By: Emily Lunardo
Fibromyalgia and lupus are two conditions that can cause pain, but it’s important to recognize the many significant differences between the two. Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), or lupus, is an autoimmune systemic disorder, which affects the joints, skin, and practically any organ in the body. Fibromyalgia affects the muscles causing pain, tender points, and extreme fatigue, and can contribute to anxiety or depression.
Both lupus and fibromyalgia are difficult to diagnose, and many patients with fibromyalgia are often wrongly diagnosed with lupus and vice versa. Furthermore, the two diseases can actually overlap one another, and there is a higher risk of rheumatic disease in fibromyalgia patients.
Fibromyalgia affects roughly two percent of the population and women are more likely to develop fibromyalgia than men. Estimates of lupus cases in the U.S. are 161,000 with definite lupus and 322,000 with definite or probable lupus. Like fibromyalgia, lupus often affects women more than men, too.
Table: Fibromyalgia vs. Lupus comparing symptoms and pain
Below is a table that gives you an easy comparison between fibromyalgia and lupus symptoms to help outline the similarities and differences seen in either disease.
Fibromyalgia vs. lupus symptom chart
|Lupus Symptoms||Fibromyalgia Symptoms|
|MUSCLE ACHES||MUSCLE PAIN|
|SENSITIVITY TO SUNLIGHT||SENSITIVITY TO TOUCH|
|SKIN IRRITATION||SKIN IRRITATION|
|INABILITY TO ENGAGE IN DAILY ACTIVITIES||INABILITY TO ENGAGE IN DAILY ACTIVITIES|
|MORNING STIFFNESS||STIFFNESS UPON WAKING|
|STIFFNESS THROUGHOUT THE DAY||STIFFNESS IF IN THE SAME POSITION TOO LONG|
|TROUBLE WITH CONCENTRATION & MEMORY||TROUBLE WITH CONCENTRATION & MEMORY|
|SENSITIVITY TO LIGHT||SENSITIVITY TO LIGHT, ODORS, NOISE, FOOD, COLD, AND MEDICATIONS|
|WEIGHT CHANGES||WEIGHT CHANGES|
|SWELLING EXTREMITIES||SWELLING EXTREMITIES|
Fibromyalgia vs. Lupus: difference in symptoms and causes
The above chart outlined many symptoms that lupus and fibromyalgia share which could contribute to the misdiagnosis of both diseases. It is the key differences, though, that help solidify a proper diagnosis and distinguish the two diseases.
First and foremost, lupus and fibromyalgia have very different causes. Lupus is an autoimmune systemic disorder in which the immune system mistakenly attacks its own healthy cells. Fibromyalgia does have some genetic predisposition, but generally it is triggered by unmanaged emotional stress, anxiety, and emotional trauma. The exact cause of fibromyalgia is still unknown.
Lupus can affect any system in the body. The symptoms that can help conclude a definite diagnosis include arthritis, photosensitivity, malar rash, protein in urine, oral ulcers, and lower white blood cell count.
Fibromyalgia is a muscular disease, so symptoms include muscles pain and fatigue, disturbed sleep, and all-over body aches with specific tender points.
Fibromyalgia vs. Lupus: complications, mortality, hospitalization, and costs
Over the period between 1979 and 1998, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported approximately 23 annual deaths from fibromyalgia. Mortality among fibromyalgia patients is usually on par with the general population, but suicide rates and injuries are higher among fibromyalgia patients.
In 1997, fibromyalgia hospitalizations accounted for 7,440 patients and annually fibromyalgia costs each person $3,400 to $3,600.
During the same time period, lupus mortality accounted for 879 to 1,406 deaths annually, with rates rising. Estimations of lupus-related hospitalizations were 39,400 in 2010, and an average cost to the U.S. healthcare system was estimated to be $13.3 billion.
Fibromyalgia complications result from lack of sleep, which can interfere with daily function as being tired can impair memory, focus, and increase the risk of injury. Other complications may include depression and anxiety, and the disease is still very much misunderstood.
Complications of lupus include severe kidney damage, damage to the brain and central nervous system, problems with the blood and blood vessels, inflammation of the lungs and chest cavity, inflammation of the heart, increased risk of infection, cancer, bone tissue death, and pregnancy complications.
Fibromyalgia vs. Lupus: diagnosis and treatment
Diagnosis of fibromyalgia includes an extensive review of the patient’s medical history along with the presentation of symptoms. A physical examination with the identification of tender points aids in fibromyalgia diagnosis.
To diagnose lupus, blood work is conducted to check white blood cell count. Another diagnostic tool is the anti-dsDNA test for positive antinuclear antibodies, which are elevated in autoimmune disorders and not present in fibromyalgia.
Common treatment for lupus is steroidal therapy with immunosuppressant drugs. Fibromyalgia does not respond to steroidal drugs or immunosuppressants, so treatment may require a combination of therapies. Painkillers, antidepressants, and muscle relaxants may help aid in fibromyalgia symptom management.
As you can see, although there are similarities between lupus and fibromyalgia, there are plenty of differences that really set either condition apart. With proper testing, your doctor can diagnose you correctly and have you started on the best mode of treatment.