Left You Feeling Cold(sore)

, , , , , | Healthy | April 3, 2018

(I’ve suffered from cold sores for about six years, and normally I only get two or three a year. Over the last six months, I have had them repeatedly, one after the other, so I decide to go to my doctor. I make an appointment, but I have to wait three weeks for it — this is a pretty normal wait time for an appointment in my area.)

Me: “I read on the NHS website that if cold sores get this bad and persistent, there’s a medication that can help to treat it.”

Doctor #1: “Why do you think you need a prescription medicine? That’s pretty drastic.”

Me: “I’ve had non-stop cold sores for six months, and that isn’t normal. The creams from the pharmacy aren’t working.”

Doctor #1: “Yes, but lots of things cause cold sores. Sunlight, poor diet, being on your period.”

Me: “Well, I haven’t been on my period for six straight months! My diet hasn’t changed, and it’s winter, so I haven’t been in the sun.”

Doctor #1: “It could be a response to an infection. I’ll send you for a blood test, but I don’t want to give you tablets for something so minor.”

(It takes a week to get the paperwork for the blood test — it has to be done at the hospital — a week for me to be able to get my blood tested, and another week before the results come back. I then have to wait another two weeks to see my doctor to discuss the results.)

Doctor #1: “Your tests showed elevated white blood cells, which is a sign of infection. But I think it’s a false positive, so I’ll send you for another blood test.”

Me: “What makes you think it’s false? You said it could be an infection.”

Doctor #1: “Well, I think you did have an infection, but it’s gone now. I’ll send you for another one and compare the results.”

(Cue ANOTHER TWO weeks of waiting for the blood test and test results.)

Receptionist: “The doctor says your blood test came back normal and he doesn’t need to see you. He says there’s nothing he can do.”

Me: “What?! That’s not right! He hasn’t done anything!”

Receptionist: *quietly speaking to me* “I recommend you see another doctor. They can look at your results and you can get a second opinion.”

(I have to wait ANOTHER THREE weeks to see a second doctor, so by this time it’s been more than eight months of cold sores.)

Doctor #2: “”You’ve had cold sores for EIGHT MONTHS?!”

Me: “It’s been Hell; I’ve had either a sore, a scab, or a scar on my face this whole time. The creams aren’t working, I’ve tried every home remedy on Google, and I don’t know what else to do.”

Doctor #2: “It could be a sign of something serious, but it could be nothing. Let’s have a look at your test results… Are you taking iron?”

Me: “No, why?”

Doctor #2: “Didn’t the other doctor say anything about your iron levels?!”

Me: “He said my blood was normal.”

Doctor #2: “It’s most certainly not normal! You have extremely low iron levels, in both sets of results. There’s a proven link between low iron and mouth sores. You just need to take an iron supplement. And I’ll give you a prescription for the cold sores, so they’ll clear up in a week or less. Your white blood cell count is still up, so I think you may need antibiotics, too.”

(Since I’ve been taking iron, I hardly have cold sores at all. And my infection cleared up, but the doctor said if it hadn’t, it could have developed into sepsis, which can be fatal. Now, whenever I make a doctor’s appointment I specifically say, “Any doctor other than [Doctor #1],” and from what the receptionist has since told me, lots of patients do the same.)

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