My friend and colleague sublime1-ga has made an excellent suggestion:
that the cause could be a chemical imbalance. If so, there have been
amazing developments in the psychotropics class of drugs that can help
correct such problems.
As you probably know, your symptoms are indicative of several
conditions. So, your first step, of course, should be to call your
general practitioner and ask for an appointment ASAP. She or he may be
able to diagnose you; if not, your doctor will refer you to a
specialist -- perhaps to several different specialists -- for further
examination and possible testing.
In the meantime, here are some possible explanations for your symptoms:
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)/ AKA Epstein-Barr:
From Dr. Andrew Lockie's site:
". . . the main symptom is extreme tiredness that affects the patient
for 50 per cent of the time and has done so for at least six months
(some doctors say three months); the onset of symptoms can be
identified; the fatigue is very debilitating and affects the
individual both physically and mentally . . ."
Under the homeopathic remedy "Natrum mur," notice that "itchy scalp"
is also listed as a symptom.
See the article ?Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Memory Loss,? by Dr.
Richard L. Bruno from ?TIPS AND TECHNIQUES FOR TREATING CFS/ME,?
published in the August 30, 2002, edition of ProHealth:
?Do Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) patients have progressive memory
loss? When I am very fatigued or stressed I am unable to remember the
word I was going to say. I'm frightened. Am I getting Alzheimer's
disease along with CFS? No, what you describe isn't Alzheimer's. You
are experiencing word-finding difficulty which has nothing to do with
memory loss or Alzheimer's disease. Like so many fatigue-related
problems in people with CFS/ME, word-finding difficulty is also
reported by polio survivors with ?brain fatigue.? In our 1990
International Survey 79% of polio survivors reported difficulty
?thinking of words I want to say.??
Here's a roundup of articles about Chronic Fatigue at WebMD. Note that
among the suspected causes of this syndrome are possible sinus and
Also check out this paper ?CHRONIC FATIGUE IMMUNE DYSFUNCTION SYNDROME
(CFIDS) Also Referred to as: YEAST SYNDROME or YEAST RELATED
ILLNESS,? by Elmer M. Cranton, M.D.
More on ?Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?: You can review ?Clinical Practice
Guidelines? from the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, at:
Be sure to read the link, ?2: Evaluating people with fatigue,
What is "fatigue"?
You?ll see there?s a plethora of possible causes of fatigue.
Here?s another helpful site, ?Memory Loss,? from Aetna?s InteliHealth :
The link ?Reversible Causes? link brings up:
which cites sleep disorders, stress, and thyroid disorders, among
various causes of memory loss. You will also see reference here to
Dementia and Alzheimer?s. Please don?t leap to the worst possible
conclusion! There are numerous treatable disorders that could explain
Another helpful article ?Symptom: Concentration difficulty,? from the
site ?Wrong Diagnosis?:
You mentioned stress exacerbates your symptoms. There may be a problem
with your cortisol levels. See ?Stress, memory and social support,? by
Sylvain Comeau, published in the McGill Reporter (published by McGill
University, Montreal), Sept. 26, 2002:
?Many people expect increasing memory loss as they age, but impaired
memory has more to do with stress, according to a McGill research
Specifically, the project looks at the hormone cortisol, which occurs
naturally in response to stress.
" ?Cortisol is a stress hormone, and there are receptors for cortisol
in the hippocampus, the region of the brain responsible for memory,?
McGill psychiatry professor Sonia Lupien explains. ?Long-term exposure
to these hormones can cause atrophy of the hippocampus, leading to
memory impairment . . . .??
The article notes such problems can be arrested and reversed in many patients.
Systemic Candidiasis/ Yeast Infection
From the Pacific Health Center in Bellevue, WA:
If you were on antibiotics just before ? or while -- your symptoms
began, it may be that you have a yeast infection running wild through
your system. Symptoms of this disease include: ?Confusion, fatigue,
depression, poor memory. . .?
Like yeast infections, Fibromyalgia is often discussed, and explored,
in conjunction with CFS. Here?s some information on both conditions,
from the ?Fibromyalgia Network?:
Under ?SYMPTOMS AND ASSOCIATED SYNDROMES,? see: ?Fatigue - This
symptom can be mild in some patients and yet incapacitating in others.
The fatigue has been described as ?brain fatigue? in which patients
feel totally drained of energy. Many patients depict this situation by
saying that they feel as though their arms and legs are tied to
concrete blocks, and they have difficulty concentrating, e.g., brain
Diabetes Type II
See this overview from the Florida State University
" Symptoms of inappropriate blood glucose levels may include: fatigue,
increased thirst, increased urination, headache, blurry vision, dry
and itchy skin, hunger, confusion, shakiness, nervousness . . ."
Fatigue is also listed as a primary symptom of Diabetes Type II at
this site, maintained by the National Institutes of Health:
Symptoms of Hepatitis C include fatigue, memory loss, confusion, and itchy skin.
See ?New Treatment Helps Some, But Cure Remains Elusive,? by John
Henkel, published in the FDA Consumer Magazine, March-April 1999:
?Elaine Moreland knew she wasn't imagining the symptoms. Fatigue,
migraines, nausea, memory loss, anxiety, and dizziness all were
wreaking havoc in her life. Yet doctor after doctor could find nothing
wrong with her. . . Finally, in 1992, after suffering for several
years, she went to another doctor in tears. ?I told him that I was not
leaving his office until he found something,? she says. Through
extensive testing, he did. Moreland, then 32, had hepatitis C.?
Enviro-Care, a company that removes mold, lists symptoms that include
memory loss and chronic fatigue as symptoms of toxic mold exposure:
Carbon Monoxide Exposure
Perhaps you?re being exposed to elevated levels of carbon monoxide in
your home, your car, or your workplace.
From the Illinois Department of Health?s Web site:
?At low levels, CO exposure causes no obvious symptoms, although
people exposed to low CO levels may experience decreased exercise
tolerance and shortness of breath during exertion. Tightness across
the forehead, flushed skin and slightly impaired motor skills also may
occur. The first and most obvious symptom is usually a headache with
throbbing temples.? Symptoms can progress to include ?fatigue? and
While most of us think of this as disease that causes shaking and
impairs motor skills, symptoms include memory loss.
From Rutgers University?s ?Memory Loss Project?: ?In addition to the
motor symptoms in Parkinson's disease, there are also cognitive
symptoms which may be evident even in the early stages of the disease.
These may include deficits in executive function (especially planning
and attention), set-shifting (ability to alternate between two or more
tasks), and memory . . .?
Note the mention of dopamine neurotransmitter. You can read more about
dopamine at this page from the ?Memory Loss Project?:
You didn?t mention your gender, but if you?re female, this could be a
severe case of PMS, which would explain the sense of hormone/chemical
surges, and the fact that these symptoms typically occur in 5-10 day
See: ?Female - Premenstrual Syndrome,? by Chanchal Cabrera MNIMH, AHG.
Published in Medical Herbalism (date unknown).
?The imbalance of estrogen and progesterone may be due to a disruption
of the normal feedback systems that control the
hypothalamus-pituitary-ovary axis or to a dysfunction of any one of
these glands (most commonly the ovaries).? Symptoms include dramatic
changes in energy level.
Another possible hormonal explanation: Many women experience memory
loss, along with fluctuating energy levels, during menopause.
See the American College of Physicians? ?Patients? Guide to Lyme Disease?:
If your symptoms began quite recently, it?s possible you?re in early stage Lyme.
Form of Amnesia
It sounds farfetched, but this is a possibility. Please see ?Memory
Problems and their Assessment. Synonym: amnesia,? from Patient UK
?Amnesia may occur as a temporary state as is seen with transient
global amnesia, in which there is a sudden onset of severe amnesia
that lasts several hours before resolution. Recurrent attacks of
self-limiting amnesia may occur as a consequence of epilepsy. Patients
with dementia are often unaware of, or deny, their memory loss. The
problem is more often presented by a concerned friend or relative.
Patients who present themselves are more likely to be suffering from
anxiety or depression. Memory loss is also a feature of any cause of
You may be tempted to experiment with some of the herbal remedies,
diets, or exercise regimens recommended in some of the resources I
cited, but I suggest you refrain from doing so. I urge you to see your
doctor at once, as your first step. When you go, take along a list of
all the symptoms you've been experiencing. Also, try to remember when
these symptoms began; where were you, what happened, etc. All of these
clues will help your doctor diagnose your condition.
It?s essential that qualified medical personnel evaluate you. Should
you need a reuptake inhibitor, or be found to have high blood sugar,
etc., you will need to be under sustained medical supervision.
Chronic Fatigue, a very possible culprit in your case, remains under
debate; some doctors consider it a "phony disease." (In the '80s, when
the disease first surfaced, it was derisively referred to as "The
If testing rules out any other condition, and you find yourself
convinced that it is Chronic Fatigue, and if your doctor is among
those physicians who believe this disease is psychosomatic, find a
doctor who does believe your problems are real and who is committed to
itchy head +memory +fatigue
fatigue AND itchy AND confusion
memory loss AND fatigue
sudden onset cognitive problems +memory loss
sudden onset cognitive problems +memory loss +itchy scalp
memory loss AND tightness in forehead
I hope my research is of help to you, and that you are diagnosed (correctly) soon.
Google Answers Researcher
Clarification of Answer by
27 Jul 2005 11:59 PDT
Hello again mnelson97-ga:
I?m sorry to learn your problems have been ongoing for so long.
In response to your request, I found this information:
Vascular Dementia (VaD)
From the Memory and Aging Center at the University of California at
San Francisco Medical Center:
?The term Vascular Dementia (VaD) is usually reserved for an
insidiously (subtly) progressive worsening of memory and other
cognitive functions. In this way and others, VaD patients present with
similar symptoms to Alzheimer?s disease (AD) patients. However, the
related changes in the brain are not due to AD pathology but due to
chronic, reduced blood flow in the brain, eventually resulting in
From Memory Loss & The Brain newsletter, Summer 2000 issue, published
by Rutgers-Newark: This article, ?Causes of Vascular Dementia,? cites
oxygen cutoff as a cause of this form of dementia:
?The underlying cause of vascular dementia is an interruption of blood
flow to the brain. Starved of oxygen for even a short time, brain
cells perish. . . .?
? . . . vascular dementia . . . is probably the second leading cause
of dementia, but has been somewhat overshadowed by the more well-known
Alzheimer's disease. Caused by blockages and breaches in the brain's
blood supply that damage the brain, vascular dementia can be prevented
and, in some cases, even reversed.?
Here are some references (but not necessarily full articles,
unfortunately), to migraine-induced confusion:
You mentioned off-and-on tightness in the forehead and itchy scalp,
but didn?t describe it as a headache or migraine, but this information
still may be of interest:
See the National Library of Medicine?s citation to the research paper
?Episodes of acute confusion or psychosis in familial hemiplegic
migraine,? published in the April 1982 issue of Acta Neurol
Also, from the same site, see ?Hemiplegic migraine,? a reference to a
1995 paper in Presse Medicale. (That study has been published only in
French.) Symptoms include confusion and cognitive impairment:
Hemiplegic migraine is usually defined as having sudden weakness in
one side of the body, but confusion can be a symptom, too.
See the ?Headache/Migraine? site, maintained by Teri Robert, at About.com:
?Hemiplegic Migraine is a rare form of Migraine disease, made more
confusing by there being two variations: Familial Hemiplegic Migraine
(FHM) and Sporadic Hemiplegic Migraine (SHM).? (The latter, Sporadic,
sounds closer to your symptoms.)
Symptoms include: ?Impaired consciousness ranging from confusion to
Did your memory problems start after going on Ativan?
From WebMD?s ?RxList?:
?Memory impairment? has been reported by patients using this class of drugs.
From the National Neurological Institute of Neurological Disorders &
?Pick's disease is a form of dementia characterized by a slowly
progressive deterioration of social skills and changes in personality,
along with impairment of intellect, memory, and language . . .?
In the menu at left at this page, you can link to research and studies.
At DoctorUpdate, see this list of causes of memory loss:
You?ll see several problems linked to occasional memory loss,
including thiamine deficiency.
Wernicke's Encephalopathy: Thiamine Deficiency
From the Whitaker Biomedical Engineering Institute at Johns Hopkins:
?The mental changes, usually a quiet apathy initially, only later may
convert to the confabulation that some patients have with Korsakoff's
psychosis. The major cognitive deficit is one of memory, predominantly
incorporating new memories. It is also important to note that patients
may have as their only sign of Wernicke's disease, a change in mental
sudden onset cognitive problems +memory loss +vascular
ativan +side effects
recurring memory loss +oxygen
recurring memory loss AND 5-10 days AND oxygen
thiamine deficiency +memory loss
I hope this additional information is of help to you.
Clarification of Answer by
29 Jul 2005 21:43 PDT
When you go to the neurologist, make sure you bring a list of all your
symptoms. Describe these episodes with as much detail as you can, to
assist the neurologist in making a diagnosis. Even write down a
detailed description of an episode, in case you're having a bad day
the day of your appointment.
The pain you're describing behind your eyes, in your sinuses, etc.,
may suggest that your problem is rooted in migraines or Chronic
Fatigue. I included some information on those conditions in my answer,
and that's something you should discuss with the neurologist.
To learn about migraines without headaches, go to the previously cited
Headache site at About.com:
Then click on "Anatomy of a Migraine" to bring up:
Symptoms from the aura stage include:
"difficult finding words and/or speaking . . . confusion . . ."
Also see the Northern Virginia CFS/FMS Support Group's site about
"Chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS)," aka Chronic
"CFIDS is characterized by incapacitating fatigue (experienced as
profound exhaustion and extremely poor stamina) and problems with
concentration and short-term memory. It is also accompanied by
flu-like symptoms such as pain in the joints and muscles . . . " and
dry eyes" . . . and "sinus pain." [Symptoms vary widely from one
patient to another.]
"Additional symptoms are frequently reported . . . such as
word-finding difficulties, inability to comprehend/retain what is
read, inability to calculate numbers and impairment of speech and/or
reasoning. . . ."
Another possibility: ME/ICD-CFS (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis,
Classification of Diseases, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome). From a December
2001 report published by the UK's 25% M.E. Group:
"Vascular headaches are common and recurring . . . Problems with
short-term memory are common: cognitive impairment is significant and
includes difficulty with memory sequencing, processing speed, word
searching; dyslogia, spatial organisation, calculation (dyscalculia),
and particularly with decision-making. In relation to the degree of
cognitive impairment, American researchers found that 'the performance
of the CFIDS patients was sevenfold worse than either the control or
the depressed group' . . . ."
I understand your concerns about Ativan and your desire to try going
off of it. I don't know which Web sites you've reviewed re: long-term
effects of Ativan, but WebMd is a very authoritative site. Here's
WebMD's page on Ativan:
I suggest you read that information very carefully, then raise any
concerns about the drug with the neurologist.
It would be the height of irresponsibility for me to recommend that
you go off the Ativan now and replace it with any alternative,
including an herbal one. I'm also leery of you adding herbs at this
time, as it could cause a serious interaction.
"Like all benzodiazepines, lorazepam can cause physical dependence.
Suddenly stopping therapy after a few months of daily therapy may be
associated with a feeling of loss of self-worth, agitation, and
insomnia. If lorazepam is taken continuously longer than a few months,
*stopping therapy suddenly may produce seizures, tremors, muscle
cramping, vomiting, and/or sweating*."
I also saw references to patients going into seizures after stopping
Ativan cold turkey. So, as you can see, stopping use of this drug
could lead to even more misery -- just what you don't need!
If you believe the Ativan is making your problems worse, I suggest you
call your gp on Monday to ask if you can try going off the drug. If
your doctor agrees (which is doubtful!), s/he will tell you how to
wean yourself slowly and safely off Ativan. However, in that event,
the doctor is also likely to insist that you then go on another drug.
(It may be that going off and on the Ativan, as you have, may have
If your gp isn't amenable to the idea of you going off Ativan at all
at this time, you'll have to wait until you see the specialist. The
neurologist may come up with a new diagnosis and switch you to another
drug, or may be able to explain to your satisfaction why it's best for
you to remain on this drug, despite the risks. (My personal suggestion
is that you not change your regimen until you see the neurologist.)
Here are some resources about Ativan and herbs, but it's isn't promising news:
Several articles about "Ativan Side Effects," from About.com's Panic/Anxiety site:
Regarding natural alternatives to Ativan: I can't find any concrete
information that there is generally agreed upon herbal replacements
for, or complements to, Ativan. Here's some examples of what I found:
"Hops, Kava-kava, Valerian, St. John's Wort" are suggested at
Energy Wave's medical adviser is Richard Podell, MD:
But on the other hand:
"Case reports show that St. John's Wort *can decrease* the therapeutic
effects of lorazepam medicine. Talk to your health care professional
before taking any nonprescription or herbal products." From Dr. John
Grohol's "Psych Central:
In fact, while searching for herbs, I mostly found warnings -- from
reputable medical sites -- about possible harmful interactions from
combining herbs and Ativan. I certainly didn't find anything to
suggest that an herb can be as effective as benzodiazepine in a case
like yours that involves such serious symptoms.
So please check with your doctor before weaning yourself off Ativan
and/or using any herbs. When you meet with the neurologist, make clear
that you are interested in any possible natural remedies. This
specialist may be able to suggest some or, just as likely, warn you
which herbs you should avoid. There may be some herbs that will help
you, but I don't think you should expect to be told that you can
replace a prescription medicine with an herb -- that's unlikely.
Another suggestion: You might want to check out, and even post a
question at, the Cleveland Clinic's Neurology Forum. See their
discussion board on "benzodiazepines [including Ativan], brain
atrophy, and much more":
To post a question there, go to:
I hope the neurologist can diagnose your problems and get you on the
road to full recovery soon!