Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Day 29 - The Eyes & Ophthalmology

"In an average life, the eyes will see 24 million different images. They can focus quickly between distances of 10cm and infinity. We can see in bright sunlight and almost complete darkness and judge speed within 5-10% accuracy.

More of our brain is taken up with eyesight than any other bit of our body.

All this from a couple of balls only 2.5 cm in diameter.

Interesting facts:

- Brown is the most common eye colour, blue the rarest (only 8% of the world's population has blue eyes).

- Eyebrows protect our eyes from sweat running off our forehead. Over pluck at your peril.

- We blink about twelve times per minute. This keeps our eyes clean.

Ophthalmology is the branch of medicine which deals with the diseases and surgery of the visual pathways, including the eye, brain, and areas surrounding the eye, such as the lacrimal system and eyelids."*


I am in Madrid and will be leaving for West Africa shortly. I got the results from the CT scan :

“Conclusion: no sinonasal cause for the patient's persistent right frontal headache is identified.”

A colleague of mine asked me if I have had my eyes checked. I haven’t. I headed to the Instituto Oftalmológico de Madrid, reputedly one of the best in Europe.

I was told I needed an appointment and was sent to A&E at a hospital nearby.

Having waited for two hours, I was eventually seen by an ophtalmologist. She told me there was nothing to worry about and could not see my eyes being related to my headache.

She told me to see a neurologist. I thought I might as well give it a go as I won’t be in Europe for much longer.

The neurologist said it is a migraine. I explained I was already prescribed migraine tablets and they did not help at all. Painkillers do not alleviate the symptoms, I explained to him.

He nonetheless prescribed some medication and sent me home telling me there is nothing to worry about.

He also advised seeing the same doctor as opposed to continuously changing person and also location (so far, I have seen people in the UK, France and Spain) - not a helpful comment given that my job constantly involves travelling and that so far all the doctors I have seen have been utterly clueless anyway.

Friday, 16 January 2009

Day 25 - CT Scan

"A CT (computerised tomography) scanner is a special kind of X-ray machine. Instead of sending out a single X-ray through your body as with ordinary X-rays, several beams are sent simultaneously from different angles.

The technique of CT scanning was developed by the British inventor Sir Godfrey Hounsfield, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work.

CT scans are far more detailed than ordinary X-rays. The information from the two-dimensional computer images can be reconstructed to produce three-dimensional images by some modern CT scanners.

Far more X-rays are involved in a CT scan than in ordinary X-rays, so doctors do not recommend CT scans without a good medical reason. Some patients may experience side effects due to allergic reactions to the liquid dye injected into the veins."*


My company called me yesterday just after my appointment with the ENT doctor, and told me I am now going being posted to The Gambia in West Africa and not to Taiwan anymore. I immediately called the doctor and asked to be put forward for a CT scan.

I was reluctant to do a scan as I know they emit a lot of radiation - the ENT doctor recommended that, due to the negative health implications associated with CT scans, the maximum number of CT scans to carry out in one’s lifetime is five.

Today I went to a private hospital to get the CT scan done.

Obviously I expected to pay a large sum (I do not have private medical insurance) but what I was confronted with nearly gave me a heart attack (on top of the headache).

I was strapped to the machine and part slid into the tunnel - I could still move my legs about as only my head was tightly strapped.

The scan only lasted fifteen minutes or so, and I was relieved when it was over. Now all I need are the results which I am told will only take a day or two to get to me.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Day 24 - Otolaryngologist

"Otolaryngology is the branch of medicine that specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of ear, nose, throat, and head and neck disorders.

The full name of the specialty is otolaryngology-head and neck surgery. Practitioners are called otolaryngologists-head and neck surgeons, or sometimes otorhinolaryngologists (ORL). A commonly used term for this specialty is ENT (ear, nose and throat).

The term comes from the Greek ωτολαρυγγολογία (oto = genitive for ear, laryngo = genitive for larynx/throat, logy = study), and it literally means the study of ear and neck."*

I saw a private ear, nose and throat doctor today on Harley Street as I want to completely rule out the possibility of having sinusitis. Needless to say it cost a fortune.

The doctor said everything looked normal and wrote a letter for a doctor in Taiwan - which is where I am due to be posted for a few months - should my headache persist.

He advised I do a CT scan should my plans change and should I be sent to Africa again. In the meantime, he has prescribed a nasal spray to use for two to three weeks.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Day 17 - Acupuncture

"Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine which involves the insertion of very fine needles at key points (known as acupuncture points) into the body.

Acupuncture is based on the Chinese belief that the human body is controlled by a life force known as Qi (pronounced 'chee'). Qi flows through the body in channels, known as meridians. When your Qi is disturbed or unbalanced it can make you unwell. Acupuncture aims to restore the balance of Qi, and helps it to run smoothly through your body.

Acupuncture is primarily used to ease symptoms of pain and discomfort. Studies suggest that there are a number of conditions which acupuncture can help to treat, including post-operative pain, migraines and nausea."*


The Chinese clinic where I had my foot massage also offered acupuncture.

I told the doctor about my one month headache. I was asked to remove my shirt and lay down on the bed.

I felt heat all over my back and needles penetrated my skin. It didn’t hurt.

The doctor murmured some things under her breath, in Chinese.

In broken English she told me to stay still, and that she would return shortly.

She eventually returned and took the needles out.

I feel more relaxed although the headache is still the same. I know things like this take time to come into effect so all I can do now is wait.

Day 17 - Foot Reflexology

"Reflexology is the physical act of applying pressure to the feet and hand with specific thumb, finger and hand techniques. it is based on a system of zones and reflex areas that reflect an image of the body on the feet and hands with a premise that such work effects a physical change to the body.

Archeological evidence Egypt (2330 BCE), China (2704 BCE) and Japan (690 CE) points to ancient reflexology medical systems. In the West the concept of reflexology began to emerge in the 19th century, based on research into the nervous system and reflex.

Pressure sensors in the feet and hands are a part of the body's reflexive response that makes possible the "fight or flight" reaction to danger. Feet ready to flee and hands ready to fight communicate with the body's internal organs to make possible wither eventuality. The sudden adrenal surge that enables a person to lift a car is an example of this reaction. Reflexology taps into this reflex network, providing an exercise of pressure sensors and thus the internal organs to which they are inextricably tied."*

When travelling in China a few years ago, I treated myself to a foot massage nearly every day.

Although certain pressure points feel very tender or even sore, foot massage’s health benefits have long been known. Post massage, I myself feel a lot more relaxed, and at the same time also more energetic.

I decided to have foot reflexology today.

The usual reflexology points made me jump and cry out in pain: spleen, liver and kidney.

The pressure point that corresponds to the head (the big toe) did not hurt at all.

This leads me to think that the pain is related to my internal organs such as the gut, liver or kidney, as opposed to being caused by something in the head itself, such as an inflamed blood vessel.

Day 17 - Chinese Herbal Medicine

"Chinese Herbal Medicine (CHM) therapy involves the use of natural plants, minerals and even some small amount of animals, each having its own specific characteristics and particular medical use to treat diseases. These rectify the over-activity or under-activity of yin and yang, and help restore the body to its normal physiological functions.
Like other Chinese Medicine disciplines, Chinese herbal medicine is based on the principle that good health springs from maintaining a harmonious balance of energy, yin and yang, both inside and outside of the body. If this balance is lost, either within ourselves or in our environment, disease may develop.

Treatment with Chinese herbs involves the use of several hundred commonly used ingredients, including roots, stems, flowers, leaves and barks as well as other non-plant materials. Pre-prepared combinations of herbs in the form of pills, powder capsules and creams (for external use) are also used.

Combinations of these herbs, often using formulae designed and used for over 2000 years, are matched to the individual's needs, based on the pattern of symptoms presented to the practitioner."*


The Chinese doctor did not speak English; a colleague of hers, a Chinese lady, translated for us.

During my consultation, the doctor looked at my tongue and took my pulse at both wrists.

She suggested there were problems with my liver and kidney and advised taking a number of supplements and herbs to help detoxify, thereby alleviating the pain and eventually ridding my body of my miserable headache.

I have to take the supplements daily for the next six weeks.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Day 16 - Traditional Chinese Medicine

"Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is one of the world's oldest medical systems still widely practised today. It is a unique and independent medical system which originated from China and developed down through the centuries imbued with the spirit of Chinese civilisation and culture.

Chinese Medicine was established through centuries of trial and error processes, taking a very long time from the beginning of the practice of Chinese Medicine to the establishment of a complete theory.

Through the Silk Road and other cultural exchanges, Chinese Medicine had been exported to Europe and other continents hundreds and thousands of years ago, being practiced in more than 100 countries around the world, and influencing the development of many other herbal medicines in regions outside Asia.

Traditional Chinese Medicine has a holistic approach to diagnosing, preventing and treating diseases by identifying patterns and then applying the individual or combined therapies of acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, tuina - a therapeutic massage; and other techniques."*


I haven't seen much change at all since taking the homeopathic medicines for my sinuses. It must be something else.

Western medicine has so far proved unsuccessful; personally, I have a lot more faith in traditional herbal medicine and remedies.

China has a long tradition of preventative health care and, interestingly, doctors only used to get paid when their patients were well. If their patients were ill, they did not get paid.

This signified that the doctor was doing his job well and was thus rewarded accordingly.

In today’s Western society, doctors are revered as heroes and raised on pedestals as if they were gods. They are thus paid ‘accordingly’, whether they successfully treat a patient or not.

My faith in orthodox medicine is waning and I have decided to go and see a Chinese doctor tomorrow for another opinion on my headache.

Friday, 2 January 2009

Day 11 - Sinusitis

"The sinuses are air-filled cavities in the bones of the face that improve the resonance of the voice. The five pairs of sinuses are interconnected and also connect with the nasal passages.

Sinusitis occurs when any of the sinuses become inflamed - a condition that can be acute or chronic.

In acute sinusitis the symptoms may include:

- Headache
- Nasal congestion or obstruction
- Pain and tenderness in the face, especially when coughing or bending over
- Loss of taste and smell

Sinusitis is more common in adults. It rarely occurs in children under the age of five."*
* http://www.bbc.co.uk/health/conditions/sinusitis1.shtml

I am starting the new year with a headache.

The paracetamol didn’t do anything. And neither did the migraine tablets.

I am still in France. Today we went to visit a friend, Florence, who lives in a village nearby.

My nose is slightly congested. My head is pounding. And my boyfriend suggested snorting salt in warm water. I have tried this and it stings like mad.

Florence suggested my headache may well be related to sinusitis. And I am sure it is! I had a sinus operation a few years ago. It must be this.

We managed to find an open pharmacy. I purchased some homeopathic medicine, and have just popped the first two in my mouth. I am feeling optimistic.