Fibromyalgia and Multiple Sclerosis

MS or Fibro

There is so much mystery in the world of fibromyalgia, in large part because it effects everyone differently. Another reason for the mystery is due to the similarity in fibro symptoms compared to other diseases and syndromes. Fibromyalgia is sometimes misdiagnosed as a different problem and vice versa. This is because the myriad of symptoms associated with fibro are commonly found in other illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, also known as MS. So how can you tell if it’s fibromyalgia or multiple sclerosis?

What Exactly is MS?

The National MS Society defines it as follows: “Multiple sclerosis (MS) involves an immune-mediated process in which an abnormal response of the body’s immune system is directed against the central nervous system (CNS), which is made up of the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves.” If you or a loved one live with fibromyalgia, you can definitely spot some familiar buzz words and phrases, can’t you? Specifically, “immune system,” “abnormal response,” and “central nervous system.” In fact, the similarities in symptoms become quite striking when you review a side-by-side comparison. Note that most, not all, of the fibromyalgia symptoms overlap with MS symptoms, making it difficult to distinguish whether it’s fibromyalgia or multiple sclerosis:

MS SYMTPOMS FIBROMYALGIA SYMPTOMS
Fatigue Fatigue/Exhaustion
Numbness or Tingling Numbness &/or Tingling
Weakness Muscle Weakness
Dizziness & Vertigo Dizziness
Pain Pain
Emotional Changes Anxiety
Walking (Gait) Difficulties Impaired Coordination
Spasticity (i.e., muscle stiffness and spasms) Muscular aching, throbbing, & twitching
Vision Problems Vision Problems
Bladder Problems Bladder Problems
Bowel Problems Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Cognitive Changes Cognitive Problems
Depression Depression
Tremor Restless Leg Syndrome
Headache Headaches/Migraines
Swallowing Problems Dry Eyes & Mouth
Itching Itching &/or Burning
Sexual Problems Insomnia/Poor sleep
Speech Problems Ringing in the Ears
Breathing Problems Neurological Symptoms
Seizures Skin Sensitivities & Rashes
Hearing Loss

It is plain to see many similarities in symptoms between fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis, including clear neurological connections associated with pain, numbness, and tingling. However, experts explain that unlike MS, fibromyalgia does not show up as brain lesions on an MRI. Furthermore, while both conditions have no known source, MS is distinctly categorized as an auto-immune disease, but fibromyalgia is not. So that is one way to determine if it’s fibromyalgia or multiple sclerosis.

A key difference in MS is that the patient actually accrues long-term nerve damage which leads to physical and cognitive impairments. In fact, some types of MS are progressive. Primary Progressive MS (PPMS), for example, “is characterized by worsening neurologic function (accumulation of disability) from the onset of symptoms, without early relapses or remissions.” While fibromyalgia, on the other hand, is often mistakenly considered an arthritic condition, it does not actually cause damage to joints, muscles, or tissues.

Just What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is primarily characterized by chronic and wide-spread pain. A close second is the debilitating fatigue. But as you can see from the chart above, the symptoms are quite broad. The problem many patients run into is that fibromyalgia resembles so many other conditions that it’s usually difficult to nail down a diagnosis. However, some physicians are more inclined to spot it than others.

How Are MS and Fibromyalgia Evaluated?

The University of Maryland Medical Center explains that a fibromyalgia diagnosis is comprised of a detailed muscle exam that includes checking for tenderness at specific locations on the body. Rating the severity of specific symptoms is another key part of the exam. The symptoms must be present for at least three months. They add that there are no blood, urine, or laboratory tests which can provide a conclusive fibromyalgia diagnosis. However, fibro diagnosis also means that no other disorder or condition can explain the symptoms.

Diagnosing MS, however, is quite different because it causes several more neurological symptoms than fibromyalgia. Thus, exams tend to focus on brain and nerve function, including a brain MRI and sometimes a spinal tap. Even though MS can also be difficult to diagnose, it is often easier than fibromyalgia. This is because the evaluation requires searching for lesions or damaged areas to the central nervous system.

How Can I Tell if it’s fibromyalgia or multiple sclerosis?

It’s true that the similarities between multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia are striking. But given the neurological damage caused by MS, it is a condition that is slightly easier to target than fibromyalgia. Patients with MS are usually treated by a neurologist. But so are many fibro patients. As such, a neurologist likely has a keen eye in making the distinction between the two.

From Fibromyalgia Treating.com and posted here for sharing purposes only.  Please check their website for additional information.
Image from Shutterstock

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14 Invisible Illnesses You May Not Know About

Medical Record

Invisible illnesses are conditions patients have that are not obvious when looking at them. Often people with an invisible illness face a lot of prejudice; others accuse them of faking, lying or exaggerating their illness. People just don’t fully understand what patients with invisible illnesses are going through.

Just because you cannot see a person’s illness doesn’t mean they don’t have one. Just because a person looks OK doesn’t mean that they’re feeling OK. Invisible illnesses often have no cure and patients need to take medication for the rest of their lives to help control and manage the symptoms.

Here are some of the invisible illnesses that could be affecting your friends and colleagues that you wouldn’t know about unless they told you (based on information from bustle.com):

 

Bronchiectasis

This chronic lung disease is usually due to either a childhood infection that has compromised the lungs or another serious lung disease like COPD or cystic fibrosis. Scarring of the bronchi (branches in the lungs) makes breathing difficult and often results in a chronic cough, chest pain, wheezing, and shortness of breath.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Not to be confused with irritable bowel disease, this serious autoimmune disease manifests itself as either Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. Patients with IBD suffer painful ulcers in their digestive tract leading to many symptoms such as internal bleeding, diarrhea and constipation, abdomen pain, fatigue and weight loss. Many patients will need to have part of their colon removed.

Cancer

Cancer comes in many different forms and certainly for most cases you wouldn’t know a person was being treated for cancer unless they told you. While chemotherapy can often make cancer patients lose their hair, other forms of cancer treatment leave no visible outward signs.

Scleroderma

Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease that causes an over-production of collagen. This can lead to problems with skin thickening, joint pain, and internal organ complications. While many scleroderma patients suffer from obvious facial and body changes, other scleroderma patients will not have any visible signs of the disease or signs that are hard for an untrained eye to spot.

Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is a disease where patients have an increased level of mucus in their vital organs. This primarily affects the lungs and pancreas and is life-threatening. Cystic fibrosis leaves patients susceptible to serious and sometimes fatal lung infections and their pancreas is unable to produce enzymes needed to extract nutrients from food.

 

Pulmonary Fibrosis

Pulmonary fibrosis is a serious lung disease where scarring of the lung tissue leads to chronic shortness of breath and fatigue. Patients may have pulmonary fibrosis as a secondary illness to an autoimmune disease such as scleroderma or lupus.

Pulmonary Hypertension

Another serious lung disease which can develop as a result of an autoimmune disease or on its own is pulmonary hypertension. An increase in blood pressure in the lungs leads to the right side of the heart having to work harder to pump oxygenated blood back into the lungs, which can cause heart failure.

Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a musculoskeletal condition where patients experience extreme pain in various trigger points in their muscles and joints, exhaustion and problems with memory and concentration. The condition usually affects women between the ages of 25 and 60.

Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia

Mostly affecting men over the age of 50, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) or enlarged prostate causes men to experience problems with urination. The prostate grows until it begins to squeeze the urethra causing pain and other symptoms involved in urination.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a very common disease in the U.S. Visible signs of the disease include a persistent cough and shortness of breath. Like most lung diseases, there is no cure for COPD, but lifestyle changes and medical treatments can help to slow the progression of the disease.

Lupus

Lupus is another autoimmune disease where the immune system begins to attack the body rather than defend it. Lupus can present a variety of symptoms, some of which may be apparent (like a butterfly rash), but others (like flu-like fevers, chronic fatigue, and internal organ complications) are not visible.

Multiple Sclerosis

There are outwardly visible symptoms of multiple sclerosis but not all patients will be physically handicapped and need a wheelchair. MS presents a variety of symptoms and no two patients experience the disease in the same way. MS is an autoimmune disease which attacks the central nervous system and tampers with the flow of information between the brain and the rest of the body.

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurological condition that affects a person’s memory and brain function. People suffering from Alzheimer’s disease may be hard to detect during the early years, they may just appear a little forgetful. As the disease progresses, it will become more apparent–patients’ confusion and lack of memory becomes more obvious, as well as the physical symptoms of the disease.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Many people will suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome as a standalone disease, but some have it as a secondary illness. Many patients will experience the same level of fatigue as those with other invisible illnesses such as MS, scleroderma, and lupus but without the physical complications of these diseases.

Despite there being approximately 300,000 people in the U.S. who have scleroderma, many people are either completely unaware of the disease or are confused as to what the disease actually is.

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The information posted here is for sharing purposes only. For the full article, including additional links, please visit Scleroderma News – 14 Invisible Illnesses You May Not Know About.

Scleroderma News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

Information and images from Google and Scleroderma News.

Fibro and MS: What Are the Differences?

Disabled Body

A few days ago, my blogger-buddy over at Dinosaurs, Donkeys and MS blogged about 10 Things About Living with MS, and it brought back to mind not only how similar Multiple Sclerosis and Fibromyalgia are but also how they are often misdiagnosed and/or incorrectly identified for each other (or several other chronic  illnesses).

While I have several female cousins with MS, I do not have MS. I was incorrectly diagnosed with it in late 1998, even though lab work did not back up the diagnosis. Two years…and three doctors later, I finally got the correct diagnosis – Degenerative Joint Disease complicated by Fibromyalgia.

No, I didn’t ‘doctor shop’. My mother had gone through the same situation twelve years earlier being misdiagnosed with MS and Systemic Lupus, before her Systemic Scleroderma was identified. Mom warned me the only thing worse than the chronic pain the disease causes was having a doctor who didn’t listen and refused to research chronic illnesses.

Of course, she was right.

Getting the right diagnosis brings peace of mind. Self-doubt and depression will wear you down – not to mention exacerbate the illness – after countless trips to see a doctor and being told all tests were negative and x-rays/CT scans/MRIs showed nothing.

Unfortunately, getting the right diagnosis does not bring a cure… because one does not exist… for Fibromyalgia or Multiple Sclerosis or the more than fifty other recognized invisible illnesses.

Why invisible? Because NINETY-SIX PERCENT of people with these chronic medical conditions show NO outward sign of their illness.

Simply put – we don’t look sick. But out of this same group 10% experience symptoms that are considered disabling.

Guess who’s in THAT number? Trust me, it’s not a team I chose to be on.

It’s vital that we all be advocates for our own health care and the LEADER of the team, especially when a chronic illness is suspected. However, you cannot diagnose yourself. The best doctor for that is a rheumatologist. But you cannot be helped unless you tell your doctor EVERYTHING. Every ache, pain, migraine, rash, reaction to foods, light, sounds, smells – everything.

The information below is from FightingFibromyalgia.net and posted here for sharing purposes only. It is good information and much more is on their website. But please understand, pull up any two Fibromyalgia websites and you WILL find they contradict each other in several areas. They’re not trying to mislead-they just happen to follow different studies. There are LOTS of studies – thousands. I’ve personally been in six.

We need cures. We needed them yesterday. We need doctors, researchers, and chronic illness foundations to get on the same page. We need them to work together, not on countless studies with varying results.

Most importantly, we need them to listen to us – the five million people in this country who live with these devastating illnesses every. Single. Day.

Be well.

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Fibro and MS: What Are the Differences? ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis are two diagnoses that you never
want to hear from your doctor.

Both involve muscle and joint pain, and neither can be cured. There are
treatments for both of these diseases, but there is no getting rid of them.

What Is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a disorder that causes widespread, chronic pain
throughout the body. The exact cause of it is unknown, but scientists
have narrowed down some factors that play a role in developing the disease.

*The symptoms of fibromyalgia include the following:*

* Pain
* Anxiety
* Memory problems and concentration issues
* Depression
* Fatigue
* Headaches
* IBS (irritable Bowel Syndrome)
* Morning stiffness and aches
* Sleep issues and fatigue
* Numbness and tingling in hands, arms, legs and feet
* Tender or trigger points
* Urinary problems such as pain or frequency
* Rash/red skin particularly on the face

The constant pain patients experience is what often sends them to their
doctor. It is the most common symptom of fibromyalgia, and can often be
de-habilitating.

Fatigue is the second most common among fibromyalgia sufferers. Everyday
activities such as ironing, grocery shopping or walking the dog can
leave victims feeling extremely exhausted.

What Is Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple Sclerosis is classified as an autoimmune disease of the central
nervous system, which includes the brain and spine. The disease attacks
the proactive covering of nerves, which is called myelin.

This causes inflammation and often leaves the myelin damaged. Myelin is needed for the transmission of nerve impulses through nerve fibres. If the myelin damage is little, nerve impulses can travel with little disruption. However, if nerve damage is extreme, disruptions can be frequent causing damage to the nerve fibres.

Multiple Sclerosis is unpredictable and can differ greatly from person
to person. It is often diagnosed in people ages fifteen to forty. The
highest number of cases of multiple sclerosis in the world is in Canada.

The symptoms of multiple sclerosis vary depending on the severity of the
nerve damage.

*Common symptoms of multiple sclerosis include:*

* Balance issues and dizziness
* Bladder issues
* Bowel issues
* Blurred vision
* Slurred speech
* Depression
* Fatigue
* Pain
* Difficulty walking
* Sensory impairment; numbness and tingling
* Weakness
* Sexual dysfunction

It is important to keep track of your symptoms when you first start
experiencing them, so your doctor can determine the accurate diagnosis,
and properly monitor the disease.

The Differences Between Fibromyalgia and Multiple Sclerosis

Fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis are both potentially debilitating
diseases that can lead to chronic pain.

Fibromyalgia is often characterized by muscle pain, stiffness in
muscles, extreme fatigue and difficulty sleeping. Multiple Sclerosis has
a variety of symptoms including visual problems, bladder control issues,
muscle weakness and painful muscle spasms.

There are similarities in some symptoms, and the fact that both diseases
are more common in women than men. As well, neither has a specific cause
known. However, there are massive distinctions between the two diseases
as well.

Although fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis share a few similar
symptoms they are very different conditions. (Blogger’s Note: True, yet they are STILL misdiagnosed!)

It is estimated that approximately five million people in America have
fibromyalgia. Patients complain of widespread muscle pain and
tenderness, generally in areas of the neck, shoulders, back and hips.

Extreme muscle stiffness is often present in the morning, but tends to
fade throughout the day. Many with fibromyalgia experience insomnia and
severe fatigue. Patients also experience headaches, anxiety, depression
and difficulty concentrating.

As already mentioned the cause of fibromyalgia has not been determined,
but researchers believe it is linked to hormonal abnormalities and the
immune system.

According to studies, approximately 300,000 people in the US suffer from
multiple sclerosis. This is a significantly smaller number than those
who are affected by fibromyalgia.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is classified as an autoimmune disorder, while
fibromyalgia is not. An overactive immune system is believed to trigger
an attack on the body and tissue on the spinal cord, which leads to MS
symptoms.

Those who suffer from multiple sclerosis tend to experience blurry
vision, difficulty walking and bladder control issues. MS symptoms tend
to fluctuate over. Unlike fibromyalgia, they are not more intense in the
morning.

Diagnosis for both diseases is often done by ruling out other causes.
For fibromyalgia, the tender points are often what lead doctors to their
final diagnosis. For multiple sclerosis, there are various tests
including blood tests, spinal taps and MRIs.

Treatments for Each Condition

The approach in treatment for fibromyalgia is different from that of
multiple sclerosis patients.

Fibromyalgia can often be treated with over-the-counter medications such
as Tylenol or ibuprofen. Lifestyle changes can also help improve the
symptoms of this disease.

These changes may include reducing stress, following a specific sleep
schedule, exercising regularly and decreasing your caffeine intake.

Multiple sclerosis treatment may also include over-the-counter pain
medication, but more often has prescribed medication as well as physical
therapy, speech therapy, stress management and reduction, cognitive
behaviour therapy and acupuncture. Necessary lifestyle changes may
include switching to a low-fat diet, increasing your fiber intake,
stretching and exercising regularly.

Takeaway

While there are a few similarities in the symptoms and treatment of
fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis, the two diseases differ greatly.
Both are life-altering and difficult to diagnosis. Neither has been
given a specific known cause. However, the similarities end there.

Fibromyalgia is much more common than multiple sclerosis affecting
nearly seventeen times the number of people in the United States. MS
affects vision, speech, cognitive behaviour and a person’s ability to
walk, while fibromyalgia does not. Fibromyalgia is characterized by a
musculoskeletal pain, while multiple sclerosis is viewed as an
autoimmune disease.

It is important to see your doctor if you experience any of the symptoms
related to either of these diseases. Both require immediate attention
and treatment to relieve your pain and discomfort. It is also necessary
to note that it is possible to be diagnosed with both fibromyalgia and
multiple sclerosis.

 

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