Fibromyalgia is a common and chronic condition that not only affects people physically, but mentally and socially as well. Fibromyalgia occurs in about 2 percent of the population in the United States. Women are much more likely to develop the disorder than are men. There are a wide range of symptoms associated with Fibromyalgia, which makes it often difficult to diagnose. It is often misdiagnosed and misunderstood, which can lead to depression and social isolation. Along with the information on this page, Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Centers has a wealth of information and helpful resources on Fibromyalgia.
Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
Symptoms can vary widely from person to person but usually include one or a combination of the symptoms below.
The pain of Fibromyalgia is intense, widespread, and chronic. It has been described as stabbing and shooting pain and deep muscular aching, throbbing, and twitching. Fibromyalgia pain is often worse in the morning. Things such as weather, lack of sleep, anxiety, stess, excessive exercise or lack of exercise can all make the pain worse.
This is not the average fatigue that most people today suffer from. It is an all encompassing, profound exhaustion that interferes with daily life.
Most sufferers of Fibromyalgia can and do sleep but many doctors feel they never get a deep and restorative sleep. Medical researchers have documented specific and distinctive abnormalities in the Stage 4 deep sleep of Fibromyalgia patients.
Other Symptoms and Co-existing Conditions
Many people who have fibromyalgia also suffer from headaches and migraines, anxiety, depression, ringing in the ears, dizziness, vision problems, impaired memory and concentration, skin sensitivities and rashes, irritable bowel and bladder, restless legs syndrome, Raynaud's Syndrome, neurological symptoms, and impaired coordination.
Causes of Fibromyalgia
The exact cause of fibromyalgia is not known. Researchers have found elevated levels of a nerve chemical signal, called substance P, and believe this is what causes sufferers to experience pain in response to stimuli that are normally not perceived as painful. There has also been research that shows there may be a genetic link. Fibromyalgia tends to run in families. In studying the pain experienced in Fibromyalgia, researchers have theorized that the central nervous system (brain) may be somehow supersensitive.
Diagnosis of Fibromyalgia
Currently there are no laboratory tests available for diagnosing fibromyalgia. Doctors must rely on patient histories, self-reported symptoms, and a thorough and accurate physical examination.
To receive a diagnosis of FM, the patient must meet the following diagnostic criteria:
- Widespread pain in all four quadrants of the body for a minimum duration of three months
- Tenderness or pain in at least 11 of the 18 specified tender points when pressure is applied
Treatments for Fibromyalgia
Treating Fibromyalgia is about treating the symptoms suffered by the individual patient with traditional medications, as well as lifestyle changes where necessary, and alternative treatments. There are many over-the-counter, as well as prescription medications, available to treat pain. By getting a patients pain under control, it will improve their overall health and help them to get a restful sleep. Counseling may be a necessary part of treatment. On average, it takes Fibromyalgia sufferers about 5 years to be accurately diagnosed. Living with the symptoms and in a world of confusion for that long often causes patients to slip into depression. Many can benefit greatly from individual as well as group counseling. Just knowing you're not alone is a great relief!