I hope you'll use my letter. I'm writing to warn people about what can happen if they ignore warning signs.
One day I suddenly had a pounding, left-sided headache. At first I took Tylenol, which helped a bit. Then I took Aspirin and went to bed.
The next day, the headache was still there. My husband made me promise to see a doctor if I still had it on Day 3. I woke up on the third day and I couldn't see out of my left eye. My husband rushed me to the emergency room.
It turns out I had temporal arteritis. (That's "arteritis" for "artery," not arthritis. - P.D.) They gave me a high dose of prednisone.
The headache went away, but my sight has not returned. I should not have delayed seeking help.
Temporal arteritis, now more commonly called giant cell arteritis, is an inflammation of arteries.
The artery at the side of the head - the temporal artery - often is involved, and that's why the condition got its original name.
Headache is its chief feature, more often not with the ferocity of your headache.
Often, temporal arteritis is seen in conjunction with another illness, polymyalgia rheumatica. It's stiffness and soreness of the shoulder muscles and shoulder joint, along with hip muscles and hip joints. Both giant cell arteritis and polymyalgia respond to prednisone, one of the cortisone drugs.
You have no reason to blame yourself for the delay. No medically untrained person with a headache ever would have thought of giant cell arteritis and its threat of blindness. You are simply a victim of an illness that doesn't have the recognition it should have. I greatly appreciate you telling your story so others will be put on the alert for this not uncommon but potentially devastating condition.
Dear Dr. Donohue: Since high school, when we were shown a film on testicle cancer and how to check for it, I have examined myself for a lump whenever I take a shower. I've done this for 10 years. Am I overdoing it?
Are there blood tests for this cancer?
Self-exam for testicular cancer is a good idea. You don't need to do it every time you take a shower.
Monthly is more than enough.
A painless testicular lump is the usual sign of this cancer. It might cause a dull ache in the lower abdomen or in the testicle, but true pain is not common.
The lump is hard, firm and fixed in place. You can't move it.
A young man who has such a lump needs to get to a doctor quickly. I say "young man" because testicular cancers most often arise between the ages of 15 and 35.
There are blood tests for this cancer. They give confirmatory but not definitive evidence of it.
The names of those tests are alpha fetoprotein, beta human chorionic gonadotropin and LDH.
have made a career change at age 37. I used to do computer work, but my job was eliminated, so I enrolled in nursing school.
My mother, a former nurse, says I need the chickenpox vaccine. I never had the vaccine. My mother can't explain why.
Is she right about the need for me to be vaccinated for chickenpox?
All hospitals have a written policy regarding what immunizations are required for employees who deal with patients.
The chickenpox vaccine is on the list of required immunizations.
You probably didn't have the vaccine because it didn't appear on the market until 1995. You do need it.
Hasn't this been discussed in your program? It will be. It definitely will be when you apply for a job.
Dear Dr. Donohue: I have a problem that I hesitate to bring up to the doctor.
For the past year, on more than four occasions, my foreskin has torn during intercourse. I am then out of commission for a week or two. I am constantly worried that it will happen again, and that makes relations a source of anxiety to me.
What do you think I should do?
You're going to have to talk to a doctor to get this fixed. A simple solution would be a circumcision. It would end the problem for all time.
Talk to your family doctor, or have that doctor refer you to a urologist.
This isn't something that ought to embarrass you. It's something seen by doctors regularly.