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Papers of the Week

Papers: 5 Jun 2021 - 11 Jun 2021

2021 May 31

Joint Bone Spine

The challenge of differentiating fibromyalgia from small-fiber neuropathy in clinical practice.


Fibromyalgia and small fibre neuropathy are two diseases leading to chronic widespread pain, and it is difficult to differentiate them in order to provide appropriate care. In this review, we will describe the pathophysiological and clinical differences between fibromyalgia and small fibre neuropathy. In fibromyalgia, pain is increased by dysregulation of central pain processing while small fibre neuropathy pain is related to loss or dysfunction of intraepidermal small nerve fibres. Higher pain intensity; stabbing pain and paraesthesia; allodynia; dry eyes/mouth; changed pattern or sweating on body; skin colour alterations/modifications; reduced hair/nail growth on lower extremities; warm or cold hypoesthesia could be more common in small fibre neuropathy whereas headache or temporo-mandibular disorder point toward fibromyalgia. Length-dependent distribution of pain is common in small fibre neuropathy but can also affect the whole body. Anxiety or depression are common in these two diseases, but post-traumatic stress disorder and physical or sexual abuse in childhood or adulthood suggest fibromyalgia. Inflammatory disease or musculoskeletal disease is frequently reported with fibromyalgia whereas metabolic disorders (especially diabetes mellitus), neurotoxic exposure, Sjogren's syndrome, sarcoidosis, HIV are the main diseases associated with small fibre neuropathy. Skin biopsy, quantitative sensory testing, laser evoked potentials, confocal corneal microscopy or electrochemical skin conductance can help to discriminate between fibromyalgia and small fibre neuropathy.