Friday, February 17, 2012

Confusion is Nothing New

I've had some odd health issues over the last year and a half which, for a variety of reasons, I've just been getting really checked out in the past month. My chiropractor has been a godsend, truly, and I believe that it is due to his care that my problems have been kept at bay. However, I still thought it would be a good idea to see a specialist to see what they have to say. Although I've been doing better, I wanted to be certain there wasn't something serious going on with me, scary stuff. Like a brain tumor, or evidence of having had mini strokes. So I went to a neurologist, who ordered a brain MRI and an EEG. And this is where it gets interesting. Or frustrating. Or confusing. Or all of the above and more.

I went last week for a follow up visit to go over my test results. An MRI is a test where they slide you into a big imaging machine, and you have to be very, very still, and if you're claustrophobic they might give you a Valium beforehand. (I'm not). My MRI showed no sign of tumor, stroke, swelling, or anything frightening like that. There is a small lesion on my brain stem which could be something or nothing. Basically they don't know. The EEG is when they stick electrodes all over your head and hook you up to a computer to measure your brain activity. And my EEG results came back...abnormal. There are spikes where there shouldn't be. And this means...hmmm? Does anyone really know? I was told it could mean that I'm more susceptible to seizures. But again they don't really know. And here's where I was blindsided. The portion of my visit when the PA (the doctor, by the way, never even stepped foot in my room. The PA went to find him and apparently consulted with him in the hallway) (PA = physician's assistant) told me they were going to prescribe me a drug called Keppra. Huh? Based on what? I mentally tried and failed to process this as I was told my dosage would be very low, it could cause me to be a bit tired while my body got used to it, and to come back in 6-8 weeks for a follow-up. I literally didn't know what to say. I made my follow-up appointment, checked out, and went home to find what I could about Keppra.

Keppra is an anti-seizure medication, typically prescribed to people with epilepsy. Do they think I have epilepsy? Every website said not to operate a vehicle while taking Keppra until you're sure how your body will react to it. The PA never mentioned that. I kind of have to drive everyday, what with my kids being in school and all (no buses here). A common side effect is depression, and in fact 1 in 500 users of Keppra report suicidal thoughts. Maybe I'm crazy, but I don't like those odds. Many Keppra users are prescribed anti-depressants to counter-act the negative side effects. I have no problem with anti-depressants except when they're used to treat artificially created depression. There are several other common side effects, such as nausea, dizziness, irritability, and sore throat.

So far I can't see the benefit of this medication for me because, well, have I ever even had a seizure? When I think of a seizure, I think of convulsing wildly. I've certainly never had anything like that. So I tried to find what I could about seizures. Turns out there are many, many different kinds of seizures, and I think it's safe to say that I may have experienced a different type...maybe? Does the doctor think I may have had seizures based on the symptoms I described to him, or does he just think I have a lower seizure threshold based on my EEG results and that I could have one at some point in the future? Is that enough reason to medicate? I don't know the answers to any of this because no one told me anything except "take this drug and follow up in 6-8 weeks."  I realize I should have spoke up and started asking questions, but I was totally (TOTALLY) not expecting to be prescribed anything. It wasn't really until I got home that I started to sort things out a bit.

Do people generally just blindly take whatever medications their doctors prescribe to them? Am I crazy to not fill that prescription? This is not a short term kind of treatment. It's the kind of drug people never stop taking. It never crossed my mind that the neurologist would want me to take medication. I thought maybe he'd want to do more testing. A different type of MRI maybe, or (gag me) another EEG. I guess I'm naive. I also don't understand why I would be prescribed something when my test results were anything but conclusive. Nothing was explained to me, and that is not cool in my book. My chiropractor (have I mentioned how much I love him?) explained to me that because of the congenital abnormalities in my neck, the first couple vertebrae put pressure on my brain stem which could lower my seizure threshold (ie: make me more likely than the average person to have a seizure). He also said I should not take the Keppra.

What I think I'm going to do for now is keep a log of any unusual symptoms and go to my follow-up appointment as planned. Then tell the doctor I'm not comfortable taking drugs at this point. Have you ever had anything like this happen to you? Did you ever receive a prescription you weren't comfortable filling? Did you take it anyway? Did you feel pressured? I live in a bubble because I rarely go to the doctor (read: I go to the doctor when I'm pregnant. And that's it. And I am 100% in love with my ob/gyn who would NEVER prescribe me anything without sitting down to talk to me about it thoroughly first) so I would love to know if this is the standard MO for most physicians?

Okay. That's it. I promise not to bore you with my health problems for at least another week or two. Thanks for listening (umm...reading).

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