Monday, September 17, 2012

Visiting the Doctor: Part ONE

It’s been seven years since I’ve seen a doctor about my hyperhidrosis. Think back to the early 2000s and the state of the internet. It was booming but not where it is today. There information available on hyperhidrosis was hard to come by. It was a full on battle to even locate a professional knowledgeable about my condition. But once I did, my life was changed through a quick surgery called ETS (Endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy). At a later time I fully intend on sharing this entire process in full in a future post.

Following the surgery, I kind of took what I could from this experience and moved on. I thought I depleted what collective medical knowledge was out there about my battle with the damp. It had always been so hard to find someone who even knew what hyperhidrosis was. So I assumed there was nothing more I could do. But recently, my perspective has changed. Creating this blog and engaging with the many others suffering with my same issues inspired me to return to the doctor’s office and continue my hunt for answers. So, thank you readers and followers!

DISCLAIMER: The following post serves as a sort of best practices guide for finding a doctor that can help you with hyperhidrosis. It is a review of my personal experience and is in no way medical advice for everyone. Please see your own doctor to make your own informed decisions.

Finding a Doctor
My first action was visiting SweatHelp.org and researched doctors in my area. I made sure to avoid plastic surgeons and thorasic surgeons. I avoided them because I wasn't confident they would be knowledgeable in other remedies aside from surgery or Botox. I was afraid they would immediately try to push one solution. Instead, I opted for a dermatologist. From there I checked to make sure they were covered under my insurance. I also searched their name to see if there were any positive or negative reviews. One did come back with terrible reviews on Yelp for customer service. You also have the right to call and inquire with the doctor if they're the right option for you. Save your time and money by doing your research.

Prepping for the Appointment
I took a bit of time to think about what I wanted to say and accomplish. I refreshed myself on my medical history. There is no such thing as Too Much Information. I recommend writing down what you want to ask and bring it in with you so you feel confident when you leave.

It's common to get nervous in front of a doctor. My mom, a nurse, refers to this as "White Coat Syndrome." She always encourages me to talk things through with her first before seeing a doctor. Thanks, Mom!

The Appointment
The doctor was very professional and I felt comfortable discussing hyperhidrosis. It's funny how hard it is for me to say the "H" word out loud. I could feel my emotions trying to take over. I'm shocked I didn't break down and cry like I've done before with doctors. When you go to extreme efforts to hide something it's painstaking to talk about it. I was able to pull it together knowing I was in a safe space.

The doctor was concerned to hear I had ETS surgery (again, I will post about this) as treating compensation sweating is a little harder. The options he presented were oral medication and Botox. That said, he had never prescribed a patient oral medication before. So he referred me to an internist to explore oral medication further. Although disappointed he wasn't more knowledgeable about medication like Robinal /Glycopyrrolate, I was very relieved he offered to seek a second opinion. Looking back on my decision to have ETS surgery I feel it was a decision made hastily. The surgeon who performed the ETS surgery did not help me weigh all my options nor did he encourage me to. I don't want to get caught making another swift decision I will regret later. That’s why it’s so important that you do research so you can be your own advocate.

Cost of Feeling Normal
Thrilled that I had options I was quickly deflated when I was told the cost of treatment. This dermatologist is charging $150 to deal with the paperwork associated with Botox treatment for hyperhidrosis—just the paperwork! It takes hours of paperwork to petition on behalf of a patient to have Botox covered by insurance. I value his time and understand the fee, but I ask the insurance companies, "Why must I fight to be treated?!" Have we not come a long way with treatment for hyperhidrosis? It seems rather archaic. A sad reflection on the state of healthcare and my finances in my opinion.

When I found out I have to pay my doctor $150
to fill out paperwork.
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Living in Los Angeles I live a fun lifestyle but not an extravagant one. Cost of living and general upkeep to feel normal is horrendous. At the age of 26 I have a pitiful savings living pay check to pay check. I just don't know if I can afford Botox treatments. I make a decent salary and I'm insured. I don't understand why what seems like basic care feels so out of reach. I'll refrain from going on a tirade. This is where adulthood can suck it.

Next Steps
I am very excited to the see the internist. Per Wikipedia, "Internal medicine is the medical specialty dealing with the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of adult diseases." This doctor will hopefully give a global view to my health. I will be ready to spill my guts on my medical history. I'm particularly interested to hear how my endocrine system (think hormones) has been affected by hyperhidrosis. Are they linked? I don't know but I'll find out.

I'll continue to keep you updated on this journey. Journey? Mountain climb? Crawl through mud? I think I've found a new calling as hyperhidrosis healthcare activist. Here me roar more on this later.