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How to Spot the Telltale Symptoms of Rhabdomyolysis

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  • Rhabdomyolysis is a condition that can be potentially fatal because it can appear alongside other complications. If you experience any severe traumatic injuries, suddenly develop weakness in a certain muscle group or develop dark-colored urine, visit your doctor right away
  • To help you spot rhabdomyolysis, there are specific symptoms you need to watch out for

Symptoms of rhabdomyolysis can be hard to diagnose, as it can appear alongside other conditions. For example, seizures caused by stroke, epilepsy or a brain infection can damage your muscles. Each of those has its own symptoms, but when left untreated, rhabdomyolysis can occur, compounding those illnesses further.1

Meanwhile, injuries such as venomous snake bites typically lead to symptoms such as blurred vision, sweating, numbness and breathing issues, aside from muscle weakness.2 To help you spot rhabdomyolysis, there are specific symptoms you need to watch out for, such as:3

Myalgia: The medical term for muscle pain, myalgia may occur anywhere in your body and may be caused by different factors.

Generalized weakness: An encompassing feeling of fatigue or weakness may indicate a specific muscle problem.

Darkened urine: Dark-colored urine following a muscle injury usually indicates a high presence of myoglobin in your bloodstream. If not treated immediately, it can lead to acute kidney injury (AKI) and even kidney failure.

Other Complications Related to Rhabdomyolysis

Rhabdomyolysis doesn’t happen on its own. It typically develops when you have some type of illness or habit that causes muscles to become damaged as a side effect. Below are some of the most common conditions that happen alongside rhabdomyolysis:

Compartment Syndrome

This condition occurs when a compartment — a collection of muscles, blood vessels and nerves in the leg — becomes damaged due to an injury, such as a fracture, surgery complication or a heavily bruised muscle. This causes pressure to rise, and you begin to experience symptoms such as pain, a tightened muscle and burning sensations on your skin. Eventually, tissue death may occur, which can lead to rhabdomyolysis.4

Drug Abuse

Nonfatal overdoses of dangerous drugs such as heroin can cause serious side effects such as muscle weakness, which increases your risk of rhabdomyolysis. Intestinal symptoms can arise as well, such as constipation, diarrhea, hemorrhoids and anal fissures.5

Electrolyte Abnormalities

Electrolytes are minerals in your body that carry an electric charge to help your body maintain important functions and support overall health. Well-known electrolytes include calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium and chloride.6

As rhabdomyolysis sets in, your kidneys won’t be able to function properly due to the sudden influx of toxins, leading to electrolyte imbalances. One example is hyperuricemia, or excess uric acid in the blood, causing gout, fever, chills and urination problems.7

Another possible complication is hypocalcemia, which is a condition wherein your body has very low levels of calcium.8 Symptoms include muscle spasms, numbness and tingling in the limbs, brittle nails and possibly confusion or hallucinations.9


Hypovolemia is a possibly fatal complication and occurs when there is a sudden and significant loss of blood due to a serious traumatic injury. Symptoms depend on the severity of the loss of fluid, but typical indicators include fatigue and dizziness to pale skin, rapid heart rate and loss of consciousness. 10

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Kidney Damage Is an Almost Guarantee in Rhabdomyolysis

One common complication that appears alongside rhabdomyolysis is acute renal failure (ARF). When a muscle becomes damaged and its cells begin necrotizing, proteins are released into the bloodstream, most notably myoglobin, creatine kinase, aldolase and lactate dehydrogenase, as well as various electrolytes.11

It’s estimated that 33 percent of people who have rhabdomyolysis develop ARF, and it is what doctors usually monitor during treatment.12 This is largely attributed to the increased presence of myoglobin in your system. As your kidneys filter your blood, the myoglobin causes tubular obstruction, thus causing damage.13

One of the most accurate ways to spot ARF is the presence of dark-colored urine,14 along with other symptoms such as fatigue, abdominal pain and a metallic taste in your mouth. A urinalysis may be used to further confirm the findings.15

Consult Your Doctor Immediately If You Think You Have Rhabdomyolysis

Rhabdomyolysis is a condition that potentially can be fatal because it can appear alongside complications of other illnesses. If you experience any severe traumatic injuries, suddenly develop weakness in a certain muscle group or develop dark-colored urine, visit your doctor right away to prevent further damage to your internal organs.



Rhabdomyolisis: Introduction

What Is Rhabdomyolisis?

Rhabdomyolisis Symptoms

Rhabdomyolisis Causes

Rhabdomyolisis Treatment

Rhabdomyolisis Prevention

Rhabdomyolisis Diet

Rhabdomyolisis FAQ

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