DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have heard a lot about MRSA. Can you give me some more information about it? What can we do to prevent getting it? I am a high-school student from Mr. Sherman’s Anatomy and Physiology class in San Jacinto High School, S.J., California. – J.R.

ANSWER:
“MRSA” is short for “methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus,” a common bacterium found all over the place and a common inhabitant of the skin. “MRSA” is pronounced “mersa,” as though it were a word.

In the early days of penicillin, it could kill many germs, including the staph germ. That germ is a wily creature. It soon learned how to dodge the killing power of penicillin. Clever scientists came up with a new model of penicillin called methicillin. It was effective against those resistant staph germs. This happy situation came to an end when staph learned how to evade methicillin. These are the MRSA bacteria.

We do have antibiotics that can deal with MRSA bacteria. However, the lesson is that antibiotics must be restricted only to infections by bacteria that respond to them. Using antibiotics indiscriminately paves the way for the development of resistance.

MRSA can cause all kinds of infections, but the most common infections are skin and soft-tissue infections. Soft tissues are the tissues just below the skin, the subcutaneous tissues you know from Mr. Sherman’s class. Outbreaks of MRSA infections are common in high-school football players and wrestlers because of the skin-to-skin contact that occurs in those sports. Anyone, athlete or not, can come down with this infection. Frequent hand-washing is the best defense against MRSA. All skin wounds should be covered with a bandage of sterile, dry gauze and inspected daily to see if they are becoming infected. Athletes should launder their playing clothes after each use and should not store dirty clothes in a locker. They should shower immediately after a practice. No one should share towels, brushes or combs.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have glaucoma. My eye doctor wants to do an operation to drain fluid from my eye to relieve the pressure in the eye. My doctor told me he had done only two of these operations. He said I could seek a second opinion if I wanted. I did. I went to a famous local eye hospital. I was examined and told that an operation was not needed at this time since my eye fluid pressure was not very high. A report was sent to my eye doctor, who was very angry that I sought a second opinion. He has since tried to bully me into the operation.

My husband is a World War II veteran. His primary doctor does his exams and writes prescriptions that are filled by the Veterans Center. The Veterans Center gets no cooperation from the primary doctor. The Center also does blood tests on my husband. They told my husband he has too much calcium and should see his primary doctor for further testing. The Center also called the primary doctor, but he would not speak with them. He will not share any medical records with them.

Neither of us was prepared for the reactions we got from our doctors. Don’t patients have a right to a second opinion? Will you write something about this? – D.S.

ANSWER:
The reactions of your doctors are inexcusable. All patients have a right to a second opinion, and all patients have a right to a copy of their medical records. The doctor may charge a reasonable price for copying the records.

I would seek other doctors. I definitely wouldn’t have an operation by a doctor who has performed only two such procedures. Let your county medical society know what you’re going through.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have diabetes, and a while back lost 25 pounds almost overnight. I cannot gain it back. What can I do? – Anon.

ANSWER: A sudden, unintended loss of 25 pounds demands an explanation. If your diabetes was out of control, that might explain it. All the same, you must report this to your doctor right away so a search for a cause can begin.

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.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.