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What Is the Difference Between Lupus and Fibromyalgia?

A urinalysis is often used to help diagnose lupus, but no test can definitively confirm fibromyalgia.
People with lupus may develop a scaly body rash.
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  • Written By: C. K. Lanz
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 30 July 2014
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Lupus and fibromyalgia are rheumatic disorders that share some symptoms and can be experienced concurrently by patients. Despite this overlap, lupus and fibromyalgia are distinct conditions that every patient will experience in his or her own way. In cases of lupus, the patient’s tissues, joints, and organs are attacked by the immune system. Fibromyalgia sufferers may manifest some symptoms similar to those associated with lupus but without experiencing inflammation, joint, or organ damage or many of the other complications that result from lupus, including a vulnerability to other infections such as colds, shingles, and pneumonia.

Lupus and fibromyalgia are both chronic disorders, but the latter does not cause inflammation or organ and tissue damage. Fibromyalgia is generally characterized by widespread muscle, tendon, and ligament pain, as well as specific tender points and fatigue. In contrast to lupus, fibromyalgia is not progressive and does not make the patient vulnerable to other medical problems or diseases.

The pathology of lupus is better understood than that of fibromyalgia, although the condition’s specific cause is still debated among medical professionals. Unlike fibromyalgia, lupus is an autoimmune disorder characterized by the body’s immune system, turning on its own joints, tissues, and organs. People suffering from lupus typically manifest some symptoms distinct from those of fibromyalgia, such as joint swelling, organ damage, and a characteristic facial butterfly facial rash or scaly body rash.

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Blood and other tests can help a medical professional determine whether or not a patient has lupus. The antinuclear antibody test, double stranded anti-DNA test, and erythrocyte sedimentation rate are all blood tests that a doctor can order to diagnose lupus. In addition, a doctor may order a urinalysis or a kidney and liver assessment if he or she suspects that an individual has lupus.

There are no lab tests or imagining scans that can confirm a fibromyalgia diagnosis. Doctors who suspect fibromyalgia often eliminate similar conditions first and test the 18 specific points on the patient’s body for tenderness. A patient meets the criteria for fibromyalgia if he or she is tender in at least 11 of the 18 points and has experienced widespread muscle pain for more than three months.

The treatment for lupus and fibromyalgia can different significantly. Lupus is commonly treated with corticosteroids, antimalarial, or immunosuppressive drugs. In contrast, antidepressants, analgesics, and anti-seizure drugs are typical fibromyalgia treatment options. It is important for patients seeking a diagnosis to find a medical professional that is familiar with both lupus and fibromyalgia.

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Discuss this Article

shell4life
Post 4

My aunt has moderate lupus. Her doctor treats her with different drugs as the severity of her flare-ups change. He started her out with prescription naproxen, which helped a lot. He tries not to keep her on it for a long period of time, though, because it can cause bleeding in the stomach and heart and kidney problems.

To prevent frequent flare-ups, he alternates naproxen with antimalarial drugs. They help stave off episodes, but they can cause muscle weakness and vision issues.

As a last result, he gives her corticosteriods for her most severe flare-ups. He tries to give her the lowest dose that will work for the shortest period of time, because these drugs can cause osteoporosis, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

seag47
Post 3

My favorite cousin has lupus, and her doctor told her that women of Asian descent are more susceptible to it than Caucasians. She fits this statistic.

She suffers from an array of symptoms that keep her from working a regular job. She has to work part-time from home while living with her mother, who helps her take care of herself when the pain is too great.

Some of her lupus symptoms include anemia, memory loss, mouth sores, fever, bruising, anxiety, weight loss, skin lesions, nausea, and sensitivity to light. Daily life is such a challenge to her.

StarJo
Post 2

I have a friend who suffers from lupus. Hers is an advanced case. She has kidney and heart damage from it.

The reason lupus is so dangerous is that the body cannot distinguish between normal healthy cells and foreign objects. My friend’s body attacked her kidneys and heart, and she deals with extreme pain and exhaustion on a daily basis.

She had to enroll in pain rehabilitation just to be able to make it through her life. It has helped her a lot, but she will live with this illness for the rest of her days.

orangey03
Post 1

I had always heard of lupus as a dreaded disease, but I did not know exactly what it was until I read this article. Lupus is truly terrible!

I suffer from fibromyalgia, but I had no symptoms of lupus, so my doctor didn't even mention testing me for it. I have muscle pain, extreme fatigue, and intolerance for cold weather. Wintertime is especially miserable, because most people and businesses keep their thermostats set much lower than I prefer, and it is painful to leave my warm home.

I am thankful with this new knowledge of lupus that fibromyalgia is all that I have. It provides its own special brand of discomfort, but I can't die from it.

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