What’s Up? Minor Medical Maladies as we Age
As we age, ailments suddenly surface like ungainly weeds. Although we try to tamp down these non-life-threatening, sometimes odd, conditions and ailments with lotions, potions, OTC (over the counter) remedies, exercise, good eating and even Physical and Occupational Therapy, they pop up anyway, often out of the blue.
There might be a slight slippage in our gait or maybe we limp because of arthritis in our knees, shoulders or hips. We might ignore the pain, take Ibuprofen or rub on Voltaren or Arnica gel on the sore spots. Can't take the pain any longer? We see a specialist who might suggest certain prescription meds, PT or OT, steroid shots and if, as a last resort, surgery.
We may have sleep disorders such as apnea and need CPAP (breathing) machines or an implant. There are sleep strategies that we try and talked about in a two-part blog, June 15, 2018 and June 22, 2018.
Maybe, we suffer from restless leg syndrome, a weird sensation that causes an uncontrollable need to move our legs to relieve the discomfort. There are natural home remedies, exercises and prescription meds for this. Speaking of legs...Some of us incur Charlie horses in our legs, often in the middle of the night and wake up screaming from the pain.
Then there are the many foot issues--bunions, corns and plantar fasciitis (inflammation of a heel), all from the wear and tear on our aging feet especially those who walk everywhere. How about dry vaginas and dry eyes, mysterious rashes and pimples that require prescription ointments that can cost almost as much as a car payment?
Hands need tending, too. Arthritic hands might make it difficult to open jars, cabinets, drawers and the fridge. Can't have that so we go for hand therapy with a PT or OT to strengthen them for long-term use.
Teeth pose a minor and major problem as we age; our bite may change, gums recede, cold and hot foods and drinks bother us more.
This isn't an ailment but a condition...what about all the hairs that are not in the right place any longer? Women with chin hairs and faint mustaches. We pluck, shave, fill in our fading eyebrows with an eyebrow pencil or use that spray root cover-up on our hair when the gray comes through. As our hair thins, we try to disguise it with different styles, drugs such as Rogaine or some do stem cell hair replacement treatments, not covered by insurance and very pricy. And for men? How about those nose and ear hairs? Get rid of them NOW, please, and stop worrying that you no longer have hair on your legs or chest. We can't see that well anyway.
Our pelvic floors are sinking faster than the Titanic. You've seen those commercials where a woman runs to the bathroom every few minutes or lives in Depends or other disposable diapers. Is that you? There are exercises to mitigate this and, in severe cases, surgery might be needed. Getting help is smart especially if you live in New York City. It's hard to find a clean public rest room that's available; many are off-limits or disgusting. Yuck.
We can't see as well up close, as we've said. Margaret thought that a paper bag dragged by wind across the street, at a glance, seemed to be a wounded cat. Maybe she has cataracts? Not yet but the threat is looming. Many of her peers do. That requires eye surgery when they impair your vision. Perhaps dry eye is part of the problem.
We increase the type size in our word documents and on our kindle apps. It's always nice to be able to see what we read. And an article recently stated that almost all of us will need reading glasses by the time we're over age 40. There are other eye issues. Margaret recently had a calcium deposit, the size of a pinhead in her eye, which was quickly plucked. The doc said, "It just happens as we age." Music to our ears, assuming we can hear. Barbara keeps asking for the TV volume to be increased; same with many conversations. "Huh? What did you say?" We're so boring with our repetition but for now humor us.
Sometimes, however, we hear the tinkle of icicle-like bells or a ringing in our ears like crickets. Tinnitus. Perhaps a hearing aid is in order. But, OMG, the price, and it's out of pocket.
Suddenly, we can't reach the top of our kitchen cabinets. Why? We discover that we're shrinking. It's the big "O" osteoporosis. "How fun," a friend of Margaret's said facetiously. She's only 4 feet 10 inches and worries how much closer to the ground she can get. Soon she'll be a throw rug. Barbara has a hard time reaching up to unlatch the back "trunk" of her small SUV; soon she may need to bring outdoors her stepstool. But is it safe to stand atop it? And indoors she now needs one of her daughters' old kid stepstools that they used to reach the sink to wash hands and brush teeth. She needs it to climb atop her four-poster bed. And she's extra careful since her bad fall 5 ½ years ago.
Then there's minor forgetfulness issues. We start losing or misplacing keys, directions, our phones, books, reading glasses. A book you put down on the coffee table reappears in the refrigerator; a brand-new shirt in our closet evaporates, leaving only a hanger. Expensive sunglasses vanish just hours after we bought them. And did you take all your pills? You thought so, but maybe not. Better to invest in, yes, one of those old-person pill cases with the days of the week. It's TIME since we are old!!!!
We may spend an afternoon searching for any item, going through our dresser drawers, pockets, our closets or the clothes hamper. Is it the stress of more mundane anxieties? We might try to blame it on that. Should we start doing crossword puzzles, learn a new language, or master bridge to exercise our brains as experts suggests? Go for therapy-are we cracking up? We run to our computers and access Google to check symptoms. In fact, we are best buds with Google for all those names we can't remember, embarrassing we see someone who says "hi" and we wonder, do we know you?
If a rash, we bring up images online. Any one of the photos could be OUR rash. Will it spread? Is it fatal? Barbara has become good at catastrophizing, maybe from the TV dramas she loves. But wait a minute. What about all the fake and incorrect info and stats online? Maybe, it's just a little rash. And, as we've learned from reading all those websites, one's man's ailment is not another man's malady. Oh my.
Are we too engaged in analyzing the efficiency of drugs and medical procedures and determining cause and effect? We become obsessive; armchair experts. Yet, we also know it's important to take charge and nourish hope. Sometimes our strongest helper is our most unlikely self.
So, here is what we suggest if suddenly you can't open your hand all the way because of trigger finger, walk comfortably down the street for it causes blisters on your bunions, pain in your knees, or have a sudden itch or rash:
1. Talk to your friends. Chances are they've experienced the same or similar ailment, or they know someone who has. Find out what they did to resolve it. Get suggestions and referrals of possible remedies and medical practitioners. And always get a second opinion before you do any surgery. Margaret learned she had trigger finger because Barbara did. Yes, we like to share all, even illnesses and annoyances. A friend of Barbara's found she had sleep apnea after they went on a small vacation together and Barbara heard her snore. She suggested she check it out, and she did.
2. Talk to your doctor friends. Everybody needs one family member who is an M.D. and a good friend to consult. Don't abuse their smarts and apologize profusely.
3. It helps to read about the ailment but don't overdo it and become so compulsive that you are spending more time looking at info about your rash or bunion than taking care of it. Reading about it won't make it go away.
4. Buy an Apple watch or other device which will keep watch on your health. This mostly covers the more serious conditions such as strokes.
5. Take more naps, get more sleep, it's a great way to ward off some of these conditions or practice living with them. It's always easier if you can sleep through it. Hydrate and drink more water, not liquor or wine.
6. Read a good book or binge watch a good series and try to get your mind off your itchy arm or throbbing knee. And, surprisingly, walking helps alleviate arthritic pain.
7. Watch and listen to a Zoom or listen to a podcast for good information. Barbara signed up for a Zoom from the Smithsonian about cancer and another about Alzheimer's disease.
8. Invent an ailment app (A.I.) for your Smartphone that will catch your condition before it becomes serious. The app should talk to you about what's up. In turn, you can talk and complain ad nauseum to it about everything that bothers you and no one else wants to hear about.
9. Keep track of all your doctors for soon you will be adding specialists faster than the spread of a skin rash. Phone numbers, emails, office staff and butter them up. Be proactive and have regular checkups with your doctors, dentists and mental health professionals.
Each of us, in our own way is always looking for that perfect solution to take care of these odd conditions and ailments, many of which are annoying, in hopes for a return to normal. We just don't want them to become debilitating. So. you ask: What's normal? Good question and perhaps one you might be able to answer. We cannot.