Monday, November 28, 2011

Changing Vision with Fibromyalgia

The last time I had my vision exam, I got a new contact lens prescription and a new, light-framed set of glasses - after two failed trials at varying prescriptions.  It took several weeks, two pairs of trial contact lenses, and a pair of completed glasses before I realized that the originally ordered prescriptions were not going to work well for me.  Am I a freak?  I don't know, for sure, but here's what I do know...

I get my vision checked every year, at least, because I am near-sighted (myopic) and need to see clearly to drive, use a computer, watch television, or see things in general.  I've been myopic since early high school.  My vision is not awful, but the awful part is that it's inconsistent from day to day, or even hour to hour.  During the past few days, I've noticed that my vision is uncomfortable while working on the computer in the mornings, after I install my contact lenses or put my glasses on.  It feels distractingly off right now, as I am trying to focus on my computer screen while writing this post, even though morning hours are long gone for the day.

I usually opt for the contact lenses vs. glasses on any given day, because I prefer to have nothing on my face (pressure can cause headaches and skin irritation for me, thus the ultra lightweight glasses I paid extra for).  I also prefer the fully focused field of vision that I get with contacts.  Glasses have gotten smaller over the years and I find that I have to move my head more to look around when I have glasses on, because I can't focus on the edges very well, like when I descend stairs and look down at my feet.  (For those of use with Fibromyalgia or other chronic pain or fragility issues, being careful on the stairs is no joke!)  It can be a bit more of a bother, but I still wanted an updated set of spectacles for days when my eyes don't want contact lenses in them, or if I want to rest my eyes or read or do close up work that doesn't require correction.

I know that my vision, though imperfect, was very stable before I was rear-ended and sustained the concussion that seems to have developed into myofascial pain and fibromyalgia within a year and a half.  The first odd thing that happened with my vision right after the concussion was that my myopia improved by a whole number!  I found out when my vision was so awful with my existing contact lenses on that I went to see the eye doctor.  The optometrist that had been treating me for a decade was rather surprised to see this change, as even he hadn't seen anything like it in his career.  He did, however, offer the hypothesis that the muscles around my eyes were changing the shape of my eyes, thus my vision, due to the trauma.  This would also explain the pain I was having in my eyes when simply looking up or in any direction with my eyes.  (The pain is much better now, but it seems the vision is still changing at will.)

I take a muscle relaxant at least twice a day, every day, to try to help combat the constant myofascial pain, muscle tension, and spasms that occur in my entire body.  For whatever reasons, my muscles may feel better or worse at any given time, so I assume that they can be changing my vision just as unpredictably and that is what I'm experiencing.

However, there are other considerations, such as:
  • the medications I take and any visual side effects they may be causing (I distinctly remember having an episode of double vision while on Lyrica, and that was just with one eye), 
  • migraines (I get those crazy auras sometimes and they really mess with my vision), 
  • that concussion I had in 2006 and possible long-term effects that may be affecting the vision portion of my brain (among other areas), 
  • the sleep dysfunction that comes with fibromyalgia and its own visual effects, 
  • the intensity and "flavor" of pain I may be having at any given moment (which can cause tension to escalate while the stress response in the body increases involuntarily), 
  • any other physical or emotional stress I may be experiencing (stress response), and
  • my age (I'm pushing 40).

I have learned to expect that my body will act up in odd ways without my permission or without warning.  This is just one of those things that I have had to accept: sometimes I can see fine, other times I feel like I'm wearing someone else's contacts or glasses and struggle to do certain things.

Are any other fibromites out there dealing with visual changes like mine?  Please comment.  I'd like to know if this symptom is as rare as my optometrist would have me believe.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Losing Weight with Calorie Count and Calorie Camp

Fed up with my tight pants and unflattering photos like this one,
Me and my gut on last July's Beercation

I decided to get back on my Calorie Count account a few weeks ago to keep track of what I'm eating.  I thought having a food log would also come in handy in doing detective work for my recent IBS symptoms, especially since I've been learning about FODMAPs in foods and which ones may be affecting me.

I discovered there is a Calorie Count mobile application available, which is handy for logging foods on the go.  After logging a suggestion via the mobile app to request a sharing feature on the app, I received a developer reply from the site about a beta version of the non-mobile site, called "Calorie Camp" and was given a link to get on and start using it and testing.  It's a way to share a day's report of foods and activities with others on the site (your buddies).  We support each other with comments and earn badges for doing things right.  I like it a lot!  Until now, I've basically been going it alone, with the exception of letting Don know about my goals.  Having a peanut gallery of people cheering me on online seems to make a difference for me.

I've been on and off Calorie Count for years since discovering it and creating my account, but it's always been a bit of a chore to count calories.  I would lose a little, then wing it, then go "oh yeah, Calorie Count" and get back on again.  With Calorie Camp, I actually find that I want to log, share, and comment with my buddies online.  I want to earn those dumb little badges.  I also like seeing my nutritional analysis (it's very detailed) and striving to choose healthier foods based on the nutrients I seem to lack.  Most of all, I really like the fact that being aware of what I put into my mouth has caused me to maintain a proper level of calories (on average) to actually lose a couple pounds since I've started up again recently.  I want to weigh myself!

This is my favorite thing to look at on the entire site - my own, personal Weight Log graph:
Keep in mind that this graph represent a whole year's worth of time, so the net loss over a year is not too impressive to most people (less than 10 lbs thus far), but I just love the slope anyway.  It's encouraging and empowering.  I made this happen!

That top weight pushing 160 on the left scared me into resetting my Calorie Count goals again last year.  I set things up and left my goals intact for many months while kind of being cognizant of my need to shed some weight but not really logging regularly.  Then, last July, I went on Beercation in Wisconsin with my husband and apparently overindulged quite a bit over that week or so.  (See that double spike over Jul 2011?)  I had a great time, but I came back looking kind of like a potato sack.  (See first photo above.)

The plateau at the bottom right of that little mountain is about where I started up on Calorie Camp beta.  Except for the final upturn from today's weigh-in (I went to a party last weekend and nibbled a bit too much), I've been losing weight, nice and slow, the way I'm supposed to.  The green, dashed line is the trend line, which ignores the minor blips in the blue line of my actual weigh-in actual data.  I'm hoping I can continue with the downward slope.  I have a long way to go yet, but at least it's downhill now and the slope is getting steeper.

If you're already on Calorie Count or want to sign up for your own account, feel free to be my buddy.  If you're interested in beta testing Calorie Camp, especially if you like giving technical feedback, Igor is the guy you want to contact.  Here is the forum about Calorie Camp.

One last thing.  My IBS flare up has finally calmed down in the past few days.  I'm hoping the FODMAP research and diligence has been a factor.  It's a theory that finally makes sense to me and seems to be making a positive impact on how I feel.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Best Bra for Preventing Pressure Hives

In the last several years, my body has become sensitive in myriad ways.  Among the latest is the fact that my skin becomes itchy and breaks out in hives if pressure is applied for more than a few minutes in a single area.  This is called Delayed Pressure Urticaria or DPU.

I first noticed this new problem after kneeling in the garden to weed out the non-natives one afternoon.  I was wearing cushioned kneepads the entire time, but the next day, while attempting to kneel down indoors to do something quick, I noticed pain and sensitivity on my knees.  When I looked, I saw that they were still marked with red circles on the pressure points.  Touching the circles confirmed they were ultra-sensitive, even a full day after the kneeling activity. 

As you can imagine, any tight clothing will leave similarly painful, red areas on my skin for hours after removing it.  I have had to stop wearing any uncomfortable shoes I owned after an incident at a party where I wore my shoes for a couple hours, then had to do some walking (a couple blocks to a train station) to get back home.  I could not effectively walk without excruciating pain for the entire next day and my feet were still very tender for days afterwards - a whole week, if I remember correctly.  They felt like they'd been burned in fire.  All my high heels are either gone or on their way out while I try to replace them with Dansko or comparably (expensive) quality shoes for problem feet like mine.  Even socks with too tight a top elastic band are out for me.  I've seen argyle patterns on my legs after a day's wearing.  It's a bit ridiculous, actually.  I take my clothes off and I look almost like I've still got clothes on, per the marks on my body that remain for hours.

Another problem with daily living is wearing a bra.  I'm rather small-breasted anyway but because of the discomfort, I have been opting for tank tops this summer or loose tops to try to get away with skipping the painful boobie conTRAPtionS, but there have been times when I just couldn't go without.  Time and time again, I found myself cursing the thing by evening time, throwing it in anger only too late after the itchy hives had made their appearance.  The worst areas seemed to be the side straps, though I was marked with red lines just about everywhere the bra touched my skin.

Recently, a certain brand of bra was recommended to me and I became interested in finding something better.  I tried that brand and wasn't too impressed, but fortunately for me, I had decided to check it out at the mall and made the most of my trip by stopping into another store to look around.  I was also thinking it was time to re-evaluate my size, since I'd been in the same size for over a decade now, and the DPU made me wonder if it was unnecessarily tight on me anyway.

I took a careful look around at about 30 different styles of bras at the mall's JCPenney department store, looking mainly for inside stitching and fabric that might be smoother and more comfortable than most bras.  By some miracle, I had actually found what I was looking for!  There was a display of colorful bras by Maidenform called "Pressure Free" that had a cool, smooth fabric specifically on the side straps and no zigzag stitching on the inside to irritate me.  I grabbed a few sizes and tried them on, plus a few other brands I'd seen, just in case they felt better than I expected.

The winner, hands down was this Maidenform bra and I would recommend it to anyone having a hard time with bras irritating her skin.  (Turns out a slightly larger size fit me more comfortably, too.)  They were not cheap at $35 each, but JCP always has sales and this time they had a buy-one-get-one-half-off sale, plus I had a discount coupon for $10 off my purchase to help me offset the cost.  I committed to two in my new size and gave them the full test drive for a few days before deciding whether or not to "marry" this brand.

After several wearings, my only irritation at the end of a full day's work was the rectangular little patch on the back hook closure part.  By habit, I was using the loosest hook option and something was just itching and scratching my skin on my back.  I was sad that this might be as good as it gets for me, but I tried the next set of hooks and that problem was completely cured so I'm all set and thrilled to pieces!  Now I can wear bras again and be a proper lady.  Okay, well at least I can wear bras.  ;)

Now that I knew my new size and had done a confident test drive, I shopped in earnest for a good deal on this same bra so I could replace my old collection.  I settled on the online store called "Bare Necessities" and used my Ebates account to get a percentage back in cash (I love Ebates!) and bought enough to get free shipping.

One more thing: The colors are a little non-standard, but they do have beige, white, red (with some pinkish trim for some reason), navy (sorry, no black) and a black/gray animal print.  Don't know why they decided on this set of colors but they could have done worse, I suppose.  Perhaps if they sell better, they might add more colors to the selection.

I sure hope this helps someone out there.   Feel free to let me know how this works out for you.  I'd love some good news.

P.S.  I'm in no way connected to any of these brands or profit from any mention of them except that I have an Ebates account and wouldn't mind a referral bonus.  However, if you don't use my link, I'll still be happy if you find a bra that helps you as much as it helps me.  My advice is free because I care about objectivity.  That's why I don't advertise on my blog.