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Strange symptoms

Just over a year ago I experienced strange symptoms. I am 30 yr old, good health, don't smoke, don't drink.  One morning I started having trouble speaking.  Saying wrong words, couldn't read, could barely dial the phone, forgot phone numbers, wrote down wrong numbers when being told what numbers to dial.  About a half hour before this had visual problems.  It was like everything was jiggling.  Wasn't "dizzy", just everything around me was almost  like bouncing.  Whole visual episode lasted about 20 minutes, trouble thinking, speaking, lasted about 10 minutes.  Couldn't even get the names of my children right.  Was very concerend.  Went to ER, did CT-normal.  Weeks later had MRI  w/o contrast, US of heart, neck, thyroid.  All normal.  Blood work all normal except elevated Thyroid which later when re-checked was normal.  Neurologist thought possible TIA, then changed to possible Atypical Migraine.  No history of Migraines.  Had dull headache when all over.  Since then have had a few visual problems, and some dizzy spells.  Nothing like what happened that day.  Any ideas?  Does this sound more like a type of Migraine?  Thanks for your time.
50 Responses
Avatar universal
Complex migraines are certainly a consideration, but another possibility would be a seizure.  If you haven't already had one, then you may want to consider getting an EEG, perhaps even a prolonged sleep deprived EEG just to make sure that the diagnosis wasn't missed. But reading over your story, the visual changes that preceded the neurological problems sound like they could have been an migrainous aura.  The dull headache afterwards also help make migraine a strong possiblity.  Glad that your workup was otherwise normal. Good luck.
Avatar universal
When I first started reading this I thought, "A stroke". But as I continued, I would say a Migraine. 15% of people who suffer from migraines have visual disturbances of some kind. Over the last eleven years, I've had a couple of different kinds of visual disturbances. You may want to try seeing if you are able to find a trigger, i.e. stress and find a neurologist that you like and trust.
Avatar universal
Were you taking a quinolone based antibiotic at the time, such as Cipro, Levaquin, Noroxin, Floxenor, etc?
Avatar universal
Have you used aspartame (Equal, Nutrasweet) in the last few years? Do you drink diet sodas?  If so, how much have you regularly consumed?
Avatar universal
Oh, c'mon, stop talking about aspartame. There is no evidence that aspartame causes MS-like symptoms. Read this: http://www.msfocus.org/aspart.htm

Please don't believe everything you read on the Internet. It's important to learn as much as you can about your disease, but make sure you learn from reliable sources.

I know what i'm talking about. I'm a medical student which has turned out to have MS. I try to stay as up-to-date on MS as I can, so I regularly browse the Internet for news. And I swear I get mad everytime I find a certain doctor XXXXXX who claims to have the ultimate cure, or all those sites which blame aspartame for causing lupus and multiple sclerosis. It's not true!!

(Please forgive my English, I come from a European Country)
Avatar universal
misaki, your English is OK, but your medical education is still limited. You cited some misinformation about methanol that is frequently thrown out by the proponents of aspartame, such as statements like this one from the link you included: "a glass of tomato juice provides 6 times more methanol than a beverage the same size sweetened with 100 percent aspartame." There is indeed methanol in tomato juice as in a few other "woody" fruits we consume. However, there is a difference between consuming naturally-occurring methanol in fruits and consuming isolated methanol used as a binding agent in the man-made compound aspartame. Since you are a medical student, can you tell us what it is?
Here's a clue. What is the antidote for methanol poisoning? Since you are a medical student, perhaps you can tell us the answer. If you don't know, it may surprise you, and even seem pardoxical. If you do know, then you can probably figure out why consuming methanol without the rest of the tomato juice or orange juice or whatever natural substance it is contained in. Then, when you figure that out, imagine the effect of consuming methanol in the thousands of people in this country who consume massive amounts of aspartame, often unknowingly.
Then, when you have solved that, think about this. What are the symptoms of methanol poisoning? Here. I will save you the trouble of opening your medical school textbooks. The symptoms are as follows:

Many of the early symptoms of methanol poisoning are non-specific eg. headache, dizziness, malaise, generalized weakness, altered sensorium, acute mania, and paresthesias.

The most characteristic symptoms that are very suggestive of methanol toxicity are the visual symptoms - blurred vision, decreased vision, snowfield blindness - described as "seeing a snowstorm" or "stepping into a snowfield", visual scintillations, photophobia, constricted vision or visual field defects, total blindness. Abnormal eye signs include poorly reactive or unresponsive pupils, reduced visual acuity, optic disc hyperemia, retinal edema, an enlarged blind spot, papilledema, and eventually optic atrophy.

GI symptoms are also very common and include nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain due to gastritis. The abdominal pain can be severe and mimic an acute abdomen; pancreatitis can develop and also produce abdominal pain. Permanent neuro-visual deficits may follow recovery from severe methanol poisoning eg. pseudobulbar palsy, primitive reflexes, persistent vegetative states, unsteady gait, severe cognitive impairment, visual hallucinations, flaccid paralysis, Parkinsonian-like syndromes, bilateral basal ganglia infarction and optic neuropathy.

There are a great many people on this and similar boards who complain of SYSTEMIC neurological symptoms -- like numbness, tingling, paresthesias in all extremities and the face, muscle spasms and cramping bilaterally etc. -- which I am sure you recognize are the types of symptoms that lead many to get worked up for MS. But just look at the number of people on this web site alone who have had negative MRIs to rule out MS, and dozens of other tests that all come up negative. Some have searched for months for a clue as to why they have their symptoms, to no avail.

Granted, for many of those poor folks, aspartame is obviously not the cause of their problems, simply because they report they do not use it at all. But for those who do use it, my suggestion is a simple one. It doesn't require any involved analysis of the clinical studies. It just requires abstaining COMPLETELY from the stuff for 60 days, to see if it makes any difference. What does anyone have to lose by taking that simple step?
Avatar universal
misaki, would you care to tell us whether you have personally used aspartame in your diet?  Diet soda or other artificially sweetened products?  I'm curious.
Avatar universal
Was not taking any antibiotics and don't use artificial sweetners.
Avatar universal
It sounds a lot to me like a TIA.  Sometimes, I believe, clinical evaluation is the only way to determine a TIA, because none of the test(to my understanding) will show a sign of a "mini-stroke".  I could be wrong, but this is what I heard from a person that had one.  best wishes.  chad
Avatar universal
At one time nutrasweet contained mannitol..not sure if it still does as this was when it was first introduced when they were weaning saccarin out. At the time I drank diet drinks..they started with a "blend" of saccarin and nutrasweet to get ppl use to it. I noticed when the blend was introduced I had a lot of nausea but thought it was a matter of getting use to. After one week of "blend" started getting headaches. Didnt find out cause of problem till nutrasweet gumballs were placed in a cereal as a "gift" lol. Anyway..I had severe allergic reaction to mannital after surgery once..so that obviously was culprit in my case. Have not used diet products since as all have nutrasweet in them. Keep in mind when reading research that often they can manipulate any results they get to achieve what they wish results to show. They only get future grants for results after all.
Avatar universal
I'm one of those who've been diagnosed at "complicated migraine".  I definitely get the stroke-like auras usually without headache (sometimes rather mild, tylenol usually helps).  I've experienced expressive aphasia (unable to speak or say the right words), generally out of it, right sided weakness-tingling-numbness)

I've had the "million dollar" workup - Heart / Brain caths, every blood test in the book, MRI/MRA's, CT's, multiple lumbar punctures.  Everything normal, except for smaller than normal arteriest at the base of the brain.  I understand this is a common finding in migraners.

I've managed these episodes with daily preventative medicines, (aspirin, verapamil, nortriptyline), avoiding trigger foods, and getting sufficient exercise.

Believe me, after 2 years, I still have a hard time accepting this neurological disease.
Avatar universal
You don't know me, so you can't talk about my medical education. Which, by the way, is one of the best you can get. Cajal (in case you don't know, he was nobel prize for doing research in neurohistology) was a professor in my medical school, in the same department I am doing neuroanatomy research since age 18. Maybe if you spent all the time I have studying biochem, physiology, pathology, etc., you would see that there's no proof at the moment of aspartame's supposed toxicity, if consumed in the amounts *permitted* by FDA.

>> So, what is aspartame? Aspartame is just a combination of phenylalanine (phe) and aspartic acid (asp). Those are two aminoacids just like the ones that can be found in your body's proteins.

>> Fruit and aspartame doesn't have "methanol". Methanol is made in your body as a result of aminoacids metabolism. And there's NO difference between the methanol that results from natural products and man made products - it's the same compound.

>> You can't consume isolated methanol but you can eat fruit. Why? Because there "isn't" the same amount of methanol in an apple than in a methanol bottle. And you don't have to go to medical school to know that.

>> I don't need to open my text books to know what a methanol intoxication looks like, and I don't find its treatment surprising because i know the mechanisms in which are based. Maybe if you opened my textbooks, and then spent 6 years studying them instead of reading what other people say on internet, you would see my point.

>> I have not yet found a single case in medical literature of some patient that has been cured from MS-like or lupus-like symptoms by quitting diet soda. If you know someone, please refer him to a MEDICAL DOCTOR to do further research.

>> You ask me about myself. Yes, I drink LOTS and LOTS of diet coke. But, alas, my one and only relapse appeared two years before I started taking it. And drinking soda doesn't make me worse, in fact, not drinking diet coke makes me a lot more tired. I'm a caffeine junkie, just like 95% of med students. And none of my neurologists, nor my professors in med school has told me to stop drinking diet coke.

It's well known by physicians worldwide that the aspartame thing on the internet it's nothing but a hoax. There isn't any article in Medline to prove it. But if people prefer to blame aspartame for their illness, instead of searching for a good neurologist and facing the dx, they're in their right.

I won't tell anyone what to believe. I'm only talking about evidence.
Avatar universal
Yay!  I liked how you put that.  You sound very knowledgeable. I have been dx with MS for over 6 years, and I never use aspartame.  I can count on one hand the times in the last 10 years or so that I have had a diet drink.  In fact, I don't drink any kind of soft drinks.
Good luck to you in your studies and also with your MS.
Avatar universal
Misaki, first, you are incorrect in stating that aspartame does not contain methanol.  Aspartame is 10 percent methanol. You are incorrect in stating the methanol results from the metabolism of the amino acids in the product.  Methanol is used to bind the phenylalanine and aspartic acid.  Strike one.

      Consuming methanol in a man-made product is NOT the same as consuming a fruit that contains methanol.  The fruit contains the ANTIDOTE for methanol poising -- ethanol.  The methanol in aspartame is not accompanied by ethanol.  Strike two.

      The "aspartame thing on the Internet" is no hoax.  It has been called a hoax by the proponents of aspartame, and the "hoax calling thing on the Intenet" is the hoax.

      You drink "lots and lots of Diet Coke," and none of your neurologists and professors have told you to stop drinking Diet Coke.  Ergo, it's OK.  That's pretty funny.  It reminds me of something Paul Tillich once said:  "The passion for truth is often crushed by the weight of undisputed authority."

       You suggest people not blame aspartame, but rather search for a good neurologist.  I agree with the good neurologist part, but the point I was posting to the many people here who have done just that, and who have had dozens of MRIs, CT scans, and other tests, but are no closer to understanding what is causing their symptoms than they were before they went to a doctor.  I don't believe I have stated that MS is CAUSED by aspartame, although the cause is obviously not understood and is probably multi-factoral, and excitotoxins like aspartame may well be at least one of those factors.  But the point really is that many people who have negative MRIs and other objective tests, and still end up being diagnosed as having MS by default, might want to consider the possibility that their systemic peripheral neuropathy is caused by something as simple as a neurotoxin they place in their body.  And why not try abstaining for 60 days to see if it helps?  Why do you need a double-blind prospective study when all you have to do is quit consuming the stuff for 60 days?
Avatar universal
this is not to be rude,but i believe amc5 was simply looking for information so he/she could better understand their med.prob.not for you two guys to go back and forth with medical debates to prove who's the brightest star .amc5 just wait for the c/clinic neuroligist to answer your questions ,then the next move if you havn't already ,is to take all you fils and test to another neuro for a second opion it is always good to have 2 or three opions to make sure nothing was missed ,god bless ,wishing you well
Avatar universal
Why do I need a double blind clinical trial? Because that's how things work in medicine. If this Nancy XXXXX ever shows me a clinical trial proving aspartame's toxicity, I'll consider it. And if clinical trials prove going to Lourdes to be the cure for cancer, I myself will carry my patients there. But until then...

Yeah, I sure look stupid because I prefer to trust my doctors and my books (OMG, maybe they all have relatives in the aspartame industry...) instead of this invisible person on the internet who made up the whole thing. Which, by the way, is what you are doing. Very clever
Avatar universal
Wishingyouwell, I didn't post my first message to start any debate. I did it to offer some information that I myself would have liked to have when I first heard of aspartame. And i don't need to "prove I'm the brightest star" because I don't consider myself that way.

I only share the information i have gotten from a) medschool, b) textbooks, c) senior neurologists and d) common sense
Avatar universal
Eight months ago I was experiencing severe headaches, even waking up with them.  I thought it might be all the diet soda I was drinking.  I stopped drinking the diet drinks.  One day I woke up with tickling/tingling in my left foot.  The headaches diminished but the tingling continued for 7 months. Two separate MRIs showed a small nodule in left thalamus and a small non-specific linear thing in the T11, T12 area on my spine.  MS was suspected.  Slowly, and I mean ever so slooowly, my tingling improved to the point I would say my foot is normal.  A third MRI was done just a few weeks ago, and the nodule in the thalamus is still there (neuro is not concerned), and the linear lesion thing on my spine is gone.  Which explains why my foot feels almost 100%.  I was wondering if anyone has an idea of what it was I had.  Oh, I am back to drinking my diet sodas...
Avatar universal
lmroswell, count yourself among the many unlucky people who have neurological dysfunction from causes that cannot be explained by conventional medical wisdom.  In your case, there is some apparent objectivity in your medical tests, i.e. the abnormal MRIs, but the exact cause of the lesions, plaquing or whatever it is being visualized on the MRIs may never be understood.

You can choose to follow the sophistry of some who have bought into the company line put out by industry, or you can at least TRY to isolate and identify a possible environmental cause of your illness.  You obviously cannot control your heredity, but you can control the neurotoxins you choose to use to insult your nervous system.  There have been dozens of studies by unbiased researchers demonstrating the neurotoxic effect of aspartame.  In your own case, you've apparently conducted a small, unscientific anecdotal study of one person that at least raises a possible circumstantial link between your symptoms and your aspartame consumption.  Since you have gone back to consuming the methanol and other nasty stuff, we should expect your symptoms will eventually reappear.  If they do, perhaps you will want to once again refrain from consuming aspartame.  Good luck to you.
Avatar universal
Fortunately, I'm not the one with MS or something mimicking MS.  You are.  Perhaps I should expect someone with your educational background would have the smarts to conduct a little experiment on himself to see if aspartame at least aggravates your condition.  But I don't.  Because you have it figured out already.
   I'll make a prediction.  Someday, you will try just what I suggest.  You will eliminate aspartame from your diet completely for 60 days.  Of course, I cannot tell you that in YOUR case, it will make any difference at all.  (I suspect it will, however.)  But you will be curious enough, and perhaps desperate enough, to try it.  Perhaps by then, you will stop referring to the legit criticism of aspartame as if it were all created by some "Nancy XXX" as an internet hoax, probably because by then you will realize that there are board-certified specialists who have written and published about the medical concerns associated with heavy regular aspartame consumption.  By then, instead of your presumptuous dismissal of the numerous articles describing the risks of aspartame usage, you will have finally actually read some of those articles.  And you will realize you have been a fool.  I hope you find some relief from your condition, but mostly I hope you get over your hubris because it's going to make you a lousy physician.
Avatar universal
Where or what have you read that Aspartame may have ill effects on the CNS?  I am only curious.  I have to say that I stopped drinking the diet stuff only because of the headaches, which I had experienced before my tingling problem.  Then the tingling happened, and very slowly over 7 months diminished.  I also stopped eating deli meats, which contain nitrites, which can trigger headaches.  I do  have a rapid heart rate (that started on Feb. 03), and am on 100 mg. Toprol.  Don't know if that is related to my unexplained neurological symptoms.  Or just the anxiety created in the last 8 months of my wondering what is going to happen.  Do you think it is possible that a virus of some sort caused my symptoms?
Avatar universal
I also have heard from a Chiropractic friend that glutamate is also being suspected in over-exciting the CNS and that this substance is in certain foods in high amounts.  Ever heard of this?
Avatar universal
Years ago, I had sub-acute transient thyroiditis.  Before I was diagnosed, I thought I was losing my mind.  Too much thyroid hormone can cause weird symtoms.  I would go to the grocery store only to get home to see that I bought the wrong product.  When I peaked, I was at work and could not write.  I could not concentrate very long.  The thyroiditis took its course and I have not had a problem with it since.  Maybe your symptoms arose because of the elevated hormone.
Avatar universal
Yes, glutamate is a well-known neurotoxin, and the biological risk to health is very similar to asparate, from which aspartame derives its name.  You are probably familiar with MSG, which causes "Chinese restaurant syndrome" in many people.  The "G" stands for glutamate.
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