Many find it difficult to make a distinction between fibromyalgia, also known as FM, and chronic fatigue syndrome, particularly because the symptoms of both illnesses are very similar. Even doctors and experts, up until now, cannot definitely say if CFS, short for chronic fatigue syndrome, and FM are two different diseases with like symptoms, separate aspects of one disorder, or two completely distinct illnesses.
Issues surrounding fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome became even murkier after an FM/CFS expert released his findings in a National Fibromyalgia Association publication in September 2002. According to the findings of Dr. Charles W Lapp, around 70% of people suffering from FM also qualify for CFS, and about the same percentage of CFS sufferers also manifest symptoms of FM.
Definition of FM and CFS
Fibromyalgia is a condition characterized by chronic musculoskeletal aches (particularly in tender points such as spine, neck, hips and shoulders), insomnia, and fatigue. Although it is unclear what causes such a disease, it is believed that lack of nutrition and problems with the hypothalamic and immune functions could exacerbate or trigger the syndrome.
Chronic fatigue syndrome, on the other hand, is characterized by severe fatigue, experienced during not less than six months. Sufferers of CFS also experience muscle and joint pains, sore throat, non-restive sleep, and general malaise after performing physical activities. Sometimes, especially after a strenuous activity, CFS patients display temporary concentration, cognitive and memory lapses.
Similarities between chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia syndrome
As mentioned earlier, the two conditions share quite a number of similar symptoms. If you think you are suffering from one of such illnesses, you need to consult several doctors. A physician whose expertise is in infectious disease might see your symptoms as chronic fatigue syndrome, while a pain and rehabilitation doctor could look at your symptoms as FM.
Most common indications or symptoms of both FM and CFS sufferers are joint and muscular pain, severe fatigue, inability to concentrate, memory lapses, numbness, malaise, and weakness. Meanwhile, clinical likeness of the two includes non-restive sleep or insomnia, lowering of growth hormone and serotonin levels, and diminished blood flow in certain parts of the brain.
Aside from having similar symptoms, both diseases are also more common in women than men. In FMS, women are about eight times more susceptible than men. Both diseases also occur more often in adults than in children.
Differences between CFS and FM
Although patients of both illnesses suffer muscle pain and fatigue, the degree or severity of the two symptoms will help distinguish chronic fatigue syndrome sufferers from fibromyalgia patients. People who experience predominantly debilitating fatigue suffer from CFS, while those whose main symptom is chronic pain in joints and muscles have FM. Another stark difference is that CFS is prompted or initiated by an infectious illness, such as influenza. On the hand, FM is usually triggered by injury, surgery, accident, or a type of physical trauma.
How CFS and FM are diagnosed?
Unlike in certain illnesses where laboratory, blood and x-ray findings help determine the disease, both FM and CFS can only be determined through medical history and clinical findings. If you feel that you are suffering from either one of the diseases, you should be more precise in describing what you are feeling. It is important to tell everything to your doctor, even the minutest discomfort or changes in your body, because these little things will be a great help in diagnosing the disease.
Managing FM and CFS
Since there is no known drug that could cure fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome, doctors usually concentrate on treating the symptoms or the triggers or causes of the conditions. Given that there is no definite cure for both illnesses, the best that you can do, if you suffer from CFS, FM or both, is to manage the disease. Here are some tips that could help you:
Know your illness
The first thing you should do, when diagnosed with either of the two conditions, is to research and learn as much as you can about your condition. It would be easier for you and your doctor to communicate and discuss the disease and possible treatment plans or options, if you have a certain degree of knowledge about the disease. The Internet, local libraries and journals and magazines can help you with learning more about FM and CFS.
Eat healthy and have plenty of rest
It is very important for people who suffer from both CFS and FM to eat a well-balanced diet, particularly because some diseases can trigger them. Furthermore, some types of food could exacerbate your symptoms, like too much caffeine could make it difficult for you to sleep well. Adequate rest and sleep could also help alleviate some symptoms, like depression, stress and non-restive sleep.
Laugh and have fun
Stress and depression can only make matters worse. Thus, you need to be happy more often. Remember, that sometimes laughter is the best medicine.