Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Sjogren's Syndrome and TMJ Dysfunction: Bad Companions

This year I was finally able to see my chosen dental surgeon - one who specializes in oral and maxillofacial surgery. After 30 years of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and hearing again and again over the years that if my jaw was sore I must be grinding my teeth, I found out the real truth - RA had severely damaged my TMJ (temporomandibular) joints. Since the damage happened over many years, the adjustments that my body made in response to the joint damage have left me with good function, even though a CT scan shows a much different picture.

It took a year to get the initial appointment and I expected to be on the surgeon's list for arthrosopic surgery for another year but, since the doctor was unexpectedly given more operating room time the process sped up and I had the procedure early in March. 

You might wonder what happens in this surgery. Basically the doctor uses a tiny camera inserted through an incision in front of the ear and just above the jaw to see the joint, and then uses small instruments inserted just above the camera to remove damaged cartilage, smooth rough surfaces, and clean the joint space - even to the extent of repositioning the disc if needed. 

You would have thought that a smart patient with Sjogren's Syndrome would have a clear idea of what is necessary for good self care when they headed to a hospital for jaw surgery. I thought I was well prepared but I was remembering other surgeries on my hands or feet - the extremities where a nerve block is the obvious way to control pain. 
I'm sure my eye was this red

Of course when the operation is on your face that strategy won't work, and the doctor is likely to want to make sure that you keep breathing regularly while he works. As a result the doctor started with a very effective decongestant which dried my whole sinus cavity very thoroughly.

I took a tiny sample of Oral Balance with me for dry mouth - it was a lifesaver, as was bargaining with the anesthetist to be able to use some Evoxac prior to the surgery. I was afraid that a breathing tube combined with a dry throat would feel dreadful.

Given the way I felt coming out of the anesthetic, I should have taken the whole medicine cabinet of over-the-counter products I normally use along with me for afterwards.

my usual eyedrops

My sinuses were so dry that I was desperate for saline spray to help the with headache and pain. Thank goodness for the Evoxac that helped my mouth and throat. Who expected the effect on my eyes to be so devastating? After I came out of the anesthetic I was unable to shut my right eye - the muscles on the right side of my face would not respond for hours after. That meant my eye was agonizingly dry, and I had no eye drops with me. 

Where was a saline spray when I needed it?

At least I had some dry mouth gel with me
So the moral of the story is - if you have Sjogren's and need to have an operation involving a general anesthetic, and the doctors express concerns for your airway - take the products you commonly use to the hospital with you so that once you are reunited with your belongings you can use them. The hospital was able to get eye drops, but not fast.

The first title I thought of for this blog post was "Don't Leave Home Without It" but it needs to be Them. I plan to restock my purse to be ready for anything. 

At the Arthritis Alliance Symposium one of the rheumatologists needed eyedrops suddenly. 
What did she do?
Asked a patient.
She had a vial in minutes.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Insiders View of a Support Group

This post is composed of comments from members of a private support group I have been a member of since before Google was a search engine. It's valuable to have support, and it's great to be able to increase your social support network online. The hardest part is finding a group of people who are compatible.

Julie's comment
I found this Group by accident.  I was searching for something else and a little box came up on the right hand side of the page advertising the RA Yahoo Group.  I read a little about it and decided to join. I lingered around for awhile reading the messages and then started sending messages and questions.

I am not one to join any kind of support group, but this group was so interesting to me.  It was nice to find others that suffered with the same auto-immune disease and who really understood everything.  Each of you have contributed to my education of this disease and just listened to my whining - giving good advice.  Others think they understand this disease, but they really don't. The only people who really understand are people who also have an auto-immune disease.

Thanks to each of you who have contributed.  Everyone on this group is so very nice and I thoroughly enjoy knowing you online.  I just wish we could all meet one another in person.  This group is also a special place for me.  Thanks for letting me be a part of this group and thanks again to Penny and Annette for overseeing everything.  And - Thanks to all of the members for being so supportive - not only about RA - but, about everything.  
Penny, the group "owner"
I’m glad I invested in this group too, it’s such a special place for me and you all are like family. I do enjoy our time together each day so much and as you said I’ve also learned a huge amount. I guess there are many things that the doctors either don’t have the time to explain or many things that they simply have no idea about because they don’t live it. And to think when I first joined here, I really didn’t think I needed a support group. How wrong can you be?!  
I am happy you found this group too.  I have learned so much from you and always appreciate your sharing.  I think our group is unique.

I have to say I love this group a lot. I am not in any other group. Don't need to be as everyone here is just the best and I have learned a lot from this group.
I would be lost without all the support I get from everyone here. I class them as my second family 
I'm with you Maggie.   This is my only group as well.   Just feel like I'm always behind lately since shuffling kids more often

Our Doctors

My idea was to make a list of things that docs could share with their patients that we had to learn from each other, and/or things that would make our lives a little easier without having to go through trial and error.

We were talking about the things that we’ve learnt from being in this group, versus what our doctors have taught us. I said to Roze I wasn’t sure if the reason for the lack of info from the doctors was due to lack of time, or lack of living with RA themselves.

I think they know what the "words" mean but they don't know what the "experience" is.  For example, I don't think my pulmonologist (as good as he is) really appreciates what it is like for me to have the lung conditions and RA running around my body and the Fibromyalgia kicking in some pain here and some pain there. They seem to live out of their textbooks and we live out of our life's experience.

I discovered from all of you, for example, that I was not lazy.  In the beginning, because so many treat you like if you'd just do a little exercise you would be all well again, and you all taught me that my experience was real and you validated that.  I think validation is the best medicine. 

Me too Maggie and I’m not lazy either. I do have a group of girlfriends online, we all met in a chatting mums group when I first went online about 15 yrs ago, and many of us have now met in real life when we had a meet up in Dublin. We trust each other implicitly like a group of sisters and have seen each other through a myriad of trials and tribulations and through a ‘lot’ of laughs. They are like family and so is everyone in this group to me.

Like you I don't tell my husband half of the things I worry about. He has enough on his plate.
That’s a good valid point, sharing things here takes some of the burden off our partners I’m sure of that. 
That is a considerable benefit to not have to share with husbands when you can share with us.  Good point Julie


Well I have one idea right away Annette, and that was thanks to you. You mentioned the silver ring splint company to us, and that led onto me not only getting my own splints made, but in being referred to an OT, something my rheumy (not one of the ones I’ve had over the years), had ever mentioned despite me already having finger deformities. These things should be discussed early on in my opinion and not after the damage has already been done. Prevention is always better than cure

Silver ring splint from above and on my finger at left

Having support is a good thing... I knew I needed it and feel blessed I have all of you here... Even if I don't post as often as I should...