Tiny amount of thimerosal in vac­cine is not a cause for worry

The Daily Courier - - LIFE ARTS - KEITH ROACH

DEAR DR. ROACH: My friend re­fuses to get a flu shot be­cause he says it has mer­cury in it, which builds up in the body. Is this true?

AN­SWER: Some flu vac­cines do con­tain a preser­va­tive, when they come in a mul­ti­dose vial. This is to pre­vent con­tam­i­na­tion of the vac­cine, some­thing that can lead to se­ri­ous in­fec­tion. The preser­va­tive, thimerosal, has a small amount of ethyl mer­cury, which the body is, in fact, able to get rid of and which does not build up in the body the way methyl mer­cury can (that’s the kind that is con­sumed in some fish, such as tuna). Nei­ther of th­ese is el­e­men­tal mer­cury (the kind in a ther­mome­ter), which can be dan­ger­ous when its fumes are in­haled.

The chem­istry is im­por­tant to un­der­stand. For ex­am­ple, cobalt metal can cause nerve and heart dam­age, but cyanocobal­amin is an es­sen­tial cobalt-con­tain­ing vi­ta­min, com­monly known as B-12.

There is no rea­son to be con­cerned about the tiny dose of thimerosal in a vac­cine, but peo­ple can get a thimerosal-free sin­gle-dose vac­cine as a pre­filled sy­ringe or vial.

DEAR DR. ROACH: Can you give any rea­son why a pe­nis wouldn’t grow or form like it is sup­posed to? My pe­nis is un­der­size. It is not reg­u­lar size for a man. I’d just like to know what could cause this.

AN­SWER: I hear this ques­tion fre­quently, and most of the time when I per­form an exam, the pe­nis size is in the nor­mal range (I ex­am­ine a lot of men, and have a bet­ter ap­pre­ci­a­tion of nor­mal vari­a­tion than most). How­ever, there are med­i­cal con­di­tions that can cause male sex­ual or­gans not to de­velop prop­erly. The most im­por­tant is fail­ure of male hor­mones to work at the time of pu­berty, so in that case, many male char­ac­ter­is­tics are de­creased or ab­sent, in­clud­ing fa­cial and body hair and deep voice. Both the pe­nis and testes will be small. How­ever, it is very unusual for this to go un­rec­og­nized and un­treated into adult­hood.

Many men are em­bar­rassed to ask about this, but please do see your med­i­cal provider and get an exam. Let me just add that you should ig­nore advertising about pe­nile en­large­ment, as there are no treat­ments I know of that are both safe and ef­fec­tive.

DEAR DR. ROACH: I am 60 years old, and for years have had trou­ble with a Bartholin cyst on one side. It is sore in that gland again, af­ter tak­ing turmeric for two months. It would bother me when­ever I took hor­mone re­place­ment a few years ago. Is it nor­mal to still have trou­ble at this age? It doesn’t get big any­more, just sore some­times.

AN­SWER: The Bartholin glands are small struc­tures lo­cated in a woman’s vulva. They se­crete fluid that acts as a lu­bri­cant dur­ing sex­ual ac­tiv­ity. The most com­mon prob­lems with Bartholin glands are cysts and ab­scesses. If th­ese are symp­to­matic, they usu­ally are treated with drainage, per­formed by a woman’s health spe­cial­ist, usu­ally in the of­fice.

Bartholin glands nor­mally get smaller af­ter menopause. I could not find any re­ports of, nor any rea­son why, turmeric might make a Bartholin cyst ab­scess more likely (turmeric can act as an anti-in­flam­ma­tory, and ap­pears to have some anti-es­tro­gen ac­tiv­ity, so I wouldn’t ex­pect it to cause prob­lems). The one con­cern I have is that although can­cer of the Bartholin gland is very rare (0.001 per­cent of can­cers in women), it can hap­pen. I would sug­gest that you get an eval­u­a­tion.

Read­ers may email ques­tions to ToYourGoodHealth@med.cor­nell.edu.

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