Q. In 2001, I had a very strong urge to chew on ice. After reading in your column that this could be a sign of anemia, I told my doctor about it. The blood work showed anemia, and I was advised to get a colonoscopy. This test showed cancer in the colon. I had surgery and received six months of chemo. The operation removed 10 inches of my colon. Testing the lymph nodes showed that the cancer had spread to three out of 15 tested. I have been cancer-free for these past seven years.
Unexplained cravings for ice, laundry starch, cornstarch or other peculiar substances often signal a deficiency of iron or zinc and should be investigated. We are pleased your doctor took your anemia seriously and looked for the cause.
Q. My husband took Flomax for a prostate problem. Recently, he needed cataract surgery. Who knew that Flomax would cause complications? Not only was the surgery very painful, but I have heard that some surgeons won't operate on a man who has taken Flomax. It has been three weeks since the surgery, and he still cannot see very well. The doctor said it would be at least five or six weeks before he can judge the success of the cataract procedure.
Flomax (tamsulosin) relieves prostate problems by helping smooth muscles relax and improving urine flow. In 2005, ophthalmologists reported that patients taking Flomax sometimes developed a complication known as small pupil or intraoperative floppy iris syndrome (IFIS) during cataract surgery. It appears to be caused by excessive smooth-muscle relaxation in the iris itself in reaction to Flomax.
In some cases, men were taking Flomax at the time of surgery, but in at least one documented case the man had stopped the drug a year before his cataract operation.
Forestalling this complication requires special equipment and surgical techniques. Cataract surgeons should always be notified that a patient has taken Flomax so they can plan accordingly.