Q. I’ve heard about becoming addicted to nasal sprays, but I wonder if one can become addicted to eyedrops. I have severe dry eyes along with allergies, and I need a dose of eyedrops first thing in the morning and several times throughout the day. Otherwise my eyes get horribly red, swollen and irritated. Am I addicted?
A. You may well be experiencing rebound redness from overuse of eyedrops. The same ingredient that is found in many nasal sprays is found in eye products that help get the red out.
Oxymetazoline is a long-acting topical drug that constricts (shrinks) blood vessels. That is how it relieves congestion in the nose. But people who use nasal decongestants for allergies, colds or sinus problems are warned to use such products for only three to five days. After that they may experience rebound congestion as the medicine wears off.
The same thing can happen in the eyes. Rebound redness occurs when the blood vessels dilate after the effects of the medicine fade. It can take several days (or sometimes longer) for this effect to gradually disappear. You may be better off with artificial tears rather than anti-red drops.
Q. I have been on atenolol for blood pressure for a little more than a year. I am having problems like extremely cold feet, dizziness, fatigue and trouble breathing.
My doctors say I have to take this medicine, but I am ready to throw it out and take my chances. Do you have any advice?
A. There was a time when beta blockers like atenolol, metoprolol and propranolol were considered first-line treatments for high blood pressure. But this is now controversial. In fact, there are data to suggest that atenolol may not be “a suitable drug for hypertensive patients” (Lancet, Nov. 6-12, 2004).
Never stop a beta blocker suddenly, since this could lead to dangerous consequences. Do discuss this with your doctor, as your symptoms could be side effects of the medication.
We are sending you our Guide to Blood Pressure Treatment with more information about beta blockers and other medicines as well as nondrug options that may help you. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (61 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. B-67, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our Web site: www.peoplespharmacy.com.
Q. When does sunscreen expire? Should I replace my sunscreen every year?
A. Some sunscreens come with expiration dates, so it would be worth checking the label. The Food and Drug Administration requires all sunscreens to remain stable for three years. If we assume (conservatively) that a year goes by between manufacture and sale, that still gives you at least two years’ margin of safety.
Q. What products are available that can stop the terrible smell of gas when dietary discretion is not enough?
A. Pepto-Bismol (bismuth subsalicylate) appears to be effective at reducing hydrogen sulfide formation (Gastroenterology, May 1998). This is responsible for some of the nasty smells associated with intestinal gas. Do not take more than is indicated on the label, because too much bismuth can be toxic.
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