Your Good Health: Hormones’ ability to ease MS under trial, but results unclear

Dear Dr. Roach: I recently read an article on MS. I have a young friend who suffers from it. As the article confirmed, and my young friend can attest to, symptoms receded during pregnancy. My question is: Don’t birth-control pills mimic pregnancy because of the hormones used? Have studies been done using hormones to help multiple sclerosis sufferers? Could those hormones possibly help?

F.R.

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I love the way you think.

You are exactly right that the symptoms of multiple sclerosis often improve during pregnancy, only to rebound once pregnancy is over. Several studies have now shown that estriol, produced by the placenta in pregnancy, reduces the immune reaction to the brain cells, protecting them. Estriol is relatively safe. However, even though the studies so far are promising, the best use of estrogens (possibly progestins, as well) in MS still isn’t clear. I found five trials currently ongoing on estriol and multiple sclerosis at clinicaltrials.gov.

Dear Dr. Roach: Does putting Neosporin in your nose protect against colds and flu?

D.L.G.

No. Neosporin is a brand-name combination of antibacterial and antifungal antibiotics, very useful for protecting minor wounds and treating superficial infections, but is not effective against cold viruses or flu viruses.

It doesn’t filter out the viruses either, which are really, REALLY small, and which might also be transmitted by hands as well as being airborne.

Some people have noses that get very dry, even to the point of cracking, which might cause an infection in the nostrils as well as being very uncomfortable. An ointment in the nose acts as a moisture barrier; however, using an antibiotic ointment wouldn’t be my first choice, as the antibiotic is not only unnecessary, but can cause an allergic reaction in some people, so plain petrolatum (Vaseline or equivalent) is my recommendation. Other people like using a nasal saline spray.

Dr. Roach regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but will incorporate them in the column whenever possible. Readers may email questions to ToYourGoodHealth@med.cornell.edu.

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