DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I recently got into a discussion about circumcision with my granddaughter, who recently gave birth to our great-granddaughter. She mentioned that if her next child were a boy, she would choose not to have him circumcised. She claims her husband made a study of the procedure and says it is mutilation, the same as is practiced on women in some countries. She states it is a religious ritual only.
Is circumcision of males considered the same as mutilation of females? — P.H.
ANSWER: The debate on male circumcision is one that generates heat on both sides. It is not the same as female circumcision. That is truly a mutilating procedure.
Male circumcision for cultural and religious purposes is one thing, and I’m not talking about the procedure in those circumstances.
The benefits of male circumcision include a reduction in urinary-tract infection in infancy. It is said to reduce the transmission and acquisition of sexually transmitted diseases. It has been shown convincingly to decrease the transmission of the HIV virus, the virus that causes AIDS; the male acquisition of herpes virus; and the transmission of human papillomavirus, the cause of genital warts in men and women and cervical cancer in women. If readers want a reference for these claims, they can find it in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Oct. 5, 2011, page 1,479.
The arguments against male circumcision are that it is unnecessary, doesn’t markedly affect the health of men or women in developed countries and can lead to serious complications, rare but possible. The actual complication rate is 0.2 percent to 0.6 percent, and most of the complications are minor. Furthermore, some feel strongly that it is a mutilating procedure. It is not on a par with female circumcision.
I believe the parents of infant boys are the ones to make the decision.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: What does the gallbladder do? I’m going to have mine out. How does losing it affect life? — J.M.
ANSWER: The gallbladder is 3 to 4 inches long and holds about an ounce of bile. Bile is a product of the liver. The gallbladder lies beneath and closely adherent to the liver on the right side of the abdomen.
When people eat a fatty meal, the gallbladder contracts to shoot a stream of bile into the small intestine to aid in the digestion of fat. Without a gallbladder, bile drips into the small intestine directly from the liver. Fat digestion goes on almost as it did with a gallbladder.
DEAR DR. DONOHUE: After 18 holes of golf, the tendons on the back of my heels hurt. What should I do? — C.K.
ANSWER: The likely cause is inflammation of the Achilles tendon, the tendon of the calf muscle. It attaches to the heel. Don’t play golf for two weeks. Take Aleve if there’s no reason for you not to use it. Put warm compresses on it for 15 minutes three times a day. Try heel inserts, obtainable in every drugstore. When you start playing again, ice the tendon for 10 to 15 minutes after you’re through playing.
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.