DEAR DR. DONOHUE: You did not answer my first letter, so this is my second. I was diagnosed with Klinefelter’s syndrome when I was 10. Do I have a normal life span? I am 50 now. – B.S.

Chromosomes are long strands of genes. We have 46. Two chromosomes determine sex, the X and Y chromosomes. A female has the XX configuration, and a male the XY. With Klinefelter’s syndrome, a male has an extra sex chromosome. His configuration is XXY. That person is a male in all respects. The two major consequences of this are decreased male hormone production and, usually, infertility. The hormone deficit can be corrected at puberty, as, I am sure, yours was.

One authority on Klinefelter’s states that life expectancy is not shortened by the extra chromosome. Another says it might be shortened by about two years.

Are you aware of two organizations that are immensely helpful to Klinefelter’s patients? One is the American Association for Klinefelter Syndrome Information and Support. Its toll-free number is 888-466-5747, and its Web site is The other is Klinefelter Syndrome and Associates at 888-999-9428 and

I answered your question for another reason. People with conditions not well known to the public suffer the double burden of having an illness and not having it understood. The National Organization for Rare Disorders, NORD, is the best friend these people could have. It provides information for them and puts them in touch with associations dedicated to spreading information about the illness and helping those with it. People can reach NORD at 800-999-NORD and at

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Twice I have written to you about the shingles vaccine and the question of people with a low immune function getting it. My husband has rheumatoid arthritis, and his immune system is low. He asked his doctor if he could get the vaccine, and she said emphatically no, since it has a live virus. She said that I could endanger his health if I got the vaccine, because we are in close contact. Your opinion? – M.R.

The shingles vaccine does contain a live but greatly weakened virus. People whose immune system isn’t up to par should not get it, because they might be incapable of containing even this weakened virus. Your husband’s doctor knows how well his immune system functions, so she should be the last word on this matter.

Transmission of the shingles virus from one who has been vaccinated to another is an extremely rare event. It could happen if the vaccinated person broke out with the shingles rash, something that almost never happens. Your husband’s doctor is being very careful with his health.

The shingles booklet deals with this common infection and its aftermath. Readers can obtain a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue – No. 1201, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6 Can. with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My husband is 65 and a truck driver who gets little exercise. He drinks eight to 10 beers a night, and on weekends eight to 18. He weighs 320 pounds and is 6 feet 1 inch tall. His blood pressure is 160/90. He takes no pills and will not go to a doctor. How long before damage is done? I spoke to one doctor, who said he probably will be OK until the day he dies, and that most likely would be within 10 years. Your view, please. – E.R.

Your husband is an alcoholic, has high blood pressure, is overweight and is inactive. These are factors that lead to heart attacks and strokes. Furthermore, the alcohol is clobbering his liver. Your husband is headed for a major health catastrophe. He has more than death to worry about. He faces the prospects of being an invalid in great pain. He can turn things around if he wishes to. That means seeing a doctor and making some important changes.

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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