Thursday, September 6, 2012

Endoscopy: No Ulcer, No Stomach Problems

The endoscopy came back: no ulcer; a couple of polyps that they biopsied just because they were there, but an otherwise perfectly healthy stomach.

It appears that the problems that have caused my wife two weeks of misery, forced her to give up her classes for the semester, and resulted in a few sleepless nights for me spent in too many emergency rooms, were a cascade of problems:

1. Stress brought on by our evacuation from the fire some months ago caused peristalsis shutdown and increased stomach acid.

2. Ugly side effects from the medicines prescribed for the stomach ulcer (which has similar symptoms to #1) caused increased nausea.

3. Inability to get the nausea to go away--except in the emergency room--provoked panic attacks.

4. Panic attacks increased problem #1.

5. Inability to sleep for almost two weeks because of #3 (and too many nights spent in emergency rooms) greatly aggravated stress from #1.

Unfortunately, because we identify PTSD with combat operations, where it was first recognized, when the symptoms of it appear in a civilian, no one knows what it is, even though natural disasters can bring it on also.  In the aftermath of 9/11, thousands of New Yorkers began to suffer from PTSD--and no one recognized it at first.  I wonder how many people who lost their houses in wildfires (we were lucky) are now fighting with PTSD, and don't recognize it.  Nor do their doctors.


  1. Glad she's OK, and I can sympathize. I'm prone to those kinds of stress feedback loops as well. Usually not something that gets me to an emergency room, but over my period of unemployment I developed a persistent itch on my stomach. This despite there was no obvious sign of rash, insect bite, or anything untoward.

    Of course, scratch at your skin enough, and then you'll get sores and a rash, which makes you itch more. Then the stress starts. You can't sleep well because you can't stop itching. The only thing that made me not itch was doing something that kept my mind occupied. Then I mysteriously did not itch.

    The whole thing went away when my job prospects improved. Back a decade ago when my grandmother died I developed a persistent feeling I had to go to take a leak, even if I didn't have to. Went to the doctor, and he prescribed antibiotics. Didn't do anything. Primary physician suspected prostate trouble and referred me to a urologist. The urologist said my prostate was probably fine, but that there was a condition they don't quite understand called chronic prostatitis. A two week trip to Europe cured it.

    It's really amazing what your mind is capable of inflicting on the body. I later recounted to my PCP what cured the prostatitis, and surmised it was stress and he said "The longer I do this job, the more I think almost everything is stress."

  2. When my employer started issuing promises instead of paychecks in 2001, my neck pain problems became severe enough that I thought that I was going to end up disabled. But when HP offered me a job, I was astonished at how quickly that problem cleared up, because the stress was gone.

  3. People often don't want to hear "it's stress", because they equate that with "it's all in your head".

    Which it is, sort of, but that doesn't mean there isn't something physically wrong. It just means that a pill or a surgery isn't likely to clear up the problem. Exercise can help with stress, but prescribing "more exercise" probably has the lowest compliance rate of any prescription a doctor makes.

  4. And yet Rhonda's exercise level rose substantially after the fire. Exercise helps, but sometimes, that isn't quite enough.

  5. And Insurance Defense lawyers are contemptuous of the fact that so many of the symptoms the plaintiff complains about cease when a check is cut! And I'm neutral in this matter(I've been a lawyer on both sides of the versus in such cases.

    As to the increased stomach acid, if the other digestive processes slowed, maybe the acid production slowed, too? I have reflux, and the accepted prescription is either antacids or those blocker pills. I found that a tablespoon of Trader Joe's Champagne Vinegar stopped the reflux even quicker than a couple of Tums. Too much antacid (which I've done, too) can interfere with the stomach's ability to digest, which aggravates the intestinal and stomach problems.