Get Your Blood Analysis from WellnessFX for FREE!

I love WellnessFX. You should too. Now there is another reason to love WellnessFX – the additional of their annual checkup option which will cost only $49/year. But it gets even better, right now, with no strings attached, you can get the annual checkup for FREE!

Thanks to openclipart.org and chlopaya for the image.
Thanks to openclipart.org and chlopaya for the image.

The annual checkup includes a Basic Lipid Panel (cholesterol), Complete Blood Count (CBC), Glucose, and TSH (thyroid). There is really no reason not to sign up right now! I certainly plan on using WellnessFX at least annually from here on out…and think it would be great if doctors began recommending its annual use to allow more data points for health and shorter wait times in doctor’s offices.

The process is easy. You sign up for your annual checkup, select a local lab (they partner with some of the largest labs in the country), make an appointment, drop in for a quick blood test (there was no line when I went), and then a few days later your data is posted securely to the web for you to review.

What I am looking forward to is the ability to analyze my health over time. To compare my health year over year and look for patterns.

Dave’s Health Update.

Main side effects of Tramadol.
Main side effects of Tramadol. Red color denotes more serious effects, requiring immediate contact with health provider. References: MedlinePlus Drug Information: Tramadol. Retrieved on . Model: Mikael Häggström. To discuss image, please see Template_talk:Häggström diagrams (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, I haven’t really talked on this blog about my ongoing health issues, but I wanted to post here for all who are aware and all who care to be aware of the ongoing saga of my health dilemma. Hopefully this will answer some of the frequent questions I receive. 🙂 I always feel a bit embarrassed talking about my health in real-life – b/c I wonder, “who really wants to stand here and listen to my aches and woes?” But, obviously, you must, since you are actually reading this blog post…

The Current Situation

Around three weeks ago I noticed that an unusual leg pain/weariness I had been suffering from when / following exercising was becoming persistent – with or without exercise. As the pain and weariness progressed I phoned my doctor to make an appointment and, using normal routine procedure, I was scheduled a few weeks out. A few days later I was calling back asking to be seen asap as the pain had become intolerable. They squeezed me in. The pain continued to get worse and continue to be quite awful if I miss a dose of pain medications. The biggest problem for me is the noise the pain creates in my head – I have lost my ability to concentrate and am unable to complete complex tasks…a real problem for someone who is a systems administrator / application developer. At some points I’m unable to write emails or blog posts – the effort seems too overwhelming and exhausting.

The Current Regimen

I am taking Tramadol 50 mg every 4 hours to keep the pain at bay, but it is still constant and thudding. When I miss a dose (overnight) I am in agony for several hours after taking the next dose. I am taking 750 mg of Nabumetone (an NSAID – Non-Steroid Anti-Inflammatory Drug) twice daily. I had been taking Klonopin (1 mg) to help me sleep, but it made me sleep through the entire night and the pain from not taking the Tramadol for eight hours was too severe upon waking, so I’ve discontinued the Klonopin so I can awake at 4 am to take the Tramadol and (hopefully) avoid the hours of intense pain in the morning.

I requested to be placed on a steroid as well – as I have had this issue in the past and it was helped by steroids. The doctor has agreed and so last evening I began Prednisone, beginning with three 10 mg tablet and tapering down over the upcoming days.

In addition to this I have been using  a number of Ben-Gay and Icy Hot products to soothe my joints. My knees and calves have been especially afflicted and my back at times enters a high amount of pain (though at other times feels entirely fine).

What Is It?

I haven’t been given a definite diagnosis in the words, “Your diagnosis is x.” But the working assumption based on symptoms and blood work is an auto-immune disease. Which auto-immune disease in particular is up for discussion. For those not familiar with auto-immune diseases, it is when some of the cells in your body (e.g. the soldier/police white blood cells) don’t recognize other cells in your body as being you and attack and kill them. The immediate effects of this are inflammation in various parts of the body – for me, it is currently centralized in my knees and calves. The longer term ramifications are permanent damage to nerves, organs, and etc.

A scanning electron microscope image
A scanning electron microscope image of normal circulating human blood showing red blood cells, several types of white blood cells including lymphocytes, a monocyte, a neutrophil and many small disc-shaped platelets. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How Do They Treat It?

I’m not entirely clear on this. It seems that auto-immune can be pretty serious, but that a lot of people also live with it successfully and some go into full remission. From what I’m reading it seems that a lot of auto-immune disorders in the past where sort of hopeless cases, but that with more recent medical discoveries things are getting more optimistic and new treatments have or are being developed. I suppose we’ll know more about treatment as we focus in on the particular auto-immune disorder.

What Are Your Symptoms

  • Joint Pain – This is most severe in the knees, but there is also stiffness and pain in the wrists and ankles.
  • Dry Eyes – Even with significantly reduced computer usage my eyes constantly feel dry and tired. Sometimes they get blurry and I have to make an intentional effort to focus them…Sometimes they just fail to focus and things remain blurry (this is in detail work, not in everything). I am using saline solution eye drops, but this does not appear to make a different.
  • Reynaud’s Phenomenon – When it is excessively cold out my body holds the blood back from my hands and feet, they become extremely cold and numb.
  • Brain Fog – Reduced ability to think analytically and logically. Reduced ability to focus for any period of time.
  • Skin Rash – Appearing very similar to poison ivy it is most severe on my left ankle but can be seen if looked for closely on both arms and my right leg. Hopefully the NSAIDs are holding its spread at bay.
  • Chronic Fatigue – I feel tired almost all the time, but not necessarily sleepy.
  • Urinary Distress – I seem to have a neurological problem which makes me feel the urge to urinate frequently when there is no actual need to do so.
  • Tingling / Jitteryness – My legs feel both exhausted and painful and tingling/jittery – as if they want to run a marathon.
  • Restless Leg Syndrome – Kicking and involuntary movement of my legs in sleep.
  • Insomnia – The inability to sleep even when sleepy.

In addition, while not a symptom, my mom suffered/suffers from Multiple Sclerosis – also an auto-immune disease.

Other Medications/Supplements

In addition to the above medications I take other medications for other conditions. Prozac (Fluoxetine) 60 mg daily for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Depression. Abilify 5 mg daily to help the efficiency of the Prozac in treating the Depression. Adderall XR 20 mg daily for Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).

Additionally, I take nutritional supplements – One A Day Men’s Health Formula (Vitamin A, C, D3, E, K, B1, B2, B6, Folic Acid, B12, Biotin, Pantothenic Acid, Calcium, Magnesium, Zinc, Selenium, Copper, Manganese, Chromium, Lycopene), NOW Magnesium Citrate, Solgar Folic Acid, Coromega3+D, and GNC Liquid Vitamin B-12.

My Outlook

I am optimistic. I have known for years something was wrong with me, but could never discover what. While I am not enjoying the severe pain and aches and loss of ability, I am glad to finally know something and to be heading towards a fuller knowledge. I did not suddenly acquire this condition and I have lived with it thus far – it is just a severe outbreak, and I’ve had one before. I will go on living afterwards and in conjunction with the doctors will find ways to manage and treat this issue.

What Now?

I have to pick up my lab results from my PCP (primary care physician). I have an appointment on Monday with a neurologist. In a few weeks an appointment with a rheumatologist. After that an appointment with an immunologist. I am also see a doctor in functional medicine – I saw him a week ago and will see him again in a week. I’m reading everything I can find of value on the topic and hoping to return to work very soon with the ability to actually be productive. I hope to preach this Sunday.

Zeo: A Few Months Later.

Alarm clock
Image via Wikipedia

Back in February I bought a Zeo. Its been around eight months now and I figured I should provide an update on how the Zeo has been going for me. I have both good and bad to report, but overall – I’d say it was a worthwhile investment.

First off, for those who aren’t familiar with the Zeo it is an alarm clock with some extra intelligence. It has a headband one wears which measures the quality and extent of one’s sleep. This information is aggregated and analyzed and allows for one to review and optimize one’s sleep schedule. It also can awake you during a period of light sweep, allowing you to wake up more refreshed.

I bought the Zeo because I have a hard time waking up in the morning and because I regularly experience significant daytime sleepiness. I also knew I was frequently tempted to stay up too late…so I figured the Zeo could help me get my sleep habits under control.

When I first began using the Zeo it seemed like a god-send. I was waking up 1 hour earlier than usual, feeling more refreshed, and forcing myself to go to bed at a better time. I was able to see the quality of my sleep and determine objectively whether I was getting enough sleep – rather than subjectively by how I felt or thought I’d slept.

At first I wasn’t doing very well, but as time went on I got better and began to sleep more appropriately regularly – thanks in large part to the Zeo. Unfortunately, the morning wake-up effects seemed to be declining simultaneously. I was having the same issues getting out of bed and I also was still feeling regularly fatigued during the day.

The headband was a bit of a nuisance to wear after its novelty wore off and it sometimes slipped off, it also tended to smell unpleasant as weeks of sweat accumulated on the sensor, and I did experience some very minor skin irritation and creases from wearing the headband – but nothing that would keep me from wearing it.

Still, the excessive fatigue didn’t go away and it was largely the knowledge that I was getting enough sleep but still feeling exhausted that pushed me to make the appointment with a new primary physician and begin what has now been going on two months of tests to determine what is causing the excessive fatigue. Thus far test results are indicating that I have some form of auto-immune disorder and this is likely liable for the fatigue as well as a host of other complaints.

I’m not sure whether the Zeo’s effectiveness for me decreased with time or whether the illness’ power increased with time. I suspect it was a combination of the two, with the latter being the more significant contributor. Other symptoms besides chronic fatigue have grown progressively worse over the last number of months (joint pain, chest pain, inflammation, etc.), so it seems likely that the fatigue also would worsen.

The Zeo was never made to be a medical device. I knew that when I purchased it. But I hoped that maybe there wasn’t something “deeper” wrong and that some better sleep hygiene and discipline would provide me with the extra energy boost I desired – it didn’t. So, in one sense, the Zeo didn’t provide me what I wanted – but on the other hand it did one better – it forced me to stop putting off seeing a doctor because, “I’m sure I just didn’t get enough sleep last night” and admit that there was something more wrong here and that I needed to take it seriously.

Now, setting aside my particulars, lets talk briefly about what I do and don’t like about the Zeo as a device and whether I think you should buy one.

First, the Zeo uses a memory card to store data which can then be transferred to a computer and uploaded to Zeo’s site via a USB flash drive. This is annoying in a day of ubiquitous wireless in the home. I’m not happy that I have to take the time to frequently upload my data, this should happen automatically.

Second, the headband is a bit of a nuisance. It isn’t overwhelmingly so, but I have to wonder if there aren’t better and smaller ways to track how well I’m sleeping. I know some other products are available – wristbands and so on. I know most are not of the same accuracy as the Zeo – but development in this area is really important, as the headband is awkward. Ideally I’d like something that was thin like a bandaid.

Overall, I’d say if you really want it – get one now…but if you can, wait for the next-generation. I would hope/expect that both of these issues will be eliminated (or at least significantly mitigated) with the release of a newer technology.

I’d also note that I’m not sure about Zeo’s long-term future with its current business strategy. Zeo is currently focused on sleep – they need to expand. The devices of the future will not be focused on one aspect of health but will cover a multitude – and numerous other vendors are making strides in this arena – oftentimes for a lower price tag than Zeo offers.