Tuesday, June 8, 2010
The Breathing Dilemma - Thyroid
About 27 million people have some kind of thyroid disease. And over half are undiagnosed. I was recently diagnosed with a form of hypothyroid disease called a goiter. It wasn't until I changed doctors that I received the proper diagnosis. Why am I blogging about thyroid disease? Because it may help someone avoid the trouble and frustrating misdiagnoses that I encountered over the past three years.
One thing I pride myself in is keeping a watch on my health. My stance is to have routine check-ups and report anything unusual to my doctor. My "painful" journey started shortly after I was diagnosed with hypertension, four years ago. Initially, I struggled with the fact that I would need to take medication on a daily basis to help control it. The side effects were wearing me out. Needless to say, my young doctor struggled with finding a drug that would work for me.
During the course of finding a medicine that would regulate my blood pressure, I started having breathing issues while sleeping. It was an effort to swallow at times. My throat felt like there was some type of blockage at the base of my neck. The doctor ordered breathing and sleep apnea tests. Both rendered negative results.
It was becoming increasingly more difficult to sleep. I would have dreams of drowning or someone choking me. I awoke from the nightmares coughing sometimes with a rapid heartbeat. The coughing fits were so intense that it would wake my daughter- and we all know how hard it is to disturb a teen from sleeping. There were a variety of other symptoms: thinning hair, fatigue, weight fluctuation, dry eyes, and more. All of which I thought were side effects of the medication or the Big "M". Throughout the process of trying to diagnose the problem, my doctor insisted that I was having panic attacks and needed to see a therapist. I insisted that there was something physically wrong. Of course, the two differences of opinion hinder progress to resolve the real problem. I tried another doctor. She advised me to continue with Dr. D****. I tried to work with him again. So for about a year and half, I loathed going to the doctor and my blood pressure was not consistent. I wasn't sleeping well and I was nervous about how the many different drugs were prescribed.
One of the ten medications prescribed to me was nifedipine (calcium blocker). It seemed to control my blood pressure the best. August 2009, he switched the medication again. This stabilized my blood pressure, but the coughing and breathing issues were getting worse. By this time I was practically sleeping in a seating position. Finally, in February I noticed my throat enlarged. I asked my DD to take a look; she agreed. Then she and I discussed thyroid. At my next doctor visit, I told the doctor what I thought about my condition. He ordered a thyroid blood test; he also announced his leaving the HMO (I was glad).
My new doctor (Dr. J. Clay) is a dream come true. I saw her two weeks after my last appointment with Dr. D****. We talked about medication and thyroid. She said that blood tests are not conclusive and immediately stood up and walk towards me to examine my neck and throat area. My eyes filled with water. I thought maybe she would be able to help me. There was hope. Thank you, God. I had been praying for some understanding, some guidance, some help. After the examination she replied, "your thyroid is enlarged, the left side is larger than the right. I’m ordering an ultrasound, referring you to the endocrinologist, and making some adjustments in your medication. Dr. D**** had prescribed a dosage of nifedipine that was twice the amount needed. She reviewed my prescription history and decided to change the blood pressure med to Benicar 20mg. This was my turning point. Since that appointment, I've had a CAT scan and biopsy. The final diagnose is a benign goiter, predominantly on the left side of my thyroid. Relief...
Everyone, please by no means allow anyone to control what you think and feel about your body. Research and ask for a second opinion. It's worth it.
My friends and I tease about having a doctor, lawyer, dentist, electrician, etc. in the family, in hopes of securing help in those critical areas of life where advice is of upmost importance. Most people keep personal troubles and health issues a secret until it's too late. It is so important to share life changing issues as it may help someone overcome or give hope that there is an answer or at least some form of understanding.
Here is a helpful link to answer questions about thyroid disease:
Thyroid 101 Basics
There are several quizzes that will help you understand the disease and help with finding an appropriate doctor.
Here's to good health!