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A picture is worth a thousand doctor's appointments

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 16 June 2014, 11:38


Fig.1 Lichen Planus

Since I can remember, perhaps age 7 or 8, I have suffered from a toothache-like or earache-like intermittent pain in the side of my face, sometimes leading to stomach cramps and nausea. Every decade over the last four I go through a round of tests which last week, completing a series of discoveries and insights that have spiralled to this conclusion - I am diagnosed as getting 'Lichen Planus'. I even had on my phone a list of some 23 allergic triggers: foods, drinks, airborne pollutants. It ties in with both asthma and rhinitis and weak or faulty, localised, response of my immune system.

I'm not the doctor, but it is the case, and perhaps increasingly should be for all of us, that we not only hold our personal medical records, but take a professional-like interest in their contents, not to burden the Health System, but to aid in the pinpointing of problems, to help prevention alongside medication. 

It took a chance visit to the dentist the day after a trip to the GP for prescription painkillers. And a photograph, not this one, but to 'capture' what was going on various efforts to photograph the inside of my mouth meant that I could show the GP what was going on during a flare up.

How many ailments could and now are rapidly diagnosed in this way? 

Meanwhile, self-discipline requires that, amongst other things, I avoid:

  • certain toothpastes and mouthwashes
  • alcohol (bear, wine, cider ... purer spirits might be ok)
  • chocolate
  • tomatoes
  • certain refined flours
  • apples
  • cumin seeds
  • spicy chinese and indian foods
  • chocolate digestive biscuits
  • cheap pasties
  • certain perfumes, bleaches and paints ... the car screenwash set's my face off sad

Actually I need to become a fish sad 

Meanwhile, I carelessly tried to register for a module ten minutes before registration closed and appear to have missed it. Intermediate French will have to wait.

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Cannot believe that it took so long to diagnose such a common condition. Two years ago I thought I'd bitten the side of my mouth and tongue and caused ulcers but it turns out I have it too. The dental hygienist got the dentist to refer me to the maxiofacial unit straight away (it can in rare cases turn cancerous)  Now I have six monthly check ups there plus a foul steroid based cream to apply when I have flare ups - usually when I am run down or stressed or have over indulged in certain foods.  I found that the period when I was taking loads of steroids was the best my mouth had been for ages.  Hope they find a solution for you too.  

Taking ownership of your health is a good thing but a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.  I self diagnosed and told the doctors I had asthma and that was how I was labelled until they did the CT scan a year later.  I felt if I'd kept my mouth shut they may have looked harder for the alternatives. I also felt the time I most needed to be on top of the information was when I was too ill to take it on board or argue my corner. 

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It has been an extraordinary journey over the decades complicated because I have both chronic asthma and chronic rhinitis, so the lichen planus was hidden behind these two. Asthma diagnosed eventually and only in my late teens, with the rhinitis only four or five years ago. It took a visit to the dentist and a new dentist, previous one had retired. The dental visit was far more like a visit to the 'Mouth Doctor' and unlike my previous dentist there was no an immediate desire to start doing stuff: hygenial work, replacing old fillings etc:

Prevention has to be key. There are foods that I have always know were a problem or could be a problem - so no more Cadbury's Chocolate Digestives, or Gingster's pasties - or tomato ketchup.