People's Pharmacy

People's Pharmacy

May 26, 2006|By JOE GRAEDON AND TERESA GRAEDON

I always thought hot flashes were a woman's problem. Ever since treatment for prostate cancer, I have suffered hot flashes day and night.

My wife says I can appreciate how miserable she was during menopause. My doctor has not been very helpful. Is there anything I can take to ease these hot flashes?

Hot flashes seem to be related to changes in hormone levels, but the exact mechanism is still a mystery. Doctors have had some success easing them with nonhormonal approaches. These include antidepressants such as Paxil (paroxetine) and Effexor (venlafaxine). They have also experimented with the anti-seizure drug Neurontin (gabapentin).

Other options may include female hormones (low-dose estrogen or medroxyprogesterone). Side effects, such as blood clots and weight gain, might be a problem. Acupuncture and St. John's wort also might be helpful. Whatever treatment you consider, please find a physician who is understanding and knowledgeable about this uncomfortable condition.

My doctor has had me on Crestor, Mevacor, Vytorin and Pravachol to lower cholesterol. Each of these drugs gave me such severe muscle aches and pain in my thighs that I could hardly walk. The doctor said my pain has nothing to do with the cholesterol medicine, but I have seen warnings about this on TV commercials.

Why can't doctors listen? He has put me on one statin after another with the same results. Isn't there some other way to lower cholesterol?

Physicians are enthusiastic about statin-type drugs such as Lipitor, Zocor and the medicines you have taken because they are so effective. Some people are very sensitive to muscle pain and weakness, however, even if blood tests are normal.

There are many nonstatin solutions to the cholesterol quandary. You should not have to suffer to get your cholesterol levels under control. Talk to your doctor about this.

You sounded lukewarm recently in response to a question about the nasal spray Astelin. I am allergic to nearly everything and suffered unbelievably before Astelin. My allergist explained that one of the chief benefits of a nasal antihistamine is that it attacks the allergies where they attack us: in our noses. No over-the-counter medication, such as Claritin or pseudoephedrine, or anything else works as well for my allergies as Astelin.

We are delighted you got such benefit. Some people experience side effects such as bitter taste, drowsiness or headache.

Golden raisins soaked in gin were ineffective against my arthritis pain, but raisins in sloe gin were immediately and totally effective. Thanks for the suggestion.

Thank you for the testimonial. Regular gin is flavored with juniper berries, while sloe gin is flavored with sloe berries from the blackthorn bush, which was traditionally used for digestive disorders. This isn't the first time we have heard that sloe gin with raisins may be helpful against arthritis pain.

I've been hearing about grape seed extract as an antioxidant. What do you know about it?

Grapes and their seeds are rich in antioxidant compounds such as flavonoids and proanthocyanidins (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, May 2004). Researchers at the University of California, Davis, reported this spring that grape seed extract lowered blood pressure among people with prehypertension. Systolic pressure (the top number) came down almost 12 points, and diastolic pressure (the bottom or second number) came down about eight points.

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: PeoplesPharmacy.com.

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