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QUESTION: I am a woman in my 20s, and I have always been what you'd call extra thin. I think I am badly underweight, although I eat three good meals a day, and even snack in between sometimes. I always stay right there, at 95 pounds, give or take a couple. I have been examined, and my doctor assures me my thyroid and everything is great. I figure it has to be my metabolism, so I'm asking you what to do to lower metabolism so I can gain a little weight. - Mrs. T.

ANSWER: Raise the bridge, don't lower the water. You must raise calories, not lower metabolism, even were that possible. And feel lucky!What do you eat? The calorie-loaded foods most people must avoid are for people like you, but you have to avoid the danger foods, those rich in fats and cholesterol.

I don't know your height, but if it is average, your weight is only marginally low and of no medical concern. You said it; it's probably your metabolism. But nothing you do will change things until age brings its own metabolic slowdown. You may have to wait some time for that, because low weight generally augurs long life, much longer than overweight humans can expect.

QUESTION: My husband got shingles in his ear. It swelled and blisters appeared on it. It was sensitive to touch. He got cortisone, and he saw a neurologist. His hearing in one ear was affected. I could find nothing in the books on this painful problem. He is over it now. Will it come back? Can he lose his eyesight? Should he have seen a dermatologist? What about the drug Zovirax? - Mrs. R.A.

ANSWER: Your husband had a very unusual kind of shingles, so unusual it has a name of its own - Ramsay Hunt syndrome. The rash and blebs are inside the ear canal. Often it causes weakness of the face muscles on the involved ear side, sometimes loss of hearing, sometimes dizziness.

Can the shingles virus return to this area to cause more trouble? It can, but isn't likely to. Shingles almost always is a one-time experience. Could his eyes be affected? Certainly, were the virus to attack the eye nerves. It didn't do that last time, and probably wouldn't in the unlikely event of a second infection.

Dermatologists (skin doctors) know shingles, but so do ophthalmologists (eye doctors) or otologists (ear doctors). It's so common that almost any doctor can treat it. Specialists are for people like your husband, who have these unusual complications of shingles. Zovirax (acyclovir) is not used routinely, but it is effective against the shingles virus, though not quite as effective as against the herpes virus, which it very broadly resembles. Many use it if eyes are involved. For the shingles booklet, write to Dr. Donohue/No.28, P.O. Box 19660, Irvine, CA 92713-0660, enclosing a long, stamped, self-addressed envelope and $1.

QUESTION: I am a 45-year-old female who had a hysterectomy last year. I have my ovaries. Is it necessary to have the annual gynecological exam? Do I still need Pap tests? - Mrs. L.M.

ANSWER: Yes, to both questions.

FOR H.K. - I don't know what you mean by "near glaucoma." I think you mean mild glaucoma. In any event, any increased eye pressure (that's glaucoma) demands attention. Controlling that pressure avoids damage to sensitive vision nerves at the back of the eyeball. Glaucoma is treatable. Send your professor husband to an eye doctor.

C) 1989 North America Syndicate Inc.