Fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis can share overlapping symptoms, however there are differences between the two conditions.
While fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis (MS) do share the symptom of pain, fibromyalgia is a musculoskeletal condition and multiple sclerosis is a neurological condition. There is still much unknown about the exact cause of fibromyalgia, but it is believed that the condition increases one’s sensitivity to pain. The cause of multiple sclerosis is the destruction of myelin, the protective coating surrounding nerves. Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease, meaning, the body mistakenly attacks itself. Over time, due to myelin destruction, the nerves can no longer function properly, which results in a slew of symptoms.
Both disorders are debilitating and can negatively affect a person’s quality of life. Furthermore, both conditions can result in chronic pain. And yet, despite their shared similarities, they are two unique conditions with different symptoms, diagnostic processes, and treatment methods.
Fibromyalgia vs. multiple sclerosis: prevalence
Fibromyalgia affects roughly six million Americans and multiple sclerosis affects roughly 400,000. Women are most commonly affected by both fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis, compared to men. Furthermore, both conditions are commonly diagnosed in individuals in their 20s to 50s.
Similarities between fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis symptoms
Fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis share many overlapping symptoms and health conditions, including depression, anxiety, headache, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, and pain.
Due to this overlap, the two conditions may be confused with one another during the initial diagnostic process until further testing is completed to confirm the diagnosis.
Fibromyalgia vs. multiple sclerosis: signs and symptoms
Now that we know which signs and symptoms are the same, let’s examine each condition’s own unique symptoms.
Fibromyalgia symptoms include: memory issues known as fibro fog, changes in mood like depression and mood swings, and chronic fatigue. Many patients also experience sleep disorders and sleep-related problems.
Multiple sclerosis symptoms include: difficulty walking, slurred speech, and vision problems such as eye pain.