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Ask Dr. Etingin.

I've been prescribed a diuretic for high blood pressure, and the label says to avoid sun exposure. Why is this?

A number of medications--including some antibiotics, antidepressants, antimicrobials, antipsychotics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and several other drug classes--can cause "chemical photosensitivity," a reaction to ultraviolet (UV) light that makes the skin extra-sensitive to the sun. Symptoms include exaggerated sunburn, rashes, hives, itching, and blistering. Not everyone who takes these medications will experience photosensitivity; individual reactions depend on the person's skin type, drug dosage, and the sun's intensity, among other factors.

If you are taking a medication that causes photosensitivity, it's best to avoid sun exposure when the sun's rays are strongest, typically between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. If your job or lifestyle requires that you spend time outside, especially during the summer months, speak to your doctor about the possibility of switching to another medication that doesn't cause photosensitivity. And don't use tanning beds and sun lamps, whether or not you are taking any of these medications--all UV light can damage your skin.

What is ECT?

"ECT" stands for electro-convulsive therapy, a procedure in which currents of electricity are passed through the brain and initiate a brief seizure.

ECT appears to work by stimulating changes in brain chemistry. It is sometimes provided to patients with severe depression who have tried several antidepressant medications but have had no relief from their symptoms. It is also used to treat other mental disorders, such as schizophrenia and severe mania.

Although ECT carries a stigma, it is much safer today than in the past. The procedure, which usually takes 10 to 15 minutes, is performed under general anesthesia. During an ECT, brain activity is monitored by an electroencephalogram (EEG).

Common side effects include confusion for a few minutes to several hours following the procedure, and memory loss that may persist for a few weeks or months. Prior to ECT, patients have an electrocardiogram (ECG) to check their heart health, since there is an increase in heart rate and blood pressure during an ECT treatment.

ECT may seem like an extreme option, but for patients who have suffered with chronic, severe mental illness and may feel that suicide is their only other option, it can be a life-saver.

What is casein? I've seen this on the ingredients lists of some food labels.

Casein, a protein found in milk, is used as a binding agent in many food products and medications, as well as cosmetics, paints, and adhesives.

If you are lactose intolerant or allergic to milk, read the ingredients lists of all products before using or consuming them. Even a product that is labeled "lactose-free" may contain casein.

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Publication:Women's Health Advisor
Article Type:Interview
Date:Jun 1, 2011
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