CONDITIONS THAT MIMIC FYBROMYALGIA
Fybromyalgia (FMS) is a very unpredictable disorder that is characterized by a multitude of symptoms; some of these symptoms are also present in other conditions besides fybromyalgia. Because of this, fybromyalgia is very difficult to diagnose, even for your doctor. There are no laboratory tests for the syndrome or blood work that can be assessed. Therefore, other conditions that can be assessed need to be ruled out before your doctor can confidently diagnose your condition as fybromyalgia.
With that in mind, here are some common conditions that your doctor may consider when trying to figure out if your pain (or other symptoms) is caused by fibromyalgia, something else, or possibly both.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and is characterized by cartilage degeneration that can lead to tissue and bone damage and terrible joint pain. This type of pain can mimic the pain in fibromyalgia in two ways; through tender points, such as the hips and knees and through the morning stiffness symptom.
CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME
Another condition that is difficult to diagnose is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). CFS has no known cause, but is characterized by fatigue so severe it derails the whole day. Even after getting adequate sleep and rest, someone with CFS may not have any energy. The fatigue can be accompanied by memory problems, headaches, and pain in the muscles and joints, which are all symptoms of fibromyalgia as well. In fact, at least 50% of people with fibromyalgia meet criteria for CFS. This can be very confusing to patients.
Living with fybromyalgia day after day can trigger depression in patients. The pain can be challenging and sometimes, disheartening. However, depression and fybromyalgia do have symptoms that overlap.
Depression, which includes overwhelming feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest in activities, can cause a person to think or speak slower than usual or have memory and concentration problems. The same can be said of fibromyalgia.
Hypothyroidism is an underproduction of hormones by the thyroid gland in the neck. This condition is caused by an abnormal immune system response that inadvertently attacks normal body tissue. In this case, the immune response causes a drop in thyroid hormone, a key player in how the body uses energy. A person who has low levels of this hormone can “hurt all over.” The condition is also linked to many other symptoms that overlap with fibromyalgia, such as fatigue, depression, memory loss, and constipation. A doctor will check thyroid function before diagnosing someone with fibromyalgia.
IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME
Symptoms like alternating bouts of constipation or diarrhea may be caused by fibromyalgia or by irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a digestive problem that has no known cause but can be aggravated by stress or eating certain foods. IBS symptoms can also include cramps and stomach pain. However, there are medicines that can help with IBS.
Although it is painful, the good news is that IBS does not seem to increase the risk of cancer like some types of inflammatory bowel disease, an ailment that can cause ulcers and inflammation in the digestive tract.
Another condition that can mimic fybromyalgia is temporomandipular disorder. This ailment involves jaw problems resulting from nighttime teeth grinding or clenching. Chewing, yawning, or talking can be painful, and headaches are common; all of which may be confused for fibromyalgia pain.
For a person with lupus, the immune system attacks normal body tissues, causing inflammation and pain through the muscles and joints. This pain is similar to the pain experienced by people with fibromyalgia. People with both conditions are likely to see their symptoms come and go in flares, and they may also experience fatigue. However, the one difference between fybromyalgia and lupus is that the lupus patients are likely to have a fever or skin rash (such as a butterfly-shaped rash across the nose and cheeks) along with their fibromyalgia-like symptoms.
While there’s no research yet to prove a direct connection between fybromyalgia and Lyme disease, there are a number of infections, including Lyme disease, that seem to be capable of triggering fibromyalgia. Also, many people with fybromyalgia report having had Lyme disease in the past. The symptoms of Lyme disease are fatigue, headaches, muscle and joint pain, and stiffness. These are caused by bacteria spread through the bite of an infected deer tick. Although blood tests for Lyme disease are not always reliable, there are antibiotics to treat the disease.
As you can see, diagnosing fybromyalgia can be difficult as the symptoms overlap with a slew of other conditions. This is the reason why a diagnosis of fybromyalgia can take much time. However, once diagnosed, you can start on your journey toward a lifestyle that is adapted to fybromyalgia.