How to distinguish between fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis?

There are 2 main differences between the two conditions:

This is a key telling point when it comes to differentiating RA and fibromyalgia. RA involves extreme joint inflammation which can lead to damage to joint tissues. Although pain in joints and muscles is prevalent in fibromyalgia cases, it is not due to inflammation but a bugged nervous system which perceives and processes pain abnormally. There is no extensive damage to the joints as in the case of RA. Till date, evidence of muscle or soft tissue damage by fibromyalgia has not been found.

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Each disease progresses differently. Symptoms of fibromyalgia don’t become serious over time since they are strictly episodic. The progression of RA is slow and can manifest in the form of sudden flares of symptoms or alternate between going worse and showing improvement. However, without proper treatment, RA will increase in severity and result in deformed joints.

Other signs which differentiate the pain conditions include:

Fibromyalgia Rheumatoid Arthritis
No signs of redness and swelling at joints Redness and swelling in joints of hands or feet.
Stiffness and aches are constant thoughout the day Significantly more severe stiffness and aches in joints in the morning.
Symptoms are episodic. Pain exists throughout fibromyalgia episode Symptoms are sporadic. Pain increases greatly during a certain period and temporarily subside after a while.
No effect on joint structure Severe cases leads to joint damage and deformity

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