Girlfriend's Blackouts: Is the Environment to Blame?

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  • Thread starter hotcommodity
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In summary: Mold is also a potential culprit, but she hasn't mentioned any specific exposures to it. In summary, my girlfriend has been blacking out from time to time over the past month or so. She has gone to the doctor, and they don't seem to know what the problem is. They've given her x-rays, and still can't seem to find anything. I believe it has something to do with the environmental conditions that she lives and works in. She is a manager at a fast food place, and she basically has her hands on everything; dishes, metals, cleaner, etc
  • #1
hotcommodity
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Hi, my girlfriend has been blacking out from time to time over the past month or so. She has gone to the doctor, and they don't seem to know what the problem is. They've given her x-rays, and still can't seem to find anything. I believe it has something to do with the environmental conditions that she lives and works in. She is a manager at a fast food place, and she basically has her hands on everything; dishes, metals, cleaner, etc. I read in a few articles online that cleaning chemicals can cause people to black out. Also, she still lives with her mom, and her room is in the basement of the house. She lives in a place that gets a lot of rain, and she's told me a few times that there is mold in the basement. I'm just wondering if any of these things could cause her to black out...
 
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  • #2
You should write down all the details she can think of for every instance when she blacked out. Where did it happen, what was she doing, what had she eaten that day, etc. That will help give more information on possible environmental conditions. Then you need to have her doctors refer her to a specialist.

She will probably need an MRI, x-rays are just not very sensitive for much besides bone trauma and pneumonia.
 
  • #3
Indeed, providing a detailed journal to a doctor about what happened around the time of the blackouts can be a very helpful diagnostic tool.

When you say "blackout" do you mean she remains awake but experiences amnesia (i.e., cannot remember events), or that she passes out/faints? These are two very different things, and clarity of what the symptoms are will also be important for the physicians treating her. Either one can be difficult to diagnose if the symptoms aren't actively occurring.

And, yes, any or all of those things could cause such symptoms, especially if she has a sensitivity or allergy to them. When she is at work, she should wear gloves when handling any cleaning supplies, and perhaps she can try living someplace other than the basement, and see if those resolve her symptoms. It's the only way to find out if either is the potential culprit, although, inhaling the fumes of some cleaning compounds could also be a culprit, but you could at least rule out a contact reaction.

But, of course none of those could be the culprit either. As DaleSpam pointed out, x-rays are not sufficient. They would only diagnose something grossly, structurally wrong, like a tumor. They aren't able to detect something like a spasm or blockage in a blood vessel, or a part of the brain that isn't functioning normally. If nothing largely obvious has been found in an x-ray, she should seek a neurologist AND an allergist (based on what you've shared of potential chemical/mold exposures) to investigate this in further depth.

And, if there's any chance of it, a quick rule out diagnostic would be a pregnancy test if you mean fainting when you say blackout (unless her doctor has already ruled that out). Sometimes it's worth considering the most obvious before running off to specialists for more obscure diagnoses.
 
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  • #4
Blacking out or fainting, is usually associated with a reduction in oxygen to the brain, due hypoxia (anoxia in severe cases), loss of blood flow or drop in blood pressure. Loss of blood flow could be due to some occlusion of one or both of the carotid arteries, which could be very serious. Loss or reduction of flow may be caused by cardiac arrhythmia, which is potentially serious. Arrhythmia could be induced by a chemical reaction or an electrocardiac problem.

http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=10845

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/arrhythmia.html


Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) might also be a cause.
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/hypoglycemia.html


There are also endocrine issues affecting blood pressure and cardiac function.
 
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  • #5
I assume that in addition to X-rays, they've checked for such things as diabetes and epilepsy. Respiratory problems are also able to cause blackouts, for the very reason that Astronuc mentioned... reduced oxygen to the brain. Due to my combination of emphysema and chronic bronchitis, I have a tendency to black out during a coughing spell. Don't overlook any possibility until the truth is discovered.
 
  • #6
One of the most elusive causes is chemical sensitivity - cleaning products, perfumes, cosmetics, etc, almost always have fragrance chemicals. In fact, the worst offenders are "unscented" products like Oil of Olay moisturizing lotion, that contain powerful masking fragrances designed to shut down your olfactory system. I hope she doesn't have such a sensitivity - it can be crippling and the forced isolation sucks.
 
  • #7
hotcommodity said:
Also, she still lives with her mom, and her room is in the basement of the house.

There may be a chance of Radon exposure in the basement. It generally affects the lungs, which may somehow reduce the oxygen level in her blood stream.

Just a guess though...

CS
 
  • #8
Good thought on the radon. There are several possibilities there. Hypoxia doesn't generally cause blackouts unless it's very severe. Mine was at 64% SaO2 when it was picked up and the biggest effect was that I was dumber than a post. Some of that may be reversible some day.

Does she smoke?
 
  • #9
Actually, routine skull xrays won't usually show a tumor unless the cancer has metastasized to the bone. You'll need a CT or MRI for brain tumor. It's quite possible that the 'x-ray' she already had was a CT. We don't do much general skull radiography anymore. It's mostly been replaced by CT/MR.

Here is an interesting article dealing with syncope that may lead you in the right direction.

http://cmbi.bjmu.cn/uptodate/cardiac%20arrhythmias/Syncope/Pathogenesis%20and%20etiology%20of%20syncope.htm

TVP45 - GOOD LORD! 64%?!1111 YIKES!
 
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  • #10
Astronuc said:
Blacking out or feinting, is usually associated with a reduction in oxygen to the brain,
At the risk of making light of a serious situation, feinting is associated more with a reduction in strikes upon one's opponent...

Now, fainting...
 
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  • #11
stewartcs said:
There may be a chance of Radon exposure in the basement. It generally affects the lungs, which may somehow reduce the oxygen level in her blood stream.
TVP45 said:
Good thought on the radon.
No. Radon causes cancer. It isn't chemically toxic in the concentrations you find it in a basement (which isn't to say the basement still shouldn't be tested if she's living in it!).

I was under the impression that unusually low blood pressure wasn't all that unusual (yes, I know that's an oxymoron). My dad used to faint occasionally when he was in his 20s and it was for that reason only. He once stood up from his seat on the El and blacked out from the loss of blood flow to his head.

I haven't had my blood pressure taken in a while and don't remember what it was, but I inherited this issue from him. I used to get a big battery of tests done before wrestling season in high school and I had both an absurdly low blood pressure and pulse (they always commented on it). They do this dumb little test where they have you step up and down on a little block for a minute to get your heart rate up just a little and I'd still read like I was asleep! Even today, when I'm in mediocre shape my resting heart rate is in the low 50s and when I'm in half decent shape it is in the mid 40s. I'm in pretty bad shape right now (just went to the gym for the 2nd time this year today...) and just measured it at 52.

I've never fainted, but it is very common for me to stand up too fast from a resting state and grey-out (vision goes out, feeling light headed).
 
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  • #12
DaveC426913 said:
At the risk of making light of a serious situation, feinting is associated more with a reduction in strikes upon one's opponent...

Now, fainting...
Yeah, I know the diff. Ack! Thanks, Dave.
 
  • #13
russ_watters said:
I was under the impression that unusually low blood pressure wasn't all that unusual (yes, I know that's an oxymoron). My dad used to faint occasionally when he was in his 20s and it was for that reason only. He once stood up from his seat on the El and blacked out from the loss of blood flow to his head.

I haven't had my blood pressure taken in a while and don't remember what it was, but I inherited this issue from him. I used to get a big battery of tests done before wrestling season in high school and I had both an absurdly low blood pressure and pulse (they always commented on it). They do this dumb little test where they have you step up and down on a little block for a minute to get your heart rate up just a little and I'd still read like I was asleep! Even today, when I'm in mediocre shape my resting heart rate is in the low 50s and when I'm in half decent shape it is in the mid 40s. I'm in pretty bad shape right now (just went to the gym for the 2nd time this year today...) and just measured it at 52.

I've never fainted, but it is very common for me to stand up too fast from a resting state and grey-out (vision goes out, feeling light headed).
I've had similar experiences. I once went to give blood, and after riding my bicycle to the place over couple of miles or so, my BP was 85/60. They said my BP was too low. So I left, rode my bike back to my office, got something to eat and drank coffee, and rode back. My BP was then up to about 100/70.

Hypotension, LBP - http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/lowbloodpressure.html

And I've experienced the light-headedness when standing up quickly.
 
  • #14
russ_watters said:
No. Radon causes cancer.

That was my point. It may possibly be an odd indicator of lung cancer.

Odd symptoms of lung cancer

Sometimes lung cancer cells produce hormones that get into the bloodstream. These hormones can produce strange symptoms that you may not realize are anything to do with lung cancer. You may hear your doctor call these 'paraneoplastic symptoms' or say you have 'paraneoplastic syndrome'. These hormone related symptoms include:

-Pins and needles or numbness in fingers or toes
-Muscle weakness
-Drowsiness, weakness, dizziness or confusion
-Breast swelling in men
-Tendency to have blood clots (thrombosis)

Source: http://www.cancerhelp.org.uk/help/default.asp?page=2964#general

The drowsiness, weakness, dizziness one caught my attention.

But like I said, it's just a guess. The OP should consult a real medical doctor instead of the would be ones here (no offense to any real doctors replying to this post - if any).

CS
 
  • #15
I'm amazed at the number of detailed responses, and I'm grateful for each post above. I'll read through all of the suggestions carefully. I've already mentioned a few of these suggestions to my girlfriend, especially the one about keeping a journal, and I would refer her to this very thread, but I don't want to stress her out more than she already is. She called me the other day, and I had her write down some of the suggestions mentioned above, in addition to some suggestions that my brother made.

My brother said that her condition reflects mild seizures, and that it may be easy to find if this is the case by having an EEG. He mentioned that stress and lack of sleep can trigger the blackouts, and I know for a fact that she is stressed with family situations and not getting very much rest, as she works and goes to school. I forgot to mention in my opening post that during the blackouts, she has a shortness of breath. Maybe this bit of information will narrow things down. I really wish I could be with her now, but we go to school in different states.

I'll respond to the above posts soon, and again, I really appreciate the info. Thank you all.
 
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  • #16
My brother said that her condition reflects mild seizures, and that it may be easy to find if this is the case by having an EEG. He mentioned that stress and lack of sleep can trigger the blackouts, and I know for a fact that she is stressed with family situations and not getting very much rest, as she works and goes to school. I forgot to mention in my opening post that during the blackouts, she has a shortness of breath.
This could be very serious! She probably needs an EKG/ECG (electrocardiogram) ASAP! Shortness of breath could be signs of a cardiac problem, and cardiac arrhythmia could cause black outs and shortness of breath. The concern would be cardia arrest (heart attack). She ought to see a cardiologist right away!

Lack of sleep and not eating properly or irregular could exacerbate her condition.

Does she have chest pains, or pain in the shoulder or neck, or numbness in the arm?

http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/arr/arr_whatis.html

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Arrhythmias?
Many arrhythmias cause no signs or symptoms. When signs or symptoms are present, the most common ones are:

Palpitations (a feeling that your heart has skipped a beat or is beating too hard)
A slow heartbeat
An irregular heartbeat
Feeling of pauses between heartbeats

More serious signs and symptoms include:

Anxiety
Weakness
Dizziness and light-headedness
Fainting or nearly fainting
Sweating
Shortness of breath
Chest pain

http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/arr/arr_signsandsymptoms.html
 
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  • #17
Thank you so much for the information. I'm going to have my girlfriend read this thread after all. She knows what symptoms she's having better than I do.
 
  • #18
hotcommodity said:
... I know for a fact that she is stressed with family situations and not getting very much rest, as she works and goes to school. I forgot to mention in my opening post that during the blackouts, she has a shortness of breath.

Could also be anxiety attacks if she's under a lot of stress.

As others have pointed out, there can be some very serious causes, and some more mild causes. A full workup by a doctor is the only way to find out for certain.
 
  • #19
Pregnancy should be ruled out as well.
 
  • #20
hypatia said:
Pregnancy should be ruled out as well.

Covered that in my first reply. That jumped out as an obvious one for sudden onset of such spells. I guess only the women are clue-ing in on that. :biggrin:
 
  • #21
Well, that will teach me to read the entire thread :redface:
 
  • #22
She's definitely not pregnant, lol.
 

Related to Girlfriend's Blackouts: Is the Environment to Blame?

1. What are the potential causes of my girlfriend's blackouts?

There are several potential causes for blackouts, including medical conditions such as epilepsy or low blood sugar, medication side effects, and alcohol or drug use. However, environmental factors can also play a role in causing blackouts.

2. How can the environment contribute to blackouts?

The environment can contribute to blackouts in various ways. For example, extreme temperatures, high altitudes, or air pollution can affect the amount of oxygen reaching the brain and lead to blackouts. Additionally, exposure to certain toxins or chemicals can also cause blackouts.

3. Can stress or anxiety trigger blackouts?

Yes, stress and anxiety can trigger blackouts in some individuals. When a person is under a lot of stress or experiencing intense emotions, their body produces a stress response that can cause a decrease in blood flow to the brain, resulting in a blackout.

4. Are there any steps I can take to help prevent my girlfriend's blackouts?

If your girlfriend experiences frequent blackouts, it is important to consult with a doctor to determine the underlying cause. Depending on the cause, there may be steps you can take to help prevent blackouts, such as avoiding triggers, managing stress and anxiety, staying hydrated, and avoiding alcohol and drugs.

5. Are blackouts a serious concern and should I be worried?

Blackouts can be a serious concern, especially if they occur frequently or without a clear trigger. It is important to seek medical advice if you or your girlfriend experience blackouts in order to determine the cause and receive appropriate treatment. In some cases, blackouts can be a symptom of a more serious underlying condition that requires medical attention.

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