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Avatar universal

Muscle tremors/shakes, "electric shocks" before sleep, constant ear ringing, memory loss

Physical info: 27 year old white male, 6'1, 160 pounds, non-smoking, non-drinking, with no previous serious health issues.

For about three months I've been having the following symptoms:

1. Tremoring/shaking muscles upon exertion. When resting they occasionally twitch, without being strong enough to actually my limbs. Walking down stairs has become uncomfortable as my thighs tremor when my muscles fully engage.

2. violent head shocks/zaps that have left me awake for 36 hours at a time. They occur the moment I am about to "cross over" into sleep. Sometimes sharp noises trigger them (wood, plastic cracking), but it only happens when I'm sleepy, accompanied by my vision going from black to bright gold.

3. Constant ringing in my right ear for about a month and a half. The tremors started occurring about one month before the ringing. About two days after the ringing started the head zaps began. They occur on average of 2-3 days a week. During the worst episodes I cannot sleep for 36 hours, and one time for 48. I only pass out from sheer exhaustion.

4. My short term memory and concentration have been slowly fading.

I have no insurance and no money. I am exhausted from sleeping only 2-3 hours a day for over two months. Is there any way I can get help from the government? I live in NJ, USA. A person can only endure so much.
45 Responses
Avatar universal
First of all, keep in mind that I am unable to diagnose you because I am unable to examine you, this forum is for educational purposes.
    The financial department at the hospital should be able to help you apply for medicaid (if you qualify, I am not an expert in this area). The symptoms of ringing in your ears and violent head shocks associated with visual changes are of unclear etiology, but I would consider trigeminal neuralgia, seizure disorder and possible tumor as likely causes.  Trigeminal neuralgia is a condition that causes shocks of pain down one side of the face and is often triggered by contact with skin of the face or sensation around the teeth.  This is often treated with medications such as tegretol.  Seizure disorders can also cause the symptoms that you describe (although the pain you describe would be less typical). Seizure disorders can also cause loss of memory and concentration, but this can also be caused by lack of sleep.  The tremors that you describe might also by attributable lack of sleep, seizures or a neuromuscular condition.  Tumors in the brain can cause pain, visual disturbances and seizures and although rare, this should be evaluated in your case.  I woudl suggest an MRI of the brain with GAD contrast (to evaluate for tumors or other structural lesion), an EEG (brain wave test for seizures).  You also need to see a neurologist to evaluate you for medications to treat your pain/shocks and to stop your sleep deprivation.
I hope this has been helpful.
Avatar universal
ou should probably start by having a physical that includes a FULL RANGE of bloodwork. If nothing is found, I'd head out place like the Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota. They may be able to arrange some sort of payment schedule with you. they are very pleasant to speak with. You may even want to call there to get some info. All testing/treatment is done under one roof, with some of the best doctors in the world.
Avatar universal
I called and ask if they offer assistance to the uninsured. The lady told me flat out "NO", and that every patient must deposit a minumum of $3000 before being seen.

Avatar universal
There is a person at Cornell University hospital in NY city who specialises in tremors.  Not sure of his name, I elected, when a neuro there suggested it, not to see him as we were travelling back to our home state the following day.

If you are uninsured then you probably need to go to a county hospital, there are some states that offer the working and non working population low cost insurance coverage but you need to go to a govt office to find out what is available in NJ.  A few ph call is a good start, I would start with the medicare offices and go from there.

From the sounds of it, you definitely need a workup for your symptoms, it could be as simple as an electrolyte problem or it could be a more complicated muscle weakness issue.  Either way, you deserve some answers.

Avatar universal
I went to the ER on 6/1/2007 at 9PM because I had no slept for almost three days. Anytime I layed down and tried to sleep, that zap/electrical shock would keep me from crossing over into sleep. They did a CAT scan and said it was negative, though an emergency doctor reviewed it not a specialist.

I overhead my young ER doctor talking to an older doctor, probably her supervise, and she said "it sounds like myoclonic jerks". But after my visit was over the discharge paper said "insomnia".

They prescribed 5 pills of Ambien 10mg. On the first night, when I came back from the hospital, it put me to sleep right away, and I woke up about 6 hours later.

Last night I felt like my awake brain was battle with my sleeping brain for dominance. There was no electric shock but my legs would jerk. This happened twice that I can remember before falling asleep. I woke up 7 hours later with a loud ringing in my ears. The ringing is loud during the morning and at night, but is only moderately loud to sometimes almost gone during the day.

They referred me to a neurologist. Whether he will accept "charity care" coverage I don't know. I'll call on my Monday and find out.

Due to these shocks when trying to fall asleep i've become afraid of sleep. Anytime my eyes are closed I cant help but fear a shock will hit me at any moment.

Noises also trigger these shocks/zaps. Especially sharp noises, like plastic or wood cracking. I've come to fear sharp sounds, since I now associate them will being zapped. I turn off every electrical device in my room, because monitor, computer, printer, speakers, as the plastic their made of tends to crack as the temperature in my room goes down at night.

Luckily ambien puts me to sleep without a shock, but my legs still jerk uncontrollably. My daytime muscle tremors are just as bad as they were when not getting any sleep. Also I have a strange buzzy/wired feeling when awake, especially when I focus on something, like looking at a monitor, or reading a book.  
214544 tn?1201150990
Here's a website I found with additional information on Myoclonus, I hope this helps. I've found that without insurance even ER's will do as little testing as possible.  You should use every means available to you to pay the Neurologist up front if necessary to get an answer, but equip yourself with as much information as you can find online to take with you.  Hope this helps and that you can rest better soon!    http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/myoclonus/detail_myoclonus.htm
Avatar universal
Other than the Ambien that was given to you, have you been on any other meds, such as antidepressants, anticonvulsants, or antianxiety medication.?Many of these meds can have nasty and prolonged  withdrawal symptoms.
I know because I've been there and felt almost every symptonm you have described!
Avatar universal
I have had those same electrical shocks for 10 years.   At first it was just before I fell asleep, then it progressed to sharp noises causing them.  The latest is that those little twiches and tics that everyone gets all over their bodies have now started causing the zaps.  I get a twitch in my ankle and zap.  
I do have insurance and have seen several doctors to ask what on earth is going on.  MRIs show nothing.  One nasty neurologist diagnosed dementia because I couldn't remember the firt of three words he told me to remember.  Guess he's never heard of sleep deprivation.  
The good news is that there is apparently nothing wrong!?!  If I ever find an answer, I'll be sure to let you know.
214544 tn?1201150990
If this is the neurologist that the ER doc referred you to, then they should accept it.  Wait times vary, but generally free clinics can be a long wait.  The neuro can authorize MRI's as well as many other tests.  Sometimes it can take a while to determine etiology as emgscot mentioned, but patience and persistance are the keys.  Since you will be getting medicaid, you need to get a family practice doctor to follow your condition and refer you other doctors if/when necessary, as well as repeated visits to them often enough ensures that this is a continuous concern and not an occasional occurance.
Avatar universal
Thank you guys for your comments.

emgscot & flyin2006, I would like to further discuss our symptoms by e-mail or messenger if you aren't against it.

My e-mail is  ***@****

Feel free to contact me at any time.

Here is an update on my situation:

I went to the emergency room again once my ambien ran out. I tried to sleep without it but got a nasty jolt in my head when trying to fall asleep. The ER doctor seemed very angry I came back and her words were "You can't keep coming back here like this" quote. ( i was there two times, my muscles shaking like an old man's at age 27)

She flat out said they won't do anymore tests and that she could send over a crisis counselor to see me. I told her I wasn't depressed, suicidal or anything of the sort. But did remind her that not being able to sleep for 72 hours at a clip is pure psychological torture. I asked her to write me a prescription to help me sleep, but anything other than ambien, as after 3 days it stopped working. I was given 1mg of Ativan.

That night I took the Ativan and it made me feel anxious and paranoid for about an hour, than extremely exhausted. I got a couple electric shocks before falling asleep and also a sensation that I couldn't breath. Once the sedation kicked in it did so very hard because I don't even recall when I fell asleep.

My right ear continues to ring and the tremor in my left wrist has gotten worse, though it only tremors on the counter-contraction. My left leg has a cramping sensation as if someone had kicked me in the thigh.

I finally managed to arrange to see a neurologist in a free clinic, that will be on the 21st of June.

I also applied for NJ medicaid and was accepted, pending a 30 day review. The case worker said I would get the coverage short of them finding something false on my application. Hopefully I'll be now able to receive consistent treatment in the near future thanks to this state program.

Does anyone here have experience with neurologists who accept medicaid? Do they have long wait times? Are they allowed to authorize MRIs?
Avatar universal
try and contact the  montel williams show there seems to be something in the
jersey area that he might be able to help you with.. to much of this around.
Avatar universal
What drugs did you take before the onset of your symptoms?. You have to check what medicines you took up to 6 or 9 months before your symptoms began. Some common antibiotics cause all the symptoms that you describe, and other drugs like antimalarials, as well.
Avatar universal
I took a two week course of Floxin for what the radiologist diagnosed as lower left lung pneumonia. The doctor said it was a severe case of bronchitis. I had a fever of 104. This all occurred 14 months before my neurological symptoms started. Other than those antibiotics I took no medications for the past two years.

After about 2 weeks all my pneumonia symptoms went away and I felt absolutely fine. After a couple weeks I was back on my bike riding several miles a day and felt great. That was fabulous summer, one of my best, both physically and emotionally. I would be really surprised if the medication is causing my health problems, because I felt no side effects after taking them, not even a stomach ache.

I have an ENT appointment on the 19th, and a neurology appointment on the 21st. Hopefully they can tell me something... I'm completely demoralized from a lack of sleep, ear ringing, and frequent electric shocks.
Avatar universal
I get the same "zaps" you are describing. They happen just as I'm about to fall asleep, and are usually triggered  by a startling noise -- a phone ringing, a door creaking, etc. The zap starts in my brain and travels down my arms/spine. Sometimes I also feel like my lungs are paralyzed. This all started when I began taking SSRI antidepressants last summer. The zaps worsened as my dosage was increased. I went off the meds about 6 months ago, and the zaps have gotten a lot less frequent, though they still occur from time to time. I personally think that my own electric sensations are due to some kind of serotonin imbalance, as they were intensified by SSRI drugs. If you havent already, maybe ask your doctor for a  thorough blood workup?
Avatar universal

I had a basic blood workup done at the ER which included liver, thyroid and electrolytes.  They all came back normal. How was your blood work? What did your doctor diagnose you with? Are you on any kind of treatment regimen?

Would you like to discuss this further on an instant messenger? We can try to go over our medical history and possibly find a link. Our symptoms are almost identical. You can e-mail me at ***@****

Avatar universal
Among all fluoroquinolones, floxin is the one that has the most delayed toxicity profile. It is not possible to tell  whether some injuries caused by floxin are surfacing now, but you might getting a more precise idea consulting the subtle symptoms that herald a delayed (up to 18 months) toxicity caused by floxin, having a look at:

I know almost twenty persons that took floxin, had mild or moderate symptoms shortly after the treatment, then reached a plateau of some months, or got nearly recovered, and by month 15 on average got plagued with several symptoms identical to yours, and extremely debilitating. It is not the norm, and indeed a rare situation but it is also a posibility, not so remote.

The classical presentation of a fluoroquinolone toxicity (like floxin) for an athlete is to have small abnormal issues starting some weeks after exposure, then have 18 months or so of increased and new symptoms, and then several years of recovery, depending on many factors. Floxin has the most delayed onset toxicity of all fluoroquinolones.
Avatar universal
I did have blood work done...everything came back normal, except for mild hypothyroidism. The doctors thought I might have autoimmune thyroid disease, but I tested negative for that. Apparently this means that my thyroid was most likely damaged by infection. About a year and a half ago, I had a really horrible case of epstein-barr virus that lasted for months on end. I wouldn't say it was debilitating, but it was by far the sickest I've ever been in my life...constant recurring high fevers, body aches, sore throat, for like 6 months. In retrospect...the zaps started right as my symptoms began to end. Maybe there is a link? If my thyroid was damaged, im sure some nerves could have been also. Given the length and severity of the virus i had, I always secretly feared it could leave some lasting damage in me.

But no doctor has yet been able to explain the "zaps" to me. According to doctors, my thyroid problem isn't severe enough to cause any symptoms, let alone cause electric shocks throughout my body. And according to blood work, that thyroid problem is the only thing that is wrong with me.
Avatar universal
Here is an update on my condition:

Today I went to see an ENT at a Catholic hospital's free clinic. He was the second ENT I saw there, as they rotate every two weeks.

The previous ENT ordered an audiogram and referred me to a neurologist (more on that later). Today's ENT said the audiogram showed some hearing loss and he thinks it may be due to a nerve polip though at my age it is unlikely, but nonetheless should be ruled out. He also ordered a Lyme disease titer, some additional blood tests, and an MRI.

Here is a scan of the MRI prescription.


If anyone is familiar with the language could you please explain to me what it means? I didn't want to waste the ENT's time by asking. He was extremely nice and seemed to genuinely care about my condition. There were a lot of other patients in the waiting area, his day looked swamped.

The free clinics at this hospital tend to be packed, though I always come in very early to secure the 1st spot. You probably get a better diagnosis when the doctor hasn't been fatigued by seeing two dozen charity cases, which include musclebound tatooed convicts in chains from Rahway state prison and also insane asylum patients. One of the guys kept banging his head on the wall and others talked to themselves, pacing back and forth. It looked like that scene from the movie 12 monkies. At that point I almost felt like my problems were small in comparison, despite the constant ringing in my ear and barely sleeping from constant electrical shocks.

Hopefully this upcoming MRI will give me a diagnosis. I feel lucky to receive it, considering many middle class working people are denied MRIs by their company insurance.

Avatar universal
Another update:

I finally got in to see a neurologist. Actually three at the same time. The elder neuro totally ignored me and instead spoke through his two residents. He didn't even want to look me in the eye.

After showing them my tremors, and explaining how exhausted I am from the electrical shocks disrupting my sleep, the elder neuro performed a brief physical, and said to his resident "It looks like a benign essential tremor. Neurologically he is fine and I believe there will be no acoustic neuroma or brain de-mylenation of any kind on his upcoming MRI."

It was all rather strange because after asking him questions he answered them to the resident who then repeated them to me. The guy was a complete jerk. He then suggested to the intern I might have taken LSD or some other psychotropic drugs. When I insisted thats not true, that I don't even drink alcohol or caffeine, he didn't even look at me, instead just kept on talking to the resident.

Then the resident repeats exactly what the elder neuro said, which I thought was absurd as we were all 3 feet from each other.

That kind of puzzles me. How can nothing be wrong with me neurologically, if I have tremors worse than some 70 year olds. (i'm 27). Electric shocks keep me from sleeping sometimes for days. Sharp noises also trigger the effect. My right ear rings constantly which began months ago with the rest of the symptoms - yet i'm fine neurologically. After waiting 4 months for this appointment, I was extremely dissapointed by the expertise of a supposed "teaching" neurologist.

On the plus side, he told the resident "a sleep study would be acceptable in this case".

So a few days from now I'll be fortunate enough to have a sleep study despite having no insurance. According to the secretary at the hospital's sleep center, I will stay there overnight while they monitor me with electrodes attached to a computer. A test that labor intensive probably costs at least 2-3 thousand dollars, and without the catholic hospital's charity care I'd never be able to afford it.

I'll post another update once the MRI and sleep study results are in.

Avatar universal
Hi. I was going through those same symptoms and more a couple months ago and  I was also getting arrythmias and high blood pressure with numbness and pins and needles in my right leg along with those muscles twiches and weakness and tremors ear ringing and memory loss. I went from doctor to doctor and they wouldnt know the reason got so many scans ,mri's xrays  and tests ..... In the end it turned out to be thyroid problem I was going through a thyroxic state ...Myabe you should get your thyroid checked?
Avatar universal
My blood test had a thyroid check and they said the results were normal:

T4 Total: 9.9
T3 Uptake: 36
Free T4 Index: 10.2

What part of your thyroid blood test was off? I've read there are many different types of thyroid tests. The doctors at my clinic probably gave me the most basic one.
Avatar universal
What was your TSH? It's a big part of the thyroid test.
Avatar universal
Unfortunatly by the time The doctors knew my problem was from my thyroid ((2 1/2 months later) I was over the thyroid storm and I was moving into hypothyroidism ..My thyroid tests then were ;
Tsh 3.15 normal 0.4 -4
Ft4 1.2 normal 0.8 - 1.9
Ft3 3.3 normal 1.5 - 4.1
It wasnt the tests thats got my diagnosis ..It was the my fast growing goiter and high blood pressure and heart beats that finally got them to realise that I had a thyroid problem.. I think you should get you TSH tested also...It is also important with the freeT4 and free T3 tests.. I got those done and also ultrasound.  Im so sorry for what you are going through, Ill keep you in my thoughts and hope you get a proper diagnosis and get better soon..
Avatar universal
by the way. what are the normal ranges for your thyroid levels?? each lab has different normal ranges. sometimes you can be in normal ranges but high normal or low normal.
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