Fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis can share overlapping symptoms, however, there are differences between the two conditions.
Fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis are both debilitating disorders that can greatly affect a person’s quality of life. Both conditions are known to cause chronic pain and yet, despite having many similarities, are two unique conditions with different symptoms, diagnostic processes and treatment methods. In this blog, we look at the similarities between the two diseases and the impact this can have on diagnosis. Read on to find out more.
What is fibromyalgia vs what is multiple sclerosis?
Fibromyalgia is characterised by pain that affects the entire body. In addition to chronic pain, sufferers experience increased drowsiness and fatigue, as well as memory and mood issues.
Multiple sclerosis is a neurological condition that destroys the protective coating – myelin – that surrounds healthy nerves. It causes the body to mistakenly identify the myelin as foreign and attack it, meaning the nerves can no longer function.
Cause of fibromyalgia vs cause of multiple sclerosis
The root cause of each condition remains unknown.
When it comes to fibromyalgia, medical researchers and doctors do not fully understand what it is that causes it. However, it is believed the condition amplifies natural pain sensations, so those with fibromyalgia appear to experience pain in a more heightened way.
It is also unclear why some people develop multiple sclerosis. It is not caused by anything somebody does or does not do. What is known so far suggests it is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Similarity of symptoms
Fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis share many overlapping symptoms and health conditions. Similar symptoms include chronic pain, extreme fatigue, depression, anxiety, headache, irritable bowel syndrome, systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis.
As well as having similar symptoms, each condition also has its own set of unique symptoms.
- Memory issues, known as ‘fibro fog’
- Mood swings
- Tender points
- Difficulty walking
- Slurred speech
- Vision problems
- Eye pain
- Numbness and/ or weakness
- Tingling and mild pain
Diagnosing fibromyalgia vs diagnosing multiple multiple sclerosis
Fibromyalgia tends to be diagnosed when all other conditions have been ruled out. Patients need to have experienced muscular pain for at least three months and tender points are also used in the process of diagnosis.
Multiple sclerosis is not diagnosed with a single test or procedure. If other conditions are ruled out, an MRI scan can detect lesions on the brain and spinal cord. A lumbar puncture is also likely to take place whereby a small sample of spinal fluid is tested for antibodies associated with multiple sclerosis.
There is no cure for either fibromyalgia or multiple sclerosis; treatment methods only help to manage the condition and minimise symptoms.
Fibromyalgia treatment vs multiple sclerosis treatment
Fibromyalgia is predominantly treated with over-the-counter painkillers, prescription medications, such as antidepressants, alternative remedies such as massage, yoga and meditation, and lifestyle and dietary changes.
Patients with multiple sclerosis may be painkillers, as well as steroid medication; physical, speech and cognitive behaviour therapy; acupuncture; and stress management.