Fibromyalgia: The Great Imitator

Though it affects millions of people throughout the United States, fibromyalgia syndrome is still one of the most commonly misdiagnosed illnesses. Researchers, scientists, and health care providers alike, are often stumped by fibromyalgia and its symptoms, confusing it for dozens of other illnesses. In fact, this is why fibromyalgia is often referred to as the Great Imitator: because it's symptoms mimic those of many other illnesses. If you are currently being diagnosed for fibromyalgia-like symptoms, it is especially important that you be aware of the illnesses that are commonly confused with fibromyalgia.

Why is it So Hard To Diagnose Fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is so difficult to detect because it mimics the symptoms of other illnesses. Fibromyalgia is accompanied by symptoms of widespread pain, muscle stiffness, and joint immobility. These symptoms are also present in dozens of other illnesses, including multiple sclerosis, polyagia rheumatica, and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Additionally, there are no clinical tests that can be performed in order to diagnose fibromyalgia syndrome. Instead, fibromyalgia can only be diagnosed through the time-consuming process of excluding all other similar illnesses. Only when a series of blood tests and x-rays, as well as multiple physical examinations, provide no proof of other diseases, can a diagnosis of fibromyalgia actually be made.

Conditions that Are Similar to Fibromyalgia
Unfortunately, there are literally dozens of illnesses that have symptoms that are similar to those caused by fibromyalgia. From incessant fatigue, to widespread aches and pains, fibromyalgia is often confused for other illnesses. In particular, there are a few specific illnesses that often look just like fibromyalgia:

Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is perhaps the illness that is most commonly confused with fibromyalgia. Actually caused by an infected tick bite, lyme disease causes symptoms of fatigue, chills, fever, and skin rash. Additionally, lyme disease causes severe muscle and joint aches, a common symptom of fibromyalgia. However, lyme disease is actually much less common than fibromyalgia, and can be detected through a simple test.

rheumatoid arthritis, and affects millions of Americans every year. The most common symptoms of arthritis, as with fibromyalgia, are muscle and joint pain and stiffness. However, arthritis is actually caused by joint and muscle inflammation, whereas fibromyalgia is an illness that is not associated with any inflammation.

How Do You Know You Have Fibromyalgia?
Because fibromyalgia is such a great imitator, it can be difficult to know whether or not you have it. Generally speaking, there are a few criteria which must be met in order to diagnose the fibromyalgia syndrome. These include:

  • Tender Points: You must have at least 11 out of 18 tender points on your body in order to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia.
  • Widespread Pain: You must experience continued pain in all areas of your body, including your left and right sides, and above and below your waist.

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