Hello dear readers, and welcome to our autumn letters column. Are we alone in wondering how summer flew by so quickly? Here at Ask the Doctors headquarters, you’ve kept our mailboxes full, so we’re diving in.
— We got a lot of mail after a column about hemorrhoids, with writers ranging in age from a new mother in her 20s to older adults. The common theme in their advice to fellow hemorrhoid sufferers? Moisture.
A woman in her 70s, writing from Oklahoma, finds relief in the tub. “One way I’ve found to keep hemorrhoids from being so painful is to take warm baths,” she writes. “For me, this works much better than any medicine I have found.”
A man in South Carolina, who has struggled for decades with the maddening itch, says his doctor suggested a bidet. “I ordered one that attaches to the toilet for about $40,” he writes. “I have not had any itching since, so it’s worth a try!”
— A reader with dentures wonders about the potential health effects of the adhesive that keeps the devices in place. “I sometimes have to use the adhesive twice a day in order to eat meals, or else I wind up biting the insides of my bottom lip,” she writes. “Is daily ingestion of denture adhesive harmful?”
Some denture adhesives contain zinc, a mineral that our bodies need for good health. However, an excess of zinc over time can cause health problems, including nerve damage, often in the hands and feet. There have been some reports of zinc toxicity among denture wearers, but in those cases the person used two or more tubes of a zinc-based adhesive per week. According to product instructions, a single tube is meant to last seven to eight weeks.
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In this particular case, it’s possible that the dentures no longer fit properly, which can happen due to bone shrinkage. We recommend seeing your dentist. Your existing dentures may need to be relined, or you may need to be fitted for new ones.
— In response to a column about Lyme disease, a reader asks whether tests have improved since 1996, the year she had a run-in with a deer tick. The answer is yes, today’s tests are more accurate. However, it takes several weeks for antibodies to Lyme disease bacteria to develop, so it’s possible to get a false negative if one is tested too soon. It takes four to six weeks after infection for the Lyme test to show an accurate positive result.
— We’ll close with a thought from a reader in Pennsylvania who thought something was missing in a recent column about mindfulness and meditation:
“As a former geriatric nurse, I have often seen patients calmed by prayer, a Bible reading and a Scripture quote as they face a serious operation or death,” she wrote. “I think this deserves to be mentioned in reference to the calming and beneficial effect it promotes.”
As always, thank you for your thoughts, kind words and ideas. We look forward to hearing from you, and will see you for another letters column next month.