What is the difference between multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia?

Both multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia involve the nervous system and cause chronic symptoms such as pain and fatigue. However, there are crucial differences.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurological condition. This causes the immune system to attack the central nervous system and damage the protective covering of the nerves, called myelin.

Fibromyalgia is a complex disease that affects many body functions. The most telling symptom is general pain and tenderness in the muscles and joints. Unlike MS, fibromyalgia is not an autoimmune disease.

Currently, the medical community does not fully understand the causes of fibromyalgia. The symptoms seem to result from the central nervous system sending the wrong signals to the brain.

In this article, learn about the differences between MS and fibromyalgia and how doctors diagnose and treat these conditions.

MS/fibromyalgia symptoms
Fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis share some symptoms, such as muscle weakness and pain. However, there are major differences, including the types of pain and the accompanying problems:

fibromyalgia pain
Senior man in kitchen holding shoulder because of pain showing home care nurse
Fibromyalgia can cause body pain.

Fibromyalgia pain is usually very widespread and lasts a long time.

The skin may still be sensitive and some areas may be more sensitive than others.

People with fibromyalgia often describe the pain as dull, aching, and persistent.

Fibromyalgia pain usually occurs on both sides of the body and in areas above and below the waist.

For a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, the pain must last at least 3 months.

Other symptoms of fibromyalgia
Other symptoms of fibromyalgia include:

Fatigue: Fibromyalgia often causes chronic fatigue. People with the condition may need to take long breaks between activities or get more sleep.
Restlessness: Some people suffer from restlessness or restless leg syndrome. They may find it difficult to get comfortable or relax and may develop sleep disorders such as insomnia.
Fibro-fog: This term refers to a lasting feeling of confusion or difficulty concentrating resulting from fibromyalgia. Some research suggests that this happens because the brain tries to eliminate pain, which makes it harder to think.
MS pain
MS affects nerves throughout the body. Damaged nerves can fire without cause, causing pain and other sensations in one or more areas.

Pain affects people differently, but some describe it as:

a burning sensation under the skin
a feeling of numbness, as if certain areas are falling asleep
uncomfortable tingling
there are ants
a feeling of electricity
Severity can vary depending on MS progression. Some people only experience tingling, while others experience widespread, debilitating pain.

Other symptoms of MS include:

Speech changes: As the immune system damages the nerves, signals may take longer to reach the brain. This can make speech slow or difficult.

Vision changes: Nerve damage can also affect the eyes, resulting in blurred vision or double vision. Some people experience extensive or complete vision loss.

Difficulty moving or walking: Nerve damage can lead to muscle weakness in the arms or legs, which can affect the way a person walks. Your gait may be disturbed or unstable.

Coordination: Nerve damage can also impair a person’s coordination, making them unbalanced or dizzy.

Bladder and bowel changes: People with MS may need to urinate or have a bowel movement more often, for example.

A doctor may recommend a blood test to diagnose fibromyalgia.
A doctor may use a blood test to diagnose a chronic illness.

Diagnosing any condition can be difficult and may involve a process of elimination.

If a doctor suspects that a person has multiple sclerosis, he or she usually uses an MRI scan to check the brain and spinal cord for damage.

If they’re still not sure, they may order a lumbar puncture, which involves removing some fluid from the spine.


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