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Health roundup...

I've been meaning to post something for a couple of months now and just never get around to it.

Two months ago, almost exactly, I finally made it into the doc for a physical. I also mentioned the chronic heart burn and swallowing issues, and this spot on top of my left foot I was wondering about.

As for my general health - I'm healthy. I should lose some weight, which I do want to do. My blood pressure was elevated, as I expected (I've had high BP as long as I can remember and had been under treatment until I let my prescriptions run out and never got back to the doc). My blood work was generally good. I'm disease free. My 'bad' cholesterol levels are *just* over the line into elevated, and my 'good' cholesterol levels are *just* a tad low. Some more exercise and diet tweaks should take care of that. For the high BP I've been back on metoprolol (ala lopressor) and hydrochlorothiazide since the visit. I've been back for a couple of checkups and my BP is coming down nicely.

As for the GI issues, I'd previously been on Zantac. That helped, but only reduced the problem and didn't really eliminate it. I used to have heartburn *all the time*. I ate Tums several times a day, ever day - or just about. I'd wake up often at night from the pain and have a Tums to get back to bed. I kept a large bottle of Tums Ultra on my desk (well, still do) and used them often. I like spicy food, as many folks know, but I'd cut WAY down on spicy stuff - and it really didn't help. I could have cereal in milk and have heart burn. Anything really. Fruit, especially citrus, was bad news. I love OJ - and drinking it was instant pain. Just before going to the doctor I'd indulged in habanero stuffed olives - and the first one I swallowed got most of the way down, and then it felt like a hot knife in my chest. It made me cry out. Generally, it sucked.

So the suspicion was that I had a hiatal hernia and generally GERD. Since the Zantac hadn't been enough this time I took the option of a proton pump inhibitor - Protonix. And, goddamn if it doesn't work like a dream. I've only had a *hint* of heartburn twice in two months, and that was after eating spicy food. I think I've had 4 Tums, total, in that time - each time I got a little hit I took them right away and that was that. I used to have 4 Tums *a day*, if not more. The swallowing problem isn't as bad, likely because my esophagus isn't being constantly irritated by acid, so it isn't inflamed. In fact, 'not as bad' is more like, 'hardly happens at all'. This is some good shit, huzzah for modern medicine!

Anyway, we didn't just throw pills at it. About a month ago I went and had a barium swallow test. Basically you get video x-rayed while swallowing barium, which coats the GI tract and reveals details on the x-ray. You do it facing the x-ray, facing away, sideways, laying down, etc. The barium was a thick liquid, pretty much tasteless. It was oddly like drinking a milkshake that was warm, yet not melted. The coolest part was watching myself swallow on the monitor, the second coolest part was the wall-slash-table the imager was in. To do the transition they had me stand against the wall, then it rotated 90 degrees to horizontal, and I'm laying down. That was cool, and a funky sensation. Then last week I went in for another test where I ate radioactive eggs and then they watched how my stomach processed them. Basically they made scrambled eggs seasons with technicium. The test itself was dull - lay there for 30 minutes, wait 25, lay down another 5, wait 25, 5, 25, 5, 25. I basically spent the morning loitering around UMass, wandering the halls to pass the time between imaging sessions. The one thing is, as some of you know, I HATE EGGS. I didn't know it involved eating a bit plate of eggs until I got there. But such is life, it wasn't too bad, I choked them down. It was made worse by the fact that you can't drink anything, you just have to eat the eggs as is. I wish I'd know, I'd've brought some Tabasco.

So, anyway, the end result is that, yes, I have a small hiatal hernia. And something else that I've forgotten the name off. It amounts to a ring of thickened, toughened tissue at the bottom of the esophagus - the body's response to the constant irritation. The next step is to get a referral to a gastroenerologist who will stick an endoscope down my throat and take a visual look at it. Then they'll decide if it is worth burning away some/all of the ring with a laser (LASER!) or just leaving it be. The hernia is small so it probably won't warrant surgery to correct, but we'll know more after the look. (In fact, I saw my doc last Thursday and they were going to schedule that and get back to me - and I haven't heard yet, maybe I should call tomorrow.)

(Speaking of lasers, my copy of Deflexion arrived last week. Must play it soon.)

As for my foot, for several years there has been this small, tough spot on the top of my left foot. A while back I caught it on a loose staple under the front of my couch. And when it healed, it just kind of stayed that way. And I could never be sure if there was something there I'd missed that was caught, or if it resulted from that, etc. I kept forgetting to ask a doc about it since it isn't a major issue, but I started thinking about the possibility of skin cancer or something, so I made a note and did it this time. At first we thought it might be a wart, but it didn't seem to be, so he had another doc look at it and it seemed to be a dermata fibroma. So they did a biopsy, and yep, the lab said it was. What is it? Apparently sometimes the body over-reacts to something like a cut, insect bite, etc, and when it heals the tissue is kind of like a callus. Basically toughened skin that is fibrous. Well, that seems to be what happened. Nothing to worry about, and I opted not to bother trying to remove it. Basically they said they could try to freeze it off, but it might just heal the way it is again, or bigger, and it isn't dangerous or anything. So I'll leave it alone.

So, in summary, I'm generally healthy. I need to lose some weight. My BP is responding well to the medication. My heartburn/GERD is responding VERY well to medication. And I'm feeling better than I have in a while, especially not being in constant pain and all. :-)

I am: cold cold
Current Media: quiet office

ardaniel From: ardaniel Date: December 22nd, 2005 05:34 am (UTC) (Direct Link)
For a technetium-filled egg sandwich, normal emptying is 78 minutes for half the material to leave the stomach, with a variation of 11 minutes either way.

--just in case you were wondering (source)

Also, dude, as someone who regularly Looks Into Laser With Remaining Eye?

Radioactive eggs beat *all* on the "weird medical test" scale. ;)
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lizzielizzie From: lizzielizzie Date: December 22nd, 2005 06:28 am (UTC) (Direct Link)
Protonix is my hero too! I also started taking it when the Zantac stopped working. Twins!

The barium swallow thing was weeeeird. And the room was very cold. Hateful.
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chiieddy From: chiieddy Date: December 22nd, 2005 02:13 pm (UTC) (Direct Link)
Wow. I'm glad you went in and had it looked at though. My doctor is always on me because I forget to take my thyroid meds. The weirdest medical experience I've had was when I had to take a radioactive iodine tablet to kill thyroid cells because of my hyperthyroidism. I had to eat a special diet for a week ahead of time and then once I took the pill, I was required to leave the hospital immediately.
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lizzielizzie From: lizzielizzie Date: December 22nd, 2005 03:15 pm (UTC) (Direct Link)
...what, you were going to pollute the hospital with your radioactive cooties? Hospitals are FULL of radioactive cooties.

That's so weird! :-D
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chiieddy From: chiieddy Date: December 22nd, 2005 03:30 pm (UTC) (Direct Link)
Apparently radioactive cooties inflicted by the hospital are worse than radioactive cooties just floating around the hospital. I was told to take several days off work and stay away from people too.
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ardaniel From: ardaniel Date: December 22nd, 2005 03:39 pm (UTC) (Direct Link)
The radioactive cooties from the thyroid-destruction thing are *hardcore.* They assign people who have to go back and live in their college dorms afterwards their own special radioactive toilets and so on for a week or so. Targeted doses of radiation with enough strength to kill off a thyroid ain't nothin' to fuck with, apparently. (Startled me when I read about it on MetaFilter once.)
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zonereyrie From: zonereyrie Date: December 22nd, 2005 08:15 pm (UTC) (Direct Link)
I ordered it just before I posted about it.
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bdragon From: bdragon Date: December 22nd, 2005 04:16 pm (UTC) (Direct Link)
drink a literal assload of water after the barium swallow, or it turns into clay and will make your bummy cry.

and yay for Protonix (I'm also on Reglan)! all of my heart-attack like symptoms have magically gone away.
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mindways From: mindways Date: December 22nd, 2005 08:17 pm (UTC) (Direct Link)
1. *cheering for Zoner taking care of himself*

2. Excellent that the Protonix is working so well!

3. Cool stuff, man - reading about random medical procedures is neat. :) (And also makes them less foreign/bizarre should I ever have to go through them.)
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jezel From: jezel Date: December 22nd, 2005 08:41 pm (UTC) (Direct Link)
Protonix is Teh Shiny, no question. I know exactly what you mean about getting nasty reflux from eating cereal and milk.

The endoscopy is a pretty cool procedure too. I assume they'll be looking for precancerous cells? That can happen from a lifetime of fucked-up stomach acid.
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