Wednesday, May 22, 2013

My Weird Throat Issue

For the past year or so (year and a half?) I have had this weird throat issue. I got pretty sick with a sinus infection / head cold a while back, and the lymph nodes on the left side of my throat swelled up. Big. So big that I remember it hurt to yawn, or even open my mouth very far to take a bite of food. More swollen than I've ever had before in my life - and for someone who has had his tonsils & adenoids removed due to repeated infections, that's saying something.

Anyway, during the period of swelling, every once in a while the pressure on my throat triggered my gag reflex. Not enough to actually produce vomiting, but enough to make me dry heave. As I got better, the swelling went down and the aching pain of lymph nodes busting their seams went away - but that odd pressure sensation never went away, though it did dim for the most part. The odd thing is, the sensation sort of "flares" when my blood pressure goes - like if I go for a run, or if I get really stressed about stuff.

This has presented some issues for me over the past two semesters, as my stress levels pretty much peak in the 5-10 minutes before exams. My heart rate is pretty high, you know? So before each exam (and it has happened without fail, I will give a weird cough or three that is actually me covering up the retching / dry heave of that weird pressing sensation from inside my throat. The same thing happens when I'm stress-free but go for a run where I really push myself, or if I pedal hard on my bike.

I've gotten used to it for the most part, but it's very... uncomfortable. Even between "episodes," my throat never feels normal. There's a constant tension on the left side of my throat, sort of like the tightness that you feel in your throat when you're sad and trying not to cry. It's like that, only all the time, and only on the left side of my throat. It doesn't really register unless I think about it, which I started doing more and more over the past two weeks, until I finally mentioned it to my doctor at an appointment last week.

You see, I've made a discovery. If I press with moderate firmness (not enough to be painful) on the point where I feel that tension, it immediately triggers a gag reflex. Like a gag button - no joke. It feels terrible. My doctor's first thought was the same as mine - a thyroid issue. I wasn't too worried about this though, because we just learned the thyroid exam, and so my thyroid has been examined about 25 times in the past five months. He examined it and found nothing, so that was good. Our discussion about what to do went something like this:

Me: "So, does this sound like something you've seen before?"

Doctor: "Honestly, not at all. This is one of the weirder issues I've come across recently."

Me: "Do you have any idea what it could be?"

Doctor: "Not even the slightest. I'm going to have my office set up an appointment for you with an otolaryngologist - and ear, nose, and throat doctor."

Me: "All right, sounds good. Do you know when they might be able to get me in?"

Doctor: "My staff will call you to set up an appointment in about 6-9 days."

Today marked 7 days, and I got a call stating that the ENT they recommend just had a cancellation for tomorrow morning at 10:45am, so that's where I'll be. Hopefully he can figure out what it is, because now that I've been thinking about it more (I HOPE it's just because I've been thinking about it more), it seems to be bothering me more and more. It's like something's stuck on the left side of my throat - a lump that I can FEEL when I swallow - only nothing ever moves when I cough. Nothing gets dislodged. NOTHING - just some phantom thing that bugs me more when my heart rate goes up.

Yeah, it's weird. Here's hoping it's just some stretched out lymph node that worked its way toward my esophagus and is now pressing against the wall or something, bothering my swallows...

Any theories?
If you call it, I will publicly hail you as a genius.


Jill said...

I hope it's nothing serious, and it's a good thing that you are following through and getting it looked at.

Susan said...

Glad you're finally getting it checked out. Anxiously waiting to hear what the ENT says....

Michael said...

Could be a branchial cyst...

Anonymous said...

I know someone who had similar issues and ended up having a large chest mass displacing a bunch of stuff I his chest. If the reflux meds don't help, get a second opinion.

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