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Julius2009 10-31-2009 03:40 PM

Help! Severe brain fog, lethargy, sleep & skin problems for a decade! Thyroid issues?
Hi everyone,

I just joined the board after a Google search led me to these forums, and I started to post in search of a solution to what afflicts me.

I've been chasing my tail for more than 10 years about a series of symptoms that started in 1997, soon after I moved to the North East region (Boston, New York). Before that time, I've lived in California, Arizona, and some countries in southern Europe. As I mentioned, I never experienced this constellation of symptoms before I moved to the North East.

These symptoms started on-and-off in 1997, and then they stayed for good, and happen every single day. [B]I am suspicious it may have to do with thyroid problems[/B] (among other possible causes), and wanted to check with the board. Here's the list:
[LIST][*] [B]Severe brain fog, lethargy[/B], feeling like my brain is in molasses. I never pursued my doctorate because this affliction makes me feel like an imbecile, unable to mentally function as I used to.
Also, no diabetes.[*] [B]Sleep disorders[/B]: never get a good night of sleep. Always wake up exhausted, beat up, no matter how many hours I sleep.[*] [B]Shortness of breath [/B]and [B]palpitations[/B] upon waking up. Often with sweats.[*] Frequent [B]headaches[/B], intense and debilitating. They usually focus in the base of the skull (behind the neck) and in the center of the forehead, between the eyes. At times the headaches are quite debilitating.[*] [B]Pressure[/B] behind the [B]eyes[/B] and inside the [B]ears[/B] (like I'm under water)[*] [b]Visual disturbances[/b]: floaters (like TV static noise), blinking lights, sensitivity to light.[*] [B]Sinus congestion[/B], but the nose is dry. Mild sore throat all year round.[*] [B]Creaking and popping noises in the inner ear[/B]. Very noticeable upon chewing, yawning, swallowing. This creaking noise inside the ears happens all through the day. Tinnitus at night. [*] [b]Dizziness and nausea[/b].[*] Extremely [B]dry skin and scalp[/B]. The scalp flakes horribly, and it's quite embarrassing. Not a single anti-dandruff product helps. It's actually not dandruff, but large scales of skin. Disgusting! Sometimes it itches, but most times it doesn't.[/LIST]
Since these symptoms started, they never quite went away. I met with different doctors over the years, which studied my case from different angles and directions, but never got anywhere. On occasion they found some minor indication of something, but never conclusive.

Among the battery of tests requested by doctors in the last decade, here's some from my recollection:
[LIST][*] [B]Internal medicine[/B]: can't find anything conclusive. No diabetes either.[*] [B]Neurology[/B]: can't find anything conclusive. I was prescribed various types of antidepressants, which made no difference whatsoever.[*] [B]Sleep studies[/B]: mild apnea, small enough to warrant these symptoms. Used a c-pap machine for a few months with no positive results.[*] [B]Infectious diseases[/B]: all negative. One doctor thought of Lyme disease, but all tests came out negative (plus I don't have any joint problems). Since I used to be very active outdoors, another doctor gave me the Lyme vaccine, but it didn't make a difference.[*] [B]Sinus problems[/B]: ORL specialist noticed inflamed sinus and turbinates. Suggested this could be the culprit for my problems. Four years ago I [B]underwent surgery [/B]to widen the nasal passage. The result: negative. It made no difference.[*] [B]Allergies[/B]: Not much luck either. My allergy tests show I have mild reactions to pet dander, and a slightly higher reaction to dust and mold, but nothing that non-prescription allergy medicine wouldn't fix. Doctors prescribed me every allergy medication under the sun, with no positive results (Singulair, Zyrtec, Claritin, Allegra). The nasal sprays (Nasonex, Mucinex, etc) actually made me more congested (bad reaction to those). One allergy doctor gave me injections for 6 months to immunize me against dust and mold. No results.[/LIST]
I started to think this was my fate. Then, in the last couple of years discovered a very interesting and dramatic fact: [B]when I travel to drier or higher regions, these symptoms go away[/B]. Allow me to explain.

In the last three years I had the chance to travel a lot because of work, and discovered that, when I was on assignment for a week or more to places like California, Arizona, Texas, Spain or Italy, [B]the vast majority of these awful symptoms slowly go away[/B]. Within a few days, the mental clarity comes back, I sleep like a baby, sinuses clear, I can focus on tasks without the dreaded lethargy, skin stops scaling.

Then, within days of coming back to New York, all of these symptoms come back. I've been able to measure it a 2-3 days. Within that time, the constellation of symptoms come back to take claim of my body. How bizarre!!!

I don't know what's wrong with me. I don't know what else to do. [B]I would really, really appreciate it if someone could point me in the right direction[/B]. There are a few things I have not yet researched:
[LIST][*]Inner ear disorders, infections, or Mennieres disease.[*] Exposure to toxins or neurotoxins?[*] Mineral poisoning?[*] Other allergies that doctors are missing?[*] The opposite of "altitude sickness", known as "sea level sickness"?[*] Thyroid problems?[/LIST]
I'm puzzled, tired, and depressed over this situation. I see my life wasting away, unable to enjoy life because I'm too ill and spaced out. I live in terror of losing my job and not being able to have a successful career because I'm too lethargic and brain-fogged to move ahead. I don't know what to do.
[LIST][*]Can anyone point me to a good doctor in NYC that would go the extra mile to get to the bottom of this? Any good doctors specialized in difficult diagnoses?

[*]I've researched that some of these problems could be caused by thyroid problems (hypothyroidism), or severe reactions to things unique to this region. The severe scaling of my skin makes me think it could be thyroid related.
Can anyone recommend me a good Thyroid specialist in NYC that could look into why I'm so sick all the time?[/LIST]
I'm desperate. Any help would be much appreciated.

javelina 10-31-2009 05:15 PM

Re: Help! Severe brain fog, lethargy, sleep & skin problems for a decade! Thyroid iss
I'm not sure what is going on with your health here but I can offer a list of tests you can underdo to try to narrow things down. A lot of your symptoms sound adrenal to me, the dry skin, sleep issues, palps, sensitivity to light, dizzyness.

I don't know if this is related to what you are going through or not but
I find I feel better in certain regions of the country than others but I attribute it to weather. I currently live in AZ and like the dry weather, I lived most of my life in Maine where it's cold and damp a lot of the year and had far more symptoms when the weather was bad. I am very sensitive to barometric changes and cold damp cloudy weather can send me into a tailspin. Hot and humid is also miserable for me, which it can be in Boston/NY. I do not do well at high altitudes either.

As far as testing, I think it would be wise to rule out an endocrine cause of your health problems. I chased many, many specialists like you have and they all shook their heads at me. Once I targeted my thyroid and adrenals as the cause it all fell together. I recommend these tests:

For adrenals: A 24 hour diurnal saliva test. You will likely need to order one on your own and many mainstream docs aren't too keen on them. The problem is NY won't allow them unless you can have one sent to someone outside the state. This is by far the best way to test adrenal function. There are a few self-tests you can do, mainly take your temperature several times a day and average the results and chart over the period of a week. If there is .5 to 1 degree of variation from day to day adrenals are suspect.

For Thyroid: Ask your doctor to do the following labs:
Free T3, Free T4, TSH, TPO-Ab, TG-ab. You should also test your vitamin D, B12 and ferritin and I would also recommend you test your testosterone as many men with thyroid or adrenal issues are low in Test.

Hopefully these tests will give you a few more clues as to what is going on.

javelina 10-31-2009 05:16 PM

Re: Help! Severe brain fog, lethargy, sleep & skin problems for a decade! Thyroid iss
the post duplicated for some reason

Julius2009 11-01-2009 07:48 AM

Re: Help! Severe brain fog, lethargy, sleep & skin problems for a decade! Thyroid iss
For Thyroid: Ask your doctor to do the following labs:
Free T3, Free T4, TSH, TPO-Ab, TG-ab. You should also test your vitamin D, B12 and ferritin and I would also recommend you test your testosterone as many men with thyroid or adrenal issues are low in Test.

Hopefully these tests will give you a few more clues as to what is going on.[/QUOTE]

Thanks Javelina. Any specific type of doctor I should locate? Is this Internal Medicine, Endocrine? Not sure what the right specialty should be.

I also wanted to list a few additional symptoms I forgot to mention in my previous post:
[LIST][*] [B]Night sweats[/B]: at least twice a week I wake up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat, particularly around the chest, and very cold.

[*] [B]Always feeling cold[/B]: winter or summer, I always feel cold and I have to put several blankets in bed. On occasion, when I put too many blankets I feel too hot. I proceed to remove a couple of blankets only to wake up cold again.

[*] [B]Temperature slightly under normal[/B]. Every now and then I measure my temperature and reads slightly under normal (about .4)

[*] [B]Severe memory impairment[/B]. Both long and short term, they are gone. At times it's just embarrassing. A great deal of my efforts at work consist on hiding this impairment, writing everything down, and still things get forgotten.

Together with the mental fog, I know that people around the office are starting to think I'm useless. It's getting to me.

[*] [b]Unable to lose weight[/b]. I'm not too overweight (30 lbs over, mostly around the waist), but I'm absolutely unable to lose any weight, no matter what I do.

[*] [b]Hunger[/b]. Always hungry. Unable to control appetite. Cravings for sweets.[/LIST]
Hope this provides more insight on my affliction.

javelina 11-01-2009 08:29 AM

Re: Help! Severe brain fog, lethargy, sleep & skin problems for a decade! Thyroid iss
These additional symptoms do seem to point to endocrine problems, both thyroid and adrenal. I think you are right to pursue this further.

Unfortunately many of us have had very poor luck with endocrinologists as they seem to be very old school in how they interpret labs and unwilling to listen to their patients in large part. There are a few good ones out there but you need to go with a good recommendation from someone in the same situation as you are. My doc is a family medicine MD. Many have better luck with DOs and then there are integrative med and naturopaths, some not covered by insurance and some tend to try to sell lots of other therapies that may or may not be helpful.

One thing you can do now is take the list of tests you need done to your family doc and ask if he or she will order the labs. If you are refused you can order your own labs online and have your blood drawn at a local testing facility. Often it can take a long time to get into see a specialist or a good doc and it would be good to get some preliminary labs done ahead of time and also take that time to learn more about this. Many mainstream docs are not ahead of the curve with these endocrine issues so you will need to be your own advocate for the most part.

chynablue 11-01-2009 10:09 AM

Re: Help! Severe brain fog, lethargy, sleep & skin problems for a decade! Thyroid iss
I have a lot of these symptoms too. Memory problems, brain fog, lethargy, sleep problems, heart palpitations, headaches, dizziness, nausea, dry skin, etc. I could not find a doctor for a long time. I finally found one that specializes in thyroid and adrenal fatigue. He treats my symptoms rather than my blood work. According to my blood work I am in the "normal" range, so most other docs just say its in my head or I need better diet and exercise. I hope you can find a good doc in your area, because it absolutely sounds like hypothyroidism and adrenal fatigue.

I have the weird vision disturbances, too. Look up "visual migraines". It is basically a migraine headache that causes lots of floaters or TV static sparkles or like fireworks... It's hard to explain. It can occur with or without headache pain. I thought for sure I was going blind until I found out what it was! Mine are related to my adrenal fatigue, not a separate migraine issue.

I am also very sensitive to changes in weather, humidity, and light. I take more thyroid medications in the fall and winter, and decrease my dosage in the spring and summer. My doc says he has several other low thyroid patients that report the same thing.

When I am stressed or my body is out of balance, my body rejects some foods. Its like I develop a food sensitivity - usually gluten or processed foods. But, I can travel to a different place and eat those foods again. Its because the environment is less stressful to my body somehow, so I am able to eat these foods again without throwing up or having intestinal distress. For example, I was intolerant to gluten for 4 months. Then I flew to Europe and ate breads with no problem. Then, I flew to New York for an assignment and the gluten intolerance came back. I thought maybe it was because of the ingredients or something, but as I found a good balance of thyroid treatments, the intolerance disappeared all together. I can't really explain it, but it sounds very similar to what you feel as well.

Its like, when my body is too tired, it stops functioning or cuts corners in whatever area it can to conserve energy. My body will refuse to digest certain foods, become unable to tolerate humidity or cold weather, stop caring for skin cells, etc. Whatever shortcut it can take because the energy is just not there.

Good luck, and let me know if anything works for you because I am still not at 100%! ;)

javelina 11-01-2009 10:41 AM

Re: Help! Severe brain fog, lethargy, sleep & skin problems for a decade! Thyroid iss
chynablue, look up bromide in bread and you will see how it interacts with the thyroid and causes every kind of thyroid disease. Several countries have banned bromine in bread but in the US we still add it as potassium bromide. I could be that you have celiac disease as well but since you seem to be able to tolerate bread sometimes and not others I would look at bromide as a possible cause. Another thing to look at is how fluoride affects thyroid function and many cities add it to water or it occurrs naturally. Fluoride was once used as a treatment for hyperthyroidism because it interferes with the thyroid and causes hypothyroidism.

I also have the visual migraines. When they occur I have partial vision loss with big blurry patches. There's very little head pain but many other symptoms of migraine; nausea, photophobia, fatigue. I've had this for years and I attribute it to my adrenal fatigue, which I've had symptoms of for about 15 years.

Julius2009 11-01-2009 09:41 PM

Re: Help! Severe brain fog, lethargy, sleep & skin problems for a decade! Thyroid iss
Thanks everyone. This is very good information. I wasn't aware of perchlorate and bromide and their effects on health. I think there's something fishy about how my symptoms improve and most of them go away when I visit drier/higher regions. Don't know what to make of it. Over the last few years I've thought of every possible explanation, no matter how far fetched. Barometric pressure messing with my brain? Something weird in the local NE water or food that makes ill? Something in nature in the NE that makes my body react? Electro-magnetic radiation? Whatever you can imagine, I've thought of it.

I really don't know what it is, but from all the descriptions I've read, the one that approximates my symptoms the closest is a Hypothyroid condition, but it doesn't quite explain the severe sinus congestions. Either the sinus/allergies are part of this whole syndrome, or they are a red herring that's not related and throwing me into a spin.

Of all the symptoms from this nightmare, the ones that disturb me the most are the neurological ones: brain fog, memory loss, mental sluggishness. It's truly horrible. Pain I can deal with, but this cognitive dysfunction is something I was not prepared to face. When it is at its worst, I can't even form complete sentences, or confuse words for no reason. For instance, last week I said several times "March" when I was convinced I was saying "November". This was in a business meeting. People thought I was either drunk or mental.

Another disturbing effect is forgetting the topic of a conversation... in the middle of a conversation. In mid-sentence I forget what I was talking about, and I'm left there, stumbling to figure out what to say next.

Memory is the worst, though. Short term memory is gone for good. I have completely lost it. Long term memory fades one and off. I can remember the silliest things, but forget names of relatives, of places I've lived, or things I've done, movies I've seen, books I've read, people I've known. It's torture. It's pure torture, and I don't know what I need to be normal again.

I look forward my trips though, because I know when I visit California o Spain, I'm normal (or as close to it as I can get) for a few days. During those days I'm lucid. I catch up with important things in my life. I suddenly can read without struggling, and finish several books in no time. I write again, and things make sense. The fog disappears, and then I'm whole. Most importantly, in those small windows of time when I'm lucid, I put together long lists of important "TO DOs", lists of things I really need to do, but that the brain-fog and memory issues make me forget.

Then, when I come back to New York, I'm able to get to a few of those items in the list... until the brain fog sets in, and then I live a day for a day, trying to catch up at work, hiding my illness from my coworkers the best I can. Deep in the sluggishness and lethargy... This is no way to live, frankly. As I said in a previous post, I feel like I lost the last 10 years of my life to this thing... whatever the heck it is.

chynablue 11-02-2009 05:21 AM

Re: Help! Severe brain fog, lethargy, sleep & skin problems for a decade! Thyroid iss
Good news! Your cognitive problems will go away once you get your thyroid levels back in balance.

I hated being stupid when my thyroid crashed! I would get lost on my way home or on the way to work. I would forget how to turn the blinker on in my car - I would lift my hand to turn the blinker on, only to find that there is no switch there. It was never there - it was on the other side of the steering wheel. And I've been driving my car for 5 years!

After I started meds and my doc adjusted the dosage - it took about 6 months to get it right - I went back to normal, thank goodness. When my thyroid is low again, the symptoms come back, but its not as bad.

Julius2009 11-04-2009 07:55 PM

Re: Help! Severe brain fog, lethargy, sleep & skin problems for a decade! Thyroid iss
I just had the most insulting and frustrating visit with my family doctor ever.

Frankly, I don't know if I have a thyroid problem, or chronic fatigue, or any other kind of disorder. What I know is how horrid I feel all the time, and what this has done to my life.

Well, I printed the list with my symptoms [i](same one I posted here a few days back)[/i], and took it to my family doctor, to see if there's anything we are missing. He did some test the first time I mentioned my symptoms, and ever since he's claimed I'm depressed and it's all in my head.

So, I printed my list of symptoms, took it to the doctor, and explained it to him today, in detail. He didn't even want to read the nice little document I put together.

His response? This is what he said to me:

[QUOTE] "Wow. You've really taken a lot of time on this! It seems a bit obsessive, wasting so much time on this stuff. Any other doctor would see this list you put together and think you are coo-coo... Not me, of course.
I'll send you to a psychiatrist to check you for OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). You may need some antidepressants..."[/QUOTE]

F#ck this! My concern for a debilitating affliction that's been plaguing me for 12 years is "wasting time of this stuff". And because I provided a very detailed list with my symptoms, trying to trace this problem and see if I there's something we are missing... and I must be whacked in the head.

I don't want this man to be my family doctor anymore. Furthermore, I don't think I'm even going to see this psychiatrist, based on his biased demeanor to me. I feel so insulted right now.

javelina 11-04-2009 08:18 PM

Re: Help! Severe brain fog, lethargy, sleep & skin problems for a decade! Thyroid iss
OMG! That has to go on record as one of the worst put-downs by an MD I've heard in a very long time. I honestly think that these guys have their empathy gene removed at birth, or maybe in med school.

I can very much sympathize with what you are going through. Many of us have been dismissed in so many ways by doctors and the list is long and dismal. You have every right to be insulted. This is obviously a man who is completely clueless about how to treat you and instead blames the patient for his problems. You are very right to walk away, and fast.

Try not to lose heart and start your search for a doc who listens and will try to help you without sending you to the shrink. In the meantime, if you can afford it, get your labs I mentioned above done with an online lab company. You need to look at these so you can start to figure out what is going on. Share them here so we can offer some ideas too.

Good luck to you and I'm really sorry about your experience. :wave:

Julius2009 11-04-2009 08:56 PM

Re: Help! Severe brain fog, lethargy, sleep & skin problems for a decade! Thyroid iss
Thanks Javelina. I'm so angry and sad at the same time. What an insulting remark from this guy. He's often been a bit arrogant and dismissive of me, even about obvious stuff that was easier and clear to diagnose. This takes the cake, though. This was insulting.

So, because I've been feeling like sh#t for years, and I want to get to the bottom of it, he dismisses me quickly by suggesting I'm "obsessive compulsive". And he didn't even read the printout I brought with me. He even claimed that "other doctors would think I'm coo-coo" for bringing such detailed list. Words absolutely fail me right now. I can't even eat dinner tonight, that's how upset and angry I am.

PS: For the record, NO, I don't have OCD. I have known people with OCD, and I sure know I don't have [i]that[/i], frankly.

javelina 11-04-2009 09:11 PM

Re: Help! Severe brain fog, lethargy, sleep & skin problems for a decade! Thyroid iss
I think he didn't want you to confuse him with the facts ;).

I've brought in timelines and lists of my symptoms many times to doctors (since my brainfog was so bad I couldn't remember anything, especially with the stess of sitting in the doc's office, I'd find myself stammering and fumbling over my history, so I had to write it all down). Most of the docs were gracious about me doing this and found it helpful. Your doc is a complete jerk, plain and simple.

Keep looking for a good doctor. If you're in NY I think there is another post here about finding a doc in your state.

Julius2009 11-05-2009 08:34 AM

Re: Help! Severe brain fog, lethargy, sleep & skin problems for a decade! Thyroid iss
[QUOTE=javelina;4115989]Keep looking for a good doctor. If you're in NY I think there is another post here about finding a doc in your state.[/QUOTE]

Thanks Javelina. Not sure I can locate that article. Is it in this Thyroid board, or somewhere else?

javelina 11-05-2009 08:50 AM

Re: Help! Severe brain fog, lethargy, sleep & skin problems for a decade! Thyroid iss
Here's the post:

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