as many medicines for the prevention of attacks. Colchicine can be taken on a daily basis to ward off attacks. However, should this illness develop into a chronic illness, medicines like methotrexate and hydroxychloroquine are often prescribed.
The booklet on gout and pseudogout provides answers to other questions on these illnesses. Readers can obtain a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue — No. 302W, 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: For about two months, my husband had a red bump on the back of his hand, and he picked at it all the time. It became a sore. I pestered him to see somebody about it, and he finally did. It turned out to be Bowen’s disease. My husband now believes he is at death’s door. Please explain what this is and how it’s treated. — G.R.
ANSWER: Bowen’s disease is squamous cell skin cancer in situ. Squamous cells are the usual outer skin cells. “In situ” is a Latin phrase that means “in place,” the cancer hasn’t gnawed deeply into the skin and hasn’t spread. Bowen’s disease is as close to being 100 percent curable as any illness can be.
Freezing it, drying it with an electric current, radiating it, applying F-fluorouracil cream and surgically removing it (including Mohs surgery) are options that your doctor will explain to your husband. The choice depends on the size and depth of the cancer and your husband’s health.
And oh yeah, tell him to stop picking at it.
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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