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Trying to Keep Track of Your Symptoms When You Have Multiple Illnesses

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One chronic illness is bad enough but oftentimes, having one chronic illness means you have at least one more. As for me, I live with multiple chronic illnesses and it’s hard to keep them straight. I can tell you the name, description, cause, symptoms and treatment of each one so I keep them straight that way. What I’m talking about is it’s hard to keep track which of my symptoms belong to which chronic illness.


Many symptoms overlap between diseases. In my case, I have complex regional pain syndrome, late stage neurological Lyme disease and fibromyalgia, just to name a few. The most common symptom between all three is pain. Some days I can distinguish which disorder is causing which symptom, but on days when all three are flaring, it’s hard to tell.

The joint pain that comes along with Lyme is similar to the joint pain that comes with my hypermobility. The muscle pain from Lyme is similar to fibromyalgia. The fatigue and insomnia come with all of them. Do you see what I am saying? This is just some of the symptom overlap I and many others experience on a daily basis.

The symptom overlap makes doctor appointments harder, especially when you deal with different doctors. The biggest question they ask you is what symptoms you are having and sometimes you can’t distinguish the pain of each disease. It’s the same with new symptoms – you don’t know which disease is causing it.

The other problem with symptom overlap is treatment. When you’re treating one disease, and it doesn’t reduce your symptoms, is it because the dosage is not high enough or is it because the symptoms are caused by something else? It can even be just because the medicine doesn’t work for you.

No matter how long someone has lived with multiple chronic illnesses, distinguishing every single symptom can be one of the hardest things to do because in order to feel better, you have to treat the right disease that is causing that symptom. If you don’t know what disease is causing that symptoms, sometimes treatments won’t work which will make your health get worse in the long run.

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Thinkstock photo via Ingram Publishing.

Originally published: August 15, 2017
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