Tag Archives: Chronic Conditions

Dr. C’s Journal: Care Of Hand Osteoarthritis

I started having hand pain about 20 years ago, and booked a visit with the rheumatologist in my medical building. He looked at my hands and immediately knew that I had osteoarthritis.

The thumb musculature (the thenar eminence) was angled with respect to the plane of the rest of my hand and wasn’t flat like normal. Some of my joints were slightly swollen and even warm to the touch, and many of my fingers were beginning to get crooked.

He ordered a rheumatoid panel, uric acid and inflammatory markers. The normal results confirmed his diagnosis of osteoarthritis.

The middle and index fingers have taken a lot of trauma over the years. They are also the crookedest, for the same reason. With the thinning of my skin or you can see the outline of my tendons  on the palm of my hand, and some are a little bit bumpy and irregular. I am unable to make a tight fist anymore, although my fingers will flex to some degree.

I practice exercises on my wrist, hands and fingers, such as rotating my wrist and thumb in a circular fashion, touching my thumb to the tips of my fingers in sequence, squeezing a rubber ball, and flattening out my hand against the back of my head. Recently, I have noticed a little resistance when I try to straighten out my ring fingers after flexing them, and worried about developing trigger finger. On further reading I found that trigger finger is not more common in people who have osteoarthritis.

I do a lot of swimming, and am worried that the irritative force of the water regularly acting up on my hand might be making the hand pain worse. But my hands seem to be a little bit better with the hand exercises. There seems to be less pain, although maybe I have the same amount of pain but tolerate it better since I’m doing something about it. One never knows about a preventative program, since you’re an experiment of one. You have to have faith that what you are doing is beneficial, and in harmony with medical studies. Perhaps my anti-inflammatory diet and turmeric, as well as my good sleep and aerobic exercise is also helping.

—Dr. C.

Chronic Conditions: Allergic Rhinitis (Nature)

Allergic #rhinitis is caused by IgE-mediated reactions to inhaled allergens and is one of the most common chronic conditions globally; it often co-occurs with #asthma and conjunctivitis.

Chronic Conditions: Does Stress Cause Ulcers?

Stress shoulders a lot of blame for health issues like high blood pressure, fatigue and depression — and rightly so. But when it comes to causing stomach ulcers, it gets a bit of a bad rap.

The main triggers for stomach ulcers, also known as peptic ulcers or gastric ulcers, are:

  • H. pylori infection caused by a common gut bacteria.
  • Overuse of over-the-counter pain relief medication known as NSAIDs, short for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Chronic Conditions: How To Prevent Kidney Stones

Chronic Conditions: Non-Union Bone Fractures

THE DOCTORS 101 CHRONIC SYMPTOMS & CONDITIONS #59: Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is high on every hard-to-diagnose disease list, because it is relatively uncommon, and can produce a variety of disturbing symptoms often classified as psychosomatic.

It is caused by a deer tick bacterial injection of the Borrelia genus, which can progress to cause widespread problems. Not every tick bite will inject the bacterium, and ticks that have been attached for less than 12 to 24 hours are unlikely to have done so.

Risk factors include living in a wooded area, particularly on the east coast. With people fleeing the cities in the wake of Covid, exposure is more common.

The NYT columnist, Ross Douthat wrote a book about his travails: “patient heal thyself“. In this day and age of overworked  doctors, and with the huge variety of medical information available online, more and more people are going on a “medical odyssey”.

A painless red swelling, followed by an expanding area of red(erythema migrants), is often the best medical clue. Flu-like symptoms and enlargement of the lymph glands can accompany the “rash”. Tests are not positive for several weeks, and may be negative if and when the late symptoms of Lyme disease develop.

The earlier you get treated with a 10-day course antibiotics, the better. The problem is that not all tick bites produce infection, and so overtreatment is a real possibility.

Late symptoms can include fatigue, mental symptoms arthritis, liver problems and a variety of other symptoms. Like another bacterial disease, syphilis, lyme disease can be the great mimic.

Prevention is paramount. People living in endemic areas should wear long sleeves and pants when they go out into the woods, use insect repellent , and make sure their animals are kept tick-free.

A DWWR article on Nootkatone may be worth your time to read, since DEET and many other insecticides are toxic and have to be used with care.

Please refer to the following article by the Mayo clinic for more organized information.

-Dr. C.

THE DOCTORS 101 CHRONIC SYMPTOMS & CONDITIONS #56: LUPUS

Lupus, which used to be called lupus erythematosus because of its butterfly rash and light sensitivity, is an auto immune disease, along with celiac disease and several other autoimmune diseases, it is the great imitator. It can affect almost any organ system.

The great variety of symptoms, and relative rarity leads to a difficulty in establishing the diagnosis. Eventually, you may be lucky enough to  find someone who figures it out.

The butterfly rash over the bridge of the nose and cheeks is the most typical finding but it’s not present in all patients. Rheumatoid symptoms, including fatigue fever and joint involvement is common. Chest pain and shortness of breath can occur. Headache confusion and memory loss occurs. Involvement of the kidneys can also occur, it is often the involvement that is life-threatening. These are symptoms maywax and wane over a number of years.

The cause of lupus may involve a black background of infection, the medication, or even sunlight. As with most auto immune diseases, the actual cause is obscure.

Laboratory findings may include an anemia, kidney or liver involvement, and especially anti-nuclear antibody’s. Most people with lupus have a positive ANA test, but not all people with these positive tests have lupus. Other test maybe necessary.

Treatment is usually with Drugs which diminish the immune system. Targeting the B-lymphocytes specifically with rituximab or bulimumab may be helpful.

Lupus, the wolf, can be stealthy and severe. Patients often have to be their own advocate in order to get properly treated.

Please see the following mail clinic article for more information.

—Dr. C.

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THE DOCTORS 101 CHRONIC SYMPTOMS & CONDITIONS #55: ALOPECIA (HAIR LOSS)

Alopecia is the medical term for baldness. The word has an interesting linguistic  derivation, and comes from the Greek word Alopex, meaning fox. Foxes in Hippocrates time apparently were afflicted by hair loss from mange.

Men and women have different kinds of hair loss. In men, there is the receding hairline with age. As women age, there’s some thinning of the hair generally, and at the top of the head.

A special kind of hair loss that occurs in discrete areas is called alopecia areata. This is an auto immune disease, and is increased in frequency with people who have other autoimmune diseases. Hair loss can also be due to a fungal disease (ringworm) especially in children.

Cancer treatment can cause generalized hair loss, and we have all seen the bald children receiving cancer therapy, especially radiation.
Hair loss and regrowth comes in cycles. We all lose many hairs each day, but they regrow. When the cycle slows, there is a net loss of hair.

When I was in medical practice, my partner had early onset baldness, and was given hair transplants, which were effective. Treatments include minoxidil, which apparently increases the speed of hair cycles. An irritant, such as anthralin, will sometimes help Alopecia areaway by causing inflammation, apparently resetting  the immune reaction that’s causing the hair loss.

Finasteride, which interferes with local testosterone production, can stimulate hair growth. I take Finasteride for prostate enlargement, and was surprised to hear about it’s effect on hair growth. Maybe that’s why I have such a bushy head of hair.

Please read the following at Mayo clinic article for a more organized discussion.

—Dr. C.

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THE DOCTORS 101 CHRONIC SYMPTOMS & CONDITIONS #53: GRAVES’ DISEASE

Graves’ disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism is an over activity of the thyroid gland, and can also be produced by an overgrowth in the gland called an adenoma.

The thyroid gland is an H-shaped structure sitting astride the wind pipe. If a physician palpates the front of your neck, she is most likely trying to see if she can feel the thyroid gland. Enlargement of the grand can interestingly be produced by either overactivity or under activity.

Graves’ disease is an auto immune disease, where the antibodies produced attach to the TSH receptor on the thyroid gland, stimulating overactivity.

Many  metabolic processes are regulated by the thyroid gland, and increased activity produces difficulties like insomnia, fast irregular heartbeat, shaking of the hands, heat intolerance, and irritability. Other symptoms are protrusion of the eyes, fatigue, muscle weakness, and unexplained weight loss.

The doctor suspects the disease because of the symptoms, and must do blood tests and perhaps imaging tests to make the diagnosis. Treatment consists of decreasing thyroid activity, either by radiation techniques, anti-thyroid chemicals, or surgery.

It is very difficult to reduce thyroid activity in exactly the right amount, so that thyroid administration will be necessary. This can be tricky, and requires several visits for adjustment.

The ultimate cause of Graves’ disease is unknown. The immediate cause is thyroid stimulating immunoglobulin. Graves is an auto immune disease, and is more common in people who suffer from other autoimmune diseases, such as type one diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, or inflammatory bowel disease. The doctor will question you about some of these diseases.

Both causes of hyperthyroidism have occurred in friends of mine. The friend with the adenoma had an easier time with medication adjustment, and had no other problems. The one with the Graves’ disease has had a difficult time getting a proper dose of thyroid medication, and she has other problems with auto immunity. Women typically have more  autoimmune problems.

Interestingly, the commonest cause of low thyroid activity is also an autoimmune disease. Some of the symptoms of low thyroid are the opposite of excessive thyroid activity; sleeping is excessive, there is sensitivity to cold, unexplained weight gain, and sluggishness.

Check with the doctor if you have any of the symptoms mentioned.
There is a Cleveland clinic discussion of Graves’ disease following this article.

—Dr. C.

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THE DOCTORS 101 CHRONIC SYMPTOMS & CONDITIONS #52: RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS

Painful, stiff joints are almost the rule as we get older, it seems. Both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis contribute to that eventuality. Osteoarthritis typically worsens as we get older, whereas rheumatoid arthritis starts in middle age.

Rheumatoid arthritis is much more severe than osteoarthritis, since it is an autoimmune condition with an episodic inflammatory component. A recent medical study of different blood substances found that the “metabolome” has many markers for exacerbation of rheumatoid arthritis.

The main test currently being used to show exacerbation is CRP, C-reactive protein. Rheumatoid factor tests, such as anti-CCP, are used to confirm the diagnosis.

Rheumatoid arthritis tends to involve the small joints of the hand, and osteoarthritis the larger joints, such as the hips and knees. I go a bit against the grain, having diagnosed osteoarthritis of my fingers and toes, more typical of RA, but, even at the age of 89, my large joints are still in good shape, even with a lot of walking. Since walking is thought to increase the perfusion of joint fluid to nourish the knee cartilages, perhaps I should say BECAUSE of walking. Running tends to wear the knees and hips out, because of high impact on the joints.

The inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis tends to wax and wane, but during an exacerbation can be quite incapacitating. The interleukin TNF seems instrumental in causing these flares, and antibodies directed towards TNF, such as etanercept, has been a helpful treatment. This injection is also given for other inflammatory, autoimmune conditions such as psoriasis, particularly psoriatic arthritis, and the inflammatory bowel diseases.

Almost half the people who have rheumatoid arthritis also experience signs and symptoms in other tissues, such as the skin, eyes, heart, and lungs. It is truly a systemic, autoimmune disease.

For more information please consult the following mayo clinic article on rheumatoid arthritis.

—Dr. C.

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