ANSWER: Asperger’s disorder makes normal socialization and conformity to social norms difficult. Asperger’s patients have trouble interacting with others. They’re unable to make sustained eye contact with people and express little emotion. They don’t understand the facial expressions of others and what their tone of voice implies. They pursue isolated interests and find it difficult to involve themselves in things that others do and say. Their life is marked by inflexibility and adherence to rigid rules. They are socially inept.

The language skills of Asperger’s patients develop normally. They often do well in school, especially in the early grades, when rote learning is important. Some are able to master challenging studies, like math and physics.

Asperger children often are the object of bullying because they are viewed as different by schoolmates. They tend to be clumsy and inept at sports.

Something has gone wrong with the part of the brain that allows people to develop interests in others and appropriately integrate into social groups.

A team of mental health professions can help Asperger patients adopt the socialization skills necessary to lead life successfully.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My question is about a virus called HTLV-2. Things that I have heard about this virus are that people get it through sex but it causes few to no symptoms. Please explain more about it, and how it affects health. — O.R.

ANSWER: “HTLV” is an abbreviation for “Human T-cell Lymphotropic Virus.” T-cells are lymphocytes, one kind of white blood cell that protects us against infections. “Lymphotropic” indicates that this virus is drawn to T-cells like iron to a magnet. You might recall that in the early days of the AIDS epidemic, the AIDS virus was called HTLV-3.

HTLV-1 is found in Japan, South America, Africa and the Caribbean. For most infected people — more than 90 percent — infection causes no signs or symptoms. For a small number, it does initiate illness. The illness is either adult T-cell leukemia or lymphoma, or a spinal-cord disease called tropical spastic paraparesis or HTLV myelopathy. Muscles seriously weaken. It is transmitted through sex, blood transfusion, drug injection and breast milk.

HTLV-2 is found in Central and South America, southern North America, western and central Africa and southern Europe. It, too, is transmitted through sex, blood transfusion and illicit drug injection. Linkage to an illness hasn’t been established.

Here, blood is screened for both HTLV-1 and HTLV-2.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I believe many of today’s medicines cause more damage than good. I am in my mid-80s. I have taken Evista for 10 years for osteoporosis. (I had a bad reaction to Fosamax.) The doctor wants me to take Forteo intravenously. I am afraid of side effects like jaw deterioration, Paget’s disease, dizziness and headaches. What do you think? — M.K.

ANSWER: Forteo is a synthetic version of parathyroid hormone. Body-made parathyroid hormone regulates calcium and promotes the formation of new and sturdy bones. So does Forteo. It’s taken by injection with a fine needle under the skin, not intravenously. It’s the same way diabetics inject themselves with insulin. Side effects of Forteo include joint pain and nausea, but they are rare side effects. It does not cause jaw deterioration or Paget’s disease. In lab rats, high doses produced the appearance of bone cancer in a few animals. This effect hasn’t been seen in humans.

You have to judge for yourself if the taking of any medicine is balanced by the good results it usually leads to. Your fear of Forteo is unfounded. The side effects of osteoporosis are much worse than those of Forteo.

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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