Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue or M.E?

I have noticed during my many medical appointments, that when giving a history of my illnesses, not everything is written down as spoken.
For example, if I say that I have M.E (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) and Fibromyalgia, (FMS) only Fibromyalgia gets listed.
Alternatively, I may mention just having Fibro which is in turn, is then listed as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. (CFS) It seems that for some of the medical profession, all three illnesses are but one of the same.

When I was first diagnosed with Fibro by my consultant, or as I like to refer to him, ‘Satan in a suit’, I was just told “oh, you have Fibromyalgia. Go and look it up”, whereby a rather flimsy one page leaflet was thrown my way.
After Googling ‘101 And One Ways To Make A Voodoo Doll’ as a present for said consultant, I decided to find out what this Fibro-my-what-gia was all about. There wasn’t much information on it back then and what I could find was mainly about fatigue and the 18 Tender Points.
Of course now we know more than we used to, but along with more knowledge came more confusion.

Whilst Rheumatology would note that I had Fibro, my doctor would always write CFS.
When I asked him which one I had, he replied with a very dismissive, “yes, yes, they’re both the same thing.” But are they?
We know that the medical profession are divided as to whether Fibromyalgia is a real illness or not. I even had one doctor tell me, “Fibromyalgia? My neighbour had that. She just changed her diet and ate healthily and now she’s cured.” I really wanted to ask him whether he’d gotten his medical certificate off the back of a Cornflakes’ box, but as he was just about to shove a tube down my throat, I decided to hold off for that moment.
As for M.E, I no longer mention it when reciting my medical history as it always Irreverently gets marked down as CFS.
For some, there is a thin line of separation and each one is either grouped as Fibromyalgia/CFS or ME/CFS, whilst others are adamant that all three are a variation of the same disorder.

There are no doubts that there are similarities between FMS, CFS and M.E which include:

  • Fatigue
  • Cognitive problems
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Headaches/Migraines
  • Impaired co-ordination
  • Bowel problems
  • Temporomandibular joint syndrome

The difference is that widespread pain is the dominate symptom of Fibromyalgia, whilst fatigue is central to CFS.
When comparing the symptoms further, we find that:

  • ME/CFS are known to start with flu-like symptoms, whereas FMS isn’t. But for me, my Fibro came as a result of having swine flu.
  • Pain from FMS gets better with heat and gentle massage, whilst the pain from CFS/ME does not.
  • FMS is thought to stem from physical or emotional trauma. M.E is characterised by neurological symptoms.
  • The diagnostic for ME/CFS/is different from that of FMS
  • People with M.E have levels of chronic immune activation while those with FMS do not.

So what can we conclude from all this? Not a lot really. It’s difficult to find any information that doesn’t link all three conditions together in some way, so maybe there is a connection after all. Are they all the same? In my opinion, there is enough evidence to suggest that they are not. But if those in the medical field don’t know the difference, then how are we suppose to know?

CFS and M.E. comparison chart

CFS versus FM: Twins, Cousins, or Just Acquaintances?




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