Lupus vs. fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia and lupus are both chronic conditions that share some of the same symptoms. Diagnosis can actually 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 live with both disorders.


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 is a disorder that causes widespread musculoskeletal pain. It also causes fatigue and sometimes anxiety.

Unlike lupus, fibromyalgia doesn’t cause inflammation, swelling, or damage to bodily tissues. There has been speculation that fibromyalgia is also an autoimmune disorder, however there’s no evidence to date proving fibromyalgia to be one.

Researchers believe fibromyalgia affects how your brain processes pain signals, and as a result, triggers chronic pain.

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 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’s 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 aren’t more likely to get lupus. However, people with lupus are susceptible to developing fibromyalgia pain.

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:

  • pain medications
  • antidepressants to reduce pain and improve sleep
  • antiseizure medications to treat pain symptoms
  • physical and occupational therapy to promote flexibility, improve mobility, and strengthen your muscles
  • counseling to improve mental strength and promote strategies to better cope with fibromyalgia symptoms

Lupus treatment focuses on reducing inflammation and managing pain.

Common treatment options include:

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

Lupus and fibromyalgia both currently don’t have a cure, 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.