DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I would appreciate it if you would explain frozen shoulder to me. My right shoulder hurt a bit, and I thought it would go away. It didn’t, and all of a sudden I couldn’t move it. I saw a doctor, who made the diagnosis of frozen shoulder. I am getting therapy. How long does this last? – O.R.

ANSWER: Often a frozen shoulder starts out as a moderately painful shoulder. In this early stage, people can still move the shoulder, but it hurts. As time goes by, pain subsides, but the shoulder become immobile to the point that it has frozen and can’t be moved. With therapy and with time, mobility gradually returns to the shoulder, and it regains its full range of motion, or most of it.

What has happened is that scar tissue in the shoulder joint locks the joint tightly.

Sometimes it happens after an injury. Or illnesses like diabetes promote a frozen shoulder. An underactive thyroid gland can freeze a shoulder. It can follow after a stroke. Often, however, it’s “idiopathic” – no reason can be found.

Physical therapy almost always restores shoulder motion, but the process can be quite long, as long as two years. That’s the extreme. Usually it takes much less time. Early on, the therapist moves the shoulder. As time passes, people begin to move their own shoulders, and they keep on making progress.

Cortisone injections into the joint can help. And, at times, doctors release the joint from its scar tissue with a scope and instruments inserted through small incisions. Rarely is it necessary for a person to be anesthetized so the doctor can forcibly manipulate the shoulder to break the strands of scar tissue.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I was born and lived on the East Coast for 36 years. The last year that I lived there, I was given radioactive iodine treatments for my thyroid gland. Shortly after the treatment, I relocated to the West Coast. After my second year there, I become so dragged out that I could hardly function. I consulted a doctor, and he found that I was severely depleted of thyroid hormone. He said the radioactive iodine treatment caused it. Is this usual after such treatment? If it is, why wasn’t I warned about it? – S.W.

ANSWER: Hypothyroidism – a thyroid gland making too little thyroid hormone – is all but expected after radioactive iodine treatment. When patients with an overactive gland are given the radioactive material, their glands generally die, and that can happen in five to 10 years, or sooner. It’s the goal of treatment. Radioactive iodine removes the gland as though a person had a surgical removal of it.

Treatment is straightforward: Supply the missing hormone in thyroid pills.

You should have been warned about this.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Sometimes after relations with my husband, I get a vaginal discharge and a vaginal itch. Could this be an allergy to sperm? What do I do about it? – E.M.

ANSWER: There is such a thing as an allergy to seminal fluid. It can produce vaginal pain or itching and sometimes a vaginal discharge.

For a few women, it causes a widespread outbreak of hives. And for an extremely small number of women, it causes a serious reaction with a drop in blood pressure. Treatment for that sort of reaction is an emergency.

You should see an allergist to get an opinion about whether yours is truly an allergy. If it is, condom use by your husband can generally prevent the reaction. There are other ways to combat it too.

Vaginal discharge and itching can also be signs of a vaginal infection. The next time this happens, get to the doctor right away. The doctor can examine the discharge to see if it’s an infectious discharge.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Is a glass of wine a good cure for insomnia? – P.W.

ANSWER: Alcoholic drinks, including wine, help people fall asleep faster, but alcohol-induced sleep is not refreshing sleep. During the night, people are frequently roused from such sleep, even though they might not be aware of being roused. This kind of sleep leaves them tired the next day.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: This is the second time I have written to you about Grover’s disease. I have been suffering from it for more than 20 years. The diagnosis was proved with a biopsy. No one seems to know anything about it. Is there a cure? – E.K.

ANSWER: Grover’s disease is an infant in the world of illnesses. Dr. R.W. Grover was the first to describe it in 1970. He gave it the name “transient acantholytic dermatosis.” Others named it in his honor.

It’s a skin breakout of small blisters or small red bumps. The blisters frequently break and form crusted sores. For many of its victims, Grover’s is quite itchy.

Creams and ointments of the cortisone family keep Grover’s under control in about half of all patients. For those who get no relief from topical treatment, oral cortisone medicines might have to be used. Dapsone and PUVA have also been tried and have had a measure of success.

You can greatly help yourself by staying out of the sun and not getting overheated. Grover’s often gets worse when people are bedridden.

As you have painfully found out, “transient” should not be used in the name of this skin disease. It is often persistent or recurring. However, medicines can usually, but not always, control recurring outbreaks.

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

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