DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have a bladder problem. I have to run to the bathroom many, many times during the day and night, and it hurts to urinate. My lower stomach region is constantly painful. I have been to many doctors and have taken untold numbers of antibiotics, but I haven’t gotten any relief. Is this a bladder infection that just won’t go away? – W.S.

ANSWER: More likely it’s interstitial (IN-tur-STISH-ul) cystitis, also called painful bladder syndrome. It’s not at all rare, but it is not diagnosed as often as it should be. It has many symptoms in common with a bladder infection. Affected people have to run to the bathroom many, many times during the day and night to empty their bladders. Urination is painful. There is often constant pain in the pelvic area. Intercourse can be uncomfortable.

Most believe that a disruption of the mucous barrier that protects the bladder lining is the cause. Urine can seep through the barrier and irritate the bladder wall. Some think it might be damage to the nerves that serve the bladder, or that it could be an immune attack on the bladder.

One way of making the diagnosis is having a urologist inspect the bladder with a scope. The doctor sees changes typical of this condition.

Treatments include Elmiron, an oral capsule that patches up the leaks in the mucous barrier. It can take three to six months before any improvement is noted. Distending the bladder with fluid is another treatment. Bathing the bladder by instilling various solutions into it is a third alternative. One solution is a mixture of bicarbonate, heparin (a blood thinner) and lidocaine (a numbing agent).

You need to do two things. One is to see a urologist. The second is to contact the Interstitial Cystitis Association at 1-800-435-7422. (All interstitial cystitis patients should make the call.) The association can provide you with helpful information. Its Web site is: www.ichelp.org.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Please define “colic” for us. We have a 1-month-old baby who cries a storm. The baby has gained weight, and his pediatrician says he’s normal and probably has colic. We are first-time parents and don’t know what to do for him. – R.J.

ANSWER: The dictionary defines “colic” as stomach pain that fluctuates with waves of the digestive tract’s muscular action. The nondictionary definition is a fussy baby that cries a lot.

A normal 6-week-old baby cries about three hours out of 24. If a baby that age cries more, it can be said to have colic. There are so many speculations about its cause that it is confusing to people to mention them all. If the baby’s doctor is satisfied that all is well and since the baby is gaining weight, you can be quite certain that your baby’s colicky days will be gone when he reaches 3 months.

You can try rocking the baby, patting his back or cuddling it. That might stop the crying spells.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: How come hair transplants don’t fall out? What makes them last? I don’t understand this, and I am thinking about having transplants. – D.D.

ANSWER: Transplanted hair comes from the lower, back part of the head. The hair there, for unclear reasons, resists the action of male hormones that cause scalp hair in other locations to fall out.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: On my blood test it says my hemoglobin is 11. It also says this is low. I haven’t a clue what hemoglobin is. Please help. – W.C.

ANSWER: Hemoglobin is a large protein inside every red blood cell. It acts like a magnet for oxygen. It grabs onto oxygen as red blood cells pass through the lungs, and it releases oxygen to all parts of the body.

A hemoglobin level serves as an indication of how many red blood cells a person has. A low number means the person is anemic. The normal hemoglobin for a woman is 12 to 16 (7 to 9.9) and for a man, 13 to 17 (8 to 10). You are a woman, and your reading is slightly low; you are a bit on the anemic side. Call the doctor and ask if you need any treatment.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Glands! Would you kindly explain what they are, and what function they serve? – H.L.

ANSWER: A gland is a group of very specialized cells that secrete material not necessary for the health of those specialized cells but that is used by other cells and tissues. For example, oil glands secrete oil that lubricates the skin and keeps it hydrated. The oil doesn’t benefit the cells that make it. The adrenal glands, which are on top of the kidneys, manufacture hormones that they then empty into the bloodstream for action at distant body sites. Those hormones are involved in blood pressure control, in battling inflammation, in the metabolism of food and in maintaining the proper level of potassium and sodium.

In popular speech, lymph nodes are often called glands, but they aren’t really glands. They filter out germs and unwanted debris. With a sore throat, neck lymph nodes swell and become tender. Many people call those swollen lumps “glands,” but they aren’t.

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


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