Lupus vs. fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia and lupus are both chronic conditions that share some of the same symptoms. Diagnosis can be difficult because the conditions appear to be similar. Each condition requires a thorough physical examination, an analysis of medical history, and laboratory testing.

In some cases, it’s possible to suffer from both disorders.

Lupus

Lupus is an autoimmune disorder that causes your body’s immune system to attack itself.

If you’re diagnosed with an autoimmune disease like lupus, your body produces autoantibodies. Rather than killing bacteria, autoantibodies work against your immune system. They mistake your body’s healthy cells as harmful agents and attack them. As a result, you may develop fatigue, skin rashes, joint pain, and inflammation of a number of body organs.

Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a disorder that causes widespread musculoskeletal pain. It also causes fatigue and, sometimes, anxiety. Unlike lupus, fibromyalgia does not cause inflammation, swelling, or damage to bodily tissues.

Researchers believe fibromyalgia affects how your brain processes pain signals, and as a result, triggers chronic pain. There is, however, no evidence to date proving fibromyalgia to be an autoimmune disorder.

Symptoms of lupus and fibromyalgia

The common similarity between lupus and fibromyalgia is pain. In both diseases, pain can be exacerbated during flares of the condition. However, lupus symptoms show more visible distinctions. While both disorders can disrupt a normal quality of life, lupus can pose more life-threatening complications.

Lupus symptoms

Common lupus symptoms include:

In more severe cases of lupus, inflammation can affect your major organs. Some complications of lupus include:

Lupus can affect anyone at any age. This condition is more common in women. Flares, or lupus episodes, can be triggered by sunlight, infections, and certain medications.

Fibromyalgia symptoms

Fibromyalgia alone is not a life-threatening disorder. However, it can cause a number of uncomfortable and painful symptoms.

Common symptoms include:

Fibromyalgia is often associated with cognitive difficulties, sometimes causing a form of mental fog. This can affect your ability to concentrate and focus on tasks. It can also trigger memory loss.

While there is no direct genetic transmission of fibromyalgia, the condition can occur in clusters in families, and it can affect anyone of any age. It can be triggered by a traumatic injury or stress. It can also present as a symptom of other chronic conditions.

People with fibromyalgia are not more likely to get lupus; however, people with lupus are susceptible to developing fibromyalgia pain.

Treatment

Treatment options for lupus and fibromyalgia are completely different.

Fibromyalgia treatment focuses on reducing pain and improving sleep. If your pain is the result of another chronic condition, your doctor may want to treat that condition first.

Common treatment options for fibromyalgia include:

Lupus treatment focuses on reducing inflammation and managing pain.

Common treatment options include:

  • painkillers
  • antimalarial drugs to reduce lupus episodes
  • steroids to reduce inflammation
  • immunosuppressants to reduce autoantibody activity in the immune system

Outlook

Lupus and fibromyalgia are both incurable diseases, but they can be treated. They share a few similar symptoms, but lupus can cause more life-threatening complications if left untreated. It’s not uncommon for both of these disorders to occur simultaneously.

If you’ve been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, lupus, or both, talk with your doctor about treatment. You can take an active role in your treatment by staying up to date with research findings.