Conditions Associated with Fibromyalgia

It's common to have fibromyalgia at the same time you have another illness. In fact, certain medical conditions may predispose you to developing FMS. These coexisting conditions can make diagnosis more difficult because the symptoms may overlap. It often takes the efforts of a skilled physician to determine whether you have two or more distinct medical conditions. The following sections describe some conditions that often occur at the same time you have fibromyalgia.

Chronic Fatigue Immune Deficiency Syndrome (CFIDS)

People who have chronic fatigue immune deficiency syndrome (CFIDS) experience extreme, bone-crushing fatigue that persists for months and does not respond to rest. More specifically, CFIDS is characterized by chronic fatigue that has lasted six months or more. You may also have muscle pain, joint pain, impaired memory, headaches, sore throat, and fever. Usually, blood tests are normal and done to rule out other conditions rather than pin down a diagnosis of CFIDS.

Fact

Back in the mid-1980s, some researchers found that people who had symptoms of CFIDS had more evidence of infection by the Epstein-Barr virus than normal. The Epstein-Barr virus causes mononucleosis, and, in fact, many people suspected of having CFIDS did indeed have mono a few years before. Researchers have since learned that EBV is not proof of CFIDS. Even healthy people can demonstrate high levels of antibodies against EBV, while some people with CFIDS may not.

Some experts believe that CFIDS is the same thing as fibromyalgia. But people who have CFIDS don't usually have tender points, and evidence suggests that CFIDS is usually triggered by a virus. The possibility of a viral link to FMS remains controversial. Still, many people who have fibromyalgia also have CFIDS.

Chronic Myofascial Pain

Chronic myofascial pain (CMP) is a medical term for persistent muscle pain associated with the presence of small spastic knots in the muscles. Pressing on these knots reproduces the pain, which sometimes occurs at quite a distance from the site of the knot itself.

CMP may involve a single muscle or a muscle group. In the aftermath of trauma — be it a car accident, an injury, or another major stressor — chemical changes occur in the nerve endings, making them secrete large amounts of the chemicals that cause muscles to contract. The high local concentration of these chemicals causes a spastic knot that restricts blood flow, causing more spasm, and a vicious cycle that allows the trigger point to persist. In addition, the low blood flow to the area activates pain fibers, resulting in a pain most commonly described as resembling a toothache.

It is very common for people to have both fibromyalgia and CMP. After all, the conditions share a great deal in common. But the two conditions remain separate and distinct. The primary difference is that fibro patients have pain because their nerves are hypersensitive, while myofascial patients have pain because their muscles are in spasm. The key is to determine whether you have one or the other syndrome, or possibly both.

Lupus

Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disorder that occurs when the body's immune system attacks the chromosomes of its own cells. The result is a chronic inflammatory condition that can cause a red rash, painful joints, a persistent fever, and extreme fatigue. In some cases, SLE can affect vital organs such as the kidneys or brain, and it may even be fatal. Another kind of lupus, discoid lupus, is less severe and confined to the skin.

More than 90 percent of people with SLE experience joint and/or muscle pain at some time during their illness. The main cause of pain Fibromyalgia Defined in SLE is inflammation of the tissues due to the autoimmune attack. But sometimes the pain may be the result of another condition such as fibromyalgia. Among people who have lupus, approximately 10 to 40 percent will also eventually develop fibromyalgia.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. In this case, the body's immune system mistakenly attacks the membrane lining the joints, resulting in a decrease in your range of motion, pain, stiffness, swelling, and a feeling of warmth in the affected area.

It's easy to confuse the symptoms of RA with those of fibromyalgia. Both cause morning stiffness, pain, and achiness. But RA causes inflammation in the joints, while fibromyalgia does not. Like lupus, approximately 10 to 40 percent of people who have RA will develop fibromyalgia, too.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium, which is transmitted by deer ticks. When an infected tick bites a human or animal, it can pass along the bacterium, which then travels into the bloodstream and causes a number of symptoms, some of which can be quite severe.

Alert

To prevent Lyme disease, steer clear of tick-infested areas, especially during the spring and summer. When outside, wear long sleeves and pants and tuck pants into socks or boot tops. Use insect repellent that contains DEET or permethrin, a chemical that kills ticks on contact. Check frequently for deer ticks, and, if you find one, call your doctor for instructions on how to remove it.

Usually, Lyme disease begins with a circular rash that resembles a bull's eye around the site of the bite and evolves into a flu-like illness. Caught early, the disease can be treated with a regimen of antibiotics. In later stages, it can cause neurological problems, arthritis, and numbness. In some people, having Lyme disease triggers the onset of fibromyalgia. It has been found that not even prompt treatment with antibiotics helps alleviate the symptoms of FMS.

Other Concurrent Illnesses

Knowing you have fibromyalgia may not bring about the relief you want from bothersome symptoms. That's why it's important to determine whether you have other medical conditions, too. Those cited in preceding sections are the main ones that often coexist with FMS, but they are by no means the only conditions. Other diseases that may occur at the same time as fibromyalgia include these:

  • Osteoarthritis

  • Hypothyroidism

  • Clinical depression

  • Irritable bowel syndrome

  • Multiple sclerosis

  • Post-traumatic stress syndrome

  • Temporomandibular joint disorder

  • Chronic yeast infections

  • Vulvodynia

If you suspect you have any of these other conditions, talk to your doctor. Treating these conditions can sometimes help alleviate symptoms associated with fibromyalgia.

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