Sensitivity to blood tests/needles - NOT all in the mind

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Sensitivity to blood tests/needles - NOT all in the mind

Postby Helencat » Sun May 25, 2014 11:45 pm

Hi. I'm wondering if anyone else has extreme sensitivity to blood tests/needles. This is NOT a phobia, but an extreme physical reaction leading to at best unconciousness, at worst, something akin to anaphalactic shock... losing control of bodily functions while unconcious, unable to walk for 2 hours after, stiff as a board, can't breathe, shivering etc.

I have read up about this reaction which is caused by vasoconstriction, that is, the veins constrict when someone tries to poke a needle in them, making the whole shock reaction worse and it even harder to draw blood, but I have never met anyone who has had such severe reactions as me to blood tests, and I had put this intothe whole extreme sensitivity "pile" of symptoms that go with fibro.

I find blood tests very very painful as well. The worst thing is it's been so hard to get any GP to understand, and the one I was at when I had the severe fit didn't even put this in my medical notes!!! I was finally diagnosed with fibromyalgia about 1 month ago after many years of problems, and thought the blood test/needle thing was part and parcel of it, but having been on another fibro forum haven't come across anyone else who thinks it is..though it makes sense with our extreme sensitivity to pain and stimuli. Anyone???
Last edited by FluppyPuffy on Tue May 27, 2014 3:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Sensitivity to blood tests/needles - NOT all in the mind

Postby migrembe » Mon May 26, 2014 8:09 am

Hi,
A vasoconstriction or a vaso vagal you may hear it called, is basically a faint, which is brought on by a sudden impact to the body. Although this is happening when they take blood, it could also happen if you stub your toe or bang your nose or even your elbow - sharp, sudden impact. Now you know this is going to happen your body tunes itself up for it before hand and therefore is on stress alert, which doesn't help.

I find the Dr's surgery very stressful when i am going to see them for nothing exciting but if they insist on taking blood from me without prior warning its hard for them to do it as everything shuts down and i tend to lose the feeling in whichever half of my body they stick the needle in. It becomes heavy and slow to function, this can last a few days before it rights itself.

I find going to the out patient's at my local hospital, which i live close to, to have blood drawn is less stressful and more successful. So if they want to take blood ask them if you can make another appointment for it that way you can prepare yourself for it. Also ask at reception for someone who is good at taking blood, they will normally know and tell the person taking the blood what normally happens to you and then they are prepared and less nervous too. Also if you have had blood taken in the last year and the Dr can't give a reason why -different to what you had done last time - tell them 'No'. Beverley
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Re: Sensitivity to blood tests/needles - NOT all in the mind

Postby DRM » Mon May 26, 2014 12:08 pm

Wow! I get this too but never connected it to fibro. I've been a fainter since I was very young - when I hurt myself, overtired etc and before I got Ill I donated blood & fainted regularly afterwards. they eventually asked me not to come back as they had trouble finding my veins, blood flow very slow or they collapsed. When I was getting diagnosed the consultant sent me for a bone scan, the night before I had really bad cramp in my leg & I fitted, lost conciousness & lost control of my bladder, then when they were injecting me for scan it happened again. My gp banned me from driving & referred me to neurologist. Neurologist didn't even see me but sent a letter saying that he believed it was a reaction to pain. I haven't fainted for a few years now but blood tests are still a challenge & I find them very painful. It's good to know it's not just me x
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Re: Sensitivity to blood tests/needles - NOT all in the mind

Postby anonymouse » Mon May 26, 2014 5:11 pm

Helencat,

I just had to reply to this as I've been desperate to find someone who has the same problem as I do with blood test etc, a I believe it is the ultimate example of our type of Fibromyalgia.

My story: Since I was a child I have been super sensitive to stymulus of the senses. I feel pain if I am too hot, to cold, if stitching in clothes is too harms I react far more to smell & taste also. I am also super sensitive to UV light from the sun, my dermatologist said I had the most sensitive skin to sunlight she had ever seen, I've burnt before in this country just going outside for a cigarette. However my bigest problems is blood tests.

Like you the concept of blood tests doesn't in itself bother me at all. Once the needle goes in I feel extreme pain, I would easily give it a pain score of 9 if not closer to 10. I have broken a few bones before however I have never experienced more pain than I do during a blood test. Once the needle is taken out I feel no more pain, then about after about 10 minutes later I go into clinical shock, apparently I go green and collapse for a few minutes, then when I come round I am ok. It happens every time without fail (until I solved it) it started in childhood and was the same in adulthood.

As a child I was sent to a psychologist for my "fear of needles" that of course was non existent, anyway I went through the motions doing various things including watching blood being taken in hospitals from other people which was of course fine. After months of this my psychologist set up an experiment with a needle & syringe in a steri pack on a table in a room, he asked me to go to the door, look through the window at the table and tell him how I felt. Well, at this point he just wasn't getting it so I opened the door, walked into the room, sat in front of the table, took hold of the needle, opened the packet and hooked the skin on my arm with the needle. While doing so I said something on the lines of "I am not scared of needles, I don't feel any fear, I don't feel any anxiety or adrenaline etc the only problem I have is that is bloody hurts, I am scared of the pain, not the needle, my only problem is I seem to feel severe pain where I should not, I don't understand it, I wish I could solve it but no one understands it" after a few months he was finally convinced that there was nothing psychological about my condition but I had a rational fear of the pain due to an unknown mechanism of painful stimuli caused by blood tests.

Anyway, it didn't help much because he took months to believe me, so no one else believes me, they just think I'm scared of needles. Actually its wrong, one GP was convinced, after a blood test at the doctors my mum drove me home stopping at a local shop, I thought I was going to be fine as it was the first time I had not collapsed, anyway I waited in the car and she went into the shop, while she was in the shop I collapsed. I know a few seconds before its going to happen and on this occasion I woke up in the doctors surgery with the GP shaking like a leaf in the corner of the room, the nurse stood over me while the GP was saying "I thought I had killed him, I thought I had killed him" as he didn't believe my problem before the blood test. Anyway I was fine, I've never come close to dying and its just like a hypovolemic shock but I don't believe breathing or my heart stopping has ever been a problem.

I have seen various specialists, pain consultants, immunologists, Rheumatologist's, neurologists and non of them believe me, they just think its a fear. I make a point of asking all consultants about it because I believe it goes to the route of my "Fibromyalgia" and until recently I have only been able to have blood tests if its really really nessessary and I worry that should I ever be taken into hospital for say an accident or anything similar I may not be able to communicate the blood test issue and I worry what my body will do in reaction to them putting a line in, if it all goes wrong the won't have a clue what's caused it if I'm unconcious.

A few years ago they tried an Intravenus Lidocane infusion with a cannula, this time on the back of my hand. The same problem, sever pain as soon as it went it, after screaming for 5 minutes and rithing in pain the machines I was connected to started beeping and the anethatist pushed something through the cannula and took it out. I wanted to ask what had actually happened, what he had flushed through me but he told me I had been through so much he didn't want to explain there and then but he would arrange a consultation to discuss what had happened and what to do.

Little did I realise but this was a ploy, when I attended the consultation it was with a nurse in his pain managment unit and she told me for some reason he did not want to see me, sent her instead and wanted me discharging from his service. Since this experience I have had a few more, I have brought it up with a few consultants who say "its classic fibromyalgia" or similar (even though I've never found anyone with fibromyalgia who has the same problem) and then they kick me out of the consultation. In fact I told my dad and he came with me to a neurologists consultation, it went fine but at the end I described the problem and he said, its just fibromyalgia, stood up, opened the door and said thank you for coming in and have a good day. Kicking us out the room, my dad was really quite shocked as although he had believed me when I told him what happens he was socked to see it for himself and so blatantly. The only conclusion I can come up with is that they do not understand the problem and don't want such a problem on their workload because they wouldn't know where to start to solve it? Who knows.

The good news is that I have manged to solve it with the help of a nurse (ironic that doctors have been the problem and a nurse in my saviour) i booked a nurses consultation as I needed a blood test but wanted to discuss it with them beforehand. She said "that's awful, why haven't they just used EMLA cream?" I said I don't know, what does it do. She said "its a local anestetic cream so if your feeling all this pain it should help." I was very sceptical however I went back for my blood test a week later after putting the cream on an hour before, I was fully expecting the same pain as I've never been able to solve it, it felt far to "easy" as a solution and the pain felt deeper than the surface skin anyway. So I laid down watched the needle go in and......... No pain, not a little bit, totally pain free! She kept me lying down afterwards for about an hour and we discussed how great it was and that I should just have whatever blood tests I need, use the cream and reduce the rest time down, introduce sitting up and hopefully we will get to the stage where it won't be a problem. From this blood test on I have never collapsed. I've got another blood test this week and I have managed to reduce the rest to a few minutes sat up after the test, I am so pleased and hopefully this week will be the first test that I can walk straight out of, without pain, without collapsing with no rest (fingers crossed)

I know I've written loads (sorry) but I am so excited I have found someone with the same/similar problem. I believe that fibromyalgia is a symptom of a number of conditions that medicine have not solved because they are sceptical and have not been able to "test" the condition in the usual ways. Hence some people respond to different drugs, treatments, things like pacing etc. All my fibromyalgia is, is an overreaction to painful stimuli, I have a few minor health problems like some issues with my spine, arthritis in my joints etc etc and my body is just overreacting to the pain I feel which is 10 times stronger than it should be.

My physio's have seen how my back reacts to a simple draft, they say it looks like I've been in a car crash, its just because the pain I feel is like I've been in a car crash and my muscles react to it and go all solid. Unfortunately nurses agree with me, three physio's agree with me but I'm yet to find a doctor who agrees with me (apart from my dematologist who believes me as I can't fake my bodies response to UV light she just hasn't got a clue how to help) in fact since I have been imobile my breakthrough pain has never been better. Its only because I have reduced everything I do to cause my body to overreact, I literally stay lying on a tempur matress for 90% of the time so my body doesn't flip out. Anyway I am yet to convince the doctors of these so I will jump through their hoops for a little longer, attend the pacing courses (I don't have a pacing problem) and see if I can find a doctor with an open mind, five years down the line since I gave up work and I haven't managed it yet.

So sorry for writing so much, I will go. But safe to say I am so glad to hear your story. Have you been treated in the same way? Have you tried EMLA cream? Hope to hear from you soon, I just can't believe I have found someone with the same problem!!!

Anonymouse x
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Re: Sensitivity to blood tests/needles - NOT all in the mind

Postby anonymouse » Mon May 26, 2014 5:15 pm

I forgot: with blood tests the pain used to stop the second the needle came out but the cannula site hurt for around a month then hurt to the touch for about another month after that! This is not normal and can't believe we have a few people that have the same problem.
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Re: Sensitivity to blood tests/needles - NOT all in the mind

Postby denys » Tue May 27, 2014 12:33 am

Does seem very strange I have never heard of it in connection to Fibro before :dunno: :dunno: :dunno:
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Re: Sensitivity to blood tests/needles - NOT all in the mind

Postby Helencat » Tue May 27, 2014 12:49 am

Hi everyone, thanks for your answers. Yes, it is a faint, like that brought on by sudden impact, but is more than a faint in the case of having a fit. Hey, Anonymouse, as you are a mouse and I am a cat, I should eat you, but on this occasion I will show mercy ;) meaow. It sounds like you have had a really horrible time, and the extent of your problems shows the ridiculous mindset that some medical professionals have towards this problem. i.e. they won't admit it's a physical problem. Though for me now I AM scared of a needle because of the association, but it WAS the reaction to the test that came first, NOT the "fear". No phobia can cause a fit.

I am scared of daddy long legs... I hate them intensely and used to scream when I saw them. But they don't make me faint. That;s a phobia. I also relate a lot to your fear of something happening if you have an accident or so on. I was terrified of having another blood test unless the nurse understood the extent of my possible reaction... after all, I could die. That's what scares me. Actually, you aren't alone, but to have such a severe reaction as we do is rare, I think. It makes sense to me to see it as connected to fibro due to the extreme sensitivity to pain....If just light pressure in certain areas causes wincing, having a needle put in us is going to hurt ALOT.... it makes sense to me... and such extreme pain is likely to cause fainting. I also used to have quite low blood pressure which I don't think helped at all.

It sounds like your pain is worse than mine, anonymouse. But the having pain in a canula site etc, sounds very familiar to me. Any kind of procedure involving sticking needles in me will cause pain long afterwards. The other thing though with me, that meds will never acknowledge, is that though I often feel sick after injections or a canula, I don't normally faint. The fainting /fitting seems to be connected to the drawing of blood. I alsways thought this was connected to a drop in blood pressure or something but GPs constantly say, oh no, it's not, it's only a tiny bit of blood, doesn't make a difference, etc. But I don't believe them. I feel faint if I cut my finger and have a fairly slight blood loss. Apparently medically that shouldn't happen.... errr... but it does. I think it's someting to do with the blood being drawn up through the vein, and as earlier poster said, the veins constrict in reaction and make it even harder. Oh what we go through...
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Reason: Split larger paragraph into smaller ones for easier reading.
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Re: Sensitivity to blood tests/needles - NOT all in the mind

Postby Helencat » Tue May 27, 2014 12:53 am

Sorry, forgot to say, I have been prescribed EMLA cream, but despite having this still fitted last time. The fit was partly due to a stupid nurse who jabbed the needle in rather fast. Also, I don't have bloods done unless I want to.... the last one was about 5 years ago. I've been scared to do so since.
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Re: Sensitivity to blood tests/needles - NOT all in the mind

Postby FluppyPuffy » Tue May 27, 2014 4:33 pm

I've split some of the larger paragraphs in various posts into smaller ones to make things a little easier to read. One of the delights FM bestows on some of us is struggling to read larger blocks/paragraphs of text, with us often ending up getting lost and reading the same few lines over and over and over again :facepalm: :facepalm: :facepalm:

I was intrigued as I read this as I've always had problems when it comes to needing blood to be taken, having injections, needing a cannula to be insertedetc. Unfortunately, being diabetic means regular blood tests are somewhat necessary for me :shock: :shock: :shock:

I've lost count of the times involving a needle that I've passed out/fainted . Sometimes it happens a few mins after it the event, , at other times it has happened either just as the needle has been removed, or, more rarely, part way thru the process.

Rather than hurting, when the needle goes in it burns like heck, which it does while the needle is in. And when it comes out, as well the area around the site feeling as if it is on fire, you can immediately see the bruise starting to appear.

From what I've been told, for me, as the needle starts to go into the vein, it immediately starts to collapse, which seems to set off a domino~effect for me, with all veins in the surrounding area going down as well. So where it originally felt like there were a number of possible places to try, within a matter of seconds, they have all gone.

The worst time was when there were around a dozen visible marks from where attempts had been made to prise some precious life fluid out of me in one arm, and the other arm had around half a dozen marks from even more failed attempts. I've even had it taken from my ankle/foot, and down the side of each thumb {apparently this is about the only accessible vein in the body that doesn't collapse according to a phlebotomist and an A&E doc who was dealing with me after an RTC that left me with a broken neck.} The EMLA cream makes no difference to what happens for me, and not even an ice pack can cool the burning, even after the needle has been removed.

I'm fortunate that everyone involved when I have, and do need need something involving needles has been really great, and as blood for tests is taken at our surgery, my exploits and adventures are well documented and known :oops: :oops: :oops: When I do have to go for a test now, the only place where a needle can be inserted that doesn't cause me too much of a problem is the back of my hand, but with the skin being so thin, and the vein not being particularly large, it has to be the smallest needle possible, usually attached to a butterfly and there is only one chance from each hand before the vein collapses. The room also needs to be extremely cool, as well as cold air being blown on to me. Not ideal, but at least it is a way to manage things. I'm not able to go straight after either, I'm made to lay and wait for a good while.......just in case :shock: :shock: :shock:
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Re: Sensitivity to blood tests/needles - NOT all in the mind

Postby anonymouse » Wed May 28, 2014 1:22 am

Oh Helencat you have me thinking of Tom & Jerry cartoons now, a cat running round after a mouse all day!

It's certainly a bizarre phenomenon. When it comes to the fitting I am perplexed I must admit, to have a fit induced by such a problem must be very rare indeed. I'm not particularly scared of the pain to be honest, I got used to the fact that if it was necessary I just had to do it, I'm used to facing fear head on, or I certainly used to be, I'm not good with heights and my fear reaction to heights is far stronger than the fear I associate with blood tests, its just one of the many indicators that its not a phobia mechanism, with heights I just went rock climbing regularly to desensitise myself. Given the fear response rock climbing was worse and I've never fainted before, during or afterwards its probably not down to fear. (Just one in a list of reasons) oh and rock climbing was before my fibromyalgia diagnosis! Also I fully expected the EMLA cream not to work so if it was the fear causing the pain (as some doctors think) surely I would have felt pain because I blooming expected too and I didn't!

I believe the fainting is probably my bodies reaction to intense pain, or the mechanics of a blood test, again as one of you said, a small amount of blood for a blood test should not produce a shock/fainting response. Then again I have had a flexible cystoscopy and I would cite that as a little more painful for a lot longer, yet I didn't faint. In fact I've only ever fainted after a blood test, like I say once the needle is out there is no pain, I feel fine for 10/15mins after then out of no where I just collapse. I'm glad I've now solved it with EMLA cream I must admit and now I don't mind going for a blood test whenever required (I've got one in the morning and I'm going to have it sat up and I'm going to leave straight after for the first time ever! Wish me luck lol)

I also read someone has a burning sensation during blood tests, but I've forgotten who said that. Just a thought here: An Immunologist spoke to me about a rare reaction to blood tests caused by an allergic response to the metal, it was excluded for me because it didn't match symptoms wise but I think it was associated with burning, swelling, redning etc. Like I said its just a thought but worth a mention.

All I know for sure:
It not a phobia or phobia causing pain
It's not an allergic response (in the usual sense)
I only faint when I've felt pain (never with the EMLA)
At the moment of the faint I'm not in any pain, have not been for 10/15mins & isn't related to me standing or sitting etc
I don't faint for any other reason, ever
The perception of pain is real not imagined
The pain perception is worse than a broken bone so around a pain score of 9 only ever beaten by a botched cystoscopy (without anethstetic)
I generally have a pain perception problem anyway (heat/cold etc etc)
I'm also extremely sensitive to sunlight (skin) and sensitive more than normal to light, sound, temperature, smell, taste & touch.
Oh and lastly I haven't really got a clue what the heck causes this problem

I will let you know how tomorrow goes.
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