General Question

Sakata's avatar

Question about a medical issue.

Asked by Sakata (3347points) February 18th, 2009

Hopefully I can keep this short.

Occasionally I have, what grandma’s call, “spells.”. Here’s what happens pretty much every time…

-Starts off with severe hunger pains right in the diaphragm area.
-Immediately following that is slight dizziness & disorientation.
-Then I get weak and shaky.
-Then comes the “vegging” out where I just sit, or stand, and zone off while almost drooling on myself.
-While all this is going on my brain is functioning fine. It just doesn’t have the power to make everything function normally.
-Finally I get muscle soreness (mostly in the legs.) It doesn’t last long but it always comes toward the end.

I listed these in an order but it doesn’t take 10–30 minutes for all of it to take place. Typically the 1st three happen in about 15 seconds while the last 3 come in within a couple minutes.

Normally I eat, because of the hunger pains, but I don’t know if that actually helps or just takes my mind off of everything else for a while until it goes away.

Damn, not as short as I had hoped

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62 Answers

Bluefreedom's avatar

I’m not a qualified medical authority so I can’t make heads or tails out of your current condition but just to be on the safe side, I’d definitely recommend a visit to the doctor sooner rather than later. Your health is paramount and you should never take it for granted.

Introverted_Leo's avatar

How much do you eat? Once a day, twice? I mean it could just be you’re not eating enough (proper foods). But like BlueFreedom said, a trip to the doctor’s couldn’t hurt.

I sorta went through a similar experience when I started skipping meals sometimes. When I started eating more and drinking more water, it helped a lot.

shilolo's avatar

First, I agree that a full medical evaluation is an absolute must given your description.

Second, to speculate, what you describe sounds a lot like temporal lobe epilepsy with autonomic aura (meaning, you have visceral sensations, like hunger). As it says in this emedicine article “Following the aura, a temporal lobe complex partial seizure begins with a wide-eyed, motionless stare, dilated pupils, and behavioral arrest.” This sounds a lot like your “vegging out” description. For a more pared down description, you can check wikipedia or an epilepsy website.

Obviously, this is pure speculation since I don’t know your complete medical history, family history, etc., but you absolutely must see a doctor ASAP to determine a) what you have and b) what is the underlying cause. If you drive a car or other vehicle, this type of “spell”, if it is epilepsy, could lead to a serious accident. Also, if this is temporal lobe epilepsy with complex partial seizures, you could develop a generalized seizure (the classic passing out, arms/legs jerking type) at any time, which of course could be dangerous to you if it occurs unwitnessed or while you are doing something like driving or handling heavy equipment.

Testing for this is relatively straightforward, and treatment can be very effective. Please don’t delay. This is not an eating or hunger problem. See your doctor as soon as you can.

AlfredaPrufrock's avatar

Eat regular meals and it should stop. Your body’s trying to get your attention that starving yourself is a dumb idea.

augustlan's avatar

I knew a girl in school with epilepsy. She had petit mal seizures that looked an awful lot like the zoning out you are describing. Get thee to the doctor!

Sakata's avatar

Hang on a sec. The “vegging out” thing isn’t as bad as I, apparently, made it sound. I’m still able to function it’s just a bit harder to do it. Kinda like when you’re really tired or you just wake up and your body just doesn’t want to move.

Also, I’m not starving myself at all. This thing can happen right after a meal. It still seems random, but it usually happens in the afternoons.

shilolo's avatar

@augustlan Petit mal or absence seizures are typically characterized by “zoning out” episodes. Temporal lobe seizures typically have an aura, like weird sensations (deja vu, weird sounds, hunger, etc.) with complex partial seizures occurring after the aura.

shilolo's avatar

@sakata. First of all, you don’t have to be “out of it” or non-functional to have a temporal lobe seizure. As the website states

“The features of seizures beginning in the temporal lobe can be extremely varied, but certain patterns are common. There may be a mixture of different feelings, emotions, thoughts, and experiences, which may be familiar or completely foreign. In some cases, a series of old memories resurfaces. In others, the person may feel as if everything—including home and family—appears strange. Hallucinations of voices, music, people, smells, or tastes may occur. These features are called “auras” or “warnings.” They may last for just a few seconds, or may continue as long as a minute or two.

Experiences during temporal lobe seizures vary in intensity and quality. Sometimes the seizures are so mild that the person barely notices. In other cases, the person may be consumed with fright, intellectual fascination, or even pleasure.”

Here is another list of symptoms, from a reputable website. Putting your symptoms on that framework, you have:

A rising sensation in the abdomen
Duration of 30 seconds to two minutes
A brief period of confusion and difficulty speaking after the seizure

Second, the fact that you “aren’t starving yourself” and that it can happen “right after a meal” argue for a neurologic problem, not against it.

Finally, there is absolutely no harm to a medical evaluation. Your doctor might agree with you that it is nothing, or might arrange a neurologic evaluation plus an EEG. Go see your doctor, seriously. I’m an internist, by the way.

Judi's avatar


Sakata's avatar

I just read that TLE link. I had a friend who would have seizures similar to those but worse. Same vegging out, wide-eyed state as it describes but he was gone for about an hour. Then, when he came to, he would shotgun 6–8 beers in a row then go sleep for 12–24 hours. I don’t feel I even have a minor version of that.

I plan on making a doctor’s appointment but none of what’s described in connection to TLE’s is familiar to my problem. I would attribute it more to the overall weakness than to a brain malfunction.

I’ve been thinking about this issue for quite some time and looked things up on occasion and what I find, from my perspective, always seems to lead toward a blood sugar issue. I’m obviously not in a position to argue with educated, hands-on expertise, and I don’t want to come off as dismissive or ungrateful in any way, but that’s where the evidence always leads me.

shilolo's avatar

@Sakata Well, whether it’s a sugar issue (which I doubt) or a neurologic issue, a complete medical evaluation will help sort that out. Also, it would be near impossible to be symptomatic from diabetes right after a meal.

steve6's avatar

It sounds like you have a touch of the sugar (diabetes). Do you get dizzy after you eat a lot of sugar or anything very sweet?

augustlan's avatar

Whatever the case turns out to be, please let us know.

Sakata's avatar

@shilolo Good point
@steve6 Nope

Good feeling’s gone

Sakata's avatar

I do have to say that if I have some type of epilepsy then it’s karma. There’s a flash video from a long time ago that I always joked about.

Then again, I make jokes about EVERYTHING so maybe karma’s out

steve6's avatar

Does it happen ever two hours or so? Does eating every two hours alleviate the symptoms somewhat? It may be hypoglycemia.

Sakata's avatar

I usually eat something in the morning. Lunch is always around noon. Dinner every night. Pretty well routine eating habits.
Not to mention the random snacks.

As far as the frequency… completely random, but becoming more prevalent over the last few months.

steve6's avatar

I would take shi’s advice, he is an expert.

Sakata's avatar

“Go see a doctor.”


steve6's avatar

Don’t eat or drink anything other than water for at least eight hours before you go. They may want a fasting blood sugar. Again, ask shi what he thinks.

shilolo's avatar

I’m not sure how to put this politely, but, here goes. It is NOT a blood sugar problem. Whew.

steve6's avatar

@shilolo, You don’t have to be so polite. Just give the facts. You are very brave to give advice on the net. And generous too.

@sakata, Good luck.

Sakata's avatar

Bah, Shilolo’s a crackpot.
He’s a doctor who gives out 100% accurate, free medical advice to people who need it. Based on the perception most people have of the majority of the people in his profession… he’s crazy.

Thanks Shi

steve6's avatar

You hit the nail on the head. I think he deserves a tip. Come over to Keeneland and I’ll give you all the tips you’ll ever need.

Sakata's avatar

Everyone kisses his ass. I just wanted to do it differently.

steve6's avatar

You can ask him, I don’t have a record of kissing his ass. But I do respect him.

shilolo's avatar

@Sakata If you wanted to kiss my ass differently, I have a few suggestions…. ;-)

Sakata's avatar

Lemme see what the doctor says 1st. Wouldn’t want you to catch anything.

shilolo's avatar

@Sakata Got that covered too. I’m an Infectious Diseases specialist, so, kiss away.

Sakata's avatar

Damn. Foiled again.
You really know how to corner a guy don’t ya? Forgot about your title though. That being the case, I guess I should be more worried about kissing you.

steve6's avatar

Love fest

shilolo's avatar

@Sakata Good point. Now, all joking aside, please make an appointment with your doctor. ;-)

Sakata's avatar

Plans are made. Thanks again

imnotatease87's avatar

im kinda like you. i get the hunger pangs then get very dizzy and light headed accompanied with feeling very weak and shaky. i dont veg out like you describe i just get very confused. i can think but i just cant really act on those thoughts. and after everything my muscle are sore and weak feeling. i am hypoglycemic and my doctor says that is why all that happens. i eat a lot, i have a great appetite and this can happen after a meal or even before. and if i dont either eat something with a lot of fast acting carbs then more serious things will happen to me.

Milladyret's avatar

The one thing you DON’T wanna screw around with, is your health. This sound serious enough to go to a doctor.
Go se a doctor.

jonsblond's avatar

You are fortunate to have health insurance, many do not. Please go see a doctor. Hope you are ok.

steve6's avatar

Haven’t heard from you in a while, your husband has been burning up the posts.

jonsblond's avatar

@steve6 Last time we went off topic, we got a slap on the hand! Look at your pm. ;)

scamp's avatar

I’d be interested to hear why shi says it is definitely not low blood sugar. The podiatrist I worked for is a type 1 diabetic and he has had several hypoglycemic events right after lunch. He dropped to 32 once 15 minutes after lunch, and we had to call EMS to help him. A pretty scary moment!! It takes a little time for the body to digest food and raise blood sugar levels, so I think this is highly possible.

I’m not saying that I disagree, I am just wondering why you wrote this off. I’m sure your doctor will give you a complete work up when you tell him/her your symptoms, and I’d be curious to see what the reuslts are if you care to share with us.

I hope whatever you find out is not serious news.

cdwccrn's avatar

I have (thankfully) well controlled complex partial seizures. I have a brief aura, a sensation that comes over my trunk, then if it progresses, a period of zoning out, often changing my position. ( if standing, I fall, for instance.)
Afterward, I feel like a mack truck hit me for hours or days.
Shilolo, this sounds typical, right?
Two days ago, at work, I had the sensation of aura while getting report as a critical care nurse. I had felt fine before, but afterward, people kept asking if I was ok. I felt strange and out of sorts. Went home to rest.
Anyway, to, Sakata, get checked out, but don’t panic. I have a normal life and so will you.

shilolo's avatar

@scamp. The most likely explanation for your story is that the podiatrist, knowing he was about to eat lunch, gave himself an insulin injection in preparation for the meal (this is standard). He may have injected too much, or waited too long to eat after the injection, and the effect of the insulin peaked before the sugar from his meal could be absorbed leading to transient hypoglycemia. Or, he was busier that day, and his sugar beforehand was already low (though, if he was attempting tight control, then he would have measured before deciding how much insulin to take). In essence, it is iatrogenic, or self-induced. Insulin dependent diabetics have this problem all the time. In contrast, the most frequent presentation of new-onset type I diabetes is hyperglycemia and DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis), not transient hypoglycemic events.

@cdwccrn. That sounds typical. I’m not a neurologist, but, these types of seizures come in many flavors, as the links I provided suggested. Thus, what is a “typical” seizure for you may be different than for someone else, most likely due to subtle differences in the localization of the seizure activity (the abnormal firing of neurons in the brain).

cdwccrn's avatar

@scamp: sugar can be absorbed immediately from the mouth. I have treated a hypoglycemic episode of a neighbor with table sugar
under the tongue.
Your boss probably had an incident due to timing/dose of insulin as Shilolo noted above.

scamp's avatar

@shilolo nope.. He was on an insulin pump, which was working properly at the time, and ate lunch right on schedule. He is hyper sensitive and has had so many hypoglycemic events that he can no longet preform surgery. ( he dropped in the middle of a bunionectomy and was sued…settled for $450.000.)

He is currently on the waiting list for a transplant. Once they find a donor, he will fly to Chicago for the surgery he hopes will cure him.

But my question is couldn’t this happen to an undiagnosed diabetic? A low sugar episode before the meal is absorbed?

@cdwccrn You are right. We have treated the doctor several times with simple sugar, and gels. We also had injections on hand called glucagon (sp) for emergencies, but on this paticular time, none of those things worked because his sugar fell very low very quickly. He was unresponsive by the time the ambulance came, and very close to going into a coma.

shilolo's avatar

@scamp I don’t think so. The problem with type I diabetics is that they don’t make insulin. Lack of insulin production results in an inability of the cells in the body to take up glucose, leading to hyperglycemia. It would be rare/unusual for an undiagnosed type I diabetic to have really low sugars. In contrast, they tend to have high sugars, in the 200–300 range. Type II diabetics also rarely are hypoglycemic. This occurs when they take too much of their medicines. People with insulinoma, i.e. a tumor producing too much insulin, can be hypoglycemic, but this is very rare. Surreptitious use of insulin is the most common cause of hypoglycemia.

scamp's avatar

Maybe I am getting my terminology wrong. I am thinking that type 1 is juvinile onset, and type 2 is adult. Is that right? He was diagnosed at the age of 14, and I’ve heard him say he is type 1.

shilolo's avatar

@scamp You have your terminology right. Your boss just is very unfortunate to be so sensitive. These patients are sometimes called brittle diabetics. The fact that he was on a pump suggests he was trying to closely titrate his insulin to his activity levels. Nonetheless, mistakes happen. I obviously don’t have a crystal ball to know what was (is) going on there, but it sounds like he has a good plan.

scamp's avatar

Hmmm, thanks for that link. It explains alot! I know you must have heard it said that doctors can sometimes be the worst patients, and it applies with this paticular one. The reason why he was on the insulin pump was because he tried to many times to adjust his own levels, and the results wer disasterous! So we all hope that with the pump doing the regulating, it would help. It did for quite some time, but then he developed horrible rashes from it and could no longer use it.

He must have read something similar to the link you just posted because he started reading up on celiac disease. I found a link for him and showed him what bllodwork needed to be done, but he decided he had it, and started on the diet before getting any confirmation. Once on the diet, the results are thrown off, so there is no way to get a proper diagnosis. It was hell for all of us wheile he was getting used to the gluten free diet, because he wasn’t getting enough carbs to get him through the day, and for almost a week, we had to scrape him off the floor at least once a day if not more.

Anyway.. sorry for going so far off topic here. Thanks for the info. @sakata.. I hope you find out what’s going on and can feel better soon.

gooch's avatar

Sounds like a seziure to me.

Sakata's avatar

I’ve got a doctor’s appointment set for 2.5 weeks from now.

The_unconservative_one's avatar

Sounds like hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Now , for my legal disclaimer: Of course I am not a doctor and am not making any diagnosis.

shilolo's avatar

@Sakata. So, how have things turned out for you?

Sakata's avatar

The Doc said it was hypoglycemia and sent me on my way.

He did say I should probably get blood work done eventually but that’s a whole different issue.

Thanks for the follow-up. I forgot I asked the question lol

shilolo's avatar

@Sakata You need a different doctor. If your doctor truly believed you were suffering from hypoglycemia, then you should be evaluated ASAP. Untreated hypoglycemia is potentially life-threatening. I’m still not convinced…

Sakata's avatar

Well it can be pretty easily regulated if I just eat correctly. He did toss out the option of a monitor but I really don’t feel the need to go through all that pain for something that can be fixed by eating right.

shilolo's avatar

@Sakata Assuming for the moment that it is hypoglycemia, you have to realize that severe hypoglycemia is much more life threatening than hyperglycemia (i.e. diabetes). My point is that while in theory you can correct mild “hypoglycemia” by eating in a timely manner, you cannot correct severe hypoglycemia by eating if you are having a seizure and are comatose… Again, I have to stress that the physiology of the human body (namely, the liver) typically prevents outright hypoglycemia (it’s how we manage to sleep at night for 8–10 hours without eating). So, real hypoglycemia is rare.

Sakata's avatar

Would changing the wording in my above post from “hypoglycemia” to “hypoglycemic” make a difference?

mamabeverley's avatar

@Sakata You definetly need a blood workup. I am not a health care professional but, I do have a blood sugar problem. Mine will stay “normal” for a while and then plummet. I was diagnosed in my early 20’s after a 5 hour glucose tolerance test. The first time I fainted, my Dr. scheduled one for the NEXT day. This need to be done ASAP. I think Shilolo is right. You need further testing.

azhaiaziam's avatar

Go get a lipid test and glucose test done asap.. the dr is going to ask you to fasr prior to taking the test so make your appointment first thing in the morning

DrMC's avatar

As an endocrinologist – I would say it wouldn’t hurt to be seen by one.

Reactive hypoglycemia, and migraine improves with diet, and petit mal and migraine are triggered by fasting.

The symptoms described are atypical in many respects for hypoglycemia, but food is being used to paliate. Would hate to see obesity develop.

In many cases like this, I find reactive hypoglycemia.

A 4 hour 100 gm oral glucose tolerance test is usually sufficient to trigger an event, if felt safe. Dr Service in Mayo (the God of hypoglycemia) thinks we should still do a 72 hour fast in hospital on these. I’m usually able to avoid these, but they are the gold standard.

(yup – that’s 72 hours no food, only water – muhahah)

Neuro and Endo – not a bad idea – if you can get them. If you can’t, my sympathies.

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