Mom (86 years old) has a few very bad days every month and her doctors don't know the cause. Any thoughts?

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These episodes seem to come on quickly usually between 10 am and noon. They last anywhere from one to three days. She has a difficult time explaining how she feels but some of the common statements are that her eyes and forehead are heavy, she feels "terrible" and isn't hungry. She was hospitalized last October when it happened and had an MRI, blood work, CT scans, etc. Everything was normal. I took her to her PC another time during an episode and, again, blood work and a urine test were fine. She had a B12 shot that day which didn't do anything either. She recently had another MRI and there was no change from the previous one. I started tracking the days it happens to see if I can come up with some kind of pattern but am at a loss. It's usually about a month in between but this past time, it was only three weeks (I thought it might be a chemical reaction to hair color but ruled that out now). I also considered that it might be something with her morning pills but when it happened this time, she had forgotten to take them so I ruled that out. She's taking a number of different prescriptions but, when this started, nothing had changed for quite a long time. I'm stumped and so are the doctors. Has anyone else had experience with something like this and found an answer? I would really like to get this figured out so she can be OK!


Have they tested her to see if she is getting urinary tract infections (UTI) - sometimes they cause odd reactions in the elderly. If she gets dehydrated or has a low-grade one, it could be giving her symptoms that clear up later.
She did have a test done at least once when this happened but I'm thinking I might ask to have another one because this time it isn't going away as fast.
Ava, a heavy forehead and heavy eyes sounds like a sinus issue. Have the family doctor recommend an antihistamine or a nose spray that is safe for Mom to use. It's worth a try.

Also, keep a food diary to see if there is any common food item eaten the day or two before. Such as an item that has caffeine.... or a dairy product which can cause mucus.
FF raises an interesting issue. You could start tracking storms, barometric changes, etc. Weather changes can affect people, and some are more sensitive than others. I can always tell when the weather is changing b/c old injuries flare up.

Another aspect that could affect her are preservatives or compounds in foods, including caffeine, but also including insecticide residues (look up the Dirty Dozen foods which are contaminated by pesticides) or preservatives such as sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate, used sometimes on fresh strawberries as well as in lunch meats (there are a few brands of preservative free lunchmeats now). MSG is also an offender, but in my experience, it causes shortness of breath, more like an anaphylactic reaction.

Seasonal changes and especially pollen can affect the sinuses as well. For the first year, we've had pollen alerts nearly every day. And with less rainfall in our area, the pollens aren't diluted or washed out. I have to wear a mask when I mow the grass.

Allergic rhinitis is another condition that responds to seasonal as well as hot and cold changes in the weather.

I'm wondering if seeing an allergist might be helpful, or perhaps an endocrinologist (to determine if there are any vitamin, mineral, etc. deficiencies).

As to prescription meds, examine the bottles and labels (if you still have them), or receipts, labels or data kept for tax purposes (I keep all of these, especially the receipt printouts with script number and manufacturer). One of the reasons I switched to a real pharmacy was because they'll advise me when I ask if the manufacturer is off shore.

I had to change suppliers once when the pharmacy switched to a supplier with vertical manufacturing in India. I'm aware that along the vertical chain of suppliers, there often are offshore manufacturers, but it's my understanding that domestic (or reliable European pharmas) check drug accuracy, safety, etc. when using imported ingredients.
Just thought of another food culprit that can cause a heavy headed feeling, at least in me: chocolate, sugary foods, desserts. That's unfortunate too, as we chocoholics know that chocolate is a major food group.
If you pursue the allergy investigation or come up with any other explanation, please share. We learn from each other!
GardenArtist, I totally forgot about barometric changes. Both my Dad and I could predict the weather. I would call him asking him if he thought it was going to rain because my head felt it would.... and he would say, chances are high for a spitting sparking booming banging weather this evening [thunder storm].

Last few years, chocolate would make me have a row of sneezes.  Same with cola drinks. 
FF, those of us sensitive to weather changes might be better predictors and barometers of weather changes than all the tech gadgets and computer predictions the weather forecasters use!

I like your father's cute metaphors and descriptions of T-storms!
Thank you all for your excellent suggestions! I will start tracking some of these to see if there is a pattern in the weather or with some of the things Mom eats.
As a follow-up - it's been three weeks and things have been good (I almost don't want to say that and jinx the situation). But, I'm thinking that this last episode could have been triggered by a delayed reaction to an increased dose of Aricept. The neurologist wanted to drop Mom back to 5 mg from 10 but we decided to try increasing it more slowly to see if she could eventually tolerate the 10 mg. We did every other day, 5 mg then 10, for two weeks. Then I'll do 2 days on the 10 and one on 5 for a week. It appears this is working as she feels better and I've noticed a difference in her cognition. I'm still planning to try natural hair color - she doesn't want to go gray! And I'll keep my fingers crossed that we're out of the woods for a while. Thanks again for your helpful comments!

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