People's Pharmacy

People's Pharmacy


I love gardening, but arthritis is slowing me down. It's hard to get up and down to do planting and weeding. My fingers are stiff, and my knees get sore.

I took Motrin to help with the joint pain and developed a really nasty rash. My doctor suggested I use Aleve instead, but the rash only got worse. She prescribed prednisone, which helped the rash for awhile and even eased the arthritis pain. But they both came back when I phased off it.

Now my doctor wants me to take more prednisone. It gives me insomnia, and I worry about other side effects. What can you tell me about prednisone, and what else can I do for my arthritis?

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn), diclofenac (Cataflam, Voltaren) and Celebrex are often used to alleviate arthritis, but they can cause a rash in susceptible people. Once you develop such a reaction, you probably will have to avoid all NSAIDs.

Prednisone can relieve many allergic conditions, including a drug-induced rash, poison ivy, eczema and asthma. But there are many side effects associated with long-term use. Cataracts, glaucoma, weight gain, high blood pressure and insomnia are just a few potential complications.

I am extremely sensitive to the chemicals in antiperspirants. They make my underarms itch. What else can I use?

We have heard that applying milk of magnesia (the antacid/laxative) to underarms can control sweating and odor. One reader wrote: "Your suggestion for milk of magnesia as a deodorant has been a lifesaver!"

I cannot digest dairy products. They give me gas, bloating and diarrhea. I believe I am lactose intolerant. Will this milk sugar cause an abnormal blood-sugar reading?

Lactose (milk sugar) that is not digested can cause digestive distress, but it should have no effect on blood sugar.

I have a comment about the dark chocolate controversy on whether it is irresponsible to recommend chocolate for health benefits.

I started eating Hershey's dark chocolate when it was on sale a few weeks ago. I enjoy about five of the little squares twice a day. Both my systolic and diastolic blood pressure numbers went down about 15 or 20 points each.

Chocolate will never substitute for blood pressure medicine, but some data support your experience. Studies have demonstrated modest benefits of cocoa and dark chocolate in lowering blood pressure (Hypertension, August 2005; Archives of Internal Medicine, Feb. 27, 2006).

Your reaction to chocolate is much greater than average. The amount needed to affect blood pressure ranges from 10 grams (the size of one Ghirardelli chocolate square) to 100 grams (the size of a Ritter Sport bar).

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of this newspaper or e-mail them via their Web site:

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