Which Is Worse - Fibromyalgia or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
A few weeks ago I received an e-mail from a friend who has ME/CFS. He included this humorous question and answer exchange:
Q: Which is worse - fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome?
A: Whichever one you have.
Of course, I laughed. But since I’ve been diagnosed with both, it also caused me to start thinking about which was worse for me.
Since so many symptoms overlap, it’s difficult to separate the two and measure one against the other. In my mind, I tend to attribute the pain, sleep issues and mild to moderate fatigue to FM. Extreme fatigue, tender lymph nodes, and post-exertional malaise (exacerbation of symptoms following exertion, which typically begins 12-48 hours after activity and lasts for days or weeks) I ascribe to ME/CFS. Other symptoms such as problems with memory and concentration are a toss up.
When I first got sick, my symptoms were almost entirely ME/CFS related. However, after a serious car accident, FM entered the scene with a frenzy. Over the years, I feel like my ME/CFS symptoms have become fairly well controlled unless I overdo. And bit by bit, I’ve found ways to keep my FM symptoms down to a dull roar.
So after more than 20 years of living with both illnesses, which do I think is worse? For me, I would have to say it’s the ME/CFS. Although the pain of FM can be miserable, I can still usually manage to function to some degree; however, when the ME/CFS flares, the depths of fatigue I experience make it difficult to even walk to the kitchen to get a drink of water.
I know many of you also have both FM and ME/CFS. How would you answer the question, which is worse?
Karen is the co-founder of the National Fibromyalgia Association. She wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Pain Management.