Sunday, September 18, 2011

Not Your Typical "Roid Rage"...

If you were to gather 100 Lymie Veterans and ask them, "What is the Number One rule regarding Lyme Disease and anti-inflammation medications?", here's what would happen:

At first you might hear some regretful sighs, angered mumblings, and painful groans, but then, once those memories have passed, they would all say aloud - in complete unison and perfect harmony (tap, tap, tap),

"Never, ever, ever (EVER!) allow your doctor to prescribe anti-inflammatory steroids!!"     

Unfortunately, I had to learn this very important fact the hard way...
You see, back in 2002, when I was initially searching for an answer as to why the joints along my spine had suddenly become the source of an extremely painful and debilitating experience, I had first thought to go see an orthopedic physician about it; logically assuming that something had "structurally" gone wrong in that area after having fallen in volleyball practice.

Although, all the MRI's, X-Rays, and tests showed no abnormal results, the doctor I saw knew that "for some reason" , I was in agony, and referred me to the office's Pain Management Specialist. 

So, for the next several days, I would visit him about three times a week and receive cortisone injections along the areas of my back and neck that were inflamed. 
That, however, only seemed to make my pain worsen and my symptoms progress to other areas of my body, so I rather quickly decided to stop with the injections. 

Because of this sudden progression, I then decided to see another doctor for a "second opinion", but ended up with the same answer...nothing "looked" wrong. The only difference with this guy was that he had the courtesy to ask me about my past medical history in detail.
As he was asking me questions about various medical conditions I had in the past, checking off no, no, no, one at a time, I'll never forget how he literally seemed to freeze for a split second and raise his head up at me with a VERY concerned look on his face when I happened to answer "Yes" to Lyme Disease. He then cocked his head to one side, asked if I had been treated, and when I said yes to that too, he relaxed a bit and kept on going down the list. luck there.

I then went back to the original Orthopedic I had seen, and practically holding back tears, told him that I was getting worse and didn't have a CLUE what do to about it. The only response he had to say to that was, "Don't let a back problem (Wait - WHAT back problem?? You haven't even given me a diagnosis yet!!) become a head problem", and proceeded to prescribe me a weeks' worth of prednisone tablets. (Sure, let's go systemic...why not??)

I remember the first day I took those pills VERY clearly...I had decided to visit my sister for the night at Fairfield University, and although I had driven that same route to her school about twenty times prior to that day, I began to slowly feel an odd infectious-type pain start to creep down my spine, around my head, and suddenly, I had absolutely NO IDEA where I was...I become so disorientated while driving, that I actually had to call my sister to verbally get directions to her school.

As you can imagine, when I finally got there, she was very alarmed about the whole situation and forcefully took me to the ER the moment I arrived. We waited over two hours for some doctor to come in for two seconds and tell me that the prednisone pill I had taken had caused a "psychotic episode", and that I'd be fine as long as I stopped taking them. I tried desperately to tell him that this felt like an INFECTION, but he just waved the notion aside, and left to see his next patient.

Now, I know you're probably thinking, "Yes, but how does this story relate to Lyme Disease??" Well, I'd be happy to explain:

Inflammation is actually a result of your body's natural immune-response attempting to help "clean-up" or repair an injury you may have sustained, or to help fight off foreign substances such as bacteria and viruses that may have "infected" certain areas of the body. This is normally, although uncomfortable, a GOOD thing. Sometimes, however, doctors seem to think (and this may very well be true) that your immune-response is "overly doing it" and creating much more inflammation and pain then necessary. This is one reason why they would prescribe you an inflammation reducing steroid. (Another reason would be because of an auto-immune illness, which I'll get to in another post...)

Now, when you're prescribed a corticosteroid, its sole purpose and action is to prohibit your immune-response from activating and thus you experience less inflammation and...less pain. However, if the reason you are experiencing this is because you have an active foreign bacterial infection, what you really just did is completely remove the only line of defense within you that could help fight it (imagine that...). Thus, people who unknowingly have Lyme Disease and are taking steroids to reduce inflammation and pain in their joints are really just allowing the bacteria to spread more quickly, and also enabling the infection, along with your symptoms, to get WORSE.

The reason why seasoned lyme patients become SO enraged over this is actually very simple - they feel that their doctors unknowingly prescribed medications to them that not only made their condition worse, but also (if the steroids were taken over a long period of time) further damaged their already weakened immune systems and now, because of that, their overall prognosis sharply declines and THEY (not those doctors who were only following their specific protocols, and thus take no blame in the matter) are the only ones who suffer the retributions from it... Now, isn't that something to be just a little "ticked-off" about??

Well, I can't help but think so, and from my experience with doctors and the effects the drugs they've prescribed had on me in the past, the only thing for me to feel about the whole matter is perfectly summed up in a favorite quote of mine by Voltaire:

"Doctors prescribe medications of which they know little, to cure diseases of which they know less, in human being of whom they know nothing."


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