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Friday, August 31, 2012

What happened to April 2012? A really bad month.

This tree in my front yard is flowering six weeks early.
Something changed drastically in late March of this year. I was doing well through the Holidays, and spent a great Christmas with friends and family. The post-holiday transition went well, and the decorations came down. Things were back to my normal comfortable routine. Things were going along as usual until about midway through March. Then everything changed for the worse, though at the time I did not really see it that way. I lapsed into what I can best describe as a type of "bvFTD Survival Mode."

First off, I remember almost nothing of this time period. It is what I refer to in another earlier post as "Missing Time." I do remember that I informed the woman that I had been dating for 6 months I did not want to see her for a while. When pressed by her for how long, I arbitrarily chose the date of May 9th. This had been my Mother's birth date, and was the first thing that came to mind as a date about a month away in May. I closed the doors, and some days did not open them. I did not want any visitors. When friends called, if I answered the phone at all, I just said I was busy, or had other plans, and discouraged company. I only went to the store when I absolutely needed something, and kept it short. The car remained parked in the yard for a week or more at a a time. I was a hermit. I removed almost all outside stress from my life.

All of my symptoms were suddenly much, much worse, and I had no idea why.

Yes, I was aware something was wrong. I was very afraid I was nearing (had reached!) a time when I needed to be in a care facility of some kind, or have some kind of outside help at home. Yes! It was that bad.

Instead, I dealt with it instinctually. I basically shut myself away until I got better. I did have some outside contacts and activities. I went every Friday night for a nice long walk in the park well after dark continuing with the volunteer work counting frogs which I had been doing for something like 12 years. A few times I felt better, and spent some time with old friends, but it did not last, and was just a day or so now and then.

None of my friends or family ever really suspected anything was wrong. After all ...I sounded just fine when I talked to them.

I met with my doctors, and discussed what was going on with me. My Neurologist and I developed a theory. I made some changes ...and I got better! Just like that! Almost overnight ...I was back to my simi-normal self.

So! What did we come up with? What did we do?

This, I suppose, is front-line applied medical research of a type the major drug companies, our bloated government, and the AMA abhor. But in reality they have failed us, and we are on our own. Hey, I am not a doctor, and I would never presume to give medical advice to others. I will, however, share my own personal experiences, and my own opinions. After all, I have bvFTD, and can share my opinion, sometimes at volume, and with great vigor, just about any time.

So, now, 6 months later I am looking back, and trying to figure out what went wrong, and what changes made things better. I am still not sure, but I will make some guesses loaded with intuition, and personal insight.

A couple things happened last March:
1. I changed my medications.
2. This Spring in Ohio was unusually hot, and the allergy season was much worse than usual for those, like me, allergic to tree pollen.

First the medications. When my allergies were bad I took antihistamines, usually a generic Chlortrimaton because it always worked well for me in the past with the only side-effect being increased libido. Yup! No down side there. When I had by routine blood work done, my blood glucose was elevated. This was no surprise given my weight gain of nearly 30 pounds since starting Aricept and Namenda. My doctor started me back on Metformin. I had taken it before, and tolerated it well. Of course, I was not taking Aricept or Namenda back when I was on it before. It has been 5 or 6 years since I had taken any drugs to control my blood sugar. My doctor said I was "diet and exercise controlled". The joke is I neither dieted nor exercised.

So maybe it was a reaction to starting the medication. I voiced my suspicion to my Neurologist, and he was unconvinced that Metformin was the cause. He was probably correct because I am currently still taking it without any adverse effects. If it was the Metformin causing the problems it was temporary. Maybe I just got used to it. I only mention it because it was a change in my medication at about the same time I started having problems. Maybe it was just a coincidence ...if you believe in that kind of thing.

First-and-a-half: Something else was going on at the time. My memory of it is very hazy, but I remember having a feeling of huge building stress in my romantic relationships getting more serious than I had planned, and having to choose between a couple of romantic options. I remember it as a heavy physical weight on my shoulders driving me downward. This situation resolved itself when one of the players removed themselves from the equation with a trip to Texas making my choices simple. I really don"t know how much, or if anything, this all had on the worsening of my symptoms, but it was going on and should at least be acknowledged as a possible contributing factor especially when the increased stress is factored into the overall equation.

The second is what we (Neurologist and I both) think really was going on. The weather was hot, and Spring was 4-6 weeks early. Last March in Ohio was bizarre with temperatures in the mid-eighties when it should have been freezing. Plants, trees, and everything else that could flower, fruit, or produce spores was doing so. The pollen and mold counts were astronomical in this area. My car was covered with yellow dust every day ...pollen.

My allergy symptoms were very bad. All the usual with ichy eyes, runny nose, sneezing, and even some mild asthma. I have always had allergies. I have always enjoyed the outdoors, and am a naturalist. I have never allowed my allergies to prevent me from doing what I loved to do. This Spring was no exception. I ignored my allergies as best I could, and went on with what I was doing. I was out in the park every week for several hours wallowing in all the pollen.

Well, I did a little research on a hunch. I looked into exactly what, if any, effects histamine had on memory. The connection seemed obvious to me: pollen - allergies-histamine-and anti-histamines.I didn't expect to find anything, so I was surprised when I found a lot. Histamine does effect memory. Who knew? One of my most severe and debilitating symptoms is a deficit in the functioning of my short-term memory. Duh! Could it really be something this simple?

I presented my theory to my Neurologist. He did not laugh it off. Instead he said another patient of his with bvFTD had had a severe setback similar to mine, but in that case it was clearly related to stress. His theory was that the allergies were acting as a physical stressor, and making my symptoms worse through the histamine pathway. The solution we came up with was to try taking anti-histamines more regularly, and switch to one of the more recent generations of drugs. I chose a generic version of Zyrtec because it was available at the Dollar Tree for a buck a box instead of $10 a box at the drug store. Yes, it is the exact same stuff!

Late Spring also brought on a cold snap returning temperatures to more normal, though still warmer than usual. Pollen counts remained high, but more typical of an Ohio Spring.

A few days after starting the anti-histamines, and using the air conditioner at night as a relief from the pollen, I was feeling better. A week later I was out and about, having company over, and by May 9th dating again. Lucky for me she is a very patient and understanding lady.

So, some days are better than others. Some whole months can be pretty bad. Most days, and most months are pretty good.

Comments are welcome.

1 comment:

  1. anticholinergic drugs affect memory. google "the aging brain" and "anticholenergics". many drugs for allergies are anticholinergic. check to see if zrytec is on the list. i took benadryl off an on for a couple of weeks to sleep through hot flashes, and my ability to put a coherent sentence together was affected.