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Forum Name: Neurology Topics

Question: My father


 soirse - Mon Mar 15, 2004 7:21 am

Hi,

Me again!

My father has recently been complaining of getting what he refers to as 'the staggers' in which when he gets up from a seated position to his feet he feels very weak and feels almost drunk. If he attempts to walk he staggers and has to sit down for it to pass which takes around 20 minutes. He is very stressed as he works as a University dean 7 days a week and is 56 years old. His working days are very long too - 7am-8pm is not unusual. As usually goes with University life there is a lot of rich food and alcohol most days so he is quite overweight although not 'fat'.

He has had around 6 of these staggering bouts in total and they occur about once a month. Another symptom he has been complaining of recently [in the last few weeks] is a numbness in his toes. This generally lasts a whole day and vanishes as quickly as it sets in.

At weekends he does very heavy work in the garden and I've warned him that he shouldn't work so hard - he is frighteningly strong for his age and doesn't see that this kind of work is not usually undertaken by people his ago. He goes to the gym about once a week and goes overboard in there too for his age.

There is virtually no way he would ever go to the doctor unless he was advised to and as far as I know has never been.

Would you have any idea what this might be?
 Dr. Yasser Mokhtar - Mon Mar 15, 2004 2:11 pm

User avatar Dear Egan,

Thank you very much for using our website.

The symptom that your father is having could be caused by few things. But first, what does your father really feel, does he feel dizzy or does he feel that the room is spining around him as if in a swing? This is important to try and differentiate the cause behind the feeling. Does your father complain of this every time he tries to stand up or just sometimes?

The causes that could be causing this:
1. Ear problems which can be caused by a cold virus that could affect the ear
2. Symptom of stroke.
3. A condition called orthostatic hypotension where patients develop a low blood pressure when they stand up and this could be caused by fluid loss most of the time or a nerve dysfunction especially if the person is diabetic.

Has your father had a cold recently? Has he been taking any new medications? Has he ever had a stroke? Is he diabetic? Has he been complaining of diarrhea or vomiting or urinating too much? Has he developped any bleeding from anywhere? Has his appetite been the same recently?

My advice is to make sure that your father does not fall down whenever he has this episode and if this is not improving or getting worse, to go see his doctor. If this has been going on for a week, i would suggest to go to the doctor if it does not improve within 3 more days to another week at the most.

Once more, thank you very much for using our website http://doctorslounge.com and i hope that this information helped.

Yasser Mokhtar, M.D.
 soirse - Mon Mar 15, 2004 6:28 pm

Hi & thank you again for your reply.

I've found it difficult to ask him these questions as like me is a hypochondria with the exception that he believes in homeopathy and would never go to the doctor. If he suspects I'm asking these questions to a doctor he wouldn't answer them - a typical stubbord Irish man in other words.

My mother on the other hand says she'll try to ask him these questions in detail although in the meantime she's said the following:

1. It's not really a dizziness as such or spinning room, it's more or a confusion and staggering feeling - he describes it as feeling 'half drunk'. As if he cannot coordinate himself when walking.
2. The staggering feeling he's had about 6 times in as many months and it seems to be brought on by stress or physical exertion.
3. Most of the time he's fine - he can perform very strenuous activity in the garden and it won't happen for example. Similarly, sometimes he might just be at work at a desk with no physical activity whatsoever and have it happen to him when he stands up.
4. His hearing is terrible. I keep advising him to have ihis ears syringed but he refuses. If he's in a loud environment he can't make out what someone is saying to him yet if it's quiet and there are just him and someone else he's fine. He's had this for years.
5. There is no history of any disease apart from TB which he had when he was twenty and had a massive lump removed from his throat. A visible lump has remained since I was a kid and has not grown. He puts it down to a botched surgical job although being typically Irish he let the lump grow to about the size of a football!
6. He's had an Ulcer in his stomach removed when he was around 26 surgically and has had no problems eating any food or drinking any drinks since. Apparently quite rare in 1960's Ulcer removal surgery?
7. He drinks quite heavily like everyone else in the University and would average about a bottle of wine a day in the evening. He's not an alcoholic but has always consumed that much since I can remember - I'm now 25.
8. He is very very stressed all the time and constantly talks about his job. I cannot emphasise this enough - I've never seen anyone so consumed about his profession.

I'll update you with what my mother has to say when she poses the questions to him.
 Dr. Yasser Mokhtar - Mon Mar 15, 2004 9:32 pm

User avatar Dear Egan,

Thank you very much for the update.

It looks like your father has an inner ear problem which is most probably contributing to his hearing loss and could be also contributing to this imbalance episodes that he has been having.

One other thing, drinking too much alcohol can destroy one's nerves especially of the lower extremities and contribute to this feeling of being unsteady on one's feet.

My advice to your father is to stop drinking although it is not going to be easy and if he stops suddenly he might go into withdrawal, so he has to be under medical supervision if he decides to stop drinking.

Usually, the dizziness/feeling imbalanced starts a battery of investigations to make sure that the patients does not have a stroke or that the blood supply to the brain is fine in addition to other investigations but in most cases, the results are negative and the patients are prescribed medications that can help sometimes with the dizziness sensation.

Once more, thank you very much for using our website http://doctorslounge.com and i hope that this information helped.

Yasser Mokhtar, M.D.

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