Lupus or Fibromyalgia?
Lupus and Fibromyalgia can co-exist in the same person. A famous Harvard lupus expert, Dr. Peter Lipsky, first discovered Lupus and Fibromyalgia appearing in the same patient over 20 years ago.
Lupus and Fibromyalgia are two complicated diagnoses, because the symptoms can appear alike and a patient may have one or both disorders.
Lupus, (systemic lupus erythematosus), is an autoimmune disease characterized by chronic inflammation, affecting the joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, brain, heart and lungs. The joints can get stiff and swollen; pain in the chest with deep breathing, pleurisy or pericarditis can occur.
A Butterfly Rash is a sign of Lupus
Lupus is frquently characterized by a facial rash that lingers for at least several weeks. I have heard it referred to as a butterfly rash, appearing across the cheeks and bridge of the nose. Other common skin problems include sensitivity to the sun with flaky, red spots or a scaly, purple rash on various parts of the body, including the face, neck, and arms. Some people also develop mouth sores.
Before I had a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia, I was also tested for Lupus. Until the blood test results came back, I was advised to stay out of the sun. Though I was told I do not have Lupus, I find it hard to be in direct sunlight for long periods. A day at the beach almost landed me in a hospital.
People with Lupus often suffer from the symptoms of Fibromyalgia or may be initially diagnosed as having FMS. Though most of the time they are separate diagnoses, Fibromyalgia can occur concurrently with Lupus. Fibromyalgia does not cause inflammation, arthritis, skin rashes, or damage to tissues, organs and bones as Lupus does, so medications commonly used to treat Lupus have little or no effect on the symptoms of Fibromyalgia.
Diagnosing Lupus and Fibromyalgia may be difficult
Figuring out if a patient has FMS, Lupus or both requires a thorough medical history, physical examination and laboratory tests.
Because symptoms overlap with Lupus and Fibromyalgia, the process for diagnosing is complicated even more. No single diagnostic test specific for Lupus or Fibromyalgia exists. As a result, patients may be misdiagnosed as having one disease or the other; or diagnosed with both, sometimes incorrectly.
A proper diagnosis is important because the treatments for Lupus and FMS are different. When someone has both disorders, corticosteroids or disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), such as methotrexate, will be prescribed to prevent lupus-related damage to the internal organs.
Physical therapy, counseling and antidepressant medications can improve muscle aches, sleep and mood changes associated with Fibromyalgia. (Robert Shaw, MD, Rheumatologis)
***Fibromyalgia and Lupus commonly co-exist in the same patient. Fibromyalgia does not appear to be a risk factor for Lupus but having a diagnosis of Lupus increases the likelihood of having concurrent Fibromyalgia. (Staud, 2006 Buskilia et al. 2003)
When I was first diagnosed years ago, I did start out on an anti-depressant, which did help with sleep. I did not like the weight gain that may be a side effect for some people and I wasn’t allowed to eat certain foods, such as grapefruit. Today, I use supplements that are produced using natural whole-foods. One of these products supports the body’s normal inflammatory response. You can contact me for more information.
Using a natural whole food supplement feeds the body enabling the immune system to do what it is meant to do – protect, strengthen and heal the body.
Lab Tests that may be used
A CBC (complete blood count) measures the numbers of red and white blood cells, platelets and hemoglobin in the blood. Anemia, as well as low white blood cell and platelet counts, is common in patients with Lupus.
A blood test known as the erythrocyte sedimentation rate, or ESR, can help determine if an inflammatory conditon, such as Lupus, is present in the body; however, it cannot specifically determine the presence of Lupus.
Blood and urine tests to evaluate kidney and liver function, which can both be impaired by Lupus, may also be useful
If the antinuclear antibody (ANA) test detects the presence of these antibodies, it indicates that the body’s immune system is stimulated. Although not specific to Lupus, the positive ANA test can lead doctors to order more specific types of antibody tests.
Find a Doctory that understands both Lupus and Fibromyalgia
There are still too many doctors today that do not realize that both conditions can occur in the same patient and that one cannot tell which symptoms are caused by which condition unless a careful evaluation is made. Things can change quickly in a fragile body, depending on various triggers, such as over-exposure to sunlight, poor sleep and and an nfection such as the flu.
***You should aim at finding a health professional that you trust to unravel the Lups and Fibromyalgia puzzle,
Self Care is Important when dealing with Lupus and Fibromyalgia
When dealing with Lupus or Fibromyalgia, it is extremely important to take care of yourself. Learn your body’s warning signs of an impending flare-up, such as increased fatigue, joint pain, rash or fever.
Stress can trigger symptoms in both disorders! It is best to delegate responsibilites when possible; don’t try to do everything yourself. A daily walk may help to ward off extra stress, plus it can help to clear your mind, improve your mood and help fight fatigue.
Give techniques such as meditation, yoga or guided imagery a try. I enjoy the group atmosphere at my weekly chair yoga class. I know I cannot, or won’t, do it alone, I need the motivation that a group offers. If you feel depression is contributing to the extra fatigue, It may be wise to see your doctor or health professional for treatment.
Caring for the body from the inside-out
Take care of your skin. Ask your doctor about the use of corticosteroid creams to relieve skin symptoms that are particulary troublesome. I choose to use a natural soap and apply a nutrient dense lotion after bathing.
It is essential to feed the skin from the inside out with beneficial probiotics, digestive enzymes to assist with breaking down food for proper absorption, and a plant-based whole food supplement for nutrition.
Remember to avoid excess sun exposure. Sun hats can be very stylish.
Natural Therapies for Lupus and Fibromyalgia
According to the Mayo Clinic, Complementary and alternative treatments for lupus and fibromyalgia include:
- Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). Supplements containing this hormone have been shown to reduce the dose of steroids needed to stabilize symptoms in some people who have lupus. Dr. James Michael Howard says, “Cancer and infections are both increasing and one of the basic reasons is reduced availability of DHEA, which stems from magnesium deficiency.” Dr. Norman Shealy has determined that when the body is presented with adequate levels of magnesium at the cellular level, the body will begin to naturally produce DHEA and also DHEA-S. Magnesium is found in wild blue green algae.
- Flaxseed. Flaxseed contains a fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid, which may decrease inflammation in the body. Some studies have found that flaxseed may improve kidney function in people who have lupus that affects the kidneys. Side effects of flaxseed include bloating and abdominal pain.
- Fish oil. Fish oil supplements contain omega-3 fatty acids that may be beneficial for people with lupus. Preliminary studies have found some promise, though more study is needed. Side effects of fish oil supplements can include nausea, belching and a fishy taste in the mouth. I choose to keep it simple with the afa blue-green algae – high in omega 3 oils – after all, what do fish eat? Click here to read more.
- Vitamin D. There is some evidence to suggest that people with lupus and fibromyalgia may benefit from supplemental vitamin D.
I am spreading the word about this amazing super-food!
Today, besides being an active grandmother, I am a volunteer with several community organizations and love spreading the word of this amazing super food, afa blue-green algae.
If you are interested in learning more about the products I use and wrote about in this post, I welcome you to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
To read more about my journey living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia – click here.