Fibromyalgia And Lupus, Know The Difference

fibromyalgia and lupus

Fibromyalgia and lupus can exhibit similar symptoms such as joint and muscle pain, fatigue, depression etc. The two medical conditions may be confused with one another. However, it is not difficult to differentiate between them.

Difference Between Nature of Fibromyalgia and Lupus

Firstly, it is important the know that the nature of the two conditions are vastly different. Fibromyalgia is a disorder which causes widespread musculoskeletal pain throughout the entire body. The cause of fibromyalgia is still unclear. However, many seem to agree that it is a neurological condition which increases pain sensitivity in patients.

On the other hand, lupus is an autoimmune disease. This means that the immune system mistakes good body cells as virus or bacteria and attacks them. Lupus affects both the organs as well as the joints.

Difference Between Symptoms of Fibromyalgia and Lupus

People with fibromyalgia or lupus will experience the symptoms in different ways and in varying severity. Like fibromyalgia, lupus can also exhibit periods of flares and remission where symptoms are severe and mild respectively.

In general, lupus shows symptoms which are similar to fibromyalgia such as chronic fatigue, depression, as well as joint and muscle pains. It is for this reason why many mistake fibromyalgia as lupus, or vice versa. However, there are also some characteristic symptoms of lupus which does not appear in fibromyalgia. These include:

  • rashes on the cheeks and nose
  • skin lesions which worsen under the sun
  • seizures
  • actual joint inflammation and tissue damage
  • anemia

In addition, fibromyalgia is characterized by tender points which occur at specific spots of the body. This symptom is unique to fibromyalgia and not seen in lupus.

Difference Between Diagnosis of Fibromyalgia and Lupus

Up to date, physicians still have trouble diagnosing fibromyalgia because there are no definitive blood test or scans to prove that a patient has fibromyalgia. Although tender points are one of the key criteria of fibromyalgia diagnosis, they do not show up in scans. A physical examination of tender points by a physician is part of the diagnosis of fibromyalgia. A patient diagnosed with having at least 11 tender points and has been suffering from the symptoms for at least 3 months may be positive for fibromyalgia.

One of the key differences between the two conditions lies in its diagnosis. Unlike fibromyalgia, lupus can be diagnosed through blood test, specifically an antinuclear antibody test which is 98% accurate. Those who test positive for the antinuclear antibody test may no longer need any further testing. There are also other approaches to diagnosing lupus. A person is also diagnosed with lupus if 4 out of the 11 common signs of the condition are found.


It is important for people who are showing both symptoms of fibromyalgia and lupus to see their doctor for diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible. Early detection of these conditions can help physicians to come up with a more effective treatment plan that can help to limit the debilitating effects of these diseases.


  • So testing positive for antinuclesr antibodies indicates lupus? I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 1995. Then positive ANA in 2013 yet unknown why.. possible rheumatoid arthritis I was told by that kind of specialist who wanted to put me on a strong med w loads of side effects to see if it worked then it was so… no thank you. I just found out I have Hashimotos which commonly indicates another auto immune disease exists as well but there’s so many out there which one is to be determined if any. I’ve never been tested for lupus but this article makes it seem as if positive ANA indicates lupus???

    • I am a retired laboratory technologist and I am suggesting that you do not put the cart before the wagon. ANA test is used for several conditions not just lupus. I had a positive result years ago, and the pattern suggested that I had a condition called scleroderma. It is not only the count that is important, but it is also the pattern on the test that suggests a certain diagnosis (hard to explain in layman terms ). I was sent to a scleroderma expert only to be told that I did not have it and I was likely suffering from fibro.After a visit to a rheumatologist, the correct diagnosis of fibro was made. So my advice is to not panic until your doctor properly diagnoses you. I gave myself an ulcer over worrying about my test results. Good luck,

  • For several years I present with lupus (rash on face) and joint pain. I do have Fibro. My ID Dr. Always asks if I have lupus and I always say “no, they always test for it but it comes back negative every time to the surprise of my doctors. He then said you do know you can have a negative Ana test and still have lupus? No, because when test came back the dr. Always dropped it. Anyone have any info about negative Ana Lupus?

  • There are many days that my hands closely resemble the picture above. It also happens to one of my legs, not the one I have a foot drop on and wear an orthotic. All of the bullet points mentioned above apply to me with the exception of the seizures, although my daughter says I get “lost in thought ” sometimes and her friend who does that has something called Tonic seizures. Not I. I have had abnormal ana results 20 years ago by a primary who diagnosed polymyalgia rheumatica, but I was to busy to go to specialist, single working Mom and all by the time I had no choice I couldn’t work and became uninsured now all they say I have is Fibromyalgia, had bloodwork done once by a Rheumatologist which was normal enough, and after a 3 min exam she said you have Fibro you dont need to see me anymore you primary can refill your meds, Gabapentin and Lyrica ,in which none of their treatments, meds work, my original Doctor retired, and it is like banging my head against a wall. I have blood work where they literally had me go back for a Von Willebrand’s testing and then all of a sudden it is normal again. It will stay ok for a while and then go crazy on something else like kidney values or other, I do not smoke or drink and take my required drug testing for my Tramadol that does work for the most part along with Motrin. I also have sleep apnea, asthma, copd, allergies, HBP, Degenerative Disk, and multiple abdominal hernias that always require surgical repair. My body has a mind of its own, They say pop in for bloodwork when you are at your worst, well when that happens I cant drive, cant walk , really cant get out of bed. So here I sit trying to make an informed decision when nobody really wants to make one. As a Veterinary Technician I understand the importance of lab work , but I also know that sometimes it is just not telling the whole story. Thank you for letting me rant I needed this today now I can get on with my day raising my 10 year old grandsons they are tiresome lol I hope everyone has a low pain day

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