The chronic fatigue, pain, and muscle stiffness caused by fibromyalgia can sometimes be difficult to bear. This makes it very important to seek appropriate fibromyalgia treatment in order to help you deal with the symptoms of fibromyalgia. Unfortunately, because so little is known about fibromyalgia, many patients are often misdiagnosed. Every year, thousands of fibromyalgia sufferers are actually diagnosed with lupus, a chronic autoimmune disorder. It is important that you recognize the different symptoms of each disease in order to ensure that you are diagnosed appropriately.
What is Lupus?
Lupus is an autoimmune disorder that causes chronic inflammation throughout your body. It can affect any or all of your organs, resulting in dozens of physical symptoms ranging from headaches to irregular heartbeats. Most of us are protected by an immune system that attacks invading bacteria and infections. If you have lupus however, your immune system can’t tell the difference between foreign cells and your body’s natural cells and tissues. As a result, inflammation starts to build throughout your body, causing many physical problems.
Lupus currently affects between 500,000 and one million men and women in the United States. Every year, 16,000 more people are diagnosed with the disease. The majority of lupus sufferers are female, with women accounting for about 90% of all lupus patients. However, both men and children can also develop the disease.
Types of Lupus
There are three different types of lupus.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE): SLE, simply called systemic lupus, is the most common form of lupus. Systemic lupus tends to attack the organ system throughout the body, resulting in a wide variety of symptoms. Systemic lupus generally operates in a cycle, during which you will experience periods of symptom flares followed by periods of symptom remission.
Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE): DLE, commonly referred to as discoid lupus, usually only affects the skin and face. It rarely causes complications with internal organs. Discoid lupus is characterized by a red rash, called the “butterfly rash,” appearing across the nose and cheeks. It can be diagnosed by performing a simple skin biopsy. 10% of those with discoid lupus go on to develop systemic lupus.
Drug-Induced Lupus: Rarely, lupus is caused by the use of certain prescription drugs. The drugs hydralazine and procainamide, used to treat high blood pressure and irregular heartbeats, have been indicated in drug-induced lupus. This form of lupus is most commonly found in men.
What Causes Lupus?
To date, there is no known cause for lupus. It is believed that lupus is the result of a mixture of genetic and environmental factors. Up to 10% of lupus sufferers have close family members who also suffer from the disease.
Exposure to toxins, ultraviolet light, and bacteria also seem to be linked to lupus. Hormones may play a large role in contributing to lupus, especially because so many women of childbearing age develop the disease.
Symptoms of Lupus
Lupus symptoms are quite diverse and can vary depending upon the type of lupus that you are suffering from. In fact, it is rare to find any two lupus sufferers with exactly the same symptoms.
Symptoms of lupus can range from mild to severe, and include:
- joint pain
- muscle aches
- sensitivity to sunlight
- Raynaud’s phenomenon
There is no cure available for lupus, however, there are a number of treatments that can help you to manage the disease. Though there was once little hope of long-term survival for lupus patients, recently there have been great leaps in treatment techniques. Most lupus patients now live long and happy lives.
Depending upon your symptoms, you may be prescribed certain medications by your health care provider. NSAIDS are effective at reducing inflammation and joint pain, as is acetaminophen.
Anti-malaria drugs are often prescribed for skin irritations and joint problems. New immunomodulating drugs have proven effective at inhibiting the immune system, thereby reducing inflammation.
Exercise is an important part of a lupus treatment plan. Because lupus can affect the joints and muscles, many sufferers stop all exercise. As a result, their pain only becomes worse. Exercise in the form of aerobics, strength training, and stretching can do wonders for those symptoms.
As with fibromyalgia, many lupus sufferers report that acupuncture provides them with great symptom relief. An alternative medicine for lupus, acupuncture helps to relieve pain and stiffness by stimulating certain nerve channels.
Lupus and Fibromyalgia
Lupus and fibromyalgia may look similar on the surface, but in fact they are very different disorders. Unlike lupus, fibromyalgia is not an autoimmune disorder and does not cause any inflammation.
It also does not interfere with organ function. However, people with fibromyalgia are often misdiagnosed with lupus.
How Fibro and Lupus are Alike
The confusion between lupus and fibromyalgia may be due to the fact that many of their symptoms are so similar.
Like fibromyalgia, lupus symptoms tend to come and go, and can take the form of sudden flare-ups.
Like fibromyalgia, lupus is also associated with extreme fatigue, muscle pain, and circulatory disorders. In fact, up to 30% of lupus sufferers develop fibromyalgia syndrome after they have been diagnosed. However, it is very rare for fibromyalgia sufferers to develop lupus.
It is important that you make sure that your health care provider diagnoses you correctly. Many fibromyalgia sufferers who have been diagnosed with lupus have received treatment that has provided them with little or no pain relief and which has instead only complicated their condition.
Likewise, if you do have lupus, ask your health care provider to check you out for fibromyalgia, so that you can begin to treat those symptoms effectively too.