Fibromyalgia vs. Arthritis – The Differences

Although both fibromyalgia and arthritis are forms of Rheumatism, a medical issue that leads to chronic pain and joint impairment, fibromyalgia cannot be classified as arthritis. Despite the fact that both fibromyalgia and arthritis can bring about intense pain in patients, the two are quite distinct forms of disorders in reality. However, the differences that exist between the two conditions are not apparent from the outset, thereby causing both doctors and patients major diagnosis and classification issues.

fibro example of symptons

To get rid of the confusion that surrounds the two medical conditions, it is important to consider the difference of them in detail. In this piece of writing, both fibromyalgia and arthritis will be differentiated through a thorough comparison of the two. To begin with, here is a look at the symptoms that both the conditions carry:

Difference in Symptoms

Fibromyalgia Symptoms:
Although the exact causes of fibromyalgia still remain a mystery, it is still necessary to understand that unlike arthritis, fibromyalgia is not a result of inflammation, swelling, or tissue damage. The symptoms associated with fibromyalgia vary from case to case, which is one of the major reasons why the condition is so hard to diagnose. However, patients generally complain of widespread pain throughout the body when diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

The intensity of the pain is matched equally by the high levels of fatigue, which makes fibromyalgia patients unable to perform even the most basic of activities properly. In addition, fibromyalgia patients report of experiencing insomnia, depression, anxiety, stress, and bowel issues. In fibromyalgia, the pain is at its most intense in the morning or just after a period of rest, but gets better as the day progresses.

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Arthritis Symptoms:
Arthritis is a result of the inflammation of the joints. The symptoms associated with arthritis are quite intense. When diagnosed with arthritis, patients find it difficult to move around without support, experience muscles weakness, and feel increased tenderness by touches. In addition, applying pressure on the joints leads to pain as well. Arthritis is progressive and can lead to crippling if not treated in the earlier stages.
Differences in Diagnosis

Diagnosis of Fibromyalgia:
One of the major causes of concern for doctors who treat fibromyalgia patients is the sheer difficulty in diagnosing the condition. Since there are no medical tests that can identify fibromyalgia, doctors often have to rely on patients to self report themselves. Generally, patients are tested for pain that has existed for a period of 3 months or more. Once this stage has been completed, doctors then proceed to eliminating other diseases or medical conditions.

Diagnosis of Arthritis
Compared to fibromyalgia, arthritis is relatively much easier to diagnose. Doctors can make use of several tests to identify the condition in patients. Some of these tests include blood counts, X-Rays, and Antinuclear Antibody tests.
Difference in Causes

Causes of Fibromyalgia
As stated earlier, the exact causes of fibromyalgia still remain a mystery. Most experts are therefore, left to second guess about the possible causes of the condition. A large number of medical experts believe that fibromyalgia is a result of the body’s pain system going into an over drive mode. Put simply, the body starts reacting to pain at a much increased rate which then leads to chronic pain. Moreover, experts also believe that fibromyalgia patients show signs of changing chemicals inside the nervous system.

Causes of Arthritis
There are two major types of arthritis, Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the body starts attacking the lining on its own joints. It is an autoimmune disease, which is the body’s automatic reaction to a stimulus. Osteoarthritis on the other hand, is caused by a damaged cartilage which itself is caused by every day movements. Osteoarthritis is more likely to occur in the elderly, as excessive wear and tear is a direct cause of the disease. Osteoarthritis can also affect the internal organs.

Treatments for Fibromyalgia:
Fibromyalgia is a medical condition that cannot be cured. For this reason, patients can only make use of treatments that work to reduce the intensity of the symptoms. One of the most widely used treatments for fibromyalgia is pain killers. Since the pain that the condition causes is so high, pain killers are the most effective option patients have for quick pain relief. Patients can also make use of anti-depressants, muscle relaxants, and steroids. In addition, exercise is also quite an effective pain repellant as well and a great way to bring the body back to some regular movement.

Treatments for Arthritis:
Like fibromyalgia, the pain from arthritis is repelled best by pain relieving medications too. Moreover, solutions that can be used in the long term include heat therapy to enhance the blood flow in the body and cold therapy to block the pain signals by numbing the nerves and reducing inflammation. There are also a few surgery options that exist; however, these should only be availed if the treatments mentioned above do not work.

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