Fibromyalgia vs. Multiple Sclerosis: What Is the Difference?

Fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis are life threatening diseases with no cure. Both conditions are entirely different and they affect the nervous system and cause symptoms like pain and tiredness. Their symptoms are very similar and it might be difficult for you to identify the differences between both conditions. In this article, we will point out key differences between these two conditions.

What Are Multiple Sclerosis and Fibromyalgia?

Multiple sclerosis is a neurological condition in which the immune cells in the body attack and eat up the protective myelin sheaths [1] of the nerves. This attack can lead to inflammation and permanent destruction of the nerve cells, causing lack of communication between the central nervous system [2] and the rest of the body.

The presence of myelin sheaths allow swift conduction of electrical impulses in nerve cells through a process called saltatory conduction [3]. Without this sheath, the flow of electrical impulse is affected. Destruction of this sheath also leads to the development of scars in multiple areas of the brain and spinal cord.

There are four different types of multiple sclerosis:

  • Clinically Isolated Syndrome: In this type of multiple sclerosis, the first set of symptoms that occur due to destruction of myelin sheaths are seen. These symptoms must last for at least 24 hours before proper diagnosis can be made.
  • Relapse-remitting multiple sclerosis: This is the most common type of multiple sclerosis seen in about 85% of most cases. It is characterized by the appearance of new symptoms, followed by remission where the symptoms naturally disappear wholly or partially.
  • Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis: In this case, there is progressive worsening of the symptoms after you must have undergone relapse and remission. This is seen in people who were initially diagnosed with relapse-remitting multiple sclerosis.
  • Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis: This involves worsening of symptoms from the start without remission or relapse. This is seen in about 15% of multiple sclerosis cases.

Fibromyalgia is a life threatening condition that is characterized by musculoskeletal pain throughout the entire body. Muscle stiffness, fatigue and cognitive difficulties are other effects of this disease. The cause of this disease is still unknown so most times it is often misdiagnosed. It is commonly seen in women.