Grandma Lola

Don't know if I belong here...

5 posts in this topic

I am an 80 year old female and have been having debilitating cramps (charley horses) in almost every part of my body for several months now. My doctor finally prescribed a muscle relaxer, Lorazepam 0.5 MG which is helping immensely. She ordered a battery of blood work and my ANA came back as positive. I am being referred to a University Hospital for further evaluation. Some of the possibilities sound a bit frightening, I must say. If I am in the wrong forum, perhaps someone could point me in the right direction?


Grandma Lola

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Dear Grandma Lola,


Welcome to Sclero Forums!  I'm sorry that you are suffering from widespread muscle cramps and I send my best wishes to you.


As it happens, there are a few things that you might find very comforting.  The first one is that ANA tests are false-positive 90% of the time in elderly people.  Read this PDF article, Tired, aching, ANA-positive: Does your patient have lupus or fibromyalgia?  from which I excerpt, "The false-positive rate for any rheumatic disease was 72% in patients 65 years old or younger, and 90% in patients older than 65 years. Even ANAs that were positive at a titer of 1:320 or greater were more likely to be falsely positive (55%) than indicative of any rheumatic disease (45%)."


So, while you are waiting for your specialist referral, please try to comfort yourself with the idea that there is a 90% chance your ANA was just false-positive -- a fact that your doctor should have shared with you when discussing your referral.  And bear in mind, I am not saying that your test result is false-positive, only that the odds of it being false-positive are very high.  Only your doctor can determine if you have significant clinical signs and symptoms of connective tissue disease that match up with your blood test results, and I am not a doctor, in fact, I have no medical training at all.


Anyway, what this means is that the statistical odds of your muscle cramps being caused by a connective tissue disease would be on the low side.  Luckily for you, in fact, muscle cramps are not even a listed symptom of systemic scleroderma!  That's not to say that people with scleroderma cannot get muscle cramps, just that even if they do, they are not one of the symptom criteria that can be used to add up towards a diagnosis. And certainly we don't know what other symptoms you might have that could be concerning to you and/or your doctor.


The Mayo Clinic has a section on Causes of Muscle Cramps that you may find helpful.  They say that causes include an inadequate blood supply due to narrowed arteries; nerve compression; or mineral depletion such as low potassium, calcium or magnesium.


If you are on diuretics (water pills, such as Lasix, Furosemide, hydrochlorothiazide, etc.), that might be the most likely cause, because they deplete minerals.  Risk factors for muscle cramps include age, dehydration, and other medical conditions like diabetes and thyroid disorders.


Do you have a copy of your lab reports?  If so, you can check it to see if all of your mineral levels are within the normal range.


I'm assuming that your doctor already covered all these basic things with you.  But you never know, sometimes the simplest things can be overlooked, and it always pays to double-check things.


I suffered from widespread muscle cramps for a few decades, to a point where they were quite debilitating at times. My doctors prescribed all sorts of things over the years, including muscle relaxants, antidepressants, and pain medications.


Little did I know, one of my doctors was routinely ignoring high calcium levels.  I didn't know that high calcium levels could ever be a problem; I have no medical training at all, and I thought that would be a good thing (calcium is good for our bones, right?), so I never questioned it either.


It turned out that I had a parathyroid tumor that was leaching all the calcium out of my bones, which is why my calcium levels were high.  I had the tumor removed last fall, and I haven't had any cramps since the first week afterwards (when my calcium levels were still fluctuating a lot.) 


So make sure your minerals are all in the right range, not too low, or too high.  (Parathyroid tumors are a very rare cause of muscle cramps, so I'm not trying to say you have that, either.  It just goes to show that rarely, there are more complex causes for what usually seem to be simple things.)


I hope that one way or another, you are feeling a bit better soon.  Please let us know how you are doing, and what you find out.



Warm Hugs,


Shelley Ensz

Founder and President

International Scleroderma Network (ISN)

Hotline and Donations: 1-800-564-7099


The most important thing in the world to know about scleroderma is

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Hi Grandma Lola,


Welcome to these forums!


I've moved your post to the main forum, where it is a little more noticeable to the majority of our members and I'm very sorry to hear that you've been suffering from muscle cramps and have been feeling poorly.


Shelley has given you very good advice, to which I'm unable to add anything, but I do hope you will enjoy being part of our community and please do update us with the results of your hospital appointment.


Kind regards,

Jo Frowde

ISN Assistant Webmaster

SD World Webmaster

ISN Sclero Forums Manager

ISN News Manager

ISN Hotline Support Specialist

International Scleroderma Network (ISN)

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Hello Lola,

Welcome to the forums and I hope your fears are not realised and that your positive blood tests are just the usual result for older people.   Actually it is nice to hear from somebody older than me!!   I think it is quite helpful for younger sclero sufferers to hear that some people go on to live an average and useful life.  


My next birthday I will be 70 which is still a long way before 80 so I must congratulate you for doing so well so far.


Keep up the good work and keep in touch.

Best wishes


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Hi, and welcome!


I'm sorry you find yourself in this situation, where you must worry about what your tests results may mean. It can all be so confusing, and so overlapping it's enough you drive you crazy. :) But rest assured we are here for you. I will be anxiously waiting to see how your next visit goes, and what light is shed. Hang in there.

Warm and gentle hugs,



ISN Support Specialist

International Scleroderma Network (ISN)

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