Sunday, September 15, 2013

Would You Like To Learn More About Evil Arthritis?

"The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist." -The Usual Suspects (1995)

Emma's arthritis is nice and quiet. Beautifully quiet. Too quiet. In a matter of a few short weeks, her summer flare up was reduced to nothing. Her joints are not swollen, stiff, or painful. There is not even a hint of a limp to her gait. I have been happily lulled into complacency once again.
On the outside, she is a typical three and a half year old. She loves to run, jump, climb, and squeal at the top of her lungs. She adores her baby brother, but does not adore sharing toys with him. She is stubborn and sassy, she is loving and kind.

On the inside, her body is still a battlefield. Emma's immune system wants to attack her joints. Thanks to her weekly Enbrel injection, a sort of stand-off has been achieved. The perfect balance of inflammatory proteins and anti-inflammatory proteins in her body are keeping her immune system in check, for now. I hope and pray that it stays that way for some time. That's really all I can do.

Did you know that Juvenile Arthritis can also cause inflammation in the eyes? It's called uveitis and it scares the living daylights out of me.

Emma sees an ophthalmologist every six months to check for uveitis. As with inflammation in her joints, if uveitis goes untreated, it can cause permanent damage.

She saw her eye doctor last week and, as with every previous visit, he saw no signs of active inflammation. However, he did see a tiny sign of past inflammation. What. The. Crap? I'm hoping he was seeing things, that he is somehow wrong, but my gut tells me to trust this man. If that is the case, then Emma had inflammation in her eye sometime in the past six months.

Some JA medications treat uveitis, some do not. Uveitis does not magically go away on it's own. Methotrexate (mtx) does treat the eyes, and Emma was on that medication for a very long time. She stopped mtx at the end of February. It is possible that the naproxen she took for her flaring joints this summer actually helped her eyes, but she isn't on that anymore, either. The medication she takes now (Enbrel) does not treat uveitis at all.

So... I'm taking her to ophthalmology for her recheck in four months instead of six this time.  

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Butterfly-Shaped Endocrine Gland

My Thyroid.

It sits in my neck, surrounding my larynx and trachea, silently secreting hormones that control every cell in my body's metabolism. That's a pretty big responsibility for such a little body part in such a vulnerable place.

As previously mentioned, I had some minor health issues this summer. (I'm feeling fine now, thank you.) Blood tests revealed lots of antibodies that prove I have an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. That means my immune system is attacking my thyroid and preventing it from adequately producing it's hormones.

I saw a quote recently that said,
"Autoimmune Disease: Because only I am tough enough to kick my own @$$."
Enough said.

I went to an endocrinologist last month. He felt my neck, looked at my thyroid with ultrasound, confirmed that I have Hashimoto's, STUCK NEEDLES(4!) IN MY NECK to aspirate a nodule on my thyroid and make sure it's not cancerous (It is not cancer, thank goodness.), and agreed to let me wait to start any treatment until rechecking my thyroid levels.
Needles In Neck: The Aftermath

Since then, I have been considering eliminating foods from my diet. Take a look at this crazy diet! I get pumped up about it, then stress about it, then give up on the idea, then despair. I stopped eating sugar for two weeks straight. Then I indulged. I'm limiting gluten, but eat a sandwich almost every day for lunch. I firmly believe that we are what we eat, but sometimes I really like to eat cake...

Who doesn't like to eat birthday cake?!?
Also, please note that for the past six months I have been losing weight intentionally, but man, it sure was easy. I am at my happy, pre-babies weight right now and I am trying really hard to stay here, but I am still slowly losing. Hypothyroidism (Under-productive thyroid... which I have!) slows down metabolism. Weight gain or inability to lose weight is a common symptom. Why am I having the opposite problem?!?!? How can I possibly afford to give up gluten and sugar at a time like this?!?!

Moving on...

I had my blood drawn this week and it shows that my thyroid function is slightly low. My endocrinologist is starting me on thyroid medication. I'll pick it up tomorrow. I'm hoping that it balances out these hormones and helps me get some energy back into my life. Maybe my hair won't feel so dry. Maybe I won't be so cold in air conditioned buildings all the time.

Or maybe I have no energy because I have two little kids and interrupted sleep. Maybe my hair is dry from my recent switch to "green" shampoo. I've always gotten cold easily, so I doubt I can blame my thyroid for that one. Maybe I'll try a little bit harder at that auto immune paleo diet, after all.

At least this guy is supportive, no matter what.