Some troubling symptoms have suddenly emerged with my lupus in the past few days. Only rarely were swollen ankles part of my past lupus experience, but suddenly my calves are thickened, my ankles have mild pitting edema, my abdomen is extremely swollen (and feels like a watermelon,) my prednisone moon face is now further exaggerated, my asthmatic lungs are heavy and labored and my skin is itching terribly. In 3 days I gained 10 pounds, and now weigh a whopping ten pounds over my previous life-time high.
To describe my present state as uncomfortable would be a gross understatement. I feel somewhat like the blueberry bloated kid in the Willy Wonka story, ready to burst with pressure from within. Very few garments in my closet are loose enough for comfort, and my lower limbs are not very pretty as they stick out distended from under my skirt hem. I look down at them and see my grandmother’s ankles! (Please don’t confuse me with the fact that I AM a grandmother…)
I did some simple research on these new symptoms and found a couple of things to discuss with my doctor on Monday: my kidneys and my heart. The fluid retention is a possible symptom of problems with one of these organs.
So far in this life-long battle with lupus, I have been spared lupus’ attack on my kidneys.
It has long been accepted that least 50% of lupus patients have some type of kidney involvement, and recently I heard that experts have increased this number to almost 60%. Lupus is a leading cause of kidney failure. Lupus may have rampaged against some of my other vital organs, liver and brain, but has until now left my kidneys alone. These symptoms could indicate that may have changed.
My heart has a couple of problems that we know about, but up to now lupus has not been one of them. Lupus is known to be a cause of several possible heart problems, and my new symptoms connected with heart problems in lupus patients.
I have a mild heart murmur caused by mitral valve regurgitation. This involves the same part of the heart as better known mitral valve prolapse, but is different. A prolapsing mitral valve doesn’t close properly and stresses the heart, making it work harder with each beat. My regurgitating mitral valve doesn’t quite seal all the way, and a little bit of blood whooshes back through the valve. My heart takes 10 steps forward moving the blood, and one step backward. A little bit inefficient, but has not been problematic for the health of my heart, so far.
Am I worried? Maybe a little, but mostly just concerned that there is something new and different going on in my body that may be caused by lupus. It will be extremely important to connect with my doctors next week and find out what sense they can make of these new developments. I know better than to try to diagnose myself, but the possibilities identified in my quick research encourage me to seek the opinion of real medical doctor.
In the meantime, I feel like the Goodyear blimp, and will just have to wear my “big clothes.”