When determining whether a person’s symptoms are related to fibromyalgia or due to another condition the process is often lengthy in some cases complex. Many illnesses often cause generalized muscle aches and even fatigue as well as many of the other common symptoms of fibromyalgia.
It’s often important to realize that fibromyalgia will occur in people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, osteoarthritis, and other illnesses (below). When this is the case, it can be difficult to determine symptoms of chronic pain and fatigue are caused by fibromyalgia or another condition. This will require a consultation with a physician who is trained to help patients with fibromyalgia.
Conditions Confused with Fibromyalgia
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) – Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic illness that often will cause inflammation of the joints, pain, swelling, and even deformity of the joints. Lupus is another chronic, inflammatory disorder of connective tissue that affects multiple organ systems.
Both rheumatoid arthritis and lupus share symptoms with fibromyalgia they will often have other features that are not seen in people with fibromyalgia, including inflammation of connective tissue that lines the spaces between bones and joints.
Hypothyroidism – The decreased activity of the thyroid gland (hypothyroidism) will often cause fatigue, disturbance of sleep, as well as generalized aches very similar to those seen in fibromyalgia. Blood tests to measure thyroid function can be conducted to help exclude hypothyroidism. However, there are many endocrine disorders especially increased activity of the parathyroid glands known as hyperparathyroidism that will often cause symptoms similar to fibromyalgia.
Osteoarthritis – Osteoarthritis causes joint stiffness, tenderness, often pain, and even potential deformity of the joint. Osteoarthritis most commonly occurs in older people. We can differentiate osteoarthritis from fibromyalgia usually based upon a person’s medical history, physical examination, and even x-ray results. For example, with osteoarthritis x-rays will often show degenerative joint changes that are will not be present in fibromyalgia.
Muscle inflammation (myositis) — this muscle disease is often due to metabolic abnormalities also known as metabolic myopathy. These are a set of conditions that can cause muscle fatigue often with weakness, but usually does not the widespread pain pattern seen in fibromyalgia. We will often test patients with myositis as they will typically have abnormal levels of muscle enzymes.
Neurologic disorders – This includes disorders of the brain and often spinal cord and of nerves outside the spine. A detailed neurologic examination will help in determining if fibromyalgia could be from a neurologic disease. Some patients with fibromyalgia will have evidence of nerve damage and these nerves should be treated and function restored.
If you are someone who is concerned that you may have fibromyalgia or a related condition we can help you, click here to contact us. It is important that you are taken seriously and the cause of your symptoms is found.