Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Hypertension 5: Spitting Out Blood

As bad side effects go, a lot of sleeping ain’t the worst. There are worse things than being a zombie. For example, bleeding when you brush your teeth. I have mentioned this before, but it’s time for more detail.

One day I looked at the sink after brushing my teeth and saw nasty red splotches--blood. Not just a drop, not a smidge, more like litres. Yes, it was Sam Peckinpah time (see The Wild Bunch), Takashi Miike time (see Ichi the Killer), Robert Wise time (see Sound Of Music).

My doctor had mentioned that could be side effects to the medications, but "mention" was the operative (haha) word. The doctors are focused on getting your blood pressure down, not the side effects. For example, most people suffer weakness from Hypertension meds but the doctors rarely acknowledge that, and if they do, they often say you’ll get over it. Nurses say you don’t get over it—they are more care oriented. Patients say, what the heck’s happening to me?

Of course, not everyone suffers negative side effects. I understand the doctor’s point of view. Why go into detail about bad news that may never show up knocking on your front door? Ironically, I avoided reading the literature about possible side effects, to avoid poisoning my mind about the meds—I worried if I knew about the effects, my brain would develop them.

Tv ads for prescription medications must list the most likely side effects. Don’t you like those ads? A few moments about what the drug can do for you that’s good, following by a very rushed, hushed announcer’s voice telling you the unpleasant stuff. Dry mouth, headaches, stomach cramps, diarrhea, skin rashes, erections lasting more than four hours. We’ve all heard the list. Have you ever wondered by if a pregnant woman should not take the drug, anyone else should? What do those pharmaceutical Dr. Jeckylls have to Hyde?

My all time favourite tv prescription drug ad was for the “purple pill”. The ads never said what the “purple pill” did. Maybe the “purple pill” stopped side effects from other meds—no “explosive bowel movements”. No wonder the people in the ad were smiling.

Where were we?

After starting one of my prescription meds, I noticed that my gums were inflamed. They did not hurt, but just felt thick. And only on the top right hand side of my mouth. Then, one morning, after brushing my teeth, I spit out the toothpaste and blood came with it. Lots of blood, stark red against the pure white porcelain (when they shot black and white movies, such as Psycho, they used chocolate syrup instead of blood, it photographed better).

I spit again. More blood! Gobs of it, actually. Was the Tooth Fairy getting revenge because I did not floss?

The bleeding continued until I was taken off that prescription medication, but it recently returned after I was put on several new medications. It’s disturbing to spit up blood because you’re taking a medication that is helping you.

The road to health--who woulda thought?


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