How Medications Caused a 4th Chronic Condition and What I Did to Cure It
This is not going to be a diatribe against MS medications, quite the contrary. It’s a story about how medication side effects brought on a problem that had a cure — and how I took that cure.
13 prescription medications
I take 13 prescription medications, all of which have side effects. I’m lucky that most of the side effects are the intended ones. For example, the main side effects of Lisinopril and hydrochlorothiazide are lowered blood pressure — exactly what I take them for. Good so far. I also take lovastatin to keep my LDL—bad cholesterol — low as it can be. Here, I am very lucky. Not only does it keep my LDL at 99 or less, but I’ve also been spared the many unpleasant side effects statins can cause. Overall, I tolerate medication very well.
Cetirizine (Zyrtec) is an effective nasal allergy pill I take every evening without fail. Without it, I would sneeze, congest and drain uncontrollably. Vesicare is an anticholinergic I use for spastic bladder. It quiets my urge to pee so I pee less often and without the constant distraction urgency can create. I could not do without either medication. These drugs significantly improve my daily comfort and quality of life. But they also cause severe dry mouth.
Despite drinking lots of water and sucking on sugar-free citrus drops, I still wake up with what I call leather-tongue. I have to swallow a few times to get the saliva flowing again, often having to get up and drink water to prime the pump. I tried Biotene products, but I found them to be ineffective. Same for Xylimelt. Dry mouth in itself is nothing more than annoying. Little did I know it could cause something much worse.
A blocked salivary duct
A year ago, I developed pain in the right side of my jaw. The submandibular gland (we have one on each side right under the jawline had become enlarged and tender. Over a short time, the pain ramped up to where I could barely open my mouth without wincing. The right gland was more than twice its normal size, and the jaw pain became more excruciating with each passing day. I Googled my symptoms and found that I probably had a blocked salivary duct brought on by dry mouth. Without adequate saliva in the mouth, stones or dried saliva can block the duct, and bacteria can then infect the gland.
At the urgent care walk-in clinic, the PA diagnosed me with that very thing, gave me a script for Augmentin, and scheduled a follow-up with an ENT doc. After 10 days on Augmentin, the pain finally began to subside on day 10. That’s a long time to live with the pain I’d already had for weeks beforehand. The ENT told me it could recur. If it did, then it would probably become chronic in the long-term.
It hit me again
Two months ago, it hit me again on the same side. Despite getting the antibiotic treatment earlier this time, it didn’t spare me the pain and the amount of time it took to stop suffering.
“You’ve got two choices,” my ENT said. “You can put up with this and take antibiotics each time, or I can remove the gland and it’ll never happen again.”
I thought for a minute. “If you take it out could this happen to the other gland?” She said no, that doesn’t happen. It tends to favor one side only. “Okay, I want it out—and the sooner the better.” Surgery was scheduled the following week. It was a two-hour, outpatient procedure where a drain is placed and removed the following day.
Thankful there was a cure
As of this writing, I am two days out from the surgery and don’t even require pain meds. I’m so glad I chose to have the gland removed and grateful that it was an option. I have three chronic medical conditions: multiple sclerosis, IBS and degenerative spine disease, none of which has a cure.
I’m grateful there was a cure and proud that I took it. It would be nice if there could be such an easy fix for MS, IBS, and sciatica. Someday.
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