ANSWER: Your doctors are quite right. Schamberg’s disease is a benign condition caused by leaky blood vessels. The blood is broken down and causes the rust-colored pigment in the skin. It can cause some itching, usually treated with hydrocortisone. As far as the ugly spots go, I don’t know of any way to treat them once they occur.
DEAR DR. ROACH: About 23 years ago I received interferon for hepatitis C. It worked. Every year or so since then, I have been checked for the virus. Everything was fine until about a month ago, when my doctor informed me that my hepatitis C was back. He did one more test to confirm it. Otherwise, my liver is healthy, and my doctor said he would monitor it. What could I have done or taken for the hepatitis C to come back? — Anon.
ANSWER: Hepatitis C is caused by a virus, usually transmitted through infected blood products. Treatment now is with a combination of medications, and is more effective than the interferon alone that was used in the past. Treatment is important in order to prevent cirrhosis and liver cancer, and people with hepatitis C need to avoid alcohol, be immunized against hepatitis A and B, and be careful in their diet, especially avoiding raw shellfish.
Hepatitis C that was undetectable for 23 years and then comes back is something I have never heard of. I spoke to an expert, who suggested either you were re-exposed or you had a very low level of infection that went undetected, and that either with time or by waning of the immune system, it showed up again.
Only an expert, usually a gastroenterologist, should treat hepatitis C.
The booklet on hepatitis explains the three different kinds. Readers can obtain a copy by writing: Dr. Roach — No. 503, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6 Can. with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.