Lupus and fibromyalgia are both chronic, rheumatic conditions that can share similar symptoms. In some cases, it is possible for a person to have both conditions at the same time.

Lupus is long-term autoimmune disease. This term describes when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue. As such, it can cause a variety of symptoms, such as pain and extreme tiredness. Fibromyalgia refers to a chronic syndrome that can also cause widespread pain and fatigue.

Both conditions can have the same symptoms. They can also share similar risk factors, such as being more common in those assigned female at birth (AFAB).

Additionally, it is common for fibromyalgia to coexist with autoimmune conditions, such as lupus. As a person can have both conditions at the same time, this can make diagnosing and treating the conditions difficult.

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Yes, it is possible for a person to have both lupus and fibromyalgia at the same time. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) notes that individuals living with rheumatic conditions, such as lupus, are more likely to have fibromyalgia.

A small 2023 study conducted in Kenya included 60 females, with an average age of 34 years, with a lupus diagnosis. The research focused on using industry-standard criteria to screen the participants for fibromyalgia. Screening results suggested that 39 females, or 65% of the group, may also have fibromyalgia.

Additionally, not only can the two conditions coexist, but the presence of one can complicate the diagnosis and management of the other, as a 2023 study suggests.

An older study evaluating the effect of fibromyalgia and lupus on each other in dual diagnoses indicated that the prevalence of fibromyalgia in participants with lupus was 12%.

The results of a 2021 survey showed that 10.5% of participants with lupus that was self-reported as not well managed also reported having fibromyalgia. This was in comparison with only 4.1% of participants with lupus that was self-reported as well managed also reporting that they had fibromyalgia.

The diagnostic process for both conditions can be difficult, meaning a person may receive a misdiagnosis.

Currently, the exact cause of lupus is unknown. However, researchers believe that certain factors, such as genetics, the environment, and inflammatory responses may trigger the immune system, resulting in the disease.

While anyone can develop lupus, it is more common in women and most often occurs in people between ages 15 and 45 years old. Additionally, lupus diagnoses are more prevalent in African American people than white people.

Research published in 2023 indicates that social determinants of health are likely contributing factors, among others, for the health disparity in lupus diagnoses.

Similarly, the exact cause of fibromyalgia is also unknown. However, researchers propose that it may develop due to changes in the way the central nervous system (CNS) processes pain messages. Additionally, factors such as genetics and chronic stress may also play a role. Fibromyalgia is also more common in women.

It is not currently clear how lupus may increase the risk of developing fibromyalgia. However, health experts note that those with other rheumatic diseases are at higher risk of having fibromyalgia.

Both lupus and fibromyalgia can share similar symptoms. For example, common symptoms of both conditions can include pain and fatigue. Additionally, symptoms of both conditions can worsen during flares.

However, lupus presents with more visible symptoms. Additionally, while both can disrupt a person’s quality of life, lupus can lead to more life threatening complications.

Lupus symptoms

Lupus can affect almost any organ in the body and may present differently from person to person. Symptoms can also vary depending on the type of lupus a person has. Lupus symptoms usually come and go. Additionally, over time, new symptoms can develop, or some may occur less often.

Common symptoms of lupus may include:

  • pain or swelling in the joints
  • swelling in the hands, feet, or around the eyes
  • fatigue
  • headaches
  • fever
  • sensitivity to light
  • chest pain when breathing deeply

Lupus can also cause more visible symptoms that affect the skin and hair. This can include a malar rash, hair loss, sores in the mouth or nose, and fingers and toes changing color and feeling numb.

In more severe cases of lupus, a person may also experience complications that can include:

  • kidney damage or failure
  • memory loss
  • anemia
  • blood clotting
  • eye disease

Fibromyalgia symptoms

The main symptom of fibromyalgia is chronic, widespread pain throughout the body. Some people may also experience a higher sensitivity to pain. Other symptoms of the condition can include:

  • fatigue
  • difficulty sleeping
  • muscle and joint stiffness
  • tenderness to touch
  • numbness in limbs
  • problems with thinking, known as fibro fog
  • sensitivity to light, noise, odors, and temperature
  • digestive issues

Additionally, possible complications of fibromyalgia may include mental health difficulties, such as higher rates of depression.

It can be very difficult to distinguish between the two conditions because they share symptoms. As such, an accurate diagnosis requires a thorough medical history, physical examination, and laboratory tests.

For example, while the conditions can have a similar presentation, a doctor may be able to distinguish lupus due to its visible symptoms, such as the distinctive butterfly rash across the face.

A doctor will also order blood tests to help confirm a diagnosis. A blood test that is positive for antinuclear antibodies (ANA) usually indicates autoimmune conditions such as lupus. However, in a person with fibromyalgia, an ANA test will usually return negative.

Read on to learn more about ANA blood tests.

After an initial diagnosis, a person’s response to treatment may also help guide a diagnosis. For example, if a person receives treatment for lupus but continues to experience pain and fatigue, this may suggest they have fibromyalgia.

During diagnosis, a doctor may also consider the possibility of a person having both conditions.

While the symptoms of the two conditions may be similar, the treatment approaches are different.

Treatment for fibromyalgia focuses on reducing pain. If fibromyalgia is due to another condition, a doctor may consider treating this condition first. For lupus, treatment typically focuses on preventing flares, reducing inflammation, and managing pain.

Treatments for lupus may include:

  • nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • corticosteroids
  • antimalarial drugs
  • BLyS-specific inhibitors
  • immunosuppressive agents

A doctor may also recommend other medications if a person experiences complications due to lupus. For example, they may suggest drugs to manage blood pressure or prevent blood clots.

A person can also use strategies and home remedies to help reduce symptoms. This can include wearing protective clothing, staying physically active, and managing stress.

Treatment options for fibromyalgia can involve:

  • antiepileptics
  • antidepressants
  • analgesics
  • muscle relaxants
  • fatigue medications

Other options may include lifestyle changes, such as physical activity, stress reduction, and getting enough quality sleep.

Lupus and fibromyalgia are rheumatic conditions that can present with similar symptoms, such as pain and fatigue. It is possible for a person to have both at the same time. In fact, some evidence suggests that people living with lupus are at a higher risk of developing fibromyalgia.

With both conditions, it is important to receive an accurate diagnosis. Having an accurate diagnosis can help ensure a person receives proper treatment to manage their health condition and reduce symptoms.