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Drunk or not, alcohol causes damage over time
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DEAR DR. ROACH: My question is regarding my husband. We have argued several times about his drinking habits, so I have decided to enlist your help in determining if I am making a mountain out of a molehill or not.

My husband’s job requires him to work for two to three days at a time. During those times he is on call 24/7 and is unable to drink. He has no problem doing so. After his shifts, he is off for two to three days at a time, usually equaling three to four days per week. While home he enjoys having his beer. He drinks it like some people might drink soda. He drinks four to eight cans of beer a day starting at lunch (most days) and continuing throughout the rest of the evening. He hardly ever gets drunk (maybe six times a year) and only in social situations.

My concern is for his health. I am worried about what that amount of alcohol can do over time. Most articles talk about binge drinking. Does it matter whether the alcohol is consumed over a longer or shorter amount of time? What are the possible health complications from my husband’s type of drinking? -- W.M.

ANSWER: You probably have read that consuming moderate amounts of alcohol is good for your heart. “Moderate” is defined as up to one drink a day for women or two drinks a day for men. There remains some controversy about that. People who drink moderately have low rates of heart disease, but it’s not 100 percent clear that it’s the alcohol that is causing the benefit.

It is clear, however, that drinking in excess of four drinks daily is very bad for your health. Damage to the heart, liver, pancreas, brain and bone marrow start off reversible, but may become irreversible in time. Consuming the alcohol slowly and never becoming grossly intoxicated prevents some of the damage, especially to the brain, but there is no doubt that this degree of drinking is very dangerous and increases the risk of many diseases. The sooner he stops, the better. I would recommend stopping entirely.

DEAR DR. ROACH: I’ve had a skin problem with my hands and feet for the past five years. My doctor did not know what it was. After doing some searching online, I believe I have dishydrosis. Could you please explain this condition? It doesn’t seem like much is known about it. Should I expect it to get worse over time? -- K.K.

ANSWER: Dishydrosis -- frequently called dishidrotic eczema, but also called acute palmoplantar eczema -- is a chronic inflammatory skin condition without a known cause. It causes an intensely itchy rash, usually consisting of clear, fluid-filled blisters on the hands, especially the sides of the fingers near the palm, but sometimes on the feet as well. Although warm weather can trigger relapses, I have seen it frequently in cold, dry weather, especially in people who wash their hands often. A dermatologist usually can recognize it without needing a biopsy, but occasionally further tests are done to make sure it isn’t something else, such as a fungal infection.

Treatment is usually with steroid cream (or better yet, steroid ointment). Flare-ups can be prevented with ointments such as Vaseline or Neutrogena Norwegian formula hand cream. These can be found at your local drugstore.