Fibromyalgia vs. Rheumatoid Arthritis

Fibromyalgia vs. Rheumatoid Arthritis

What is the Difference Between Fibromyalgia and Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Although they have similar symptoms, Fibromyalgia and Rheumatoid Arthritis are actually very different conditions that will need to be treated in unique ways. If you’re suffering from pain that you believe is either Fibromyalgia or Rheumatoid Arthritis, you will want to have a clear understanding of each, how you can tell their symptoms apart, and what treatments options are advised for each.

This guide will help you better understand the differences between Fibromyalgia and Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Fibromyalgia vs. Rheumatoid Arthritis: What Are They?

To get a better understanding of how you can tell Fibromyalgia and Rheumatoid Arthritis apart, you need to understand what they are.

About Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a musculoskeletal condition that can cause pain in your muscles and joints. This pain can be described as twitching, burning, or even stabbing pain. In some instances, you may feel like your muscles have been overworked or pulled even if you have not exercised.

Fibromyalgia also has other symptoms, including chronic headaches, dryness in the mouth, nose and eyes, numbness in the fingers and feet, or stiffness. Individuals with Fibromyalgia may feel like they are unable to concentrate or they may be hypersensitive to cold and/or heat.

Fibromyalgia symptoms are usually accompanied by something called “fibromyalgia syndrome.” Fibromyalgia syndrome, which includes a set of signs and symptoms that indicate the condition may be present, includes more than just pain. Fibromyalgia is also often associated with anxiety, depression, social isolation, and more.

Fibromyalgia is most commonly present in women, specifically those between the ages of 25 and 60. Compared to men, women are ten times more likely to develop Fibromyalgia.

About Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that causes inflammation in your joints. Because Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disorder, it means that your body’s immune system begins attacking healthy tissues in the body, which causes pain and confusion. Rheumatoid Arthritis is known to cause bone erosion, joint deformity, and can cause physical disabilities in serious cases.

The main symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis include swollen joints that may feel warm to the touch, stiffness in the joints that may worsen during long periods of inactivity, and fever. Fatigue and weight loss are also common symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis.

For the majority of individuals with Rheumatoid Arthritis, symptoms will first appear in smaller joints, such as the fingers. It can then worsen to cause pain in larger joints, such as the knees, elbows, or shoulders. But Rheumatoid Arthritis can also show symptoms without harming the joints. It can also affect other structures of the body, including the skin, eyes, lungs, kidneys, heart, blood vessels, and more.

Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis will usually come in waves or flares. This means that someone with Rheumatoid Arthritis will alternate between periods of pain and inflammation and periods of feeling normal and symptom-free.

Like fibromyalgia, women are more likely to develop Rheumatoid Arthritis. Other factors that may increase your risk of developing Rheumatoid Arthritis include smoking, obesity, a family history of Rheumatoid Arthritis, environmental exposures, and age. Rheumatoid Arthritis usually appears between the ages of 40 and 60, although it can appear at any age.

Fibromyalgia vs. Rheumatoid Arthritis: What Are the Differences?

The main difference between fibromyalgia and Rheumatoid Arthritis is in the presence of inflammation. For the condition to be labeled Rheumatoid Arthritis, the pain and discomfort must be caused by inflammation. However, the pain of fibromyalgia is not usually caused by inflammation. Because inflammation is not present in fibromyalgia, it does not affect or damage joints in the same way.

Another difference between fibromyalgia and Rheumatoid Arthritis is how the disease progresses. Rheumatoid Arthritis is a progressive disease, which means that your symptoms can worsen as the disease develops. In the first few stages of Rheumatoid Arthritis, you may only feel slight pain or discomfort in your joints. But as the disease moves through the different stages, they can become more serious. Fibromyalgia does not work this way and the symptoms will not get more serious.

The location of pain can also help you tell the difference between fibromyalgia and Rheumatoid Arthritis. With fibromyalgia, the pain often appears in one location. This could be your joints, a muscle, or other area of the body. But with Rheumatoid Arthritis, the pain is often mirrored on both sides of your body. If you feel pain in your ankle, you will most likely experience some level of the same pain in your other ankle. This is because the condition is an autoimmune disease rather than a musculoskeletal condition.

Fibromyalgia vs. Rheumatoid Arthritis: Diagnosis and Treatment

For both conditions, you will need to see a doctor to get a true diagnosis. Depending on the stage of the condition, you may need to have imaging tests and blood tests to determine if you have fibromyalgia or rheumatoid arthritis.

Fibromyalgia is more difficult to test for, so your doctor may test for other conditions to rule out other factors. Through elimination, your doctor can give you an accurate fibromyalgia diagnosis.

Both fibromyalgia and Rheumatoid Arthritis do not have cures, although their symptoms can be treated to reduce pain and discomfort. For Rheumatoid Arthritis, anti-inflammatory drugs or steroids are usually suggested. There are also prescriptions that can help slow the progression of the disease. In some cases, surgery may be necessary.

Fibromyalgia pain is often treated with medications for reducing pain. Exercise is also recommended for individuals with fibromyalgia.


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