Dr Vallings talk on the five senses
(On the 29 May 2003, Remember that a person with CFS took the notes so there may be inaccuracies!)
Our 5 senses are directly influenced by transmissions by neurons in the brain. The rest of the body is directly messaged by transmissions from the spinal cord. This means our 5 senses are more directly affected by the brain. Chemicals are needed to make the electrical impulses send messages across to the next neurons. It is the passage of these chemicals between the neurons, which send the electrical impulses across to the next neurons, which make all our parts of the body work. People with ME/CFS have an impulse mechanism, which is sluggish. Poor circulation also slows down the process. We also have a poor release of chemicals such as serotonin, an important part of the cells chemical make up in the cytokines As we know, the over release of cytokines is the basis of (ME)./CFS and this continually interferes with the release of chemicals. Many of us also have low vitamin B 12, which is essential for neuron functioning. The cytokines stimulate the immune system and our sensations become extreme. We are very sensitive to Fumes, light, sound and things such as extremes of temperature. This is because of the stirred up cytokines.
Eyes: the eye is covered with a transparent film; inside is the iris, which is muscle, then comes the pupil where light shines through. The whole inside of the eye is lined with the retina. Light hits the retina and sends messages to the brain. The lens moves in and out in order for us to focus, this is muscle activity. There is quite a bit of muscle activity moving the eye around as well. Amazingly, this means lots of eye muscle activity. We know that people with our illness have muscles, which tire easily so obviously this affects our ability to focus and we get tired eyes. The optic nerve goes to the back of the head, crossing over to the other side of the brain; the message goes through the neurons to get to the brain. Neurons have a need for oxygen and glucose and a need therefore for good circulation. We have phases of bad circulation, due to low blood pressure; slow red blood cells due to their misshapen shape. Because of this difficulty with lethargic neurons and muscles our eyes can tire easily and become sensitive. We can think that our eyes have deteriorated and can go to an ophthalmologist only to find out the eyes are tired and need glasses for this weakness. However, perhaps we are having a bad day and only to find out that on a stronger day that the glasses we have paid for no longer work properly, due to our more healthy muscles. We believe that most of our physical problems are not lasting if they are ME/CFS related, but of course we all still get normal eye deterioration. We can get conjunctivitis, where the cornea gets red and sore. An antibiotic or antihistamine will fix this. Although we may have sore eyes, or be sensitive to the light, there is an important message from the eye to the brain sent to the perennial glands, which produces melatonin, which is our body clock mechanism. So people should get outside and get light in their eyes to enable better production of melatonin which will help us get a good night's sleep. Sunglasses cut out the light so we need to sit outside, not necessarily in the sun but without sunglasses. Dry eyes are also due to sluggish tear glands, we can use artificial tears to relieve that. Sjogrens Syndrome is similar to ME/CFS, dry eyes is a major symptom. We need to be checked out that we don’t have this problem. Our eyes can be runny as well. The tear ducts should drain into the nose but if the sinus is blocked tears don't drain properly and you look as if you are tearful. Take antihistamines is to open the nasal ducts.
Ears: Sometimes we are extreme sensitivity to noise, sometimes leading to tinnitus. Annoyingly loud noise is partly due to the inability to process all the impact on our senses. The neurons once again are working too slowly. Another problem is we can hear but we don't really listen. We find ourselves not remembering. Our concentration seems gone. Ears are more simplistic than eyes physically, there is less muscle working but still our processes are slowed down. Tinnitus-- here we have a problem similar to that of continual pain. (Where the pain gate stays open.). Initially something interfered with our hearing and ears, perhaps lots of noise at one time, the hearing gate stays open and we continue to hear long after. This is what this is. Try anti-epileptic drugs to shut that gate or try to change the noise, some people use hearing aids which gives sufferers pleasant music to overlay the noise. It is very hard to treat! Do get your ears checked out as it is very tiring and stressful and could be a physical problem. Large amounts of aspirin can negatively affect tinnitus and hearing loss. Willow herb, a pain relief herb can also affect hearing. Teeth problems can also cause hearing as well as sinus problems.
Smell: Our noses have similar mechanisms but the nerves go straight to the brain, a very short route to the brain. Any smell that affects us goes very quickly to the brain. Therefore if we have chemical exposure, it affects us really quickly. Our sensitivity therefore can be extreme. Some occupations must be ruled out because of this. Sometimes the sense of smell can be lessened because of allergies, so although you can have instant reaction to smell you can also have loss of smell. Lots of us have ongoing nasal infections and sinus problems.
Taste: Once again we have a similar position. We can have heightened taste but also heightened problems of the mouth, such as thrush, dryness etc. Our taste buds therefore can be damaged. Also rotten teeth can send out nasty tastes Make sure your teeth are in good condition, soda and fluoride toothpaste help the gums and teeth.
Thanks once again to Dr Ros for a very interesting talk.