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A question about MS, Fainting, and Syncope
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A question about MS, Fainting, and Syncope

Question:  Does Multiple Sclerosis affect the Vagus Nerve (Cranial Nerve X)

I have been having lots of black outs (aka fainting or syncope), and I noticed when these occurred my blood pressure falls to around 85/40 (sometimes even lower).
As I starting researching fainting (over the Internet), I learned quite a bit about it, and some of the perceived causes.
One perceived cause is damage to the Cranial Nerve X, the Vagus nerve.  The Vagus Nerve works on several areas of the body.  If there was damage to my Vagus nerve, it might be able to explain some of my symptoms.
The Vagus nerve affects the throat, ex. saliva, swallowing, talking, etc., it affects the heartbeat (slowing it),it also affects the lungs constricting bronchi, etc., it affects the stomach by stimulating peristalsis and secretions, it also effects digestion (in the liver it stimulates the release of bile and it constricts the bladder.
If the Vagus Nerve is damaged, it could have resounding effects on many parts or areas of the body.

What do any of you think?
Have any of you, had these collection (more not mentioned) of symptoms?
If so, were they associated with Vagus Nerve damage?
And if so, was there anything they could do for you?
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9 Comments Post a Comment
It was a vaso-vagal reflex response that triggered me to see my PCP this summer and resulted in my recent diagnosis of MS.  

After walking the dog on a hot August day I experienced a significant drop in blood pressure and heartrate, a heaviness in the chest and a complete loss of bladder control.  I didn't faint but I did take a voluntary seat pretty quickly.  It was several hours before I felt better.  

I was told this is more common in people with MS.  I don't believe it has anything to do with permanent damage to the nerve but rather came from a stimulation of it somehow related to the heat and activity of that day.  It hasn't happened again since.

Thank you for responding, at least I'm not the only one with this symptom,

However, I will say, that this is a daily occurrence for me.

My blood pressure will drop and stay low for several hours.
It use to only happen two times a day, between 2 and 5, AM & PM.
Now, it is happening more often, and for longer periods of time.
Therefore, I have plenty of black out (faint or syncope) spells each day.

Oh well, just another symptom of MS, that I have to get use to, and live around.

Take care and God bless, you and yours.

- Socrates2k1
I have no idea if all of these things are connected, but in response to the list you gave, here goes:

I sometimes seem to have trouble swallowing my own saliva and will choke a little--I've been much more careful with food over the last year, so I haven't been choking on food.

I don't have too slow a heartbeat, but it increases easily and won't come down quickly the way it used to (e.g. running a block to catch the bus will cause my heart rate to go up to about ~160, and take a good 10 minutes or so to return to normal.  This was a sudden change, so I don't think it's being out of shape.)

My lung function tests showed some "poor neuromuscluar control.

My GI doctor has told me that my stomach empties slowly (he dx celiac disease in me, and told me this incidentally).

I feel like I have strange bladder spasms after I go.

I also have problems with lightheadedness (i.e. POTS) and dizziness, but have never fainted.

These things have all seemed very unrelated to me, interesting to hear they could be from one cause.

I've had a lot of trouble with hypoglycemia too and it's always worse when I'm stressed.

Years ago (when MS was first mentioned but never diagnosed) I had a radiology study that showed my stomach empties it's contents too quickly and then causes a jump in insulin levels that eventually causes low blood sugars an hour or two later.  This is seen in gastric bypass patients but I have no history to explain it and my sugar would sometimes remain very low for extended time periods.  I was advised to drink only limited liquids with my meals and carry a candy with nuts (to raise the blood sugar with carbs and keep it steady with slowly digested fats).  As with other symptoms, I fiddled around and tried things until I hit on a solution that allowed me to function daily with yet another oddity.

I had a period of several years without much problem controlling my sugars.  It's reappeared the last couple of years and I have wondered if it's at all related to MS.  My entire GI tract seems to display various issues that are bothersome to me but often seemed trivial to the docs.  I'll have to go back and read your list again.

Update us as you learn anything please.

  i have had trouble fainting- i guess like someone threw a switch and id b- out!?
and memory  well it sure isnt there sometimes- very frustrating-
Well, thank you for sharing, it's always reassuring to know that someone else knows what you are going through.

So, know that I can relate to what you are going through and yes it's very frustrating.

Many of my symptoms have endured since my experience with all this began, back in July (2009).

My short-term memory is quite poor (especially, when it comes to remembering what the day of the week it is and what the date is, but also remembering if I left something on the stove or if I have taken my Rx, etc.)

My cognitive thinking (ex. doing multi-step tasks, etc.) is still poor as well.

I still do not feel hunger or thirst, or the need to go to the bathroom (no accidents, I simply don't go), but have terrible constipation (because I don't go for 5-8 days at a time).

I still have constant nausea, and my ability to taste (foods and drinks) is quite diminished.

I still have a severe "MS hug", which means I do not breath deeply, and sometimes my lips turn blue.

I have constant ringing in my ears (do more to the concussion than MS).

I also have tremors (in my arms, legs, torso, etc.)

Then there is the aforementioned black-outs (or fainting or syncope).
My blood pressure drops very low, making me dizzy, and causing me to have black-out spells, sometimes several times in a row.  My doctor has given me salt pills (NaCl) to take to try to raise my blood pressure, so far poor results.

Wednesday, I go to see my PCP, for a follow-up on my blood pressure, but also to do a pulmonary function test (to see if I'm breathing adequately) to see if there is something wrong that would explain why my lips are turning blue.

On the bright side, my speech has improved drastically, I don't stutter (or work repeat or word hesitation) very often, usually when I'm tired.  Also, I can walk much better, and most of the time walk around my house without my walker.  However, I do use my walker outside my home and I use a "rider" when I go to the store.

All of this is new to me, and I'm having a hard time dealing with all the repercussions of having all these symptoms.

I know, with all these problems I have mentioned, that continuing working is out of the question, but that has some very negative repercussions of its' own.
Loss of income and loss of health insurance.

I'm tempted, when I go see my PCP (on Wednesday), to ask him to give me a note saying it's O.K. for me to go back to work.  (Really, this is a decision left up to my Neurologist, who definitely said, I cannot go back to work!).

Anyways, know that you are not alone.

Take care and may God bless, you and yours,

- Socrates2k1
Hi there,

Vasovagal syncope or neurocardiogenetic syncope can be an isolated problem too.

Have you been dx'd with this ontop of your MS dx?

It's very important you see a special Dr. for this.  You've already been hurt.  Instead of your blood pressure going up when you stand or do anything that raises it naturally, it drops off  -- then it drops you!  

It's amazing, but by dropping you it actually makes it easier for your heart to pump your blood to your brain while flat. You probably already know this, but reading you have this daily is worrysome.

Please be careful of certain things like close proximity to pools or terraces without banisters, etc.  I'm surprised the salt is not helping.  Water will raise your blood pressure naturally for a little while too and to eat something every couple hours, similar to what diabetics do to balance sugar.

Electrophysiologists can dx this.

Very glad to hear about the speech :)
Sorry to go on and on,
Hello I would like to comment on this as I came across your post and find it very similar to my experiences.

I was dx'ed with Ms in 2004. I have been very lucky and have bouts but overall my health is good as long as I am diligent about not getting whatever bug is going around- if i get that and then wham my MS symptoms start.

First time I had optic neuritis and loss of balance (after getting a stomach flu ) - lasted about 6 wks until IV steroids got it under ctl.

A few years later I was given  a tetanus shot when I cut my finger and in 2 wks developed a terrible problem not being able to take in a breath - it was as if my diaphragm was frozen. I could only get a breath if I leaned over a table or chair to take all pressure off. Numerous doctors and 6 months later, it was finally resolved after 5 rounds of prednisone. It would improve on the pred but once off it would recur.

Third and biggest problem went on almost 2 yrs.... I was put on very strong antibiotics for dizziness (by what they  thought was ear infection) which caused me to vomit and have diahrea  in the middle of the night and passout  with tremors .

This started an almost nightly regimen of passing out. Always betw 2 -3 AM. I would feel either nauseas or that I needed to have a bowel movement and get out of bed and out I pass out.

In the process of passing out I would tremor all over - legs, arms, etc. My husband would lie me flat, get my legs up, and pump blood back into me from my arms and legs. But sometimes I would just come to and pass out again.  So many trips to ER and a gazillion differrnt  docs- and good ones -  and no one could tell me what it was. They recreated it on tilt table test after a shot of isuprel  but my heart #s didn't support POTS...

After doing a lot of research, I noticed a correlation to what I was eating/drinking and how close to bedtime. Reading up on histamines - and the fact that your body has times where it increases the amount of histamines (ususally in this timeframe). I altered my diet to eliminate all high histamine food - wine, seafood, shellfish , anything smoked or brined, and anything leftover! I try not to eat for a fw hrs before bed - and if I feel one of these coming on, I take a Benadryl or zantac). All these symptoms connect to the vagus nerve.

This finally stopped seemed to break the cycle and I have been good for almost a year now. I know this all sounds crazy but it is my life - whether its MS or a crazy hyperactive immune system, I am not sure.... just thought this may help someone.
Hi SB - Welcome to the group.

This is a pretty old thread. It was last updated 6 years ago and many of the originl postetrs no longer visit. I just didn't want you to think they were ignoring you :-)

Why not Post A Question and introduce yourself. We're a friendly bunch!

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