Was My Fibromyalgia a Misdiagnosis?

Dawn DeBois avatar

by Dawn DeBois |

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I was in my mid-30s when my painful, yet vague Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome (LEMS) symptoms began to interfere with my daily life. I was unable to walk any distance, had widespread bone pain, and experienced extreme fatigue.

My career had transitioned from public health education to pharmaceutical sales and long days on the road. At the end of each workday, I could not walk unaided. A rheumatologist diagnosed me with fibromyalgia. I wonder, however, if this was a misdiagnosis.

I wanted to find out why my body revolted as I crisscrossed my sales territory in Maine. But I had forgotten that I would lose my voice when doing multiple presentations a day as a public health educator. This was not a symptom of fibromyalgia.

My hips were also an issue. My rheumatologist ordered X-rays to ensure arthritis was not causing the pain and “freezing up.” There was no arthritis, and until I talked with other patients, I had no idea that hip troubles are not a rarity with LEMS.

One particularly frustrating day, I called in sick. I was having what felt like electric shocks shooting throughout my body. I felt like I was short-circuiting. I was exhausted and took the day off to rest, never thinking to ask my primary doctor for a referral to a neurologist.

Most providers took my medical issues more seriously after I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. However, a constant complaint — dry eyes and mouth — was brushed off as a side effect of the fibro medications. My eye doctor gave me drops for my dry eyes.

But when the fibro medications were not working and I was weaned off them, my dry eyes and mouth remained a major issue. It turned out those symptoms were likely due to LEMS.

I have reason to question my fibromyalgia diagnosis. I am on a trifecta of treatment for LEMS and no longer have the bone pain associated with walking. My dry eyes and mouth are managed with my LEMS medications. And my exhaustion level ebbs and flows based on whether I overdo it and don’t plan for enough rest around activities.

Fibromyalgia is on my medical chart, but I no longer address it. It has been five years since I have been on fibromyalgia medication. I manage pain and bladder spasms with CBD products.

It took me almost 15 years after my fibromyalgia diagnosis to be diagnosed with LEMS. The years prior to my LEMS diagnosis included three neurologists, three MRIs, two complicated and painful lumbar punctures (due to my spinal fusion), and other inconclusive neurological tests.

My dream is for patients to be diagnosed within the first year of myasthenia symptoms. If patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia have progressive symptoms — and multiple sclerosis is ruled out — it is my hope that neurologists will think: “Maybe this is myasthenia!”

The years I spent questioning the validity of my own symptoms could have been spent living with LEMS instead.


Note: Lambert-Eaton News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Lambert-Eaton News or its parent company, Bionews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Lambert-Eaton myasthenia.


Geraldine O'Sullivan-Hogan avatar

Geraldine O'Sullivan-Hogan

Has LEMS ever been linked to autoimmune reactions in Endometriosis?

Dawn DeBois avatar

Dawn DeBois

LEMS has been linked to patients having autoimmune disease history, such as myself. The chronic nature of endometriosis is starting to show as a possible trigger for some autoimmune diseases; but the only known specific disease trigger for about 50% of LEMS patients at this time is Small Cell Lung Cancer(other cancers are starting to show as having a trigger as well).

Jan Groh avatar

Jan Groh

Glad you feel you found an answer for your issues. With those symptoms, I'd be sure to also rule out Sjogren's and a hypermobility spectrum disorder (we find both highly comorbid with Fibro).

I personally consider Fibro a "wastebasket" diagnosis. (Much like IBS is also.) Meaning: your symptoms are real. But doctors are taking the easy way out with that diagnosis instead of drilling down and finding the true causes and drivers of these symptoms.

More on hypermobility spectrum disorders here:


Pamela Black avatar

Pamela Black

I been dealing with Fibro, ME/CFS, DDD, IBS and other gut problems,arthritis, heat/cold intolerance....... I can go one and on. My hips, legs and feet feel like they are in a vice grip getting tighter and tighter.Everything on my body hurts like I been beat with a ball bat. My brain swells.... I live in Kentucky and been to over 100 at least in 24 years of misery. I have had Neurologist slam doors in mt face. One told me I had to much going on and he did not run 1 test. I can find anyone here to help me. I will die soon if something does not happen to help me. Bed bound and horrible pain no one should have to live like this.

Dawn DeBois avatar

Dawn DeBois

Pamela, I'm very sorry to hear the amount of pain you are in. It is indeed very difficult when you do not have a healthcare team who is listening and thus investigating your multiple issues. I wrote a piece in my blog, The Battle Within, about building your healthcare team, that may be helpful to you. I will link it here. Many prayers to you. ~Dawn


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