Once I could walk from one side of town to the other without issue. I worked on my own car, I carried my children with ease. These days a simple task such as folding laundry can wear me down. Half way through the day I can feel exhausted and the only thing I’ve done is shower and cook a meal. I spend every day living with Graves` Disease. I don’t believe that most people realize that. I feel when they see me in my wheelchair or with my walker they judge me harshly. I notice the sideways glances and in some ways, I have grown used to them, but it is always in the back of my mind. I want to help them understand what it is like to live with the invisible Graves` Disease.
I was first diagnosed with Graves` Disease when I was 31 years old. For years I had been misdiagnosed with having bi-polar disorder and was told that it was the reason for my mood swings. At the time there was no Affordable Care Act, and I had no health insurance. My husband’s job did not provide dependent insurance and I was working in fast food which provided health insurance, but it was very expensive and not very good. Because of these factors I wasn’t seeing a doctor on a regular basis and went undiagnosed for a very long time. I was miserable and always complaining about various ailments, so much so that my husband regularly told me that he thought I was a hypochondriac. To hear my long list of complaints, I’m sure most people would have agreed with him. Even I questioned whether I was being over dramatic.
We were still living in our first little apartment. It was a one bedroom on the second floor of a small complex. I noticed that over time climbing the single flight of stairs to our apartment became more difficult instead of easier, this was very frustrating as I couldn’t understand why. I also couldn’t understand why I a 31-year-old female was losing hair? This made no sense to me. Hair loss only happened to men, or so I thought. I also noticed that any time I received a small wound such as a scratch it would take an unusually long time to heal. My hands constantly shook and were unsteady, something I originally attributed to drinking too much caffeine. I had trouble sleeping and I was either burning up hot or freezing cold. There was no middle ground. I had developed a goiter which is a large lump on the neck. I had lost a lot of weight, that was the one thing I was happy about. I had spent most of my life being chubby and somewhat over weight, so to finally be thin had me thrilled. However, the longest running symptom I dealt with were the emotional problems. The mood swings I had made me believe there was something horribly wrong with me. Sometimes at night I would lay awake for hours trying to figure out what was wrong with me. Why was I so depressed that I couldn’t get out of bed? This had been going on for so long, that I was desperate to get any kind of help. I no longer wanted to feel worthless. Put plainly, I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.
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So for the past month I’ve been dealing with some kind of Rash that initially started on my leg as what appeared to be a small water filled bump. One night in my sleep I scratched it open. This lead to an open wound. For most people no big deal, for someone with both Graves Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (ie…me), this is a problem. My already compromised immune system means that not only will my wounds heal more slowly there is a greater possibility of infection. But anyway I decided to wait a few days to see how things with my leg would pan out. During that time my leg began to itch horribly. To the point that when We finally decided to take me to Urgent care a huge part of my lower right leg was very red and very sore. So the Urgent care doctor gave me a prescription for Antibiotics and an Anti fungal. For the next two weeks I took these and finished them, however at this point I now also had itchy rashes on my upper leg areas, on my stomach and chest as well as on both arms. I tried hydrocortisone, Gold Bond rapid relief, Gold Bond multi symptom with lidocaine, and Benedryl anti itch gel. Nothing worked to stop my itch.
With none of that working and things only getting worse, We finally decided it was time for me to see my doctor, So in we went. After examining me and being shown the prescriptions I already took, it was decided that I should have another round of antibiotics & anti-fungal medication. The doctor explained that because of my already weakened immune system I needed extra time for my body to heal and repair itself. She also told me I could take two oral benadryl per dose to help with the itching. But honestly it didn’t do much good. The only way I found any kind of relief was taking a shower and moisturizing afterwards. That would relieve my itching for a least a few hours, but this was also drying my skin out. In fact on one day I think I took at least 5 showers. Then I remembered that when I was a child, I had suffered through chicken pox. I remembered that my mom had used calamine lotion for the itching. I also noticed how dry my skin had become from all the showering. This is a problem, because my skin already dries and cracks easily due to my Graves Disease. So When Mark called me on his lunch break, I told him to pick up some Cotton Balls, Calamine Lotion, and Baby oil on his way home from work. It’s been six days now and I’m actually seeing results. I think the Antibiotics are doing their job and the calamine has helped with the itching. Applying baby oil after showering has helped me to keep my skin from drying out. Today my arms and legs look much better and I’m finally not really itching. I’m just spot using the calamine at this point, so if a little area itch’s I just put some calamine on and it is helping.
Having an itch you can’t scratch is a miserable thing and when it’s been going on for so long it’s enough to drive you insane. I’m just so glad that it actually appears to be over now..hopefully soon enough my skin we be normal again.
Having Graves` disease means that whenever I get a wound, it’s guaranteed to take a long time to heal. Also there is always a chance it will become infected and I’ll have to go the doctors for it. Which is exactly what happened this time. We ended up going to urgent care to have the wound on my leg looked at, where I was promptly prescribed a 14 day antibiotic and some benadryl to help with the itching. Though I still find myself needing to use a gel to help with itching in other areas around the wound. This is just one of the many reasons having Graves` disease sucks