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PEOPLE'S PHARMACY

Amino acid may help trichotillomania sufferers

October 19, 2009|Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon

I suffer from trichotillomania. I pull hairs constantly, and this leaves little bald spots. I heard on your radio program about an amino acid to calm this compulsion.

Trichotillomania is a condition in which people feel an overwhelming urge to pull hair from their heads, eyebrows, eyelashes or even pubic area. Physicians don't understand the cause. There is no Food and Drug Administration-approved treatment.

Researchers reported in July in the Archives of General Psychiatry that the amino acid N-acetylcysteine could help. Subjects received 1,200 milligrams per day of the dietary supplement or placebo. If there was no improvement after six weeks, the dose was increased to 2,400 milligrams.

The investigators concluded that the trial showed "that N-acetylcysteine is safe and more effective than placebo for the treatment of trichotillomania." No adverse events were reported, but some may experience headache, itching, flatulence, increased blood pressure or fatigue.

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I have washed my hands so many times to avoid colds and flu that they are red and rough and my fingertips are cracked.

Many readers praise instant glue to seal cracked fingers. For pharmacy-grade glues, try Band-Aid Liquid Bandage or New-Skin Liquid Bandage. You may need an industrial-strength moisturizer. Dermatologists often recommend Lac-Hydrin 12%, which is effective but pricey. Farmers use inexpensive products like Bag Balm and Udder Cream.

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Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist and Teresa Graedon is an expert in medical anthropology and nutrition. www.peoplespharmacy.com

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