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Matt, Undiagnosed Bio

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Hello, my name is Matt. I am extremely desperate for answers as I simply do not want to live anymore in this condition. I have been suffering for years with something that I strongly believe was caused by continued use of inhaled corticosteroids (Azmacort asthma inhaler, and Fluticasone nose spray). I used these inhalers for about twenty years. 2 puffs of Azmacort every morning and every night for over 20 years.

From 1996 to 2007, I began to develop several health problems. These included severe neck pain, eye twitching, tremor, heartburn, aching teeth, vertigo attacks, peeling skin from my lips and inside my cheeks, a lower eyelid “cyst” that I had removed, an episode of thrush, depression, daily headaches, insomnia, and low energy.

In 2007, I took my inhalers and threw them out. I was trying to figure out if the inhalers were contributing to my health problems. Within months of discontinuing the use of the inhalers, a few of my symptoms went away, but most of them got worse and I developed more worsening problems- brain fog, crawling skin, constant eye pressure, a feeling of sand in my eyes under my eyelids, constant crying, strange pulling feelings in my eyes, cheeks forehead and scalp, muscle atrophy in my neck, face, and shoulders, withdrawl/hangover feelings, concentration/memory problems, suicidal tendencies.

I always assumed that the problems were caused by the inhalers and figured they would subside with time, and I still think that they may. I have always been optimistic for some reason that I am getting better, but the symptoms have still not gone away. It has been ten years now since I instantly quit the corticosteroids and like I said earlier, I am getting desperate. I have talked to dozens of doctors over the past ten years, and they ALL dismiss the idea that the inhalers caused my problem.

In fact, since my symptoms are all invisible, my MRIs are unremarkable, and my blood work is always in range, most of my doctors I am pretty sure think that I am crazy. Funny thing about that is that I have no reason to make up symptoms that I am suffering with. I have already distanced myself from all of my family and friends. I do not tell any of them how much I suffer, because it is so humiliating when people say that I am depressed, or need rest, or should cut down on stress.

In other words, nobody believes that I am truly sick. I am sure that if I killed myself tomorrow because of the pain, people would say that I was a lost soul, or lonely. I have trouble being around other people because I always feel like I need to cry and decompress. I had to resign from my teaching position because of my insomnia and lack of ability to concentrate. It was the one last thing that I loved. I tried to hang on as long as I could, but I felt that the pressure to be at work and perform well daily was not benefiting my health and probably harming it.

Anyway, here is where I stand right now–


I do seen an endocronologist. I found out years ago that my cortisol levels and most other hormones other than my testosterone are normal (my testosterone level was at 100 for God knows how long). I was shocked when I found that out. I was sure that my cortisol would be through the roof, but here is the thing– I NEVER had any blood tests done while I was taking the corticosteroids. Only years after discontinuing them.

In my opinion, my cortisol levels were elevated (or depressed) while I was on the steroids. I believe that the inhalers poisoned my body. 99% of my symptoms are in and around my mouth, neck, throat, head and eyes (right where the spray was going). I believe that my cortisol levels are normal now because I am no longer taking the inhalers and my body is making the correct amount. What happens, however, to all of the cortisol that was building up in my body if this was indeed happening?

I believe that my symptoms post-inhaler are due to my body trying to get back to normal. But ten years is a long time. I was sure that I would be better by now but I really dont know how long it takes to recover from what I did to my body with those corticosteroids. After all, I used Azmacort shortly after its inception and beyond the time that it was discontinued in the US, when I was ordering it online from the UK. There probably are not many if any people that used that inhaler as diligently and for as long as I did. I have always been thin my whole life, so I cannot say that I ever had a ton of fat on my body that would indicate Cushing’s.

In the past several years though, I have noticed that I am losing mass in my neck, face, and shoulders. My face is becoming more angular. The spot between my shoulders where a camels hump would be is becoming more and more concave. It seems like this is kind of the opposite or reverse of Cushing’s. Could this be because my body is trying to recover and slowly melting away the fat deposits on my face and neck?

Again, I am extremely desperate for answers and help. I look forward to being a part of this forum and eager to find out if anybody else out there has had a similar experience to what I have been going through. I have researched Cushing’s and other diseases for years. One thing I have never been able to find online is how long does it take to recover from Cushing’s. If I did, indeed, have Cushing’s, it would have been building up for nearly 20 years. What kind of recovery would be involved with unknowingly having Cushing’s for that long? I really need to find out if it is possible that I could still be recovering after 10 years off of the corticosteroids. I still have some faith, but that faith is definitely waning.

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Surviving Cushing’s: Area woman hit by rare disease

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Gina Gregoire Helton is certain if she had a dollar for every time she has heard the word “rare,” she’d be a rich woman.

She has a lot to be thankful for. She’s been married to Sean, the love of her life, since 2011. She has a warm, gregarious family consisting of eight sisters, three brothers, over 30 nieces and nephews and two loving parents, Charles and Denise Gregoire of DeWitt.

But in April 2012, Helton started to experience disturbing symptoms. She had sudden-onset hip pain. A few months later, she had unexplained hair loss and breakage. Deep, red and purple stretch marks, also known as striae, started appearing on her skin.

They were painful and she credits them for essentially saving her life.

“They were the ‘red flag’ that something was definitely not right,” Helton says.

She went to see her doctor, Dr. Jennifer Bell at Genesis Health Group in DeWitt, who admitted she was stumped. Yet, based on the presence of the striae, Bell wanted to test one more thing – Helton’s cortisol levels.

Cortisol is a life-sustaining adrenal hormone that influences, regulates or modulates many of the changes that occur in the body in response to stress. Those changes include blood sugar (glucose) levels, fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism to maintain blood glucose; immune responses; and anti-inflammatory actions.

As it turned out, her levels were abnormally high. Bell referred her to a specialist in the endocrinology department at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC) in Iowa City. Cortisol levels fluctuate throughout the day, but further testing showed Helton’s levels consistently remained extremely elevated.

That was the first time she had ever heard of Cushing’s disease.

Helton had nearly every single symptom of the disease that affects less than 200,000 people in the United States.

In addition to hip and back pain, hair breakage and stretch marks, she suffered from moon face, frequent bruising, depression and anxiety, weight gain, frequent urination, high blood pressure and muscle atrophy.

“I was extremely relieved to have a diagnosis,” Helton says. “At the same time, I was scared as I started to learn more about Cushing’s disease and what it can do to your body. There are people dying from this because of improper diagnosis. I was blessed my doctor at UIHC was educated on the disease.”

Most individuals diagnosed with Cushing’s have a tumor on their pituitary or adrenal glands.

Helton’s tumor, however, was located on her lung. Fortunately, her doctor decided to scan that area of her body and discovered the tumor.

In November, Helton underwent surgery to remove the tumor in her chest. However, during the procedure, some microscopic-sized tissue was left behind. So, in January, she found herself in the operating room once again. However, in order to get rid of the remaining tissue, the surgeons’ only option was to remove Helton’s entire left lung.

The situation went from bad to worse when it was discovered the tumor was malignant. It was a very rare tumor called a carcinoid tumor. These tumors are slow-growing cancers that typically start in the lining of the digestive tract or lungs.

After they took her lung, doctors noticed the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes. Members of the oncology department recommended chemotherapy and radiation as treatment.

Because her particular condition is so rare, doctors cannot say definitively what Helton’s prognosis is. Living with only one lung, her physical activity is restricted. Yet, Helton is partaking in water exercise to help ease the pain in her hips and keep her muscles strong. While climbing the stairs is a major obstacle, she intends to participate in the next Fight for Air Climb in Des Moines sponsored by the American Lung Association.

It may take her longer to reach the top than most, but she has made it her goal to finish.

Helton also plans to become an advocate for the Cushing’s disease community. She has yet to meet anyone else in person who suffers from the condition, but has connected with hundreds of them through social media.

In particular, Helton has made contact with Dr. Karen Thames from Chicago. She has been diagnosed with Cushing’s and is working on a documentary called “The War to Survive Cushing’s Disease.”

Helton says the experience has dramatically changed her attitude and outlook on life. She no longer “sweats the small stuff” and her relationships with her loved ones have become stronger.

As for people who are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with Cushing’s, Helton encourages them to seek help.

Even if there are no immediate answers, don’t give up.

“If you are experiencing something with your body that doesn’t seem right, keep seeking help. There is a doctor out there somewhere that will help you. We all know our bodies and when something is wrong.

“My faith and relationship with God has grown tremendously. I count my blessings daily. That is the silver lining. My favorite quote is, ‘Everyone you meet may be fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.'”

via Surviving Cushing’s: Area woman hit by rare disease.

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