>Q. Is there anything that can help with eczema? My granddaughter has tried everything, and nothing short of steroids helps. I am worried because steroids can cause other problems.
A. Steroid creams often are effective against the dry, itchy, red skin typical of eczema. You are correct, however, that even topical steroids can sometimes thin the skin and cause stretch marks.
Some doctors prescribe creams such as Atopiclair or MimyX that do not contain steroids. There also are a number of alternative therapies that can be helpful. One reader offered her experience: "My thumb has been inflamed and itchy with blisters and hives for about two months. None of the various treatments worked.
"I read here about oolong tea and have been drinking it for two weeks, with marked success. There are no blisters and no itching. The skin is still rather dry, but improving.
"This has worked amazingly well. The physician's assistant thought my problem might be psoriasis and was ready to refer me to a dermatologist. If my skin keeps getting better, I won't need to go."
We discuss the use of oolong tea, dietary changes, Pycnogenol and CamoCare Soothing Cream in our Guide to Skin Care. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (64 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons' People's Pharmacy, No. S-28, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our website: www.peoplespharmacy.com.
>Q. I have suffered from fibrocystic breasts my entire adult life. At age 52, the lumps in my breasts had become so numerous, large and painful, I could no longer ignore them.
After doing some research online, I stopped wearing a bra. After about a week, the pain and tenderness disappeared, and now, four months later, the lumps have all gone away, with none taking their place. This result has been dramatic and transformational for me. I wanted to share it with other women since this is a very common condition.
Needless to say, this treatment costs nothing and has no side effects. I wish my doctor had told me about this.
A. Many women do have lumpy, painful breasts. If not wearing a bra limits your discomfort, it seems like a simple solution.
Doctors at the Mayo Clinic suggest OTC pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, oral contraceptives or a drug called danazol (Danocrine) for fibrocystic breast disease. All these options have side effects, however, and going braless is far safer.
>Q. You have written about hiccups that will not go away. My husband had hiccups for four days and finally saw the doctor when his ribs started hurting.
His physician told him to use an enema suppository. He did, and the hiccups were gone within 24 hours. I hope this helps someone else.
A. Persistent hiccups require a medical work-up to rule out any serious underlying cause such as a heart attack, pneumonia, pancreatitis, hepatitis or cancer.
When all else fails, doctors have found that massaging the rectum can be surprisingly effective. More than two decades ago, an article in the Journal of Internal Medicine (February 1990) reported that digital rectal massage resulted in a quick cure for intractable hiccups. Perhaps that is why your husband's doctor suggested a suppository. We're glad this approach worked so well.