DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am being treated for a venereal disease that I never heard of. It’s chlamydia. I broke up with my boyfriend of three years and met another man, and we hit it off. We have had sex and are still seeing each other. I noticed a slight discharge and saw my doctor. He did all sorts of tests and came up with the chlamydia diagnosis. I am on antibiotics. The doctor has me scared to death. He said the infection can make me sterile. What shall I tell my boyfriend? – K.F.

ANSWER:
Chlamydia (kluh-MID-ee-uh) is the most common bacteria-caused, sexually transmitted disease, more common than gonorrhea or syphilis. One million to 4 million new cases occur yearly in the United States.

A large number of infected people, both men and women, don’t know they’re infected because they have no symptoms. They become unwitting transmitters of the disease. Some women do develop a vaginal discharge, lower abdominal pain and pain on urinating. Men can develop a penile discharge and painful urination. A few men have testicular pain or prostate gland pain.

If the infection is not treated in women, it can spread to the pelvic organs and bring on a most painful illness called pelvic inflammatory disease. This usually makes a woman quite sick with fever, chills and severe lower abdominal pain. It can lead to scarring of pelvic organs and of the fallopian tubes, which, in turn, leads to infertility. Now that you are on antibiotics, this should not happen.

You must tell your boyfriend about this. He needs to see a doctor for testing and treatment. In some clinics, an infected person is given medicine for her or his partner without the partner having any examination. This is called expedited treatment and is useful in limiting the spread of this infection.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: It’s been six months since I had a period. Up to then, my periods were quite normal ever since I started having them. My doctor says this isn’t a problem, but it does bother me. It doesn’t seem natural. Is it? I was checked for pregnancy, but I am not pregnant and knew that before the test. Am I making too much of this? – G.H.

ANSWER:
You’re not making too much of this.

Missing one period might not be a big deal, but not having one for six months cannot be brushed aside. Such a long time without periods indicates potential problems with the ovaries, the hypothalamus (a part of the brain that releases hormones necessary for ovarian function), the pituitary gland (a small gland at the base of the brain that also makes stimulatory hormones), the uterus or the thyroid gland. Nutritional disorders and excessive exercise are on the list of causes.

With so many possibilities, I can’t give you even a guess. A doctor has to take a thorough history, perform a physical examination and begin testing for the myriad of conceivable causes.

See another doctor. A gynecologist would be a good choice.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Wheat, rye and other grains are the seeds of grasses, right? Why do humans eat only the seeds of grasses and not the grasses themselves? It doesn’t sound appetizing, but it could be a source of food for many starving people. – P.S.

ANSWER: This is a question I am not competent to answer, but since you asked, I’ll have a go at it.

Humans can’t digest grasses. Animals that can are animals that have stomachs quite different from those of humans. Cattle, sheep and deer are among those animals. Their stomachs have four chambers. These animals let a grass meal settle in the first stomach chamber for quite a while, and digestion begins there. Then they regurgitate the partially digested wad of food back into their mouths and chew it again. The carbohydrates in the grasses, indigestible to us, become digestible for the animals.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have a 9-year-old granddaughter who walks on her toes. She lands on her heels maybe 10 percent of the time, but it’s mostly toe-walking. I told my daughter that this isn’t normal, but she doesn’t agree with me. What do you think about a 9-year-old still toe-walking? – R.K.

ANSWER:
Up to age 3, it’s not abnormal for a child to walk on his or her toes. Past that age, it is abnormal.

Cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, spinal cord problems and a short Achilles’ tendon are conditions that result in toe-walking. Granted, there are other obvious signs of these conditions. I mention them just to get your daughter to bring her daughter to the doctor.

Your granddaughter’s walk might be nothing more than a habit. If that is the case, she should be strongly urged to change her style of walking. If she doesn’t, she is likely to end up with permanently shortened Achilles’ tendons – heel cords.

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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