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How can you keep plantar warts from coming back?

September 24, 2018

Q: I’ve been plagued with plantar warts for most of my adult life. I got rid of the most recent one by treating it persistently with salicylic acid.

Now I want to prevent re-infection. This is a virus, isn’t it? How long will it live in my slippers and shoes, and cause recurrence? Should I buy a box of bandages and apply them on the soles of my feet for a month to protect myself?

A: Instead of bandages, try clean socks every day. That’s the advice the Mayo Clinic offers, and it makes sense to us.

Plantar warts appear on the soles of the feet. They are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). Why some people are more susceptible than others remains a medical mystery. Genetics and immune function probably play key roles.

Recommendations for preventing recurrences include not going barefoot in locker rooms nor around swimming pools. Wash your hands after you touch a wart.

We have collected many home remedies for plantar warts. They include applications of tincture of iodine, tea tree oil and turmeric in olive oil to the wart. Some people report success taping a banana peel (fleshy side on the skin) to the wart overnight. Others say that soaking the foot in hot salty water for 30 to 90 minutes a week also is helpful. Read more details in our book “Quick and Handy Home Remedies,” which is available at peoplespharmacy.com.

Q: I read in your column about a mother who purchased Sea-Bands for her son who had trouble sleeping. These elastic wrist bands are sold to counteract nausea and motion sickness, but they helped her son sleep.

Having had trouble sleeping myself, I bought a pair of Sea-Bands and tried them out. They worked the first night and have kept on working.

Of course, I know this quick remedy won’t work for all insomniacs. I told my doctor about it, and he shrugged and said nothing. But I hope that others will try it and benefit.

A: Sea-Bands are elastic wrist bands with an embedded plastic button that is supposed to be placed over an acupressure point. For getting to sleep, the point is called the Inner Gate. It is located between the two tendons on the inner side of the wrist, about three finger widths from the crease where the hand meets the wrist.

A review of four studies on acupressure suggests that this technique can improve sleep for some people (Sleep Medicine Reviews, February 2018).

Q: In the past few years, I’ve had more or less continual constipation, meaning big, hard BMs that are tough to pass. Recently, a gardener friend gave me a slew of cucumbers. Voila! As long as I eat a few cucumbers each day, the BMs, while still large, pass comfortably and promptly.

I found no mention on your site of this property of cucumbers, and I thought you would be interested. It’s much better than Power Pudding.

A: We don’t know whether this will work for other people with constipation, but cucumbers certainly are safe. Normally, we think of fiber-rich foods as a good way to combat constipation. While cucumbers aren’t particularly high in fiber, they do contain some, and they are full of water, which also might be helpful. You may be interested in our radio show No. 1115, an interview with Dr. Robynne Chutkan on how you can conquer constipation. You can listen at peoplespharmacy.com.

Q: Drugs for erectile dysfunction are all extremely expensive. Are their prices being fixed, as I suspect? The price has steadily increased to about $60 a pill. And the prices are virtually the same for each brand-name drug. This has been the case since three ED drugs became available. This can’t be by coincidence!

I’ve tried to interest my congressmen and senators about this, but have had no response whatsoever. Can you spur a congressional investigation?

A: Drugs for erectile dysfunction are indeed pricey. A single 10-mg dose of Cialis (tadalafil) costs about $60. Levitra (vardenafil) also is nearly $60 a pill. As you have noted, brand-name Viagra (sildenafil) is in the same ballpark. The generic version is substantially less expensive, however.

We have no way of determining how drug companies adjust their prices. Competition is supposed to lead to lower prices, but it doesn’t seem to work that way for brand-name prescription drugs.

Generic drugs are not immune. Last spring, 45 states and the Department of Justice uncovered a bid-rigging scheme that may have cost consumers and businesses a billion dollars. The prosecutors found evidence regarding the antibiotic doxycycline, but other generic drugs probably also were affected.

Q: My father is 76 and in very good health. His physician has prescribed atorvastatin, even though his cholesterol is under 200. He follows a Mediterranean diet with lots of vegetables. He bikes almost every day, but he is starting to complain that his leg muscles are becoming weaker. Does he really need to take a statin?

A: Doctors have been debating this question for decades. Most of the early clinical trials did not include people over 75. Studies of older people have produced unimpressive and contradictory results.

A recent study examined the health records of more than 46,000 people who were at least 75 years old. The authors found that individuals without diabetes who took statins for at least five years derived no discernible health benefit (BMJ, Sep. 5, 2018). The statin takers did not have less heart disease or live any longer than people who did not take statins. Older people may be more vulnerable to statin side effects, such as muscle weakness (Choosing Wisely, 2014).

We discuss this topic in much greater detail along with other medications that can be problematic for older people in our book “Top Screwups.” It is available at peoplespharmacy.com.

Q: I’ve had migraines, maybe a couple of them a year, for many years. When I first see the aura, I’ve found that taking an aspirin within minutes does the trick for me. It halts the migraine entirely. I don’t know if this would work for anyone else, but it’s been a lifesaver for me.

A: Medical guidelines suggest that aspirin or another NSAID is effective for mild to moderate migraine attacks (Acta Neurologica Taiwanica, June 15, 2017). Acetaminophen (Tylenol) in combination with an NSAID such as diclofenac, ibuprofen or naproxen also can stop an attack (Continuum, August 2015).

The makers of Excedrin Migraine have capitalized on the combination of acetaminophen, aspirin and caffeine. A randomized controlled trial demonstrated that this combination is better than placebo for treating migraines (Cephalalgia, November 2014). People who suffer migraines tell us that utilizing their treatment at the first hint of an aura increases the chance of success.

Contact the Graedons at peoplespharmacy.com.

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