November 28, 2004

DR GARETH: Our Little Girl’s Skin is so Very of F-Colour

Q MY seven-year-old daughter has vitiligo. This started when she was three and has now spread to her knees, back and arms. What can be done about this?

A VITILIGO is a distressing condition which causes patches of depigmented (very pale) skin and hair. It is what Michael Jackson says caused his skin to fade.

In most cases we don't know why it happens, although it is linked to conditions such as Addison's disease, diabetes, pernicious anaemia and thyroid problems and can sometimes be inherited.

Vitiligo is an autoimmune disorder - which is when the immune system starts to attack harmless cells. This causes a decrease in melanin production - the natural chemical that gives skin its colour There is no cure but the patches can be covered withmake-up. They must be protected with high-factor sunscreen as they burn easily.

Q I WAS recently given penicillin and suffered nausea and vomiting. Is this a sign of allergy?

A NO. This is just a common side effect of most antibiotics. True allergy to penicillin is relatively rare and does not cause sickness.

A true allergy can be immediate or delayed. The first type causes a serious bumpy rash and swelling of the throat, making breathing difficult. It can result in death and requires immediate medical help.

A delayed reaction is generally in the form of rashes, followed by scaly, itchy and peeling skin.

Q COULD you give me some information on iritis? My mother has developed it and is in a lot of pain.

A IRITIS is an eye disease that mainly affects the iris (the coloured part of the eye). It usually only occurs in one eye at a time but it is often recurrent and both eyes may be affected at different times.

Symptoms are pain and sensitivity to light with some blurring of vision and eye redness.

It may be an immune system problem and is often associated with diseases such as ankylosing spondolytis, sarcoidosis, Reiter's and Behcet's syndrome. However, often there is no obvious cause.

Steroid drops are used to suppress the inflammation.

QI HAVE been diagnosed with a tumour of my pituitary gland. Could I have had it for a while without knowing? How is it treated?

A TUMOURS of the pituitary - a gland at the base of the brain which produces hormones - are very rarely malignant. That means they don't spread to other parts of the body. But they do cause an increase in hormones, leading to problems elsewhere in thebody. This makes them hard to diagnose, so you can have it for a while before you know. The tumour can also cause pressure on the optic nerve leading to tunnel vision.

Treatment is usually surgery to remove the tumour but some types are treated with medication. Either way, the outlook is very good.

Q I NEED an echocardiogram as the doctor detected a murmur in my heart. What will this show? A AN echocardiogram shows how the blood flows through the heart, if the valves are working properly and if the muscle is contracting properly. It does not showpartial blockage of arteries. The procedure takes 20 to 30 minutes and results are read immediately by the operator. Make sure they explain clearly what is going on.