Blood clots on the brain: a diary of a shit time

I’m currently battling the most stubborn headache I’ve ever experienced. It’s been with me since Tuesday 27th November. The 27th-30th were covered in this blog post. For ease, I’m going to list the symptoms I have here so I’m not repeating myself in each section.

  • The headache: it starts at the back of my head, climbs round to my temples and to my eyes. Oddly, my scalp feels tender, which isn’t something I’ve ever experienced with headaches so I can’t be sure if it’s linked. Either way, it’s uncomfortable to lay on. There’s a bruise type pain at the back/base of my neck.
  • Lupus symptoms: I usually take codiene for my Lupus pain, however codiene induces headaches for me or makes an existing one worse. I’m relying solely on paracetamol and ibubrofren and at this point, I may as well just be eating Smarties. I have terrible pain in my elbows, wrist (wrist joint has been swollen), fingers, knees, shoulders, chest, back, fever, dizziness (not constant), extreme fatigue, muscle aches and pains.

1st December: The paracetamol, ibuprofen and tramadol have had no affect on this stubborn headache. Today I bought 4Head strips and White Tiger Balm (this one is aimed at headaches). The 4Head strips felt nice and cooling but did nothing to help. I had a lot of hope for the White Tiger Balm because I swear by their red balm but it offered relief for only 20 minutes.

2nd December: Today I went to buy some Migraleve but Boots didn’t have the pack with the pink and yellow tablets. Instead I bought 8/500 (8mg of codiene and 500mg of paracetamol – which is what the yellow tablets of Migraleve contain). I took them every 4 hours to have no relief. I’m beginning to feel very low in mood and a little bit defeated.

3rd December: Sometimes I can’t face what Lupus throws at me without medical intervention. I went to my GP who admitted the length of the headache is concerning. He prescribed Diclofenac 50mg which I can take 3 times a day. He told me if they didn’t work I had to call my Lupus/Rheumatology nurse. They eased the eye pain for a small amount of time. I gave it the benefit of the doubt and believed by the 2nd dose things would be a lot better but again – nothing. By the time I took the 3rd dose it wasn’t offering relief for the eye pain. I’ve spent the day feeling angry at my own body and terribly grumpy.

4th December: I planned to ring my Rheumatologist Nurse today but she was in clinic and was unable to talk. I spoke to my consultants secretary instead, she took a list of my symptoms and was going to pass the message to him. My headache remains the same today, the Diclofenac isn’t much help.

5th December: I got a call from my consultants secretary. My appointment has been brought forward from February to tomorrow. There’s not much else to say other than the headache is still firmly with me and it’s beginning to make me feel nauseous.

6th December: I saw my consultant this afternoon, here’s a blog post that covers it in more detail. The fluorescent lights in the hospital made my head worse. I can’t even describe how fed up I feel with the headache and joint pain. I just want to lay in bed until this is all over. I couldn’t eat anything tonight because I feel nauceous.

7th December: It feels as if this headache won’t disappear. I travelled to my boyfriend’s family tonight and the headlights from other cars aggravated it – especially the pain in my eyes.

8th December: Today my head felt extremely foggy and heavy. It was hard to concentrate on most things. But, then again, it’s been hard to concentrate since the headache started. I think my patience has finally ran out with it because it just doesn’t seem to want to leave me.

9th December: I woke up headache free. FINALLY! I sat up this morning and felt like doing a Mel Gibson in Braveheart…but I thought it was probably best to do subtle head movements on my first day of freedom. It did start to creep up at random times in the day but it successfully responded to paracetamol and ibubrofren.

10th December: Guess what’s back? I had one day free and it came back. My eyes are still free from pain but it’s at the back of my head and temple area again.

11th December: It had dulled down but yet again, it returned at night. It’s only at the back of my head tonight though, so that’s something positive.

12th December: Today was the same as yesterday – clear all day until early evening and it started up. Again, it was only at the back of my head, leaving my temple and eye area free.

I believe it’s finally starting to leave me and it’s just taking a while for the stragglers to leave (the pain in the back of my head). And, for that reason, I’m leaving this post as it is. I will admit that I knew something wasn’t quite right when Diclofenac offered no relief. I kept quiet to not worry anyone but I ultimately knew the only person that could help was my consultant. Oddly, the thought of blood clots on my brain doesn’t scare me, I think I’ve gotten used to the dysfunctional verison of my body. I’m not used to battling Antiphospholipid Syndrome because Lupus is usually the prodominient illness for me and I can whole heartedly say…it was bloody miserable. I’m starting to perk up again but I still don’t feel 100% like myself yet.

Ps, I sincerely apologise to whoever I conversed with during this shit show.

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Impromptu Rheumatology appointment: 06-12-18 | Medication changes

I’ve been struggling with a terrible headache for over a week. I tried several over the counter remedies before I saw my GP. He prescribed me strong anti inflammatory medication and instructed me to call my Rheumatology nurse if they had no impact. I think it’s pretty obvious they had no affect on me because I was soon sat in the Rheumatology waiting room.

My joints have also been very sore and some are swelling. Due to my headache, I can’t take any of my pain medication for my joints because it induces or makes existing headaches worse. I’ve also had rashes on my arms, neck and hands. My fatigue is heightened and all I want to do is sleep. It’s been a very tough week and half which made getting to this impromptu appointment very difficult.

My consultant reminded me that my headaches are caused by small blood clots on the brain – which explains why nothing has offered relief. I did feel a bit silly going to see my consultant about a headache. But, being reminded that they aren’t ‘normal’ headaches and in fact blood clots, made me feel less of a wimp. There’s nothing I can do for it apart from wait for it to go on it’s own.

I told him about my joints and the inability to do anything to ease the pain because I can’t take my pain meds. There’s not much he can say for this because unfortunately it’s part of the Lupus fun package. But, it’s still important to tell him of all symptoms bothering me.

He has doubled my Apixaban (anti coagulants) dose. This, in theory, should help to stop the headache and prevent any further severe headaches. My Hydroxychloroquine (Lupus med) dose has been put back to 400mg, which is the dose I was on when I was first diagnosed. However, Hydroxy can take up to 12 weeks to get into my system before I feel any improvement. It will more than likely cause nausea/vomiting whilst my body gets used to the increased dose again. I also had blood taken.

My appointment for February still stands in place so thankfully I don’t have to wait long in between visits. For now, I just play the waiting game for my headache to disappear.

Rheumatology appointment – 15/3/2018: a new medication.

I’m sure my appointments come around quicker each time. The time between my last appointment and this one was 4 months. This appointment was mostly centred around Antiphospholipid Syndrome.

As usual, the appointment started with the nurse for the usual checks. My weight and blood pressure were fine, but my urine is showing a possible infection. I’m unsure if I still have protein lurking in it, the nurse was concentrating on the possible infection.

As stated above, this appointment was mostly about Antiphospholipid Syndrome, I’ve never had an appointment that was nearly dedicated to this illness, people assume (and I did for a while) that all my symptoms are down to Lupus. In all honesty, this was an odd appointment to me, I was barley asked any questions. He asked how I felt since the upped dose of Azathioprine and when I replied “honestly…I feel no different”. And, that’s when the appointment changed direction to Antiphospholipid.

It isn’t new knowledge to me that my consultant wants me to take warfarin or something very similar to control my APS. For over a year, he’s believed my headaches are tiny blood clots on my brain that fizzle out on their own. For some reason, I have a great fear of Warfarin, the thought of taking it petrifies me. Which has resulted in a firm head shake at my consultant numerous times, essentially, I have denied treatment.

However, at this appointment, we found a middle ground. A medication called Apixaban, which has replaced my dose of Aspirin. Apixaban is an anticoagulant, which means it will greatly reduce my risk of DVTs and PEs. I take two 2.5mg tablets a day, one in the morning and one at night. My consultant believes the symptoms that aren’t being relieved by my Lupus meds, aren’t Lupus symptoms at all, but symptoms of APS. We’re hoping Apixaban will help relieve headaches and some degree of the fatigue. I have been given a months supply to see how I cope on it. The meds come with an alert card that needs to be kept on me at all times.

Another point of discussion was the back pain I’ve had for the last few months, it differs in severity. I also mentioned that I can do my first wee of the day at around 4pm. He said the urine sample I provided will be sent to the labs for further testing. He also wanted to check my full blood count, the last couple of times my blood count has been slightly low. If it continues declining, my dose of Azathioprine will be reduced back to 100mg. He will write to me with the results of both, but the nurse recommended I ring my GP to check if I need antibiotics, which she said I most likely will.

He scheduled us to meet again in 3 months time.