What is the difference between fibromyalgia and ME?

Two completely different conditions and two different diagnoses. But some of the symptoms may overlap.

A popular Google search is “the difference between fibromyalgia and ME”. We don’t know why so many people wonder about this, it could be that some of the symptoms are repeated in both diagnoses.

Nevertheless – there are clearly greater differences than similarities when it comes to these two diseases.


ME and fibromyalgia

ME stands for myalgic encephalomyelitis/encephalopathy and is also referred to as CSF, which in English stands for chronic fatigue syndrome, in Norwegian translated to chronic fatigue syndrome. In this article, the disease will be referred to as ME. ME is a very complex disease that affects the body, and can therefore cause many different symptoms from many different organ systems. ME is chronic and can lead to major functional impairments. The World Health Organization, WHO, defines ME as a neurological disease.

Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain condition with widespread pain in the body, especially in muscles, connective tissue, tendons and tendon attachments. The pain is a prominent symptom, but there are often accompanying symptoms from other organ systems. (1, 2, 3)
Brita and Susanne have an invisible illness, which causes intense pain and exhaustion
Brita and Susanne have an invisible illness, which causes intense pain and exhaustion
Symptoms of ME

The symptoms of ME can vary greatly from person to person. ME is a condition that can cause symptoms from the whole body, and therefore there can be many different symptoms. But common to ME is a significant and prolonged exhaustion. Some of the recurring symptoms of ME are:

Pronounced exhaustion/fatigue. The exhaustion is both physical and mental, and can be very disabling.
The exhaustion does not go away despite a lot of sleep and rest. It is aggravated by various efforts, this can be stress, physical, social or mental efforts.
In the case of stress, you need a long recovery time, and often the symptoms get worse.
Cognitive effects such as reduced ability to concentrate, problems finding words and impaired memory are some of the cognitive symptoms.
Pain: Pain in large parts of the body which can be pronounced. Often there is pain in the joints and muscles. But headaches are also common.
Sleep disturbances.
Feeling of illness.
Drop in blood pressure, dizziness, impaired balance, palpitations, symptoms from the gastrointestinal system.

It is important to emphasize that ME is a complex disease and these are only some of the symptoms that may be present. (1, 3, 4)


Symptoms of fibromyalgia

Chronic pain in the body is a pronounced symptom of fibromyalgia. This can be pain from muscles, joints, connective tissue, tendons and tendon attachments. The pain can vary, both in localization and intensity, and you can also experience stiffness in the joints. Other common symptoms that can occur with fibromyalgia include:

Abdominal pain and other symptoms from the gastrointestinal system.
Reduced concentration and memory.
Headache.
Fatigue and exhaustion. Often, rest and sleep will not help the symptoms, and you feel just as tired and exhausted.
Sleep problems. (2, 5)

Is fibromyalgia hereditary?
Is fibromyalgia hereditary?
Overlapping symptoms

As stated in the text above, there are several symptoms that can be present in both ME and fibromyalgia. Although there are several overlapping symptoms, and it is possible for patients to have both diagnoses, it is important to be aware that there are two different conditions and the conditions are treated differently.

ME is a disease that can occur at any age, even in children. Fibromyalgia is a condition that mainly occurs in adults and rarely in children.

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