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2018-06-13 / South Texas Living

The case against hydrogen peroxide

DEAR DR. ROACH: My dental hygienist recommends rinsing your mouth with hydrogen peroxide to kill germs after flossing. Lately I have heard that using too much hydrogen peroxide can be harmful. What are your thoughts? -- T.W.

ANSWER: Hydrogen peroxide is a powerful antiseptic that has some usefulness for household objects; however, I don’t recommend it as an oral rinse. It is too toxic to tissues. In a 1993 study, even hydrogen peroxide solutions diluted to half and quarter strengths caused damage to mucous membranes and caused “overwhelmingly negative subjective reactions.” Thus they were not recommended for oral care. A regular mouthwash is a much better choice, and your dentist can prescribe a medicated mouthwash if needed.

Incidentally, I don’t recommend hydrogen peroxide for cleaning cuts and abrasions, either. It isn’t effective at inhibiting bacterial growth. I recommend careful cleaning with mild soap and water or saline and an antibiotic ointment like Bacitracin.

DEAR DR. ROACH: I have heard of yeast infections, but I don’t know what causes them. How do they affect the body, and what can be done to get rid of them? -- C.R.

ANSWER: Certain yeasts, but especially the Candida species, are found on our skin, mucus membranes and GI tract. They normally live in balance with the 100 trillion or so bacteria we carry around. However, yeast can cause disease that ranges from fairly mild, like thrush of the mouth or vagina, to life-threatening, like a blood-borne, widely disseminated invasive infection.

Candida infection of mucus membranes is usually caused by changes in our bacteria, especially after the use of antibiotics. The antibiotics kill the bacteria they are supposed to (hopefully), but they also may kill the healthy bacteria that assist us in digestion (leading to diarrhea or worse), and this allows the other bacteria and yeast to grow.

Some people with genetic faults in their immune system are predisposed to chronic candida infections. These are uncommon but can be severe, and may require treatment by specialists, such as infectious disease doctors and immunologists.

The life-threatening yeast infections generally happen in people with severe illness and with poor immune system function.

DEAR DR. ROACH: I have been diagnosed with Fuchs’ corneal dystrophy by an ophthalmologist, whom I saw for an eye exam recently. Would you please tell me more about this disease? Is there any treatment? What can I expect in the future? It is getting harder to read and do close work. -- N.O.

ANSWER: Fuchs’ dystrophy is a condition of older eyes, which happens when the cells in the innermost lining of the cornea (the translucent, colorless front part of the eye) degenerate, causing, initially, deposits in the cornea and later swelling of the cornea. The disease has a complex genetic pattern of inheritance, and tends to progress slowly. Treatments include soft contact lenses to “bandage” the cornea, and eyedrops. Transplant surgery of the affected lining of the cornea (called Descemet’s membrane), or the whole cornea, is the definitive treatment.

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. To view and order health pamphlets, visit www.rbmamall.com, or write to Good Health, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803. (c) 2018 North America Synd., Inc. All Rights Reserved

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