Fibromyalgia vs. RA – Similarities
RA and fibromyalgia can be confused due to the fatigue factor present in both RA and fibromyalgia and the constant pain that sufferers of both diseases are in.
Similarly, those with fibromyalgia may have morning stiffness (which is one of the hallmark symptoms of RA), and may experience numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, another symptom of RA. The numbness and tingling is typically a sign of further inflammation of the blood vessels in RA, though not in fibromyalgia.
Additionally, in both fibro and RA, patients may suffer joint pain and severely tender points. Patients also often experience symmetrical pain (i.e. pain on both sides, such as pain in both knees).
They may also experience depression. And like with lupus, both RA and fibromyalgia are classified by periods of disease activity and inactivity known as flares.
Comorbidity of Lupus and RA
Lupus and RA are rarely seen together, although some people do suffer from both diseases.
On Lupus.org, Dr. Wael Jarjour discusses comorbidity of lupus and RA with the following statement: “Sometimes rheumatoid arthritis is also seen in patients with lupus... Some rheumatologists use the term 'rupus' to describe this presentation. The differentiation between someone who has rheumatoid-like arthritis and lupus vs. someone who has rheumatoid arthritis/SLE overlap is either an issue of severity of the findings or more likely a matter of semantics with no significant clinical difference.”
If you do have lupus, make sure to check with your doctor to ensure that the disease is not eroding any bones, which would quantify it as RA. Likewise, if you have RA, keep a watch on your symptoms.
Because the diseases are so similar, it is not impossible to be misdiagnosed with one or the other for quite a long time before figuring out what your proper diagnosis is.
Comorbidity of RA and Fibromyalgia
There is not, at present, much data on the comorbidity of these diseases, but it seems that they can exist in tandem. A diagnosis and treatment of these two diseases together would need to sussed out by a rheumatologist, who is a specialist of such disorders.
Because all three of these diseases are so similar in nature, it is extremely important that your rheumatologist takes a thorough history of your health and examines you closely.
Blood tests are needed (sometimes more than once) in order to fully understand what disease (or diseases) you are suffering from. And as stated before, keep a close eye on any new symptoms developing as it is very easy to misdiagnose such disorders.
No matter what you are suffering with, it is very important to keep a clear line of communication with your doctor to ensure you are getting proper and effective treatment.