It was late January 2013 when I first experienced the pain. It was a sharp pain in my chest that lasted about 10-20 seconds. It felt like a muscle spasm or a cramp. During this pain, I was breathing normally. On a scale from 1-10, I would say it was about an 8. I did not put too much thought into it though due to it not lasting very long. When the pain occurred I remember I was at work and I just happened to be walking regularly. I wasn’t doing anything vigorous or out of the ordinary. About a week or so later I experienced the sharp pain again in the same area of my chest. Same as before, although it caught my attention, I dismissed it as it being a cramp or a muscle spasm. During the first week of February 2013, I started feeling the pain more often and for longer periods of time. I realized while experiencing the pain lying in the bed, that if I turned a certain way, that I would not feel the pain. After the pain became more frequent, I became concerned and I went to the emergency room February 5. After an EkG and an X-ray of my chest, I was told that my heart was fine. The doctor diagnosed me with having Costochondritis. He also advised me, because I was a smoker to quit smoking, and prescribed me the patch. I was also told to take some pain relievers such as Advil or Motrin and this would help me to deal with the pain.
During the time period after my first visit, I started to become very fearful of the possibilities of what I may have had. Although the doctor’s diagnosis was costochondritis, I wanted to know why I would get that and I began to ponder the possibility of the doctor being wrong. Two days after my visit to the hospital I got on the patch and I stopped smoking. I was on the patch for about 8 days before I decided I did not need it anymore. During this time, my obsession started with researching online every disease under the sun that I could possibly have that would cause chest pain. What I realized during this research is that there are an abundance of diseases out there, and many of these diseases are not pretty at all. This caused me to develop anxiety about my ongoing condition. By the end of February, I had visited the emergency room 2 more times. I believe my biggest fear was that I had heart disease or lung disease.. Each time I went to the emergency room, more tests were done to examine further for any signs. I had more EKG’s done, a CT scan, blood work, a test for cancer, and blood and urine tests. All of the tests results came back normal however, I felt far from normal because by the end of February, my chest pain was more consistent and now I was experiencing back pain.
The back pain felt like more of a sensation than anything. I felt a burning sensation in my back. Sometimes I felt it in the lower and sometimes the upper portions of my back. I felt like someone placed a heating pad on my back. The sensation would come and go sporadically. During mid-to late March, the chest pain became less pain and more of a dull sensation. Although it was uncomfortable, it became more tolerable than the sharp pain that it once was. By mid-April, the chest sensation stopped and the back sensation became more constant. Along with the burning sensation, I started to feel tingling in my back as well. The tingling felt extremely weird. At times it would feel like I had drops of water dripping down my spine. Other times I felt like I was being pricked by small pins and needles. These feelings started off as sporadic and eventually became more constant. By this time my anxious and fearful thoughts were extremely high. I was searching endless amount of diseases on the internet, hoping I would find answers. Much of my anxiety stemmed from not being able to receive the proper treatment. From January to late April, I did not have medical insurance. This prevented me from seeing a regular doctor. By visiting the emergency room 3 times in February, and receiving extremely expensive bills with little help from Charity Care, I was trying to stay away from the hospital, especially because each time I went the doctors found that I was normal.
Throughout April and May the tingling in my back became more frequent and it began to spread. I started to feel the tingling in my hands and feet as well. At times my right leg and foot would get numb. On April 19, I got married and I was put on my wife’s insurance, which allowed me to see a regular doctor to find out what was going on. I told the doctor all of my symptoms and he ordered me to take blood tests. The blood test revealed that I have an overactive thyroid and he diagnosed me with hyperthyroidism. During this appointment, I told the doctor about my anxiety issues and he prescribed me Xanax. I was also ordered to get an ultrasound of my thyroid to see if I had any lumps or an oversized thyroid. The ultrasound found that my thyroid looked to be normal. During this time, the doctor went on vacation for 2 weeks and I was left hanging. 2 weeks is a long time for a person who has a high level of anxiety and concern about their health and well-being. During this time in late April, I began to be concerned that I had the disease Multiple Sclerosis. Although I know a person could never diagnose themselves by solely searching on the internet, I felt like I had some of the symptoms that people with MS experience. The tingling, leg numbness, and muscle aches made me believe that there was a possibility.
I started to feel the tingling throughout my whole body, including my head and face. Some nights I found it difficult to go to sleep because it would get worse at night. I also began to get headaches. Some nights in order to go to sleep I would take a Xanax and some Ibuprofen. My vision started to become a little blurry as well. Before the doctor went on vacation I informed him of this. I went to see an ophthalmologist. After examining my eyes, he determined that I had a high astigmatism and I was in the beginning stages of an eye disease called keratoconus. However, my eye nerves were unaffected and my vision was correctable with contacts to 20/20. This means that there was no brain disease that was affecting my eyes. I already knew I had eye problems from when I was a child so this was nothing new to me.
In early June, I started to see a neurologist. I told the neurologist all of my symptoms. He gave me a neurological exam on my first visit. He told me that it was a good sign that offhand he found no obvious issues. He ordered me to get an MRI of the brain and the cervical spine. Both MRI’s were found to be normal. He also ordered that I get an ENT, which is a test of the nerves throughout my body. The ENT test was normal. The doctor, although he would not say my symptoms derived from anxiety, was pretty confident that he ruled out me having any serious neurological issues and predicted that my tingling would probably stop on its own soon. By mid-June, the tingling subsided, the muscle aches subsided, although occasionally I still get headaches. Since that time I have developed problems with dizziness and feeling off balance. I am scheduled to see the neurologist about this on July 12. I told my regular doctor of this and I was prescribed meclizine, which is pretty much useless because it is not getting to the root of the problem. I will get more blood work to confirm that I do have hyperthyroidism and if so then I will be treated accordingly. I hope that the source of my problems stem from this.