7 Conditions That Can Mimic Fibromyalgia (And Getting The Right Diagnosis)

Fibromyalgia is a condition that consists of widespread muscle pain, cognitive failures and fatigue. Because there is no standard blood test or other medical test to identify Fibro, doctors rely on Patient stories and history to make a determination, along with using the “tender point” test.

When you have Fibromyalgia, there are particular tender points that may be inflamed in 18 areas of your body. If you have pain in 11 of these areas, you are considered to have Fibromyalgia.

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What happens if you are experiencing symptoms of Fibromyalgia but you DON’T have the tender points? It could be that something else is going on in your body that isn’t Fibro but is a different condition all together.

Here are some of the conditions that can mimic Fibro and a brief description of what each of them are:

Conditions

1. Multiple Sclerosis

MS is currently classified as an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord). The disease attacks myelin, the protective covering of the nerves, causing inflammation and often damaging the myelin. Myelin is necessary for the transmission of nerve impulses through nerve fibres. If damage to myelin is slight, nerve impulses travel with minor interruptions; however, if damage is substantial and if scar tissue replaces the myelin, nerve impulses may be completely disrupted, and the nerve fibres themselves can be damaged.

MS is unpredictable and can cause symptoms such as extreme fatigue, lack of coordination, weakness, tingling, impaired sensation, vision problems, bladder problems, cognitive impairment and mood changes. Its effects can be physical, emotional and financial. Currently there is no cure, but each day researchers are learning more about what causes MS and are zeroing in on ways to prevent it.

2. Lupus

Lupus is a systemic autoimmune disease that occurs when your body’s immune system attacks your own tissues and organs. Inflammation caused by lupus can affect many different body systems — including your joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart and lungs.

The signs and symptoms of lupus that you experience will depend on which body systems are affected by the disease. The most common signs and symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Joint pain, stiffness and swelling
  • Butterfly-shaped rash on the face that covers the cheeks and bridge of the nose or rashes elsewhere on the body
  • Skin lesions that appear or worsen with sun exposure (photosensitivity)
  • Fingers and toes that turn white or blue when exposed to cold or during stressful periods (Raynaud’s phenomenon)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Dry eyes
  • Headaches, confusion and memory loss

3. Arthritis

Arthritis is the swelling and tenderness of one or more of your joints. The main symptoms of arthritis are joint pain and stiffness, which typically worsen with age. The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Osteoarthritis causes cartilage — the hard, slippery tissue that covers the ends of bones where they form a joint — to break down. Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease in which the immune system attacks the joints, beginning with the lining of joints.

Uric acid crystals, which form when there’s too much uric acid in your blood, can cause gout. Infections or underlying disease, such as psoriasis or lupus, can cause other types of arthritis.

The most common signs and symptoms of arthritis involve the joints. Depending on the type of arthritis you have, your signs and symptoms may include:

  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Decreased range of motion

4. Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic (lasting greater than six months) pain condition that most often affects one limb (arm, leg, hand, or foot) usually after an injury.  CRPS is believed to be caused by damage to, or malfunction of, the peripheral and central nervous systems.

The central nervous system is composed of the brain and spinal cord; the peripheral nervous system involves nerve signaling from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body.  CRPS is characterized by prolonged or excessive pain and changes in skin color, temperature, and/or swelling in the affected area.

The key symptom is prolonged severe pain that may be constant.  It has been described as “burning,” “pins and needles” sensation, or as if someone were squeezing the affected limb.  The pain may spread to the entire arm or leg, even though the injury might have only involved a finger or toe. In rare cases, pain can sometimes even travel to the opposite extremity.  There is often increased sensitivity in the affected area, known as allodynia, in which normal contact with the skin is experienced as very painful.

People with CRPS also experience changes in skin temperature, skin color, or swelling of the affected limb.  This is due to abnormal microcirculation caused by damage to the nerves controlling blood flow and temperature.  As a result, an affected arm or leg may feel warmer or cooler compared to the opposite limb.  The skin on the affected limb may change color, becoming blotchy, blue, purple, pale, or red.

Other common features of CRPS include:

  • changes in skin texture on the affected area; it may appear shiny and thin
  • abnormal sweating pattern in the affected area or surrounding areas
  • changes in nail and hair growth patterns
  • stiffness in affected joints
  • problems coordinating muscle movement, with decreased ability to move the affected body part
  • abnormal movement in the affected limb, most often fixed abnormal posture (called dystonia) but also tremors in or jerking of the limb.

5. Depression

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Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and sometimes you may feel as if life isn’t worth living.

More than just a bout of the blues, depression isn’t a weakness and you can’t simply “snap out” of it. Depression may require long-term treatment. But don’t get discouraged. Most people with depression feel better with medication, psychotherapy or both. Although depression may occur only once during your life, people typically have multiple episodes. During these episodes, symptoms occur most of the day, nearly every day and may include:

  • Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
  • Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort
  • Reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings for food and weight gain
  • Anxiety, agitation or restlessness
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches

6. Lymphoma

Lymphoma is cancer that begins in infection-fighting cells of the immune system, called lymphocytes. These cells are in the lymph nodes, spleen, thymus, bone marrow, and other parts of the body. When you have lymphoma, lymphocytes change and grow out of control.

There are two main types of lymphoma:

  • Non-Hodgkin: Most people with lymphoma have this type.
  • Hodgkin

Non-Hodgkin and Hodgkin lymphoma involve different types of lymphocyte cells. Every type of lymphoma grows at a different rate and responds differently to treatment.

Warning signs of lymphoma include:

  • Swollen glands (lymph nodes), often in the neck, armpit, or groin that are painless
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever
  • Night sweats
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Itching

7. Growing Pains

Growing pains are recurring pain symptoms that are relatively common in children ages 3 to 12. The pains normally appear at night and affect the calf or thigh muscles of both legs. The pain stops on its own before morning. Growing pains are one of the most common causes of recurring pain in children.

Growing pains usually cause an aching or throbbing feeling in the legs. This pain often occurs in the front of the thighs, the calves or behind the knees. Usually both legs hurt. Some children may also experience abdominal pain or headaches during episodes of growing pains. The pain doesn’t occur every day. It comes and goes.

Growing pains often strike in the late afternoon or early evening and disappear by morning. Sometimes the pain awakens a child in the middle of the night.

Consult your child’s doctor if you’re concerned about your child’s leg pain or the pain is:

  • Persistent
  • Still present in the morning
  • Severe enough to interfere with your child’s normal activities
  • Located in the joints
  • Associated with an injury
  • Accompanied by other signs or symptoms, such as swelling, redness, tenderness, fever, limping, rash, loss of appetite, weakness or fatigue

Conclusion

As you can see, there are several conditions that can mimic the symptoms of Fibromyalgia, which is why it’s important to see your doctor as soon as possible, to get the proper diagnosis. Don’t let pain linger…if something doesn’t seem right in your body, get it checked out. Remember,

There Is Always Hope

chronic pain and addictions (2)

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6 thoughts on “7 Conditions That Can Mimic Fibromyalgia (And Getting The Right Diagnosis)

  1. It’s quite worrying to see your symptoms listed under other conditions, and it made me do a double look at lymphoma.. You’ve made such an important point because a lot of symptoms overlap and with no easy diagnosis, nor tests that can give a definite on something like fibromyalgia, it’s important to be thoroughly checked out and rule out other conditions, while keeping an open mind. Brilliant post, Pamela.
    Caz xx

  2. Great post. You’re right, they are so many different diseases that could be other diseases.You should always be check by a doctor and sometimes they don’t even know what’s wrong with you.

  3. It is a complex condition and one that needs talking about. We often forget that general practitioners do not have as much information as one who specialises in the condition presented. They are human and often a patient will know more than the dictor. Awareness is key.

  4. Another great post, Pamela! I would like to add Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome to the list, as well. There are many overlapping symptoms and to make things even more complex, most people with EDS develop FMS. The distinct difference should be joint pain and dislocations, not to mention a few others. However; The doctor who diagnosed me with Fibromyalgia would not listen to me about my joint pain and dislocations. She actually cut me off and told me I was mistaking muscular pain for joint pain! Given the lack of knowledge about the condition in most specialties, I really wanted to mention this. Many EDS experts feel it’s negligible to diagnose a person with FMS without exploring EDS as well. Thanks so much for spreading awareness about other possibilities! xx

  5. So many other things that it can be. Its scary isn’t it. A lot of my chronic conditions can mimic other conditions. Thyroid disease – depression, chronic pain, weight gain or weight loss, loss of hair on the head and the face and body, low vitamin D, fatigue…Thats why its so hard to actually get a proper diagnosis most of the time.

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