Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Deep Throat

I saw my larynx today.

And no, it wasn't nearly as titillating as this post's title suggests. No one has ever confused me with Linda Lovelace. Although now that I think of it, the larynx seen from above has a distinctly lace-y, yet muscular appearance. Maybe that's how she got her stage name.

My larynx looked a bit like the one pictured, except cuter, of course.

The experience was not so much a porn movie as an episode of House, with a few key distinctions. In my show, the patient, not the doctor, was irascible and prone to mask her vulnerability with humor. The doctor resembled Anthony Perkins more than Hugh Laurie. Sexy young assistants were nowhere to be seen. No one bled from the eyeballs or was wrongly diagnosed with lupus or Guillain-Barré. And the patient had self-administered a Vicodin prior to the procedure, while the doctor had not (or so I hope).

Even so, the patient was pretty much terrified of the procedure in question, flexible fiberoptic laryngoscopy. (Follow the link only if you want to see the instrument used, plus a more technical description that calls the patient "awake and relaxed." Ha!) In crude terms, the doc squirts anesthetic up your nose with a device that's half old-fashioned perfume atomizer, half garden sprayer. Once the drugs kick in, he snakes a 1/4" tube up your nose and down your throat. It burns a bit as it goes around the bend. It doesn't feel as big as it looks. (Maybe Linda and I did have something in common, after all?)

Then, remarkably, a little TV screen shows you everything from the interior of your nose to the base of your tongue to your vocal cords and epiglottis.

What the doctor found: swollen lingual tonsils, a part I didn't even know I had. This is tonsillar tissue at the very base of the tongue, just above the epiglottis in the pre-epiglottal space (another anatomic discovery for me). It's not removed during tonsillectomy, and it appears more likely to swell in people (like me) who lost their tonsils as kids. The swelling apparently accounts for the feeling I've had since last fall of constantly having a lump in my throat. It's not a danger, just a nuisance.

Once I got home and googled all of this, I learned that this lump sensation actually has a name: "globus," which is short for "globus hystericus." Neurotic I may be, but I'm relieved to have a non-Freudian explanation. At least I'm not outright hysterical.

Larynx image from University of Pittsburgh Voice Center. Photo of Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gregory House from E Online.

3 comments:

Sugarmag said...

I hope you feel better soon, Sungold! I have never watched House, but I think this is the second time you mentioned it, so it must be good. I usually watch shows after they are available on Netflix. That way, I can watch when I want instead of when it's on, which is never a good time.

Smirking Cat said...

House is painfully interesting to watch...I don't know how else to describe it! I've only seen it a few times but liked it. Hope you are feeling better. Are the cats tending to you like good little pets?

Sungold said...

Thanks to both of you guys for your well wishes. I'm not really sick, just have this irritating sensation of a lump in my throat. If I were *really* sick, I probably wouldn't post about it, at least not until I came somewhat to terms with it.

I'll going back to my regular doctor to discuss what's next. The HNT basically said, get used to it, live with it. Not an acceptable answer, hence my post-appointment googling fit, which suggested I might actually have an atypical form of reflux. I'd be so happy if a pill would just *fix* this. And yeah, I realize that makes me sound like the poster girl for all that's weak and wimpy!

Smirking Cat, I've been catless for a few years now. My mate developed bad asthma toward the end of Grey Kitty's life. So no more cats for sad little me. My children impersonate cats every once in a while, poorly. (For one thing, they're not not nearly as clean ...)