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Stress, Swelling Of The Tongue, Benazepril, Angioedema And A Hospital Stay! Or How I Survived Again!

Updated on February 12, 2011

Can Your Tongue Really Swell That Much?

We all have stress in our lives, but it doesn't always cause your tongue to get so big that your mouth cannot hold it in! It doesn't always cause angioedema, severe difficulty breathing and a trip to the hospital provided by the paramedics. But stress can be a killer! We hear it all the time and we all try to figure out better ways to handle stress. Apparently, I have not found those better ways. I was also unaware that stress can trigger an immediate change in your immune system, which can then trigger allergies to medications that you have taken on a daily basis for several years. Stress does not just cause heart attacks or high blood pressure.

A few days ago, I was dealing with some very troubling family issues. I had what is commonly called a meltdown. I knew that I was making myself sick and that is the thing about stress. We know what stresses us and we know that we need to control our reactions to stressors, but being human, sometimes we are just unable to do the things that we are supposed to do.

I talked to my best friend who is great when helping me put things into perspective, but by that time, it was already too late. I ate a tiny bit of dinner so that I could take my nightly meds, including benazepril for my blood pressure. Within an hour, I was suffering the most severe abdominal pain I have ever experienced. My chest was hurting so bad that I thought I might be having a heart attack. I spent a miserable night and at 6 the next morning, my son came in and suggested that we go to the emergency room. I said no, that we would wait until 8 and then I would get in to see my own doctor and bypass the 3 to 4 hour wait in the emergency room.

But as fate would have it, 8 AM brought the word emergency to a higher level. I had dozed off and when I woke up at 8, my tongue was swollen so much that it would not fit into my mouth. I was having trouble breathing and couldn't get words out. I tried to scream for my son, but nothing. I managed to stumble to his room, wake him up and when he saw me he grabbed his cell and dialed 911. The paramedics arrived in what seemed like seconds and before I knew it, my meds were thrown into a ziploc bag and I was in the ambulance, being given benadryl. An IV was in my arm, they were pumping something else into the bag and they were in constant contact with the emergency room. When we arrived at the hospital, there was no wait. I have no idea what I looked like, but it must have been a terrifying sight! I almost wished that I was unconscious, because then I would not have seen the looks of horror on every face that saw mine. Apparently, it was not only my tongue that had quadrupled in size.

The questions were non-stop. The answers were nothing more than yes or no, evidenced only by a nod of my head. My meds were pulled out of the baggie and when the ER doc pulled the benazepril (Lotensin) out of the bag, he started talking to my son. Yes, I have taken benazepril for years and yes, I have experienced stress recently. The next thing I knew, a cardiologist was in the room. They were going to give me a transfusion of plasma. I motioned for my son to give me my wallet and gave them my card which identified very rare anti-bodies in my blood. I know that 35 years ago when the antibodies were found (caused by a transfusion I received after the birth of my first child), there were only 3,000 people in the country that had the same anti-bodies.

Benazepril (Lotensin) Can Be A Lifesaver And Then Become A Nasty Little Drug!

I was taken to telemetry and monitored constantly. By the time the cardiologist had spoken to my son, the look of fear on his face was gone. He was making fun of my appearance, but would not give me a mirror. I am sure I would have cried. He called my best friend and said he was very happy that the gift of speech had been taken away from me and that I looked like a monster, no make-up necessary. He was also checking out and flirting with the nurses every step of the way. What is it about men and nurses?

I finally knew that I wasn't going to die. My son's sick sense of humor had returned, but every time I tried to laugh, I choked. I had angioedema, which is a swelling beneath the skin. It can be caused by many things, usually when the immune systems detects a foreign substance in the body called an allergen. In this case, the doctors believe that the extreme stress caused my immune system to change and the benazepril, or any other ACE inhibitor, that I have taken for many years, are now to be on the list of drugs that I am not allowed to take. Ever!

Benazepril and other ACE inhibitors can suddenly cause angioedema. Usually, if there is going to be a problem, it happens within the first week or two of taking ACE inhibitors. In other rarer cases, and doctors are not sure why, angioedema can suddenly appear after years of taking the drug. The swelling is almost always seen on the mouth or around the eyes. When the tongue and the throat are involved, it becomes more serious, because breathing can become compromised. Doctors are currently considering stress to be a factor. I was told that they now believe that stress can immediately cause a change in the immune system, thus creating the perfect storm.

ACE Inhibitors Are An Effective Tool To Fight Heart Disease!

ACE inhibitors are a valuable weapon in the fight against heart disease. According to

"ACE inhibitors are used for controlling blood pressure, treating heart failure, preventing strokes, and preventing kidney damage in people with hypertension or diabetes. They also improve survival after heart attacks. In studies, individuals with hypertension, heart failure, or prior heart attacks who were treated with an ACE inhibitor lived longer than patients who did not take an ACE inhibitor. Because they prevent early death resulting from hypertension, heart failure or heart attacks, ACE inhibitors are one of the most important group of drugs. Some individuals with hypertension do not respond sufficiently to ACE inhibitors alone. In these cases, other drugs are used in combination with ACE inhibitors."

If and when your doctor prescribes them for you, don't be afraid of taking them. They really are effective, and not everyone who experiences stress will develop angioedema.

A Cat Has Nine Lives; I Have At Least That Many!

How many times have I cheated death? At least as many times as the normal cat. My kids say I am too mean to die, but lately I am not so sure. The older I get, the harder it is for me to land on my feet. I think it all started with needing rabies shots when I was eight years old. My mother got a beautiful little kitty from the local animal shelter. We named her Buttons. She was the cutest little thing, until she started foaming at the mouth. She bit my three year old brother, bit my father and scratched me on the knee. Amazingly, the only one in the family that didn't need the shots was my mother. The doctors at the time said we had to start the series immediately. Fourteen shots in the stomach, in the shape of a clock. One every day for two weeks. The kitten had to be sent away for testing and the results did not come back for six weeks, due to the fact that she was a kitten. Sure enough, the results came back positive. The cat did have rabies and I believe that even though that kitty ended up not having nine lives, that ability to survive strange things was bequeathed to me by that kitten.

One of my more recent death defying experiences was the discovery and removal of two ten pound tumors. The doctors were actually surprised that I lived through the surgery. They were sure that I was not going to make it, but just like a bad penny...

At this point, I don't want to count how many times I have landed on my feet. I am afraid that maybe I am nearing my limit. I am back at home. As soon as the swelling went down and I could once again speak, I was ready to go home. It took a full 24 hours and a great staff of doctors and nurses. They were wonderful to me and none of them teased me about how I looked! That job was handled quite efficiently and thoroughly by my son.

I have learned that stress can be a killer and that I must learn to handle it better. I always thought I did okay on that front, but now I know differently. I am going to try from now on to be less of a panic attack waiting to happen. I am going to try...


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  • Jillian Barclay profile image

    Jillian Barclay 5 years ago from California, USA

    I am not a doctor, but your sister needs a good one, from the sounds of it! Are there any teaching facilities near your home? Usually they are on the cutting edge of the detective work that is required to isolate and treat difficult disease. Mine was easy to diagnose because my son was smart enough to pack up every medication I take and bring it with the paramedics. As soon as the doctors saw the benazepril, they knew the culprit--that combined with the stress.

  • profile image

    sean 5 years ago

    this sounds like what my sister might be going through.

    it all started last june, she felt nasuius , like the flu. then the freakiest thing happened, her tounge swelled up so bad that she was biting it, & nearly went into narkliptic shock(ex; shakes impared speech & was rushed to the icu. it happened in minutes. & she,s never been to the emergency for any reason, but that wasn,t all, for 6 weeks on& off. was put on potasium iv & electrelights.

    the doctors immeditley called it alergy........... nops all test including ekg catscans bodyscans etc. ironicly she stablized for 7 months & then flared up again, went to a specialest algerest, simptoms changed slighty, invertigo & weird mucus attacks, basicly she,d feel like shining & mucus from nose & mouth would come out. after the attack she,d feel better but it tends to buld up, right now shes on benedrill, some alergy pills ( i don,t think there working benedrill makes her bloodpressure go up, & she,d have nightsweats bad, after some research i foundout that a virus might caused this to begin with, but cant seem to convince the doctors so, it,s geeting bad.

    so far all they do is give her liquid benedrill & send her home . she,ll be fine for 2 days then have another attack, alchahol& drugs (besides perscriptions ) aren,t a factor so , i cant find the trigger or a primary cause?

  • Jillian Barclay profile image

    Jillian Barclay 6 years ago from California, USA

    Hi, Doc!

    I am so glad there are some fine, well-trained ER docs like your husband out there! I don't even remember the doctor's name, but will never forget how quickly he acted and how kind he was to me.

    I am fine and feeling well! Need a little more rest before any more trips to the ER, though! Thank you and next time you see someone coming in with a tongue swollen out of their mouth, snap a quick picture and send it to me for this post! Oh! If only the HIPAA police were not always watching!

  • TahoeDoc profile image

    TahoeDoc 6 years ago from Lake Tahoe, California

    Good lord, girl. Take it easy and stay well. I know how I feel when I see someone coming with a tongue swollen out of their mouth...get the benedryl in the IV fast before I have to do something! Yikes!! (((hugs)))

  • Jillian Barclay profile image

    Jillian Barclay 6 years ago from California, USA

    Dear Pixienot,

    Thank you so much for your kind words! And I did read the hub you suggested. I did laugh! Good thing I didn't have any stitches! Just what I needed! Thank you!

    Hospital stays are hard and coming home is always a joy. I threatened my son with much worse than ice water, but, he too, is so funny! He knows he makes me laugh and of course, then he doesn't stop! One of the first things I asked him was if he took any pictures of me looking like a monster. I am not a beauty queen, but still have some normal amount of vanity and was so afraid that there would be pictorial evidence of how frightening I looked! He knew that was the one boundary he should never cross, thank God! But now that I think about it, maybe he should have. It would have certainly demonstrated how serious allergic reactions can be.

    Thank you for reading my hubs. I was actually thinking about you and your recent hospital stay while I was writing this one. I was wondering if your hospital bed was as painful for you as mine was for me?

  • Pixienot profile image

    Pixienot 6 years ago from Clarksville, Indiana

    Dear Jillian,

    Your story hit home. It intrigues me how we think "stress" is something we can handle and others cannot. Humans feel that they are in charge - until they are not.

    A little caution and a lot of "trying to relax" is most helpful. Pour ice water over your son's head.

    You have to be practical. Did you purposely cause this to happen? No. Will you ignore these results in the future? Of course not. Do you have tons to be happy about? You betcha!

    Slow down, smell the roses and enjoy each day as it comes. Do not worry about the future. It will take care of itself. I know.. I used to be a class A worrier. Now I leave that to my daughters. :)

    As for the allergen, yes... I have been told that the next time I take penicillin may be the last time I breathe. My doc said, just because I didn't die this time (meaning years ago) did not mean I would not die next time. He almost gave me a guarantee I would.

    However, God gives a much better guarantee. Lay it at his feet and let Him take care of anything that you are stressed about. His decisions are so much better than ours and then the responsibility is off our shoulders and we can breathe much better.

    Thank you for sharing your story. For many of us, our hospital stays are difficult at best to write about. You are a brave woman. Welcome back!

    Voted up and awesome.

    Miles and miles of smiles coming your way.

    Want to really relax? Read the hub "If you need a smile or a Giggle." You will laugh!

  • Jillian Barclay profile image

    Jillian Barclay 6 years ago from California, USA

    Dear Tiffany,

    Your son's experiences sound truly frightening, and while I knew that allergies could come on suddenly, had no idea how often it happens! Red food dye is so common in foods that it must be a constant worry. When my son was little, there was a time that all he wanted to eat was cold hot dogs right out of the fridge (2 year olds are not to be understood). I thought about him when you told the story of your own son. Talk about stress! Food additives and preservatives are something most of us never think about, but are so dangerous in some cases.

    And thank you! I am feeling so much better!

    From what I understand,(according to the doctors in the hospital) while the first allergic response to something can be serious and even cause death, any subsequent exposure will most definitely be worse.

  • Totally Tiffany profile image

    Totally Tiffany 6 years ago from Henderson

    This article was extremely informative and could be a lifesaver for many that do not know this can happen. An allergy can come on instantly from something a person has been exposed to for years. My experience was my son's, (all three and at different times), suddenly becoming allergic to red food dye in hot dogs and Hawaiian punch. I am so glad you are okay even if you did have to suffer the loving son teasing.