That’s the question two researchers tried to answer, and they are arguing they are distinct. Is chronic fatigue syndrome the same illness as fibromyalgia: Evaluating the ‘single syndrome’ hypothesis is the recent work of Bhavna Abbi and Benjamin H Natelson in the Quarterly Journal of Medicine. Their abstract goes as follows:
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and fibromyalgia (FM) are medically unexplained syndromes that can and often do co-occur. For this reason, some have posited that the two are part of the same somatic syndrome-examples of symptom amplification.
This hypothesis would suggest that few differences exist between the two syndromes.
To evaluate this interpretation, we have searched the literature for articles comparing CFS to FM, reviewing only those articles which report differences between the two.
This review presents data showing differences across a number of parameters – implying that the underlying pathophysiology in CFS may differ from that of FM.
The two researchers might have found several reasons to still consider the two conditions as separate problems, but they indicate there was plenty of reason to ask if that really was the case.
What was the main reason? Most of the research in either condition didn’t even consider the second disease (and much less that the two systemic problems might have been the same):
…relatively little attention has been paid to the possibility that the physiology and/or biochemistry of the two syndromes may differ and so much of the research on each of these syndromes has not considered the existence of the other…
They add that funding for research has usually been exclusive to one disease or the other. So comparative studies have been limited.
The comprehensive literature review goes over hormones, genetics, biomarkers and “automatic function.” FM patients tend to have higher blood pressure while CFS patients might host certain proteins in their blood that FM patients often don’t. This quick review summarizes the points of difference between CFS and FM with this list:
• General (e.g., age of onset patterns);
• Hormone and neurotransmitter dynamics (e.g., regarding somatomedin/growth hormone, melatonin, cortisol, spinal fluid substance P);
• Genetic profiles, and gene expression (e.g., gene upregulation patterns after exertion)
• Mechanisms of autonomic function;
• Muscle biochemistry;
• Sleep disruption patterns/factors;
• Comorbidities (e.g., PTSD rates).
To access the full article, check out Oxford Journals. For more on the debate about and symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia, check out this video: