Mysterious intermittant unilateral joint pain
August 3, 2011 2:17 PM   Subscribe

I never thought I'd be asking Metafilter a medical question, but after baffling two doctors, I figure it's worth a shot. Anyone ever had/heard of attacks of joint pain affecting all joints on one side of the body only?

The details: For the past four months or so, I have been hit by these attacks where all of the joints -- fingers, wrist, elbow, shoulder, hip, knee, ankle, toes -- on my right side start hurting. And ONLY my right side. The pain lasts anywhere from twelve hours to three days, and is fairly debilitating. No swelling, no redness, no itching, some stiffness.

There isn't any consistent trigger/common occurrence around the attacks. Twice it happened right before a heavy rain, three times it happened around the onset of my period, but other times there was no connecting event. It comes on both in the morning and at night, fades with the same randomness.

Went to my PCP with it, and she was baffled. I tested clear for Lyme Disease and gout. I went to a rheumatologist yesterday and she was also fairly befuddled; she's running some more labs on my blood, and the best she could say was that it kind of sounded like palindromic rheumatism but not really.

Other general information: I am female, 29, obese (but working on that), no family history of joint problems.

So, I use the beloved YANMD acronym, but ask: does anyone have ANY clue? Anything like this at all? This is a frustrating mystery that is messing up my groove, both in work life and social. (I had to miss a Janelle Monae concert because of this pain! And that's TERRIBLE!) Any ideas will be greatly appreciated.
posted by whitneyarner to Health & Fitness (17 answers total)
I got joint pain only on my right side as a result of a dietary intolerance to gluten. It particularly affected my hip and wrist. Now that I have stopped eating gluten, it has gone away.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:27 PM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

Before this messes your life up any more, you need to talk to a neurologist.
posted by corey flood at 2:27 PM on August 3, 2011 [3 favorites]

Seconding taking a look at gluten sensitivity. Bunny's experience is similar to mine. Sometimes if I have a beer my ankle, hip, shoulder, elbow and wrist bother me. Usually on my right side.
posted by humboldt32 at 3:15 PM on August 3, 2011

Reactive arthritis? Lupus (SLE)? What you're describing sounds like Lupus flares, but it isn't usually unilateral, I guess. The other thing to keep in mind is that a lot of diseases USUALLY look a certain way, but they can present atypically.

Ask your rheumatologist if she believes Lyme is over or under-diagnosed. There are two schools of thought, and a lot fall into the older way of thinking that it's over-diagnosed. I personally think that it's under-diagnosed and that the tests are rarely accurate. On House, he talks about the test being like taking a cup, dipping it into the ocean and determining there's no fish in the entire ocean because you don't have one in the cup.

Cutting gluten is also a good idea. It may solve things, and it's one more thing that you've ruled out if it doesn't help.
posted by guster4lovers at 4:13 PM on August 3, 2011

How good is your rheumatologist? It looks like you live in New York, so maybe you should check in with the Rheumatology Division of the Hospital for Special Surgery and see if they can come up with anything. It looks like a world-class program.
posted by alms at 7:16 PM on August 3, 2011

Seconding a neurologist. The one-side-only thing strongly suggests it's nerve related.

You don't mention what kind of pain. Is it a tingling/burning, or more of an ache? Is it constant (during an attack) or provoked by movement?
posted by dephlogisticated at 7:31 PM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

This is the rheumatologist I'm seeing. She seems pretty good to me. I'll see what she has to say when tests come back before hunting a second opinion/finding neurologists.

And it's a pretty constant ache, sometimes spiking sharper, and moving doesn't feel good either. I'd put it at around a 4-5. But there's pretty much no position or thing I can do with my body to get relief. I've been taking Aleve for it, but not to a whole lot of effect.
posted by whitneyarner at 9:02 PM on August 3, 2011

Thirding the neuro suggestion - if anything, you can rule out things. I've got nerve damage on my right side and its severe, but my left side is totally normal. Having all the pain on one side makes me think it might be nerve related, just based on my own experiences.
posted by carmenghia at 9:10 PM on August 3, 2011

Do you sleep on your right side?
posted by taff at 4:54 AM on August 4, 2011

This is the rheumatologist I'm seeing.

Wow. I just have to say, that is some impressive bio.
posted by alms at 7:45 AM on August 4, 2011

@alms I know, right? Talk about an almost intimidating amount of credentials. And she was very nice, too!

@taff I'm a tosser and turner; I sleep on my right side sometimes, but generally am a stomach sleeper.

To everyone else: I am taking the neurologist suggestions to heart. Depending on what my rheumatologist says, I will seek one out.
posted by whitneyarner at 8:00 AM on August 4, 2011

To answer your question of whether I've heard of this -yes. I have a friend who gets arthritis type pain on one side of her body. She says this is due to allergy/sensitivities, which include ingesting nightshades and exposure to tobacco smoke. I'm not her doctor, I don't know how this was diagnosed, but at least you have one example of this kind of issue.

Best of luck in resolving your health issue.
posted by Gor-ella at 8:19 AM on August 4, 2011

Psoriatic arthritis can affect only one side of your body. Here's some info from the Mayo clinic
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:21 PM on August 4, 2011

Got blood tests back from my rheumatologist and I tested positive for lupus. So! Apparently Dr. House is wrong.
posted by whitneyarner at 2:31 PM on August 11, 2011

Thank you for the update! I hope you get on the right meds soon and start feeling better. I was on Plaquenil for a while (hydroxychloroquine) and it got rid of my joint pain almost completely.

Best of luck--
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:31 PM on August 11, 2011

I just wanted to post a followup to this: It turns out it was NOT lupus, thank you, Dr. House! It was, in fact, a reaction to taking way too high of a dose of Risperidone for way too long. I had a terrible doctor. Now I have a good doctor, have weaned off that, and everything is much better!
posted by whitneyarner at 1:54 PM on July 17, 2012

Yay, that's great to know. Too bad you had to deal with this, but nice that it wasn't a serious condition. Thanks for letting us know how it turned out.
posted by alms at 6:29 AM on July 19, 2012

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