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Understanding Lupus vs Fibromyalgia: Differentiating Between Causes of Pain and Fatigue

If you’re preparing to take the NP board exam, you’ll want to sharpen your differential diagnosis skills! This is especially true when it comes to lupus and fibromyalgia, which have similar symptoms and may, at least initially, be difficult to distinguish from one another.

In this Sarah Michelle NP Video, Understanding Lupus and Fibromyalgia: Differentiating Between Two Causes of Pain and Fatigue, NP Anne Maguire will help you review how these conditions differ. That way you can make the right diagnosis on the NP board exam, but also when you are soon practicing as a real deal NP!

Differences Between Lupus vs. Fibromyalgia

In the video, Anne discusses the case of a 24-year-old female patient who reports fatigue and muscle/joint pain that has lasted for the last few months. But how can one determine if she’s suffering from lupus or fibromyalgia? How would one proceed to make the right diagnosis?

Anne reviews several ways to help you get there. She suggests: 1) using the “OLD CARTS” mnemonic to gather more information from the patient; 2) exploring her family history; 3) conducting a physical exam; and 4) doing lab work, which can all help you differentiate between lupus or fibromyalgia.

Diagnosing Lupus vs. Fibromyalgia

Anne notes in great detail how specific information gathered during the above four steps can point to lupus or fibromyalgia. For example, assessing for the criteria to diagnose lupus: the presence of skin rashes (malar and discoid), + ANA and elevated ESR labs (and other criteria)– all of these point towards lupus.

Where in contrast, normal labs with widespread pain, memory/concentration problems, sleep difficulties, even depression/anxiety would indicate more of a diagnosis for fibromyalgia. She also discusses treatments for lupus, which include hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) and steroids, whereas fibromyalgia is usually treated with regular physical activity, psychotherapy, and sleep hygiene or even some prescription medications. This is excellent information that will help you get ready for the NP board exam and for future practice. 

Further Reading

If you’re looking for content on differentiating lupus and fibromyalgia, be sure to watch the video above! It’s just one of many videos in the SMNP series that can help you prepare for your NP board exam. Like and subscribe to our YouTube channel to keep up-to-date on all of the content we have to offer!

Plus, check out these other posts on the SMNP blog to continue with your NP board prep: