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Weeks of Aches/Pains from anxiety?... please help!
Jul 22, 2002

Dr. Bob, Thank you for taking the time to read this. I have read almost all the posted questions/responses on your site and empathize with those who are scared to death and driven to obsession over possible infection. Heres my situation. Im a 27 yr old male. Exactly 7 weeks ago I was given unprotected oral sex. Prior to the oral sex there was foreplay which caused abrasion on my penis (didnt notice until next day). Five days after this possible exposure I had pain inside the head of my penis and two days later I began to feel infection of my left testicle (epidimytis). So, at 1 week after exposure I was tested for Chlamydia, Ghonorea & had a Urinalysis. All 3 tests were negative for infection. Because of such discomfort I chose to be treated for Chlam & Ghon prior to receiving results. Pain/Discomfort was gone for about 4 days and returned. Doctor prescribed Cipro which I took for a week and only healed the testicle infection. Doc stopped the Cipro and diagnosed me with Non-specific urethritis and prescribed Doxycyline which was now 3 weeks after possible exposure. That same day I began to feel shooting and aching pains in tendons and muscle areas and began to fear the worst, hiv. I believe that possibly the combination of medication and extreme anxiety drove me to a low-grade fever, fatigue, persistent headaches, and nausea a couple of days later. Or acute HIV could have caused it. With persistent generalized aches/pains for a week, I went back to the doctor to have an examination and had a P24 Antigen test and the HIV Antibody test done, just under 4 weeks after possible exposure. Both tests came back negative. Doc believed aches/pains, fever, fatigue, headaches, and nausea were reaction to anxiety. I was relieved, of course. NSU was healed with two weeks treatment. However, the headaches and aches/pains of muscles, tendons and joints continue affecting mostly limbs, ankles, feet, and fingers. Pains/aches last only seconds usually one place at a time and frequenting from from seconds to minutes apart. At one time my thigh was throbbing severely for almost an hour. I also had one tender swollen lymphnode in the rightside groin area. So, after 3 weeks of aches/pains (and 6 weeks after possible exposure) Doc tested for Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Syphilis, Lyme Disease, performed CBC, and tested muscle enzymes (or something like that). I was told everything came back fine and Doc still believes aches/pains to be caused by anxiety. Doc prescribed Naproxen (anti-inflammatory) for 2 weeks. Ive been taking it for a week now and has alleviated the headaches and much of the muscle aches, but I can still feel them mildly. My wrists/ankles, feet/hands, and toes/fingers are still affected. Im looking for a second opinion. Could 4 weeks and counting of this generalized aches/pains ranging from mild to severe really be caused by anxiety? Ive been much more relaxed since I found out the negative results, but the pains keep bringing back anxiety and thoughts of incorrect results. I have never experienced anything like this. My doubts are also driven by the fact, though I did have some degree of anxiety over the NSU & epidimytis, I didnt experience extreme HIV anxiety until after the pains/aches began. I will retest at 12 weeks. Your thoughts, opinions, and/or suggestions are truly appreciated.

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hi,

This is an excellent time for me to remind all the readers that this forum was designed to address HIV-related anemia and fatigue concerns. The "am-I-infected" and "worried well" inquiries should be posted to The Body's expert forum on "Safer Sex and HIV Transmission." I would love to answer each and every question that is sent, but that would be impossible and besides, we'd have to rename the forum!

That said, I'll try to comment briefly on your concerns. Your symptoms of fleeting discomfort "from mild to severe" in the limbs, hands, and feet are not at all suggestive of HIV. And yes, your symptoms not only could, but very likely are, related to ongoing anxiety. My best advice to you would be to ask your doctor for a referral to a counselor or therapist who can help you come to terms with your fears. I'm quite confident your 12-week test for HIV will also be negative.

Get counseling. Stay well.

Dr. Bob


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