The end of the year is traditionally a time of reflection, a time to look back on the previous year, assess accomplishments and reevaluate goals in order to plan for the coming year. Between now and New Years Day, I will be doing just that, assessing and reevaluating goals that I set at the beginning of 2010. Today’s area is Personal Health.
One of my main goals for 2010 was getting caught up on physicals, dental visits, etc. While in Tallahassee, we did not have any dental insurance, so we made no dental visits. And I never made the time or effort to locate a primary care physician, relying upon the insurance primary care center for any issues we had (sinus infections and the like). For whatever reason, choosing a primary care physician just was not a high priority while there. I expect it had something to do with the fact that our insurance was an HMO and we had to choose a primary care physician within their system, and then that primary care physician would recommend to us to a specialist if needed. Not a lot of free choice in the system and I was extremely unhappy with the information provided for choosing a primary care physician. So, I put off the decision, ultimately never making one.
Our insurance with the present job situation is much nicer, allowing us to choose whomever we wish to see. Of course, we’ll pay less for choosing in network, but if you want to go directly to a specialist, you can do so within that network without getting a referral first. Information for choosing a doctor is still spotty at best; I don’t know what people did before the Internet when trying to find new services in a new location. But I muddled through and managed, with a lot of phone calls, emails and trial and error, we now have a family dentist, I have a gynecologist, and both Bill and I have primary care physicians (different ones). Here’s the run-down:
One of the things I dread the most is a visit to the dentist. With my TMJ, most any visit, no matter how brief and benign, causes stress, which causes my jaw to hurt. And any dental work whatsoever entails holding your mouth open, which hurts too. I do use a dental block whenever possible, but there are some times that it just isn’t possible. I also hate the sounds of the drills, the high pitched sonic squeal just sets my nerves on edge and hurts my ears. So I avoid dentists for as long as possible.
Unfortunately, this summer, I was unable to avoid them any longer, as I had lost several pieces of one tooth and its filling over the previous several months. The pain was no longer bearable, so I buckled, down and found a dentist. It turns out the first thing I needed was a root canal, for which I had to travel to Tucson. I’ve had a previous root canal and it was not an experience I wished to repeat; unfortunately, reassurances that this would be painful and quick were not quite lived up to. The procedure itself was quick and relatively painless, but the trauma to my jaw lasted for several weeks. The tooth felt better, though! Two more visits to the dentist and I then had a lovely new crown and that tooth has not given me any problems since.
X-rays and a cleaning in November revealed the need for six cavity fillings/replacements, which are scheduled for early 2011. Bill is scheduled for a cleaning the end of this month, so he will be caught up also, provided he has no cavities (which he rarely has!).
Bill needed a physical early in the year, as he had some blood pressure issues when he tried to renew his CDL. He has never had a complete physical with accompanying blood work, and I am always concerned about the possibility of diabetes with him since there is a family history. It turns out the blood pressure issue was white coat syndrome, so no real issue at all and he was able to reinstate his CDL. His blood work all came back fine, no cholesterol issues, no glucose issues, clean bill of health. That was nice to hear!
Being female, it took a few more doctor’s visits to cover me. First the gynecological visit, during which the doctor convinced me to have my first mammogram, just to create a baseline, and then if I didn’t want to have anymore for a few years (which I didn’t) they’d at least have a baseline for future reference. Well, one mammogram turned into two, a retake of the right side requested by the doctor. And then she still wasn’t happy (possibly calcifications) with the right side, so wants me to do a retake in six months. I’m not happy with that prospect and may request a thermal imaging done instead.
Second doctor’s visit was to the primary care physician to have my knee checked out and a physical with blood work. The knee, which began causing me pain in September, was already well on its way to being healed and so of no real concern by the time I got in for the appointment. The doctor arranged for blood work and a return visit to go over the blood work results. I also had mentioned a concern about hearing my heart beating in my ears whenever I do any major exertions, so she also scheduled an in-office EKG for my return visit.
So, yesterday was my return visit. The in-office EKG showed nothing unusual. I do believe I should not be hearing my heartbeat in my ears, from what my dad said about his experiences before his by-pass surgery, so I am going to be pursuing some options he recommended in that area and if there is no improvement, I will likely want to pursue it further with a cardiac specialist.
I had already been sent a copy of the lab results, so I had a good idea what we would be discussing and what to research in advance. The blood results showed elevated cholesterol levels, although my “good” cholesterol was very high, so that was a positive. The most troubling result, though, was the thyroid test. My TSH level was 10.180, which led the doctor to a diagnosis of hypothyroidism, or an underactive thyroid. After receiving the test results in the mail, I did some research and asking of family history and discovered that I have one maternal aunt who has hypothyroidism, along with my half-sister (related in the paternal side). It is also very common for women over the age of fifty to develop hypothyroidism. It seems that I have joined a relatively large segment of the population; estimates are that from 5 – 15% of all American women have hypothyroidism and likely a larger segment of the population goes undiagnosed.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism may include:
• Increased sensitivity to cold
• Pale, dry skin
• A puffy face
• Hoarse voice
• An elevated blood cholesterol level
• Unexplained weight gain
• Muscle aches, tenderness and stiffness
• Pain, stiffness or swelling in your joints
• Muscle weakness
• Heavier than normal menstrual periods
• Brittle fingernails and hair
I do have about eight of these symptoms, but can explain most of them in various fashions, such as the dry Arizona air, still adjusting mentally to the move from Florida, not enough exercise, too many calories consumed, that time of life, etc. But maybe, just maybe, there is an actual underlying reason – hypothyroidism.
Today I took the first of a lifetime of daily thyroid medication. The doctor said I should notice some change in the symptoms within a week. I will need to have blood work done every couple of months to monitor the TSH levels. Hopefully, getting the thyroid levels back to where they should be will also lower the cholesterol results; we will test those again in six months. In the meantime, I would be ecstatic to just get a good night’s sleep! I rarely sleep the night through; I usually wake up several times in the night to go to the bathroom and because I’m uncomfortable with joints hurting from what I assumed was too long lying in one position or possibly sleeping on an old mattress. Maybe those nights will shortly become a distant memory!