November 26, 2021 4 min read

What Are the Differences Between Lupus and Fibromyalgia?

 

Despite having some symptoms in common, lupus and fibromyalgia are ultimately distinct health conditions with different causes. In this article, we’ll be breaking down the main differences between lupus and fibromyalgia. Let’s start by reviewing the unique causes of each condition.

 

What causes lupus?

 

Lupus is an autoimmune disease, meaning the symptoms are caused by the body’s immune system mistakenly attacking organs and other body tissues. The condition involves widespread inflammation and can impact many organs throughout the body, leading to serious complications.

 What causes fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia, on the other hand, is thoughtto develop due to changes in the way the central nervous system processes pain messages, known as central sensitization. It’s characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, however, unlike lupus, the condition is not an inflammatory or autoimmune disease. Still, many symptoms of lupus and fibromyalgia overlap and it’s not uncommon for fibromyalgia to be misdiagnosed as lupus.

 

What are the symptoms of lupus?

 

While the symptoms of lupus vary from person to person, common symptoms include:

 

  • Painful joints and muscles: People with lupus can experience painful, swollen joints, as well as muscle pain, however, the pain typically recedes once the lupus is treated.
  • Swelling around the eyes and extremities: Kidney inflammation can cause fluid retention that can make the ankles, feet, legs, hands, and eyelids feel puffy and swollen.
  • Unintentional weight gain or loss: Unexplained weight loss can be a sign of lupus. Conversely, weight gain caused by fluid retention can also be a sign of the disease.
  • Rashes and skin lesions: People with lupus often display a characteristic butterfly-shaped rash across the cheeks and nose (called a malar rash). Lupus can also cause a discoid rash that presents as raised, red, scaly patches.
  • Sensitivity to sunlight and cold temperatures: Sun exposure can trigger a rash or flare. People with lupus are also at risk of developing Raynaud’s syndrome, a condition in which the small blood vessels in the hands and feet suddenly constrict when exposed to cold temperatures or stress.
  • Fatigue: People with lupus often experience fatigue during a flare that subsides once the attack is over.

 

Other lupus symptoms may include depression, anxiety, seizures, brain fog, headaches, mouth ulcers, kidney problems, and chest pain.

 

What are the symptoms of fibromyalgia?

 

People with fibromyalgia can experience some or all of the following symptoms:

 

  • Widespread musculoskeletal pain: Fibromyalgia’s hallmark symptom is persistent pain in soft tissues and muscles all over the body. The pain typically waxes and wanes and moves around.
  • Fatigue: The majority of people with fibromyalgia experience fatigue that is more or less constant, even when they’ve got plenty of sleep
  • Cognitive issues: Referred to as “fibro fog” or “brain fog,” people with this condition often have difficulty concentrating or switching between tasks and may feel like they’re in a haze.
  • Headaches: Many people with fibromyalgia experience frequent tension headaches or migraines.

 

Other fibromyalgia symptoms may include irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), pelvic pain, jaw/facial pain, and body sensations, such as tingling, burning, or numbness.

 

What are other key differences between lupus and fibromyalgia?

 

While most of the symptoms of lupus and fibromyalgia are unique to each condition, they do have a few symptoms in common, including pain, cognitive issues, and fatigue. However, even these symptoms typically behave in ways that are unique to each condition.

 

Besides the causes of these conditions and symptomology, what are some of the other key differences between lupus and fibromyalgia? Let’s take a look.

 

Whether there is inflammation

 

With lupus, a person’s immune system attacks organs and other body tissues, leading to widespread inflammation that will likely show up in lab tests or imaging. Conversely, fibromyalgia has not been shown to cause increased inflammation in the body.

  

How are fibromyalgia vs Lupus diagnosed?

 

With fibromyalgia, a diagnosis is made based on having pain in at least four of five specific areas on the body, a physical exam, and ruling out other conditions via bloodwork. The process is similar for diagnosing lupus, however, there are a couple of specific blood tests that can be run to check for levels of inflammation in the body or for antibodies that could signal an autoimmune disease. These blood tests can differentiate a diagnosis of lupus vs. fibromyalgia.

 

How are Fibromyalgia and Lupus treated?

 

The treatments for these two conditions are very different. Fibromyalgia treatment focuses on reducing pain and fatigue. Common treatment options include pain medications, antidepressants, anti-seizure medications, physical and occupational therapy, hot and cold therapy, and pain relief creams, such as Aromalief Pain Relief Cream.

 

Lupus treatment focuses on reducing inflammation, managing pain, and stopping the immune system from attacking the organs. Common treatment options include pain medications, anti-malarial drugs to reduce episodes, steroids to reduce inflammation, and immunosuppressants to reduce autoantibody activity in the immune system.

 

With both conditions, healthy lifestyle habits, such as exercise, eating a nutritious diet, getting enough sleep, and reducing stress, can also help manage symptoms.

 

The bottom line

 

While lupus and fibromyalgia have some symptoms in common, they are completely different conditions that present differently and require unique treatment plans. Visiting a healthcare provider can help you get to the bottom of your symptoms and get started on the path to feeling better.

 

 This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. Please consult with your doctor. 

 

References:

 

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/fibromyalgia/causes/

 

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/lupus/symptoms-causes/syc-20365789

 

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/fibromyalgia/symptoms-causes/syc-20354780

 

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/fibromyalgia/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20354785

 

 

 


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