Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Phlegm Story

The dictionary defines phlegm as the thick viscous substance secreted by the mucous membranes of the respiratory passages, especially when produced in excessive or abnormal quantities.

Over the last year or so I have been producing excessive quantities, often causing me discomfort. It started with clearing the throat several times a day. Recently, it is often several times an hour. The situation has become much worse this fall, perhaps caused by allergies.

Normal phlegm is not an issue to me. What is a problem is the amount and thickness of phlegm generated recently. At times there is so much it causes constant coughing for an hour or more. Hot liquids (tea and water) with lemon help a little. Mucinex also helps. The key ingredient in Mucinex is Guaifenesin. It works by drawing water into the bronchi – the air passages branching into our lungs. The released water both thins the mucus and lubricates the airway, facilitating the removal of mucus from the chest by coughing, and making it easier to breathe.

But, at times, I still find myself locked in a battle to free the lungs of the thick stringy paste-like substance. During these moments, it is not uncommon to have sore ribs and a sore groin after hacking and coughing. It still amazes me how much phlegm can be discharged before feeling good again.

Initially, we assumed it was caused by ice cream. I quit eating it. Then I quit eating most dairy products. When I still had problems, we began to experiment with the elimination of other foods. My wife encouraged me to keep a food journal explaining what I ate, when and what was the result. The problem was that somethings didn’t add up. My wife then began reading the ingredients. One commonality in most everything I had problems with was soy (beans, flour, oil, etc.). It is amazing to me that most everything contains soy products of one kind or another.

So, the battle continues. Sometimes I win, but far too often I lose. As I remove more foods from my diet, the situation is becoming more manageable, but not resolved.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Giraffe with SBMA

I have a warped mind. This morning while doing my neck exercises, I wondered what it would be like for a giraffe to have weakened neck muscles like those of us living with Kennedy’s Disease. I know the thought isn’t logical, but it was a diversion.

In 2013, I wrote a post on dropping-headsyndrome. It is still a popular post today. I discussed some exercises in that post that I performed for several years to maintain neck and shoulder strength.

Today, my weakened shoulders and neck are a regular distraction. I wrote about the changein February of 2015. At first it was quite painful and the weakness pronounced. Later that spring the pain went away and I regained some of the strength back. Twenty months later I have learned to live with the issue, but it is a difficult one to accept. Exercisesdo help. My soft collar also helps. But, I feel the fatigue in the neck every day and some activities like eating at a table are an exercise in frustration and futility.

Fortunately, as with most symptoms of SBMA, some days are better than others. I continue to exercise these muscles every day with the belief the neck would be far worse if I didn’t. And, as with everything else that has declined, I compensate and find workarounds. Unfortunately, one of those workarounds was to rest my chin on my hand. I wrote about that in Pinky Pain(ulnar nerve entrapment). Now that I am aware of the problems it caused, I try to catch myself doing it.

Oh well, Kennedy’s Disease – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Pinky Pain

A couple of months ago I noticed a tingling in my right pinky finger. It wasn’t bad, but it seemed to become more noticeable throughout the day. The last week of so I noticed, at times, my finger became numb. Well, I tried several things to see if they would help, but I didn’t notice a difference. At first, I considered it another progression of Kennedy’s Disease. Yesterday, the ring finger went to sleep for an hour. That concerned me, so I did what every red-blooded American does. I Googled “Pinky finger pain.” Here is what I learned from OrthoInfo.

Ulnar nerve entrapment occurs when the ulnar nerve in the arm becomes compressed or irritated.

The ulnar nerve is one of the three main nerves in your arm. It travels from your neck down into your hand, and can be constricted in several places along the way, such as beneath the collarbone or at the wrist. The most common place for compression of the nerve is behind the inside part of the elbow. Ulnar nerve compression at the elbow is called "cubital tunnel syndrome."

Numbness and tingling in the hand and fingers are common symptoms of cubital tunnel syndrome. In most cases, symptoms can be managed with conservative treatments like changes in activities and bracing. If conservative methods do not improve your symptoms, or if the nerve compression is causing muscle weakness or damage in your hand, your doctor may recommend surgery.


Cubital tunnel syndrome can cause an aching pain on the inside of the elbow. Most of the symptoms, however, occur in your hand.
  •  Numbness and tingling in the ring finger and little finger are common symptoms of ulnar nerve entrapment. Often, these symptoms come and go. They happen more often when the elbow is bent, such as when driving or holding the phone. Some people wake up at night because their fingers are numb.
  •  The feeling of "falling asleep" in the ring finger and little finger, especially when your elbow is bent. In some cases, it may be harder to move your fingers in and out, or to manipulate objects.
  •  Weakening of the grip and difficulty with finger coordination (such as typing or playing an instrument) may occur. These symptoms are usually seen in more severe cases of nerve compression.
  •  If the nerve is very compressed or has been compressed for a long time, muscle wasting in the hand can occur. Once this happens, muscle wasting cannot be reversed. For this reason, it is important to see your doctor if symptoms are severe or if they are less severe but have been present for more than 6 weeks.

Home Remedies

There are many things you can do at home to help relieve symptoms. If your symptoms interfere with normal activities or last more than a few weeks, be sure to schedule an appointment with your doctor.
  •  Avoid activities that require you to keep your arm bent for long periods of time.
  •  If you use a computer frequently, make sure that your chair is not too low. Do not rest your elbow on the armrest.
  •  Avoid leaning on your elbow or putting pressure on the inside of your arm. For example, do not drive with your arm resting on the open window.
  •  Keep your elbow straight at night when you are sleeping. This can be done by wrapping a towel around your straight elbow or wearing an elbow pad backwards.

When I reviewed the facts with recent activities, here is what I surmised.
  •  With weaker neck muscles, there are times where I use my right arm as a rest for my head. This happens quite a bit when watching television.
  •  I have been writing several hours a day with my elbows constantly on the arm rest.
  •  My arms are hardly ever extended straight for more than a few minutes.

So, knowing this is a possibility, I am embarking on a program to see if I can correct the problem before it becomes more serious. 

Monday, October 3, 2016

A move in the right direction.

I found this Financial Reporter article (a portion of it is below) interesting. To me it shows some insurance companies are progressing in the recognition of Kennedy's Disease. The Royal London Mutual Insurance Society Limited, along with its subsidiaries, is the largest mutual insurer in the United Kingdom. Let's hope more companies will follow suite.

Royal London updates critical illness cover

Royal London has announced a number of enhancements to its critical illness cover.

The main change is to cancer cover - over 60 early stage cancers are now covered under nine definitions.

Royal London says the changes provide clarity for advisers and customers by removing a long list of specified cancers. ...

... In addition, some definitions have been updated or added. A new Parkinson definition now includes Parkinson plus syndromes that incorporates multiple system atrophy and progressive supranuclear palsy.

Motor neurone disease definition has also been updated to include Kennedy’s disease, which makes the definition ABI+.

Debbie Kennedy, Head of Protection at Royal London, said: “Medical advances mean that cancer is often being diagnosed and treated earlier. Therefore more people require support at the early stages following a cancer diagnosis. We’ve enhanced our critical illness cover to provide financial support and our Helping Hand provides emotional support whenever the customer needs extra help. Cancer was the top reason for critical illness claims last year and by covering over 60 early stage cancers Royal London is demonstrating its commitment to paying more claims and including conditions that matter and really do add value for our customers.”