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Ask Dr. Gott 4/3

Ease up on meds to cure muscle weakness

DEAR DR. GOTT: I recently read about the 54-year-old person who was taking Zocor, and who complained to his doctor he was having muscle weakness. Well, I had been taking Zocor for two years, and a year ago my doctor changed me to lovastatin. For three months, I complained to my doctor of severe cramps, and sizzling in both legs and hands. I could hardly walk and couldn't go upstairs. I wasn't able to exercise and had pain across my lower back, into the hip area.
    I had a complete physical exam by my doctor. He took me off the lovastatin for two weeks, and he suggested lab work and for me to see a neurologist, which I did. The neurologist, without question, feels I should never have taken either the lovastatin or the Zocor. My muscles are very weak, but I try to do some exercise, as I've always been a very active person. After being off the Lovastatin for two days, I began to feel much better, even though I was far from my old self. There's no doubt I have damage.
    I'm 80 years old, have a history of two strokes and did very well with physical therapy.
    DEAR READER: I'm sorry that you had to go through such an unpleasant phase. I agree with your neurologist that you should never again take statin drugs. While you are recovering from the damage caused by the prescription medication, be patient and consider some physical therapy for muscle strengthening.
    To give you related information, I am sending you a free copy of my Health Report "Consumer Tips on Medicines."

    DEAR DR. GOTT: I am 77, and last November I had a stroke. At first I felt funny in my body, and then when I talked, I was slurring my words. I went to my doctor's office, and he sent me to the emergency department, as he suspected a stroke.
    I spent four days in the ICU, where they ran me through all the tests. They found that I had a 100 percent blockage in my right carotid artery. I was told that they couldn't open it and that I would have to live with it. They felt I was getting enough blood supply to my brain.
    I have high blood pressure for which I'm being treated with medication, and I am monitored regularly. I see my doctor every three months and have blood testing done each time. I am a type-2 diabetic. I have a pacemaker and am checked every two months for that. Several doctors have told me they can't operate on my carotid artery. What do you think? I seem to be getting along well, and I still exercise every morning.
    DEAR READER: Carotid blockage can lead to serious consequences, including stroke. If the blockage is severe, surgery is indicated. I do not understand your doctors' reluctance to operate, remove the obstruction and thereby lessen the risk of stroke. Perhaps this would be a good time for you to obtain a second opinion from a vascular surgeon. Ask your primary-care physician to refer you to such a specialist. At the very least, you deserve to know why the doctors are taking a wait-and-see position that seems to be inappropriate.

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