QUESTION: I hope you can help me. I am a woman, 30, who for the past several years has had night sweats. Sometimes they are so bad I wake up soaking wet. I have normal blood pressure, temperature, etc. I use only a light blanket and the room temperature is normal. What could be the cause of these night sweats? - M.W.

ANSWER: Perspiration normally increases during the night. That's a fact of life. It may be disconcerting to those of us in whom this natural phenomenon is exaggerated, as in your case it apparently is. If any ambient bedroom condition favors sweating, the problem can be that much worse.Heat of the room apparently is not a factor here. But have you checked out humidity? High humidity, even in relatively low temperature, can make a person sweat more profusely than normal. Nicotine is another common cause of night sweats.

I cannot dismiss other possibilities, even though such factors as I list above are almost always the answer to nighttime sweating. You have to think of certain illnesses. Infections and some cancers are potential night sweat producers. And so is Cushing's disease (an overactive adrenal gland). Overactive thyroid is a common cause. Medicines, such as aspirin and acetaminophen, when taken before bedtime, can be a factor. The same applies to alcohol.

Because of the apparently dramatic sweating you describe and the anxiety in your note, I think you should be checked to rule out some of the rare, but potentially important causes.

QUESTION: I had a TIA a year ago and lost vision and speech for a few minutes. It was a first-time thing for me. Am I now almost certain to have a full stroke? I am still jittery about it and need some kind of assurance. My doctor is not terribly convincing, but he says no. - B.L.R.

ANSWER: A transient ischemic attack (TIA) involves the same basic elements as a stroke, but a subsequent full-blown stroke is not a foregone conclusion. If a stroke is to occur, it often does so within 12 months of the TIA. So you have passed a critical period. And incidentally, studies tell us that a stroke does not always stem from the same brain blood supply blockage that caused a previous TIA.

I assume you are home free. I know, although you don't mention it, that you have done and continue to do all the things you've been told to improve your artery health - avoiding the fat-clogging foods and taking the medicines faithfully. I am mailing you the stroke report, which discusses the anatomy of the problem. Others may order by writing: Dr. Donohue/No. 31, Box 830, Gibbs-town, NJ, 08027-9909, enclosing a long, stamped (52 cents), self-addressed envelope and $2.

QUESTION: Enjoy your column. Several weeks ago in a routine X-ray of my sister's back she learned she has calcification of her aorta. We feel she needs a heart specialist, but she says no. Do you have an opinion? - Mrs. C.R.

ANSWER: Calcium streaks commonly appear on the aorta of older persons. It is all but a given with aging, representing the normal pounding this important artery takes in the most healthy among us.

Your sister doesn't need a cardiologist. If she has qualms over this, her family doctor can certainly set her mind at ease or find out if it is something that needs further investigation. Usually such a report is not a matter of great concern.

1990 North America Syndicate Inc.