So my "issue" started way back in October 2010, and it only seems to really flare up a few times a year. However, there are some symptoms that seem to be constant, though fairly easy to ignore.
Here is how things have played out:
Sick with extremely harsh (like I never could have imagined, absolutely miserable) flu-like symptoms: very high fever, vomiting 5+ times a day for 2 weeks straight, diarrhea, unable to stomach food, weak. I lost 20 pounds during this time... which is quite a bit given that I was only 128lbs to begin with at the time, and 5'6. Unfortunately my family doctor was 5 hours away since I was in university, but I went to a walk-in clinic and they did a swab, told me I was positive for Strep Throat, and they gave me an antibiotic that they called a "z-pack". I felt better within 3 days of taking the antibiotic and gained most of my weight back in the following month once I was eating normally again.
<2 months after the initial episode, something that seemed unconnected (at the time) happened. Extreme joint pain. I mean I have a high pain tolerance and it took me over 10 minutes to stand up each time I sat down. I couldn't make it down stairs without putting near my whole weight on the railing, and I needed to practically lift myself up the stairs taking 10 minutes or so to go back up. My ankles and knees were most affected, but the fingers bothered me too. All of my joints were swollen and full of fluid, with the ankles being the worst - they were 3-4x their normal size, my socks couldn't even fit on... my ankles became bigger than my calves. I also developed "nodules" all over my ankles - red lumps - as well as some nodules on my knees, elbows, and wrists. I got a rash as well on the ankles and randomly all the way up both forearms, with some on my nose as well. In the hospital they said this rash looked like "erythema multiforme".
I ended up going to the hospital and stayed there for a few days. I started feeling a bit better on my own while I was there, swelling went down slowly, so I was discharged. They said it was likely either a reaction to the antibiotic I was given for the Strep in October, perhaps I was allergic, or sometimes a bad case of Strep that went untreated can re-attack to affect your joints. They didn't seem too concerned because it was getting better on it's own, and they found it weird and hard to connect the rash with the joint pain/past strep but said sometimes the body does weird things when the immune system comes to be.
Thank goodness, I've never had joint pain or swelling as severe as in December 2010, but it still comes back to haunt me.
Any time I get a simple cold or flu, it's a guarantee that the joint pain will now come with it. Not 100% crippling joint pain, but enough to make it hard to get out of bed in the morning (keep in mind I'm 25 - I should not have trouble getting out of bed) and enough to keep me from playing sports or going to the gym, when I'm typically a very active person. My joints are about
100% fine when I am healthy, but I catch a simple cold and they are completely affected.
I have also kept the marks on my ankles. They will fade to a more pale colour, then get darker. I used to blame their colour on stress... it always seemed that when they were darker I was in a stressful time (though I have no issues combating stress). However, right now they are particularly dark, and raised, and I have nothing to be stressed about
! Nor am I sick.
From 2011 to 2014 I just dealt with it... I accepted that now my joints hurt when I get sick with something else and that's life. I try to be more diligent about
keeping healthy and my hands washed, avoiding sick people, etc. However it's really starting to concern me because it's not getting any better. I've done a lot of googling about
Rheumatoid Arthritis and really feel that I have it, or symptoms of it. For that reason I went to see my family doctor in 2014 and he referred me to a rheumatologist, mostly because I asked him to. Unfortunately the wait time is painful, and I finally have the appointment coming up in late February 2016.
Now I'm starting to get concerned that perhaps Lyme fits the descript
ion even moreso than RA. I will post a photo of one of my marks on my ankles, which *sort of* looks like a bullseye? Perhaps?
The following are other symptoms that I have kind of brushed off and assumed to be unrelated:
- Fatigue... I am a go-getter. I keep myself busy, but I also make sure I get a solid 8-10 hours of sleep each night. I don't understand how I can be so young and "healthy" but yet be so fatigued all the time. I can have trouble driving, I often have to pull over for quick naps even on short drives (an hour or 2). I had to adapt my study habits as I went to school for 3 more years after this started - almost always when I started reading I would fall asleep. I went through a phase where I was drinking 5-hour energys all the time to function, but I have since cut those because I worry about
other health concerns. I even sometimes fall asleep while playing Wii Tennis!!
- Hair loss... nothing crazy. I have long hair so I thought that it was just a fact of life, but anytime I run my hands through my hair I will pull out 4-5 strands. In the shower, I have to collect up the hair that I've lost and throw it in the garbage. I don't have any bald spots or anything like that, nor has my hair become terribly thin, but I always had A LOT of hair - the hair dressers would comment and thin it out for me since it was heavy... I certainly don't need that done anymore.
- Menstrual Pain... This was never an issue for the first few years that I was menstruating, but the past couple years the first 2 days are extremely painful for me. The flow is also very very heavy, much moreso than it used to be. Having my period never used to change things for me, but now the first 2 days are completely dreaded and I avoid any sort of physical activity because of the pain.
- Migraines/flashing lights/blur... I rarely actually get the "migraine" but that's what I call them. about
once a week I will have an episode where I'm seeing stars/lights out of my peripheral vision.
- Alcohol intolerance. This is a weird and scary one. I have had 3 episodes where I drank just a "normal" amount on a weekend outing, a couple of drinks, and completely 100% blacked out. I mean I didn't pass out, but my night went on and I didn't remember a single thing. Of course I no longer drink more than a beer or two to avoid these occurrences. The weird thing is, I never had these "black out" issues when I was younger/new to alcohol, but rather when I was more used to it and drank even less than I would have say as a "frosh". I really didn't think it was possible that this could be related, but the timing seems right.
Then I have this "rash" on my ankles. It's been there for 5 years since this all started, but it will fade to be lighter and sometimes get darker. I took these photos today and it's dark. I can't think of an explanation as to why it goes lighter when it does and darker when it does, no correlation to anything. Right now it's dark but I'm not sick, my joints feel fine. It is 100% non-itchy. I wouldn't know it was there if I couldn't see it, and feel the lumps/bumps that come with it. VIEW IMAGEVIEW IMAGE