DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am 67 and started to have bladder infections in 1999. Since then I have had one infection after another. This past week my doctor started me on a low dose of an antibiotic and said there is no cure for my condition. No cure? How can this be? It is ruining my life. – V.S.

Repeated urinary bladder infections are difficult but not impossible to cure. Sometimes they result from a background illness, such as diabetes. Sometimes they arise from an anatomical quirk in the bladder or the urethra, the tube that drains urine from the bladder out of the body. If those conditions are attended to, urinary tract infections stop.

Women are vulnerable to bladder infections because they have short urethras relative to the male urethra. The region adjacent to the female urethra’s opening teems with bacteria, and they can make their way through that opening and end up in the bladder. Sexual relations massage those bacteria into the urethra. These infections, therefore, often occur as a consequence of intercourse.

There are at least three ways to end the cycle of recurrent bladder infections.

One is to take an antibiotic prior to intercourse and to urinate soon after intercourse.

Another is to take low doses of an antibiotic for a protracted period of time, six to 12 months. This is not a practice that fosters the development of resistant bacteria. It often eliminates the cycle of infections.

A third approach is self-treatment initiated by the woman. As soon as a woman senses an infection has struck, she immediately begins antibiotic treatment and continues it for three days.

There is another possibility. You might not have an infection. You could have interstitial cystitis, a condition that forces people to run to the bathroom many, many times during the day and a condition that features painful urination. A urologist must look into the bladder with a scope to establish this diagnosis.

Urinary bladder infections are not limited to women, but women are their more frequent victims. Tips on how to deal with all kinds of urinary tract infections can be found in the pamphlet on that topic. Readers can obtain a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue – No. 1204, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.50 U.S./$6.50 Can. with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I don’t do much cooking but do use a microwave oven daily. I am disturbed to read that water and food deteriorate when cooked in a microwave, and people are advised to throw them out. Please advise. – O.S.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: In a recent article you said that senior citizens should not eat microwaved popcorn. Why not? – H.W.

Don’t throw your microwave out. It safely cooks food.

Microwave cooking protects the vitamins in food better than cooking in a conventional oven or on the stovetop does. Microwaves cook by causing water molecules in food to vibrate, and the vibration produces heat.

Microwave cooking uses less water, so vitamins don’t diffuse in the cooking water. It cooks in a short time – another vitamin saver.

H.W., I wrote that? I don’t think so. I am a senior citizen, and I eat microwave popcorn like most people drink water.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am 93 years old and am doing well. When I move, my joints crack. Why? – E.W.

When I was a child, my older brother could stay up later than I. I knew when he was going to bed. Climbing the stairs, he produced such a racket of snaps, crackles and pops that he could have wakened our next-door neighbors. He didn’t have any joint problem then, and he doesn’t now.

The noises come from tendons making a snapping sound as they pass over bones.

If you have no pain and no swelling, you can forget the noise.

A tear of the knee’s joint cartilage makes noises. However, the tear creates pain and often causes the knee to lock.

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.

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