Lupus and Fibromyalgia
While lupus and fibro may have some symptoms in common, they are ultimately distinct conditions with very different causes and treatments.
Lupus is an autoimmune disorder that causes your body’s immune system to attack itself. It mistakes your body’s healthy cells as harmful agents and attacks them. As a result, you may develop fatigue, skin rashes, joint pain, and inflammation of a number of body organs.
Fibromyalgia is a disorder that causes widespread musculoskeletal pain. It also causes fatigue and sometimes anxiety. But unlike lupus, it doesn’t cause inflammation, swelling, or damage to bodily tissues. And it is not an autoimmune disorder. Researchers believe fibromyalgia affects how your brain processes pain signals, and as a result, triggers chronic pain.
Both fibromyalgia and lupus can cause muscle and joint pain, brain fog, and fatigue. But despite the similarities, there are a few clear differences:
- Fatigue is common during a lupus flare, but it will subside once the attack is over. In fibromyalgia, however, exhaustion is more chronic — it’s less likely to come and go.
- Although both can cause muscle and joint pain, lupus pain persists until it’s treated. The pain of fibromyalgia comes and goes (it is transient).
- Fibromyalgia doesn’t cause nose and/or mouth ulcers or rashes like lupus does, such as the typical “butterfly” rash on the cheeks and bridge of the nose that can pop up during a lupus flare.
- In lupus, a patient’s immune system starts to attack organs and other body tissues, leading to widespread inflammation that will likely show up in lab tests or imaging. Fibromyalgia does not cause inflammation.