Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas!

"That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord's glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. 'Don't be afraid!' he said. 'I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior - yes, the Messiah, the Lord - has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.'

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others - the armies of heaven - praising God and saying,

'Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.'"

Luke 2: 8-14, New Living Translation

Monday, December 15, 2008

Headache Procedures

Below is an excerpt from the Houston Chronicle on headache procedures. Click here for the full article, called "So many ways to treat so many types of headache" by Cindy George.

I wasn't aware of these procedures. If you've tried one or more, I'd love to hear from you on whether or not they worked!

- - - - - - - -

• NERVE BLOCK: The occipital nerve block, called ONB, is a 10-minute outpatient steroid injection around pinched nerves that stretch from the upper neck to the back of the eyes.
"That will help relieve chronic daily headaches and migraines," Derman (Dr. Howard S. Derman, a neurologist at The Methodist Hospital) said.

The medication doesn't go into the bloodstream and there are no side effects from the steroids, he said.

After 140 procedures in the last 18 months, Derman reports a 65 percent success rate.

• NERVE DECOMPRESSION SURGERY: Involves an incision at the back of the head to remove thick tissue that squeezes occipital nerves.
"The decompression is very effective in relieving headaches that have been going on for years," Blake (Dr. Pamela Blake, a Houston neurologist at Memorial Hermann Northwest) said. She evaluates patients and determines which nerves need the operation.

A surgeon performs the decompression. Ideal candidates have had daily, constant headaches for more than 6 months and do not respond well to medications. About half of patients with insurance are covered for the procedure.

• NERVE STIMULATION IMPLANT: A device connected to a battery pack, similar to a pacemaker, is placed under the skin to stimulate occipital nerves and drown out pain.
"The theory is that your brain can only listen to one type of stimulation at a time," Blake said. "If we can drive out painful stimulus with painless stimulus, the brain will listen to that."

This is an option for people who did not respond to decompression surgery or whose insurance will not cover the surgery.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Headaches and Hormones

I visited my neurologist this week and I have a few things to discuss. Warning - hormonal discussion ahead, with all the gory details.

Earlier I wrote how I plan to visit a new neurologist who specializes in hormonal headaches. I brought it up to my neurologist, and he seemed familiar with her and said that she would probably put me on estrogen, which I've tried before. However, I still want to see her, so, my neurologist is filling out a referral for me and then the new place has to evaluate my files and decide whether or not they'll accept me. Yep, apparently I have to be accepted. With all the people who suffer from headaches/migraines (I think I read the other day it's 20% of women), I'm sure they get a lot of requests. I'll post on my blog as soon as I get accepted (might as well think positively).

Hormonal Issues and My IUD
I told my neurologist that I've been spotting and cramping still (sometimes one or the other, sometimes both, at all different times throughout the month). If you don't follow my blog, I should mention that I have an intrauterine device - IUD - Mirena - because I felt that the Pill gave me migraines. I've tried the Patch also, and the Pill for months straight and had breakthrough bleeding. Fun stuff. So anyway, my neuro asked me if I had breast tenderness (yes) and cysts (I think so) which the IUD can cause. He thinks I should get the IUD out next month when I visit my gyno. Btw, dummy me didn't check to see if the IUD was covered in my insurance two years ago, and the Mirena plus insertion cost about $1,000. One. Thousand. Bucks. And it's supposed to last five years. That would have pretty much been the cost of the Pill for five years, so that made it a little better. But after two years??? And removal costs $175.

My husband does NOT want me to get it out, because of money. I hate to go against him, but it's my body, and I don't like what's happening with it.

Hormonal Tests
One reason my neuro wants it out, aside from the reasons above, is so I can have a normal period and get my hormones tested. A few visits ago I asked him about getting my hormones tested and he said it wouldn't help, but that's because he thought my headaches were from muscle tension and I think now he realizes it's hormones, because all the anxiety meds and muscle relaxers didn't help.

Quasi-scientific Stuff
I will attempt to explain why my neuro wants my IUD out and hormones checked. The Mirena IUD has the hormone levonorgestrel, which is synthetic progesterone, a natural female hormone. Levonorgestrel acts like progesterone in the female parts and the brain for most women, but for some, like me, it doesn't fit the receptors. My neuro thinks that I need the progesterone because he suspects my levels are low and that is why I started my period somewhat late (age 15) and had heavy periods and cramping. My mom went through the same thing (she does not have headaches, but my dad gets migraines, with his fibromyalgia) so I thought nothing of it. If I do have some form of a progesterone deficiency, the hormone tests would reflect it and I could then take pills to fix it, and PERHAPS, my headaches would then go away.

Just the thought of there finally being a cause of my headaches is extremely exciting to me, and I want to yank the IUD out (ouch, not really) and get the tests done immediately! But, I have to wait for a normal period first.

Other Updates
Btw - I get to stop Abilify, thank the Lord. And I mean that. It was awful.

My neuro also recommended a book, Natural Hormone Balance for Women, by Uzzi Reiss, M.D./O.B. GYN. Yes, that's seven letters after his name! I checked it out from the library today and will do a book review post when I'm done.

Thanks for reading! As always, feel free to comment to share your experiences, thoughts, or opinions!