so sorry to hear about your situation. lupus or any disease that is not visible to the outside world is very frustrating because others just don't see us as sick. and being as young as you are, i imagine it is even more difficult because everyone "expects you to be fine." however, i am amazed at the number of young people we have here who are suffering every day, and so many in silence. don't let others' ignorance of how these diseases work distract you from your mission of "finding out what is wrong". each and every one of us have probably faced the questioning looks of people who "don't understand why we say we feel so bad." I am 56 and still encounter the questioning looks from family and friends who are disgusted because i can't keep the same pace that i used to. i have lupus, fibromyalgia, heart issues, etc. and people still dont' understand when i have to go to bed for a few days. i realize that it is not their fault, they just don't understand.
have you gone to a rheumatologist....this is the dr. that treats auto immune diseases such as arthritis, lupus, etc. these drs. are familiar with the different symptoms and the appropriate blood tests to be completed. unfortunately, there are many of these drs. that have no personality and their "bed side manners" are questionable....but stay strong and persistent, your health is what is important, not other's limitations.
it certainly sounds like you have some sort of auto immune disease, but only a combination of blood work and symptom checks can diagnose which one. also, it can take some time for a diagnosis....a good dr. is most important. your symptoms sound like lupus, but also get the dr. to check you for fibromyalgia. this is a syndrome that involves the soft tissue and includes pain in areas around the joints. it can cause fatigue, and pain in knees, ankles, wrists, chest, shoulders, and the back of the neck and head area. a simple "pressure point" test can determine if you are suffering from fibro and a rheumatologist can easily test you for this (they just touch the diferent pressure points and you will feel the pain).
you say you are in college, does your university have a student medical facility...if so, maybe you can get a dr. there to listen to you and help you get into appropriate drs. you really need a good advocate to help you get into appropriate drs.
keep a diary of the different symptoms, when they occur, and try to describe what you feel. you say your joints may hurt in one place and then go away and hurt somewhere else. this is very common for lupus. your knees may hurt today, and your elbows tomorrow, and sometimes the pain stays in the same area for months. when you go to the dr. be sure to explain where you have had pain or symptoms, even if they are not present that particular day.
concerning the hair loss, this is very common, however, it should grow back once your flare subsides. my hair goes through times of falling out, and then new hair will start popping up.
my malar rash (rash on face) comes and goes and is vey difficult to hide. i try to cover with make up, but sometimes it is just too obvious. I just tell people that i was out in the sun.
about the sun, if you do have lupus, the sun and fluorscent lighting are not your friend. avoid exposure by wearing sun block (at least 35 spf), wear sun glasses, a hat, and clothing that protects your skin. exposure to uv lighting can send you into a flare, causing fatigue, pain, accelerated rash, etc. You might want to conduct your own test and see if protecting yourself from the sun helps you feel better. those of us exposed to extended rays from fluorescent lighting will wear sun block even when we are not outside.
stay with us, devin. we will do our best to help you get the attention you need. we all understand the difficulty and questions that you are feeling, and we will never think you are a hypocondriac...we have been there.
there is some very good information in the "sticky" section of the forum. our moderators and members have provided specific information concerning symptoms and various tests. just browse through these, and write down any similarities that you find.
good luck, we will do everything we can to help you.