Sunday, November 6, 2016

Making it Through the Tough Times

A friend of mine has a husband with a fatal illness and who is in a great deal of pain. They are both struggling with the situation. Though I wish I could relieve their suffering, all I can do in share my experiences in those years when I didn't know that my adrenal glands were failing, or when I collapsed after a major stress in my life and needed to recover. Here are my comments.

I know you are under tremendous stress. It doesn't sound like you can do much for your husband, but just having you there makes it easier for him. It doesn't sound like he is really the person you knew, which is hard. I have known a lot of pain, not being able to sleep well, and lived with knowing I had a condition that could take my life at any time. It is a heavy load. I know I wasn't the cheerful, balanced person I wanted to be. I was shaky, frightened, confused, exhausted, irrational, emotional, and struggled to just keep going each day. I appreciated my husband's support even though I was rough to live with. He was often gone and I think that helped him to be able to handle my illness better when he was home. I knew he needed to get away from me, or I would drag him down with me. Other friends and family gave me support also. I don't think one person can keep giving all the support that is needed day after day, year after year. Does your husband have friends, church members, your children, or family who visit and call him? Being around supportive people helped to divert my mind from my pain and problems and helped me be more upbeat. Visits were also tiring, so they had to be short. Phone visits didn't tire me as much.

Though coping with the pain was about all I could handle, I tried to do something for others, or accomplish something each day. I would send a couple emails to friends or family, write the LDS missionaries, create a poem, clean a shelf etc. Sitting in the sunshine and being outside helped. Winters were especially hard. I watched old comedies and musicals -- anything upbeat and diverting. TV numbs the brain and the pain. I tried to move when I could, as often as I could. Hot baths helped so much. I had fibromyalgia too. I listened to or watched LDS Church videos (I specially like the Bible Videos), the Ensign, and General Conference. It helped me keep together when the pain was getting more than I could handle and I couldn't concentrate or focus to read. My immune system was failing so I couldn't take any medication for pain. Priesthood blessings helped me to make it. The scriptures were, and still are, my lifeline. I had a few experiences where I had reached the end of my strength, and the Lord helped me. I now know that no matter how difficult and painful my life can be, the Lord will be there. He will carry me when I can't walk any further. His love and strength comforted and sustained me.

Little things bothered me. Noises made me jump. They hurt my ears and exhausted me. It helped if I could be somewhere else when my husband did noisy things such as running a vacuum.  I often felt so sick to my stomach and had difficulty gagging down food. I didn't have any appetite. Having nutritious organic food that was prepared and I only had to heat it up in the microwave helped. Also smooth foods which didn't need chewing such as soups and applesauce went down easier. Spicy foods just made my stomach worse. I needed more salt and plenty of filtered water to keep me from getting light headed.

Sometimes, I spent the night in the tub, on the sofa, or in the recliner. I knew that there was nothing my husband could do to help me, and his not getting a good night's sleep would not help either of us. Soft but supportive furniture also helped. For awhile I had a waterbed. I didn't try to drive. I knew I wasn't alert enough or up to fast moving activity. Comfortable cotton clothes made life bearable, but mainly what got me through was prayer.

Hope this helps.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Coping with Cramps and Low Blood Pressure

A person writes in, "I have had Addisons Disease for 18 years and my salt intake is very important. There are days that's all I crave is salt. I take 1 mg of Fludrocortisone and 20 mg of Hydrocortisone in the morning and 10 mg in the afternoon. One thing I hate is cramping in the legs and feet. Also, I hate the bladder hurting all the time. I need an answer to that. Because sometimes I feel like the only one that has this disease in Wyoming. Doctors sometimes don't know what to do about it. They freak out on my blood pressure and my heart rate because they are so low. Could my bladder hurt due to my meds."

I don't know how low your blood pressure is, but I do know that normal blood pressure should be around 120/80 and low blood pressure symptoms normally start at about 90/60. When my blood pressure dropped and I had muscle cramping, I knew that I something was seriously the matter. It could be:

  • That I was dehydrated and needed to drink more water and take more salt (When you take Fludrocortisone you need to add more salt to your diet. Those with Addison's are advised not to restrict salt intake and to add salt until you feel satisfied. When I got my Fludrocortisone dose right for me, I didn't crave salt much. ) 
  • Perhaps I needed to exercise to get the blood circulation going. (poor circulation causes cramping) 
  • Perhaps I was doing more exercise than my body was accustomed to, or had the medication, or minerals to support. 
  • I might be low in potassium, calcium or in magnesium. Having my mineral levels checked might be necessary. I might need mineral supplements. (Be careful. People with low Adrenal Function might have high potassium. Perhaps my minerals are not in the right balance.) 
  • Thyroid problems can cause muscle cramping. Maybe my thyroid needs to be checked. 
  • Do I need to rest? I would get muscle and bladder pain when I was becoming exhausted. When I rested for a while, they went away. 
  • Does my Fludrocourt medication need to be adjusted? Too much Fludrocourt can cause high blood pressure. Too low of Fludrocourt dose can cause low blood pressure.

Remember that if your blood pressure gets too low you can go into an Adrenal Crisis which can be very serious, so you will want to talk to your doctor about the problems you are having. You are on the normal dose for both your Fludrocortisone and Hydrocortisone, but the dose sometimes needs to be adjusted for different people and in times of stress.

I wish you well. Keep a health journal and make notes of how you are feeling, at what time, and the situation and take it with you to talk to your doctor. If your doctor does not have much experience in treating endocrine disorders, you may want to find one who has that experience. Don't give up! It takes time and patience, but you can feel better.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

If my Thyroid is low, could I also have low Adrenal?

"I am a 75 year old female trying to understand my symptoms: I wake aching all over body, not feeling awake and unable to function physically or mentally until much later in the day. I do not feel "normal" until evening, and feel my best about 9 or 10 pm. I have gained 10 lbs in less than 4 months. I am not able to cope with stress as well as about 2 years ago. I feel extreme fatigue and an warm to hot when I wake up and don't cool down until much later in the day. I do have low thyroid and take Levothyroxin. Could I have adrenal issues?"
Since each part of the Endocrine system affects the other, it is possible that you might have lowered Adrenal Function if you have low thyroid function. In fact, it is likely. All my endocrine system functioned at a low level. When tested, I always had a bit low production of thyroid hormones, and I always had trouble with keeping my blood sugar balanced. Nothing was to the point where I needed medication, but low enough to make me have blood sugar ups and downs (pancreatic hormones), and make me feel more cold and tired (thyroid hormones). Also the adrenal glands, a long with most parts of us, don't work as well when we are older. Many of our commonly accepted aging symptoms are actually our bodies slowing down, especially our adrenal glands.

The very slow start in the mornings and getting more and more alert and "normal" by evening is a common symptom of low adrenal function, as is the inability to cope with stress (sometimes all I could do was stare or cry).  Low adrenal function can also affect your body temperature.

Both the thyroid glands and the adrenal glands affect body temperature, fatigue, joint and muscle aches, depression, and weight gain. Your thyroid medication might also affect your body temperature. Low thyroid (or any problem with your body not functioning well) will stress your adrenal glands.

You will want to discuss your problems with your doctor. He can test both your thyroid and your adrenal hormone levels.  It is possible that you may just be experiencing low thyroid, or you may also have some low adrenal symptoms, or you may need to have your thyroid medicine adjusted. Remember that as you get your thyroid in good control, your adrenal glands should also improve.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Dealing with Difficulty Eating

A woman asks "Do you know anything about dealing with lack of hunger from stress? I know that especially with Addison's if I get stressed to the point of anxiety, I can't eat, and if I can't eat, it increases my stress, and it becomes a big endless cycle."

I wasn't diagnosed with Addison's when I was young. Though Dr Addison discovered the disease in 1849, testing and treatment for Addison's Disease was rarely done until the later 1990's, I was always tired and felt ill as a child, but since I never had a dramatic Addison's Crisis, nothing was ever done. My family does have a history of various auto-immune diseases and high stress, but it wasn't until I was older and had collapsed, that I began medication for Addison's Disease.

All of my life I have dealt with nausea that is a symptom of being over-stressed. I can confirm that not only does not eating increase stress, it can sure make you sick. When you don't have the vitamins and minerals your body needs to respond to the stresses it has to cope with, you do begin a downward cycle. It will also make you far more vulnerable to stress in the future. You will feel more and more ill until you finally collapse in exhaustion.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Will the dark patches go away?

A woman wants to know if the darker patches of skin color will go away. One of the early symptoms of Addison's Disease is darkening of skin especially on your face and in skin folds. Hyperpigmentation should go away when you take enough cortisone so that your body is not producing excessive amount of ATCH (adrenocorticotrophic hormone) in an effort to stimulate the adrenal glands.

I could always tell when I needed to take more medication because my face would turn a deep rose color. When I got my medicine up to an adequate level, the rosiness would go away. I am not as pale as I used to be when I was younger, but my skin is pretty normal now.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Tests for Low Adrenal Function

Here are some good sites that tell about the tests available to help diagnose low adrenal function. I had a blood test which showed that my body produced "no detectable level of cortisone".  My doctor also listen to my symptoms and we decided to try a test of my taking a small amount of hydrocortisone. Nothing else had made any difference in how I felt, but in desperation, I decided to give it a try. Since I immediately felt considerably better, it seemed likely that my adrenal glands were not producing enough cortisone. We checked.  I had a blood test which showed that my body produced "no detectable level of cortisone". It was conclusive, I had Addison's disease.

One of the best places for information on Addison's Disease can be found at the UK Addison's Disease Self Help Group

I also have found Dr. Wilson's work very helpful

Monday, July 25, 2016

Will traveling with Addison's Disease make you tired?

A woman, who has had Addison's for 7 years, told me, " I love to travel but now I'm just traveling 2-4 hours away to see family and friends or for conferences. I am often exhausted after these trips...especially the professional ones. I don't feel tired or like I'm pushing myself during the trips but when I get home I end up sleeping most of the day for a day or two."

Remember that your adrenal glands help you deal with change by adjusting such things as blood pressure, blood sugar, metabolism, and temperature. Even with medication, a person with Addison's disease will not function as well as a person has normal adrenal glands.

Imagine a person with diabetics. Now think of them eating a large piece of cake. What will happen? They will become very ill! Why? Because they did not have the insulin they needed for the amount of sugar they ate.