Fibromyalgia and Multiple Sclerosis

The same only different. That sounds like an oxymoron, but in fact, that is exactly how multiple sclerosis (MS) and fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) tend to appear. They share many symptoms in common and even have a similar history in terms of diagnosis. Less than twenty years ago, people with multiple sclerosis had to fight for a decision from their medical practitioners, unless they were very advanced in the disease. It really wasn't until the MRI came into regular use that people with MS started getting serious answers to their very serious, usually eroding condition.

Unfortunately, fibromyalgia sufferers aren't able to have an MRI that will detect the brain lesions that are the trademark of MS. Instead, they have to find a doctor who understands the syndrome and is willing to take the individual on as a patient with pain, but little hard evidence to show cause. It's a very frustrating situation, to be sure.

FMS and MS - The Same in So Many Ways

In another place on this site we've taken a look at multiple sclerosis for the benefit of understanding something of the disease and to help us discern it from fibromyalgia. Here we will look at the similarities of symptoms, limitations and potential for disability. Because of the similarities of MS and FMS, they are often confused for a period of time until a clear diagnosis is made.

Those with MS and FMS share the following symptoms and conditions (and probably more):

· depression

· anxiety

· headache

· irritable bowel syndrome

· chronic fatigue syndrome

· systemic lupus erythematosus

· rheumatoid arthritis

· pain


FMS and MS and Depression

Both FMS and MS provide their victims with a good serving of depression. It is estimated that 50% of people with MS will experience depression in their lifetime with 14% depressed at any point in time. It is thought that the depression in MS is a symptom originating in the central nervous system. Depression stalks fibromyalgia sufferers and is thought to be associated with the low levels of certain brain chemicals - particularly serotonin. However, like most everything with FMS, there are no clear causes for depression. They seem to have similar sources but nothing is nailed down in either illness.

Headaches are Common for Both FMS and MS Sufferers

Headaches are common to both FMS and MS, with migraines being the most frequently experienced type of headache in the two conditions. The other type of headache fibromyalgia sufferers deal with is muscle tension headaches caused by tension in the neck and shoulders.

Limited Range of Motion for Both People with MS and Those with FMS

Both conditions cause limitations in movement and range of motion. People with fibromyalgia experience muscle pain, stiffness and soreness that makes movements challenging and painful. There does not seem to be a solid answer as to why this happens other than the fact that people with FMS have lower pain thresholds. It is thought to be connected to brain chemicals - but again, there is no research on it yet. Those with MS also may experience pain, stiffness, and challenge in muscle movement. With MS, this is a result of the autoimmune response of the body in the person with MS. As the body attacks itself, motor abilities like walking and balance are affected.

Mental Health Challenges Affect MS and FMS Victims

Fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis both cause mental health challenges. Feelings of isolation, high levels of stress, varying degrees of anxiety and depression are all mental health issues that people with fibromyalgia face. It seems to stem from the constant pain and other symptoms that make FMS so difficult to live with. The person with MS experiences the same symptoms, however, the cause is the breakdown of the myelin sheath around the brain.

The Common Denominator for FMS and MS - Pain

When it comes to pain, people with fibromyalgia experience widespread, chronic pain that can become debilitating. The search for something to deal with the constant pain is often foremost on the mind of an FMS sufferer. In some cases, the pain is generated from the central nervous system in the form of sensitivities that cause pain. Sometimes the pain is neurological.

People with MS also experience varying degrees of widespread pain. Interestingly enough, there are experts who say that MS is considered to be a "painless" disease. They think that any pain the person is experiencing is not connected to the MS. However, if you talk to anyone with MS you'll hear the truth - MS is a painful disease that manifests as fibromyalgia pain manifests - in many different locations and in differing degrees of intensity. That is why people with MS think they have fibromyalgia (until they receive a clear diagnosis). It is possible for one person to have both illnesses going on in their body at the same time.

FMS or MS - Either One Can Disable a Person

In spite of the fact that there are many similarities between fibromyalgia symptoms and multiple sclerosis symptoms, the conditions are very different and have different sources. The one thing they do have in common in terms of bottom line is that they both have the capacity to leave the person suffering with the condition disabled - either partly or severely.

Read more about multiple sclerosis in our excellent article that describes the illness.

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