Genetics and my Thyroid

This is part three in a series about my health in the last few months and dealing with a hypothyroid for parts one and two see Grace and my Thyroid and Patience and my Thyroid.

I want to clarify that these problems with my thyroid did not come out of thin air. I knew that I could have problems with my thyroid but based on my mother’s experiences I thought I would not struggle with this until my mid-thirties.

My mom has been on levothrixine to treat an under-active thyroid since for years with no changes to the dosage or other issues. But within the last year or two her TSH levels have sky-rocketted and she has changed her medication from a synthetic hormone replacement to a more organic one. Through all of this she for the first time decided to go to an endocrinologist who diagnosed her with Hashimotos.

Hashimotos is the name for a genetic thyroid disease. Thyroid disorders or diseases are within the auto-immune problem category. Basically your body attacks the thyroid instead of allowing it to do it’s job which is to to regulate your metabolism, development and maintenance of your bones, as well as heart, digestive function and muscle control. 

In researching all of this I found that high TSH levels in blood tests are usually the indicators of the hypothyroidism. It tends to take awhile for hashimotos or hypothyroidism to be noticed because symptoms can also be signs of stress or can be brought on by stressful situations. They also tend to become worse the older the person is and the problem is not noticed.

After talking to my mom we decided that it is possible my mother was having thyroid issues as far back as my age. It is a possible reason she was placed on hormone medication while pregnant with me in her late twenties.

I also discovered while asking questions of family that my maternal grandmother is on thyroid medication although has never been diagnosed with any specific disorder, but her sister has Hashimotos and had part of her thyroid removed for swelling many years ago .

Through all of this I have learned that the more you know about your families’ health history the better. You can’t fight or change your genetics and it’s much easier to take care of your body and it’s specific diet, vitamin, and nutrition needs etc. when you know problems in your family beyond the simple questions.

I’m grateful to learn all of this and work through this problem now instead of years down the road where the problems could be more complicated or the symptoms worse.

Why I am Barley-free: Part Two

I thought my skin issues were over after the Philippines, but I was wrong. As I said in Part One of this story the bug-bites were only the beginning. I had only connected the borders to the puzzle-it was time to begin to separate the colors,  shapes, and fill in the middle.

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Not long after the summer of 2007, I notice the skin breaking out on my arms, neck, back, chest and sometimes my face. It looked almost like ache but itched like a rash (much like the bug-bites did). It got so red and inflamed I began to wear long sleeves, scarfs, and higher cut tops even in the summer. I feared it was a foreign staff infection similar to what I had in the Philippines because it grew worse in humidity and irritated areas were warm to touch.

I began to inconsistently seek medical help, mostly when I had holidays and summer visits back to California. The doctor that cared for my initial staff infection referred me to a dermatologist. That dermatologist struggled to diagnose the problem working with several theories and  numerous forms of antibiotics, topical steroids, and even cortazol shots. She concluded that it was a manageable but not curable hair follicle irritation. We were not convinced by her diagnosis and eventually decided to seek other help.

jigsaw_puzzle

After I moved home from college I decided it was time to get to the bottom of this issue.  I was tired of hiding. So I decided to see a different dermatologist.

They unfortunately had even more crazy theories. I was told I could have an sun allergy, or even an auto-immune disorder including celiac disease. I and the rest of my family considered the possibility of celiac disease since my cousin and grandmother had recently been diagnosed but all specialist appointments and blood work came back inconclusive or negative.

puzzle

This dermatologist even took several biopsies of the irritated bumps on my shoulders. These biopsys required circular cookie cutter punctures and stitches which I still have scars from.
The Nurse Practitioners who I worked with (I rarely saw the dermatologist himself through all of this) eventually gave up trying to find the root of the problem. They determined that I had an unspecified form of dermatitis and started appeasing the external side-effects. This once again led to a variety of of steroid creams, antibiotics, topical gels, etc.
 These three years were all apart of that process to fill in the middle of the puzzle. Just when I thought I had found the right place for that awkward piece it wouldn’t fit so I tried another, and another. It  was annoying, embarrassing, and frustrating but the worse was still to come.
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(Don’t worry this all has a good ending-stick with me for one more blog and it will all make sense).

Any of you ever had to deal with the run-around from doctors?

Struggled with a mystery diagnosis?

Get anxious having to go back again and again to the same doctor’s office?

Why I am Barley-free: Part One

Everyone has their own stories on how they discovered a health issue or allergy. To me it is like a puzzle; some issues are short and quickly resolved like children’s puzzles. But for most people discovering a health issue or allergy it is like an advance jigsaw requiring many doctor’s visits and patient time.

Puzzle

This was true for discovering my Barley-allergy.

My puzzle began summer 2007. I went on an intensive 7-week global internship in which I lived out of a backpack. Although I faced many bug bites while in Guatemala I didn’t deal with skin problems until I went to the Philippines.  Almost over-night my legs were covered in bug bites.  These bites were more painful and itchy then any mosquito bite I had encountered. It was near impossible to get enough band-aids to cover them all-and I had no long pants with me.  I tried to avoid scratching them but would find myself tearing at them in my sleep.

Coral beach in the Philippines
Coral beach in the Philippines

The bites kept me from focusing, made me easily frustrated, and irritated. It wasn’t long before my legs began to feel warm and swollen. By the time we arrived a week later in Hong Kong my left foot had swollen to an unusual size and both ankles had become stiff. Movement such as the vibration of an escalator would cause shooting pain up my legs. The places where the bug bites had been became red and inflamed. Those on the team with medical experience did what they could to provide me with advice, some basic pain meds., and hydrogen peroxide.

Hong Kong skyline
Hong Kong skyline

On the trip back to the states I struggled to not limp, my legs were warm, and circulation was bad. On top of this I was running a fever.  I called my mom when we landed in Chicago and calmly told her she needed to schedule a Doctors appointment ASAP. I got the rest of my luggage and was bandaged up again before heading to Las Vegas where my parent’s would picked me up.

After a drive back home we went to the doctors. I was unsure what they would do considering I had been in a foreign country with different medical issues than most American Doctors see. He said I had a staff infection which was secondary to the bites. I was put on a 3 day steroid and then on antibiotics. The swelling went away and the bites marks became scars which eventually faded.

I thought that was the end of my health issues but it in reality it was just the beginning. . . .

To be continued-sorry for the suspense but this is a three parter.

Anyone else have fun-bug encounters while traveling?