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What might be the cause of sudden onset joint/muscle pain and severe fatigue?

Posted by akteacher

I am 30 years old. I began to get terrible joint and muscle pain combined with severe fatigue about 2 months ago. They tested me for things like mono, rheumatoid arthritis, etc. The only test that came back positive was one that said I am severely anemic. I am going to start one of five iron sucrose IVs today. My hematologist tells me that joint pain isn't usually associated with anemia, though. I am grasping at straws, but think I might have Valley Fever, as I used to live in Arizona.  I recently had a baby in November, and then had a terrible time afterwards with severe hemorraghing. My joint pain is worst in the morning and when I sleep, and generally gets better as the day goes on. The fatigue, however, hits me in the evening. I am so frustrated. I am having a hard time playing with my baby when my husband is at work due to the joint pain. I am pretty tough (I did natural childbirth), but this is just crippling me and putting me in a terrible mental state. I am often confused, irritable and can't focus. Any thoughts are appreciated. Thanks!
Answers (2)
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Dear Akteacher -

 What you've described sounds exactly like Lyme disease.  Although Lyme disease is most prevalent in the northeast and midwest - where it's practically an epidemic in some areas - it has been found in all  50 states and can occur anywhere there are deer, mice, and ticks.  About 50% of those with Lyme don't remember a tick bite and even fewer get the circular rash that you may have heard about.

Early Lyme disease symptoms are usually flu-like symptoms - heavy fatigue, achiness, sometimes fever.  In its next stage, joint pain is very common, often with associated swelling.  Sudden-onset joint pain plus fatigue makes Lyme very likely.   You should immediately get tested for Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses.

Lyme is easy to treat with antibiotics when caught early but can be very difficult to get rid of in its later stages and can cause permanent neurological and joint damage if left untreated.


A few things you should know:

- Lyme testing is notoriously inaccurate - false negatives are very common.  It's still important to get tested right away.  That's the first step, and a positive result is completely accurate.  Most doctors will start with antibody tests, including ELISA and Western Blot.  If those are negative and your symptoms still persist, you should request a Lyme PCR test which looks for the actual DNA of the Lyme.  This is still not fool-proof, since Lyme is not always present in blood - it often "hides" in tissues.  Even more accurate - though still not 100% - is a Lyme PCR test done on fluid taken from one of the affected joints.

- If all tests are negative, but you still have symptoms that can't be explained by other diagnoses, then it's worthwhile to try antibiotics (doxycycline is used for Lyme).  If you have Lyme, there will be an immediate effect from the abx - typically, you'll feel much better within a day or two and then will get much worse again (that's a sign that the antibiotics are killing off Lyme and  it's entering your blood stream).  If there's no effect from doxycycline (either better or worse), then it's unlikely that it's Lyme.

-Lyme that has been present for more than a week or two and has caused joint pain will require at least 30 days of doxycycline and often many months.  I got Lyme last June or July, started antibiotics in August and have been on them for 9 months now.  You have to stay on  the doxy until you've been completely symptom-free for at least 2 months.  If you stop too soon (as I have done twice now!), then you have to start again and go through the period of getting worse again.

- In addition to Lyme, there are about a half dozen other infections that are carried by ticks. Most of these cause fatigue and some also cause joint pain. Your doctor should test you for all of them, including erlichiosis, babesiosis, rocky mountain spotted fever, and mycoplasma.  Some require different treatment than Lyme.

For more information, here are some accurate and up-to-date resources: 

I don't mean to scare you, but it is essential that Lyme is treated as quickly and aggressively as possible, if that's what you have.  Your doctor can help you to consider and eliminate other possible diagnoses as well. 

 Good luck and please let me know if you have any other questions or need further information - 


Sue Jackson

I am a mother of 3, and I am 38 years old.  After the birth of my last son who is now 2, I began having pelvic pain, then, back pain, leg pain, leg spasms, shoulder pain, and I cannot sleep at night.  My mornings are awful and I feel like I cannot even walk.  I use to walk 2 miles a day and I love the outdoors and I live in the Northeast.  I eventually thought that I was losing my mind and until I found a reat Rheumatoid Doctor that specializes in Fibromyalgia.  I was deficiant in Vitamin D which is common in women with Fibro.  I am now on a high Dose 2xs per week and doing slow walking  every other day with my kids.  I also joined a support group and did the research on Fibromyalgia.  I still have pain everyday, and some days are worse than others.  I also have to take medication to keep the symptoms at a minimum, like the spasms in my legs to sleep at night, and trigger point injections for the pain in my neck and shoulders.  I am managing and I am a better wife and mother to my children.  There are some very good books and groups also.  Try your local Lupus Foundation if that is what it is.  Good Luck and I feel your Empathy as I have been in your shoes.

Carrie Chase

NOTICE: The information provided on this site is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your physician or other qualified health provider because of something you have read on Wellsphere. If you have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.
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