Question: I decided I wouldn’t use sunscreen about 25 years ago. I take a lot of medication, and my decision was based on that. I didn’t want any more chemicals on or in my body. I feel vindicated now that I read about sunscreen ingredients being absorbed through the skin.
I avoid the sun whenever I can. I wear a hat and a shirt that blocks sunlight when I go swimming.
Answer: A study in JAMA (May 6, 2019) demonstrated that some popular sunscreen ingredients are indeed absorbed. Because these compounds are suspected hormone disruptors, the investigators have called for more research to clarify potential problems.
Your strategies to protect yourself from sunburn are prudent. Many medications sensitize the skin to the sun’s UV rays. This could lead to an exceptionally severe sunburn or a rash.
Sunblocking products containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide may be an alternative. The Food and Drug Administration considers these mineral-based ingredients to be safe and effective.
Question: I was recently diagnosed with low thyroid function and am taking Synthroid (.025 mg per day) to regulate it. My cholesterol level has been increasing even though, at age 51, I am the same weight as I was in college, exercise regularly, watch my diet to minimize fat consumption – all the right stuff.
A consulting physician said that there is a relationship between low thyroid function and high cholesterol, but I have been unable to find any other documentation of this. Is this a recognized fact? Does balancing the thyroid really impact the cholesterol level?
Answer: There is clear evidence that mild hypothyroidism is linked to higher levels of cholesterol. A review of clinical trials found that slightly hypothyroid people who took levothyroxine (Levoxyl, Synthroid) had lower cholesterol levels (Clinical Endocrinology, July 2017). Your dose of levothyroxine is very low and might need adjusting.
Question: A reader recently asked about eczema, lamenting that there is no cure. I suffered from eczema for over four decades, but last year my dermatologist suggested that I try a new drug called Dupixent (dupilumab). Within a week, it had completely cleared my eczema, and I’ve had no recurrence since then.
On the downside, the list price of the drug is hideously high. (I pay nothing thanks to my medical insurance and a discount from the drugmaker.) I give myself an injection every 14 days. Readers with eczema who have good medical coverage and who aren’t afraid of needles might want to ask their doctors about this option. It’s changed my life for the better.
Answer: Dupixent is one of the newest treatments for atopic dermatitis. That’s the medical term for eczema. The FDA approved this immune-modifying medication two years ago for people whose condition has not responded to standard treatments.
You are right that the price is breathtaking. Someone without good insurance might have to pay over $3,000 a month. That’s for two injections.
Side effects include reactions at the site of the injection, conjunctivitis and keratitis. Because it suppresses certain aspects of the immune system, some people may experience cold sores or other herpes infections.