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Lyme Disease, Fibromyalgia or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Why are These Conditions so Difficult to Distinguish?

Lyme disease, chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia can be tricky to differentiate. With some shared symptoms, difficult diagnostics, and the unfortunately shared trait of having a large population of doubters, people suffering from one or more of these conditions can be facing a difficult health struggle.

While the three have been mistaken for each other, matters are further complicated by the potential to have co-infections with other tick-borne diseases and the possibility of suffering from both Lyme and either Fibromyalgia or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome at the same time. Confirming a diagnosis and obtaining proper treatment can be an uphill battle.

What is Fibromyalgia?

According to WebMD, Fibromyalgia is a condition marked by widespread pain and fatigue with no known cause. Symptoms can include chronic muscle pain, fatigue, sleep problems, and painful tender points. Additional symptoms can also include anxiety, concentration and memory problems, depression, headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, morning stiffness, numbness and tingling in hands, arms, feet and legs and urinary symptoms. The constant widespread pain is what usually sends a Fibromyalgia patient to see their doctor and can be deep, sharp, dull, throbbing or aching in the muscles, tendons, or ligaments around joints.

What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is the result of a bacterial infection (Borrelia burgdorferi) transmitted by the bite of an infected deer tick. Early symptoms of Lyme disease can include a “bulls-eye” rash at the site of the bite, fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle pain, joint pain, and swollen lymph nodes. The combination of these symptoms is different for everyone. Long-term symptoms of untreated Lyme or Post Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome (PTLDS) can include severe headaches and neck stiffness, arthritis with severe pain and swelling particularly in the knees and other large joints, Bell’s Palsy, intermittent pain in tendons, muscles, joints and bones, heart palpitations, dizziness or shortness of breath, nerve pain, shooting pains or tingling in the hands or feet, problems with short-term memory.

What is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

According to the Mayo Clinic, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome is characterized by extreme fatigue that cannot be explained by an underlying health condition. They explain that the fatigue may get worse with physical or mental activity but does not improve with rest. The Mayo Clinic has identified “eight official signs and symptoms” which include fatigueloss of memory or concentration, sore throat, enlarged lymph nodes in neck or armpits, unexplained muscle painpain that moves from one joint to anotherheadaches of a new type, pattern or severity, unrefreshing sleep and extreme exhaustion lasting more than 24 hours after physical or mental exercise.

As you see above, the shared symptoms and the difficulty of identifying the underlying cause can make it difficult to diagnose these three conditions. While Lyme is the easiest to diagnose, tests are insensitive and false negatives are not uncommon. If you are suffering from a combination of the above symptoms, relentlessly seek a physician who will help you find the right diagnosis and treatment for your condition.

We are committed to providing you the best most up-to-date information on the threat of tick-borne diseases in Chelmsford and Cambridge. Stay tuned for the latest on ticks in the area and contact us today at (978) 381-4028!