Fibromyalgia and autoimmune arthritis have a lot in common. Yet, these chronic illnesses are completely different.
Their similarities are one of the reasons there was a delay in my diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis. It didn’t help that at the time I had no understanding of the connection between psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.
In 2003, the only autoimmune arthritis that showed up in my symptom internet search was rheumatoid arthritis. Psoriatic arthritis wasn’t mentioned until after I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I happened to wear opened-toed shoes to an appointment with my rheumatologist. One look at my unpainted toenails is all it took for him to change the focus of the appointment from fibromyalgia pain relief to testing for psoriatic arthritis.
The purpose of this post is to give others information that could help them reach a diagnosis and start treatment sooner, rather than later. Unlike fibromyalgia, a delay in an autoimmune arthritis diagnosis can result in permanent damage.
With that said, let’s take a look at two ways fibromyalgia and autoimmune arthritis are similar and how different those similarities really are.
Most people immediately jump to the conclusion that all joint pain is caused by some form of arthritis. However, joint pain is very common with fibromyalgia too.
Joint pain limits activity and may create mobility issues for people with either chronic illness.
There are 1seven common forms of autoimmune arthritis. Each one affects joints in the hands, feet, spine, hips, basically any joint in the human body.
Fibromyalgia also causes joint pain throughout the body.
Both autoimmune arthritis and fibromyalgia joint pain may come and go or be constant. The pain they both create is awful and can be debilitating.
Joint pain from fibromyalgia is often worse in the morning and improves throughout the day. While it is common to experience joint stiffness that improves with movement, autoimmune arthritis joint pain often causes visible swelling that does not improve with activity.
The biggest difference is the damage that autoimmune arthritis causes. Psoriatic and rheumatoid arthritis may cause disfigurement of and long-term joint damage.
Another shared symptom of fibromyalgia and autoimmune arthritis is tendon pain. Without any knowledge about autoimmune arthritis, you may not consider that the cause of tendon pain could be something other than fibromyalgia.
Tendon pain may limit mobility, make simple tasks difficult, and when unable to relieve, make your life miserable.
Both chronic illnesses may cause tendon pain. That pain may be limited to one or two areas or be widespread. It interferes with daily life and sleep schedules. Tendons may feel various degrees of tightness and soreness.
The difference is that with fibromyalgia the pain is often widespread. It may come and go or travel throughout your body. Whereas with autoimmune arthritis, the pain may be isolated and the result of weakened and stretched tendons or 2enthesitis.
Tendon pain that cannot be relieved with ice and a period of rest may be the result of autoimmune arthritis. To know for sure, speak to your doctor. There are simple tests they can perform to find out, and if needed they can order an ultrasound or another form of imaging.
The only way to know whether you have fibromyalgia, autoimmune arthritis, or both is by a physician. While there is no definitive test for fibromyalgia, psoriatic, or rheumatoid arthritis, there are tests doctors can run to rule them out.
One way you can help your doctors figure out what you have is to keep daily a symptom journal. By recording your pain areas and levels, your physician may see a pattern that you do not. Learn how to keep a pain journal here: The Importance of a Chronic Illness Health Journal.
The sooner you know whether your joint and tendon pain is caused by fibromyalgia or autoimmune arthritis, the sooner you can start a treatment plan. Early diagnosis and treatment of autoimmune arthritis may help slow down the progression and prevent significant damage.
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