Q. I have a scalp condition for which I have used Nizoral for years. It also affects my facial skin and eyebrows, causing scaling and itching. I have used a prescription cortisone cream for this, but it is no longer very effective.
After reading in your column about the person who used Vicks for bad dandruff, I tried it on my face and had almost immediate results. The scales in the nose creases disappeared overnight.
The scaling on my forehead and in my eyebrows is also disappearing, but more slowly. I have to be careful to apply a very thin layer of Vicks so as not to cause eye problems. People might think that any ointment would clear this up, but I have tried lots of prescription creams, and they made no difference whatsoever.
Vicks also seems to eliminate bad toenail fungus. What else can Vicks do?
A. We are astonished by the range of problems that people have successfully treated using Vicks VapoRub. This old-fashioned cold remedy contains eucalyptus oil, menthol, camphor, cedar-leaf oil, nutmeg oil, thymol and turpentine oil. Some of these herbal ingredients have anti-fungal properties. Mixtures of such essential oils appear more potent than the individual ingredients.
The condition you describe sounds like seborrheic dermatitis. It is caused by a fungus, which is why your doctor prescribed the antifungal shampoo Nizoral. People tell us Vicks is good for dry, cracked fingertips, mosquito bites, paper cuts, nail fungus, tennis elbow and muscle soreness. It must be kept away from eyes or other delicate tissue.
Q. After taking saw palmetto for six months, I had a PSA test. I was alarmed because it went up 2.5 points.
The doctor checks my prostate every six months with this blood test. Does saw palmetto change the PSA?
A. Testing PSA (prostate-specific antigen) is a way of monitoring the prostate. It allows doctors to tell if a more thorough work-up for prostate cancer is warranted.
Until recently, it was feared that saw palmetto might cover up a rise in PSA and make it harder to detect changes.
New research published in Prostate (vol. 40, 1999, pg. 232) shows that this herb, used to relieve symptoms of prostate enlargement, does not interfere with PSA tests. The increase in your PSA level suggests that your doctor should investigate this further.
In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of the People's Pharmacy, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, N.C. 27717, or e-mail them at their Web site (www. peoplespharmacy.com) on the HealthCentral.com network.