Medical Advice from Dr. Google

medical advice

I have had this unexplained tingling in my left fingers every night for some time. So in hopes of finding quick answers, I consulted Dr. Google.

This is what I found:

“Tingling hands, feet, or both is an extremely common and bothersome symptom.”

No kidding! It’s on my left side, my heart attack side! At 54, you can’t take ANY symptoms lightly. #middleageblows

“Such tingling can sometimes be benign and temporary.”

Let’s hope so.

“For example, it could result from pressure on nerves when your arm is crooked under your head as you fall asleep.”

Who could fall asleep this way? Your arm crooked under your head? As a recovering insomniac, I first lie on my back then turn over, putting my head under the pillow. Then push it up to act as sort of a ‘pillow hat’- a floppy, mushy, down-filled chapeau on top of my head. Only then can I sleep. This crooked arm example does not apply to me. #irrelevant

“Or it could be from pressure on nerves when you cross your legs too long.”

Not really sure. But come to think of it, my legs are crossed now, and now my left TOES are tingling. But only my left. Again, the heart attack side. Great.

“In either case, the “pins and needles” effect — which is usually painless — is soon relieved by removing the pressure that caused it.”

My “pins and needles” tingling – which is not painless – happens at night when I am lying on my back, but my head is propped up, sort of crooked up at a 45 degree angle. I assume this position nightly when watching Netflix with my husband. The tingling seems to dissipate when I stand. But to continue our nightly TV ritual sans tingling, I would have to stand on, or at the foot of the bed. This would get tiring.

“In many cases, however, tingling in the hands, feet, or both can be severe, episodic, or chronic.”

I thought so, i.e. severe! It is! I could run down to the doc-in-the-box, but I would probably only see the kind of docs who have unfamiliar initials after their names like N.P. (Nice Person? Nut Patrol?) P.A. (Pretty Aunt? Possible Atheist?) #doesn’tinspireconfidence

“It also can accompany other symptoms. Such as pain, itching, numbness, and muscle wasting.”

Itching. Check. Numbness. Check. But muscle wasting? What in God’s name is that? Does this not happen from the moment we’re born, as we’re all essentially in a state of decay until death? Or does this mean that “waste” is expelled (shat?) from my muscles? This is so confusing.

“In such cases, tingling may be a sign of nerve damage, which can result from causes as varied as traumatic injuries or repetitive stress injuries, bacterial or viral infections, toxic exposures, and systemic diseases such as diabetes.”

Okay, this litany is terrifying. Let me unpack these:

Traumatic/Repetitive Stress Injuries – Typing? Shampooing? Tying my shoes? Maybe it’s my finger weight lifting!  It helps strengthen my sad, arthritic fingers while muddling through hand-stretching impossible octaves by Chopin. It’s a Japanese technique that involves very small velveteen drawstring bags (kinda like mouse knapsacks) which hold fishing weights and…oh never mind.

Bacterial – I keep hand sanitizer in my purse and car, and use religiously after every handshake, handling of non-residential doorknobs and using public restrooms. Plus, I’m on antibiotics now for a mysterious left lower back burning/stinging pain that could be my kidney. I think I’m covered.

Viral Infections – Covered above. Sort of. But we all know that antibiotics can’t cure viral infections. So not covered.

Toxic Exposures – I think this is everywhere in our post-modern world. This means I can never leave my house to get this tingling checked out. Being a shut-in is probably underrated.

Systemic Diseases Such as Diabetes – My dad had diabetes and his toes tingled. He also had heart problems and a bypass. There is said to be inherited physical conditions through DNA. I can’t think about this anymore. My mind hurts. #researchbrainpain  

“Such nerve damage is known as peripheral neuropathy because it affects nerves distant from the brain and spinal cord, often in the hands and feet. There are more than 100 different types of peripheral neuropathy.”

Yep. Neuropathy that is the word my dad used. He said he might have to get his big toe amputated. I can’t lose a toe! There go all my cute strappy sandals! I’d have to wear special shoes! #prostheticsinmyfuture

And brain? Spinal cord? 100 different types??? I’m starting to feel sick to my stomach. Now the MIDDLE of my back is hurting. My palms are sweating. Where is my husband and how long does it take to take out the trash?

“Over time, peripheral neuropathy can worsen, resulting in decreased mobility and even disability. More than 20 million Americans, most of them older adults, are estimated to have peripheral neuropathy.”

Now I am feeling really, REALLY sick! Decreased mobility. Check. Can’t do jazzercise any more. Older adults. I don’t FEEL old. I can still do a round house kick! What bottomless trash can did my husband vanish into? Hope he didn’t pass out from his low-blood sugar!

“It’s important to seek prompt medical evaluation for any persistent tingling in your hands, feet, or both. The earlier the underlying cause of your tingling is identified and brought under control, the less likely you are to suffer potentially lifelong consequences.”

This is a terrible article. Dr. Google, you suck!

Now my teeth hurt from clenching my jaws and the tingling, which is getting worse, has migrated to my right fingers and toes. I’m exhausted and want to lie down, but if I do, it will trigger the tingling, start the cycle all over again, then perhaps move through my mid-section and loins, and infect other organs in my body-organs deep inside my body!

I’ll just stand here, lean against the wall indefinitely until my husband is rescued by the neighborhood junkyard dog or Lassie from the well, and helps me figure out how to deal with the ringing in my ears that has just started.

Signing off. Shutting down. Assume the worst.

Lisa Johnson Mitchell

About Lisa Johnson Mitchell

Lisa Johnson Mitchell is a 25-year veteran of the ad world in New York and Dallas. She wrote/directed a piece for SNL alum, Melanie Hutsell that was performed during Jill Soloway’s “Sit ‘N Spin” in the HBO Workspace in LA. Her stories have appeared in Red Fez, Deep South Magazine and Flash Fiction Magazine. She is a graduate of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, and is an MFA candidate at the Bennington Writing Seminars in Vermont.

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