What is Lupus? How it is connected with Fibromyalgia

When you have fibromyalgia (FMS) or lupus Pain, Fatigue, Malaise is the symptoms that become a part of your life. You get a double helping of those symptoms, when you have both fibromyalgia and lupus, in addition to the other symptoms of both conditions.

Because their primary symptoms can be very similar FMS and lupus are both hard to diagnose. People with FMS are sometimes misdiagnosed as having lupus, and vice versa. Diagnosis and treatment becomes complicated because A sizable number of people have both conditions. Consequently, it’s important for those with FMS to be familiar with the symptoms of lupus.

What is lupus?

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes pain and inflammation in different parts of the body. That means your immune system malfunctions and attacks your healthy tissues as if they were a dangerous virus or bacteria. Lupus attacks many different parts of the body but most often targets the skin or internal organs. We have a number of treatment options for lupus, but there’s no cure.

The brutality of lupus varies widely from person to person. Most people with lupus can deal with their symptoms to some degree and don’t face life-threatening complications. In situations where lupus attacks the sin, the largest symptom is a noticeable rash, most often on the face or nose.

Treatment normally involves suppressing the immune system, which slows down the attack on whatsoever parts of your body are involved. In more serious cases, lupus attacks vital organs such as the brain, which kills the patient. However in most cases, early medical involvement allows lupus patients to live healthy, productive lives.

How lupus is different from fibromyalgia?

Like FMS, lupus is hard to diagnose. No one test can pinpoint it, and because symptoms can vary broadly from one patient to another, it’s hard for a doctor to identify. There are a number of key differences between lupus and fibromyalgia.

First, while Lupus is known to be the result of your body’s immune system attacking itself, fibromyalgia has no known cause. Before diagnosing lupus, your doctor will probably  give you a physical exam, look at your flare patterns, run tests to rule out diseases with alike symptoms and do what’s called an “antinuclear antibody” (ANA) blood test.

Lupus and fibromyalgia, both cause painful and unbearable symptom such as pain and exhaustion. And lastly, lupus is more understood than fibromyalgia and successful therapies exist for treating it, such as immunosuppressant drugs.

People with FMS don’t show a higher risk of developing lupus, but people with lupus do have an elevated risk of developing FMS. Some people speculate that like lupus, fibromyalgia is an immune disorder. But where lupus attacks the tissue in your body, fibromyalgia causes pain in your joints without damaging them. It’s likely that the pain of lupus leads to central sensitization, which is a key element of FMS.

Until researchers pin down the causes of these conditions, we probably won’t understand their association to each other. In some cases, a person might suffer from both conditions at the same time. When a person is experiencing two (or more) chronic illnesses at the same time, the diseases are said to be ‘comorbid.’ 

Comorbidity offers extraordinary challenges as the diseases may interrelate in unforeseen ways and certain treatment options may not be practical. Because lupus often involves joint pain, women with a lot of joint pain and fatigue are often concerned that they may have lupus, especially if they have a positive ANA (antinuclear antibody) test in the blood. Some of those women have a lot of pain and sometimes have pain virtually all over.

They often have fibromyalgia.  Fibromyalgia can occur concurrently with lupus, but most of the time lupus and fibromyalgia are separate diagnoses.  In fibromyalgia, sometimes people are tender over their painful joints and muscles, but at least they have a lot of pain that is widespread and associated with poor sleep, fatigue, and difficult concentration.

The similarities between lupus and other conditions are alarming and wearisome. Certainly, so much so, that the Lupus Foundation adds: “a lot of of these symptoms occur in other illnesses. Actually, lupus is occasionally called “the great imitator” as its symptoms are frequently like the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, blood disorders, fibromyalgia, diabetes, thyroid problems, Lyme disease, and a number of heart, lung, muscle, and bone diseases.” No doubt it took so long for my friend to get a diagnosis. Not to mention a doctor who would take her symptoms seriously.

Lupus Vs fibromyalgia treatment

Like most of the conditions and diseases above, lupus has no treatment. That means that healthcare practitioners will often focus on managing the symptoms to improve your quality of life. While it’s surely more difficult to treat two conditions, lupus treatments don’t usually have a negative impact on FMS, with the possible exception of steroids.

The Mayo Clinic recommends starting with lifestyle modifications, including sun protection and diet changes for the treatment of lupus. The lifestyle changes suggested for the two conditions are very similar, so you could get a double advantage from making those changes. Some FMS experts believe that steroids can worsen FMS symptoms.

Be sure to check with your doctor and pharmacist about likely drug interactions, too. Lupus is treated with autoimmune medications such as Plaquenil, steroids, immunosuppressive medicines and the new biologic Benlysta. The Lupus Foundation of America has an excellent resource concerning common diet questions for lupus patients.

Some of these consist of avoiding alfalfa and certain ‘nightshade vegetables,’ such as potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants and peppers. Fibromyalgia is treated with low-dose antidepressants, muscle relaxants, nerve medications, and other drugs.

Reference:

  • The Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center. All rights reserved. “Lupus Information”
    National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. All rights reserved. “Lupus”
  • Fibromyalgia and Lupus By Adrienne Dellwo via Verywell Health
  • American College of Rheumatology. All rights reserved. “Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

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