My right side isn't acting right
February 8, 2010 9:43 AM   Subscribe

YANMD filter - but there's something amiss with the right side of my body (I think). Lengthy.

About two years ago, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I also have Degenerative Disc Disease and arthritis in my knees and right hand - I've had these for quite some time. The fibro attacks my joints and imitates RA. I'm used to all the aches and pains that these bring me.

But some things have been happening the past few months (since around Xmas) that have me concerned.

1. There's a swollen area about four finger widths below my right knee that's about as big as the palm of my hand. It's not warm or discolored or painful - it's just bigger than any other part of my leg. It's not "puffy" like a blister, but firm. I noticed it just after Xmas and it was quite swollen then. It's smaller now, but still there.

2. My right eye keeps drooping down, even when I'm not especially tired. People think I'm winking slowly or something. I can't stop it and it's annoying the heck out of me.

3. My right leg keeps almost giving out on me. I stand up and almost fall down. It looks like I'm having a dizzy spell (I know this from people asking me if I feel dizzy) but it's my leg. It doesn't actually give out, but it feels like it's going to. This also happens when I walk. I'm not sure if this is a leg or back problem.

4. This is insignificant, but I'll mention it. I can't put together a sentence like I used to. I'm a writer by nature, but I often misspell words now, and my syntax is out the window. It's bringing my grades down and a little worrisome.

The reason I don't go to the doctor is twofold - a.) I don't have insurance, and b.) the doctors at the student health clinic treat me as though I'm attention seeking (though I've only been there three times in the past three years). It's very difficult for me to face doctors who are openly hostile or condescending toward me. Usually, I take a "wait and see" approach and often just let things take their course without venturing into the clinic at all. Like last year when I had the flu... But these things have been going on for a while now...

I tried looking these things up online, but couldn't find anything. I haven't started any new medications or changed anything radically in my life. I exercise by walking about two miles to and from school (a mile each way) three to four times a week. My diet is good-ish, and my sleep schedule is finally back on track. So, I'm asking before I go to the doctor - are any of these things something I should be worried about?
posted by patheral to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I would definitely go to the doctor for this one, as soon as possible. I don't want to terrify you or anything, but this sounds like you could have some kind of neurological problem that really requires medical attention, especially since you have muscle weakness issues all on one side of the body coupled with a cognitive symptom.
posted by kataclysm at 9:46 AM on February 8, 2010

Emergency room now. I have absolutely zero medical training or expertise, but my first thought upon hearing all of those symptoms was stroke. A friend of mine died of a stroke a few years ago after having symptoms nearly identical to yours for about a week. I have no idea what's going on with you, but I'll say that if my friend had seen a doctor sooner, his life could have been saved.
posted by decathecting at 9:50 AM on February 8, 2010 [3 favorites]

(IANAD, etc.)

This is definitely a see-a-doctor issue! This is not like the flu -- it could be a serious neurological issue or something like a stroke.
posted by callmejay at 9:53 AM on February 8, 2010

Yes, not see a doctor when there's an opening or it's convenient, it's see a doctor TODAY.
posted by callmejay at 9:54 AM on February 8, 2010

IANAD but this does sound like it could be a stroke. You really do need to see a doctor immediately.
posted by Lobster Garden at 9:55 AM on February 8, 2010

You need to go see a doctor -- NOW. I went into the ER with similar (although not identical) symptoms. I, ehm, thought it was something minor. Turns out I have a giant clot in my brain. (I'm fine, it's all cool, but that was a harrowing 6 months while they tested everything and I figured I was a walking stroke waiting to happen). Not trying to scare you, but symptoms like this are not to be messed with or dealt with lightly. It might be nothing. Or it might kill you. This is where you err on the side of caution.
posted by cgg at 10:07 AM on February 8, 2010

I have no idea about the swelling, but the motor control issue and language difficulties seems consistent with a brain lesion just ahead of your left hemisphere's lateral sulcus (the areas of your brain responsible for producing language are really close to the areas responsible for controlling the muscles on the right side of your body). Don't ignore this, insurance or not.
posted by Jpfed at 10:11 AM on February 8, 2010

Just to add to my previous post -- when I walked into the ER and mentioned the weakness in my right side -- the staff literally jumped into action. I didn't understand it -- i figured it was just a pinched nerve or something. They had me into an MRI within an hour. (That just doesn't happen here in Canada -- unless it's a matter of life or death). The next day I had my newly found neuro calling me at home to make sure I was okay. I was definitely not treated like I was a bother. I was lectured by everyone who I talked to what the signs of a stoke were (which are very similar to what you're describing, minus the swelling), and told in no uncertain terms to get my ass back there if anything happened ASAP.


I truly hope it's nothing, I really do, and it might very well be. But you cannot mess with this stuff.
posted by cgg at 10:20 AM on February 8, 2010

Yes, please, please see a doctor. This sounds serious.
posted by Jelly at 10:21 AM on February 8, 2010

JESUS HAPLOID CHRIST GO TO THE DOCTOR the facial drooping alone is really concerning. I'm not a doctor, I'm a music school dropout, but right-sided muscle weakness both above and below your waist is indicative of a pretty high-up problem.
posted by KathrynT at 11:22 AM on February 8, 2010

They eye thing leads me to believe it could be related to Bell's Palsy.
posted by mattbucher at 11:24 AM on February 8, 2010

Response by poster: I thought it might be something to worry about... but I didn't want to be an alarmist. I'll head to the doctor. Thanks.
posted by patheral at 11:33 AM on February 8, 2010

i'm with some of the other folks - go to the doctor. the eye droop could be bell's palsy, which you need to treat asap or it will get worse. or it could be something else, who knows? that's why it's so important to see a doctor. this is worth the money, friend!
posted by chronic babe at 11:40 AM on February 8, 2010

I have no idea about the swelling, but the motor control issue and language difficulties seems consistent with a brain lesion just ahead of your left hemisphere's lateral sulcus (the areas of your brain responsible for producing language are really close to the areas responsible for controlling the muscles on the right side of your body). Don't ignore this, insurance or not.
posted by Jpfed at 12:11 PM on February 8

This is what I was thinking while reading your question (thanks Jpfed for posting it much better than I would have!). Go to the doctor and make payment arrangements with them. Even if it's $20 a month, that's better than what this could cost you (financially or otherwise) by ignoring it. I'm hoping that it's easily treatable with no lasting effects...sending you healing thoughts!
posted by MultiFaceted at 12:05 PM on February 8, 2010

Response by poster: Sitting in the waiting room now. They don't seem to think much of my symptoms... At least the triage nurse didn't. Guess I'll see what the doctor thinks. *shrug*
posted by patheral at 12:16 PM on February 8, 2010

Keep us updated, thanks! :-)
posted by callmejay at 12:37 PM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

ok, weird as this sounds, do you smell burning toast? that can actually be a symptom of stroke...also (after googling) oranges or strawberries. but, i'd imagine, it could manifest as any weird smell...make sure to get an mri or at least head xrays (the cost of xrays has gone down significantly now that they've gone digital...just had a chest xray recently...)
posted by sexyrobot at 12:48 PM on February 8, 2010

Response by poster: Well, I went to the ER as mentioned above. They did a cat-scan and found nothing abnormal. Said to follow up with my doctor if my symptoms don't improve. The nurse who saw me said it could be mono? I dunno, but I guess I'll brave the health clinic if things don't improve. The health clinic is turning away people right now because of the overwhelming number of flu patients, so there's no guarantee I'll even get in before March.

@sexyrobot no weird smells, except my daughter's strawberry candles smell like sweet & sour sauce, but I don't think that counts. ^_^ I used to smell fire - like wood burning - about two months back, but I don't anymore.

However I do have some strange illusions - like if there's a dark spot on the floor or wall (lint or a smudge) I think it's a bug. I mean, I see it moving even though if it's not moving and even if I see that spot every day.

Anyway, I'm glad it's nothing really serious. Thanks y'all for your concern. I'm happy now that I know I'm not a stroke waiting to happen (hopefully). I just wish it didn't cost so much to find that out. ^_^'
posted by patheral at 2:04 PM on February 8, 2010

A CT scan is not preferred for diagnosing brain tumors. Link to the Mayo Clinic

I am not trying to diagnose you or freak you out, just letting you know that they may have missed something based on the test they ran. Please follow up with an actual neurologist as soon as you can. Smelling things and seeing things along with the other changes you noted above are not worth brushing off. And even if it isn't a brain tumor, it might be something even harder to diagnose like MS, so you definitely need to find a doctor who wants to help you, not just shuffle you out the door.
posted by Mouse Army at 2:47 PM on February 8, 2010

Please follow up with a neurologist. And let us know what the neurologist says.
posted by exphysicist345 at 6:23 PM on February 8, 2010

Response by poster: Here's the problem with seeing a neurologist. The nearest one is an hour drive from here - farther than my car will take me - and costs a fortune. I've been a full time student for two years and living on my student loans. That means I have no income and no savings. It's not that I don't want to see one. It's that I don't have the money to see one. I cannot spend what I don't have. Emergency rooms will bill me later, neurologists want payment up front, esp if you don't have insurance.

I really do appreciate the concern, but the ER and the health clinic are my only options at this point.
posted by patheral at 6:43 PM on February 8, 2010

You might want to look into additional student health insurance. Is it an option at your university? It is at some schools. If something does develop in the future it would be REALLY good to have some coverage before things were showing up in your records.
posted by shylady at 8:41 PM on February 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

You might also want to check out public/teaching hospitals, which can't turn patients away regardless of their inability to pay, and which will work out payment plans for you if you can pay something. Again, you may have to enter the system via the ER rather than as a regular patient. That said, ERs are often a bad way to go because services cost exponentially more when initiated there.

Research (on here, perhaps via an anon follow-up, but certainly in the archives) more about figuring out health care issues on a low income. If, by chance, you're in the Bay Area, send me an email/me.mail and I'll send you a list of resources!
posted by soviet sleepover at 10:54 PM on February 8, 2010

Response by poster: I will certainly look into getting student health insurance if I make it to grad school and get an assistanship. If I don't, well hopefully I'll be employed by summer and have some kind of insurance. And, keeping my fingers crossed, I'll just have to hope nothing happens between now and then. Were I in a major metropolitan area, I know I'd have access to other options, but I've checked for medical clinics here, and the only recourse I have is the student health center.

As for teaching hospitals, I looked into that - the hospital I went to yesterday is the only hospital within an hour's drive. The next one is in the same city as the nearest neurologist. The nearest *teaching* hospital is two hours away (I believe, I've never driven there but that's what mapquest says...).

Thanks for the offer soviet_sleepover, I wish I were still in the Bay Area, but I'm in the Deep South, so far away from the Bay Area it's like a whole nother planet. ^_^
posted by patheral at 3:52 PM on February 9, 2010

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