Tag Archives: reading comprehension

FQ Antibiotics and Memory

One of my symptoms of fluoroquinolone toxicity was memory loss. For a while, I lost my short-term memory, and I struggled to remember basic information and tasks. I also felt as if I lost my reading comprehension, and I struggled to remember what I had read shortly after I read it. Completing work-tasks that had previously been easy was suddenly difficult, and I struggled to do my job.

I felt stupid and incapable, and I worried that I now WAS stupid and incapable.

It was horrible. The loss of mental capacity was the most worrying and anxiety-inducing symptom of fluoroquinolone toxicity that I experienced. I was worried about my body–going from being able to do Cross-Fit to barely being able to walk was scary–but I was more worried about my mind. I could cope with not being fit, but I couldn’t deal with being stupid. And I felt stupid.

Over time, my memory and reading comprehension improved. The post, Healing my Brain After Cipro, lists the things that helped me. I am now able to function mentally. My memory and reading comprehension are adequate enough to do my job, and I don’t think that I come off as a total nitwit when I converse with people.

I still worry a bit about my mental capacity though. So much time has passed since I took Cipro–I got floxed 6 years ago, at the end of 2011–that it is difficult to tell how much of my perceived reduced mental capacity is due to getting floxed, getting older, spending way too much time on the internet, eating foods that are inflammatory, lack of mental stimulation, or some other factor.

I tend to blame the internet, and my mild (or not-so-mild) addiction to Facebook, for a good portion of my memory and attention-span loss, and studies seem to back-up my hunch that the constant dopamine hit that social media gives us isn’t actually good for our brains–especially our memories or attention spans. I read The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr to learn more about, and reinforce, this notion.

I expected The Shallows to provide information about the deleterious effects of the internet on my brain (that IS the premise of the book), but I didn’t expect it to link antibiotic use to memory loss. Yet… this quote jumped off the pages:

“In the 1960s, University of Pennsylvania neurologist Luis Flexner made a particularly intriguing discovery. After injecting mice with an antibiotic drug that prevented their cells from producing proteins, he found that the animals were unable to form long-term memories (about how to avoid receiving a shock while in a maze) but could continue to store short-term ones.”

An antibiotic kept the mice from forming long-term memories! Whoa!

The antibiotics used in the referenced study weren’t fluoroquinolones, but still…. it’s an interesting connection, and I wonder if the link between antibiotic use and memory (or memory loss, or memory formation/lack of memory formation) has been studied further.

I experienced difficulty forming memories after taking Cipro/ciprofloxacin, and I have heard from many others who have had similar experiences. I wonder how wide-spread, or significant, this problem is. I don’t believe that the effects of fluoroquinolones on human memory formation has ever been studied. It should be studied though. Our cognitive abilities–especially our ability to form meaningful memories–are at the base of both our intelligence and our humanity. Wouldn’t it be horrifying for antibiotics that are given out by the handful to millions of people each year, to be deleteriously affecting our memory formation, our intelligence, and even our humanity? Ugh. That’s a somewhat horrifying thought. I appreciate that some mouse studies have been done though, and the connections are always interesting, even when they are scary. Maybe someday we’ll have more information about the significance of these connections. I hope so, even if the information is frightening.

Losing my Reading Comprehension

I lost a lot of my reading comprehension while I was floxed. I could still officially read – if you gave me a short memo that said, “buy milk,” or something like that, I could read it. But reading a novel or complex materials for work became really difficult. I lost track of the content of the beginning of a paragraph by the time I reached the end of the paragraph. I struggled to understand things that I used to be able to read with ease. I read The Hunger Games series about 2 months after I got floxed. Despite the fact that most 14-year-olds are able to understand those books, and I could have breezed through them before I got floxed (especially when I was 14), I struggled to comprehend them. I remember the basic gist of the books, but the details were lost on me. I read them slowly and without joy or interest (which kind of sucks because I heard that they were fun). My job requires me to read so I had to force myself to read materials for work, but it was difficult to get through them and I had to read everything two or more times in order to understand what I had read. Even after reading work materials a couple of times, I was still unsure about what I had read.

I hated the feeling of not being able to read like I used to be able to. It was horrible. It was scary. I thought that I was stupid and that I would continue to be stupid because I would never be able to comprehend written words again. I doubted my ability to do my job. I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to learn about what happened to me because I couldn’t read well enough to research. I was scared that I would never be able to enjoy reading a novel again. I was scared that I was unemployable.

Interestingly though, I could still write. My writing actually improved after getting floxed. Written words could flow out of me, but it was a one-way stream – they couldn’t come back in.

I thought of the loss of reading comprehension as a symptom, but it never occurred to me that my improved writing may be a symptom too until other floxies started to report to me that they experienced the same thing – a loss of reading comprehension along with an improved capacity for writing.

Isn’t that odd? Something similar happened in our brains that made us less capable of reading and more capable of writing. It’s really strange and I’m curious about it. What happened? Why would that be a common set of symptoms for multiple people who are suffering from fluoroquinolone toxicity?

Neither a loss of reading comprehension nor an increased capacity for writing are the most severe symptoms that most floxies experience, so I would guess that most people would want research funds to be focused elsewhere. But I wonder if any neurologists find this curious symptom to be interesting enough to study it. If there are any neurologists who read this who want to hear about my experience, please let me know (but know that my willingness to undergo testing is pretty close to zero).

The most simple explanation for these symptoms is that oxidative stress in the brain is what hurt our reading comprehension, and our writing capacity increased because we had something to say. Also, our brains had to compensate in some way for the loss of reading comprehension and perhaps they did so with an increased capacity for writing. That seems like an overly simplified way of looking at complex processes though, and I’m still quite curious about what happened in my floxed brain.

It’s interesting. At least, I think it is. I think that it should be studied. Maybe along with all of the other deleterious effects on the brain/mind that result from fluoroquinolone use.

Are any researchers, scientists or doctors curious about this?

Sadly and strangely, there seems to be a lack of curiosity about anything related to adverse reactions to fluoroquinolones. Maybe that’s because the symptoms are so broad. How does one even start to examine multi-symptom, chronic illness? It’s too big. Perhaps noting some of the little symptoms will pique some curiosity.

I hope so.

P.S. – I can read again. I feel like some of my writing talent has diminished as my reading capacity has increased. This is probably perception more than objective reality, but I wonder if there is only a certain amount of capacity that I have for written words and as one goes up, it takes from the other. Probably not. 🙂


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