Lupus & Fibromyalgia Analysis by

Fibromyalgia is a disorder that can occur alone or secondary to connective tissue disorders such as lupus. Studies suggest that about 25% of people who have Lupus also have Fibromyalgia. It's important for people who have Lupus to know about Fibromyalgia for several reasons:

  • Many of the symptoms are the same. For example, fatigue, joint and muscle pain, morning stiffness, hand symptoms without observed swelling, Raynaud's phenomenon (painful hands or feet in response to cold), numbness, and headaches can be seen in both of these disorders.

  • The treatments for Lupus and Fibromyalgia are very different, but Fibromyalgia can get in the way of judging the Lupus activity. If you are being treated with immunosuppressive drugs for your lupus but have continued pain and fatigue, those symptoms may be considered evidence of continuing Lupus activity, when they might be Fibromyalgia. So there is the theoretical risk that you might be treated with higher doses of immunosuppressants and be at risk for their side effects, when such drugs don't help Fibromyalgia and may not be needed at that time for your Lupus. For example, among people with lupus, the occurrence of fatigue correlates more strongly with the presence of Fibromyalgia than with their degree of Lupus disease activity or damage.

  • The proper diagnosis can alleviate anxiety. For example, if you have numbness and it can be determined that the cause is Fibromyalgia, that can be reassuring because you know it won't progress and cause more serious outcomes, as might occur in numbness due to lupus. Because Fibromyalgia doesn't have the same internal organ manifestations and potential for damage that Lupus-mediated problems have, symptoms may have a better prognosis (outlook) if they are caused by Fibromyalgia.

Discerning the difference is also important for research. Fibromyalgia seems to affect the validity of some of the measurements of Lupus activity. Whether a new drug works for Lupus or not can be hard to figure out if 25% of the participants also have Fibromyalgia and are having symptoms for that are erroneously labeled as Lupus activity.

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