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턱이 아파서 자살을 생각한 사람들
          -강남세브란스-구강악안면외과 김형곤 교수


턱이 아파서 자살을 생각한 사람들
- 신종 불치병? 턱관절 장애 (temporomandibular disorder)

턱관절 장애로 죽어가고 있습니다.
씹을 수도 말하는 것도 힘들어지고
전신이 아프고, 망치로 때리는듯한 두통에 시달리는....
그리고 뚜렷한 치료법과 완치도 없는 병입니다... 살고 싶습니다.
사람처럼.... 선진국엔 치료법이 있을까요? 좋은 세상이라는데
저에겐 지옥입니다... 살려주세요 살려주세요 제발 살려주세요

지난 4월 초, 제작진에게 도움을 요청한 올해 24살의 윤정(가명)씨는 턱관절 장애로 인한 안면변형과 극심한 통증으로 자살을 생각할 정도라고 했다. 그녀는 2년 전부터 턱에서 느껴진 통증을 가볍게 여기고, 병원에서도 별다른 말이 없어 무심코 지나치다 병을 키운 사례. 2년이 지난 지금은 그녀는 하품을 하는 것처럼 입을 크게 벌리거나, 딱딱한 음식을 씹을 수 없는 것은 물론이고, 때로는 말을 하는 것조차 힘들다고 한다.
사람들에게 아직 잘 알려지지 않았지만 의사들은 실제로 전체 인구의 25% 정도가 턱관절 장애를 가지고 있다고 보며, 병원을 내원하는 환자 수도 급격히 늘고 있다고 한다.

턱은 만병의 근원인가?
그런데 실제로 취재진이 만난 턱관절 장애로 고통을 호소하는 사람들을 더욱 괴롭게 하는 것은 이른바 “전신 증상”이라고 하는 턱관절 장애로 인한 합병증이라고 했다. 턱관절 장애로 인해 어깨와 허리, 골반에까지 통증을 느껴 일상생활이 불가능 하다는 것. 정말 턱관절의 문제가 전신의 통증을 가져올 수 있는 것일까?
실제로 턱은 우리가 숨쉬고 말하고 먹는 아주 기본적인 일상생활을 유지하는데 없어서는 안되는 존재. 최근 경희대 최대균 교수 연구팀의 '교합 균형이 자세 중심(重心)에 미치는 영향에 관한 연구'에 따르면 치아의 교합상태(맞물리는 상태)에 따라 신체 균형능력이나 근력이 달라질 수 있다고 한다. 즉 턱관절과 치아 교합의 안정성이 신체 전반에 영향을 미칠 수도 있다는 것. 그렇다면 정말 턱이 만병의 근원이고, 턱을 고치는 것만으로도 많은 병을 고칠 수 있는 것일까?

무엇이 턱관절 환자들을 더욱 힘들게 하는가....
올해 고등학교 3학년이 된 주희(가명)는 지난해 여름부터 극심한 어깨통증과 두통, 집중력 장애로 공부와 일상생활에 큰 어려움을 겪고 있다. 턱의 고통으로 찾아간 한 턱관절 전문 치과에서는 두통과 어깨통증이 모두 턱관절 때문이라며 턱만 잘 치료하면 주희(가명)가 겪고 있는 전신의 통증을 다 치료할 수 있다고 했다. 문제는 고가의 치료비. 1000만원에 달하는 치료비를 낼 형편이 되지 않아 치료를 받지도 못하게 된 주희는 턱관절 장애로 인한 육체적 고통과 치료를 받을 수 없다는 심리적 고통 속에 생활하고 있었다.
실제로 턱관절 환자들이 겪고 있는 또 다른 고통은 고가의 치료비. 취재진이 만난 한 여성은 20년 동안 턱관절 치료를 위해 강남 아파트 한 채 값을 썼다고 할 정도로 턱관절 치료에 드는 비용은 만만치 않다고 한다. 하지만 더 큰 문제는 큰 비용을 들여도 쉽게 완치되지 않는다는 것. 비용이 비싸도 그 고통이 너무 심해서 얼마를 들여도 나을 수만 있다면 빚을 내서라도 낫고 싶다는 환자들은 턱관절 질환에 대한 전문적인 치료법이 여전히 개발되지 않았다는 현실이 더 막막하다고 하소연한다. 정말 턱관절 장애는 불치병인가? 턱관절 장애 치료의 왕도는 무엇인가?

이번주 [그것이 알고싶다] 에서는 턱관절 질환 치료법을 둘러싼 논란과 그러한 논란 속에 턱관절 장애를 앓고 있는 사람들의 고통과 어려움이 무엇인지 짚어보고, 이들의 고통을 해결할 방법은 무엇인지 모색해 본다.
 
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2011/09/15 15:31 2011/09/15 15:31

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