Fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis are similar in the sense that their primary symptom is pain, but even though the two may share some similarities, distinguishing between them can help choose the appropriate and most effective treatment method for it. Unfortunately, sometimes the two conditions can exist together, which can make treatment that much more difficult.
Fibromyalgia is difficult to diagnose as there is no standard test that can reveal its presence. For example, there are no changes in the blood or to the organs. Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, is characterized by joint inflammation, swelling, and damage to the joints.
Fibromyalgia has been seen in rheumatoid arthritis, in fact, estimates show that fibromyalgia occurs in 13 to 17 percent of rheumatoid arthritis patients. Patients with both rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia tend to have worse symptoms, compared to patients with just one of the diseases. These individuals also generally have a worse overall quality of life and are at higher risk for conditions like heart disease, depression, and even diabetes.
Fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis actually share quite a bit of symptoms. As mentioned, the primary one is pain. To understand which condition you have, it’s important to recognize the symptoms to distinguish between the two.
Common symptoms in fibromyalgia include: Pain in specific points of the body (tender points), flu like pain, depression/anger, anxiety, extreme fatigue, chronic back pain, constipation and diarrhea, jaw or facial tenderness, and headache or migraines.
Common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include: pain in affected joints, stiffness, creaking of joints or crunching or crackling, reduced appetite, general feeling of unwell, fatigue, swollen glands, and general feeling of weakness.
The key difference between fibromyalgia pain and rheumatoid arthritis symptoms is that in fibromyalgia there is no inflammation or destruction of joints, and fibromyalgia cannot be seen on the X-ray, whereas rheumatoid arthritis can.
The below chart will easily help you distinguish between the differences of fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis.
|Sign or Symptom||Fibromyalgia||Rheumatoid Arthritis|
|Damage to joints||No||Yes|
|Inflammation of joints||No||Yes|
|Surgery as treatment||Never||Sometimes|
|Can be identified with blood testing||No||Yes|
|Can be identified with x-ray||No||Yes|
|Type of pain||Muscle pain||Joint pain|
Difference between fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis. Download comparison chart (JPG)
When fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis coexist, the severity of symptoms may increase. Researchers are still unaware as to why there is a higher prevalence of fibromyalgia in rheumatoid arthritis patients, but they do know that fibromyalgia patients don’t have higher rates of rheumatoid arthritis, suggesting it has more to do with arthritis than it does with fibromyalgia for the coexistence.
Common symptoms seen when fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis occur together are joint pain, pain on both sides of the body, fatigue, depression, and low energy.
Treatments for fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis together include:
In cases of severe joint damage, surgery may be required.
Sometimes treating fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis together can lead to complications, so speak to your doctor to determine which is the safest combination of medications to take with minimal adverse effects. In some cases, fibromyalgia medications can worsen rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and vice versa, so in the beginning, it may be some trial and error to find the right combination of treatment options.
Because there is no cure for either condition, sticking to your treatment plan can help you manage your symptoms and live a normal life.
Due to the overlap between fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis, there are many home remedies that can work for both. Home remedies to help manage fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis include:
By following these tips and the guidelines set out by your doctor, you can have greater success living with fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis.