DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have prostate gland enlargement, which necessitates two or three trips to the bathroom each night. The result is only a few hours of sleep. Is there any medicine or other action I can take to eliminate this situation? – P.D.

ANSWER:
If a man lives long enough, he can expect to have an enlarged prostate gland. It’s a universal happening. It happens to lions, too. Enlarged glands, however, do not cause problems for every man.

The prostate gland wraps itself around the urethra, the tube that empties urine from the bladder to the outside world. Some enlarged glands put a chokehold on the urethra. When that happens, a man cannot completely empty his bladder. After urination, the bladder again fills with urine in short order, and the urge to urinate cannot be ignored. Added to frequent urinations, these men usually have a weak urine stream and have trouble starting the stream. Urination might become a number of fitful starts and stops.

There are innumerable things, medicinal and surgical, that can reduce or eliminate these symptoms.

Medicines include drugs called alpha blockers. There are muscles inside the prostate gland. Nerves send alpha signals to those muscles and they contract, adding to the prostate’s stranglehold on the urethra. Alpha blockers relax those muscles, and the urethra dilates. Flomax, Hytrin and Cardura are three alpha blockers.

The male hormone testosterone fosters prostate gland enlargement. Antitestosterone drugs block the action of testosterone on the gland, and it shrinks. It can take six months for this to happen. Proscar (finasteride) is such a drug. An alpha blocker and an antitestosterone drug can be used in combination.

Surgical procedures are many. The time-honored transurethral resection of the prostate – TURP – pares away excess prostate tissue by way of an instrument inserted through the penis. That can also be done with instruments that pare tissues with radio waves, microwaves or lasers. Speak to a urologist, and begin to sleep once again.

The prostate pamphlet deals with both enlarged and cancerous glands. Readers can order a pamphlet by writing: Dr. Donohue – No. 1001, 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: My husband is tall, and I am short. We have a year-old son and would like to know if he will be as tall as his father is or as short as I am. – K.K.

ANSWER:
Such predictions invite errors. I can give you a rule that some say is valid, but I caution you not to put too much stock in it.

Add 5 inches (12.7 cm) to the mother’s height to predict a son’s adult height. To predict a daughter’s adult height, subtract 5 inches (12.7 cm) from the father’s height.

About all an honest person can say is the child’s height will usually fall somewhere between the mother’s and father’s height.

I know we can all point to so many exceptions to the rule that the above estimates are definitely not reliable.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My girlfriend shaves her legs. I tell her not to do so. It only makes hair grow faster, thicker and darker. I am right, aren’t I? – B.T.

ANSWER:
No, you are wrong.

Shaving doesn’t make hair grow faster, thicker or darker. I don’t know why that information is so widely believed. It’s not true.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Will you please answer my question? I hear that there is a kitchen spice that is good for carpal tunnel syndrome. Do you know which one? – B.W.

ANSWER:
I am sorry, but I do not know of a spice that relieves carpal tunnel syndrome. I appeal to readers to inform me if there is one. I will pass the information on to you, B.W. I promise.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is the common hand problem that comes from pressure on a wrist nerve. The pressure causes numbness of the thumb, index and middle fingers and often pain in those same fingers.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Is there a correlation between emphysema and hiatal hernia? Also, could you explain costochondritis in laymen’s terms? I have all three of these conditions. – J.C.

ANSWER:
Emphysema is a destruction of the tiny air sacs in the lungs. It is through those sacs that oxygen passes into the blood for distribution to all parts of the body. Usually, but not always, cigarette smoking is responsible for the air sac destruction.

A hiatal hernia is an upward bulge of the stomach into the chest cavity. It’s a very common condition. Hiatal hernias are often associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease — GERD — more commonly known as heartburn. Stomach acid and digestive juices spurt upward into the esophagus, which was not designed to withstand the corrosive action of those juices. People feel the pain of heartburn when a jet of stomach juices erupts into the esophagus.

The two conditions are quite distinct, and one does not usually lead to the other.

Costochondritis is an inflammation of the cartilage (“chondro”) that secures ribs (“costo”) to the breastbone. Deep breathing, twisting the chest and coughing cause pain, as does any movement that jiggles the chest and ribs. Taking a deep breath can hurt. Anti-inflammatory drugs or a cortisone injection can reduce the pain. Costochondritis frequently disappears without taking any medicine, but that can take time — sometimes prolonged time.

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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