Wednesday, October 28, 2020

I'm a 22-Year-Old With Fibromyalgia—and Some Days I Wish I Could Detach Myself From My Body

The pain started when I was 16 years old. It began in my finger joints, the aching dull one moment and sharp the next. Soon the pain became more widespread. It circumnavigated to what seemed like every joint in my body. (Later I would learn that these were tender points surrounding the joints rather than the joints themselves.) Every time I took a step, I felt a sharp jab in response.

I was a high school junior in New York. The SATs, AP classes, school sports, the school musical, and college counseling took up the majority of my time. I ignored the pain because I simply didn’t have the energy or time to deal with it. When I allowed myself time to focus on it, I would turn to Google. These late night symptom-checking sessions usually left me convinced I was about to die. I told my parents that something felt wrong, but they shrugged and told me to go to the doctor.

In and out of waiting rooms

The first time I explained my joint pain to the family doctor I'd been seeing for years, I said that I thought it might be arthritis or leukemia. (At least, that’s what Google had told me.) My doctor wasn’t so sure. He told me I was stressed and needed to relax. He asked me if I ever felt depressed or anxious. I nodded, even though a large part of my anxiety stemmed only from my unexplained pain. He sent me away with a Zoloft prescription and didn’t recommend any specialists.

I’m not sure why doctors seem to prescribe Zoloft first. Whenever I talk to friends who have also been prescribed SSRI antidepressants, we exchange dark glances, remembering our first trial runs on Zoloft before we found the prescriptions that actually worked for us. I can still remember the constant feeling of electricity coursing through my head, the way the drug made me fixate on certain things rather than allow the anxiety to fade away. I lived like this for over a year.

All the other physician visits I went to seemed to blur together. I remember going to one with the same complaint I had for my first doctor, and he told me it was due to stress. He patted my shoulder and wished me the best of luck with my college search. He was kind, but he clearly thought the pain was in my head. I insisted on tests—for Lyme disease, blood work—anything that would tell me what was wrong with my body. They all came back negative.

I went away to college in Boston. During my first semester, I took the train back home twice to see my doctor. The pain was now so bad, I was unable to sit in the library to study without being assaulted by aches. Google searches worried me, as these symptoms—combined with the headaches, fatigue, and insomnia I was now experiencing—led me to believe something serious was going on. I went into my doctor’s office again and again feeling like my body had betrayed me.

Finally a diagnosis

The next year, I transferred to the University of Virginia and was now farther away from my hometown and doctor. I called him a few times on the phone with complaints, but ultimately the rush of new experiences at school distracted me from the pain, even though it was always there in the background.

I didn’t tell most people about the pain that followed me daily. This was probably because I didn’t want to seem weak or pitiable, but also because I refused to give it a name or a voice. If I didn’t acknowledge the pain, I reasoned, then maybe it didn’t exist after all. Maybe it was, as my doctor kept insisting, just stress.

One fall, an ex-boyfriend convinced me to wean myself off Zoloft. My anxiety was getting worse—enough to noticeably affect my relationships and friendships—so I agreed that a change in medication might be a good idea. I went to my doctor’s office that winter break.

As I sat perched on the chair in his exam room that December day, I remember him asking me more questions about my anxiety and stress levels. He applied pressure to my joints and asked where the pain was located. Eventually, he sighed and said it looked like I had fibromyalgia, but he had not suspected it before because I was so young.

What is fibromyalgia?

The word was long and unfamiliar. Fibromyalgia. I didn’t even know how to spell it.

What I later found out, though, is that fibromyalgia is an elusive and confusing diagnosis. The condition is thought to affect the way the brain processes pain signals, amplifying their intensity and thereby causing chronic, debilitating pain, according to Mayo Clinic.

Fibromyalgia also mimics many other conditions, including arthritis, lupus, and cancer, which is why it often takes years to get a diagnosis. There's no definitive test for it; it's diagnosed by a process of elimination when other conditions are ruled out. For years, it was even considered a mental-health disorder. It was only in 2007 when medication became available to treat symptoms and side effects. (Fibromyalgia currently has no cure.)

My doctor told me that I was one of 3.7 million Americans living with the condition, the majority of which are middle-aged women. He didn’t know why fibromyalgia affected me, especially since I am decades younger than the average person diagnosed. Though fibromyalgia may be genetic, no one in my family has it. It might also be caused by physical or emotional trauma. Yet at the time I developed it, I was in high school, living a relatively carefree life of dancing in my school musical, running to soccer practice, and studying for the SATs.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Man dies from eating more than a bag of liquorice a day, for weeks

We know the dangers of sweet foods to our health, but in the case of liquorice, it turns out it may be worse for us than we ever thought, doctors say.

This is after one man’s love for the confectionery turned sour when he suffered cardiac arrest, according to a case published in the New England Journal of Medicine this month. 

Doctors wrote that the 54-year-old man, a construction worker in the US state of Massachusetts, ate about one-and-a-half bags of black liquorice every day for a couple of weeks. 

“The patient had been in a fast-food restaurant when he gasped suddenly and lost consciousness,” the report reads.

He was revived after emergency responders performed CPR, but reportedly died the next day.

How did this happen?

“Even a small amount of liquorice you eat can increase your blood pressure a little bit,” said Dr Neel Butala, a cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital who described the case in the New England Journal of Medicine.

In their paper, they explain that black liquorice contains a compound, known as glycyrrhizic acid, that can be toxic in large doses.

Dr Elazer Edelman, one of the authors of the paper, explained that studies have shown that glycyrrhizic acid could cause "hypertension, hypokalemia [dangerously low potassium levels], metabolic alkalosis, fatal arrhythmias, and renal failure" – all of which were seen in this patient.

Apart from this, the patient was also reported to have had a poor diet. 

The doctors also noted that the patient had recently changed the type of sweets he was consuming – a few weeks prior to his death, he switched from red fruit-flavoured twists to a different type made with black liquorice.

Another doctor, Dr Andrew Lundquist, also wrote that the liquorice was to blame: "Further investigation revealed a recent change to a liquorice-containing candy as the likely cause of his hypokalemia," Lundquist wrote.

According to The Guardian, Jeff Beckman, a spokesman for the Hershey Company which produces the Twizzlers liquorice twists, said that “all of our products are safe to eat and formulated in full compliance with FDA regulations”, and that all foods, including candy, “should be enjoyed in moderation”.

Previous case report also linked to liquorice

In a 2015 case study, published in the BMJ Case Reports, a 45-year-old woman was reported to have experienced hot flushes, sweating, and headaches for four months.

Tests revealed that she had been suffering from hypertension that was induced by liquorice tea. Doctors wrote that she had been drinking up to six cups of liquorice tea per day, and that once she stopped consuming the drink, her hypertension, and hypokalaemia entirely resolved.

Since the patient had chosen the tea as a substitute for caffeinated tea and fruit-based infusions, the doctors wrote that “clinicians need to be continually vigilant of the impact that dietary choices may have on patient health”. 

In 2017, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that eating two ounces (56g) of black liquorice per day for at least two weeks could lead to irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia) in people 40 years and older.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Ohio Woman Is Tased and Arrested After Refusing to Wear Mask at Middle-School Football Game

A mother in Ohio was captured on video being tased and arrested after refusing to wear a face mask during an away middle-school football game.

According to police, at a Wednesday night game in Logan, a woman who wasn't wearing a face mask in the bleachers was asked several times to either put on her mask or leave. When she refused and resisted arrest, she was tased and handcuffed, according to Logan police.

The incident was caught on video and uploaded to social media. In the video, the woman, later identified as Alecia Kitts, can be seen telling a Logan police officer "don't touch me" after reportedly refusing to put on her face mask, which appears to be in her back pocket.

After the officer tells Kitts to put her hands behind her back and she refuses, he can been seen tasing her before handcuffing her. Kitts was charged with criminal trespassing and released at the scene. Additional charges are pending on Kitts and another female subject involved in the incident, according to police.

"It is important to note, the female was not arrested for failing to wear a mask, she was asked to leave the premises for continually violating school policy. Once she refused to leave the premises, she was advised she was under arrest for criminal trespassing, she resisted the arrest, which led to the use of force," police said in a statement.

Kitts is a Marietta City Schools parent, the Marietta Times reports.

“The governor and the [Ohio] health department have made it very clear that masks are required indoor and outdoor at sports facilities. They’re just part of the expectation,” MCS Athletic Director Cody Venderlic said in a statement to the paper. “They’re one of the requirements the OHSAA [Ohio High School Athletic Association] brought down and said that if we’re going to be able to have fall sports we’re going to have to social distance and we’re going to have to wear masks.”

On Thursday, Logan-Hocking schools were placed on lockdown after receiving threats related to the previous night's incident. Logan police are investigating the arrest. Attorney information was not available for Kitts.

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