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Ugh! Non-Specific Results

Posted Apr 06 2012 11:47pm
This is the story of my life -- non-specific symptoms, inconclusive results. Ugh!

MUSCLE BIOPSY RESULTS

I went to the neurologist this afternoon to get my muscle biopsy results. My results were slightly abnormal, but not abnormal enough to figure anything out. Here's an excerpt from the five page report my doctor gave me
There are scattered atrophic fibers, most of which are type 2 fibers. This tendency for type 2 fiber atrophy is non-specific and can be seen in chronic deconditioning, steroid use, or myopathy related to underlying endocrine disorders. Specifically there are no ragged red fibers, ragged blue fibers, and all the oxidative enzymatic reactions were normal thus no evidence of mitochondrial abnormalities is present. There is no evidence of denervation, reinnervation, abnormal deposits, inflammation or vasculitis.
Impression: Abnormal muscle biopsy. Tendency for type 2 fiber atrophy.
Basically, there is no obvious evidence of any major neuromuscular disease OR mitochondrial disease, but my results were still abnormal.

I asked the neurologist about the "chronic deconditioning" and she said she typically doesn't see this degree of atrophy in people my age. She said something about 80 year-old's, but I missed half of what she said because I was still processing my results. Maybe she was comparing my level of atrophy to that of an 80 year-old. I know I am not nearly as active as most people my age or as active as I used to be; however, I am not completely inactive because I still work full time and live and work in places with stairs that I have to take.

I asked how my results compared to other people with ME/CFS that she's seen, and I was surprised when she said that she doesn't usually perform muscle biopsies on people with this ME/CFS. She said decided to do the biopsy on me because she felt my particular medical history and symptoms were such that further testing were indicated.

I commented to the doctor that I seem to receive the label "non-specific" quite often and that I keep having things just slightly wrong with me but not wrong enough for them to explain much. For a moment, I expected the doctor to tell me that this was all she could do, and I would just have to live with these non-specific results. I also thought she'd blame my lack of exercise for all my symptoms.

Fortunately, the doctor did not respond in the way I expected. In fact, she surprised me with her support.

She said what we do know is that my results are not normal. Furthermore, my results are abnormal enough that she thinks it's worth pursuing additional testing on my biopsy tissue to check for other mitochondrial diseases. I can't tell you how good it feels to have a doctor take me seriously and be so supportive in my quest for answers!

My neurologist will be in touch with the mitochondrial disease expert I met with a while back to discuss what additional tests to do on my muscle sample.

In the meantime, my neurologist is starting me on a mitochondrial disease "treatment" to see how I do. She has prescribed 100 mg of Co-enzyme Q10 three times a day and 100 mg of riboflavin (vitamin B2) three times a day (these supplements are available over the counter). Coincidentally, I had micronutrient testing done several years ago and was found to be deficient in both CoQ10 and riboflavin. For some reason I stopped taking CoQ10 (I don't really even remember why), and I switched from B2 supplements to a general B-complex vitamin that contained B2.

I guess I'm going back on the CoQ10 and B2, but this time the doses will be higher than I took before. Here is an interesting link to some treatments and therapies often used for mitochondrial disease.

SLEEP STUDY RESULTS

I mentioned a few posts ago that I had a sleep study done. My sleep study was followed by a Mutiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT), which took up most of the day.

Several years ago my ME/CFS doctor suggested I get a sleep study because I was complaining of insomnia. To my surprise I was diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea and prescribed a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. I quickly stopped using the CPAP because it was noisy and kept me from sleeping rather then helping me sleep.

Because I am on a mission to look for ways to reduce my constant fatigue, I decided to get another sleep study so that I could get a new CPAP. I had my old results sent to my doctor. To my surprise, the sleep doctor I met with said that my old sleep study results seemed strange.

In fact, the five-year old document gives me the diagnosis of sleep apnea but also states that I had zero apnea incidences! What made the old sleep study results even more fishy was that they said my main complaint was excessive snoring and waking up gasping for breath. I have NEVER complained of this. What?! Had I been given a false diagnosis of sleep apnea just so they could sell me a CPAP?

The good sleep doctor suggested that I go ahead and have another sleep study done and also suggested I do an MSLT to check my daytime sleepiness. I should probably mention that I was open with my CFS/ME diagnosis from the start, but he still thought the sleep study and MSLT were options worth pursuing. I've been really lucky lately because the doctors I've seen have been aware of my CFS/ME diagnosis but still treated me with respect and didn't blow me off.

Here are the important notes from the two page sleep study report
The patient does not have obstructive sleep apnea syndrome.
When I got these results from the sleep study, I felt so mad at the old sleep study company. I will refrain from jumping on my soapbox about medical ethics for now.

The MSLT was unlike anything I'd ever done before. Basically, I spent the day at the sleep study facility and was given opportunities to take 15 minute naps every two hours. The mean part is that every time after I fell asleep, they'd wake me up. It was awful! When I nap, I usually sleep for hours...not minutes.

I had inconclusive results. Surprise, surprise! My results were abnormal, but not abnormal enough to mean much. Here are the important notes from the MSLT report
The results indicate some level daytime sleepiness but are not consistent with a diagnosis of narcolepsy.
My doctor labeled me with idiopathic hypersomnia -- meaning sleeping too much for unknown reasons.

At least my MSLT confirmed what I had always thought but never actually had any data to back up -- that I am often tired AND sleepy. "Tired" is more of a worn out feeling, while "sleepy" is the sensation of wanting to sleep.

The doctor asked if I wanted to try the medication Provigil (generic: modafinil ), which is used to treat daytime sleepiness. After doing some reading, I've found that modafinil is often prescribed to patients with MS to help their fatigue. There are also some patients with ME/CFS who use the medication. Here's a 2009 article by the CFIDS Association of America on Provigil. Note: Provigil's generic equivalent is now available in the US.

I have decided to try generic modafinil (which costs me just $10 for a month's supply, thanks to my insurance company) to see if it helps me feel any better. I have some reservations about taking the drug. It is not an amphetamine, but it does have stimulant properties. I will try my first dose this weekend. I'll be sure to report on how things go!

Time for bed.

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