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High Elevation and Worse Symptoms


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   I recently went camping at 10,000 feet. While I was there, my headaches were so much worse. I also had so many more visual disturbances and got an aura like I was having a migraine like 5 times (that usually only happens to me like twice a year, I usually don't have auras with my migraines.) Also, my ears wouldn't go back to a normal pressure. It was like when you are on a car trip or plane ride and the change in elevation makes your ears pop and you can't hear as well? That was happening to me for days. Then me and my family decided to go on a walk. On that walk I started feeling very faint. I was huffing and puffing and the right side of my nose just was pouring fluid out of it. (That is the side of my nose that always has stuff pouring out of it when I exercise.) When I got back to camp, I grabbed my pulse oximeter. My pulse was of course high, but my oxygen was 76. I had to sleep all day after that walk because I wasn't really able to function after that. It was gorgeous up there and I love seeing all the animals and stuff, but are there any tips to help me manage my symptoms at that elevation? Also, I have been trying to see if IIH and/or a CSF leak is a possibility is a me. Does this sound like that? If I had IIH and/or a CSF leak and that got fixed, would camping that high be not bad anymore, or would my dysautonomia still make that bad? Does high elevation cause worse symptoms for y'all? Sorry I know that's a lot of questions. Thanks for reading! 

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Hi @Knellie

yes elevation is a bear for me, you are not alone. Its also hard for some people with no other health issues. I get some of the symptoms you describe when I go to Tahoe (6000 ft) from Bay Area. 10,000 feet is way up there! People who live at higher elevations adapt to that environment over time and develop higher levels of hemoglobin and number of red blood cells (hematocrit). The body also gets better at hanging onto oxygen in low oxygen environments (oxygen dissociation). At sea level we breathe 21% oxygen and at 10,000 ft it is equivalent to about 14%. It is no wonder that your saturation was lower. The bottom line is you need time to adapt and work your tolerance up slowly. The good news is once your body adapts and you have changes to your red blood cells those effects last and your RBCs have “memory” as long as those cells live which is about 120 days. This info is available in many reputable places online. I have used research from The University of Colorado when I taught about oxygen carrying capacity for the fetus and newborn. Lots of good research there. 
 I’d love to know more about your nose issue because in the last few months mine also runs uncontrollably on right side when I’m upright and active, it isn’t allergies. What the heck is that??

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Altitude sickness can happen to anyone if they go suddenly from a low altitude to a high altitude.  Going from sea level to 10,000 ft would be pretty taxing on the body.  I think any change in elevation that exceeds 6,500 ft can cause symptoms.

Some people might barely notice it and others could need a few days to adapt.  There is probably a POTS connection.  I have been at 10,000 ft or higher twice since being diagnosed with POTS.  The first time I was totally disabled for a day or two (at 12,000 ft from sea level), but then started to feel much better.  The 2nd time I had a horrible headache which was relieved as soon as we got back down to around 7,000 ft.  It's important to hydrate and rest for a couple of days if you notice symptoms from what I understand.

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@CJ65 - Thanks for the info! The nose thing I think is a CSF leak, where your dura (the thing that holds your cerebrospinal fluid) tears and fluid leaks out. This fluid can sometimes leak out of your nose or ears. It is usually only on one side. I have it running out of my right nostril all the time. I have awakened to my left ear wet a couple times. Your doctor can test the fluid coming out of your nose to see if it is cerobrospinal fluid. Cerobrospinal fluid is clear and dries like water. I hope that helps! There is a fb group called Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension and Stents that is very helpful group for that. CSF leaks can also be caused by IIH, so you might want to see if that is a possibility. CSF leaks and IIH can closely resemble POTS symptoms. There is a doctor named Ian Carrol who is a doctor a Stanford University who talks a lot about how POTS can be a lot like CSF leaks. Here is a video of him talking about it: 

https://vimeo.com/283562633

 

I hope you can fix your nose thing! Whether or not it is a CSF leak, your nose running all the time its annoying! Good Luck!

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@Knellie thanks for the info! I see Dr Jaradeh at Stanford so I look forward to the video! In my experience assisting with spinal taps, csf is always clear and “straw” colored unless it’s bloody or infected. Does your leak look like that? Testing it is a great idea, thank you. Very interesting about IIH too. What would I do without the POTS community ??

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