Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Knowing Your Family and Their Medical History

If you ever feel like you have symptoms of a larger health problem the first person/people you should be taking to are the members of your family (genetic members). You are a member of a vast gene pool. And chances are if you feel like something is going on with you, they too have probably experienced like symptoms. Most health problems, with the exception of those gained from exposure to extreme conditions (radiation, mercury or other heavy metal poisoning as examples), are due to the expression of genes that are you born with and inherited from your family. I realize this sounds really obvious, but I was recently not smart enough to follow my own sage advice and had myself pretty freaked out for a good few months.

Starting around early May I was getting really bad dizzy spells. Right away I started tracking what I was eating, doing, and exposing myself to. I then took the information I collected from observing myself and did some research on what the heck could be causing these new found and incredibly annoying/debilitating dizzies. With the help of WebMd and some other medical websites I had in four months time convinced myself I was diabetic, had cancer, a brain tumor, low blood pressure, a major ear infection, Menieres disease, vestibular neritus, delayed head trauma from a car accident 2 years ago and possibly pregnant.  

The worst part of all of this (other than being dizzy all the d*mn time), was I kept going back to my maternal medical history. My mom bless her, is nearly genetically perfect. No family history of any of these medical problems I had since convinced myself I was suffering from. In fact she is tall, thin, beautiful, has perfect teeth, eyes, no allergies and rarely gets ill. I on the other hand in no way take after her. I look like my dad and his father more than anyone I am related to and much like them, I have terrible eyes, had braces twice, chronic ear infections as a child and am allergic to nearly everything. Yet, even while being fully aware of all of these things, I still did not think for a second my dad and my grandfather might hold the key to my new found vertigo. Instead, it must be a tumor.

It wasn’t. After a surprise visit from my dad a few days ago and a long discussion about how his parents/my grandparents were doing, he mentioned that my grandfathers dizzy spells were getting worse (say what now?!). At which point I had perhaps the world’s biggest “oh-duh” moment. The discussion continued and the prognosis is such: the combination of my genetically defective ears and being allergic to most everything means when I and my grandfather and my father had a severe allergic reaction to something, our inner ears get a tad swollen, which puts pressure on the equilibrium mechanism, which causes seemingly out of the blue vertigo.  The real kicker in all this was, all spring and summer I kept commenting on how I wasn’t having my normal seasonal allergies. I had actually be unknowingly suffering from allergies, but because I have been working so hard to eliminate the things I am allergic to from my life instead of feeling like the flu had stomped on my will to live, my allergies were less sever and more centralized to my inner ear. I was just missing that small little bit about family history that could have helped me figure out the problem sooner.  

So while it took me all spring and summer to pin point was what going on with my head, I did finally get my answers. And I managed to avoid a lot of unnecessary medical exams and expenses, all of which probably would have given me the usual “I don’t know what is wrong, here take this”. My own personal cure of dizzy spells works just fine, one allergy pill and one Ibprophen and a whole lot of water. No more dizzy, no more tumors or diabetes or head trauma. Just a minor bruise in my pride and intelligence and a whole lot of relief.

The moral of the story, if you are feeling symptomatic talk your family. It is also a good idea to keep a medical journal of your tests, levels, ailments, medication, reactions etc. Many times this information can come down to the difference between life and death. The more you know about yourself and your genetic history the better equipped you will be  to lead a long a healthy life.  

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