DR ELLIE CANNON: Why have I suddenly started to produce far too much saliva?
A few months ago I started drooling profusely, which means I have to constantly wipe my mouth. My doctor says there is clearly nothing wrong. Can you help? I am 70 years old.
It’s quite rare for people to have too much saliva, but for those who do, the problem can be extremely embarrassing.
Not only that, the fluid around the mouth can irritate the skin and lips, cause dermatitis and even infection.
Usually there are two things going on here: either the mouth is producing too much saliva or you are having trouble swallowing.
Several underlying issues can explain this. Some medications, such as buprenorphine for chronic pain or psychiatric pills, such as risperidone and venlafaxine, can cause an overproduction of saliva.
It is quite rare for people to have too much saliva, but for those who do, the problem can be extremely embarrassing
Any problem with the mouth can cause difficulty swallowing. For example, pain in the tongue or mouth, dental problems such as cavities and even acid regurgitation that comes up from the stomach.
Diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s and motor neuron disease can also lead to excessive saliva. So if the problem does not resolve itself, it is worth undergoing some examinations.
Talk to your dentist first to see if there is a problem with the teeth or gums.
A general practitioner can arrange a swallowing test with a speech therapist. They also have knowledge of the effect of any medications you may be taking.
Treatment is available for this problem, even if the cause is not entirely clear. Medications can be prescribed by a general practitioner. It can be a patch that sticks to the skin or a tablet. It may also be worth considering medication for acid reflux.
I am 74 and have had IBS since I was 20. My main symptom is flatulence, which is extremely embarrassing and makes me nervous about going out. I’ve tried everything and nothing seems to work – what should I do?
Flatulence, or frequent gas production, is often associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
The well-known symptoms of IBS are abdominal pain, bloating and abnormal bowel movements, but there are other symptoms as well.
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Dr. Cannon cannot respond to personal correspondence and her responses should be viewed in a general context.
Problems with flatulence and bloating are often caused by eating certain foods that ferment and interact with friendly bacteria in your gut to produce gas.
It is important to understand the difference between the two different types of dietary fiber – insoluble and soluble.
Insoluble fiber can make flatulence worse because it passes through the gut undigested. Examples include whole-grain breads and pasta, brown rice, and bran. But soluble fiber — such as skinless potatoes and oats — can reduce flatulence.
While fruit is good for us, the sugars in it can trigger IBS symptoms in some people. It may be wise to limit fruit to a maximum of three servings per day and choose varieties that contain less sugar, such as bananas and raspberries.
Some vegetables can also trigger symptoms, including broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and onions.
Specialists in IBS may also recommend avoiding artificial sweeteners and fizzy drinks that aggravate gas, and some doctors are now suggesting trying a probiotic to help.
You could try a probiotic yogurt or milk drink from the supermarket every day for a month and see if that helps.
I’ve developed a large boil on my chin that doesn’t seem to be getting any smaller – and it’s getting more and more painful. At first I thought it was a bite but then it developed what looked like a head you would see in a spot. What do you think it could be?
Chances are, if a skin problem looks like a boil, it probably is one.
A boil is a skin infection. Fluid collects in the center and is often hard, red, and painful.
It may be possible to remove the infection using heat.
Hold a hot flannel or warm compress on the area for ten minutes three times a day. This can help burst the boil and drain the liquid.
As tempting as it is, try not to burst it. This can make the infection worse and lead to scarring.
If it’s warm to the touch and the boil is surrounded by redness that seems to be spreading, it may mean you need antibiotics, so see a doctor.
Boils are common in people who shave or those with underlying health conditions such as diabetes. Otherwise, this type of skin problem could be an insect bite. Occasionally, after an insect bite or other minor injury, a lump called a dermatofibroma develops on the skin. This usually happens if the injury is on the leg and looks like a firm bump that can be pink or brown. These are harmless, but do not go away on their own.
If a doctor has confirmed the diagnosis, you can leave it alone.
For most operations, patients can now send in photos of skin problems, so that a GP can watch remotely. Visit your practice’s website for more information.
Make sure you take good quality photos, both up close and from a wide angle, so they can see the whole area.
Many surgeries can also send the pictures to a dermatologist for a specialist opinion.
Did your hair grow back after chemo?
One of my readers – a former cancer patient – sent me a letter about her concerns that her hair still hasn’t grown back a year after chemotherapy.
Most people know that a side effect of some types of chemo is hair loss, but doctors tell patients that in the vast majority of cases it will grow back.
This reader is devastated and feels misled. She also says she’s heard of other women who were just as shocked to discover they remained virtually bald years later.
She wrote about a type of chemotherapy called docetaxel. I’m interested to hear if you’ve had the same experience with this drug or other types, what you’ve been told about the risk of permanent hair loss or even if you were shocked to learn it was a possibility.
All medications have side effects and they are usually a small price to pay for life-saving treatment. But patients need to know the truth about what awaits them. Write me on the email below if you have experience with this.
Don’t panic about the ‘cancer risk’ of cola
Please don’t worry too much about the news linking artificial sweeteners and cancer.
Aspartame is an artificial sweetener in many carbonated drinks
Aspartame — the sweetener in Diet Cokes and chewing gum — has been reclassified as a potential cancer risk by the World Health Organization.
This does not mean that you will get cancer from drinking Diet Coke. It means that some studies – mostly done on animals – have shown a possible link between the sweetener and the disease, and the experiments usually involve amounts far greater than anyone would consume.
It might help to be aware of some of the other 321 things on the same list: aloe vera plants, pickled vegetables, and some antifungal medications. And these are considered less risky than other barmy factors, including working as a hairdresser.
As with anything, the answer is moderation.