Frequently Asked Questions About Rhabdomyolysis

Frequently Asked Questions About Rhabdomyolysis

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  • Rhabdomyolysis is essentially a disease wherein damaged muscle tissue breaks down rapidly, releasing toxins into the bloodstream. As a result, it can lead to complications, most notably renal failure
  • When diagnosing rhabdomyolysis, your doctor will first examine your body to locate the source of muscle weakness, and then perform a series tests to further confirm their findings

Q: What is rhabdomyolysis in humans and how does it manifest?

A: Rhabdomyolysis is essentially a disease wherein damaged muscle tissue breaks down rapidly, releasing toxins into the bloodstream. As a result, it can lead to complications, most notably renal failure, since your kidneys cannot process excessive myoglobin.1 Several causes can lead to damaged muscle tissue, most notably:2

Severe trauma, such as accidents

Abuse of harmful drugs such as cocaine, amphetamines and heroin

Genetic muscle diseases

Muscle tremors or seizures

Severe exertion of muscles, such as long-distance running

Severe dehydration

Extreme heat

Surgery

If you experience any of the examples given above, your chances of developing rhabdomyolysis increases. Its symptoms are subtle at first, but eventually become prominent:3

Bruising

Muscle weakness

Fatigue

Soreness

Dark-colored urine

Fever

Vomiting

Infrequent urination

Confusion

Nausea

When diagnosing rhabdomyolysis, your doctor will first examine your body to locate the source of muscle weakness, and then perform a series of tests to further confirm their findings. Typical exams given include:

Creatine kinase test: High levels of this enzyme in your blood typically indicate the presence of muscle injury.4

Urinalysis: When muscles are injured, they typically release myoglobin, a type of protein, into your bloodstream, which is then released as urine. If your urinalysis shows high levels of it, you most likely have rhabdomyolysis.5

Potassium test: This mineral typically leaks into your bloodstream when muscle injury occurs. It will need to be monitored as well, because high levels of it can cause kidney disease.6

Q: Is rhabdomyolysis a curable condition?

A: Yes, rhabdomyolysis is a curable condition, as long as the cause is treated promptly. Drug abuse, for example, can be remedied by a combination of detoxification and counseling before major damage occurs to your muscles (and subsequently your kidneys).7

In some cases, such as major accidents that can cause severe muscle damage, you may be injected with an intravenous solution (IV) filled with bicarbonate. This helps your kidneys flush out the excess myoglobin easier and lowers your risk of renal failure as well. Other times, simple home remedies are all you need. Resting the affected muscle, as well as consistently staying hydrated, can help treat rhabdomyolysis and prevent further muscle damage.8

Q: Why does rhabdomyolysis cause renal failure?

A: When skeletal muscle tissue is damaged, it releases a protein called myoglobin into the bloodstream, which is then filtered by your kidneys and ejected as urine. When there is too much myoglobin, your kidneys cannot process it and your urine becomes dark. This complication is also known as myoglobinuria.9

Q: Can statins cause rhabdomyolysis?

A: Statins are a type of medication used to lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides by blocking the production of hydroxyl-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase (HMG-CoA reductase) in your liver. It is normally prescribed to people whose physicians believe they are at high risk of developing heart attack and stroke.10

However, side effects of statins include muscular problems, such as pain, tenderness, cramping or weakness in the affected muscle.11 As a result, your risk of developing rhabdomyolysis increases. If you notice any muscle weakness due to taking statins, stop them immediately and consult your doctor for a safer alternative.12

MORE ABOUT RHABDOMYOLISIS

Rhabdomyolisis: Introduction

What Is Rhabdomyolisis?

Rhabdomyolisis Symptoms

Rhabdomyolisis Causes

Rhabdomyolisis Treatment

Rhabdomyolisis Prevention

Rhabdomyolisis Diet

Rhabdomyolisis FAQ


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