Persistent protein in urine spells trouble


DEAR DR. DONOHUE: At the age of 17, my son had a high protein count in his urine. This condition has continued.

He is now 41, married and has five sons. His family doctor sent him to a kidney specialist four years ago. The doctor said he might have had a strep infection that affected his kidneys.

He also said that my son was healthy and to come back when he had a problem. My son recently had a physical, and his count has doubled. How high does the count have to go before he needs to see the specialist again?

My son made a comment that I should have taken better care of him when he was little. That haunts me. I feel like I was not a good mother. – E.B.

Normally, standard urine tests do not detect any protein in the urine. If protein shows in those tests, it indicates that the kidney filters are leaky and something has gone wrong.

The specialist offered one explanation: Your son might have had a strep infection that inflamed his kidneys.

There are many other possibilities. When he saw the specialist, he had gone 20 years with his problem and developed no symptoms. Apparently no other kidney tests were abnormal. He has no symptoms now. His illness, if he has one, is definitely not rapidly progressing.

All the same, a doubling of the protein in his urine is a sign that he should see the kidney specialist now. More tests need to be done to determine if his kidneys are deteriorating or if he has nothing more than innocent protein in the urine. That can happen.

He might need a kidney biopsy to identify the problem, if one exists, and to outline a treatment program. Today much can be done for all kidney conditions, and your son can expect a long life.

Your son lives in a house of six males. The kind of comment he made to you is the kind of kidding that goes on in such a predominately male environment. You were and still are a good mother. Your son knows that.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am a 64-year-old man. I was born with Klinefelter’s syndrome. When I was 4 ½ years old, my mother and I got polio. My left arm is an inch shorter than my right, and my left hand is slightly awkward. My right leg is an inch shorter than my left, and I have a lift on my right shoe. I am now going through post-polio syndrome. Is there a cure for Klinefelter’s syndrome or post-polio syndrome? – R.E.

ANSWER: Chromosomes are strands of genes. We have 23 pairs of them. Two chromosomes – the X and Y – dictate gender. A male has an XY pair, and a woman an XX pair. In Klinefelter’s, a boy has a triplet combination: XXY. The extra X chromosome results in a number of changes – long legs, decreased facial hair, decreased production of testosterone, infertility and an increased risk for breast cancer.

There is no cure for Klinefelter’s, but the testosterone deficit can be corrected with oral testosterone. It should be started around puberty.

Contact the American Association for Klinefelter Syndrome Information and Support at 888-466-5747 for up-to-date information.

Since the introduction of the polio vaccine in 1954, the number of polio cases has plummeted to less than 10 per year in the United States. You and your mother just missed out on vaccine protection. Now you and many other polio victims are coming down with post-polio syndrome – the appearance of new muscle weakness, fatigue and pain.

Nerve cells that had taken over for those killed by the polio virus are giving out, and the muscles controlled by those nerves are losing strength. There is no medicine for the syndrome, but much can be done by learning how to best cope with it. Neurologists and physiatrists (fizz-EYE-uh-trysts) – physical medicine specialists – are the ones equipped to help you.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have severe emphysema. I am not on oxygen. I vacation in Las Vegas and breathe much better there. Would I benefit from moving to that city? – Anon.

Only you can answer that question. You need to spend some time there – longer than you usually do for a vacation.

Then you can tell if your improvement is due to the climate or if you felt better only because you were on vacation.

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