A diagnosis of dysautonomia sheds new light on Sarah ’s pain
Sarah Fishman exudes vivaciousness and warmth. When describing her favorite activities, mainly swimming and rugby, her energy is infectious. It is hard to imagine that someone as lively as Sarah has been suffering from chronic pain her whole life. Since she was little, Sarah has struggled with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), a common intestinal disorder that causes stomach pain and colon issues. However, it wasn’t until her junior year of college that she started experiencing symptoms that were no longer recognizable. “My local gastroenterologist kept giving me treatments that weren’t doing anything,” Sarah remembers. “So it kind of occurred to me and my parents after a while that maybe this is more of a brain-thing than a stomach-thing.” Sarah started experiencing extreme fatigue, nausea, and vertigo. She tried to write off her symptoms as normal bodily functions, but when the migraines started, she knew something was indisputably wrong. A second opinion from Boston Children’s Hospital Searching for the cause of her new symptoms, Sarah made an appointment with Dr. Alyssa Lebel in the Headache Program at Boston Children’s Hospital. Sarah’s migraines, in addition to her other symptoms, were a key sign to Lebel that something was awry in her autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS controls the body’s vital signs, including internal temperature, breathing patterns, blood pressure, heart rate, digestion, and pupil dilati...
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