One of the most difficult things about fibromyalgia is how challenging it can be to get an accurate diagnosis. There are a number of other conditions that can mimic the symptoms like fatigue and muscle pain. Thus, you might find yourself being told that you have fibromyalgia when you actually suffer from something else. And one of the most common sorts of condition that cause similar symptoms is autoimmune diseases.
But getting an accurate diagnosis is the first step on the road to treatment. That’s why it’s important to be aware of some of the other possibilities. And with that in mind, let’s talk about five different autoimmune diseases that can mimic fibromyalgia.
Autoimmune Diseases That Mimic Fibromyalgia
Autoimmune diseases are caused by the body’s immune system attacking its own tissue. But the form that this kind of disease can take can vary widely based on where and how the disease affects you. But all of these conditions cause symptoms similar to fibromyalgia like fatigue, muscle pain, and mental fog.
Sjogren’s syndrome is caused by antibodies created by the immune system attacking the moisture producing glands in the eyes and mouth. As a result, these glands in the throat can get swollen and painful. And the eyes are often chronically dry, which is usually quite painful, as it can feel like you have sand rubbing in your eyes.
Like any autoimmune condition, Sjogren’s can be dangerous when it causes progressive damage to vital organs like the kidneys.
The dryness in the eyes and mouth is the easiest way to tell this condition apart from fibromyalgia. But in the early stages when the symptoms are limited to muscle weakness and fatigue it can be more difficult.
Lupus is one of the most familiar autoimmune diseases. This is likely due to the fact that it causes a distinctive rash across the face. This malar or “butterfly” rash extends from one side of the face to the other. Like any autoimmune condition, it causes fatigue and muscle pain.
In addition, it can be fatal if the inflammation leads to organ damage. But in most cases, Lupus is completely manageable.
Lupus is hard to distinguish from fibromyalgia if you don’t have the distinctive external rash. But there are a number of tests that doctors can perform to tell if you have lupus.
Vasculitis is an autoimmune condition that affects the veins. It leads to inflammation of the lining of the veins. Over time this causes damage which can eventually interfere with your body’s ability to transport blood. This general inflammation of blood vessels also leads to symptoms similar to fibromyalgia including fatigue and muscle pain.
As with any such condition, organ damage is a risk but is typically manageable.
Vasculitis is often difficult to distinguish from fibromyalgia in early stages. But doctors can test your blood for elevated antibody levels to help make a diagnosis.
Myasthenia gravis is a condition marked by facial muscle weakness. Usually, it is most noticeable when it causes one side of the face to droop or palsy. Myasthenia gravis damages the connection between the nerves and the muscles which make it difficult to control voluntary muscle movements. This is why the eyelids and face seem to droop.
It can also lead to difficulty with speech such as you might see in someone with a stroke. In addition, it can cause problems with chewing or swallowing food. And finally, it can also be fatal when it leads to permanent organ damage.
This drooping of the facial muscles is an obvious giveaway that the patient is not suffering from fibromyalgia. But the disease is progressive. That means it may be a while before it’s obvious.
Guillain-barre syndrome is a condition where the immune system begins to attack the nerves. The nervous system is responsible for controlling muscle movements, so someone with Guillain-barre syndrome will often experience progressive paralysis. The first signs are a general weakness of the muscles and fatigue, often accompanied by pain and tingling in the nerves.
In most cases, the condition progresses rapidly. And within two to three weeks after the first symptoms appear, the condition is usually at its worse. In some cases, the paralysis becomes so severe that it can be life threatening. Luckily, if the condition is detected early enough, doctors can usually stabilize the patient and keep their vital systems functioning while their body recovers. But the majority of patients do have residual muscle weakness.
The most obvious difference between this condition and fibromyalgia is the rapidity with which it occurs. That’s why it’s important to recognize the early signs.
As always, being aware of early symptoms and how they differ from fibromyalgia is your best bet at getting the right diagnosis. So let us know, have you gotten misdiagnosed due to an autoimmune disease? What did you do? Tell us in the comments.