What’s the difference between fibromyalgia (FM) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)? Health experts often differ in diagnosing fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue symptoms, as they tend to overlap. Judge for yourself- here are some facts on symptoms of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.
What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia (FM) is a condition that causes pain, tiredness, and stomach upset in its sufferers. FM is somewhat of a medical phenomenon, as scientists are still unsure exactly what causes fibromyalgia. Theories abound, and researchers continue to conduct studies on possible causes of fibromyalgia.
The most prevalent symptom of fibromyalgia is chronic pain: About 70% – 80% of fibromyalgia patients suffer severe muscular soreness. Pain occurs mostly along the spine, the shoulders, hips, and neck, but can also happen in other parts of the body. FM sufferers may also experience joint stiffness similar to arthritis pain.
- Other common symptoms of fibromyalgia are gastrointestinal disorders (diarrhea), severe fatigue, sleep difficulties, and “brain fog” (concentration problems).
- According to the U.S. Centers for Disease and Prevention, approximately five million US citizens suffer from fibromyalgia.
- In order to diagnose fibromyalgia, a doctor must confirm eleven out of eighteen fibromyalgia “tender points” in his patient.
- More women than men suffer from fibromyalgia.
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Why am I always tired?
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) goes by a few other names: immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS) and myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME). CFS is another “invisible disease” that affects the body and the mind. Like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome is also an illness for which scientists are still attempting to determine the cause. The leading theory is that CFS is an autoimmune disorder of the central nervous system.
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What are the symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome?
While fibromyalgia symptoms center on pain, CFS symptoms are primarily related to extreme unending tiredness. Symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome include:
- being tired all the time, despite getting plenty of sleep, eating well, and generally taking good care of yourself,
- complete exhaustion after low-impact exercise, examinations, or long periods requiring mental focus, followed by a recuperation period,
- poor short-term memory,
- brain fog,
- waking up fatigued, and never feeling fully rested,
- flu-like aches and pain,
- sore throat,
- poor reading comprehension,
- difficulty grasping appropriate words while communicating,
What’s the difference between CFS and FM?
The fact that symptoms of chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia so often overlap makes it difficult for doctors to diagnose, and confusing for patients to understand. Here are some basic similarities and distinguishing facts of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome:
- Not all people who have chronic fatigue syndrome also suffer from chronic pain symptoms such as those with fibromyalgia. However, most fibromyalgia patients live with extreme, persistent fatigue every day- approximately 50% – 70%, according to the Arthritis Foundation.
- About one million people have chronic fatigue syndrome, compared with five million fibromyalgia sufferers.
- While some physicians believe that fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome are two separate conditions that often overlap in one patient, others believe that chronic fatigue is one of many symptoms of fibromyalgia syndrome, and not a disorder in its own right.
- Stress and physical exertion are both common triggers of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms.
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Vitamin B12 deficiency in fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue
Other illnesses share similar symptoms with FM and CFS, causing yet more confusion in diagnosis and treatment. Additionally, other conditions like pernicious anemia may occur at the same time as CFS, and may go undetected as a result.
- A high correlation exists between vitamin B12 deficiency and fibromyalgia. Any condition that causes gastrointestinal problems will likely also result in poor digestion of vitamin B12. Untreated, B12 deficiency can escalate into severe nerve damage.
- Symptoms of B12 deficiency may include nerve pain (tingling, pins and needles) in the hands and feet, numbness in the hands and feet, decreased energy, loss of mental focus, fatigue, depression, anxiety, sore tongue, altered sense of taste, short-term memory loss, clumsiness, and difficulty walking, running or jumping without stumbling.
- Other disorders and illnesses linked with vitamin B12 deficiency are inflammatory bowel disease (IBD- Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), lupus, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, celiac disease, osteoporosis, and diabetes.
- Because vitamin B12 deficiency shares so many symptoms with chronic fatigue syndrome, it might go untreated. For that reason, it is advisable for people suffering from CFS or FM to get their vitamin B12 blood levels checked routinely.
Read more about fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome:
Back Pain Exercises and Fibromyalgia- the Do’s and Don’ts
40 Things NOT to say to a Fibromyalgia-Chronic Fatigue Sufferer
7 Reasons You Have Brain Fog…And What to do About It
The Fibro Fact Page: Basic Brief Information about Fibromyalgia
The Common Threads of Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – Fibromyalgia Center- Everyday Health
What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
The CFIDS Association of America