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andyf30

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Hi guys, obviously I'm new here. I'll cut to the chase. I have been experiencing pretty strange neurological symptoms the last couple months and I was curious if anyone here could give me any guidance. I have pretty serious anxiety so be aware that I may be over reacting and exaggerating my symptoms in my own head, but I've gotten pretty good at separating the real symptoms from the mind exaggerated as I've gotten older.

I'm a 20 year old male, and I've always been an athlete with very large strong calves, quads, etc. I run track in college, but this summer I've noticed strange things going on with my body. It started with headaches and pain behind and above my eyes (around july), and slowly it has grown into an odd feeling of sort of always being off balance while standing, my vision will get sort of out of focus for periods of time, thinking clearly is difficult, and I'll feel very very tired. My muscles worry me the most. I havent tripped or anything, but they definitely (cue perceived vs clinical weakness argument here, I'm a biology student and learned about this last semester) feel weaker to me. My calves feel weaker and this past weekend I had trouble opening a beer bottle which with twist offs is usually a piece of cake for me. I havent been training much this summer as I picked up the decathlon this past season and wanted to rest. As a result, I sort of wrote it off as just normal muscle weakening due to less intense exercise. That being said, I have been noticing more twitches etc in my legs, and have spent a lot of time researching possible causes. I don't see any obvious atrophy but that could honestly be because of how large and defined my muscles were before coming off of track season.

The strangest part is, is that when I'm working out I feel normal. When I play basketball, or do my track workouts, or lift, I feel just as strong as always. In fact my squatting has improved this summer coming off of a back injury at the end of last season. I'm just worried as hell that these symptoms are just going to keep getting worse. I had an MRI and a CT scan on my head and nothing was there, and now I'm sort of in limbo not sure where to go or who to talk to. My mom keeps telling me I'm fine but I know when my body doesn't feel right and it's frustrating to seemingly have nobody listen to me. I'm seeing a second (first told me it was just migraines) neurologist tomorrow but I'm scared to bring up my worries with my mom there (home for the summer so she'll be coming along) as she'll just tell me I'm being ridiculous and write it off as usual. Any ideas or hints? Even if this isn't ALS (I know this is an ALS forum) I was hoping I could at least get some guidance as to how I should go about the visit with the neurologist tomorrow.
 

Atsugi

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Andy, thanks for including good details. I'll try to address all your concerns by going through all your symptoms.

Let's dispense with the twitches, first. Twitches are so common they're not diagnostic of anything. Half the healthy population has them. Mostly, they're just amusing. You'll notice more twitches as you get older. Don't worry about it.

Headaches and pain around the eyes, feeling off balance, and out-of-focus vision can be caused by many things as simple as dehydration or lack of vitamins. But these are NEVER caused by ALS. ALS destroys MOTOR nerves that order voluntary muscles to contract. ALS does not affect sensory nerves, balance, or vision, and doesn't cause headaches.

You mentioned atrophy. In ALS, atrophy of a muscle would occur AFTER that muscle had been laying limp and unused for several weeks or months. In ALS, by the time atrophy occurs, you're usually in a wheelchair. If you see a muscle there, you're not seeing atrophy.

The big deal in ALS is clinical weakness, the actual inability to move a muscle. Any doctor can do a remarkably simple but thorough exam to detect this.

Most people think ALS is a muscle disease. In fact, it's in the brain and brain stem. ALS destroys a motor nerve, so that nerve cannot tell its corresponding muscle to contract. Then the ALS destroys the next nerve and the next, until your whole hand is useless. Then it moves on to the next set of muscles nearby.

But you don't have ALS at all. I'm not a doctor so I can't diagnose you, but I know ALS fairly well, and you don't have it.

Lastly, you're 20. ALS is a disease for much older people, like 65. In fact, I recently examined a database of 1800 ALS patients. Of 1800, only 3 were below 30. They were 27, 28, and 29. If a 20-year-old got ALS, it would be a world record.

Personally, I think you have common symptoms for a college athlete. Even the "not clear thinking" thing is common for someone in your position. Don't jump from common symptoms to a rare disease. ALS is rare, and you did not describe ALS in your post.

But maybe you have something that a doctor could treat. You should definitely keep your appointment with the neurologist.

One more thing, Andy: I understand the parent's perspective. We want to personally make very sure our kids are completely safe at all times. I worry about my adult kids every day.

But you need to persuade your mother to let you see the doctor on your own. You're old enough to carry a machine gun on patrol in Iraq. Certainly she should let you walk into the doctor's office on your own.

Good luck.
 
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