Cushing's Can Strike at Any Age

The placement of "Thin-Skinned Patient Gets Relief at Last" [Seniors, October 19] in the Seniors issue implies that Cushing's syndrome only occurs in senior citizens. While the article gave an accurate account of the woman's symptoms, the reality is that Cushing's affects people of all ages and includes many symptoms. I know this because I am a 16-year-old female who is estimated to have had Cushing's for about three years.

As with other children with Cushing's, I was told over and over again that I was overweight because I was not following the simple equation of increasing my exercise and cutting back on my intake of food to lose weight.

Because my doctor would not listen to my mother's urging for tests to be done to see if I had Cushing's (she learned about the disease by searching the Internet), we sought a second opinion and were referred to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

While at NIH, I met three other children who had Cushing's, further provoking my suspicion that the disease is not as rare as believed.

One of the reasons that Cushing's is so hard to diagnose is that everyone exhibits a few of the standard symptoms, but usually not all of them.

From having Cushing's syndrome, I have learned to not always trust what I hear. I now know that people have to take charge of their own health care and find physicians who will listen first, then diagnose.

Bonnie Gomolka


A Textbook Solution

"Loaded for Learning" [Family, September 14] raised the question of why school systems and book publishers are not working together to eliminate the backpack overload problem. It seems so logical in this technological time to put the textbooks on floppy disks. Most households have a computer and all schools certainly have them.

Students could carry the appropriate disks in their backpacks and print out only the pages needed for each assignment. Those pages could be highlighted if desired, without damaging any books. Why carry a five-pound book around every day when you are only using a few pages at a time?

This system would eliminate the need for schools to have book storage, and put an end to worries about damaged or lost books. It would also reduce shipping costs and save numerous trees. Also, the disks could be easily updated when needed.

Sherry D. Ruais

Dale City


An article in the October 26 Health section incorrectly described the number of mentally ill people who are homeless. Five percent of severely mentally ill people are homeless, but one-third of the people who are homeless are mentally ill, according to the National Resource Center on Homelessness and Mental Illness, in Delmar, N.Y.

Letters intended for publication must be signed and include the writer's home address and home and business telephone numbers. Letters may be edited. Although we are unable to acknowledge all letters, we appreciate the time and value the viewpoints of those who write. Send letters to Health Section, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Letters can also be sent by fax (to 202-334-6471) or e-mail (to