Sulfur dioxide: Safe food treatment?
DEAR DRS. DONOHUE AND ROACH: I purchased a large bag of green grapes. They taste great, but the bag stated that the grapes were treated with sulfur dioxide. Is this safe? Can the chemical be removed? -- M.L.
ANSWER: Sulfur dioxide is used as a preservative, especially in dried fruits, but also in grapes (both fresh and in winemaking). Sulfur dioxide is considered to be safe; however, some people are sensitive to it, and it may even cause asthma symptoms in those who are predisposed.
Washing the grapes in plain tap water is effective. Alternatively, you could buy organic grapes, which have much less pesticide residue than ones conventionally grown. But most people have no trouble with foods treated with sulfur dioxide.
DEAR DRS. DONOHUE AND ROACH: I take a 15-minute walk within a half-hour of rising, and more often than not, I experience intense lower-jaw pain, tooth pain and sometimes a headache in the back of my head. If I go to the gym, I can do 30-45 minutes of nonstop aerobics with no pain of any kind! What's going on? -- A.
ANSWER: One thing you might be experiencing is pain in your temperomandibular joint. The joint is in the jaw area, and you can feel it in front of your ear when you open and close your mouth.
TMJ pain is very common and usually is worse on one side. The pain often is worst first thing in the morning because of its association with teeth clenching or grinding at night. Your dentist is your first stop to look for dental problems that can cause TMJ pain syndrome, and you also may need to see your internist or general practitioner. He or she should be able to diagnose why you have TMJ pain and offer some treatments, which may include anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen or naproxen.
However, I also am concerned about the possibility of temporal arteritis, a much rarer condition caused by inflammation in the arteries in your head. If there is no problem in the TMJ, then your internist should consider the diagnosis of temporal arteritis.
The fact that you can exercise more intensively without any pain says this likely is not coming from your heart. Occasionally, the symptoms of heart disease or a heart attack can be present in the jaw, but I doubt that is the case here.
DEAR DRS. DONOHUE AND ROACH: On four occasions, I have seen "zig zags" in one eye, and at other times the other eye. I have been to the eye doctor three times and found nothing. Looking back, I was stressed each time.
ANSWER: These sound like floaters. Floaters are bits of protein or cellular debris that seem to move around in the field of vision. They are common, and generally do not indicate that anything is wrong. However, a sudden increase in the number of floaters, especially in the presence of visual changes such as flashing lights, can be a sign of a vitreous detachment or retinal detachment, which are eye emergencies.
TO READERS: Recurring vaginal infections are often troubling to women. The booklet on that topic explains them and their treatment. Readers can order a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue -- No. 1203, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6. Can. with the recipient's printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.
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Drs. Donohue and Roach regret that they are unable to answer individual letters, but will incorporate them in the column whenever possible. Readers may write the doctors or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Readers also may order health newsletters from www.rbmamall.com.
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