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Author Comment
Rachel B.
Reply with quote  #1 
My Dad has been having progressive leg weakness for several months.  He had a thorough work-up through his doctor just 2 weeks ago, including an MRI of the spine, check of medications, muscle enzymes, and ruled out infection.  At that point they just said "move around more", but he's gotten worse & tonight my sister couldn't get him up, so they're now at the ER.  He is diabetic, but that seems to be under good control.  We're puzzled, & at this point have no idea what else might be looked at (the progression seems relatively fast). 
Just wondering if any of you have had similar experiences, & if so what was found?  (It seems vague to search Web MD for "leg weakness", and I think you all know more!)  Thanks for any input.
Rachel B. 
Julia B.
Reply with quote  #2 
Hello Rachel B.

I don't profess to know much about medical problems, but I have one suggestion that you may want to have checked out if it already hasn't been. My dad had the weak legs come on a few years back and his potassium was out of whack. I honestly can't remember if it was too high or too low at that time, but it caused the weakness.

There are others on here that will have more info and a lot more knowledge about this. Just thought I would post my experience..I hope you find out what is causing the problems with your dad.

Reply with quote  #3 
Hi Rachel,
My mother's legs will get numb, and a few times she has fallen when the leg just gave out on her. She has a degenerative disease in her spine, pinched nerves are a part of that. She also has Arthritis. I also think some of the weakness my mother experiences is lack of muscle strength because she does not move around like she used too. I get her out walking when I can, and she does OK for a bit, but the leg will weaken and she tells me it turns numb. So, we curtail the walk. She is 91 so that fact she is walking at all is amazing!

Wish I could offer something more useful for you.... Well, maybe one other thing. My MIL had trouble with her legs... that was a circulation problem. She passed away a long time ago, so I don't recall what all the reasons were for it other than it being like blood clots and circulation.

Hope that helps somehow.. the fact that it is coming on fast for your father is a worry...the only other thing I can think of is a TIA, and I don't know if that would apply to the symptoms you describe. ...

Good luck with this! And hugs too. :-)

Reply with quote  #4 
Hey Rachel...

My Dad has diabetes and neuropathy - usually numbness, cold or heat sensations in his legs and feet, then it turned into pain.  He takes Lyrica and it helps a lot.  However - he also has leg weakness and really bad equilibrium.  Don't know if this could be part of your Dad's problem.  Diabetes can do the darndest stuff I'm finding out.
Reply with quote  #5 
My Dad's 85 and also has leg weakness. He sits in his recliner way too much so I know a lot of it is lack of movement, but its getting much worse. Like you Rachael I took him for a check up, blood work etc and nothing showed up either. Please let us know what they say about your Dad. I'm puzzled too.
Reply with quote  #6 

Rachel,  the tests they have already run should rule out what caused my Dad's leg weakness.  In his case it was a non-Hodgkin's lymphoma on his lower spine.   The PCP said it was probably arthritis and sent him to an Ortho jerk who said "Yep" and gave Dad pain meds that made him more at risk of a fall, (and gave him a bleeding ulcer).  Then the neuro guy looked for TIAs and didn't find anything.  

Bro took him to a chiropractor he knew who 'felt' something not quite right and recommended that Dad see this other guy who did a full body MRI and there it was.  

Since your Dad already had the spinal MRI, I think you can rule that out.  The other tests he has had should have uncovered  a potassium imbalance, but you never know.  I hope this time they will find the problem.  If not, see if the doc will arrange to send a PT to the home.  After a few spells like this, their confidence can be badly shaken and they won't try to move, but the PT can be motovational in mysterious ways. 

Mom is 94 an has become much weaker and unsteady in the past few months.  Neither she, I nor her current doc want to put her through a lot of tests and treatments so we just adapt.   Her current doc is leaving private practice soon and I haven't met the new one, yet.   I hope she has a similar attitude.  It won't be much longer at this rate before she will be totally home bound.

Good luck in finding a way around this.  A bedridden patient takes care giving to another level.   Sometimes next to impossible depending on the home.
Reply with quote  #7 

Rachel, my MIL got weaker and weaker in her first AL, one day she just couldn't get up out of the chair any more, and they sent her to the ER. She ended up in the hospital. One thing they did uncover was that her thyroid was out of whack. She also needed more intense physical therapy, which she got, and now she is walking much better. They also took her off some of the meds that were making her dizzy and sleepy, so her energy level is much better now.

Reply with quote  #8 
Rachel, Sheila has made an excellent point about thyroid.  They often overlook that especially in men (it isn't nearly as common in men). 

About meds.  For Mom I have always taken any prescription written by any doctor to my Mom's PCP.  I have it rewritten by her so all of the meds come from one office and filled at one pharmacy.  Refills are easier to get and cross checking is too.   If there have been any changes at all in his meds in the last 6 months, double check them for side effects.  I know some cholesterol drugs are famous for causing muscle weakness.
Rachel B.
Reply with quote  #9 
Thanks everyone,
   Yes, potassium is OK, as well as thyroid - he's had that checked for years because he's CONSTANTLY FREEZING - wears 3 shirts (one flannel!) in the middle of summer.  Doctors say thyroid is the ONLY thing that could cause that, but his keeps testing fine.  Anyone have any input on THIS??

Anyway, by this AM all they can find is a slight temp. & slightly raised white blood count, so they're treating him for an infection, which is likely in his legs, which my sister says look awful - she just described "angry red", and also very dry, so where they're cracked infection may have entered.  He seems to feel a little better this AM.  I hope they'll address other issues while he's there. like not bathing and depression.  I don't know how men can just ignore so much - intelligent men who somehow think things will magically clear up even while they clearly see it's getting not just worse but serious... 
I know this is a very common thread here...

Rachel B.  
Ann Harris
Reply with quote  #10 
Hi Rachel, I know how frustrating it can be and I am sorry about your dad.

Just throwin this out, because it happened to my dad. Same thing, leg weakness, but all tests for stroke (NON CT Scan), no dizziness, no signs of stroke. My dad had been falling for 2 years or more, well, turns out during one of these many falls he hit his head, and had a subdural hematoma. Only showed up on a CT scan - they had blamed his weak legs on anemia and old age!  Now, he may have some kind of blood cancer, testing is underway. Just letting you know one experience. I hope he is okay. Ann
Reply with quote  #11 
Hi Rachel,
     My mother had the same problem... trouble walking by herself, leg weakness, and very tired all of the time... alot of sleeping. She is now a diabetic and is on pills for that.
     The doctors first thought that she had ALS, then they thought that she had parkinson's disease. At the present time, we still have no actual diagnosis as to what she has. She also has shaky(trembling) hands that bothers her alot.
     Your dad's doctors, might want to test him for NPH. That might be what his problem is..... Here's some information for you to read.
     Good luck on finding out what's causing your dad's leg weakness.

Risk Factors and Causes

Normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH) can develop after a stroke, head injury, brain surgery, meningitis, or any disorder that causes bleeding around the brain. The presence of a brain tumor may also cause NPH. In most cases, however, the cause of NPH is unknown.


Signs and Symptoms

In general, a combination of the following symptoms may indicate normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH):

  • Frequent urination or the urgent need to urinate
  • Gait disturbance (difficulty walking)
  • Mild dementia (a progressive impairment of mental abilities)

Additional symptoms of NPH, such as headache, nausea, and vision problems, can also occur due to the increased pressure on the brain.

The first noticeable symptom of NPH is often a gait disturbance, or having trouble walking or balancing. Commonly, people with NPH may walk with slow, short, shuffling steps and keep a wide stance (for balance) when standing still, or even when walking. People with NPH may also feel as if they cannot lift their foot from the floor. They may feel weak and unsteady in their legs, have a hard time getting started walking, and experience sudden falls.

Signs of dementia often associated with normal pressure hydrocephalus may include having trouble remembering (memory loss), being unusually slow to speak or to understand what is being spoken, having difficulties with tasks that were once routine, and a reduced attention span. The person may also have difficulties with basic reasoning and problem-solving. A general lack of interest in life, as well as changes in behavior and mood, may also accompany NPH.

People in the early stages of NPH may also feel a frequent or urgent need to urinate. Later, as the effects of NPH worsen, these urinary symptoms may progress to incontinence, or the inability to control the flow of urine. In fact, incontinence is often associated with more advanced cases of NPH.

Early signs of normal pressure hydrocephalus may go unnoticed because they can seem subtle, or insignificant. For example, some people with NPH think signs of urinary difficulties are not worth noting and thus neglect to report them to their healthcare provider. People often associate the symptoms of NPH with the typical signs of aging, so the early warning signs for NPH may simply be ignored or overlooked. However, the good news is that those who are diagnosed early on generally have a higher success rate for treatment and for a much-improved quality of life. If you notice any of the above signs in yourself or a family member, contact your healthcare provider.
Rachel B.
Reply with quote  #12 
Thanks to everyone who took the time to answer.  Luckily, Dad hasn't had a stroke or a fall, so head injury can be ruled out.  This AM they found he has a pretty serious staph infection in both legs, so now he has a targeted antibiotic.  Not feeling better yet, and I didn't have the courage to ask whether they expect the anti-biotic to be a cure, or surgery (amputation?) is a possibility.  I'm really hoping that some professionals are putting a bit of fear into him, so that he starts taking care of himself.  But I'm not too hopeful when I see the diabetic "diet" he chooses (more sugar per day than he used to eat in a week, which was too much then.)  But I decided to react to all this by taking good care of MYSELF.  
Wouldn't you know, just yesterday I heard on the news that MERSA (the super-fast flesh eating virus) is now the #1 killer of all hospital patients in the US!  We have so much to be afraid of these days... This year I can't enjoy my yard / patio because our welcome rain has also brought mosquitoes and I'm afraid of West Nile Virus - as well as all the chemicals in the mosquito repellents!  And I also heard that typical summer clothes are no longer protection from the sun, so we should put sunscreen on all over, before we dress!!!  Big sigh.  
Anyway, thanks all, I learned a lot.  Seems like most of us should qualify for some type of medical degree...
Rachel B.          
Reply with quote  #13 
Originally Posted by Rachel B.
My Dad has been having progressive leg weakness for several months.  He had a thorough work-up through his doctor just 2 weeks ago, including an MRI of the spine, check of medications, muscle enzymes, and ruled out infection.  At that point they just said "move around more", but he's gotten worse & tonight my sister couldn't get him up, so they're now at the ER.  He is diabetic, but that seems to be under good control.  We're puzzled, & at this point have no idea what else might be looked at (the progression seems relatively fast). 
Just wondering if any of you have had similar experiences, & if so what was found?  (It seems vague to search Web MD for "leg weakness", and I think you all know more!)  Thanks for any input.
Rachel B. ]
since you mentioned diabetic, you should read up on PAD, Peripheral artery disease.

Reply with quote  #14 
It took a couple years to get a diagnosis for my father that made sense.
The first diagnosis that made sense was an atypical form of Parkinson's disease.
The diagnosis was later changed to PSP Progressive Supra-nuclear Palsy.
It is very similar to Parkinson's.

We had to change his Primary Care doctor before we were able to make some progress with getting a diagnosis. His original doctor had an "it is what it is" attitude and didn't show any concern as to WHY he was having the problems that he was having. When we went to meet the doctor that we switched him to, his first question was "why is he in a wheelchair" when we said we didn't know,, he said "we need to find out".

His back was looked ay first, then he went to a good neurologist. But, before the good neurologist, he hd seen another neurologist when he was with the first doctor after we INSISTED on a referral. But that guy was not good. I cannot remember the name of that guys diagnosis, but it turned out that "diagnosis" was simply just a name of one of my Dad's Parkinson's SYMPTOMS.

Needless to say, sometimes it takes a LOT of persistence to get your loved one the medical care they need.
It seems that elders and really ALL patients need advocates, to help them get the answers they need and the help they need.
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