As many of my readers know, I had a rather disturbing incident in mid-March while exercising. Pain shot through my head that was strong enough to literally knock me to the ground. It felt as if a Roman candle had exploded inside my brain.
After the initial shock, smaller electrical type shocks continued to misfire in my head for quite some time. They still do, as a matter of fact.
At first my doctors suspected a brain bleed or stroke. For that reason they ordered an MRI — magnetic resonance imaging — and MRA — magnetic resonance angiogram.
Unfortunately, it took about two months to get an appointment for that under good old military (government) healthcare. In the meantime I was left in a “hold” pattern.
Last week I finally got the tests and this week I got some of the results. I still have to see a neurologist for the specifics but I do know that they found loss of myelin beyond that to be expected for someone my age.
I decided to do some research on the subject. I wanted to have some inkling of what my neurologist might be talking to me about when the appointment does take place.
Myelin is to the human nervous system what insulation is to an electrical system. It performs a protective sheath around the nerves. It helps control and stabilize the electrical signals the brain sends out to the body. It also controls the speed and accuracy with which those signals are sent.
Because myelin appears white, it is often referred to as “white matter.” My tests showed a loss of white matter in the frontal lobe as well as some deep tissue loss.
The loss of the myelin sheath is referred to as dysmyelination. A certain amount of that is to be expected with age. Some of it can also be “nonspecific” in that it occurs for unknown reasons. In my case it is noted as degenerative. However, a dysmyelination process could not be ruled out.
I still don’t know exactly what that means for me at this time; hence the need for an expert – the neurologist. However, I have learned that an extreme loss of myelin can result in mild to severe neurological damage.
The damage or destruction of myelin will cause problems with the brain’s transmission of messages. They don’t get sent, get garbled during the transmission or get sent to the wrong place.
If myelin disintegration continues, nerve impulses become worse or stop altogether. In severe instances, the nerves can be irreparably damaged. That means loss of communication between the brain and the rest of the body.
Loss of myelin can exhibit itself with several symptoms including, but not necessarily limited to, the following:
– blurred or double vision;
– changes in the extremities such as numbness, tingling or weakness;
– dexterity and balance issues;
– memory loss;
– speech impairment; and
– sudden, uncontrollable and unexplained pain.
I have had all of those things for years. They were attributed to my complex migraines.
Oops! Could a misdiagnosis have occurred? Obviously I don’t know that yet. It could still have been correct, thereby masking a possible, new underlying problem.
I don’t have any specific answers but now I at least have the right questions to ask when I meet with my neurologist. I always consider that a step in the right direction.
Whatever happens – if anything – I also know this. I am stubborn, thanks to my Irish genes. I am strong, thanks to my Native American genes. I am determined, thanks to my rough childhood. Most of all, I have backup in an unwaveringly devoted husband. I also have generous, loving and thoughtful friends. That includes all you here at AC.
Knowledge is power. Right now I have a little knowledge, which can be a dangerous thing. However, I am confident when I have all the knowledge I need, I can and will prevail. The truth of it is that, most of all, I am a survivor and a child of God!