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Dr. Andrew Rynne
Dr. Andrew Rynne

Family Physician

Exp 50 years

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What causes clumsiness and eye coordination problems?

Answered by
Dr. Dariush Saghafi


Practicing since :1988

Answered : 1412 Questions

Posted on Mon, 15 Sep 2014 in Brain and Spine
Question: Dear Doctor, you answered my query a few days ago. I have another, much shorter query now. For reference purposes, I am copy pasting my past query together with your answer to it below the new query.

I am a little worried about some of my symptoms which relate to clumsiness and eye coordination problems. I went to see a new neurologist who says that these are likely not caused psychologically. I have read about a condition called Amyotropic lateral sclerosis. It would seem to explain some of my motoric symptoms. I do seem to have a problem with eye saccadic movements according to my neurologist (manifested as problems with reading), and general dexterity. I also feel muscle weakness, stiffness, cramps and twitches. I have tremor in hands when I make specific movements such as eating or tying my shoelaces. Everything has been getting worse for over a year now, slowly and progressively.

What is the probability for a 22 year old white European male to have this disease if I have some of the symptoms?
Can severe anxiety disorder cause such motoric symptoms, including stiffness in hands and problems with saccadic eye movements?
The reason why I'm asking is that there are conditions such as ALS which do not show up on MRI or EEG, not even on blood tests. So even though all my tests came out clear that doesn't really prove I don't have ALS or some muscular disease.

Thanks a lot in advance!


Good afternoon sir. My name is Dr. XXXXXXX Saghafi. I am a neurologist in both academic and private practices in XXXXXXX OH. I have read with interest your list of symptoms and test results and am sorry you have run into this road block of sorts at such a young age. Hopefully, I can give you some ideas as to what course would be a fruitful one to follow.

First of all let me reassure you that rarely are doctors in this day and age "clueless" and rarely SHOULD patients feel "desperate" in such circumstances. The art in discovering the "clues" and arriving at either a diagnosis or strategy comes from organizing the information so that it can be easily analyzed and matching that against what is known to come up with what is most probable. The body is an amazing piece of machinery. In my opinion, it rarely lets you down, and when it's not working always tells you what's wrong....problem is most people DON'T KNOW HOW TO LISTEN TO IT when it talks.

So let's go back for a moment and listen again to what your body has been saying. First of all, can you tell me when the last time was that you felt PERFECTLY 100% like a million bucks? In other take me back to a time before all of this started happening. When was long ago? Then, let's come up in time slowly. Did all these systems come on at once? Did they all come on like gangbusters or was it a slow, steady progression that just got a little worse and a little worse, etc.? Can you order the symptoms for me chronically? Which came first, second, etc?

Now, lay out (over the same period of time) any and all NON-PHYSICAL stresses, events, or "troubles" that have befallen you in the 6 months preceding the first physical symptoms and your list of problems above. And let's run that all the way through the present. Write that out please so that you can refer to things or even upload it so we can see it.

I am now going to take the list of symptoms and problems you've mentioned and simply repeat it down below and then, address things while putting them into context along with the diagnostic tests that have been done and see if we can make sense out of anything. Look for MY comments below each of your points if I feel there is something there that I'd like to comment on or draw to your attention.

Sound good? Here we go:

1) persistent unbearable fatigue: worst in the morning and afternoon, worse after eating a meal and standing up and drinking coffee. Better after lying down with legs up and after drinking alcohol. Better at 9pm. Otherwise the fatigue prevents me from doing most normal daily things. I can barely sit and watch videos, eat and use the toilet. I can't do any work whatsoever. When sitting I fall asleep during the day.

>>>>Persistent and unbearable Fatigue as a presenting neurological symptom most often is related to some form of sleep disorder, neuromuscular disease such as myathenia gravis, endocrinological dysfunction (such as thyroid, adrenal, or pituitary gland malfunction), metabolic derangements such as electrolyte imbalances, severe malnutrition or dehydration, or some form of demyelinating disease such as very commonly MS or SARCOIDOSIS.

However, by way of testing we are told that MRI, EEG, blood work, and EKG are perfectly fine. It would be extremely difficult for blood work to be dead normal if there were fulminant glandular or other metabolic problems causing this degree of fatigue and distress. Furthermore, the fatigue and lethargy that causes people to be physically unable to carry on as seen in MS or Myasthenia Gravis is one that generally gets worse as the day goes on. In the case of MG it's actually fluctuating which means that it gets better then worse then, better then, worse, and cycles like that throughout the day. This fatigue you have is actually from the time you get up and if anything may get better as the day goes forward....kind of reverse of what we'd expect for some type of metabolic or other physical disorder.

There are a couple of sleep disorders that might fit this XXXXXXX of extreme fatigue and tiredness that simply makes one ridiculously dysfunctional. One is Sleep Apnea and the other is Narcolepsy.

However, again a sleep study is perfectly normal....likely would show some abnormality with such fulminant symptoms.

2) resting and intention tremor (when rotating wrists)

>>>>>> I cannot really find anything here to talk about since I'd actually need to see it to understand what you're referring to. I must take the neurologist in this case at his word when he says you've got a neurological examination and trust that if there were any tremors of clinical significance that he would've detected them and reported a diagnosis such as either Parkinson's disease, Essential Tremor or something else. Fair enough? So let's leave this alone for the time being.

3) sluggish memory, occasional memory lapses (forgetting my friends' names, forgetting words).

>>>>>>Again, I must appeal to the normal neurological and psychiatric examinations which we must have faith would've picked up on some organic form of disease here such as a behavioral disturbance affecting memory, dementia, cortical atrophy (not seen in the MRI), etc.

4) clumsiness - when pressing buttons on computer or microwave I often miss the button; when opening drawers or doors I grasp air instead of the handle, etc.

>>>>>Not sure exactly how to interpret this because again the neurological exam did not reveal any cerebellar problems which could explain why you would hit wrong buttons, if there were processing problems of visual information that would've also showed up either in the MRI scan, blood work, or on the examination and it didn't. Perhaps this ties in more to the fatigue factor, don't you think that's a good place to put that set of circumstances?

5) eye coordination problems - when reading my eyes jump over words causing me to misread words for something else or just omit words.

>>>>>Now you didn't say you'd had an opthalmological examination but again when talking about words DISAPPEARING or ignoring things that could be better interpreted as either some form of neurological issue with brain processing.....and again normal neurological examination.

7) cognitive difficulty - with mental arithmetics, planning; often mispronouncing words or using different words than appropriate in the sentence, speech difficulty

>>>>>>Again, language dysfunction and mental incapacity related to any organic form of disease such as dementia, pseudodementia, Wernicke's syndrome, etc. would've been easily detected by the neurologist and likely would've had some MRI findings to go with it......

8) 'temporal seizures/ derealisation episodes' (not proven but suggested by my neurologist)

>>>>>>Highly unlikely since you haven't really said anything about convulsing, zoning out with loss of chunks of time that you can't recall at all.....with temporal seizures it is often the case that others will notice a change in behavior during seizures even if it's not frankly convulsive.....PLUS NORMAL EEG? Again, see first 2 words above.

9) stiff rigid muscles all around the body, especially in my hands, the neck and Temporomandibular joint area. (I've had orthodontic braces for the past 2.5 years correcting underbite)

>>>>>>If they are not spastic (and that would've been detected by the neurologist on a cranial nerve as well as general muscle exam) and they're just stiff feeling cramped (i.e. no actual Charley Horses present) then, you are telling me one of the most common physical manifestations of mental stress and tension.

10) pain and pressure behind the eyes, urge to blink often, spastic blinking

>>>>>Now, THIS symptom INTERESTS ME---- You've saved the best for last. You couldn't've done this on purpose now, could you? It's like writing a good book and then, waiting till the very end to reveal WHO DUNNIT! LOL!

The symptoms of pain and pressure behind the eyes is very reminiscent of my patients who are having either prodromes to headaches disorder (such as migraines and such) or these simply may be prodromes to migraines without the headaches themselves. And when you throw the blinking and perhaps spastic blinking that could take us to an entity known as a acephalgic form of migraine with a tic disorder.....or headache syndrome (without much of the headache) and nervousness/anxiety (you say SPASTIC BLINKING)

Again, please recall after the aforementioned discussion of your symptoms that:


Therefore, and in specific answer to your questions I would say the following:

1) Could all of this be caused by anxiety disorder/ depression?

>>>>> YES, these symptoms and malfunctions can all be a reflection of anxiety/depression or similar psychological issues. I know the psychiatrist said you didn't exhibit any problems, HOWEVER, in the USA when one goes to see a's likely no more than 10-15 minutes and on your way with a prescription whether you need it or not...whether you believe or not....sad to say like it is...but there are very very few practicing psychiatrists who will take any time at all to go through detailed testing batteries, or take time to really delve into people's pasts and lives to figure out where all the stress triggers and points of possible friction are that could lead them to become UNKNOWINGLY stressed out and thus develop a lot of somatic symptoms that drive them looking for answers in a lot of expensive tests and making all these specialists scratch their heads. What I believe you need to do is to seek out a GOOD PSYCHOLOGIST who is willing to be deliberate and patient with your case. I suspect there are things that you can talk about to help shed some light on what's going on.

2) What all tests would you recommend to rule out all possible non-psychiatric conditions? I’m thinking of PET and some more blood tests? Repeating MRI without braces? I want to be absolutely certain that I can’t have anything, as rare as it might be, before I can proceed with psychological treatment.

>>>> With the data that is present and the Bull's eye symptom I believe with #10 combined with #1 (intense fatigue without obvious physiological correlate) I really and truly would not look to spend either your money or anybody else's trying to go for more sophisticated tests because it's extremely unnecessary at this point. Absolutely, NO PET scan. There is absolutely no cause to get such testing done to look at metabolic expenditures of the brain. I will tell you with 99% confidence it will be normal in your case and will not show temporal seizures, tumors, or dementias. I would not spend any time or money on more bloodwork. No more tests at this point.

What I might suggest you do is get yourself a good little HEADACHE one from about a million different internet sites and start keeping track of the pain behind your eyes....duration, quality of pain, intensity of pain, other symptoms associated such as nausea/vomiting, flashing lights, sensitivity to light, sound, smells, ringing in the ears, changes in vision such as blurriness, haziness, "heat waves coming up from the pavement"...etc. And keep track of these things as they relate to your other symptoms....does the eye pain come on when you are REALLY FATIGUED, otherwise, nervous, clenching your jaw, etc. etc. etc. How much sleep do you get at night, nightmares? How much caffeine do you ingest, alcohol, other illicit substances, etc.

I would seriously ask you (if you were my patient) to keep such a log for a good 30-45 days as well as keeping track of what you do to take care of the symptoms when present (i.e. take medications, cold wash rag, go into a dark room, etc.?). Then, if the neurologist is a GOOD one he will know what to do with the log....if not, find a headache specialist. If this turns out to be something like a migraine tic-disorder or acephalgic migrainous tic on a background of depression or anxiety then, the treatment would be the underlying psychological issues with or without specific headache remedies depending on what types of headaches most likely are associated (if there are even any headache; it could be just the prodrome without the actual headache).

3) What's the most probable condition I'm suffering from?

>>>>>I just outlined it for you in everything else. I believe there is a strong possibility that just based on everything you've presented here today that there is a headache syndrome afoot which is likely SECONDARY or consequent to a psychological entity of either stress/anxiety/depression or a slight combination of all those.

I wish you all the best and if there are more questions please do tell.

Otherwise, if these writings have provided you with any measure of useful information or maybe even relief to know you're not going bonkers and that there's still plenty of hope for you to win the Nobel Prize if you'd like then, would you do the favor of a little written feedback with STAR RATING? We get lollipops based on the number stars people stick on our foreheads! HA!

Also, if you've no other questions to forward for now please do CLOSE THE QUERY on your end to that the network will know that I satisfactorily met your needs. I thought I'd let you know that you could also find me on live webcam duty on a network known as HealthTap. You can log in to that site at I am on duty in the state of OHIO on Wed-Sat evenings 3a-7a Eastern Standard Time (New York City Time Zone). If you have a webcam hooked up to your computer we can actually conference live in real time and you can also upload your labs and other results that I can reference and look at if you wanted to consider that as an alternative form of communication. You would want to look me up as Dr. XXXXXXX Saghafi.
Answered by Dr. Dariush Saghafi 22 hours later
Brief Answer:

Detailed Answer:
Good morning. Thank you very much for having the confidence in directing this question to my attention.

I have not only reread our previous consultation but I've also read all the other consults you've placed with other physicians over this same problem .

I will be very direct with my answer to the current question on ALS. In my opinion, your presentation and age make it highly unlikely that you should be worried about this as a probable or even possible diagnosis. Not only that, your most recent visit with the neurologist confirmed that you essentially had a normal neurological examination. ALS, as I'm sure you've read, is a disease which primarily concerns itself with motor weakness, significant weight loss of its victim, and eventual loss of control of swallowing and breathing functions due to this weakness. Most patients will evolve dramatically over a short period of time (weeks/months) and expire inside of several years from when symptoms first start (usually 18-24 months from diagnosis).

The preliminary symptoms of this disease are entirely different from what you are presenting with and so for that reason as well as the fact that you are only 22 years old (average age of onset is >60) makes it highly improbable that this should be the case. Another example of a symptom not present in ALS to any extent is TREMOR unless it is associated with muscle weakness of a substantial amount. Your neurologist who recently examined you did not find such weakness. Eye movement issues are not the usual presenting symptoms for this disease process either.

And so, I again once again must return to the unfortunate platform of stating that from a neurological perspective I cannot put my finger on the exact problem, however, I am as sure as sure can be that you are not demonstrating even the earliest signs and symptoms of ALS.

If your treating neurologist thinks differently then, his next diagnostic move should be to order electrical studies, however, if he would like to save you the unnecessary invasiveness of such testing (and it is a very uncomfortable procedure for the majority of people who do it) he will do his best to present to you the same data I have to support the notion that such a diagnosis does not really fit at all with the current picture.

You can also log in to the site at if you wish to webcam conference when I am on duty in the state of OHIO on any Wed-Sat evening 3a-7a Eastern Standard Time (New York City Time Zone). I hope this information has been useful and again ask your cooperation in providing some written feedback with a STAR RATING if you feel it is so deserving. You were very generous with your previous comments.

Also, if there are no other comments or questions to ask on this topic would you CLOSE THE QUERY on your end so that the network will process this interaction in a timely manner and archive it for further use.

Be well and I hope you feel better very soon.

This query required 38 minutes of physician specific time to review, research, and document the final draft for envoy.

Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar
Follow up: Dr. Dariush Saghafi 20 hours later
Thank you so much for the answer!

I'm sorry I didn't contact you on health tap as I said I would but I had some issues with the conversation plugin. I'll get in touch as I have a few more questions.

Thank you for being so reassuring. It seems that I read some incorrect information about the condition.


Answered by Dr. Dariush Saghafi 2 hours later
Brief Answer:
Thanks for the feedback

Detailed Answer:
Thank you XXXXXXX for your feeback and I'm glad the information helped. As I said to you earlier on the video chat, ALS is not on the table anymore so we can put that disorder to sleep as far as what's causing your problems.

The idea that your immune system may be a focal point for some issues that may be contributing to your fatigue may be as good a road to travel down now than any because everything else has come up rather clean. I looked some more at the interpretation of the EEG and do not find anything compelling in there at all except for the fact that it appears you may have been somewhat drowsy during the study.

I don't think getting an MRI with gadolinium is really going to help us very much unless something neurologically begin to happen. I think getting the Vitamin D checked into is worthwhile though I wish I could be sure that simply correcting that would solve your problems. I would defer cortisol testing right now since I think better than just a random serum level it may be more worthwhile to do the adrenal suppression test and get full functional data on the gland. But again, put that on the back burner for now.

Neuropsych/cognitive is definitely worthwhile getting here and playing on the Lumosity website is a good idea.

We will talk again soon. Be well.
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Chakravarthy Mazumdar

The User accepted the expert's answer

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