DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I was diagnosed with hyperparathyroidism in 2006. In 2007, I underwent surgery to remove one enlarged parathyroid gland. The gland couldn’t be found, so it’s still there. My doctor has a “wait and see” attitude since I don’t have any symptoms. Please advise. – R.F.

ANSWER:
The parathyroid glands are four small glands plastered to the back of the thyroid gland in the neck. They make parathyroid hormone, which regulates blood calcium levels. If one of those glands enlarges and begins to overproduce parathyroid hormone, the condition is hyperparathyroidism. The result is a rise in blood calcium. The calcium comes from bones.

What to do about this condition depends on the person’s age, the presence of symptoms and how high the blood calcium levels are.

Since parathyroid hormone vacuums calcium from bones, the bones become osteoporotic and easily break. Abdominal pain is another symptom. Due to the high blood calcium levels, calcium urine levels also rise, and the high calcium content in the urine leads to kidney stones. That’s why this illness has been known as the illness of bones, groans and stones. Other symptoms include the passage of large volumes of urine, unslakable thirst and muscle weakness.

If people are in their 50s or younger, operation is the treatment of choice. If people have symptoms, regardless of age, operation is the route to take. Older people with no symptoms and with only a moderate rise in blood calcium can be followed safely. For them, a wait-and-see attitude is acceptable.

Keep yourself well-hydrated to prevent kidney stones. You can gauge your hydration by the appearance of your urine. It should be pale yellow to colorless. You would think calcium restriction is important. It isn’t. You can safely take 800 mg to 1,000 mg of it daily. If you restrict calcium, parathyroid hormone levels go up. Talk to your doctor about the advisability of protecting your bones with osteoporosis medicines.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I notice from your column that a lot of people suffer from diarrhea. I, too, had severe diarrhea, and I tried prescription after prescription; nothing worked for me. It got so bad that if we went out to eat, I had to wait for a table near the restrooms. One day my brother-in-law stumbled upon a liquid diarrhea product – Equate. For me, this was a lifesaver. I had gone from 218 pounds to 123 pounds. This isn’t meant to be an endorsement, but if it helps one other person, I will be satisfied. – Anon.

ANSWER:
Equate is Wal-Mart’s store brand. The active ingredient is loperamide. It’s also found in other anti-diarrhea medicines, such as Imodium and Neo-Diaral. It slows contractions of the intestinal-wall muscles and stops the outpouring of fluid into the digestive tract.

Diarrhea that persists has to be investigated thoroughly to find its cause. Only when a cause is found can the proper treatment be prescribed. It’s OK to take an anti-diarrhea medicine for a short time if diarrhea isn’t so severe that it’s leading to dehydration.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I refer to the writer who asked about ESP, extrasensory perception, also known as the sixth sense. You have only to refer to the astounding experiments conducted in ESP by Dr. J.B. Rhine at Duke University. I am surprised that so little is known about ESP, especially by doctors.

The placebo effect is a form of ESP – autosuggestion. My wife and I communicate by telepathy. I can always sense in advance when someone is about to call me.

I urge you to look into this matter. You’d be amazed. This is no hocus-pocus. – G.D.

ANSWER:
I trust you, G.D. I know nothing about ESP. I’ll try to learn something about it.

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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