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Tuesday, May 13, 2014

My Personal Health Update - Anxiety & Edema

Last week, I went to my primary care physician (PCP). I had blood work done and a physical because I have been feeling really exhausted from everything during this Gastroparesis Attack. Some people call them flares, but it honestly feels like an attack on my body, so I stick with GP Attack. I also wanted to address my anxiety issues because they've gotten worse. That's to be expected with gastroparesis, especially since you don't know what could happen with your stomach, whether or not you'll be in the hospital next week, or whether you'll need emergency surgery and/or a feeding tube. There are just too many unknowns because there isn't a lot of research or awareness about gastroparesis. That's part of the reason that I started this blog.

Anyway, the doctor said that my vitamin levels were all low - vitamins A, B, C, and D. This is normal with me because I vomit daily. If I try not to eat anything for a day or two at a time, I'll still vomit up stomach acid. I've tried during multiple things to see if I'd vomit less. However, I think my anxiety is making my vomiting and GP worse, so I needed to get that taken care of.

The doctor put me on Buspar, and here is a description from Drugs dot Com, "BuSpar (buspirone) is an anti-anxiety medicine that affects chemicals in your brain that may become unbalanced and cause anxiety. BuSpar is used to treat symptoms of anxiety, such as fear, tension, irritability, dizziness, pounding heartbeat, and other physical symptoms." She also put me on Xanax to help with break through panic attacks. It's been a few years since I've gotten panic attacks, but I've had a lot of them lately. I'm not sure what's trigging them but I'm keeping them written down in my gastroparesis journal - when I have them, what time, how long they last, and what else happened that day. I hope I can discover a pattern. If you have anxiety, I recommend doing the same thing. I went in for medication because yoga, writing, and deep breathing were not helping anymore and I needed medicinal help at this point.

My blood pressure was also up again to 156/106, and the normal blood pressure for a person is 120/80. My blood pressure has been running high for a few months now. I'm not sure if it's due to stress, my pain in my back from surgery still, and/or my pain with gastroparesis. I guess it could be all of the above. Additionally, I had a bit of swelling in my arms and the bottom of my legs. This was new to me because I had never had swelling in my arms. I've had swelling in my legs due to injuries, but that was about it. So, the doctor put me on Hydrochlorothiazide, which, according to Drugs dot Com, "Hydrochlorothiazide is a thiazide diuretic (water pill) that helps prevent your body from absorbing too much salt, which can cause fluid retention. Hydrochlorothiazide treats fluid retention (edema) in people with congestive heart failure, cirrhosis of the liver, or kidney disorders, or edema caused by taking steroids or estrogen. This medication is also used to treat high blood pressure (hypertension)."

After my visit with the doctor, I left for Florida with my husband to go on a five day vacation to Universal Studios and to Disney's Magic Kingdom. I had never been to either theme park but I spent four days walking around. I really needed the vacation and was looking forward to spending time with my husband, and I wasn't going to let Gastroparesis stop me (and I did get sick but I pushed through it).


The hubs and I standing in front of Cinderella's Castle in Magic Kingdom, Disney.


I have taken my water pill daily, but on my last day at Disney, I noticed that my left foot had swollen so badly that the only shoes that would fit me were my flip flops. My tennis shoes and my flats I brought didn't fit at all. My knee was becoming the size of a softball and it was getting harder to bear weight on it. I, thankfully, had an ace bandage and some lidocaine patches that I brought with me, so I put some of the patches on my knee and wrapped it up to prevent swelling even more. I also iced it and kept it elevated the last day we were there. As soon as I got home, I did the same. I changed the patches, wrapped it back up, iced, and elevated it. I called my PCP who advised me to keep doing what I was doing. She said for me to use crutches if I had to walk long distances but to stay off of my left leg.

Do you know how hard it is to stay off of your leg? It's driving me crazy. My leg feels like it's on fire. And of course, I'm still vomiting and I'm almost out of emesis bags. I can't run to the bathroom right now, because I'd injure myself more and I wouldn't make it to vomit there anyway. So, I have a bucket beside the bed, just in case.



Shown, are a picture of my legs, side by side, so that you can see the difference in swelling.



Shown, are both of my feet so you can see the swelling in my left foot.


Shown, is my left foot swelling.


The good news is that the water pill has helped with my arms. They are still a little less swollen but I look less like I have "cabbage patch doll arms" as my husband so aptly described them.



So, what could be causing this?

Edema is the retention of fluid. I decided to look it up to see what could be causing this to happen to my left leg. According to WebMD, this is what I found out,

"Edema is the medical term for swelling. It is a general response of the body to injury or inflammation. Edema can be isolated to a small area or affect the entire body. Medications, infections, pregnancy, and many medical problems can cause edema.

Edema results whenever small blood vessels become "leaky" and release fluid into nearby tissues. The extra fluid accumulates, causing the tissue to swell.


Causes of Edema

Edema is a normal response of the body to inflammation or injury. For example, a twisted ankle, a bee sting, or a skin infection will all result in edema in the involved area. In some cases, such as in an infection, this may be beneficial. Increased fluid from the blood vessels allows more infection-fighting white blood cells to enter the affected area.

Edema can also result from medical conditions or problems in the balance of substances normally present in blood. Some of the causes of edema include:

Low albumin (hypoalbuminemia): Albumin and other proteins in the blood act like sponges to keep fluid in the blood vessels. Low albumin may contribute to edema, but isn't usually the sole cause.

Allergic reactions: Edema is a usual component of most allergic reactions. In response to the allergic exposure, the body allows nearby blood vessels to leak fluid into the affected area.

Obstruction of flow: If the drainage of fluid from a body part is blocked, fluid can back up. A blood clot in the deep veins of the leg can result in leg edema. A tumor blocking lymph or blood flow will cause edema in the affected area.

Critical illness: Burns, life-threatening infections, or other critical illnesses can cause a whole-body reaction that allows fluid to leak into tissues almost everywhere. Widespread edema throughout the body can result.

Edema and heart disease (congestive heart failure): When the heart weakens and pumps blood less effectively, fluid can slowly build up, creating leg edema. If fluid buildup occurs rapidly, fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema) can develop.

Edema and liver disease: Severe liver disease (cirrhosis) results in an increase in fluid retention. Cirrhosis also leads to low levels of albumin and other proteins in the blood. Fluid leaks into the abdomen (called ascites), and can also produce leg edema.

Edema and kidney disease: A kidney condition called nephrotic syndrome can result in severe leg edema, and sometimes whole-body edema (anasarca).

Edema and pregnancy: Due to an increase in blood volume during pregnancy and pressure from the growing womb, mild leg edema is common during pregnancy. However, serious complications of pregnancy such as deep vein thrombosis and preeclampsia can also cause edema.

Cerebral edema (brain edema): Swelling in the brain can be caused by head trauma, low blood sodium (hyponatremia), high altitude, brain tumors, or an obstruction to fluid drainage (hydrocephalus). Headaches, confusion, and unconsciousness or coma can be symptoms of cerebral edema.

Medications and edema: Numerous medications can cause edema, including:

NSAIDs (ibuprofen, naproxen)
Calcium channel blockers
Corticosteroids (prednisone, methylprednisolone)
Pioglitazone and rosiglitazone
Pramiprexole

Most commonly, these medications produce no edema, or mild leg edema.



Symptoms of Edema

Edema symptoms depend on the amount of edema and the body part affected.

Edema in a small area from an infection or inflammation (such as a mosquito bite) may cause no symptoms at all. On the other hand, a large local allergic reaction (such as from a bee sting) may cause edema affecting the entire arm. Here, tense skin, pain, and limited movement can be symptoms of edema.

Food allergies may cause tongue or throat edema, which can be life-threatening if it interferes with breathing.

Leg edema of any cause can cause the legs to feel heavy and interfere with walking. In edema and heart disease, for example, the legs may easily weigh an extra 5 or 10 pounds each. Severe leg edema can interfere with blood flow, leading to ulcers on the skin.

Pulmonary edema causes shortness of breath, which can be accompanied by low oxygen levels in the blood. Some people with pulmonary edema may experience a cough with frothy sputum.
Treatment of Edema


Treatment of edema often means treating the underlying cause of edema. For example, allergic reactions causing edema may be treated with antihistamines and corticosteroids.

Edema resulting from a blockage in fluid drainage can sometimes be treated by eliminating the obstruction:

A blood clot in the leg is treated with blood thinners, and the clot slowly breaks down; leg edema then resolves as fluid drainage improves.

A tumor obstructing a blood vessel or lymph flow can sometimes be reduced in size or removed with surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation.

Leg edema related to congestive heart failure or liver disease can be treated with a diuretic (''water pill'') like furosemide (Lasix). When urine output increases, more fluid drains from the legs back into the blood. Maintaining a sodium-restricted diet will also help limit fluid retention associated with heart failure or liver disease.


I have an appointment with my orthopedist in the morning. He's the one who treated me for my left knee last time and was the doctor who referred me to get a spinal cord stimulator. My knee cap is not tracking properly and it pulled to far towards the left of my knee. I am scared I have a meniscus tear. I am hoping that whatever is causing the swelling has to do with an injury to my knee that will take a few weeks to fix with a brace, physical therapy, and no surgery. I'll update more tomorrow. Please, let's hope it's not something really serious. I'm really scared because I've never had my body swell up this much and in so many places at once.


EDIT: So, I went to the orthopedist this morning and had my swelling in my knee and foot looked at. The doctor thinks that I overdid it walking around the theme parks this past week. He took some x-rays and determined that my knee cap was floating around because of all of the fluid in my knee, and that was causing irritation, leg instability, and pain/pressure. He decided to drain the fluid from my knee and to give me a cortisone injection. I was scared about the cortisone injection, because the last time I had one, a different doctor did it and I ended up with sepsis in my knee and had to have emergency surgery. This is the fluid he removed from my knee joint this morning:

This is the fluid that the doctor removed from my knee before the cortisone injection.

I have to stay off of my leg for at least two days to help the swelling go down but the cortisone injection should help. My foot is still swollen but he says that should also go down in a few days if I baby my leg and try not to overdo it. He said that if he would have another barrel for the syringe (in the picture above) to remove fluid from my knee, he would have kept going because there's still more. However, my knee cap should stop floating around now and stop irritating everything. Let's hope so!
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