Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Chronic Subacute Infection?

I returned my nose to the doctor today.

About a year and a half ago, I finally took myself to an otolaryngologist, commonly known as an ear-nose-and-throat man, to take care of a sinus situation. For all of my life, I've had trouble breathing, and have snored quite loudly. The snoring has driven many a woman from my bed, and I'm convinced that it has led, if even indirectly, to the termination of many of my relationships.

Before the otolaryngologist, I had gone to a primary health-care physician at Kaiser Permanente, who in turn referred me to a sleep clinic. Even before I saw a doctor at the clinic, they tried to sell me on the idea of sleeping at night with a CPAP machine. CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machines are basically gas masks that delivers high-pressure air to keep your breathing passages open, and are a common treatment for sleep apnea. I told the doctor, when I finally got to see one, that I didn't believe that I had sleep apnea, but he insisted that CPAP was what I needed, and even wrote a pissy letter to Kaiser after I declined to purchase one.

Well, shortly after that I got a new job and a better health-care program, and eventually found my way to the otolaryngologist. He took one short look up my nose and almost immediately said, "Oh, you're definitely blocked. You have a deviated septum." Forty-eight years going through life, and no one had ever told me that.

The surgery to fix the blockage wasn't all that bad, at least as far as any surgery can be considered, and I was out of the hospital the same day and back on my feet in very little time. However, the nose still felt stuffed up - sort of like a bad cold - because of swelling and bleeding from the surgery, but the doctor promised that it would pass soon.

But I was also still snoring.

The swelling and bleeding did eventually pass, but the stuffiness and snoring didn't. I went to a general physician about the stuffiness, and he prescribed various antihistimines and decongestants, which generally weren't very effective. However, one day I tried a 12-Hour Sudafed, and that changed everything.

The Sudafed cleared me right up, and I was breathing better and more fully than I ever had. And much to my delight, the snoring also stopped. My instinct was right - I didn't need the CPAP after all.

The trouble was that I would become stuffy again every 12 hours as the Sudafed wore off, so I had to keep myself constantly medicated, 24/7, or else get blocked up again. This bothered me on principal, but my doctor assured me that there was no long-term problem with taking the medication twice every day, and it sure beat the alternative of sniffling and snoring.

Now, I occasionally wondered what the reason was that I needed to stay medicated in the first place, but the whole thing was working so I didn't question it. So when I traveled from Atlanta to Brunswick to Budapest and back again last summer, I was packing Sudafed. When I was diving in Panama City and Grand Cayman, it was while I was on Sudafed. All of the things that have happened to me as recorded in this blog were all done on Sudafed.

So, naturally, I was disappointed last month when the Sudafed started to let me down. First, I noticed that it was no longer clearing me up as well or as quickly as it used to, and then L. started to complain that I was snoring again, and then it got to the point where I couldn't sleep at night because I'd get so stopped up that I couldn't breathe.

That was intolerable, so today I returned to the otolaryngologist and presented my nose to him once again. At first, he didn't see anything wrong, and I think that he might even have thought that I was being a hypochondriac, but eventually he concluded that I may be suffering from an infection.

"For the past year and a half?," I asked.

"Maybe," he replied. A chronic subacute infection."

So he prescribed me an antibiotic, Omnicaf (cefdinir) capsules, and a prescription-grade antihistimine to replace the Sudafed. I start the new regime tomorrow morning. I hope that I can sleep tonight.

1 comment:

Mumon said...

Don't bring sudafed to Japan. It's actually illegal there.