Is there such a thing as head attacks?
January 7, 2010 5:51 PM   Subscribe

What're these pangs in my head? YANMD.

Growing up, sometimes (I don't remember how often...think they usually came up in my last year or two of high school. I think they'd come semi-frequently, maybe once or twice a month, for a month or two, and then disappear for a while) I'd get these odd...pangs, for lack of a better word, in my head. They've recurred recently.

These pangs occur when I'm stationary or when I'm moving, sitting down or standing. It's characterized by a sharp sense of disorientation--for a split second (literally, about a second, maybe half a second) I lose track of everything around me, and as I recover back into reality I feel a sharp disorientation/unbalance/gracelessness that rapidly fades back to normal (another 2 seconds). That split second of unawareness and disorientation upon recovery is evident in that if I'm walking, I will veer off course for that time (so, enough to wander to the other side of the sidewalk drunkenly, not enough to wander into traffic. I did end up walking into a wall once when I was standing practically next to it).

These...pangs have died down over the years and I hadn't thought too much about them until this past month. I've started taking birth control (Yasmin) for the first time, plus wearing my new contacts more regularly. On Boxing Day I had one of these episodes (the first one in a while), then another a few days after that, and then a third probably...three or so days after the second. Then...nothing since.

I'm 22, female, Asian. I am not on any medication except for Yasmin, which I just started last month (and seeing as I've had this before I started the Pill, I'm not sure it has anything to do with this), unless you count an daily assortment of vitamins (4 g of fish oil, multivitamin, zinc, sometimes vitamin Bs...although the taking of which have preceded the Boxing Day episode, though I didn't take it as regularly back then. Ditto for the contacts--used them infrequently before this too). While I've never been specifically checked up for this (I might have mentioned it to a doc once upon a time, but they found nothing wrong with me), all previous bloodwork, ultrasounds, blood pressure, general checks of physical health at doctor's offices have all come back with a clean bill of health (except for obvious cases like oops, got the flu, or something). So I don't think I'm sick or something's really wrong with me, per se. I'd just like to know what these are!

Ideas, Hive Mind? Seizures? Neurons cross firing? Yeerks coughing in my brain?
posted by Hakaisha to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sounds like an ice pick headache, a type of migraine. No one knows what causes them. Mine went away for several months after a massage therapist popped my back.
posted by idiotfactory at 6:00 PM on January 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

Hmm, but they don't hurt at all. The only symptoms are just loss of coherence and disorientation upon recovery, and everything's over in 5 seconds or so.
posted by Hakaisha at 6:01 PM on January 7, 2010

When I read this, I thought "seizures." Epilepsy presents in a vast (and interesting!) range of seizure types. IANAD but were this me, I would want to bring up these episodes with my doctor and make sure the possibility of seizures was ruled out (or not) in that conversation.

And while many studies, doctors, and other authoritative sources will tell you that the pill does not impact epilepsy except to make birth control less effective (and therefore rules out low-estrogen pills like Yasmin), many many women with epilepsy will tell you that the pill increases seizures. Check any board for women with epilepsy if you'd like to check up on that - it's very commonly discussed.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:11 PM on January 7, 2010

the pill does not impact epilepsy except to make birth control less effective

Slightly confused about this part, DarlingBri. So supposedly (mileage may vary and all that), the pill doesn't impact epilepsy, but epilepsy can lower the effectiveness of the pill? Or is my brain just fried from school today?

I will definitely mention this to the doctor when I go back for my checkup next month (and for more pills, because Yasmin seems to be working nicely for me thus far).
posted by Hakaisha at 6:22 PM on January 7, 2010

I thought it was the medication for epilepsy that might cause reduced effectiveness of oral contraception, not epilepsy itself. Contrariwise, some women say that taking hormones increases their rate of seizures.

It does seem like a good idea to ask your doctor about absence seizures.
posted by Ery at 6:41 PM on January 7, 2010

Right, sorry, I did a very confusing job of that; I think I tried to re-order the sentence and dropped the ball there. Let me try again.

1/ Supposedly the pill doesn't increase seizures in women with epilepsy, but many women will tell you otherwise. This could account for your sudden increased rate of incidence.

2/ Should this turn out to be a seizure disorder requiring medication, you should know that as Ery says, the meds for epilepsy do impact the effectiveness of low-dose pills. I only mentioned it because Yasmin is one; you would need another form of birth control.

Obviously I went way down a road you may not take with #2 but I just wanted to flag that. Sorry for the cluster-frack of an answer there.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:25 PM on January 7, 2010

Ice pick headaches. Oh my freaking god, they have a name.
They are short, stabbing, extremely intense headaches that can be absolutely terrifying. They generally only last between five and 30 seconds. However, they come out of nowhere, can strike anywhere on the head, literally feel as if an ice pick is being stuck into your head, then disappear before you can even figure out what's happening. The pain can also seem to occur in or behind the ear.
Yes. That. THAT. I have been having those things at random times for TWENTY FIVE FUCKING YEARS and wondering when my head was just going to go ahead and explode. I remember when they started in late high school because I told my parents, with worry, about these random stabbing pains I was getting behind my left ear,and they literally laughed at me and said "don't worry about it, and no you don't have a tumor." Their attitude seemed a little disconcerting, but hey, I'm alive and well now aren't I?

I get them in waves once very few weeks or month or two, and generally it's for a few hours or maybe a whole day. One short 1-2 second stabbing pain at a time, once or twice a minute. When it's "stabbing", it's debilitating, sort of like a sneeze is -- it completely consumes you for those couple seconds. The only real problem they cause me is when I'm getting them while driving, because, like a sneeze, each one takes me away from driving for a couple seconds.

Not sure which is the cause and which is the effect, but they seem to correlate with having a cold or just feeling crappy. The pains may very well be the cause, because having a whole day of them really wears me down. STAB. STAB. STAB.

Well, anyway, the OP is talking about something besides pain per se, so this may or may not be relevant. But thanks for giving me a name for these damn things I get.

Now, back to ignoring it.
posted by intermod at 8:07 PM on January 7, 2010 [2 favorites]

From the two factors you mentioned, it also sounds like you are possibly having more sex than before. Consider this as another possible factor; Sex has all kinds of effects on one's body, including changes to blood pressure, hormone levels, etc.
posted by Nameless at 8:11 PM on January 7, 2010

Definitely see a doctor about this. What happens if you have an episode while you're driving a car? Or dashing across a crowded street? That's some scary shit right there.
posted by ErikaB at 9:57 PM on January 7, 2010

You might want to get your ears checked out, because it could be Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo.
posted by Isosceles at 10:21 PM on January 7, 2010

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