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Misdiagnosis of Fibromyalgia

Misdiagnosis of Fibromyalgia

A diagnosis of fibromyalgia may be overlooked or delayed because some physicians and providers are not familiar with the disorder, and because it can be difficult to make a diagnosis. In addition, some symptoms, such as widespread pain, fatigue, sleep disturbances, numbness, and headache can mimic symptoms of other conditions. These include chronic fatigue syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, migraine, depression, lupus, and somatoform disorder, and chronic back pain....more about Fibromyalgia »

Alternative diagnoses list for Fibromyalgia:

For a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia, the following list of conditions have been mentioned in sources as possible alternative diagnoses to consider during the diagnostic process for Fibromyalgia:

Diseases for which Fibromyalgia may be an alternative diagnosis

The other diseases for which Fibromyalgia is listed as a possible alternative diagnosis in their lists include:

Rare Types of Fibromyalgia:

Fibromyalgia: Undiagnosed Conditions

Commonly undiagnosed conditions in related areas may include:

Common Misdiagnoses and Fibromyalgia

Cluster of diseases with difficult diagnosis issues: There is a well-known list of medical conditions that are all somewhat difficult to diagnose, and all can present in a variety of different severities. Diseases in this group include multiple sclerosis, lupus, Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, thyroid disorders (hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism), chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes - all of these can have vague symptoms in their early presentations. Also, depression can have some symptoms similar to these conditions, and also the reverse, that many of these conditions can mimic depression and be misdiagnosed as depression.

Leg cramps at night a classic sign: The symptom of having leg muscle cramps, particularly at night, is a classic sign of undiagnosed diabetes. However, there are also various other causes. See causes of leg cramps or misdiagnosis of diabetes.

Pituitary conditions often undiagnosed cause of symptoms: There are a variety of symptoms that can be caused by a pituitary disorder (see symptoms of pituitary disorders). For example, fatigue, headache, weight gain, diabetes-like symptoms, and various other symptoms. Pituitary tumors and other similar conditions are not as rare as physicians tend to believe. See introduction to pituitary conditions.

Vitamin B12 deficiency under-diagnosed: The condition of Vitamin B12 deficiency is a possible misdiagnosis of various conditions, such as multiple sclerosis (see symptoms of multiple sclerosis). See symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency or misdiagnosis of multiple sclerosis.

Failure To Diagnose Fibromyalgia

Failure to diagnose Fibromyalgia may be associated with the following:

  • Fibromyalgia is difficult to diagnose because often the symptoms such a fatigue are common and non-specific for fibromalgia
  • Fibromyalgia is difficult to diagnose as there is no conclusive test for the condition and diagnosis is usually arrived at through subjective evaluations and exclusion of other possible conditions
  • The fact that fibromyalgia symptoms may vary in severity from person to person or even from day to day for individual patients makes the condition more elusive and difficult to diagnose

Notes On Hidden Causes Of Fibromyalgia

The following may be hidden causes of Fibromyalgia:

  • Often there is no discernable cause for fibromyalgia. Trauma is the main cause of secondary fibromyalgia
  • Risk factors for fibromyalgia are genetic predisposition, sleep disorders, gender and age - females and young adults are more likely to develop the condition than males and older people.
  • Factors that may contribute to the development of fibromyalgia include emotional stress, trauma, immune system dysfunction, endocrine system dysfunction, upper spinal cord injury, viral infection, bacterial infection, hormonal changes, chronic sleep disorders, autonomic nervous system dysfunction

Notes On Wrong Diagnosis Of Fibromyalgia

Wrong diagnosis of Fibromyalgia may be associated with the following:

  • The pain and stiffness associated with the early stages of fibromyalgia is often misdiagnosed as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis - especially in the elderly.
  • The fatigue associated with fibromyalgia may be misdiagnosed as a sleeping disorder or, depression or chronic infection
  • Gastrointestinal complaints such as irritable bowel syndrome and dyspepsia may be misdiagnosed as lactose intolerance or an infectious intestinal disorder
  • Diagnostic difficulty is increased by the fact that some conditions co-exist with fibromyalgia. For example, significant numbers of people with systemic lupus erythematosus, Sjogren's syndrome, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis also have fibromyalgia. Symptoms such as pain and fatigue may be caused by these conditions on their own or may be caused by a concurrent fibromyalgia
  • There are a number of chronic multi-symptom conditions that may have similar presentation to fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is often misdiagnosed as Lyme disease or systemic lupus erythematosus due the similarity of symptoms
  • Fibromyalgia is difficult to distinguish from conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome and Persian Gulf War illness as they all involve musculoskeletal pain, fatigue and neurological and cognitive dysfunction
  • Sometimes fibromyalgia is given as a diagnosis simply because no other cause for the symptoms can be determined i.e. it is sometimes used as a "wastebasket diagnosis"
  • Subacute bacterial endocarditis and fibromyalgia have some common symptoms (muscle and joint pain) which may lead to misdiagnosis
  • Spinal conditions such as Chiari malformation, cervical myelopathy or spinal trauma may result in symptoms (pain, fatigue and cognitive impairment) similar to fibromalgia and can result in misdiagnosis

Other Notes On Misdiagnosis Of Fibromyalgia

  • There are a number of conditions that are often associated with fibromyalgia. These conditions may contribute to misdiagnosis or diagnostic difficulty as they may be caused by other disorders or may themselves be conditions that exist in isolation. Examples of such conditions includes: cognitive dysfunction, interstitial cystitis, sicca symptoms, multiple chemical sensitivities, cold intolerance, myofascial pain syndrome, chronic pelvic pain, mood disorders, premenstrual syndrome, low exercise tolerance, dysautonomia, endocrine dysfunction, dizziness, temporomandibular joint dysfunction, migraine headaches, irritable bladder syndrome and irritable bowel syndrome
  • Various infectious and inflammatory conditions are often associated with fibromyalgia which may complicate diagnosis or contribute to misdiagnosis: hepatitis C, tuberculosis, syphilis and lyme disease

Medical news summaries about misdiagnosis of Fibromyalgia:

The following medical news items are relevant to misdiagnosis of Fibromyalgia:

General Misdiagnosis Articles

Read these general articles with an overview of misdiagnosis issues.

About misdiagnosis:

When checking for a misdiagnosis of Fibromyalgia or confirming a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia, it is useful to consider what other medical conditions might be possible misdiagnoses or other alternative conditions relevant to diagnosis. These alternate diagnoses of Fibromyalgia may already have been considered by your doctor or may need to be considered as possible alternative diagnoses or candidates for misdiagnosis of Fibromyalgia. For a general overview of misdiagnosis issues for all diseases, see Overview of Misdiagnosis.


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