Overlapping (comorbid) conditions are ailments that frequently occur together. Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS or ME/CFS) are generally considered overlapping conditions. FMS and ME/CFS also have a host of other overlapping conditions associated with them. These include other pain disorders, sleep problems, major depression, nervous system disorders, digestive problems and menstrual problems.
Many people with FMS and ME/CFS also have other chronic pain conditions that need to be diagnosed and properly treated. Often, successfully treating other sources of pain can help alleviate FMS and ME/CFS symptoms.
Myofascial pain syndrome (MPS, sometimes called "chronic myofascial pain") is frequently confused with fibromyalgia, but they are different conditions. In MPS, muscles and connective tissues (which make up the fascia) develop what are called trigger points. A trigger point is often a small, hard knot, about the size of a pencil eraser, that you may be able to feel under your skin. Sometimes the knot itself is painful, especially when you press on it, but it often causes pain in another area.
- Learn more about myofascial pain syndrome, including treatments, possible causes, how it's diagnosed, and how it interacts with fibromyalgia: Fibromyalgia & Myofascial Pain Syndrome
Some researchers believe that people with chronic headaches, such as migraines, and those with FMS may share common defects in systems that regulate specific chemical messengers in the brain, such as serotonin and epinephrine (adrenaline). Doctors have found low levels of magnesium in both groups as well, and when chronic migraine sufferers don't respond to usual therapies it sometimes leads to a diagnosis of FMS. Chronic headache frequently occurs with ME/CFS as well and can be relavent to diagnosing ME/CFS.
Migraine symptoms include heightened sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, vision problems such as auras or tunnel vision, difficulty speaking, and intense pain that's stronger on one side of the head.
Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) causes similar symptoms to ME/CFS and FMS, but with the trigger being exposure to certain chemicals, such as those found in perfumes, adhesives and cleaning products. Because everyone is exposed to a huge variety of chemicals every day, it can be extremely difficult to identify which ones are causing the problem, or even that the problem is in fact MCS.
Gulf War syndrome
Symptoms of Gulf War syndrome (GWS) are strikingly similar to those of FMS and ME/CFS, including fatigue, musculoskeletal pain and cognitive problems. Also similar is that symptoms and their severities vary widely from person to person.
- Learn more about Gulf War syndrome, including causes, symptoms, treatments, and how it interacts with FMS & ME/CFS: Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue & Gulf War Syndrome
Sleep disturbances are considered a key clinical feature of FMS and can include insomnia, sleep apnea, and other sleep disorders. Sometimes, a sleep study reveals impaired stage-4 sleep. People with ME/CFS, however, generally have no diagnosable sleep disorders - instead, they have what's called "unrefreshing sleep."
People with FMS can also have sleep-related movement disorders:
Restless leg syndrome
Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a movement disorder that causes discomfort, unease and weariness that gets worse when you rest and feels better when you move. It can keep you awake because it's hard to get comfortable, and the movements can wake you up as well. RLS is not well understood.
- Learn more about RLS, including symptoms, treatments and how it interacts with FMS: Fibromyalgia & Restless Leg Syndrome
Periodic limb movement disorder
Periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) is similar to RLS. People with PLMD involuntarily contract their leg muscles about every 30 seconds while they're asleep. Even if this doesn't wake you up completely, it can disrupt sleep -- both for you and for your sleeping partner.
As many as 70% of people with FMS or ME/CFS also have had bouts with depression at some point in their lives, and up to a third are currently suffering from a severe form called major depression. Researchers don't believe depression actually causes fibromyalgia but say it may increase your susceptibility.
Major depression is much more serious than the normal periods of sadness and despondency that can go along with chronic pain and fatigue. Symptoms of major depression include:
- Daily depressed mood
- Loss of interest in usually pleasurable activities and interests
- Significant weight changes
- Insomnia or excessive sleeping
- Constant low energy
- Feelings of worthless or inappropriate guilt
- Inability to make decisions or concentrate
- Thoughts of suicide
It's crucial for people with signs of major depression to get professional help.
- Learn more about depression and FMS: Fibromyalgia & Depression/Anxiety: Barriers to Coping & Treatment
POSSIBLE NERVUS SYSTEM DISORDERS
Other symptoms that sometimes show up alongside FMS include:
- Chest pain
- Heart palpitations (irregular or forceful heart beat)
- Possible association with mitral valve prolapse (heart valves not closing properly)
- Sudden drop in blood pressure
DIGESTIVE & MENSTRUAL PROBLEMS
While the link between FMS/ME/CFS and digestive problems isn't well understood, one theory is that it's because they're both associated with serotonin.
Irritable bowel syndrome
People with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) have alternating bouts of constipation and diarrhea, and have frequent abdominal pain. Other symptoms include nausea and vomiting, gas, bloating and abdominal distention. A lot of people with IBS don't seek medical care, but it's important to do so. IBS can lead to malnutrition or dehydration (brought about by avoiding food) and depression.
- Learn more about IBS, including possible causes, treatments, and how it interacts with FMS & ME/CFS: Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome & Irritable Bowel Syndrome