DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Help us raise polycystic kidney disease awareness. March is National Kidney Month!
Polycystic kidney disease is not known by many people, even doctors. It is not a rare disease. Do the research.
Since there is no cure at this time, it is important for people to know about it so we can get donations for research. — K.B.
ANSWER: I missed the March deadline by quite a bit, but polycystic kidney disease (PKD) is such an important topic that it deserves discussion.
The most common type of polycystic kidney disease is inherited in such a way that only one gene is needed to transmit the illness to children of an affected parent. Statistically speaking, half the offspring of a parent with the gene will come down with the disorder. That's the probability of inheritance. It doesn't work out like that in all families.
The word "cyst" is used in many medical conditions. A cyst is an enclosed, hollow ball containing fluid or semisolid material. Cysts vary in size from a pinhead to an orange or larger. They pop up on the skin and in many organs. In polycystic disease, not only are the kidneys a target, so is the liver. Liver function, however, usually is well-preserved. In the kidneys, the cysts enlarge as time goes by. Large cysts interfere with kidney function. By age 70, 60 percent of PKD patients will suffer kidney failure, some at younger ages. Not only does kidney function suffer, but blood pressure rises and adds to the problem.
Most PKD patients have no indications of the illness until they reach their 40s. Bloody urine, a rise in blood pressure, abdominal discomfort from kidney enlargement and flank pain are some of the identifying signs of the illness. PKD isn't curable; it is treatable. Dialysis is one treatment. Kidney transplantation is another. Now that I think of it, transplantation is a cure.
Everyone with PKD should get in touch with the Polycystic Kidney Foundation, which is ready to help with the latest information. You can reach the foundation at 800-753-2873 or online at www.pkdcure.org.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I returned from a two-week trip to Vietnam with moderately severe respiratory difficulties due to air pollution during the trip. This happened to all 39 tourists in my group. Four days after returning home, I had a urinary tract infection. What happened? How do the two connect? — P.D.
ANSWER: The two don't ordinarily connect. Urinary tract infections are common in women because bladder drainage to the outside is in a site where bacteria are in abundance. I can't relate a lung disturbance to a urinary tract infection. Hope this experience didn't ruin your memories of the trip.
Urinary tract infections are common, and often recurrent. Readers can order the booklet on them by writing: Dr. Donohue — No. 1204, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6 Can. with the recipient's printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My husband had his thyroid gland removed four years ago because of cancer. In the process, his parathyroid glands were damaged. As a result, he has to take high doses of calcium and 4,000 IU of vitamin D.
Is this too much vitamin D for the long term? Four thousand is the maximum. He gets additional vitamin D from other sources.
He asked his endocrinologist, who monitors his calcium with blood tests. The doctor says his vitamin D dose is OK, but I am still concerned that it's too much. What is your opinion? — B.G.
ANSWER: Your husband is a special case. Without normal function of parathyroid glands, which regulate blood calcium levels, he needs large doses of calcium and vitamin D. Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption. His blood calcium is closely watched and, I imagine, so is his vitamin D level. Changes will be made if either is out of whack.
Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Readers may also order health newsletters from www.rbmamall.com.