My lung doc finally gave in and subscribed me some prednisone today. I’ve been feeling bad for about a week. The weather is changing, allergies are bad, one of my kids is kind of sick, and they’ve started harvesting corn. It could be just one, several, or all of those reasons why I’m having trouble breathing. Monday my blood-oxygen saturation kept dipping below 90%, and every day this week my PeakFlow numbers have been steadily dropping. While I really dislike systemic steroids and their side-effects, Liz reminded me it could be worse.
The last time I was admitted to the hospital I had been on 80mg of predisone daily. They gave me two, 120mg IV injections of solumedrol, and then admitted me into a room where they showed up every 6 hours for another 120mg of solumedrol. Some of the side-effects include:
- It made me a little crazy
- I became temporarily diabetic and required insulin
- I retained water and gained weight
- I developed cataracts
- I lost muscle tone
- I couldn’t sleep
- My hands cramped up
- My cognitive abilities were diminished
- I got cranky and moody
- My vision became blurry at times (probably due to the increased blood sugar levels)
- My face became round and puffy
- I lost my appetite
I had been on prednisone for most of the previous 2 years leading up to this hospitalization. When you’ve been on prednisone that long, you can’t just quit. You must be tapered off because your body is somewhat dependent on it. I’m not sure exactly when I developed hypothyroidism, but it was sometime after this long period of time on the medicine. If you want to see a long list of known effects, check them out here.
One of my lung doctors has told me multiple times the prednisone would kill me before the asthma if I couldn’t find a better way to treat my asthma. I’m happy to say this is only the second time in the past 6 months I’ve had to resort to this treatment. I’m hoping the short burst will get me back on my feet.
Since I last saw my pulmonologist I’ve been in the Emergency Room four times and admitted once. First thing out of his mouth was, “Wow, you’ve had a rough two months!” We talked about what’s been going on, symptoms, how the meds are working, prednisone, etc. Dr M said it was obvious every time my taper gets down to a certain level everything flares up again. He said I basically have three options.
- Go to an asthma clinic and get a full work-up.
- Look into bronchial thermoplasty
- Become steroid dependent
I first heard about bronchial thermoplasty three years ago. They’ve been doing it in Europe for a while and FDA has approved it for use in the US. The quick explanation is they scope a wire down into your airways using radio frequencies to heat up and burn away extra tissue. This assists with the extreme swelling and inflammation many of us asthmatics deal with on a regular basis.
Steroid dependency is needing a small dose of prednisone or another steroid on a regular basis. This is different from using inhaled corticosteroids as an inhaled maintenance medication. I’ve been on prednisone 80 some days already this summer so continuing would be an easy step. Dr M would rather not have to resort to that right now at my age, but we’ll see.
Dr M was really intent on option #1. He talked about some of the different centers in the area and how beneficial it would be. He welcomes second opinions and would like to consult to make sure he, Dr K and Dr J are all on the same page with treating me. He was all ready to call up the Cleveland Clinic and get something scheduled when I finally had the chance to inform him I’m heading to Pittsburgh in 10 days to participate in SARP and see Dr W. Dr M likes that I try to stay on top of things.
So for now we’re going to see how Pittsburgh goes and what they find. I’d rather not stay on prednisone forever, but it’s better than visiting my friends at the ER every week and much less drastic than the bronchial thermoplasty.