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Can electric shocks cause neurological problems?

Okay, so I’ve been in limbo land for over 18 months and am currently waiting for the results of my third mri scan

something I’ve been wondering for a long time is the question, can electric shocks (I.e. Cutting through a live wire) cause neurological issues?

in January 2013 I was working, clearing a cannabis farm in a cellar. Using my own multi tool to cut through wires like we always do after the electric company said it was all shut off. My multi tool was all metal and for the first time ever I had put a thin pair of surgical gloves on (as I’d had to search someone before clearing the cellar. As I cut through the final wire there was a massive bang, flash and then my hand went red hot instantly and I dropped my tool.

Now although I was checked out at the hospital and given the clean bill of health I’ve always wondered because my arm tingles and then balance issues started a couple of months after this night. Does anyone know whether something like this could have caused my issues?. Still don’t know if it’s MS yet but this just intrigued me and I thought I’d ask

Hi,

I think there are two separate questions here.

If what you’re really asking is: “Could an electric shock cause MS?”, then I think that’s a pretty clear no. The exact causes of MS are (a) unknown, and (b) likely to be complex, but I’m sure that if serious electric shocks were a common factor in the medical histories of people who go on to be diagnosed, that trend would have been spotted by now.

However, on the separate question of whether electric shock could cause neurological damage distinct from MS, then I would have to say yes. Your nervous system is an electrical system, after all, so if it is suddenly subjected to conditions way in excess of design specifications, I would expect, like most sensitive electrical equipment, it would sustain some damage.

There is really not much point me just Googling and copying and pasting large chunks of what I find, but if you Google “electric shock” and “neurological” yourself, you’ll see several scholarly articles come up, which I haven’t delved into, but the fact they’re there at all suggests it’s a known phenomenon, and not just anecdotal.

As to whether such damage would be detectable on MRI, my gut instinct is no, because electricity takes the shortest path to earth, so I can’t see any reason it would have made a detour via your brain - unless you were unlucky enough that your head was touching something metal at the time, as well. My second thought is that even if it had reached your brain, I can’t imagine the resulting damage would be easily confused with MS. I’ve no idea what it would look like - if you can see it at all - but I shouldn’t think it would look like demyelination.

Tina

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Hi Tina.

there was truly only one question. I know we don’t know the causes of MS. My family have two with it already so I’m fairly okay with what it is and lack of knowledge about causes etc. It was just boggling my mind whether the incident t could have caused my current predicament. MS or not it’s messed my life up quite badly and I’m struggling on reduced hours with office based work instead of being a very active man doing bleep tests and running nearly every day.

Thanks for answering that bit though. May be worthy of raising with my neuro next time I see him to see what he thinks

mick

Hi Mick,

If you have two relatives (I’m assuming blood relatives, not by marriage?) with MS already, then I’m afraid all the pointers are strongly in that direction.

No, it’s not hereditary, however having it in the family does increase the chances. It’s not strong enough evidence to base a diagnosis on, but it would influence a neuro’s thinking about the likelihood of MS. I assume your neuro does know about the family cases? I was certainly asked about family history, and at the time, I said: “No, nothing”, because nobody in the family had ever been diagnosed, to my knowledge.

Only after diagnosis did I find out by chance that it had already been in the family, but quite a distant relative - one of my grandmother’s sisters. Generally speaking, the more distant the relative, the less statistical relevance it has, so it is quite unusual to find two cases in the same family, but so far removed. Then again, my father was an only child, so we cannot know whether his brothers or sisters might have been affected, if he’d ever had any.

I still don’t think it’s coincidence that my great aunt was affected, although the relationship is not close. I think we obviously have the “risky” genes swilling about in the family, and every once in a while, somebody is unlucky. It skipped a generation, but then there was me. I’d be absolutely amazed if it was just coincidence, but I’d never have found out about my great aunt, if I hadn’t been diagnosed myself. Somebody piped up with: “But Auntie J had that, you know.” We didn’t. In fact, all we’d known about poor Auntie J was that she was considered “antisocial” (I don’t mean spitting in the street, but the member of the family who did not take part in things). Knowing what I know now, I think that was an awful slur. I’m sure if she wasn’t well, it explained why she didn’t want to “muck in” - or perhaps indeed couldn’t. I did love my grandma, but she didn’t have a very enlightened or compassionate view of illness, to denounce her own sister as “antisocial”, without ever mentioning she was ill! Auntie J might well have wanted to join in, but felt sad she couldn’t.

Tina

I doubt MS is caused by an electric shock, but the neurological symptoms you describe can be caused by an electric shock. A friend of mine got an electric shock from a vacuum cleaner and had problems for about a year with tingling nerves in her arm and headaches, balance problems etc - her doctor and a consultant eventually ruled everything out and thought that she had nerve damage from the shock. Eventually it must have righted itself as she’s fine now. But the symptoms are very similar to MS and for a while she was worried it was MS. It could be co-incidence though. I would definitely mention it to your neuro.

Thanks dizzy. If and when I get to see the neuro next I will mention it. Would have this time but he’s not very good at listening and didn’t let me mention anything at all. Kept cutting me off :-s

That’s awful, but unfortunately in my experience, all too familiar and yet they can miss very important clues if they just listened. A friend’s husband is training to be a doctor and he was told the most important thing he can do is listen to the patient - for a GP it’s what the patient sometimes says as they’re going out the door is most important! But so many just want us to go away…

I agree. Poor service is just too common in this area. Currently sat wide awake wondering what the results letter will say when it arrives in the next day or two. Secretly hoping it shows something just so he can’t try and fob me off. What a rubbish way to treat someone who is already in a rubbish position :s