"Suffering the Slings and Arrows of Outrageous Fortune"

Posts tagged ‘Headaches’

Rinse and Repeat: Low Pressure Headache

So, Em is struggling with a low pressure headache again. Can’t sit up without excruciating pain, nauseated, her ears feel full, her neck is stiff, the Lumbar Puncture site is sore again. Hopefully, it is just low pressure and not menengitis also. The symptoms has been going on for a couple weeks now and they are not improving on their own. We have been pushing fluids and she is spending a lot of time laying flat. She sneezed a couple times a few days ago and it has gotten worse since then. I don’t know if the leak is in her ear(s) or at the LP site or both, but she is having text book symptoms so it is obvious something is going on. She has no quality of life right now – every few weeks, she ends up flat on her back for days until it heals up. Sadly, no one seems to know what to do to break this cycle or even cares enough to try.

We have tried to wait this out, but I started suspecting another blood patch is needed and, indeed, the doctor wants her to go to the ER to get one. She is, um, less than thrilled about this. The blood patch in January was a horrifically traumatic experience. They used latex gloves, even though she has a severe latex allergy, and she did not ever get numbed sufficiently so the procedure was excruciating. She is not eager to go through that again. And when I say not eager, I mean “you shall not pass”, “over my dead body”, “you’ll have to tie me up and drag me there, ’cause I ain’t going willingly” not eager.

The doctor can’t even see her in the office until July 8th and that is squeezing her in. If they see her at the ER, they will tell us to follow up with the neurologist. When I pointed that out, I was told that she can be seen sooner by one of the other neurologists, so that is maybe a silver lining? And I am hoping that, if I can convince her to go to the ER, since we have already been informed that a blood patch is not an emergency procedure, maybe we can arrange for her Pain Management doc who is an anesthesiologist, to do the procedure. He knows her, knows what she has been through, and hopefully can manage her pain both during and after.

I know we need to document this as an ongoing problem. At some point, one of the scans is going to show SOMETHING a knowledgeable doc is going to recognize as a leak and be able to do SOMETHING about it. We have to do SOMETHING to address this round of low pressure because she has no quality of life right now. We have to keep pushing to get this addressed. Now I just have to convince her to go to the ER again and to trust that it won’t be like it was last time. I have no idea why she would believe me if I promise her that, but that is what I have to do. As a side note, it is times like this that I would love to have every doctor who has treated her badly or hurt her or trivialized her suffering to see what their ignorance has wrought. Anyway…

A while back, I found a video that I meant to share here and just didn’t get around to it. It is a really useful video and it has helped me to gain a little more knowledge and fortitude to keep fighting this particular fight. It is about an hour and a half long but, if you are struggling with these symptoms, know someone who is, or has EDS which makes you more prone to developing these symptoms,  it is well worth the time to watch this video. And, he mentions EDS as one of the frequent causes of CSF leaks so it is great in the respect that it is spreading the word about EDS at least. If I was in California, I would be pounding on this doctor’s door and begging him to help my daughter…

The Mystery Headache: Migraine, Postural Headache, Spinal Fluid Leak

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Eye issues: Real and a Bit Concerning

Em sees the eye doctor once a year, as is recommended for EDSers. This time it got stretched out to more like 18 months because we ended up having to see a new doctor (this is her 4th OD, we have liked most of them and we really liked the new one) and had a wait until she was able to take our insurance. The wait was not a big deal, but with all of the issues Em has been having (particularly the vision issues and possible migraine symptoms that have developed) the timing of this appointment yesterday was pretty good.

For better or worse, Em said her eyes were as bad as they had ever been yesterday so the timing was great to have them really see what she was experiencing. Her vision has definitely worsened since the concussion and then there was this weird thing of floating black spots that she has complained about.

Anyway, the docs in this practice have always been good about doing a thorough exam and the new doctor was no exception. We were actually there for a good 2 hours – even for an exam including dilation, that is a long time. There were some issues found.

  • There is some cloudiness on both lenses. This has developed since her last exam and the cloudiness seen is more than expected. The doctor said it is not affecting her vision yet, but, and I quote, “she may need cataract surgery sooner rather than later”. What?? She isn’t even 18. I don’t even know what to think about this, honestly. (I’ve seen various positions on whether this is an EDS thing or not but haven’t found anything conclusive yet.) The doctor said it is not a big deal and we will just keep an eye on it but it feels a little freaky to me.
  •  Her complaints of double vision are real. We are being referred to another Dr in the group who will evaluate her further and hopefully address the convergence issues that have worsened. It was already an issue (no one has ever followed through with dealing with it) but the concussion probably has brought it to a serious head. They are trying to get her in asap but there will likely be a bit of a wait. Should know soon.
  • Her vision complaints (the black spots, the black line that appears during her migraine like headaches)  are likely not in the eye but rather in the visual pathway in the brain. This is very possibly from the concussion, although, these were issues before the concussion. They did a scan of her retina, mainly for a baseline for future use, and it was fine.  Excellent even, so that was good news.
  • The doctor said it was a very good idea to have her worked up for migraines, considering the visual symptoms Em described. (To which I say, “na na na na boo boo” to the neurologist who ignored these symptoms. Not very mature, I suppose but so be it!)

Hopefully we can get her some relief on this – she is having an increasingly difficult time reading and functioning. I don’t even know what to think about the cataract issue but I am very glad she is in competent hands who are taking her seriously.

 

 

EEG Results

Last week, Em finally had her inpatient EEG monitoring. It wasn’t awful but it certainly wasn’t a whole lot of fun. I think I will do a post in the next few days recapping all the gory details of what that stay was like – since I have found that this issue is pretty common among EDSers. Today I will just focus on the results of that stay…

So, the “events” Em has been having are not epilepsy. That is good news, truly,  although in some ways, epilepsy treatment is more straightforward. The bad news is that they diagnosed her with Psychogenic Non-Epileptic Spells. We didn’t exactly love the neurologist and we certainly don’t love that diagnosis. I have been trying to avoid that diagnosis because I know how hard it is going to make Em’s life in the future. My fear is that, going forward, every new symptom will be chalked up to being in her head. EDSers already are viewed as fakers and crazies. We really don’t need this.

I still believe that a very possible cause of these events are complex migraines. That diagnosis fits at least as well as PNES (in my oinion, at least) but this neurologist disregarded it completely, because, well that is what neurologists do. In fact, she flat out said it was impossible because if Em was having migraines, it would have showed up on the EEG. When she said that, my BS meter started beeping like crazy.

Having looked it up after the fact, I was right to be skeptical – migraines are never diagnosed with an EEG and it is by no means certain that one would even show up on the EEG. They disregarded our descriptions of a headache afterwards and the visual symptoms Em experiences during the events. The doctor threw me a bone and promised to include the fact that these events are precipitated by a headache in her report. Which isn’t even true (the events themselves cause the headaches) but she ignored my objections.

So here is what we are left with: Either we accept this diagnosis and risk ignoring a real medical condition or we reject this diagnosis and risk ignoring a real psychological condition.  Both are risky and dangerous. And for sure, accepting the psychological diagnosis means rejecting the possibility that these episodes have any other explanation. We are on shaky ground with this. Remember Justina Pelletier? This diagnosis is under the same Conversion Disorder umbrella that was slapped on Justina when she was medically kidnapped. I would be lying if I said that doesn’t evoke some serious anxiety.

Our plan right now is to pursue both options. We will seek a therapist who might be able to address the emotional issues involved – for sure Em is dealing with more than enough to cause detrimental stress. Whether this will be specifically to address a conversion disorder or simply to help her learn how to cope with the crap hand she has been dealt, remains to be seen.

At the same time, we will pursue a headache specialist who can help us figure out if this is a type of migraine and hopefully provide some treatment.

The neurologist grudgingly acknowledged that we should find someone to treat Em’s headaches so I am going to take her at her word and do what I think is wise. I suspect they saw what they expected to see so I am reluctant to accept their findings without some skepticism.

Bottom line, I have a responsibility to advocate for Em and make sure she is getting the treatment she needs, whatever that may be and in spite of obstacles put in our way.

I will no doubt post more about this diagnosis in the near future and I will post about our general experience of the inpatient stay in case it might help others who are going down the same path. In the meantime, we are just trying to recover from our hospital stay and trying to absorb the results.

 

 

Inpatient EEG Monitoring

Finally…

We will be heading to OSU bright and early on Wednesday the 18th to begin the inpatient EEG monitoring that will hopefully rule in or, more likely in my opinion, rule out seizures. Clearly, something is going on that looks like seizures but I now have doubts that they are epileptic in origin. As I previously shared, I really believe Em is experiencing Complex Migraines – which can look a lot like seizures or even a stroke.

This stay has been a LONG time coming. These episodes started in February, after her concussion. She had a few months of Speech Therapy, which did seem to help a lot. Mid April, she said it felt like her brain was waking up and she was functioning better. The episodes stopped and she was able to do some school work and generally was doing better.

Then, she bumped her head again – again, a minor bump, but it was enough to cause a problem – and a week later the episodes started back up. I don’t think that is a coincidence. I feel certain they will be able to trigger the episodes and get some good information and a direction to go in.

We aren’t exactly looking forward to this – we are prepared for some serious unpleasantness. She will have an IV, can only be up in her room with supervision, and they will most likely deprive her of sleep to try and trigger a seizure. Basically, it is going to be a lot like the regular EEG that she had – only over days instead of an hour. That was not a ton of fun but she survived.

Insurance approved us for 3 days, rather than the max of 5. That shouldn’t be a problem since her episodes are pretty easy to trigger. I hope, anyway! One positive, we will have wifi, so maybe between strobe tests and hyperventilation and keeping her awake, I will be able to post during our stay.

I just pray that we will get some answers for going through  this unpleasant experience. This kid really deserves a break!

More Eye Weirdness

One reason I started this blog was to have a place that I can record symptoms, so I have a record that I can refer to as time goes by. If it helps others, that is icing on the cake. So I am doing just that today – if others have similar experiences and want to comment, great. If somebody has a clue what is up with this newest weirdness and wants to comment, also great.

As I have posted previously, Em is having episodes that look seizure-like but are possibly a type of migraine. Sometimes she has visual disturbances with them and I have asked her to describe those disturbances. She has specifically described that she has a dark band across her visual field or black spots during many of the episodes. Which I just accepted and entered into the log I am keeping.

But a little more questioning has revealed that this vision thing is not new. After  a recent episode she said that these black spots are not new, just worse than ‘normal’.

So, she has black spots (like a darkly tinted window, transparent but dark)  that drift across her vision during the episodes. Multiple black spots that converge and, when they do, they become less transparent and more solid black as they layer on top of each other. After a while, they drift back out of her visual field. Her eyes aren’t always open during the episodes but when they are, these black spots are typical. The solid black line happens occasionally rather than the spots.

None of that is unexpected with the neurological natures of these episodes.

What is unexpected is that she says, for her whole life – as long as she can remember, she has had these black spots. They aren’t floaters – she is describing large spots in both eyes where her surroundings disappear or are blocked. They drift in to her vision and drift out again. They occur daily, multiple times, as far as I understand, and are big enough to block out someone’s face or whatever is in her field of vision. Then they drift off (I think, as opposed to disappear) and her vision is normal again.  She doesn’t remember a time when she didn’t have them.

Mind you, she has had yearly exams by an ophthalmologist since she was diagnosed with EDS and had had her eyes examined several times before her diagnosis. Has she ever once mentioned these spots? No. In fact, her defense is that the eye doctor always says her eyes are normal so she just figured it wasn’t anything to worry about. Annoying and inconvenient, but not a big deal in her mind. I know the danger of having so many weird symptoms is that you don’t know what is normal and what isn’t, but it is frustrating to realize she is 17 and never saw fit to mention this. Then I start wondering what other symptoms is she experiencing that I don’t know about…

She has an appointment with the eye doc in late May, so we will definitely be bringing this up then. We also will see the local neurologist before then, so can talk to him about it. She did just have 3 brain MRIs so at least the generalities should already be covered. Hopefully we can get the inpatient EEG monitoring scheduled soon so we can at least start figuring out what is going on.

 

 

Seizures or Complex Migraine?

Since February 9th, Em has had 75 episodes that are seizure-like. Sometimes she has several a day. Sometimes she goes a few days between episodes.

They look like a seizure but certainly not exactly. Now, it is possible that some of these episodes could be a type of seizure and the upcoming EEG monitoring should help us figure that out. But, I got a suggestion that tipped me off to what I think is a more likely possibility and I am very VERY grateful to Paulette for suggesting it because I suspect it would have been a very long time before the doctors would have figured it out.

Complex Migraine (or Migraine with Aura) is what I am now convinced this is. Apparently, the aura of a migraine can look very much like a seizure or even a stroke. I think we didn’t notice the headache that typically follows the episodes because, let’s be honest, she pretty much always has a headache. Even when she complained that her headache was horrible afterwards – well, not only does she always have a headache, but headaches often follow a seizure, so it seemed to make sense. But, after doing some research, it makes more sense that this is a Migraine with Aura. Furthermore, I am wondering if she is specifically having basilar-type migraines, which would fall under the umbrella of Complex Migraine.

Initially, I was convinced the episodes were triggered by cervical instability – the first episode was in the car while she was wearing her hard collar because her neck was so unstable. She complained of her vision being “weird”, then was unable to move or talk and was in and out of consciousness – I thought she had just fallen asleep. She was barely able to walk once we got home 30 minutes later, then the symptoms resolved completely and she was fine. (Well, not fine, but the point is the symptoms wholly resolved until the next episode.) By the 4th episode, my records show her describing feeling like her head was “sitting on a burning spike”. Another time, she described the pain like her head was “expanding like a balloon when she breathes”. Looking back, she says she almost always had a worse headache after these episodes.

The length of a migraine aura is 5 to 60 minutes, while seizures typically last 2 or 3 minutes. Her episodes tend to last between 5 and 30 minutes – the longest being far too long for a seizure but right in the range of a complex migraine. In the early episodes, she tended to go limp for several minutes. Eventually, the episodes started looking more like a tonic clonic seizure – but not quite as violent. Just a lot of twitching and jerking and twisting stiffly and then going limp, often repeatedly. She often has trouble speaking, swallowing, and breathing during the episodes. Sometimes her eyes are closed, sometimes her eyes are open and  dart back and forth the whole time. She sometimes has a black horizontal line through her visual field that eventually fades.  She often can’t move her legs for several minutes after. Often, she is aware during, but goes in and out of consciousness. She is dazed, confused, and dizzy for 5 to 15 minutes after.

The headache part is hard because she has such layers of headaches. She has been dealing with high pressure headaches, then low pressure after the LP, then bouncing back and forth. So it has been hard to sift through all of that. But, she has been having what we now believe are legit migraines and they mostly follow these episodes, although she has had a few without the aura. They don’t respond to Diamox, she is very sensitive to light and sound, she is nauseated and the headache eventually passes a few hours later. She sometimes has multiple episodes in a day that result in the headache never going away and just getting worse with each episode. The headache is bilateral and originates at the base of her skull and wraps around to her temples. (These points are what makes me suspect a basilar-type migraine. If I am right, then my initial suspicion of brain stem involvement wasn’t entirely wrong.)

I have been keeping detailed records of the episodes but it finally occurred to me to keep track of her headache pain before and after the episodes. Typically, her headache is a 2 or 3 before and a 6 or 7 immediately after, increasing to an 8 or 9 within a few minutes.

These episodes are now mostly triggered by flashing lights: police lights, strobe lights, sunlight flickering through trees while driving, etc. There is one stretch of road on our way to Speech Therapy that is all woods – if it is a sunny day, she is almost guaranteed an episode. Watching TV shows with flashing lights on NetFlix often ends up triggering an episode. One episode was started by police lights that went by our house. (I never, ever realized how many flashing lights are in this world until now. It is ridiculous!) Fluorescent lighting is problematic, although I don’t think she has ever had an episode specifically triggered by it. She can sometimes avoid an episode by avoiding flashing lights: when driving or watching TV, she can avert or close her eyes and not go there. Not fool proof, but she does have some control. Sleep deprivation also seems to trigger them and sometimes they just happen with no obvious trigger.

The concussion from December probably has a lot to do with these episodes, in my opinion. I think the EEG monitoring will help us figure out any actual seizure involvement, hopefully. I do know that it is possible that the episodes that are more seizure-like and not quite fitting into the Complex Migraine symptoms might not be triggered during the monitoring or that epileptic activity might be harder to catch, so we may not have a conclusion on all of this. The important thing is that we get expert eyes on her. Epilepsy experts and hopefully migraine experts who really know the complexity that can exist  and don’t try to slap a psychogenic label on her.

And, yes, there is a bit of irony here. Early in this journey, we were sent to a Headache expert who idiotically insisted Em was having migraines. We *knew* she wasn’t. We suspected high ICP and just wanted to try Diamox. Eventually we found a doctor who did prescribe Diamox and it made all the difference. So, for all these years, I have battled constantly to keep the right focus on her headaches.

But the situation has changed. I believe that damn concussion has radically changed the landscape and now we are dealing with a whole slate of new issues. So, if this is migraines, so be it and let’s address it. For that matter, if it is seizures, so be it and let’s address it.

I am hopeful that if we get the right people looking at this, we can figure it out and get her some relief. THAT is the important issue.

Finally, I just want to say how much I appreciate everyone who reads, comments and shares. Not only is it crucial for all of us to know that we are not alone on our journeys, but we all have knowledge that can help someone else who is struggling. My hope has always been that sharing our experiences here would help someone else but we have been so blessed by hearing about other’s experiences as well. We would be lost without you, truly. 🙂

 

The Big Appointment

I haven’t posted in regards to the important neurology appointment we had this month. Em had been referred to a neurologist at OSU at my request, so we could try to get a diagnosis – either of CRPS or small fiber neuropathy or something. Then the labs done during her LP in January showed some concerning markers for MS and sarcadosis and her local neuro wanted her to see someone more knowledgeable than him. Since we already had this appointment set up, it could serve both purposes. Then, the seizure-like episodes started and added an additional layer of wackiness.

So, basically we threw a whole lot of crazy at him. EDS, CCI,  MCAD, POTS, possible CRPS or “something”, evaluate for MS, seizures…  Did I leave anything out? Actually, I did: Post Concussion Syndrome. Sigh.

We have learned the hard way not to put too much hope or weight on any single appointment, but I would be lying if we didn’t at least sort of hope deep down that he would be able to give us a diagnosis and a quick solution on the first visit. When he didn’t, it was a little disappointing and overwhelming.

What he did was listen and order a bunch of testing:

  • He ordered an inpatient stay on the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit to try and figure out what is going on with these episodes. (Side note: after a month and a half of them and a helpful hint from a reader, I think we have a direction to go in. Video EEG monitoring is definitely needed, but will only be a start. More about that soon!) He definitely agreed that we need to rule out all the medical possibilities before jumping to the conclusion they are psychogenic. Don’t have this scheduled yet, but hopefully we can get it done soon, figure out what the heck is going on and stop it.

 

  • He ordered a bunch of labs, including mast cell testing. No one, including the allergists Em has seen has been interested in pushing for an actual diagnosis or any treatment other than Zyrtec and Zantac. It would be nice to have someone actually helping with this.

 

  • He ordered 3 brain MRIs – one with and without contrast, a MRI Angio and MRI Venogram. I am assuming these will help rule in/ out several things, MS for one. He also was not thrilled with the fact that she has been on Diamox for several years with no evidence and is wanting to make sure there is no structural issue causing her high pressure headaches. He did say he wouldn’t mess with her Diamox but he was clearly skeptical. However, he was shocked that cervical fusions are so common for treating neuro symptoms in EDS. We definitely agreed that it was wise to avoid a fusion if possible so that was a start. Perhaps, with time, I can help him understand the rational of the Driscoll Theory and why we absolutely believe Diamox saved Em’s life. There was just too much to cover in this first visit.

 

  • He ordered an nerve conduction study. This is definitely looking at CRPS but her exam also showed some very concerning numbness in her legs. I knew she had numbness but it was far worse than we knew. He pricked her all over with a pin. She mostly could not feel it in large areas on her legs. Like, at all. Her feet and hands are numb but her legs in particular have very little feeling. He seemed concerned. I know I was. So, perhaps we are looking at a neuropathy instead of CRPS? She is having increasing difficulty walking and I have to wonder if this is part of the problem. I don’t know but it is more than a little scary.

 

  • He ordered more autonomic testing – another Tilt Table Test and a sweat test and 24 hour Holter Monitoring. He is concerned that much of her problem is autonomic related and seemed to get caught up in the fact that she hasn’t been diagnosed specifically with POTS by the cardiologist. I am honestly not sure what a name does in this case – the cardiologist is treating her for/ as if she has POTS but has said he didn’t want to label it POTS because it is more complicated. So we have just used the term “Autonomic Dysfunction” this whole time. I am conflicted on this – on one hand, I totally agreed with the Autonomic Dysfunction diagnosis as opposed to POTS. On the other hand, I have felt for a long time that they are not doing much for her at the Syncope Clinic. We go once a year and they say, “Increase your Midodrine; see you next year”. So, maybe this reset is what we need. But… I absolutely dread the idea of another Tilt Table Test for her. He says the one she had several years ago wasn’t good enough, that he needs more information. I am not sure I totally see the point, especially considering she will have to be off ALL her pain meds for 3 days. I can’t even say how awful that will be. We are holding off on scheduling this until we talk to him again. We will need some help, some plan to make this happen – a 2 hour car trip is bad enough on a good day, I cannot even fathom how she would manage that trip without pain meds. If it is not absolutely necessary, I can’t put her through that. Yet, I wonder if maybe, with as dire as the situation is, it is necessary to figure out what is going on.

We liked him well enough, but the whole thing was a little overwhelming – he was very clinical, very data oriented and it was both comforting and annoying. Em was frustrated – exhausted, in more pain than she was in to begin with – because while she couldn’t feel most of the pin pricks, it still caused her pain to spike terribly afterwards – and terrified of having to go off her meds. So, she was not exactly rational about the whole thing, not that I blame her.

I eventually came to the realization that he addressed every single issue we brought up with him. He ignored nothing we said and is looking at everything. He was skeptical about CRPS, because it certainly shouldn’t present quite like she does. So it might be a that she has CRPS but the full body pain might be down to Central Sensitization or neuropathy or something else entirely. He seemed to know a little bit about EDS – certainly he knew the connection between EDS and POTS – so we will have to see what level of knowledge he has as time goes by.

The thing that really got me, was that he wanted to see her back in 4 months. When we actually scheduled that appointment, I realized it will be 2 weeks shy of a year since this all started. A year of this torture and no relief in sight. I know the wheels of medicine turn slowly and that we need time to get all of this testing done before we see him again, but knowing we are at least 4 months from any help was absolutely crushing.

So, we are getting all of this testing scheduled  and completed and just hunkering down and trying to survive.

 

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