Can you have fibromyalgia with lupus? Read on to find out the answer and other things you need to know about fibromyalgia with lupus.
Before, I get to the answer, I want to begin by clearing up some misconceptions concerning fibromyalgia.
You see, many people don’t know much about this chronic disorder. So, I want to get the facts about fibromyalgia straight first. Then, I’ll talk about the connection it has with lupus.
First things first-
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. I’m an individual that suffers from lupus. All content found on lupusisgoingdown.com, including text, images, audio, or other formats, were created for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical or mental health advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
Since that’s out of the way, let’s get down to what people mean when they mention fibromyalgia.
What Is Fibromyalgia?
To start off, it’s a chronic rheumatic disorder. Now, I know, you’re what that even means. So, I find that it helps to break the word down to its roots.
“Fibro” means fibers while “myo” refers to muscles and “algia” refers to pain. Therefore, it’s a chronic disorder associated with muscle and connective tissue pain. The connective tissues include tendons and ligaments
But, fibromyalgia goes beyond musculoskeleton pain.
Here are some symptoms experienced:
- Widespread muscle pain
- Joint pain
- Chest pain
- Brain fog
- Headache- tension or migraine
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Irritable bladder syndrome
- Sleep problems
- Numbness, tingling in hands, arms, feet, legs (Source)
As you can see, fibromyalgia can cause more than just muscle pain. And, there are other symptoms. These are just the most common.
Even though it doesn’t damage tissue, it can disrupt your life. And, being in constant pain is frustrating.
Unfortunately, the cause of this disorder isn’t known. But, research is being conducted to understand it more.
So, what is known?
Current thinking is that fibromyalgia has something to do with how the brain processes pain signals. Specifically, it has to do with over sensitization of the pain receptors in the brain.
In other words, the parts of the brain that react to pain signals from the body are overactivitated causing hypersensitivity.
While the cause is mysterious, the risk factors involved aren’t. For example, they include: traumatic event, repetitive injuries, stress, and illness.
Add to these: age, sex, and family history. For example, women are more likely to experience this condition than men. Also, you’re more likely to suffer from fibromyalgia if you’ve had family members that have as well.
As for treatment, it’s a combination of medication and lifestyle changes. Medications for pain include analgesics like acetaminophen (Tylenol) and NSAIDS like ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen sodium (Aleve). If these over-the-counter meds aren’t effective, your doctor may prescribe a pain reliever such as tramadol (Ultram).
Along with these medications, anti-seizure meds have been shown to work well with the disorder. Basically, they control the pain signals that go to your brain. For example, pregabalin (Lyrica) is one type of anti-seizure medication approved for fibromyalgia.
As for depression, you may be prescribed an anti-depressant like duloxetine (Cymbalta).
But, medication alone may not be enough. You may also need physical therapy, occupational therapy, or counseling. Obviously, physical therapy can help reduce pain and stress. Yet, you may still need occupational therapy to help you make changes to how you do things. This helps you be successful at work and home. Finally, counseling will help you adjust emotionally to having fibromyalgia and address any anxiety and depression.
Evidently, there’s more to treating this chronic illness than just taking medications. It takes some lifestyle changes (exercise, healthy diet, and better sleep habits for example), too.
Remember, it’s a chronic disorder that requires attention. In fact, you may feel like you spend a huge part of your time managing your fibromyalgia. Yet, the amount of time you spend on it allows you to better enjoy the time you don’t.
Similarities to Lupus
I know what you’re thinking.
You’re thinking, “Wait a minute. This sounds sort of like lupus.” And, you’re right.
There are some similarities between the two:
- Joint pain
- Chest pain
- Brain fog
And, that’s just to name a few. Along with these add the fact that they both come with flares. Also, both disrupt your quality of life. Finally, the two are also chronic.
Is that the only similarities?
Let me get a little deeper here and touch on some sensitive subjects that are familiar to those of us with lupus.
First of all, both are difficult to diagnose. Personally, I suffered through a couple years of pain that included seizures that led to hospitalization before I was diagnosed with lupus. And, that was a scary time.
I mean, I was 14 years old! I didn’t know what was happening to me. Apparently, neither did my doctors. On top of being scary, it was frustrating.
And, that didn’t help the stress level, either. Luckily, my local doctors threw up their hands and sent me to Texas Children’s. And, after a week of tests, I was diagnosed with lupus.
Finally, I felt vindicated. It wasn’t all in my head. You see, that’s another similarity. Both illnesses have misconceptions that come with them. And, one of those, is that it’s made up.
Well, that’s no longer the case. Due to research and awareness, both are finally being accepted as a legitimate chronic illness.
Honestly, I think that part of the misunderstanding comes from the fact that both are invisible illnesses. Mostly, you can’t see the effects (Unless you’re talking about lupus rash. Then, it’s like, hello, there’s something not right here). So, that creates confusion and doubt.
In fact, I’ve been accused of being a hypochondriac. You know, faking it. My teachers said. My boss has said. My own family has said it.
But, no. It’s real. And, it’s here to stay.
That’s right. In addition to an unknown cause. There’s no cure.
So, to sum up- yeah, there’s so many similarities between lupus and fibromyalgia.
But, there are some major differences, too.
One major difference is that fibromyalgia is a disorder, while lupus is an autoimmune disease?
Why isn’t fibromyalgia an autoimmune disease?
Simply, it’s because it doesn’t cause inflammation. Also, it doesn’t cause body tissue damage.
Now, you’re probably wanting to hold up a second. And, it’s probably because you’ve heard that lupus arthritis doesn’t typically cause damage like rheumatoid arthritis. I said typically because lupus acts differently for everyone. And, there are issues like if it goes untreated (yeah, then you can see some damage).
And, that’s right. But, I’m talking about other tissue damage like to your kidneys, liver, heart, or brain. Yes, those organs can be damaged by lupus while fibromyalgia doesn’t cause damage.
Because lupus causes inflammation, swelling, and impaired joint movement (I limp sometimes), the treatment is different. In fact, it’s more intense. Honestly, you can’t talk about “lupus medication”. You usually talk about “lupus medications”.
That’s because you usually take more meds with lupus. Doctors often prescribe antimalarials and immunosuppressants for lupus. Then, add the other meds for the symptoms like anti-seizure meds, and you have a nice cocktail going.
Ultimately, that’s because lupus can cause situations that are life threatening. I’m thinking heart attack or stroke because that’s what happened to me. But, pancreatitis can be dangerous, too. So, can lupus nephritis.
Now, I’m not downplaying fibromyalgia pain. I’m just saying it’s not life-threatening, even though it may feel like it.
Fibromyalgia With Lupus
And, I know firsthand. That’s because I have fibromyalgia with lupus.
So, the answer to the original question is yes. Yes, you can have a musculoskeleton disorder on top of lupus.
In fact, it’s common. Even more common, seeing a fibromyalgia diagnosis after lupus has been diagnosed for a while.
Remember, one of the risk factors for fibromyalgia is illness.
Well, suffering through the pain of lupus would definitely qualify as a risk factor for experiencing fibromyalgia.
It makes sense if you think about it. Experiencing the chronic pain from lupus inflammation for so long, your pain sensitivity has to be affected.
Now, I’m no doctor. I just know my own experience. And, it’s like my body couldn’t take another lupus flare. So, everything just went crazy.
Restless leg syndrome? Yes. Numbness and tingling in hands and feet? Check. Constant muscle pain? Yep.
And, the next thing you know, the doctor diagnosed me with lupus. Now, there are tests to differentiate between the two illnesses.
But, as it so happens, I have fibromyalgia with lupus.
A Better Quality of Life for Fibromyalgia with Lupus
So, what did I do?
First of all, I determined that I was done with my lupus ruining my life.
Then, I talked to my doctor. And, I made sure to tell the whole story: symptoms, eating habits, exercise habits, past medical history, family medical history, list of meds already taking, and a list of possible stresses.
Finally, I decided to do something about it.
Here’s the plan I created:
- Change my eating habits to fix my gut (for more on how what you eat affects your lupus, read my post- Lupus Digestive Problems- What To Do)
- Exercise Regularly
- Practice stress reduction techniques (I chose mindfulness and yoga as my main ones)
- Journal my health issues- keeps better record of what’s going on with me so my doctor can be better informed
- Better sleep habits
- Pace myself- I learned when to say no and when to take a break
- Keep a positive attitude
It’s Chronic But It Doesn’t Have to Be Debilitating
You see, fibromyalgia with lupus, while chronic, doesn’t have to control you.
Actually, it needs to be the other way around. Through medication and lifestyle changes, you can control it.
And, through a positive mindset, you can enjoy life.
Are you going to be able to do everything you used to before?
Probably not, if you were a marathon runner.
But, if you’re talking about spending time with the kids or enjoying a walk in the park.
Then, yes. Fibromyalgia will only stop you if you let it.
Putting a plan in place to combat it provides you with a better quality of life.
And the first step is talking to your doctor.
If you experience the symptoms of fibromyalgia, please talk to your doctor.
Fibromyalgia with lupus is a reality.
But, it doesn’t have to be all of your reality.
I hope this post has helped you. If it has, please share it socially with others. It’s the lupus warrior way.
Wishing you better days ahead,