Knowing the Difference
Part 2 of 7: Fibromyalgia
What Is Fibromyalgia?
Medical researchers and doctors do not understand what causes fibromyalgia. However, it’s believed the condition amplifies the natural pain sensations. In other words, people with fibromyalgia appear to experience normal pain in an overly painful way.
Understand the symptoms of fibromyalgia with these helpful pictures »
Part 3 of 7: MS
What Is Multiple Sclerosis?
Get the facts on MS »
Part 4 of 7: Differences
Differences in Signs and Symptoms
One symptom, more than any other, may be able to help you decide if you are experiencing the signs of either MS or fibromyalgia.
Chronic, Widespread Pain (Fibromyalgia)
Pain is a hallmark of fibromyalgia. The pain caused by fibromyalgia is sometimes described as a dull, aching pain. To be classified as fibromyalgia, a person must experience the chronic pain for at least three months. Also, the pain must occur on both sides of the body, above and below the waist.
Or, Is It Numbness and Weakness? (MS)
MS destroys the protective coating around your nerves and eventually the nerves themselves. Once damaged, the nerves may not be able to feel or experience sensations as well as healthy nerves. The symptoms associated with MS vary depending on the amount of nerve damage and which nerves are affected. It is common for people who have MS to have significant chronic pain. You will eventually experience numbness and weakness in affected areas. Tingling and mild pain can occur, too.
Part 5 of 7: Other Symptoms
What Are Other Symptoms of Each?
|Memory issues||Difficulty walking|
|Mood changes||Slurred speech|
|Chronic fatigue||Vision problems|
- memory issues: “Fibro fog” is a term applied to the confusion, difficulty focusing and concentrating, and changes in memory that people with fibromyalgia often experience.
- mood changes: Depression is not uncommon in people with fibromyalgia. Also, people with fibromyalgia sometimes experience mood swings.
- chronic fatigue: Fibromyalgia causes a great deal of fatigue. People with fibromyalgia are prone to long periods of sleep and rest. Unfortunately, however, many people with fibromyalgia also have sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome.
- difficulty walking: You may develop an unsteady gait and have trouble walking. Coordination and balance will also be challenged.
- slurred speech: As the myelin is worn away, communication from the brain may slow down. This can make speech seem more difficult, and you may have a harder time speaking clearly.
- vision problems: Double vision and complete or total vision loss can occur. Eye pain is common, too.
Part 6 of 7: Diagnosis
Diagnosing Fibromyalgia and MS
Fibromyalgia is diagnosed if your doctor can’t find any other explanation for your whole-body pain. The pain will also need to have been occurring for at least three months.
MS is not diagnosed with a single test or procedure. If other conditions are ruled out, your doctor may conduct a spinal tap. During this procedure, your doctor will remove a small sample of spinal fluid and test it for antibodies that are associated with MS. Additionally, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can detect lesions on your brain and spinal cord.
Part 7 of 7: Seeking Help
Get to the Causes
As with many other conditions, getting treatment as soon as possible can help your comfort and quality of life.