So, I’ve been feeling under the weather for about 2-3 weeks now with some pretty mild yet concerning symptoms. Basically I’ve been having mild pain/discomfort in my abdomen. No other symptoms, and it’s spread out over 3 of the 4 abdominal quadrants. It feels kinda like I’ve eaten too many bowls of bran flakes… but without the bloated/crampy feeling. That’s it, no other symptoms. In the abdominal pain world, that’s apparently like saying “I found that thing at the one store the other day”. I’ve made an appointment with the doctor and will be discussing with him to see what the next step is. (probably blood tests, x-rays, and failing to find anything there, Colonoscopy/Endoscopy/Barium series! huzzah.)
Anyway, the nurse on the phone suggested I was probably gearing up for an appendicitis, so seeing the doctor fairly soon was a good idea; though she said it could really be anything because abdominal pain is fun that way. If I couldn’t stand, it was ER time. Good to know.
But, as we all do these days, I decided to do a little consultation with the internet first because… why the heck not?! I’m an Engineer who works at a hospital directly on medical equipment. I’m a problem solver and fancy myself as having a pretty level head. I’m not prone to hypochondria, nor have I been historically susceptible to the placebo effect. I’ve planted myself pretty firmly in the realm of reason, so I should be able to handle information without letting it get the best of me. I figure I’m fairly safe poking around on the internet without becoming hysterical and making up diseases for myself. Turns out I wouldn’t even know where to start anyway given the number of things “light abdominal pain” could be. Probably colon cancer, if I really wanted to get hysterical, which I don’t care to.
So, searching for my particular set of symptoms I was able to narrow it down to “just about anything” about as well as the nurse on the phone was able to. Wonderful. The general consensus is that since the symptoms are mild without any secondary symptoms, most likely it’s something minor. Oh, and by the way, lots of these things can have atypical presentations that make them look like many of the other pathologies available to chose from. It could also be a wicked case of persistent gas, dysentery, or one of the many pathologies that are usually chosen at random when all the tests come back normal but you still have symptoms. Like IBS or chronic appendicitis. Marvelous.
So yeah, probably lots of testing in my future, and possibly doctors thinking I’m a hypochondriac because nothing is overtly wrong with me. Or maybe they find something right away and I have surgery/drugs/therapy to clear it up. *Shrug* So it goes. As a precaution I gave up aspartame (I’m a power user, 4-10 packets of “blue stuff” a day), just in case it might save everyone some time and effort on the off chance that I developed the poorly understood aspartame allergy. Worst case scenario is that now I have an excuse to use real sugar in my coffee for a while. Win-Win.
For those unfamiliar with the allergy, just Google it. There is a huge subculture devoted to portraying aspartame as the devil in a blue packet. Lots of the information available out there is poorly veiled hysteria mongering based on a partial/poor understanding of the chemical reactions aspartame undergoes in the body. But there is enough anecdotal evidence to suggest that there’s no harm in me giving it up for a few weeks just to see if I get better. That’s pretty much the test for aspartame allergy: give it up, and if your pain goes way, try consuming some again. If the pain comes back, you’ve got the allergy. Simple concept. People can become allergic to just about anything, so I don’t find it outside the scope of reason that I could develop such an allergy. Plus, you know.. SUGAR IS AWESOME! Ahem.
But what I found extremely alarming during my search, aside from all the homeopathic websites that come up when researching symptoms, is the sheer level of grammatical and spelling errors on websites that SHOULD be striving for respectability. And I’m not talking on homeopathicearthhealing.com. No, we’re talking WebMD, Mayo, and Medicinenet here! The big 3 are riddled with enough spelling and grammar mistakes that I, typo champion of YSaC, can spot them. WebMD was the best of the three when it came to being correct, but it still wasn’t perfect.
Plus, you get great lines like this:
Abdominal pain is pain that is felt in the abdomen.
No. Shit. So, I started out worrying that I was going to possibly cause an unwanted case of partial knowledge hypochondria on myself, and instead I spend 20 minutes seething about these big, medical help websites no taking a few minutes to run their submissions across the desk of an editor… or a spellchecker. I mean seriously, you may have panicked people looking for real information on your websites, at the very least you could make sure that your content gives off the airs that you know what you’re talking about. Instead I was reading sites that basically felt like they were saying “The abdomen… that’s the tummy area right?”
After a while I entirely forgot what I was looking for and was just browsing random pages looking for mistakes. That was WAY more fun and informational then looking through the nonspecific articles about abdominal pain that basically took 4 pages to say “It could be anything, see a doctor.”
-Confusion is a state of mind, or tummy?
The winner is: Gastritis or Ulcer of the stomach. The doctor poked me in the stomach this morning and I just about jumped out of the exam chair. So, two weeks on an acid blocker, and if that doesn’t work we go fishing to see if we can find an ulcer. If so antibiotics for a month. Whee. Turns out I was getting referred pain all over my lower abdomen, and the stomach inflammation was kicking up fresh hell in my lower belly. Fun times.