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Anxiety And Stress Masking Real Health Issues

Majority of my symptoms appeared within the last 2 years, but some have been with me for significantly longer. I have symptom free days, but more often than not, my days are consumed by fear and anxiety. I have an amazing life with an equally exciting future and I refuse to be consumed by my health every minute of every day any longer. I need answers.

My life is as stressful as any career driven, dedicated wife and mother, but admittedly, the last 3 years have been more challenging than the rest. I believe I am currently living in a state of anxiety due to the extended time spent living in a consistently “high stress” environment.

I believe some of my symptoms are due to this anxious state, but i’m not convinced they all are. I am concerned about ignoring a serious health problem by always attributing symptoms to anxiety I have acknowledged, but not dealt with seriously.

I have a history of visual problems with my left eye due to an injury caused detached retina. Years later, a macular hole and vitectomy in same eye. These visual challenges have confused things as it is difficult to determine which symptoms are truly neurological, psychological or visual.

The symptoms:

balance

 dizziness: this started happening in the last 2 years. It varies in severity anywhere from lightheadedness to not being able to walk straight and stumbling. It only ever lasts for a few seconds but can continue to occur over and over throughout the day.

 vertigo (?): this has only happened twice and both times only lasted a few seconds. I refer to it as vertigo because it is the sensation of movement without movement, but it doesn’t follow the normal description as it is not a spinning sensation. I feel an absolute up and down movement. The first time I honestly thought it was an earthquake, but I was the only one who felt it. It feels like someone picked up the world and shook it quickly. Both situations occurred out of nowhere – once at rest while watching tv and the second time in a move store picking out a movie.

Hearing

 muffled hearing: for years I have noticed I have difficulty hearing people in busy, loud environments and I find myself reading lips instead of actually hearing what they are saying. More often than not, I struggle with low, male voices.

 ringing in ears: since I was a child I have experienced ringing in my ears. It is not constant and it has not worsened over time. It occurs only for a few seconds and leaves. I am not able to identify if it is one ear or another.

Heart/chest

 chest pain / discomfort: I have experienced this for years. Never in one particular place or side - sometimes left, sometimes right, sometimes in the middle just under the breast, and sometimes in the back. Pain varies anywhere from a minor twinge to severe pain where I have seriously contemplated calling 911. The pain is never accompanied by pain down my arm or a feeling of suffocation.

 heart flutters: this has started in the last 2 years. Heart rate stays regular (average rate at rest is 64 – 68/minute) I feel “flutters” in my chest and/or throat. Sometimes just little “flutters” and sometimes it feels like my heart flips right over. They can occur during regular day to day activity, at rest or just as I drift off to sleep.

Sometimes these “flutters” are accompanied by difficulty swallowing and/or sweating, but not always. They are not attributed to any high stress situation and usually take me by surprise. They can occur once in a day or constantly throughout the day for many days.

 heart palpitations: this has started in the last 2 years. Racing, pounding heart beat felt in chest and throat followed by an anxiety attack and fear of heart attack. Palpitations can appear from high stress situations or out of nowhere.

 adrenaline rush: on several occasions I have felt a “pop” or a “burst” inside my chest followed by a “rush” of energy flow throughout my body. This sensation brings on severe anxiety and fear. Most occurrences happened in multiples. I have no idea if it is truly adrenaline, but it is the only way I can describe the feeling.

History of heart disease in family:
 my father’s father died at 64 from heart attack.
 my father has been diagnosed with severe heart disease with over 13 blockages that are untreatable.
 I was born with a heart murmur but doctors can no longer find a murmur.

Stomach

 nausea: this has just started in the last 2 years. I never vomit – just feel sick to my stomach whether i’ve eaten or not. Often use ginger root to assist. The nausea can accompany the other symptoms or can be the only symptom.

Visual disturbances

 ocular migraines: I have suffered from ocular migraines for years – self diagnosed. When I was much younger in my late teens, I experienced migraine headaches beginning with the migraine aura followed by the intense headache, light and sound sensitivity and nausea. In the last 7 to 8 years, I have only experienced the visual disturbance – the ocular migraine. It lasts approximately 40 mins and once it passes, I feel fine. Majority of the time it follows the exact same pattern and timing. I have kept complete food journals for months and cannot find any triggers other than stress. I take nothing for these.

Psychological

 panic attack – I have experienced only one known panic attack. It happened after the first vertigo episode. It lasted a couple of hours.

 anxiety attack – I believe I experience these regularly. I keep a journal to track my feelings while having anxiety. Most attacks are the same and consist of some or all of the following symptoms:
 heart flutters and flips
 nausea / butterflies
 sweating
 feeling stressed, tense and uptight about the anxiety attack
 fear of heart attack or dying
 difficulty swallowing – thick phlegm in throat
 rubbery legs
 headache

self diagnosis is I have a panic disorder, but I have not had that professionally diagnosed.

I have a fantastic doctor who I have seen for 17 years. I trust her. She has given me every test she can think of to rule out life threatening concerns:
 mri of brain – results were normal – ruled out ms and tumor
 complete hearing exam – results were better than average hearing
 eng – normal results
 ecg – normal results
 holter monitor worn for 24 hours – normal results
 complete blood work – normal results
 thyroid checked – normal results
 I have been seeing a psychologist for a year with my husband. He is excellent. I believe my mistake has been our visits have been focused on the stresses impacting our life and finding resolution rather than the impact the stress is having on me and learning how I can deal with it better.

I constantly have visual challenges adapting to the two different prescriptions as my right eye continues to worsen with time and my left does not due to an implanted lens. I believe my brain must struggle coping with the unequal visual changes as normal vision changes occur in both eyes at the same time. This may be the cause or at least contribute to my balance issues, but once again – self diagnosed.

I have turned to deep breathing and meditation exercises to attempt to control the anxiety. It seems to have eliminated a full blown attack but it does not resolve the attack.

I am seriously debating medication for anxiety but I don’t feel I have exhausted the possibility I may have a heart condition as well as anxiety. I believe the root of my anxiety comes from the flutters, chest pain and palpitations. I don’t want to treat one and mask the other.

I did not have any of the heart symptoms when I wore the holter. I did feel the lightheadedness, but not the flutters, chest pain or palpitations. I am considering spending the money and having an mri of my heart to rule out all heart conditions before medicating but don’t want to if it will not be conclusive.

I am begging for guidance and advice.
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replied January 25th, 2019
Thank you for asking at Ehealth forum!

I read your question and I understand your concern.
Your symptoms are consistent with anxiety disorder. You would need anxiolytic and psychotherapy sessions like CBT to overcome all these issues.
I hope it helps. Stay in touch with your healthcare provider for further guidance as our answers are just for education and counselling purposes and cannot be an alternative to actual visit to a doctor.
Take care
Khan
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