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Dr Subbanna MD
Dr Subbanna MD, Neurologist (MD)
Category: Neurology
Satisfied Customers: 5299
Experience:  American Board Certified Neurologist, Internal Medicine
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What causes electrical shock feeling in the head?

Resolved Question:

What could cause a feeling of an electrical shock in my head? Where should I start looking?
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Neurology
Expert:  Dr Subbanna MD replied 5 years ago.

Thanks for the question.

Could you describe these symptoms in more detail?

The more you can describe the better, try to include as much information as possible including for example how long this has been going on, what is the duration of this symptom, how often it happens, what investigations have been done, any treatments already tried, whether you already have seen s Doctor for these symptoms, whether you have any other medical issues, what your current medications are etc.

Customer: replied 5 years ago.

This has been going on for a couple of years. It seems to happen only when I am in bed in a near-sleep state.

What happens is a very brief (like a split second or second) of a feeling like an electric shock in my head. Very quick and then gone. Usually there is only one. It is accompanied by kind of a bzzzz sound. However, the sound might just be an interruption of the tinnitus buzzing that is pretty constant. Kind of like an abrupt interference in a television or radio broadcast.

Sometimes it happens two or three times. I don't remember ever having more than three in one night.

It will happen infrequently. Might be twice in one week and then not again for a couple of weeks or a month.

I have just ignored it and have not spoken to a doctor about it before.

However, I have felt less clarity of thinking at work recently (not sure if real or imagined). I am a CPA and have just felt not as sharp as usual in the last few years and have just chalked it up to an aging brain. Tonight I was unable to sleep, read for a few hours and then was trying to get back to a sound sleep. Had one of the shock feelings and just thought I'd try to research on the internet and see if anything jumped out. That search led me to this site.

I am not on any medications other than one baby aspirin per day. I have always had good blood pressure, very slightly elevated blood sugar levels in the past few years (not enough to warrant medication), somewhat raised cholesterol levels (again, not enough to warrant medication -- but getting closer to that my doctor says). I need to lose 10-20 lbs. I'm 5'3 and weigh 140.

I get good exercise - 3 1 hour sessions/week with a physical trainer, 2 1-1/2 hour tai chi sessions per week and a 2 mile walk most Saturdays. I've just been working with the physical trainer since May.

I do have osteoporosis but am not taking medication for it. Don't think that's a factor, but thought I should mention everything.

I take a daily dose of supplements in addition to the baby aspirin: 2 capsules omega 3 fish oil, 2 capsules of Osteoforce (formulated for bone health), 5000 units of Vitamin D-3, and a multi vitamin.

A client of mine recently mentioned having multiple tiny strokes (TIAs) and I was wondering if this might explain the shocks -- but that does not seem to be likely based on my internet reading of the symptoms of TIAs.

So -- I don't know whether this is just something to not worry about (like my tinnitus) or something I should follow up on.

Your input is appreciated.

Expert:  Dr Subbanna MD replied 5 years ago.

Thanks for all the additional information. Coming to the discussion;

There are few different conditions as mentioned below that can present with the electrical shock like feeling in the head;

Small seizures

Certain structural abnormalities in the brain

Underlying medical conditions like thyroid diseases, vitamin deficiencies etc

Inner ear disorders

Stress related

Idiopathic (cause is not found) etc

Considering that this symptom hasn't been yet properly evaluated I advise you to undergo a thorough clinical evaluation followed by certain investigations including a CT or MRI of the brain. This will help in ruling out any structural abnormalities in the brain that can produce similar symptoms. But most often CT or MRI comes normal so there may not be anything serious to explain these symptoms.

You also require an EEG to look for any seizure activities.

Rarely people may experience these symptoms if they have underlying medical conditions like thyroid diseases, vitamin deficiencies etc so you may undergo certain blood investigations too to look for these possibilities.

Because you experience some tinnitus like feeling an inner ear disease is a possibility too, and the CT or MRI mentioned above generally helps in looking for ear conditions too. Later you may need a separate ENT Dr evaluation too.

If any of these above investigations/evaluations reveal any abnormalities, then it will be treated appropriately.

Even stress could produce these kinds of symptoms (if you have any stress, but not otherwise).

Many times even after extensive evaluation & investigations cause for these kinds of symptoms may not be found, then these are called as idiopathic in nature.

Regarding your other symptoms like feeling less clarity of thinking, and feeling not sharp as before - the above mentioned investigations like CT or MRI of the brain & the blood tests will help to explore what may be causing these symptoms too. If any such causes are identified with these investigations, then they will be treated appropriately. If all these above investigations come normal, then these symptoms could be just secondary to part of the aging process itself rather than anything else.

I recommend you to see your clinic Dr. for the further needful that will include a thorough clinical evaluation/examination & investigations (CT or MRI, EEG, blood tests etc.) as discussed above, and if any of these tests reveal any abnormality they will be treated appropriately. But I am reassuring you that these symptoms most likely are not due to any serious underlying conditions. And also the electrical shock like feelings are not mini strokes (TIAs) based on the details provided by you. Continue with your healthy life style as before, you will do fine, all the best!

The above are my opinions & recommendations regarding the diagnosis and management of your electrical shock like feeling in the head as well the cognitive symptoms you mentioned, and please ask me if there are any further questions.

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