My partner has both Sinus and Digestive issues... could they be linked?
February 22, 2011 12:57 PM   Subscribe

My partner has problems with IBS, her bladder and her sinus. Could they all be linked? Slightly worried it could be something very serious.

My partner has been suffering with IBS for years. After being diagnosed she was given the wrong medication for years things got really bad. She was admitted into hospital as they thought it might be endometriosis - lucky after an investigatory operation it proved that it was not. They mentioned that her bowl was full. So I did a little research and found this book which I would recommend to anyone with IBS, and she started to self medicate and things have become a lot better, although still far from normal.

She has been diagnosed as having an under active bladder as well. She has asked if this is linked but as that diagnosis was done privately the NHS doctors seem to ignore it (although I am not sure there is anything that can be done).

Another odd symptom she has is that she struggles to breathe through her nose, is very phlegm-y (always can feel it down the back of her throat) and her nose runs a lot. This could be nothing but a few people have said that it sounds like a sinus problem which could indicate something else.

We have a few friends with auto immune diseases and they have show quite a lot of concern over her symptoms, which has made me worry.

My experience with the NHS has always been great, but she has really had bad doctors who will not listen.

She is Jewish, doesn’t eat red meat, is tired lots, is very anxious (I think that is because of all her problems), fairly active, slim (as in not over weight) and really very lovely.

If anyone has any advice or thoughts I would be really grateful!
posted by informity to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
If she is suffering malnutrition from the IBS, then her immune system could be weakened, leaving the rest of her body open to opportunistic diseases.

She might see a different GP about blood tests and getting her long-term sinus infection looked at. If it is long-term, it could be a bacterial infection and might respond to antibiotics.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:18 PM on February 22, 2011

Has she been tested for allergies?

Has she had a colonoscopy?

Been tested for Crohns?

Tried OTC allergy meeds for her congestion?
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:36 PM on February 22, 2011

Has Celiac disease been ruled out? I've read that can cause all kinds of problems including sinus ailments.
posted by FormerMermaid at 1:41 PM on February 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

I'm not sure how it is over there, but over here, doctors have a really annoying tendency to write people with IBS diagnosis off as "crazy." I think that this is because it's really poorly understood and doctors do not like it when they don't know what causes something and can't fix it. Fibromyalgia and some other poorly understood autoimmune disorders also sometimes get that kind of attention. There seems to be a positive correlation between depression/anxiety disorders and these poorly understood, hard to manage diseases. I tend to think, as you do, that that's because of having to deal with these physical problems all the time. But, sometimes some physicians seem to attribute the disease to the mental illness, i.e. 'She's just trying to get attention.' This is to sort of explain why she might be having bad experiences with doctors.

Coeliac disease is sometimes misdiagnosed as IBS. Perhaps they already checked and ruled that out. What is she doing to "self-medicate"? What did that book recommend? It looks like it mostly recommends certain dietary changes, but did it talk about coeliac disease?

You mentioned that she had a previous diagnosis of underactive bladder. Does she experience pain in urination, or urinary tract pain generally? Interstitial cystitis is sometimes present with IBS. If she has both, it might indicate some sort of general inflammatory disease, like an autoimmune disorder.

The sinus infection might be unrelated, or might be unrelated but exacerbated by her general state of illness, or might be related to the illness. Only a good physician could help her figure that out.

It sounds like you're very supportive and very much in love with her. Keep giving her the emotional support she needs to take care of herself. She's going to have to get her doctors to listen to her constellation of symptoms without dismissing her, and it's going to be hard; she needs your support. And maybe a new doctor if she can get one. Don't be scared of getting a diagnosis of "something more serious." Knowing is so much better than not knowing, and it could lead to more effective treatment.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 1:45 PM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Being Jewish is a risk factor for Crohns, by the way.

IBS is sometimes diagnosed before everything is ruled out, as sort of a "go away" diagnosis. There are a lot of different digestive disorders that "look" like IBS. My stepfather and father in law were both mistakenly diagnosed with IBS (cancer and celiac, respectively). Make sure she pushes them to rule out other things, do a colonoscopy, etc.

Also consider more minor issues like lactose intolerance or a mild food allergy. Good luck!
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:53 PM on February 22, 2011

Check your MeMail.
posted by Dasein at 1:53 PM on February 22, 2011

Seconding both allergies and celiac as possibilities for both the IBS and sinus issues.
posted by MexicanYenta at 2:53 PM on February 22, 2011

It sounds like she has a problem with 'inflammation'. I know for example families where asthma, crohns and nasal polyps (resulting in lots of sinus infections) are suffered to varying degress by multiple members. Might want to look into that for your gf
posted by zia at 3:27 PM on February 22, 2011

It seems like she would benefit from seeing a specialist (gastroenterologist) rather than her primary care doctor for this. They would probably be more likely to make the right diagnosis for her. It doesn't really help for all of us to suggest what it MIGHT be, even if one of us does get it right, you'll still need to go to an expert to confirm the diagnosis. Make an appointment, and good luck!
posted by GastrocNemesis at 4:51 PM on February 22, 2011

She definitely needs to see a gastroenterologist and a rheumatologist. Testing for celiac disease seems like something they'll insist on, and perhaps also an ANCA test to rule out Wegener's granulomatosis.

Seconding the "it's probably some kind of inflammatory process" but the question is identifying the source. Exploring dietary modifications may help calm some of the symptoms (though don't do that just prior to testing!) but it's an exhausting slog.

It is so frustrating trying to deal with this kind of thing! She has my sympathy.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:15 PM on February 22, 2011

I have Crohn's disease, which is an IBD. I often get problems with my sinuses when my inflammation is up. The way its been explained to me is that all the cells that make up "mucus membranes" originate from the same type of cells. So things like my gums, nasal passages, sinuses, eyes etc. all can get bothered when my inflammation levels are way up.

My doctors thought I had IBS, but since my brother already had Crohn's and my mom insisted, they did the colonoscopy anyhow. Thank goodness they did, because I was all inflamed and had lots of pain. The point being, if you think there is a chance of having IBD, just ask for a colonoscopy. Its not a super invasive procedure, you don't even have to be anesthetized for it. The prep sucks, but I usually just don't eat solid food for a few days and my doc lets me skip the prep because it upsets my already reactive stomach. Eggs count as liquids, apparently, at least as far as my doc is concerned.

One thing that worked to calm down the sinus symptoms is using a neti pot daily. I don't know why, but I go with it because its great for reducing the pain and sinus drainage. Its less weird than you'd think. I'm trying to convert everybody I know into using it, but some people get freaked out by the idea of it. Find some youtube videos and you'll see how easy and painless it can be. /infomercial

It sounds like you aren't super comfortable with her doctors. Its perfectly acceptable to switch to a doctor who you like better, or who might be more willing to consider various options or ideas.

BTW, way to be a super supportive partner. With chronic problems like this, especially if you don't know whats wrong with you, it can be easy for people to shrug you off as "faking it" or it being "all in your head". And sometimes people just get tired of you being sick, and stop caring, even when your symptoms continue. Your support and patience is surely a great booster to her.
posted by gilsonal at 9:29 PM on February 22, 2011

Has she taken a lot of antibiotics and/or birth control pills and/or nasal steroids? She may have a candida overgrowth. I have had it in my esophagus (from symptoms from another disease) and her symptoms sound like they may be related to I have read.
posted by getawaysticks at 2:53 PM on February 23, 2011

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