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Date of last update: 10/20/2017.

Forum Name: Miscellaneous Cardiology Topics

Question: legs and head feel like they're filling with air

 tabithakristen - Sat Mar 31, 2007 8:19 am

Ok, I can't take this anymore. For quite a long time now (maybe 4 or 5 years) I've been dealing with this. When I stand up from a sitting position (no matter how slowly or quickly I stand) I get this
sensation like my legs are going numb, they get kinda achy and they feel like they're being inflated. Along with that, my head will also feel like it's being inflated and I can't say that I black out but
it's almost like I go blind for about 10 seconds. I also feel like if
I don't sit as soon as possible, I'm going to fall over. The only
time Ive had medical insurance in the past 5 years is when I've been pregnant and my Doctors, no matter what I say to them, tell me that it's coming from pregnancy. Although, I experience this MORE often when I'm NOT pregnant. Please, someone help me out here. I'm so afraid that one day I'm going to fall down the stairs or even drop one of my children.

Oh, and one more thing, my symptoms appear to be getting worse and worse AND when I was pregnant I was told that I had a heart murmur. Not sure if that will help but I figure it won't hurt to mention it.

thank you
 John Kenyon, CNA - Sun Apr 01, 2007 12:02 pm

User avatar Hi tabithakristen - Your description of the problem is one of the more accurate ones I've heard, and sounds very much like you suffer from orthostatic hypotension - basically a failure of the baroreceptors in your body (which are designed to refexively increase blood pressure and heart rate to compensate for the effects of gravity when one stands up) to do their job. This can range from the occasional and mildly annoying to a real nuisance and, as you've noted, a potential secondary danger from falling.

The short-term trick is to avoid actually passing out. The solution, usually, is to get up slowly, stop, and wait for your body to adjust to the new position. This can be tricky, however, because our natural tendency is to get up and do something. Also, there can be a lag before the pull of gravity causes the blood to drop from your head down into your abdomen and legs, so you sometimes may get up feeling fine, take a few steps (or more than a few) and then get the drop.

While the condition commonly occurs during pregnancy, those who have it all the time may actually, again as you have observed, experience it less when pregnant than otherwise.

If the problem is becoming more severe with time there are any number of possible explanations, most of them in themselves fairly benign, but still well worth looking into. If the condition is the result of a provable failure of the baroreceptor reflex, there are a couple of different medications that can be tried which might relieve the symptoms. First, though, usually, a tilt-table test is performed, which is probably something you wouldn't want to have done while pregnant.

If you can work out some way to have an exam specifically for this problem when not pregnant, I would advise it. Failing at that I can only suggest - very strongly - that you pause after standing and start moving cautiously at first, as big a nuisance as that may be, in order to avoid a possible fall and the risk of whacking your head or otherwise injuring yourself. You may never actually "fall out", but the potential is there.

It seems unlikely that the perinatal murmur would be related, but again, it's hard to tell for sure without a neurocardiological workup while not pregnant. There's probably something you could be taking that would help reduce or eliminate the problem.

Wish I could give you something more, but lacking health insurance it's going to be tricky. You might comfort yourself with the knowlege that while it's a very unpleasant sensation it is almost always benign - so long as you take your time in getting up and moving.

Good luck to you.
 tabithakristen - Sun Apr 01, 2007 5:34 pm

Thank you very much for taking the time to reply. I really can't imagine having to live with this forever. It's frightening. Hopefully someone will be able to do something about it. Maybe fix it even a little bit.

I also wanted to add that I'm pretty sure I have RLS. Do you think they could be connected in any way? (symptoms in previous post and the restless legs)

The reason I say that I may have RLS is because I've had a problem for quite some time where I can't keep my legs still. The best way to describe the sensation is "ants crawling through my veins". It makes me feel like I'm going insane. It's uncomfortable and sometimes it hurts.

Thank you
 John Kenyon, CNA - Sun Apr 01, 2007 9:17 pm

User avatar Hello again - There are medications to treat baroreceptor reflex failure (BRF) and neurocardiac syncope (a less likely possibility, as you apparently never actually faint and only have the symptoms when you rise from a seated position). The point is that if you can be diagnosed correctly this can be treated and you likely won't have to live with the problem indefinitely. The only barrier seems to be the cost of the testing and diagnosis. Hopefully there is some sort of workaround for that.

As for RLS being related to this problem, while I don't know of any specific relationship between the two, there may be, at least in your case. RLS involves the nerves in the legs in some way not clearly understood. So does BRF, in that somehow the nerves in the legs which control the normal function of the veins in them somehow malfunction and the normal veinous return doesn't happen promptly,allowing the blood to pool down there when it should be getting forced back to the heart and then to the head. Only for a brief moment.

It's not even a theory, just a thought. A tenous connection. Maybe.

I wish you all the best with both things. Please do stay in touch.

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