Dr. Heather Morris
The Fibromyalgia Mimics
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) – Affecting mostly women, RA causes swelling in multiple joints, morning stiffness, fatigue, and pain.
Telling the Difference between RA and fibromyalgia – there’s reduce swelling in FM, and rheumatoid factors and antibodies are present in RA. One study also found far more neurological symptoms in FM than in RA; if you have lots of nerve symptoms like burning, tingling, or numbness, you probably don’t have Rheumatoid arthritis.
Polymyalgia Rheumatica (PMR) – causes diffuse pain mainly in the neck and lumbar region as well as morning stiffness, mostly in people over fifty.
Telling the Difference between Polymyalgia Rheumatica and fibromyalgia – High erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) and altered c-reactive protein levels indicate PMR is an inflammatory disorder. Those results generally are not seen in FM. PMR responds well, in contrast to FM, to low doses of cortisone.
Spondyloarthritis – affecting mostly young males but also women, ankylosing spondyloarthritis slowly fuses the spine. Inflammation in the tendons and joints is common. Women tend to experience more neck pain.
Telling the Difference between spondyloarthritis and fibromyalgia – x-rays show alterations in the spine, particularly the sacroiliac joint in spondyloarthritis. HLA-B27 is often positive in spondyloarthritis. As with PM, anti-inflammatories work in spondyloarthritis but usually don’t in FM. If you’re not responding to anti-inflammatories, you probably don’t have spondyloarthritis or PM or RA.
Early Stages of Multiple Sclerosis – MS causes inflammation in the brain and spinal cord and the loss of the myelin sheath that covers the nerves. Like FM, MS can cause enormous fatigue as well as weakness and abnormal sensations.
Telling the Difference Between Multiple Sclerosis and fibromyalgia – FM can appear like the early stages of MS. The two disorders can be differentiated by the neurological symptoms that only appear as MS progresses.