DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My husband has had many medical problems. Earlier this year, he developed atrial fibrillation. A cardioversion was performed and worked for about five minutes. Then his doctor prescribed amiodarone. Since being on amiodarone, he has felt much worse. Could the medicine be the problem? He only sits around, and doesn’t even feel like going out for lunch. Another cardioversion is possible in a couple of weeks. Is there any danger to this procedure? — M.C.
ANSWER: Does his doctor know how he feels? He can prescribe many other options for your husband.
Atrial fibrillation is an erratic and fast heartbeat. Cardioversion, an electric shock delivered to the fibrillating heart, has a fairly high success rate of restoring a normal beat. Success depends on how long the fibrillation has been present and how large the person’s heart is. The sooner from the onset of fibrillation, the better are the results for cardioversion. The results for longstanding atrial fibrillation are not as good.
Fibrillation can recur after cardioversion. It can recur after taking medicines, too.
Danger exists for every single medical procedure. The complications from cardioversion are few and rare.
The booklet on heartbeat irregularities explains the common kinds of rhythm disturbances. Readers can order a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue — No. 107W, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6 Canada with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My 12-year-old son has large breasts, like a woman’s. In other respects he looks like a 16-year-old. He’s tall and wears a size 11 shoe. What has caused his breasts to be like they are? — M.C.
ANSWER: Your son is going through puberty. Two-thirds of boys experience breast enlargement during puberty. It’s normal. The enlargement for some boys might not be as great as your son’s, however. It comes from a temporary imbalance of male and female hormones. It’s not a lasting thing, for most. Some see a regression in a matter of months, while others might have to wait for two years. The condition is gynecomastia (GUY-nuh-coe-MASS-tee-uh).
If this causes your son great embarrassment and makes life miserable for him, speak to the family doctor. Removing the breast tissue ends the problem. Surgery isn’t extensive and doesn’t require a long healing period.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My future husband wants me to go on birth-control pills. Do the pills make a woman less able to have a family when they’re stopped? We want to have children, but not right away. How long can a woman take the pill? — J.W.
ANSWER: In the past 10 years, the birth-control pill has been modified. It contains less estrogen and progestin. There are fewer side effects than there used to be. The pill, in all its variations, does not affect a woman’s fertility when she stops taking it.
A nonsmoking woman can take birth-control pills right up to menopause if she wishes. Generally, a smoker is advised to stop the pill after age 35.
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.