Like lupus, the disorder called fibromyalgia or FM often involves muscle pain, joint pain and fatigue, and occurs mostly in young women of childbearing age. It is sometimes mistaken for lupus, but as many as one in four people with lupus could also have symptoms that resemble FM.
What are the symptoms of FM?
FM is generally linked with long-term sleep loss. People with FM may also have muscle pain and tenderness, stomach aches, headaches, and feelings of numbness and tingling in the hands and feet. Constant pain for more than three months and tenderness in many areas of the body, such as the neck, spine, shoulders and hips, usually lead to a diagnosis of FM.
How is it different from lupus?
FM does not cause inflammation, arthritis, skin rashes, or damage to tissues, organs and bones like lupus. Medications commonly used to treat lupus have little or no effect on the symptoms of FM.
Why do I need to know about FM?
People with lupus often suffer from the symptoms of FM or may be initially diagnosed as having FM. If you have FM, it is important to know that it is not rare, it is never life-threatening, and it is manageable. Between 3 million and 6 million people in the United States have the condition.
How is it treated?
The best treatment for FM is exercise. Even if you think you are too tired or in too much pain, you will probably feel much better once you are active. Exercises in the morning and afternoon will give you energy for the day and help you sleep better at night. Swimming, walking and cycling can strengthen muscles and reduce pain. Doctors may recommend a combination of physical therapy, exercise, relaxation, and medication to treat FM.
I just started a new treatment and I seem to have more symptoms than before. Are they from the medication or from my disease?
Suggestion: For people being treated for fibromyalgia and lupus, it is difficult to know the difference between the symptoms of the disease and the side-effects of the medications. All drugs may have side effects and some of the side effects can be quite bothersome.
When you get a new prescription, ask the pharmacist or doctor for a list of potential side effects and drug interactions. Keep a list of all your medications with the dosage, and show it to your doctor at each visit. After starting the medication, don’t be afraid to discuss every possible symptom you may have with your doctor and how often you have them. This is the best way to find out which symptoms are from the disease, and which are from the treatments.